by Alexis Kypridemos
Detective Richard "Dick" Tuggs sat in a shoeshine's chair on the sidewalk opposite the police station where he worked, getting a shine. He had been getting a shine for the previous three hours.
Tuggs looked up subtlety. Half a block away, his partner, David "Davie" Croquet kneeled on the sidewalk, tying the lace of his left shoe. He had been tying that same lace for as long as Tuggs had been getting a shine. They were on stake out, waiting for their surveillance subject to exit the police station.
Tuggs spoke into his cufflink microphone.
"How you holding up, Dave?" he asked.
Tuggs saw Croquet press a finger against his ear, to hear better through the discreet, flesh-colored ear bud. Then he spoke into his watch.
"My back’s killing me," Croquet's tinny voice came over Tugg's earbud. "I don’t know how much longer I can do this without someone getting suspicious."
"Try the other shoe," Tuggs suggested.
With difficulty, Croquet started tying the laces of the other shoe.
Squatting in front of Tuggs, the shoeshine wiped the sweat from his forehead. Tuggs looked down, appalled.
"Why did you stop shining?"
"I ran out of shoe around noon. I’ve been doing your toenails for the last couple of hours."
Tuggs looked down. Indeed, his shoes had holes in them from too much polishing, but his toenails sparkled.
The surveillance subject they had been waiting for walked out of the building. The motion wasn’t lost on two keen pairs of eyes.
"We have movement," Tuggs said into his cufflink.
"I’m on it," Croquet said. He stood up to pursue the subject but froze. His bad back had seized up on him. He winced, gritted his teeth and overcame the pain. He took a step forward and tripped on his shoelaces, which he’d tied together.
"How ‘bout I get the next one?" he said.
Tuggs jumped out of the shoeshine chair.
"Hey!" the shoeshine yelled.
Tuggs handed the shoeshine a credit card. The shoeshine ran it through a machine and handed it back. Tuggs ran to his car and followed the surveillance subject, who got in a cab. He tailed the subject to his place of work, a nondescript office building downtown.
The next day, having obtained a warrant for wiretap surveillance, Tuggs and Croquet set up their surveillance post in an empty apartment across the street from their subject's building.
Tuggs and Croquet sat on the floor, on either side of their recording equipment, listening, waiting for that one incriminating phonecall which would nail their subject.
Each had his own way for passing the time. Tuggs watched a cheesy horror movie on a small portable TV set with bad reception. Across from him, Croquet worked on a crossword puzzle.
A woman's scream echoed from the TV set. Tuggs didn’t flinch. Croquet’s gaze remained fixed to his paper.
"What’s happening?" he asked.
"He’s cutting her foot off," Tuggs said.
Croquet felt around in the cooler they'd brought with them and handed Tuggs a can of soda pop then took one for himself. He filled a word in the crossword puzzle and moved on to the next one.
"Latin word for erection," he read aloud.
Tuggs thought, sipping his soda.
Croquet counted the boxes. "Hey, it fits."
The tape machine on the floor in front of them clicked and whirred. They leaned over it with interest. Their subject's voice came over the speaker. He spoke to a man he called Lucas, who had a South American accent. Keys, powder, and certain embarassing photographs were mentioned.
This was it. This was the phone call they had been waiting for.
The subject and his friend Lucas hung up. Croquet hit the stop button on the tape machine.
Back at the police station, Croquet and Tuggs barged into their lieutenant's office. The lieutenant had been pacing his office, looking at his watch impatiently when they walked in.
"In the nick of time, boys. In the nick of time. It better be good," he said.
"Believe me, Lieu, it’s good," Croquet said.
"OK, let’s hear it."
Croquet set the tape machine on the lietutenant's desk and plugged it into the wall socket.
"Man, we’ve got this guy so nailed-"
He pressed the "play" button. The tape machine made a strange whirring sound that died away. Nothing happened. Croquet went to touch the machine, but when his hands were just an inch away, the machine jumped back to life in a fast forward screech, chewed up the tape, and spewed it into the air.
Author Notes: "Silly Buggers" is part of "Fiction Fix," a collection of 46 short, funny stories, plus 196 bonus micro fiction budget stories, available at http://www.fiction-fix.com.