“Chirp . . . Cheerip . . . Chireap.” The muted sound came around the corner into Sinclair’s room. It was a familiar noise; J. D. had one of those Audubon Society bird calling devices. One year while on vacation Sinclair had picked it up; just a small gift to bring back to let J. D. know that he had been thought of. It became one of those little annoyances; a chirp in roll call to disrupt a bulletin being read, a cheerip in the hall while waiting for his pay check, or a chireap when the mike was open. J. D. had kept it in his pocket all through the years.
“Come on in; the door’s open J. D.”
“How’d you know it was me ?”, a smile and laugh made its way across the rounded face. J. D. never had trouble finding his way to the dinner table. His hand was still twisting away as the chirping continued.
“One of these days your gonna’ turn a corner and a three hundred pound robin will be looking back at you. What are you gonna’ do then?”
“ ‘Hope like hell its already had dinner. So, how ’re you doin’; don’t look too bad to me?”, J. D. giving him the once over. “You never was too good lookin’ to begin with. Why ‘ you in here?”
“They’re still doing some tests; a few more days of this and I’ll be talking to myself.” Sinclair was already nearing the “expert” level when it came to talking to himself.
“ ‘ Know what you mean. They had me stay an extra week just to keep a check on my blood cell count after the operation for my throat cancer. Hell, its always been . . .”, his face turning red as the vessels in his neck swelled.
“Take it easy.” Sinclair was reminded of the time the Blood Bank turned J. D. away because his blood didn’t sink to the bottom of the little blue test tube. He had stormed out, vowing never to give blood again; his ego having been bruised. The two would stop in while walking the beat at least three or four times a year to donate. Sinclair had presented them with a wooden plaque to hang on the wall; nothing fancy, just a shoulder patch from an old shirt glued to a polished crest of wood. A small brass plate had been added to make it look more official. “H. P. D. Watering Hole # 5”
“ . . . good; always been good.” Sinclair was the only one who knew about the blood donor deal. J.D. figured he needed to defend his blood just one more time.
“Hey, its no big deal. Why don’ you take a look at that letter I was tellin’ you about?”, reaching over to the desk and handing him the envelope. The muscles relaxed allowing the veins to drain. J. D. let the moment pass; growling under his breath as he got in another expletive.
“This looks interesting.”, his voice tapering as he turned the paper at an angle, letting the soft glow of the bedside lamp illuminate the minor indentions made in the paper.
“Who ever wrote this used his off hand. See?”
“No, I don’t see. Show me.”
“See there, how the line pushes unevenly into the paper; and there, where the curve of that loop . . .” J.D. pointed to the letter O as he tried to teach Sinclair some basic rules to analyzing handwriting.
“If you say so; but it just looked to me like some idiot with little or no education wrote it.”
“It was intended to. See how the ink smeared right there? That was caused by the palm of a left hand as it was dragged across the paper. Who ever wrote this used their left hand, intentionally to make it look crude, as if some ignoramus had did it.”
“Yea, and quit correcting me; I never did like it when you did that.”
“Sorry, go on. How can you tell that the person normally writes with the other hand?”
“The pen would have indented the paper much more evenly.”, grabbing a piece of paper to illustrate. “First, with my right hand . . .” J.D. wrote a few words on the paper. “. . . now with my left. See where the paper almost tore when I used my left hand; and I was trying hard to keep it smooth.”
“Okay, I see what you mean.”
“Who did you say was working your incident ? Dribble, wasn’t it?” J.D. putting the paper aside as he conjured up Dibble’s features in his mind.
“That’s right; why? You know something about him that I should?”
“Not really; just some rumors.”
“So what kind of rumors?”
“Nothing much; something about his having friends linked to organized crime. He’s been under investigation for the past several months; nothing solid has come of it.”
“He always did have lots of fancy jewelry hanging around his neck.” Sinclair looked over at the large chunks of nugget gold on J. D’s wrist and fingers; waiting momentarily for an explanation for the apparent windfall.
“Now just a second. When I quit smoking those damned cigars I had three and a half dollars a day that I could spend on something else; that’s a hundred dollars a month.”
“Not a bad way to quit smoking. Looks nice, now all you need to do is go on a diet and you’d be driving a Cadillac too.”
“That reminds me. I stopped off at the store and picked up a bar of that German Chocolate; the kind you like so much. I figured you could use a change of pace after eating all that hospital stuff.”
“All right !” , reaching his hand out as J.D. withdrew the large kitchen size bar from his brief case. Sinclair took the green outer wrapper off carefully, not wishing to destroy it. The deep cut letters in each square spelling B A K E R S petitioned his indulgence.
“ Want a piece ?” , breaking off the row of B’s.
“Just one square, thanks.” J.D. accepting the offer even though he wasn’t much of a chocolate fan. Sinclair was, on the other hand, already dissolving the first chunk in his mouth. The warmth of his tongue unlocked the chocolate opiate’s aroma. His eyes rolled all the way back in their sockets as he received the “fix”.
“Ohhhh; That’s good!”, taking a second to digest. He let the vapors reserculate through his nasal passages; breathing the memory of the last swallow, arousing the subtle brain functions of pleasure. Most people gulped their chocolate too fast to enjoy the sensory ecstasy offered by the curious confectionery.
“Sorry you didn’t like it.” J.D. laughed as he watched his ex-partner wallowing in boyish delight.
“Yea, that first piece was no good; ‘ better try another to get that taste out of my mouth.” Sinclair reciprocated as the next square made it past his lips.
“Didn’t Dribble and some other guy get into some trouble a few years back; something about improper use of the Department’s computer information?”
“I wouldn’t know about it unless it hit the papers.”
“This never made it outside; ‘ got hushed up. He was selling background files or something to some security company. I think the whole thing stunk to high heaven. The investigation was pushed through by one of his old partners. You know the guy, Perry, works Internal Affairs.
“I remember now; Fletcher, yea, R.D. Fletcher was his partner when all that was going on. He retired and moved to Florida.”
“Retired my foot, they had him against the wall. It was leave or get fired.”
“I suppose; but it still don’t seem right to . . .”
“To what?”, J.D. cocking his brow as he chomped at the imaginary cigar hanging from the corner of his mouth.
“I was only trying to give him the benefit of the . . .”, being cut off as J.D. continued to burn.
“To hell with him; he was as dirty as they come.” J.D. was red faced and puffing as he tramped around the room.
“Doesn’t.”, Sinclair injected the one word sentence and grinned.
“Doesn’t what? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Earlier; I said it don’t seem right; shoulda’ been doesn’t.” Sinclair laughed as J.D. stood dumb struck.
“Enough of this; I gotta’ get back to work.” J.D. didn’t like the word games that Sinclair played. He always felt he was being made fun of.
“Don’t run off yet; I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.”
“Naw, I got to. . .”, stopping momentarily as he caught himself, “I’ve got to work on some of these files or my butts in the ringer.”
“I guess a short visit is better than no visit at all.”
“I’ll come by again later, after I find out what the heck is goin’ on with this investigation.” J.D. latched his brief case and grabbed his umbrella.
“Glad you got to come and thanks again for the chocolate.”
“Any time; partner, anytime.”
“Good thing you brought your umbrella, huh?”
“Well would you look at that? Its pourin down rain out there. How’d you know it was gonna rain?”
“One of my ants . . . “, Sinclair whipped as he began to drift out of the conversation. He was distracted by a sudden infusion of digital information.
“482169775311kpslmxx1255556”, shaking his head to clear the steady stream of unrelated data, seemingly random bits of data passed through the air and landed in his consciousness. Garbled and unrecognizable as they bombarded his faculties all at once; it made him dizzy and nauseated.
“Your aunt? How’s she do it?” Sinclair could not hear the words. It was like having twenty or thirty stereo units on full blast, each one playing a different station. He heard the waves of computer codes, intended to make modern cars run smoothly, crashing relentlessly on the shores of his sanity. Reams of electronic data; thousands of individual spark plug firing instructions, emission valve orders, and temperature monitorings of each car that passed. Every radio wave that passed through his room; citizen band, police, mobile telephone conversations, commercial broadcasts, even the pulses from Mr. Alajandro’s quartz crystal watch buzzed in Sinclair’s head. What had been filtered out was now an interminable blasting on his nerves. The roar was intense; he reached to cover his ears.
“I’m sorry. . .”, believing that he was talking too loudly, “ . . . Once in a while I forget that I'm the one who’s hard of hearing.” J.D. reached to adjust the flesh colored hearing aid that was neatly tucked away in the recess of his ear. Sinclair slumped lifelessly into the pillow; having lost control of his auditory environment.
“Hey . . . ‘ you okay?”, leaning over to appraise the sudden change; J.D. saw that Sinclair was not responding. He found the call button that was attached to the edge of the bed and pushed it, several times in rapid succession.
Inside Sinclair’s head the coded instructions bounced and ricocheted as the seemingly random instructions could find no place to rest. His mind was trying desperately to assimilate the information.
198rfp;i3qp;i4tou4jo. . .”
“Can I ask you to wait in the hall?” The nurse tapped on J.D’s shoulder as she motioned for him to exit the room. She saw that Sinclair’s breathing was not hampered and reached to take his pulse.
“Is he all right?” J.D. asked quietly, not wishing to interrupt and yet anxious.
“Please, wait in the hall. I’ll be with you in a few moments.” She counted silently to herself while taking his pulse. There was nothing to indicate a problem. His breathing rate was well within limits as were all the rest of his vital signs. She leaned out the door and asked J.D. to come back in.
“Is he all right?”
“I think so. What happened that made you think he was in some kind of trouble?”
“We were talking and all the sudden he grabbed his ears as if he were in pain; then he just fell back and was out of it.” J.D. acted out the part; holding his own ears for effect.
“Did he tell you what was causing the pain or anything?”
“No, he just fell back into the bed and had a blank look on his face. That’s what got me worried.”
“Well he seems to be sleeping comfortably now. He did have a very strenuous day. The sleep will do him good.”
“I guess so; but he sure fell out in a hurry. Could you keep an eye on him?”
J.D. let the last words fall more slowly as he looked to the nurse for the proper response.
“He just needs some sleep. You go on and I’ll stay for a while; go on now.”, letting her hands sweep him out of the room.
In the room just above Sinclair’s there was a man making a telephone call. He sat quietly holding the receiver to his ear as he watched the computer screen in front of him. “Good evening, Mr. Sanderson’s office; how may I help you?” The voice of the secretary was coldly professional. The call had come in on a private line that wasn’t common knowledge.
“Yea this is Moe; I need to talk to Mr. Sanderson.”
“ Mr. Sanderson has gone for the day; may I take a message and have him get back with you tomorrow?”
“I know that’s your standard answer to give; but if he’s still back in his office, tell him that there’s a change in the status of file number sixty one.”
“Mr. Sanderson has gone for the . . .”, being cut off as she was in the middle of her response.
“Cut the crap sister and just give him the message.” Moe hung up the phone and returned to watching the computer screen. The numbers and letters flew across the monitor in flashes of mumbles and gibberish. Once in a while a recognizable word or two would stand out; but for the most part it was a mass of pure confusion. The phone rang and he picked it up.
“My secretary tells me that you were rude and that I should fire you.” There was a hint of laughter as the words hit the receiver, “ So; what has you calling me at this late hour?”
“Hey, I’ve no complaint with the way she does her job. If your happy; I’m happy.” Moe blurted out with no emotion, “That file you had me working on has some new pages that may be of interest. Why don’t you come take a look?”
“Thank you Moe. I’ll be over in a few minutes; and try to be a little nicer to Julie. She’s a very good secretary and is only doing her job the way I’ve instructed her to.”
“No problem here, boss.” Moe had been performing odd jobs for Mr. Sanderson for several years. Moe’s job was to follow instruction without asking too many questions, anything from shining shoes to polishing cars. He had no special talent that would be listed on a resume; but he was loyal past the point of doubt to Mr. Sanderson, and that alone was his meal ticket. If Mr. Sanderson asked him to kill somebody, Moe would probably do it without a second thought.
“Then I’ll see you as soon as I finish with what I have here. Thank you for calling Moe.” Mr. Sanderson handed the phone to Julie who was standing at the end of his executive desk.
“Will there be anything else, Sir?”
“If you would, have those papers ready regarding that property acquisition for the hospital. I will need to have them in the morning.” He paused for a moment as he looked over to her, “I’ve instructed Moe to be more considerate. I don’t think he meant to make you angry. Try to remember that he hasn’t the benefit of a formal education and is apt to be annoying once in a while.” He smiled, more of a reminder than a smile as he completed the suggestion.
“Yes sir; I understand. The file on the Moritz property is nearly complete now. It will only take an hour or so to finish.” Julie backed out of the room while she nodded acceptance of her employment role.
“Then I leave it in your capable hands.”, his attention returned to the items on his desk as Julie closed the door. He unlocked one side of his desk from underneath and opened the file drawer that he alone had access to. Scanning a small array of off white folders, he grasped the one labeled, “File Sixty One”. He leafed through it momentarily, catching up on the major points of interest. He rolled his finger tips a couple of times on the edge of the mahogany trim to break the silence of the large room. Returning the folder to its place in the file drawer he secured it to the locked position and got up from his chair. There was a brass coat rack off to the side of his desk; his right arm went back instinctively for his suit jacket. It was a dark navy with gray pin stripping accents, summer weight wool of the finest quality with silk lining. The suit was hand tailored; not the department store variety. His wallet was slender and long, holding only a few necessary items without causing the line of the material to bend. He exited the office via a back door and walked to a service elevator at the end of the corridor.
“You’re looking very smart today Mr. Sanderson.” One of the porters bowed as he continued mopping the right hand side of the floor.
“Thank you Reggie. I’m always pleased with the quality of your work here at the hospital.” Reggie had been a porter at the hospital for twelve years. The floors were always clean and polished to perfection. The elevator door opened and closed leaving Reggie to continue the never ending task.
“If they’s so good; how ‘bout a raise?”, talking to the floor; careful to insure that he was not overheard. He swabbed over the foot prints that had just been left.
The elevator stopped on the fifth floor and Mr. Sanderson strode with authority past the nurses station. He did not slow down to allow time for them to greet his presence; only a casual nod in their direction, “Good evening, ladies.” During the day it was common for the Director to be seen on the floors; but late in the evening, his presence caused a mild stirring. He made his way to room five sixteen and knocked as he opened the door.
“Evenin’ boss. Have a look see.”, pointing to the screen that continued to flash reams of data at a lightning fast pace.
“How long has this been going on?” Mr. Sanderson fixed his eyes on the computer monitor.
“I noticed it started about twenty minutes ago. I checked all the other readings too. All his vital signs show to be all right. What do you make of it?”
“Was there anyone in the room with him just prior to this change or did the nurse give him any medication that might have triggered this?”
“Some cop friend of his was visiting with him. I have it all here on the tape recorder. I don’t think they gave him any drugs or anything like that. He just got real tired and fell off to sleep.”
“You did just fine Moe. I’ll take the tape and you start another one.”, removing the reel from the large professional style recording unit.
“This guy is some kind of wierdo, huh boss?”
“Something like that. I have a dinner engagement to attend downtown. If you need me you have my pager number.”
“Okay boss.” Moe put a new recording tape on the machine and continued his vigil. He had followed targets before; it was much easier having one a room directly under him.