It was too cold a night for Dresden, making him pull his ripped leather jacket even closer to his body. The street was empty, few lamp posts showcasing the broken wooden benches along the sidewalks. The strong wind and his squeaky footsteps were the only things one could hear within a mile radius. Even the park was deserted at that time of night, somewhere close to two am, the familiar dog barking absent.
He hurried down the street, making sure to look closely at the apartments in case anyone were to spot him while he threw his used gloves in a trash bin. Truly, even he knew he paid too much mind at that aspect, knowing there was not a single soul who could identify his new appearance. He hadn’t been in city for a few months, let his beard cover his face –as though letting his long hair do the same wasn’t enough- and changed his outfit completely.
Dresden Miles was known as the best detective there was, always spick and span, ready to undertake any case given to him. Tonight, though, he was the one on the other side of the law. He couldn’t focus much, knowing his new clothes weren’t fitting him in the least, which was still a better way of disguising himself.
Everyone knew he hated beige, thought it would be foolish of him to act exactly the opposite of his normal self, opting for black jeans and a dark blue shirt underneath his jacket. He tried his best to lay low during his stay of four days in city, making sure his clothes were rumpled and paid Jerry to bring him food from the market, whilst keeping his mouth shut.
Jerry was a beggar that, before leaving the city for the first time, actually gave Dresden quite the headache, with him knocking on the latter’s window every morning and waking him up from his beauty sleep. For Miles was previously quite the beauty; his hair was kept short and combed, only wearing suits and shaving every few days.
He never could grow a full beard without looking ridiculous at first, the sideburns, mustache and neck hair never meeting anywhere like lost pieces of a puzzle. Some people mocked him saying his only talent was matching his belt with his shoes. He was sure no one in their right minds could look at him now and think of the Dresden they’d known before.
It was a major flaw of his, was apparel, occupying such a big part of his thoughts that he began forgetting about his plan, the one he’d been working towards for the past week. Upon noticing this, he started criticizing himself so fervently he nearly began shouting. That is when he realized he had been lost in his mind once again. It was a sort of daydream where his body acted, while he was thinking deeply, with no recollection of it.
He had passed a few blocks already, his pace slowing down without his consent –as always happened during these episodes- hurrying towards his target once more. Thankfully, the items in his pockets somehow didn’t clank against each other, and his stamina was remarkable, probably due to the sheer adrenaline in his body. He wasn’t much for a runner, even though his tall and robust figure gave people that idea.
He used to go to the gym a few years ago, but he quit because of a pulled muscle in his back that still left him sore whenever he’d sit in an awkward position. He was ten minutes away from his friend, Parsley, deciding it was better to walk now, hoping he wouldn’t give away his being in a hurry to get there. The dialogue he’d come up with on the way there was fresh in his mind, knowing how the other would respond, considering their close friendship.
After a few knocks, the tall, pale skinned –though astonishingly strong- lad of twenty opened the door with his usual half-smile, greeting Dresden and inviting him in, offering to take his hat and jacket and hang them in his guest room. ‘There’s no need at all to take your shoes off, please do come in,’ he offered with a polite bow.
Still, the detective knew Parsley took utmost care of the strangely coloured carpets in his home, opting to take his quaint footwear off and place it next to the door. He made sure to untie the laces, in case he needed to leave quickly. It was a habit of his. Parsley’s home was quite inviting, even though he was the only one in city that ever thought of buying carpets. He had only three rooms connected by a small corridor:
the white tiled bathroom that had a small shower cabin instead of a bathtub, the kitchen which doubled as his bedroom, and the only room he truly cared about- the living room. It mustn’t be misunderstood that he didn’t organize the rest of his house, because he did. He just built the whole sitting room around his most prized possession, which was an old wooden chair passed down from his great
grandfather, who took it upon himself to carve the family name around it, “Govnik.” Their family was Slavic, emigrating initially to experience a foreign country’s culture and liked it so much they decided to keep living in the same city ever since. On the black and white patterned walls hung few paintings of the city’s old buildings, as well as one large one of his great grandfather’s face a few days before his death, at the end of the room.
There was a large and sturdy cherry wood table, flanked from all sides by fancy mahogany chairs, with pillows on the seats, except for the part under the painting where a brown sofa lay. ‘It’s truly a surprise to see you in such a long time, friend,’ Parsley said, resting his hand on Dresden’s muscular shoulder. ‘You haven’t changed a bit. Oh, I know your back ache, you should lay down on the sofa.
I’ve had the boys bring it in a few nights ago. Doesn’t it simply fit with the rest of the room? You know how much detail I pay to these things. Bah, but no matter, I won’t bore you with these trifles, you tell me how you’ve been fairing. Your health is of great concern to me, you know? Have you been eating and hydrating yourself properly? Doctor Mitchell has told you time and time again to make sure you’re listening to his advice, and you should!
What coincidence, I’ve met him yesterday while going to the grocer’s and he specifically asked about how you were. Of course, you haven’t sent any letters for me so I’d no idea what to tell him except that you are well. Now you’re here though, that’s all that matters, so go on, don’t be shy, tell me everything. You’ve changed quite a lot. Would you like a cup of tea?’
‘You’re much too nice, you really are, and thank you but I don’t want any. I’ve been well, though my style,’ Dresden said, pointing to his face, ‘is me trying out new things. We all should from time to time, shouldn’t we? You’re probably curious about my leaving city, and I’m terribly sorry for not keeping you updated, I assure you it didn’t slip my mind but I was so busy it simply couldn’t be done.’
‘Yes, your departure has caused a great stir, made people fear for their lives without the vigilant detective to ward off the murderers. It was amusing to watch, though strangely chilly to know I was part of it all too. A cookie then, maybe?’ ‘A great stir, eh? It’s good to know my efforts are appreciated. Look, I don’t want anything to eat, thank you,’ he said, pushing aside Parsley’s hand that held a cookie in it.
‘As for my leaving so suddenly, it just so happened I didn’t have time to tell anyone about it, for, as you know, by dawn I was already on the train. I had to check on my mother because she had sent for me, informing me she was in the hospital and in great pain.’ ‘Oh heavens! Is she quite alright?’ ‘Unfortunately, not anymore, she has passed away. Don’t look at me watery-eyed,
you know I never saw her as a true member of the family, with her being a step mother and all.’ ‘Still, it must’ve come as a shock to you. Come here, let me embrace you. Such a shame, now you’re the only one in the Miles family left! What will you do now? I’m sure there’s tons of paperwork you must get to.’ ‘I’ve done my best to finish it all before coming to you. You see, I was notified that she had two other children that were written in her will, all of us
recieving a third of her possessions. They weren’t born of my late father’s seed, but the lawyers insisted that her will is law.’ ‘That is a positive slap on the cheek from them, the damn aristocrats, but I guess they were right. Do you want me to go with you and talk some sense into those two boys? One could only guess their ages and families now.’
‘Here’s where the actual problem comes in, my dear Parsley, and where I need your help. You’ve assisted me in many cases before and I require your time now. Though I haven’t had the time to report it to the police, I’ve stumbled upon a new case of tremendous importance. Before coming here I visited one of the sons, Dmitri by name. I knew he had been living by himself and after a few knocks I noticed the door was unlocked.
And now I ask you to trust me, though I can’t trust my own eyes I was so taken aback by what I saw. Upon stepping inside I saw a man only wearing gray, short pants sprawled to the left of the room, blood oozing from underneath. Scared the killer was still inside, or, even worse, behind me, I turned and ran, made my way here as fast I could. It was quite the distance away, on the other side of city, really.
That’s why you might see me so composed now. All during the walk I kept telling myself “What if I only mistook the scene due to the bad lighting or my tiredness,” for believe me I’ve had quite a few sleepless nights sorting out all of the papers and making calls and sending letters of inquiry about the other sons and whatnot. Even so, I could not omit the small chance of there being an actual murder, and it was up to me to solve it.
Though I knew I couldn’t in this state of mind, and maybe not without your help, that’s why I made it my priority to come to you first. It’s good the police station is near and I –hopefully we- shall go there posthaste and announce my findings. This is not only an unfortunate matter for we must now find the killer, but I figured it is a race against time before the second son should be murdered too. Or, maybe,
Or, as my biggest fear tells me, I’m the next son in line. Will you help me, Parsley?!’ Dresden shouted, realizing he’d been clutching at his friend’s arms for the entirety of his speech, slowly unclenching his grip and apologizing. ‘I might need that cup of tea yet.’ It was Parsley’s turn to grab his friend by the arm, bringing him up with him and telling him to wait there. He brought the detective’s clothes from the hanger whilst getting himself dressed properly.
‘What are you doing?’ Dresden asked impolitely. ‘Why coming with you, of course. What? Did you expect for me to just say “Oh, sorry mate, you’re alone on this one,” whilst I wait for another murder to be committed? That would make me an accomplice of the wrongdoer wouldn’t it? No, no sir, I’m coming with you and trying my best to help as always.’
After embracing his friend and kissing his forehead, he continued with his trademark smile, handing him a long, wooden box. ‘But before all that, take this. What’s a good detective without his pipe?’ ‘Bloody God you’ve till kept this old thing,’ Dresden said, turning the dark pipe, coloured white at the bowl and mouthpiece. ‘Reminds me of my twenties.’
‘You’re still in your twenties,’ Parsley said, nudging his friend. ‘Though you’re getting on in years.’ ‘Years can’t keep murderers away from this old thing,’ he said, pointing to the pipe that was now inside his mouth. ‘I’m referring to both the wood and my crazy mouth. Now let us make haste to the police station. Wouldn’t want the boys down there to get too lazy, would we?’
‘No we wouldn’t,’ Parsley responded, stuffing a small box of cookies down his pant pocket, picking up the keys from the table and locking the door behind them. Even the sound of their footsteps had a specific ring to them. It was always the same when they were eager for a new case.