THE VIPER

THE VIPER (first draft of scene)

Maugham walked back over to Steinthal.

Steinthal asked him, “Who is that?”

Maugham was uncharacteristically blunt, and voluble.

“That is the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life,” he told him.

Steinthal almost flinched. He had never met anyone tougher than Maugham and wasn’t much sure he liked the idea.

“Also,” Maugham went on almost to the point of being prolix (for him anyway), “he is meaner than hell and he may even be your equal in cunning and craft.”

Steinthal whistled appreciatively, just barely above the whisp of a dog-whistle. He looked hard at the man Maugham had just been conversing with when suddenly the guy looked over at him. Had he heard Steinthal’s whistle? Steinthal wondered if that was even possible.

The guy rose up from his table and just stood there, unmoving. Was he waiting, just watching, or coiling? He was short, shorter than Steinthal, and wiry, with cords of muscles that stood out up and down his neck. He had a couple of facial scars, one a long straight slice and the other maybe a burn, and sported a multiply broken nose and the look of a man who had been stabbed a few times to the point of aggravation.

He was dressed so that you couldn’t tell if he was a day laborer or an informant. Or both. His clothes looked washed out, as if they could fade smoothly into the backgorund, and like they didn’t quite fit. Or he did. Or both. He carried himself as if he could have been concealing no weapons, or any number of them.

He looked directly at Steinthal and he smiled, only it wasn’t really a smile. It was more like when a snake’s jaw unhinges and its flat lips curl back to swallow something. Steinthal wasn’t really sure if that was for his benefit alone, or just directed at the world in general, but whatever the intent it was threatening, and patiently sibilant – all at once. And about as creepy and surreal a disposition to strike as possible for anything shaped like a man.

Steinthal looked at Maugham and Maugham looked at him.

“Do you know this guy?” Steitnhal asked.

“Yeah,” Maugham said, in his typically taciturn manner.

“Know him well?” Steinthal asked again.

“Well enough,” Maugham replied.

“How?” Steinthal said seriously, more in the way of an interrogation than a friendly question.

Maugham shook his head like a bull being called in from the field. Steinthal knew that that meant and just nodded.

“Anything else?”

“Yeah,” said Maugham. “When we first met I thought you might be related.”

Steinthal furrowed his brow. Steinthal raised his hand horizontally so that his forefinger pointed at Maugham and his thumb pointed back at himself.

“You thought we might be related?”

“No,” Maugham said flatly. “I thought that you two might be related. Why I didn’t kill you immediately.”

“You didn’t kill me because you happen to like this guy?” Steinthal asked, fishing for the reason.

“No,” Maugham said shaking his head as if the question were silly and somehow self-negating. “I didn’t kill you because if you two were related then I wasn’t absolutely sure I could.”

Steinthal nodded, accepting the comment, but was doubtful that was the whole story. It was Maugham though, so what could ya really do?

Then Steinthal looked back over at the stranger. For all he knew the guy was still breathing, but if he was then he showed no signs.
Inside his own mind Steinthal shook his head while watching the guy, but as far as anyone else knew he just stared silently at the stranger.

“Why’d you set this up Maugham?” Steinthal asked. “Couldn’t have been easy to get him to play along.”

“He’s not playing,” Maugham replied. “And no, it wasn’t. But I thought that maybe, just this once, we could use him.”

Inside his own mind Steinthal nodded, but to Maugham he shook his head so that no one else would notice.

“So,” Steinthal asked. “What do I call it?”

“You don’t,” Maugham answered. And it didn’t seem contrived at all.

“Well then, should I approach it, or let it approach me?”

“Yes,” Maugham said. “That should work.”

Steinthal nodded still intently studying the other man.

“Well then,” Steinthal finally said. “Best clear the room. If we’re gonna see what happens.”

But when Maugham made no reply, and Steinthal glanced over to check on him, Maugham was already gone. And when he turned back to look for the other guy the other guy was already in his face.

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ANYBODY

ANYBODY

“Anybody can be ambushed,” Steinthal told her. “By some evil-souled, sneaky, cowardly little sonuvabitch. That is never the victim’s fault. However being naive enough to think that you will never be ambushed, or reckless enough to never prepare for the possibility, that is the victim’s fault. By victim I mean you,” he said pointing directly at her.

“You just got lucky tonight my dear. And that’s good, but that’s all. Cause luck ain’t a plan and there ain’t much of a future in habitual bad habit. So learn from this mess. And next time you be ready to do the killing. Understand?”

She nodded slowly and then looked up at him.

“I understand,” she said.

“Good,” he said. “Because that was the point.”

from The Detective Steinthal

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
_______________________________________________________

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.

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.

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

IT’S ONE OR THE OTHER

“Yeah, well now, time might not heal all wounds but it will either significantly assure that you will succeed on time, or dramatically increase the odds that you won’t. Now how that works out precisely is pretty much up to you, but if I were you I’d spend less time bitching about your wounds and more time getting your ass up off the ground so we can succeed in getting the hell outta here.”

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

OLD MAN FUNNY

OLD MAN FUNNY

Maugham laughed at the smartass remark, and then said, “Man, I wish I were as naturally funny as you.”

“Natural, hell,” Steinthal answered shaking his head. “My old man bred it into me. Nothing natural about that.”

Maugham looked at his friend quizzically.

“Seems like to me,” Maugham said almost reprovingly. “That there is everything natural about that.”

Steinthal looked at his friend as if considering what he had said.

“Yeah, you got a point I guess,” Steinthal replied. “But you’d just have to know my old man. He bred funny.”

from The Detective Steinthal

AND THEN THEY ATE

AND THEN THEY ATE…

“You know what I’ve always loved most about you?” she said reaching for his hand across the table. “You never judged me. You always just accepted me as I am.”

He accepted her hand, and held it gently but shook his head dubiously.

“No, my dear,” he said flatly. “You are entirely wrong on both accounts, and could not be further from the actual truth.”

She withdrew her hand in surprise, a deepening frown creasing her puzzled brow.

“What do you mean?” she said nervously.

“I mean I judged you constantly,” Steinthal said. “I still do. That is what I do. I watch people. I study people. I come to understand a person, and then I judge them. In a brutally honest fashion. I judge everyone this way, including myself. You are certainly no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact there are no exceptions to the rule.”

“Oh,” she said hollowly.

He looked at her intently, staring relentlessly into her face for a moment, and then continued.

“I am no modern man,” he said, as if reading the barometric pressure on a gauge before a storm. “I do not believe in the ‘man without judgment.’ The man without judgment is simply another term for an absolute fool. I am no fool my dear, and when it comes to judgment I attempt to do something far braver and much more vital than avoid judging people, I seek to judge them accurately and in truth.”

She looked down at her plate as if suddenly uncomfortable, or in shame. There was a long pause while she tried to think of what to say. Not knowing how to respond she whispered out loud and to herself,

“What must you think of me then?”

He nodded slightly, though she did not see it. He waited a moment to see if she would say anything else or look up but she did not.

“Since you asked I will tell you precisely what I think of you and how I have judged you,” Steinthal replied, accepting her unintended cue. “I adjudged you in this way. I never accepted you as ‘you were,’ and I will not in the future. Furthermore I judged you not for what you were, but for what I fully suspected you could be. I did not take you for how you appeared, but for how it appeared to me that you could be, if you ever decided you would. And as far as I can see, you did. And did rather well at it. Does that really surprise you?”

She looked up again and stared at Steinthal, but whether more in shock or gratitude neither was certain.

This time he offered his hand across the table.

“I like to think of myself as a very good judge of character,” he told her. “And of potential. I would not waste my time or effort with or upon anyone who did not demonstrate an aptitude for both. So, do not prove me wrong and I shall not have to judge you otherwise. And that will be more than enough for me, assuming it is enough for you.”

She looked into his eyes and could find no hint of guile, or of misdirection. He seemed perfectly sincere. And it occurred to her, maybe for the very first time, just how perfectly sincere he usually was.

She reached back across the table, took his hand, smiled, and said softly, “I think I love you.”

He gently squeezed her hand in reply.

“I am aware of that,” he said.

She kept smiling but sighed with a deep resignation.

“Though you truly can be something of a real bastard.”

“I am aware of that as well,” he said, smiling in return.

Then he dropped her hand and took up his fork. He pointed it at her.

“But how bout we eat now and save the romance for later? After all we have the entire evening, and this meal is hardly the limit of my current ambitions.”

She laughed and took up her own fork.

And then they ate.

from The Detective Steinthal

________________________________

Note: this was not the scene I had intended to write tonight, but my router blew out and that delayed me working on the other scene and since this one seemed to flow kinda nicely I just worked it instead.

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

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

GOOD NIGHT LADIES…

“Oh, I understand you completely madam, but, perhaps not in the way you presume I do. You see the thing that may disturb me the most, it certainly repulses me the most, about you supposedly ‘civilized people‘ is that you are always unfailingly polite, and extremely well-mannered, and pretentiously and profusely diplomatic. Your high ideals are on constant display for all to hear, and although I rarely see them or detect them in actual action, I must say they get a whole lot of airplay on rebroadcast.

On the other hand the pointless wrongs you people encourage, the self-absorbed misdeeds you recklessly commit, and the evils you so callously allow strike me as rather atrocious. Just. Fucking. Atrocious.”

Suddenly her serving man snorted. Or scoffed. It was difficult to say which but otherwise he remained unmoving and at attention. Steinthal carried on as if he had failed to notice.

“So please excuse me if I decline any further excuse to endure your company. I suddenly feel the need to take a hard, dirty shit. And probably a long shower.

Good night my dear. Good night ladies.

Let’s not do this again, real soon.”

Steinthal placed his untouched whiskey glass back upon the silver serving plate, tapped the phone in his trouser pockets, then turned and walked for the door.

Just before reaching it he turned again and bowed graciously.

“My apologies. That was rude and somewhat misleading. I’ve reconsidered. Let’s not do this again – ever.”

Then he left.

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.

______________________________________________

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…

CROSSING OVER – HIGHMOOT

CROSS OVER WORK

Lately I have been doing a lot of what I call Cross-Over Work.

In this case I mean by saying that I have been doing a lot of work that cross-fertilizes itself in other works I am simultaneously creating. For instance I might be writing one novel and a particular scene or bit of dialogue I create will inspire another scene or piece of dialogue in another book or novel I am working on.

Though such things are not necessarily related to or limited to my various fiction writings. I might be drawing a map or making a sketch, designing something, working on a start-up project, developing an invention, writing a poem or song lyrics, or writing a novel or a non-fiction book and all of these things, or others, might give me an idea for another work I’m currently pursuing.

So today, and below (and in allusion to my previous post on actors), I am posting some of my latest Cross-Over Work. Little vignettes, or to be more accurate, often just little snippets (bits of dialogue, sections of scenes, sketch notes, etc.) of various Works I am creating and pursuing at this time.

Does your Work cross over in this way, from one work to another?

If so then feel free to comment below.

___________________________________________

 

NOT A FAIR FIGHT

“Again I don’t get it. Take one shot at your actual target and three at yourself… don’t seem like much of a fair fight to me.”

From my Western The Lettered Men

 

A CLUE

“Not every possibility is true, that’s certainly true, but every possibility is always a clue – to something other than itself. If you keep forgetting that then it’s very possible the Truth will entirely escape you. And if it does then what other possibilities really matter?”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

TRUE DARKNESS

“True darkness obscures. Few things can thrive in perpetual shade but those things that can definitely always wish to remain hidden. That is, until they are ready to be discovered. For reasons of their own.”

From The Detective Steinthal

 

ALWAYS BEST

“It is always best to hunt in silence.”

The Detective Steinthal

 

YOUR TRAINING IS OVER

“What are you training for kid? To train forever? Now who wants that kinda shit anyway? Only officers and politicians, that’s who. No, you get your ass in the fight. You’ve trained long enough. Time to be somebody.”

From Snyder’s Spiders

 

IT BLEEDS

“And how now is your wound?”

“It itches fiercely, it hurts mightily, it swells darkly, but it bleeds freely and cleanly. It is good that it bleeds so and thus I will not complain of the other things. But if you have any more of that strange brew you drink then I will not complain of a skin full of that either.”

“I have not a skin, but I can manage a cup.”

“Then so can I…”

Suegenius describing to Fhe Fhissegrim the condition of his wound

From my fantasy The Kithariune (The Basilegate)

 

A RARE AND WONDROUS FEAT

“If you cannot stand up to your own old man then you will never stand up to anyone. If you can stand up to your own old man then you can stand up to anyone else, and everyone else.

If your old man ever forces you to rebel against him then do not hate him for it, respect him for it. He has done more for you in that regard, as regards the development of your actual manhood, than any other thing anyone else could ever do for you in the world. That man who forces his son into rebellion has bred a man. You owe such a father an enormous and generous debt.

That father who always insists his son obey him, right or wrong, has bred a mere and helpless and fearful slave. You owe that father your utter disdain and yourself nothing but shame for your own endless submission.

Drink to your father Edomios. Drink long and deep. He has bred a man in you. A man who can stand upright and unafraid. A rare and wondrous feat in our age.

Maybe in any age.”

Marsippius Nicea the Byzantine Commander of the Basilegate explaining to Edomios the Spanish Paladin why he owes his father a debt of manhood

From The Kithariune

 

THAT WAY YOU SPEAK

When Michael first lands in Thaumaturgis he is met by Harmonius Hippostatic
who makes fun of the way he speaks and tries to explain to Michael where he is, and what life is like in the Lands. Michael does not at first speak in verse, but speaks in prose, but as he stays longer and longer in the land of Thaumaturgis he also comes to speak in metered, rhyming verse.

Harmonius: That way you speak, it’s quite a feat
But it will never do,
No meter, rhyme or rhythm,
It’s really quite obtuse.

Michael: Where am I?

Harmonius: Why this is Thaumaturgis,
Don’t you know your lands?
It’s one of the three countries,
Not earth, not stone, not sand.
No one’s ever figured
How it got this way
Tomorrow is the same as now
It’s always been that way.
If want you life miraculous
Or supernatural,
It’s really quite so marvelous
And never, ever dull.
But one thing in this country
You really must avoid
Speaking words in plain old prose
Is what will most annoy,
So put on your best rhyming
Your metered rhythm too
Don’t dally up a worthwhile speech
Without so much ado,
Be mannered in your speaking
Poetic when you talk
Or everyone will soon declare
Your words taste just like chalk

From my children’s book, Three Lands

NOTHING EVER CHANGES – TUESDAY’S TALE

NOTHING EVER CHANGES

“Yeah,” he said. “So I’ve heard tell.”

Maugham sighed, then leaned over with a groan and put his head in his in hands for awhile. He rubbed the top of his head slowly as if to somehow comfort his own mind. But it didn’t seem to work.

When he lifted his head back up he looked at Steinthal.

“Do you think it will ever change?”

Steinthal looked at him and then shrugged wearily.

“I suppose that’s entirely up to the people involved. I only know one thing for sure… and even that’s not much…” and then he fell silent.

Maugham waited but when Steinthal said nothing else he just stood back up. It was obvious he was hurt though, so Stenithal moved over and put his arm under his friend’s and around his back and helped him start to walk again.

“What’s the one thing by the way?” Maugham asked as the men made their way torturously out of the ruined building.

“Oh that,” said Stenthal, as if he had just assumed his friend already knew. “Nothing ever changes much when no one ever much changes.”

So they made their way back to the river, dripping sweat, shedding blood, grunting in pain, and limping as they went.

from The Detective Steinthal

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.

 

COME THE HORIZON – TUESDAY’S TALE

This is a little piece of flash fiction I wrote involving one of my detective characters, the chief one, Steinthal.

 

THE DETECTIVE STEINTHAL – COME THE HORIZON

“You know part of me really would like nothing better than to save everyone. But another part of me knows equally well that to habitually do so only makes people, especially some people, dependent, enslaved, useless, and weak.

It is entirely immoral and unacceptable to abandon the truly helpless and indigent. Yet it is also wholly wrong to save those who should be busy saving themselves.

So I won’t do either because both are evil and unwise. Even God understands that you cannot save those who refuse to change. That’s as true for individuals as it is for groups of men.

See, as much as I’d like to help you I’m just a detective, not a messiah. Therefore I can’t help your friend Sara. I can’t help anyone who won’t help themselves.

And all the evidence here points in just one direction. That boy doesn’t want help, he wants to be saved. From himself. There’s no real cure for that, and there never will be. I’ve got no trick to fix it. There is no such trick. Those are the actual facts I’m afraid, and I never argue with the actual facts. There’s just no future in it. For anyone.

If only he truly understood that. Or really cared. Because either one would probably do.

But he doesn’t and I can’t do those things for him. You know as well as I do he’d rather die before he tries either. I wish I could tell you different, my dear, but I’m far too used to the truth. It would just sound odd and unbelievable to the both of us. So I’m going to spare us both the pain and suffering of a futile effort.

He’s not here speaking to me because he doesn’t really give a damn. And you’re here speaking to me because you do.

As strange as that sounds let that be some consolation to you. Because the truth is he’s not worth you getting killed for, and there will be plenty of others to save. People who will let you help save them.

He’s not one of those people, and you shouldn’t be buried beside him because you’re too stubborn to admit that to yourself.

Live, my dear. That’s the very best help I can give to you. Because if you stay attached to him the way you are now, you won’t.”

I left it there because it was the truth and because it was as good a place as any to leave it.

She sat across from my desk staring at the floor for a long while. Then she raised her face to look at me and her eyes were watery and unfocused, as if she were looking through me and out at something on the horizon she didn’t expect to escape.

She stood up slowly, her breath uneven and shallow and short, like women breathe when they are both upset and resigned to their fate. Then she turned and walked for the door.

When she got to the door she turned the doorknob, pulled the door back slightly, paused, and wrestled with herself as to whether or not to look back at me.

Eventually, with a little shake of her head, she decided that she wouldn’t. Instead she opened the door just enough to slide out it and then pulled it quietly shut behind her.

And I knew she was as good as dead…

ACCIDENTS AND HAPPENSTANCE

“So, you think I lived this long purely by accident and happenstance, do ya?” Steinthal said, more statement than question.

He thought about that a moment.

“Well then, since you’re the Detective and have already figured it all out, enlighten me. How did you live this long?” he asked.

“I’ve lived this long because I give only one warning and take only one warning. I suppose this qualifies as your one warning,” Steinthal replied.

“Maybe,” he said looking up at Steinthal and smiling, “but just out of curiosity, what comes after your warning?” he asked.

“Who says I’m giving you a warning? I almost never give warnings. The next time you see me, trust me, you won’t.” And Steinthal didn’t smile.

The Detective Steinthal

 

 

NOT A CONCERN – BOOKENDS

“You know, you’re not the first to react this way. A great many people seem very frightened by the fact that I am not frightened. However I am not in the least frightened by the fact that they are frightened by that. As a matter of fact it greatly encourages me when I meet people like you.

You’d be really frightened if you knew just how much.

Steinthal (The Detective)