“Get back! Everybody just get back or I’ll jump! I swear to God I will!”
The Museum of Historic Antiquity was ten stories tall. It didn’t provide the highest drop in the city but still, a fall from that height would easily turn a body into a pile of goo.
The jumper looked like a hobo. Unshaven. Bushy hair. A hole-filled jacket that looked like it came out of the good will box.
Rosie, Jeffries and I observed the situation.
“Remain calm, sir,” Jeffries said into a bullhorn. “Please do not jump.”
“I’m going to jump!” the jumper said. “Do you want that?”
“No, sir,” Jeffries said. “Nobody wants that. If you could just relax, take a deep breath and…”
“Oh, fuck that noise,” I said as I yanked the bullhorn out of Jeffries’ hand and held it up to my mouth. “You gonna jump or what?! I haven’t got all day, so do it already! What’s going on in that squirrel brain of yours? You think your so special? You think you’re so unique? You think anyone down here really gives a soft, buttery piece of possum shit if you…”
Jeffries wrestled the bullhorn out of my hand. He spoke into again. “Sorry, sir. We’re experiencing some technical difficulties but rest assured, the situation is under control.”
“It better be!” the jumper shouted. “Because if it isn’t, then I’m gonna jump!”
“Who cares?” I muttered.
“Smasher, you’re going to get that man killed with that attitude,” Jeffries said.
“Whatever,” I said. “You called me. You don’t want me, I’m gone. I got better things to do.”
Jeffries grabbed my sleeve. “Hang on.”
The lieutenant pulled out a file. He flipped a few pages until he showed me a photo of a clean shaven man wearing a suit. “Ken Bryant. Just a week ago, he was a powerful lobbyist, compensated to the tune of $900,000 a year plus perks and bennies. We’re talking luxury houses, hot cars, hot women. Hell, this guy had a supermodel wife with big fake tits and a mistress on the side with a pair of bigger, faker tits.”
“Goddamn,” I said as I looked up at the jumper. “Respect.”
“I know,” Jeffries said. “That’s the American Dream, right there.”
Rosie shook her head. “But is it, though?”
He takes his sidepiece to Wisenheimer’s on New Year’s Eve.
“Cheap fuck,” I said.
“Whatever,” Jeffries said. “I assume he didn’t get as high as he did by wasting money. Anyway, since then, according to what we’re told from both women, is that he’s become, well, like you.”
“Like me?” I asked.
“Obsessed with straws,” Jeffries said. “Can’t stop talking about them.”
I pulled out a pair of binoculars and used them to focus on Bryant’s face. His eyes were red. He looked strung out, like he hadn’t slept for days. Little drops of drool poured out of his mouth.
“I need straws!” Bryant shouted. “Get me a straw, now!”
“This isn’t like me,” I said. “This is something else.”
I handed Rosie the binoculars. She looked at the jumper through them.
“Oh yeah,” Rosie said. “That’s the coke straws doing their work, alright.”
“Coke straws?” Jeffries asked.
“Straws laced with highly addictive, trace amounts of cocaine were being doled out on the sly at Wisenheimer’s,” I explained.
“You’re shitting me,” Jeffries said as he looked to Rosie, as though my word wasn’t good enough. “Is he shitting me?”
“No shits here,” Rosie replied.
“You’re telling me all your straw bullshit is real?” Jeffries asked.
“As real as the dumb look on your face,” I said.
The lieutenant’s jaw dropped. “Son of a…”
I patted Jeffries on the shoulder. “It’s ok, buddy. One day, if you wish real hard, you might just become a real cop, like me.”
“Whatever,” Jeffries said. “No time to measure dicks, Smasher.”
“You’d lose,” I said.
“I would not,” Jeffries said. “You want to do it right now?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Did you bring two tape measures?”
“We could use the same tape measure,” Jeffries replied.
“That’d be unsanitary,” I said. “And also, both tape measures would be for me. I might even need a third and…”
Rosie interjected. “Gentlemen, if we could focus.”
“Right,” I said. “What’s he doing up there?”
“Wife and mistress both report that after he went to Wisenheimer’s, he started acting crazy, babbling on and about straws, how he needed them, had to have them,” Jeffries. “Now that you’ve filled in the blanks, it sounds like classic addiction.”
“Oh, the booger sugar will get you,” I said. “Even when taken orally.”
“He stopped sleeping,” Jeffries said. “Stopped eating. Stopped reporting to work. Got fired and didn’t care. He just sat around Wisenheimer’s, ordering drink after drink, going on and on to anyone who would listen about how much he loved the straws.”
Bryant cupped his hands around his mouth, creating a makeshift bullhorn. “I will suck the dick of anyone who will give me a Wisenheimer’s straw. You hear me, world? You got a straw from Wisenheimer’s and I will drop to my knees and polish your skin flute until it’s nice and shiny!”
I looked at Rosie. “Looks like it isn’t limited to rats after all.”
“Conclusive proof, I’d say,” Rosie added.
“Rats?” Jeffries asked.
“Long story,” I said. “What’s his end game?”
“When he showed up to Wisenheimer’s today and found out you’d burned it down…”
“Correction,” I said. “A fight caused by the clandestine Illumistrawti hitmen in the employ of the Strawman led to it being burned down.”
“Nothing you ever say makes sense to me, Smasher,” Jeffries said.
“It’s cool,” I said. “Stay ignorant. Life will be easier for you, that way. Continue.”
“He says he’ll jump if we don’t get him a straw from Wisenheimer’s,” Jeffries said. “We searched the wreckage. Asked around town. Nothing. We aren’t going to be able to comply with this guy’s request and he looks like he’s serious about jumping.”
I looked up at the jumper.
“I am so, totally serious about jumping right now!” the jumper cried. “You guys don’t even know!”
“What’s the plan?” I asked.
Jeffries looked around, reluctant to speak.
“What?” I asked.
“Um,” Jeffries said. “That you go out on that ledge and try to talk some sense into him?”
“Me?” I asked.
“Well, why the hell not, Smasher?” Jeffries asked. “You live and breathe this cowboy shit, don’t you?”
“When it’s going to break open a case, yeah,” I said. “Not to save the life of some yuppy butt monkey who was…wait, what the hell was he lobbying for anyway?”
Jeffries flipped through the file. “The International Association of Pesky Telemarketers. He fought for laws that would allow fly by night companies to call you during dinner and try to sell you socks, novelty goods, assorted anal creams…”
“Oh, screw this guy!” I said as I seized the bullhorn and pressed it up to my lips. “Jump! Jump!”
Jeffries took the bullhorn away. “Smasher, knock it off! Now, I called you down here to do what you do best.”
“And what’s that?” I asked.
“Crazy,” Jeffries said. “Because you’d have to be a loon to go up there with that dingbat.”
“Straws!” Bryant shouted. “Drop your pants! Give me your dicks! I’ll suck them off in a line like they’re all part of one big, long, fleshy xylophone as long as I get my straws!”
“You going up there or what?” Jeffries said.
“Fine,” I said.
“You’ll need to go unarmed,” Jeffries said.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked.
“It’s the only way he’ll trust you,” Jeffries said.
I rolled my eyes. I took off my jacket and to my chagrin, my holster, which contained both Thunder and Lightning, and handed it all to Rosie. I then pulled my .38 out of my boot and gave that to my partner as well.
“Anything else?” Rosie asked.
I dug into my pockets and my switchblade, my brass knuckles, and a compact pistol, all of which went to Rosie.
“Wow,” Rosie said. “Is that it?”
“Yeah,” I said as I walked toward the building. “Wait.”
I stopped. I reached down the back of my pants, fished my hand around inside my underwear, then pulled out a grenade.
“Holy shit!” Rosie said.
“Relax,” I said. “You act like you’ve never seen a grenade before.”
“You mean to tell me I was riding around next to that thing this entire time?” Rosie asked.
“It’s perfectly safe,” I said. “It’s my good luck charm. I’ve been carrying it for years and I haven’t needed to throw it yet. As long as the pin stays in it, it’s just a harmless paperweight. Here.”
Rosie refused it. “I’m not taking that.”
I turned to Jeffries. “Neal, I’m trusting you with my ass grenade. If this goes FUBAR, please find it a good home.”
A tiny tear trickled out of Jeffries’ eye. He sniffed as he accepted the explosive device.
“What?” I asked. “You wussing out on me?”
“No,” Jeffries said. “It’s just, you know. Allergies. You’ll be fine, Smasher. You’ll be coming back to accept this ass grenade yourself.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said as I headed for the building. “Just keep it safe.”