Sunday, September 02, 2012

Cold Case

Not how the world is, but that it is, is the mystery.
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein

The genre has conventions, not the least
concerning the Inspector. He is smart,
world-weary, hurt by life and love. He burns
with curiosity, if not outrage,
(that fire went out a million lives ago)
and always there's this one, big unsolved case
that's dogged him for decades, eye-mote and craw-
sticker, that taunts him from the dustiest
far reaches of the basement dead file room,
accounting for the cigarettes and booze
he knows will be the death of him someday.

It was no simple whodunit. The scale
of it might lead a lesser man to doubt
himself and every other thing, but not
our hero, the Inspector. He is used
to the abyssal gaze, the rising stench,
the screech of nail and board, the icy touch
of something on the sweating nape, the lapse
of bile down the clenched chest. The whitest nights
are blackest. All he asks is coffee, time
and world enough to lead him to the Who
of Whos, the mastermind, the biggest wheel.

Oh, sure the DA's harping on the lack
of corpus delicti, insisting that
a simple missing persons case should not
consume such overtime. The absconder
would show, sooner or later, and if not,
well, who cares anyway ? There is enough
embezzling, grand theft auto and public
lewdness to occupy the force -- forget
the Mystery, unsolvable, occult.
Such matters are best left to other men --
the French Foreign Legion or MI-6.

Or that Private Eye whose fate, unspeakable,
still haunts his waking and his sleeping dreams --
forsaken in the grip of a failed state,
and tortured, left to die, and crying out
(or so the story goes) with his last breath
his final question -- Why ? -- the evidence
(perhaps) that he had solved that bitter Who
that's hounded the Inspector down the years.
Or not. Another coffee, hot and black,
he's drinking brimstone, trying to forget
that rockwalled tomb, the graverobbers, the lies

that seemed to close the case once and for all.
But did they ? The eyewitnesses were each
crazier than the next, contradicting,
hallucinating, trying to cash in
on the whole sad, sordid episode and now
whatever truth there was has vanished, too,
and with it hope for an exciting end
to this procedural. The dusty clues,
lost bags of evidence, the general
detectively acedia: what last
gunblazing alleyway does this portend ?

None, that's what. Straight to the epilogue.
Our hero, after dark, by some canal
of louche repute, discards the evidence
of failure. His. Into the water go,
tossed one by one, his trade tools -- the service
revolver, notepad, bullet-stopping vest,
items of inquiry -- who, what, where, when,
the why and how -- all swallowed by the thick,
black water. One more smoke, and then the last
of them follows. Himself. His faithless leap.

(Rats' midnight. Taunting from the bank ? The that.)


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