Detective Paul Fiore stood over the body. There had obviously been a fight in the pool hall. Splattered blood covered the felt and cues. Some sat on stools, leering. Everyone else huddled around him. I stood in the corner with my arms crossed. We desperately needed him to solve the case. He put his little notepad and pen in his breast pocket. “I can find out who the murderer is. Easily. I just need you to do one thing. Get me a bottle of wine.”
“Wine?!” Ahmad stood up so suddenly his stool fell to the ground. “Are you mocking us?”
Detective Fiore closed his eyes and massaged his temples. “Just trust me. It’s very simple. Just get me a bottle of wine.”
Pierre called from the back, “What kind of wine?”
The Detective sighed. “Brother, any bottle of wine will do.”
“Why does he need a bottle of wine?” someone shouted.
“Yes,” another said. “Tell us why.”
The Detective sighed again. “There’s no way for me to explain to you why I need it. Just get me a bottle of wine if you want me to solve it. Easy.”
Ahmad folded his arms. “But why?”
Anger flashed in the Detective’s cobalt eyes. “Do you want me to solve this murder or not?” You could tell from his black lips and gravelly voice that he was a chain-smoker.
Pierre ran his hand through his long blond hair. “What kind of wine?”
“Oh my God.” the Detective closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Fine, German wine.”
“German?” Pierre asked. “Why German?”
A smile crept onto the Detective’s face. “You asked me to specify.”
Pierre’s scratched his chin. “But why German?”
Ahmad stomped his foot. “He’s toying with us!”
The Detective turned his whole body towards Ahmad. “All I want is to solve a case, and all I asked for was a bottle of wine. Any bottle of wine. But since you asked, now it needs to be German.”
“But why German?” asked Pierre.
“Fuck off,” the Detective said. “I don’t need to explain shit.”
Pierre seemed taken aback. “OK, OK, no need to get angry. What vintage?”
The Detective sighed one last time, picked up his coat, which was folded on a pool table. “325-350 AD Speyer.”
“Do we have that in the back?” asked Ahmad.
Pierre’s eyes widened. “He wants us to get him the oldest bottle of wine in the world! Where are we going to find you a Speyer?”
The Detective started to walk towards the exit. “I don’t know.”
Ahmad leapt to block his path. “Are you toying with us, you clown?”
The Detective smiled.
Pierre sat down and put his head in his hands. “What he’s asking is impossible.”
The Detective smiled, looked into Ahmad’s eyes, then turned to Pierre, who was now sobbing, and calmly said, “And is that my fault or yours?”
Tariq al Haydar’s work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, DIAGRAM, North American Review, Beyond Memory: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Creative Nonfiction, and others, and his nonfiction was named as Notable in The Best American Essays 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @talhaydar.