The first detective on scene was Pietr Frenk. Frenk was from some country where they spell their names that way. He’d been at home, eating two-day-old pizza and watching a DVD that Kim Jong-Il would be ashamed to own, when he got the call. It was his day off, but they were short-handed. Please, Frenk. Please. I’m not asking…
When his partner, a rookie called “Jonny Blonde,” arrived, Frenk was standing over the body. She was outside a pool hall called Rosie’s. Frenk didn’t even bother to look up.
Blonde whistled to himself. “Who’s that?” he asked.
“That was Candy,” Frenk said.
“I never kid,” Frenk said. “Don’t you recognize her?”
“From the Police Log?”
“From the cover of the National Enquirer, People, the Weekly World News…”
“Doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Her real name was Helen something. Wife of wrinkled old money down in Florida. Got tired of hosting cocktail parties on the sundeck, waiting for him to kindly die and leave her everything. Took it on the road.”
Blonde shook his head, moving in for a closer look. The deceased was in the gutter, curled up like a child, back to the sidewalk. Her eyes were open. There was a pool of red liquid—almost blood-colored, but obviously not blood—drying around her.
“She vanished a couple years ago,” Frenk said. “When they finally caught up with her, she made it pretty clear she didn’t want to be found.”
“What do you think happened?”
“I think she had too much to drink, stumbled out of the bar, fell down and puked her way into the next life.”
Blonde looked up from the body. “You should write greeting cards,” he said.
# # #
Back at the station, Frenk wondered, out loud, why he was investigating a stripper who had choked to death on her own vomit. The lieutenant said he’d received a phone call telling him that wasn’t the case. Since Frenk was already there, he decided to soak the department for some overtime. He took a bag of potato chips from his desk, kicked his feet up and started flipping through the channels of the TV mounted in the corner.
The Lieutenant peeked in. “Go ask some questions,” he said.
“I can give you all the answers you want right now.”
“Make an effort, would you? She was a human being.”
“That kind of stuff doesn’t work on me,” Frenk said.
“How’s this?” the Lieutenant said. “From now on, starting this instant, you get every stolen bicycle case in Navy Housing…”
The Lieutenant took the remote and bag of chips from him as he squeezed by.
“Bastard,” Frenk said.
“Got any dip?” the Lieutenant asked.
# # #
He found Jonny Blonde in the weight room. “Take a shower,” Frenk said, “put on a lot of deodorant, put on some clothes and meet me downstairs. We’re taking the Grape.” The Grape was a purple undercover Buick that could outrun patrol cars.
Blonde dug his fingers into whatever was available on the way over. They got there in about ninety seconds. Frenk parked around the corner from the pool hall to keep from scaring people away. Although the gutter had been hosed down, the curb was still red.
They split up and started banging on doors. Everyone, it seemed, knew Candy and gee, wasn’t it sad, but as far as helping out, nobody knew anything. Just as they were about to pack it in, Frenk spotted a woman called Meg nearby. He was sure he’d seen her with Candy before.
“Give me something,” Frenk said.
“Hi, Pete. How ya doin?” Meg asked.
“Better than you, from the looks of it.”
“You knew Candy,” Frenk said. “I know you knew her. People are saying this wasn’t an accident.”
“How do you know?”
“It’s not really about her,” Meg said. “It’s about the kid.”
“What kid?” Frenk asked, but she was already dancing away.
“That’s all I can tell you,” she hollered back.
# # #
In the car, Blonde asked if he’d had any luck.
“Never in my life,” Frenk said. “Let’s get something to eat.”
Not getting leads had taken up most of the day. They went to Bridey’s All-Night on Church Street. Frenk was midway through a triple bacon-cheeseburger, Blonde through a salad with lemon juice, when Blonde’s cellphone rang.
“Yeah,” Blonde said. “He’s right here.”
He handed the cell to Frenk, who refused to own one himself. “You’re shitting me,” Frenk said.
“What?” Blonde asked.
“They didn’t even have time to cut her open yet,” Frenk said. “All right, all right.” He bounced the phone, with the Lieutenant’s voice still coming through it, across the table to Blonde. “Hang up,” he said. “She was poisoned. There’s somebody we need to find.”
# # #
Meg’s boyfriend was a death’s door addict named Louis. Frenk made a protesting Blonde wait outside the hotel room. After Frenk showed Louis the bag, Louis’ mouth wouldn’t shut.
Here’s what mattered…
Candy had been pregnant when she split. She wanted out, now that the kid was getting older, but her pimp wouldn’t let her. He kidnapped her son. Last night, she’d called her husband from Louis’ hotel room. Today, she was dead.
“Who’s the pimp?”
Frenk jiggled the bag at him.
# # #
They found traces of the kid at the pimp’s apartment, but no kid. What they did find was the kidnapper drowned in a bathtub full of Sangria. Drowning was the nicest thing that had happened to him.
Frenk called a buddy on the Florida Highway Patrol. He was genuinely sick over the kid. Florida questioned the old man, but nothing ever came of it.
A few months later, Frenk got an envelope in the mail. Inside was the photo of a healthy-looking boy at a picnic table, outside a mansion, with palm trees, sand and rippling water behind him.
["Candy Sangria" originally appeared, in slightly different form, at Powder Burn Flash.]