New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample story from Thomas Haftmann, Private Eye:

The Kneeling Woman

Haftmann wasn’t sure he had heard right. Millimaki was just then emerging from the squad room, the cheroot coming from his mouth with a wet, plopping sound and immediately followed by the braying yawp of his laugh. As Haftmann approached, Millimaki turned abruptly toward the dispatchers in the room and waved the cigar about like a baton to punctuate his remarks: “Couple hundred stab wounds with a serrated steak knife. Harris said she’s exsanguinated, not a single artery left he didn’t puncture and there wasn’t any place for the blood to collect. Forget lividity. She looked like a side of beef thrown into a wood chipper.”
Haftmann watched as the blue cloud of Millimaki’s smoke wafted above the heads of the captive dispatchers, then swirled and nosedived, arcing downward between Millimaki’s legs; once in the corridor the backdraft sucked the blue smoke and, like a python grabbed firmly by its tail, led it gently in Haftmann’s direction toward the stairwell he had just come from.
Haftmann loathed his ex-boss’ ham-handed crudeness in general and his bullying in particular – of the men under him as well as the harassment of the women civil servants employed at the station house. One reason why he retired as a detective sergeant, second-grade to open up his own P.I. office. Not for the first time Haftmann wondered if life was hell and this was his pre-vision of it: Millimaki, an obese lesser devil always sucking up to the bigger demons, looking for new souls to torment. Haftmann thought he knew it for what it was: misfired synapses of childhood terrors about hell and damnation. He knocked a clump of dirty snow free from beneath his heel. He heard Millimaki grunt in his general direction.
Millimaki saw him and hitched his pants up over his gut and shuffled toward him in that awkward, rolling gait – a skiing accident in his youth. “Well, look what the cat drug in. You’re late. Daywatch briefing in the muster room ended, uh, (squinting at his watch) fifteen minutes ago.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, chief, there’s a snow squall outside. Makes driving –”
“Yeah, I noticed that, Haftmann, and I accounted for that fact when I got up this morning (cigar coming loose with that sickening wet noise) and I made allowances for it just like everybody else (cigar-jabbing around the room for audience benefit) who managed to get here on time.”
“What’s the real problem, Millimaki? Augie’s bagman delayed by the snow? I can buzz him for you, see if he’ll send it with Nickie DeAngelo. DeAngelo owes you anyway, right? Gave him the whole township’s police force for traffic detail at his daughter’s wedding last month.”
Mllimaki loomed close. The smoke haze like a blue halo under fluorescent lighting. “You do what I say, when I say it, Haftmann. I can put your lousy little agency out of business before you get out the door.”
Trouble is, he was right. I knew he was right. That didn’t stop me from hating his slimy rat face.
I said: “You put that cigar any closer to me and I’ll stick it in your face.”
Millimaki blinked. Haftmann watched Millimaki’s dewlaps quiver and the bloated face of his chief suffuse with blood. Haftmann felt a vein pulsing in his neck. God, he was too tired for this. The corridor had grown quiet; the typewriters had stopped clacking and a few detectives were looking up from their cubicles. Guys he used to work with eyeballing him hard now and probably wishing they could get away with the same kind of insubordination. Millimaki was universally hated. Pete smirked at him from behind a computer. He’d be telling this anecdote at Tico’s Place tonight. Then Haftmann says to the chief . . . Good for a laugh, he was. Not much else.
Haftmann brushed past. “Hey, where you think you’re going?”
“I’m working the runaway case with Meldrum.”
“Not anymore, ace. You and your buddy Wendel got a date with the Kneeling Woman. Somebody made a pincushion out of her last night. Harris is posting her right now at county morgue. You and Meldrum check out the house. Techs are on their way back. Fact, you might ask Doc where he was last night. Looks like one of his jobs.” This produced feeble snickering from a few dispatchers and squad detectives. Millimaki, putting on the dog, cigar tip glowing salmon-pink-orange.
Haftmann tasted coppery bile. Cottonmo