Cicero Dies, Part Two

Cat Dupree was sitting up front in the cab with me. Ride alongs were common with Sparky's drivers. Tipper Gomez often took Dolly along with him to keep him company on lonely nights. Shortly after I had put the finishing touches on my painting he honked the horn anxiously outside my apartment, signaling me it was time for my shift. His eyes were bloodshot from the sixteen hours he'd pulled, but when he took one look at Cat as she slid into the front seat next to me his peepers lit up like Christmas bulbs.

"Jesus H. Christ, Johnny." he stammered.

"Tipper Gomez, meet Cat Dupree," I said, introducing them.

Tipper smoothed back his moustache. "Please to meet you, ma'am," he said. I thought he was going to explode from the sexual tension as I drove him home.

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The End

I aimed Cat Dupree’s pistol squarely at Lou Pine’s generous paunch as I stared at the cops’ corpses laying on the floor like bookends on either side of the alderman. Piano keystone cops that sold their souls for a few bucks and now they were dead.

Lou Pine casually lit a cigar and puffed away, its glowing tip flashing on and off like a prowler’s bubble light.

“So what’s next?” he asked.

I took my eyes off the cops and looked up at him. “What?”

“What’s next? Where do we go from here?”

“We? There’s no ‘we’ about this.”

“Oh, but there is. We have two dead cops here. You shot them. There’s, what, another corpse or two on the hill down there? How do you explain that?” He took a self-satisfied puff off the big cigar.

“I think there is a definitely a ‘we.’”

I felt my finger tighten on the trigger. I wanted so badly to shoot him, but I had questions that needed to be answered.

“Why?” I asked.

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Cicero Dies

I woke, startled. At first I didn't know where I was, the dream had been that real. It was early evening, and crickets were chirping outside. The room was warm, but not stifling. I looked at Cat Dupree's long leonine body laying next to mine. As she slept her chest rose and fell lightly. A thin veneer of sweat sparkled on her radiant skin, reflecting the moonlight filtering in through my screened window. I reached over and touched her, lightly, on the thigh. She rolled onto her side, moaning slightly.

I pushed myself off the mattress and stood. Had it been a dream, or was Tank talking to me from beyond the grave again? Whatever it was, I knew what I had to do. I padded out of the bedroom and slowly shut the door behind me, leaving Cat to her dreams. I flipped the switch for the living room light and flooded the room in electric incandescence. I blinked, then rubbed my eyes as they adjusted to the sudden luminosity. There was my magnum opus, propped on the three chairs against the far wall. I approached it slowly, almost as if I were creeping up on an enemy, until I stood in front of it. I studied it for a few minutes, then grabbed the old dinner plate that served as my palate and squeezed out three dabs of paint from their tubes: alizarin crimson, thalo blue and bone white.

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Conspiracy Theory

It was the same piano keystone cops that made the call when I discovered Tank's body in the roadway. Like the keys of a piano, one black, one white. Black key with the afro, white key with the blonde muttonchops. Black held the flashlight on me, white sat in the prowler behind, headlights and spotlight illuminating my cab in artificial incandescence. From Lou Pine's home high on the hill above, a dog barked, and I could hear human voices arguing.

"Hey, it's that cab driver from the night before," said the black cop to his partner in the squad. "The one who found the body."

The white cop stuck his head out of the squad car window. "That so? Ask him what he's doing out here."

"Out of the cab," ordered the black cop. I obeyed the order, doing my best to shield my eyes from the glare of his big five cell battery flashlight, which he kept focused directly on my face.

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