Neon Blue (suspense) and This Shoal of Space (SF) by John Argo were the first two e-books ever published online for download, in the history of the world, 1996-7 in innovative weekly serial chapters. More info at the museum pages. If you enjoy this free read, which is offered in the spirit of the Golden Age of the World Wide Web, please consider buying a print or e-book edition as a way of thanking the author. A fine E-book is typically priced at the cost of a latte, yet offers many more hours of enjoyment than a cup of coffee. Thank you (John Argo).
Chapter 7. Hamilton, Connecticut
Blue found the temptation to drive the MG too great. The rag top rattled pleasurably as the car burred along I-95 going east toward Hamilton. The white church on the town green was within earshot of the ocean's mournful horns. Sere, leafless, millions of trees slept through winter.
Detective Eddie Stosik was a little guy and a smoker. He was freckled, thirty, with a Jimmie Olson boyishness and red hair. They met outside a diner overlooking the Old Boston Post Road on one side and Long Island Sound on the other. He pointed with his overcoat pocket. "That's a nice car, Miss Humboldt."
"Nice car, Blue. I heard the Federal Government was going to furnish you a car, but I had no idea" He opened the door for her. She read the wry in his tone and laughed. "You know they don't provide sport scars."
Coffee arrived at their table. Eddie's index and middle fingers were orange with cigarette detritus. He had dirty fingernails and slurped his coffee. He had marvelous hazel eyes and was full of jokes. Of course he was married with three kids.
He shuttled his Marlboros on the table from one hand to the other. "I'll show you to your apartment later on."
"That'll be nice," she said.
"I checked it out for you. You've got quiet neighbors, mostly, sorta. Coupla college families. They play seem to play hard rock at one in the morning sometimes though."
"I'll manage," Blue said. "My apartment in Manhattan is over a subway and under where the jets fly. Not to mention the trash that sails down from the twentieth floor to the dumpster."
"Manhattan," Eddie said.
"It's pretty lively."
"Yeah, well here, this place will bore you."
"Depends." She leaned forward. "You busted Guzman but he's dead and our leads are gone. Is there a next straw to grasp?"
Eddie shrugged. He had a smug mouth. "I don't know what the next straw is. Let me tell you about my job. I was a patrolman in New Haven. Quit and came here to be a detective. Do you know what I detect? Building code violations. No shit. This is a small department and I do all sorts of stuff. In between building code violations, truancy, welfare complaints, once every decade a murder
This Guzman thing was a fluke. I don't expect to see another one like it in my lifetime. What I'm trying to say is, cool it. We're just small town cops here. That's the way I like it. Quiet. I have a chance here to reach my retirement date in one piece. Do you ever think about that?"
"You have a point there," Blue said. "Well, Eddie, this coffee is real nice and you're real nice. But I just saw two people murdered in cold blood, one of them a pretty nice guy. So you'll pardon me if I don't cool it too much."
Eddie made a face. "Blue, all I'm saying is, get used to the pace here. It's slow. Like a glacier. An inch a year."
She put her hands over his. "Eddie, I read the police reports. You went in there with guns blazing. Now that's not a guy who wants to ride things out."
He shrugged lightly. "Well, something came over me."
"Well, something could come over you again, couldn't it?"
He laughed. "Things are going to be interesting with you around. When we finish our coffees, let's take a ride."
She liked Eddie. There was something warm and straight about him. Playful. He drove her through the snow-dusted streets. To the edge of town. Even here, in this postcard tourist town on the Old Boston Post Road, were poor areas. He pointed to a burned-out house on a dead-end street, enough left to suggest a typical New England house with gray shingles and a wooden porch. "What do you see, Blue?"
"It's depressing." Singed, burned. Broken glass, twisted plumbing, a basement filled with snow. "Maybe some family lived there for generations. And then"
"The people sold, moved, whatever, the place was on the market, and Our Friends moved in. Look around the neighborhood." She saw broken toy wagons on frosty lawns. Rusty cars on bricks.
"Toy wagons," he mused over a cigarette. "Children. I have three. Somehow, children live here, and there was a crack house in the middle of their neighborhood. The house was up for sale, empty, and those bastards moved in. Like catching a cold. They appear from nowhere. We staked the place out. You could see, night after night, a path worn to the side window. That's where they were taking the money and handing the dope out. And there were children playing on the lawns. Doesn't that make your skin crawl? Could be your own kids someday. Place like that appears. No warning, no nothing, the ghouls start showing up at night. They go in there, buy some, buy quick sex too, a real AIDS factory. I got pissed when I saw the toy wagons." He sucked on his cigarette, then tossed it sizzling into the snow. "Guzman made the mistake of being in the neighborhood same time as me."
She nodded. "Reminds me of the neighborhood I grew up in. Same lawns, same wagons, same everything."
"That why you joined DEA?"
"I just wanted to do something a little different. I wasn't ready for toy wagons." I was, she thought, Mike wasn't. Now?
Eddie made a wry mouth. "With three kids, I've got wagons on my lawn, hey."
"Nothing wrong with wagons if they're on the right lawn."
"You haven't found the right lawn yet, huh?"
"I had a wagon but he rolled away. Come on, take me to the police station. Let me see the files on the case."
"Okay, but you won't like what you'll see."
Copyright © 1996 by John Argo, Clocktower Books. All Rights Reserved.