Kas 20

Hansel and Gretel Twenty Years On

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Author’s Note

A little something different for your holidays. I’m in my fairy tale remix mood again and this time it’s turned out as a 24-hour slice of life story as well.

You may remember the story of Hansel and Gretel from your childhood. This story takes place after they’ve grown up, and changes the setting from the forest to the inner city. I’ve pulled in some other familiar characters just for fun.

And in the interest of full disclosure, there’s no sex. I still have more Risk Versus Reward coming to keep you entertained on that front.


* * *

Pinocchio stood up on the pedals of his BMX bicycle and drew breaths in great gasps. He had to show Hansel. Hansel didn’t believe nothin’ Pinocchio said ‘less he seen with his own eyes.

Pinocchio wiped the sweat from his brow and flew through the intersection, careening around honking cars without stopping.

He had a plan. Hansel would bring his fancy new iPhone to get a video of what Pinocchio had found and they’d put it on the internet. Then they’d be famous. And famous people get respect. Easy as that.

Pinocchio powered up the last remaining hill, swerved around the sedan parked out front, and ditched his bike on the lawn.

“Hansel, Hansel,” Pinocchio heaved. “Get yer iPhone. You won’t believe what I just seen.”

Hansel leaned forward on the front porch step where he was sitting, and ground the last of his cigarette out on the heel of his shoe. “Lookin’ at you I already don’t believe it.”

“Honest, Hansel. Get yer iPhone. We gonna take some videos. Be on the news. Get famous.”

“Shit,” Hansel said as he stood slowly and spat.

“Serious, man. There’s a body down by the tracks. All dead, with flies and everything.”

Pinocchio watched Hansel hoist himself up and grab the knob of the screen door. Hansel believed him.

* * *

Inside, on the first floor of the house, Gretel climbed out from under the kitchen sink. She tucked her service automatic back into its holster and twisted the knob on the faucet. The water spiraled down the drain.

“No more potato peelings in the sink,” she called out. “Okay, Pop?”


Gretel walked into the living room to find her father sound asleep in his recliner.

“Pop, I fixed your sink.”

The old man blinked a few times and peered up. “You’re a good girl, Gretel.”

“Be sure to tell Mrs. Wilson she can’t put potato peelings down the drain, okay? Clogs it right up.”

“She ain’t been ’round for couple weeks now, Gret. Gov’ment shutdown and all. Means she don’t get paid.”

“She just up and left?”

“Gone and found another job I ‘spose.” Gretel’s father reached for her hand. “It’s okay. Your girl Cinderella come by a couple times a week to check up on me. Runs ’round cookin’ and tidyin’ up the place and then sits readin’ the newspaper to me. Acts like there ain’t nowhere in the world she’d rather be than keepin’ an old man company.”

Gretel smiled. That sounded just like Cinderella alright.

“You be good to that girl, Gret. She’s a keeper.”

“I will, Pop. Promise.” Gretel kissed her father on the forehead to seal the pact.

“Say Pop, you seen her around lately? She hasn’t been returning my texts.”

“No,” her father said with a yawn, “can’t say I have.” And just like that the old man was asleep again.

Gretel kissed her father once more before stepping out onto the front porch.

* * *

“Cinderelli, Cinderelli.” Pinocchio danced and chanted as Gretel emerged. “Where’s Cinderelli?”

“Been evesdropping, punk? I suppose you’ve seen her, huh?”

“Yeah, I seen her.” Pinocchio leered. “She’s hawt!”

Pinocchio began humping the air and moaning while pretending to slap something with his right hand. Gretel assumed it was Cinderella’s backside that he imagined himself connecting with.

She reached over, grabbing Pinocchio by the wrist mid-swing and bent his arm into a painful position, putting a contorted expression on his face.

“Hey!” he protested.

Gretel just stared at his open hand, saying nothing.

“What’re you doing?” Pinocchio whined.

“Checking your palm for splinters, douchebag. You should be more respectful.”

“Or what?” Pinocchio said, apparently not bright enough to know when to keep his mouth shut.

Gretel fingered the butt of her automatic, still tucked away in its holster. “Or else I’ll shoot you.”

“You can’t shoot me, you’re a cop. Protect and serve. It says so on the door of your car.”

“You seen my car lately?” Gretel looked to the nondescript sedan parked at the curb and Pinocchio’s gaze followed. “I’m a detective now. Unmarked car. See? Nothing written on the doors. Means I can shoot whoever I want, long as I fill out the paperwork.”

Pinocchio stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed while Gretel continued casting daggers his direction.

Not surprisingly, Pinocchio was the first to blink in this contest of wills and he turned pleadingly to Hansel who was just stepping out the front şişli bayan escort door. “She can’t shoot me, can she?”

“You wanna test her? I don’t. Come on dicknose, let’s go.”

“What about the body?” Pinocchio said.

“Jesus.” Hansel’s shoulders slumped as he shook his head.

Gretel released Pinocchio and turned to her brother, jaw clenched. “What body?”

“Come on, we’ll show ya.” Hansel reached over and slapped Pinocchio hard upside the head before they both turned to trail behind Gretel on her way to the waiting sedan.

* * *

Down by the railroad tracks Gretel pushed her way through the crowd of curious onlookers that had gathered. Following closely behind were Hansel and Pinocchio.

“Hey, this is a crime scene, lady,” said the patrolman at the scene. “You can’t be here.”

He was no one Gretel had seen before, and he looked like a kid fresh out of the academy. Gretel decided to cut him some slack and politely showed him her detective’s badge.

“Sorry, ma’am.” The officer said. “I thought maybe you were another of them nosy reporters.”

Gretel glanced at the name patch on the rookie’s uniform. “Just doing your job, O’Shea. Department could use more upstanding young men like yourself. Now, what have we got?”

Apparently not used to being complimented by the senior members of the force, the young patrolman’s face quickly cycled through about three shades of pink before he gathered his composure enough to speak.

“Well ma’am, looks like a typical OC. I mean you can see the bag of candy sticking out of his pocket, and his fingers and mouth have that sticky residue.”

“He’s just a kid.” Gretel frowned. “Anybody touch anything?”

“No ma’am. Can’t say for sure about the locals here, but I called the crime scene investigators as soon as I arrived.”

“Nice work, O’Shea.” Gretel clapped the patrolman on the back. “You think you can keep it locked down until the CSIs get here or you need me to call you some back up.”

“I can handle it ma’am.”

“Outstanding. That’s what I like to hear.” Gretel watched as a wide grin spread across the young patrolman’s face. “Welcome aboard, son. Department’s lucky to have you.”

Gretel turned and sighed. These recruits were getting younger all the time. Or was it just that she was getting older. And since when did people automatically start calling her ma’am?

“It’s her, isn’t it?” Hansel said, stepping up behind Gretel and snapping her out of her period of introspection.

Gretel knew he meant Granny Witch, the evil old woman who lured them into her den of sin as children. “Let’s wait for the CSIs before we …”

“But you already know, don’t you?”

Gretel sighed again. “Yeah, it’s her.”

Gretel’s phone buzzed. She looked down hoping to see Cinderella’s number on the display, but the odds were not in her favor. She swiped to answer.

“Yeah, Cap’n. … Already on the scene, sir. … My brother. … Yeah, it’s her. … Understood, sir.”

Gretel slipped the phone back into her pocket and strode back toward the unmarked sedan. Duty called. “You boys wanna go for a ride?”

“Ooh, can I put the flashing light up on top?” Pinocchio said. “Like Telly Savalas in Bojack?”

Gretel said nothing, but did grin just a little as she heard the characteristic hollow clunk of Hansel’s hand smacking the wooden boy upside the head. “It’s Kojak, dicknose. Like the cheese.”

* * *

After a five minute ride, the sedan pulled up outside of The Haystack Tap.

“I’m looking for Hyram Woolfe” Gretel said as she laid her badge on the bar.

The bartender kept wiping the bar top, not even looking up as he said, “Next door. Blowin’ with Boy Blue.”

“You sure about that?” Gretel found it hard to swallow that Boy Blue, so named because of the cyanosis that gave his skin its distinctive blue pallor, would have any breaths to spare for his horn these days.

The bartender just shrugged and continued his cleaning.

Gretel plucked up her badge and headed through the connecting doorway to the jazz club next door. Close on her heels were Hansel and Pinocchio.

* * *

The bartender had not lied. Once inside the club, Gretel and her entourage were enveloped by the mellow sounds of the jazz quintet on stage.

Gretel didn’t recognize the rhythm section, but she immediately picked out Boy Blue tooting on his trumpet, and Hyram Woolfe impeccably dressed in a zoot suit and currently engaged in a rather lengthy improvisational saxophone solo.

While Hansel and Pinocchio relaxed and bopped to the beat, Gretel took the opportunity to phone Cinderella. But just like before, it went to voicemail.

“Hi Baby, it’s me,” she said, feeling a little like a broken record on this, her third unanswered call. “I know I’ve been working a lot, so I was hoping you might want to grab a bite to eat. There’s this new place I heard is supposed to be good. Or, you know, if you just want to hang out at home, maybe I can bring something by? Miss you, Baby.”

Gretel turned quickly to face şişli escort Pinocchio, fully expecting to admonish him for his chants of ‘Cinderelli, Cinderelli,’ but saw only a boy who appeared to be lost in the music.

Gretel tucked her phone away and frowned. This was certainly uncharacteristic behavior for Cinderella, and Gretel hoped she hadn’t done something to upset the woman. She searched her memory, and other than putting in a lot of overtime on her current caseload she could think of nothing that would drive a wedge between them.

Gretel was dragged out of her soul-searching funk and back to the present by a pause in the music and Boy Blue on the microphone.

“Thank you,” he weezed. “We gonna take a little break now. So y’all stay cool, a’ight? We be back shortly.” And Little Boy Blue shuffled off to stage left, dragging his oxygen tank on a cart behind him.

Hyram Woolfe deposited his battered and tarnished sax on its stand preparing to follow behind Boy Blue, but Gretel was up and blocking his path before he could take a single step.

“Going somewhere, Wolfie?”

Woolfe smiled, baring his teeth. “As a matter of fact, Detective …” he said in a deep, booming baritone.

“Save it. We’re gonna have a little chat you and me.” Gretel grabbed Hyram Woolfe by the scruff of the neck. For his part, Woolfe offered no resistance and simply went limp and whimpered as Gretel dragged him over to the table where Hansel and Pinocchio still sat.

“My own mother stopped treating my like a pup years ago,” he complained, as Gretel dumped him in an empty seat.

“Obviously, she doesn’t know you as well as I do. Maybe I should call her up?”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Detective. What can I do for you?”

“I hear your old pal Granny Witch is back in business. You used to supply the muscle for her organization.”

Woolfe fidgeted in his chair. “I wouldn’t know anything about that. Strictly Kosher diet for me these days.”

Gretel let a small hmph escape her lips.

“I found God while I was doing time, or rather He found me,” Woolfe continued. “I assure you I am a reformed citizen. Ask Rabbi Rabinowitz. He sees me every sabbath.”

“And I’m sure the rabbi would love to know what you got up to before your miraculous reformation.”

“Your threats won’t work detective. I have confessed my sins before God. My conscience is clean.”

Gretel pulled out her phone and swiped through several a few pictures of puppies dressed in spiked collars and black leather muzzles crawling all over a smiling wolf that bore a striking resemblance to Hyram, and who appeared to be already half out of his suit and tie within just the first few frames.

“You sure you confessed everything, Hyram? I can keep going. And I just so happen to have Rabbi Rabinowitz’s email address in my contact list. We have adjacent seats at the opera. Did you know that? As a concerned citizen I could just email these right on over …”

“Wait!” Woolfe slumped in his seat and whined. “What do you need me to do?”

“Just make a few introductions, Wolfie Baby. That’s all.” Gretel patted Hyram on the jowl a few times. “To whoever’s providing the muscle for Granny Witch’s operation now.”

* * *

Gretel double-parked the unmarked sedan at the end of the block in a very seedy part of town. She instructed Hansel and Pinocchio to stay put while she followed Hyram to find Granny Witch.

“Tra-la-la, motherfucker,” said the very large boar blocking the tenement building’s doorway and peering down his snout at Hyram and Gretel. “Yo ass ain’t welcome ’round here, capisce? ‘Specially when you be bringin’ the five-oh wit’ you.”

“Look, little piggie,” Gretel said, standing toe to toe with the large boar. “Your boss is into some bad shit, and I’m takin’ her down. So unless you want to go down with her, I suggest you step aside and let us come in.”

The boar didn’t move. “Or what? You gonna huff and puff an’ all that shit?”

“These are rental properties, right?” Gretel said.

The door guard nodded almost imperceptibly.

“And I’m sure everything is up to code.”

The large boar blocking the doorway started to look a little less imposing as the color slowly drained from his cheeks.

Gretel stood firm, brandishing her mobile phone. “One call to city hall and I’ll have an army of inspectors down here checking every square inch of the place just to make sure. What do you say, little piggie? Wanna let us come in?”

The boar snorted, but shifted his bulk enough so that Gretel and Hyram could pass.

* * *

The dingy central foyer of the tenement building was lit by a single working bulb somewhere up on the third floor. All around, doors were all off their hinges. Some leaned up against the walls, others missing completely, leaving each apartment as a menacing maw in an otherwise uninviting hallway. The stink of human sweat and decay hung in the air.

“Oy vey,” Hyram whined, pinching his nose.

“Charming, isn’t it?”

At their approach a woman who looked almost middle-aged, mecidiyeköy escort but who was realistically no more than eighteen, shuffled out of a doorway, her eyes sunken and crusted with a gunky mucus.

“Candy?” she croaked. “You got some candy?”

“This is disgusting,” Hyram said.

“You used to work here.”

“It wasn’t like this.” Hyram shook his head. “Back then it was just kids having fun, you know. Sneak a little sugar here and there to feel good. No harm, just fun. The good old days.”

Gretel thought back to what Hyram termed the good old days. Thought about being locked up in Granny Witch’s kitchen as a child, along with her brother Hansel while the old woman continually threatened to cook them and eat them if they didn’t make deliveries for her.

Thank goodness they were able to escape.

Gretel had forgiven her father for is part in their ordeal, though Hansel still refused to acknowledge his existence, even to fix the old man’s kitchen sink. But her mother — Gretel had not been able to forgive her mother to this day.

It was her mother’s own secret addiction to candy that had drained all the money from their coffers, and made her decide to turn Hansel and Gretel loose in the city to fend for themselves.

Hate the drug, not the user is what her therapist said. Hate the sin, not the sinner is what Rabbi Rabinowitz said. But it would be a cold day in hell before Gretel forgave the sins of her mother.

She trudged on, side-by-side with Hyram Woolfe, through dingy, littered hallways and up creaking stairs until finally coming to the only apartment with a door still on it.

Gretel stopped. “This has got to be it.”

“I think you’re right.” Hyram sniffed at the air. “Smells disgustingly sweet.”

Gretel drew her service automatic while Hyram turned the doorknob.

* * *

Beyond the door was nothing like the stinking, trash-filled hallway outside. Inside was bright and cheery, smelling only of cakes and iced treats. Gretel inhaled deeply, remembering the scent from her younger days and smiled in spite of herself. Hyram just scowled.

“Hello, my dear.” Granny Witch stepped around the corner to greet them. She was grinning like a Cheshire cat and wearing large designer shades as if she were some sort of celebrity who didn’t want to be recognized by her adoring fans.

But Gretel knew the truth. She knew that the sunglasses only served to hide the twisted and scarred sockets where her eyes used to be. The very eyes that Gretel had gouged out so many years ago while she and Hansel made their escape.

“Old habits die hard, eh?” Granny Witch cackled. “Well, I suppose I’ll still sell you some, Deary. Even after the calling card you left on my lovely face. Youthful indiscretion. I won’t let that stand in the way of business. I know your mother never did.”

Gretel heard a low growl emanating from Hyram, but neither one of them moved. Gretel refused to be goaded.

“Your pretty little girlfriend didn’t either.” Granny Witch reached into her apron and produced a rose gold iPhone with a bedazzled protective case. “Ever wonder why she never called you back.”

One moment Gretel was standing in the doorway with Hyram. The next, she was poised directly in front of Granny Witch, with the barrel of her service automatic pressed firmly against the old woman’s forehead.

“If you so much as put one hair out of place on Cinderella’s head.” Gretel gritted her teeth and began pulling back on the trigger. The automatic’s double-action put up a good deal of resistance, but Gretel was determined. She clenched her jaw and squeezed tighter still.

Hyram placed a hand on her shoulder. “To return a wrong for a wrong is not the way, Gretel. You’ll never be able to live with yourself.”

“The fuck I won’t.”

There was a flash of light as the weapon in Gretel’s hands roared and a cloud of smoke filled the air.

Gretel let the pistol drop to her side, her shoulders slumped forward as she looked at the hole in the wall two feet to the right of Granny Witch. She couldn’t do it. After all these years and all that hate, she still couldn’t do it.

“You’ll always be a violent little hussy, Gretel. And when it comes right down to it, you’ll always fail. Old habits die hard.” The old woman cackled, still audible even with the gunshot ringing in Gretel’s ears. “Granny knows exactly what makes you tick, Gretel. Granny always knows. Have some candy, my dear.”

Hyram Woolfe put his arm around Gretel and guided her toward the door. He turned to take one last look at Granny Witch. “Where’s Cinderella?” he growled.

“Second floor, first apartment on the right. She’s not a prisoner, you know. She likes it here. More than she likes being with you, Gretel. Just like your mother. What do you think about that, eh?” The old woman’s cackle echoed throughout the hallway long after Hyram dragged Gretel over the threshold.

* * *

It didn’t take long for Hyram and Gretel to reach the apartment. Gretel found Cinderella in a back bedroom, beautiful ball gown soiled and torn, lying on a dingy old mattress that had been pushed up against one corner of the room. There were cake crumbs and bonbon wrappers strewn about the room and Cinderella had chocolate stains all over her pale and gaunt cheeks.

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