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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
It wasn’t what he said, it was the way he looked at me.
I was used to the office pinchers, groppers, and improper suggesters, but this was different.
It’s true that he was my boss, but that didn’t explain the casual indifference in his stare. I knew he was imagining having sex with me, but there was a coldness and a ‘matter of factness’ that chilled. His eyes seemed to say, “I can have you whenever I want to, but just for now, I’ve got better things to do.”
They found his body in the supply cupboard with a quill sticking out of his eye. Since I was the only girl in the office who still used a quill, suspicion instantly fell upon me.
Plenty of people saw him go into the cupboard, but no one saw anyone come out.
The quill was definitely mine but as I pointed out to Detective Sergeant Wilson, “Anyone could have taken it from my desk, it’s always on the desk. It’s not the sort of thing that you lock away.”
“Did you have any reason to kill your employer Miss James?”
I remember thinking that this was a strange question to ask. Would a person be expected to blurt out, “Yes, I did”? Were most murderers complete morons?
I thought it best to keep it simple. “No, I didn’t. Why do you ask?”
“Because it’s my job. A man has been murdered and it’s my job to catch the person who did it. Be that a him or a her.” I rather felt that the last part of this sentence was aimed at me.
“You say ‘or her’, but would a mere woman be capable of killing a grown man?”
“If she stuck a quill in his eye, she could.”
“And that would do it. Kill him, I mean?”
He looked at me, but he didn’t answer. The silence went on for several seconds.
“I have a lot of other people to question Miss James. Please be where I can find you.”
“You know where I live and you know where I work. I’m not going anywhere.”
I’d gone through his desk before the police arrived.
I found nothing unusual except for a small wooden box.
It wasn’t locked and it contained a brass key unlike any I had seen before. There were strange markings on the key but no numbers or any hint as to what it unlocked.
I left the box but slipped the key into my bra. A key shaped dent in my breast was a small price to pay for keeping the only clue to the true nature of this nasty dead man.
People in the office were shocked at his death, but few people were truly sad that he was dead.
I didn’t spend much time with the other women, but it was difficult to miss the conversations in the ‘powder room’. Not surprisingly, this nasty individual had been interfering with many of the female staff and those that he had not assaulted had been tortured by his stare.
The police eventually stopped coming around; stopped taking statements, and stopped giving a damn.
I got a new boss who was only slightly better than my dead one and life went on.
Detective Sergeant Wilson had one final parting shot.
“I know you killed him, Miss James, I just can’t prove it yet, but I will. Tell me; how did you manage to kill him in the manner that you did and not get any blood on your clothes. I searched the whole building and there were no other clothes you could have changed into?”
“I suppose that it is possible that the killer may have been naked at the time of the murder,” I said, without even a hint of a smile.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.
It wasn’t what he said, it was the way that he looked at me when he said it.
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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.