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Today's Story by David Macpherson

Coroner even scribbled in the margin “One of the worst faked suicides ever seen,"

The Mugshot of Dorian Gray

“One of my regular snitches told me this pigeon is drinking swill down at Tally’s off of 7th. I got the Harriot interview stewing in the room. You do it Brennan, don’t screw it too bad,” McKenzie said to me  as he tossed me the manila file. It landed crooked on my too large pile of cases. McKenzie was down the hall, heading to beat hell out of innocent wine pot who, when all was said and bled, was going to confess to the murder of Annie Harriot. It was good he gave me this milk run, I didn’t want to be in the station when the screaming and pleading started

I went down to my car, lit a Lucky and went through the file. Dorian Gray, material witness for a questionable death of sometime showgirl and occasional hooker, Celeste Henry. No doubt, this Gray, rich useless sponge of a guy, beat her and forced sleeping pills down her throat. Coroner didn’t believe this was a suicide, he even scribbled in the margin, “One of the worst faked suicides ever seen, like the doer could give a shit about getting away with it.”

I got to his mug shot. This was one ugly son of a bitch. He had scars, and sunken eyes and his skin was poxed up like someone who never heard that such a thing as VD existed. So much clap, it was a standing ovation. He was a ruin, this guy. How he was legging it in freedom for nine months was crazy. He was a monster movie perp, a Boris Karloff cutie. He should have been locked up for being an ugly bastard, but he slid by with no hard evidence. Some more info trickled in and now we couldn’t peg him down.

I parked in front of a hydrant on Eighth and walked the next two blocks, burning up a couple more cigarettes. You don’t walk into a joint like Tally’s, you ooze through. The place was dark and damp, like it was drizzling beery rain in there since the last flood. The hunks of coats and coughs drinking at the bar caught my vibe and edged away from me. They knew they couldn’t kick a copper out, but they didn’t have to be brushing up against it.

I leaned into the bartender, who was focused hard on dirtying up a filthy glass with a cruddy towel. “You can pour me some scotch, the kind that don’t blind, and you can expect me to be here all night, drinking your rotgut for free and chasing your clientele away or you can talk to me easy and true.”

The bartender tossed me my glass and said, “You don’t have to tough guy me, I ain’t gonna give you shit. Just ask and I’ll talk.”

I showed him the mug shot and I said the name. “Dorian Gray.”

He shook no. “Man. That puss. No, he ain’t never been here. The name, I might have heard tossed about, but this thing. No. That’s the truth as much as I have it.”

I swore and figured I might as well be getting back to the station and telling McKenzie that his snitch heard wrong. The bartender set me up with another shot and a beer.

I was making the beer last, ignoring the looks of the regulars and the random scum that made this place home. From my left, a smooth voice. “You seem like a lost lamb. May I help you with some shepherding?”

Just what I needed, some nancy trying to pick up the law. “Look buddy,” I said as I focused on my glass, “I don’t want to bust you for being stupid with a cop. I’m looking for this ugly bastard named Gray. If you can give me some info, I won’t rustle you for an indecency charge.”

The voice said, “I was only asking to assist. I was not wanting anything from you officer. And besides, would I be with this lovely creature if I was interested in bent thoughts?”

I turned and saw the guy. He was young, clean shaven and good looking. A pretty boy face, this was no long shoremen rugged. He was dressed like a swell, wearing a fine Brooks Brothers. The blonde who was melting into his arm was another story. She was a Woolworth’s house dress girl. Her make-up hid some age, or at least it was trying to. She was popping gum and drinking swill and she was giggling against his well pressed suit. “Fine,” I said. “So this spittoon named Gray, you see him around?” I flashed him the picture.

The man smiled large, “Why no. I am just accidentally here. I do not know him. My. What an unfortunate continence. Whatever did this poor fellow do in his life to deserve such a face?”

“He’s ugly, yeah. These bastards tend to look like this. They’re shit sticks to them after a while. There’s no one pretty on a perp walk.”

“But why must they hold their sins on their faces?” he asked. “It makes no sense to me. Shouldn’t the well turned fellows, the ones who can afford things, couldn’t they put their sins in storage? Warehouse them away?”

“You’re crazy. That’s gin talk.”

The guy patted the girl’s hand. “Officer, according to the APBs of the time, Lucifer was the prettiest of the angels.”

I had enough. I tilted back my whiskey and tossed the bartender a buck for his trouble. “I am wasting time here. All you needed to tell me buddy was that you didn’t see him. And Lucifer was no angel, that’s just another name for the Devil.”

I was almost by my car, when I stopped short. I don’t know why, but I looked at the mug shot and swore. I said out loud. “Son of bitch. That was him.” It made no sense, but I knew it was true.

When I got back to the bar, the guy and his bird were gone. McKenzie gave me hell when I got back to the station.

I wasn’t even surprised when a body was fished in from the harbor. It was the girl, the one with Gray. She was strangled. I went and found the file and looked at the picture, there were more scars on his face. There were new scratches by his eye.

I keep the picture with me. I have been on the force for twenty years, and have gotten my own unit. But whenever I feel good about my promotions or my clearance rate, I take out that mug shot and look at it. Every time I eye it, the face is more ragged, ruined. It don’t look human no more. Whenever I get a nasty murder that seems pointless and maniac, I can’t help but feel guilty that I had this monster in my sites. I just didn’t know what I was looking at.

What do they say, pictures never lie? That is true, it is everything else you can’t believe.


David Macpherson is a writing living in Central Massachusetts with his wife Heather and son George.

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