New Sheriff in Town: Always Sherlock

“You do know what a weekend is?” Myrtle said through her screen door.
The android detective tossed her a comical confused look. “Does not compute,” Hacthet said. Then he started do the Funky Robot dance on Myrtle’s front porch. Myrtle opened the door and pulled him through.
“I have neighbors.”
“You wouldn’t think so from that outfit,” Hatchet said.
Myrtle re-tied her bathrobe over her pajamas. He turned her and gave a gentle push towards her bedroom.
“Get dressed hussy. I’ll wake the boy and we’ll make breakfast. Hurry, Chief, the game’s a foot.”
Myrtle rushed into a pair of jeans, boots, and flannels. Pulling her long dark hair into a ponytail, Myrtle walked back to the kitchen. Hatchet was standing behind a sleep tousled Django teaching him how to beat eggs. Suddenly Myrtle was thrown into the past when my boys would get up early to make her special surprisingly messy breakfasts. Hatchet caught her eye. They stared at each other an invisible rope tied them to one another. Then Hatchet quickly looked away.
“Mom! How do you want your omelette rare or well done?”
Myrtle smiled for her son. The three of them had started “counseling” to help Django adjust to re-connecting with Hatchet after the years they had spent apart. Myrtle always put air quotes around the word counseling in her mind because even though she believed therapy was good for other people she didn’t trust it. She never let her guard down. She was never one for talking about feelings. And she never forgave anyone who hurt her once. That’s one of the reasons she had fallen for Hatchet in the first place, part of her believed he could never lie or leave. Androids were supposed to be perfect.
“Dad said he needed you for a big case? Does that make you Watson? Will there be a big laser fight? Will you be on the news?” Myrtle put Django in a loving headlock. Django chattered on full speed while Hatchet busied himself cooking the Denver omelettes. They ate their breakfast in the car with Django still talking the entire way. When they stopped to drop him off at Rita’s house, Django even allowed his mom to kiss him goodbye.
“Be good, I’ll pick you up soon. And remember I’m always Sherlock,” Myrtle said.
Back in the car, Hatchet told the SatNav to take them to the Vi-Jon Flower Market.
“You know he thinks we are getting back together,” Myrtle said.
Hatchet nodded his heavy gray head and stared out of the passenger window. They drove in silence to the market.
“What’s the score?”
“My CI told me the Market is a good place to pick up information on the Saturnine murders,” Hatchet said.
“What kind of info? We know FlorCorp ha an iron grip on all of the distributors in their region and now they are moving in on the growers. Everybody knows and no one talks.”
They parked and began walking with the Saturday morning crowd. Hatchet touched her arm guiding Myrtle towards one of the flower stalls. They looked at lilies and roses and a bouquet of sunflowers that cost more more than her first car. Hatchet chose a small bouquet of lavender. Myrtle accepted it and they held hands as they strolled.
“I just don’t want to be the bad guy here. Jang has had it rough and—“
“Trust me you can never be the bad guy. He pushes against you because you’re his rock. He loves you, he always loves you. Thank you for letting me try to be a good father again.” Hatchet spoke softly pressing his cool cheek against her ear. She wanted to lean into him gather comfort like she used to before everything went wrong.
“You two should get a room.”
They approached the vendor, a well muscled android clearly former military grade, surrounded by delicate orchids and bizarre succulents. The seller pointed out many large glorious specimens. Myrtle’s picked out the tiniest one. It had powdery pale celadon leaves on a stubby stalk so weird it was adorable. Myrtle glared at Hatchet to pay. He grimaced and paid. They walked the entire market pretending to be just another pair of lovebirds enjoying the morning.
Back in the car, she sighed with frustration.
“How can we find out who killed ChiChi and Judy if no one will come forward.” The car backed out slowly and joined the traffic heading to the ‘burbs.
Hatchet pulled the plant out of its pot.
“Hey don’t break it!”
A silver milli-disc fell into his open palm. “Watson let’s head to the station and examine this first.”

New Sheriff In Town: Reunion

Django twirled a stylus through his fingers as the holographic sun dipped into the holographic sea. Under her long black lashes, Myrtle watched him. She could still see the baby he had been in his face. In silence mother and son watched the sunset from their porch.
“The HOA showed a real nice one tonight, don’t you think,” Myrtle said. Her voice was a caress.
Django gave a preteen grunt that could mean yes or no or go right to hell. He returned to his drawing and she to her knitting. Four years is a very long time and if she was struggling to understand why Hatchet left them to protect them from the people who couldn’t accept their family Myrtle could only imagine what her eleven year old was going through. Myrtle knew he was nervous, furious, excited. In the distant there was the hushed roar of an antique hover bike. Both of their heads snapped up at the unfamiliar yet familiar sound. She and Hatchet first bounded over their shared love of motorcycles. She loved the newest racers but Hatchet was into antiques. Myrtle remembered teasing him, an android who idealized Harleys. Their first kiss was over a rebuilt engine.
Their tidy subdivision hummed with family cruisers, school transports, and bicycles. Hatchet rode up towards them. Against her will, Myrtle’s heart leapt. She knit more rapidly her needles clicking. Hatchet dismounted his old Dean and stood at the end of their driveway. Django rose. The boy’s eyes flamed; his fists balled tight. Myrtle froze.
In a snap, Django’s face crumbled into tears and he rang to his father arms outstretched. A faux breeze picked up ruffling the tails of Hatchet’s long coat as the violet sky faded into indigo. The two hugged and cried and hugged. Stuffing her half-finished blanket into her carpet bag, Myrtle swiped at her own eyes. She left them to the night, left them to untangle the past, left them to their next steps. She escaped to her home office. Pull it together, you are the Chief of Police on a third rate moon of a D list planet put one your big girl panties and work the case. Tapping her tablet, the official FlorCorp police file sprang to life. Extortion, corruption, robbery, murder, Myrtle threw herself into a world she could understand.

New Sheriff in Town: Day of the Lepus

“Hold on, hold on get this then the sailor said, ‘I should have never,” the officer started guffawing at his own joke.
“Officer.” Myrtle’s voice was a whip the group of police froze and melted away. She approached the jokester. Myrtle focused on the thin aquamarine horizon line that marked the cool blue white of the land against the warm yellow white of the sky. She was still getting used to this moon’s, her new home’s, monochromatic landscape.
“Ya see Chief I was just joshing with the guys, no harm—“
“The SitVid reported an unexplained explosion and multiple bodies,” Myrtle said. She watched the fields of artificial trees laden with living pink blushed white orchids.
“Not people people just a couple of rabbits…” the police officer’s voice trailed away as Myrtle turned to face him.
Myrtle knew there was a lot of disgusting nicknames for the sentient androids, griggs, grayboys, and the female droids manufactured mainly as servants, surrogates, and sex workers were called hares, bunnies, and rabbits.
“The name is Chief Two Axes. People are people. Report to Sergeant Bradford.”
Myrtle turned to the burnt shards of litho-plastic that had once been nice home. CSI technicians swarmed like flies over the smoking carcass. She inspected the entire scene especially the two figures, bits of flesh on melted metal frames, holding one another. Myrtle took off her hat and bowed her head.
“They were real nice ladies. I like how you set Lee straight. Hello, Chief Two Axes. I’m Dr. Sally Ferrara, Coroner’s Office.” The two shook hands and measured each other up.
“Aren’t you a little young to be a pathologist?”
“Well I’m old enough to know Chiefs of Police don’t usually visit crime scenes where the victims aren’t high profile,” Ferrara quipped.
Myrtle laughed under her breath. “May I call you Sally?”
Ferrara shrugged and began to light a cig.
“Sally tell me a story.”
“My report will be ready in 48 hours.”
“I didn’t ask for a report I asked for a story.”
Ferrara went quiet. Dome 629 Epsilon was designated agriculture purpose tropical. The moist air rested on their shoulders.
Ferrara exhaled billows of white smoke. “Once upon a time a pair of perfectly nice hookers fell in love, escaped their brothel, fought a war to stay free, and then travelled to the ass end of charted space. Once on Enceladus they worked their gray fingers to the bone in the fields and saved enough to buy their own farm and became successful. Very successful. But instead of buying a couple of German shepherds and walking into the sunset someone shot them in the back.”
“So the fire was a coverup and not part of the uptick in arsons?”
Ferrara shrugged. “You asked for a story not a solution.”
Myrtle put on her hat. She headed for her vehicle, stopped, plucked a lush orchid and handed the flower to Ferrara.
“Thanks, Doc.”
Myrtle climbed into her vehicle and tipped her hat to the young doctor. The engine purred to life. Myrtle said with a sigh, “And then the sailor said I should have never gone down that rabbit hole.”

New Sheriff in Town: The Answer

There were hands to shake and smiles to be given. Myrtle greeted her staff and tour the Law Enforcement wing of Enceladus’ Security Complex. She appeared interested, calm, and completely collected but inside Myrtle reeled. For four years, Myrtle had rehearsed what she would say if she ever saw Hatchet again. She would rage on how she felt, how their son felt, how his leaving broke their hearts, she would tell him of the anger and the hurt. Instead she merely shook his cool grey hand and mumbled polite noises. She hoped her face didn’t betray her when she learned he was one of her detectives.
When they met Myrtle was a rookie cop and Benji — she used to call him Benji back then because 83Nj100 was such a mouthful —was her police support auxiliary. Some of the other officers treated their android auxiliaries like equipment but Benji was more than that. He was her partner. They had written together patrolling the Martian badlands and shared a desk in Robbery Homicide. They had the highest completion rate in the city. He always had her six and she had his. They were friends, then more than friends. Despite the whispers and the dirty looks they bought a micro farm with a farmhouse and a white picket fence and adopted Django. In honor of her last name Carries Two Axes 83Nj100 renamed himself Benjamin Hatchet. Together their little family buffered the protests. Then one day she came home to a note on the kitchen table and the end of everything they built together.
Her hands trembled as her office door knob scanned her thumbprint and unlocked. Myrtle nearly fainted when she opened her door and there sat her Benji, Det. Hatchet. She closed her door and sat behind her new desk.
The slick contemporary office furniture, the tasteful abstract prints, a fresh orchid in a slender bud vase, Myrtle took in her office looking everywhere except at her ex. Finally her eyes landed on her tablet she opened her calendar.
“I saw when you and the boy stepped off the Manifest. He’s gotten so tall. How’s he—“
Her eyes met his. Hatchet stopped talking. He looked away. The Kimber droids are humanoid very human with factory grown skin and flesh. They were manufactured gray-skinned with pale eyes and dark hair. Built as soldiers, servants, and sex workers, the Kimbers were intelligent, strong, fast, intuitive, and highly imaginative. So imaginative, the Kimbers, the most popular droids in the solar systems, started to imagine they had rights. Myrtle could see the weight of the last civil war on Hatchet’s face. Myrtle began to work hoping Hatchet would take the hint.
“Even if you hate me it is good to see you,” Hatchet said crossing his long legs and settling back into the chair.
“You know I couldn’t hate you even if I tried but I certainly tried. Now I’m indifferent,” Myrtle said without looking up. “How the hell did you get in here?”
“You know I’m good with tech.” Hatchet chuckled and the laughter bubbled with warm memories. The air between them was charged.
Myrtle flung the orchid and vase at his head. Hatchet caught it and chuckled again.
“Why did you bring me here?” Myrtle stood up. “Don’t tell me it is because I’m good. You nudged my name to the top of candidates list, sweet talked the algorithms. You’re wheels inside of wheels.”
Hatchet set the flower back on her desk. His finger trailed the pink blush of the ruffled petal. He walked to the door. He looked out of the office windows. A series of domes bustling with factories and farms stretched across the ice glazed land. His eyes narrowed.
“You know why you’re here. Good day, Sheriff.”


Queen of Hearts on King of Spades then Jack, the cursor moved quickly flipping electronic cards covered in dancing pineapples. Ring, ring.
“Southern Pennsylvania Association of Superheroes and Paranormal Entities, this is Claudine.”
“The world is going to end tonight….” The voice trailed off into hysterical laughter.
“Okay is this Alien Technology or General Supervillain,” Claudine asked her eyes glancing over to Seven of Diamonds.
“I will rain fire upon your cities and the legions of Hades—“
“All right, let me transfer you to our Hell mouth department, please hold.”
Claudine moved the Seven to Eight of Clubs, then switched to Word to create an agenda for the next Human Flight Training committee meeting and opened a Zoom for the Junior Clairvoyants.
Oscar slither walked across the lobby and plopped three of his arms on her receptionist counter. Claudine hated that.
“Looking good, Doll face. Would you like to take a walk during lunch? A little light cardio does a body good.” Oscar wiggled what she guessed were his eyebrows at Claudine.
Claudine wished she could explode things with her eyes. “Isn’t there a big mailing scheduled today? At least that’s what Blackthorn said this morning that and something about casting a spell to make someone calamari if the pension statements don’t go out on time.”
Claudine offered Oscar’s retreating back her broadest smile. She switched back to her Solitaire game uncovering a red two. The cards began to bounce cascading across the screen. Winner again. Ring ring.

“Southern Pennsylvania Association of Superheroes and Paranormal Entities, this is Claudine.” She cradled the hard plastic against her ear and shoulder while switching from Klondike to Spider.
“Hello Miss, I’m a retired Sup and I wondered if the Association covers eyeglasses.”
“Good morning Captain Nautilus let me direct you to SuperHuman Retiree Benefits.”
“I know I had them last week.”
“All right, sir. Now have you checked the online member portal.”
“Or last week.”

New Sheriff in Town

Vast whiteness stretched out like a blank page. Myrtle sat upright in the hover sedan, afraid to wrinkle her new uniform. Looking out the vehicle windows, she was reminded of the vids of deserts back on Olde Earth. As a little girl she had liked the dizzying colors of the tropics and feared the dark of the thick forests. As she grew older Myrtle was drawn to oceans of sand with life hidden in its secrets. Cold, arid, lifeless these were the words that summed up Enceladus. She was not drawn to it. She had spent so much time weaving the innumerable joys of their new home to get Django excited about their move that Myrtle had begun to believe her own stories. The reality of this moon was a hard thing.
She forced herself to return to the view whizzing past. The horizon was a taut rubber band. There were no trees, no bushes, no clouds, no liquid water. The landscape was an unturned clear face of ice with eruptions of large bluish domes. There was domes of emerald green hydroponic farms to feed the men and domes factories to build the robots. The men and the robots built the identical suburban houses that would one day become the dream homes of the future. Her son dubbed it Planet Fishbowl and pulled on his HeadPhones. Myrtle swallowed down her lump of regret.
Myrtle did what she always did. She began making lists. What do I know? They wanted me here. The Board of Regents had reached out to her directly asking her to apply to the Chief of Police position for the new colony. The interview process went smoothly. She knew the local crime stats and resources available to her department. The salary was generous, the housing, pleasant. The Sub Mayor had greeted Django and her at the station and the Chair of AmeriChoice had sent her a honest to God basket of fruit. Myrtle had researched and researched. She knew everything that could be known about her new job except Why did they want her here?
The hover had stopped. She had arrived. Myrtle didn’t know how long she had been siting lost in thought but the vehicle’s NavSat voice sounded a little impatient. She approached the primary sealed doors and was scanned. Noiselessly, a series of metallic doors slid open for her. The building had the vibe of warehouse that had been recently renovated as a high end hotel. She strode into the Security Central Complex. A desk sergeant and her drone smiled up at Myrtle from their desk. Welcome to Planet Fishbowl, she thought. In her dress blacks with her hat tucked under her arm, Myrtle smiled back.
“Long time,” a familiar voice rang out behind her.
The politeness drained from her lips. Myrtle steeled her spine and slowly turned to face the last person she had ever expected to meet again.
Myrtle said, “No see.”

Grief is

Heavy unbearably heavy

Weighing down your limbs

Pressing down your lids

Laying across your chest

When you know you must to get up and do all the things that need to be done

Light incredibly light

Light as a sun faded photograph

Light enough to slip into a pocket and be carried everywhere

Light as the paper band the hospital taped around your wrist on the last day you see your dad

Light enough to still be felt after it is cut away.

Daisy, Daisy

Daisy’s hair was a rich brown halo of thick coils. With a rat tailed comb, her mother separated the locks into smaller sections. Daisy with her tablet in hand sat cross legged on a pillow on the kitchen floor as Thea bent to rub coconut oil into the child’s hair. Sunlight from the window over the farmhouse sink lay across their shoulders. A vegetable stew bubbled in the crockpot and cornbread baked in the oven.

In the corner, the old radiator sighed with steam. Yawning, Thea stretched her back to stay wake in the cozy heat. Daisy stretched too and then broke out into song.

“Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.”

Thea began teasing out the tangles and thinking about the accounts she had to reconcile.

“I’m half crazy all for the love of you. Ow!”

“Oh, sorry baby,” Thea said. She hoped all of the amounts would tally but she knew they wouldn’t. Stupid I can’t find my receipt Rita. “ I wish your daddy would learn how to do hair. Every Sunday you come back like a ragamuffin.”

“Mildred doesn’t pull my hair, Mommy.”

“Yes, I know you’re tender-headed, sweetie peach.” Gently, ever so gently. Thea began to braid.

“I’m not a sweetie peach. Mildred never calls me ragged muffins Mildred says I can be anything I want to be.”

Thea’s hands moved like water separating and joining weaving down to the ends. She looked over at her computer bag. Daisy hummed to herself.

That’s right sugar pop.” Thea oiled the girl’s scalp and massaged from her roots to her ends.

“I’m not sugary pop. Mildred says she couldn’t do what she wanted but I can.”

Thea thought next Friday she would tell Steven to make Daisy wear a satin cap or he can start taking this head to the salon.

“Mommy what’s hysteria?”

“What now? “

“Mildred said—“

“Who is this Mildred? What kind of kid is this with two dollar words?”

“Mommy! Mildred is my friend, my special friend,” Daisy said.

Thea moved quickly. Shiny braids gleamed in the afternoon sun.

“She’s my special wecial friend who lives in my closet. Ow!”

“Sorry, sorry, how long have you had this friend?”

“Forever since we moved here. She used to keep me up with her crying. It made me so mad but you told me to use my words instead of my fists so I started talking and she started talking and we started talking. And then I could see her. Well I could see some of her.” Daisy broke out into song. “Give me your answer do.”

Despite the stove and the radiator, the kitchen suddenly grew cold. Thea’s hands froze in mid-air.

“What else does she say?” Thea said softly. She could see her breath in the air. Memories of this old house, her Mom Mom’s house, were she spent many sleepless summers seeped into the front of her mind. Closing her eyes, Thea slammed the five panel door on those thoughts She set down her comb.

“Just that she loves me like a mommy just like I was her little bitty baby that she doesn’t have anymore.” Daisy rocked to her song in her head.

On stiff legs, Thea climbed down to the tile floor eye level with her daughter. Thea smoothed the girl’s edges and kissed her forehead. Thea locked eyes with Daisy. They held each other’s cheeks.

“I’m your Mommy. You’re one and only Mommy. I know things have been hard with the move and changes but you and I haven’t changed. It’s impossible for anyone to love you like I love you. I’m your Mommy.” Thea lovingly tapped Daisy’s nose. Daisy hugged her mother tight.

Suddenly the kitchen was warm, heavy with the smell of buttery cornbread. The frost melted on the window glass taking away the words written in the ice from an unseen hand

“And I’m your butter bean,” Daisy said.


The Cackle

The day was bleeding out against the dark sky in ribbons of magenta and gold. The boys ran in small packs of four or five. More dangerous together than apart. Tennyson was the new kid. Justin had vouched for him but that only got him to the circle in woods not in the inside.

The woods were the green space tucked behind a small college. The four boys stood in a circle fighting the cold and the boredom.Tennyson’s parents had begged, borrowed, and stole to afford a modest house in the affluent suburbs with the best schools. But Tennyson made his own path. The four boys stood in circle sharing a bottle of liquor. Tennyson choked back the bitter fire in his throat and drank deeply.

The boys passed a joint and took turns playing tracks from their phones. Their grunts, whoops, and barking laughs punctuated the heavy bass. Flying, Tennyson bobbed his head to the beat.

Bobby stepped out of the darkness. The air was charged. He lit a cigarette, his spotted face crimson in the flame. Tennyson wanted to slip into the trees, wanted to sprint through the fields, wanted to cut across his neighbors’ backyards, leaping fences to the safety of his home. He knew his mom had saved a plate for him.

“What you looking at, freshman?” Bobby growled.

“Could I bum a Newport?” Tennyson answered in a deep voice, flaring out his chest to appear bigger.

“‘Member I told you I was bringing Ten?” Justin said.

Silence. After a pause someone chose another song and the boys bobbed their heads in unison for a while.

“It’s cold as shit out here,” announced Bobby.

“Well, Alfredo’s is already closed,” Tyler said, scratching his shaggy mane. “And my mom would straight up kill me if I brought folks home.”

“I know a place,” Tennyson said, his voice breaking.


The cackle of teens traversed the woods, cut through the square, hooted and hollered across the playground, and stopped behind the abandoned church. Tennyson showed them the broken lock on the cellar door. The inky black of the church basement swallowed them.

Tyler tripped over a chair. Justin tripped over Tyler. The pair started play fighting. Bobby flicked his lighter and attempted to light some kind of candle. The basement blazed impossibly bright. Bobby had lit a road flare that he lifted from his dad’s SUV.

“Careful guys careful,” Tennyson whined.

With a high pitched giggle Bobby lobbed the road flare to Tyler. “Don’t get your panties in a twist, freshman.” Sharp teeth shining, Tyler laughed manically in return catching the flare and tossing it over Tennyson’s head. Justin joined in the hysteria jumping for the road flare as it slammed against the far wall showering an old pile of hymnals. The laughter continued as Justin retrieved the flare and tossed it. Soon slender tongues of flames appeared among the dried pages.

Tennyson beat at the flames with his feet and then his coat. The others howled in the smoke before running outside. Wild, Tennyson tried to crush the fire. Justin pulled him into the cold of the night.  Ten stumbled on the grass. Face striped with soot, he watched part of his life burn away and then Ten turned to run with the pack.