Every death matters, at least that’s what we tell the press.
Truth is some just don’t, the homeless burnt to death is a cold case while his remains are still smoldering and two cops breaking up a weapons deal wasn’t going to keep Internal Affairs occupied for long either.
Not that I was going to complain if they kept their involvement brief, god knows we had enough on our plates without those fuckers breathing down our necks.
I remember thinking that the whole area was one large shithole and it got consecutively worse the deeper I descended into the alley. Graffiti on the wall was thicker than a Scotman’s accent, the ground so ridden with dirt not even the homeless cared or dared to inhabit it.
Walking up to the old decrepit warehouse all I felt was incredible boredom. Normally the presence of pain and death never fails to entertain, never fails to induce a certain morbid fascination but everything about the place had been there the day before and would remain untouched, unscathed by the little bit of human drama unfolding within. There was a fifty-fifty chance someone might clean up the blood, or that anyone would care about either of the deceased. It wasn’t a case we were going to solve, wasn’t a case that needed solving. I was just there to sign off what everyone already knew. Or so we thought.
Heck, I wasn’t even on rotation that night, I bet that quite a few people wish the Captain hadn’t called me in that night. I sure didn’t have any good words to say about him for calling me off my productive day reading books on my couch and day-dreaming about a time when I still had ambition.
Anyway, the only things to look out of place were the cop car at the beginning of the alley and the two cops at the end idly standing by, leaned against a wall and looking like half-read beauty magazines on a doctor’s table. I knew immediately that they had to be the shooters, the guy had the empty stare of a man who had faced death and walked. His posture seemed relaxed on first glance, but his eyes betrayed his thoughts to anyone who’d been in his shoes before. The contemplation of your day’s actions to the point where you had to kill a man, coming to terms with how little it fazed you to take a life and then a night of heavy drinking until you were just about ready to confess your ongoing love to your ex girlfriend.
The chick however was a totally different story, her body slumped against the wall more than she leaned against it but I sensed right away that it was just her body recovering from the adrenaline rush. Her eyes were clear, so was her gaze and I thought she had the faintest of smiles on her lips – just enough to notice but easily hidden in case a superior walked by.
Needless to say I was intrigued, most men aren’t cut from that cloth and far fewer women. I thought there was more to that smile, maybe the way it was better described as a slight grin and how it extended to her eyes if you cared to stare into them longer than proper etiquette permits.
“Evening Officers, my name is Detective Antler.”
“Evening, Detective. Dave and Laura, Fifth Department.”
Her voice followed suit with the rest of her body, resting somewhere between too hard and too soft with a certain depth to it that could kill cats.
“I assume you are the heroes of the day then?”
Mister Bleak awoke to life, but somehow it was only his head that moved.
“If we are they sure don’t make you feel it. They make us stand outside here and we can’t even go inside to help or anything.”
Well, of course not you idiot. Most people would have understood that, but him complaining about this simplest of rules immediately told me they were polar opposites on the intelligence scale. It also made me wonder how silent their rides in the patrol car had to be – and if they weren’t they had to be empty, barely scratching the surface of an actual conversation.
“Word to the wise”, I began wondering myself just why I even bothered, “I’ve been in your place. You should be thankful they’re giving you the chance to get your story straight, talk through any details and make sure your stories match.”
It was interesting to see their reactions and how much they differed. Dave acted like a guy who had just learned a valuable life lesson while Laura apparently just found her own thoughts confirmed.
“Nothing to straighten out here, Detective.”
“You say that now, but wait until they start grilling you looking for the tiniest detail that doesn’t match just to fuck you over. Who’s running point for IA by the way?”
I expected Dave to jump on the question and sure enough he did, he struck me as the kind of guy who needed facts and numbers to be comfortable. Put him in an ambiguous situation or ask for an opinion and you might as well ask a turtle to run.
“A guy named Stevenson.”
“No shit? Man, you guys are fucked.”
Stevenson and I had been through our own fair share of disagreements, more or less civilized ones. I guess you could say the only thing we had in common was a deep, personal hatred for each other.
The inside of the warehouse looked exactly as you would expect, everything that wasn’t broken was in gross disrepair, rusty and everything from the cracked ground to the partly caved-in ceiling seemed to beg for someone to come and tear the building down. But gentrification and high-profile urban development would not reach the area for another decade or so.
And so neither blood nor two dead guys on the floor seemed out of place, if anything the herd of cops and cop-like creatures in white suits didn’t really belong.
I could see Stevenson hunched down to the far left, shunned by everyone capable of employing common sense. The far right was occupied by the crime scene techs, I thought I saw Lisa Skelling’s hair under a mask and remember thinking that there were a lot of heavy-hitters on the scene for such a non-starter of a case.
Before I had a chance ignore Stevenson and talk to Lisa I was scoped out and commandeered by Captain Snyder.
“Ah, Detective Antler, just the man we need.”
I had no clue whether he was joking or serious, or which of the two was worse in any given situation. The guy was so bipolar that you never knew what he was up to, the only thing you could say for sure was that he was best avoided at all cost. Not a bad guy though, one of those people who started out with good intentions before the realities of inner-departmental politics set in.
“Tell me what you think about this.”
Another of those stupidly testing questions, the conversational equivalent of a Rorschach test where telling the truth was the quickest way to fail the test. But I had long stopped caring about bullshit like that, at least the Captain was one of those guys who secretly value an honest opinion – until they don’t.
“I’ve only just arrived, but so far the only thing I stumble over is that we even have to deal with this at all. Why were our officers even here? I doubt this place is part of their usual patrol route, or is it?”
“Ah, you’re asking the right questions again Detective. You’re absolutely right, if not for an anonymous caller none of us would be here, what do you make of that?”
It wasn’t the rarest of cases to find us cops being used to clean up someone’s dirty work, in recent years prior a whole bunch of criminals had discovered us as a willing and capable helper in taking out any unwanted competition.
“I guess we just made some other guys pretty happy tonight, probably best if we look at who’s taking over whatever business those two had going on. Any info on that?”
“Not much so far, one of them is some kind of outlaw biker from the Southern districts and the other one a seemingly legit business man, never caused any issues so far. But that’s all I know, I’ve been on the phone all evening trying to get people to come here.”
Yeah, I was aware. But ever so slowly the whole case started to pique my curiosity. It probably wouldn’t become a case for the paper so as not to spark another discussion on police violence but it had the potential to become a bar talk topic for a week or two.