One Man's Meat
by C. E. Gee
Cochran’s red-rimmed, pig-like eyes fixed his young
charge with a contemptuous and haughty stare. Growled the lieutenant, jowls flapping. “Git
in here. I gotta job what’s right up your alley.”
Rick Reall took a chair at the front of the Lieutenant’s desk.
After chewing a cheeseburger, Lieutenant Cochran noisily slurped a soft drink.
Cochran put down the drink. Leaning back in his plush
swivel-chair, he crossed his arms, supporting them with
an ample paunch.
"So, Detective Reall, you like vice duty?"
"It’s all right."
Scornfully Cochran said, "Yeah, I’ll bet. Lotsa
drugs, women, booze, filth. You’re in hog heaven, ain’t
jah Reall. It was more a statement than a question.
Cochran lifted a manila folder, tossing it forward. The folder landed
with a plop near the front edge of the desk. Papers slid out. Rick
gathered them together before he picked up the folder. The folder
disclosed much about the lieutenant, who still used paper not computer
“His voice oozing contempt the lieutenant asked, “Ever been to the Blue Garden?"
Thumbing through papers in the folder, Rick replied, "Sure. "It’s not
the busiest strip club in town, but it has its attractions."
"That’s right," said Cochran. "An’ for the record, as of this morning,
we got on file three different anonymous tips alleging the Blue Garden
has been puttin’ on live sex shows."
Rick raised his eyebrows. "Now why would they do that? They could lose their dance permit, maybe even their liquor license."
Cochran shrugged. "I don’t get paid to unnerstand slime, only ta bust ‘em."
While Rick scanned briefing sheets Cochran issued his orders: "Both the
Chief and the D.A. are hot to trot on this case, you’re authorized
anything you need. You’re so new to the department, maybe nobody at the
Blue Garden will recognize yer ugly mug. Case the joint, set up a raid,
bring it on home. Think you can handle it?"
"Yes, Sir," answered Rick, standing. "No problem."
Again the Lieutenant fixed Rick with a haughty stare. "Don’t blow this,
Reall. If these tips are on the up-and-up, we need a conviction.
Rick backed out of the lieutenant’s office, walked up the hallway. At
his desk he read through the file. Three anonymous reports clearly
indicated the seriousness of the allegations. These were no reports of
overly zealous lap dancers or back booth trysts. All three reports gave
compelling descriptions of live sex acts performed on the Blue Garden’s
Rick signed out, walked a couple blocks uptown to a Chinese restaurant
where he often lunched. In the era of cell phones there was little need
for payphones but in a quiet nook near the restaurant’s restrooms a
payphone booth gave Rick privacy.
Rick deposited a quarter, punched in the telephone number of the Blue
Garden. After several rings a matronly voice responded with, "Blue
Pressing a forefinger to one side of his nose gave Rick’s voice a nasal
twang, to which he added a slight lilt. "Say," he said, "I hear rumour
you all put on a mighty interestin’ show."
The response was an ominous quiet. Rick was about to try another question, was brought short with, "Who’s asking?"
"Just a fan of, uh, exotic dancing."
There came another pause before the voice announced, "Friday and
Saturday nights. One-thirty a.m.. Double sawbuck cover charge. We close
at two a.m.. Capeesh?"
"Yeah," replied Rick. "Thanks."
The phone clicked quiet.
Midnight Friday found Rick comfortably sprawled in a back booth at the
Blue Garden. At department expense he happily nursed a beer and gobbled
an endless parade of bar snacks. A BLT from the club’s grill served as
Rick watched the club’s stable of dancers go through their routines.
Rick’s innate perceptiveness easily discerned the hardened, bored
expressions and the listless grace of the girls as they went through
their routines. Rick saw nothing that might provide a prelude to any
Music blared from a boom-box, tended from behind the bar by one of the bartenders.
Poles, popular in other clubs were absent from the Blue Garden.
The club was packed. Belying his youthfulness, Rick possessed the
senses of an old time beat cop. He expertly assessed the club’s
clientele. Middle-aged men and older predominated. There was also a few
younger men, Rick did his best to judge their temperament. If there was
to be some future raid, older men were likely to sit through it, making
jokes and verbally harassing the officers. It was younger men who chose
to flee or fight.
The hour grew late; the stage had been vacant for several minutes. Soft
background music sounded from the boom-box. A middle-aged woman, plump,
garishly made up, circulated among the tables and booths, collecting
the cover charge.
Her fist full of bills and debit card receipts, the woman stopped at Rick’s booth. "Stayin’ for the show?" she asked.
“Why not?" Rick replied, fishing a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet. "Got nothing better going on."
The woman sniffed derisively at Rick’s comment, though she seemed happy
enough with his cash. "Picked a good night to take in the show," she
commented, tucking Rick’s twenty in with the others.
"Yeah. Bill made a buncha changes. It’s all new. I seen the rehearsal this mornin’." The woman sidled over to the next booth.
Rick had no idea who Bill was, focused his attention back to the stage.
A mousy-looking man with thinning hair combed over wheeled a bed
through the slit between two stage curtains. A sprinkling of applause
and catcalls greeted his efforts. The man smiled good-naturedly as he
precisely positioned the bed to the center of the stage, squinting down
toward the stage floor as he jiggled the bed back and forth.
Satisfied with his efforts, the man fished long bolts from one pants
pocket and a small ratchet wrench from the other. Kneeling in turn at
each one of the four legs of the bed, he secured the bed to screw
anchors set into the flooring.
After the work was completed the man went to the head of the bed,
grabbing firm hold of a couple of railings. He shook the bed violently.
The club’s crowd laughed and clapped its approval of the auspicious
The man waved to the audience, jumped offstage, disappearing through a
door. Cued by the stagehand’s departure, one of the barkeeps placed a
CD into the boom box. The theme song of a recent movie, a romantic
comedy played from the boom box as the bartender adjusted the volume
and cranked down the houselights.
The music went on for a few minutes. The bartender paused the CD. In
expectation, the audience’s attention focused to the stage. Rick’s
interest was as keen as he stared at the slit between the stage
A bearded and bespectacled man stepped through the slit, out onto the
stage, to be greeted with friendly applause. Past middle-age,
broad-shouldered, the man was dressed in boots, cargo-pants, tee-shirt,
a white, knee-length lab coat.
The applause died out. "I’ve a special treat for tonight," the man
called out, his unamplified voice deep and forceful enough to carry
across the club. "I figured it was time for some changes. I think
you’ll appreciate what I’ve done." The man condescendingly smiled.
Rick focused on the man’s lab coat. Though Rick’s booth was all of 10
meters from the stage, to the detective’s sharp eyes the lab coat
appeared smeared with dried streaks of blood.
“Maestro!" Bill shouted as he waved flamboyantly to the barkeep manning
the boom box, "A little music, if you please!" Bill retreated through
the slit between the curtains. The music resumed.
The stage curtains billowed outward, a young woman stepped through the
slit. The club filled with ecstatic applause and hollering, for the
woman was none other than Roberta Jules, movie star of great popularity.
Rick could scarcely believe his eyes as Roberta slowly strolled
downstage, into the full glare of the footlights. That it was her,
there could be no doubt. The shy smile and downcast eyes were
practically a trademark.
Rick’s eyes did not linger long on those features. His interest was
quickly drawn to the soft curves of the woman’s alluring form, for her
yoga pants could not have been any tighter.
Roberta casually strolled back and forth at the lip of the stage.
Occasionally she would twirl about or move her hands in graceful
patterns. To Rick’s puzzlement, these simple movements drew scattered
applause from the audience.
Rick considered himself a pragmatic and logical person. He made no
sense of the fact that a star of the magnitude of Roberta Jules would
perform at a dive such as the Blue Garden.
The music faded out, replaced by a monotonous drum beat. The audience
cheered wildly, some stood. The drum beat was familiar to Rick. Then he
remembered, it was the theme to a fantasy movie about a prehistoric
No!" muttered Rick to himself as he remembered who had starred in the epic. "How could they?"
Unseen hands pulled apart the stage curtains, revealing a man of heroic
proportions who was dressed in jack boots, cuffed blue-jeans, a white
tee shirt, a tight fitting motorcycle jacket. The man was carrying an
AK-47 assault rifle. The man was Harold Swartzendruber.
With slack-jawed incredulity Rick stared as the club’s crowd howled
their delight. Realizing his calm demeanor was conspicuous, Rick
clapped and whistled too as he peered across the club, trying to see if
Harold’s weapon was a stage prop. Rick pressed his left bicep in
against his shoulder holster.
Ponderously, with an awkward gait Harold walked downstage. His unlit
cigar was clamped between his lips. When Harold reached the edge of the
stage, he shifted the AK-47 to his left hand, used right hand to remove
the cigar from his mouth. He held the cigar aloft, smiling a sardonic
Perhaps because of Harold’s imposing presence, the club’s patrons
calmed themselves. Polite applause answered Harold’s smile. He returned
the cigar to his mouth, moved over to stage right.
The blaring boom box faded to a piano concerto. Roberta sashayed her
way to center stage. She turned toward the house and began to remove
her clothing, graceful movements following the gentle rhythms of the
concerto. Despite the woman’s grace, Rick noticed her fumbling with the
buttons and zipper, wondered if she’d been drugged.
When completely nude, Roberta kicked her clothes under the bed, then
strutted back and forth across the stage, proudly displaying all she
had to offer.
The music shifted once more, making an abrupt cut to the theme of a
science fiction movie that some years ago had been Harold’s first major
hit, which was now a cult classic.
Roberta turned toward Harold. Harold handed his weapon offstage to the
stagehand, swaggered over to Roberta, unlit cigar still held jauntily
in his mouth, his hands on his hips.
Roberta began to strip off Harold’s clothing. Again, Rick noticed the
inept handling of buttons and zippers, Harold’s jackboots presented a
genuine trial. They must have been tight, for it took Roberta an
unseemly amount of time to yank them off.
When down to tee shirt and jockey shorts, the massively built movie
star began flexing his muscles, positioning himself into poses that
best displayed his musculature.
When Roberta peeled away Harold’s tee shirt, his sharply articulated form seemed godlike.
Roberta knelt before Harold, slid off his jockey briefs, there came no response from the audience save for astonished gasps.
The mysteries of nature were much in evidence for what remained of the
night’s performance. Rick sat, quietly spellbound at what he saw during
what little time remained before the club closed. Roberta and Harold
rapidly performed a quartet of couplings that culminated in a strenuous
session on the bed. It was during this final session that the reason
for the floor bolts became obvious.
At exactly the 2 a.m. closing time, Harold and Roberta ended their
performance. Hand in hand, they walked to the lip of the stage, bowing
theatrically to the applause of the audience. As the applause died out
the couple turned in unison, trotting upstage and through the slit
between curtains. The audience seemed impressed by the trotting exit,
for the applause returned, only to again fade out.
The houselights came up, most of the crowd jostled toward the exit.
Rick fell into the back of the line of patrons filing through the door.
The woman who had collected the cover charges was standing to one side.
"Come again," she said to a departing customer.
"Did you have a good time?" she asked of another.
"Tell your friends," she instructed one young couple, who seemed to be in a daze as they clung to one another.
When Rick came up to her, the woman pleasantly asked, "Enjoy the show?"
"Very much," replied Rick, who leaned in toward the woman, murmuring
out the side of his mouth, "I’ll be back." The woman laughed.
Rick strode out onto the parking lot. The cool night air cleared his
head. He walked toward his car, mulling over the night past. As he
drove home to his apartment, he mentally outlined the report he would
make to the District Attorney.
When Rick arrived home, Cynthia Ann was still awake in their bed. She
had a light on, the bedroom TV was spewing out some sitcom.
Nervous of Rick’s safety, Cynthia Ann never slept when Rick was on
late-night assignments. This night, as soon as Cynthia Ann saw the look
in Rick’s eyes, her concerned expression transformed to a knowing
smile. She snuggled down into the warmth of the bedcovers, watched her
boyfriend undress, her eyes lovingly assessed Rick’s slender, sinewy
physique. Not a word passed between them as Rick climbed into the bed;
no words were needed.
Later, as Cynthia Ann slipped into an exhausted, contented sleep, Rick planned the next night’s raid.
Saturday night found Rick and Cynthia Ann in another of the Blue
Garden’s back booths. Rick had received permission to use Cynthia Ann
as cover. With her slight but bewitching form packed into a tube-top
and a short skirt, with her pouting features slathered with makeup,
Cynthia Ann looked like a hooker, which she had once been.
When the cover charge woman came by to collect, her shrewd eyes
appraised Cynthia Ann. The woman snatched Rick’s proffered bills as she
said, "Look’s like you got more goin’ on tonight than last night."
Rick’s smile was tight. "I guess you could say that."
The woman tossed a couple of drink chits on the table. The chips slid
against Cynthia Ann’s forearm. "On the house," announced the woman,
broadly winking at Cynthia Ann.
The woman waddled off to the next booth. Cynthia Ann shivered, then shoved in against her boyfriend, seeking his warmth.
"It’s okay," whispered Rick. “You’re no longer a professional."
The show began. When it reached the point where the players climbed
into bed Rick reached into his jacket pocket, found the transmit bar of
the handheld radio hidden there. He pressed it twice. After the couple
climbed onto the brass bed, began the most energetic portion of their
act, Rick tapped the bar frantically until a phalanx of uniformed
police officers swept into the club.
The music stopped, replaced by disgruntled mutterings of the audience.
Rick rose, marched to the stage. He vaulted onto the stage. The
houselights came up.
Both actors seemed frozen in place. Rick loudly recited his carefully
rehearsed statement: "Harold Swartzendruber, Roberta Jules, you are
under arrest for misdemeanor charges of participating in the unlawful
display of sexual conduct in a live public show. You have the right to
. . ." Rick’s voice trailed off.
Neither Harold nor Roberta had moved a muscle. Rick pushed the tip of a
forefinger against Harold’s massive shoulder. The shoulder seemed
covered by vinyl plastic.
The stage curtains parted, Bill walked out, whistling a nonsensical tune, he strolled over to Rick.
His voice dripping with sarcasm he stated "Pardon me, officer, "I believe you’ve made a mistake."
Warily asked Rick, "Who are you?".
"Bill Grimm, the producer and director and creator of our friends here."
Rick’s nimble mind came to a conclusion. "These are robots, aren’t they?"
"I prefer to use the term bio-oids," replied Bill. "In reference to
your speech, I believe the legal definition of sexual conduct
specifically refers to men and women, not automatons."
Bill shoved Rick against the bed. "Go ahead," ordered Bill, "Poke about all you want."
Turning toward Harold, Rick again reached out, slid the flat of his
hand down Harold’s massive back, Rick cocked his head, asking, "What’s
that whirring noise?"
"Pumps used for the circulation of blood."
"Blood?" Rick quickly withdrew his hand.
Bill smirked. "Yes, blood. For you see, my bio-oids are comprised
mainly of flesh, beef, for the most part, though I occasionally use
finer cuts of pork or lamb, the delicate musculature of the hands,
feet, and face requiring an artful blending of tissues."
To Rick’s questioning expression, Bill continued: "You doubt my words? Perhaps you’d care to take a look?"
Rick nodded. Bill backed through the curtains. The curtains parted.
Bill stood at far stage right. Revealed backstage were two large
tables, both piled high with computer cases and equipment racks packed
full of electronic gear. There was a control panel with a keyboard,
joysticks, knobs and switches. Mounted on insulating pedestals there
was an array of whip antennas, their extreme shortness indicative of
ultra-high frequency transmissions. Several video monitors displayed
images of the stage or of telemetry readouts.
Bill went over to the control panel, typed on one keyboard, deftly worked the joysticks.
Harold came to life, then strode slowly off the downstage side of the
bed. Rick backed away, one hand slid under his jacket lapel, his eyes
"No need to panic, officer," chuckled Bill. "I assure you, my friend
here is totally under control. Indeed, bio-oids have no minds of their
own. Their movements are controlled directly by me or these computers."
Harold stood tall, faced the audience, froze into a position of military attention.
Bill swaggered downstage. From a pocket of his lab coat he fished out a
short metal rod, which he used to lightly stroke the length of Harold’s
Bill beckoned for Rick to join him. Rick warily circled the bed, keeping his distance as he made an inspection.
A thin slit had appeared the entire length of Harold’s spine. Bill
thrust the fingers of both hands into the slit. As if he were a butcher
opening up a carcass, Bill pulled to the side both edges of the slit.
His efforts formed a large aperture.
Rick leaned forward, his stomach in contact with Roberta’s torso. Seen
within the boundaries of Harold’s aperture were small pumps feeding
rat’s nest of plastic tubing. Rick saw gel cell batteries, printed
circuit boards, a skeletal system composed of metal girders and
trusses, which were perforated with holes and slots. What most held
Rick’s attention were transparent plastic bags, enclosing cuts of meat.
The bags were penetrated by wires and tubes and within the bags were
more wires and smaller tubes, what appeared to be wire mesh crossed
much of he meat’s surface area.
Bill strode to the lip of the stage. His outstretched arms quieted the crowd. "Just a few more minutes, folks."
Some quipster, perhaps emboldened by liquor, hollered in a falsetto
voice, "If that cop keeps rubbin’ up against Roberta, maybe we’ll get
more than what we paid for."
Uproarious laughter swept the club. Rick stepped back, his face red.
"I’ve seen enough," he said to Bill. "How ‘bout we go backstage?"
Rick following close behind, Bill strode backstage, closed the
curtains. A bartender put on background music, which merged with the
excited talk and laughter of the club’s patrons.
"Okay, officer," said Bill, "let’s hear your little speech so I can get on with my show."
Bill swung his arms up and out, presenting Rick with his wrists. "Going
to arrest me? Wish you would. I can make more in one false arrest
settlement than I can with 50 performances."
Rick took one menacing step forward, thumping Bill’s chest with a
finger. "Listen, buddy," the detective snarled, "I know you’re in
violation of something here. I just gotta figure out what."
Bill smirked. "I’ll save you some time, officer. To date, I’ve been
served at least a dozen times with injunctions or writs involving
alleged copyright or trademark violations: all of which are outside
"I’ve got civil actions against me in four different states. Twenty
percent of my gross income goes to lawyers. Fortunately, it’s all
deductible, I might add, totally fruitless. You see, I’ve been clever
in my depictions of celebrities. Are you aware that the real Harold
Swartzendruber is only five nine? My bio-oid, which I claim has
absolutely no semblance to Harold, is six-foot-four."
Scornfully, Rick interrupted. "No resemblance? How can you say that? Your robot looks exactly like Harold."
With a flippant wave of hand Bill sniffed "To untrained eye, perhaps.
However, I assure you, in a proper court of law my lawyer shall call
forth legions of doctors and anthropologists who, after taking the
appropriate measurements, will find absolutely nothing in common
between the likeness of any celebrity when in comparison to my
bio-oids. Understand? "Besides, what do I care? It’s out of your
There came no immediate reply, for a uniformed patrolman came
backstage. "Scuse me, Sarge," said the patrolman. "Some of the
customers keep giving us a bad time. Okay if we withdraw to the parking
"Go ahead," ordered Rick."
Rick turned to Bill. "I’ve a couple more questions."
"Why haven’t I heard anything about your show?”
Bill’s smirk fell into to a wry smile, his voice softened. "Like I
said, I’ve all kinds of civil actions pending against me, I don’t need
more. By playing two-bit clubs and keeping a low profile, makes it hard
for the lawyers to chase me down, word of mouth deletes any need for
"Sounds plausible," replied Rick. "So, what’s the deal with the meat?"
Bill snootily appraised the Detective Sergeant. "Are you quite sure all this questioning is necessary?"
"You can answer the questions downtown if you prefer."
"Very well," Bill sighed. "For what it’s worth, I’ve had a lifelong
interest in robotics. I’ve also grown very fond of the, ah, erotic
"I’ve spent half my life experimenting in the fields of pneumatics,
hydraulics, electromagnetism—all with the intent of perfecting robotic
motion to the point of what you witnessed here tonight, I might add,
with a notable lack of success. There is currently just no way to
duplicate the smooth fluidity of movement of living tissue.
"A half-dozen years ago I was vacationing at my brother-in-law’s ranch.
He raises, butchers his livestock. As a lark, I participated in the
cutting up of one of his cows. It was then that I had the inspiration
that has brought me to my current level of success. Need I say more?"
"Very well. It took a few weeks for me to perfect a method of
interfacing with motor nerve axons. I won’t bore you with the details,
I doubt you’d understand much of what is involved. Suffice to say, my
skills in implanting neurons culled from pig fetuses to bovine muscle
groups is truly remarkable.”
“I’ve developed a unique, quick, proprietary system of directing and
delivering control signals through myelin sheaths that insulate nerve
fibers. Now officer, my audience awaits. I insist that you either take
action or leave me to my performance."
Rick turned, strode through the slit between curtains, glanced briefly at Harold and Sandra in passing, then leapt off stage.
Cynthia Ann was dutifully waiting in the booth, Rick went to her. "Let’s go," he ordered, his hand reaching for hers.
Grabbing wrap and purse, Rick’s girlfriend slid out of the booth. Catcalls and whistles accompanied the couple to the exit.
In the parking lot, Rick left Cynthia Ann shivering in the chill air
while he walked to the clump of patrolmen. "Might as well call it a
night, guys. Thanks for your help."
One officer asked, "That’s it? No bust?"
"’fraid not," answered Rick.
Rick’s ears burned at the grumbling and cursing that accompanied the patrolmen back to their cruisers.
Cynthia Ann did nothing to raise Rick’s spirits. On the way to their car, she abruptly asked, "Did you screw up?"
Rick’s mouth snapped open, ready to deliver some nasty retort. All that came out was a curt, "Yeah."
Monday morning found Rick at his desk. Rick typed at his terminal,
forming a report of the weekend’s action. The other occupant of the
squad room was Officer Diana Giddings. Rick’s ears followed the sound
of heavy steps.
Lieutenant Cochran clopped into the room, held a frosted doughnut in
one hand, a paper cup in the other. Without a word in greeting the
portly officer went to Diana’s desk, sat heavily upon one edge, his
plump posterior practically in Diana’s face.
Cochran took a bite out of his doughnut before placing it on the desk.
Idly gazing about the room, he sucked at his fingers, took a sip of
coffee, finally said. "I hear you people on the twat team had a problem
Lieutenant Cochran twisted his bulk awkwardly about so as to leer at Officer Giddings. She kept her eyes on her work.
Replied Rick, "You’ll have a full report within the hour, Lieutenant."
Cochran retrieved the remnants of his doughnut, stuffed the entire
thing into his mouth, washing it down with another swig of coffee.
Sucking his fingers, the lieutenant fixed Rick with an insolent stare.
"I can hardly wait," he sarcastically announced.
Grunting in effort, the Lieutenant scooted himself off the desk, then swaggered back down the hallway.
Officer Giddings looked up from her work. Gazing wistfully at Rick, her
bright eyes a comforting beacon from across the gulf between the two
desks, she sweetly said, "I think I’m going to miss you." She sounded
as if she meant it.
“I’m not going anywhere," blandly announced Rick.
The following weekend, Rick returned to the Blue Garden. The detective
had transformed his appearance to that of an aging war vet. A wig,
false beard, wire-rimmed glasses and Cynthia Ann’s help with makeup had
dramatically changed his appearance. Faded camouflage pants, a begrimed
and torn army field jacket emblazoned with military patches, a jungle
hat, worn out boots worked well in company with strategically placed
Rick limped across the club to take a stool at the far end of the bar.
He carefully counted out a few wadded up one dollar bills and change
before ordering a beer and a tuna melt sandwich. Rick’s use of cash
rather than a debit card indicated his assumed age.
When the woman came round to collect the cover charge asking, "Stayin’
for the show?" Rick coughed into the back of one sleeve, wiped his nose
with the other. "How much?" he hoarsely replied.
"Double sawbuck? That’ll bust me. How ‘bout five bucks?"
The woman inspected the patches on Rick’s fatigue jacket. "I lost an
uncle over there," she commented, nodding toward the service patches.
"He was a Marine. Keep your money pappy, it’s on the house."
"Thankee ma’am," Rick said before again coughing into the elbow of one sleeve.
When the show started, Rick’s hand was in the side pocket of the
fatigue jacket. He pressed twice upon the transmit bar of his radio.
Rick pressed several more times when the show reached its climax.
uniformed officers streamed into the club. This time the officers were
accompanied by a couple of deputy sheriffs, distinctive in their brown
uniforms, followed by a man and woman in civilian garb, both carrying
small tablet computers, the man additionally encumbered by a couple of
Styrofoam ice chests.
The music stopped. The houselights came up. Rick removed the wig and
glasses and fake beard. He unzipped his jacket, reaching inside in
order to adjust the positioning of his shoulder holster, he marched to
the front of the stage.
Above the grumbling of the audience and the orders of police officers, Rick barked, "Come on out, Bill! Show’s over!"
Bill appeared, a fierce scowl marred his features. Bill walked
downstage to Rick, the cover charge woman came scurrying across the
club, her wide hips knocking aside tables and chairs as she shrieked at
Rick, "You jerk! I want your badge number!"
Rick unclipped a badge from his waistband.
While the woman peered at Rick’s badge, another woman joined them. Well
dressed, an attractive thirtyish, holding a tablet computer to her
chest, the woman sidled over to Rick until they stood shoulder to
"Ma’am," announced Rick to the huffing and puffing woman glaring at his badge, "have you ever met our County Health Officer?"
The woman tore her gaze away from Rick’s badge, suspiciously eyed the Health Officer.
The Health Officer, well dressed in tweed, extended a hand. "Name’s Kelley Foster, you own this establishment?"
"Yeah. Me an’ my hubby. Useta belong to my folks."
"For the record, your name is?"
"Barbara Reynolds. Say, what’s goin’ on here?"
Through a grim and unconvincing smile, Kelley proclaimed, "Well
Barbara, I’m going to ask you a couple of questions. It’s important you
be truthful in your answers. Presenting me with false or evasive
responses can cost you up to a thousand dollars in fines and up to
thirty days in the county jail. Understand?”
"I . . . I guess so." Barbara backed her considerable bulk a couple of shuffling steps.
Using a finger, Kelley checked off something on her computer, asked "Do
you prepare or serve meat or meat based food products for human
consumption at this place of business?"
"Yeah, sure. We run a grill here. So what?"
Kelly made a notation then asked, "Has all of the meat within confines of this place of business been inspected?"
Barbara opened her mouth as if to answer, then closed it. Her eyes
narrowed as she looked up toward Bill, who was standing at the lip of
the stage. "No," Barbara firmly answered.
"No? Am I to understand that you freely admit to violating county, state, and possibly federal regulations?"
There came a long pause before the answer of "Yes."
Kelley, with her finger, scribbled furiously on the computer screen.
She then pulled a small note pad from a pocket, wrote on it, tore a
page from it, handed the page to Barbara. Kelly said, "Call the
telephone number listed at the top of this citation. They will set a
date and time for your hearing. I suggest that when you appear before
the judge, you bring along a lawyer."
Kelley turned to one of the deputy sheriffs, standing nearby. "Soon as
this building’s cleared, I want the doors locked and proper signage
The deputy nodded.
Eyes flashing, Kelley threw Rick a becoming smile. "It’s been a pleasure, Rick."
Rick bowed slightly. Kelley traipsed off, her heals beating a sharp tattoo upon the hardwood floor.
Rick’s attention focused on another as Barbara was approached by a man
dressed in a white lab coat. The man wore a ridiculous looking
The man presented credentials as he spoke: "Name’s Reily; I represent
the Federal Food and Drug Administration. I understand you have some
uninspected meat on the premises?"
Voice quavering, Barbara answered, "Yes."
"May I be allowed to see it?" asked Reily.
"Talk to him," replied Barbara, pointing a trembling fat forefinger at him. "It’s his, not mine."
All eyes fell upon Bill. Uncharacteristically, he seemed to shy away from the scrutiny.
Reily asked, "Sir? May I see the meat?"
"I don’t suppose I have a choice?"
“Afraid not, Sir."
Bill beckoned Reily to the stairs. Once again, Bill opened Harold at
the spine; Reily used a penlight to inspect the robot’s innards.
“Do you declare this meat to be yours?" asked Reily.
"I do," replied Bill.
“Is this meat for sale?"
"Certainly not." Bill seemed insulted by the question.
Reily pulled a small notebook from a coat pocket, then turned toward Bill.
In an formal tone of voice, Reily asked, "I can only assume this meat is from a custom slaughter?"
"My brother-in-law and I did all the work, if that’s what you mean."
Reily announced, "Are you aware that custom slaughtered meat may be
allowed in an establishment such as this only when it’s clearly
labelled with indelible ink as not for sale?"
"I was unaware of that," admitted Bill. "I’ll take care of it first thing in the morning."
"Perhaps," commented Reily. "However, this particular lot is now the
property of the Federal Government. Would you be so kind as to remove
the meat from the containers?"
"What?" exclaimed Bill, his face a deranged projection of stunned
disbelief. "It takes me a couple days to put one of these together."
"I fail to see how that has any bearing upon these proceedings," blithely responded Reily.
Angrily, Bill faced Rick, growling, "I had you pegged for a jerk the first moment I laid eyes on your sorry face."
Rick smugly smiled.
Bill stared at Rick. Bill snorted.
"I want you out of my town," Rick said with derisive mildness.
Officer Giddings was onstage, inspecting the robots. "Hey Giddings,"
Rick called out. She turned. An elfish expression of bemused disbelief
enhanced her pleasant features.
"I’m done here," Rick announced. "Stick around until the place is cleared"
Rick strode off, through the door, out into the night.
Bill went to his robots, began the task of removing chunks of meat from
his creations, carefully detaching tubes and wire mesh before placing
the meat into Reilly's ice chests.
Officer Giddings stood nearby.
In a melancholy tone of voice, Bill said to Giddings, "I believe I’ve seriously underestimated your friend."
"It’s easy to do," Giddings murmured.
Rick entered his apartment; he found Cynthia Ann curled up on the
couch. Under a warm and fuzzy blanket, she was halfway through a
recording of a Harold Swartzendruber movie.
"Get dressed," Rick ordered. "We’re driving out to that steakhouse by
the freeway. They’re open 24 hours, we’re going to get us a couple
Her eyes firmly locked to the television screen, Cynthia Ann
dismissively replied, "You know I don’t eat meat, honey. You shouldn’t
Rick moved to the side a little, blocking Cynthia Ann’s view of the
television screen. "Yeah?" he questioned archly. "Well I feel like
celebrating, so you’re eatin’ meat tonight.
Their eyes met, Cynthia Ann smirked. She lowered the blanket.
The television blared on and on. Harold slew all his foes. To a
rhythmic beat the credits scrolled up and off the screen. At the end of
the credits the DVD player clicked off, the loving couple never
© 2019 C. E. Gee
Bio: C.E. Gee aka Chuck misspent his youth at backwater locales
within Oregon and Alaska.
Chuck later answered many callings: logger, factory worker, meat
packer, Vietnam war draftee infantryman (1968), telecommunications
technician, volunteer fireman and EMT, light show roady, farmer,
Retired from the electronics industry and also a disabled veteran,
Chuck now writes Science Fiction.
His blog is at https:kinzuakid.blogspot.com.
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