Jess Walter


Land Of The Blind

© 2009

To Bruce, Kristie, and Ralph, and in memory of Carol

In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. - Erasmus, Adagia


I

IT IS CUSTOMARY WITH THIS SORT OF THING TO START WITH A BODY

1

HE SITS ALONE

He sits alone in the interview room, his unshaven face in his hands, a guy about her age and not exactly bad looking, for a loon anyway. He's familiar and yet she can't place him. It is the kind of familiarity that grates like an unwelcome song. She gives him names: Dave. Steve. Rocco. It is none of these. The Loon wears dirty blue jeans and a long-sleeved black shirt with the top two buttons open. He is tall and square shouldered, and even though his clothes are a mess, they fit. They are not the clothes of a bum. He seems… if not successful, at least employable. His hair is dark and long and tousled and the only thing keeping him from being handsome is a missed haircut or two.

And the eye patch, of course. The patch is black and covers his left eye, its strap slicing through his long hair. And even the eye patch isn't so much a flaw as an alarming accessory, making him seem untrustworthy and roguish. A pirate, Caroline thinks.

Caroline Mabry is a police detective, although for the last several months she has not been a very good one. She has burned out on the job or lost her way or stopped believing in it, and while her colleagues were polite at first, there were no illusions once she was put on swing shift – swig shift it is called, the refuge of burnouts and department drunks six months from retirement.

Certainly she's too young for swig shift, just thirty-seven, and yet here she is, stuck on a Friday night watching some lunatic sweat and shift and get his story as straight as his addled mind will allow.



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