Chapter One: The Silent Snake
Jimmy the Snake had a smart mouth. I don’t like smart mouths, but my fist sure does. I got it in my head to show Jimmy my appreciation, so I pulled back my elbow and cracked a cold one on the side of his jaw. He toppled off the gray metal folding chair and struggled to stand, what with his hands cuffed behind his back. He looked like a foal taking its first woozy steps.
“I won’t ask again,” I growled, massaging my fist, “Who’s makin’ the bills?” Jimmy hobbled back into his chair, his sweaty face worse for wear from my particular style of conversation. “I never seen the stuff, O’Brien, honest. I’ve gone straight! I’m livin’ all virtuously-like!” This happened to be the funniest thing I had heard in my life. “Yeah. Right,” I said between howls of laughter, “If that’s true, why is it we found you hocking stolen merchandise down by the transfer station?”
Jimmy’s big puppy-dog eyes squinted into a steely gaze. “This ain’t no interrogation O’Brien. This is a Goddamn farce.” I clipped him one on the chin. “Watch your manners. We know someone’s started making fake Benjamins, then we find you, a known counterfeiter, sneaking around and breaking parole. One last chance, who’s makin’ the bills?” I grabbed him by his worn houndstooth collar and shook him hard. “You’re one bad cop, O’Brien,” he sneered. I sneered back. “Wait til you meet my partner.” And as luck would have it, right at that moment the door slammed open and in came my partner, Detective Murphy.
“C’mon, Jimmy, whaddya know-” started Murphy, bounding in the room. Then he stepped on a banana peel, slid into the corner of the table, threw the open box of donuts he was holding into the air and slumped to the ground, a dozen brightly colored pastries raining over him. Then for no reason he fired his gun five times and barfed a little bit.
Jimmy looked up at me. “You’re a bad cop, O’Brien. But he’s a bad cop.”
Chapter Two: Burning Bridges
The window in Commissioner Graves’ office provided an eagle-eyed view of downtown. The city was just as ugly ten stories up as it was pounding the pavement. Nothing but smog, heat, and noise.
“So Jimmy the Snake has an airtight alibi. Gentlemen, this won’t do at all,” Graves wheezed, walking slow laps around his gold-trimmed mahogany desk. “We need to find this counterfeiter. Re-elections are coming up, and our Mayor is tough on crime, remember?” “How can I forget?” I asked, waving the air clear of his pungent cigar smoke, “Those damn ads keep interrupting the ball game.” Graves turned where he stood and slammed his meaty mitts to his desk.
“This isn’t a game, O’Brien. The papers have been screaming about all this funny money, and unless we find the rat responsible for it, we can kiss our cushy City Hall slush fund goodbye.” “That’d sure be a shame, Commissioner,” I replied, taking a pull from my trusty flask, “Who would you ever get to pick up your cheeseburger tab?” Graves’ flabby, soft body turned into a bright red tomato as he picked up a paperweight and sent it whizzing past my ear. It crashed into a hundred pieces on the wall behind me. “Did I manage to hit a nerve?” I sneered, “I had my work cut out for me with all that flesh covering it.”
Slapping the flask from my lips, Graves leaned in so close I could smell his cheap aftershave. “I should kick you out on the streets, O’Brien. You’re just a bad cop.” “Clearly,” I replied, “You’re forgetting my partner.” And right on cue, Detective Murphy, seated next to me, stood up and cleared his throat.
“Commissioner, I think-” started Murphy, and then his pants fell down and he farted for seven minutes straight. Then for no reason he pulled out his bridgework and barfed a little bit.
Graves looked down at me. “You’re a bad cop, O’Brien. But he’s a bad cop.”
Chapter Three: Danger From Within
It was hot as hell that day, even hotter in our ‘55 Lincoln Capri. My hands were sticking to the polyester wheel, but I managed to pry one off to wipe my beaded brow. “Chasing after these dead ends makes for tiring work,” I sighed to Murphy. “If I could have any two things in the world right now, they’d be that no-good counterfeiter and an ice-cold soda pop.”
Murphy stopped twirling his gun around his pointer finger. “Why don’t we stop at my house? I got a whole case of pop on ice!” An invitation to Murphy’s usually meant a trip for a tetanus shot, but so help me, I was parched. We took a detour down Vine and pulled into the driveway of a run-down, second-rate bungalow.
Unlocking the deadbolt, Murphy lead me inside. It was an embarrassing place, cluttered with candy-wrappers and spent shells. He also had a framed picture of his lovely mother on the wall. Go figure. As my partner made his way to the icebox, I couldn’t help but notice a familiar smell in the air. I pulled out my .45 and made my way through the rat-trap, following that wet, bitter odor. It lead me to a bedroom door, which ended up kicked off its hinges. What I saw almost made me lose my lunch.
“Murphy….you’re the counterfeiter?”
Before me, plain as day, was a blotty printing press as big as a sofa and a stack of hundred dollar bills twice as big as that. Blown up portraits of old Ben Franklin were tacked to the wall, and a crystal jewelers eye sat at a drafting table along with a hobby knife and a freshly carved rubber relief of a hundred dollar bill. Murphy came in behind me with two bottles of pop in hand.
“Nah, O’Brien, I ain’t counterfeittin’! All I’m doing is seeing how close I can get to making a fake bill look like a real one!”
“Then you give it to people to use like real money.”
“Well, if they use them, I must be doin’ a good job!”
“How about we keep this between you and me, Murphy?” I chuckled as I approached the stack of counterfeit Benjamins, slipping a solid three large into my pocket. “You may be a bad cop, but I’m a bad cop.”
Then Murphy downed both bottles of pop, belched ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,’ and for no reason barfed a little bit.
“No, actually you’re really just a bad cop.”