Detective Parking Meter, in: I Wouldn’t Put Mustard On That
Place: An everyday crime scene on New Old New Earth
Time: 43 years after the Death of Episodic TV
“If there’s one thing I know about anything, it’s that Death and mustard don’t mix.” said the Dead Guy who had mustard on his face.
“Those were his last words?” Sergeant Station asked.
“No, those were his second to last words.” said Detective Parking Meter. “His last words were:
“Death has a thing about condiments, and plays favorites. Her name was Vinaigrette. His name was Ranch. They were looking for their friend Blue Cheese. He was Italian, which confused the hell out of people who didn’t know him. Thousand Island was afraid of the water.
French hopped around naked, proclaiming her disavowment of dressing. Honey Mustard? Shit, nobody’d heard a thing from Honey Mustard for many hundreds of bottles. Condiments measure time in bottles, so in this scenario hundreds = years.”
“Those were his last words?” The Sergeant said again.
“Yeah,” said Detective Parking Meter, “hell of a thing to say isn’t it, when you know after you say it there isn’t going to be anything else you can say?”
“You’re not thinking right, Parking Meter.” The Sergeant said. “Episodic Television died decades ago. There’s always a chance Dead Mustard Guy could pop up and say something else next week. That said, his murder still needs investigating. Kentucky Fried Headquarters figured you could use some help on this one, so say hello to your new partner.”
Agent Change stepped mercurially over the chalk outline and introduced himself. “I’m Agent Change. You’re a Parking Meter. What’s the situation here?”
“It’s pretty goddamn simple,” Detective Parking Meter said. “The Dead Guy with mustard on his face is dead…”
“Murdered?” Agent Change asked.
“It’s a fucking murder scene, so yes. He was murdered. Got his throat slit with a Coldplay CD. Parachutes.”
“Diabolical.” Agent Change said. “Sounds like we’ve got a real mastermind here. We need to be meticulous. An investigation like this could take an entire season to wrap up, maybe even 2 seasons. Pack an overnight bag, Parking Meter. We’re going to Hollywood to question Gweneth Paltrow.”
“I’ve already caught the guy.” Parking Meter said. “He’s the fella in the bloody Coldplay t-shirt and handcuffs standing beside the squad car over there.”
“Bullshit!” Agent Change said. “You can’t catch him already. We’re not even to the end of Episode 1. Nobody solves anything in one episode anymore.”
Detective Parking Meter was what they called Oldschool. Like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and Morgan Freeman in Seven. In an age where the accepted currency had long ago moved to credit card only and the previous one-parking-meter-per-parking-space days were over, Detective Parking Meter remained coin operated.
The only change that Detective Parking Meter accepted was change.
“I don’t give a damn what Episode this is. I found him lurking around with a bloody CD in his hand when I arrived at the crime scene. He didn’t want to admit he’d done it at first, but I’ve got this way of asking questions until the overly-confident murderer eventually slips up. He’s already admitted the entire goddamn thing.”
“Impossible.” Agent Change said. “Nobody can solve anything in one episode anymore.”
“I’ve got 3 words for you,” Parking Meter said, “Colombo.”
“That’s one word.” said Agent Change
“In The Episodic, Colombo means: Beginning, middle, and end. Colombo’d get assigned a case where a lady killed her husband and flew a helicopter and it didn’t take him an entire season to prove that she did it, it took him one episode. He wrapped that shit up before the end of the show.”
“You’re talking blasphemy, Parking Meter.” Change said. “That’s not resolution. It’s too simple. What happens to the helicopter driving husband killer after that?”
“Absolutely nothing. It was the 1970’s. Nobody gave a shit.”
Agent Change let out a deep breath like an arrogant species from the future that has evolved past the point of bowel movements watching a caveman from Earth take a shit.”
“You’re thinking like the past, Parking Meter.” Change said. “Nobody watches Colombo anymore.”
At first Parking Meter was silent, because he knew Change was right. After that he remained silent because it’d been a couple of hours since he’d been fed anything and his meter had expired.
Sergeant Station sighed as he pulled out a nickel and twisted the knob after inserting the money into Parking Meter’s face.
Parking Meter, reunited with consciousness, somewhat groggily inquired “What’d I miss?”
“It’s been a long day.” The Sarge said. “Agent Change, would you like to follow us down to Kentucky Fried Headquarters? We’ll continue all of this in the next episode.”
“Next episode?!” said Parking Meter. “But there’s nothing here to continue? We’ve caught the Coldplay Killer. The episode’s over. Can’t we just start working on a new case in the next episode instead of dragging Coldplay into everything again?”
Agent Change provided an overly wordy reason for why the days of something like that ever happening again were over, but Detective Parking Meter didn’t hear any of it. A nickel doesn’t go as far as it used to. His eye had glazed over with the tiny red flag that said ‘Expired’ again.
Written for the September 2021 FBomb.