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Real Life Cases of the Lankville Police Department

Hugh G. Pickens

Hugh G. Pickens

All the urchins in Herrera’s neighborhood liked to come around in the cool of the evening, hang on the fire escape, and listen to stories of his days as the star first baseman for The Balloons, the local nine. “I hit many,” he would say in his dumb Lankvillian and then the children would watch as he replicated his famous left-handed swing. His arms were now covered with prison tattoos, strange rainbow-colored abrasions, and small squares of burlap, pasted to the skin but this only further intrigued the dissolute youths.

Then they began to disappear.

At first, the authorities were hesitant to get involved. These were the days of mysterious disappearances– bushes, billboards, mailboxes, sometimes even entire buildings would suddenly be gone. “They’re Islanders,” said Detective Gee-Temple and for awhile it was left at that. But then neighbors began reporting strange sounds coming from Herrera’s fourth-floor walk-up, often in the middle of the night. “The sound is telescoping,” explained a gaunt biology student who lived across the hall and came by the Detective’s office one sweltering summer afternoon to make his report. “It starts out sounding like a power tool but then radiates outwards and changes in timbre. It becomes almost gel-like, like the summoning of ooze.” Gee-Temple couldn’t follow any of it. The boy was clearly crazy. Plus, the Cordial Air-Roborant window unit had busted and the heat was terrible. He knew that it was only a matter of time before the streets erupted in chaos.

Gee-Temple:  "I took some of the wings out of the bassinet."

The intrepid Detective Houston Gee-Temple

The student was nattering on. “It’s like someone mixed products into some sort of primordial crawling jelly, emptied the concoction into a mail sack and then just bounced the sack up and down on the floor all night. Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like.” The boy seemed very pleased with himself.

Gee-Temple began to feel murderous. The interview had to be ended.

“Alright, son. I’ll make a visit to Mr…what is it?….Herrera this evening.”

He waited until night. The building sat on its own, between two empty dirt lots. There was an abandoned Pappy’s Chicken House across the street. The drive-thru roof had collapsed on a truck, no one had bothered to remove the detritus. “I remember that case,” Gee-Temple thought. He noticed that the bucket of chicken was still on the dashboard. Some kids sat on the curb smoking. The wave of smoke was that of marijuana. “Pot people,” thought the Detective. But he pressed on.

He found Herrera’s name written idiotically on a mailbox in the litter-filled lobby. There was a machine that dispensed small cartons of milk but someone had tipped it over. He tried the elevator. The “UP” button dinged but nothing further happened. He huffed it up the stairs.

Herrera’s door was the last on the left. Two or three old take-out menus lurked in a dusty corner. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. Someone had eaten half a pizza and then stomped the rest into the carpet. Gee-Temple thought suddenly of the time he had brought his estranged wife a pizza as a peace offering. He had handed her the box in the lobby of what had been their home. She dropped it at his feet and walked away. “No greater insult,” thought Gee-Temple, “than dropping a wonderful pizza at the feet of your lover.” He realized then that he had said it aloud in the forlorn hallway. He heard from somewhere the sound of a sash being thrown, now heavy footfall down a fire escape. He had given Herrera a head start.

He ran down four flights with the service pistol drawn and into an empty dark street. The Pappy’s Chicken House had disappeared, replaced by huge shards of old blacktop. There was nothing more to be done. A crumpled memo blew up against his leg. He picked it up. Someone is posing as a fireman to gain access to the fire station. Several hoses are missing…he read. There was no end to it. He walked all the way back to the station.

“I will endure,” he thought.

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