What did we do after that?
We did what we cops always do after something exciting happens—the worst of our wear, the main of our misfortune, the real reason cops drink coffee spiked with cheap Scotch—we did paperwork.
We took down a statement by the victim. We also took down his information. In the commotion of the heart missing from his chest, we’d almost forgotten the basics.
His name was Trevor Love. He lived on Mulberry Lane, south of Crossing Street. He had a tattoo of an owl with its wings outstretched across the small of his back. Trevor tried to make us take down what he’d eaten for the past three breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, but we assured him that wouldn’t be relevant. If only we’d known, right?
Yes, Trevor spelled with an -OR. Not -ER. I had to ask him myself actually. And Love is spelled exactly how you’d think, how you hope.
Luckily, there was already a Trevor Love in one of the searchable databases, so we fingerprinted him, ran the prints, and confirmed this man to be that Trevor Love.
Then what did we do?
We sent Mr. Love to the hospital to get him checked out. We didn’t know how Mr. Love was still alive without having a heart. Actually, we didn’t know if Mr. Love was actually without a heart or that he was just without a heartbeat. But there was still the possibility—to us—that he’d drop dead at any given hour and the case would lose its urgency.
It wouldn’t have been a bad thing, necessarily. The case losing its urgency and all. Him dying wouldn’t have been great, of course. But the urgency is what really gets us. The only thing a detective hates more than an unsolved case is an unsolved case with a deadline.
What was that?
No, sir, pun unintended.
After that, our job was simple: we needed to find out both where Trevor Love’s heart was and who had stolen it.
To the layperson, the job of the detective seems easy. I blame the detective novel and the buddy cop movie. The Big Sleep and Jake and the Fat Man really screwed us.
My partner Griff blames his father. Although, he blames everything on his father, so I don’t know how important that detail is. One day he wouldn’t stop talking about how his father had—sorry. My apologies, sir. I’m prone to digress.
Continuing, despite the casual relationship the public has with the criminal investigation, this case was trickier than normal.
The list of potential suspects was lengthy. The clues were evident that it was done by someone close enough to Trevor not to wish him dead since they’d only stolen his heart and hadn’t killed him. Damning someone to death isn’t homicide. In fact, in most cultures, we call that marriage.
Also, it had to be someone with a rudimentary knowledge of butterfly stitching. These two clues narrowed the list of suspects to family, friends, co-workers, med students, tailors, and grandmothers with an affinity for knitting or crocheting. Basically, if any old lady had gifted a blanket or sweater for a birthday or Christmas present within a hundred-mile radius, we had to know about it.
Pretty easy, right?
And on top of all that, Trevor Love didn’t remember anything about having his heart removed and only remembered a few details about the hours and day before the crime, but he did remember having been at work that morning.
Griff and I went to his place of employment. A real dump if you ask me. Which you are asking me, I guess. So, again, a real dump. The bookstore off 7th. The one with the sign out front featuring two vultures—I suppose they could be crows—pecking the guts out of a splayed, open book. The name of the store is Food for Thought.
When we arrived, the store front appeared as if it was closed. Not just for the day but for good. Newspapers were pasted over the windows and the brick face was crumbling and eroding away. A stiff breeze might have done it in.
Griff tried the front door, pushing in but it was locked. He knocked. He knocked hard. So hard that some plaster fell from the door frame onto his head and shoulders. It had fallen from the store sign as well—the one with the birds—so I joked that maybe it was bird shit. Griff didn’t find it funny.
Griff knocked even harder. I thought the door might come clean off its hinges, but it held true. A little like the shop itself.
Thud, he knocked.
Thud, he knocked.
Thud, he knocked.
Griff exhaled impatiently, placed his hands on his hips, and turned to me.
‘Should we just go?’ he inquired, more suggesting than asking.
But before I could answer, the door opened, remaining just ajar.
‘What the hell is all this racket?’ the man snapped as he stood behind the door, exposing his head in the open space between the door and the frame. He smelled a bit like booze. His voice sounded like he’d been either asleep or unsuccessfully working off a hangover. His hair was somewhere back in the late 90s. His stomach resembled a prize-winning pig’s.
‘We were wondering about a current employee of yours,’ Griff stated, snapping back.
‘Don’t have any employees,’ he said. ‘I take care of this shop all on my own. Can’t you tell?’
He smiled and winced under the weight of it. Griff huffed and pushed at the door. The shop owner matched Griff’s force with resistance.
‘We’re detectives,’ Griff pouted. ‘You have to let us in. Show him your badge.’
Griff waved a hand in my direction. The shop owner followed and looked to me.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ the shop owner said, pleading but stern, ‘if you don’t have a warrant.’
This angered Griff further. He corrected his expression but pressed heavier into the door. The shop owner pressed back. Griff stopped and sighed. He turned to me, but I offered no suggestions other than a dismissive shrug. I could see the gears turning in his head before he addressed the shop owner again.
‘It’s kind of cold out here,’ Griff said, clattering his teeth and rubbing up and down his arms, ‘may we come in to warm up?’
‘It’s August,’ the shop owner said.
‘Well—the sun’s in our eyes. It’s giving my partner a migraine,’ Griff said. He turned to me, raised his brow and nodded imploringly. The shop owner looked to me too. I shielded my eyes and acted as if I were in pain. How does one even fake a headache?
‘It’s overcast,’ the shop owner said. ‘The only way you could see the sun today is if you shot a rocket through the cloud cover.’
‘How would you know?’ Griff yelled, facing up with the shop owner. ‘You probably haven’t been outside in weeks, you fat, drunk son of a—’
‘Sir,’ I interjected, pulling Griff away from the shop owner. ‘We need to talk about a crime that’s been reported to us. A man was brutally assaulted and told us that his last memory was having worked here this morning. His name’s Trevor Love. Please, can you help us? We’re only trying to do our job.”
Behind the door, the shop owner leaned to his right, reaching for something. The hand that held the door gripped tighter. He swallowed hard and exhaled a dejected breath. I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I presumed Griff was thinking he was a threat and would peel his pistol from his hip faster than the shop owner could close the door on us.
‘Please,’ I pled.
‘What about him? Is he in trouble?’ Are you guys really cops?’ the shop owner asked.
I showed him my badge and, while he looked it over, asked what he meant by being in trouble.
‘Is he wanted by you guys?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I answered.
‘Is he wanted by the mob?’ he asked.
‘Not that we know of,’ I answered.
‘Are you the mob?’ he asked, handing me my badge back as if it meant nothing.
‘No,’ I said, affecting as much honesty as I could. Kinda like faking a headache, however.
He closed his eyes and took a faithful breath. Opening the door wider, allowing us entrance, he stepped aside.
Griff barged in, marching straight past the shop owner, into the middle of the shop. Something felt odd about it, so I stayed in the doorway. I didn’t take my eyes off this guy. He was holding a baseball bat, but when he saw me notice, he tucked it back into the nook behind the door. The scuffed-down wooden floorboards flexed and winced under Griff’s weight, each step filled the dusty silence of the bookstore with the ominous beat backing a horror score. I stepped inside. The shop owner closed the door behind me.
Griff and I turned to the shop owner. He leaned an elbow atop and his body against the wooden checkout counter. The cash register was black and rusted. The rest of the surface was empty, but one book—The Days of Yesterday are the Days of Tomorrow.
‘Then what can I do you for?’ the owner asked. ‘Because I’m the man you’re asking about. I’m Trevor Love.’