1. “Where’s Berkman?” The Chief demanded to know, a smoldering stogie no longer than a quarter-inch clenched between his yellow teeth.
“Near mind the Shining, big hoss, pursue this,” Georgiy responded, handing The Chief a stack of papers thicker than the original “Author’s Cut” (Tolstoy Approved Version) of War and Peace.
The Chief snatched the papers and looked them over. “What is this?” he barked, swallowing his stogie afterward.
Georgiy wrung his hands and grinned sheepishly. “Deadsy rares, like the Beatlegs,” he answered. “This good ships.”
The Chief flipped through the pages without so much as reading a single word. Nonetheless, he seemed pleased. “Content,” he said, sounding happier than he’d ever sounded before, “Pages and pages of glorious content.”
Georgiy, for his part, looked as giddy as a fat kid drowning in a bathtub full of chocolate. “Now thans, Chief, leave us discourse these promotings.”
2. “I met Brian Powell at the, um… orphanage where we… both grew up,” Oscar Berkman answered.
Berkman sipped his water, cleared his throat and attempted to repeat himself more clearly. “I met Powell at a, uhm… at the orphanage where we grew… grew up.”
“An orphanage,” Emily Twiggs said.
“Y-yes,” Berkman confirmed. He watched Emily as she continued to jot down notes. The way a single thin strand of hair hung down over her face was quite beautiful, to his eyes, as was the expression on her face when she was “concentrating.” She tucked in and bit her lip, you see. Berkman swallowed hard. “E-E… Emily, I… I love you,” he mumbled with a mouthful of wet sand.
“Hmm?” she looked up and asked, that same expression still on her face.
Berkman twitched unconsciously. “I, uh…”
Now Emily was smiling for some reason. Something of a polite if slightly confused smile. “Can we talk about Brian’s father?”
“Your smile is unforgettable,” Berkman told her. “And, uh, what I’m meaning to say there is that I’ll never forget it. I’ll hold it next to my heart for as long as I have a heart.”
Emily let the compliment fall away like so much water off a duck’s back. “That’s very nice, Ohvuh. Now, did you ever meet anyone from Powell’s immediate family?”
3. “I can tell by the look on ya face that’chee know of me,” Slate Flanagan said when the prose poet failed to respond after a number of seconds. He stopped slapping his palm with his baton and smiled, “‘s a look o’ fear.”
“Is it?” the prose poet asked tersely.
“Aye,” Flanagan answered. “And believe ye me, ye’ve every reason ta be afraid.”
“Good thing for me the season of reason is my offseason, then, huh?” the prose poet quipped, stepping even closer to Flanagan. They were no more than an inch apart now.
“Prose poetin’ to a police officer’s a capital offense, boyo,” Flanagan said, his pseudo-friendly facade having given way completely to pure menace.
“Oh?” the prose poet asked, still undaunted, “What’s the punishment for knocking one’s dingus in the dirt, then?”
“Tough guy,” Flanagan said with a wicked smirk, “I’m gonna take great pleasure in breaking ye.”
4. “I… l-love you,” Berkman stammered, his face buried in his hands.
“Oh my god,” Emily laughed embarrassedly. “I’m… I’m sorry, it’s just… It’s just an interview, Ohvuh. I need you to be strong for me and answer a few questions.”
Berkman nodded. He must’ve been expecting this. “My name is Oscar,” he said in a stage whisper.
5. The prose poet tackled Flanagan and both men smashed right through the wall of the men’s room and into the bar. Many of the bar patrons encircled them and began shouting and hollering and cheering and so on. Some of the other bar patrons fled, ostensibly not wanting to find themselves in the fracas.
“I’ll clean your clock and then rewind it, you — ” the prose poet threatened, but was interrupted by a huge ham-hock of a fist to the jaw. He staggered, flipping over a bar table in so doing.
“Got a nice big mouth,” Flanagan observed, “‘s a shame it’s gonna have to be wired shut.”
With that, Flanagan grabbed a large glass and smashed it over the prose poet’s head, badly bloodying him. For his part, the prose poet stumbled and then threw his arms around Slate Flanagan’s huge midsection and began hammering his kidneys with fists. Flanagan nonetheless managed to drive an elbow into the back of the prose poet’s head over and over, dropping him to one knee.
6. Hotshot disbarred attorney John Luxton was on his way to a meeting that could very well determine (“make or break,” put more dramatically) his client Brian Powell’s future. “Better not be late,” he told himself, but, as was his wont, he was distracted en route by a female pedestrian. This large-breasted lass had a heck of a gut, but that didn’t really bother Luxton at this point. You see, he just needed to get his rocks off. At least twenty-four times a day, in fact. So, while he preferred the company of beautiful women, he occasionally had to “settle” in a pinch. This was one such pinch.
“‘Scuse me, miss? Do you have the time?” Luxton asked as he sidled up to the large-breasted, large-bellied woman.
She checked her watch. “It’s — ”
“Time you made time with a real man?” Luxton suggested.
The woman made to slap him, but stopped. “Funny,” she said, “I was…”
“Thinking the same thing?”
She nodded. They ducked into a nearby alleyway and “made whoopee” against the side of a building.
“Call me,” the woman said as Luxton straightened his tie and headed back to his “atomic fireball red” IROC-Z.
“Yeah,” Luxton said in response, just barely able to refrain from guffawing.
7. “Had enough, ‘ave ye?” Flanagan asked cockily as the prose poet struggled to pick himself up off the floor.
“Enough is only enough when there’s no more to be had,” the prose poet replied, spitting blood — and also a tooth — onto the floor afterward. He wiped some crimson from his mouth with the back of his hand and charged Flanagan again.
8. “I’ve… I’ve upset you, h-ha… haven’t I?” Berkman stuttered, his eyes staring intently at his lap.
Emily, not normally a nail-biter, nibbled on her thumbnail a bit. “Mmm… No, I… It’s, umm… Yes,” she confessed with a sharp, awkward laugh.
Berkman nodded. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
9. The Chief was glad the rookie had been unglued from his seat. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the kid, really; it’s just that when he reminisced at great length about the past he started to get wistful. “Good talkin’ to ya, kid,” he said as the young cop excused himself.
“Oh, kid?” the Chief offered as the “kid” was shutting the door behind himself.
“Lift some weights, will ya?”
The rookie looked puzzled for just a second but then nodded and smiled. He shut the door and left for the night. The Chief leaned back in his chair and looked up at the twirling ceiling fan for a while. He had done a lot of good in this world.
10. “Aye,” Slate Flanagan said as he slapped a headlock on the prose poet and went to work on his forehead with the jagged neck of a broken whiskey bottle, “Heard ye was a real tough guy, Mr. prose poet.” He chuckled. “Heard ye’d licked men big as blemmin’ mountains in your day. Guess they was more like foothills, wa’n’t they?”
The prose poet struggled valiantly to free himself from Flanagan’s headlock, but his struggles were in vain. He slumped to his knees. Flanagan, a sinister smile plastered on his face, clubbed the prose poet with a vicious left that nearly took his head off.
11. “Take a seat,” the district attorney, as played by Peter Gallagher, said to John Luxton.
Luxton sat in one of the chairs before the DA’s desk. He crossed his legs, took in his surroundings and nodded because he wasn’t sure what else to do.
“Care for a drink?” the district attorney offered as he poured himself one at the mini-bar.
“Sure,” Luxton replied. Although he’d just gotten laid, he was beginning to feel the need to “get off” yet again. He checked his watch, sighed and loosened his collar. He hoped this meeting wouldn’t last long.
“Scotch okay?” the DA asked, though he’d already poured two scotch-rockses.
Luxton nodded, took the drink and sipped it eagerly. “Thanks,” he said. He hoped the drink would succeed in “taking the edge off” until he found another nubile young lady.
“Oh,” the DA said with a smile. “My wife. Isn’t she beautiful?”
Luxton responded with an awkward, “Mmm-hmm.”
“Yep,” the DA said, not so much smiling now as he was beaming. Glowing, even. “We’re expecting our first child in six months or so.”
“Oh yeah?” Luxton asked, though by now he was quite uncomfortable. He’d met her earlier that afternoon. Less than an hour ago, in fact.
The DA nodded. “Yep. Gonna name him Rory if it’s a boy. Maybe Owen if it’s a girl.”
“Owen for a girl is a really nice name,” Luxton said.
12. Flanagan grabbed the prose poet by his collar with both hands and hurled him over the bar and into the gaggle/google of liquor bottles behind it, sending the prose poet and the bottles crashing and smashing to the floor.
“Look at ye now,” Flanagan observed merrily and also quite loudly, “You’re a real fookin’ mess, ain’t ye?”
The prose poet, cut to shreds by the shards of broken glass and soaked with all manner of liquor, crawled to his hands and knees. He tried to offer up a witty retort, but when he opened his mouth a lot of blood poured out in lieu of any words.
13. Berkman was on the verge of tears. He could barely even smoke his clove fag, so broken up was he over Emily Twiggs’s rebuffing his declaration of love.
“So…” Emily said to break the awkward silence, thereby making things even more awkward.
Berkman took a pitiful puff of his clove fag.
“When did you and Brian start, umm… collaborating on writing projects?” Emily asked, pulling out her pen and notepad once more.
Berkman whimpered and then mumbled, “Oh, I don’t know… what does it matter?”
“1998, maybe,” Berkman answered weakly.
“What? You just started this year?” Emily asked confusedly.
Berkman shrugged and said half-or-less-heartedly, “I don’t know. Isn’t one year just as good as another?”
14. The prose poet was lying in a pool of his own blood when the young man took a knee at his side. “Mister, are you okay?”
“Mmff…” the battered, bloodied and bruised prose poet groaned in response.
“Mister?” the young man said, putting his hand on the prose poet’s shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Do you want me to call you an ambulance?”
The prose poet tried to open his eyes but he was in too much pain. In lieu of doing so he just continued to lie motionless.
“What’s your name, mister?”
The prose poet didn’t respond for a “spell.” After a moment, he wiped some blood from his mouth and answered weakly, “Jacks. Eddy Jacks. I used to be one hell of a writer.”
15. “Chaser,” the Chief said.
“Yep,” Jack Chaser replied, “It’s me.”
“I should’ve known,” the Chief said, sounding a little remiss.
“Then why didn’t ya?” Chaser wondered in his trademark thunderous baritone.
“Doesn’t matter,” the Chief shrugged. “You know what I gotta do.”
Chaser smirked. “Only question is: Can you do it?”
“Chaser, you know you and I go way back,” The Chief said as tersely as ever. “You’re almost like a son to me. The son I never had.”
“Don’t you have four or five kids?” Chaser asked.
The Chief shrugged and nibbled on a couple of unfiltered cigarettes. “Oh, who knows?” he wondered. After finishing off the cigarettes he said, “The point is that I don’t want to see you dead.”
Chaser shrugged, too. “That makes one of us, Chief.”
The Chief shook his head. “You admit it, then? That this… this beetle-headed quest to… to ‘take down the mob’ is part of your death wish, then?”
Chaser took a long “pull” from his Black Death cigarette. He flicked a bit of ash into the otherwise empty ashtray. The Chief scooped the ash up with the tip of his index finger and licked it clean, his eyes still fixed on Chaser as he awaited a response. Chaser shook his head. “Nah,” he rasped.
“Then — ”
“I’ll take down the mob, alright,” Chaser said, cutting the Chief off in so doing. “I’ll kill every single one of those sons-of-bitches,” he explained, pausing afterward to light a second Black Death cigarette, which he started smoking through his right nostril. This while still smoking the first cigarette through his mouth. He fixed his dead cold killer’s eyes on the Chief, “Then I’ll sleep awhile.”
The Chief was as close to tears as he’d been since “M*A*S*H” was cancelled. Everyone said the show ended because it had “run its course,” but the Chief knew better. Those corporate fairies at the network cancelled it. Goddamn them. “Where did it all go wrong, Jack? Where did it all go wrong?”
“K-Mart,” Chaser answered tersely. He put the first cigarette out in his hand and snorted the second up his nose, “disappearing” it. “It all went wrong at that fuckin’ K-Mart.”
16. The phone rang once again. Emily rolled over, turned on her bedside lamp and picked up the phone. “Hello?” she said, only half-awake.
The only initial response was nervous breathing.
“Who — ”
“It’s… it’s Oscar,” Berkman said, sounding more nervous speaking than he had just breathing.
Emily didn’t respond. The name didn’t ring a bell.
“Ohvuh Bimmin,” Berkman stammered, hoping she’d remember him that way.
“Oh, it’s you,” Emily said, having no clue how else to respond. “Um…” she said, glancing at her alarm clock. It was after 3 a.m.
“I just, uh… I had to…” Berkman struggled. “I know you don’t, umm… I needed to hear, uhm… the…”
Emily was getting a little impatient. “What is it?” she asked, trying to keep her voice down so as not to wake the half-dozen cats that she relied upon to fill her maternal void.
“I had to hear your voice,” Berkman confessed.
17. After being released from the hospital, the prose poet returned home and took a seat at his typewriter. He shut his eyes and rested his fingers on its keys. He didn’t feel it anymore. “It,” that is. He no longer felt “It.” His shoulders sagged a little. “Flanagan was right,” he muttered. “Flanagan was right.”
18. John Luxton strolled back into his room at the Days Inn with stains all over his dress slacks. “Ah, well,” Luxton said with a shrug of his shoulders before falling back onto the rickety queen-sized bed.
After a minute or so of lying motionless, Luxton reached for the “clicker,” then remembered that the 1950s-style black-and-white set that all budget-priced Days Inn rooms were equipped with didn’t have wireless or even wired remote controls. He sat up with a weary groan and made a motion to get up but paused when he noticed a flashing red light emanating from the telephone. He had a message.
“Hmm,” Luxton intoned bemusedly. He hadn’t been expecting any calls. Nonetheless, he dialed up the “voice mailbox” and played the message.
“Luckton,” an angry voice hissed, “Or Luxton. Whatever the hell you’re calling yourself these days. I know what you did, you son of a bitch. My wife told me everything.”
“How dare you come into my office and remark about my wife after you… you… you DEFILED her the way you did!”
Luxton loosened the collar of his shirt in the manner of a young Jerry Lewis.
“I’ll get you for this,” the incredibly pissed-off district attorney, as voiced by Peter Gallagher, promised. There was a brief silence before he clarified, “And by that I mean I’ll kill you. Do you hear me? I’ll kill you!”
19. Berkman was very close to losing it. In fact, one could make the case that he had already lost it. After all, he’d been following Emily Twiggs around town for the past week. He’d followed her to the movies, to restaurants, to the grocery store, to the “planned parenting” clinic and now to the gym. He let his head fall on the steering wheel. “What am I doing?” he wondered out loud.
“Well, Doc, seems to me you’re still stalking that poor girl,” Berkman’s best friend, the Imaginary Rabbit, would’ve said if he hadn’t abandoned Berkman just like all the rest. “I just don’t have time in my life for any more friends,” the rabbit had told him before vanishing into the ether.
“You son of a bitch!” Berkman screamed. “You don’t HAVE any other friends, you fucking rabbit! You’re a figment of my fucking imagination!” he continued to scream, now beating on the steering wheel of his 1987 Buick Skylark, drawing the attention of a few spandex-clad passersby. “You’ll die of myxamatosis for this! Do you hear me?”
20. “He seemed to have it all,” said The Chief with as much sadness as a man whose heart is made of grizzled scar tissue is probably capable of.
Indeed, that’s what both the people who knew Brian Powell seem to be saying about his suicide: “He seemed to have it all.” And, indeed, he did have most everything a man living in these United States could ever dream of — a job that paid minimum wage (plus tips), cable television, a tiny apartment with a window A/C unit that served no other purpose than to drown out his muffled sobs on many a balmy summer’s eve and a stack of dimes for a neck. Why, then, would Powell, 23, kill himself?
“I don’t know. I really don’t know,” said Powell’s longtime friend, Oscar Levi Berkman. “He had it made. His life was the cat’s meow.”
21. The Evil Genius bit the bullet and plugged the innumerable esoteric cables and wires and so forth into his brain. He turned on the Miracle Murder Machine. It began to buzz and whir in the manner of one of those exciting “As Seen on TV!” products. Additionally, the Miracle Murder Machine began to glow and so too did the evil genius’s head. His brain pulsated and swelled in rhythm with the machine’s mysterious sounds. “This is it,” he hissed with more than his fair share of evil delight.
“What’s… happening?” a flummoxed onlooker asked overdramatically.
The Evil Genius smiled. “The end.”