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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

I saw you at the playground. Looking for kids. You sick fuck.

City of Human Remains – chapter 25


Even with a glide’s muffler, the engine start is too loud.  A mistake.  He needs his igniter fixed.  Fucking igniter.  He should have waited until his target was completely out of sight before attempting to follow.  He was safe and unnoticed when he was parked beside all the other non-descript vehicles, one of many outside City Orphanage left idle for the night.  But it’s too late now.

Fucking igniter.

Detective Dan Waverly shifts the glide into Drive.

The lurch forward makes him woozy.  When he stretches a kink in his elbow, he knocks his half-spent juice can and it spills onto his trouser leg.


He dabs at the stain with the front page of a flash edition.

It was stupid to drink soda, he curses with regret.

His stomach swims, not ready for contents.  Less than 2 hours ago, he was vomiting.  The virus that crawled inside his body 48 hours before hit at breakfast.  At Mayor Cocanaugher’s meeting in the underground shelter, Dan Waverly moved like a man with nitroglycerin taped to his shoes.  After he had received his assignments, he threw up in the single-stall wedge just outside of the war room.  This is not good, he told to himself as he rested his forehead on the cool plastic toilet and dabbed his mouth with the sleeve of his green slicker.  Even now, so many hours later and the coat cleaned with soapy water, he can still smell puke on his slicker.  But he dare not neglect his duties.  He must rise above his condition.  He has 4 children of his own so he knows the importance.

I’ll get over this, he kept thinking after each hurried rush to a toilet.  I’ll get over it.

And it seems like he has.  His last episode was dry – painful, but not completely debilitating.  His equilibrium is slowly returning.  Down ye, virus, down.  He hates being sick, and would take a high fever over vomiting any day.  A fever he can control.  There are pills for it.  Nausea, on the other hand, controls him.

Three times this day the detective lost track of his target.  Once, Waverly braked his glide and found a sewer grate.  Another time, an alley.  And worst was into a bag.  He thanked Christ each time he reconnected with his target, and prayed he had not missed any important details while getting sick.  Each time proved harder to re-connect.  Another time might be impossible.  I’m done, he commits to himself, sits upright in his seat, ignores his stomach, the sloshing juice.  He wishes he could just curl into the soft bed of his loft apartment.

Over the bony knuckles of his hands on the glide’s steering wheel, the detective watches the man as he rounds the last corner away from City Orphanage and heads onto a tree-lined residential street.

Throughout the day, despite the interruptions, a pattern has presented itself:

Primary school as the bells ring.  (Children.)

Park at dusk.  (Children.)

Pizza Playhouse, early evening.  (Children.)

City Orphanage.  (Again children.)

Where you going next, fucker, Waverly asks as he takes the corner, a toy store?

He still has sight of him, but lets some distance come between.  Further the better.  Bad form to get close to a man such as this one.  Bad because he’s dangerous.  Bad because Waverly might give himself away.

Tykus Roy Roberts.

Age 52 / ht 1.7 meters / wt 90 kilos / hair gray / sex M / occupation: accountant, currently employed Wax & Braff / convictions: 2, child endangerment, class 1, and molestation of a minor, class B / parole since 2094, served 9 years / marital status: divorced / last known address, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The facts skip through Waverly’s drowsy mind.

If he could only get closer to peer into Roberts’s eyes, he might know.  Might know if he is a killer of children, kidnapper of sons and daughters.

He slams the glide’s brakes.  Roberts has spun around.  He’s coming back towards Waverly’s slowly moving glide.

Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shhhiiiit.

Waverly has no choice but to keep the glide moving past Tykus Roberts.  And when he does eventually pass him, he must act as nonchalantly as possible.  Roberts is soon parallel to Waverly.  The man bends at the waist.  Waverly knows the maneuver.  His target is scoping him out.  The man lowers so that his aged face can peer inside the windows of the unmarked police glide.

Waverly brushes at the sticky juice dregs soaking into his leg, acting natural – and annoyed – at the mess Roberts can’t even see.  The detective toys with throwing up.  That would surely put Roberts off the scent.  No sick man would pursue someone all over 32.  But, in the end, there isn’t time for even a single dry heave.

Roberts has disappeared around another street-corner.

Waverly curses at himself for being tricked with a double-back.  He wouldn’t have been so caught off guard if he had not been ill today.  This is no way for a member of the mayor’s own Savior Squad to perform.  Years of experience as a tail and he’s been caught in the easiest of tactics.  He blames the glide and its loud igniter (a flaw he’ll be certain to report to the motor pool.)  But most of all, Waverly blames himself, for not choosing his feet over his wheels, and for the dozen other mistakes he has made today while following Tykus Roy Roberts.

Waverly parks illegally in front of a hydro-cap and then jogs on the opposite side of the street to catch up – as inconspicuously as possible – with the fast-moving Señor Roberts.  While in motion, Waverly puts on his handy baseball cap, flips the collar of his green slicker, and undoes the belt so his gut shows.  It isn’t much of a change, but will have to do.  Roberts will now surely recognize the glide, but maybe not the detective’s face.  When the villain glanced in the glide’s windows, the angle was strained.

It is dark, after all.

The detective finally reaches the turn.  He angles the corner.  Roberts, however, is gone.  A phantom in the October night.






Waverly debates courses of action.  He walks the area, trying to smack into Roberts on another path.  The detective draws stares apartment front rooms, retirees with a routine for watching the street.  He is suspicious-looking with his hop-jump-skip, his drawn-down baseball cap, and his circumnavigation of the same block 3 times in 10 minutes.

I’ve lost him, he admits.

The next morning, parked outside Roberts’s accounting firm of Wax & Braff, Detective Dan Waverly patiently awaits Roberts’s arrival.  It’s nearing lunch hour.  The man may emerge at any second.

Waverly’s stomach virus has fully passed through his system.  His body has conquered the demon illness.  He slept hard for 6 hours the night before.  Now he is back on top of his game.  So he hopes.

Today, he swears, if you’re up to something, I’m going to find out what.

Roberts left his insignificant apartment at 8 AM then ate breakfast at a diner.  After 28 minutes, he left the diner and walked the kilometer to work.  Waverly wonders if Wax or Braff know anything of their employee’s molestation convictions.  Probably not.  Some crimes can be forgiven, but a crime against a child is unpardonable. At least that’s how Waverly figures it.   Roberts leaves his work at noon for lunch at a nearby stall, eats a hot dog standing up, and then returns to business.

If he’s involved, thinks Waverly, he’s pretty good about acting normal in the daylight hours. These thoughts move through Waverly’s mind as he sips his cold black leftover coffee.  Then again, what is normal about skulking around schools, parks, and orphanages at night?  He’s definitely guilty of something. 

Who the fuck are you!

A gun barrel drills into Waverly’s throat.

The detective’s paper coffee cup rests on the bottom of his steering wheel.  He is unable to budge from the danger, or quick-draw his revolver that dangles inside his washed green slicker.  Eh… he begins to say.  A thrust of the barrel forces him against the head cushion.  The cold point of the gun chokes his Adam’s apple.  .45 caliber, he assesses out of the corner of his eye.  Strong stuff at close range.  Through these seconds, he is amazed at how unaffected are his senses.  Inwardly, he compliments himself on knowing what’s happened.   Roberts has gone into the building and come out the back…then, come around the west end of the parking lot and – because I wasn’t paying fucking attention, curses the detective – I didn’t spot him in my side mirror.  You’re a tricky bitch, he winks to the ex-convict.

Who the fuck are you? Roberts repeats.

Your Savior.  Christ the Lord.

What are you talking about?

Put the gun away.


You’re violating your parole to have that thing.

Roberts hitches.  You’re a cop?




Waverly sees it out of the corner of his eye – the recognition of consequence.  Having a gun while on parole is at least 12 months, calculates Waverly in his head.  At least.  Yeah, like I said.  Put that gun away.

But Waverly has a sinking feeling: consequence is not what bothers the ex-con.  It’s something else.

Let me see your badge.

It’s in my slicker.

Never mind.  I don’t need proof.  Not from you.  You’ve been following me.  That’s against the law.  Stalking.

It’s for a reason, pal.


You know anything about any kids?


81 of ‘em.  Pause.  You better put that gun away, Roberts.  You’re in deep shit.  If you put it away now, I might just forgive you.

Fuck you.

Roberts is weighing options.

I saw you at the playground, goads Waverly.  Looking for kids.  You sick fuck.


Sick fuck.

I do it for therapy.  It helps.

Helps scratch your damn itch.  How far you take it?  You got any kids in your apartment?  Want me to get a search warrant?  How about a hacksaw?  Got you one of tho—

The gun presses quickly forward, choking Waverly’s words in his throat.

Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? spits Roberts.  You’d be a hero if you caught me doing something.  Well, let me tell you… I’m respectable.  I paid for what I did.  And I regret it.  I’m a good person.  Sure, I have a record and I confessed and served for every one of the things I’ve done.  But I’m sober now and wouldn’t hurt anyone, ever.  I got a job.  I’ve got a life.  I’m respectable.

Waverly smiles.  Then where’d you get your pretty gun?

The crack from the barrel is loud but quick.

Waverly’s jaw disconnects from his face and lands on the far side of the glide.  His body slides down with slow, tilting ease, as if falling from an incalculable height, rather than just a meter.  His coffee cup tilts with him, but stays gripped in the hand, un-spilled.  Dark red stains paint the glide’s leather – the steering wheel, the seats.  The window has missed the brunt of it, but the inside is a bloody mess.

Roberts leans away.  His gun is hot from the discharge.  He looks down on the weapon as if its use and purpose has suddenly become foreign, an alien instrument dropped from the sky, right there, into his waiting hands.

No, no, no, he puffs before scouting the lot of Wax & Braff.

No one directly looks at him, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been seen – from the street, by someone having lunch, though the windows of his employer.

No, no, no.

He notices the Safety on the side of the .45.  Off.  It shouldn’t have been off.  Someone’s played a joke on him and switched it off.  Or he must have jarred it.

No, No, No, No, No, No, No.

He repeats the word, a broken tick of the tongue.  He can’t stop.  He keeps repeating.  He can’t bear to look in the glide.  He can’t drop the gun.  He can’t go inside.  He just keeps repeating until the police arrive 11 minutes later.