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A Little Birdie Told Me

by Francis Curt O'Neill 10 months ago in Mystery
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Soft boiled crime mystery set in the backdrop of internal affairs. Cigarettes and ennui.

"Something's waiting for you on your desk."

"Er... thanks..." Something? That's helpful. What's a few more words for clarity's sake? Too much evidently. I hate this place. Every tongue is forked, every helping hand slick with blood from another thrown to the wolves.

It's a simple box, covered in unassuming brown paper. String tied, crossed uniformly. Almost obsessively. A small bird is stamped in blue ink on the front. Could be a robin? Or a canary?

Part of me wants to shake it. Letter-bomb wouldn't be so bad. At least I'd make the news.

Gentle pull on the strings, this thread of intrigue. Paper opens like a flower. Cardboard lid. Inside. A single, hand written note.

"It's Mishima."

Only devils in infernal affairs? What the hell does that make me?

Tired. So very tired.

Tired of watching my back... Living out of my car.

Tired of all the filth and rot I find myself constantly swimming in. Maybe this is just... punishment.

Dealt or received? That's to be decided.

Days like this I notice the hustle and bustle more. The chaotic scurry of rats, clinging to the flotsam sanity of their routine. Repetition. Anything to drown out the fear and risk. Do not go near the edge, however inviting. Modern life is the result of rampant Stockholm syndrome, thinly veiled lies and absurdist humour poorly told.

Excuse the amateur philosophy between drags.

I do this on days I might die.

People watch through smoke and philosophize. Like clockwork of the soon to be broken kind.

Today? One in particular. Inspector Mishima. Trench coat stereotype with slicked back hair, though that could be sweat. Typical thin blue line arrogance, spidered across paper wrists. Waiting for him to emerge from his den, sly but no fox.

Do you think you're happy? Like really happy? I don't think most people are. I think most people live in service of something other than their own happiness. I know I do. The greater good cuts my paychecks. Self righteous grin when I open my account and see a couple hundred, as the microwave rotates a scalding instant ramen. This is the life.

The life. The one I hate but somehow can't bear to lose. Little ironies. Because big ones are just too cruel. Crushing.

Anyway. Doesn't look like much of a life is all. Looks like something closer to death. Sunken eyes and fallow cheeked, like joy was an exemption ticked on the great form of life.

Suffering and misery the only guarantee.

I just hope my pain amounts to some good. Lives saved. Innocence held above, untouched, untainted. Someone I can dream is safe in glowing happiness because of me.

Too much to ask?

Barely a cigarette left to throw away. My seventh of the day.

And he still hasn't come out of that damn hotel. Must be a new record. 2 whole hours. He better be careful or else he'll pay a premium.

He's looking at the floor and pulling up his slacks when he finally leaves and slips into the alleyway. He wears his guilt so openly now, it's obvious. Bundled in the pockets of that stupid coat.

I let him think he's scot-free, gotten away it...


He freezes next to trash cans, his rightful place in the grand scheme. Back facing me as his neck curls, barely able to manage a glance.

"You get your money's worth? Though it's not strictly your money is it? I understand, government payroll ain't much. But Fenelli? Always takes more than he gives..."

"Who told you? You're not smart enough to figure this out on your own..." Ouch. I think he forgets who caught who here.

"Little birdie... So? You ready to sing?"

His elbow twitches. He's really going to try it. Gun me down in this grimy backstreet wasteland. My safety's already off. But I don't need it.

Sirens blare and lights spark on wet stone. I called for back up between the fourth and fifth cigarette. Not like I didn't have the time... Surprise! I'm barely competent!

Couple 'a grand in product in the lining of his coat.

Should be enough to prosecute.

Throw away the key.

He's hunched in the back of the squad car as I get a call. Too early for congratulations...

Only the ringtone isn't mine... Chirping. Have I been hacked?

I answer with a flurry. A single address delivered by automation. Dial tone rings out longer than the message. It's a few blocks away. Everything is handled here and curiosity yanks at my skull.

So now I'm outside. 114 tenement street. Apartment 206. It's starting to rain. I'm wary it's a trap, that the rabbit hole is just a long and winding journey to a spiked pit. Door's already open. No elevator, so I resent the climb. Most I've done all day.

Apartment 206. Scrawled with graffiti. Deep breath. One hand on the handle and another on my piece. I really don't want to shoot someone today. Slow turn. It's... Locked? And I feel like a prime idiot. This better not be on some livestream somewhere...

I look around. Dejected. Kick it in? This is starting to feel like work. Place is a real mess. Tagged walls and splatter stains. Like it's been deliberately arranged to keep people away... And then I see it. Next to the crude scribbles. Underneath the fire alarm.

A blue canary.

I pull at the casing and it pops free. Inside. A key.

And inside apartment 206? A hundred boxes. All wrapped and tied, not even a crinkle in the paper.


About the author

Francis Curt O'Neill

Writer and artist based in the north of England, passionate about all forms of storytelling.

@curtoneill on most socials

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