"What I'm not gonna do," he said, "is buy a little house in fucking Florida. I don't fish, I don't play golf, and I got this County Waterford skin, I can get a sunburn from a desk lamp."
"I don't think you'd like Florida."
"No kidding. I could stay here and live on my pension, but I'd go nuts without something to do. I'd spend all my time in bars, which is no good, or I'd stay home and drink, which is worse. This is the best, this black pudding. There aren't many places you can get it. I suppose the old Irish neighborhoods, Woodside, Fordham Road, but who's got the time to chase out there?"
"Well, now that you're retired."
"Yeah, I can spend a day looking for black pudding."
"You wouldn't have to go that far," I said. "Any bodega can sell you all you want."
"You're kidding. Black pudding?"
"They call it morcilla, but it's the same thing."
"What is it, Puerto Rican? I bet it's spicier."
"Spicier than Irish cuisine? Gee, do you suppose that's possible? But it's pretty much the same thing. You can call it morcilla or black pudding, but either way you've got sausage made from pig's blood."
"What's the matter?"
"Do you fucking mind? I'm eating."
"You didn't know what it was?"
"Of course I know, but that doesn't mean I want to fucking dwell on it." He drank some beer, put the glass down, shook his head. "Some of the guys wind up working private security. Not at the rent-a-cop level, but higher up. Guy I knew put his papers in ten years ago, went to work overseeing security at the stock exchange. Regular hours, and better money than he ever made on the job. Now he's retired from that, and he's got two pensions, plus his Social Security. And he's down in Florida, playing golf and fishing."
"You interested in something like that?"
"Florida? I already said . . . oh, the private security thing. Well, see,
I carried a gold shield for a lot of years. I was a detective, and the job he had, it's more administrative. I could do it, but I don't know that I'd love it. Probably a fair amount of chickenshit involved, too." He picked up his empty glass, looked at it, put it down again. Without looking at me he said, "I was thinking about a private ticket."
I'd seen this coming.
"To do it right," I said, "you have to be a businessman, keeping records and filing reports and networking in order to get cases. That's if you're in business for yourself, but the other way, going to work for one of the big agencies, you're mostly doing boring work for short money, and doing it without a badge. I don't think it would suit you."
"Neither would the reports and the record keeping. But you didn't do all that."
"Well, I was never very good at doing things by the book," I said. "I worked for years without a license, and when I finally got one I didn't hang on to it very long."
"I remember. You got by okay without it."
"I guess. It was hand to mouth sometimes."
"Well, I got that pension. It's a cushion."
"What I was thinking . . ."
And what he was thinking, of course, was that the two of us could work together. I had the experience on the private side, and he'd be bringing much fresher contacts within the department. I let him pitch the idea, and when he'd run through it I told him he was a few years too late.
From All the Flowers Are Dying by Lawrence Block. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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