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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

He hides the gun in the drains

City of Human Remains – Chapter 7



Slowly, Ted Appleton withdraws a bright-orange security badge from the inside pocket of his tweed suit jacket.  He snaps the badge to his lapel, as if it was supposed to have been there all along.  I work for Kramer and Ramirez, the architects, Ted explains to the older patrolman.  We have offices at this address, but we also designed it.  The whole building.  Top to bottom.  Do you know what I’m saying?  It’s as if Ted speaks to a man who doesn’t have a working knowledge of the language.

Oh, ya, sure, ‘ course, answers the patrolman.  So you can get me underneath?

If that’s what you want.

Sure, sure.

The patrolman glances over his shoulder, back at the street, his beat, the line he should be navigating.  He appears to fight the urge to run.  He’s an officer of the law with a service revolver; there’s really no need for him to be frightened of a citizen.  Or a sewer grate.  But he seems nervous nonetheless.   And maybe that’s all right.

The patrolman stares at the grate.

Think something’s down there?


Ted nods.  All right.  I’ll get you in.  Follow me.

Ted hops away and passes the concrete pylons of the building, expecting that the patrolman will follow, which he does.  Ted snaps the elastic band that drapes from his security badge and extends it like a dog’s leash.  20 steps and they reach the glass doors of the Fyboad Building – not the main entrance, but the handicapped entrance north of the face.  Ted waves his expanded badge over a black box and the locked door splits wide.  It is after hours, so business has stopped for the day, at least in the lobby, and the people have gone home to dinner.

You working late? the patrolman asks.

Yes, Ted answers in the most polite and friendly voice possible.  A little bit.  I’ve got a ride coming in an hour.

The 2 men pass the security desk.  The ‘C’-shaped barricade is empty, the chair spun and the guard absent.  The lobby is warm and spacious, imbued with the tranquility of a cathedral.  Ted ushers past the guard station without slowing and opens the door of the nearby stairwell.  Only once does he check to confirm the patrolman is following.  And he is.

The stairway leads both directions – up and down.  Up is well lighted; down is dim.  Ted’s heeled shoes echo on each downward step.  The policeman’s boots do the same, only less so as the rubber is thick.  The temperature drops with each turn of stairs.

This is authorized?

Not really.  But they know me.  I have a key.  I’m sure they won’t mind.  Ted throws a sly smile over his shoulder.  Then he stops on the level.  Do you want to go back to the street?

The policeman pauses to decide.  No.  It’s okay.

The men continue down, curving further into the rabbit hole.  At the bottom of 12 steps, there is a platform and a fire door.  DO NOT ENTER, a placard reads.

A crash ax and fire extinguisher in red-framed coffins hang off the white brick.  Beside them, a yellow fireman’s raincoat.

Ted unlocks the cross-handle of the door and opens it to a cold breeze.  He sweeps his right hand along the wall until he finds a switch hidden behind tall, un-marked boxes.  The fluorescent lights of the chamber pop on.  Several of the tubes are burnt out and cast shadows in unexpected places.  Ted faces the patrolman and notices that the man’s palming his holstered revolver.

Ted points to distant fire door, unmarked, painted black, no crossbar, a turn crank.  Leads to the grate, he explains.  I hope you don’t want me to go too deep into the sewers, as I’m not really dressed for it, Officer.

The patrolman measures his expression and then, in the end, eases.  Just a quick look at tha grate, sir, he assures.  That’s plenty to start.

Ted shrugs, as if either decision – to stay or to go – is fine with him.  Though it is not.

Passing through the narrow sub-basement – dry, cold, empty, clinical, with a smell of rank water and mold – he threads his way to the far door and rests his hand on the turn crank.  His expression is as if to ask the patrolman, Are you certain you want this?  Ted twists down on the crank and with all the strum and drang of violating a sleeping mausoleum, the black door screams open, blowing into their faces air colder and fouler than the sub-basement’s.

The patrolman’s nose wrinkles.  You got kids?

Two daughters.  Do you have any children?

No.  No I don’t.  Not even married.  Not even relatives here in 32.

You’re a brave man then, Ted compliments, as if he’s just passing time with pleasantries.  To come down here down into the sewers searching for something you aren’t familiar with.

How do you mean?

I mean emotionally.  You don’t know what it might be like to have one of your children disappear.  But you’re willing to get your nice blue uniform soiled for all this.  I admire you, Ted lies.

The patrolman nods and squints.  Just doin’ my job.

Ted can tell the patrolman is hesitating to go any further into the passage.

Don’t worry.  It’s not the sewer.  Just the beginnings.

Following his guide, the patrolman walks forward into the passage then cranes his neck at the grate.  This is the opposite angle from what he had seen from outside, and he is getting his bearings.  The sky is gone outside.  Only a last dull haze of light shines into the bars that wall the passage from the street.

Ted finds a switch along the damp concrete wall.  A string of half-watt lights hum overhead.  The line traces the tunnel beyond its turn at the sewer, where it disappears.

Thanks, nods the patrolman.  The light makes him relax.

Where to start? Ted asks rhetorically.

The patrolman scoots along the raised concrete path on the left side of the passage – a workman’s path that runs parallel to a growing funnel of drain-water that leaks from under the foundation.  The murk is 10 centimeters deep at the start, harder to calculate at the distant turn.

So how do you want to do this, Officer?  Just going to look around?

The patrolman lazily gestures down the passage.  What’s down there?

More of the same.  If you want rats, that’s where’ll find them.

Both men hear the creaking of the building, and the whistling from the grate.  The patrolman shivers involuntarily.  Ted feels nothing.  The further the 2 men travel away from the exit, the more Ted can smell the rank sewer gas.

Sir, can you tell me—

The patrolman pivots to ask Ted another question, but is surprised to find the trustee has quietly come closer.  He practically stands on the patrolman’s boots.

Ted senses his face looks odd, but he can’t change it.  Whatever he’s doing has stopped the patrolman cold.  Ted can only grin unconvincingly.The patrolman’s fingers drum then tighten on the handle of his service revolver.

Did you hear that? Ted jumps.

The patrolman is confused.

Look, down there.  Ted waves with feminine lightness at the nothing over the patrolman’s shoulder.  His eyes blink and blink and blink.  He can’t stop them.  I heard something.

The patrolman slowly rotates.



I don’t hear anyt—

Ted knocks the patrolman down the small slide of concrete with aggressive run at his shoulder.  The man tumbles from the concrete path and trips hands-first into the standing water.  Dirty and shallow mess covers his hands to his wrists and knees and toes.   He tries to stand up.  Ted kicks him in the head from the path above and the patrolman rolls onto his side, soaks his left sleeve and his trousers.  He cries out. Scrambling, the patrolman hooks 1 arm around a standpipe and tries to lift his off-balance body back onto the path.  What the fuck are you—!  Those are the last 5 words past the patrolman’s lips.  A hard shoe smashes his teeth into the concrete lip of the tunnel.  His teeth shatter in his mouth.  Blood fountains from his nose.  The patrolman frees his gun from the clasp.  He can’t see – there’s too much blood in his eyes – but he can still fumble about.  The fingers break like twigs as the heel of Ted’s shoe beats against them.

Ted scoops up the revolver.

When the patrolman crawls his way from the gutter and back onto the worker’s path, he’s painted with confusion and fear.  His hat’s come off and floated away in the muck, along with 3 cracked incisors.  He blindly totters on his knees, grips his broken fingers, tries to rock past Ted and find his way back to the black exit door.

He’s about to ask why, why, why (if he can get the word past his swelling and damaged tongue) when he realizes Ted is aiming the revolver from above him.

The patrolman’s forehead takes the bullet inside and shatters to accommodate the displacement.  Bits of skull leave out the back.  He drops to knees and rolls face-first into the sloshing drain-water.

For a few seconds, things are quiet.

Ted looks at the dead patrolman.

Ted whispers something.  Not even words.

His head hurts terribly.  His hands are shaking.

But he knows what to do.

He has planned these steps (well, most of them) since scouting the sub-basement months ago.

He spins to the door then shifts eyes to the grate.  He hugs the wall and waits.  No one outside has had the same inquisitive nature as the patrolman.  The pedestrians have all gone about their business, either not hearing the revolver shot or dismissing it as the boom of a malfunctioning DL Prix.

The trustee inspects his tweed suit and black necktie.  His dress shoes are muddy and he’s got splatters up to his calves.  Luckily, it’s just dirty water from the patrolman’s thrashing – not the man’s blood.  The dirty water will dry and Maria will hardly notice.

Ted watches the rear of the patrolman’s skull float away and around the corner turn of the tunnel.

He hides the gun in the drains.

He returns to the sub-basement and finds the fire ax.

Then he gets to work.