Dirt Nap (A Marnie Baranuik “Between the Files” Story)

BOOK: Dirt Nap (A Marnie Baranuik “Between the Files” Story)
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Copyright 2013 A.J. Aalto


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Edited by Rafe Brox


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to similarly named places or to persons living or deceased is unintentional.


EPUB ISBN 978-1-62015-316-1


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Dirt Nap
is a Marnie Baranuik “Between the Files” story, taking place between
Death Rejoices
Last Impressions
and after the short story
Cold Company
. It could be considered, if you were kooky enough to number such things,
Marnie 2.2

Table of Contents

There was only one resident in the drunk tank across from my cell, an apparent regular named Slim Eddie Altschul, and he was surprisingly quick, considering he was coming off a three-day bender. Slim Eddie didn’t seem to mind the fetid stink coming from his cell; he was, as far as I could tell without getting any closer, the main ingredient. He caught the still-wrapped toilet paper roll easily with one hand and spun it back to me across the chipped, painted-cement hallway.

It was an unseasonably warm fall morning, and the Lambert County Sheriff’s department had already turned off the air conditioning for the season, so the air was quickly losing its overnight cool and ramping up towards “disgusting.” Or maybe that was just Eddie. I was sitting splay-legged in worn-soft cargo pants, my Kelly-green Keds sticking through the bars, using my ankles as two goal posts. Slim Eddie lay on his well-fed belly, his shaggy head resting on one tattoo-sleeved arm, his hands flopping through his bars to bat at the toiletry that served as the ball in our impromptu game. If he wanted to, he could have reached a bit further and grabbed hold of my foot; the dinky little two-cell lock-up hadn’t been built with preventing inmate interaction in mind. Or maybe Ten Springs, Colorado had been populated exclusively by
T. rexes
and bilateral amputees back in the day.

Under a jaunty Hallowe’en banner taped to the cement wall, the deputy on guard duty was examining the crud under his thumbnail and picking at it angrily, long-faced and sweaty in his tan uniform. As he leaned against the wall beside my cell, one ankle crossed over the other, I doubted he realized that he, his keys, and his gun were all within easy reach. Fortunately, I'm not usually nefarious first thing in the morning; my A.M. pursuits tend towards lewd, grumpy, and occasionally ridiculous. Besides which, I'm too much of a klutz to make good on any grabby-handed antics no matter what time it is.

Not that he was paying a tenth the attention to us not-remotely-hardened criminals as he was to being a prisoner of his own passions. “So she says to me, she goes, ‘You deserve better, Eric,’” the deputy lifted his voice to a splintered falsetto that I hoped was a terrible rendition of the speaker's actual voice. “‘I think you’re
great, and I’m
jealous of the woman who gets to be your wife.’”

I winced for a couple of reasons. “Yeah, that’s not good.”

“I mean, you’re a woman, right?” he demanded.

In answer, I cupped my small boobs with gloved hands and raised my eyebrows meaningfully. He’d let me keep my tan leather gloves, which is good, because a touch-psychic without her gloves is a flaky-brained mess.

Eric snorted at my tit-grab, and I figured if he wasn’t on duty, he might have made a smart-assed comment. Slim Eddie slurred something that sounded derogatory, but the only thing I caught was the hundred-proof breath that hit me from clear across the hallway. My eyes stung from the fumes and I blinked rapidly.

Eric continued, “So, your opinion as a woman? Was that her way of blowing me off?”

thing you're getting is blown, dude.
“I'm obviously the poster child for smart life choices here? Look where I am, Eric.” I motioned at the jail cell helpfully. “I’m up in the hoosegow. The pokey. Stony lonesome. The Greybar Hotel. The slammer. The big house.” I examined the two-cell niche with disdain. “Okay, the small house.”

None of this seemed to impress upon the deputy that I was less qualified than a Magic 8-Ball. He pleaded with me, his calf-brown eyes earnest. “What am I supposed to do, now? Try harder, or give up? What does she want from me?”

Even without being on the wrong side of the lockdown in this podunk clink, I should be the last person in the world to give romance advice to anyone: I’m pitifully obsessed with a man I can’t have, I’m devoted an immortal who can no longer experience love, and I’ve got the second-most-evil being in creation looking over my shoulder if I get busy. Plus, my boss takes splash damage when I’m horny. My romantic life is not an ideal template to emulate.

I offered an exaggerated shrug, and was saddened by his great, heaving sigh. It was a sigh full of helplessness and longing and love and heartache. The Blue Sense flared and offered me an empathic psychic’s secondhand dose of his sorrow; Eric was sliding headlong into that critical, eat-a-pint-of-ice-cream zone.

“Hey, you know what? If she wants you to make someone else happy, go for it,” I said, whipping the toilet paper roll past his feet toward Sloppy McBoozeHound. “She was giving you the, 'It's not you, except that it totally is you,' let-down speech. You’re better off with someone who actually wants you. No sense sticking together if she's miserable and you're clueless.”

He winced, but tried to rally. “Think so?”

Better break out the people skills and emotional band-aids.
“Hell, yeah. You’re young, good-looking, got a great job, you’ve got lots to offer. Find some chick with a thing for handcuffs and a uniform and you're golden.” I had a  coworker named Golden, but she'd never expressed any kind of interest in bondage, and she'd probably kill this poor kid if he tried anything.

He murmured wordless uncertainty, took his Stetson off, scratched his buzz cut, and plopped the hat back on, poking the brim so it was off his sweaty brow. His sadness did not leave me; one of my psychic Talents was the ability to feel another person’s emotions, but right now, it was the Talent I could do without. I tried to shake free, reminding myself that this was the deputy’s misery, not my own.
Your job is to pump blood
, I told my heart,
not to miss Eric’s ex-girlfriend

“Seriously,” I said, “you want someone who appreciates you.”

Slim Eddie slurred, “‘
prseechia'es yooo.”
Eddie felt his own blurry version of mundane sympathy for Eric, which the Blue Sense unkindly shared with me. A big sorrow soup was simmering in the lock-up, which gave being in jail today that extra pinch of flavor.
Oh joy

Eddie pitched the toilet paper roll at me. Unexpectedly, it hit a second set of boots and ricocheted off down the hall. The drunk and I squawked a chorus of complaints.

“Hey, yo! We had a streak going!” I wailed at the newcomer, and craned my neck way, way up to see who it was.

Special Agent Mark Batten — the powerhouse of a man I was obsessed with — glared down at me from under a dark, furrowed pair of eyebrows. Jaw doing its clench-unclench dance, he waited for me to explain myself.

“Oh, hi,” I said, cheering up instantly. I showed him a sunny smile and waved at him.

He did not smile back. “Hello, Trouble.”

“Some dudes know all the right things to say,” I said. “Are you here to bail me out?”

“Haven’t decided yet.”

I wilted, sucking my teeth. “Why did the universe send

“Why the hell are you in here? Do you know how long it took me to track you down?”

“I’ve only been here an hour,” I said.

Eric shot his cuff and checked his watch. “It’s been three and a half.”

“This is why your girlfriend left you, Eric,” I warned, then turned back to Special Agent Angryknickers. “Besides, how hard would it have been to, I dunno, call Rob to see if he knew? It's not like he's the fucking sheriff or anything. You suck as a cop, dude.”

He gave me a withering look that would probably have bent the bars of my cell if he'd aimed it at them. “I want the truth, Marnie.”

“You sure?”

“Out with it.”

“Brace yourself.”

“Tell me.”

“You’re not as hot as you think you are,” I said, wrapping my gloved hands around the bars and smirking up at him. “Also, your nose looks huge from this angle.”

“Not that truth.”

I shrugged. It was a lie anyways; he was way hotter than he knew, even when he was sweaty and frustrated.
Especially when he’s sweaty and frustrated

Batten gave the deputy a grim nod. Eric twirled a finger at the security camera over his left shoulder. In the booth at the end of the hall, something buzzed, and my cell unlocked with an audible click.

“Did it again, didn’t you,” Batten said, more statement than question.

I scrambled to my feet. “It was an impulse.”

“What kind of a sick impulse—”

“Those Brinks guys are so
,” I said, standing back while the deputy slid the cell door open with a clang. I mimed my jumping-out-from-behind-the-truck stance, clawed fingers and spring-legs and all. “That’s all I did.” I made the claw-fingers again, scratching at the air in front of his chest. “Just this.”

“Lucky they didn’t shoot you. You were let off with a warning last time.”

“I didn’t even yell ‘
’ this time.” In the spirit of Hallowe’en, I'd gone
I like to mix it up, keep it fresh. I am all about delivering a quality experience. I had people skills, dammit. Sure, they were grotesquely misapplied, but I still had them.

When Batten didn’t move aside so I could exit the cell, I tilted my head back to look at him. At six feet even, he had a foot on me, and outweighed me by about a hundred pounds of solid muscle. Annoyingly, he was still a psychic null for me, which meant even if I Groped him with my bare hands and focused all my intentions on him, I wouldn’t get any vibes off him. He
supremely irritated, which gave me the almost irresistible urge to twist his nipples just to see what the fallout would be. Probably, he'd put me through the wall. Probably, I'd like it. Probably, I shouldn't give that kind of free show to Eric and Eddie. Vocal parts of my anatomy let it be known that they gave precisely no fucks who might be watching, they wanted some Batten-and-banging delivered pronto.

BOOK: Dirt Nap (A Marnie Baranuik “Between the Files” Story)
2.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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