Underwear (VIII)

She was smirking. He was sure of it. And it was driving Sam crazy.

Kit had been walking with a mirthful spring in her step when they left the station, and Sam had gotten the distinct impression that it was due to some joke at his expense. Now he was trapped behind the wheel of the squad car, that feeling had only grown. His eyes flicked toward his partner and sure enough, she was smirking. Sam sighed. “Something you want to say?”

“Who, me?” she replied. “Nothing to say. I’m just curious about something.”

“Go on then?” Sam said. He was determined to keep his eyes on the road now, but he still new that Kit’s smirk had widened into a grin.

“Boxers or briefs?”

Sam clenched his jaw. He’d known something like this was coming. Kit was not the sort to let a joke die. “Why are you so curious?” he asked with a thin hope of turning the teasing back on her.

Kit was completely unfazed. “You’re wearing briefs aren’t you?”

Sam had the distinct impression that she was examining his pants, looking for some sort of tell. “You think I care about your opinion on my underwear?” He shot back.

Y”ou should! Everyone knows I have impeccable taste.” Sam shook his head, but didn’t say anything further. This seemed to be the same as an answer for Kit. “Sooooo…” she began, intonation dripping with implication, “classic tighty-whities, or did you go for a more daring shade? Every man should have a pair of black—”

“Gray,” Sam cut in.

“Gray? Well it’s pretty boring, but—”


“You’re still wearing the dead guy underwear?” she exploded. “After all your brooding yesterday, you still—”

“I was not brooding.”

“You’re doing it right now!” she said, almost delighted. “You look like you’re trying to get your eyebrows to touch your lips.”

It was such a startling comment that Sam momentarily took his eyes off the road to glance at his own reflection in the mirror. Dammit, she had a point. Kit must have seen the realization hit because she immediately started cackling.

“It’s just underwear!” he exclaimed. But the mantra was no more convincing to Kit than it had been any of the times he had repeated it to himself over the last 24 hours.

“A deeeeead man’s undearweeeeear! Spoooooky!” she said before bursting into a fresh bout of giggles.

Sam’s face was hot. His hands grew sweaty on the wheel. “I have the underwear I have,” he said. It came out softly, not forceful, not a shout. Just a helpless declaration. But something about it must have made an impression on Kit, because her laughter trailed off almost immediately.

They drove in silence for a full minute, both of them staring straight ahead. Then Kit finally spoke. “Boxers.”


“Orange, with little dinosaurs on them.”

“Are you…?”

Kit shrugged. “Now you know what sort of underwear I’m wearing too.”

Another moment of silence as the statement settled in. “You wear boxers?” Sam asked.

Kit shrugged. “They’re comfy.” She was smirking again, but this time Sam was included. “There’s a whole world of underwear options out there, Sam. You’ve just gotta think outside the boxer-briefs.”

* * *

First // Series

Story by Gregory M. Fox

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 (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 (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 (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.