A little Birdie Told Me
With his cheek still stinging from the slap, Zorn pulled into the cop-shop parking lot. He parked and checked his image in the rear-view. A crimson welt blossomed in a perfect hand-print. In an attempt to erase it, he rubbed his cheek. That only made it worse. He’d have to walk in brandishing his red badge of infidelity. Most of the force knew he’d been at the forensic lab and were really experienced at putting two and two together. He prepared himself for a ribbing and got out of his car. The front door of the precinct flew open and Kasick rushed out.
He marched over to Zorn and stood face to face. “What took you so long?” The impatience in the detective’s voice was evident.
“I had other business to take care of.” Maybe Kasick was too absorbed in his own angst to notice the red mark on his cheek.
“I’ve had it up to my nose hairs trying to get anything out of our witness, so I was about ready to let him go,” Kasick said.
“The guy’s not a suspect. Besides, he sounds harmless.” He remembered what Joe had said about the homeless guy seeing Jesus raising someone from the dead. Zorn began heading for the entrance.
Kasick huffed at the statement. “You know you would’a rode my ass for weeks if I’d have let the wit go before you had a shot at him.”
Zorn didn’t want to argue. He stopped and asked, “What do you have so far?”
“The guy’s a bone-ee-fied Fruitloop, ” said Kasick ” He’s been jabbering away, mostly gibberish, but, bits and pieces could be pertinent. I’ve been trying to make sense of it all.”
Zorn figured as much. More than likely interviewing the derelict was going to be a waste of time, but he knew that sometimes you could strike gold in the most unlikely of places.
“You might have better luck,” Kasick said.
Zorn’s cheek still burned. “Where’s everyone at?”
“There still out searching for the perp.”
“Okay, let’s get this done. I’ll take the lead.” Zorn started for the entrance again.
“All right by me,” said the detective.
Once inside, Kasick followed Zorn to the door of the interview room. They stood outside and Zorn peered in at the witness sitting in one of the four chairs positioned around a rectangle table at the center of the room. The man’s long, tangled hair flowed over his shoulders and his beard was a bib of long, frizzy whiskers covering the chest area of his dirty T-shirt. The homeless man was using his finger to draw out letters or symbols in the air the way a teacher would write on a chalkboard.
Zorn placed his hand on the knob.
Kasick nudged him on the arm holding up a small jar of Vick’s Vapor Rub. “You might want to dab a little of this under your nose.”
Zorn waved it off and entered. The room reeked of strong, rancid body odor. It was going to take a lot of Lysol to get the smell out. He sat in the chair across from the man. Kasick remained on his feet.
The derelict’s bloodshot eyes remained tethered to whatever message he was scribbling in the air with his dirt-tipped fingernail while he streamed unintelligible mutterings behind a curtain of facial hair.
“What’s your name?” Zorn asked.
Oblivious to the detective’s presence, the man continued marking the air with his fingertip and moving his lips.
“His name is Birdie,” said Kasick.
Zorn turned and looked up. “How did you find that out?”
“It was the damndest thing. One minute he was jabbering nonsense and when I asked him his name, it was like someone flipped his switch and he told me. We’ve had one hell of a good time, haven’t we, Birdie?”
“What else did he tell you?”
Kasick shook his head. “Nothing that makes any sense. He just kept repeating the numbers zero and one.
Zorn waved his hands in front of the derelict’s eyes. The man’s attention retreated and he was once again oblivious to the detective’s presence. The man returned to his aerial writing and murmuring.
“I’ve got a theory about burnt out guys like him,” said Kasick with a grin. “They’re like an open channel and they can pick up information.”
“What kind of information?”
“I guess digital transmissions. That would explain the ones and zeros.”
Kasick shrugged then said, “Maybe we could use him like a divining rod to lead us to the source.” The look on his face was only half joking.
Zorn was just about to tell Kasick how stupid that idea was, when the door to the room suddenly opened and a cop stuck his head around the corner. “Sorry to interrupt, but the Captain wants to see you in his office, Zorn. Pronto.”
Zorn nodded. After the door closed he turned to Kasick. “Try to get something of substance from him until I get back.”
“I’ve got to take a leak.”
“Wait until after I see the Captain.”
“Man, I really got to go.”
“I shouldn’t be too long,” Zorn said.
“He’s just an old burnt out bum,” Kasick argued to Zorn’s back as he left the room. He let a few seconds slide by before saying. “Okay, but hurry it up, would you?”
Zorn lightly rapped his fist on the jamb before opening the door to Captain Grady Hawkins’ office.
Grady sat behind the old wooden desk with a serious look on his ebony face. “Get in here, Zorn, and close the door.” After the detective did what he was told, the Captain motioned to the empty chair. “Sit down.”
Zorn had been in this seat many times for many different reasons. The hardwood seat was already biting into his ass. He shifted around feeling for a comfortable zone.
“Quit squirming,” Grady growled. “I’m the one in the hot seat. I’ve already got Mayor Stiles breathing down my neck to get this case solved A.S.A.P. He’s pulled out all the stops, approving manpower and overtime. He’s laid down the law, there’s to be no Snafus’ and no leaks to the press.”
Zorn knew the reason why Mayor Stiles was pushing the precinct to solve this case in such a hurry. The annual saltwater fishing tournament was only one month away. A King and Queen Fish would be selected for the parade down Main. The event pulled in people from the surrounding counties and bordering states. It was Paradise’s bread and butter. News of this case would crush the local businesses that depended on it. He also knew that Stiles had recently sunk a boatload of money into buying a bar slash restaurant and was banking on paying off his investment. “Stiles is worried about his pocketbook.”
“Well, I’m worried about the commerce in this town, and the people’s safety.”
Zorn felt a shockwave run through him. “What are you talking about?”
“This was written on my windshield this morning. I just thank God that it wasn’t scrawled in big letters on the side of a building.”
“Obviously, it was meant for your eyes only,” replied Zorn.
Grady pulled up a picture on his phone. “Look.”
A handwritten message scrawled by a fingertip n the thick blanket of condensate that had collected on Grady’s windshield over night. Turn me on dead man
“Revolution Nine,” replied Zorn.
With an agitated look on his face, Grady wrinkled his brow. “What the hell is that suppose to mean?”
“It’s called backmasking.”
“I take it that you’re not a Beatles fan.”
Grady huffed then cracked a smile before he asked. “Are you kidding me? Nothing but old Motown for me, baby, and none of that rap crap these young bloods listen to now days.” He shifted his gaze to Zorn. “So, what does it mean?”
Grady narrowed his eyes down. “What’s that got to do with music that sounds like toothpaste being sucked back into the tube?”
“Years ago it was rumored that one of the band’s members, Paul McCartney, died in a car crash and he was replaced with an imposter. There were clues found on album covers and in the songs that hypothesized McCartney’s death. But some think that it wasn’t any more than a hoax to generate curiosity and boost record sales.”
“And how does all this relate to what’s going on here?” asked Grady.
“Some of the folks here think that Lucia Gans isn’t dead, or he’s back from the grave.”
Grady looked disturbed. “It seems that someone’s trying to point the arrow in that direction, but another element of the explanation could that there is a third party involved.”
“The thought has crossed my mind,” replied Zorn.
“Have you and Kasick speculated on this?”
The detective shook his head. “Things have been happening so fast that I feel like I’m chasing myself.”
“I understand,” said Grady. “The story is spreading like a wildfire. Newshounds are flooding the place.”
“I’ve seen them, said Zorn.
We’ve got to nip this thing in the bud before it’s out of control.” Grady briefly looked away then shifted his eyes back to the detective. “What I wouldn’t give right now to have you and Stengal paired up again.” He chuckled. “But I may as well wish in one hand and crap in the other, as far as that goes.”
“He’s here in spirit, sir.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen you talking to Casey’s hat. So have a lot of other people.
Zorn had created the habit of holding lengthy conversations with the hat while out driving by himself.
“Something like that could ruin your career and the rest of your life, but me, I don’t care as long as you find something solid and fast.”
Casey hadn’t been very talkative lately, but he’d been like that in life. He’d close off from the rest of the world, stay inside him self, sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks, and when he did come out, Casey would have placed together a huge piece of the puzzle.
“Why are you still sitting here?” Grady asked. “Get going.”
Zorn stood. “Yes sir.” He left the Captain’s office thinking, as crazy as it sounded, there might be some merit in Kasick’s theory about using Birdie as a divining rod. When he arrived at the interrogation room, he found the door wide open and the room empty. Footsteps at his back clomped across the floor toward him. Zorn spun around and saw Kasick drying his hands with a brown, paper towel. It was the same ones found in the dispenser of the Men’s room. “I thought I told you to stay here.”
“I couldn’t wait any longer.” Kasick wadded the towel into a tight ball and tossed it at the wastebasket on the other side of the hall. He missed.
“Where’s the witness?”
Kasick looked in at the empty seat and shrugged. “I guess he left.”
“What are you so upset about? He was just some crazy dude muttering nonsense.”
Zorn’s eyes were drawn to the wall behind the chair where Birdie had been sitting. “What the hell?”
“What?′ Kasick looked confused.
Pointing to the wall, Zorn replied. “That.”
Kasick’s eyes followed the direction of Zorn’s finger and settled on the symbol of a blackbird penciled on the wall. “Looks like radar man has graduated to graffiti.” The junior detective pointed out a sequence of zeros and ones below it. “But what is supposed to be?”
“I don’t know anything about computer crap other than how to login and read emails.”
“Got your phone?” asked Zorn.
“Yeah.” Kasick pulled it out of his coat pocket and held it up for Zorn to see,
“Look up binary to text converter.”
Kasick found what he was looking for. “I’ve got it from here.” He entered in the number sequence. “You’ve got to see this.” He turned the screen toward Zorn.
“Put out a APB on Birdie!” Zorn shouted, “And put one out on Colton Bishop while you’re at it. I have some questions for him.”