Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Lucid: Chapter Seventeen

“So how are we doing tonight?” asked Jacqueline as she adjusted the discs on Connor’s forehead.  “Are you all ready to have some wild dream about being a musician?  That sounds like so much fun to me.”
“Yeah, I guess I finally get to be a rock guitarist.  That’s what I always wanted when I was a kid.  It looks like my wish is finally going to come true.”
“Good for you.”  Jacqueline smiled brightly.  “Me, I always wanted to be a singer.  I’d just love to stand up there onstage and let it rip.”
“Nothing wrong with that.  You’ve probably got a great voice too.  Maybe you can give a concert here one evening and liven things up.  I know I’d love to hear you sometime, and I’m sure Professor Elicott would think it was an excellent idea too.  Good for morale.”
“That’ll be the day, won’t it?”  Jacqueline laughed at the thought.  Then, “Are you comfortable?  Need anything before I go?”
“No, no, I’m fine.  You go take care of the others.”  Connor gave Jacqueline his warmest smile and then lay back.
But everything wasn’t as fine as Connor had let on.  Something was prodding at the back of his consciousness and wouldn’t let go, something Marguerite had mentioned in passing the evening before.  It wasn’t that he hadn’t been listening, he realized, only that he hadn’t been paying close enough attention to appreciate her remark’s significance.  And now he was having trouble remembering what it had been and why it was worrying him so.
“Let it go,” Connor told himself. 
He tried to relax and imagine the electric Fender guitar he’d always wanted so badly to play, but his mind was unable to focus on it.  Instead, his thoughts wandered randomly from one topic to the next.  He knew his inability to concentrate would make it difficult to have the dream he wanted, but there wasn’t very much he could do about it. 
And then, just as Connor was about to drift off, he realized what had been bothering him ever since he had left Marguerite’s apartment early that morning.  Hadn’t she mentioned some cryptic reference Reicha had made to the previous experiment?  Yes, that was it.  “What exactly did happen in Moldova?” he asked himself. 
And then he was asleep.
Connor found himself in a large room filled with worn furniture that reminded him of photos he had seen of New York hospital waiting rooms in the 1950’s.  The strong smell of disinfectant only strengthened the impression.  An overhead fluorescent fixture buzzed and flickered.  To his right, behind a wooden desk were rows of green metal filing cabinets, some of whose drawers were buckled and missing the handles needed to pull them open.
Connor knew at once where he was.  “Moldova,” he whispered.  He tried to remember what he knew of the country but could think of nothing other than that it was located somewhere in Eastern Europe and had once been part of the U.S.S.R. 
A pair of swinging doors pushed open at one end of the room.  Beyond them, Connor could see, was a ward filled with iron frame beds.  On a rickety wooden stand beside each had been placed an apparatus somewhat similar to that used by the university in his own experiment.  These machines, however, were bulkier and looked much more low tech. 
A doctor, stethoscope around his neck, entered the room with a white uniformed nurse at his side.  Connor instinctively moved back into the shadows but then realized the pair hadn’t seen him and that he was in fact invisible to them.
“But what could have happened?” the doctor asked.  Though he wasn’t speaking English, Connor had no trouble understanding what the man was saying.
“How should I know?” the nurse responded brusquely.  Her manner was defensive.  “One minute Catemir was lying in bed asleep and then, when Natalia went to check on him twenty minutes later, he wasn’t there.  No one saw him leave.  I’ve already spoken with the front desk in Admissions, and they are certain he did not exit by the main entrance.  And no one has been able to find any trace of him even after having searched half the night.  All we can be sure of is that he is no longer in the hospital.”
The doctor frowned.  He was a small wizened man wearing a rumpled gray suit and a black bow tie.  He turned to stare at the nurse through his wire rimmed spectacles.  “Nurse Chernyakov, this is not acceptable.  No, not acceptable at all.”
The nurse, a strongly built woman in her early fifties, fairly bristled.  “What do you want of me?” she snapped.  “You know as well as I that I cannot keep watch over all these patients twenty-four hours a day.  And neither can any of the other nurses.  We have too much to do to be babysitters for your precious patients.”
“You forget this hospital is a government institution.  Patients cannot wander in and out as they please.  Especially not the patients chosen for this experiment.  Many of them are prisoners hoping they will be given a pardon after having volunteered to be part of this experiment.  Catemir himself was such a one.  He killed a man in a bar fight two years ago.”
“If he was so dangerous,” said the nurse, “you should have had guards posted to keep watch over him.”
“And put at risk the success of what we are attempting?  I think not,” answered the doctor peremptorily.  “Besides, there should be no need of guards in so secure an institution.  All the windows are barred and the only unlocked doorway is at the main entrance.”
“Well,” observed the nurse, “apparently that is not enough.  Somehow Catemir managed to find a way out.  I am sure he did not wish to return to prison once his usefulness here was ended.”
The doctor threw up his hands.  “It would be bad enough if Catemir were the only one.  But he is the third to disappear.  Do you hear me?  The third!”
“I can count as well as you,” the nurse reminded him.
“What will the authorities say when they find out?”  The doctor’s tone had grown plaintive.  There was more than a trace of fear in it.
“Yes, that is what is really worrying you, isn’t it?” sneered the woman.  “You will have to explain to them why you failed to report the first two who escaped.  No doubt that will be the end of your priceless experiment.”
“If the authorities take action against me, you also will suffer the consequences, Nurse Chernyakov.  I am sure you are well aware of that.”  The doctor paused and then continued in a lower voice, “To be honest, it is not the risk to my career that worries me most.”
The nurse looked at him in surprise.  “What is it then?”
“I’m not sure that these three managed to escape after all.”
“What then?  Surely they did not disappear into thin air.”
“Then where are they?  As I pointed out a moment ago, the windows are barred and the front door is under surveillance.  They could not have simply walked out.”
The nurse regarded the small man speculatively.  “What are you suggesting?  That they were taken away?  Surely that no longer happens in our country now that we are free from the Soviets and the K.G.B.”
“We have our own secret police these days.”  The doctor removed his spectacles and began to wipe them with a handkerchief taken from his jacket pocket.  “But that would really not explain it satisfactorily either.  They could not very well enter unobserved any more than the patients themselves could exit.  There must be another explanation.”
“I do not believe in the supernatural if that is what you are implying,” said the nurse.  “That is the stuff of nonsense.  We left all those folktales behind us centuries ago.”
“Nor do I believe in the paranormal either,” answered the doctor.  His tone grew didactic.  “But that does not mean that there are not purely natural forces we have not yet discovered.  No one fully understands the human mind and its capabilities.  It is always possible that we have stumbled on something in our researches we never expected to encounter.  It may be we have unleashed some hidden power from within the mind itself, something that lay dormant until we inadvertently awakened it.”
Nurse Chernyakov only shook her head.  “I hope when you are interviewed by the authorities you are able to come up with a better theory than that.  Otherwise, we will all find ourselves committed to an asylum.”
The two continued talking as they turned and left the room, but their voices were too low now for their words to be audible.
Connor watched the pair leave.  He looked about him, took a step toward the file cabinets and then stopped.  Even if he were able to translate whatever was contained within the folders they held, it would do him no good.  After having overhead the conversation between the doctor and the nurse, he knew the researchers were as much in the dark as he was in understanding what was happening about them.  There was no point in lingering here any longer.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Street Art Series

I'm going to begin posting photos of street art I've seen around the city.  This one was taken last year in downtown Manhattan.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Gray's Papaya

This hot dog stand has been a fixture on the corner of 72nd Street and Broadway for decades.  It's one of the last holdovers from the days before the Upper West Side gentrified and lost its grit.  It will probably be gone as soon as its lease expires.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Lucid: Chapter Sixteen

All the project participants had gathered together for the morning meeting and were sitting expectantly in one of the psychology department’s larger classrooms.  Connor had occasionally passed a few of his fellow participants in the hallways, but this was the first opportunity he’d had to study them close up.  Most were academic types looking to add one more item to their resumes.  A few struck Connor as science fiction aficionados who had read of dream control and were intrigued by its possibilities.  Then there were those who seemed to have wandered in off the street for lack of anything better to do with their time. 
Marguerite sat alone in the back row.  Too absorbed in her own thoughts to make eye contact with anyone, she had lowered her head and was staring intently at the desktop before her.  Connor waved his hand to attract her attention but had no luck.
“Thank you all for coming,” said Elicott from the lectern at the front of the room.  “I want first of all to tell you how much I and the other staff members appreciate the efforts you’ve put in to making this experiment a success.”
Only one individual – a graduate student in suit and bowtie – applauded.  None of the others so much as glanced at him.
“We’ve come to a critical juncture in this project,” continued the professor, “and we’ll soon be narrowing down the number of participants needed to go forward.  Though you’ve all shown tremendous enthusiasm, the next stage will involve fewer subjects.  Only those who have shown the greatest aptitude in controlling their dreams will be encouraged to remain.  The others will receive full credit for the work they’ve done and will be acknowledged in our final report.  But before we reach that point, we have one final dream assignment that we hope you will all agree to take on, one that will be of great help to us in deciding who is to continue in the program.”
There was a moment’s silence as everyone looked up in anticipation.
Elicott paused long enough to allow the suspense to build.  “We would like each of you, in your dreams, to take up playing a musical instrument with which you have had no prior experience.  A lack of musical education or even the inability to read music should not be seen as obstacles in making this attempt.  In fact, those among you who have already had musical training should choose an instrument that is not your own.  The whole point, you see, is to acquire expertise solely through the dream experience.”
“Is that it?” someone asked.  There was a sense of anticlimax.
“That’s the basic premise,” responded the professor.  “Now let’s get into the details.”  He then proceeded to give a long winded explanation that thoroughly confused everyone.

Connor caught up with Marguerite as they were leaving the classroom along with everyone else.
“How are you today?” asked Connor.
Marguerite gave a weak smile.  “Well, I’m still here as you can see.  I don’t know for how much longer though.  I doubt I will be one of those invited to take part in the next stage of the experiment.  I think I have upset the powers that be with my fears, fears which they all are so anxious to insist are completely baseless.”
Connor was sympathetic.  “I’m sure they’re taking you seriously and are genuinely concerned for your well being.  It would be unethical for them not to be.”
“Yes, but I know they think I’m slightly insane.  Or maybe very insane.  No one else has experienced such problems or reacted the way I have when dreaming.”
“Perhaps no one else is as sensitive as you are.”
“Is that it?  Am I just being sensitive?”  Marguerite stamped her foot.  “It does not sound much different to me from being insane.”
“Are you still having the same dream you told me about.”
“Yes, and I am still unable to control it.  Dr. Reicha has instructed me to take charge and to seek out the beings I find so upsetting.  He said that if I confront them, then I will no longer be afraid of them.”
“Did you try doing that?”
“Oh, no.”  Marguerite shuddered.  “I am much too frightened to want to meet those awful things face to face.  I think I would die if I ever actually saw them.”
“It doesn’t seem like such a great idea to me either.  You would think a trained psychiatrist like Reicha could come up with something better than that.”
Marguerite gave a bitter laugh.  “That’s pretty much what I told him myself.”
“And what did he say?”
“He told me that was the method the researchers at the prior experiment in Moldova had used when a similar situation occurred there.  He said it had been quite effective.”
“Elicott discussed the previous experiment when I was first being interviewed.  He didn’t go into a great deal of detail about it though.”
“Dr. Reicha didn’t seem that anxious to talk about it either.  Actually, he seemed to regret saying as much as he had.  It was as if he had let something slip he shouldn’t.  As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he tried to change the subject.”  Marguerite shook her head.  “It makes no difference.  How could whatever happened in East Europe have anything to do with what I’m going through now?”
Connor was at a loss.  “I wish there were something I could do to help.”
 “You’re doing a great deal just by listening to my silly problems.  I don’t know what you must think of me.”  Marguerite’s expression softened as she reached out and touched Connor’s sleeve.  “Why don’t you come with me to my place for dinner?  I’d feel less alone if you were there beside me.  Talking to you helps me put things in perspective.”
“Sure,” said Connor.  This was taking a turn he hadn’t anticipated.  “And I can tell you about my own dream experiences.  Some of them have been pretty bizarre.”
“Let’s do it now then.  I have a sublet on West Moore Street in Tribeca.  We can get there by subway.”  Marguerite regarded Connor critically.  “And I think a home cooked meal would do you good.  To be honest, you don’t look the type who eats regularly.”
“No, I live pretty much on takeout.  The truth is I never learned how to cook.”
Marguerite’s apartment was one of those shoebox spaces that exist only in Manhattan.  It was a fifth floor walkup at the top of a twisting narrow staircase illuminated only by one bare lightbulb placed at each landing.  The studio itself was almost as dark.  There were only two windows and both faced a brick shaftway.   A Murphy bed stood raised against one wall.  When it was lowered, it would take up almost the entire floor space.  The only other furniture was a rickety table and chairs just outside the alcove that contained the kitchen.
“It’s no wonder you have bad dreams if you have to live in a place like this,” said Connor as he took in his surroundings.
“I’m used to it by now.”  Marguerite disappeared into the kitchen.  Connor heard the hiss of gas as she turned on the stove.    “They are planning to tear this old building down soon anyway.  The landlord has already given us notice.”
“This is New York.  What else is new?”
To Connor’s surprise, Marguerite turned out to be a gourmet cook.  “I used to make dinner every evening for my husband,” she explained as she watched Connor finish his dish of pierogi.  “He didn’t care.  The first chance he got, he went home to Poland and left me stranded here on my own.”
“If he was that kind of guy, you’re definitely better off without him.”
“Yes, I figured that out too.  It doesn’t help much, though, when I get lonely.”  Marguerite shook her head.  “What about you?  Why aren’t you married yourself?”
Connor had come to trust Marguerite.  He saw no reason now not to tell the truth.  “You and I are in the same boat.  My wife dumped me last year.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.”  Connor finished his beer and put the bottle back down on the tabletop.  “I don’t feel bad about it, not most of the time anyway, so why should you?”
“Would you like another beer?”
“No, one’s plenty, thank you.  This is the first I’ve had in weeks.  I’ve realized there isn’t much point in being the sober sister any longer.  I’m probably not going to be in the project anyway once the next stage begins.”
“Why not?  From what you’ve told me about your experiences, you seem to have done better than anyone else in controlling your dreams.”
“Yeah, but I’m too much of a pain in the ass.  That always was my biggest problem.”
“Was that what your wife told you when she left?”  Marguerite lowered her eyes.  “I don’t mean to pry, but you sounded pretty bitter just now.”
Connor debated with himself just how much he wanted to tell.  “I got myself into some trouble with the law,” he finally said.  “It was my wife Jocelyn who talked me into getting involved in the job in the first place.  Then when I got busted and sent away for a few months, she decided she decided she didn’t have time to wait around for my release.”
Marguerite regarded him evenly.  “You don’t look like a criminal to me.”
“Thanks for saying that.  I wouldn’t want to be sitting here if I thought my having been in prison really bothered you.”
“No, it doesn’t.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I’ve certainly made enough of my own not to hold yours against you.  I’m sure it wasn’t anything really bad you did anyway.”
“B&E – breaking and entering,” Connor explained.  “I had a clean record, so I caught a break and the D.A. dropped the burglary charge.  My lawyer pleaded down what was left to a misdemeanor, and I only ended up doing six months on Rikers.  It wasn’t much fun but it could have been a lot worse.”
“You were lucky I guess.”
“Yes, someone tipped off the cops to where I was and what I was doing.  They got there too quickly for it to have been a coincidence.  Whoever called them didn’t mean me well, but he at least put a stop to my life of crime.”
“You never tried to find out who called the police?”
“What would be the point?  I’m not out for revenge.  That would just get me sent away again.”
“So what are you doing now?”
“I go out every day looking for work and respond to every classified ad I see.  No one is looking to hire in this economy, though, so really all I’ve got in my life at the moment is this damn dream experiment and the few dollars it brings in each week.  When I started, I thought it would get my mind off my problems and give me something positive to think about.  But I wasn’t expecting all the weirdness I’ve been coming up against.  If I’d known what lay ahead, I’d probably have passed on it.”
“What about your family and friends?  Can’t they give you any help?”
“I don’t really have any family left.  Both my parents are dead.  As far as friends, there’s only this one guy Gallagher who’s stuck by me.  I’ve known him forever, but it’s only since I’ve gotten out that he and I have begun hanging out together regularly.  I don’t really know why he’s staying so close, but I’m damn grateful to him for being there.”
Marguerite reached out her hand to Connor.  “Well, now you know you have one more friend at least.”
Connor was touched by her sympathy.  “That’s decent of you, Marguerite, especially since you really don’t know anything about me.”
“I know enough.  Women have great intuition when it comes to seeing inside a man’s heart.”  Marguerite laughed bitterly.  “Even so, it is amazing how often we end up giving ourselves to men who care nothing for us.”
Connor looked away in embarrassment.  “I should give you a hand with the dishes.”
“You don’t have to, but it would be nice.  Afterwards, we could open the bed and lie down with one another.”
“I’d like that,” said Connor.  It was only then that it hit him how lonely he’d been himself these past weeks, how much he’d dreaded returning to his apartment in Brooklyn to spend another night on his own.
“You’re a kindhearted man, and it would make me happy to be with you.”  Marguerite reached out and ran her fingers through his hair.  “Besides, I would feel safer if I were not alone when I fall asleep.  Perhaps being with you will keep the bad dreams away.”

Monday, January 7, 2019

Enduring Winter

Now that the holidays are over there's nothing for it but to make the best of winter for the next few months until spring finally arrives.

This is actually a photo of reflections in the cold waters of the Central Park lake. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Alone at Night

He sits on the stoop in the dark.  Is he homeless or just out for a walk with his dog?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Lucid: Chapter Fifteen

Gallagher’s two-bedroom apartment on Havermeyer Street was as spacious and airy as any tenant could wish.  It was located in a high-rise condo that, like many of the other buildings in the neighborhood, had been hastily erected to take advantage of the real estate boom that had accompanied Williamsburg’s renaissance.  The materials used in its construction had been second rate, and the entire interior would need to be gutted in a few years.  By then, though, the developers would have long ago pocketed their gains and retired to Florida.  In the meantime, the apartment looked as though it were ready to be photographed for some newspaper’s Sunday supplement.
“Nice digs,” Connor had remarked to his friend the only time he had visited there.  “I don’t know how good it will be as a long term investment though.”
“It doesn’t have to be, my man,” Gallagher had cheerfully replied.  “A couple of years from now I’ll sell it for double what I paid and clear a huge profit.  Let the next owner worry how he’s going to get his money back.”
“You’ve got expensive tastes,” Connor had observed as he looked about.  “It can’t be that easy to make the mortgage payments on a paralegal’s salary,”
Gallagher had exploded.  “What the hell business is that of yours?” he demanded.  “Just because you live in a dump doesn’t mean I have to.   What counts is that right now I’ve got a great place to show off to all the women I meet.  As soon as they get a glimpse of what a palace I’m living in, they can’t wait to hop into bed.  That’s good enough for me.”
Connor had shrugged and let the matter drop.  He had never returned for a second visit.  Surrounded by the same ostentation he saw on display everywhere else he went in the city, he had been too put off to be comfortable sitting there for very long. 
Today Gallagher was alone in the apartment.  He’d met a redhead the night before in a Tribeca club’s V.I.P. room and for a while had been confident she’d come home with him for a taste of coke if nothing else, but in the end she’d left him and taken off with a film producer.  It was just as well, he comforted himself, as he had important things to attend to.
Wearing a designer silk jacket draped over his shoulders, Gallagher sat erect at the marble topped dining room table.  In front of him he had placed a chemist’s scale accurate to a tenth of a gram, a container of talc baby powder and a plastic bag filled with several ounces of cocaine.  Methodically, he weighed out grams of cocaine onto the scale and then added to each an equal weight of baby powder.  He would have liked to have cut the coke even more, but when he had sampled it earlier he had found it had already been stepped on.
Gallagher allowed nothing to distract him from his work.  Downloaded music played in the background, but he paid no attention to it and instead concentrated on the task at hand.  He knew if he made a mistake it might cost him money later on.
It was a little after noontime and Gallagher had almost finished when he heard the front doorbell ring.  He cursed loudly.  “Fuck,” he complained.  “How do people get to my front door without having me buzz them into the building in the first place?”  Aloud, he yelled out, “Hold on, whoever you are.  I just got out of the shower and need to put some clothes on.”  Even as he said this, Gallagher scooped up everything that was on the table and carefully placed it out of sight in a nearby cabinet.  “I’m coming,” he shouted.
When Gallagher opened the door to his apartment he found two men waiting impassively outside.  The younger was dressed in jeans and a silk shirt that had been left open at the collar to show the heavy gold chain he wore over his chest.  The other was middle aged with a stocky build; his grizzled hair had been cropped close to his bullet shaped skull. 
Gallagher took in the older man’s polyester tie and wrinkled gray sports jacket.  “If you guys are Bible salesmen, I’m not interested.”
Without saying a word, the younger man reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a gold shield.  He held it up for Gallagher to see.
“Police,” said the older man.
Gallagher’s attitude changed instantly.  “I’m so sorry.  I had no idea you gentlemen were officers of the law.  Please come inside.”  He held the door wide open.
The two detectives followed Gallagher into the apartment and took seats at the dining room table without having waited be asked. 
Noticing a speck of white powder on the tabletop, Gallagher brushed it away with the sleeve of his jacket.  “Damn dust,” he said.  “Never seem to get it all no matter how often I clean.”
“Maid’s day off?” asked the younger man pleasantly.
Gallagher laughed a trifle too loudly at that.  “Can I get you gentlemen anything?  A glass of soda or a cup of coffee maybe?”
The older man ignored the offer.  “I’m Detective Stone and this is my partner, Detective Klinger,” he said.  
Gallagher took the hint and sat down.  “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“We have a few questions we’d like to ask if you don’t mind,” said Klinger.
Gallagher glanced from one face to the other.  “Really?  I can’t imagine what questions you’d have for me.”
“Of course,” interjected Stone, “if you do mind, we can always bring you into the station and ask our questions there.”  He loosened his tie as he spoke.
“He’s the bad cop,” thought Gallagher.  “It’s the young guy who’s going to pretend he’s Mr. Softee and wants to play nice.”
“Well?” asked Stone.
“Ask away,” said Gallagher breezily.  “I’ve got nothing to hide.  I’m happy to assist the police in any way I can.”
Stone smirked at him.  “That’s very nice of you.”
“On the 8th of last month you were in the Fifth Precinct on Elizabeth Street,” said Klinger.  It wasn’t a question.
“I’m not sure if that was the date – I’d have to check my office calendar – but yeah, I was there all right,” replied Gallagher carefully.  “The law firm I work for sent me down to talk with Joe Pirandelli.  You guys were holding him on an assault rap, and I was supposed to discuss our fees with him and find out if he had sufficient funds to make bail.”
“Nice guys your firm does business with,” Stone informed him.  “Your client Mr. Pirandelli is once supposed to have beaten a man to death with his bare hands.  That was down in Florida when he was working as a bouncer at a lap dance club.”
“I don’t know anything about that.  I just do what my boss tells me.”
“Is that so?” asked Stone.
“Everyone’s entitled to competent legal representation,” Gallagher replied.  “It’s a constitutional right.  I’m sure you know that as well as I do.”
Stone smiled at him pleasantly.  “Suppose you don’t tell us what we’re supposed to know.  Ok?”
“Do you remember being in the precinct’s evidence room while you were down there?”  It was Klinger asking the question.
“Not me.”  Gallagher shook his head emphatically.  “I had no business there at all.”
“You’re telling us,” Stone said.  He was smirking again.  “That’s why we’re wondering why we have you on video surveillance in the corridor right outside.” 
“It’s on the second floor,” Klinger added helpfully.  “Mr. Pirandelli’s holding cell was on the ground floor.”
“Is the second floor where the men’s room is?” Gallagher asked.  “I told the desk sergeant downstairs that I had to take a leak.  He was the one sent me up there.  You can check with him if you don’t believe me.”
“We already did that,” said Stone.
“Then you know I’m telling you the truth.”  Gallagher breathed more easily.  He was sure that if the cops had had video of him entering the evidence room, they’d already have put the cuffs on him.
The two detectives said nothing.
“I’m always happy to help the authorities in any way I can,” Gallagher repeated, “but I’m afraid we’ll have to wait on any more questions until I’ve spoken to my boss.”
“What’s your boss got to do with this?” asked Stone.
“Why, he’s one of the top criminal and litigation attorneys in the city.  In fact, he won a huge suit against the city only last month.  His client was awarded damages of over two million.”
“Is that so?” asked Klinger.
“Yes, you probably read about the case.  That was the one where the police pushed a senior citizen to the ground for allegedly jaywalking across an empty intersection.  The poor old fellow was completely traumatized by the experience.”
“Yes, I do remember reading about that,” said Stone slowly.  “Your boss is Klopenstock, isn’t he?  I knew him back when he was an ambulance chaser out on Long Island.”
“That’s the guy.”  Gallagher smiled brightly.  He stood up.  “If there’s nothing else, I guess you gentlemen will be leaving now.”
“In a minute.”  Stone’s expression was grim as he waved Gallagher back down to his seat.  “First we want to finish telling you our story about the evidence room.”
“Take your time, detective.  I’m all ears.”
“The reason we’re trying to find out who was in the evidence room is because something valuable was stolen from it.”
“Evidence, no doubt.”  Gallagher laughed at his own wit.
“Yeah, exactly,” said Klinger.
“Six ounces of coke to be exact.  We’d picked up a bagman from one of the Chinatown gangs, the Pale Horsemen.  He was carrying it in his underwear.  We had the fucker dead to rights.  Now, without the evidence, the case will fall apart and he’ll walk.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” said Gallagher.  He drew his brows together in commiseration.  “I’m sure your missing drugs will turn up somewhere though.”
“The Pale Horsemen are one tough bunch,” Stone observed.  “They don’t give a shit about the bagman one way or the other, but I’m sure they’re sore as hell to have lost all that dope.  It’s worth a pretty penny on the street.”
Gallagher spread his hands.  “I have no sympathy for criminals.”
“We have a fairly good idea who took the coke from the evidence room,” said Klinger.  “If one of our snitches ever leaked word onto the street who we think did it and it got back to the Pale Horsemen, that poor guy would be in a world of trouble.”
“He might want to consider buying himself a life insurance policy,” Stone said.  His expression was blank.  “I doubt he’s going to live long enough to see old age.”
The blood drained from Gallagher’s face.
“We’ll be going now.”  Klinger stood up.  “You happen to think of anything, any suspicious person you might have seen while you were on your way to the men’s room, you’ll be sure to let us know, wont’ you?”
“Yes,” Gallagher stammered out.  “Of course.”
Stone stood up as well.  He turned to look at Gallagher.  “Hey, what happened to that shit eating grin you were wearing a minute ago?  You look now like you’re ready to piss in your pants.”
Gallagher said nothing.
The two detectives walked to the front door and prepared to let themselves out.  “It’s been nice knowing you,” said Stone over his shoulder.
Gallagher sat down at the table and put his head in his hands.  He could hear the sound of the detectives’ mordant laughter as they waited in the hallway for the elevator to arrive.