The Ponytailed Cop was halfway through his first reefer in twenty years when the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat came knocking at his patrol car window. Never mind the window was half open to let the distinctive marijuana smoke escape, he knocked anyway on the part where the glass was. The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat didn’t seem to notice the smell, or the window rolled down, or the fact that the bloodshot Ponytailed Cop was giggling his guts out, seven donuts into a baker’s dozen. He may have been too drunk or crazy or too fired up about his mission. The Cop hadn’t noticed the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat come to the window, either. If he had, he would have been more prepared to keep up appearances. But the Ponytailed Cop didn’t need to keep up appearances, for he would never lose his job now, and if he couldn’t be well paid by the tightfisted taxpayers of Kenilworth to watch their town, at least he could be compensated for looking the other way.
The marijuana came courtesy of the town Drug Dealer, the First Selectman’s ne’er do well son and the best suspect in the murder of the Lisping Barista. The Drug Dealer was packing his suitcase when the Ponytailed Cop came to interrogate him, for the First Selectman had gotten to him first and finally convinced him to leave town. The Pony Tailed Cop didn’t have too many questions. Where were you on the night of such-and-such? The Drug Dealer had an alibi and his associates were on hand to back him up. Did you know so and so? Of course, he knew so and so, everyone knew so and so. Everyone wanted to bone so and so. The Drug Dealer was happy to say he had boned her many times before she died. The final question was, did he murder her by pushing her down the stairs from the portico of Gillette’s Castle?
“No, I didn’t murder her,” said the Drug Dealer, “and if I was going to murder her, I wouldn’t have done it that way. I would’ve shot the bitch. That’s what us bad-assed drug dealers do.”
“Oh, but you’re not a bad-assed drug dealer. You’re a pansy-assed drug dealer who depends on his Daddy to protect him,” said the Ponytailed Cop.
That got a smile from the Drug Dealer’s associates who were sitting around watching him pack. Then, seeing they were smiling, it got a smile from the Drug Dealer, himself.
“Well, now my Daddy’s paying me to move to Colorado, where I’d rather be anyway, and he’s setting me up in my own pot business. I’m going legit, just to make you happy. Are you happy, now, Mr Policeman?”
“I’d always be happy to see you go, but I’d be happier if you gave me a goodbye present before you leave. I’d be happy with a bag of Acapulco Gold, for instance. You know, for my statistics.”
That got a smile from the associates, too. The Ponytailed Cop turned to them before he left and said, “You smile, but you won’t be smiling if I bust you for taking over the business after this pansy-ass leaves. You all don’t have daddies to protect you.”
That whole exchange gave the Ponytailed Cop the giggles as he thought about it while the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat came to the window. He sounded like a real cop, not a Ponytailed Cop, on a one-man police force of a small town with no citizens, but only taxpayers, more concerned with saving money than solving crimes.
“Well, fuck ‘em,” he said through his giggles. “Acapulco Gold brings out the best in these donuts.”
That’s the moment the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat came knocking where he didn’t need to knock, to solve a crime no one wanted solved.
“I found a dude who saw her die,” said the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat. “Pushed down the stairs so she cracked her head.”
The Ponytailed Cop put on his sunglasses and gave him his best tough cop stare for the fun of it before busting out in more giggles. “Where is this dude?” he said when he composed himself. “Can I talk to him?”
In normal circumstances, the Ponytailed Cop would have been able to talk with a witness, but this was the Ghost of William Gillette, famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat had just left him smoking on his portico, not more than a hundred steps from where the Ponytailed Cop had parked his car. The Ponytailed Cop was not accustomed to interrogating ghosts, nor did he think he could put one on the stand. As a matter of fact, the Ponytailed Cop was not one for seeing ghosts and he was seriously skeptical that they existed. However, if he was going to interrogate a ghost, being buzzed by Acapulco Gold seemed to be the time to do it. Therefore, the Cop followed the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat to the portico, looked in the direction he pointed and listened carefully for what he was told the witness had to say. All he could hear were the rumblings of the Moodus Noises, which were in a bad mood that day.
“I don’t see anyone,” said the Cop.
“He’s sitting right there, talking to you.”
“I don’t hear him, either. Do you mean the Moodus Noises? I hear them. Do you think they’re talking to you?”
“No, I don’t mean the damn noises. I know about them. I mean that William Gillette guy. He’s sitting right there, although he’s dressed up and acting like Sherlock Holmes.”
“No shit, Sherlock. Since I can’t hear him or see him, but you can, why don’t you tell me what he’s saying.”
“He says, `Watson, I see you have brought Lestrade, that rat-faced fellow.’”
“So, I’m Lestrade, am I?”
“Yes, Sir, and he thinks I’m Watson. Now he’s saying, `So, he’s got himself into a fog over a case and he has come to me to solve it. He’s the pick of a bad lot. Quick and energetic, but conventional; shockingly so. Suppose I unravel the whole matter, you may be sure that Lestrade will pocket all the credit. That comes of my being an unofficial personage.’”
Here, the Ponytailed Cop resumed his giggles behind a tense mouth that was set to contain them. A good cop doesn’t show his reactions, even to an unofficial personage.
The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat interrupted himself to say to the ghost, “I’m begging you to help him. I know the gal that got killed, and the one accused couldn’t have done it.”
He must have convinced Gillette, for he continued, “Now he says, `Lestrade knows I am his superior, and acknowledges it to me; but he would cut his tongue out before he would own it to any third person.’”
“Alright now, Mr Holmes, enough about me. You say you have information about this crime.”
“He says, `It would be robbing you of the credit of the case if I was to presume to help you. You are doing so well now that it would be a pity for anyone to interfere.’ But I think he’s being sarcastic.”
“If you have information about this case, I would be in your debt if you would share it with me.”
“He says, `Very well, then. I was sitting in this very spot several days ago, enjoying my pipe, as I am doing now, and an attractive young woman with many rings in her face and tattoos on her body mounted the stairs to your right, accompanied by an ugly older man, bizarrely dressed entirely in leather. They seemed friendly to one another and stood on the portico, right where you are, and looked out over the river, as many do. They did not see me. Nor did they speak, but they communicated with each other in the way people do when they have unexpectedly found another with whom they share a common purpose.
“`After about fifteen minutes, a second man came running up those same stairs. He was dressed in a tweed sports coat with patches on the elbows. He had clearly been tromping through the woods for some time and looked out of place there as if he belonged better in a college classroom than hiking through the woods and running up the stairs. He was enraged. Seizing the woman, he shoved her down the stairs. Both I and the man in leather turned to intervene, but it happened so quickly, that the man ran away before either of us could take a step in his direction.’”
“Did this man say anything to the woman before he pushed her down the stairs?”
“`He said a word I’m not familiar with. It sounded like, “Skank!”’”
The Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat explained, “That Gillette dude’s been dead for a lot of years. He wouldn’t know that word.”
“No, I guess not,” said the Cop. “Did the man with the patches on his elbows say anything else?”
“`Yes, after he pushed her, he shouted, “Who’s fictional, now!”’”
The Ponytailed Cop pulled out a notebook, wrote this all down, thought a little, and asked one more question.
“When he pushed her, what direction was she facing?”
“`She was facing the man who pushed her and fell backwards down the stairs.’”
The Ponytailed Cop had heard enough, with one smooth motion practiced exhaustively in the police academy and never used since, he put away his notebook, grabbed his handcuffs, and arrested the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat, as a suspect in the murder of the Lisping Barista.