Don’t sweat the small stuff

Don't sweat the small stuff

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Inspired by drab­ble #15. Dog poop sparks killing spree.

1852 words

Please, do tell. I’m fascinated.”

Michael Stoltz wanted to say that it was just one of those days. In truth, it had been one of those days for the past week, ever since Detec­tive Inspec­tor Riley arrived with a search war­rant wear­ing that grin on his face. The one telling Stoltz that his balls were firmly in a vice and Riley wouldn’t let go until some­body started singing like a canary. Of course, Stoltz recog­nised Riley the moment he came barg­ing into his office. There hadn’t been a sin­gle news­pa­per the past few months that didn’t have Scot­land Yard’s pride-​and-​joy plas­tered all over it. Jour­nal­ists were call­ing him ‘Robbin-​under-​the-​Hood’ because of how he was crack­ing down on the finan­cial insti­tu­tions in Lon­don. The appointed judge and jury of the peo­ple who came armed with a pock­et­ful of pens and pen­cils. Stoltz neglected to tell his wife, Brenda, about the inves­ti­ga­tion into his own busi­ness affairs. Now, she knew some­thing was not quite right. Stoltz hadn’t left the house all morn­ing and was avoid­ing the tele­phone at all costs. Brenda had her instruc­tions to tell who­ever called that she hadn’t seen her hus­band since he’d left for work that morning.

It’s noth­ing,” Stoltz told his wife.

Then why are you shred­ding paper as if there is no tomor­row?” Brenda asked.

Stoltz was kneel­ing down and hold­ing onto the edge of his desk. He called the home office his vault. It’s where he kept the orig­i­nal copies for some of the less than kosher deals signed at Stolz & Sons’ pri­vate invest­ment bank, his other office located in a non­de­script build­ing two blocks from the Bank of Eng­land. Stoltz & Sons didn’t hold any cash, employ any cashiers, or have any engraved sign out­side that sug­gested they even existed. Not your reg­u­lar bank then? he recalled Riley’s assis­tant ask­ing him on a pre­vi­ous visit. Only bricks and mor­tar, Stoltz had said. The real busi­ness was han­dled at the coun­try club over a whisky and an after­noon of clay pigeon shoot­ing. Deals com­pleted with firm hand­shakes between wrin­kled old men. Not the kind of thing he wanted to divulge to Riley’s lackey.

Michael?”

Stoltz wiped the sting­ing sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. Shred­ding the doc­u­ments was thirsty work, espe­cially for a man of his age. It would all have to go, he mut­tered to himself.

Michael?”

Yes,” Stoltz said, with­out look­ing up.

What’s hap­pen­ing?”

Noth­ing is hap­pen­ing. Noth­ing to worry your lit­tle head over. Why don’t you take the dogs into the gar­den for a while?” Stoltz said, as he tried to squeeze a wedge of doc­u­ments into the shred­ding machine. Thirty years they’d been mar­ried. Brenda was twelve years younger, the once-​upon-​a-​long-​time-​ago Ms. Bournemouth. His third mar­riage, her sec­ond. They had no chil­dren, just the bloody flea infested mutts that Brenda res­cued from Bat­tersea Dogs Home the year before last: a long-​haired Ger­man Shep­herd that moulted every­where and a Rot­tweiler that had a neck as solid and firm as a tree trunk. It was six months ago that one of them, and he wasn’t sure which one, had defe­cated on the car­pet directly out­side the vault. Stoltz had felt the wet, luke­warm poo squelch between his toes as he’d stepped directly into it. Brenda said he over­re­acted. Over­re­acted, the fuck­ing dog left the call­ing card on pur­pose. He was think­ing about that now when he heard the tele­phone ring­ing in the hall­way and the dogs start yap yap­ping. Brenda picked up and repeated Riley’s name out loud for Stoltz’s ben­e­fit, telling Riley that she hadn’t heard from her hus­band, and yes, if he called she’d call the Inspec­tor. Stoltz stood up, cleared his swivel-​chair from some files and sat down just as the door­bell rang. Stoltz had to think, the last time they’d had vis­i­tors was a decade ago when Brenda’s mother had died. A dis­tant cousin that dragged her hus­band along to pay trib­ute to a woman he had never met. Stoltz remem­bered tak­ing him into the vault and show­ing off his col­lec­tion of shot­guns: a Beretta with a 32 inch bar­rel and the Zoli sport. Stoltz even took out the Enfield pis­tol that once belonged to his own father: a lieu­tenant of the First Infantry Divi­sion dur­ing the sec­ond world war.

Stoltz gazed at his farther’s urn on top of the fire­place and heard that deep, throaty accent of Inspec­tor Riley’s.

Mr Stoltz.”

Stoltz looked over in a lazy fash­ion. “Detec­tive Inspec­tor Riley, how unexpected.”

Exactly,” Riley said, rais­ing his eye­brows and pro­duc­ing one of those grins of his. “I was pass­ing and thought, what the hell I’ll take a chance, and voila, here you are.”

Yes, it appears to be so, Inspector.”

Riley looked around the room, tak­ing his time, string­ing it out. “Twelve gauge dou­ble bar­rel?” he said, star­ing at the gun mounted to the wall above Stoltz’s desk.

You know your shot­guns, Inspector.”

Riley shrugged. “Let’s call it an occu­pa­tional hazard.”

Per­haps you should con­sider a new career?”

Hmm, you mean to do some­thing a lit­tle less dan­ger­ous? I can see the appeal,” Riley said. “You don’t keep it locked away?”

It’s a replica.”

Right. Well I’m guess­ing a crim­i­nal would think twice about star­ing into the eyes of a dou­ble bar­rel shot­gun, fake or not?”

Yes, I guess they might,” Stoltz said.

Riley rubbed at his jaw and glanced towards the hall­way at the sound a dog whin­ing. “You know, Mr. Stoltz,” he said, “I just this very moment called you on the tele­phone and spoke to your wife. She told me that she hadn’t seen you since you’d left for your office this morning.”

Stoltz kept his voice low say­ing, “I didn’t want any distractions.”

Oh?”

Some­times I need to work with­out distractions.”

Riley smiled and nod­ded in agree­ment. “I can see that you’ve been busy,” he said, pick­ing up a hand­ful of shred­ded paper from the wastepa­per basket.

Stoltz watched, then thought of some­thing. Riley appeared to be by him­self. “Do you have a search war­rant?” Stoltz asked.

A search war­rant, Mr Stoltz?” Riley said, shak­ing his head. “I told you, I was just pass­ing and thought I would pay you a quick visit.”

Yes, you said.”

Actu­ally,” Riley said, “I wanted to ask you some ques­tions. Ques­tions that nobody can seem to answer. I was hop­ing that you could clar­ify some details for me.”

You mean, fill in the blanks?”

Exactly.”

Incrim­i­nate myself?”

Only if you have some­thing to hide, have you?”

Have I?”

Some­thing to hide?”

Inspec­tor, I’m seventy-​four years old, seventy-​five come this August. I bet that sounds like a life­time to you? To me, it’s a blink of an eye. And yes, I’ve done things in my life that I’m not par­tic­u­larly proud of. I can­not say I’ve always played by the rules but I’ve never inten­tion­ally taken the trou­ble to com­mit fraud.”

Fraud?”

Stoltz thought for a moment. Brenda was out­side telling one of the dogs to qui­eten down. He wanted to tell her to take it the hell out of there, its con­stant yap­ping was play­ing with his mind and mak­ing him say things he hadn’t intended to. Of course he knew Riley was pry­ing, and now the con­ver­sa­tion started to get a lit­tle awk­ward. Stoltz spread his fin­gers through his thin­ning hair and leant back­wards forc­ing the swivel chair to lean at an angle. He sat there with both hands linked behind his head, elbows point­ing out at angles. He said, “Am I under arrest Inspector?”

No, Mr. Stoltz.”

And you don’t have a war­rant to search my house?”

Uh-​huh,” Riley said, shak­ing his head. “But…”

Then I sug­gest that if you have any ques­tions you sub­mit them to my lawyer.”

Your lawyer?”

Stoltz smiled and watched Riley wipe some sweat from the nape of his neck with a white hand­ker­chief. Quite pos­si­bly feel­ing every bit of the hot stuffy air inside the vault. Stoltz think­ing he ought to open the win­dow and let in some fresh air but fig­ur­ing it would only make Riley feel com­fort­able. No, bet­ter that Riley sweated a little.

Riley placed his palm against the door­frame, loos­ened his tie a lit­tle with his other hand and pulled open his col­lar. He said, “What’s it like being wealthy? I mean ‚what did you make last year, three, four million?”

Stoltz said, “Are you work­ing this angle out all by yourself?”

Huh?”

Smart, play­ing it dumb. You remind me of a boy I once knew.”

This kid have a name?”

Call him Spencer if it helps you pic­ture him,” Stoltz said. “He was a tall boy for his age, about five-​nine with this curly hair and this lisp that kept get­ting him into trou­ble with the school bul­lies. At the age of fif­teen, at the time when he was five-​nine in his bare feet, he took up box­ing. You have a pic­ture of Spencer?”

Spencer the human punch bag.”

But Spencer didn’t stay a punch bag for long. When he left school he wanted to teach the bul­lies that gave him those beat­ings a les­son or two, except…”

Except they’d all moved on.”

I’m guess­ing you’ve heard this story before?” Stoltz said. “Spencer had to find other scalps to claim.”

Riley said, “You think­ing this Spencer is look­ing to get even?”

You tell me, you think he is?”

You think­ing that I know him inti­mately?” Riley said.

Stoltz waited a moment. The Inspec­tor think­ing he was smart. Maybe that’s why he had all those pens in his pocket, to remind oth­ers that there was more to him than his weight prob­lem. Stoltz couldn’t fig­ure out why a smart per­son went about clog­ging up their arter­ies on pur­pose, build­ing up all that cho­les­terol and risk get­ting dia­betes or worse, dying of a heart attack. Stoltz had known a lot of smart-​dumb peo­ple in his time, now he could add Riley to that list. Stoltz said, “You got prob­lems sleep­ing at night?”

Riley tucked his hand­ker­chief into his back pocket. “As good as it gets, and bet­ter than some.”

Good,” Stoltz said, “That’s good.”

A few min­utes later Stoltz was still mut­ter­ing to him­self as he watched Riley reverse off the gravel dri­ve­way in his Volvo estate.

What was good?” Brenda asked.

Stoltz shrugged. Like most things in life his past started to creep up on him, as he always knew it would. The inven­tive money mak­ing schemes had gone on for far longer than he had thought pos­si­ble. “Good?” he said.

The Inspec­tor?”

Riley.”

Yes, Inspec­tor Riley. Isn’t he the one they are call­ing Robin Hood?”

Robin-​under-​the-​Hood, Brenda. But don’t you go believ­ing all you read in those tabloids.”

Then you said that’s good,” Brenda said. “What’s good?”

Did you hear that?” Stoltz said, glanc­ing at his father’s old Enfield pis­tol and think­ing about what Riley had said just before he’d left — A cer­tain crime is pun­ish­able if attempted but not pun­ish­able if com­mit­ted. The Inspector’s rid­dle was not lost on him.

By Vin­cent Holland

If you like what you read, spread the word.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Inspired by drabble #15. Dog poop sparks killing spree.

1852 words

“Please, do tell. I’m fascinated.”

Michael Stoltz wanted to say that it was just one of those days. In truth, it had been one of those days for the past week, ever since Detective Inspector Riley arrived with a search warrant wearing that grin on his face. The one telling Stoltz that his balls were firmly in a vice and Riley wouldn’t let go until somebody started singing like a canary. Of course, Stoltz recognised Riley the moment he came barging into his office. There hadn’t been a single newspaper the past few months that didn’t have Scotland Yard’s pride-and-joy plastered all over it. Journalists were calling him ‘Robbin-under-the-Hood’ because of how he was cracking down on the financial institutions in London. The appointed judge and jury of the people who came armed with a pocketful of pens and pencils. Stoltz neglected to tell his wife, Brenda, about the investigation into his own business affairs. Now, she knew something was not quite right. Stoltz hadn’t left the house all morning and was avoiding the telephone at all costs. Brenda had her instructions to tell whoever called that she hadn’t seen her husband since he’d left for work that morning.

“It’s nothing,” Stoltz told his wife.

“Then why are you shredding paper as if there is no tomorrow?” Brenda asked.

Stoltz was kneeling down and holding onto the edge of his desk. He called the home office his vault. It’s where he kept the original copies for some of the less than kosher deals signed at Stolz & Sons’ private investment bank, his other office located in a nondescript building two blocks from the Bank of England. Stoltz & Sons didn’t hold any cash, employ any cashiers, or have any engraved sign outside that suggested they even existed. Not your regular bank then? he recalled Riley’s assistant asking him on a previous visit. Only bricks and mortar, Stoltz had said. The real business was handled at the country club over a whisky and an afternoon of clay pigeon shooting. Deals completed with firm handshakes between wrinkled old men. Not the kind of thing he wanted to divulge to Riley’s lackey.

“Michael?”

Stoltz wiped the stinging sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. Shredding the documents was thirsty work, especially for a man of his age. It would all have to go, he muttered to himself.

“Michael?”

“Yes,” Stoltz said, without looking up.

“What’s happening?”

“Nothing is happening. Nothing to worry your little head over. Why don’t you take the dogs into the garden for a while?” Stoltz said, as he tried to squeeze a wedge of documents into the shredding machine. Thirty years they’d been married. Brenda was twelve years younger, the once-upon-a-long-time-ago Ms. Bournemouth. His third marriage, her second. They had no children, just the bloody flea infested mutts that Brenda rescued from Battersea Dogs Home the year before last: a long-haired German Shepherd that moulted everywhere and a Rottweiler that had a neck as solid and firm as a tree trunk. It was six months ago that one of them, and he wasn’t sure which one, had defecated on the carpet directly outside the vault. Stoltz had felt the wet, lukewarm poo squelch between his toes as he’d stepped directly into it. Brenda said he overreacted. Overreacted, the fucking dog left the calling card on purpose. He was thinking about that now when he heard the telephone ringing in the hallway and the dogs start yap yapping. Brenda picked up and repeated Riley’s name out loud for Stoltz’s benefit, telling Riley that she hadn’t heard from her husband, and yes, if he called she’d call the Inspector. Stoltz stood up, cleared his swivel-chair from some files and sat down just as the doorbell rang. Stoltz had to think, the last time they’d had visitors was a decade ago when Brenda’s mother had died. A distant cousin that dragged her husband along to pay tribute to a woman he had never met. Stoltz remembered taking him into the vault and showing off his collection of shotguns: a Beretta with a 32 inch barrel and the Zoli sport. Stoltz even took out the Enfield pistol that once belonged to his own father: a lieutenant of the First Infantry Division during the second world war.

Stoltz gazed at his farther’s urn on top of the fireplace and heard that deep, throaty accent of Inspector Riley’s.

“Mr Stoltz.”

Stoltz looked over in a lazy fashion. “Detective Inspector Riley, how unexpected.”

“Exactly,” Riley said, raising his eyebrows and producing one of those grins of his. “I was passing and thought, what the hell I’ll take a chance, and voila, here you are.”

“Yes, it appears to be so, Inspector.”

Riley looked around the room, taking his time, stringing it out. “Twelve gauge double barrel?” he said, staring at the gun mounted to the wall above Stoltz’s desk.

“You know your shotguns, Inspector.”

Riley shrugged. “Let’s call it an occupational hazard.”

“Perhaps you should consider a new career?”

“Hmm, you mean to do something a little less dangerous? I can see the appeal,” Riley said. “You don’t keep it locked away?”

“It’s a replica.”

“Right. Well I’m guessing a criminal would think twice about staring into the eyes of a double barrel shotgun, fake or not?”

“Yes, I guess they might,” Stoltz said.

Riley rubbed at his jaw and glanced towards the hallway at the sound a dog whining. “You know, Mr. Stoltz,” he said, “I just this very moment called you on the telephone and spoke to your wife. She told me that she hadn’t seen you since you’d left for your office this morning.”

Stoltz kept his voice low saying, “I didn’t want any distractions.”

“Oh?”

“Sometimes I need to work without distractions.”

Riley smiled and nodded in agreement. “I can see that you’ve been busy,” he said, picking up a handful of shredded paper from the wastepaper basket.

Stoltz watched, then thought of something. Riley appeared to be by himself. “Do you have a search warrant?” Stoltz asked.

“A search warrant, Mr Stoltz?” Riley said, shaking his head. “I told you, I was just passing and thought I would pay you a quick visit.”

“Yes, you said.”

“Actually,” Riley said, “I wanted to ask you some questions. Questions that nobody can seem to answer. I was hoping that you could clarify some details for me.”

“You mean, fill in the blanks?”

“Exactly.”

“Incriminate myself?”

“Only if you have something to hide, have you?”

“Have I?”

“Something to hide?”

“Inspector, I’m seventy-four years old, seventy-five come this August. I bet that sounds like a lifetime to you? To me, it’s a blink of an eye. And yes, I’ve done things in my life that I’m not particularly proud of. I cannot say I’ve always played by the rules but I’ve never intentionally taken the trouble to commit fraud.”

“Fraud?”

Stoltz thought for a moment. Brenda was outside telling one of the dogs to quieten down. He wanted to tell her to take it the hell out of there, its constant yapping was playing with his mind and making him say things he hadn’t intended to. Of course he knew Riley was prying, and now the conversation started to get a little awkward. Stoltz spread his fingers through his thinning hair and leant backwards forcing the swivel chair to lean at an angle. He sat there with both hands linked behind his head, elbows pointing out at angles. He said, “Am I under arrest Inspector?”

“No, Mr. Stoltz.”

“And you don’t have a warrant to search my house?”

“Uh-huh,” Riley said, shaking his head. “But…”

“Then I suggest that if you have any questions you submit them to my lawyer.”

“Your lawyer?”

Stoltz smiled and watched Riley wipe some sweat from the nape of his neck with a white handkerchief. Quite possibly feeling every bit of the hot stuffy air inside the vault. Stoltz thinking he ought to open the window and let in some fresh air but figuring it would only make Riley feel comfortable. No, better that Riley sweated a little.

Riley placed his palm against the doorframe, loosened his tie a little with his other hand and pulled open his collar. He said, “What’s it like being wealthy? I mean ,what did you make last year, three, four million?”

Stoltz said, “Are you working this angle out all by yourself?”

“Huh?”

“Smart, playing it dumb. You remind me of a boy I once knew.”

“This kid have a name?”

“Call him Spencer if it helps you picture him,” Stoltz said. “He was a tall boy for his age, about five-nine with this curly hair and this lisp that kept getting him into trouble with the school bullies. At the age of fifteen, at the time when he was five-nine in his bare feet, he took up boxing. You have a picture of Spencer?”

“Spencer the human punch bag.”

“But Spencer didn’t stay a punch bag for long. When he left school he wanted to teach the bullies that gave him those beatings a lesson or two, except…”

“Except they’d all moved on.”

“I’m guessing you’ve heard this story before?” Stoltz said. “Spencer had to find other scalps to claim.”

Riley said, “You thinking this Spencer is looking to get even?”

“You tell me, you think he is?”

“You thinking that I know him intimately?” Riley said.

Stoltz waited a moment. The Inspector thinking he was smart. Maybe that’s why he had all those pens in his pocket, to remind others that there was more to him than his weight problem. Stoltz couldn’t figure out why a smart person went about clogging up their arteries on purpose, building up all that cholesterol and risk getting diabetes or worse, dying of a heart attack. Stoltz had known a lot of smart-dumb people in his time, now he could add Riley to that list. Stoltz said, “You got problems sleeping at night?”

Riley tucked his handkerchief into his back pocket. “As good as it gets, and better than some.”

“Good,” Stoltz said, “That’s good.”

A few minutes later Stoltz was still muttering to himself as he watched Riley reverse off the gravel driveway in his Volvo estate.

“What was good?” Brenda asked.

Stoltz shrugged. Like most things in life his past started to creep up on him, as he always knew it would. The inventive money making schemes had gone on for far longer than he had thought possible. “Good?” he said.

“The Inspector?”

“Riley.”

“Yes, Inspector Riley. Isn’t he the one they are calling Robin Hood?”

“Robin-under-the-Hood, Brenda. But don’t you go believing all you read in those tabloids.”

“Then you said that’s good,” Brenda said. “What’s good?”

“Did you hear that?” Stoltz said, glancing at his father’s old Enfield pistol and thinking about what Riley had said just before he’d left – A certain crime is punishable if attempted but not punishable if committed. The Inspector’s riddle was not lost on him.

By Vincent Holland

If you like what you read, spread the word.