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.

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

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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