What with all the Michael Bloomberg retrospectives going on, I feel like I haven’t been invited to the party. And I wrote an entire novel based on his legacy! Well, the food legacy at any rate. And who doesn’t want to talk about food and politics (and sex and crime)? Hell, even Fran Lebowitz jumps on the soda thing in her Times interview.
Anyway, since I never talk about myself or my writing here, I figured I’d give another free taste of Bacon and Egg Man. (Okay, fine, every other post I’m talking about my writing, but since I’m averaging about one post every two months these days …).
This is Chapter 18. Setup? You don’t need no stinking setup. Interestingly, Bloomberg isn’t even mentioned below. But his shadow, it is long. Bacon and Egg Man can be purchased in print or e-book here, here and elsewhere.
Blunt sat fuming in his car, the right half of his field of vision crowded with alerts and warnings. The red heart blinked, accompanied by readouts of heart rate and blood pressure. A sleep warning flashed now, as well. Because his heart rate hadn’t gone down much, if any, since the afternoon, the system overrode his ability to turn it off. Save for the few hours in the afternoon when the network was taken down for updating, he’d had no peace. And, as predicted, these alerts prompted a host of messages suggesting or requesting meetings and appointments.
He placed a call to the overnight tech guy.
“Jimmy, can you clear all these fucking alerts out of my AR?”
“I don’t know, Chief. I’d need authorization.”
“I’m the fucking chief. I’m on a case, and I can’t see out of my right eye.”
Blunt knew he was putting Jimmy in a bad spot. There were protocols in place for the department’s augmented-reality system—especially if psych and med alerts were being signaled.
“C’mon, Jimmy. Do the old man a favor.”
“I guess I could override the alerts on your end. But I’m going to have to let internal affairs know about those psych trips.”
“Fine, whatever,” Blunt said. “And I promise you, I’ll run in for an appointment as soon as I can get off this stakeout.”
Just like that, the alerts disappeared.
“How’s that?” Jimmy asked.
“Better, thanks. Is everything else still working?”
“Should be. I just disabled that part of the heads-up display on your end. It’ll still be compiling data and uploading. So don’t go crazy in the evidence room.”
“You’re a funny guy, Jimmy. You should try standup. Thanks for helping anyway.”
“You all right, Chief? Everything okay?”
Blunt sighed. “Yeah, Jimmy. Everything’s fine.”
Of course everything was far from fine. The God’s honest truth was he could go for a couple hours on the therapist’s couch.
He’d had a mandatory hour a week since puberty. Like most boys that age, he was convinced he’d hate it—sitting with a stranger and talking. It sounded so girly. But he’d taken to it immediately. Part of it was that his first therapist was a man, a much-needed father figure after he’d watched his own father die of an obesity-related heart attack on the living room floor, fifty years of bad habits shaking like a Jell-o earthquake as dad’s eyes rolled back into his head and bloody foam bubbled out of his mouth. All these years later, he could call up that scene as vividly as the day it happened, almost as if he were watching a video through the implant.
The scrawny therapist with the wire-frame glasses was no replacement for his father, but it was a male role model—and one who helped him get a handle on the rage building in him from that early age. It wasn’t long before skipping a therapy session was as unthinkable as his mother skipping Sunday Mass.
“Which do you think is better?” he’d asked her once.
“Oh, therapy’s better than Mass, I guess. In Mass you never know for sure if God’s paying attention—and you have to share your time with a hundred other people. But confession’s better than therapy, because you’re expected to atone for your stupid behavior rather than sit there and blame it all on your parents.”
So it was an hour a week his entire adult life. Until his wife died. He then upped it to two hours a week at the suggestion of the department therapist. He saw the sense in it immediately. It had taken years for him to get over his anger at his dad for killing himself slowly with food. But that rage had a clear target. The rage that swelled in him after Janice’s death, though? That was something else entirely. To lose his wife of 20 years to a heart attack? Janice—a vegetarian who worked out an hour a day, who never put a single foul thing in her body, who lived in and believed in the most nutritionally advanced society in the world. And she came up short in some stupid genetic lottery. There she was on the floor, dying at the exact same age of the exact same thing as his father.
It made no sense.
Perhaps that’s why, five years after her death, Blunt found himself in the evidence room with his newest detective, Hillary Halstead. He was infatuated with her youth, her beauty, her intelligence. He’d taken her under wing, and she was eager to learn. She asked questions, laughed at his jokes, hung around in his office after her shift was over, gave him reason to hope. Late into middle age, he was suffering the side effects that ambitious, pretty young women have on a man. It was the first secret he kept from his therapists, bottling up his feelings until he was overcome with a sudden need to do something reckless to impress her.
They were in the evidence room, cataloguing a box of donuts—apple cinnamon, fresh from a morning raid.
“The smell,” she said. “It’s almost intoxicating.”
She’d been standing right next to him. Even now he remembered the feel of her shoulder against his, the scent of the shampoo in her hair.
“Have you ever?” she asked.
“Never. In 30 years, never a nibble. Never a sip.”
“Impressive,” she said.
And for what?
He opened the box, the smell now overpowering him.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He didn’t answer. He picked up a donut, surprised at the way it felt—the springy nature of it, heavy yet airy at the same time. The grit of the sugar and the powdery feel of the cinnamon.
He bit into it, immediately filled with a powerful mixture of self-loathing and ecstasy as the powder tickled his nose, and the soft, cakey morsels dissolved in his mouth. It reminded him of his first tries at masturbation—pure physical, cellular delight mixed with an equally pure existential and spiritual dread. He’d be caught. He’d be punished. Humiliated, killed and, to top it off, roasted in the fires of hell for all eternity.
“How is it?” she whispered.
He raised the other half to her mouth. She closed her eyes and took it. She moaned. Finally, she opened her eyes, a changed woman. He’d never seen her betray emotion of any sort.
And when he leaned in and kissed her, she gave ground for two heart-lifting seconds before her hand was on his chest, pushing him away gently.
“Chief, we shouldn’t.”
He studied her eyes, hoping to find doubt, conflict, that secret glint that meant she only wanted him to try a little harder. He saw only panic. And pity.
He found his voice. “No. I guess you’re right.”
He’d thrown away a lifetime of principled abstention, to impress an underling, to make the sort of move that could have him out on the streets in a heartbeat had she decided to file a complaint.
“I don’t know what came over me,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
That sorrow only grew. At times he almost wished she’d file a complaint. Every day in her presence was a new, exquisite form of torture as he fell more and more in love with this forbidden fruit. He was a foolish old man with a heart-sick teenager locked inside him. Worse, after all those years of detailing every little problem, examining every little neurotic tic with one therapist or another, he couldn’t say anything about this new problem in his life. To admit it to a department shrink would be to ignite an inquiry and have her removed from his chain of command—something he knew he needed, but something he knew he couldn’t stand.
So it festered. He worked out harder and harder to try to deal with the rage all on his own. But what she had done with Wesley Montgomery, that she had fallen so far, spurning him at the same time…. Even now–while she and Montgomery were up to their eyeballs in trouble–she seemed to be flirting with the dealer. He seethed. A white-hot flame burned inside him and he had no idea how to handle it, no clue how to channel it.
Except towards Wesley Montgomery.
Didn’t Montgomery represent all that was wrong with the world? Hadn’t Blunt’s old man died from the kind of shit that Montgomery and his ilk peddled on the streets? It was all mixed up in his head. That Goddamned donut. Hadn’t his mom told him he had to watch himself, that the disease was genetic, that he came from a long line of sweet-tooths? And thank God the government had finally stepped in to save people from themselves. Hadn’t Blunt promised her to not only follow the law to the letter, but to embrace it, to become an enforcer—to protect others from what had happened to his old man? But these dealers kept poisoning the well. He’d eaten that donut and, yes, it was his own fault, but the temptation wouldn’t have been there in the first place if sleaze like Montgomery and the ring in Manhattan weren’t importing it.
He’d get them both. Somehow. And if that didn’t sate his need for revenge, dampen the rage burning inside of him—well, he’d worry about that when he came to it. First things first.