Man walks in, sees a body, steps over it, grabs a bottle of water from the cooler, steps behind the counter, dials the phone.
“Don’t ask how,” he says, “but I just witnessed a parting of ways. This earth, that life. 700 block, liquor store. I’m out of here.”
Police show, spread out, look for cigarette butts or candy wrappers, speak across the room in clues and anagrams. “Took a walk,” they say, “across the threshold of life, built a bridge and burned it.” Rookie cop nods, opens a bag of chips.
Roger lights a smoke, three doors down, watches cop beacons beckon. “Leave me out of this,” he says to nobody in particular. “I’m just a barber. Misery can take the train.”
The body on the floor of the liquor store doesn’t move. They usually don’t. It can’t speak except in silent grievance of who might have a grudge, or who might want a bottle of whiskey without the cash to make the trade in a civilized way.
Veteran cop spits the obvious down. “Somebody coarse was here and made a mess.” Rookie cop nods, takes a swig of soda.
The evil that passed rested in the nook of goodness once upon a time, kissed a mother and didn’t kick the cat. Something on the streets broke into his psyche and made off with the decency he once had, robbed him of his humanity in the last hour before dawn. This is how criminals are born, headfirst from the womb with a wail, and later shoed to the sidewalk, chasing coins, a promise of deliverance always pushed to the next block.
A reporter pushes the yellow tape. “Let me through,” she says. “I got a deadline to punch my clock in time for the evening news.”
“Not so,” says a uniform, fat with black and a badge. “You guard the TV screens, but we take fingerprints first. We find out if revenge with a rage or a brash opportunity came for their swig of violence.”
Pedestrians pause and spread their eyes wider. “How can this be?” asks a tall, turbaned man. “We live in a peaceful world.”
“Not so,” says a mid-aged woman of empty bags. “This town fell from paradise. We walk blind among ruins.”
A cop calms the air with her palms. “It’s nothing special folks,” she says. “Afternoons die with the wind. All you go home now and we’ll drive the paperwork down. Fill your hearts with puppies and birthday cakes. And know that it might mean the end of this city if we finished our promises. The delicate balance of good and foul must be maintained.”