One of the junior officers at the precinct slapped the side of the ancient television to remove the static.
“And now a continuation on the breaking news from Lexington Station in Manhattan, magical trickery, high tech illusion, or is it … a ghost?” the grey-jacketed anchor man, angled proportionately to get his good side and reflect a suave glimmer from either his eye or tooth, but never both, as that would be too much and him being a professional, stated from the center of the screen. “Our on the scene reporter, Amber Relevant, has … that update.”
The reporter with the short, highlighted blonde hair and bounce stood there at the crime scene and received the passed baton. “Thank you, Perry. It’s been twelve hours since Nurse Johann Whittler’s brutally slain body was discovered in a bloody pool here on the Lexington Station platform by a subway custodian, and ten hours since her body was wheeled away by the morgue. Sadly that would suffice for page three in the news, but what has pasted this particular crime onto the front page copy is not the murder, but the routine follow-up which has become anything but routine, and has scientists and forensic experts, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, scratching their heads and panhandling for an answer. A man, only identified at this time as Johnny, is being touted as the suspect behind the unexplainable transfiguration of a woman’s ghost, which appeared mysteriously only after he’d outlined the corpse in chalk and placed a halo above her head, and then proceeded, when the body was gone, to draw the woman’s face into that very same outline. Witnesses at the scene were awestruck by what they saw.”
A slight break in the picture signaled a jump to a prerecorded interview.
“Yeah, Crumbly!!!” the band of officers watching the television at the precinct, cheered their pudgy comrade as the break segued to him.
“Yo, it wasn’t chalk,” the prerecorded, interviewed Officer Crumbly said from out of the set. “It was crayons. He had a whole plastic bucket of them. Said he needed more colors. He wouldn’t take the chalk from the chief … no. And if he didn’t make me crap myself, he draws the perfect painting of the woman…”
“Classy, Crumbly, classy,” Butcher, a fellow cop with a buzz cut, leaning on a desk, teased, staring at the television and the back of Crumbly’s curly head.
“Johann Whittler?” Ms. Relevant asked from the set.
“The dead woman, is that her?” prerecorded Crumbly replied. “Yeah I think it is.”
“Way to go Crumbly,” Butcher heckled yet again and sneered.
“And then what?” Ms. Relevant asked. “You said painting … but you said he used crayons not chalk?”
“I don’t know how he did it. That’s why I was crappin’ myself. It was like something out of the Museum of Art, not that modern crap, but like a Rembrandt or something.”
“Not a Van Gogh, Crumbly?”
“Oh shut up, Butcher,” Crumbly said, and continued to watch himself.
“You don’t know how, you said,” the prerecorded Amber Relevant spoke. “So you’re not sure it was crayons?”
“He had crayons,” the prerecorded Crumbly answered. “That’s what I told you. How he got those crayons to do what he did, that I don’t know, perfect image of her face and then it lifted out of the platform. Now if that ain’t enough, he only drew her face, but the rest of her body magically showed up too, matched the face perfectly as perfectly was the face. Then some of us braved to step nearer and tested it.”
“Tested it?” Ms. Relevant asked, and pushed her microphone closer.
Officer Crumbly’s chin caved into his throat as he backed slightly away from the intruding bulbous-topped dagger. “You know, to see if it was really there.”
“And was it … really there?” Ms. Relevant’s hair bounced above her eyes as the shaven portion on her nape remained as steadfast as the question.
“My hand went right through it,” the prerecorded Crumbly said, “but my eyes couldn’t without seeing it. It wasn’t a drawing. It was a ghost. She was sleeping.”
“Yes.” Officer Crumbly’s face scrunched up. “Am I talking too fast?”
“Good one, Crumbly,” Butcher, now seated on the desk, mocked him, “there’s a lady’s man.”
“No … no, you’re fine,” the prerecorded reporter responded.
“She’s hot, ain’t she?” another officer in the huddle viewing the screen said.
“As if Crumbly would know,” Butcher continued his taunt.
“Well it was a stupid question if she was listening,” Crumbly defended himself.
“But I’m confused,” Ms. Relevant continued.
“Maybe she’s so into you that she’s lost her place,” Butcher continued. “Hypnotized her with your charm?”
“Oh just shut up,” Crumbly tried to ignore him and watched the interview more hungrily for a distraction.
“I thought the ghost was a woman,” Ms. Relevant said. “But the image I see now is a man’s image …” The camera zoomed in on the disturbing apparition.
“How the hell did he do that?” was the general response that erupted from the viewing precinct, which for the first time saw Johnny’s work.
“Weren’t Johnny brain-damaged?” one said.
“I thought,” another fed off his confusion, “but he didn’t sound it when he came in. I mean just now, but in the morning he did. Wh-what gives?”
“Hold on a second!”
“What now, Butcher?!” Crumbly said, now getting angered. “Will you lay off already?” he snapped.
“No, no, not you, you dope” Butcher said, and got off his desk and put his face nearly into the screen. “That thing there, that ghost … that’s the guy we shot today. I’m sure of it.”
“What?” Crumbly dropped his mood instantly and focused in on him. “You sure?”
Butcher tapped the screen. “I’m sure. Yeah, and come to think of it,” he continued. “We found a woman’s wallet on him too, could have been Whittler. Yeah, you know what? I think it was.”
“It was? Well, you-you’d better tell Barrister,” Crumbly informed him. “He’s handling the case. Johnny said we’d caught the perp … but when Barrister asked to confirm, Gerald didn’t know, said we hadn’t. Barrister thinks Johnny’s been pulling his leg because of it, up to some trick.”
“But seems we do got him, huh?”
“Right, Johnny knew … which um … won’t make Barrister too happy,” Crumbly said … and then smirked with a new found thought.
“… To be wrong?” Butcher said.
“Yeah,” Crumbly said, smiling even wider now. “That’s … that’s why you’ve got to tell him … he’s made a mistake.”
The on-screen reporter’s voice sounded above the murmurs, “We’ll find this Johnny and get his story, or my name isn’t Amber Relevant … and now back to you, Perry.” Her televised bounce shrunk to a smaller screen behind the anchorman’s glimmering tooth, which now obnoxiously took up the forefront.
“Thank you, Amb…”
Mercifully … someone clicked off the television set.
Meanwhile, somewhere else in the station, another set was being likewise turned off. “Do you believe that? I’ll have that Crumbly harpooned,” Barrister said.
“Leave the man’s weight alone,” the chief replied.
“A man’s weight shouldn’t be that disproportionate to his brain,” Barrister said, “but I gather he could be a bloody string bean and not be any better. You know this’ll all go national, don’t you?”
“And what if it did?” the chief said.
“What if it did?” Barrister cupped the top of his head as if it was a canon about to explode.
“Yes, what if? Go solve your crime if you’re worried,” the chief said. “Afraid you’ll be the one scrutinized?”
“I ain’t afraid of the sort,” Barrister said. “I always get my man and I’ll get this scumbag and you know it … but this Johnny, you’ve gone too far, if this ain’t a prank and it’s your bloody religion, tell me how it’s done.”
“I can’t,” the chief answered, “and who says it’s mine?”
“What, you think me dopey now, chef?” Barrister chuckled sarcastically. “You’d like to believe I’ve forgotten your teachers and now your messiah?”
“No,” the chief said, “I was only wondering if others were saying so too. I’m a proud poppa in this. I don’t want you to forget. I don’t want you ever to forget it. As a matter of fact, I’d love everyone to know. Let it go national.” The chief leaned back in his chair. “What you’re afraid is that he might be all I believe him to be, and you not believing it, not believing it against everyone else who will come to believe it, and then where will you be … on the way out?”
“There ain’t no one good for no one. This world’s full of self-serving bastards. And he’s got an angle that’ll bring whatever it gets right back to him. And you? You want to be there to get your pickings. You clearly are psycho, chef,” Barrister said, scratching his scruff. “But if I’ve got one foot in my grave, that only makes me more grounded than you and harder to trip up.”
“I don’t want to trip you,” the chief said.
“Don’t you?” Barrister’s eyes became like goggles.
“You go home, detective, and have your second or third … or even fourth drink … and you tell me who’s trying to trip you up. That’s of course if you can remember … after you’re sober.”
“Fag off,” Barrister snapped, but then eyed the chief’s rolodex, “… I mean, fag off, sir.”
“Yes, go home, detective, it’s been a long day,” the chief said with a curt smile, but not willing to show any anger. “Johnny won’t be going anywhere with the frenzy now. It’s safer for him here. Even I wouldn’t want him thrown to the lions. What kind of martyring would that be? Yes, go home, detective …”
Barrister’s top teeth squeezed his bottom lip as he shook his head, vocally absent of a response.
“Yes, and I’ll fag off too,” the chief added, presuming to read the detective’s mind, which easily could have been read by anyone under the circumstances, how narrow it had become.
The mouthed formation found voice. “Fag off,” Barrister huffed, correctly expected and not anymore brilliant than his last exclamation, even with the help of an apparent pause for thought, but was slightly more under his breath … and then, turning up his collar, left the chief’s office.
The chief watched the detective in his oversized coat go down the hall and exit by the rear, headed to where his car was parked … and knew Barrister was going home.
“Chief? Excuse me, Chief Matthews.”
The chief turned into an Aryan reflection. “Yes, Officer Butcher, what is it?”
“Is Detective Barrister with you?” Butcher said. “I have some new information to tell him.”
“What information is that?” the chief asked.
“Concerning the case … that last ghost at Lexington Station,” Butcher said, “the one Johnny said is the killer?”
“Yes, what of it?” the chief asked.
“He … he was right,” Butcher said. “Johnny was right. We got him. We shot him down earlier in a gunfight. Didn’t realize he was related to the other crime until just now, but he had the woman’s wallet. Johann Whittler, right?”
The look in the chief’s eyes in response to this was deep … too deep to be recognized … too deep to be uncovered.
(To Be Continued)
A Note and an Apology for you who have been reading “Chalked”: As the story has developed I’ve been fighting what to do. At first I thought it would be a tale of a few chapters, but clearly I now see it has grown to something more substantial, and for me to try and minimize it would not do it justice. I’ve continued to work on the story, and have progressed greatly, so much so that I am considering it for a novel. If any of you have read and then gone back recently to reread the Chalked series, you might have noticed some additions to the writing. These have been in accordance to the larger unfolding story. I truly appreciate all of you who have shown an interest in my work, and hold in special regard those who have enjoyed the Chalked series in particular. This has been a new venture for me as a writer, starting a blog, and the Chalked series has been a wonderful exercise and learning tool for me on this journey. I might still post a couple of more excerpts from the story, but the end decision will be to leave it open-ended, its ending to come when the novel is done. I might pull all of the story’s posts together and put them into one reading in my book section, and then I guess like the others in that section it will remain as, and I hate to say this, a teaser for what’s yet to come. I hope you have enjoyed it and are intrigued to see what comes next. Again I beg your pardon and pray that you understand. It’s not what I had intended, but sometimes words and stories have a mind of their own and we can only follow them to where they will bring us. The path is alive, I assure you, even though it goes into hiding for a while. I’m honestly excited for Chalked, but I do not forget how I must be trying your patience. Please forgive my fault, and perhaps I can make amends with the finished product. Thank you again, and do continue to read my other posts as well as any remaining Chalked posts to come … and as always, I hope that you are quite entertained.