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The Casa Loma Players

by Gary Clifton

“N221 in service,” Kissinger said into the microphone.

The dispatcher, who sounded about age fourteen replied, “N221, stay off channel 3. We have a jumper on the Oak Street Bridge.”

Kissinger leaned down, the better to see the huge structure looming two blocks ahead. “Show N221 responding.”

“N221, Emergency Services is ten minutes out.”

“I’m a block from the scene. Show N221 out on the Oak Street Bridge.”

A third voice crackled sharply through the receiver. “Sector Four Sergeant to N221. We’ll handle this without any help from narcotics. Clear the area.”

Kissinger had known the old sergeant for fifteen years. He ignored the order. He’d just say he’d already gotten out of the car.

Bridge jumpers were not Kissinger’s business, but he was right on the spot. He gunned the old Cutlass that the Narcotics division called an undercover vehicle down the sidewalk. Two uniforms standing inside the guardrail were gawking at a man clinging to the outside.

He flashed his badge. “You two get back and call the rubber room squad.”

“EMS is on the way,” one of the uniforms stammered, retreating.

Kissinger met the jumper’s gaze. Good God, I know this kid.

“Get back, mister,” the slender youth said, his eyes unable to hide the terror of what lay below.

Kissinger peered over the rail. They were over rocks on the shoreline. He strained not to show his own fear of the height and vomit all over himself.

“Jimmy? Hey dude, you know me, from the Casa Loma, your mama’s place. Remember? We talked.”

“My mother is a sorry bitch. Now get back.”

Kissinger agreed, but wasn’t about to say so. He’d been in the Casa Loma, all right. Two nights earlier, he had bought heroin and two tabs of acid from the kid’s mother. Sylvia Jones, a mid-level dope dealer with a three-page RAP sheet. The low-rent dive was just across the bridge. He had an arrest warrant for Sylvia in his jacket pocket.

The horror in the kid’s eyes said he wanted no part of this lunacy. Body language said otherwise. “You come close, I’ll jump.” The fear in his voice matched his eyes.

A crowd had gathered on the bridge behind Kissinger. “Jump, dumbass,” an idiot shouted.

“Not comin’ close, Jimmy. Why the hell you wanna jump off a bridge?”

Jimmy had been in-house, rather frantically moping and cleaning during all three trips Kissinger had made inside before Sylvia finally sold him the scag. Sylvia, a toked-out clone of the Bride of Frankenstein with more tattoos than teeth, treated the kid like a galley slave.

Kissinger, who wasn’t in the habit of surveying janitors, had noted when he was working the place that to look at the kid automatically brought “sad” to mind. The street-hardened cop had winced at the insults Sylvia heaped upon her son. Pathetically thin and pale, Jimmy didn’t deserve to jump off a bridge, although Kissinger knew a dozen others who did.

“Jimmy, there’s gotta be something better. Climb back over and tell me about it. Hey, man, if workin’ in that dive is a load, there’s other jobs.”

“My mother hates me,” he sobbed.

Suddenly he jumped. Kissinger lunged and managed a piece of arm, coming away with a shirt sleeve. He sailed down too slowly, Kissinger thought. Most jumpers scream, but this kid never made a sound. He shattered on the rocks seventy feet below.

The old sergeant rolled up, red lights flashing. His wan smile was hard-cop macho. “Gonna be hell to pay. Tol’ ya to stay out of it.”

Kissinger, whose give-a-damn factor remained constantly at floor level, said cynically, “Serve and Protect, Sarge.”

“He woulda jumped anyway. At least you had the ’nads to try. I knew that punk. Worked for his sorry-ass mother in that joint on the other end of the bridge. Sent a couple of guys over there to notify her. Bitch said, she’d found out the kid was gay and tossed his ass out. Said he had AIDS. And get this: she said she didn’t give a damn if he jumped off a bridge. Fine example of motherhood.”

The “Punk” label didn’t quite fit the kid. As Kissinger chanced a last look over the rail, uniforms had reached the body which would soon be in the morgue.

Protocol dictated the shirt remnant he pulled off the kid was evidence and had to go with the body.

He let himself into the morgue — appropriately in a humid basement — via a door combination code. Several naked bodies in various stages of damage and decay lay on stainless steel gurneys tumble-parked across the room. In white masks and green surgical smocks, two teams of pathologists and assistants labored over cadavers that had been forensically gutted, a stack of body parts tossed onto nearby sink boards.

Jimmy Sad’s emaciated body, awaiting its turn under the knife, lay crushed and contorted near room center, discarded like last Thanksgiving’s turkey carcass.

As a clerk let herself in the locked door, Sylvia Jones, red stringy hair like a fright wig, burst past her. “You cops have killed my baby. I’m gonna sue the whole damned bunch of you. At least the useless little fag can pay for his own funeral.”

Then, she recognized Kissinger from the three nights he’d sat at her bar. “You... you’re one of them,” she stammered, following with a roundhouse right directed at Kissinger’s jaw.

Kissinger snatched her hand in mid-air, resisting the urge to smash in her face. “Sylvia, your love for your kid is heart-rending. You only want to squeeze the city for a few lousy blood-bucks.”

“You’ve assaulted me,” she shrieked, trying to break his grip.

“By the way, ma’am” — he grinned — “you are under arrest: sale and delivery of a controlled substance.”

“My God, lousy cops!” Her shriek was like a wailing siren. “Everything happens to me.”

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Clifton

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