Sine Nomine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


A Bangkokian melancholy based on personal events

Submitted: February 04, 2018

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Submitted: February 04, 2018

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Sine Nomine

Non tuorum frates neca.

  Non tuorum praepositos accusa.

Non tuorum contubernales trade.

Hunters’ Tenet

 

There was a side street in the city that came off the thoroughfare running by the directorate and going under a railway bridge to join the artery coming from the east along a canal torpid and black and reeking with the filth of a shantytown perched treacherously on the far bank accessible by a narrow overpass that could admit no vehicle. A colony of boards or sheets of corrugated tin or jerryrigged debris and roofs held down by rimless tires all salvaged from sites of demolition and progress and put together askew on their axis. Some had already fallen from their supports of rude poles into the fathomed grime and many more seemed eager for the plunge yet held up for the moment by freak balance. In the stagnant air loud rags hung dripping on clotheslines along the fetid waterfront like extinct pennants of no quarters and the last tarpon somewhere in that corrupted course floundered once among plastics schooling near and far like overblown capilatae and its final agony went unheard.

All over the conurbation secrets had been regurgitated from its septic depths, secrets that offended rather than repulsed its fair and esteemed visitors. For this particular canal that which came over the bulwark of sandbags one night was a dead boy. Attending this grewsome tableau were two officers ankles deep in floodwater teeming with other dead things and things that had no life to begin with.

You sure he’s coming?

Yeah.

When?

Damned if I know.

He a Hunters man?

Is what I heard. Just came up from traffic.

His partner turned and spat into the canal. How come they keep bringing them in?

Who?

Them Hunters boys. Could stand to save a lot promoting us noncoms out of the beat.

That aint how it works.

I don’t like how it works.

You aint got a say in any of it.

Would you run things different if they put you in charge?

His partner shrugged. Maybe. Depends on who puts me in charge.

For some minutes they stood waiting in silence. They turned to look at the boy then down to the end of the street where it forked to a T and there were no cars going by in that halted morning.

Damn the luck. One more got away.

Sure this one’s ours?

Boy aint got no tongue.

You haven’t called him yet, have you?

Aint nothing to worry about yet.

‘Course.

There he comes.

The scooter came sputtering through the scum where it broke then closed again. Detective Bo stopped the machine and swung down his booted feet and kicked out the stand and left it standing a few feet away close to the curb painted white and red. The officers gave a salute that would have been against regulation.

What have we got?

Boy of no more than ten. Probably dead for some time judging from the looks of him. No ID. Cause of death not apparent. Not much to tell other than that. Critters been at him some. Hard to say anything without forensics.

If anything could be said at all. 

What do you mean?

We reckoned he came from upstream thataway.

You mean the slums?

Yessir. Seeing as the net round the bend would have caught anything coming from further up north. 

They stood watching the north and holding their breath as though fearful that their very expiration would coax from the vessel more of its store. The boy lay whelmed in strange endemic waters, festering with worms and flies the size of peas buzzing and skittering with their antennae and thoraxes gleaming a sick viridescence. Bo didn’t approach to check on the body. Not in all the curriculum had anything prepared him for this.

ME is on the way. Hold down the fort until they get here, yeah?

Yessir.

Good, said the detective, plodding back to his scooter

Sure you don’t wanna stick around, sir?

Ought to start looking into missing persons.

Best of luck with that.

What’s that? Bo asked as he maneuvered the machine around like an old world jockey.

Nothing, sir. Good day.

And he was off the way he came. In the quarter hour that proceeded the two officers migrated out of the sun and water into the dry shades of a nearby place of worship on the roadside whose gods were red with anger and war and blood and they stood there puffing away at rank fags with neither respect for it nor permission from its caretaker.

It’s your turn.

Son of a bitch.

Can’t blame the man for doing his job.

Son of a bitch.

He took out his phone and began to peruse the list of contacts. His partner sauntered to where the caretaker sat crosslegged at a red steel foldtable doing her nails before a TV set. In its grains he could just make out the shapes of the bedeviled held in straightjackets chained to posts specially built for the stage. They were howling and spitting and bawling at the host who commanded their expulsion from god’s earthly clay. 

Ho there, mama.

Hullo? Yessir. It’s one of ours. Forensics is already on the way.

The two at the table watched. Presently one of the madwomen sprang for the forefront of the audience. The herdsmen rushed to their rescue in a convergence of bullwhips and batons, their cracks and blows cuing the wild derision of elated pittites as she was dragged by the throat onto the catasta where the master came down on her with incantations in false Pali.

You know what’s missing from the show?

Yessir. He’s with me. We’ll get it done.

What is it? The caretaker asked formally.

Music, he answered. Ought to lighten the mood some. 

*******************************************************************

From the directorate revelers in decay would do well to take the road north until they came to a junction at which point a hard left must be executed. Along this tilted roadway facades of old townhouses concealed a warren of alleys and colonies of electrical wires creeping up the sides of lichened concrete walls and crisscrossing overhead in bundles so thick and the roofs so off the perpendicularity of the earth that day seemed to have lost its meaning in that place. Into this wall of misery young detective Bo ventured. No name turned up in missing persons’ database, though record indicated that a woman filed a report for a missing child two months back, giving an address that the locals at the precinct placed somewhere within the labyrinth. As Bo navigated that nighted region — so utterly extraneous in function and appearance, yet an inevitable concomitant, to other locales attached to this chaste megalopolis —  he could not help but reflect on the desk sergeant’s answer to his inquiry: 

What’s her name?

There’s no name, sir.

And the boy?

Same.

Why didn’t you put down their names?

I couldn’t rightly make out what she said, sir. The inspector said to ignore people like her.

Did anyone at least follow up on the case?

Of course, sir. But then we ain’t always equipped to deal with every case coming our way. We have to look out for our citizens first.

You mean to say . . .

Why yes, sir, she was Lao.

In all his life Bo had known four of the Laotian people, all of which had served as housemaids in his family’s household when he was young. To his vexation he could not recall any of their names, only what they were called when some mess meeded to be attended to. Furthermore he wasn’t sure if those nicknames had been of their choosing or ones given to better suit the tongue of this land. None of the four stayed for long; though Bo remembered how the first of them, a wide-faced spinster called Pauca, practically raised him in his parents’ stead. He remembered too how the last of these, tall dark Anas, used to disappear twice a year on what he later learned was a sojourn across the border and back to renew her credentials.

Soon the detective averted from his thoughts and found himself traversing a narrow corridor between two grimy walls with rainwater running down from broken runoffs in patterns of malformed sinusoids. At intervals some rolled-down steel sheets or door stretches of wrought iron broke the monotony while the ubiquitous wires hummed overhead and fed into these rare domiciles, dark veins for dark hearts pulsing with dark blood. He passed by a few places of business: a grocery lined with red and blue basket shelves carrying goods sealed in bags of multiform colors and a stainless steel freezing unit displaying unlabeled potations; a toolsmith’s fronted by a dusty case showing off ratchets, wrenches, cutters and stray nuts and bolts behind which a workbench stood like some rack of torture; a jeweler’s behind a filmed glass door and filmed windows blacker than spurious night, a coppery whiff of gold of fools and of the wise put to the test: purity in fire. No living thing was in sight. There was an ocicat lying on its side against a wall in the one spot that sunlight could reach but he could not be sure if it yet lived.

At times he had to stop to ascertain his bearings. Most of the townhouses that could pass off as not entirely abandoned had either no numbering at all or, if they did, a few digits missing from the scheme. He even contemplated ringing at one of these places and soliciting directions from whoever might appear at the door by the authority of his uniform. After all, the uniform had to mean something even in these dark corners. But what if it didn’t? He cursed inwardly the foolhardiness of not bringing along a noncom or anyone familiar with the locale. He had no qualms when it came to places and things that couldn’t echo his own failures; he could be lost in this maze for a week for all he cared so long as his bumbling remained unwitnessed. But for whose dignity, his or the uniform’s? Bo took off his dress cap and rubbed the sweat off his crew cut head. Now is not the time for that nonsense.

Mumbling the address to himself he moved on. As he passed by a dark opening in the wall, an ancient swiveling in a rotted chair witnessed his going from the shadows, and in those cataracts he looked like some penitent shrouded and chained and cursed to forever walk that limbo iterating the lineage of his crimes, and the ancient prodded with its cane a dull child nodding and drooling beside and it woke and followed with its simian gaze the figure going by outside. When he had passed out of the frame of relative light it got up and out and followed him mirroring his every movement for a while. Then it called to him and it asked where he was going and it told him that nobody lived there where he was headed but he would not heed any of it. 

*******************************************************************

The orderlies began wrangling the pinioned mad off the stage. Their gaussian howls woke one of the children huddled in an adjoining room too damp and hot and cold. He sat up and sobbed to the other disfigured rising and falling in the despotic dark to dreams of sights they would never again see, of songs they would never again sing, of intimations they would never again feel. The boy tried to wipe the tears rolling from his eyes but stumps were not made for such use. Out in the big room the bad man sat beguiled by the televised perdition, tabulating feebly the news hurrying by in tickers bringing portents of ruin from some other world and in forms so novel that men would not know it. Three knocks on the iron grate wire screen door. Two in quick succession then one firm in emphasis. He got up. Who’s it? He went to the door and turned the key left hanging in the keyhole. Who’s there?

The muzzle flashed and roared but once, as if the dying day itself had found in his flesh a bed for its last furore. He reeled swerving backwards into the box toppling it off its stand. Two figures pushed open the door and strode in. Dyadic psychopomps in carbonized sienna. They stood over him and studied the slow percolation of blood and bile while goblinic unipeds and mancos issued forth in their permitted modes of transference from the room adjoining onto him with a vengeance of teeth. 

*******************************************************************

A padlock was secured through a pair of iron hoops welded onto the door stretch. Under the awning three pots of plants stood dead in their spots marked by an accumulation of dust and lint. Stubbed out fags and dried peels of tangerine and plastics from bottle caps littered the moist, unweeded earth. The glow deepened far in the west below the serrated skyline. Bo unsnapped the torch from his belt and, shoving it between the vertical bars, shone a beam of light inside. An overturned wooden table. An outline of a single burner table stove against the back wall. The first few steps of stairs leading to loftier dark and emptiness. A pungent pervasion of rat piss. Nothing else. He switched off the light and looked around. The child still lingered. It skipped from one padlocked stretch to another running down the bars with a stick like some impassioned percussionist. All empty.

I told you no one lives here anymore.

What happened here? He asked.

The child ceased its antics and turned to face him.

People came and took ‘em all away.

What people?

People like you.

Like me?

It nodded.

Yeah. Only their clothes were a shade lighter, and some wore green. A few came first. Then the next day there were even more of the green people. They had these things on their arms.

Brassards.

What?

Like armbands.

Oh.

What color were they?

I dunno. Black? Blue? A few of them were red. They came in the morning and they were at it the whole day, herding everyone onto trucks, I mean. A lot tried to run further in but there was nowhere to go. I remember we didn’t get any sleep that night.

You don’t happen to know where the trucks went, do you?

The child shook its head.

What about the old man, he saw anything?

Uncle’s mostly blind. He don’t see and don’t want to hear nothing.

Were there children living with the people that were taken away?

I used to see them some at school. We weren’t allowed to play with them though.

He looked up and down the path leading further in to dead ends. It was growing dark with the distant clouds wracked into a sea of grey overcast, but if there were any lights in that forsaken backstreet they refused to come on. He moved back down the path he had come and the child followed.

You sure ask a awful lot of questions, mister.

It’s my job to.

Are you looking for someone?

A mother. She lost her son but I found him.

What’s her name?

I don’t know.

He didn’t say?

He really couldn’t.

There was a silence in which only their steps could be heard. The steady scrape of plated heels. The uneven rubbery patter of torn elephant sandals.

He’s dead, isn’t he?

Yeah.

Night had fallen completely in that putrid vale. To the world a darkness yet unknown. Up ahead a lone white neon beaconed. In its glare the ancient stood leaning on his cane watching them make their way.

Doesn’t it bother you at all?

The child cast a sidelong glance at him. Not one bit. I see them on the news all the time.

No. I mean there being no lights out here at all.

The child shrugged. No one’s complaining.

As they neared the ancient turned and went in. The two stopped before the opening in which, Bo now saw, a family of at least five were busy with their lunar offerings of cakes and chicken. Eying him cautiously, the mother called out to the child.

Bye, mister. Came the shrill voice from a shadowed face. I hope you find her.

He was led on his way out by other stray lights. A sigh of relief betrayed something in him as he came out onto the road and the streetlights and the bright cityscape shooting up out of the horizon. Astride his machine he turned one last time to look at the beckoning inconspicuous dark from which he and but few had escaped.

*******************************************************************

They wheeled him in down a long ramp paved with truncated domes on a trolley reserved for the bariatric dead. At the bottom there were byways along the whole length of that ammoniac mausoleum leading into antechambers in which corpses were serialized and stacked on cantilevers to be forgotten. Into one of these they pushed open a pair of double doors and left him waiting while they put on masks, gowns and gloves. They then lifted him off the steel cart and put him on a table and set about embalming him and when this was done they looked him over and took cursory notes. To them he was not even Johnny Doe.

They took the knife to him and punctured his lungs and drained them of water. He was riven down the middle in thrombotic florescence, his viscera laid out like choice meat. They picked out pieces of his brain with forceps through an opening in his excoriated skull and in their place they stuffed his cranium full of wads of tissue paper. When there was nothing left in him but bones they drew back his scalp that they had left draped over his half open eyes and dressed up the violation with twine and called it a day. Later that evening on their way home to their families they would sell all that they took from him by the gram in plastic bags at a local slaughterhouse and with that handful of change would barter over some porcine backbones to be frozen or soaked overnight for later use in soup or stew. Swines, after all, must remain amply fed.

*******************************************************************

When the clouds cleared from the east and west the god of sky could be seen late that night. Some vain augurs even put forth prognostics to the effect that the misfortunes suffered were not the worst or last, that as his house gained in prominence so would the slough in depth and rottenness with which the city and its inhabitants were enisled.

Two foreigners in suit and tie came out of the room and nodded to Bo once. When they were gone down the stairs and out of the precinct he went to the door and knocked.

Come in.

He turned the brass knob oxidized to black on the door marked restricted and went in. An office furnished with a pleather couch and a low glass table for visitors and framed glass windows hinged and held ajar at the welded ends of rotor arms affixed by means of tenons and mortices. Behind his desk the portly inspector sat. Much of his hair was gone and what was left of it he had combed to the side of his sebaceous head. On his breast pocket a silver star hung below his name etched in hieroglyphs hateful and as truant from the cares of man. From all the morrow and the eld of all time preterite and time to come. Gone but to whose sorrow and for what sense to be held forth in exoneration? Bo stood in the doorway and held his cap in his left arm and bowed once.

Come on in and close the door.

Bo did just that. There was nowhere for him to sit so he stood before the desk while the inspector finished signing the last papers for the day. Without looking up the inspector began.

You got something to tell me?

Yes, sir. It’s the autopsy report, sir.

Of?

The boy.

The boy from the flood.

Yes, sir. The one I called in today. They said drowning was what killed him.

That’s their verdict?

It appears so, sir. Only, I went down there to see it for myself. Him being my first stiff and all.

And?

And they had taken everything out of him, sir. Lungs, liver, heart, brain. All of it.

And?

Sir?

Isn’t that what they do when they’ve finished an examination?

It is?

Just because you haven’t heard of something being done a certain way doesn’t mean it isn’t.

But who’s to say if that’s what got him?

The inspector’s fat hand let go of the pen. He closed the folder and leaned back in his chair looking up at the young detective.

The report says he drowned, doesn’t it.

Yes, sir.

Then there’s nothing else to discuss.

He waved dismissively at Bo and swiveled in his chair to face the open window. A light breeze passed through a low thicket of fern outside.

If I take him to a hospital, will you have me killed too?

The words formed in his mind and brimmed at his throat begging for release. But he knew the reality to which he belonged. For hours he sat at his desk before a pile of forms waiting to be processed, no doubt orders for some instruments of war or other unspeakable sanctions. He wracked his brain first for deliverance, then for abatement, and finally, when even vindication failed to reveal itself, he surrendered. As his pen traced his first signature beneath the garuda he resettled into his place. As quickly as it had come, his fancy for the day vanished. The dank abodes of the gone and forgotten. The lone lights and the living sustained by neither faith nor hope nor fear. Most of all, the acrid taste the filth had left in his mouth with every breath. He shuddered at the thought of these dirty things.

The two officers passed him by on their way out but neither had anything to say to him, nor he to them had he looked up from his forms and tables. There was simply nothing that anyone could do. 

*******************************************************************

No one beside him showed up to see the boy off to the fire. The temple was small and its coffers had dried up with the last of its morning services many years ago. Now alms were made only on roadside where branded monks peddled blessings in tongues they themselves did not understand to supplicants discalced and prostrated on the pavement like dogs before owners. He was about to leave when the presiding pikku made him out in the empty courtyard.

Someone you know, officer?

No. He was my case.

Family?

He shook his head. Couldn’t find them. Couldn’t do a damn thing.

He’s hardly the first this month, and like as not won’t be the last. No one ever comes for any of them.

God.

You’re new to the job?

I don’t know.

You won’t forget him.

No.

They stood in silence for some leaden minutes.

Do you wish to pray for him?

What the hell does that matter?

Henceforth and always they watched without words. They watched the cremators bear him up to their shoulders. They watched the maw swallow the last of his vestige on this earth. They watched the fire lap and the smoke rise black and lost altogether into a cloudless, nameless sky.


© Copyright 2020 Diogenes C.. All rights reserved.

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