Ebi ducked under the murder tape at the diner’s entrance with a little help from Sgt. Murphy, crossed the tables to the sixty-cup percolator at the end of the counter, and poured a lukewarm. He ignored the M.E. sitting on the last stool.
Ebi tossed the coffee back in a single slug as a shot.
“Good to see you, too,” Sherm said, watching. “Took you long enough.”
Ebi was the sort of detective who knew the day of the week by who was behind the bar over at the Ugly Sweater. Sherm was the kind dentist who moonlighted as the coroner in a bankrupt municipality when no decent pathologist would take the job.
“Happens when you don’t pay the bill.”
“Lucky guess,” Ebi said reaching over for the last cigarette out of the pack in front of Sherm. ‘What’ta we got?”
“You,” Sherm said fishing his lighter out of his pocket. “You have a walk-in full of hamburger: freshly ground waitress and cook. Real mess. Buckshot - and a lot of it.”
“Robbery then?” Ebi coughed. He was on the third week of the same cold. He’d have it all winter at this rate. “Why’d you call me?”
“You’re all the homicide we got left,” Sherm stood to move away. “Till’s full - no robbery.”
Ebi growled under his breath half trying to clear his throat and half sounding desperate. “You’d left Murphy alone in here it’d be a robbery.”
“Your part is down the hall in the head. Guy choked to death on a lump of coal - but that’s unofficial. I’m just spit-balling, really.”
Sherm pulled out a new pack of cigarettes and beat them on three different axis before tearing the foil.
“Except for the lump of coal down his throat.”
“Best part of my day right here though,” Sherm laughed. “Ready for it?”
Ebi put his hands in his coat pocket.
“Driver’s license says the guy answers to the name of Donner. Picture matches.”
“You’re a real piece of shit. What’s it called? A masochist?” Ebi asked.
“It’s sadist, bright boy,” Sherm laughed. “I’m a dentist. In my nature. Thirteen days left in the year and you get a real case. That’s fifty bucks to me. And you? You get to work for the big man’s office, again.”
Ebi took a flask out of a coat pocket and discovered it dry.
“Which list were you on this year? Remind me,” Sherm said.
“You still sleeping with my ex-wife?”
“Then I owe you an even hundred,” Ebi said starting down the hall.