NOT THE REASON I SHOULD CARE

NOT THE REASON I SHOULD CARE

Steinthal looked at the picture. Then he handed it back to Williams.

“What do you want me to do?” Steinthal asked.

“Shadow him,” Williams replied. Steinthal almost laughed at the term then caught himself. Curiosity got the better of humor.

“Maybe I can do it, but who is he, and why would I track him?” Steinthal said.

Williams blinked.

“You don’t recognize him?” Williams seemed truly dumbfounded.

“Why would I recognize him?” Steinthal said flatly. “I’ve never met him or seen him before.”

“But that’s Dale J. Soggs,” Williams responded.

Williams waited to see if the name would have an effect but when it didn’t he tried again.

“He’s the football player! First draft two years ago. Very first first draft,” Williams said.

Steinthal looked at Maugham and Maugham looked at Steinthal and then Maugham casually shrugged his shoulders.

Steinthal looked back at Williams and then, unable to contain HIMSELF anymore, laughed out loud. When he stopped laughing he scratched his neck and shook his head.

“Williams, what do I give a shit if he plays football?” Steinthal replied. “Is that supposed to be your pitch to me? You think I have nothing better to do with my time than watch fucking football? I’m a grown man Williams, not a little school girl. Look at Maugham Williams. You think he’s got nothing more important to do with his time than watch fucking football? You think he’s never done anything more dangerous than fucking football?”

Williams looked up at Maugham. He towered over them both.

“You don’t watch football either?” he asked Maugham. “Guy like you? Big as you are?”

Maugham looked down at Williams, smiled thinly, and shook his head dismissively. Then he went back to chewing his gum.

Williams looked back at Steinthal who was still waiting for a reply to his question. Williams still seemed confused so Steinthal backtracked.

“I didn’t ask you what he did Williams, if you can call that doing something. I asked you who he was and why you want him surveilled. Now who is he that you need him watched? And don’t give me any bullshit about him being a football player because I don’t give a shit. In case you missed it I don’t watch fucking football. And if this is about football then you’re killing your time and my interest. Now who is the man that you want him followed, and why?”

Williams looked stunned, then shook his head and exhaled loudly. He seemed to deflate as he did so.

“They said you’d be just like this,” he finally said.

“Like what?” Steinthal asked almost disinterestedly.

“Straight to the point,” Williams answered.

Steinthal ran his hand through his beard.

“Look, you want a play-runner or a ballet dancer then get another football player to chaperone him around. They can take notes on him, carry his little athletic bag, scrub his cleats, and type up his itinerary. Maybe take him to his pedicure or his oil bath where he can meet his side-chick. Assuming that’s what you’re after. But if I’m going to follow the man then I’m going to know exactly who and what he is and why he actually needs to be followed. Get me?” Steinthal said.

Williams blinked, then nodded. It was completely silent for a moment, except for someone vacuuming up at the far end of the hall.

“Now Williams, now,” Steinthal said. “I’m not here for the psychoanalysis and the ambiance.”

Williams blinked again and cleared his throat.

“We think he,” the team rep began. “Well, we’re not sure, you see, but we think he could be, maybe, a foreign agent,” Williams finally admitted.

This time Steinthal blinked.

“A football player?” Steinthal asked incredulously.

“Well, it’s just that, you see…” Williams answered, but Steinthal set his jaw and shook his head for silence. Then he ran his hand through his beard again, scratched his chin, nodded, and motioned to Maugham. Both men turned and walked towards the door.

Surprised Williams watched them reach the door before he thought to respond.

“Wait a second?” he blurted out. “Are you gonna do it? Will you follow him for us?”
Steinthal stopped at the door and turned to Williams.

“We will,” Steinthal replied.

“Well,” Williams continued confused. “Don’t you want any details on the man? Like where he lives, what he drives, that kind of thing…”

“No, I don’t,” Steinthal replied. “I’ll gather my own intel, and details. Call you in three days.” Then he and Maugham left, walked to the end of the hall, and punched the button for an elevator.

When they were inside and descending Maugham looked at Steinthal.

“Think this is what it appears to be?” he asked his friend.

“Hell no!” replied Steinthal. “No one would.” Maugham smiled.

“Think this Soggs guy might actually be dangerous then?” Maugham asked.

“If he is,” replied Steinthal, “we’ll find out soon enough. But in any case it won’t be because he’s a football player.”

And Maugham nodded and they both laughed.

from The Detective Steinthal

#football #case #foreignagent #writing
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I was working on a sci-fi story last night called, The Seas the Skies, when this scene popped into my head about a new case for Steinthal and Maugham. Something I’ve been thinking of doing anyway given all of the crap hysteria about foreign agents and all of the crap about professional football in our modern society. So I wrote this scene instead. First draft. If you’ll excuse the pun.

I’ll punch out the sci-fi story today after my hike with Sam.

Have a good day folks.

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WE’LL WORK ON THAT

WE’LL WORK ON THAT

The place was dark. Very dark, all things considered. The whole house seemed closed off into small compartments. However there was still light streaming in from a full moon by a window to the right of the room.

Precisely why Steinthal had chosen this night. He knew that because of the full moon his night vision equipment could make good use of the available ambient and residual light and he could operate “in the dark” without giving himself away.

Time to put on my googles he thought.

He heard a small creak.

Instinctively he ducked low but something still hit him from behind and from his left. It had struck the top of his shoulder, the backside of his neck and the base of his skull. It was wide whatever it was. And it had only been a glancing blow but Steinthal saw a flash from the impact, heard a ring in his ear, and stumbled forward a few feet. Then as he caught his balance he ran forward another five or six feet and swirled as fast as he could recover.

Someone stood there. A big someone. Big and dark. If it had growled Steinthal might have taken it for a bear. As it was Steinthal thought it might be even more dangerous.

The thing seemed to just pause there as if considering what to do next. Steinthal’s head cleared completely and he started to make for his gun when the shape charged. It came in close almost instantly and surprised Steinthal, not with a jab or a horizontal swing, but with a ferocious right uppercut. Steinthal barely had time to react but twisted some and got his left arm stiffened and intercepted the shot down low. That took most of the punch out but the guy was still so strong that he lifted Steinthal onto the balls of his feet just from the sheer momentum.

Steinthal counterpunched furiously with his right. Hit the guy solidly on the left side of the front of his neck. It should have rocked the guy on his heels, caused him to splutter and choke. He hadn’t hit the trachea but it still would have stunned most men.

As it was the only two things that seemed to happen as far as Steinthal could tell was that it made a sound like the guy had been hit with a wet fish, and the man stepped back one step. He hadn’t even bent over.

Realizing fully what he was now facing, Steinthal swiftly backtracked three or four feet and grabbed his revolver with his right and his combat knife with his left. He had only glanced down for an instance to retrieve his weapons but when he looked up the guy already had a semiautomatic in one hand and a shiny machete in the other. Where the machete had come from Steinthal had no idea but it did impress him.

The guy was now closer to the moonlight. You could partially make him out. Steinthal decided he wasn’t big after all. He was monstrous. But he didn’t look stupid. No, there was a kind of set to his face and a sort of light in his eyes that Steinthal took for real and raw intelligence. Even more dangerous.

There were several moments of tense silence while they pointed their weapons at each other.

“That kind of hurt for such a little fella,” the big guy suddenly said and spit. There might have been some blood mixed in but it was too dark to tell. “What’s your name?”

“Huh?” Steinthal said.

“I said, ‘what’s your name.’ I don’t like having to repeat myself.”

Steinthal cleared his throat.

“John,” he replied. “But most everyone calls me Steinthal.”

The guy seemed to mull over the answer.

“Yeah, you’re the one,” he said as if mentally verifying a fact-sheet.

“What one?” Steinthal asked.

“The one I’m meant to kill tonight,” the big guy said.

“Well then,” Steinthal said. “You’re one up on me. I usually know nothing about most of the people I kill until it is all over.
“Why is that?” the big guy asked.

“Because they tend to ambush me,” replied Steinthal.

The big guy chuckled quietly.

“Well then, are you going to shoot me?” he asked.

“I’d rather not,” Steinthal said warily. “But at this point anything seems possible.”

Seemingly to spite himself the big guy chuckled again.

“I like you.” The big guy said. “You’re funny.”

“Trust me,” Steinthal said. “I’m not trying to be, but if helps any then let’s just go with that.”

The big guy seemed blithe. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to snap your neck, but now I sort of like you.”

Steinthal noticed that despite the relaxed and easy going tone of the man’s voice his aim had remained absolutely fixed and his breathing so steady that he seemed motionless. Even while he spoke.

“Yeah, well,” said Steinthal “We all do what we can.”

The guy laughed again. If not for the circumstances then to Steinthal this would have seemed ridiculous.

When the guy finished laughing he said, “Seems kind of a shame now though.”

“Don’t it,” said Steinthal. “But, you know, the guns and all…”

The big guy looked at Steinthal’s revolver.

“I’ve been shot before you know,” he said. “By a lot bigger and more powerful weapons than that. Never killed me.”

“I’ll bet,” said Steinthal. “But there’s always that first time. And I’m pretty damned determined.”

“Also I’m armored,” said the big guy, as if he hadn’t noticed Steinthal’s reply.

“Thanks for the heads up,” said Steinthal. “Now I know where not to aim.”

There was silence again. But no movement.

“Say,” Steinthal finally said. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the distinct feeling you’re not just playing for time here. Do you get the idea that there might be something else going on with this whole affair that neither of us are quite square on? And that maybe we should skip the strangulations and compare notes about in private?”

More silence. But then the big guy shrugged nonchalantly and holstered his gun. It kind of disappeared entirely into the huge black mound that was his chest. But the machete remained. And the guy had never even shifted his gaze.

“Maybe… Probably… Yes. I’ve had that idea for some time now,” he said. “But I didn’t want to make any snap judgements.”

“Yeah,” Steinthal said. “It’s one of the things I appreciate most about you.”

“People think I’m stupid, you know. Because I’m so big,” the big guy said. With a kind of sad resignation that seemed almost fatalistic.

“Well fella,” said Steinthal. “I’m not most people. And whereas you are stupefyingly big, you are most definitely not stupid.”

The guy chuckled again. Then sighed softly.

“You going to lower your gun now?” the big guy asked.

“I’m thinking about it, but, you know, I’m not exactly stupid either.”

The machete clattered to the floor.

“Very nice. Now can you do that with your hands, arms, and most of the rest of you as well?”

The guy smiled in the dark. And it seemed completely friendly.

“Probably not. I come this way,” he said.

“Alright then. I’ll just take your word for it.” And Steinthal holstered his gun and knife.

“Say,” Steinthal said relaxing a little. “Since you know so much about me what say you tell me your name?”

“You’ll laugh,” the big guy replied.

“Well, if I do, then don’t take it personally. I have an excellent sense of humor.”

“Okay then. It’s Maugham,” said the big guy. “William Somerset Maugham. But my friends call me Angus.”

Steinthal whistled. “Well I’ll be damned. I’ve read all your books!

“Yeah,” the big guy looked sheepishly at the ground. “My mother was real big on literature.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Steinthal said. “But say, you’re a lot bigger in person than you look in the papers. Or the history books.”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot. Well, not a lot. Not recently anyway. Most people don’t read anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s a real shame, ain’t it? But that being what it is I’m not calling you Angus or Bill either,” Steinthal said.

“Well then, what are you going to call me?”

“I’m gonna call you Maugham,” said Steinthal. “Because you remind me of W. Somerset Maugham. If, you know, he had been as big as a damned Angus.”

Maugham nodded.

“What say though we get outta here now Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Before they send in a troll?”

Maugham shrugged. “Okay. I’m game if you are.”

As they were sneaking out Steinthal said, “Say, what you said back there. Is that true?”

“Is what true?” asked Maugham.

“Do you really have friends?”

Maugham stopped in his tracks and seemed to mull over the question quietly in his mind before replying.

“You know, I’m not really sure.”

“Well,” said Steinthal. “The night is still young. We’ll work at it awhile. Then see what we can come up with. One thing’s for sure though.”

“What’s that?” asked Maugham.

“After tonight I owe you one. If you’ll take friendship as payment then I’ll sure call it square.”

(This is the first meeting between Steinthal and Maugham.)

From The Detective Steinthal.

RUNNING THE TABLE

RUNNING THE TABLE

“A modern investigation is simply another way of saying that nothing of any real importance will ever be truly resolved, nor anyone of any real consequence ever tried or convicted.

Therefore fuck their investigation. I’m after Justice, and if possible the prevention of future evil. Let them investigate. If they wish to do so. That will keep them out of my way effectively enough.

As for me I have an entirely different goal. And the intent to go with it.

We’ll see in the end who has the most success. But if I were a betting man Maugham I’d run the table.

Because God-damnit, and you know I mean this, I’m gonna run the fucking table.”

And as he listened to his friend a sort of weird and horrific chill ran up Maugham’s spine.

from The Detective Steinthal

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

“Maugham, do you remember that time a few years back when I drew my revolver on you and shot you in the face with a blank round?”

“Hell yes I do,” said Maugham. “Scared the shit out of me. I thought you were really going to shoot me.”

“I did shoot you, you idiot. Just not with a bullet. But tell me, what lesson did you draw from that?”

Maugham looked at his friend, then squinted.

“Never assume I guess,” he answered.

“Then you drew the wrong lesson. The real lesson was ‘always assume.’ That the other person is dangerous. Cause they are.” Steinthal countered.

Maugham looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What are you saying then?”

“I’m saying that just because she is pretty and sexy, and nice, and smells good, is fine in bed and is maybe even sincere doesn’t mean she won’t shoot you in the face. If she needs or wants to. As a matter of fact maybe she already has and you’ve been too busy or too stupid to notice.”

Maugham looked thoughtful again. That’s twice in one day Steinthal thought. Hat trick coming?

“Yeah, I guess love will do that to you,” Maugham finally conceded.

“Or being pussy-whipped by the wrong woman,” Steinthal said. “Or, even the right one. Take it from a man who knows.”

Maugham nodded as if he agreed, at least in theory. After a moment or two of silence though he turned sinister to look straight at his friend.

“By the way. I never asked you Steinthal. Why did you shoot me in the face with that blank?”

“Because someone else tried it on me.”

“They shot you in the face with a blank,” Maugham asked, kind of surprised.

“Not exactly,” Steinthal said. “They tried to shoot me in the face with a live round. Luckily they missed.”

“Was it a lady?” Maugham asked.

“Hard to say,” Steinthal replied. “You never really know about that kind of thing nowadays, do ya?”

Maugham laughed.

“So then, you were trying to forewarn me?”

Steinthal smiled broadly. Then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Maybe. That, or I just needed the practice. You can never get too much practice shooting someone in the face.”

“Yeah,” said Maugham kind of wistfully. “I’ve had the same thought myself once or twice.”

Steinthal smiled again. But this time he kept it to himself.

from The Detective Steinthal

WHAT ABOUT HER?

“And what about her? I mean, I know we’ve got him, but what about her?” asked Maugham. “Isn’t she too clever and too important to touch?”

Steinthal looked at him as if trying to search his friend’s mind for sincerity, or the lack thereof.

“I thought you would have known better by now,” he said.

“Know better than what?” said Maugham.

Steinthal bent over and picked up something from the ground, pocketed it, then turned back to Maugham.

“Everyone thinks they are too big to touch. Everyone thinks they are too tough to touch. Everyone thinks they are too clever to touch. Everyone thinks they are too important to touch,” he replied. “No one ever is.”

“Are you sure about that?” said Maugham.

“Absolutely certain,” said Steinthal.

“Because some people are awful hard to get at,” countered Maugham.

Steinthal narrowed his eyes.

“If you know what you’re doing then no one is really hard to get at. It’s just an urban myth to think otherwise.”

“Good,” said Maugham. “That’s my thinking too. But I just wanted to hear you say it out loud.”

Steinthal looked at him quizzically.

“Why is that?” he asked.

“Because when you say things out loud with that look on your face shit actually starts to happen,” said Maugham. “And I’m about ready for this shit to happen. I’m through waiting. Sure enough.”

Steinthal looked hard at his friend for a long moment, as if weighing him in his mind for a prizefight.
“Alright then,” said Steinthal. “Let’s make some shit happen.”

“Yeah,” said Maugham. “How bout we do that.”

And they both turned and headed back to town.

from The Detective Steinthal

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

YEAH, SO EXACTLY HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

“It’s a question of precisely what is the most ethical possible practice,” Termkin said, apparently annoyed by Steinthal’s relentless and unswerving line of inquiry.

Steinthal stared at him intently, but unreadably.

“Is it?” asked Steinthal.

Termkin seemed puzzled by the question.

“What do you mean?” Termkin said.

“See,” said Steinthal twirling the brim of his hat in his hand, “that’s where I think we both know you’re wrong.”

Termkin furrowed his brow, his expression a mixture of ongoing annoyance and a genuine struggle to understand.

“I still don’t perceive your exact meaning?”

“No, I don’t think you do,” said Steinthal. “And I really didn’t expect that you could. But let me simplify the matter for you. You see I have this theory that everything is always really about morality. And that ethics is just something that lawyers and other no count types like you employ as a cheap legal substitute.”

Termkin seemed to follow Steinthal’s explanation at a slightly slower pace than it had been enunciated. But when he finally caught up he suddenly flushed red and showed his ire.

“Why you smart mouthed son of a bitch!”

Steinthal laughed good humoredly.

“Probably,” he said. “But I noticed you didn’t bother to refute me.”

Termkin mulled on that for a moment before his snappy comeback finally came to him.

“Oh yeah, well exactly how is one supposed to refute you smartass types?” Termkin demanded. “You think you’re always right.”

Steinthal stood up and put his hat on his head. He smiled to himself as if Termkin wasn’t even in the room though he was still staring right at him.

“See, that’s the part about this whole thing that’s easiest to resolve,” said Steinthal. “We are always right. Even when no one else knows it yet. Like you. As for the thinking part, well now, if you ever really bothered with that then I presume you could figure it out for yourself.”

Steinthal tipped his hat at Termkin in a peculiar gesture. “But I’m not gonna lay real money on it.”

Steinthal walked across the room, opened the door and then looked back at Termkin.

“I’d like to say it was nice to meet you Termkin. But, we met anyway. So at least we’ll always have that.”

The he left.

Still full of questions, but certain he finally crossed the right man.

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A bit of dialogue involving my Detective Character Steinthal. I didn’t really get a chance to do a Tuesday’s Tale this week. Too busy. So I’m posting this today instead.

My youngest daughter read it and I asked her what she thought of it and she said, “Dad, Steinthal talks pretty much just like you.”

Which made me laugh.

“Yeah, funny how that works, ain’t it?” I told her…

THE TROUBLE WITH YOU – TUESDAY’S TALE

“Personally I have never understood the idea that the herd is so all pervasive that you dare not leave it or the pack so all powerful that you dare not defy it. You don’t like the herd, then go your own way. Plenty of places the herd won’t dare go that you can. The pack turns on you then you turn on it. They’ll even be plenty of times you should turn on the pack when it doesn’t turn on you. That’s life.

See, it’s just a herd son, it’s just a pack. Simple as that.

This ain’t rocket science kid it’s just plain old fashioned manhood. And whenever necessary a man stands absolutely alone and entirely unafraid. But don’t pretend with me what I’m saying is so unbelievable you can’t even imagine it.

You’ve imagined it plenty. You’ve just never had the balls to act like a man about it.

So the trouble ain’t them boy, the trouble has never been them. The trouble is you. I know it, they know it, and you know it. Because the trouble will always be you until it ain’t anymore. And then the real trouble starts.

But at least by then you’ll finally be a man about it.”

From The Detective Steinthal

Steinthal talking to a low level informant and petty criminal. From one of the cases of my Detective Steinthal.