The Next(10)

By: Rafe Haze



“My interactions with the twat consisted mostly of banging on the ceiling with a broom at four in morning when he came back from la-la-ville, tweaking way up in the treetops and turning on…I don’t know…let’s call it music.”

I was going to incorporate something sarcastic about Cher and a woofer, but my brain was slow as sludge. His brain, however, was not.

He looked past me onto the shadowy lumpiness of the floor and asked, “You’ve actually got a broom?”

Ahh…here come the insults, and I fully deserved them.

Marzoli barely waited for his wry joke to land, “Would Nathan Ridges stop playing when you asked?”

“Sometimes.”

“And the times he didn’t?”

“One time, and only once, I knocked on his door. He answered.”

He’d answered the door naked, but did this son-of-a-bitch need to know that?

That slight hesitancy of edited thought affected the placement of the last uttered syllable almost imperceptibly, so I was floored when the fucker asked, “Did he answer the door naked?”

How in hell could this lughead have picked that subtlety up?

“Yes,” I answered, trying to sound as unimpressed as possible.

“What a treat.”

“He was shaving his pubes bald. Well, half of it when he answered. With a Bic disposable. He’d just shaved his chest, blood running down where he’d nicked his nipple. He was high. His hands were shaking like a leaf. Hardly looked at me. Didn’t even say hi. He just asked for help applying a Band-Aid.”

“Did you lay into him?”

Interesting choice of words.

“I told him his music makes me dream of severing his skull slowly with a nail file and shoving it down the garbage chute.”

He wrote this down.

Shit.

Why the hell did I have to tell him the truth? What about this mofo made me feel obedient?

“But,” I continued, “he was so fucking sheepish standing there helpless as a puppy, with his nipple bleeding. So I applied the fucking Band-Aid.”

“Did you clean it?”

“Clean what?”

“His nipple.”

“With my tongue.” I paused. He did not react. He did not write anything down, but instead waited patiently. “I used a wet towel I found in the bathroom.”

“You entered his apartment?”

He wrote this down.

Motherfucker.

He looked up from his notes and held me in a steady gaze as he asked, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why help him?”

His tone was urgent. Why did he need to know the answer to that question? How could my answer in any way further his investigation? What exactly was at stake? My brain felt fossilized next to his. It was so grating not to be ahead of this plot.

I responded obliquely, “As it says in the New Testament, love thy neighbor and thy neighbor might turn off his woofer.”

Marzoli continued to look me in the eye, measuring what little truth could be read under the sarcasm.

Errrrg.

His patience left me with little choice but to resort back to truth.

“It looked to me like he was going through some hell of a drama. More than just withdrawal. Might even have been scared of something. He was shivering violently. It was winter and the window was wide open. Very Demi in St. Elmo’s Fire.”

He did not blink. Right. Before his time.

“I closed the window, led him to his bed, took his shoes off, covered him with a blanket, turned off the fucking music, and left. That’s it.”

Marzoli remained quiet.

God damn it.

“No, sergeant, I did not insert my penis into any of his cavities, nor did I have the impulse to, so stop stroking yourself. No matter what Mrs. Abraham says. I know she saw me exiting his apartment and started whatever rumor you’ve no doubt already heard from other neighbors and assume to be true.”

Still no response.

I was rambling defensively. I thought I was better than this. Guess I wasn’t. Great. Another reason to love myself to death. And how the fuck did Sergeant Marzoli take the subway in from the boroughs to Hell’s Kitchen without a fucking wrinkle on his shirt or hair out of place? He was inhumanly perfect and everything in me wanted to take him down several hundred notches. I just couldn’t figure out how.

“Honestly, I don’t think the twat remembered a second of me coming into his apartment, ’cause the next night the music was thumping at two a.m. anyway.”

Marzoli wrote this information down, halting my monologue.

“You actually left your apartment?” he murmured loud enough for me to hear, “Good for you.”

I suppose there was a grin on the other side of his full, but stern lips.

“It was a couple months ago. Or was it a year? I don’t know.”

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