The ghoul of westside
Chapter two draft:
The words took a moment or two to set in, and once they did, Carlos shook is head. And shook it again.
”I don’t understand, I-”
“None of us do, detective.”
This was the first time Pam had referred to him as anything but ‘carl’, or ‘Gonzales’, or even the dreaded nickname, ‘Carlie’, or simply ‘Carlos’. The message that came with the casual use of the word was clear: she didn’t trust him anymore.
And who would? he thought as he caught a glimpse of himself in the dirty window of the cafe, eyepatch and all, looking out at the sleepy buildings and the passerbys of the courtyard. He had to admit, there was a reason why people looked. And looked again. It wasn’t only his eyepatch, it was everything. The way he spoke, the way he walked, his shyness which was often mistaken as the behaviour of someone cold, detached. Even before the incident, that’s all she had said. Bring a little light into your eyes, Carlos. Smile more Carlos, you’re a handsome man, I don’t want people thinking that I married a freak. He complained about pam, had cursed her existence for the last seven years- but she was the closest thing to a friend in the precinct, his partner. And now she didn’t trust him. Damn.
He reached into his pocket and did something he hadn’t done in years- he brought out a cigarette. It was partly for relief, relief that he hadn’t felt in ages after he had quit. Relief after his wife slept in the spare bedroom and he spent the night smoking joints, sitting on the porch. Relief after he got fired, relief every single time he relieved that night. Partly for relief, and partly to see- just to see, what Pam would do.
Pam, to her credit, didn’t say anything. She looked surprised, her eyes widening a little- was that fear? but the moment passed as soon as it had come, and she nodded appraisingly.
”Could use one myself. Gunther doesn’t mind.”
He pulled out a lighter from his pocket and a second cig, handing it to pam. As he lit the end of the cigarette, panic-filled him momentarily- the smell of the smoke, the tiny spark. Suddenly it was all too much, but he forced himself to put the cigarette in his mouth, and let out a long puff, relaxing with every breath he took. Soon, pams face was invisible under the heavy clouds of smoke, and they both sat there, saying nothing.
Eventually, though, pam raised her arm, almost batting the smoke away, placing the cigarette on the wooden table. She cleared her throat, and Carlos took it as a hint. He didn’t put the cigarette down on the wooden table though- opening the window, he threw it out, praying that it landed on a random passerby and ruined their day. Pam didn’t bat an eyelid.
She folded her arms. Crossed her legs. Uncrossed them.
”Do you need to take a whizz?” his voice was hoarse, unused to the smoke.
“You’ve been uncrossing and crossing those legs for the last ten seconds.”
”Carlos, I wouldn’t have called you this early just to tell you this.”
“I don’t understand, we never spoke, we never-”
“Carlos, they’ve suspended you temporarily.”
Pam raised her hands nervously, palms facing him.
“Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just passing it on.” she hesitated, and then continued with caution. “It’s just that….after what happened in new york, the sergeant doesn’t want to risk it, there was already a protest when you joined, but……” her voice trailed off, unspoken words hanging between them.
”But what?” His tone had taken after one of an irate child, even though he knew what pam meant. “But what?”
She sighed. “But the sarge gave you another chance, is what happened. I’m really not trying to insinuate anything other than that” her tone softened. “Maybe in a couple of days, I can try and talk to him again, maybe he’ll revoke his decision, maybe-”
“It’s the best we can hope for.”
She glanced at her watch- a huger monstrosity than his, really, Pam wasn’t too concerned with the amount she spent- while he looked at anything but her, the dry taste of the smoke still in his mouth, and he knew that as soon as got home and locked that door, he would smoke himself into oblivion.
”I have to leave now, I do apoligize Carlos- my son’s probably about to wake up, and I have to drive him to soccer practice. You know how it is.”
No, I really don’t.
“But I appreciate you meeting me- I’m sorry, I truly thought that this should’ve been done face to face. I would’ve waited another day, but….” She gave a smile that was so fake that Carlos applauded her- it took effort, and he should know- “But I thought it would be better sooner, rather than later.” She got up and dusted her coat, although it had remained the same dull brown color as when she had arrived.
She turned away, but paused for a second and turned around, looking at him awkwardly.
“Take care, Carlos.”
Gunther found him, two hours later, passed out on the couch, clutching a packet of cigarettes in his left hand.