Suddenly Mack felt himself being pulled up and backward and he wasn't sure if he was about to pass out from the booze. He heard the click of handcuffs, and realized it was his own hands that were being cuffed. He felt something hard smash against his skull and he faded to black.
He came to in City of Miami police headquarters downtown. A burly man in a bad suit stood before him, a young Cuban in a dark blue uniform sat in a chair against one wall. The man in the suit spoke first.
"You're under arrest for the murder of Charles Edward Phixture III. First-degree homicide, pal. You wanna tell me something?"
"C-could I, um, have a cup o' coffee and a smoke?"
"Sure, sure," Bad Suit said. "Hey, Jose, get this killer some java and a fag."
Oh, no, Mack thought. Do they really talk like this? "Thank you," he said to Jose. "Okay, gentlemen, here's the scoop. Phixture came to me a few weeks ago, wanting to find out the history of Miami. How it went from endlessly pristine ecological utopia to the most chaotic hub in the western world. And he wanted me to do it through pulp novels set here. The case was going along pretty good, and I met with him a couple times at the Pussycat to give him updates. This stuff is really fascinating, the way they describe bits and pieces of Miami, the way this city's whole image changes in the pages of fiction without really changing at all...."
The detective in the suit was about to interrupt, when another man in uniform burst into the interrogation room. "Captain, I need to see you outside for a moment. It's urgent."
The two men excused themselves. Jose walked to where Mack was sitting, still handcuffed, and knocked the cup of hot coffee into Mack's lap.
"Why'd you do it, asshole?"
"Didn't," Mack managed.
"No way, Jose."
The two cops returned. "Take the cuffs off, Jose," Bad Suit said. "Mr. Bennett, come with me. There are a couple of people here to see you."
They all walked into the lobby, where Sam and Becky stood with worried expressions.
"Gee, Mack, you look terrible," Sam offered honestly.
"Thanks," Mack said. "Somebody mind telling me what the hell's going on here?" He caught something out of the corner of his eye. Sneaky Pittoon, sitting in a straight-back chair with his hands in cuffs and a dejected look on his ugly mug.
Mack pointed at Sneaky. "Him?"
"Yes," Becky said fondly. "We found him in the Florida Room. He'd torn into the glass case with the Miami pulp display. Tawdry paperbacks were all over the place. When Sam tried to stop the maniac, he got himself punched in the nose instead."
"When the cops finally showed up," Sam interjected, "the gentleman was ranting about $500 someone owed him - that he thought it might be hidden in a pulp novel. Have you ever heard of such a thing?"
"Being owed $500? Yeah, I've heard of it," Mack said bemusedly. "I can't believe Sneaky would kill for a few hundred smackers. There were so many other, better reasons."
"Well, he's made a full confession. And one more thing," Sam added. "I found out about Brett Halliday. He lived in Miami from 1930 to 1935, and then visited over the years."
"Thanks, Sam." Mack meant it, but he didn't sound sincere. After all, what did it matter now? Hell, the case was over. He wouldn't have to read any more pulp, he wouldn't have to ponder Miami's predicament. It had been good for a few laughs, the library was a great place, and Sam and Becky were heroes in his book. Still he was left feeling empty.
He was thirsty, he thought. Maybe a bourbon would hit the spot. Yes, Mack thought gratefully, he'd always have Paris.