The Center of the Jigsaw

After my aunt was dead I got the shakes pretty bad and suddenly the cops seemed to be everywhere. I’d look up from the newspaper and one would be leaning over the counter talking to the waitress and casting what looked like significant glances in my direction, or there’d be two cars parked down the street from my house with their lights spinning silently, or I’d pass a few on bicycles on my way to work. I started sneaking out through the woods behind my house or going miles out of my way to make sure they weren’t following me. I couldn’t think why they didn’t just arrest me and get it over with, unless they were messing with me, trying to work me around to where I’d confess and make things easy on everybody. I came close a couple of times, even wrote out what I’d done and how I’d done it and why, but I always tore it up afterwards and burned the pieces. If nothing else I had my pride and I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d knuckled under like that.

Anyway, after a month of chewing my fingernails all the way up to my elbows I dozed off at the Shoe and when I woke up there was a whole platoon of blues sitting at the next table, drinking coffee and complaining about the hash browns. My number was up, I figured, and I started trying to figure out a way of slipping out without looking like I was slipping out, and didn’t really hear what they were saying till one of them said my aunt’s name and then I was all ears. “ME figures it was a heart attack,” one of them said, a blonde Dutch cop with Dykstra sewn over her left breast, “boom, just dropped dead in her chair one night with the TV on. Nobody knew until she started smelling, and by then the cats had done for most of her face. Poor old thing.”

“Hell of a way to go,” said the guy across from her. “All alone like that.” The whole table of cops shook their heads and just like that they were only four cops and I could nod at them as I paid my bill, just a guy being neighborly and saying hello.