Torture Is Mostly About Vanity

25 08 2008




“It’s uncomfortable for you. It’s uncomfortable for me.”

The detective took his hands out of his trench coat and tapped back the fedora on his head. He took two steps forward and one to the side. Why did I do that?

“You say your name is Martins.” The detective looked around the almost empty drug store. He wondered if the in-house cameras were working. Probably not. Nothing works anymore. Except poor stiffs like me.

Mr. Martins leaned against the cooler where he had moments earlier filled a bottle of water. And put a cap on the bottle. Then opened the bottle of water. A procedure which he did not question but which he could not have explained. It was like smiling. His head cocked from side to side. As if he was trying to shake. Out a kink.

“Yes. That’s right, lad.” He took a swallow from the bottle. And smiled. Mr. Martins suffered from an odd social affliction. When being confronted by people who made him uncomfortable, Mr. Martins spoke in an accent. And he was not in control over the type of accent. This time he spoke with a Scottish accent. Or at least the sort of accent one picks up. From television commercials and B movies.

“You make it sound like I should know who you are.” The detective grunted and glanced at a nearby stand of magazines. He could see his reflection in the glossy covers. Not too bad.

“Like Martins was front page material,” the detective continued. “Well, who are you? Some kind of celebrity. I’ll tell you right up front, it won’t do you any good. I don’t cow tow to you. Hollywood types.”

Mr. Martins smiled. He looked around the drug store. He was grateful that there were no customers around.

“Why are you wearing a trench coat, lad? It’s summer outside. You must be bloody roasting in that garment.”

The detective stroked his chin. He took a finger out of the deck. And pointed it at Martins.

“You know how to avoid answering a question. I’ll give that to you. A business type. Let me tell you, I don’t care what kind of clout you swing on Bay Street. It won’t do you any good in this man’s world.” The detective took a second finger from the deck. The thumb. And jabbed it into this chest.

Mr. Martins bowed. He smiled. A kind of acknowledgement. Or so the detective thought. A recognition that the detective was a person to be reckoned with.

“Thank you, detective. I’m quite sure that you will be judicious. But I really wanted to know why you’re wearing a trench coat. I’m interested in such things. I listen to people. That’s my business.”

“Your business is listening to people,” the detective repeated. He rolled his tongue around in his mouth. “What are you, a priest? Let me tell you.” And here the detective took his pointer finger and jabbed it into the air in front of Mr. Martins as if his finger was a dagger. “I don’t care if you’re an agent from the Pontiff himself. It won’t do you any good in this confessional. The only that swings loosely here is the truth. If you even know what the truth is. And in case you haven’t notice, I decide what the truth is.”

Mr. Martins laughed. “Detective, I’m afraid we’ve gotten off to cross purposes here. I’m an investor. Mostly other people’s money. In businesses that I think will flourish. I speculate on the future.”

The detective placed his hands on his hips as he shook his head. A smile snuck across his face.

“I should have seen it. You pretty boys are all the same. Putting on the glamorous front. When you’re rotten through and through.”

“I’m an investor,” Mr. Martins repeated.

“You’re a gambler.” The detective smiled to himself.

“A consultant.”

“Use any fancy word you please.” The detective slipped his hat back off his head and scratched his scalp. “It all comes down to the same thing. You’re a gambler. House of the Rising Sun and all that.” The detective stepped to one side and leaned against a stand of contraceptives. “And you make a living out of this?” the detective asked.

“A good living,” Mr. Martins responded.

“On the future?” the detective asked.

Mr. Martins nodded.

“What makes you think there is any future?” the detective enquired.

“You think there isn’t?” Mr. Martins asked.

“What I think doesn’t matter.” The detective grunted. What the hell did I say that for? He glared at Mr. Martins for a moment. Then he took a photograph out of his pocket. It was a photograph of faeces. Against a set of shiny light blue bathroom tiles. Floor tiles.

“Do you recognize this?”

Mr. Martins took the photograph out of the detective’s hand and looked at it.

“Is it what I think it is?” Mr. Martins asked.

“That depends,” the detective said, “on what you think it is.”

Mr. Martins handed the photograph back to the detective.

“What do you mean by recognize?” Mr. Martins asked.

“Is it yours?” the detective asked.

Mr. Martins laughed. “Now how the hell would I know that?”

The detective moved to the left of Mr. Martins as if his intention was to walk around him. The cooler was in the way.

“Did you leave it in the middle of the washroom?” The detective barked, turning back in the other direction.

“I most certainly did not.” Mr. Martins was offended. Why would I do something so disgusting? Why would anyone?

“Can you prove it?” the detective asked.

Mr. Martins shook his head.

“Some sicko,” the detective said shaking his head, “left this souvenir in the middle of the men’s washroom last week. Who knows what else this sick mind has up his sleeve? Would you be willing to take a polygraph test?”

“A lie detector test? I most certainly would not.”

“If you’re innocent, what have you got to lose?” the detective asked.

Mr. Martins shook his head. He looked around. “I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. You think I want to waste my time taking a test because you’re out to find your great white leviathan?”

The detective took a toothpick out of his pocket and stuck it between his teeth.

“It wasn’t white.”

There was no smile on the detective’s face.