It looked like a miniature crime scene. But instead of blood, guts, and gore, the plate was covered with smeared catsup, chewed-up grizzle, and a mutilated pickle.
“Slobs,” Benny muttered as he dropped the ceramic splatter-fest into the dish bin. He hated cops anyway, and bussing their tables after lunch hour at Don’s Deli only made the vein in his forehead throb more painfully. He glanced over at the counter where an older woman was talking to Don. Benny moved closer to hear what they were saying.
“….the truck came yesterday and picked up the last of Sam’s clothes and tools. It felt strangely good donating them.” She sighed as a single tear trickled down her cheek. “It seems like only yesterday he was telling me about another big case. He may have been retired, but he was still a cop to the end.”
“Mary, if there’s anything I can do—”
She shook her head. “You’ve done so much already. I just stopped by to ask you not to worry about me anymore.” A twinkle appeared in her wet eyes. “Sam’s old partner has moved in.”
“Gus? No kidding!”
Benny’s bad mood intensified as he was reminded once more how his life sucked. The old dame was getting more action than he was. Nikki hadn’t even let him grab a boob for two weeks. Not until he “bettered himself,” she’d said. This while taking her umpteenth hit of meth through a gapped-toothed sneer.
“Gus isn’t the same as he used to be, you know,” said Don. “Age has more than likely curtailed some of his, ah, abilities.”
“Oh, I know, but it’s just so comforting to have a warm and caring body back in the house. He doesn’t have to be in peak condition.”
Don chuckled. “Okay, Mary. Say, any word yet from the museum about Sam’s badge collection?”
“Their appraiser called this morning. They offered me ten thousand for them. Can you believe it?”
“Ten grand for a bunch of old cop badges?” Don and Benny whistled in unison, Benny’s coming out more as a wheeze.
Mary stood up. “Enough of this money talk! I need to get home, so give me a pound of cold cuts and some of that macaroni salad. I don’t dare come home reeking of a deli without something to show for it.”
Sitting in his beat-up Chevy, Benny devoured the last of his salami and mustard sub,
wiped his hands on his grease-splattered jeans, and savored his impending prosperity. When he had told Nikki about the ten grand he was soon to score, she actually looked him in the eye like in the old days. Her left eyelid did that twitching thing it’d been doing lately, but at least he had her attention. She even let him feel her up, but just above the waist. Bring the badges, get the booty, she’d told him.
Benny checked his watch. It was almost midnight; the house had been quiet for hours, just as he expected. He slunk around to the back door and popped the lock. Aiming his flashlight low, he took in the layout of the house. The collection of badges could be in any number of cabinets, drawers or bookshelves. Adrenaline pumping, he got to work.
As Benny started to rifle through a buffet in the dining room, a faint clicking noise made him hesitate. He stopped to listen but heard nothing except his heartbeat. Get it together, he told himself. The old guy wouldn’t be walking around in the dark. He probably can’t even see during the day! He turned back to his search.
He sensed he was going to be hit seconds before it happened. The floorboards, vibrating under the pounding force, gave the attack away. Benny crashed to the floor in a heap as a snarling mass of fur and teeth hit him from behind. In a terrified effort to break loose, he hit his head on the corner of the buffet.
“Good boy, Gus!” yelled a woman’s voice. “Oh, quit licking his pants!”
Slowly, gratefully, Benny felt himself drift toward unconsciousness.
Cops, he thought hazily. They’re all a bunch of friggin’ slobs.