Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford (No Exit Press 1988)

Commander Bill Henderson, Homicide Division executive officer, Miami Police Department, entered Sergeant Hoke Moseley's cubicle, removed the -Miami Herald- from the chair beside the desk, tossed it toward the overflowing wastepaper basket, and sat down heavily. He looked at the sheet of paper on his clipboard and sighed.

"I'm running a little informal survey, Hoke."

"I'm busy right now, Bill. I think I've finally got a worthwhile lead on the Dr. Paul Russell killing."

Hoke's messy desk was littered with a half dozen sheets of bond typewriter paper, supplementary reports, and a red accordion file. He had been drawing diagrams on the bond

paper with a ruler and a ballpoint.

"This is an important survey."

"More important than solving a cold case homicide?"

Bill pulled his lips back, exposing large gold-capped teeth that were entwined with silver wire. "Depends on whether you smoke or not. Have you quit yet?"

"Not exactly, but I'm down to about ten a day. I've tried to quit cold turkey, but the longest I've managed to go was about six hours. Now I time it and smoke a Kool every four hours, with maybe a few extra at night when I watch the tube. If I can hold it down to only ten a day, it's almost like not smoking at all."

Bill shook his head. "I switched over to cigars, but I still inhale, so I'll probably have to go back to cigarettes. After five cigars my throat's raw as a bastard, and I've been coughing up all kinds of shit in the morning."

"Is that the end of the survey?" Hoke picked up a Telectron garage opener device, the size of a king-size pack of cigarettes, and showed it to Bill Henderson. "Know what this is?"

"No, I don't, and no, I'm not finished. This really is important. I attended the new chief's weekly briefing this morning, and he's come up with a terrible plan. He wants to stop all smoking inside the police station. His idea's to set up a smoking area in the parking lot, and anytime you want to smoke you have to sign out for personal time and go out to the lot. Then, when you finish your smoke, you sign back in again and return to your desk or whatever. A lot of guys have already quit smoking, you see, and they've complained to the new chief that smoke from heavy smokers is invading their space."

"What about the men's room?"

"No smoking inside the building, period. That includes interrogation rooms, suspect lockup, everywhere except the outside parking lot."

"It won't work, Bill. Lieutenant Ramirez, in Robbery, smokes at least three packs a day. He might as well move his fucking desk out to the parking lot."

"That's what we tried to tell the new chief. But he figures if he makes it hard on smokers, they'll either cut down radically or quit."

"Does the new chief smoke? I never noticed."

"Snoose. He dips Copenhagen. He usually has a lipful of snuff, but he doesn't spit. He swallows the spit instead."

"That figures. The rule won't bother him any, so the bastard doesn't give a shit about the rest of us. But I don't think a rule that dumb can be enforced. Guys'll sneak 'em in the john or even at their desks."

"Not if they get an automatic twenty-five-dollar fine they won't."

Jesus." Hoke took a Kool out of his pack and lighted it with his throwaway lighter. He took one drag and then butted it in his ashtray. "I lit that without thinking, and I've still got an hour to go." He returned the butt to his pack.

"That's why I'm running this survey, Hoke. If a big majority complains, he probably won't put in the rule. So I'll put you down as opposing the new rule, right?"

"Right. Now let me tell you about this little gadget--"

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