Edward Miller ~ Throwback 70s

 The last time they’d inves­ti­gat­ed one of these it had end­ed well enough, the offi­cers dis­cov­er­ing that the elder­ly occu­pant wasn’t dead at all but instead had run off to a bun­co tour­na­ment with a hair­dress­er from Port St. Lucie. Each case was dif­fer­ent, though.

Any cop would say as much.

After hav­ing knocked on the door and announced them­selves not once but twice—and not hav­ing received a response of any kind—the offi­cers wait­ed while the build­ing super­in­ten­dent jan­gled his ring of keys and then let them into the apart­ment. Immediately and to the left an exot­ic bird in an ornate cage set his eyes upon them and began danc­ing, slow­ly, side to side.

Look at that par­rot, Orcutt said.

That’s not a par­rot, Hernandez replied. That’s a cockatoo.

Raymond, the super said from the door­way. That’s his name.

The bird raised his crest, ruf­fled his plumage. BONJOUR!

Hernandez cracked a smile. And bon­jour to you, he said, tap­ping a light fin­ger on the cage.

Marie’s just crazy about that bird, the super said.

The offi­cers began scout­ing around the liv­ing area. On the sofa were two thin blan­kets, a mashed pil­low, anoth­er pillow—kind of nest sit­u­a­tion going on, appar­ent­ly. To the right, on a chair, a copy of Family Circle; also, a copy of Le Monde. In the kitchen, a small bag of Carte Noire sat on the counter by the cof­feemak­er. Next to that, a half-emp­ty con­tain­er of box wine. Some mac and cheese cold on the stove. On the fridge, a sticky note (jus d’orange, writ­ten in a fem­i­nine hand, fol­lowed by pommes, bouil­lon, and fro­mage). Along the wall oppo­site was a small TV set, a desk with an old lap­top com­put­er. Photographs above that—family, pre­sum­ably. Several pho­tographs. Some col­or, some black and white. Hernandez won­dered about the brunette posed offhand­ed­ly with a pair of atten­dant, trag­i­cal­ly hip teenagers. Was she the daugh­ter from Montréal?

The super lin­gered in the door­way. The only com­plaint anybody’s made about Marie, he con­tin­ued, is maybe she plays her radio a lit­tle loud.

Hernandez nod­ded.

That clas­sic rock stuff, you know. That’s what she likes. Schmaltz. But she’s a sweetheart.

Raymond began to climb the side of the cage. Soon he was hang­ing upside down, com­fort­ably. Then he climbed down to his perch.

In a lewd grav­el­ly turn Raymond grum­bled, TALK DIRTY TO MEBABY

Hernandez shot a bemused glance at Orcutt. They car­ried on.

Advanced down the tight hallway.

Let’s check the bed­room, Hernandez said.

On a night­stand was a tray of meds: Mitotane, Lynparza, Ixempra.

Cancer drugs.

And with those: Tramadol and Roxicet.


Not good, Hernandez said.

Seriously, his part­ner agreed, exam­in­ing one of the bottles.

My moth­er-in-law was on that one, Hernandez said. Didn’t help. Too lit­tle, too late.

They returned the bot­tles to the tray and moved around the room. Kept mov­ing, yet paus­ing here and there to exam­ine one thing or oth­er: on the dress­er, a leather day plan­ner (red/empty); a hard­cov­er title (Understanding Your Health); a trade paper­back (Astrology and Your Health); a pock­et bible (French/English); cos­tume jew­el­ry; ceram­ic fig­urines (bull­dog, cherubs); more fig­urines (bal­le­ri­na, baby ducks); on the floor, laun­dry; near­by, more laun­dry; at the closet’s thresh­old, a tidewrack of worn slip­pers, old sneak­ers, and col­lat­er­al footwear.

Looks like Cindy’s room, Hernandez said. A dis­as­ter. Don’t have kids, Pete.

From the hall­way they heard Raymond again.


Orcutt dropped his head, savor­ing a sud­den gust of Zen.

Who sang that, Hernandez asked. That’s Journey, right? He hummed a few bars, bob­bled his head in awk­ward rhythm. Pretty sure that’s Journey, he said. Am I right?

Orcutt rolled his eyes. Before my time, Boomer.

Something of a tip­sy mood had set­tled over them. An air of the absurd.

But they weren’t smil­ing when they found the bath­room door locked.


Edward Miller teach­es writ­ing at Madera Community College. Included among his areas of inter­est are out­sider art, street pho­tog­ra­phy, and the American vernacular.