I wake up opposite a brownstone on some littered street. I have a terrible hangover, and I reach into my pocket and find a blue pill. I don’t know what it’s for, but I pop it. I know I need to solve a case. Some woman called Petunia (or is it Patricia?) was murdered last week. But there’s time for that. Right now, my shoes need polishing.

I see a boy sitting in front of the brownstone with a toy in his hands. Memories of another life flash in my mind.

“Hey Shoeshine Timmy! Polish my boots, will you?” I ask the kid.

“I don’t shine boots, and my name is not Timmy, Mister,” he answers.

“You see this? It’s a police badge. Now, unless you want me to lock you up for kiddie fiddling, you’ll shine my fucking boots.”

It takes a little more convincing, but Shoeshine Timmy’s always been a wise guy. People should know their places. Fucking society.

My shoes look clean, and I toss my puke-covered jacket into a dustbin. I walk down the street, thinking about the robbers I need to catch. I see a disco bar. I stroll in.

I ask the bartender for a few glasses of rum. I drink them, and I’m tipsy. I start dancing. I see a hooker standing in the corner, smoking. I realize that I’m horny. I walk up to her and flash my badge.

“I could have you arrested; you know?”

“For what? I haven’t done anything wrong! I’m not underage! Here’s my ID!” She yells.

“A fake fucking ID. I’ll tell you what? You show me a good time in the motel next door, and we’ll forget you were ever here.”

“This man is harassing me!” She screams. “Police misconduct! Police misconduct!”

The bartender arrives shortly with two bouncers. “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave. You’re misusing your power and harassing our customers,” he says.

“Fuck you! I know a hooker when I see one. Look at her! She’s wearing fucking leathers! Who wears leathers to a disco bar?”

“Sir, please. You’re inebriated and not in the right state of mind. You need to leave. Now!”

“You’re the fucker who killed Petunia! It’s all coming back to me! You’re under arrest, arsehole! Hardy, take him in!”

“Get this moron off the premises,” the bartender tells the bouncers.

They lift me and throw me out while I scream, “You’re the fucking bandits who robbed the bank! I’ll be back with backup! Hardy! Hardy! Shoot them! Where the fuck are you! Hardy!”

I’m covered in dirt and shit. “Psst!” Someone whispers. “There’s a better disco bar around the corner. It’s perfect for the likes of you!”

I turn around and see a hobo. “Can I bum a cigarette off you,” I ask him.

“Sure friend,” he says and gives me a crumpled Marlboro.

“Where’s this disco bar again?”

“It’s right around the corner, brother.”

I walk as the moon dances in the night or some shit that poets say it does. It’s all bullocks anyway. The moon looks down on drifters and lowlifes and cops, while we play our game of cat and rat (or is it mouse?)

I find the bar. I walk in and find that it’s filled with sleazebags. I borrow a lighter from the bartender. I take a drag. The nicotine hits me more than it should.

Soon, I’m dancing again. Pearl’s murder can wait. I take off my shirt and rub my chest against a fat man who’s also shirtless. “There’s a room upstairs we could use,” he says.

“I knew it! I knew you were a hooker!” I scream and push him. We start brawling. A crowd of bikers join the fight.

“I’m the fucking police! You’re under arrest, you bastards!” I scream before the fat man knocks me out.

I wake up in a dirty room stinking of fish. “Up to your usual police antics, huh?” Someone says.

I look around and see a man dressed in a kimono. “Where am I?” I ask him. “Where you always end up after pursuing an imagined case,” he says.

“So, I’m not a cop, then?”

“I didn’t say you weren’t.”

“Who am I then?”

“You are who you’re always supposed to be.”

“Fair enough. Do you have a glass of water? Fuck! My head hurts!”

“Yes. Here. And take this pill. It’ll ease the pain. Do you want to stay for dinner? I’m cooking fish stew.”

“No, I need to solve the case. Time’s running out. That burglar Patricia isn’t getting away with robbing the bank and killing poor Petunia. Not on my watch!”

“Just don’t get too badly hurt. I won’t be able to fix you up then.”

“Don’t worry doctor. Say, you haven’t seen Shoeshine Timmy around here, have you? My boots are dirty.”

“I’m not a doctor; you aren’t wearing boots, and I don’t know who Shoeshine Timmy is. But saying that isn’t going to make much of a difference, is it?”

“Do you know where my gun is?”

“I don’t.”

“I guess I’ll have to use this broom then. Let’s just hope Pearl and her gang don’t use guns.”

I leave the brownstone and collapse on the street. I wake up and see a young boy playing with a toy.

“Shoeshine Timmy! There you are! Now, polish my damn boots!”

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

Inspired by Disco Elysium

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