A Detective Duo Novel
where it sat in the middle of the ragweed-invested, overgrown lawn.
“Crying shame, this,” Smith said, tipping back his fedora and shaking his head. “This is a Lawnbuster 40K. Or at least it used to be.”
Jones hunkered down over the mower and removed his sunglasses, eyes squinting as they took in every detail around him. He reached into his pocket and removed a pair of thin rubber gloves. After squeezing his hands into them, he reached under the engine mount and ran his fingers along the pitted metal. They came away blackened with oil and old gasoline.
“You got some kind of a soft spot for the Lawnbuster series, Smith?” Jones asked. He'd been with his partner for over ten years and never once heard him express an opinion one way or another when it came to name brand lawn care machinery.
“You bet I do, Jones,” replied Smith, his eyes going misty as he recalled the past. “My old man used to have one. Every Sunday, if the weather permitted, he'd be out there on our back lawn going back and forth, back and forth, til that lawn was so well mowed you could golf on it.
“But he had a respect for his mower. It didn't look like this poor, luckless piece of scrap. That mower lasted from the time I was in short pants to when I was given a badge after graduating from The Academy.”
“Was that before your old man died in his sleep with a contented smile on his face?” Jones asked with apprehension. His partner was still a bit sore over his father's timely death.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “He was so proud that he was able to make it to my graduation after living his lifelong dream of conducting the Philadelphia Philharmonic.”
Smith stood in the middle of the slowly dying lawn, the sun behind his head casting a forlorn shadow over Jones and the ailing mower.
“So, uh, what makes you think this old girl is in such dire straits, huh?” Jones asked nervously, trying to snap his longtime partner and friend out of his moderate funk. “She doesn't look so bad to me, just a little dirty is all.”
“Rookie mistake, just like always,” Smith said, a smile cracking his grizzled visage. The “rookie joke” had been going strong since they had first been partnered together, made all the more humorous by the fact that Smith only had three years on the force over Jones. “First off, look at this here.”
Smith got down so that he was level with Jones. Snapping gloves onto his own hands, Smith pointed to a long greyish cord that ran from the small engine to a gear shift bolted near the top of the long metal handle.
“See this thick wire here?” Smith queried. “This is the throttle cord. In a perfect world, which we both know this ain't, this throttle cord would be shiny and flexible. Its color as black as a Protestant's soul. Instead you got this sad thing. Cracked. Dry. This cord has been left baking in the unforgiving sun for weeks at a time. Hell, I'd even say months if you put me on the stand and made me swear on the good book.”
“What do these markings mean?” Jones asked, standing up and pointing at the symbols on the gear shift.
“Oh yeah,” Smith had that look again. “See this picture here, that's a turtle. It slowed the throttle down in case you got lazy, like the son of a bitch who owns this property, and let the grass get too long. Or if it was damp after a cool summer rain. That way you could ease your way into it and slowly chop those long blades of green down without causing the blades to jam up, which would cease the engine and make it stall.
“But this other picture, this was for the pros. This is a hare, or a rabbit as most folk know it, and that was for the speed demon sonsaguns like my old man. You slapped this gear shift right up to the hare picture and then you hauled ass over that lawn.”
“Sounds like a dream come true.”
“You know it, partner. What say we mosey on up to this house and pay a visit to our would-be