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Bannister by David Alexander
published in Volume 5, Issue 1 on March 1st, 1998

I just got out of the clinic. I'm walking down a street in Lower Broadway when some bum stops me and asks me if I want to buy some shit. Let's see what you got, I tell the bum. He sells me a gold detective's shield, a wallet and a holstered pistol. I don't ask the bum where the shit came from. I don't want to know. I just walk on down the street and go into the police station a couple blocks away.

"Where's the Captain, jerk?" I ask the desk sergeant.

"Who's asking, asshole?"

"Bannister, jerk," I say, making up a name and flashing my new shield. "Lieutenant Bannister, jerk." I say it with a growl in my voice.

"Captain's office is down the hall, first door on your right," the sergeant tells me. I nod and walk on down the hall until I come to the office where I rap on the door and hear somebody tell me to come in.

"I'm Bannister, jerk," I tell the cop sitting behind the desk. "I was told to report to you."

"Sit down, Bannister," the Captain says and nods at one of the chairs facing the desk. I take a seat and light a Camel. He flips through a manila folder on his desk and takes out a page. Then he looks me over carefully. "You're the wrong guy," he finally tells me.

"Yeah? How's that, jerk?" I ask, blowing smoke out my nostrils. The Captain stares at me another minute, then looks back down at the sheet. When he looks back up he's frowning.

"I don't like your act, that's why," the Captain says. "You got a reputation for bending the rules, Bannister. I don't like that kind of cop in my precinct."

"So how come I'm here and not back at the 45th, jerk?" I ask.

"You know that as well as I do."

"Because Lederkranz bought it, jerk," I answer, making up a name.

"That's right," the Captain says. "Because Lederkranz bought it, and because nobody wanted to part with anybody else. Looks like you didn't make a friend out of Capadocciaboca at the 45th either."

"I can't help what Capadocciaboca or anybody else thinks," I say. "I do my job. So I don't take shit from punks, pushers and pimps. If that don't win me no prizes, I can live with that, jerk."

"I don't have time to argue with you, Bannister," the Captain said. "I just want you to understand one thing. The fact that Lederkranz used to be your partner does not, repeat, does not give you the right to start a vendetta. Do you read me?"

"Sure, Captain," I said. "I heard every word you said."

"Good. And remember them or I'll go through you faster than shit through a tin horn. You got that?"

"Sure, Captain."

"Fine. At least we understand each other." He flipped shut the manila folder. "Your partner is Hennessee. Get out of here. And don't ever call me jerk again, you got that?"

"Okay, jerk," I said.

I went into the bullpen and asked for Hennessee. I got pointed to two desks drawn face-to-face at one end of the room. A plain clothes cop sat at one desk talking on the phone. The other desk was empty. I figured that used to belong to Hennessee's partner. I went over and sat in the empty chair, lighting another Camel.

"I'm Bannister, jerk," I told the guy opposite me after he got off the phone.

"Johnson," he said. "I mean, Hennessee."

"Which is it?"

"Hennessee," he said. "Yeah, Hennessee."

"Forget your own name for a minute, jerk?"

"Yeah. So what?"

"Ain't no skin off my potatoes. What lies they tell you about me, jerk?" I asked him.

"They said you were a ballbreaking scumbag and that you had a speech problem, something to do with your brain chemistry, which is all fucked up due to LSD experiments you were part of in the sixties."

"You got that right, jerk," I said, taking my seat across the desk from my new partner and looking around the bullpen at the cop assholes who swaggered around like their jobs actually had some meaning or purpose in life.

"So what's on the shitlist today?" I asked Hennessee after awhile.

"Take your pick. Captain threw us these cases. Want me to read 'em to you?"

"Shoot, jerk."

"Two punks robbed a bodega. Shot and killed the owner in cold blood."

"What else?"

"Green Quetzal descending in feathered plumes."

"That's the one."

"I'm beginning to like you, Bannister."

"Thanks, jerk."

"I was just kidding about the green Quetzal, though," he said. "Caught that case last month. Here's the last one on the list. A bunch of creeps held up an old lady and stole her parrot right out of the cage. Jeez, what's the world coming to?"

"Okay, jerk," I told him, taking the folders and dumping the whole load in the trash. "Here's what we're really gonna do. We're gonna get the fuck out of here and slam the fuckers who iced my partner."

"Oh yeah? The Captain says different."

"Then fuck the Captain," I said. "My first responsibility is to Lederkranz. He was my partner." I jumped up and waved my fist in the air, hoping Lederkranz was the right name. "My partner! Do you hear me? He saved my life more times than I can count on two fingers. Like the time he leapt from the top of the Chrysler building just so he could land on these two punks who were about to knife me."

"Yeah, I heard about that one," Hennessee said.

"I swore a sacred oath to his widow to avenge him, jerk, and that's what I intended to do," I shouted.

"I thought Lederkranz wasn't married."

"He was secretly married," I said, off the top of my head. "He never told anybody but me. She was a child bride from Guatemala. They were mad about each other." I stared Hennessee in the face. "And I'll avenge him with or without your help."

"I'm beginning to like you, Bannister."

"You said that already, jerk," I told him. "Let's blow this shithole."

Outside the station, we got into an unmarked cop car. My new partner got behind the wheel while I took the shotgun seat, spitting out the window.

"Something maybe you don't know," Hennessee said to me as he drove.

"You mean the square root of sixty."

"What was that?"

"I don't know the square root of sixty, jerk. Everything else I know. Trust me on that."

"You're a funny guy, Bannister," Hennessee answered, blowing his horn at a Chinese delivery boy on a bicycle to make him get out of the way, then throwing an old cup of coffee dregs at him when he didn't. "I meant that you probably don't know that I lost my partner, Tennessee."

"Toot on the flute," I said.

"What?"

"Hennessee, Tennessee, toot on the flute, jerk."

"Like I said, you're a funny guy, Bannister."

"You guys ever toot on each others' flute, jerk?"

"That ain't funny, Bannister."

"Okay. I'll change the subject. Where we going?"

"Gonna pay a visit on my snitch, Moctezuma," Hennessee said. "What the street knows he knows."

Hennessee pulled the car over to the curb and killed the engine and cracked the door.

"Just one thing you should know. My snitch is a moth."

"That's okay, jerk."

"I mean he's a really big moth."

"Not a problem."

"Reason I ask is because some guys don't like moths too much, especially the larger varieties like my snitch. Puts them off somehow, threatens their masculinity or something."

"I said no problem, jerk."

"But it's an interesting story of how my snitch got to be a moth," Hennessee went on. "See, he was originally a shepherd in Greece somewhere who looked upon Apollo who turned him into a moth so he could flit through the jungle at night and spy on mankind for Apollo."

"Just as long as he hears the street, jerk," I said. "It's butterflies make me nervous, you want the truth."

"Yeah, I hear that. I fucking hate butterflies. I get along okay with moths, though. We got more in common."

Hennessee's moth snitch dealt low-THC grass and bootleg prescription diet pills out of the back of a pizzeria on Canal Street. We went up to the counter and Hennessee told the guy he was here to see the moth. He told me to wait by the counter and keep an eye on things while he went in back. I ordered a slice of Sicilian while Hennessee went to the back.

"The burnt piece, from the end," I told the guy.

"You want anything to drink with that?" he asked.

"Yeah, a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild '57, jerk," I told the counterman.

"Hey, goombah, you tryin' to be funny maybe?" he asked.

"Obviously I'm trying to piss you off, jerk," I told the counterman and took out my gun. "You want me to blow your fucking brains all over the plastic Jesus on your oven or you wanna give me my burnt piece from the end?"

The counterman pushes my slice over to me and I start eating it, laughing at him because he's old and has a funny moustache, and mimicking his Italian while he talks on the phone. Suddenly, I hear Hennessee shouting from the back and I see this gigantic pair of wings go flying past me out the door.

"Come on!" Hennessee yells at me as he runs after the moth snitch.

I run after them both, shifted back to the past tense singular and ran after him. His moth snitch was a fast mother, even for a moth. We had to chase him for at least a dozen blocks before we cornered him on a pile of garbage in a vacant lot. Hennessee held him down while I punched the moth snitch in the labonze a couple of times. That knocked some of the brio out of the insect, but got a lot of moth dust all over me and Hennessee.

"Okay, man, no more," the moth snitch said, too dusted out to mess with us anymore.

"Why'd you run, you goddamm punk?" Hennessee asked, winded.

"I thought you were trying to roust me about some of that bad shit made the hypes sick on the avenue last week, okay? I had nothing to do with that shit, okay?"

"We know that," I told moth. "We just want the word on Tlalco. You seen him around?"

"Hey, I don't know nothing about Tlalco, man," the moth protested. "I steer clear of bad actors like that dude."

"Bullshit!" I hollered at the moth, having no idea who Tlalco was and even pretty sure I was hallucinating all this shit about moths because of what was wrong with my head. "We know you and Tlalco are asshole buddies."

"Okay, okay. Maybe I seen Tlalco yesterday. Maybe he's holed up under the bridge. In the shantytown, man. Got himself a new bitch there scavenges bottles for him."

Hennessee peeled off two twenties and handed the bills to the moth. We got out of the lot fast.

"We gotta move to catch Tlalco before he knows we're coming," Hennessee said. "The street knows by now we came around."

We caught up with Tlalco just as he was trying to book. The jungle drums had warned him we were after him. We shoved Tlalco into the car and drove off.

"Where you takin' me, man?" he shouted.

"Someplace we can talk in private."

"Fuck that shit, man," he hollered. "I got rights. Let me outa this fuckin' car."

"You ain't got shit, punk," Hennessee told Tlalco. "You only got what we give you. So enjoy the ride."

Hennessee stopped the car at an old warehouse near the docks and let us in with a key he had. The place was deserted and the walls were steel-reinforced concrete. We could work on Tlalco all we wanted to in a place like this. I was getting to like Hennessee's style better and better by the minute.

Up on the catwalk was a steel desk and a beat-up swivel chair. There was also a crappy TV on the desk. Hennessee put on the TV and got some rope out of one of the desk drawers. Then we tied Tlalco to the chair with the rope.

"Why's the TV on?" Tlalco asked.

"So you can watch it." I said.

"You guys bring me here to watch TV?" Tlalco asked with a snicker.

I shook my head, then I grabbed Tlalco by his pony tail and shoved his face in the screen, grinding his nose.

"We brought you here so the TV could watch you, jerk," I told him, mashing his face in the screen and turning up the volume.

Finally I pulled Tlalco's face off the screen and we got down to cases with him.

"You hang with Leaping Knifehead?"

"Never heard of the fuck," Tlalco said.

I slapped Tlalco around a little and Hennessee asked him again.

"Yeah, okay. I know the dude," he finally admitted. "So what?"

"So this, punk," I said, leaning close to Tlalco's face, "Leaping Knifehead whacked my partner Detective Lederkranz. The street says that you witnessed the murder."

"Bullshit. I don't know about no fucking murder of no fucking cop," Tlalco said.

"The street says you know a lot about it. So here's the deal. You tell us how it went down and we'll let you walk. If you don't, we'll book you as an accessory."

"I told you I don't know nothing -- "

" -- About no fucking murder," Hennessee echoed. "Yeah. We hear you."

"You may be wondering about why you're all trussed up, so permit me to explain," I put in. "In this special chair we're subjecting you to a simulated fifteen-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. It's the worst torture in the world. After even an hour you'll beg for death."

"Still don't wanna talk?" asked Hennessee.

"Fuck no. I always wanted to go to Turkey," Tlalco said.

"Okay, jerk," I countered. "You asked for it."

I nodded at Hennessee who yanked open one of the desk drawers and took out something he kept in there that smelled funky and had flies on it. "Know what this is?" he asked, holding it in front of Tlalco's face.

"Shit, take that fucking thing away, man!"

Hennessee ignored him.

"This is a human jawbone found in a garbage bag near the docks," I said to Tlalco, grabbing his pony tail and sticking his face in it. "This jawbone once belonged to my partner Lederkranz, so be very fucking nice to it."

"Shit, this is grossing me fucking out!"

"First we're gonna infect you with all the excitement of preparing for a trip to Turkey, okay, jerk? Your destination is Istanbul, the Turkish capital. You plan on dealing hash. You're really looking forward to it. You got all these tacky new clothes, cheap colored condoms you bought at the ninety-nine cent store, all kinds of shit. Getting into it, jerk?"

"Yeah, man," Tlalco said, as the infection spread. "This is cool. Wow, I'm really into it."

"Cool, huh?" I answered, then looked at Hennessee. "Okay, hit him with the ebene mixture."

Hennessee had already loaded the blowgun with the drug made of the bark of various South American trees and placed the blowgun's mouth against Tlalco's nostrils. Hennessee inhaled, then forcefully blew the hallucinogenic powder up Tlalco's nose. As Hennessee took away the blowgun the ebene was already starting to work. Tlalco's eyes went wide and a greenish-black mucous characteristic of ebene intoxication flowed from his nasal passages down his shirt.

"Now you're on the plane," I told Tlalco, leaning close to his ear. "You thought you'd have room but the flight's packed. You're sitting between a sinister-looking guy in a turban who starts in playing elbow-hockey right away and a pair of Turkish lovers who pull vanilla taffy nonstop."

"The movie sucks," Hennessee put in. "It's some kind of weird rerun of Fantasy Island, only with Turkish actors speaking highly idiomatic Turkish."

"Now the plane has hit some really fierce turbulence. It's rocking like crazy. You're getting sick. You call over the stewardess, who can't understand English and laughs in your face as the Turkish lovers blow vanilla taffy bubbles at you."

Tlalco was beginning to shiver and shake. Under the influence of ebene, he was actually on that plane to Istanbul.

"You got the lightning up your spine yet? Do you feel the pitchfork, jerk?" I asked.

"No, shit, no!" he moaned. "I can't stand it!"

"Then tell us what you know about the night Leaping Knifehead iced Lederkranz."

"No way, man. I can't. Leaping Knifehead's a bad motherfucker. He'd blow me away."

"In that case we're now gonna change your head to a Quetzal head and infect you with a Mood of Despair. We can change your mood any time we want. The whole nine yards from Mood of Mirth to Mood of Apathy to Mood of Social Engagement to Mood of Despair."

Hennessee put the Quetzal head on Tlalco who immediately was brought down. As I flipped through the channels on the TV on the desk, Tlalco's moods changed and changed. Between these mood changes and the plane trip on Turkish Airlines, we broke him. Tlalco begged us to stop. He'd tell us everything now.

"Let him out of the chair, Hennessee," I said.

Tlalco fell to the floor and struggled to stand up.

"Something's wrong, I can't get up," he complained.

"That's just an aneurysm in your leg," I told him. "It'll go away." I told Hennessee to pick the punk up and walk him around. "First a test question," I told Tlalco. "And you keep the Quetzal mask on. That's so you'll stay honest."

"Yeah, sure," he said.

"Okay. First a test question. The perimeter of a kitchen is forty-four feet and its area is two hundred and two square feet less than that of a living room. The length of the living room is eleven feet more than that of the kitchen and the width of the living room is four feet more than the kitchen. What is the total size of the living room?"

"Thirty five square feet," Tlalco said right away.

I nodded. The snitch was finally ready to spill.

"Now what about the night that Lederkranz was iced?" I asked Tlalco.

"It was just a bad break for that cop," he began. "Leaping Knifehead ambushed him in Bardo, where he was having a drink. He owned Bardo, okay. At that time Knifehead needed a fish to bring to Smoking Mirror because it was the tenth day of the tenth month. You following this?"

"Yeah. Go on," I said.

Tlalco began to spill and never stopped. He laid out the whole shebang to me and Hennessee. They needed a moth to fly ahead to Smoking Mirror and announce Knifehead's impending arrival. Hennessee's moth snitch was holed up in a cocoon somewhere so they made Lederkranz the moth by feeding him to a Kaiemunu, which was a twelve-foot-high wickerwork figure in Leaping Knifehead's TriBeCa loft.

As the Kaiemunu devoured Lederkranz they shook it to make it dance, then threw Lederkranz's corpse on the floor, as if the Kaiemunu spewed it up. After that they cut off Lederkranz's head and scalped off his face, eating the brain while painting the skull with ash, ochre and chalk and decorating it with cassowary feathers and beads.

The rest of the corpse was placed on the floor facing a window oriented toward the rising sun. As the sun rose, they walked on Lederkranz's corpse chanting, "All evil, all sickness and all pain extinguished."

That was two days ago. Since that time Leaping Knifehead had been purifying himself, drinking only muddy water, abstaining from sex and entering and leaving the loft through the window instead of the door.

Tonight he'd been purified and all the taboos associated with whacking Lederkranz were gone. Tlalco said he'd probably be leaving for hedu, abode of Smoking Mirror god, in his sky-canoe that night. The corpses and other offerings were to keep Smoking Mirror from casting a piece of hedu, the abode of the cosmos, through the sky layer to crush the earth.

"It all hangs together," I said to Tlalco, "except for one thing."

"Yeah, what's that?" he said through his Quetzal mask.

"You left out the Poke Vake. The Nose Man," I returned. "There had to be a Poke Vake to bite off the sacrifice's nose. What kind of schmucks you take us for, Tlalco?"

"I don't know about no fucking Poke Vake," he said. "They didn't have that shit that night."

"We'll let that one slide for the moment," I told Tlalco. "Right now you're gonna take us to Leaping Knifehead's loft and get us inside. There's got to be some kind of code, right?"

"Yeah, there is."

"What?"

"It's the meat hunger sound of the carnivorous wasp," he said.

"Like, this maybe?"

I made the meat hunger sound for Tlalco, buzzing and howling like a giant black wasp of death.

"Yeah, that's it. You got it down perfect."

I had Hennessee practice it in case something happened to me. Then I put the cuffs on Tlalco and told him he was coming with us. He pitched a bitch but he had no choice. I wanted Tlalco close, where I could keep an eye on him till I had Leaping Knifehead on the floor, reading him his Miranda rights.

Hennessee drove us to TriBeCa and we rang the bell. We all had on Quetzal masks like Tlalco's to fool the closed-circuit TV cams and I made the meat hunger sound of the carnivorous wasp into the microphone by the elevator.

"Who's there?" a voice asked.

"It's me, Tlalco," the punk said.

"Who's with you, man?"

"Jose and Felix. They cool, man," he said.

The voice said we could come up. Inside the loft Leaping Knifehead was putting the final touches on the sky-canoe. The canoe was at least sixty feet long and its sides were hung with bodies interspersed with big fish, like sharks and manta rays, which Leaping Knifehead was bringing to Smoking Mirror.

There were a couple of goons in the place and two of them brought us over to the sky-canoe. Leaping Knifehead looked over the side and asked Tlalco what he wanted. That's when Tlalco jumped into the sky-canoe and began shouting that we were cops.

The goons began shooting at us as Hennessee and me ran for cover, me getting behind the Kaiemunu and Hennessee off to one side behind a big totem pole with killer whale gods carved on it. As we shot it out with the goons, the sky-canoe began to shimmer, and we saw its astral counterpart begin to separate from the earthly canoe and go out the window of the loft into the night.

By the time we blew away the four goons most of the canoe was already out the window with the astral selves of Leaping Knifehead and Tlalco onboard.

"Quick," I told Hennessee, pointing at the goons. "Cut off the heads of two of these creeps to keep their astral selves from separating and I'll take care of the others."

After we did this I told Hennessee to pull his gun. At my signal we both shot each other in the heart so we could draw out our astral selves. We did this just in time to catch the bow of the sky-canoe as it sailed completely free of the loft into the sky. Now we had a fight on our hands as I took on Leaping Knifehead and Hennessee duked it out with Tlalco.

Leaping Knifehead began throwing parts of his knife-body at me, the knives spinning through space and cleaving off parts of my ectoplasm. The only way I could deal with him was to put my Quetzal mask on his head. Once I did this he screamed and fell over the side of the sky-canoe, disappearing into the stars. I leaned on a corner and caught my breath in time to see Hennessee boot Tlalco over the side too. We were alone in the sky canoe now.

"We got the bastard," Hennessee told me, taking off his Quetzal mask and wiping sweat off his semi-transparent brow.

"Yeah, but not the Poke Vake," I said.

"Too bad, but we'll take care of him later," Hennessee returned.

"Why later when we can do it right now?" I answered.

"I don't get it?"

"I think you do, alright," I insisted. "I think you're the Poke Vake, Hennessee. I suspected you from the moment you couldn't remember your own name for a second."

"Yeah, I guess that was pretty dumb, huh," he said.

"Why did you do it? Bite off your own partner's nose and Lederkranz's too?"

"You're forgetting Bannister's nose, since you're not him."

"How fucking astute of you," I said. "But you didn't answer my question."

"Leaping Knifehead was in with some Soho real estators who wanted a triad of human hearts to give them godlike powers. He hooked me up with them. The deal was, I give them the hearts of three brave men and I get a million dollar loft. Shitty reason, huh?"

"No shittier than most, these days," I said. "So what now?"

"Now I shoot you with some of these ectoplasmic bullets from this here astral gun. Then you're history."

"I don't think so," I said, before Hennessee could pull the trigger, and I flipped a cockroach from my pocket onto Hennessee. A ball of green flame instantly erupted where the roach landed.

"That roach is your noreshi animal, jerk," I told Hennessee as the flames spread. "It's never supposed to be close to you. When you come together, you both die."

Hennessee screamed as the noreshi roach burned a hole right through his chest. He jumped overboard, screaming and clawing at his disintegrating body. Now it was finally over. Except that here I was, all alone in the sky-canoe on my way to Smoking Mirror, god of the night. I voyaged through the astral plane for a long time, maybe days, maybe years, maybe centuries.

Finally I arrived in hedu, the cosmic layer, at a jungle-covered beach where natives attired in weird feathered headdresses escorted me in my Quetzal mask to a huge stone pyramid. I went inside as they bowed and I was alone with Smoking Mirror god.

"I'm Bannister, jerk," I told Smoking Mirror god. "I was told to report to you." I wasn't surprised when Smoking Mirror turned out to be the Captain.

"I don't like your act," Smoking Mirror said after awhile. "You got a reputation for bending the rules, Bannister. I don't like that kind of cop in my precinct."

"So how come I'm here and not back at the 45th, jerk?" I ask.

"You know that as well as I do."

"Because Lederkranz bought it, jerk," I answer, making up a name.

"That's right," Smoking Mirror said. "Because Lederkranz bought it, and because nobody wanted to part with anybody else. Looks like you didn't make a friend out of Capadocciaboca at the 45th either."

"I can't help what Capadocciaboca or anybody else thinks," I say. "I do my job. So I don't take shit from punks, pushers and pimps. If that don't win me any prizes, I can live with that, jerk."

"I don't have time to argue with you, Bannister," Smoking Mirror said. "I just want you to understand one thing. The fact that Lederkranz used to be your partner does not, repeat, does not give you the right to start a vendetta. Do you read me?"

"Sure, Captain," I said. "I heard every word you said."

"Good. And remember them or I'll go through you faster than shit through a tin horn. You got that?"

"Sure, Captain."

"Fine. At least we understand each other." He flipped shut the manila folder. "Your new partner is Hennessee. Get out of here. And don't ever call me jerk again, you got that?"

"Okay, jerk," I said.

I walked out of the station house back onto Lower Broadway. Fun was fun but I had enough of that shit for awhile. Anyway, it was time I got back to the clinic for my shot.

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