The diner felt dank, carrying with it a depressing mood I was all too familiar with. The waitress at the counter gave me a smile: a sort of flirtation that may have given me excitement in my schoolboy days, but those were long past. I was here for one thing, and like that pansy immature schoolboy I used to be, I was itching with anticipation.

He promised a conversation: a hint of something to come. As I took my seat at the counter, I gave the diner one quick glance over again. There was no sign of my man, as far as I could tell. The place itself was something of the past, an old relic: very relatable. I couldn't quite make out the health examiner's certification on the wall through all the grime that had built up. The people around the place fit the ambiance perfectly. Did this prick get me to drive an hour just to show me how much of a joke I was?

I didn't like it. This asshole knew me more than I knew why I was in this second rate vintage restaurant, if you could call it a restaurant. I woke my lighter from his rest, I needed a smoke.

"No smoking!" The waitress yelled. She was an asshole, and maybe she was my guy. She did give me a look, I thought it was just because we had something going. But who was I kidding. I was a no good beaten down old man at the last strokes of his dull and pathetic life.

"I'll take a coffee, thanks." No way was I eating anything from this disgusting joint. The pitter patter of the rain on the windows was louder than the thunder from outside. It was a typical surviving family shithole: the people had moved on, but the restaurant hadn't. It lived on, a piece of the "better" past, of the time when this wasn't one of the seediest parts of the city.

Seediness wasn't what scared me, though. What scared me was how badly that cup of coffee was gonna taste. Not to my surprise, the coffee was disgusting. I was about to spit it all over that girl's beautiful little apron, but I'm not that person. My boldness was wasted in my youth.

I was beginning to lose my courage to even be here. I left a hundred on the counter and took my leave. "No change," and there was her beautiful smile again. She thought it was because she did well, or 'cause I liked her. Truth be told, I didn't want to see another pretty girl working for tuition to get kicked to the pavement: to be wasted as a low-class working girl, scraping her way through life one STD to the next, enough drugs to numb a horse to its last breath until, beating after beating, she wound up in the morgue. It would just make my life harder, and it'd be just like the rest of my cases. Her pimp would get 10 years, then do the same to another poor girl.

I put her pretty smile behind, and all the thoughts I had walking out too. That diner and she were giving me flashbacks I didn't want to have, and my guy was late. Was this dickless bastard toying with me? What are you waiting for? My lighter hissed with joy, finally able to do his duty. The flames kissed my wind-shielding fingers as I lit the cigarette. Old habits die hard, I guess. The time had come, and my patience was wearing thin.

Low and behold: speak of the devil. How'd I know it was him? He pulled up quickly, like the little pussy snitch I knew he was gonna be. I smelled rat since he first called me. The car though, a '55 Thunderbird. Maybe this asshole picked this diner for himself. Hell, maybe it was his favorite goddamn restaurant. I could tell from that moment, this was not your typical snitch.

He got out of his car. Scar on his face said he'd lived through enough for a full life and a half, but his walk said mid-twenties. Who was this asshole? I wasn't gonna stand there holding my dick like some high school virgin waiting for sally to show him the way. No, "So, why the old shitty diner? Why the old fucking car? Why the old cop?"

"Because I know the precinct. I know the city." He opened the diner door and motioned for me to go in. Guess he doesn't like the wind, either. I waited for him to enter: ladies first. "Suit yourself."

The waitress gave him a smile that made the one she'd given me look like little more than a murderous glare. He sat us at a corner booth, paranoid? If someone wanted the jump on us, they could take it outside; there were windows all over the place.

"You know," He whispered, leaning over the counter. For someone who looked like he experienced a lot of seedy shit, he was an amateur. "I hate to say it, but you're the most trustworthy man a guy like me can come by nowadays."

"You think old means trust? Well, you're sure proving youth means the opposite: who is a 'guy like you'? Who are you?"

"I don't know if I'm at liberty to say." He pulled something out of his trench coat: an envelope. "All I can say is that this'll give you the pieces to put together." Ah, the proverbial puzzle.

"Thanks for being cryptic, kid, but I'm sure I've seen it before."

His face went grim. His already pale face went as white as a ghost. Maybe I hadn't seen this before, but I still doubted it. His fear was lifted when the sweet waitress came over.

"Same thing as always, sweetheart?" Jesus Christ, how could this be your favorite place?

"You know it." He replied to her smile with an eager grin.

"How 'bout you, honey. Come back for more coffee?"

You wish. "I'm fine, thanks. I was just leaving."

I gave the kid a nod. Business seemed finished. Now it was back to the real work.

The city that never sleeps, with traffic that doesn't either. I took the late hours here and there because that's when the calls came in, and the bodies pile up. It's when bad things happen, when people do stupid shit. My partner was okay with it.

Thomas, who insisted "no Tom", was a good man. Thomas Washington, somewhat an old horse like myself, passed the academy with flying colors. He was ten years on the job, and had been decorated waist high with medals, awards, promotions, busts of his beautiful façade (ha ha, good one), you name it. A good guy to work with, he was, and if I'd known it was his last late night shift, I'd've gotten him something more than halal from down the street.

" 'Sup partner?" He got in with his scalding cup of liquid shit, people just don't seem to know good coffee nowadays. It seemed he had forgiven me for my tardiness. I handed him the gyros. "Hey, thanks man!"

The rest of the drive was silent. As Thomas was enjoying his last few bites of halal, I was thinking about the manila envelope that scarface gave me. I should've also been thinking about the shotguns that were in back, too. Then again, hindsight is 20-20.

We pulled up to the precinct late. It was fine, though, no one gave a rat's ass about an old, washed-up detective and his posterboy sidekick. Maybe it was the other way around: I was the sidekick, and people cared about my leader. Even if they gave a shit, I didn't. This "wasn't my first rodeo" as captain would say.

At that time we were working a drug case: pretty standard. We had to deal with some of those freaks in vice, which was always a blast, and we also had to deal with a lack of evidence. It was a developing problem, synthetic marijuana.

"Even the guy who first invented this shit said, and I quote 'don't do it'." Thomas was already on his computer. I was old school, still am: why use that shit, it slows you down. "Why? It's more dangerous."

"Have to hand it to them. Less regulated, low profile, high return. Plus, on top of meth, this shit ain't any more dangerous."

"Then you're selling this along with the meth."

"Exactly. That's why we have these doped out fuckers dead, along with the victim."

"Why can't we just seal it?"

Maybe he was so decorated because he did work quickly. It's hardly work though when all you do is find a fall guy that you can lockup so you don't have to keep thinking about fucked up the world is. I respected the guy, but when he didn't have an old guy like me to slow him down in his glory days, he was a loose cannon. I wasn't gonna fucking clean up his messes, nor was I gonna write the paperwork. I would've said all that shit to his if I still had balls, but all that came out was "amen, brother." Oh, you make me sick, 'brother'? What the fuck?

"You know, I like you man." Oh, just fuck it with the talking. People wondered why I wasn't made captain with my years of experience; I was such a people person: Ha!

"Likewise." Ugh, listen to yourself!

He kept on looking up god knows what, while I was going back to the photos. It's always good to start at square one. The girl's head was all over the place. The giblets of brain all over the place were what kept me going back for more. We all try and be good guys here, like Thomas, he tries the hardest, but we all know the reason we keep doing it is because we like the violence. Shit, if no one was killed, we'd have no job. We love to see people do what we would never dare to: well, what some of us would never dare to. Sure, I'd dabbled in some bad stuff in my day, but nothing like what I was looking at.

Forensics had gotten back to us at noon. The blood spatter and ballistics didn't match up with the prime suspect. Our OD'ed junkie on the ground next to the victim had a nice semi-automatic baretta. It was military grade, but he sure as shit wasn't. He didn't do it, and there was no residue to show the opposite. That's why we can't seal it, you cocky bastard. It was bad of me to think such terrible things about Thomas, come to think of it, he wasn't the worst of them. Then again, he wasn't the best of them, either.

"Hey, Thomas, I'm gonna make a run down to the morgue. Want to tag along?"

"Nah man, I'm good."

"Suit yourself. Want me to grab you anything?" We shared a laugh. It was a shallow laugh, but it felt good to even be pretending for a second.

The smell of death is always new. You wouldn't spit your guts out all over the place like a punk rookie bitch, but the smell always gets you. The morgue was no different, but Jim seemed fine with it. He was a good man, yet I couldn't empathize with his life choice. If I was stuck there like one of those pitiful shut-ins they call morticians, surrounded by the dead day-in and day-out, I would've joined the dead much before Jim did.

"Jim, long time!" Don't touch me with those sick hands. He shook my hand, and I pleased as a hostess at a fundraiser: fucking brownnosers.

He gave me that jockish finger point. "You're here for the dead girl? Right?"

"Read my mind, as always. Where are they?"

"We still have them out, actually. Sorry for the stink!" He smiled, you don't have to say that every goddamn time. He walked towards the plastic covered tables, altars for criminals, laid with the bones of martyrs. "Five dead, and it was a whole mess."

"I've seen the same thing a thousand times. Junkies with their junkie girlfriend. They OD, and she gets killed. Sentence: death."

"Very eloquent…" He walked to the table with the girl and pulled off the plastic that covered the girl. "I'm sure you noticed this. The shots through her head go into the floor, and she would have fallen down, but they have her sitting up, completely away from the blood-spatter." Fucking amateurs. "To add to it, one of our perps has traces of the splatter on him."

He interrupted the lowlife in mention from his eternal slumber. "In a pattern that suggests he was dead on the ground before the trigger was pulled." He grasped the cadaver's lifeless neck with the care of a first responder. It's what made Jim so good at his job: to him, everything was living, everything was to be treated with care.

Careful was how our guy had been: "You can see a small puncture from a needle on his neck. The same are on the other three. I mean, man, it's fucked up." Jim was right. Shit, maybe the whole blood-spatter thing was on purpose. Maybe he wanted us to know this wasn't our junkies. Maybe he wanted this out of the press, but what I learned was that this creep didn't even care, because he knew we had no idea how to get to him.

"What killed them?" It had better've been recreational; otherwise, I wouldn't have had any idea what our guy was trying to do.

"Heroin." Thank god, at least he was making our criminals predictable.

"But we found no traces at the crime scene. What about the girl?"

"K2, spice, synthetic cannabis. It has a lot of names, but I see from your report you found no traces of either drugs."

"I know. So our guys OD'ed on an absent substance, and our girl was probably testing some spice." This was more than a drug deal gone bad, or a drug theft. These kills were methodical, not something a small-time drug dealer looking to score a shot at the big leagues would do. Those guys were too predictable.

"Looks like you'll have to start working with vice." He saw me scoff, with a little cringe. I hid it well, because it felt like someone was removing my testicles with a dull knife, but I know now that the knife feels worse. "I know you hate them, but you're gonna have to start asking around. I see nothing else." He was right: thanks a million, Jim. All the real work had to happen on the streets I guess.

"See you, Jim." I said my goodbyes. It's always nice to be cordial to the shut-ins. They're more like sorry souls to me.

"See you." Just as I started to walk out, Jim said something that was gonna change everything. "You might want to head back to the crime scene, man. There's some shit that's fucked up with this, you feel it?"

"Ya," I was thinking right there if I should just drop it and seal it like Thomas wanted to. It's just a junkie offing some girl who was in the wrong place. But for some reason, call it old stubbornness, I had to see it through: "Ya, I feel it. I'll go check it out. Where was it again?"

"It says in the file it was at 14th and Avenue A."

Shit. How did I not know? I guess that visit to the scene the day before had completely flown over my head. The crime scene was a block away from scarface's diner. Well, it's always good to start at square one.