Jones was squatting down, inspecting the corpse’s face. “Son of a bitch,” he said. “It really is Rupert Polbrock. Devin, go call it in. This case just got bigger than a bunch of beat cops.” Devin Collins nodded and walked out of the house. Jones started looking around with increased fascination at the flattened shag, sagging couch, and faded curtains. “People have always said he was a bit of a scumbag,” Jones said, “but I still wonder how he ended up shot in the back in a place like this.”
“Maybe it was an affair,” Kit offered, examining photos of a smiling couple which notably did not include Rupert Polbrock. “You know, angry husband sort of thing. Happens all the time.”
“Probably,” Jones said. “But if you’re as loaded as Polbrook, why do you need to go slumming?”
“Slumming?” Sam asked.
“Well, yeah,” Jones said gesturing around vaguely.
“I live in a neighborhood like this,” Sam said sharply.
“Yeah, but you don’t own half of Hay Street.”
“This guy’s really that rich?” Kit asked.
“Oh yeah,” Jones said. “The guy probably has a swimming pool full of money in his backyard.”
“Damn, why couldn’t he have slummed it with me?”
“It’s not a slum,” Sam grumbled
Devin Collins strolled back inside. He was a laid-back officer, one of the only black officers on the force. He moved slowly despite his height and long strides. “Well, half the homicide division is on the way,” he announced “and even the commissioner is coming.”
“Sounds like it’s going to be crowded,” Sam said. “We’ll wait out front.”
“Oh will we?” Kit said sarcastically.
But Sam was already heading out the door. “Come on,” he growled.
“Jesus. What’s got your boxer-briefs in a twist?” Kit teased.
“Nothing,” Sam growled.
When the fellow officers exchanged inquisitive glances, Kit explained, “Farnsworth’s been getting all existential over our dead guy’s underwear.”
“Existential?” Collins asked, perking up.
“Yeah, you know, ‘who am I?’ ‘Life is too short.’ ‘What sort of underwear should I buy?’ That sort of stuff.” Sam glowered at Kit’s imitation of him, but she just shrugged her shoulders.
“Oh, well that might be an identity crisis,” Jones offered casually, “but it’s not exactly existentialism.”
Kit sneered. “What are you talking about – not existentialism?”
“It’s not a crisis,” Sam insisted, then glanced again at the dead man’s underwear. “It’s just . . . weird, you know?”
“Weird like you’re discovering that the universe is ultimately meaningless, and it’s up to you as a free individual to determine the course of your own life?”
Jones stared at his partner with his eyes narrowed. “What the fuck are you talking about, Devin?”
Collins just shrugged. “Existentialism.”
“What the fuck, man?” Jones asked, still waiting for the punchline.
Devin straightened up slightly and stuck out his chin. “I double majored in philosophy in college. That’s how I’m gonna make detective in a couple years.”
“Alright then, Detective, enjoy your case,” Sam said brusquely before finally stepping out the door.
“I’m telling you,” Kit said in a loud whisper as she followed Sam out of the room, “crisis.”
* * *
Story by Gregory M. Fox