Blood and Despair

 

All good things come to an end, and so it is with this series of stories/chapters.

Reluctantly I say goodbye to the cast of characters from the Fallen Angel Pizza series.

This story stands alone, but if you would like to catch up with the whole series from the start then you can read, The Christening, Flying Pizza, Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery DriverAnd Just Like That He Was Gone, Profiler.

 

 

Just like athletes’ foot and bad-taste Christmas jumpers, retirement comes to everyone.

Well, almost everyone.

“Raise your glasses for a good copper going out to pasture,” said Chief Inspector Spacey, who looked to be about nineteen years old.

Plastic goblets were raised, and the soon to be ex-Inspector McBride wondered how these young people came to be in charge. 

Not enough arse kissing was his conclusion, and he was right. 

He hadn’t ‘played the game’ in his time in the Force.

Inspector McBride was leaving the Homicide squad after two stints lasting more than twenty years.

McBride’s sixtieth birthday was not for another few months, and he could have served out his time, but now was the best time to leave.

Their beloved daughter had moved out of home to be with her university friends. Now he and his wife, Helen, could get to know each other all over again.

The nest was empty.

There was the possibility of travel, but McBride preferred the idea of sleeping in and possibly never getting out of bed except for walking the dog.

Then there was catching up on reading and spending some time in the kitchen (he loved to cook, but there never seemed enough time).

The squad room was full of people who would not give him a second thought six months after he was gone, and he knew it. It didn’t worry him — that’s the way things go. Life goes on, and most coppers are too busy to be sentimental.

This gathering would break up when the bubbly ran out. Nice of the Chief Super to lay on a spread. Most coppers didn’t get an official sendoff.

McBride had taken on legendary status.

Some of his cases were taught at the Police Training College in Melbourne.

Rumour had it that he ‘always’ got his man.

His men nicknamed him ‘the Mounty’.

Despite his reputation, it was common knowledge that ‘the winged killer’ was his Moby Dick.

Later that night, McBride and his wife would meet up with Wilson and his wife. Their friendship had spanned three decades. Wilson was now the Chief Superintendent of the entire Eastern region of Victoria. McBride was proud of his friend’s achievements and a little jealous — but not so much that it showed.

For now, there was moderately good bubbly spoilt only by the taste of plastic and the ever-present schoolboy police humour.

It was getting dark when McBride gathered up his jacket and took one last look at what was his desk. He touched the timber surface gently. He’d had to fight the logistics department to hang onto the old desk.

As he left, a chorus of, “The mounty is leaving the building,” broke out. What was left of the celebration crew looked a bit the worse for wear. 

McBride smiled and gave a final wave, and what he thought a ‘Mounty’ salute might look like.

The taxi was waiting for him at the front gate.

Someone had ordered a Silver Service limo, “All paid for in advance, sir. Where would you like to go?”

“Home seems like a good idea.”

The large inflatable Canadian Mounted Policeman barely made it into the back of the limo next to ex-Inspector McBride. It made strange squeaking noises as he pushed it into position. McBride smiled in just the same way that all small boys do when someone farts.

“I’ve never seen one of those before,” said the driver who was in full uniform, including a cap with the logo of the hire company attached.

“Me either,” said McBride. “It’s a kind of joke. I was a policeman and I had a reputation for always catching the killer, which wasn’t true. But you know how the truth never gets in the way of a good nickname?”

“I’ve never had a nickname,” said the driver somewhat sadly.

“You can have mine if you want it?”

“No, sir. That wouldn’t be proper,” said the uniformed driver.

McBride smiled.

“On second thoughts, before you take me home — do you remember where Dark Angel Pizza used to be?”

“Yes sir, I do. Best pizzas in Melbourne. It was a shame when it closed down — all those years. I believe the owner died.”

“Can you drive me over there?”

“Of course sir, but I’m sure it’s just a boarded-up shop these days.”

“Let’s do it anyway. The place has a ghost that I can’t put to rest.”

The driver was intrigued, but he didn’t comment.

McBride pressed the button and rolled down the tinted window and stared at the building that, for many years, sold excellent pizzas and once employed an enigmatic pizza delivery driver who liked to be called Raphael. 

The building still had its faded sign, Dark Angel Pizza.

“Do you remember the bloke who delivered pizzas from here, about twenty years ago? Rode a bicycle, had a winged helmet and wings attached to his leather jacket?”

“Before my time sir. We only migrated to Australia about ten years ago.”

“He was quite a sight and he’s the one that got away.”

“I don’t understand sir.”

“It doesn’t matter. Home now I think.”

 

~oOo~

 

Il Barcaro was in full swing when the two couples arrived.

The head waiter greeted them as they entered the restaurant from Little Collins Street. Construction on the tall building opposite meant that a handful of parking spaces had come back into service.

The two wives had bought new outfits for the occasion, and Chief Superintendent Wilson has blown off dinner with the Lord Mayor of Melbourne to be with his old friend.

Tony, the head waiter and part-owner, greeted them as though they were his favourite customers — that was his way.

“Treat everyone the same. Treat everyone with respect.”

He showed them to their table and asked if they would like a drink.

The ladies ordered something pink and sticky, served in a cocktail glass.

The men asked for Scotch — the good stuff.

“Anything for you Inspector,” said Mario, who had been given the responsibility of looking after the table.

The menu was heavy on seafood, which didn’t suit McBride, so he asked for a pasta starter’s larger serve.

“Ex-Inspector,” said McBride, “and how did you know?”

“You are famous Inspector. Not many honest people left in this world and you are considered to be one of the few.”

Mario put out his hand, and McBride shook hands with him.

The staff of the restaurant stopped what they were doing and applauded.

“Are you a movie star?” said the lady on the next table who was wearing a small fortune in jewellery.

“No,” said McBride, “an honest copper. Apparently, I’m a rare commodity.”

“Good for you. You go get ’em sarge.”

McBride laughed.

“Was that your doing Wilson?”

“You booked the restaurant. I thought you paid them to be nice to you,” laughed Wilson.

“You’ve been in the papers dear. Almost all of them. You’ve had a long and successful career and people are grateful.”

“I guess,” said McBride, who was a little embarrassed, but also enjoying the acknowledgement.

“Your drinks are on the house — go crazy,” said Mario.

 

The McBride party were among the last to leave. The City was still alive, despite the hour.

“Fancy a walk ladies?”

“Where to?”

“Down to the river, Federation Square. Look at the water. Arrest a couple of drunks, that sort of thing.”

“Sounds good,” said Wilson and the two couples walked down the hill and turned left into Swanston Street. Along the way, a taxi got a bit close, and McBride threatened to arrest the driver.

“No warrant card, old son. You’re a civilian now. No more sword of justice for you,” said Wilson, and he was aware of how sad that all sounded.

The couples sat on the bank of the Yarra and looked at the lights reflected on the water. No one needed arresting, and the two couples ambled (because they didn’t want the evening to end) back to their car and drove home.

At the Wilson home, the old friends embraced, and the evening was over, and so was McBride’s career.

“What the hell am I going to do now?” he said to Mary.

She didn’t answer, but she did hug him very tightly.

~oOo~

Ex-Inspector McBride sat on his couch watching the Cricket on TV. 

His wife, Helen, was making their lunch — an avocado salad.

McBride was enjoying a beer after working in the garden most of the morning.

When a knock came from the front door, McBride told his wife he would see to it. He put his beer on the coffee table then moved it to a nearby drink coaster — not worth risking the wrath of the lady of the house.

“Good afternoon Inspector,” said the young man in the leather jacket.

“I know you might be thinking about trying to arrest me, but I’m strong and young and you aren’t and I really don’t want to hurt you. No offence, it’s just the way things are. You could ring the police, I won’t stop you, but I’ll be gone before they get here.”

“What do you want?” said McBride.

“I thought you deserved an explanation.”

The young man with his chrome helmet stood waiting for McBride’s decision.

McBride weighed up his chances of overpowering the young man he remembered as Christopher Dawson, aka Raphael — the Winged Killer — his Moby Dick.

“You’d better come in.”

Raphael moved past McBride, and his wing brushed across his face leaving a tingling sensation. A sensation he’d had described to him by a young custody constable, so long ago.

Raphael stood in McBride’s lounge room with the second Test Match’s sounds between England and Australia playing in the background.

“Helen. Can you come out here? I have someone I want you to meet.”

Helen McBride stepped into the room, fixing her hair as women will do when visitors arrive unexpectedly.

She was holding a wooden spoon used for mixing cakes.

She stopped, opened her mouth slightly as the wooden spoon tumbled out of her hand and onto the floor. It made a unique sound, bounced a couple of times and came to rest in front of a tall young man with white wings protruding from his leather jacket.

Raphael stooped down and picked up the sticky spoon. He handed it to Helen, who took it, still with her mouth frozen half-open.

“This is Raphael. The winged pizza delivery driver I told you about all those years ago.”

McBride turned to Raphael and asked, “Are you still delivering pizzas?”

“Yes,” said Raphael, “but that’s not what I came to talk to you about.”

“Where have you been for the past twenty years?”

“You wouldn’t understand if I told you,” said Raphael.

“Try me.”

By this time, Helen McBride had regained her composure. She sat on a footstool and listened to what was to become a surreal conversation.

“It’s a place called Standarderin. Obviously, it’s not around here. I was sent there because of what I did. I had to stay there and work and get my head straight, as you would say.”

“For twenty years!”

“Time doesn’t affect us the way it does you. It wasn’t long in the scheme of things. I’m just glad I was allowed to come back and continue my work.”

“What is your work, exactly?” said Helen, finding her voice.

“It’s not easy to explain, but to put it simply, I tidy up a bit.”

“You’re right, I don’t understand,” said Helen.

“Okay, look at it this way. When people decide to be human…”

“We decide?”

“Yes you all do, but when you get here there are hundreds of things that conspire to confuse you and maybe bump you off course. My job is to help selected females to get back on track. They get into relationships with violent men and I try to coax them away. It’s harder than it sounds.”

“Why don’t you work with the violent men?” asked Helen who was really getting into the swing of this conversation.

“Because it isn’t why I’m here, and besides, these men are usually too far gone to listen.”

“So, what happened on the Hemingway Estate?” asked McBride.

“You know when I said I don’t work to persuade the men? Well, I made an exception. I knew where he was hiding and I knew that he’d killed her. I was angry. She wasn’t the first woman I was unable to influence. I’ve lost many good souls over the years, but this one got to me. I was so close. She was going to leave that day. I had a place for her to stay, but she wanted to go back for some personal things. You Humans have a lot of trouble leaving things behind.”

“So he caught her and killed her.”

“Yes, and it broke my heart. All that blood and despair. I broke our rules and I went looking for him. I found him. I tried to speak to him, but all he wanted to do was argue and fight. I warned him about how strong I am and he laughed. He said something dirty about her and me and I hit him very hard. He didn’t get up. I remembered how upset you were about her being dead and no one telling the police. I took the man’s body to the pizza shop and told the owner to tell you what had happened, which I guess he did.”

“Yep.”

“I’ve been in terrible battles and killed many beings and I don’t want to be that person anymore, that’s one of the reasons I accepted this assignment. I want to help not hurt.”

“So what now?”

“The young man who killed his partner and in turn was killed by me is sorry that he wasted his time here and he has forgiven me as she has forgiven him. They have started again in the hope of getting it right this time, and I’m back at my old job.”

“Aren’t you worried about getting caught for that man’s murder?” asked Helen.

“It was a long time ago and most of the officers who investigated the case are dead or retired, and besides, I have powerful friends and remarkable abilities. I’ll be okay as long as I stick to my purpose.”

“I’m pleased you came, but I’m still not sure why you bothered. I can’t cause you any grief, I’m retired.”

Raphael stood up, and McBride and Helen stood up instinctively.

“This is a special assignment for me. A one-off you might say. You two have lived the life you came here to live and you should be proud that you stuck to your guns and didn’t waver. Even though you were only blessed with one child.”

Raphael looked at Helen.

“Even though you were passed over for promotion, you maintained your values and you never took the easy way out, or the easy money or the dishonest shortcut.”

McBride understood.

Raphael beckoned the couple to come closer.

McBride watched as Raphael’s wings grew larger until they almost touched the ceiling.

Raphael wrapped his wings around them both, and they were enveloped in a fluffy white cloud.

“What you will experience, isn’t for you just yet, but I’ve been asked to show you something special.”

McBride held his wife’s hand, and she squeezed it very hard.

“Oh, my God it’s amazing!”

 

~oOo~

 

Neighbours reported seeing a blinding light coming from McBride’s house in the middle of the day halfway through Australia’s second innings versus England.

Ex-Inspector McBride assured the emergency services workers who arrived at his front door that all was fine.

“We were just cooking a pizza and things got out of hand.”

Profiler

If you would like to know how we arrived at this story/chapter, you may want to read The Christening,  then  Flying Pizza, then Position Vacant: Pizza Delivery Driver, then And Just Like That He Was Gone.

“Until this taskforce was established, Christopher Dawson had slipped under the radar,” said the moderately attractive woman.

A trained eye would have noticed that she was nervous, and the room was full of trained eyes. Fortunately for her, they just wanted the meeting to be over, so they were less than observant.

“Exhaustive research, revealed his name several times in domestic violence cases going back more than a decade. Always as a peripheral character. He has never been wanted for anything. Never been a suspect.”

“Until now,” said Inspector McBride to his Sergeant.

The speaker gave him a glance.

“Several women have stated that he helped them escape violent partners. So how is he constantly on hand in these situations? It has been hypothesised that he is receiving information from someone inside the police force.”

“First I’ve heard of it,” said the Inspector and the speaker gave up her campaign of withering looks — police officers seemed immune.

The speaker was Inspector Glenis Waters. 

She had worked her way up through the ranks and had studied psychology in her own time. She specialised in criminal profiling and had spent time in the United States at the FBI’s headquarters.

She was considered a ‘rising star’, particularly after writing a profile of the Sandpit Murderer. She described him in remarkable detail, down to the unmatched socks.

“We have discounted this theory because of the widespread nature of the domestic violence cases. There is no central registry for domestic incidents.”

Inspector Waters paused. If it were blokes who were getting the shit kicked out of them, there’d be a central registry, she thought.

“So there is no-one who had access to all the incidents.”

“What we have here is a classic hero type. A guardian angel delusion. A tiny brain that needs significance. I’m not sure yet why he broke his carefully constructed mould and branched out into murder, but I do know that he now has a taste for it and we need to stop him,” said Inspector Waters.

“What’s with his costume?” said a voice from the back.

There were a variety of police officers wedged into the muster room. Some were directly involved in the task force, and a couple had invited themselves out of curiosity — curiosity about the case, and curiosity about the star profiler.

Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson were sitting on a desk at the back of the room.

“His winged helmet and leather jacket are a sign of his flamboyance. The wings are obvious.”

“Not to me,” said Sergeant Wilson. 

Another attempt at a withering glance.

Withering glances aside, McBride and Wilson felt that they had been judged and found wanting.

The chief commissioner summoned them to his office some three weeks prior.

“I want this bozo caught! We do the police work in this state, not this nutbag. I’m getting calls from the Minister and I’m sick of reading about this bloke in the papers. Sort this out. Get a task force together.”

Inspector McBride wanted to ask where the money would come from, but his Sergeant stopped him just in time. These meeting types were traditionally one-way conversations, finished off with a “Yes Sir,” at the end.

“Christopher Dawson does not appear to exist prior to about ten years ago, which means that he probably came here from interstate. We’ve sent out a general alert and are waiting to hear back, but in the meantime, here’s what we have found out.” Inspector Waters consulted her notes.

“He’s probably from bloody Queensland,” said a voice from the back. A light smattering of laughter broke out.

Inspector Waters waited for it to die down.

“He doesn’t have a driver’s licence, which fits with why he delivers pizza on a bicycle.”

“We have people working on the idea that he might have been involved in a road accident back in the day. Maybe he was driving or was hurt by another driver,” said Sergeant Wilson. The eyes in the room were on him, but he didn’t have anything else to add.

“There aren’t many photographs of this man, with the single exception of the newspaper shot. It’s a profile shot and a bit shaky, but it shows enough to tell us that this man has not changed his appearance, in the slightest, in more than ten years.”

“Maybe he’s Dorian Grey,” said a young female, who was sitting on the window sill. She’d rather noisily opened a window before she sat down.

A young constable asked his mate who Dorian Grey was, and his friend said he was a local pimp. The young constable seemed even more confused.

The general absence of laughter made the young female feel on the outer. Either the occupants of the room were not well-read, or they just didn’t like her. She decided on a mix of the two.

“What about CCTV?”

“I was coming to that and it’s weird. The local station went looking for footage around the time of the newspaper photo. Nothing. Some of the businesses in the area delete their footage after forty eight hours, but some keep their footage on a cloud server. Every one of them reported the same situation. Whenever they should have recorded the pizza delivery driver ride by, the footage was blank. Only for a few seconds, but blank. All the stores use different storage companies so that rules out hacking. Even if this bloke was skilled enough to hack all these accounts, he should have missed one — it’s the law of averages.”

Inspector Waters banged her hand on the lectern, which was her first sign of emotion.

“Why not delete the whole file?” she added. No one had an answer.

Someone’s tummy rumbled, and the people around them laughed.

“I know it’s lunch time so I’ll sum up what I know so far. Other than what I’ve mentioned, we know that he lives a simple existence. He doesn’t have a lot of possessions. He always wears the same clothes — no one reports seeing him anywhere near a laundromat. He doesn’t eat at local cafes and doesn’t appear to eat at home. No groceries in his cupboards, either that or he stopped to gather them up when he left in a hurry after the murder — unlikely, if you ask me.”

Inspector McBride dug cellophane lollies out of his pocket and offered one to his Sergeant.

“Might stop us from starving,” said the Inspector. His Sergeant took one with a smile.

“He always rides a white bicycle. No one reports him walking any distance — possible due to an accident?” The Inspector looked in the direction of McBride and Wilson, as an acknowledgement.

“His chrome helmet seems to be homemade and the wings stuck to his leather jacket are remarkably well maintained. How does he manage this? Does he have spare sets somewhere. He has to renew them sometime. Is someone supplying them?”

“Going back to something you said earlier,” said the female sitting on the windowsill, and the room gave a groan, which increased her belief that it was her they didn’t like.

“How do we know that he hasn’t changed much in ten years.”

“Sorry, I forgot to mention, we have a photo that someone took when he was working at Bazza’s Pizza in Benalla. They had a camera and asked for what passed as a selfie, back in those days.”

A slightly out of focus photograph flashed up on the screen that had previously been showing the newspaper shot. Three smiling females and one serious man looked at the camera. The man was dressed in the same jeans and leather jacket, and he was holding his chrome winged helmet under his arm as a soldier would when standing at attention. His hair was dark and wavy and was unkempt in a way that suggested that he didn’t worry much about his appearance.

His eyes were the first thing you noticed — piercing, but kind and gentle. They made you want to hug him or buy him a beer — probably both.

“The woman on his right, is one of the women he ‘saved’. She still had the photo when we contacted her. She was reluctant to part with it. I had to take a photo of it on the spot, which explains why it’s a bit out of focus.” 

Gentle laughter.

“As you can see,” the photos were placed side by side by constable Perkins, who prided himself on his I.T. abilities, “he looks exactly the same. Hasn’t aged a day.”

“Blokes get it easy in the ageing department,” said the window sill.

“Piss off, you sheilas have all those wonder drugs — anti ageing shit. All we have is beer and a comfy couch,” said someone who was too hungry to care anymore.

Generous laughter, including the window sill. 

The mood toward her had softened, even if she was at the end of the joke.

“Okay. I know you creatures are hungry, so I’ll ask if there are any questions?”

Sergeant Wilson hesitated before asking, “Why do you think this bloke went from saviour to killer?”

Inspector Waters stretched her arms above her head and gave a customary sigh that comes with a stretch. She put her arms by her side and looked at Sergeant Wilson.

“Maybe he just got fed up. Do you ever feel that way Sergeant?”

Sergeant Wilson didn’t answer.

The room emptied at the pace you would expect. Inspector Waters was invited to lunch by the station commander.

“There is a good Chinese restaurant close by?” he said.

“I don’t mind where we go as long as it isn’t a pizza place,” said Inspector Waters and the Commander smiled.