A Cannibal in New York – a short story

So this guy comes to me through a friend, says he’s some kind of investigative journalist. He’s from somewhere over the border, over some border, I don’t know where from. Every time he tells me it’s in his native language and it sounds a lot like ‘Mtth’. It’s probably not ‘Mtth’ but that’s what it sounds like, and his name is probably not Paunch Pariah either but I swear, every time he tells me, that’s exactly what I hear. And it kind of fits because he does have a little bit of a bulge around the waist and nobody wants to be around him for long. That is not another story! That is this one here right now.

So he’s investigating something as a journalist but he’s pretty coy about it, and wants to “get a feel for things” in my line of work, which as you know is homicide, NYPD. I’ve been getting a feel for things for more than forty years and thought I pretty much had it down, but the world is full of surprises, every single day if you keep your eyes wide open. Which is also in my line of work. So Paunch is tailing me around like he’s really not supposed to be allowed to do but they give me a wide berth on account of my seniority and the fact that I’m seriously overweight so it’s just the kind of berth they’ve got to give me.

He wants to see the bodies. I guess that’s what he’s investigating. Not where they’re buried, but where they fall and where they lay. He wants to see them ‘au naturale’ and ‘in the moment’ and ‘the sooner the better’. I figure he’s got some kind of kink and normally I would say no effing way but I owed Larry and Larry really wanted to pawn this Pariah guy off on me, probably on anyone who would take him. The guy’s a freaking leech. He’s practically pasted by my side from the first thing in the morning on. Doesn’t eat my Twinkies though so that’s a first for a n00bie ride-along. Keeping his eyes on the prize or so he tells me.

We get a call out to 6th and 11th avenue, not the usual site for a corpse of the foul play variety, but there he was, sprawled out on the sidewalk like he’d been dumped from the seventh floor. Pretty sure that’s what happened too, because that’s how the call came in.  ‘Some body just got dumped out of the seventh floor’ they said on the 9-1-1. Middle aged white guy, hair a mess, hadn’t shaved in about a week, kind of scrawny, probably on opioids through the end. We’ve got blood-moppers all over the site already, taking samples and photos, measuring shit and writing it down as if their little calculations are going to solve the big wooly mystery. Of course that’s never how it works. There’s a very high probability that there is no mystery at all.

“So,” Pariah says in a slow kind of drawl. I’d been getting used to his slow-talking all morning. Kind of thing that usually drives me crazy but I liked his funny accent, and the way he stumbles over any word that’s more than a pair of syllables. He was like “this is very big city, very tall buildings, most peck-you-you-lar” and I was cracking up. I have got to use that word somehow someday. But anyways, here we are, standing over the sad sack dead guy, and I say sad sack because you could see very plainly where the wedding ring once wore a dent in his finger, and he’s clutching a photograph of a stone-faced clearly unhappy child in his hand, and Pariah spills out this question.

“So, are you gonna eat that or what?”

“The hell?” I turn and look at this guy. “What you say?”

He shrugs, gestures down at the body, and repeats himself.

“You gonna eat that or what?”

“Of course I’m not going to, what the hell?” I repeat myself too.

“Seems like a waste,” he says.

I don’t get it right away, so I talk like a normal human being.

“My God, think of his family. He’s obviously got a family. They need to be notified. Somebody’s got to ID him. There’s a whole process to go through.’
“How long is all that going to take?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” I say. “Days most likely.”

“Too long,” he says, frowning. “But oh well. Maybe the next one. What they do with him after all that ID and stuff?”

“They put him in the ground,” I say and his face brightens considerably.

“Oh, slow roasting, like luau?” he says. “That’s not a bad idea.”

“No, no roasting,” I tell him. “They put him in a box and stick him underground and that is that. They leave him there.”

“Forever?”

“That’s the idea,” I say.

“So they let his soul just slip away, just like that? Nobody capturing it? Nobody take him in, gives to him a new home, be part of a new life?”

“I don’t know what you’re saying,” I shake my head. “Souls are not in my line of work.”

We don’t speak for several minutes after that. I go and talk to some of the moppers after telling Kansas to keep an eye on the freak and don’t let him get too close to the body. When I get back, Paunch is ready with another request.

“Maybe you have one with bullets?” he asks. “Some nice lead flavoring?”

“That’s it,” I tell him. “You can do your investigative journalisting some other way. I am out of here.”

And that was the God’s honest truth.

I did get a call later on that afternoon, this time for one with bullets, but when I got to the scene there was nothing left to see.

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