An Evening In China Town
"So what exactly is wrong with you, Mister....", an aged man with a dull brown coat matching the evening sky above the Chicago market station asks a jacketed fellow next to him.
"Oh this, you mean", the man points at his head. "Just an old war time wound".
The aged man opens his coat to reveal a variety of jewelry and watches in deep pockets.
"Interested in anything?" , he says.
"Yes. No......wait yeah I wait", the jacketed fellow fidgets through his pockets with a confused look to search for some pills until a lustrous badge falls out.
The aged man flees the scene once he notices it.
Bruce Spanner, the badge read. It's owner was having a hard time standing straight and seeing right. Maybe the bruises on his head weren't just war time wounds.
He could feel an impulse being sent from his brain commanding his legs to walk ahead, but there was a delay.
The market square was full of commotion. People, mostly bachelors adorning trench coats and bowler caps here to have their end of the bargain swimming through the streets silently. Bruce popped out a pill, the last one and joined the crowd with a mindless demeanor, with no idea as to what he was looking for.
Then it occurred to him. His partner. Paul Phillips. A top of the class detective who was gunned down a few days ago. He left him a letter to search for his killer. Why he never gave the letter to the department was beyond him. He took it out of his pocket.
"Dear Bruce", it read. "You ought to know that the jig is up. The Harold Brothers were able to buy out the commissioner. I'm trying to gather as much evidence to build a case against them. If I don't return assume that I'm long gone. The man we're after is Tom 'The Tuna' Siligo who hangs out in Chinatown fish market near the gondola. Take care of Lorna and the kids for me."
There was a murky scent of blood in the air which Bruce assumed to be the stench of meat produce being cut nearby. He headed closely in that direction with the intent to find some answers.
"Peaches", a woman cried out handing them to unsuspecting pedestrians. "Lovely peaches, good Sir. Great for getting up early and strong enough to get through the day", she said handing them to David.
"The last time I had peaches lady, my M...", he stopped in between looking perplexed at the woman. Those words reminded him of his dear Mother who was keen on making her son eat peaches from the tree outside their suburban home when young.
"I'll take two", Bruce took hold of the box in her hand as she scrounged for it to give him the best two.
"How much do I owe you?", he asked
"None dear. I think you need them for that head of yours. Here have this bottle of milk."
Bruce couldn't believe her generosity as he saw her walk away. Suspecting the milk to be poisoned, he hesitated at first, then kept the cold bottle to his head. The transparent glass turned red and he could see tiny bubbles sprout out.
He saw a stone bench placed at the center of the courtyard near which hecklers were busy betting over a rooster fight. He took a seat as the pain began to spread to his spine. He could see the men slam down their shouts but grew slightly deaf with each scream. The evening was soon to die with the acacia trees showing their final cycle of life- shedding away mystically in the night sky.
"Beautiful isn't it", a voice sprang in his ear close by. He looked back and saw a tall, red haired dame of a woman. She held a small umbrella and a handkerchief close to her face concealing what he saw was a small mole. Like a crater on the face of the moon, she was as beautiful.
"I see you're having quite some fun with that", she said pointing to the bottle which was now white as snow with no blood stains.
"Not really. Just have a real raging headache. I'm here looking for someone. Miss?"
"Miss Roberts. I'm here looking for my husband actually."
"I'm afraid I can't help you at the moment Miss Roberts. But I assure you he must be here and near. What does he look like?"
"Well that's the strange thing he looks quite like you only."
Bruce wanted to move away from her to focus on the investigation but was mesmerized by her beauty.
"Is that so? And why did he leave you all here alone?", Bruce inquired.
The woman takes away the bottle from Bruce's hands and applies her handkerchief to his head, clearly showing a lipstick mark.
"He said that he had to discuss some money issues with a certain gentleman named Tom Siligo."
Bruce was now all ears. He could feel his visions get bleaker and bleaker. The pain felt a little sharper to his face.
"Really? You know what? I might just help you find him? Can you give me any noticeable details about his appearance?"
"He's wearing a long brown leather jacket with a crimson tie and a grey hat."
"Got it." Bruce gets up to leave and says," A word of advice Miss, beautiful women like you should think twice about marrying men with a penchant of meddling into the affairs of questionable people."
"And men better ought to know not to bring their wives when carrying out such rituals", she replies back. Bruce looks at her enraged face in some strange fascination until she starts smiling. They both share a laugh.
When he gets up, the world suddenly felt a little lighter. Maybe it was the weather. He begins to chomp on the peaches when suddenly his left leg collapses and he falls. Expecting the woman to help, he turns back and sees that she disappeared. He could feel his eyes getting heavy and the sky getting darker and darker.
Somewhere out there in the market garden there happened to be a doctor who eyes caught Bruce and he rushed to him.
"Let me help you there, fella."
He didn't feel like he needed help but decided to give in eventually. The doctor half dragged half walked Bruce to his clinic at the opposite end of the market.
There inside he treated him with some analgesics and painkillers.
"Feeling better now", he asks Bruce.
"Yes a bit. Thanks for the pills, doc.Listen you wouldn't haves seen a man in a brown jacket walk here or anywhere in the market square."
The doctor laughed, "You're describing half the people here, my good man. And why is this man of any particular importance to you?"
"I'm the lead investigator in a case here to find some answers. You sure you haven't seen anyone with a crimson tie and a grey hat?"
Not that I can recollect.
The rooster fight outside had died down. Bruce looked at the clock on the doctor's wall. It struck fifteen past six. It was getting late. Over the clock he could read with some blurred difficulty the words- 'Memento Mori' written.
The doctor could make out that Bruce was having some difficulty reading and suggested- "Maybe you would be interested in some spectacles, Good Sir?"
"No not really. My eyes are well balanced. What do those words mean exactly?"
"Why it's Latin."
"Latin for what?", Bruce asks.
"Remember one day that you are going to die."
Bruce looked at the time again and then remembered his duties.
"I must leave. What do I owe you?"
Just as he had asked him about the money, a tall lanky man had entered the premises. He fit the description that Miss Roberts had given him. This could be it. Bruce proceeded to hide behind a cupboard shelf with chemicals and took out his gun. The old doctor just looked away and welcomed Mr.Roberts inside.
"Good Evening. What brings you here, Good Sir", the Doctor welcomed him.
"Was The Tuna here? I need a little something-something for him, if you know what I mean."
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean Sir", the doctor replied.
"The Harolds have called. They want him out. I need that little 'thing' that you've been working on."
"But my good Sir that is only a piece of aconite. What would you possibly want from it?"
Roberts slammed his hands on his desk and let a roar, "Now listen here wiseguy. I don't want any funny business. Get the aconite solution. Don't tempt met to use my anger, you buffoon."
Bruce clutched for his gun but decided to remain silent.
Roberts had lost his temper. He slapped down the Doctor and then ransacked through the cabinet desk to find what he was looking for. He looked around and then drugged the Doctor with chloroform.
Then he locked the main door with key he took from the Doctor's breast pocket.
Bruce shoved down the cupboard to revive the Doctor but accidentally steps on to some unmarked vials with acids and bases. His skin burnt. He knew what Roberts was about to do. Bruce shoots down the lock on the door, and then proceeds down the alleyway where he sees the same singular commotion all over.
His eyes grew weary as he searched for a grey hat for nearly an hour. His heart was racing as fast as ever. Over street animals, buskers, street vendors and homeless people, he saw one couple- a man and a woman with an umbrella.
It was him. They were near the very same gondola that Bruce's partner had described. The man kissed her and whispered something in her ear.
The woman walked away after which the man proceeded down a narrow passage behind the gondola that led to a totem pole with a hut. Bruce raced through the crowd, he could see Roberts walk down the gravel road and could feel his steps drop down in energy every second. Was he too late?
Tom 'The Tuna' Siligo was a homeless busker. He was outside his hut smoking a shabby pipe with no one around with his face turned to a wall, taking a leak. It was Chinese New year, no one would notice a murder in a small alley.
Bruce fires a shot through the air to steer the crowd away. Roberts hears the shot and so does Tom who eyes Roberts with a gun behind him. Both men wrestle for the gun.
But before he could make it, Tom presses on the gun while he battles for his life. The shot misses Roberts but he decides to finish things in his own way.
He takes out a butterfly knife and tugs it deeply inside Tom running it furiously through his chest. Bruce arrives in the nick of time and points his gun at Roberts, his back against him.
"Why?", Bruce shouts.
Roberts turns around and fires a shot at Bruce, going right through his frontal lobe. But he stuns himself looking at Roberts.
"Paul, it's you?", he looks at Roberts," but but how?"
"Try recollecting Bruce. Try remembering all that happened. The headaches. The peaches. The woman who sold them. Miss Roberts. The doctor. See a connection, Bruce."
The pain was back and so was his mind. The fruit seller. His Mother. The dame. His wife. The doctor. Paul's coroner.
"I'm not in China Town, am I?"
"This is your mind trying to recollect the final events that transpired. Roberts shot you, Bruce. The bullet is still lodged in your brain."
Bruce blinks and the world fades before his eyes as he wakes up and sees Paul's body on the same gravel road under a puddle of blood. His Mother and wife were there holding him. The bullet in his head moved a fatal microscopic distance. It wouldn't give him nightmares anymore.