“Damn, I hate desk jockeys,” Roger poked the end call, on his iphone XXX, “especially, when they are poor relations, riding on someone else’s coattails.” But, if he was going to be keeping the apartment, he was going to have to work, no matter how distasteful. With a sigh of resignation, Roger continued walking. How strange that Ms Diamond should be the focus once again perhaps there was a reason she was under his window half a year ago, he had written about her sister, who had suddenly dropped dead about ten years before, irregular heartbeat partying too hardy. Then mommy dearest had finagled that her sister take over that ghastly Teen Survivor reality series, costarred in that crappy sitcom/drama about teen angst, took to partying to hardy, had several run-ins with the law, banged some hip hopper, in and out of rehab, that judge busting her good after she flipped him off. Then Cazz, as her handlers renamed her, and her mother filed the suit against the paper. It was the second time Roger had met McNamara and he was in all his glory, the man seemed to relish getting into it with the mother. Roger remembered the lawyer checking his facts, telling him not to be worried. McNamara was probably ceremoniously pouring a brandy, tickled pink that the Diamond’s had stirred up more controversy.

All of a sudden, gaining access to her in the hospital appeared to be child’s play; he began constructing several scenarios one more clever than the last. Roger felt as if his mind had had a huge enema what had that old man done as a blueprint of the hospital appeared in his mind; halls and niches illuminated, dealing with the successful operation for gaining entrance all of which would have me in lock up by the night’s end to the hospital,.

Roger realized that he had unconsciously wandered to Dick’s Beverage House, but this time he stopped just short of the hanging sign, as an unfamiliar twinge in the beginning was a twinge held his hand as he reached for the door. A thought suddenly jolted him upright of a television program on that fine HDTV he had been watching several weeks ago. A show about parallel universes, Einstein’s Theory of Everything, and the 11th dimension. He recalled how his curiosity had been peaked by the show and, in this contemplative moment, Roger was trying to discern why that very thought had been awakened. He turned and walked away from the door and made his way the several blocks back to his apartment.

Gazing up, he noticed a clearness outlining the buildings, as if his eyes had focused for the first time in a while. He noticed a wren as it flitted into a glass window then curved across to bounce into the concrete, then back into the glass and thought he and that bird were very much alike in so many ways. As he watched the bird’s futile flight, he felt a sudden tugging within himself, a straightening wave of his spine, his shoulders enfolded within themselves, drawing back. And with that involuntary subtle movement, Roger felt an internal jolt, or more accurately, a pulling of his self-esteem what had the old man done to me! down a long narrow tube. Roger observed that in the past months he had forgotten how to laugh, noticed his step had slowed, the first sure signs of passing thirty with no real prospects. He shook off the malaise, chuckled to himself; he was a believer in kismet and it looked like the fates had dropped Cassandra Diamond upon his doorstep once again; the smile returned to his face.

Roger stopped at the yellow tape outside his apartment building; looked down the alley, no sign of police; bent down to tie his shoe; stood up on the other side and made his way to the spot on the sidewalk. Roger balked at the outline of the girl; a lucky puddle in the outline, she must have fallen into the puddle; he smelled urine and defecation, scared the shit out of her; discerned the blackened garbage can, must have been hot; observed the smudge of a soot mark against the wall, a Rorschach of my life.

The quick euphoria of the hunt melted away again as a wave of depression overtook him like a vacuum. But it wasn’t just a wave; it was a looming shadow that materialized out of the door enclosure beside the garbage can. The figure approached and, as it did, it appeared that the sun would be eaten up by his bulk. As the light blared back to life from the eclipse, Roger watched as the shadow morphed into a very large African American police officer standing over him.

“Wassup,” Roger tried the genial approach, “Somebody get shot?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave the premises as this is an official crime scene.” His determined look met Roger, “that is unless you have some pertinent information you would wish to share?”

“Naw, just wondering,” Roger had aw shucked his way through worse than this, “Heard some big celebrity got torched last night, just wanted to see the…”

“As I said, if you do not have any pertinent information, then your place would be behind the yellow tape,” the figure before him was imposing “Do not make me have to physically remove you.” And Roger knew that being physically removed would not even break a sweat on this behemoth. Roger went for his hip pocket, as did the huge black man before him.

“Whoa, I’m just getting my license out.” Roger noticed the tension in the man’s muscles. “To show you I live here.” Roger handed his license to the officer.

The change that came over the man’s face was astounding. First, perplexion, then he eyed Roger severely, and then a grin began to spread across his face. “I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to step back behind the tape.” Roger was perplexed, the man’s words said one thing, but the officer’s body language related another entirely. Grinning from ear to ear, it looked like he may embrace Roger in a bear hug at any moment.

“You alright, Officer?” Roger’s depression was squeezed into the tight ball of the universe, his self-esteem emerging. A twinge in the beginning was a twinge of déjà vu encompassed his mind searching for a connection. First the bum accosted him then treated him with sympathy, and now this cop.

“Roger Miller, Gaylord Apartments, 228,” the man even grinned large, “You wouldn’t by any chance be some hot shot reporter from the Times?”

“How did you?” Roger was gobsmacked, “Well, not from the Times anymore.”

“Shame I read every one of your articles when I was stationed in Afghanistan.” The man seemed stricken like a groupie. “You and I are not that much different in our beliefs.” The big man shook his body, much like the waitress earlier; however, his demeanor changed along with his facial change. “Which window?”

“Right up there,” Roger shaded his eyes and pointed to the window directly above him. “That’s mine 228.”

“And you say you were home, but heard nothing last night?” The man was all business now, Roger watched as the officer whipped his notepad out.

“Not really, the first thing I heard was the garbage trucks this morning,” Roger began shifting his feet back towards the tape. “Rough night, I was out like a light.”

“Funny expression,” the cop closed the gap and offered the license back, “seein as how the dude was torched.”

“So, I’m guessing she was taken to Sinai?” Roger reached for his license.

“The girl?” Gary appraised Roger once again. “Sure know a lot about it for someone who didn’t even hear the girl crying out for help.”

“Naw, just the logical place,” Roger lit a cigarette, “Want one?” The head shook no, “good burn unit.”

“Perhaps you should extricate yourself to the other side of the tape, sir!” Ward’s voice reverberated without malice and Roger quickly followed, as the tree trunks of arms prodded him along. Roger noticed two officers approach “You seem a bit too clever with the questions. I’ll make a note and let you meet one of our fine detectives.”

“Yeah, I try not to miss too much.”

“Except a beautiful girl screaming her lungs out in the middle of the night.”

“Yeah except that,” Roger began to feel the ball of the depression inflate once again, as turning, he headed back towards his building. Roger ground the cigarette in the ashtray outside the building, glancing back at the officer, who was watching him queerly. The guy was right, missed a woman screaming, missed Terrasea falling out of love with me. He did notice the two officers, as they made their way to their squad car. What he failed to notice was the smog as it tinted the morning sky a sickly melon hue. He noticed the yellow tape swaying like a radar beam in a comic; but not the sullen ring that had gathered around the sun. Yes, and failed to notice the haunting quiet surrounding Koreatown on a Saturday; and once again missed a wisp of a shadow emerging from the alleyway. His depression built as, within his mind, he could discern the echoes of that muffled scream as it must have sounded.

What he failed to notice was the shadow flitting from garbage can to garbage can to his right, nor the distant barking of dogs at its arrival. He missed the smell of burnt offering in the air, and his big city sensibility didn’t even register as he casually stepped over the dead carcass of a tabby. He turned and walked up the sidewalk and entered the foyer, slamming the door. At his mailbox, Roger stopped to pick up the Times lying in the slot between boxes; she didn’t cancel perhaps it was like she said and it just did happened. He couldn’t really blame her; if anything, it was him who pushed her into the guy’s arms. You can’t fight kismet.