Maybe Next Year…

Photo by David Taylor

By John Clise

He woke up sitting on the couch to the sound of the orange phone on his old wooden TV stand ringing. He was still wearing the clothes he’d had on the day before complete with the tan corduroy jacket only he liked. One writer friend of his had gone so far to have the jacket murdered in one of his books.

He’d been a police detective, a journalist, and now he was a private investigator. It all seemed a natural progression to him as he evolved as a human being.

Cops and journalists were both corrupt. He’d been both. He didn’t give a shit whom he offended with his truth. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t candy coat it. He handed it out like candy at Christmas.

He figured being a PI was his best shot at helping people. He wasn’t afraid to tangle with crooked cops, or call out lazy journalists. He just didn’t give a damn.

He loved to fight. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He wasn’t against dispensing violence as a means to an end when searching for a missing person, or getting to the bottom of a case.

He wasn’t the kind of person you would willfully screw with just to see what might happen. He didn’t go out of his way to defend himself against rumors and lies, though when he engaged he was like a coon hound on a scent. You would not stop him until the job was done. Quitting was not his thing.

When people were relentless in their attempts to badger him, he would always remind them before the hell that he was broke loose that they had “asked for this,” or “this is what you wanted.”

Admittedly, he had been thinking of a quiet retirement to the Florida Keys. Warm days. warm nights. Fishing. Tequila. Women on a quest for something only a mysterious man with a quiet demeanor could satisfy in the wildest way to allow her to return to her ordinary everyday life again. Days spent drinking beers at a bar with new friends. Nights spent drifting off half drunk listening to the lullabies of the sea. Waking up to barefoot walks on the beach. Sunning himself while the place he came from suffered 22 inches of snow. Studying the stars that stretched from horizon to horizon like diamonds on black velvet while his old home struggled to see any stars through the city lights, and the abundant haze of pollution and city life. Surely someone will pick up where he left off in the crusade to help the downtrodden. Surely he would be allowed to escape to his own piece of mind for a while before joining the cosmos for all eternity.

He sat there thinking as the sunlight began to agree with his slowly opening eyes. The phone was still ringing as he scratched the back of his head, and then rubbed his neck.

After some hesitation, he picked it up. “Yeah, Jackson here.”

Turns out some poor dude’s daughter had gone missing, and the authorities and the media had dismissed the disappearance as nothing out of the ordinary for a poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks.

He set up an appointment with the man for a few hours later. He went to the bathroom where he shaved his face, combed his shortly cropped hair, changed his tie, brushed his teeth, gargled, and straightened his wrinkled clothes.

Passing back through the living room he picked up a reporter’s pad, a digital pocket recorder, placed his 1911 back in its side holster, put a .38 in its ankle holster, and put his phone in his jacket pocket.

He caught a glimpse of his aging face in the door glass as he left his apartment. As he slowed to look at his reflection he said to himself… “Maybe next year.”

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