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Jingles and Mr. Hammer-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
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In Another Waiting Room-Poem by Walter Ruhlmann
Innocent Blood-Poem by Walter Ruhlmann
Ebola-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
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In the Old Mansion-Poem by John Grey
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

82_ym_jinglesandmrhammer_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2020

Jingles and Mr. Hammer

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

“Well, Mr. Hammer…another one bites the dust, huh?”

Mr. Hammer was not his usual, talkative self this evening. Jingles continued walking along the waterfront past the ghostly shapes of piers jutting out into the river and the rusty arms of cranes, dripping with moisture. What few lights still worked down here were mostly swallowed up by the thick fog. Far off, a couple miles out into the bay, the mournful hoot of a sono-buoy shoved the silence rudely aside. The silence pushed back.

Well, that was okay. Mr. Hammer had his moods, just like anyone else. Jingles continued his evening stroll, quietly churning the loose change in his left pocket. He didn’t know why he liked that sound so much. Didn’t even really think about it anymore. He only knew he liked it and the habit was where his street name had come from. Jeffrey had been known as “Jingles” since grade school, where he had outperformed everyone in school at being lazy and inept at schoolwork.

It wasn’t that he was stupid or slow. He just didn’t see the need to know all the shit they tried to pump into your head—a certain amount of math and science, he supposed was okay, but why did he need to know the principle exports of Venezuela, or, for that matter, who all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were? Fuck that.

Faintly, he heard Mr. Hammer snigger.

“What’s funny, motherfucker?” He waited, slowing his walk so he could hear better. Mr. Hammer never raised his voice. He always spoke in low tones, usually in a whisper. But then, Mr. Hammer was a badass mother. He didn’t need to raise his voice. Ever. Jingles listened intently. No answer.

“What? Cat got yer tongue, Mistah? You kin say it. Go ahead. We bein’ buddies and all. Think you gone hurt mah feelin’s or some shit?”

Mr. Hammer said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it…” Then the snigger again.

“The fuck’s that supposed ta mean, man? Doomed…shit…”

“I’m saying perhaps you should have stayed in school, Jingles. You’d be better off for the experience.”

“Yeah, fuck that. You know how them rich-ass, spoiled punks treated me there…”

“I only know what you tell me. If you’ll recall, I was not around during the formative part of your life. Had I been there, things would have turned out much differently, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, Mistah Hammer, you got that shit right.”

Mr. Hammer asked, “Are we done for tonight, Jingles? Or are you up for another?”

“Naw, Man, I’m tired. Think it’s time ta go get some sleep…”

Mr. Hammer agreed and Jingles and his friend walked around the next block and headed for home.

#     #     #

The landlady, Mrs. Soames, happened to be taking out trash just as Jingles arrived at his apartment. She didn’t like Jingles at all, but he was always on time with the rent money. Usually it was in the form of greasy, smelly bills, fives and tens mostly and she had been known to actually throw his rent money in with the laundry. Most people didn’t know that so-called paper money was more cloth than paper and you could wash it without doing any real damage. And Jingles always smelled, too—just like the nasty money. She wondered if he ever bathed. The nasty creep. She remembered one time when he had given her money that had something on it that looked for all the world like blood. Might have just been ketchup, but she washed the bills anyway.

#     #     #

Lieutenant Callahan put down his coffee cup and pulled out his pager, held it up to the light to read the printout.

“Fuck, Johnny. We got another one.”

His partner, John Galloway, took a final chomp on his Bismark and, with his mouth half full said, “Yeah, where at this time?”

“Pier 51. Goddamn floater. We better roll.” He tossed some bills on the table and stood up, grabbing his coat. The waitress, seeing the detectives about to leave, scurried over with two Styrofoam cups of coffee, lids already snapped on tight. She liked the two Irish cops. They were daily customers and they tipped pretty good, considering what they made as New York’s Finest.

Galloway said, “Thanks, Maggie,” and swooped in to give her a quick peck on the cheek, missing and getting her ear instead. She felt goose bumps run down one arm and up her leg at the same time. She wondered if he had any idea she loved him. Big fucking lug…

The partners stepped out into morning fog and light drizzle, and the cacophony of cab horns, tire screeches, hissing steam, bus brakes and everything else that was the background noise of the Big Apple. Their unmarked Crown Vic was parked illegally at a hydrant a half block up, the NYPD plaque on the dash. They crammed themselves into the car, buckling up without even thinking about it and Callahan picked up the radio mike. He cleared with Central, advising they were on their way to the floater call.

“Copy, D-44, break, D-11, 91st and Sims, a 10-40, see the lady, says she heard a gunshot…” the radio chatter continued ceaselessly as the Crown Vic headed toward the team’s twenty-eighth homicide of the new year. Galloway reached under the seat and pulled out the split-lens red and blue “Kojac” light and plunked it on the dash, stabbing the plug on the curly cord into the cigarette lighter. The light began to spin and some of the drivers actually noticed it and eased over a bit, allowing the unmarked to squeeze through. Callahan blipped the horn and yelped the siren a bit now and then to wake up the “idjits” who hadn’t had their caffeine yet, and gradually, they worked their way toward the waterfront.

“Jist anuuther foine die in the borough of Manhattan, Johnny me bye,” Callahan said in his put-on Irish brogue and Galloway gave him the finger as he nursed his coffee.

#     #     #

Central had told them it was a floater, Callahan thought to himself, but they damn sure didn’t tell us it was a floater chick. He looked into the white iridescence of the body bag at the once-beautiful young woman. In spite of the puffiness of exposure to the river water, in spite of the beginnings of decomp, he could tell she had been a looker. He used a small LED flashlight to do a cursory examination. Grey skirt, slightly above the knee, black top made of some silky, clingy material, maybe real silk. Red shoes from some expensive place uptown. Ankle bracelet, two rings and a tiny Rolex watch. So she had money and robbery wasn’t a motive. No purse, of course, but he had a feeling about this one. He would almost bet there was a missing persons case already sitting in the computer on this gal.

Dark bruising around the eyes, but not the kind you get from a prick boyfriend. The back of her head was mush, the eye darkening from the brain-bleed as she died. Another fair bet: there would be no water in the lungs. She was most likely dead before she went into the water. Such a shame…

Galloway was fifty yards away, interviewing the guy who spotted her. Nobody special, just a guy who happened to look over the side of his tugboat as he was headed out into the harbor. Saw something he didn’t like the looks of. Cut his throttles and grabbed a boathook and bingo! Pulled her aboard and called 911. Harbor Patrol boat was first on the scene and brought her ashore. Callahan lit up the first cigar of the day and motioned for the coroner’s guys to zip her up and roll. It might be a week before he got an autopsy report, maybe six weeks for toxicology, depending on how busy they were. The wheels of justice, he thought, doing that slow grind thing. But there really was no justice for something like this. Justice would be finding the asshole that did this and beating him to death and dumping his ass in the river.

In the meantime, their caseload wasn’t getting any lighter and there was always court to tie up their time, too. What a bullshit way to make a living. The sun was up in the east by the time they headed for the station, beams of sunshine blasting down through the canyons between the skyscrapers of Manhattan. His mind made one of those jumps to Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and the opening line, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” and he realized how much he both loved and hated this city.

#     #     #

Dr. William Tarn, M.D. “caught” the autopsy of Callahan’s floater from pier 51. He did his gross examination, looking over every inch of the body, now stripped naked, the clothing already dried in a special cabinet, then bagged and tagged for evidence.

Surprisingly, there was no evidence of any kind of struggle or sexual assault. In fact, the woman had been a few days into her menstrual cycle and there was a tampon still in place. No broken nails, no bruising that could not be attributed to being tumbled through the water and possibly bumped by boat traffic. All post-mortem. No injuries, except to the back of the skull.

Dr. Bill used clippers to carefully remove the long, blonde hair from the back of the skull. He was expecting a number of blows, but it appeared there was only one. A massive strike with a heavy object had done this lady in. After photographing the wound from several angles with a digital camera, he made a clean incision around the back of her skull, peeling the top of her scalp forward over her face. More photos of the skull itself, now exposed, the cranium clearly showing cracking and a depressed fracture. He readied his bone saw and went to work, cutting across the top of the skull and around the back, then using a chisel and a small hammer, he popped open the cut section, allowing more photos of the inside of the skull.

Using a scalpel, he reached in under the brain and cut through the spinal cord just beneath the brain stem and carefully removed the brain, weighing it, as with all the other internal organs, then sitting it on a bread board to be sliced, in order to look for lesions or tumors. All other causes of death must be eliminated for the “true cause” to hold up in court. For every damned good doctor doing this kind of work there were any number of damned slick attorneys interested in getting the suspect off on any possible technicality.

Later the sliced brain would be fitted neatly back into the skull, the skull section replaced and the scalp sutured, so that the mortician would be able to make her presentable for her funeral. Might even manage an open casket with a little makeup on the eye darkening.

Blood and bodily fluids were drawn and labeled for toxicology and the doctor’s dictated report was typed up and a copy forwarded to Callahan at Homicide. The doctor moved on to his next case. He would perform seven autopsies that same day. On the fourth one after the blonde Jane Doe, he saw the exact same skull trauma on a 34-year-old homeless man from down in the Bronx. He picked up the phone and called Callahan.

#     #     #

Jingles and Mr. Hammer slept late and then got up and took a shower together. They didn’t do that very often, but sometimes it was necessary. Jingles often wondered what people would think of their relationship if they knew. It wasn’t just a working relationship. There was also love and respect and mutual enjoyment. There were many things they both liked that they could do together. They both liked strip clubs and they both liked to watch porn videos. The ones with women bound and tortured were the best, Jingles thought. Mr. Hammer preferred videos of women masturbating with vibrators and dildoes.

Often they would watch their “shows” just before they went out for their evening stroll. If they were successful in their quest for companionship, they would come home and sleep. If not, they might be frustrated and they would have to find other outlets for their libidos. When Jingles was a boy, he had often abused animals, but he had outgrown that phase and moved on to better things. About the time he stopped hurting animals, he discovered how much fun it was to play “dress-up” with his older sister’s clothes. She had caught him a couple times, wearing her bra and panties and called him a “creepy little pervert”, but then lots of older sisters thought such things about younger brothers. No big deal…again, Jingles had graduated to bigger and better things.

Jingles applied his makeup as Mr. Hammer watched. He seemed amused that Jingles would bother with all that “goop”, as he called it.

“If anything bad happens, you’ll be identified anyway,” he would often tell Jingles.

“That’s not why I do this, and you already know it,” Jingles replied.

“Yeah,” Mr. Hammer sighed, “I know. You like to get in really close and the makeup helps…”

Together, they ate supper, nothing fancy, chicken pot pies, and when they finished, evening was setting in. Time to go out.

#     #     #

“Callahan! Line two!” The detective nearest the front of the bullpen was holding up a phone, waving it in the air.

“Callahan.”

“Bill Tarn, Callahan. Got something for ya…”

“Talk to me,” Callahan said, grabbing a pen and a legal pad.

Dr. Tarn told him about the homeless guy he’d autopsied and the similarities in the head wounds.

“Think it could be the same guy, Doc?”

“Same M. O. Same weapon, I’d stake my reputation on it. Now I’m wondering if there may be more.”

“I’ll see if I can put a guy on it…”

“That’s okay, Detective, I’ve got three interns with time on their hands. I’ve already got one going back through our files. Got calls in to Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, you know the drill…”

“Okay, hey, that’s great Bill. Let me know soonest, okay?”

“Yup, you got it.”

Callahan hung up the phone just as Galloway walked into the bull pen on his way back from the coffee pot. Galloway looked at him and said, “What?” Galloway knew the look.

“Doc Tarn just did a cut-job on a homeless guy from the Bronx. Same M. O., same weapon. We got ourselves a serial killer.”

“Well shit, don’t let the word get out, or the chief will do the usual.”

“Yeah, first he’ll have a cow and then he’ll form a fucking task force and take our case away.”

“Right. And I want this fucker myself. I wanna put the cuffs on so tight he’ll shit himself.”

#     #     #

Jingles and Mr. Hammer did something they rarely did. They took a cab, clear over to the west end, west of Central Park and then began their walk, back through the park. As they moved, they kept to the shadows as much as possible and people-watched, after all, people were what they were all about.

Jingles was wearing new shoes and they were hurting his feet, but he could stand it for a while, as long as things went well. Finally, they approached a man seated alone on a park bench and they sat coyly on the other end. The man seemed interested and soon there was a conversation. Terms were offered and rejected. Adjustments were made and an agreement was struck. The man stood and offered his arm. Jingles took it and they moved off into the park.

Soon they reached a darker area, where the lighting wasn’t quite as good, and Mr. Hammer made his appearance. To his amazement, Jingles found that the young man didn’t seem intimidated at all. To his further amazement, as Mr. Hammer was deployed, the young man rather calmly produced a Glock handgun and shot him twice in the chest. He found himself on the pavement, feeling agonizing pain and with his vision darkening around the edges, suddenly surrounded by police and hearing sirens in the distance. They were for him.

#     #     #

Callahan and Galloway made the scene of the officer-involved shooting in Central Park West. An undercover vice cop had picked up a prostitute who turned out to be a cross-dressed male. He had tried to attack the officer with a hammer. The officer had fired his weapon twice. The pseudo-hooker had died right there on the pathway.

Callahan carefully walked the scene, noting two expended cartridges from the officer’s service weapon, already marked with yellow plastic triangles on the ground. He looked at the body of a light-skinned black male, wearing a blouse and skirt and red, high-heeled shoes. Fucker even had a string of fake pearls and earrings.

The lab guy stepped over and said, “Check this shit out, Cal.” He handed Callahan a clear plastic bag. Inside was a 26-ounce, ball-peen machinist’s hammer. The wooden handle had been carefully carved into the shape of a penis, or perhaps a dildo, so that the head of the penis was at the end and the steel hammer part looked almost like a set of balls. The handle was finished with what appeared to be many coats of clear shellac. Callahan looked more closely. There were letters there, under the clearcoat. Meticulously burned into the wood were the words, “Call me Mister…”





Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 76, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.



Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020