Dear and Ever Vigilant Readers,
As you will recall, upon my return from vacation, whilst in the midst of arranging my Rubik's Sculptural Device and considering the backlog of reader queries with which I must grapple, my now-and-again lab assistant, Rob, came to tell me a very long-winded and somewhat tortuous tale of his recent evening's repose. When last I presented this to you, Rob had found himself in the hands of police, falsely accused of being named Daniel and having killed a human female. These police, taking some pity upon him (and seeking to avoid unnecessary paperwork), had a agreed to briefly visit his domicile and offer him the opportunity to demonstrate his identity.
"It was truly my lucky ass day," Rob explained, "The Haitian cop, Jack, cut my zip ties and helped me out of the patrol car a little ways down the street, out of view of my apartment. Outside of the building was Frank Castilone, who lived on the first floor, and who I had brought in to do light carpentry for my Da'. Frank was bassist in three local bands, and he smoked the occasional weed, but was awesome with a hammer and a square, and was always early for jobs. He and I were tight the way co-workers get who respect each other. Shit like that, I thought only TV people felt it. But it was nice, this new, weird life I had. So, I see Frank on the stoop noodling away on a ukelele. I smile.
"I say, 'So, Frank, how you doing man?'
"'Peace, Rob,' he says, playing the melody to this Disney cartoon we watched the other night about Johnny Appleseed.
"I nodded as he played. 'So, man, I was just talking to my pals here, Jack and Bill,' the cops shook hands with Frank, who paused in his playing to smile at my two black friends in cheap business suits who were sweating freely and not smiling. 'So, I was telling them how long I lived here and they totally, like, didn't. . . uhm. . . believe me.'
"Frank was impervious to my lameness, apparently. 'Oh, yeah,' he said, nodding. 'You have been in this apartment building for two years and three months. I am very certain of that.' He nodded again and smiled.
"'Really,' I said, genuinely weirded out.
"He just nodded and plucked at the strings. 'Yeah,' he said, 'cause that's how long I've clocked toward my union card.' He looked up, 'You know, for carpentry.'
"'Right," I said, and suddenly, I felt more suspicious than I should, so we hustled our way into my apartment up on the third floor.
"I let in the cops, offered them chairs which they declined, offered them Frescas, which they declined, and then gathered up a stack of mail and tossed it on the table. 'Check it out,' I said, laying out the bills. 'That shit is pure, unadulterated Robert Miller identification. Look, you got a water bill, you got credit card junk mail, you got a fucking social security update which I get in the mail, I discovered last month, because I am officially on a real and honest payroll for a real and honest company of legally employed motherfuckers!' Despite the stress of the situation, I realized I was, like, marveling at the life I had found my ass in, you know? I mean, really, my ass was going to draw social security when I retired. Can you believe that shit?
"I was so excited, so pleased to be showing off my normal, straight, non-fucked-up life off—showing it off to FUCKING COPS, no less— that I walked around the apartment like one of those re-enactors in the Train Conductor's House at Greenfield Village.
"'Check out the TV I bought with Robert Miller money from my normal job as, like, a site manager for my Dad's strip-mall business! And check out my real new, not-remotely-Goodwill furniture. It matches and shit. It came as set, free delivery, same as cash for one year.
"And then I walked to the mantle and took down the Kiddush cup. I didn't even really show it to them. I just looked at it. It was pure silver and heavy. It had relief sculptures cast all the way around, perfectly detailed of all the patriarchs, and of Elijah above them all in the air, surrounding by, like, lightning rays or some shit.
"'Last thing out of Poland,' I said, almost to myself. 'Bastard that owned it went up the smokestacks. His kids were fucking lampshades. But his brother buried it before their village was liquidated, and the fucker was still there three years later, when he came back, 600 miles on foot.' I turned and I showed it to Jack who hefted it, appreciated it with a fine eye for well-made things.
"'It's big,' he said quietly, staring down at the cup which filled his hand and was heavier than you would expect. He flipped it over. On the bottom, pressed in the metal, the letters worn and faded with age, the cup said 'Mčller'.
"'Miller's the name we changed to when we came over on the boat,' I sez to Jack. 'My Dad says, Be thankful your Grandfather wasn't called Rubinstein!'
"Jack nodded, handing the cup back to me carefully. I set the cup up on the mantle. He took my hand carefully in his and covered it with the other hand. 'My mother called me Jacques,' he said to me, nodding.
"Right then Bill's cell phone rang, and he unclipped it from his belt, glancing at the number. 'Shit. Would you two ladies go in the other room if you be crying and shit,' Bill said, waving us away, 'Someone needs to tell the Chief why we do-and-don't got Daniel Radosky.' I looked to Jack who smiled and nodded, leading me back into my kitchen.
"'I believe you, Robert,' Jack said in a calm, friendly voice, 'But Bill is right to be cautious. We'll just sit back here, have a drink, and he'll check through everything.' This seemed totally fucking reasonable; Jack sat down and started sifting through my old bills, and I got us each a Fresca and we sat at my kitchen table and just sorta enjoyed the silence.
"Then, finally I say, 'So, what's up with this Daniel whoever and the Corbin lady he iced?'
"Jack leaned in, lowering the papers. 'It's really quite interesting, as Detroit homicides go,' he started. He sounded like my old roommate Suveer, leaning in to excitedly explain how the mitochondria worked or some other med-school shit. It felt good to sit back and let his excitement wash over me. Just then Bill pushed the door open a crack and stuck his head in, one hand cupped over the cell phone mouthpiece. 'Chief is pissed about this thing," he said, 'He wants us to sit tight, and he's gonna send Sergeant Grey and that kid—the tech with the fingerprint thing and the scanners—to do the biometric shit; I guess they got positive prints for Radosky from FBI.' Jack nodded once, Bill shoved back into my living room, and Jack went back to sorting through my bills and ID.
"'But I shouldn't discuss an ongoing investigation,' the officer said finally.
"'Ah, c'mon man,' I said, 'I thought I felt something back there. We're, you know, refugees, you and I.' Course, mostly I was a refugee from my rich suburb and he was a refugee from, like, a collapsed republic struggling to extract itself from centuries of enforced slavery and oppression and chaos and poverty. . . But still, he knew what I meant. Brotherhood is deep.
"Jack leaned back, sighed, nodded.
"'Well, Margaret Corbin lived in Hamtramck: a single woman with no job,once ran a small pawn shop, suddenly in the early 2000s begins to grow richer and richer with each passing month. She had already been a person of interest in several IRS investigations because of her proximity to several major Russian criminal families, but she seemed to have no connection to anything at all, nothing criminal; money came to her through a trust fund itself based on the interest earned on the assets of a web of holding companies invested heavily in cunningly hedged currency exchange derivatives. It's not that she wasn't crooked, but that the IRS couldn't find a way to describe the crookedness that any jury of peers would actually understand. She did not even leave her home, which had once been quite grand, then fell into disrepair, but was now, again, rising up and being refurbished. In fact, recently, she had been taken in so many carpenters to finish work on a restoration of the eastern wing of her home that construction slowed in several major developments around Grosse Pointe.
"'That's it!' I realized, 'We lost Frank a few months ago to some crazy renovation shit. My cell number must have gotten mixed up in this back then.'
"Jack nodded, 'Well, whatever the case, her wealth was drawing more and more attention.
"'Since the fall of Communism, Detroit has been gathering up eastern European expatriates in large numbers. They come from all over the former Soviet Union. Some of them are peasants, some are former nobility, some are soldiers in criminal enterprises and some. . . some are hard to define. There was a family. Fyodor Gorky and his wife Svetlana came with a child to Detroit. They were smuggled in by Muscovite gangsters, but the family which had smuggled them in was destroyed back home by moves from the Kremlin, and so they arrived, locked in a shipping container along with thirty eight Hyundai Sonatas in customs with no one to know they had arrived. They bribed there way out of customs with the last few vestiges of what must of have been old wealth and they settled, impoverished, her on the north side of the city. It seemed they had nothing. But then, apparently a Ms. Margaret Corbin came calling because she had heard that a special family had moved into a terrible apartment complex and though they wore rags, people saw amazing things through half closed doors. While Fyodor was out, Svetlana finally agreed to part with an intricately painted gilt icon of saint Daniil Aleksandrovich. He was, of course, enraged that an important heirloom of his own family had been lost, though his wife had not know its import. Finally, he found Corbin and confronted her. She insisted that she had sold the icon to a collector whose name she could not remember. Fyodor abandoned the shop in despair. Six months later, while working demolishing buildings south of downtown, Fyodor was shot in the head. Word came down from high up in the department that it was a mugging.
"Jack looked at me. 'Fyodor Gorky had nothing. He was a day laborer hauling broken bricks to a dumpster. And since when does a mugger shoot a man through the forehead with an expensive current-year Heckler & Koch pistol?' he shook his head.
"'After that, Margaret Corbin started renovating that house of hers, and buying nice things for close friends. The IRS opened up a file, started tracking down bank accounts, running into dead ends or, treading on their own footprints. We got brought in a few times on investigations into burglaries at her home. Twice her house was broken into but nothing was taken. Three times we caught guys who had taken paintings, but nothing of real value. She has a solid gold door knocker. Nobody has touched that in any of the attempts.
"'A week ago, Katrine Gorky shows up. She's been back in Belarus with distant cousins trying to build a normal life. She was trying to reconnect with her roots, trying to integrate back into her old country. She comes back and goes directly to Margaret Corbin's home.
"'The girl and the old woman fight. It's nasty. Construction crews see some of it, there's a bit of blood, and they hear some of it. Katrine yells, at the end, as she storms away from the home, 'You will wish you had never stolen the Eye of St. Daniel!'
"'Well, now, finally, a Daniel Radosky came into play. He was high up. A lawyer maybe. Young, but there was buzz in the Russian expat world.
"'He came on our radar because he called on Corbin. She's on semi-permanent stakeout at this point. She met with him at her house for four hours. Private. In a new room built deep inside of the house. A room inside of a room. Nobody on any of the crews even knows who built it or when it was built. At first we thought it was a panic room, but we can't even make sense from the guys on the crews about where it is in the house. No one agrees. Four hours and finally he left. He carried nothing in, nothing out.
"'Then, at eleven that night she left. She drove east, to the shore, to the house Radosky was renting. She'd never left her house for all the years we had surveiled her. We weren't prepared for the move.
"'This morning we finally figure out what happened and where she went. I went up to Radosky's place myself. Inside, on the second floor, I found Margaret Corbin dead in the bath tub. And can you believe what I found on the floor?'
"'The painted icon?'"
"Jack leaned across the table. 'We found something so bizarre . . . ' but then there was a thump at the door, and a few feet pounding around. 'Ah,' Jack said, setting down his empty bottle. 'I bet Bill has brought the sergeant up to check through your stuff. He'll want to talk things over from me.' He set a hand flat on my table and smiled. 'Listen, Robert, I shouldn't tell you this, but Sergeant Grey does not care for wealthy suburban Jews who choose to flee their parent's homes to her city. I need to go out there and frame this all in a favorable light for you, so I'm going to ask for your cooperation, because I don't want you to wind up in Wayne County's general population until Monday morning. Please, sit tight, and I'll send Bill to come fetch you in a moment.'
"And then, he walked out of the kitchen to confer with the other cops."
Rapt with the tale, Dear and Tireless Readers, I could not help but gasp.
"MY DEAR ROB," I gasped, "WHAT DID DETECTIVE JACK FIND THERE UPON THE BATHROOM FLOOR ASIDE THE MURDERED MILLIONATRIX?"
And then Rob fixed me with a withering, contemptuous stare that had me badly bewildered—that is, until he concluded his tale, as we shall, next week.
Until Such Time, I Remain,
Your Giant Squid
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson