Chuck softly kicked the severed head lying on the concrete parking lot floor, watching as it rolled a few inches before coming to a stop beside a small piece of broken slate. It was an obvious suicide, another run-of-the-mill “cry for help.” He’d seen it a hundred times, a surprisingly routine situation in which the victim—if that was the right word for a suicidal man—had removed his own head and thrown it out of a window. The man probably didn’t even mean to die, probably just wanted Mommy, or Mrs. Wife, or whomever else it was to notice him for once. Yet he hadn’t expected the window to be open, nor the balcony to be so poorly head-proofed. And now he was dead, his torso lying in a bathtub of blood several stories up, his head face down on the concrete beneath. Typical.
“This is clearly a suicide,” Chuck said.
“Yeah,” Chuck said, staring at the severed head. It was face up now, the man’s eyes half closed and severely bloodshot. That was probably the result of all the crying he’d done just before managing to kill himself purely for attention. Chuck hated guys like that, hated the people who would go so far as to endanger their own lives just to get noticed by the girl next door. He was probably a drug addict, too. Probably.
“You think this was a suicide?”
“I do,” Chuck said, glancing up at Henry. He was such a nerd, such a god damn dork. Had the glasses, the freckles, the slight lisp when he said words like “slight lisp.” More than that, though, he was a shitty detective. Yes, sure, he’d actually gone to college and majored in Criminal Justice. And yes, perhaps he was actively recruited into the NYPD, rather than being employed under the table by his father who happened to be Chief of Police. That didn’t make him a good detective, didn’t make him a good police officer. It just made him more of a nerd, and Chuck hated him for it.
“You think this man cut off his own head in the bathtub, wrote a threatening message on the wall above his dismembered body, and then tossed his own head off the balcony?”
Chuck shrugged his shoulders. That was exactly what he thought, because that was exactly what happened. Henry, however, would obviously have some sort of alternative scenario, some sort of ridiculous claim that stretched the boundaries of fiction and fantasy. He was always doing that, always trying to argue with Chuck’s tenured detective skills. Henry didn’t have Chuck’s two years of experience being on the homicide team, he only had one year as a detective and twelve as an officer. He was a damned fool.
“So you don’t think this man was murdered by the Cartel, despite the blood-smeared writing on the bathroom wall above his body that read, ‘greetings from the Cartel?” Henry said, placing his left hand on his hip, just above his holstered glock. He leaned to his right slightly and stared at Chuck, head tilted.
“Duuuurrrr,” Chuck said, sticking his tongue out of his mouth and rolling his eyes. “Obviously not. This was an alibi to his cry for help, just a ‘look at me.’ You want to know what I think happened?”
“Nothing would please me more,” Henry said, shaking his head slowly. He reached into his pocket and removed a small, black notepad and blue pen. “Do you mind if I write down what you say? I feel like I’m going to need to take notes to keep up.”
“Whatever,” Chuck said. He wasn’t sure, but he felt like Henry was mocking him. That was all he was good for, making light of the horrid situations they always found themselves in. He was a shit partner, a shit employee, a shit detective, but he had a good sense of humor. If he wasn’t such a damned fool, perhaps Chuck wouldn’t have hated him so much.
“Go ahead,” Henry said, tapping the notepad with the tip of the pen.
“Well,” Chuck began, clearing his throat, “if you were a good detective, I wouldn’t need to explain this to you. Obviously, Mr. Sanchez over here—”
“Sanchez?” Henry said, scribbling something in the notepad.
“Yes, Sanchez. The guy is obviously a Mexican.”
“He’s Asian and that’s incredibly racist. But let’s move on.”
“Whatever,” Chuck shrugged. “Mr. Asian Sanchez returned home at exactly 7:45pm yesterday evening, after finishing his shift at the taco stand.” Henry opened his mouth, paused, and then closed it again. Chuck continued. “Before getting into his apartment, though, he noticed Maria next door, the woman he had been absolutely in love with for ten years. She, however, never saw him that way. She saw him as a friend, as the fat guy who lived next door. Nothing more than a poorly paid NYPD detective living in his father’s shadow.”
“I thought he worked at a taco stand,” Henry said, one eyebrow raising.
“Right, sorry, a taco detective living in his father’s shadow,” Chuck corrected. “Anyway, she doesn’t want him like Sanchez wants her. So he does what he can to try to make her feel sorry for him, to try to manipulate her into falling for him. Cuts himself, plays depressing music at unreasonable volumes, cries heavily into the late night. All the normal things. Yet she still doesn’t fall for him, still doesn’t so much as see him as more than a friend. Sanchez doesn’t give up, though. No siree. He even goes so far as to fire his own service pistol in his apartment, just to see if she’d come to make sure he wasn’t dead. She doesn’t.”
“That’s so specific,” Henry mumbled, still scribbling in his notepad.
“It’s called being a good detective,” Chuck said. “Moving on to last night, Sanchez decided to move forward with a slightly more rash plan he’d been considering for exactly seventeen days. He would sever his own head and run to her for help, thereby forcing her to take him to the hospital and spend dozens of hours by his side. She’d see how much of a fighter he is; she’d get to speak with him for longer than it takes to get from the elevator to her apartment door. She’d finally see the real Sanchez. Then they would fall madly in love and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen. Instead, on his way to the apartment door, he slipped and threw his own head off the balcony.”
“What about the cartel?” Henry said, still writing in his notepad.
“Are you stupid?” Chuck asked. “Obviously he wrote that on the wall as his alibi, like I mentioned, after cutting off his own head. A woman loves a man in danger, and what is more dangerous than pissing off the Cartel?” Chuck paused. “Anyway, it all went wrong and now he’s dead.”
“That’s it, right? That’s the end?”
“Yes,” Chuck said. He was particularly proud of the tale he’d just weaved, which was probably between 97% and 99% accurate. The only part he wasn’t confident on was whether or not Mr. Sanchez had a pet cat. He felt like he probably didn’t.
“To confirm, this man—an Asian-Mexican taco detective—cut off his own head to get the attention of his neighbor, Maria. He then scribbled a fake threat from the Cartel on his bathroom wall, while already beheaded, and then accidentally threw his own severed head off the balcony.”
“Correct,” Chuck shrugged. It sounded even more plausible out loud.
“Can I ask you another question?” Henry said, closing the notepad and slipping it into his breast pocket.
“If you must,” Chuck sighed, glancing at his watch. It was 7:45pm, which meant the WWE Pay-Per-View special would be starting soon. He needed to leave if he wanted to catch the opening interviews. John Cena was rumored to return, the thought of which made him equal parts excited and aroused.
“Are you retarded?”
“Yes,” Chuck said, shrugging his shoulders. He couldn’t imagine why that was relevant, but he could imagine himself sitting down on the new La-Z-Boy sofa in his apartment and watching the return of John Cena on Pay-Per-View. He’d turn the TV up nice and loud, to at least max volume, in the hopes that Maria, his neighbor, might hear. She’d think he was in some sort of a brawl and come to his aid, ready to fight by his side. They’d then laugh about the mix-up and he’d invite her to watch the rest of the rumble. She’d agree, confess her love to him, and then give him an incredibly relaxing and slightly painful back rub. It was going to be a great evening.