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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

Do you ever wonder where someone puts 75 kids?

City of Human Remains – Chapter 27



Her sympathy is with the woman behind Mayor Cocanaugher.  With her eye-patch it looks as if she’s a 17th century pirate who has plundered City Hall.  The woman is an unusual blemish on the otherwise perfectly average faces of the mayor’s team.  Pilar Cortez remembers the young woman from the meeting yesterday morning.  She had opened the brief; she helped put up the 104 images.  Her name starts with a ‘G,’ but Pilar can’t remember the rest.  Mayor’s assistant, she assumes.  Pilar wonders what happened to her eye.  Infection?

Cocanaugher conducts his media conference as if the eye-wounded woman isn’t even there.  Many others surround him – security police, cabinet officials, and aldermen – but he focuses on only the questions.

Look at that, remarks Pilar with a flick of a finger at the broadcaster pipe.  No one hears her.  No one looks up except her.  The pipe’s volume carries over to her corner of the room, with its clacking questions, and stories of pursuits, arrests, and narrowing of possibilities.

Cocanaugher tells of the progress.  He answers questions about Detective Dan Waverly and the shooting.   What had been regarded an unremarkable police killing earlier is hot news since being linked to the investigation of the 81.  The riot is also mentioned, though only briefly.  Cocanaugher has been dodging the riot all day.

What?  Pilar says absently.  A plainclothesman stands in front of her.

You can cross him out, repeats the man.


He points.  Him.  Manuel James Forentinia.  Bottom left.

Pilar pivots to the image of a man with small, almost dwarfish features.  Forentinia is dark-skinned, cooked-faced, unshaven, with open shirt and a frown.  Pilar picks up the marker and – without asking the man the source of this information – swipes a line across Forentinia’s forehead without leaving her chair.

The business done, the man remains.  He blocks Pilar’s view of the pipe.

My tooth is killing me, he tells her casually.  Got anything for that?

The broadcast ends.

Pilar redirects.  I’m sorry…what?  Your tooth?

The plainclothesman dabs his jaw with one hand.  She notices him for the first time.  He’s older than most in the war room, wears a wet brown coat and holds a white plastic umbrella.  His eyes are bloodshot.  And it’s true: he looks in pain.  He massages his overgrown brown beard and jaw.  But, most evidently to Pilar, his chubby hands are burnt smooth and red at the knuckles.  Those pistol burns are plain and permanent reminders that the plainclothman’s had a backfired weapon some time in his past.

Yeah.  He winces.  Tooth hurts like a sonofabitch.

I’m sorry.  I don’t have anything.  Don’t you have a DPG?

Not me.  I’m all natural, baby.  Got what God gave me, left uncorrected what the world done to me.

Pilar fingers towards the corridor.  Might be something in the supply closet.  You can have a look.  It’s not locked.

The man doesn’t follow her directions.  Instead, he leans into the duty desk and smiles.  My name’s Tony.  He reaches out his burnt, red-skinned hand.  Tony Kopcinski.  I’m one of the Saviors, he declares with puffed pride, expanding his chest as if he were blessed with super-powers.

Pilar hesitates.  She’s not sure if he is serious or joking.  She glances to his disfigured hand.  Rising from her chair, she gives Tony a firm, unforgiving grip right at the spot of his injury.  If he’s subjecting her to his burns as a test of her stomach, she doesn’t know why he’s bothering.  I’m Pilar.

Do you know who I am?

Pilar shrugs.  Tony.  You just told me.

No.  Not my name.  I’m the best in the city.

Is that so?  She smiles.

Yep.  147 arrests and 147 convictions.  I even cleared 2 of the 104 today already.

That’s good.  You should be a cop.

Now he laughs.  You’re prettier than Ray Koof.

Her humor fades.  She’s not pretty.  She’s very ordinary in her blue uniform.  Pretty is a lie she’s heard before and does not appreciate, especially when she’s working.  Her eyes are dark-circled, even with proper sleep; her breasts are flat; her arms lithe yet flabby where there should be tone.  She does not thank him for his compliment.

Tony Kopcinski appears aware of his mistake.  What’s my next assignment? he asks, ending the ritual.  I’ll hit the supply closet on my way out.

She sorts through the stack of folders spread out before her.  Umm…most are already taken.  If you’ve eliminated two already, you’d probably only get one or two more chances for a jackpot, if you know what I mean?

Of course.  I’m glad there’s fast progress.  I’m not out for just the glory, you know.

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have put it like that.

No, it’s all right—

If you want to keep your record going is what I mean.  147 arrests, 147 convictions.

No.  I know.  It’s all right.  He smiles warmly.  Well.  Like I said.  I’m the best, Pilar, he winks.  So if you got a good prospect in your stack, I’ll try my luck.

Pilar closes her eyes and reshuffles the folders as if they were a deck of casino cards.  She blindly selects a dossier and opens her eyes.  Take this one.  She hands Tony a manila folder thick with data.  Carla Cabinerris, 42, female, West Side, two convictions for child endangerment, served three years upstate and was released eight weeks ago on good behavior.

Tony opens the dossier and flips the pages haphazardly.  Do you think she’s involved?

Good a chance as any.

Tony closes the dossier and tucks it under his arm.  He spins away then spins to Pilar.  Do you have a plastic bag?  It’s still raining.  I don’t want to get this info all wet.

She raises her arm…

Let me guess, he intercepts.  Supply closet.

She snaps her fingers, clicks her tongue, and winks.

He ambles away again, but once more stops.  Do you ever wonder where someone puts 75 kids, Pilar?  I mean, really.  I’ve got three at home and they’re like little fucking tornados.  I know they’ve checked all the big places – buildings and warehouses, but come on.  75 kids.  That’s a lot.  Do they really think…well, that people like Ms. Cabinerris, 42, female, West Side, two convictions for child endangerment, served 3 years upstate and released eight weeks ago on good behavior, that she… what, has them in her efficiency apartment?

Pilar blinks.  She doesn’t know what to say.  She is amazed, though, that he’s remembered the details of a file he’s heard spoken only once.

Tony raises the folder once more in salute.  All right, he says simply and leaves, in search of his plastic bag and his painkiller.