Warning: This work has been rated 18+ for language, violence, and mature content.
Rather than subjecting the pair to the traffic issues of Garden Street, Winslow guided Norton through a multitude of shortcuts. The whole way across the Gulf Beach Highway sighs were escaping from his companion with every man hole cover they bumped into. Eventually, the highway turned to go through Warrington with its usual mix of produce trucks and elderly folks walking the cracked sidewalks. When they turned onto Barrancas, Norton sighed and exclaimed, “God dammit, Winslow. Can’t we ever take the main roads once in awhile?”
Winslow turned to him and smirked while saying, “God dammit, Norton. Can’t you ever drive without someone guiding you along?”
A flush spread across the younger’s detectives face, a color nearly as deep as the stoplight. Winslow looked out the window to read the street sign and quickly commanded, “Turn here!”
Norton pulled the car into the turning lane, looking back at a very frustrated taxi cab and then to Winslow to a look of equal annoyance. They kept silent until Winslow suddenly shouted out directions again.
“Turn left here!”
“Where the fuck is here, Winslow?”
The elder detective shifted in the seat to point out the window and said, “That street was here. No matter about that though.” He paused for a moment while looking around at the streets. “Go up Palafox and then make a right on Romana after we pass the Saenger.”
“Wasn’t the Saenger the start of all of our troubles, sir?” Norton asked while chuckling. If he had any other complaints beyond the casual commentary, the younger detective had evidently learned to keep quiet. At least for the current trip. Winslow knew the boy would be back on his feet by the end of the day, no matter if they ended up with someone in the back of the car or not.
Norton rolled the car into the fire lane, shifting it into park, and took the keys out of the ignition. He sat there for a moment with his eyes shut and then looked to Winslow.
“Do you want me to move out of the fire lane?”
The elder detective remained silent but took a cigarette out of his case and lit it.
“What are the odds that there is going to be a fucking fire while we’re in this place?”
Winslow didn’t say anything. He maintained steady eye contact with his partner and slowly blew out a stream of smoke. The detective leaned back in his seat with the full intent of waiting however long was necessary.
It was only a few moments before the car started again and they moved up a few spaces. This time, when the engine stopped, it was quickly followed by their car door slamming shut. Winslow opened up his eyes to see a huffy Norton standing by the doorway of the Cabaret. There were a few people leaning against columns, smoking cigarettes and pipes that Winslow wasn’t going to question. Norton had joined that group, awkwardly standing among them, smoking and making light conversation.
Exactly what Winslow would expect the boy to be doing.
“Ready to head in?” Norton asked as extinguished his cigarette by grinding it against the stone column.
“Yeah, just about. I was just getting a breath of fresh air before we headed in there.”
The younger detective just frowned and nodded, moving to his side as he studied the doors of bar.
Winslow hadn’t been to a bar of his fellow folk since France. The doctor had been enough to satisfy his physical and romantic needs during their times on the front line. Kissing a man in a canvas tent while the enemy shelled the surrounding area was a pleasure that very few people knew. And Winslow had been in that position for the last two years of the war.
He managed to snap out of it before the sappy memories flooded his mind and said to Norton, “Well lead the way, kid.”
As they walked through the oak doors, Winslow felt the ghostly grit of peanut shells on the bar room door. It was dark outside but early enough in the evening that not many people were there quite yet. A mass of the population appeared to be Armed Forces members. Looking to his left, Winslow could see the awkwardness hadn’t left Norton’s composure. The younger detective was attempting to make eye contact with people who definitely knew the pair were cops. They passed by a booth of femme people and one shouted to Winslow and said, “You fucking traitor.”
He looked to the corner of his eye to see Norton moving into a defensive position, but quickly batted the man’s hand away from his holster. Winslow took a few steps backwards and turned to the company at the table.
There were plenty of cruel and threatening responses running through his head like the things he had said at Innerarity Point. But as each of those responses ran through the gears in his head, it was just proof that he was a traitor.
“Yes, by being a pig I am a traitor. But I was already a traitor when I went off to the army and certainly a traitor by the time I went to the war.”
Norton still stood by his side with a pistol at the ready, but Winslow still held him back. The elder detective took off his jacket, unbuttoned his cuff and rolled the sleeve up to his elbow. To the table he now said, “And I might as well be a traitor too for having a tattoo honoring the partner I lost during the war.”
The one who shouted at him before answered, “You’re still a fucking traitor for being a cop.”
“And I’m still a fucking fag like the rest of you, so you might as well answer my questions now that one of the other traitors is dead.”
The group that had been solid before flinched at the mention of someone being dead. Winslow recognized their anxiety because he had been in that position himself when working in Hollywood. There had always been points when he was at a party with friends and the police would bust down the the doors, trying to get some dyke up on charges of double parking or some of the other regular shit.
The speaker for the group continued in their role and asked, “Who died?”
“A man called Johnson. From the old Johnson Family over in Mobile.”
Winslow took his badge from his pocket, flipping the identification open, and motioning for Norton to do the same. His partner was still standing at attention with a gun partially drawn. The elder detective dug his fingers into Norton’s shoulder, giving the man another glance.
Once Norton had shown his own badge, Winslow put his back in his pocket and continued, “The suspicious death of Mr. Johnson brought us here to look for Lieutenant Morton. Do you know where I can find them?”
Winslow knew that these people weren’t going to answer him. They had already made it clear what they thought of a cop who was a homosexual and a nonverbal part of him agreed with that. This group remained silent but he could see their eyes drifting to a sailor with strawberry blond hair.
As he drifted away from the table, he was tempted to thank them, but decided that it would come off quite terribly. In the remaining five seconds to cross the barroom, Winslow tried to formulate an introduction but was stopped before he ever started with Morton saying, “So if you’re not here to kill me, what can I do for you, wonderful?”