Indian Summer

Detective Jack McCoy coughed into handkerchief. He wasn’t sick. Not really. He was smoking too much. It was a bad habit that came up every time he worked a tough case; along with a whole slew of other bad habits: Chain-smoking, mostly just to feel the warmth of the lighter on his fingers for those few seconds; drinking to give himself an illusion of heat, even as his capillaries opened up to release their steam through his pores; Carousing with the girls down at O’Toole’s pub who were always up for a party, just so long as you were willing to pay for the privilege.

The heat they could generate was worth it. Hot – but still fleeting.

Now that he thought about it, he didn’t really need the heat after all. He felt… warm. Feverish, almost. But old habits died hard.

“Nasty cough you got there, copper,” Crow cawed at him.

“Don’t pretend like you care,” McCoy replied. “No point in playing nice with me. We got you dead to rights. Now you know crime doesn’t pay.”

Crow didn’t say anything else. He was tight-lipped. Tight-beaked, anyway. It didn’t make too much difference, since he’d already confessed to the whole thing.

Almost. No, he hadn’t quite confessed to everything.

“Just tell me why you did it,” McCoy said.

“Now you want to know,” Crow cawed back.

“Maybe I can get the judge to go easy on you,” the Detective suggested.

The Crow clammed up. McCoy supposed it didn’t matter all that much. The creature had spilled the whole plot already. He’d gone down to the Sky Lord’s house in the clouds and cased the joint. He waited until the Sky Lord went out for breakfast down by the river. Then Crow made his move, breaking into the Sky Lord’s lodge, snatching the Sun in his beak and flying out of there with sparks and cinders trailing behind.

It was a bold heist, alright. Bold, but stupid. The thing about the Sun is it was too damned hot. Everyone knew that. Crow held on with the Sun in his beak for as long as he could – which wasn’t long at all. The 911 call was just coming in from Sky Lord’s place when Crow dropped that ball of fire down to land and started a forest fire.

It’s almost like he thought he’d get some kind of reward for it; a key to the city or a gold medal or something. Stupid bird, all black and sleek and looking around out of beady eyes that stared out of sockets on either side of head. Yeah, this bird was some piece of work.

But McCoy was still curious. “Come on, Crow. I’m close with the District Attorney. I give the word, he’ll listen to me.”

“Life sentence, no parole.” Crow said. “That’s what I got to look forward to. I’d tell you what it was all about… Hell, I tried to tell you. But there’s not going to be no deal now. Not for stealing the Sun.”

“You could have asked for a lawyer at any time,” McCoy said. “Maybe got a better deal.”

“Yeah, right,” Crow cawed. “Who’s going to represent me? Any lawyer gets within fifty yards of the courthouse to defend me is going to have a target on his back. It’s like even now, no one gets it. I did a public service, damn it!”

“So tell me,” McCoy said. “Look, if I was hard on you before, that’s my bad. But I’m ready to listen. Come on, spill it. You’ll feel better. Why’d you do it?”

Crow just sat there a little while longer. Finally, he relented. “I like you.”

“Thanks,” McCoy replied with an embarrassed shrug.

“No, not you,” Crow said. “People. I like people. Some of you are mean, but mostly, you’re just funny. Not funny, intentionally. But you’ve got no grace, no magic powers, nothing. You’re pathetic and you don’t even see how pathetic you are and that’s what makes you guys hilarious. They call me a Trickster, but believe me, I don’t have to be that smart to pull a fast one on you folks. You’re like children sometimes.”

“Get to it,” McCoy said, feeling annoyed and not sure why.

“Well, I’ve seen you the last year or so – ah, hell, you idiots have no sense of time. Sky Lord should have given you idiots calendars as soon as you crawled out of that clam shell. Anyway, a long time, longer than you realize, you guys have been shivering like motherfuckers. You didn’t even realize the Sun was gone. Seriously, that is fucked up. But I wasn’t the one who took it – no, Sky Lord stole it in the first place. It was never his property. The big bird it right out of the Sky. I was just trying to put it back.”

“Huh,” McCoy said. “Well, even if that were true, you started that big forest fire. The Chilichiliwuk tribe got completely wiped out. Not to mention all those furry critters that got barbecued when the Sun fell on top of them.”

“Let me ask you a question,” Crow said. “And no fucking around. Tell me straight.”

McCoy frowned. “Alright, shoot.”

“Do you feel cold?” Crow asked.

“What kind of question is that?” McCoy asked, suddenly suspicious.

“I’m just trying to get to the nub of it all,” Crow replied. “Your teeth chattering? Body shivering? You felt any need to rub your hands together lately? Got a hankering for some piping hot tea?”

“What, are you nuts?” McCoy asked. “You playing games? It’s thirty-six degrees outside! It’s nice and warm and sunny like we haven’t seen in – Hell, I don’t even know! Teeth chattering – some kind of joke you’re playing.”

“This is why I love you people,” Crow cawed.

“Deal’s off,” McCoy said. “I’m not telling the D.A. anything nice about you, Crow.”

“That’s what I figured,” Crow said. “Look, I’ve got an important appointment I’ve got to keep. If you can take these cuffs off me, I’ll go and run a couple of errands, but I’ll come right back.”

“Yeah, you go ahead,” McCoy said. “I’m tired of looking at you. But you’ll be back here, right? You’ve got to come back for trial.”

“Of course,” Crow cawed. “I’ll be back.”

McCoy let him go.

Crow flew back up into the clouds and warmed his feathers on the Sun’s rays. He thought about all he’d experienced down below among the people.

He wouldn’t be coming back.

ASSIGNMENT:

Mystery/Comedy
Object: crow

The myths and legends of Canada’s First Nations tell of powerful yet odd animal spirits that play tricks and intervene in human affairs for their own unknown ends. I wanted to capture some of the magic and mystery of these stories in a more modern sense.

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