If you are so inclined, Part One is here, and Part Two is here.
I didn’t have long to wait for a tram.
It wasn’t raining, and the wind was gentle.
The tram was built in the 1940s (I know these things), and the driver had never been a passenger in his life. He was obsessed with the tram’s ability to out-accelerate the cars trying to pass it. I’m well built, but it took all of my strength to stop from being thrown out of my seat. I looked around me, and the faces of the other passengers said that if I had could organise a rope, they would gladly join in and strangle their driver.
His ability to accelerate was matched only by his skill with the brake.
I stood up and someone gasped at my foolhardiness.
I struggled my way to the front of the tram as it approached my stop.
I felt like a pole dancer as my feet left the ground.
When we came to a halt, I let go of the pole and leaned into the driver’s cabin.
“You seem to be in a bit of a hurry, pal?” I said.
“Have to make up time. Anyway, what do you care. You getting off or what?”
“Not much fun back there, Jack Brabham. Slow the fuck down a bit. Some of us are fragile.”
An old lady seated towards the front of the tram said, “and brittle, young man.”
Most passengers looked in our direction, wondering why we weren’t hurtling towards the next stop.
“Public safety officer,” I said as I moved my suit jacket to one side, revealing my detectives’ badge and my shoulder holster.
The driver’s eyes widened.
“Have a nice day, officer,” said the driver.
I stood and watched as the tram pulled slowly away.
“That bloke won’t need a laxative today,” I said to myself.
Most people think that murders happen in the morning, which isn’t true, but don’t let the truth get in the way of a story intended to make people laugh.
I don’t remember how it goes, but it has something to do with not getting a morning coffee or making the coffee poorly, causing a homicidal situation.
It usually gets a laugh — in a homicide squad.
Crap humour makes me homicidal, but I get the joke. Coffee or the lack of it equals anger.
The reality is somewhat darker.
People tend to kill each other in the darkness of the late of day.
I guess that all the hope has gone out of the day. Maybe all sane resolutions are exhausted, so you belt whoever it is that is getting in your way over the head with a lump of pipe that is conveniently lying around.
Sex and money, or a combination of both.
He/she will/won’t fuck me.
He/she took all my money.
You might think that domestic violence is different, but it isn’t. It looks different, I’ll grant you that, but when you scratch away at it, it comes down to sex and money.
But there’s the rub.
It isn’t the sex, and it isn’t the money — it’s the lack of love that kills people and induces people to kill. The sex and the money are just external symbols.
“My wife leaves me and takes the kids so I don’t get my conjugals, Your Honour, so naturally I teach them a lesson and kill them.”
“My wife and kids don’t love me anymore because of the arsehole I’ve become, so I have to strike out at them. Me mates will think I’m a wimp if I don’t do something.”
Who did Debra piss off?
Did she threaten someones financial security?
“Nothing to do today Sarge?” said the only member of the squad who was allowed to be a smart arse in my presence and live through it — we had ‘history’, we’d been through a bit together.
“I am doing something Kellerman. I’m planning your demise. I’m up to the part where I dispose of your body in a unique and imaginative way.”
“Wouldn’t help. Everyone knows that if I went missing you’d be the one who did it,” said Kellerman on his way to the stationery cupboard.
“Count on it,” I said.
If we had a couch in the squad room, I’d lie on it, but we don’t, so I sit in my chair and think. It looks like I’m ‘out to lunch’, and I sort of am, but not the way they mean.
Some detectives get their inspiration over a glass of beer, others from wading through paperwork. I knew one bloke who used to bang his head up against the tiles in the Gents. He always had a Band Aide on his forehead, but he had an enviable clear-up rate. I tried it once — you get desperate sometimes. All I got was a headache and a lump on my head.
I looked like a de-horned unicorn.
I watched the second hand on the office clock.
I’ve always loved second hands.
You don’t see many of them these days, what with digital this and digital that.
The clock in our squad room had been there since they hung Ronald Ryan, and come to think of it, I’ve never seen anyone adjust it. The bloody thing is ancient, so there is no way it has crystals or whatever it is that keeps good time.
I checked the time on my phone, and it was only a few seconds faster than the mains electric dinosaur clock hanging on the wall. Flies had pooped on it, and dust weighed it down, but round and round it went, refusing to tell bad time.
I’m going to shoot anyone who tries to remove that clock.
The thought reminded me.
I took my gun out of the top draw and put it in its holster.
I’m old enough to remember when we carried revolvers, but someone worked out that automatics were better in a sustained gunfight.
I preferred the revolver.
I’ve never been in a ‘sustained’ anything.
I usually find that the first two bullets tend to resolve the issue.
Anyway, it made the Chief commissioner look good, waving around an automatic.
A sign of the times, I guess.
The lovely thin sweep hand glided past the twelve, and the big black hand said it was two minutes past ten.
I rose from my’ thinking chair’, and within a few minutes, I’d successfully negotiated the traffic outside our building (no mean feat) and was taking the stairs, two at a time, down to the morgue.
Doctor Death was waiting.
You can read Part One of this story here
The apartment block is red brick, and someone had done a decent job of construction during a period in our city’s history when any idiot was allowed to slap up some monstrosity and make a fortune.
The brick walls were still warm, and the effect reminded me of my aunty’s house when we were kids. I loved leaning up against the warm bricks in the cool of the evening.
Our floater’s name was Debra, and she lived in flat number six. A cute policewoman used keys to let us in.
“Have you been in there Tiger?” I said.
“No sir. Been waiting out here for you.”
Egg gave her a smile, but she didn’t return it.
The flat was neat and tidy and smelled of orange blossoms.
There were photos on the mantlepiece, and the sounds of traffic leaked through the thick brick walls.
Walking into someone’s world like this always makes me slightly dizzy.
The air was thick in this warm room. The cool air from the open doorway was welcome.
The only thing out of place in the tiny flat was a single sheet of paper lying on the kitchen bench.
The paper set out a list of reasons why Debra had decided to take her life.
“Kind of puts paid to your theory, Sarge,” said Egg, the expert.
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s a suicide note. She killed herself.”
“Never trust a suicide note that isn’t hand written. The bloody thing isn’t even signed.”
“But there it is,” said Egg triumphantly.
“The note was produced by a computer printer. Do you see a printer or a computer anywhere?”
Egg looked around.
“She might have printed it at work.”
“Might have, but didn’t.”
We knocked on the other five doors in the block, not expecting any answers. We’d send local plods back after dark to do another run.
Number three answered the door just as I turned away.
“Hello,” said an attractive woman in her early forties. Shoulder length brown hair, slightly dishevelled.
“Sorry to disturb you Mam ..”
“Sorry to disturb you Miss,” I smiled involuntarily. It was something about the way she said it, ‘Miss’.
“We were wondering if you could tell us something about the woman who lives in number six?”
“We? Are there more of you?” The question took me off guard.
Police officers do a lot of these.
“Do you know, have you seen, etc.”
There’s a finite number of responses. You hear them all eventually. Many of them are rude, insulting, judgemental, homophobic, racist and boring.
Despite her ruffled exterior (most of us look a bit under the weather when we answer the door), her eyes sparkled with life.
“My partner and I,” I said self-consciously. I was losing the upper hand. The hand that said, I’m a copper, and I need information, so don’t piss me about I haven’t had my lunch yet.
The forty-something craned her neck to see past me in both directions.
Egg hove into view, and forty-something smiled.
“He’s too young for you,” I said as softly as I could.
“Pardon,” said forty-something.
“Number six? How old would you say she was?”
“Debra? No idea. Twenty something?”
“Do you know where she worked?” asked Egg, and I realised we were talking through the forty-something’s screen door. Inviting ourselves into her flat seemed like a bad idea. Might not make it out in one piece.
Forty-something told us where she worked, and I sent Egg off to talk to her workmates.
“Take the car. I’ll catch a tram back,” I said as I handed him the keys. Egg momentarily turned into a sixteen-year-old being allowed to drive dad’s car.
“You do have a licence?” I said and instantly regretted it. His face sank.
“Yes Sarge. Top of my class.”
I resisted the urge to ask him how many people were in his class and handed him the keys.
“Scratch it and I’ll take out your appendix with a spoon.”
“Nice young man,” said forty-something.
“Yeah, but he isn’t waterproof,” I said.
Forty-something looked bemused before asking, “Has something happened to Debra?”
I ignored her question. I wasn’t sure if her relatives had been informed.
“Did she ever discuss serious stuff with you? Did you have that kind of relationship?”
“No. Not really. She watered my plants for me if I was going to be away, that sort of thing, but no ‘deep and meaningfuls’. Is she okay?”
“Not really,” I said, “we have a body, but it hasn’t been formally identified as yet.”
Forty-something reached for her phone and showed me a photo. Two women with goofy smiles leaning up against the red brick wall of the apartment block.
“Not allowed to say until she’s been identified,” I said.
A cat walked up and sat next to me, and forty-something opened the screen door just enough to let it in.
“Nietzsche,” she said.
“Never trust a thought that occurs to you indoors,” I said.
“Pardon?” she said.
“Nothing. Just something a cat once told me.”
Forty-something was used to me by now, so she didn’t raise an eyebrow.
“Was Debra the sort of person who would do herself harm?” I said.
Forty-something took a moment before answering.
“I might, but I don’t think she would. Drove me crazy with her smiling and optimism.”
I thanked her and half turned to go when she said, ”When you come to these doors after they find me one day, tell them I wasn’t as bad as they thought. My cat would speak up for me. At least I hope he would.”
“Nietzsche loved horses and cats do too. Anyone who likes cats can’t be too bad. Don’t make me knock on these doors on your account any time soon. Okay?” I said.
“Okay,” she said.
I would love to say that I’m sick of the downside of fame and fortune, but that would be a lie, and you know how I’m not too fond of lies.
I’m not famous, and I’m not fortunate, but I do need to get away.
The decision has been made, but the finer details need to be ironed out.
Like, where do I go?
With everyone locked down and international travel difficult (but not impossible), you would think that my options were limited.
I’m an inventive and resourceful person.
I can get around anything and talk my way out of, or into most situations, so many destinations are open to me.
Too many choices, so maybe I should take the advice given by a ghost to Odysseus when he asked where to go on his journey.
“Take an oar from your boat and walk inland until you meet someone who doesn’t know what an oar is and asks what you are carrying. That is the place you should be.”
I’m not a seaman, but I am a writer, so I’m going to carry my typewriter until someone asks me what it is.
There shall I settle.