It was raining.
It seemed that was all it ever did in this damn city. As I walked down the street, I pulled my hood closer around my face. It did little to drive the ever present chill away, the chill that had been with me since that morning when I first got the call.
“Al, there’s been another one. Bud’s struck again.”
I had sighed deeply before answering. With my eyes shut, I asked, “How bad is it this time, Sarge?”
“Same as all the others, Al. We found him dead in a pool of fizzy yellow liquid, buried under hundreds of beer cans. Same shitty beer as last time. But there was something new…”
I felt my eyebrows rise in surprise. “Something new? What is it Sarge?”
Sarge’s answered in the same heavy tone of voice, but it was tinged with hope. “A shard of brown glass. We’re not sure where it’s from, but it there’s some writing on it. I need you to meet me at the scene right away.”
I fingered the brown glass in my pocket as I walked into the liquor store, eyes darting around suspiciously. Would ole Bud and his gang dare ambush me here, in such a public place? Natalie, Bud’s girlfriend, seemed to think he wouldn’t.
“Oh, but Al, he wouldn’t ever do something like this! He’s not after you, or anyone else, I promise. All he ever wanted was to help.” Her blonde hair had hung limp and pale against her round face. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She was the very picture of watery grief, but I knew better.
“Sorry Natty, but I aint buying it. Smells like a cheap excuse.”
So here I was, in this little liquor store, looking for a clue that could be our biggest break in the case since we had found the first victim suffocated under a ton of shiny beer cans. I sauntered slowly down the aisles, looking for the right bottle. Then all of a sudden there it was. I held up the piece of glass in front of the bottle, then slowly lowered it. Yes, there it was, as clear as day.
The Perfect Crime.
A black saison, 6.8% if I wasn’t mistaken, and I wasn’t. I knew my beers like I knew my way around a brewery. It was my job to keep track of these things, and I knew that this was something new. Stone was one of the top breweries, and a direct challenger to “fizzy, yellow beer.” But they hadn’t been alone with the Perfect Crime.
Two others were listed—Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Evil Twin Brewing. They weren’t as well known round these parts, but whispers of their reputation had begun to trickle in. Whispers that frightened lesser men and excited the adventurers. I knew I was meant to be working on the case, but I couldn’t help myself. I grabbed the bottle off the shelf, threw a few dirty ones on the counter, and it took it home, anticipating that this beer would be fucking delicious.
It had the appearance of a dark night. It was a very dark, brown/black color. The thin, off-white head stood out like a spotlight against injustices. In the glass it was a black as night, but toward the top light trickled in, illuminating the small bubbles of carbonation.
I bent over the glass and inhaled deeply. A good investigator uses all five senses, and uses them well. It smelled yeasty and fruity—like a regular saison, but I knew it was anything but. Tiny hints of smoky malt wafted through the air like the smoke from an abandoned cigar. The strong, aromatic aroma was akin to that of a lighter beer, but I was on to its deception.
Slowly, I brought the glass to my lips and took my first sip. I held the liquid for a moment, letting the flavors play out. I swallowed. I took another sip. The smokey, malty flavors invaded my mouth, intertwined with a yeasty/fruity flavor, and surprisingly, hop bitterness. The well balanced brew tantalized my taste buds—it was as if a belgian pale ale and a smokey, dark beer had created a love child. The roasty, smokey malts blended with the bitter hops, and the fruity belgian flavor come up from underneath.
I felt like this beer was offering me a clue, but it was just beyond my grasp. I swirled it around, thinking. A little heavier than a pale ale, a little carbonation…what was it trying to tell me?
I swallowed, noting the aftertaste of of the bitterness and smokey malt. A beer that looked like one thing, but smelled and tasted like another. Deceptive…not everything is as it seems after all. And it was the Perfect Crime…
I sat up, suddenly knowing why a piece of this bottle, of this brew, was found at the latest crime scene. Either it was a set up…or it was revenge.
Suddenly, I decided I didn’t want to know. All I knew was that this…this beer, these breweries…they were our silent protectors, standing guard in the night against mashed corn and rice. For every fizzy yellow beer, another protector would rise up, offering an alternative.
I called Sarge. “Don’t worry about this one. We’re safe now.”
“What are you talking about Al?”
“Revenge, Sarge. I’m talking about revenge.”