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Tell Tale Heart Spin Off
“Po was an honorable man. A courageous, loyal and trustworthy friend. He was my hero, and I am forever indebted to him.” The tears welled up in my eyes, but I refused to let them take over. If Po were here, and saw me sobbing up here like a child, he would have shouted, “Allen! Get a grip! You’re a policeman, and you have to act like one!” I continued with my eulogy. “I remember from back when I was a rookie. For my first case, I was lucky enough to have Po showing me the way...”
I was sitting in the police station on my cot, finishing a letter to my grandmother, when Po came in asking me if I wanted to check out a case of suspected foul play. I jumped up, nearly sending my pen and paper on the ground. I was 20 years old, and not exactly the most impressive looking cop. I was tall, gangly and had large square glasses that were constantly slipping down my nose. For the past year, I had lived at home, pretty much hibernating in the basement playing violent video games. I was extremely depressed, had no social life and probably breathed about an hour of fresh air per week. Finally, my parents said I needed a job. I have no idea why I didn’t just cashier or flip burgers, but I guess I thought if I can shoot and capture in video games, why not in real life? Turns out, when you get a job as a cop, you don’t catch a serial murderer, stop a robbery and get a huge paycheck and a promotion, all in a days work. Turns out, you have to do lots of grueling training, aching exercises and mounds of paperwork. You also have to get to go through a course of psychiatric tests in which I almost didn’t pass. I had to go through weeks of lying down on a padded couch when finally the psychiatrist was convinced that I had worked through my depression and I was ready to be a policeman.
I had had no idea that policing was nothing like like Zombie Killers III, that’s for sure.
The crowd tittered through their tears. I smiled, remembering how much I had admired Po’s 30 years of policing. He was fit, smart, good looking and everyone respected him. In short, he was everything I was not. I couldn’t believe my first day when Po had told me that if I had any questions, I could come to him. I was envious of his life, no doubt, and I must have asked him a million questions, just so he would pay attention to me, think I was worthy of his approval. Later, I learned that you had to earn his approval, his friendship. I continued my eulogy.
I had jumped at the chance of going to investigate a real case. Finally, I would have a chance to prove myself to Po, my parents and the world.
We walked out to the car. ‘I got shotgun,’ I said, grinning at my own playfulness. Po raised his eyebrows slowly, disbelievingly. I gave him a weak smile. ‘Sorry.’ He returned my smile, but it immediately slid off his face. ‘Let’s go, son.’ I got into the passenger seat. Po turned the ignition key, flicked the switch that turned on the lights and sirens and sped off.
‘Where is this call from, Po?’, trying unsuccessfully to keep the excitement out of my voice. I really couldn’t help it. I wouldn’t have cared if the call turned out to be a prank call, but I was just excited to be with Po.
‘An old woman who calls herself Virginia called about her neighbor, who lives at 203 North Amity Street.’ North Amity Street was about six blocks from the police station. I checked the clock. 3:50 A.M. We would probably get there at around 4:00 A.M. The car ride didn’t go too well in my opinion. I was peppering Po with questions the entire ten minutes, ranging from if he was born with hair on his head to how many criminals he had caught. Finally, as we pulled up to 203 N. Amity Street, Po was red in the face from annoyance when he parked the car. I looked out the window. In front of me were two large townhouses, 204 painted a nice lavender, and 203 painted an unappealing mustard yellow. Underneath the paint, they were both brick. In 203’s yard, there was a row of stately box hedges, each perfectly pruned into a neat rectangle. There were no flowers, just a dark green lawn with a straight concrete path leading up to three concrete steps, which led up to the black front door. The windows had heavy old fashioned drapes, turned gray and musty overtime. Behind the drapes, all the windows were dark. At that moment, a small woman with a fluffy bathrobe on that matched to color of her house, mint green curlers in her hair and light pink slippers on her feet. She looked like an old, frail Easter egg.
‘Oh, Officer, I am so glad ya’ got me call. I was scared to death when I heard that shriek. A scream of bloody murder, I’m telling ya,’ she said with a strong Irish accent. ‘Now I suppose you want me to tell ya ‘bout the men? I got it all up ‘ere.’ She pointed to her temple. ‘Livin’ in ol’ 203 is a real rich ol’ man. Prob’ly ‘bout seventy or eighty. He’s got ‘imself a cataract in ‘is left eye. Misty blue tha’ eye is. No pupil, with a kind o’ film covering it. ‘e ‘as a young man workin’ for ‘im, ‘elping with the daily things. The young man lives with ‘im. ‘e looks kinda mousy, with brown ‘air and beady brown eyes.’ She punctuated this declaration with a yawn. ‘Well, I’d better be turnin’ in. I’m up too early fo’ an old woman like me.’, and with that, she walked back into her house and closed the door. I rubbed my sweaty palms together. In murder mysteries, the worst killer, the most violent man was always the one that looks weak, unassuming. I looked at my hands, wishing with all my might that they would stop trembling. I turned to Po. ‘Po, I hate to sound stupid-’ he cut me off with a sarcastic, guttural sound in his throat. He looked at me sheepishly. ‘Excuse me. Continue.’
‘Po, I hate to sound stupid, but what is a cataract exactly? I mean, I know what it looks like, but what is it?’
‘A cataract is when there is clouding in the lens of the eye. Usually it happens when people age.’
I must remember 100 times where he made fun of me then felt bad about it. Once, I tried to tease him about his greying hair. He glared at me, not showing even the slightest trace of humor. Two weeks later, when I had forgotten about the whole affair completely, he came into the police station saying that he had made me lunch. I was delighted and appreciated the gesture, because my lunch usually consists of a banana, until I bit into my ham sandwich, realizing that the mayonnaise was old. I never teased Po about anything again, until much later in life. Again, the right to tease Po was something earned, not something given.
“We walked up the concrete path to a black wooden door. Po knocked three times, three hard, sturdy knocks. Around ten seconds later, a man that was clearly the old man’s assistant by the lady’s description, came to the door, just as we heard the houses’ grandfather clock struck four. He smiled a large toothy smile. ‘Hello. And who might you be?’
Po spoke up. ‘The Maryland Police Department. Your neighbor called us and said a scream had been heard. We will have to search the premises.’ The man spoke again, chuckling. ‘Ah, Mrs. Bun has always been a worrier. The scream, you see, was me screaming in a nightmare. The old man is away, out of the country you see, and I get nervous alone in this big house. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Edgar. Please, come in.’ He looked so cool and confident that I knew, he must be telling the truth. Po spoke once again. ‘Excuse us, Edgar. I am certain that you are most honest, however I must insist that we search the premises. Routine procedure, you understand.’
‘Of course!’, he welcomed us with a sweep of his hand. Po looked at me and whispered, ‘You take downstairs, I take upstairs.’ I jumped. Yes, this is what the police do in movies. Search suspected houses. So we did. We searched for a good hour, until finally, Po said to Edgar, ‘Well, all looks well. We’ll just be going now. Excuse us for barging in like this-’ but Edgar cut him off. ‘Absolutely not. Come upstairs for tea, please.’ Po signaled me to follow, to go along with it. We followed Edgar up the thin, narrow steps. We stopped in a small, dark room that smelled salty, that had a heavy air. The shutters were closed, allowing no sunshine or warmth to push through. Edgar pulled up three chairs and seemed to conjure a tea set from the other room. We talked for a while. I found Edgar to be a most pleasant man, and Po seemed to be enjoying himself. We talked about the weather, politics, how George H.W. was doing. But suddenly, in the middle of chatting quietly about the recent humidity, Edgar paused, paled. I looked at Po, surely he noticed it too, but Po was immersed with gulping down his tea. Edgar frowned, stood up and started a heated conversation about the Terps. Steadily, his talking got louder and louder. ‘I can’t believe they lost!’, he yelled, the saliva foaming on the sides of his mouth. He picked his chair and slammed it down onto the floorboards, talking about Joe’s recent injury. Po and I jumped, looking around nervously. I had no idea what was going on. Maybe Po was playing a trick on me? It didn’t seem like the type of thing Po would do, but I suppose it was possible. Edgar’s face was beet red and turning purple. He picked up his tea cup and threw it across the room, the porcelain shattering into a million pieces. Po stood up. ‘Edgar, if we are doing something to intimidate you-’ but Po was cut off by Edgar. ‘Villains! Dissemble no more! I admit the deed! Tear up the planks! Here! Here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!’ I looked at Po, terrified, not knowing what would come next. Po stood up and took the handcuffs from his pocket, signaling me to hold the prisoner. Po said, gravely, ‘It’s time to go, Edgar.’
I was finished. I looked up, and saw people clapping, crying and laughing. I wasn’t sure what to do myself. I stepped down. I knew that I would never forget that story. I would never forget Po, or what he did. I had finally earned Po’s respect.