The suspect looked at me with the eyes of a hungry shark. It was obvious she wanted to chew me up and spit me out, but not in a good way. No, she wanted to chew out my throat, spit it into my mug and laugh hysterically as I bled out all over the cold, concrete floor. And she could have done it too, had she not been restrained.
Yeah, you can tell a lot about a woman just by looking into her eyes and while her body said petite coquette, her peepers said stone cold killer.
“Molly Thibodeux,” I said as I perused the minx’s file. “AKA Molly Bissette aka Molly Couture. Molly the Hatchet. Molly the Butcher. Molly the Knockout. Sometimes known as Simone Dubois but universally reviled as Mo-Mo the Clam. Says here that’s your preferred moniker.”
I looked up from the file. “Huh. How’d you land a nickname like that.”
The dame spoke with a French accent, the kind that made Mr. Happy stand up and dance. I kept my cool and did what any red-blooded American male would have done when he needs to shrink an erection fast. I thought about Rosie O’Donnell breakdancing in the buff, and that was all she wrote for that stiff one.
“Because like a…I’m sorry, who are you, s’il vous plait?”
“Smasher. Mack Smasher. I’m a cop and I’m damn proud of it.”
“Oui, Monsier.” She took a drag of her cigarette, then blew a long trail of smoke into my kisser. Once the cloud dissipated, I was able to see that she’d moved her face closer towards mine. “Because, like a clam, when I get something of value between my legs, I clamp down…”
She gritted her teeth. “And then I refuse to let go until I either squirt or I’m pried open.”
I gulped, choking down the desire that was building up inside me to bend her over and jam my baguette up her crepes suzette.
“Mo-Mo it is,” I said as I poked my nose back into her file. “Hmm. Things don’t look so good for you.”
“Well,” Mo-Mo said as she leaned back. “You know what they say. Things are always darkest before zie dawn, no?”
“No,” I snapped back. “It’s curtains for you sister, see? You’re on your way to the stony lonesome, the hoosegow, the clink, the slammer, the old iron bar hotel or maybe if the Feds get their way, it’ll be lethal injection. Yeah, that’s right. You’re wanted in all fifty U.S. states.”
“I am popular.”
“You’ve been on the FBI’s Top Ten Wanted List for the past five years,” I said. “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are looking for you, as is Interpol. Law enforcement organizations from Belfast to Bombay are hunting you down as we speak and even the Vatican’s Swiss Guard would like a word.”
The dame smiled. “I am…very popular.”
I tapped my finger on a page inside the file. “You’re the world’s most foremost drug smuggling murderess for hire as well as a prolific prostitute. You’ve killed more men than cancer and fucked more men than, well, also cancer.”
“Looks like the DC police beat everyone to the punch,” I said. “When they raided your apartment, they found five suitcases full of Columbian Candy. Bolivian Booger Sugar. The Best Friend of Every 1980s Wall Street Banker. Cocaine.”
“You must be reading someone else’s file.”
I pressed on. “One hundred percent grade A pure. Street value of over a million. Also, in your possession was a cardboard box filled with 7,183 cut off mattress tags.”
“Anyone could have cut those off.”
“Forged passports. Forged bank statements. Forged security bonds. Hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry stolen from the bodies of your victims. All found inside your safe.”
“You peegs planted all that shit. Fils de pute!
“There were three severed heads in your refrigerator,” I said.
“Those came with zie fridge,” Mo-Mo replied. “I called zie company to complain but do you have any idea how long those cock-soo-kairs at Frosty Chill kept me on hold?”
“Ten more heads were found in your basement chest freezer,” I said.
“Sacre bleu! Why are you persecuting me when you should be trying to find whoever has been putting heads into my appliances?”
I gazed at the file. “When the police broke down your door, they found you in your living room, straddling a bound and gagged man with an axe in your hand and a crazed look in your eye. When the man’s gag was removed he said, and this is a direct quote, ‘That bitch said she was going to chop my head off.’”
“C’est ridicule. He must have been talking about some other beetch. You think I could swing an axe with these tiny arms, huh?”
“Your cell phone was seized,” I said. “Over one hundred videos of you cutting the heads off your victims were stored on it. Huh. You must be one of those psychos who gets their rocks off by reliving their crimes.”
“Or maybe I am aspiring actress on her way to Holl-eee-wood, practicing cutting up dummies with a rubber axe while I pour on zee ketchup to fake zee blood. I am, how you say, ready for my closeup, Monsieur DeMille.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Let me pull up my boots. Boy, this is some fine police work, I’ve got to say. I’ve been on the force twenty years and I’ve seen flimsy cases and strong cases. This case is on steroids, baby. Textbook probable cause obtained through a three-month surveillance operation, supplemented by eyewitness testimony. Search warrant signed off by a judge. An assistant district attorney on sight to ensure that all evidence was handled properly.”
I laid the file down on the desk. “I’d love to be you right now, just so I could slap those itty bitty titties around all day, doll-face.”
“Get to zee back of zee line, flatfoot.”
“But I’d also hate to be you right about now,” I said. “Pick any jury in the world and they’ll lock you up under the prison and drop the key down the garbage disposal. Again, best case scenario. The Feds are much less forgiving.”
Mo-Mo took one last drag of her cigarette, then stamped the end out on the table, completely uncaring of the mark that she had left on police property. Sitting in front of her the entire time had been a plastic cup with a dome on top. You know, the kind that prevents spillage. It was filled with some kind of cold, piss-yellow liquid. Beads of sweat formed on the outside of the cup.
The femme fatale picked up the drink, pursed her lips, then wrapped them around the business end of a long, black plastic straw. She sucked, and sucked, and sucked away. I would have envied that straw if I didn’t hate them so.
When the bodacious babe was done, she set her drink down on her table. She emitted the teeniest burp. “Mon Dieu!” she said as she held the palm of her finely manicured hand over her mouth. “Excusez-moi.”
My phone buzzed. I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at the screen. Davis. I ignored the call. “Now, look here, sister.”
My phone buzzed again. An incoming text message from, you guessed it. Davis. “You’ve had your fun.”
I reached into my jacket and pulled out a manilla envelope. “It’s time to talk turkey.”
Another text from Davis. “End it. NOW.”
I switched off my phone and tucked it back into my pocket. I leaned over the table and looked the badass bimbo in the eye. “You need to play ball.”
“Va te faire foutre, cop-air. I want to speak to my law-yair.”
An intercom hanged on the wall. It beeped. Davis’ voice came through. “Smasher, come back here, please.”
I ignored my colleague’s entreaty. “You want a shyster, sweetheart? Just say the word, but know this, if you send your apple cart down that road, there’s no way I can help you get the worm out of your Macintosh. You follow?”
“Not at all.”
Beep. “Smasher. Stop talking to the suspect. Jeffries is on the way.”
I paid the intercom no mind. “You’re about to experience a world of tough shakes, baby cakes. In less than five minutes, Lieutenant Neal Jeffries, a real hard-ass if there ever was one, is going to walk through that door and hand you off to the FBI. He and the Feds are going to hold a great big press conference where they’re going to circle jerk each other and then when the LT has been sufficiently blown with enough praise, he’s going to let the Federal government take you into custody.”
“I don’t care.”
“You should care.”
“One peeg farm is as shee-tee as another.”
“Like I said. The Feds have the death penalty. They’ll throw a bag over your head. Call you an international terrorist. Throw you in some deep, dark hole in Guantanamo Bay while they conduct some dog and pony show trial and then they’re going to strap you to a table and pump you with enough croak juice to drop an elephant.”
The dame and I stared at one another for a few seconds until I broke the tension. “But, if that’s what you want…”
“What…do you want?”
I opened the envelope, pulled out a document and unfolded it. I set it down on the table, along with a pen.
The fox picked up the papers and began to read to herself.
“No time for that. Just sign it.
“Why zee fuck would I sign something when I don’t know what it is?”
“I’ll summarize. As much as I’d love to see you burning in hell for all eternity, I’m working on a bigger case…”
Beep! “Smasher,” Davis said. “Jeffries is in the building now. Just do us all a favor. Get up and go before you embarrass yourself.”
“A massive case. An enormous case. One that makes the hundreds upon hundreds of international drug running murder cases against you pale in comparison.”
“Huh,” Mo-Mo said. “Well, I’ve dabbled in any number of sordid act-tee-vee-tees. Which one are you interested in?”
I looked at the straw poking out of the chilled beverage. “That.”
The lady looked befuddled. “What?”
At this point, I should share a little secret. Prior to joining the force, I spent a year training with the kung-fu monks at the Shaolin Monastery in China. So lethal are my hands that I try to keep them out of my pockets lest I be accused of carrying concealed deadly weapons. However, the greatest skill I learned from my masters is a finely tuned mind’s eye.
You have one. I have one. Everybody has one. It’s the collection of sights, smells, inferences and muscle memories that all come together in your brain, allowing you to, in a split second, predict not only what is about to happen, but also, to instantly decide what you are going to do about it. If you haven’t trained in the martial arts of old, this all may sound like a bunch of confusing mumbo jumbo, so long story short, when the chips are down and the stakes are high, I am able to perceive actions in slow motion and respond before I’m even aware I am responding.
Case in point. When Mo-Mo asked, “What?” I could see my hand move slowly toward the drink cup, slapping it off the table. The dome popped off and sailed through the air until it hit the wall. The liquid sprayed everywhere, drenching perp and dick alike. The cup clattered onto the floor and the straw? Like the claw of a furious tiger, my fingers grasped it, catching it before it hit the table.
“This,” I said as I held up the straw. “I want to know where you got this.”
Mo-Mo appeared baffled. “Zee straw? Who gives a sheet?”
“I do,” I said. “And if you want to save your skin, you don’t need to know why.”
I snatched the document out of Mo-Mo’s hand. “This is a binding legal agreement authored by U.S. Attorney Roger Kowalski. There’s no DA in these parts, so he makes all the decisions vis a vis who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t. He owed me one. A big one. Let’s just say there was an unfortunate incident involving a duck and a feather duster. I kept it out of the papers and this is how I have chosen to have him repay me.”
“You’re going to let me go over a straw?” Mo-Mo asked. “I have never been one to look a gift horse in zee mouth but this smells like bull-sheet.”
I laid the document on the table. “This deal states that, in Kowalski’s opinion, the DC police department’s investigation was faulty. No reasonable prosecutor would go after you under these circumstances…”
Mo-Mo laughed. “Ha!”
“…and you’ll be free to go, provided you tell me the name of who gave you that straw.”
Beep! Davis sounded angry. Positively fuming. “Shut the fuck up right now, Smasher! I’m coming in there!”
I stood up, locked the door, then sat back down.
“This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard in my life,” Mo-Mo said. “But whatever. How am I to keep track of all you peegs and how you fuck each oth-air in your own sheet? You want the name of who gave me zee straw, I’ll tell you, but who is to say the FBI won’t tear up your deal?”
“They won’t,” I said. “They can’t. It’d take me all day to explain the complexities of city versus federal dick measuring, but suffice to say, you’re in a sanctuary city. You’ll be considered a protected undocumented immigrant the second you sign this deal and blab about the straw. DC police will not be able to inform the FBI of your crimes.”
“But ob-vee-us-lee, they did,” Mo-Mo said. “As you say, Jeff-reeze and FBI are on zee way.”
“Yeah,” I said. “But the FBI will have to pretend like they never heard anything about you from Jeffries. Trust me.”
“Ha!” Mo-Mo said. “Many men have told me that before.”
“No man like me.”
Davis’ fist pounded on the door. His voice was muffled through the thick steel. “Let me in, Smasher! Right now!”
I slipped the papers across the table. “No time to lose, honeybuns. Sign it, tell me who gave you the straw and I guarantee they’ll let you walk out of here a free woman or…”
Bang, bang, bang. “Smasher! if you fuck up this case, so help me, I’ll…”
“…you can take your chances with whoever’s about to unlock that door.”
Outside, I could hear Davis huffing and puffing. He was out of breath. “Who has the key? Paulson! What? You don’t have it? Well, don’t just stand there! Find out who has the key!”
Mo-Mo frowned. “It is no use. As you know, I am internationally wanted woman. So, I walk out the door. So, your peegs aren’t able to tell on me. The heat will be on me know and the second I touch down abroad, I am done for.”
I pulled a plane ticket out of the envelope and set it on the table. “A first-class, one-way ticket to Mongolia. Paid for by Kowalski himself out of his own personal funds. That’s how grateful he is to me over the duck situation.”
“Mon-goal-eee-ah?” Mo-Mo asked. “What zee fuck am I going to do with a bunch of Mongoloids?”
“Not sure that’s the proper term, baby, but it’s a non-extradition country. You’re not wanted there and the Mongols have no desire to help America or its allies catch criminals on the run. You’re a resourceful girl. You’ll be able to lay low for a while and then from there, you’ll be able to disappear to wherever your cold, bombed out and depleted husk of a heart desires.”
There was another bang on the door. A new voice was shouting at me. “Smasher!”
“He’s not here right now,” I said. “Can I take a message?”
“Smasher!” the voice snapped. “This is Lieutenant Jeffries! Open this door right now and get your ass out here before I…”
I looked at the beauty. “Now or never, Toots. What’s it gonna be?”
Mo-Mo wasted no time. She seized the pen, scrawled her name on the dotted line, then grabbed the ticket. “Wisenheimer’s. It is a chain family restaurant in Foggy Bottom. I despise such bourgeoisie sheet but they make the best sour lemon freeze I’ve ever tasted.”
“Finally!” Lt. Jeffries said as a keychain jingled. “Get this door open, now!”
The blonde bombshell handed me the document. “The décor is sheet but zee fried cheese balls are also not so bad as long as you can stand zee cartoon gopher mascot.”
Wham! The door was thrust open. Davis and Paulson rushed in, followed by three, nearly identical looking, buzz cut sporting, sunglasses wearing G-men. Lt. Jeffries, with his fancy designer suit and slicked back hair, carried up the rear, an iced coffee drink in hand.
“Get him out of here!” Lt. Jeffries said. He then pointed at Mo-Mo. “And you! You’re…”
I held up the document. “A free woman,” I said.
Jeffries snatched the papers out of my hand and read it silently, mumbling as he did so. “Due to the slipshod, haphazard work of Lt. Neal Jeffries and….what the…oh…oh my God! In consideration of your agreement to assist with the forthright investigation of the incomparable Detective Mack Smasher…you’re cleared of all U.S. charges?!”
The lieutenant tossed the papers at me. I caught them. “What the fuck, Smasher? Is this the…what is this? Is the thing with the duck and the backscratcher?”
“Feather duster,” I said. “And maybe.”
Jeffries’ face turned the brightest shade of red I’d ever seen. Had his head been a volcano, it would have erupted like Mt. Vesuvius. His eyes told me that he wanted to rip off my arms, club me with them until I’m paralyzed, then shove them up my ass. Personally, I couldn’t blame him.
“This woman is wanted on hundreds of murder charges, Smasher! And you’d throw it all away over what?”
I stood there stoically, accepting the abuse.
“No, seriously, Smasher,” Lt. Jeffries said. “What are you selling your brothers in blue out for? A lousy straw beef?”
I like to consider myself a paragon of self-control, but insensitive remark made me blow my stack. My eyes widened. My nostrils flared. “You don’t think a straw case is a big deal?”
“No,” Jeffries said. “I don’t.”
I held up Mo-Mo’s straw. “To your untrained eyes, this looks like a straw, but I know better. This isn’t just a straw. This is Hitler. This is Stalin. This is Mussolini. This is Bin Laden. This, brother, is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, all wrapped into a pretty plastic bow. Sure, the corporate big wigs in the straw industry want you to think the straw ban is bonkers, but what they don’t tell you is that Americans slurp on as many as 500 million of these suckers a year and then? They never get re-used! They just get thrown away! They’re non-biodegradable! Have you ever tried to rip one of these things apart? You can’t. You can dip them in gasoline, run them over with a truck, hit them with a hammer and they’ll still be around a million years ago. Many of them end up in the ocean and then there’s the threat that they pose to personal safety that no one ever talks about, by the way. And another thing…”
“Enough!” Lt. Jeffries said. “Spare me the hipster bullshit, ass-face. You’re a poor excuse for an officer of the law, Smasher, and don’t think for one second that I’m not going to inform your captain as such.”
Lt. Jeffries looked at Mo-Mo, then to Davis. “Get her out of here before I lose my lunch.”
Davis nodded. He unlocked the handcuff around Mo-Mo’s wrist, then led the vile she-devil to the door.
“Au revoir, little peegeez,” Mo-Mo said as she blew a kiss at the lieutenant. “It has been fun.”
“Oh, and Davis?”
“Clean out your desk, dick wad,” Lt. Jeffries said. “You’ll be lucky if they let you be a meter maid out of this.”
The detective grimaced in my direction. He pointed at me. “We’re going to have this out, Smasher. You and me. It’s on.”
“Bring it, fat boy,” I said.
“Oh, it’s being brought, dick cheese,” Davis replied.
“I’m shaking in my boots.”
“You should be.”
“Go on,” the lieutenant said. “Everybody get out of here!”
Davis, Paulson, and Mo-Mo exited, followed by the three FBI agents. One of them shook his head. “Stupid DC police amateurs.”
“Couldn’t investigate their way out of a wet paper bag,” another agent said.
When we were alone, Jeffries laid into me again. “I hope this was worth it, Smasher.”
“It was,” I replied.
“Yeah,” the lieutenant said. “Somehow I don’t think Molly the Clam’s next victim will think that finding out the name of a restaurant that’s giving out straws was worth it.”
Lt. Jeffries raised his plastic cup. He wrapped his lips around an orange straw and sucked away. He let out a satisfied, “Ahh. That’s good.”
I did my best to look the other way. The lieutenant was, after all, as he so eloquently pointed out earlier, my brother in blue. “You’ve got your job. I’ve got mine. I’m sorry that like every other slob in this country, your blind to the multitude of dangers that straws pose to the safety and security of our nation, but I, for one, will always do my best to…”
Slurp, slurp, slurp! As the lieutenant ran out of iced coffee, his straw made all manner of unpleasant slurping sounds.
I pressed on. “I will always do my best to…”
Slurp, slurp, slurp!
“My best to stop straws, wherever they may be and….”
Slurp, slurp, slurp!
I couldn’t take it anymore. “What the fuck is that?!”
“What?” a dumbfounded lieutenant asked.
“That!” I said as I pointed to the straw.
“What?” Lt. Jeffries said as he looked at his cup. “It’s an iced coffee from Blendergan’s.”
“I…I can’t even…
The lieutenant gave his straw another slurp. “I really shouldn’t be having this. My wife’s been nagging me for months to drop ten pounds and I mean, talk about a double standard, am I right? If I ever told he to drop ten pounds she’d rip off my head and shit down my neck but oh well, what are you going to do?”
I stammered on. “You mean…you’re just going to…suck on that and…”
“What can I say?” Lt. Jeffries asked. “This job is exhausting. I need my caffeine fix but I hate black coffee. If I’d lose the sugar and cream, I’d cut weight like no tomorrow but oh well, the old battle-axe is just gonna have to take me as I am.”
My nemesis slurped, and slurped, and slurped. Soon enough, his puzzled eyes traveled toward me, taking in the frazzled expression on my face. His lips released the straw. “Jeeze Louise. What just crawled up your keyster?”
I knocked the cup out of Jeffries hand, sending coffee and ice everywhere.
“Hey!” Jeffries said. “There were still a few slurps left in that!”
“You make me sick!”
“I make you sick?” Jeffries asked. “After the stunt you just pulled, Smasher? That’s rich. That’s really rich. Why don’t you take off before I have you arrested for obstruction of justice?”
I got up in the lieutenant’s face, so close that I could smell the stench of his dank coffee breath, with a tinge of dime store after shave mixed in. “Why don’t you take off before I arrest you for being a dirty cop?”
The lieutenant slapped his forehead. “Dirty cop. Oh Lord. Dare I ask?”
“There’s a straw ban in full effect,” I said. “And you’re just waltzing around here, sucking on a straw like you’re a some young, dumb, 1970s era, bushy beavered porn star and that straw is John Holmes’ cock.”
“I think you’d better leave,” Jeffries said.
“I’ve been out on these mean streets for entire week,” I said. “Busting my ass to make DC a straw free zone and I’ve got to look at one of my brothers gagging on a contraband beverage pipe?”
“A contraband beverage what?” Jeffries asked. “Goddamn it. Fucking straw cops. What a joke. You used to be somebody, Smasher. You used to crack cases the rest of us could only dream about but now look at you. Running around like an asshole, slapping overpriced novelty drinks out of people’s hands. Why don’t you just pop your piece in your mouth and end it already?”
In my mind, I raged. I’d seen too many cops go down that route to bear a flippant comment about suicide in the law enforcement profession.
“Next time I see a straw in your piehole, I’ll shoot it right out of your mouth,” I said.
“Yeah, right,” Jeffries said. “I’ve seen you shoot, Smasher. You couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn if a big red X was painted on it and two chicks with big fake titties were pointing at it for you.”
“The law’s the law,” I said. “And straws are against the law.”
“Jesus Christ,” Lt. Jeffries said. “I don’t live in the district, dumbass. I commute in everyday from Alexandria, where there’s no straw ban, and the Blendergan’s a block from my house is free to give me as many straws as I damn well please.”
“Well,” I said. “Smuggling it into DC is still against the spirit of the straw law.”
“Against the spirit of the…” The lieutenant cradled his head in his hands, calmed himself, then looked up at me. “There’s no law against using a straw in DC. There’s no law against bringing people bringing their own straws into DC…”
“Yet,” I said. “Fucking politicians will wake up one day.”
“Whatever,” Lt. Jeffries said. “I brought that straw to work legally, Smasher. You just blackmailed a U.S. district attorney into releasing a mass murderer and you want to stand there and call me a dirty cop over a straw? Fuck you. Get out of my face.”
I pulled a straw ban pamphlet out of my pocket and attempted to hand it to the lieutenant. “I really think if you study the anti-straw law literature and educate yourself, you’ll start to see things from my…”
Fwap! Jeffries knocked the pamphlet out of my hand. “Get out of here.”
I scratched my head. An odd, sad feeling enveloped my soul. It might have been empathy. Or gas. To this day, I’m not sure. “Sorry, man.”
“Yeah,” Jeffries said. “Now I have to go explain to my boss how the case of the century was blown under my watch and something tells me your sorries aren’t going to cut it.”
I tried to connect on a personal level. “Neal, I just…”
“Get lost, Smasher,” Jeffries said. “Steer clear of me because if I ever see you again, I’ll cave your face in.”
I headed for the door. “Fine. If that’s the way you want it.”
I walked down the dark, depressing hallway. When I reached the elevator, I pressed the up button and waited. A few seconds later, Jeffries exited the interrogation room with Mo-Mo’s plastic cup in hand.
“Next time,” Jeffries said. “Before you strike a deal to release an international criminal who is wanted by the Hague on war crimes, maybe take a peek at the side of her cup first!”
I glared at the cup. There it was. Printed in a neon green front, clear as day. “Wisenheimer’s Family Restaurant. Foggy Bottom. Washington, D.C.” Underneath the print? A cartoon gopher.
“Oh,” I said. “Right.”
“Yeah,” Jeffries said as he returned to the interrogation room. “Right. Fucking idiot.”