"The usual, MacKenzie?" She always asked but never waited for me to answer. She'd slide the white porcelain cup and saucer in front of me, pour the coffee from the stainless steel coffee pot, then set the pot down on the counter behind her, grab a small plate from the stack beneath the counter, walk over lift the lid off the cake display, lift a slice of pie, reach over and set it down in front of me ... but my favorite part of this ritual came at the end. She would always spin the plate so that the point of the pie pointed toward me. "Anything else, MacKenzie?"
"No, Mary, that should do." She'd pull the pencil from behind her ear, write out my bill, ninety-five cents total. Then she was off.
My blue-eyed Mary. I thought often of getting up the nerve to ask her out, but never did. I think I feared if I ever got to know her, I might lose all my fancy about her.
I was down to the next to the last forkful of my pie, when Shirley bellowed out from the kitchen, "Mary, MacKenzie's got a phone call." As Mary gave a glance from the far end of the counter, a black phone suddenly appeared on the shelf of the pass-through window. Mary finished up taking an order from some suit who looked far too well-dressed for a place like this. She then went to the window, grabbed the phone, stretching the long cord over to me. "Two-bits, MacKenzie." I smiled. Twenty-five cents a call was the deal I had with Shirley to serve as my answering service.
"MacKenzie, here." It was dispatch with an assignment. ... "Where abouts?" ... "Okay, where on the Waterfront." ... "205 Atlantic, behind the Brewery." ... "Has Doc arrived yet?" ... "Alright, should take me about ten minutes." I hung up and pushed the phone back to Mary, who in turn placed it in the window, that in turn, was swept away by Shirley's hand. "Gotta go, Mary." Left a buck-fifty on the little green restaurant check, gave a smile to Mary who gave a shake of her head in return, acting if I but one more irritation in her life, but i knew better. I called out to Shirley, "See ya later, Beautiful." She gave me her usual wave off, "Get outta here, you fool!"
It actually took me fourteen minutes. When I arrived four uniformed officers were guarding the scene, but there really was no one else around except two dock workers taking a break on a pile of lumber nearby. Right behind me, Doc pulled up in his old Packard. I waited for him and we walked up together, gathering an Officer Alden along the way. He looked like a rookie to me. I remember seeing his face, but I don't ever remember talking to him..
He began briefing me. "He was found by two kids who were coming by on their bikes. One of the kids had to take a leak so went behind the rear of the building over here. No identification, no money, smells like hell, half-shaven. Looks like a bum."
"Thank you, Alden." Dismissing him so that Doc and I might have a look for ourselves. And there he was, a down-on-his-luck no name who had just bottomed out forever.
Doc stooped down to make his appraisal. "Wino. Probably dead for over a day. Stabbed in the gut and probably bled to death. My guess he got into a squabble with some other wino over a bottle. You see ... he's soaking with alcohol and where's the bottle?"
"You're probably right, Doc." With that, we walked away and went back to what we were doing. You see, in this corner of life, some murders just go away.