Detective Inspector Ellen Flay
have enjoyed chatting with Nigel the canteen ponce if she hadn’t been late for
work. Silly bugger wetting himself over John
Lennon’s thirty-fourth birthday, Flay thought. She reminded Nigel she was a
“McCartney singing about
dog,” she teased. “Where’s the anarchy?”
“Was about Jane Asher, darling,”
“But never sang ‘Jane
First thing she saw in the
station was Hedges and Blake abusing a black chap.
racism worse, or the misogyny? Flay wondered. Mention
the scar on my lip, Hedges: “Couldn’t fit some nig-nog’s great whacking thing
in there, Ellen?” One date with Doctor Sylvain de León, they can’t bear the thought. Sylvain tall and dark—yeah, dark like
that. Date him again just to get on their tits.
Chief Inspector Redmond crooked
his finger. Flay trailed after to his office.
“Want you heading up the
Too Bad investigation, Flay,” Redmond said with his back turned. “No loss if
Johnny doesn’t survive, but my concern’s the survival of peace and quiet on the
“Worried the blacks will
He didn’t answer.
“And if Storey and Rice
“Too Bad’s rubbish
find the officers weren’t at fault,” he said, turning and smiling thinly. “But
I need you to find that—someone the
“But just in case, sir,”
He turned away.
for me, sir?”
she’d joined the station her reluctant
partner had retired. Leaving an odd number of detectives, Flay the odd woman
sergeant said Storey and Rice were
temporarily reassigned to Islington.
be cleared,” he smirked.
ass wants an extra stool to catch the spill-over, Flay headed for 19F
David’s Lane. Time to get to know Johnny
as more than a stoned-out small-time marijuana dealer who’d unaccountably
assaulted two coppers massively bigger than himself. . . bollocks that no black
in Brixton will swallow.
enough for the car window down. Flay
heard the crowd a block away as she parked, howling for the two coppers’ blood.
Revolution brewing, she thought.
Bedroom: loads of
socks and knickers, only two changes of clothes. Launderette every day?
deodorants. No pubic hairs lying about.
nothing. Scrawny bloke like that
attacking a beef-fed pair of London’s Finest? Bloody likely.
the bedroom, shuffle the socks again. Polaroids!
What’s he been shagging? Could make a
vicar’s photo album, though: Mum and Dad, Johnny as a lad.
Schoolgirl: ginger hair and freckles,
white blouse, tartan skirt. Catholic, church’s name on the gate she’s posed by.
School would have the church’s name.
slipped the photo into her coat pocket.
Studying again the pictures of Mum and Dad and wee Johnny tasty as a chocolate
drop she thought Take that one.
again. Sniff the girlie deodorant, like the manly one better: Roger Moore, not
Connery. She rubbed some on. She put Roger in her pocket.
Sergeant Fatty, bugger actually helpful: Holy Cross School, the Chaucer
gardener outside, inside straightaway put
off by the smell. Stale, she thought,
like what they teach these poor buggers.
Coughlin,” said the owlish woman behind
the counter glancing at the picture of the ginger-haired freckled girl.
been in the family?” Flay said. “Looks
well loved, Mrs.—”
gran’s,” the woman smiled, fingering the
Celtic monstrosity at her collarbone and handing over a scrap of paper. “Call me
Olive. Two addresses, Twickenham one’s Dad.”
Olive. Got my gran’s brooch too but can’t
wear it, my line of work. What would male colleagues think, me decked out like
I know this about your work,” Olive
sighed. “Men thinking it’s all about being hard.”
wink shocked Flay.
at Miss Marple, don’t they, Detective
Inspector? Want Philip Marlowe.”
to pop out of bed knowing my partner’s
Humphrey Bogart and”—returning Olive’s wink—“that I might pop back in later.”
Alice Coughlin,” Flay said.
expelled. Marks good, but. . .”
looked around. She and Flay were alone.
funny?” Flay said in mock horror,
catching Olive’s eye to see if she’d caught the mockery.
Olive said reassuringly. “Best
they get it out of their system young.”
you did, Olive?” Flay smiled.
smiled cautiously back.
me about the blokes,” Flay said.
my head down. But you hear things. Heard
about an older chap, early twenties. Tallish, ginger hair.”
like Alice. Must have made a lovely
cleared her throat.
mum about plans after the expulsion?”
has a second house in the North.
Mentioned taking her there for a bit. Unhappy with us, saying school’s job’s
only to get her through A-levels.”
shook her head.
school the mum’s idea,” she said.
“Tepid Catholic. Grasping at straws, us the last hope. Alice is eighteen.”
last week. Like nails, though. Don’t
be fooled by that angel face.”
Flay smiled, “trouble between Mum and
Dad never good for the child.”
say there wasn’t sympathy for the girl,
but. . . the blokes they fancy. . .”
grans wouldn’t give them the time of day.”
chap I saw,” Olive said, again making
sure they were alone, “darky looked like the cat dragged in. Snogging with him
out front when I come in early one morning. Maybe Alice thought lick him all
over like a mother cat, get the dirt off that black skin and he’s a prize.”
pictured Johnny’s pristine flat.
Islington’s favorite lunch places for
coppers, Flay decided first on Maltbie’s, near Highbury’s Clock End.
Roger Moore needed. She parked, undid
her buttons for a rub.
let Maltbie’s door slam.
Inspector Flay,” she shouted,
“looking for Constable Storey and Constable Rice.”
here,” answered a dark-haired young man.
said the taller ginger-hair beside
Flay thought, but she disliked Storey. Ginger
hair lovely on Alice, not on him. Bland features, youth football coach sort, sort
you’d let your son stay with overnight after a tournament if the drive back’s
long. Unless you notice the cold pale eyes. The undressing-with-the-eyes look I
get less often now, then deciding I’m not worth it and shutting off the look.
if I’m worth it, you cold bastard.
about—” she said.
hit him hard,” Storey said in a voice
that went with his eyes. “But not the healthiest specimen. Drugs I reckon.”
she said on the sidewalk. “Cannabis
interacted with the tissue of his skull in such a way that your gentle tap was
able to fracture it?”
he wasn’t a big strapping bloke,”
Relegated to past tense already?”
want him to die,” Rice whimpered.
soft one, Rice? Flay thought.
downplay the unhealthy specimen bit,”
she said, “since then the exigency for deadly force fades away like the bloom
on a young girl’s cheek. Like on hers.”
didn’t react to Alice’s picture.
this was about the darky,” Storey
the darky was shagging,” Flay said. “Know
realized that their voices were audible to
the coppers inside Maltbie’s, who watched them through the restaurant’s big
way,” she said, leading them into an
the attraction young birds have to
black chaps,” she said.
They looked at their shoes.
“But understand why white chaps feel
“Threatened?” Storey said.
“More like animals. More physical, so more
sexual. But male animals not always gentle toward their females.”
“Male hippopotamus: three thousand pounds and
they mate in the water.”
“In the water?” Storey said.
“He’s on top coming at her doggy style, so her
head’s shoved under. And she’s not a bloody fish.”
“Mammal?” Storey said and, after some thought, “Must
“Male hippo lacks staying power, her saving
grace. Survival of the species. Can’t have Hippo Mum drown as she
Storey looked down.
where you find hippos?” she said.
country?” Storey said. “Africa.”
gets them hot and bothered,” she said. “Animals
and men both.”
looked squarely at Flay.
don’t know the bird in that picture,” he
a log of all your partner’s
acquaintances?” she smiled.
know her,” Rice said.
grinned. His cold pale eyes didn’t.
handed the family snapshot to Rice.
didn’t want him to die,” she said. “Was
somebody’s darling boy. Still is, put yourself in his mum’s shoes.”
Rice’s eyes cloudy.
“Just saw his mum,”
“Heard all about her boy.”
Storey said, not
sounding sorry. “But it’s self-preservation.”
“Wild man he was,”
wiping his snot away.
“Strength in him you didn’t
where it come from,” Storey said.
Flay returned the Polaroids to
“Wasting time,” she
said. “I can
find Alice Coughlin, ask whether you’re mates.”
“So what if we know Alice?”
snarled. “Protecting her. And her reputation.”
“Expelled from school for sexual indiscretions, never mind drugs. You knew that
and you knew Johnny was mixed up in it. Broke up your perfect little
“Don’t want him to
“Shut it, Rice,” Storey
“How you going to feel when
dies, Constable Rice?” Flay said. “Have to get it off your conscience, better
sooner than later. The less time it eats at you.”
“You fancy them,”
Flay turned toward him.
“Your rubbish about hippos
shagging,” he said. “Africa this, Africa that. All in your head, why it come
out so easy. Young birds fancy the black chaps? Know one Detective Inspector
old enough to be my mum who does.”
“Can have your badge for
insubordination, Constable Storey.”
He took a step toward her.
“Badge not what it used
way this country’s going, Detective Inspector. Too many like you, high and
mighty but mind’s in the gutter. Sick way you fancy them comes out like it or
not. Think you know me but I know you too.”
She smelled his sour breath.
“Fancy the black chaps less
seeing you burn,” she said.
They were almost touching.
“This personal, Detective
“Don’t think you are a person, Storey.”
Her tits brushed against him.
he said. “Wander
about on their own, do they?”
“Put my finger on a soft
So to speak?”
“I’ll claw your eyes
snarled. “I’ll toss your balls to the wolves if I don’t eat them myself. You
ginger down there too?”
“Sticking to our story,”
She’d forgotten Rice.
“We knew Johnny was giving
drugs,” he said, “knew he was shagging her. Course we gave him a talking-to, told
him to stop.”
She turned toward Rice.
he said. “Bloke
He’d run his fingers through
dark hair and made a cat’s breakfast of it. Smiling now, he patted it back in
Flay rang the bell of Michael
Coughlin’s lovely Georgian home and waited. Rang and waited more. Not a peep.
Door locked. The back? Good
neighborhood, no fences. Good day to sit beneath a tree.
Behind the house no one was sat
under a tree. Back door, she thought.
She would need to pass through
sort of cabana, accessible via an opening in the chest-high wall facing toward
the neighbors, half a football pitch away. She passed through the opening,
receiving a shock when she saw on her back, trusting too much in the provision made
for privacy, a naked girl extracting a hand from between her legs.
“Alice Coughlin?” Flay
thinking Pity Sylvain’s out
of town, that’ll stick in my mind alone in bed tonight. If I can
wait till tonight.
“Detective Inspector Ellen
of the Metropolitan Police,” Flay said with her back already turned.
“Lying out not good for
like yours,” she said, a mistake because it right off conjured the image of the
girl’s ivory flesh.
Green and white plaid bikini.
Flay in the eye. Shameless.
“At your age should
sit in the shade, Inspector. . .”
gone and at your age sit in the sodding shade, Flay thought.
Hiding her eyes behind oversized
sunglasses, Alice gestured toward facing lawn chairs.
“Here to discuss a misfortune suffered by a mate of yours, calls himself
‘Johnny Too Bad.’”
Alice crossed her legs.
“Assaulted a couple of police
officers, also mates of yours.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Officers are fine,”
“Mr. Too Bad didn’t leave a scratch.”
“I see. And how’s
Mr. Too Bad? Johnny.”
“Nice to hear you call him
his first name.”
Anger flared in Alice’s eyes.
cliché, but truly is
prettier when angry. Ginger hair brings out even more the flush in her cheeks. Chest
flushing too. Maybe all the way down to her titties, ivory flesh going all rosy
like her nipples?
Flay recognized the need to
focus on her inquiry.
“I get angry at work, the
laugh,” she said.
Alice seemed curious.
“Woman copper. What’s
“Spend loads of time plotting
revenge against blokes.”
“Revenge?” Alice said.
“Wore a wire to catch a
colleague on about shagging a slut. Played the recording for the missus, put
asunder what God had joined together.”
the telly, Flay thought. Good idea, though.
“Old hat for me,”
“Expelled from Catholic school younger than you for recording an old pervy
priest chatting me up.”
from the telly.
“You’re better off
Alice smiled, but not smiling said “You wired now?”
“Have a look,” Flay
undoing her top two buttons and fingering the third.
Alice’s eyes popped.
“You’re barking mad,”
“Point is what you’re
“What you mean?”
“Bit older than you,”
“All right, lot older. But a woman, so been through the same: blokes—pervy
priests, manky colleagues—thinking they know better.”
“Not sure what men are good
for,” Alice said. “Except, you know.”
“Up to us to train them.
Up to the
“You a mum?” Alice
“Not sure I want to be.
things wrong with the world.”
Alice swept her arm toward her
“How do I deserve this?”
“Father must have worked
Who would you give it to anyway? Somebody that didn’t work for it?”
Flay saw Alice’s eyes narrow
behind the dark glasses.
“What about them that work
but don’t get rewarded?” Alice said.
this going? Flay wondered.
“Mustn’t speak like
this to Pete
“Storey and Rice? Speak
“Mustn’t tell them
of the blacks isn’t right.”
Flay thought. Better lucky than good.
“How you know them?”
“Knew Teddy’s brother
at my last
school. Brother and Teddy both fancied me.”
“You went for Teddy. Bit
“Didn’t go for him,
but had a
motor and made good money.”
“Blokes do it to birds,
turnabout’s fair play.”
“Dangerous game, bloke figures
it out,” Flay said. “And worse once Johnny’s sniffing around you?”
“Try telling a bloke like
doesn’t own me,” Alice sighed. “Or try telling his scary ginger-haired mate.”
“Your fancy man Teddy Storey,”
Flay said, confused. “Or. . .”
“Teddy is Rice,” Alice
has dark hair. Storey is Pete.”
hell I’ve mixed up their names, Flay thought. And
not just their names.
“Sometimes when Teddy would
you,” she said, “Storey would be there too?”
“Not saying Pete didn’t
“Course not,” Flay
“—but like he was
time. Odd, those two: like Teddy was the apprentice and Pete the master.
Waiting to take over when the apprentice made a bollocks of it.”
Alice shook her head.
“He took Polaroids.”
“Teddy,” Alice laughed.
showed them to Pete.”
“How you know?”
“Ever know something without
knowing how you know?” Alice shrugged.
She stood up.
“Was a fool to let him,”
“You trusted him,”
soothingly. “Sometimes we trust the wrong people, but can’t do without trust
altogether. World would be unbearable.”
“Didn’t trust him
She went in the house. She came
back with a picture saying “Read the back too.”
Now able to distinguish between
dark-haired Teddy Rice and ginger-haired Pete Storey, Flay studied Rice with
knickers down in a state of arousal and Storey to the side with hands clapped
on his cheeks and face twisted in mock astonishment.
Back said “18th birthday
Alice so something nice for you. Teddy.”
Alice Coughlin went for a time
to the North of England with her father.
Chief Inspector Antony Redmond’s
job survived the violence that erupted after the announcement that there would
be no prosecution of Constable Teddy Rice or Constable Pete Storey. Four
Brixton residents died but The Revolution didn’t come to pass.
John Kamau Desmond AKA Johnny
Too Bad died from his injuries. Constables Rice and Storey resigned from the
Metropolitan Police, preserving themselves and the force from scandal.
Prosecutors determined that a jury would not deliver a conviction for the killing
of Mr. Desmond, given the latter’s unsavory character. Rice and Storey found
employment with a private security firm, earning salaries much in excess of
what the Metropolitan Police had paid.
Don Stoll has fiction
forthcoming in The Helix; Green Hills
The Main Street Rag; Sarasvati; Between These Shores (twice); Down
in the Dirt; and Children, Churches and
Daddies. His stories have appeared recently in Eclectica (tinyurl.com/y73wnmgq) and Erotic Review (twice: tinyurl.com/y8nkc73z and tinyurl.com/y36zcvut). In
2008, Don and his wife founded their nonprofit (karimufoundation.org)
to bring new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women's and
children's health to three contiguous Tanzanian villages.