Underwear (VII)

It was a vegan bakery. From inside his car across the street, Sam studied the little shop. Was there any trace? Any remnants of the past showing through the new, trendy facade?

None that he could see.

The problem wasn’t the bakery itself. And he didn’t have anything against vegans. He did have the thought that it must be a sad life without cheese, so all the more need for delicious baked goods. Sure, a cookie without butter or eggs apparently cost twice as much as one with them, but that didn’t seem to be a problem here. The shop was nestled between an upscale boutique and a stylish cocktail bar. There was a Tesla parked in front of him for crying out loud. Clearly an eight dollar muffin would be no big deal in this neighborhood.

Maybe he should have become a baker instead of a cop. He definitely wouldn’t have to deal with corpses as a baker, right? And there was no reason he would ever need to find out that he wore the same underwear as a murder victim. And if he ate a donut on the job, it wouldn’t be some sort of ironic joke, just a perk of the job.

But he liked being a cop. Didn’t he?

Sam knew he should go. Still, his eyes drifted back to the building across the street, up to the second story and the northernmost window, where his old bedroom had been. Dammit if even the windows weren’t different. They were modern, double hung windows that probably didn’t let in a cold draft all winter, then swell so much they wedged themselves shut in the summer. There might not even be a bedroom on the other side of that window. It was probably an office or a storage space. He doubted the people who ran businesses here now needed to sleep in the spaces they rented.

Thinking now of his parents, Sam remembered that he had three missed calls from his father along with three voicemails he hadn’t listened to. He didn’t open any of them up now, but texted his dad anyway: Went by the old place this morning. It’s nice of course, but it’s not the same. Wonder what will happen to it now.

Not the same – an understatement. No abandoned store fronts or plywood panels on broken glass doors. There were actually flowers growing in the small beds along the sidewalk. And even this early in the morning there were people around. There was more life and energy here than in even his best childhood memories. The area had been completely revitalized, and it was all thanks to the clever dealings of Richard Polbrock, the man whom Sam had found dead in his underwear in a part of town as run down as this had once been.

Sam knew that’s why his father had called. He had watched the news and knew that Sam had been at the scene of the murder. And his father would understand why Sam had stopped by the store and apartment that had once been theirs – before Richard Polbrock bought it and canceled their lease. Sam hoped that if they never actually talked about it directly, neither of them would have to admit the truth: that they were glad Richard Polbrock was dead. Sam didn’t want to describe that crime scene to his father. He didn’t want to here satisfaction in the man’s voice, didn’t want to reduce his father to that sort of base cruelty. And he didn’t want to spend any more time thinking about that corpse in his underwear.

It was just underwear, right? It didn’t mean anything.

It was just underwear…

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (VI)

Sam wanted to destroy something, maybe just himself. He sat in the driveway in the dark for a long time, engine off, his hands gripping the wheel with the same panic that was crushing his throat. What had he almost done? Was he really the sort of cop who would…?

Finally, he climbed out of the car, consciously willing each individual muscle to move, accomplishing something that approximated normal movement. Precise strides carried him to the door. He unlocked it, stepped inside and went immediately to the gun safe, shutting his sidearm away without his usual care. He simply couldn’t carry the thing any longer.

It was not a heavy gun, but having it safely stowed still lifted a noticeable weight from Sam’s shoulders. Unfortunately, this allowed the cycle of confused and anxious thoughts he had been unconsciously suppressing to resume their parade through his mind.

A corpse.

A pair of underwear.

His underwear.

A millionaire.

A slum.

A bodybag.

A corpse.

That body was the gravity well around which all his mixed up emotions now swirled.

He needed a distraction. Settling into the couch of his narrow living room, he finally took his phone off of airplane mode, and the device nearly leapt out of his hands with vibrations from text messages.

“Saw you on the news. Looking good!”

“Yo, did you catch that killer?”

“Was that you on the news?”

“Hey, nice uniform Farnsworth! Saw you on 57. When are we hanging out?”

“Did someone really kill Rupert Polbrock?”

“I can’t believe I’m friends with a TV star!”

And from his father, simply: “Call me.”

Right, so no distractions to be had from his phone. Sam sent the damn thing sailing across the room into the recliner. He hated news cameras, at least when he happened to pass in front of their lens. Attention made him uncomfortable for reasons he had never entirely understood. And Sam really didn’t want to be associated with this particular news story either. But a job is a job. He had to secure crime scenes, and news crews had to secure footage for evening updates.

A part of him was tempted to turn on the news or to look up the video online and see the events the way everyone else did, but even that pulled him back to the image of a corpse lying on a living room floor wearing the same underwear he did.


Sam suddenly felt like he was back in that same room, back in that house that had almost the same layout as his, back in that “slum.” His life was somehow superimposed on that murder site. There was an outline on the floor where a human life had ended. And the gravity pulled him down. Sam rose from the couch and fell to his knees in almost the same motion. He sprawled out on the floor of his living room in the exact same pose that he had found Rupert Polbrock.

Strands of old shag carpet brushing against his lips, Sam muttered, “What the fuck am I doing?” But he didn’t move. In the chair nearby, his phone buzzed repeatedly as he missed a call. Sam stayed right where he was on the carpet, wishing for something to destroy.

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (V)

Sam barely even registered the intersection as he stepped on the brake. He was just a couple blocks from home and already imagining the cold beer and dull TV noise which would give his mind an escape from the labyrinth of angst he had tumbled into when he discovered his underwear matched a murder victim’s. But right before Sam could proceed through the intersection, a solitary figure sprinted across the street, jacket flapping in the wind. A moment later, two more people followed running at the same pace. “Shit,” Sam spat, as a feeling of duty smacked him in the face. He was not home yet, but in a police car, in a neighborhood that some of his fellow officers would probably consider a slum. And there were young men in hoods chasing someone.

Were they young men? Had he really seen them? But as fast as it had been, Sam knew how to recognize aggression. That was a pursuit, and it would probably end badly unless he did something.

Accelerating around the corner, Sam quickly caught up with the runners. White sneakers shone like beacons on the poorly lit streets. All three were still running as fast as they could and hadn’t noticed that it was a squad car behind them. Just scare them off, Sam thought. He was off duty, he needed to be prudent, but he could still help someone. Brights flashed in the night. Window rolled down, Sam barked a simple, “Hey!” in a tone of practiced authority. Three faces looked over their shoulder, recognized the lightbar on top of the squad car and understood. All three turned sharply and disappeared into the shadows. Sam stopped sharply. Whoever these young men were, they were now lurking around other people’s property. He could hear voices speaking in sharp tones, but couldn’t make out the words. “Get out of there,” he yelled.

There was a burst of profanity and a sound of scuffling and rapid footsteps. A shrub nearby started rustling. Sam opened the door of his car and stood up tall and powerful. “Get out of there,” he repeated.

More rustling—breaking foliage—rapid footsteps. Somewhere nearby a voice called out, “No! Stop!” Something bad was happening. Sam shouldn’t have even gotten out of the car, but he felt duty bound to take action now. He quickly reached into his car and turned on the vehicle’s spot light. The beam immediately fell on a solitary figure just beyond the reach of the headlights, illuminating wide eyes, white shoelaces, the metal zipper of a dark hoodie, and hands that were raised nervously in the air. “Please!” the young black man called back. He was shaking, “Don’t shoot!”


“Please,” he called out, voice cracking. “Don’t shoot me.”

The plea didn’t make sense. What did this kid think was going on? But then Sam realized that his hand was on the grip of his gun. The weapon was still safely holstered, but he couldn’t even remember reaching for it. He relaxed his hand, forced his breathing to slow, but there was still blood pounding against the skin throughout his body. “Look, just . . . just go on home,” he called. Aside from his shaking, the young man didn’t move. Hands above his head, face twisted and stretched with fear, eyes unblinking as they stared straight into the spotlight. Sam stared back. For a moment the whole world outside of that spotlight’s beam ceased to exist.

Man and Boy.

Officer and Citizen.

Cop and Thug.

Blood pounded in Sam’s ears. Angry at himself and at the thug who reminded him how much he was still a scared and confused kid, Sam roared, “Go!” The young man jumped, fell over backward, scrambled to his feet in such a panic that he slipped out of one shoe, and left it behind, fleeing into the night with a lopsided gallop. Sam stood beside his car until the only sound he could hear was his own shallow breathing. Trembling, he climbed into his car, turned off the spotlight, and drove home.

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox

Underwear (IV)

“They’re here again,” Kit said, grim resignation in her voice.

“Of course they are,” Sam replied. He was feeling unsettled by a whole swarm of thoughts that had nothing to do with protesters and really didn’t have the capacity to think much about their repeated complaints. Of course, the protesters had no intention of letting him off so easily.

The wall of humanity lining the curb in front of the police station held their signs proudly as they had every weekend for the last couple of months. However familiar the slogans had become to the officers who had to pass them, the demands remained uncompromising:

“Hands Up – Don’t Shoot.”

“Demilitarize the Police.”

“Don’t Kill My Son.”

“I’m Not A Thug.”

“Black Lives Matter.”

Bold statements in black and white, a report as loud as a gunshot in the night.

Sam’s knuckles were white on the steering wheel as a sea of angry faces turned toward their slowing squad car. There was no specific reason for these two parties to mistrust each other. There had been no incidents of violence at any protests in the county, and if the news reports were to be believed, this community had a more open dialogue than most in the country during the latest wave of discontent. Nevertheless, Sam and Kit tensed up under the scrutiny of so many angry faces. As their car pulled into the lot, a megaphone amplified countdown sounded off: “Four, Three, Two, One!” A riot of voices followed, shouting, “I CAN’T BREATHE!” Together, a couple dozen protesters threw their bodies to the ground in a simulated death.

Kit shook her head. “If only they knew how much of our job is just writing traffic tickets,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

Sam didn’t answer. His breathing had gone shallow. Was it a new sign? Or was it simply one he had never paid attention to before today? Resolute brush strokes of black paint asked, “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” Matter-of-fact and furious. The tall black man who held the sign stared boldly into the squad car, unflinchingly into Sam’s eyes.

“Sam,” Kit said in a soft voice. “Don’t engage, Same.”

It would be hours later when Sam realized that his partner had thought he was angry. He probably should have told her that he was actually terrified.

* * *

Story by Gregory M. Fox

First // Series

Underwear (III)

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

First // Series

Underwear (II)

“Hey, you alright?” Kit asked.

Sam’s face was twisted and scrunched up as he contemplated the dead body they had found. “I have that same underwear,” he repeated.

Kit rolled her eyes. “And yesterday the chick in the stall next to me was wearing the same shoes I was. It’s not worth flipping out about.”

A corpse, body gone cold and white. The blood that had sprayed onto the wall and pooled beneath the body and congealed into the elastic waistband of those boxer-brief’s that matched the very same ones he felt gripping his hips. Shouldn’t that be significant somehow? “But—”

“Look,” she said with a bit more attitude, “where do you buy your underwear?”

“Uh, Wal-Mart.”

This time Kit grimaced. “First off,” she said, “I must reiterate that you can really do better when it comes to how you take care of your—”


“And secondly, hasn’t it occurred to you that someone else might have picked up one of the millions of identical packs of underwear that Wal-Mart sells?”

Still flustered and uneasy, Sam finally looked away from the corpse and said, “A dead body is different than some random person in the next stall. He picked out that underwear and then he died in it. You never think about what your corpse is going to be wearing when you pick out your underwear. I mean, this could have been me. If I died in a pair of gray boxer-briefs, what would that say about me?” He knelt down to look into the face of the dead man. “This guy is—oh shit!” Sam had been so distracted by the underwear, that he had not yet taken a look at the victim’s face until that moment. “You know who this is, don’t you?” he asked.

Kit crossed the room to see the man’s face, studied it a moment, and shook her head. “Should I?”

Sam’s mouth was dry. “This is Rupert Polbrock,” he said, pronouncing the name with deliberate care as he felt old wounds threaten to tear themselves open. Kit still showed no sign of recognition. “He’s a . . . a real estate developer,” Sam continued. There were so many other words he could have thought to use, but like a good cop, he tried to stick to the facts.. “He buys out cheap properties and ‘renovates’ them. Gentrification, that sort of thing.”

“So our dead guy’s rich,” Kit said, though she still didn’t seem very impressed.

“And he’s wearing my underwear.”

Underwear (I)

Samuel Farnsworth’s hand was closed around grip of his gun and steady as steel. The door was ajar, but he rang the doorbell anyway. There was no answer. He beat on the doorframe three times with his fist. “Is anyone there?”


His partner, Kit McKinney, spoke into their radio. “No answer at the front. What’s the perimeter look like?”

“Quiet,” Collins’s voice crackled in response. “No signs of movement inside or out.”

Sam knocked again. “This is the police,” he called out. “We’ve received reports of gunshots in the area. We want to make sure everyone is safe.” Still no answer. He made eye contact with Kit. She nodded. “We’re entering,” she announced over the radio.”

“Covering the rear.”

One heartbeat.



Moving in unison, Sam and Kit burst into the small, dingy house. A flurry of high strung procedure followed as the officers moved through each room, determined that the house was empty and danger past, and then returned to the blood-soaked body on the living room carpet. They checked vitals, but already knew it was going to be too late. Jones and Collins went to call it in and to establish a perimeter for the crime scene. Sam and Kit remained to assess the scene.

It wasn’t easy to relax in the same room as the dead man, especially because the flabby body sprawled on the floor was wearing nothing but grey underwear, bullet wounds to the chest clearly visible.

“What a way to go,” Kit said with a wry grin, trying to lighten the mood. “Though it’s still not as bad as that guy we found dead on the toilet. Remember that one? He had been there for a week.”

“Yeah I try to forget that one,” Sam answered. He still had a hand on his gun and a furrow in his brow. He enjoyed Kit’s banter, but his mood was perpetually pulled down by the weight of the badge on his chest. He knew he was making the sort of stern expression that Kit loved to tease him about, but he couldn’t help it. After surveying the room, he took a closer look at the body and then froze in place. “Oh my god,” he said, “I have this same underwear.”

“Really?” Kit said, taking a closer look at the blood-spattered gray boxer-briefs on the corpse. “Huh,” she said with a shrug. “I always thought of you as a briefs man.”

Sam grimaced. “Why would you—never mind. Yes, boxer-briefs. Same brand and everything. They come in a four pack – two gray, two black.”

“Yeah, I’m still going to picture you in tighty-whities,” Kit said chuckling.

“I’d rather you didn’t,” he said dryly.