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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

Don’t let anyone in here, Raad. Not anybody. We’ve found him.

City of Human Remains – Chapter 29



Patrolman Gernardo Ruiz looks up just as the body falls.  She hits a short brick wall in the courtyard and cracks her arm backwards.

Jesus Fucking Christ! Gernardo exclaims.

The woman rolls off the wall and crumples onto the cobbles.  She twitches.  Blood spouts from her mouth and then splashes her face, a fountain switched on and off again.

Get an ambulance! Gernardo shouts to the police that line the courtyard – or to anyone who will listen.  Get an ambulance!

He lifts his knee from the back of the male vigilante he’s captured.  Now that the binders are on, the leverage is excessive.  His prisoner is immobilized until the paddy wagon arrives.  Struggling up to his feet, Gernardo assesses the courtyard.  There are eight more patrolmen at various points.  Two have already raced to the jumper’s side.

A loud voice shoots over Gernardo’s head.  Holy shit!  Is she dead?

Gernardo looks up.  A man peers over the lip of the roof, silhouetted against the pale orange sky.

Who the hell are you? Gernardo asks back.

Senior Detective.  Savior Squad.

What?  The who?  Gernardo is about to tell the man to stay where he is, you’re under arrest, you crackpot fake, but just then Patrolman Okujo trots past his ear and spills two important words: mayor’s man.

Savior Squad.

Gerardo recalls the nickname from Sunday’s briefing.  He remembers it was also attached to the reports about a certain dead detective named Daniel Waverly.

The patrolman follows others to the woman’s side.

Miss, Gernardo says over the heads of the other patrolmen tending to her broken body, Can you hear me, Miss?  Her eyes have shut, the twitching stopped.  Her left arm is twisted under her back, disconnected at the socket.  Shit, don’t move her, Gernardo cautions.

What do you think we are – fucking stupid?  Patrolman Jesper, a month ago a rookie, shakes his head in disbelief.

Did you call that ambulance?

Christ, YOU do it, Ruiz!  We’re busy!

Gernardo digs his Eye Dial from his belt.

Thirteen minutes later the woman is carted away to Mercy Hospital.  When the ambulance takes her, she is breathing.  Gernardo wants to know if she’ll live or die, but none of the medics offer a prediction.  If his past 14 months on the force is any prophet of the future, Gernardo may never learn her fate.  He’ll note what he’s seen and what he’s done when he makes his report, and that’s all.  But it is an unfinished narrative.  He may read bits in the flash editions, but that won’t give him everything.  He also won’t know the fate of the men, women, or boys arrested that night, and that nags him.  The satisfaction of an arrest evaporates when he’s entered the story halfway through and has left before the climax.  He won’t even be summoned to court (though the detective from the roof may be), and he won’t be present for sentencing.  Vigilante crimes usually come with light punishment, particularly when the criminal has no prior offenses.  He ran two of his arrests’ backgrounds, but both were as clean as cats’ paws.

We don’t trust that fucking Cocanaugher! defends a spiteful vigilante just before he is stuffed in the wagon.  All politicians are bent fucking rakes and they couldn’t find these 81 kids no matter how many damn Saviors.  You know that Cabinerris woman bribed the watch captain to not put the mark on her door – the Child Molester insignia?  True.  Swear it.  But even without a mark we knew her face when she came back from prison.  Come back to the same neighborhood, can you believe it?  Like we all has our brains wiped.  Like we’d forgive her and let her anywhere near our Zigon Park.  Where our kids play!  Our kids!  That postman’s girl goes missing with the other 81 and what do you expect us to do?  It wasn’t my idea, you know, to scare her.  It was Costanza’s!  Talk to Costanza!  It was his fucking idea!

Gernardo later learns the big one, the built one, the one who smashed the apartment window with a cement chunk is Mitchell Costanza, a glide mechanic at the West Side Garage, former soldier, 21 years old.

The patrolman breathes easier when the 11 are hauled to jail.  Good riddence, he dismisses, and wonders what the city would be like if everyone ran around like they were better than the law.  How many other people would be falling from rooftops?  Gernardo feels only sympathy for Carla Cabinerris, released and trying to make good.  If someone’s trying to set it right, well, that’s what the system is about, isn’t it?  You serve your time and then you know not to do it again, right?  He is as familiar with the odds, the repeating histories of felons, as most trained criminal psychologists.  But personally, he knows more convicts that went straight on release than went back to dirty deeds.  So, Gernardo is a man who tries to be reasonable.  This city could use a little reason.

Gernardo, at 23 years old, with a wife but no children, authority but no rank, physique but no stature, son of a retired policeman, with a fairly dull legacy of arrests (drunks and users, abusers and batterers, noise violators, glide accidents, zoning irregularities, those sorts of minutia), considers himself just a step above traffic warden.  But he tries not to let that bother him.  To be associated with even a smidgen of the biggest story to hit 32 in his lifetime – the missing 81 – makes him oddly prideful, and guilty for being so.

His partner, 28-year-old patrolman Raad Dinn, second generation East Indian, dark in skin and more serious in manner, is the opposite.  He doesn’t even want to stay for Scene Evaluation – a necessary and boring part of the wrap-up.  Raad’s tapping his boot and impatiently making faces.

A police Post It Man takes images – the busted apartment window, the fire escape, the roof, the courtyard, the spot where the woman landed, the chalk lines, anything and everything related to the incident.  Gernardo and Raad follow the fat, weathered professional as he goes about his work.

The two patrolmen protect him from a common interference: citizens.  By now, the whole neighborhood’s come out to play.  They heard the noise, witnessed the sweep of police and the swirling lights of the ambulance.  They have been asking questions, gossiping, attempting to overhear conversations.  They’ve all seen action – the city’s full of action – but this is different.  It’s a crime in their back yards.

Gerardo silently agrees with his partner that Scene Evaluation is less than thrilling.  But he must mind his duties, as his wife would expect no less of him.

Surrounded by a circle of gawkers, Gernardo carves the Post It Man some space to shoot with his quarter-sized imager.  He’s documenting the passageway between the apartment buildings.  The lighting isn’t optimal.  In daytime, Scene Evaluations go much faster.  After dark, there’s always the struggle against shadows.

Gernardo checks his watch.  Past 8 o’clock.  He can’t get the memory of the jumper’s bloody mouth out of his head.  And the smugness of the overweight Post It Man with his loud-print jacket and his meticulous slowness, and making stupid jokes, puts him into misery.

Raad stands at the garden end of the passage, Gernardo the street end, and the Post It Man’s works the middle.

The Post It Man assures Gernardo in a pleasant, unbothered tone that he is nearly done.

Yeah, okay.

This is kind of a big scene, ya know?  Crap strewn all over the place.  Usually, it’s just a single room where the body is found, or where the stuff is stolen.  That’s the sort of thing I’ve been shooting lately.


Snap.  Snap.  Snap.

A colleague of mine had to capture all the images from that chase last month.  Remember that big chase?  You know – the glide that crashed into City Fountain?  Pursuit for three kilometers.  Took six Post It Men a full day to collect all those.  Then it turned out one of the lenses was cracked and we had to go back the next day and do a part all over again.

Yeah, okay.

I’m almost done.

He shoots another image.




It’s the fucking passage, groans Raad, exasperated.

I know, smiles the Post It Man.  I want to be sure.  You do your job, I’ll do mine.

Just get on with it.

The citizens jockey for position.

What ya doin’? asks a teenage girl with dyed bangs covering both of her eyes.

Gernardo ignores her.  She’s a latecomer to the party and doesn’t deserve his answer.

Another image.


The Post It Man finally rises up, satisfied.  Okay, that’s the passage.  What’s left?  He gazes over the heads of the patrolmen.

Gernardo speaks, sure of it.  That’s everything.

Raad calls from the far end: What about where we came in?  The alley.  Right after he has said it, he cringes.  He’s made a mistake.

Shhh, harbors Gernardo, you idiot!  The rate this guy takes images, he suspects, the alley might take another hour. 

Gernardo’s been on the clock for 14 hours.  He hasn’t seen his wife in almost two days.  The excitement of the arrest has long dissipated into mundane protocol.  He wishes he could pass the job to someone, but he can’t.  He’s the lowest.           Okay, alley, yeah, sounds good, sniffs the Post It Man who starts to follow Raad’s hitched thumb.

They escort the fat man through the crowd – reduced to 25 stragglers, mostly housewives wearing bright clothes that double for pajamas.

The rear alley is a narrow cut running 300 meters.  It connects streets in the grid and is the dump point for a dozen private garages, a luxury for homeowners who bought before the Garage Act of 2093.

The Post It Man gets to work.

Another.  Another.  Another.

You came in eastbound? he questions, and gets a tired shake from Gernardo and Raad.

Another.  Another.

Gernardo winds his watch.

Another.  Another.

The people have learned their place, trained like puppies to stand behind the patrolmen and don’t engage in any chitchat.  They no longer push at them.  Gernardo relaxes and realizes his arms are sore from being out like wings for so long.

Another.  Another.

In the next 15 minutes, they lose more of the gawkers to boredom.  These citizens drift off to happenings elsewhere, like the arrival of the building’s repair staff as they begin to board up the apartment’s broken window.

She probably died at the hospital.  Gernardo decides that will be the fate of her, whether true or not.

Distracted, Gernardo catches a light flickering inside a closed garage.  The garage has no windows, but he sees the pulse under the main door, as well as the side door.

Timer.  Probably a timer.

A minute later, the light goes off again.

No one exits.

Busted timer.

Gernardo waits.

Another image.  Another.

The Post It Man travels the alley methodically.  Raad follows in the fat man’s footsteps, as does the remaining trickle of the crowd.

But Gernardo stays planted, fixated on the garage, which remains dark and quiet.

The garage’s side door opens, bottom to top, sliding on its center rail.

The first thing Gernardo observes is that there is no glide parked inside.  The man who exits stops, just for a hitch, and drags his shoe on the flat stones that trace to the house.  The man appears to be startled to find Gernardo standing there.

The patrolman does a lightning assessment:  early 40s, short, receding hairline to almost bald with black trim, fuzzy long moustache, pale skin, and worker’s clothes.  In his hand, he carries a rag.  Gernardo can’t tell if it is wet or dry.  To the patrolman, it is obvious the man watched the group pass his little garage, and then waited for the right moment to exit unnoticed.

The man meet Gernardo’s glare.  He rocks forward and struts out of sight towards the house.

Gernardo cocks his head.  Raad and the Post It Man are now much farther ahead in the alley.  Raad impatiently waves at his partner to follow, though there’s hardly the need – everything is under control.

Gernardo ignores Raad’s signal.  Instead, he steps forward to better see the house and the garage.

The man is stalled on the connecting sidewalk, near to the porch door.  Just standing there.  Staring at Patrolman Gernardo Ruiz.  Caught again, he bounds up the stairs and slips onto the back porch.  The man scratches his wide forehead, and Gernardo knows instantly that he doesn’t have an itch.  He’s clouding his identification.

A knot ties in Gernardo’s gut.

Ahead, Raad spins a finger to hurry along.

Again, Gernardo ignores his partner.

He peeks around the corner at the house.

The owner pauses inside the mosquito netting of his porch.  He is frozen a very long time before turning inside the house.

We’re done, says Raad with a painful stab into the shoulder of Gernardo’s uniform.  The Post It Man is at his side, too, and the crowd is dispersing.  When Raad speaks, the volume of his voice is normal, and it carries.

Gernardo:  Shhh.

You telling me to—?

There’s a man in that house, Gernardo whispers.  He was doing something in his garage.  Gernardo slinks from the fence and flattens against the garage door.  He bends to the ground and tries the release handle.  Locked.  Do you think we’ve got Probable Cause from that mess at the apartment building?  Could it carry over to this garage?

Why, what are you thinking?

Maybe that guy is hiding a vigilante.  Waiting for us to clear out.

The Post It Man slings his imager over his shoulder.  Maybe he’s just weird.

Gernardo opens his mouth to make his case, but decides he doesn’t have time.  Raad, go around the front of the house.  Wait until I come.  Stop any short bald guys from leaving, even if you just use small talk about the weather.

You better be right about this.  I’m really tired.  Raad starts to step past the cover of the garage.

No, no.  Go the long way.  He’ll see you.

Raad groans as he obeys his partner’s wishes.  He walks down the length of alley and rounds the corner out of sight.

Gernardo hears distant voices coming from the courtyard  – stray police, lingering citizens, the nail guns of the carpenters.  These sounds make him inexplicably nervous, as if he’s going out on patrol without his uniform or his gun.

Do me a favor, he tells the Post It Man, go to the front street where the other policemen are working.  I don’t want you getting into any trouble.  This guy is probably nothing.  We’ll meet you in 5 minutes and drive you back to the station so you can tag those images.

Nope.  I’m not going anywhere.  If there’s a vigilante in this garage, I want a picture of him.  This Scene Evaluation is getting bigger by the minute!

Gernardo shakes his head.  Okay…then lift me up.  Gernardo gestures with his pinkie to the small transom at the top of the locked main door.  I want a look inside this garage.

The man shrugs.  Sure thing.

He tightens the strap of his imager then bends and laces his fingers together, a sling for the patrolman’s boot.  Gernardo tests the hold with a bounce and then ally-oops.  Gripping the peeling wood frame of the transom, Gernardo takes weight off the Post It Man and gazes into the garage.

The whole space is dark.

See anything? asks the Post It Man through clenched teeth.  His balance his off.

Gernardo tucks his chin and scans.

A table, he says, against the wall.  Tools.  Lots of tools.  I can’t see that good.  The moon moves out from behind the Doll-made clouds.  Wait, says Gernardo.  Wait.


Buckles and straps bolted into a board on the table; a plastic sheet heaped in the corner; a dozen hacksaws placed on a metal gurney.  There’s another table, too.  Just a small square, but something for sure is under it.  Covering is a gray tarp, perfectly draped, and whatever’s underneath is uneven, resembling the typography of a model railyard.

The Post It Man’s fingers break apart with the strain and Gernardo, unprepared, comes crashing down.  He lands hard.  The pavement stings his tailbone.

The fat man stumbles out of the way but kicks an aluminum trashcan set near the fence.  It makes a hell of a noise.

And he’s there.

The owner.  The man.  The bald man.

Like he had been listening, very closely, not in the house anymore but instead waiting for this very thing to happen.

What the fuck you do!

His accent, thick and old world, makes him hard to understand.  He sweats through his shirt.  He waves his arms madly.

This my garage!  Get away from my garage!

Gernardo attempts to reclaim his dignity.  He kicks off from the ground and dusts his blue uniform.  I’m sorry, sir, he says calmly, but we’re going to have to ask you to open this garage.

The Post It man slings his imager over his back.  He’s not yet able to stand.  He rolls onto his side like a fallen horse.

No images, no images! fights the man.

Gerardo presses his request.  Will you let us in your garage, sir?  Or do I have to call for more officers?  Gernardo hopes that his voice sounds steadier aloud than it does in his head, where it resembles the coos of a baby.

No, no, no, NO garage.  Get out of here.  Get.  Leave me peace.  Nothing but tools!

Sir…I will ask one more time and then I will have to place you under arrest.  Do you understand?

No, no, no, no.  Go away.  I know all you fucks.  Every one of you.   Geta fuck out a here.  Geta fuck out a here.

Sir.  Do you understand?  I will arrest—

Geta fuck out a here.

Gernardo reaches for his binders.  He moves close to the man.

Geta fuck out a here.

Go get Officer Dinn! Gernardo commands the Post It Man, who does not move.  Then, to the man, he says calmly, I’m afraid I will have to hold you for questioning, sir.  You have—

The man breaks full tilt back towards the house.

The Post It Man sticks out a foot, trips him.

Gernardo rockets on top of the short man and, for the second time this evening, he uses his trained ways to subdue, wrestling the binders on the man’s wrists.

He struggles.  The man kicks like a piston and Gernardo is knocked loose.  The binders skitter across the alley and the Post It Man dodges flailing limbs to pick them up.  He under-hands them to Gernardo, but too late.  The balding man is up and running on his short legs between the house and the neighbor’s.

Raad!  Raad!  Gernardo calls his partner’s name as he stumbles in pursuit, striking for the collar of the foreigner’s shirt, to miss by frustrating centimeters.  Raad!  Raaaaad!

Patrolman Dinn clips the balding man straight in the nose.  The bone breaks on impact and the vessels explode like water balloons.  Blood sprays his moustache, his lips, the freckles on his face and forehead.

The man staggers left, dodges another grip, and somehow manages to get around the two patrolmen.  He’s free, free to run off down the street, if only for a few seconds more.  Gernardo has his arm; Raad has his leg.  The man’s feet are knocked from under him and he collapses, head first, onto the sidewalk in front of his house.  Roughly, he catches his fall with his left arm and shatters his elbow.

The Post It Man is there, making a face, which distracts only a few seconds before he starts capturing images.

Despite the nose and the bone, the balding man’s not giving up.  He flails and struggles with all high might to get out of the clenched hands of the patrolmen.

Already there’s a crowd – five or six at first, watching the take down, then more, appearing on the front street and immediately asking – What’d he do?  What’d he do?  What’d he do?

Gernardo binds the hands.

Raad binds the feet.

Gernardo is winded.  He can barely talk.  Why’d your run, huh, sir?  He doesn’t expect an answer.  Even though the man tried to escape, the damage is more than the Review Board would like to see.  Elbow.  Nose.  Shit, he thinks in a panic, what if I’m wrong?  Gernardo takes out a handkerchief from his inner pocket and stuffs it to the man’s bleeding nose.  He rifles the man’s pants for identification, but finds none.

Gernardo tells his partner:  Go to the house, check if it’s locked.  Try to find keys to the garage and maybe his identification.

Raad, too, is breathless.  Yes, okay.  Rising, he jumps the narrow, dog-shit-filled median in front of the house.  He racks the front door and it comes open.  The square brownstone swallows up Raad.

Not my house, the bald man huffs.

Oh, yes, motherfucker, your house.  You’ve just given us more than enough Probable Cause.  Before it was just the garage, and I was asking politely.  Now we’re gonna look at everything.

Do you want us to get more police? asks a young mother on the perimeter.

Gernardo nods and she scurries off.

A full minute passes.

When Gernardo’s eyes return to the house, Raad stands on the stoop.  His partner wears a strange expression, one Gernardo has never seen before, not on any day, not on any arrest.

Raad raises a finger, as if he’s choosing just the right words before speaking.  Gernardo, he starts, I think we better call for help.

Lady went to get it.  Pause.  What is it?

Three dead in there.  Raad lifts a hand to steady himself, but there is nothing on the porch to touch.  Two adults.  One’s a baby.

Not my house, the balding, mustached man repeats.

What did you say?  Raad’s words stick like cotton in Gernardo’s ears – he can’t hear.  What?  He turns to the man underneath him and looks into his marble eyes.

His partner’s voice lifts.  I don’t think this is that guy’s house, explains Raad.  There are no pictures of him anywhere.  Just of the dead people.

Gernardo doesn’t speak, but his mouth hangs open.

The Post It Man hops the porch.  Let me in, he pleads, and before Raad can stop him, the fat man bounds through the door.  Flashes of light appear behind Raad’s back in the front windowpane, the snaps of a crime scene imager.

Raad leaps off the stoop in a daze.  The bodies are in different places, he says, like they were trying to get away from him.  Christ, Gernardo, the baby just laying dead in the crib.  Raad tightens his jaw and his eyes stab into the suspect.  Here’s the key to the garage.  Raad drops a single key into Gernardo’s hand.  The ring has a piece of tape on it that reads ‘garage’ in sloppy red marker.  I’ll go get backup, says Raad, and runs off in the direction of the alley.

A middle aged black woman with a shaved head comes from the crowd.  He tol’ me he was HOUSE-sitting!

Gernardo snatches the bloody kerchief away, not caring about the quick shot of pain that registers on the man’s face.  Stand up, he orders.  He knows the man can’t do it himself with the binders on hands and feet, but he repeats the command anyway.  Stand up.  He hauls him to his feet by a yank of the binders.  Let’s go see what’s in your garage.

Gernardo slips the key into the garage’s side door.  It’s a perfect fit.

The man watches him.

Neighbors surround.  Now it’s quite the crowd.

Hold him, Gernardo orders to three strong teenagers in pullover hoods.  Don’t let him go.  The three wrap arms around the man until he is covered.

Gernardo enters the garage.


He stands in front of the table covered by the tarp.  A quick throw, and with the help of the moon, he finds what’s been hidden.  He examines the straps and buckles, just two meters from end to end, perfectly placed for wrists and ankles.  Too small for an adult.  Too big for a baby.  A contraption designed to restrain children.

The cause of the tarp’s jagged surface is revealed.  Needles angle upright, points covered by sheaths and hooked to bottles underneath.  Filtering into the vials is a smorgasbord of drugs – for sleep, for euphoria, for coagulation.

Raad comes to the garage door.  Behind the patrolman, a mass of police.

Gernardo holds up his hand.  Don’t let anyone in here, Raad.  Not that Post It Man.  Not anybody.  You hear?  Gernardo stares at the line-up of rusty hacksaws.  We’ve found him.