Flying Pizza

It isn’t necessary for you to read the FIRST STORY in this sequence of stories, but you might like to. Each story is designed to stand alone, but you will see the sequence as you go along. PART ONE was called THE CHRISTENING and you can read it HERE.

SCENE:

A shopping strip like any other. Fallen Angel Pizza does not have a verandah. The shop is sandwiched between a cafe and a shop selling printer ink. This shop has a notice in the window warning that it will be closed until next week — death in the family. Fallen Angel Pizza is just setting up for the evening trade when Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson park their car on the opposite side of the street. A young man is sweeping the footpath as the two policemen enter the shop.

“So, why did you call your business Fallen Angel Pizza?” said Sergeant Wilson.

The Inspector gave him a glance. Inspector McBride liked to be crisp and precise when questioning members of the public. He too was intrigued by the name, but knowing the answer was not likely to lead to the killer. It was too late to shut down this line of enquiry, so he let it play out.

“I didn’t. I mean I did, but only because it was less paperwork to leave the name the way I found it when I bought the business. They charge you for everything these days. Besides, the punters love the name. It does attract a few nutters but. Still, nut bags have to eat, I guess. The crazy ones tip better so the drivers like them,” said William Dundee, whose ancestors had emigrated to Australia only moments before they would likely have been transported. William Dundee had never been to Scotland, but he spoke with a strange approximation of what he thought his ancestors sounded like.

“Do you have contact details for all your delivery drivers?” said Inspector McBride.

“All my delivery drivers?”

“Yes. All of your drivers.”

Dundee held in the smile until he could no longer.

“I’m not Pizza Hut, Inspector. I only have two delivery drivers at the moment.”

“Do they both wear wings?” said the Sergeant.

This time Dundee did not bother to contain his smile.

“Only one. Christopher Dawson. But he likes to be known as Raphael. He wasn’t always into angels until he started working here — or so he says. Mad bugger, but a good worker. Customers love him. He makes about three times what I pay him in tips. Rides around on a bicycle with wings on his helmet which would make him look like Mercury if it wasn’t for the wings glued to his leather jacket. I’ve never seen him without that jacket. Blood good job of sticking those wings on. They seem to grow out of his jacket. Must have taken him forever to get them just right.”

Dundee scribbled something on a scrap of paper and handed it to the Inspector.

The Inspector glanced at it before putting it in his side pocket.

“Thank you for your time, Mr Dundee. We may need to speak to you again.”

“It all seems a bit too easy,” said the Sergeant as the two men stepped into the street.

“I’m not sure what this is, but I’ll feel better when we’ve spoken to this Dawson character.”

“Are you hungry Inspector?” said the Sergeant.

“Good thinking,” said the Inspector.

The two men sat in their blue unmarked car and consumed a pizza while they waited for Christopher Dawson to arrive at work.

The sun was going down, and the strip of shops was bathed in a golden glow that made them appear way more interesting than they actually were.

Eating pizza and the glare from the sun made the two men almost miss the arrival of the winged deliverer.

He was quite a sight. Winged chrome helmet, leather jacket despite the warm weather and best of all, two perfectly formed wings sprouting from the back of his jacket. The golden glow bounced off the pristine white feathers giving them a golden pink hue.

“How do you reckon he keeps those feathers so clean?” said the Sergeant.

“Save that question until we find out if he likes killing people, will you, Sergeant.”

SCENE:

The rear of Fallen Angel Pizza. An alleyway with a wire fence on one side bordering the railway line. Two plain-clothed policemen are questioning a pizza delivery driver.

Sergeant Wilson would like to remove his jacket because he is hot from standing in the afternoon sun. The delivery driver does not remove his leather jacket. A train goes by, and the delivery driver turns to watch it. The feathers from the delivery driver’s wings brush the face of Sergeant Wilson. The sensation is a pleasant one.

“Have you ever delivered to the flats on the Hemingway Estate?”

The Inspector knew that he had.

“Yes,” said the winged delivery man.

“Two Fridays ago?”

“I’d have to check the date, but I think so.”

“Did you happen to notice anything unusual?”

Christopher Dawson hesitated before answering.

“The front door to number twelve was open and I had a sinking feeling that I was too late.”

“Too late for what, Mr Dawson?”

“To save her. I knew she was in danger, but I thought I had more time.”

“More time for what, Mr Dawson?”

“To save her.”

SCENE:

Police interrogation room. Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson sit across a metal table from Christopher Dawson. Mr Dawson is still wearing his jacket. Mr Dawson has been given an official caution, and the tape machine is recording. Three paper cups containing water sit untouched on the table. No one even considers lighting up a cigarette.

“You said earlier, when we spoke to you at the pizza shop, that you needed more time to save her. Who were you referring to?”

“The woman who was murdered.”

“Did you kill her, Mr Dawson?”

Inspector McBride liked to get the question out of the way early on. Other officer preferred to wait.

“No Inspector. I haven’t killed anyone in a very long time.”

The Inspector wanted to ask what he meant by that statement, but he felt it would push the interrogation off track, so he let it slide.

“But you were there?”

“Yes. I found her and I knew my mission was at an end.”

“Mission?”

“You must know that a woman is killed every day of the year by someone she lives with. Three hundred and sixty-five women every year. It was my mission to convince this woman to leave before the inevitable happened.”

“Why was it your mission?”

“She had important things to achieve and being dead would mean that she couldn’t achieve them.”

“You’re a strange one, Mr Dawson. If you don’t mind me saying so?” said the Inspector.

“I don’t mind at all.”

“If you found her like that, why didn’t you call the police?” said the Sergeant.

“She was dead. My involvement was at an end.”

“How did you get out of there without leaving a trace?”

For the first time since they had met, Mr Dawson smiled.

SCENE:

The coffee room at the police station where Inspector McBride and Sergeant Wilson are stationed. The room is large and half empty. The floor hasn’t been swept, and empty coffee cups are spilling out of the garbage can in the corner. Sergeant Wilson would very much like to light a cigarette, but those days are gone.

“The men in white coats went over his flat with a fine-toothed vacuum cleaner and came up with nothing. We could do him for not reporting the crime scene but a good brief would get him off. We have nothing on him. He has to be one of the strangest blokes I’ve come across and I’ve arrested football players so that’s saying something. Still and all, I can’t help liking the bloke. Wouldn’t trust him to have my back, but I like him all the same,” said Sergeant Wilson while chomping on a chocolate croissant.

“There is nothing in her file about living with someone. Someone must have come across her partner. Interview her workmates again. She must have talked about her partner. Women love to brag or complain about their other half.

SCENE:

The back of the shop — Fallen Angel Pizza. Two plain-clothes police are talking to the pizza shop owner. Several men in white jumpsuits are swarming over the body of a dead young male. Trains periodically travel past, making it difficult to carry on a conversation.

“So what did Mr Dawson tell you before he left?”

“He said that there was a body at the back of the shop and that I should ring you blokes because you don’t like it when someone gets murdered and no one says anything.”

“Was that all he said?”

“No. He said that he was sick of not getting there on time, which didn’t make any sense to me because he was always punctual. The customers loved him.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes. It freaked me out a bit. He stood in front of me and it seemed to me that his wings got bigger, which is nuts.”

“What did he say?”

The pizza shop owner didn’t want his best delivery driver to get into trouble, but he told them anyway.

“He said he hadn’t killed anyone in a long time, and he thought that this time he might be in trouble. I didn’t ask him what he meant and I don’t want to know.”

The pizza shop owner would have to go to the station and make a formal statement, but that could wait until tomorrow. There were pizzas to make.

A search of Dawson’s flat revealed that he had packed up and left, which came as no surprise to Inspector McBride.

“We need to be very careful about the way we write this one up,” said the Inspector and the Sergeant agreed.

Before going home, they bought half a dozen beers and sat in the park near the Fallen Angel Pizza and ate a delicious pizza, with the lot — on the house.

When the beer and pizza had been consumed, the two men travelled home to their loved ones.

They slept soundly and never mentioned a word of the case to the ones closest to them.

The boyfriend was never charged because he was dead and it’s hard to cross-examine a dead bloke.

The file was closed with a brief explanation that said, the main suspect is deceased. No further action required.

The dead boyfriend’s file mentioned the bloke with the helmet and wings as being the likely murderer.

It also said that after an exhaustive search, no trace of Christopher Dawson aka Raphael has been found.

Batting Practice

Chief Inspector Dance slid across the church pew and invaded my personal space.

Hip against hip, knee against knee.

“Be careful Chief Inspector, in some cultures, this constitutes a marriage proposal,” I said, and the detectives close by laughed.

The Chief Inspector shot them a glance — he was the only one who was allowed to be funny.

He’d bullied his way to the head of the Robbery Squad just before I joined the unit. He dumped the previous second in command and installed me as 2IC. Buggered if I know why, but maybe it had something to do with weakening the old alliances.

In keeping with modern police practice, several of our squad were female. They were often the butt of his jokes and sarcasm.

“Back off a bit. I don’t want to get pregnant before the wedding,” I said, and a snigger rippled through our group. It turns out I’m pretty good at sarcasm as well.

I could smell him — dust, hair oil and a cheap aftershave.

Amazingly, our DCI would tolerate such comments because he believed he was a jolly funny chap — he wasn’t, but that kind of banter was his forte, so he would take a bit of it when it came his way — only a bit mind you, and only from the male officers.

Other than that, no-one stands up to our boss. We all want to ‘get on’, get a promotion, get ahead and get out of this squad. But things were changing.

Murder Squad, Narcotics then Burglary; in that order. 

The head of Narcotics retired in a cloud of whispers and Chief Inspector Dance expected to get the nod; except, it didn’t happen. 

Chief Inspector Valerie Trend was promoted above him. 

Dance had run his race.

I’d like to think that the ‘higher-ups’ had finally figured out that he was a prick, but I doubt it. The rumour mill will eventually tell us, but frankly, I didn’t care — about that and a lot of things.

We were seated a few rows from the front on the right-hand side of this huge old church. The ceremony was being held in Richmond this year because St Paul’s in the city had been double booked. Working-class Catholics had paid for this monument to power in the late 1880s. It must have cost a fortune, and I can hear the priest piling on the guilt because the building had not been paid off, and the church needed money.

Detective Constable Helen Morgan was the last of us to arrive. 

She sat in the seat in front of us, dressed in the squad’s unofficial uniform; a grey two-piece single-breasted suit, white shirt/blouse and a tie.

She was trim, slightly above average height with bruises and a small cut on one side of her face. The left side of her face, as it happened.

I wanted to make a joke about her ability to arrest someone without getting thumped, when a feeling came over me, which it sometimes does. These bruises had been delivered by someone who should have been her protector.

I turned to our ‘leader’. “Are you going to do something about this?” I said.

“None of our business,” he said and turned away as though not seeing the damage was the same as it going away.

“If a member of the public had done that, you’d be first in line to take him downstairs and beat the living shit out of him,” I said, and I was aware of the volume of my voice.

“Man and wife stuff. Stay the fuck out of it.”

Fuck this for a game of soldiers,  I said under my breath.

I stood up and walked across to the side door just as the organ started up to begin the proceedings.

I’m not sure if it was planned when the church was built, but there was a pub just across the road. Mind you, back in those days, there was a pub across the road from everywhere in Richmond.

I blinked under the intense light and hesitated before crossing the broad street. Two of our squad’s female officers had followed me out of the church, closely followed by Helen Morgan.

“You ladies need to think carefully. Your absence will be noted. This assembly is a big deal. It’s a load of bollocks, but it’s a big deal in terms of ‘showing the flag’. Photographers, reporters, the whole nine yards. All the people who make decisions about your future are here. Do you want them to remember you walking out before it all began?”

There was silence.

“You stood up to him back there. You spoke up for Helen, not that it will do any good,” said Sharon Long, who had been in the squad for a little more than a year. Bright, blond and someone who can take care of herself without having to pull her gun.

Betty Green kissed Helen on the cheek and gave her a hug. “You know I love ya kid, don’t you? she said, “but I’ve got two kids, and I need this crazy job.” 

She gave us a smile, and we gave her a nod. She went back into the church.

The rest of us went across the road and ordered a beer, then we ordered another one. We sat in what was laughingly called the ‘beer garden’ and listened to the sound of hundreds of police officers giving thanks to God that a new financial year had begun and no one had discovered their transgressions.

“Things are going to change around here,” I said, surrounded by two strong women who could probably beat me in a fair fight.

But there’s the thing — I don’t fight fair. Actually, I do my best to avoid a fight, but as my father taught me, “if you cannot get out of it, dive in with everything you’ve got and don’t stop until your opponent cannot get up. Don’t guess — be sure he is done.” 

I sat there thinking about the career I thought I had and about the cricket bat in my car’s boot. 

Senior Constable Frank Morgan and I are going to have a little batting practice.