Chapter 17

“The Kitten Yawned in the Doorway”


Abandoned Groovy’s Department Store outside of Lawrence, Kansas

My view from the bottom of the bottle is transfixed on the other bottle. The full bottle. The game of liver-killing hopscotch was afoot, bouncing from whiskey to scotch to margarita mix, adrift in a dreary haze of bickering neighbors, truant alimony checks, and losing consciousness on a pizza. The life of a cop. A good life.

(Excerpts are taken from the never-produced screenplay of Ransic Yarbo’s cop noir thriller “The Kitten Yawned in the Doorway.”)

Detective Ransic polished off what was left of an under-cooked Healthy Choice Lobster Cheese Ravioli and tossed the recyclable tray into a nearby garbage can. He wiped his hands clean on the front of his slacks and headed back into the store for another check around the crime scene

Since the ill-timed departure of Detective Bob Stack from the ranks of the Los Angeles police department, the day-to-day responsibilities of Ransic had increased with overwhelming momentum. Gone were the days of milling around in the background, attempting to find the point on an asymptote well balanced between receiving the maximum amount of credit and placating the brass with a charade of value and reliability. He knew that his calling was to step into big shoes and give everything he had to protect the fine citizens of California.

Today was not that day.

“Rancid! Where’s that Grande White Chocolate?” one of them half-yawned from the safety of the perfume counter, not looking up from a text that was surely of minimal importance.

I fired back with a smile so manufactured Henry Ford would have stopped and asked me to put on a clinic.

“It’s Ransic, sir,” he replied. “I’m here for the crime scene—I’m Julius Ransic. From Los Angeles.” He smiled nervously, held up his badge, and hoped the man behind the counter would elect to point him in the right direction.

If the right direction was a grunt of ill-defined subtext, then he was off to a great start. He tucked his badge back into his jacket pocket and pushed further into the sea of feds, doing his best to get through and across the condemned department store floor.

When the Feds slink down from their ivory tower long enough to choke on the unfamiliar aroma of actual police work, we get a peek up their skirt and instantaneously recoil at their rotting intuition concealed under their unkempt bravados—a lifetime spent unwaking from the childhood dream of cowboys and Indians.

George Armstrong Custer is dead, and the war is long over, but the men in the Reagan-era haircuts bark orders and sling condescension amongst one another in a never-ending battle for anthill supremacy.

“Hey, watch it, man! I’m dusting for prints here,” a Fed spun and yelled in a hushed whisper after Ransic collided into the poor man’s back.

“Sorry about that. Just looking for the—Looking for someone.”

“Ransic!” he heard his name shouted from the other side of the perfume and jewelry counters. He spun round to see his boss Waylan Dwight Jessup III talking to a small group of men in blue track jackets that said “FBI” on the back. “I need a minute of your time, kid.”

I follow orders handed down from the brass, but I never polish them. Sure, I had a few drinks for breakfast but when I look around, I grimace, surrounded by knob-polishers and pole-jumpers, drowning in a sea of double entendre.

He walked over to his boss and leaned against a nearby counter, trying to look suave and collected. “What’s up, boss?”

Jessup focused on the rest of a soft taco resting on a nearby counter. The man always seemed to chew with his mouth open, something that drove Ransic positively bananas on a daily basis. The detective would often find excuses to duck away from any would-be dining experience with the Chief. “So, did you run through the scene with one of the Federales yet?” he said, mashing his words into a vulgar mess of chicken, cheese, and lettuce.

Ransic recoiled. “No sir, I’ve been waiting around all morning. Do you know who I should report to?”

Lettuce exploded from the Chief’s lips and fell to the floor. “Kid, just stick around for a few hours and go tour the college or something. These blowhards don’t want us giving any insight into their crime scene. Do the dog and pony; then sit back and enjoy the trip, man.”

It was in that moment that I knew there was no such thing as a real cop. They sprinted in a race to the bottom, each day some black and blue found a new way to crawl up under my skin and die. A real cop will pick up the pieces and assemble a masterpiece. A real cop will compose a glorious symphony on the sides of shell casings. Was I the only real cop who would stand up and do what was right?

“Sir, this is a serial killer who started in L.A shouldn’t we do our best to help them find the culprit?”

The Chief laughed. “Sometimes it doesn’t work that way. We’ll be home solving crimes in no time.” As he finished the sentence, and the taco, he turned and began to walk away.

Ransic gave him a quick tap on the shoulder. “Wait, sir, I had a quick question for you if you’ve got a moment.”

Jessup turned back, eyebrow at attention. “What’s up?”

“Did you get a chance to read my screenplay? I want a professional eye on it before I run it by a few agencies in town.”

“I don’t recall you giving me a screenplay, Detective.”

“Sure I did. I left it on your desk with an orange sticky note reminding you to read it on the plane if you got a chance.”

Jessup pursed his lips and flared his eyes. “That was yours? It had a weird title and the name on it was like Randy Yardstick or something like that.”

“Ransic Yarbo, it’s my pen name sir.”

“That sounds like a Jewish diarrhetic.”

The detective frowned in disappointment. “Well, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when you get a chance. It’s neo-noir-hyper-fable with a hard-nosed detective tracking down a serial killer. The twist is that the killer is his own alcoholism and he kills during his black outs. It’s a metaphor about the dangers and reality of the disease.”

“Don’t you think the audience will be upset if the killer is the main character? Isn’t that super cheap?”

“It’s a metaphor.”

“Yes, you’ve said that.”

Ransic smiled. “Besides, there will always be somebody upset when the story reveals who the real killer is. Just look at Scream 2.”

Jessup tilted his head. “There was a Scream 2?”

“There was a Scream 4!”

The Chief checked his watched and looked hurriedly back up to his lead detective basking in the myopic glow of a terrible screenplay idea. “I gotta run, kid. Like I said, talk to who you need to talk to and go have some fun.” He tossed on a light brown overcoat and headed for the door to get out of the condemned department store.

All trouble can be traced back to the single and unquestionable root of all problems: women. When that dame walks through the door, licking her wounds with cherry red lipstick, you know it’s over. Your life is about to flip upside down and there is not a goddamn thing you can do about it.

He heard someone whispering the word “detective” over and over again to his rear. Ransic turned to find himself staring at an attractive young woman, hair done in braided pigtails with small purple bows, calling to him and waving the detective out of the main crime scene area.

She was standing in a doorway, beckoning him closer. As he reached her location, she yawned and extended a friendly hand to introduce herself. “Hi, my name’s Chloe and I only have a few minutes.”

“You look really familiar, Chloe.”

Chloe Freimont rolled her eyes. “Listen to me, Ransic!”

“This is a closed crime scene, who the hell are you?”

She pushed him back against a wall and the two went completely out of view of any of the other cops. “Okay, seriously, shut up. Your boss orchestrated the group of men that attacked the station. That’s why he never went in, he wanted Eliot and Alex dead.”

He noticed the curious limp in her foot. “That’s a serious allegation, one I’m sure you brought evidence to support,” he replied without appearing too surprised.

“Jessup isn’t who you think he is.”

“Who the hell is he, then?”

She paused and whispered into his ear: “Napoleon.”

The dame just ruined everything.