Jingles and Mr.
Kenneth James Crist
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
Faintly, he heard
Mr. Hammer snigger.
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
“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
“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?”
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.
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.
“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
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
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
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
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.
two!” The detective nearest the front of the bullpen was holding up a phone,
waving it in the air.
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…”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Easy, Thuggish 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