This was the best job Dave had ever had and he was more than a little bit sad to see it go.
Dave Takach had been in this squad since the beginning. He was one of three original members along with Jeff Borrelli and Genaro Boyce.
The Unsolved Case Squad came into existence to keep the politicians and the tabloid media happy, a case of being seen to do something. The truth was, that compared to the rest of the country and most other countries, there was very little unsolved major crime.
No one knew who stole Mrs Miller’s purse or Mr Smith’s big screen TV but frankly no one cared much and unless it got out of hand like it did in ’78, the newspapers didn’t care much either.
Murder was the crime that got all the headlines, and headlines sold newspapers; back when there were newspapers.
Jeff Borelli died, in non suspicious circumstances, not long after the squad was established and was replaced by Elijah Clabough.
After Elijah joined the squad their success rate went through the roof. His mum must have known something because she named him after a bloke from the bible and Elijah’s abilities were definitely biblical.
The ‘powers that be’ had chosen what they thought were a bunch of ‘no-hopers’, the kind of coppers that made other coppers feel nervous. Dave never took a ‘backhander’ in his life and he didn’t know what a beer glass looked like so his fellow officers took an instant dislike to him. For his part, Dave was lazy and he knew it, so a cushy job away from the mind-numbing normal routine suited him just fine.
Genaro was one of those blokes who remembered everything he ever read or heard. He was intelligent and, in a job that valued brawn over brains, he was a misfit. He was a hell of a researcher even before the internet came along. Before this assignment he was disheartened and disillusioned. He was just waiting out his time until his pension kicked in.
The final piece of the puzzle was Estella Gilly. She was added to the squad at the same time as Elijah. It was refreshing to have a female in the squad and there were times when a woman could get information from an interview where a man would struggle.
The cases they were given had little chance of being resolved but they went through the routine anyway. They all knew that this particular gravy train would reach the end of the line eventually. The press would move on to some other cause and politicians would be busy getting re-elected; or not. Either way they would forget about the issue and the squad members would be reassigned.
They had been working on the Anselmo case for a few weeks when Elijah confronted his colleagues while eating a particularly delicious chocolate croissant from La Brioche, which just happened to be across the road from the squad room.
“Williams did it.”
“How do you know that?” Estella asked
“I’ve known since day one. I always know.”
It was true that Elijah had cracked some high-profile cases and the others wondered why he was here. As it turned out it had something to do with the commissioner’s wife, who was much younger than the commissioner. She had a taste for even younger policemen, especially ones with biblical names. It turned out that she liked to brag about her conquests.
Elijah was sent to the unsolved case squad as a form of punishment.
“You wouldn’t be trying to piss us off, would you Elijah?”
“Look, whether you believe me or not, most of the time I know who did it.”
“Who did what?” Asked Genaro, who was starting to get interested in the conversation.
“It; whatever the crime is I’m working on; it. I get started, I do a bit of leg work and the name comes to me, and it’s always the right person; always. Then, all I have to do is dig around a bit and gather the evidence and bingo, instant ‘solve.’ If it turns out that the person in question wants to deny it I only have to shake them with a few details that should be impossible for me to know and they fold like the proverbial deck of cards. It’s a lot of fun, and knowing who did it saves heaps of time, time we could be spending playing Candy Crush, Angry Birds or figuring out where Carmen Sandiego is.”
“Or working on my novel.” Estella had been working on her novel for about three years but she couldn’t get the main character to sound quite right.
“Or sleeping.” Dave had always been a big fan of sleeping.
“Personally I prefer crosswords and puzzles.” Genaro was the last to speak but you could see that they were all intrigued; but they were also coppers and they wanted proof.
Genaro worked out a test.
He requisitioned a group of old solved case files and removed the last page, the page that said who the squad had arrested.
Genaro gave the six incomplete case files to Elijah and they all settled down and waited while he read them.
After about an hour, Elijah said, “Hopeless Robinson, Wild West, Mad Bill Baker, Wee Willy Williams, Mad Bill Hickock, and Spider Webb.”
The group slowly woke from their slumber and looked at Genaro. “Well?” They all said at much the same time.
Genaro checked the loose pages. “All correct except for Spider Webb.”
“Not bad, but not perfect either.” Said Estella.
Dave was developing a sick feeling in his stomach. “I worked on that case and a few of us thought we had the wrong bloke.”
“So who was the next on the list?”
“Spider Webb, and the bloke who got convicted did twenty years.”
No one spoke for a long time.
As the minutes ticked by each squad member could see their short-term future stretching out before them. Elijah would read the case file, he would say who did it, followed by a few days of intense activity, gathering evidence and frightening the guilty party, followed by a longish period of doing whatever they wanted to do. Solve the cases too quickly and the top brass would expect them to do it again, so the result would have to be suitably delayed so as not to put too much pressure on and to leave the maximum amount of time for recreational activities.
Sometimes a member of the group would feel guilty, but only for a moment. Everyone wants to win the lottery but often they don’t know what to do with all that money. Then it all goes pear-shaped and the winner ends up unhappy and probably broke.
The Unsolved Case Squad were determined not to fall prey to the ‘lottery winners curse.’
Genaro was the first to broach the subject.
“Have any of you fine law enforcement officials played the ‘What Would You Do If You Found A Million Dollars’ game?”
Not surprisingly there was much nodding and affirmative grunting.
“It’s true that whenever I’ve played that game everyone was a bit under the weather but taking that into account, everyone talks about all the things they are going to buy and no one talks about how they are going to hold on to it, let alone how they are going to keep it quiet.
Keeping it quiet is the key. People find out and they want to take it away from you.”
“So how do we keep this quiet?” Elijah had risked a lot sharing his skill with his fellow squad members but deep down he was hoping they would help him carry this burden.
“By keeping our mouths shut. The first arsehole who opens his mouth will ruin it for all of us. They stuck us here because they wanted us out-of-the-way and if we can keep a lid on this, we get the last laugh. No one can know, not spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, drinking buddies, shrinks, no one, no exceptions.”
As the years rolled on their success rate proved to be spectacular. None of the squad members were crazy enough to let anyone know what they were up to and the good life continued for a number of years; way longer than any of them expected. In the end, they became a victim of their own success and they ran out of major unsolved crimes to solve. The squad was disbanded and no one protested. They had become famous and infamous at the same time. Other coppers saw it as making them look bad. The press was bored and had moved on a long time ago, except when an arrest made a good headline.
Most of the squad members retired, but they kept in touch.
Occasionally they were asked to consult on particularly difficult cases in other states, and a couple of times they were asked to work overseas.
Where they worked depended on how interesting the city was, with the single exception of cases involving children. They all agreed that cases involving kids should have nothing to do with their own comfort, but for all other cases only those that offered first class accommodation, an interesting destination and no time limit were accepted.
Estella handled the negotiations, she liked that sort of thing. She always made sure that her squad was well looked after.
Life was good.
The press loved them and they lived a kind of rock star lifestyle.
There was never any talk of retirement, they were having too much fun.
When it ended, it came suddenly.
Sheldon Conner served eighteen years for the murder of his girlfriend Janice. He was particularly annoyed because he thought he had gotten away with it. Twelve years after he ended Janice’s life the cold case file hit Elijah’s desk and a few month’s later Sheldon was on remand. A year later a jury found him guilty and the judge gave him life. As they dragged him out of the ancient, ornate courtroom he swore vengeance.
Sheldon was good to his word and went straight from the prison to a pub in Richmond where he bought a revolver for a fair price from a large bloke who had a wart on his neck and worked on the docks.
Elijah was his first call, and his last as it turned out. Elijah had kept his service revolver and never went anywhere without it despite it ruining the line of his jacket.
Sheldon’s first shot missed it’s mark giving Elijah time to draw his pistol, but Sheldon’s second shot hit Elijah just under the left arm. It spun him around but he managed to get off a single shot before he fell. That single shot caught Sheldon in the throat and with a surprised look on his face he bled to death in a matter of minutes.
Elijah lived long enough to make it to hospital. Estella was with him when he died but the others were too far away to get there on time.
The newspapers made a big fuss over Elijah’s death but inevitably they lost interest.
The three remaining members of the group decided to go their separate ways after Elijah’s funeral. It wasn’t going to be fun anymore, not without Elijah.
Estella finally got to finish her book.
The homicide squad had recently been expanded to include two new members. The experienced members delighted in taking them down to the pub on their first day and making them get the drinks. Everyone was a bit the worse for wear and old coppers being old coppers, there were plenty of stories and they saved the best till last.
The story of the cold case squad with a perfect clear up record. They always seemed to know who the culprit was.
The young detective with the silly grin kept smiling even when the others laughed at him.
“It’s not that hard” he said. “I always know who did it, right from the start.”
The laughter got louder but the young detective just kept on smiling.
He was going to enjoy this job.