Rex Pilsner and the Case of The Shattered Glass.

Rex-Door2The day hadn’t quite hit afternoon yet, but already you could tell it was going to be another scorcher. July had decided to turn brutal with hot days and steamy nights, both of which seemed to always put the citizens that call the city their home slightly on edge.

I’d spent most of the morning leaning back in my chair with my feet on my desk looking over tomorrow’s races for a couple of bangtails that might bring in a little scratch while only stopping now and then to occasionally read my name backwards on the closed door.

ren sliP xeR

I decided nothing was going to come my way today and sat up while pulling a bottle of cheap corn from the lower draw. You could always tell how biz was shaking by the quality of booze in the drawer and by the bottle of cheap rot gut I held in my hand, you could tell it hadn’t been very good.

I was just about to pull the cork out when the side door swung open and she walked in, “Kind of early to be calling it a day, huh Rexy?”

Janine was a good doll and an excellent secretary, way better than this job required. She had a look about her as well, all legs and lipstick, and I often wondered why she didn’t put those looks to use to get herself a better job.

I glanced down and was reminded of the nice chunk of ice she wore. Yeah, finance probably wouldn’t be happy with her in a big office surround by eager men. What was his name again? Eddie? There’s always an Eddie in these stories, isn’t there?

I pour a half a glass of brown liquid and downed it in one fluid motion, “Good a time as any I suppose.”

I went to pour another when Janine snatched the glass from under the lip of the bottle, “Uh huh, Rexy. Not so fast, Dix is coming over. Says he wants to talk with you.”

Detective Dixon? Now there’s a name I hadn’t heard in a while. Started out as a flattie running down the numbers boys over in the 2nd. Never seemed like anything special, but he must have impressed someone because he was promoted into the clubhouse fairly quick.

Dix used to call on me often back then. Usually to have me check on one of my stoolies or pound the street for some info. But I heard he’d gotten a gig in some special Homicide Division and since then he seemed to have forgotten my phone number and address.

“What about?”

“He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. You know I don’t like to get caught up in all the details of what you do, Rexy.”

I put the bottle back in drawer and pulled out a small white envelope, “Here,” I said as I tossed it to Janine, “then you might as well take off. I doubt Dix is coming over here after all this time for a social call.”

Not long after Janine left there was a knock on the door. I adjusted myself in my chair and slightly pulled open the drawer where I kept my trusty roscoe. I was sure it was Dix, but after that whole Joel Cairo mess, I wasn’t taking chances anymore.

“Come in.”

It was Dix alright. Same old, same old. Sure, he had put on a little weight, but Dix was never a small man to begin with what with his stout figure and huge hands. Time seemed to do him good for the most part although I couldn’t help but notice he was still dressing in the same ratty fedora and flogger he always wore. You’d have thought moving up in the company would’ve afforded him a better wardrobe.

“So, what brings you here after all this time, Dix?” I motioned to a chair, deciding to skip the usual pleasantries.

“Business I’m afraid,” he replied tossing a large envelope on my desk. “I hope you haven’t eaten yet.”

I couldn’t imagine why Dix had a case of the squirms, I’d seen plenty of chop scenes before. Once opened, I pulled out twenty-seven eight-by-ten black-and-white grainy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was.

BrokeGlass Both

I flipped through the pile slowly, studying each photo and taking in the carnage displayed in each one. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but it certainly was a mess. “Where did this happen?”

“The Glass Cabinet, around 10pm give or take. Know the place?”

I nodded as I continued to scan through the photos, everyone in the city knew the Glass Cabinet, anyone who ran beer hung out there.

“Check out number 5.”

I flipped over the pile and shuffled through until I found the photo labeled “#5” and pulled it from the pile tossing the rest onto the desk. There was so much going on that it was hard to tell where one body ended and another began. “OK, I give. Who’s the stiff?”

“That? That is, or was, Amsterdam Zeiss.”

It takes a lot to catch this street hardened peeper by surprise, but even I gave out a low whistle from between my teeth when Dix said the name. Zeiss had come to the city with five other siblings and it didn’t take them long to rise to the top of the beer world. Events, tastings, more photo ops than you can count, the whole family was big players, and not above flaunting it.

“Was” being the important word here. The family turned out to be the unluckiest bunch of plugs there ever was. Not long after beginning to hang out at the Glass Cabinet one of them wound up dead from mysterious circumstances that never did get righted by the cops. Two others met their fate in separate accidents involving children and one was later taken out by a dog. Zeiss’ last remaining sibling died when a bunch of large, heavy objects shifted and crushed him at some seedy dive called The Drying Rack.

Many said these were simple accidents, but the buzz in the gutters was that the pint glass gang had been hiring droppers to slowly eliminate their competition. Whatever the case, Zeiss always took precautions anytime he stepped out of the Glass Cabinet. Probably thought he was safe in there though, the Glass Cabinet was known for red-lighting anyone stupid enough to get in the dutch within the establishment. Looks like he was wrong.

“The others?”

“So far we’ve only got a handle on two of them. One was some daisy Tulip visiting over from Max’s, the other’s an as yet un-IDed member of the pint glass gang.”

“Witnesses?”

“You know how the game is played, Rex. Thirty, thirty-five glasses in the Cabinet at least and yet no one saw nothin’

“Nawww,” Dix replied crinkling the corner of his mouth up in a smirk of contempt. “You know how the game is played, Rex. Thirty, thirty-five glasses in the Cabinet at least and yet no one saw nothin’. Door opens and closes a few times, screams, cursin’, and when it’s all done,” Dix leaned forward and put his fat finger on the pile of photos, “just a pile of meat in the wagon for some poor croaker to sort out.”

I tossed the photo on my desk and leaned back in my chair. “So, what’s so important about this case that caused your shadow to fall on my door after all these years?”

“I need your help, Rex,” Dix sighed as he removed his hat and ran his thick fingers through his thinning hair. “You know the cops have never done right when it comes to everything that’s happened to Zeiss’ family. The higher ups are really keen that we solve this one to everyone’s satisfaction.”

“And let me guess, Dix. By we they mean you.”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “We’re stretched at the crime scene. Investigation still isn’t done with the taggin’ and baggin’. But I’ve got a lead that I need tracked down before it goes cold, and since we used to drink from the same bottle, I thought maybe….” The last word trailed off as he pulled a smaller photo from his pocket and handed it to me.

“Who’s the sap?” I asked studying the picture.

“Some butter and eggs man by the name of Morgan. Eddie Morgan”

I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. Like I said. Always.

“He apparently also did part time as Zeiss’ shutter man. He’s been seen hangin’ around the Glass Cabinet a lot, and I’ve got a couple of people on the outside that put him near there around the time the chill went down. I figured with your connections you can at least put a tag on this bloke before he decides to wander off. What do you say, Rex? I’ll pay the usual. Twenty-five a day, one day in advance.”

I pushed closed the drawer containing the gun and opened the bottom drawer pulling out a bottle and then two glasses. “Two days in advance.”

“Two? Come on, Rex. We used to be pals.”

“Yeah, well your pal just sent his secretary home with a pay envelope that’s light a few Lincolns. and she’s going to pretty heated unless I have the rest when she bursts through that door tomorrow morning.”

I poured a couple of stiff ones and slid one to Dix. Besides, I thought to myself, if I’m going to help you look good for the Johns then the least you can do is buy me a better bottle of booze.

Zeiss
The last known photo taken of Amsterdam Zeiss before his untimely demise – RIP.

 

Beer Fiction – Black Cat

Why do cats sit for hours and stare at the thresholds of one room into another? Perhaps it’s due to an old promise.

[Author’s Note – if Oliver Gray didn’t invent Beer Fiction he certainly embraced and championed it. Struck by the torrents of same-old-same-old beer reviews out there, Oliver would often offer a different perspective –  he would open a beer and write a story based off of it. Sometimes the story was just a play off of the title, but a lot of times he tried to capture his experience of the beer (did he like it, hate it) within his words, and as a writer he always seemed to succeed. Check out his story from his experiences with a certain Dogfish Head beer that I was fortunate enough for him to have written for a guest post on my blog.

I’ve tried on occasion, but haven’t done anything along these lines in awhile, but this one spoke to me pretty strongly and since it is the Halloween season, I thought it seemed very appropriate.]

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The man walked out of the kitchen and through the dining room. The cat, always alert, was already aware of his approach from the vibrations softly reverberating out through the wooden floor beneath him.

As the man crossed the threshold between the dining room and the hallway he spoke out loud to the cat before turning down the hall. The cat, requiring nothing from the man at the moment did what most cats do –  heeded him no mind but instead remained focused on the passageway the man had just transverse.

The hallway was now quiet and dark except for a small streak of light and the sounds of running water, and the cat thought that soon he would be able to rest for the night after all the dwellers of the house retired to their beds.

But just as the cat began to close his eyes he caught sight of something. It was the faintest of movements that would have been imperceptible to most anything else, a dark shape that had begun to appear in the threshold between the dining room and the hallway where the man had just walked through.

The cat froze and stilled its breath as the mist swayed from side to side as if curiously surveying its surrounds. Its movements were both convulsive and fluid all at once as some of parts of the mist slowly drifted from its main body like dew fog creeping through the grass on a chilled morning, while others swirled and eddied much like the smoke from the man’s pipe.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

Finally, as if satisfied by the situation, the mist continued to flow from the opening between the two rooms until it was fully formed in the hallway. The cat watched patiently as the mist coalesced in front of it, some areas appearing nearly transparent through its vapor, while other parts were as dark as the blackest night the cat could remember.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

“Welcome traveler! Have you journeyed far this evening?” the cat greeted the mist in a language long since forgotten by all but those who had promised to keep watch.

The mist responded quickly to the cat’s introduction by pulling back several inches, its undulations now less rhythmic as they became more erratic and frenzied.

“Be calm, be calm,” the cat continued, attempting to sound as reassuring as possible. “I only wish to talk.”

The mist continued its frantic convulsions for a bit and then seemed to relax, allowing itself to expand and drift slightly towards the cat’s position.

“Ah, but I see you are young gentle traveler and no doubt weary from your trip. Therefore, I will be a generous host and bid you rest a bit. But once rested, I’m afraid that I must ask you to continue on your travels elsewhere or better still return to your own home.”

The mist floated motionless for a few seconds and then started to slowly drift down the hallway only to stop when the cat quickly sprang to its feet.

“I have shown you more graciousness than is normal for my kind or my post, young one. Surely you would not be so insulting as to return that graciousness by disrespecting my wishes?”

The mist halted its movement quickly, its undulations suddenly becoming more steadied and forceful.

“Stay? No young traveler. That I cannot let you do. You will take my offer to return home, which sadly I most now say is no longer a request.”

Just as the cat finished his sentence the mist began to swirl, violently folding in on itself, all hints of transparency gone while at the same time slowly growing in size until it was slightly larger than the cat itself.

The cat backed up one step not in fear, but to better position himself to drop into a crouch, his ears dropping back against his head which caused his eyes to pull back into slits. “That would be unwise of you little one. For although I too am little, the blood of the first cat flows through me. My claws are shape, and my spirit is bolstered by all the cats that have come before me and I have NOT forgotten my duty.”

The mist froze motionless almost as if startled by the cat’s words. After a few tense seconds the mist’s swirling began anew, but this time almost in reverse as it began to recede back into itself. Once back to its original size the mist pulsed from side to side slightly as if unsure of what to do next.

The cat turned its head slightly in puzzlement at the mist’s motions. “Duty? You ask of my duty? Do they not tell you the stories anymore where you come from? Do they let their young ones travel in ignorance?”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

The mist just hung there, slightly hovering inches off the floor as if it did not have an answer for the cat.

“Ah, such as it is here I’m afraid,” the cat raised its long body back up in a stretch before sitting itself down on the floor. “Then I guess it is up to me, young one.”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

That is until one day another animal, who would later be called man, rose up from the rest with their ability to fashion tools and harness fire. While many of the animals thought that one day they would rule supreme, it was man, who proved the most resourceful and before long began to hold dominion over the world.

But as man grew more powerful and spread throughout the lands they encounted great dangers. Not just the normal dangers brought from everyday living, but other dangers, dangers that traveled in the dark, both unseen and unstoppable.

Where these dangers came from man did not and still does not know, however as oblivious as they were to these danger’s origins, over time they become keenly aware of their existence and the taxing toll they brought.

One day, as the story goes, a priest was visited in a dream by Bastet the Goddess of protection whose worshipers said would often appear to men in a variety of cat like forms, and offered the priest a deal. If mankind would place cats above all other animals, second only to man, the Goddess promised that her and her kind would protect man from many of the dangers that plagued them, include the ones beyond their human perceptions.

The priest waited not until morning, but went directly unto Pharaoh that night and relayed the Goddess’ message. And the Pharaoh, having spent much of his reign watching his people fall to numerous aliments and diseases both known and unknown, accepted the Goddess’ offer and began to elevate cats in his kingdom to a status formally reserved only for the Gods.

“And that was the beginning,” the cat continued a sly smile coming across its up till now serious face. “Soon the number of cats grew in the kingdom. Cats were welcomed in all houses, be it the lowest of workers to the mightiest of Pharaohs. Great images were erected in our honor. We became known as the guardians of the thresholds as our figures adorned the doorways of the most common of buildings and statues in our like guarded the grandest of temple entrances.

“From alabaster to bronze to gold, no material was too valuable or too precious not to be used to fashion into our likeness. To kill one of us, even by accident was to bring death upon a person. We protected man from the dangers they feared, both those they could see and those that they could not, and we prospered.”

The mist, having moved not a wisp as the cat recounted its story, slowly began to pulse ever so slightly.

“No,” the cat said sadly as it bowed its head. “Just as it seems your kind has forgotten to pass on the stories to you, so has it been with man. Although they still adorn our likeness on many of the things they make, the reverence of why they should be doing so has been lost. Our pact has been forgotten by them, our story faded over time.”

“Even by the time of the great death our status among mankind had dwindled. Oh, there were many that still treated us kindly, but others treated us as callously as they treated the vermin that was spreading the sickness within their cities. We were cast out to the streets to fend for ourselves. Children threw rocks at us for sport. Our lives and the lives of our kittens had become insignificant, almost disposable to the race who had once worshiped us. But still we continued to honor Bastet’s promise, to guard the houses of man from the pestilence that would attempt to enter their houses at night.”

And with that, the mist fluctuated violently as if suddenly agitated by the cat’s words, only to finally stop when the cat stood up. “Why? Because Bastet made the pact with the humans. She forged the agreement with her words and bound it with the spirits of all the cats who had come before or have yet to come, and therefore only her words can break it and despite all that has happened, all that we have been reduced to, she has yet to do so. Regardless of what we have become, you will find no cat that will break her promise.”

“So with that said, I have been more than patient with you, young traveler. I have let you stay here longer than I should or than any other of my kind would, so I say for the final time, you will return from where you came.”

The mist did nothing. Not a wisp-like tendril nor a fluctuation from within its dark shape until slowly, quite deliberately it began to recede back to the opening between the two rooms. As the mist began to cross the threshold from whence it first appeared, it began to fade from the cat’s keen eyesight until only a small amount was left.

“Do me a favor young one in return for the courtesy I have shown you tonight. Tell your kind my story. Remind them of the pact my kind has made. Impress upon them that for reasons, that sadly may not even be of their own doing, they are not welcome here. And assure them young traveler, that although mankind may have forgotten our charge, we cats have not.”

The cat straightened up with a sense of pride, “We still guard the thresholds.” With the cat’s final words, the mist totally disappeared into the darkness, back to a place the cat knew not where.

Quite content with itself the cat took a few minutes to do a quick grooming before once again settling down on the hardwood floor. By now the sound of the running water had stopped and the hallway had gone quiet.

Finally, the man came out of the small room and walked into the room where he slept, pausing only momentarily to glance back down the hall and speak out loud in the cat’s direction. The cat turned its head in the man’s direction, not because of the words the man spoke, but to watch as the man walked through the doorway into his bedroom.

And the cat watched, remembering Bastet’s promise. But this time the threshold remained still, so the cat lowered its head and closed its eyes. The dwellers of the house would sleep through the night, so he too could rest for a while.

And just as the cat began to dose off and the last traces of reality slipped from his mind to be replaced by the siren like song of Morpheus, a voice sounded in the distance. It was weak, as if it had traveled untold distances to finally reach him. A voice that he didn’t recognize, but seemed as familiar to him as if it were his own.

“You have kept my promise well, my child. You have earned your rest.”

black-cat-3608
Guarding the Threshold…Like every cat does.
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