Suicide Note: Part Three –In the darkness of the late of day

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.

~oOo~

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?

~oOo~

“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.

The Body In The Basement

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“Do you think he’s been lonely down here, all alone, all these years?”

It wasn’t like my partner to be this way. Typically, he’s offhand about sudden death — professional and a bit dark in his humour.

“I don’t think so,” I said, “he’s off wherever they go when they’re not here anymore.”

“Even so,” said my partner.

Ashley Bloomfield had worked his way up through the ranks to Detective Sergeant, and I’d been his partner for nearly three years — just long enough to get to know a bloke who guards himself closely.

It was a strange question for him to ask. He’s more a question and answer type of bloke, but on this day he was looking to me for an answer.

“Are you getting all spiritual on me, Ash?” I said.

“I don’t know, maybe. It’s this place. It’s genuinely spooky.”

He had a point, but I knew not to let him get one-up on me.

The call came through at a decent hour and Ash and I were next in the rotation, and about now we wished it had been someone else.

The old mansion on St Kilda Road had been empty for more than thirty years.

Some investment company in Dubai had bought it for a sizeable sum in the early 1990s, then the property market went flat. They decided to sit on it and wait, as all well-healed people can afford to do.

No one was much interested in looking after the place, so people with nowhere else to go would find a way in — out of the storm, so to speak. The property manager would eventually block up the break-in and lose interest again.

It must have been during one of those incursions, so long ago that some sort of fight broke out, and our body had lain there ever since, covered in rubble and wooden planks.

Some enterprising developer had bought the old mansion and was preparing to renovate it (within heritage guidelines, of course) into trendy offices. St Kilda Road still has clout when it comes to city addresses.

This was going to be a thankless job.

If the body turned out to be a homeless bloke, we have our work cut out for us to identify him. If he was killed by another homeless bloke, then he’s probably dead by now. Homelessness tends to shorten your lifespan. Likely no one to slap the cuffs on, just a mountain of pointless paperwork and a John Doe toe tag.

“The forensic folks will be here soon. Constable Whatshisname can keep an eye on things. You want to get a coffee? The dust down here is clogging up my soul,” I said as I moved the most prominent plank out of our way.

The body was fully clothed (bloke’s clothing — I’m not psychic, but it seemed inevitable it was a ‘he’), and it lay where it fell, all those years ago. Bugger all forensic after all this time. No one had dropped a wallet or a calling card or a cigarette case as they do in the movies.

“A coffee sounds good. Get me the fuck out of here, before I forget I’m a lady,” said Ash, and I could see his unique sense of humour returning.

Coffee was easy to find because this is Melbourne, and even my dog can make a good coffee. You have to prove that you know what good coffee tastes like before they will let you cross the border into Victoria, and in Melbourne, the cops will breath-test you for instant coffee — if detected, the penalties are draconian.

The sandwich shop lived up to expectations, and the coffee was a perfect temperature. The tiny glass-fronted store was awash with delicious aromas.

We sat on tall stools and looked out onto the road. Trams rumbled by, and pedestrians did what pedestrians do. Some bloke was making his third attempt to park a Fiat in a space that would accommodate a mid-1960s Ford.

“What do you reckon. Is he gonna make it?” I said. Ash looked up from his coffee. He’d been mesmerised by the pattern on the crema for the past few minutes.

“Nah, he’s buggered.”

“Yeah, I agree. Most blokes will give it away after the second go. It’s too embarrassing.”

Right on cue, the Fiat shot off into traffic accompanied by the copious tooting of horns and the waving of fists.

“He nearly had it that last time,” I said.

“If I disappear in mysterious circumstances, don’t stop looking for me, will ya?”

“Is that something you’re likely to do?” I said.

“Nah, but just in case. I don’t want to lie somewhere, cold and forgotten,” said Ash, who had gone back to staring at the pattern on his coffee.

“I’ll find ya mate, but not before I’ve finished off that bottle of whisky you keep in your locker.”

Ash didn’t look up. This one had gotten to him. I had never seen him like this.

“You know I got wounded — in the war?” he said.

“Not really,” I said.

Ash’s life before the police force was a mystery to me, and I felt guilty that I had never asked. Mostly, I’m not that interested in other people. But this was different. I remember the feeling of being with a dying comrade — the less I knew about their life, the easier it was to deal with their death.

“We were on patrol, and all hell broke loose. When I woke up, my leg and back hurt like buggery and all my mates were dead. I wasn’t game to call for help so I lay there for what seemed like days, hoping someone would come looking for us. After about thirty-six hours, a rescue party found me. I don’t remember it happening, but I do remember wondering if I’d bleed to death, and I remember wondering if I’d be found or would I be one of those bodies that farmers find, decades later, after the war is over. I’ve never felt so cold and alone. Do you reckon that’s how that bloke felt?”

“I don’t mind telling you that you are freaking me out, Ash. Here, drink up,” I said as I poured the contents of my hip flask into his coffee.

The bloke behind the counter gave me a look and started to say something. I moved my jacket so he could see my detective’s badge — he went back to slicing tomatoes without saying anything.

Ash drank his coffee, and I poured a wee dram into mine.

“Same goes for me mate. If the ungodly catch up with me, don’t leave me lying out there somewhere,” I said.

“Deal,” said Ash and we clinked paper cups to seal the deal.