*An idea popped up during a conversation with my Kitty pet about the substance in the story
Police detective Jason Brimley stepped onto the weathered and creaking wooden steps of the house, avoiding the last broken one as he stepped onto the porch. Harvey Manders, the recently promoted junior detective assigned to Jason’s station, watched two squatters sitting on beer crates on the porch with disgust. They just glanced at the visitors with hazy eyes before returning to cut their green stash with a rusty knife.
The front door was ajar. There was no need to close and keep the door locked in a neighbourhood like this. Even in the slight chance no one would be around the house. Jason opened the door with the tip of his shoe, dislocating more of the paint peeling from it. The familiar aromas of a place like this wafted outside.
‘Bah.’ said Harvey. ‘Does it always smell this strong?’
‘Sometimes worse.’ said Jason who had learned to ignore it after his first few encounters.
He stepped slowly inside. The faded blue carpet in the hallway was almost reduced to bare threads down the middle. It looked older than the house. Bits of trash were scattered along the walls, yellowed magazines were stacked on the steps of the stairs. He recognised two names that had been out of print for years. The marathon champion on the front of one had been found dead a year ago on his treadmill.
Slightly distorted music came from further inside and he walked up to the kitchen. A skinny girl wearing a tank top with faded “My high” printed on the front, tight shorts with loose threads hanging from the seams and dirty white socks in training shoes that barely held together was concocting a brew with the most unappetising colours in a blender screaming for mercy.
Jason cleared his throat to get her attention.
She turned off the blender and looked at him, assessing him from tip to toe before turning back her attention to the blender and pouring the contents into a glass. ‘Yeah?’ she asked.
‘Bernie.’ Jason said.
Harvey wondered if there wasn’t a bone in her body which wasn’t visible now. He didn’t want to find out though.
‘Back room.’ the woman said and drank the thick liquid.
Jason walked into the front room with Harvey behind him. A group of people sat on the floor around a low round table with one leg replaced by another stack of magazines. They didn’t look up, engrossed as they were in their philosophy of how they reached their high and what substance worked best for them. Some of it in small bowls on the table and scattered across it among unwashed glasses. Two pitchers with similar brews the woman had made stood in the centre. A radio with busted front behind the table was the source of the music.
‘How can they live like this?’ asked Harvey. ‘Some don’t even have half a sole under their shoes.’
Jason said nothing. There was no satisfying answer. He opened the sliding doors to the back room and saw his target leaning back in a deep couch. The fabric used to be without the stains. The middle aged man wore a loose sweat band around his head, a loose sweat stained runners shirt with number 83 on the front and a woman in her early thirties wearing a mismatched track suit had her legs on his lap as she laid on the couch. She moaned softly with her eyes closed while he massaged her calves.
Harvey took a quick look around the room. A half disassembled treadmill stood on its side against one wall. A book case with a couple of photos from different sporting events and a collection of cheap participation medals stood on the other side.
‘Bernie.’ said Jason.
Bernie looked up while continuing his massage. ‘Hey, mister detective.’ he said, a grin growing on his face. ‘Want some too?’
‘I’ve got a few people who are very sick after they got their hands on a bad batch.’ Jason said. ‘Coming from you.’
‘Heh, I don’t know what you mean.’ Bernie said.
Jason stepped forward, grabbed Bernie’s shirt and pulled him up with ease. The woman cried out when she almost rolled from the the couch.
Harvey caught a glimpse of Bernie’s round belly before he looked away. He couldn’t imagine how that looked on such a body with thin limbs.
‘Listen, Bernie.’ Jason said, his face close to Bernie’s. ‘I know you don’t grow the stuff yourself, so you know the people who do. And I need to know who delivered that bad batch of greens.’
Bernie held up his hands. ‘There are so many-‘
‘Talk!’ said Jason, staring intently into Bernie’s eyes. ‘Or I’ll put you somewhere where you can’t even walk straight for three metres!’
‘All right!’ Bernie said. ‘Ask for Fred at the supermarket at the south side. He’s the manager there and can tell you who the grower is. I swear!’
Jason dropped Bernie back on the couch. ‘If you lie, I’m back here before you can tie your shoes.’ he said and went on his way back out the door.
Harvey picked up his phone while he followed.
Outside at the street Jason stopped and took a moment to breath deep to get the aromatic smell out of his nose.
‘The lab found out which pesticide was used on the batch of celery.’ Harvey said as he put his phone back in his pocket. ‘And we just got a call about a gang of runners hanging around the old school track. They say asparagus are involved.’
Jason sighed. ‘Damn health nutters and their addictions.’ he said and walked towards his car.