Ain't That a Shame

Michael Panush

Two weeks after I got back from Scaulsbury, I met with Detective Art Nolan in a rundown gin joint on Wilshire. We went to a back booth and sipped whiskey sours, staring at the other clients and wondering if they were hiding drugs, guns or both under their bad coats. It was that kind of a joint. We got through about half of our drinks in friendly silence and then Nolan pulled a manila folder from his coat and handed it to me. I looked inside.

It was full of adoption papers for Felix Tannenbaum. His new legal guardian was Sophie Gold. I set the folder on the table and gave it a pat. "So you paid me back for your favor after all," I said. "Even though I did better than that – I wiped out the Scytherians."

"So you say," Nolan pointed out. "But there's no real proof coming up from Scaulsbury. That place is now locked down tighter than Soviet Russia. Only rumors are coming out. But the Scytherians are finished, that's for sure. So I guess I do have to you to thank." He pointed to the folder. "Well, consider that your reward. You don't want to know the kinds of strings I had to pull."

"Corruption," I muttered. "Greasing the wheels."

"Turning naïve in your old age, Dwight?" Nolan wondered.

I stared at him coldly.

Nolan just grinned as he reached for a cigarette. He stabbed it in my direction. "Seriously though. I'd never expect Dwight Harrow to be asking for anything like this. I can imagine you as a lot of things, Dwight – a monster, a detective, a torpedo and a soldier. But a father? Part of a family? That's one beyond me."

I plucked the cigarette from his hands and set it between my lips. I pulled my lighter to life and let the end of the cigarette touch the flame's red tip. "I didn't think it could happen either, Nolan. But I've been wrong before. Christ knows I've been wrong before." I stood up, tucking the folder under my arm as I reached for my wallet. "I'm not sure how I feel, about being in a family. But it certainly can't be worse compared to what I saw in Scaulsbury." I tossed down the money, enough to pay for my drink and to pay for Nolan's.

"You didn't have to do that," Nolan suggested.

"Don't worry," I told him. "I got paid a small fortune in Scaulsbury. I can afford it."

"Sounds like it worked out okay for you."

"Maybe. But I'm glad to be back." I breathed in the seedy air of the bar. It was thick and heavy, with an under taste of iron that could only come from blood. Outside the air was thick and full of choking smog, which would grip your lungs like an unfriendly hand and refuse to let go. There was corruption in this city and more cruelty than anyone could imagine. But nobody bothered to hide it, not like they did in Scaulsbury. LA was a liar – but it was honest about being a liar. For that reason, I didn't mind calling it home. "I'll see you around, Nolan. Take care of yourself."

"You too, Dwight," Nolan offered. "And my best to Sophie and the boy."

I thanked him with a nod and walked outside, back into the LA heat.

-The End-