The Joy of Life Through Nature by D. I. Jolly
The breeze came in cool and gentle and cut through the oppressive heat of the mid-summer sun. It was the first moment of respite in days and gave Jones, as well as everyone in the city, a chance to take a nice long cool breath. The summer had been long and beautiful. Which also meant relentlessly hot, and the only thing better than complaining about the bitter cold of winter was complaining about the endless heat of summer.
But Jones wasn’t in the mood to complain, he was happy to enjoy the breeze, and the ice-cold beer that the waitress had just put down in front of him. He thanked her, then paused for a moment to appreciate the beading condensation on the glass, and he reached for his cigarettes. He wanted to make sure the moment would be truly perfect.
He filled his lungs with smoke, and picked up the glass as he exhaled through his nose and took that first, glorious sip. The beer was cold, and tasted exactly how he wanted it to taste. He could feel it send the slightest shiver down his body as he swallowed, and then he took another drag of his cigarette and smiled a broad genuine smile, happy to embrace the true simple perfection of the moment, and to exist only in that moment. He felt the breeze whisper passed him again and he let out an incredibly satisfied sigh.
And then his date arrived, well, not really a date; Chief of police Frank Oslo was a broad-shouldered man at the beginning of the later stage of his life. He had a body built by doing, grey hair at his temples and knees that hated him just as much as he hated them. He was just, and kind, but also grumpy and generally ill tempered. And even though he was probably Jones’s best friend, it wasn’t exactly fun to spent time with him. Mostly because of his temperament, but also because Frank never stopped working, and only ever came to Jones for help with work.
Frank eyed the glass, and the cigarette and then said.
“Isn’t it a little early?”
“It’s a billion degrees today, and I finally got paid for last month’s case. So, this is last Thursday night’s beer that I had to give myself an IOU for.”
Frank arched and eyebrow and sat down.
Frank reached across the table and picked-up Jones’s cigarettes, which gave Jones a chance to arch his own eyebrow.
“It’s a billion degrees today, and you’re not my wife.”
Franks voice was flat, cold and made Jones chuckle. Frank lit the cigarette and considered it for a moment.
“Why do you smoke these?”
Jones decided to play dumb in the hopes that he could ring a bit more enjoyment out of his morning.
“Because the warning label says smoking can damage my uterus, and since I don’t have one, this package is safe.”
Frank glared, but Jones was smiling too much to feel it’s full effect.
“Cigarettes in general, why do you smoke cigarettes in general? Wise-ass.”
Jones crushed out his cigarette and took another life affirming sip of cold beer as he thought about it.
“I don’t know? I started because I thought it was cool, or maybe because I thought detectives smoked, kept going because of addiction, probably, but also, they make me feel better. They give me a chance to sit back and take a few deep breaths while I think things over. There’s a routine to smoking that is hard to mimic with other things.’ Jones took the cigarette Frank had lit, put it to his lips and inhaled deeply. ‘But that’s just what I came up with now. Truth is I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it before. Why do you ask?”
Frank ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth trying to get the taste of smoke out of it, then ordered a coffee from a passing waitress before he said,
“We confiscated a number of massive shipping containers last night, all filled to bursting with counter-fit cigarettes, you know the ones, some random factory somewhere lots of fake labels. The accounting boys came to me this morning and said the value of the shipment was around 40-million dollars. And I just wonder how something that calls itself poison, that everyone knows only does damage to the body, can have such a lucrative industry behind it.”
“Is it really that different from alcohol or drugs?”
Franks coffee arrived and he managed a smile at the waitress, who looked more afraid than charmed.
“Those at least do something, I don’t like what they do most of the time, but alcohol has an effect, drugs have an effect, some of them pretty nasty, but cigarettes? You get to feel cool? You get to take a few deep breaths? I don’t know, it just surprised me that there really was that much money in it.”
Jones smiled and took another drag wondering if he agreed or not, or if it really bothered him. He knew that he enjoyed it, that he spent more money than he should on it, but also not so much that he felt bad. But said,
“I wasn’t sure anything could surprise you anymore.”
Frank took a sip of coffee and let his eyes drift out of focus.
“Maybe that’s it, maybe I didn’t either and it’s just an extra discomfort in this already hateful season. How dare the criminals surprise me while it’s so unbearably fucking hot.”
The genuine venom in Franks voice made Jones almost spit his beer as he laughed, and had to fight to swallow, then coughed a little, then really laugh. Which of course drew another frown from Frank. The moment passed and Jones tried again to take a sip of beer, then said.
“Did you really call me down here just to ask me why I smoke?”
“No, but I think it’s an interesting conversation none-the-less. What I really want from you is help with a suspect. I’ve got him in holding, but he’s refusing to give us anything useful and you don’t seem to mind breaking the law to dig up dirt on people. I want you to get something on him that we can use as leverage.”
Jones finished his beer, puffed out a breath and with sarcasm dripping off every word said.
“But Officer Frank, is that legal?”
“If it was, I’d do it myself. As it stands, I plan to finish my coffee and go back to work, and maybe because of this heat, and those cigarettes, and a number of other stresses I have no intension of discussing with you or in public, I may accidentally leave this file here.’ Frank reached into his bag and pulled out a beige folder, and placed it on the table. ‘And because of your general curious nature you happen to look inside it on your way to returning it to me at 18:00 this afternoon.”
Jones smiled again and felt the last hints of his joy at a perfect moment disappear as work brain began to kick in.
“Am I returning it to your office or a safe house?”
“My office will do, come prepared to keep working. I get the feeling this doesn’t start or end with cigarettes. And with that much money on the table, there are rumours of big trouble coming this way.”
Jones crushed out the second cigarette and stared at the file, wondering what exactly he’d find inside.
“Well, looks like we both need to get back to work, a pleasure as always Frank.”
Frank rose without reaching for his wallet, frowned and said.
“Thanks for the coffee.”
And left Jones alone with his thoughts and his questions.