"Santino! Gonna get freezin' cold tonight. You best be getting your scrawny *ss over to the Mission." That bellow belonged to Officer Sean Michael MacLean, Jr., a third generation cop, first generation crook. His daddy, Sean Michael, Sr. walked this beat for years, kept things in line by knowing every living soul who haunted these streets and knowing every little thing they did, at times, before they even did it. His kid, however, just cracked heads and took his cut. The old man was tough, his kid was mean; the old man took no lip from anyone, the kid lipped off to everyone.
"Evening, MacLean. You got nothing better to do than hassle us old drunks?"
MacLean used to rough me up in days gone by. But no more. I think he simply got tired of doing it. And besides, nothing to be gained by shaking down empty pockets.
The six foot four, three hundred pound ox, squatted down beside me, balancing his bulk with his well-known nightstick. "Look, Santino, old boy. I'm looking for a Asian fellow that goes by Hing Su. Young guy, maybe five five. Wears his hair long."
"Ain't seen him, MacLean."
"You sure," he said, giving me a poke in the ribs with the tip of that stick. "They say he comes by here all the time."
"Ain't seen him, I said."
"That's a shame, Santino, shame indeed." With those words and with one quick rap of his two foot enforcer, my bottle of musky was no more.
"Sorry about that Santino. That stuff will kill ya." He straightened up and headed in the direction of Mickey's Bar and Grill. I figured another free meal was waiting for him there. That, or another sawbuck for his doing such a fine job of keeping the peace.
As he headed south on Lombardy, Granny Oranges turned the corner at third, pushing her Kroger's grocery cart and sporting her latest hat, a red beauty that some dead widow must have left to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. Her long, brown coat that was fringed with what appeared to be the carcasses of gray squirrels, along with her always unbuckled furry mukluks gave her the look of an Eskimo runaway. Even in the dog days of summer, old Granny Oranges wore the same get-up. Oh, the hats would change, but not the wardrobe.
Granny Oranges got her name from the oranges she always had in her pockets. She was always able to snatch a couple off the stand in front of Lieberman's Produce Market. She used to steal them from Lieberman, now I think he merely turns a blind eye.
Everybody liked Granny Oranges. I know I did. She kept the neighborhood in good order in her way. She'd earn her nickels by sweeping all the sidewalks in front of the stores. She kissed me once, a few years back. I didn't kiss her back and that seemed to be the end of that nonsense.
It was Granny Oranges who first caught sight of the Darkness, the night the first young girl's body was found.