|Aldrich, Janet M.
|Allan, T. N.
|Allen, M. G.
|Ammonds, Phillip J.
|Augustyn, P. K.
|Aymar, E. A.
|Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
|Bennett, D. V.
|Bernardara, Will Jr.
|Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
|Boyd, A. V.
|Brown, R. Thomas
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Butler, Simon Hardy
|Cameron, W. B.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Campbell, Jack Jr.
|Cooper, Malcolm Graham
|Cosby, S. A.
|Danoski, Joseph V.
|Davis, Michael D.
|de Bruler, Connor
|De France, Steve
|De La Garza, Lela Marie
|Deming, Ruth Z.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dennehy, John W.
|Di Chellis, Peter
|Drake, Lena Judith
|Dromey, John H.
|Dubal, Paul Michael
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Dunn, Robin Wyatt
|Fisher, Miles Ryan
|Flanagan, Daniel N.
|Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
|Funk, Matthew C.
|Gardner, Cheryl Ann
|Garvey, Kevin Z.
|Gay, Sharon Frame
|Goddard, L. B.
|Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
|Gurney, Kenneth P.
|Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
|Hayes, A. J.
|Hayes, Peter W. J.
|Hockey, Matthew J.
|Hogan, Andrew J.
|Hoy, J. L.
|Huffman, A. J.
|Huguenin, Timothy G.
|Huskey, Jason L.
|Irascible, Dr. I. M.
|Jaggers, J. David
|Jones, D. S.
|Jones, Erin J.
|Kaplan, Barry Jay
|Keaton, David James
|Kevlock, Mark Joseph
|King, Michelle Ann
|Krafft, E. K.
|Lacks, Lee Todd
|La Rosa, F. Michael
|Lerner, Steven M
|Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
|Liskey, Tom Darin
|Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|McFarlane, Adam Beau
|Mooney, Christopher P.
|Moran, Jacqueline M.
|Morgan, Bill W.
|Moss, David Harry
|Muslim, Kristine Ong
|Neuda, M. C.
|Ogurek, Douglas J.
|Perez, Juan M.
|Perez, Robert Aguon
|Powers, M. P.
|Purfield, M. E.
|Quinlan, Joseph R.
|reutter, g emil
|Rhiel, Ann Marie
|Richey, John Lunar
|Robinson, John D.
|Rodgers, K. M.
|Sayles, Betty J.
|Schraeder, E. F.
|Seymour, J. E.
|Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
|Sheagren, Gerald E.
|Shirey, D. L.
|Shore, Donald D.
|Simmler, T. Maxim
|Sinisi, J. J.
|Small, Alan Edward
|Smith, Brian J.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Solender, Michael J.
|Stanton, Henry G.
|Stewart, Michael S.
|Stryker, Joseph H.
|Swartz, Justin A.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Thompson, John L.
|Valent, Raymond A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|White, Judy Friedman
|Art by Darren Blanch © 2019
by Don Stoll
Inspector Ellen Flay would 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 Stones girl.
singing about his dog,” she teased. “Where’s the anarchy?”
“Was about Jane Asher, darling,”
“But never sang ‘Jane
My Dear,’ did he?”
First thing she
saw in the station was Hedges and Blake abusing a black chap.
Their 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
Chief Inspector Redmond crooked
his finger. Flay trailed after to his office.
heading up the Johnny 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 streets.”
the blacks will riot, Chief Inspector?”
“And if Storey and Rice
were at fault?”
rubbish and you’ll find the officers weren’t at fault,”
he said, turning and smiling thinly. “But I need you
to find that—someone the blacks trust.”
just in case, sir,” she said.
for me, sir?”
she’d joined the station her reluctant partner had retired. Leaving an odd number of detectives,
Flay the odd woman out.
Desk sergeant said Storey and Rice were
temporarily reassigned to Islington.
“They’ll 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?
Loo: two deodorants.
No pubic hairs lying about.
Kitchen: nothing. Scrawny bloke like that attacking a beef-fed pair of London’s Finest? Bloody likely.
Back to 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.
Hello! 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.
She 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.
Loo again. Sniff the girlie deodorant, like the manly one better:
Roger Moore, not Connery. She rubbed some on. She put Roger in her pocket.
Call Sergeant Fatty, bugger actually helpful: Holy Cross
School, the Chaucer Road.
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
“Brooch 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.”
“Ta, 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 my gran?”
“Bet I know this about your work,” Olive
sighed. “Men thinking it’s all about being hard.”
Her wink shocked Flay.
“Snicker at Miss Marple, don’t they, Detective
Inspector? Want Philip Marlowe.”
“Easier 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.
“Just expelled. Marks good, but. . .”
Olive looked around. She and Flay were alone.
“She 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.”
“Like you did, Olive?” Flay smiled.
Olive smiled cautiously back.
“Tell me about the blokes,” Flay said.
“Keep my head down. But you hear things. Heard
about an older chap, early twenties. Tallish, ginger hair.”
“Ginger like Alice. Must have made a lovely
cleared her throat.
“Family 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.”
Olive shook her head.
“Catholic school the mum’s idea,” she
said. “Tepid Catholic. Grasping at straws, us the last hope. Alice is eighteen.”
“Eighteen?” Flay said.
“Birthday 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.”
“Don’t say there wasn’t sympathy for the
girl, but. . . the blokes they fancy. . .”
grans wouldn’t give them the time of day.”
“Only 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.”
Flay pictured Johnny’s pristine flat.
Of Islington’s favorite lunch places for
coppers, Flay decided first on Maltbie’s, near Highbury’s Clock End.
Extra Roger Moore needed. She parked, undid
her buttons for a rub.
let Maltbie’s door slam.
“Detective Inspector Flay,” she shouted,
“looking for Constable Storey and Constable Rice.”
“Rice here,” answered a dark-haired young man.
“Storey,” said the taller ginger-hair beside
Rice dishy, 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. Ask Sylvain if I’m worth it,
you cold bastard.
“Here about—” she said.
“Didn’t hit him hard,” Storey said in
a voice that went with his eyes. “But not the healthiest specimen. Drugs I reckon.”
“Outside,” Flay said.
“Drugs,” 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
“Meant he wasn’t a big strapping bloke,”
Relegated to past tense already?”
“Don’t want him to die,” Rice whimpered.
You the soft one,
Rice? Flay thought.
“Should 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.”
They didn’t react to Alice’s picture.
“Thought this was about the darky,” Storey
“Bird the darky was shagging,” Flay said. “Know
She realized that
their voices were audible to the coppers inside Maltbie’s, who watched them through the restaurant’s
big front windows.
“This way,” she said, leading them into an
“Funny 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?”
“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 conceives.”
Storey looked down.
“And where you find hippos?” she said.
“What country?” Storey said. “Africa.”
“Heat gets them hot and bothered,” she said.
“Animals and men both.”
looked squarely at Flay.
“We don’t know the bird in that picture,” he
“Keep a log of all your partner’s acquaintances?”
know her,” Rice said.
Storey grinned. His cold pale eyes didn’t.
She handed the family snapshot to Rice.
“You 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.
his mum,” she said. “Heard all about her boy.”
sorry,” Storey said, not sounding sorry. “But it’s
man he was,” Rice added, wiping his snot away.
in him you didn’t know where it come from,” Storey said.
returned the Polaroids to her pocket.
time,” she said. “I can find Alice Coughlin, ask whether you’re
what if we know Alice?” Storey snarled. “Protecting her.
And her reputation.”
Flay said. “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 ginger-haired couple.”
clueless,” Storey laughed.
want him to die,” Rice said.
it, Rice,” Storey said.
you going to feel when he dies, Constable Rice?” Flay said. “Have
to get it off your conscience, better sooner than later. The less time it eats at you.”
fancy them,” Storey said.
Flay turned toward
“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
“Can have your badge for
insubordination, Constable Storey.”
He took a step
not what it used to be, 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.”
smelled his sour breath.
the black chaps less than seeing you burn,” she said.
were almost touching.
“This personal, Detective
“Don’t think you are a person, Storey.”
tits brushed against him.
gone,” he said. “Wander about on their own, do they?”
“Put my finger on a soft
spot? So to speak?”
“I’ll claw your eyes
out,” she snarled. “I’ll toss your balls to the wolves if I don’t eat them
myself. You ginger down there too?”
to our story,” Rice said.
“We knew Johnny was giving
Alice drugs,” he said, “knew he was shagging her. Course we gave him a talking-to, told
him to stop.”
She turned toward Rice.
listen,” he said. “Bloke attacked us.”
run his fingers through his dark hair and made a cat’s breakfast
of it. Smiling now, he patted it back in place.
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 a
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
Flay stammered, thinking Pity
of town, that’ll stick in my mind alone in bed tonight. If I can
wait till tonight.
“Detective Inspector Ellen
Flay of the Metropolitan Police,” Flay said with her back already turned.
out not good for skin like yours,” she said, a mistake because it
right off conjured the image of the girl’s ivory flesh.
decent,” Alice said.
Green and white
plaid bikini. Looking Flay in the eye. Shameless.
“At your age should sit in the shade, Inspector. . .”
Elasticity gone and at your age sit in the sodding shade, Flay thought.
her eyes behind oversized sunglasses, Alice gestured toward facing lawn chairs.
Inspector,” Flay said. “Here to discuss a misfortune suffered
by a mate of yours, calls himself ‘Johnny Too Bad.’”
crossed her legs.
“Assaulted a couple of police
officers, also mates of yours.”
he do that?” Alice said.
are fine,” Flay said. “Mr. Too Bad didn’t leave a
“I see. And how’s
Mr. Too Bad? Johnny.”
“Nice to hear you
call him by his first name.”
Anger flared in Alice’s eyes. Flay thought: Chauvinist 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?
recognized the need to focus on her inquiry.
get angry at work, the blokes laugh,” she said.
“Woman copper. What’s
“Spend loads of time plotting revenge against blokes.”
“Wore a wire to catch a
colleague on about shagging a slut. Played the recording for the missus, put asunder what God had
the telly, Flay thought. Good idea, though.
hat for me,” she continued. “Expelled from Catholic school
younger than you for recording an old pervy priest chatting me up.”
Also from the telly.
better off expelled,” Alice smiled, but not smiling said “You
a look,” Flay said, undoing her top two buttons and fingering the
Alice’s eyes popped.
“You’re barking mad,”
“Point is what you’re
“What you mean?”
older than you,” Flay said. “All right, lot older. But a
woman, so been through the same: blokes—pervy priests, manky colleagues—thinking they
what men are good for,” Alice said. “Except, you know.”
to us to train them. Up to the mums.”
a mum?” Alice said, looking surprised.
“Not sure I want to be.
So many things wrong with the world.”
Alice swept her
arm toward her father’s house.
I deserve this?” she said.
must have worked hard. Who would you give it to anyway? Somebody that
didn’t work for it?”
Flay saw Alice’s eyes
narrow behind the dark glasses.
them that work hard but don’t get rewarded?” Alice said.
Where’s this going? Flay wondered.
speak like this to Pete and Teddy.”
and Rice? Speak like what?”
“Mustn’t tell them
the treatment of the blacks isn’t right.”
Fuck me, Flay thought. Better lucky than good.
“How you know them?”
“Knew Teddy’s brother
at my last school. Brother and Teddy both fancied me.”
went for Teddy. Bit old, isn’t he?”
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?”
a bloke like Teddy he doesn’t own me,” Alice sighed. “Or
try telling his scary ginger-haired mate.”
man Teddy Storey,” Flay said, confused. “Or. . .”
is Rice,” Alice said. “He has dark hair. Storey is Pete.”
Bloody hell I’ve mixed up their names, Flay thought. And not just their names.
“Sometimes when Teddy
would see you,” she said, “Storey would be there too?”
saying Pete didn’t fancy me—”
not,” Flay smiled.
like he was biding his 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.
Alice laughed. “But he showed them to Pete.”
“Ever know something without
knowing how you know?” Alice shrugged.
She stood up.
a fool to let him,” she said.
trusted him,” Flay said soothingly. “Sometimes we trust the
wrong people, but can’t do without trust altogether. World would be unbearable.”
trust him that much.”
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
coming Alice so something nice for you. Teddy.”
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.
by Don Stoll
Inspector Charlie Blake thought that if Detective Inspector Ellen Flay kept acting like
a fucking cow then he’d happily lead her to slaughter.
Bloody cheek Flay had recording Hedgie on
about shagging that tart, Blake thought. Playing
it for the missus, ruining Hedgie’s marriage. Hedgie pissing it up then, useless
on the job, transferred out. Flay strutting through the station tits high, on about her
black witch doctor. Like to put a blade to that pretty throat, other hand squeezing her
straw, Flay thought, was the morning that black
chap was arrested on suspicion of being the Brixton Rapist. Racist twats Hedges and Blake
dragging the poor sod up to me, arms pinned. Hedges yanking down his trousers and—‘ello!—no
knickers. Eying me like they’d won the pools.
gorillas had teeny ones,” Hedges said.
They’d forgotten the black chap’s arms.
He reached for his trousers but Blake grabbed an arm and wrenched it behind his back.
“That scar of yours,”
Hedges said. “Your black French doctor have one this big? Use his scalpel to enlarge
your mouth, try to get his thing in?”
Sylvain de León,” Blake said. “Black French witch doctor.
Blake with that grin on his fat porridgey
face looking like Benny Hill, Flay thought.
“Ivory Coast,” Hedges
said. “Do cures with elephants’
tusks? His thing big
like an elephant’s tusk?”
“This bloke an actual suspect?” Flay said.
“Or just the first black chap you happened to see after you woke up?”
Similar height and build to Sylvain, Flay thought. Same ebony coloring. Bloody bigger down there.
Hedges said. “Hang him by that great whacking thing, he’ll confess to killing
Kennedy. Caught him pissing in an alley with that thing hanging out, thought Got to show
Flay, let her compare him to her black witch doctor.”
the moment when Detective Inspector Ivor Hedges situated
himself squarely between Flay’s crosshairs.
Christmas Eve. The Provisional
IRA’s bombing campaign commencing eighty-two days previously in Guildford had two
days before nearly taken the life of former Prime Minister Edward Heath, conveying to the
pessimistically inclined the sense that the country was falling apart. The blackness of
the wee hours of the morning heralded another grim gray day through the bedroom window
of Doctor Sylvain de León’s Twickenham
flat round the corner from his cosmetic surgery practice. Ellen Flay sprang out of bed
to answer her fiancé’s phone.
Eve, Ellen! There’s other D.I.’s.”
makes Sylvain feel like an insider, Flay thought.
In the front room hitting her shin on something,
she switched on the light stark naked thinking Sod the open curtains, let
anyone who’s lucky enough have an eyeful.
to call so early, Flay.”
Redmond apologizing. Mark it on the calendar.
“Need you,” he said.
Got Sylvain, she wanted to shoot back. But Redmond
not one to joke with.
“Know Killarney Street, Flay?
The Red Lion? Where the soldier was stabbed.”
part of Brixton. Favorite place for Hedges and Blake
to bust heads.”
Silence on Redmond’s end, Flay
thought. Crossed a line?
“Not another bombing,
“Could see that. Great for
soldiers with a taste for exotic amusements.”
Exotic meaning black, Flay thought.
Her intention upon returning to the bedroom was
to dress for work but her fiancé had not reconciled himself to the wreckage
of his holiday.
“Five minutes,” Sylvain said.
“That a no?”
Flay caught Elton John’s
cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” on two different stations as she drove.
Life’s not completely buggered, she
thought. Not with blokes like Lennon and now this
chap pinning diamonds in the sky.
Chief Inspector Antony Redmond
was waiting for her not at The Red Lion but across Killarney Street in front of a squat
ugly building, not alone.
smell like sex, Ellen,” nodded Charlie Blake through
a smile, its insincerity illuminated by a streetlight whose effective functioning surprised
“And you don’t,” Flay said. “Boyfriend
cow, Blake thought.
“Need you two to put it aside,” Redmond
said. “Third floor. Walk up give you time to prepare.”
lift?” Blake said.
a folding chair from your car, Flay?” Redmond
said. “Give Blake a sit-down on the landings, catch his breath?”
Redmond stopped. Flay could see he didn’t
want to say what he had to say.
“Not good at being
human”—finally admitted it himself, Flay
thought—“but. . . bloody hell, it’s Hedges.”
Chief Inspector going to cry? Flay wondered
what to do. She looked at Blake’s frozen face and wondered again. Suddenly these hard blokes who never wanted me in the station though Redmond has
come to respect my work with little-boy faces wet with tears and snot. Flay thought
If I tried that, might as well say I can’t
work because of cramps.
But she said “Sorry, Charlie.”
She touched his arm.
Like a tennis player flailing at a shot to his backhand that he might just get his racket
on he repelled it.
wanted him dead,” he hissed. “Bit of taking
the piss but you couldn’t take it. Innocent fun and now he’s dead, so don’t
pretend you ain’t happy.”
Flay recalled Hedges’
constant obscene suggestions about the scar on her upper lip.
“Always on about a bloke’s”—she glanced
at the Chief Inspector—“about one stuck in my mouth, me needing to make it
bigger. That’s innocent?”
“How did you get that scar, Flay?” Redmond said distractedly.
“Told you it was a drunken
boyfriend,” she said thinking Fucking hell Redmond stay
focused, Charlie’s scaring me.
was all,” Blake said. “Hedgie had a wife,
so couldn’t ask you out, but his way of saying you was all right.”
keep him from shagging that tart?”
Suddenly Blake was shaking her, sour breath in
her face and screaming “Fucking cow!” Then Redmond was between them. Blake
released her arms.
Redmond’s hat knocked off.
Kojak look suits him, Flay thought.
“Number Eighteen, Flay,”
he snapped. “I’ll bring Charlie up. Need you both.”
Flay adjusted her clothes and smoothed her hair.
Breathing heavily, Blake hitched his trousers up over his stomach.
“Blake and me a team?” she said.
objectivity, Charlie’s motivation,” Redmond
said, no humanity in his face.
“Not like you to overreact,
Flay, so proud of your cool head.”
voice was icy.
of the moment.”
“Bloody hell,” Flay
said, going inside.
the lift, but Redmond had been right: out of order.
The walk up not breathing through her nose because
of the stink of piss gave her time to think about working with Blake. Stay on my guard, not think hard about the case but let him take the lead. And
make sure he doesn’t kill the first black he suspects.
She nodded at the constable outside Number Eighteen.
He looked away. Flay thought Like I’m his mum.
hell. Borrow your gloves?”
he said, offering her an excuse but not looking in her eyes.
She pulled on the oversized gloves and opened
The corpse of Ivor Hedges was sunk
into the ragged sofa. Flay experienced a satisfaction she knew she couldn’t show.
The head, blood having streamed out of both sides, rested against the wall behind
like he’d nodded off watching football. Sofa facing the telly. Note on the low table
his legs were stretched beneath, but Flay saw why Redmond didn’t think suicide. Two
words—“I’m sorry”—and not even a period. Why
type two words except to disguise the handwriting? Plus Hedges would have known that the
trick to steady a hand that might pull away last second is barrel in the mouth with lips
clamped round it. Lips clamped round it like round something else, Flay thought, remembering
Hedges’ innocent fun and thinking Dance on
your grave now.
distracted from this thought that she knew would do
her no good by the shop talk of the forensics blokes. Here
fast, no one pulling them back into bed for a shag. She peeked into the hallway. Tom about his business in the bedroom, Dick in the
estimate of time of death?”
rough so far, Ellen,” said Dick.
Why would a bloke call himself Dick?
“Full rigor not attained
yet,” Tom added. “But takes longer at this temperature. Can’t afford
to run the heat, looks like.”
“Tart lives here,”
Dick said. “Half-six now, so might have an alibi if she was across the way pissing
it up before work.”
and miserable bloody sunrise ninety minutes away, Flay thought. Be like spring
in the Azores then.
Tom and Dick in the hallway.
“Doing my job now?” she said sternly.
Dick’s face fell.
he’s called Dick,” Tom said.
the piss, Richard,” she smiled.
to the front door.
“Who found him?” she
“Tenant, down the hall with
her mate in Twenty-three,” the young constable said in a normal voice and then, quietly,
all night,” he smirked. “And smells like
it. Acting broken up. Knew him.”
alibi, Flay thought. That kind of work travels,
and just try finding the blokes afterward.
him?” she said.
another idea about the shooting.
of yours too?” he grinned but Flay looked at him and the grin vanished.
Hedges’ revenge? Flay thought.
Like it was the tart’s fault he’d told
her “Won’t run you in you do me.” Tart’s fault I taped him on about
doing her? Course he’d take revenge on a poor black tart scraping out a living providing
a necessary service. Poor, black, and a tart: good enough reasons for Hedges. He’d
faked someone doing a poor job of faking his suicide so whoever investigated would think
Then Flay thought Worked too
long in this slime. Coppers often worse than the criminals, now I’ve turned into
the slime. Twisted thoughts come easy.
thought Doesn’t mean the slime’s not the slime, means maybe time to get
out. Marry Sylvain, this time get through the engagement
with no cock-up, quit the force, shop and play tennis. Last only so long doing that, bored
to tears. But last a while and think of something else, just bloody get out of the force.
And maybe last a bit longer shopping and playing tennis if Sylvain moves the cosmetic surgery practice to Los Angeles like he’s
talked about. Novelty of getting to know the place, take longer to get bored.
Move to Los Angeles, Flay
thought, maybe have him give me the perfect
tits I’ve joked about, not altogether joking. Required to prove local residence there,
stuck at the back of the queue at the meat counter if you’re not loaded with both
barrels pointed at the butcher’s face. Sorry luv, see you’re from out of town
so got to serve these five local ladies ahead of you. Except do they have meat counters
in the States? All pre-packaged, no worries about the meat counter but easily identifiable
as a tourist looking for Cary Grant’s house.
also thought Not murder but that vengeful racist woman-hater wanted it thought so and if Blake doesn’t make Mandy pay
he’ll see another black does.
of the devil.
my apology Ellen?” said Blake with a smile plastered on his porridgey face.
“I understand, Charlie,” she said just
play a different game, she thought: play soft,
put him off guard. Game he thinks he can play, she thought, also thinking But I’ll play it better.
Redmond right behind, not fooled by either of
them but looking like he wanted to fool them into thinking he was fooled. Oh what a tangled bloody web, Flay thought.
“Not suicide,” Redmond
“Course not,” Blake
said, glancing at the note after glancing at the corpse of his former partner, weeping
no more now, instead trying to convince Flay and Redmond that he was a man so he could
handle this. “Murder made to look like one. And poor job of it.”
“Suspects,” Redmond said. “First
“Usual for Charlie,”
Flay said. “Whole population of Brixton with extra pigmentation. Years to interview
with Hedges’ tart,” Redmond sighed. “You
take her, Flay.”
She thought He knows Blake
can’t be objective but then why assign him? So I’ll keep an eye on him? He
finally figure out Hedges and Blake terrorized these poor blacks, that why he moved Hedges?
Blake on his way out too? Not soon enough.
“You start knocking on the other doors,”
Redmond said. “Delicately.”
middle name, sir,” Blake grinned.
sat facing Flay in the middle of a careworn sofa.
“Watches your little boy while you’re
working?” Flay said nodding toward the large woman making tea in the kitchen, not
as dark as Mandy.
hear anything,” Mandy said.
carved out of some precious polished gem, Flay thought, stirred by the young woman’s
beauty and reminded of occasional intriguing experiments at college, but never with anyone
quite this pretty. Easy to see why Hedges fancied her.
Tarts for a copper’s taking all the time but I listened for my chance
to catch Hedges out and Mandy was the first.
“No sugar,” Flay said
to the large woman, thinking East Indian. Effing
Black Hole of Calcutta so bad they’d rather come here for abuse by the likes of
Hedges and Blake?
“Sorry,” Mandy said.
“Your job to ask her.”
have happened last night when the pub across the way
was jumping,” Flay said. “Gun had a silencer, doesn’t really silence
but can change the noise when there’s loads going on in the area.”
Mandy looked at her curiously.
“Sound like a car
backfiring, something heavy falling, whatever,” Flay said.
“If it was last
night she could have been asleep with my son,” Mandy said, looking toward the kitchen.
“Reads to him and they nod off together. But the other tenants. . .”
“My partner’s got them.”
partner. You the new Ivor?”
“What you think
of him?” she said.
Mandy hesitated longer.
you think of him?”
his job,” Flay shrugged.
“That what you call it?”
“What time you start working
last night, Mandy?”
Dick the forensics
bloke was right: at The Red Lion pissing it up before starting work until late.
“How late?” Flay said.
“Think well after. Holiday season.”
see you there?”
neighborhood,” Mandy laughed.
of death rough so far, Flay thought, but Dick
the forensics bloke might be right and poor tart Mandy polished like some precious black
gem might be in the clear. Make sure Blake understands, stay with her for when he comes
Which he did sooner than Flay had expected and
not in the mood she’d expected. Not fury and hunger for revenge
but grief, Flay thought. Defeat, barely a nod at his late partner’s
tart. Just a halfway-civil explanation that she needs to wait at her mate’s till
forensics can finish, clear the body out of the way.
Flay whispered after they’d left the tart with her mate.
“Too early,” he said not whispering. “Sleeping
the sleep of the innocent whether they are or not, or else saying they didn’t or
couldn’t of heard a thing, all beating their tom-toms across the way half the night.
Holiday season and all.”
half-seven. Give them time to wake up?”
Blake smiled a sad little smile.
something in the car for a Christmas Eve morning.”
Keep your guard up, Flay thought. But his grief seems real. Got to be human.
“Hedgie’s Black Label,” he said. “Left
it behind. Constant companion after. . .”
Flay thought After Yours Truly destroyed his life.
“One or two, Ellen. Then
back to work.”
“Charlie. . .”
already capitulated by calling him Charlie. But got to be human, she thought. And
how else kill a bit more time? Charlie might have two or three, but I’ll stop at
immediate warming of Flay’s insides by the remnant
of the dead man’s bottle of Johnnie Walker conspired with her recognition that it
was after all but a remnant to persuade her to think Let’s
have a couple, finish it with the poor grieving twat.
Charlie—he was poor Charlie now—had three
or four. Flay lost count.
Blake and Flay went back inside
the squat ugly building where even Blake now thought, without prompting by Flay, Hedgie may have offed himself but faked someone
doing a poor job of faking him offing himself so that whoever investigates thinks murder.
still pointless, Flay thought. Rousted one
or two. Others still sleeping the sleep of the innocent whether they are or not, even Charlie
Blake not up for banging on doors. Not on Christmas Eve morning with the whisky mellowing
him from his insides out and him feeling grief not anger.
At nine Blake said “Red Lion, Ellen? Maybe
someone there who was working last night, finally give us some help?”
“Be tripping over themselves to help, Charlie,”
Crossing the street she said “No
more whisky, Charlie.”
right, mum,” he sighed.
he’s mulatto,” Blake mumbled when he saw
the owner behind the bar.
Flay looked at Blake.
“Thinks he’s white,”
“Staff coming in at ten was
here till late,” smiled the proprietor of The Red Lion. “Put them to work cleaning
Blake and Flay followed his gaze
as it surveyed the wreckage of the previous night.
me and the whisky company till then?” the proprietor
“Or taste of the islands?”
“You didn’t say no rum,” Blake said, looking
Just like that three shots of Captain
Morgan in three glasses.
“Bloody hell,” Flay
“Sorry about your mate,”
the proprietor said.
“Another on the house in
his honor,” the proprietor said.
“Should start the cleanup.
One more on the house then you pay.”
it now so we can sit?” Blake said.
“Course,” the proprietor said.
“Table in the corner, Helen?”
call me Helen?”
“Don’t think so. Know
she said, walking loose-limbed toward the corner.
Blake stopped she bumped into him.
you meant the other table,” she said.
“Can keep your hand there.”
was on Blake’s arm.
ran you down,” she said.
but he doesn’t seem disgusting, Flay thought. Seems soft and pitiful.
“My pleasure,” he said, thinking Could
seem full of herself, he thought. Seems like
“Any time,” he added.
They sat down.
“Thinking about Hedgie,”
She leaned toward him.
have done himself, made it look like murder,”
She nodded expressively.
“Like him to find one last
way to give the black bastards grief,” he grinned.
wrenched violently to her left to avoid spewing on the
Blake watched the contents of her
stomach spill out.
“My fault,” someone
She wondered how the owner could
be there right away with a mop.
smell of the bleach nauseated her. She spewed onto the mop.
“There, there, luv,” she heard Blake
his hand pat and stroke her back and feel for her bra
“Get off,” she said
Blake removed his hand.
best mate, bleach,” the owner said. “You not the first or the last, luv.”
have to be like that,” Blake said. “Didn’t
She turned around to ask what “like
that” meant but he was headed out.
bloody did mean something” she said, and he said, “Fucking cow.”
the owner said, and she said “Ta” and he said, “This’ll make you
bitter smell nauseated her, so she said, “Back
to work” and up and left.
first thing Flay saw when she stumbled into the grim gray morning was Charlie Blake’s
broken body in the middle of Killarney Street.
Ellen Flay resented her brief
suspension from the Metropolitan Police for drunkenness during official hours, during which
certain male colleagues had often been drunk. But her resentment was mitigated by the satisfaction
of knowing she hadn’t been drunk enough to walk in front of a lorry.
Her return to duty was also brief due to Doctor
Sylvain de León’s decision to move his much-in-demand cosmetic surgery practice to Los Angeles sooner rather than later.
“Just resign and thumb your nose at those bastards who blame you for Hedges
and Blake,” he said, and she thought that was a fine idea.
about the investigation of the death of Ivor Hedges,
which she’d been removed from. She said she didn’t bloody care, which was true.
by Don Stoll
Detective Inspector Ellen Flay reckoned that
she enjoyed the taste of roast goose, Yorkshire pudding, and pigs in blankets as much as
anyone. But the words “Christmas dinner”
awakened her own Ghost of Christmas Past.
That Christmas when she was only seventeen, she’d
told Ralph she loved him even though she didn’t. Realizing that even though she didn’t
love this boy the choice of what and whom to love was hers and not Mum and Dad’s
imparted a certain strength, which in turn imparted a certain determination. Course,
strength and determination can be misused by a young girl who hasn’t yet got her
head screwed on straight.
run off with Ralph, but on the bus they counted their money and saw that from Leeds they’d
have to thumb it.
of thumbed it from York,” he said. “Left
us more for a bite to eat.”
“And if we didn’t
catch a lift straight off? If one of me dad’s mates saw us? Make everything right
in London, anyroad.”
sure we belong down South, Ralph thought. But you couldn’t argue with Ellen once
she’d decided that it couldn’t get any worse than Mass every Sunday and school
with the nuns and Mum yapping at her about nothing and Dad having nothing to say except
to tell her to listen to her Mum.
“Could of waited
till after Christmas to run off,”
Ralph said. “Make for a hard Christmas
for me Mum and Dad. And yours.”
our Christmas gift to ourselves, Ralphie.
Grab some kip and remember that when you wake
Can’t argue with her, he thought.
Best do what she says, grab some kip.
“Not a sodding brolly between us,” Ellen
said as they got off at the Leeds station.
their faces onto their chests against the drizzle, they made their way to a spot that looked
right for getting a lift.
“Be easy, it not
dark yet,” she said. “Our young beautiful faces illuminated by the legendary
Ralph wished she would shut it.
won’t be able to resist,” she laughed. “First
priest drives by. . .”
“That’s not funny.”
A car stopped. The window came
down. A man in a tie studied them. To Ellen
and Ralph he looked like a businessman, despite the sleeves too long for his
“Need a lift?”
he said with a heavy working-class
Ellen and Ralph admired the car: black Vauxhall 14-6 saloon car, pre-war. Ellen smiled and said “Look like Frank Sinatra” because the pomade in the
man’s dark hair hadn’t prevented a lock from tumbling onto his forehead. He
pushed the stray lock aside to show the small ugly
scar beneath his hairline.
“Still look like
Sinatra?” he said. “But didn’t have to fight the Jerries, did he?”
I heard. Yanks’ army wouldn’t have him.”
“You believe that, lass?” he said. “Sings like
that, got bad hearing?”
Ellen and Ralph climbed in back. Tobacco stink, cheap-rum smell
of pomade. Cold.
“Heat not working?”
The man drove in silence.
“Meat pie here you’re welcome too,” he
finally said. “Took one bite.”
The man handed Ralph something wrapped
in a paper napkin.
“Tuck in,” he said.
Ralph unwrapped it.
“Oniony,” Ellen said quietly.
“No thank you,” Ralph said.
“Valentine’s Day two months off,” the man said.
“Can’t let him eat onions till then?”
“Always Valentine’s Day for us,” she said
“Won’t press you
about what that means,” he said, his voice changing slightly. “But young enough
anyroad, reckon you got the stamina.”
Ellen pressed her knee against Ralph’s.
“Mum and Dad
know he’s your Valentine?” the man said. “That why you run off?”
They felt his eyes in the rearview study their dark silhouettes.
“Fancies Frank Sinatra she does, lad,” the
man said to Ralph. “So maybe sing to her for Valentine’s Day. ‘All or Nothing at All.’”
“Out of date you are,” Ellen laughed. “Not heard
him do ‘How Deep Is the Ocean?’”
The man drove
“You Catholic, luv?”
Ellen tucked the tiny crucifix
hanging outside her jumper inside its V-neck.
“Habit,” she said.
“Were Catholic, but lost your faith? Pity.
Cruel world. Need faith to get you through.”
pity,” she said in a tone suggesting the conversation
Ralph examined the dashboard.
From a spot where there might have been a cigarette lighter dangled a wide-mouthed flexible
hose, the length of Ralph’s hand. It reminded him of the gas masks used during the
First World War. He tried to suss out what it could be. He tapped Ellen’s knee to
get her attention. She’d dozed off. He’d stopped trying to make sense of it by
the time she woke up.
“Got a name?” she said.
The man answered impassively.
“Spencer is it?” she said. “First or
“That’s right, lass.”
Ellen and Ralph stared
out the windows.
Spencer said after he’d driven many more miles. “Skint, are you?”
Ralph answered vaguely.
“Buy you a meal, next
town?” Spencer said. “Sort of a Christmas dinner, don’t know you’ll
get a real one.”
She noticed the hose hanging
from the dashboard. She tapped Ralph’s knee in the same way he’d tapped hers
earlier. He shrugged.
into a country lane. Darkness had settled upon the land
while Ellen slept.
“You lost, Spencer?” she said.
He took a hand off the wheel and held it up,
as if to reassure them. He pulled off the road. Ellen and
Ralph looked at the trees in the headlights.
“Going for a slash?” Ellen said.
Spencer swiveled around to look at them. He rested
his left hand on top of his seat.
you,” he said. “Fiver then, since I’m feeling generous.”
Spencer had left the engine running. Some light
came from the dashboard. Ralph noticed the hose again. Then he saw Spencer’s right
hand. It held a gun.
“Get on before I reduce
my offer,” Spencer said. “So who’s first?”
Ellen looked at Ralph thinking Twat doesn’t
get it. She removed her coat.
she said. “Can keep me jumper on?”
“You’ll heat up soon enough, lass. Want to
see nowt on you. And you, lad.”
While Ellen and Ralph undressed, Spencer opened the
glove box. He found the torch. He switched it on. Ellen
and Ralph covered their eyes.
Spencer laughed. “But won’t
do the trick in that state, lad.”
He pointed the gun at
“Don’t play the
innocent schoolgirl. You can see what needs to be done.”
“I am a schoolgirl.”
She fingered the silver crucifix between her
“You Catholic too, Spencer? What about that?”
“Cruel world, lass. Why faith’s needed.”
She complied with Spencer’s
“Don’t make a Christmas
dinner of it, lass. Was taking the piss when I offered one.”
She pulled away.
“Now want to see you licking her right up to
her liver, lad.”
Ellen lay on her back.
Ralph bent over her.
on,” Spencer said. “In a proper state now,
so shouldn’t waste it. On top.”
Spencer,” Ellen said. “If I get pregnant.
“Ways to deal with that,”
he answered. “Clever lass like you. . .”
“Hang on,” Spencer
“Bloody make up your mind,”
Ellen said. “He’s happy to act your monkey.”
“Flip over,” Spencer said. “Like you’re an
egg wanting frying.”
she said. “You’re thinking. . .”
“You’ll get through it, lass,” he grinned. “Lad’s excited enough it be over quick.”
done it that way,” Ralph said as he looked down at Ellen’s backside.
“On your knees, lass,” Spencer
said. “Like you’re scrubbing the floor.”
Ralph moved up against Ellen. He reached for her breasts.
Spencer said. “Let them hang. Want to see a good shake when you drive in.”
“I’m trying,” Ralph said. “Wish I could.
“You wish you could?!” Ellen said.
Ralph began to weep.
hell,” Spencer said. “Then manage dog-style, you think?”
“Hands off her tits, though, and drive in hard. Can see they’re firm,
so you’ll need to get really stuck in to get a good bounce-about.”
“That all right?” he said, using his right hand to wipe away his tears.
His left hand gripped her buttock.
blocking me view, lad,” Spencer said. “Put it on the roof, you want leverage.”
stopped crying. He’d settled into a comfortable rhythm. Ellen closed her eyes. She
tried to pretend that Spencer wasn’t there. But he kept talking.
“Before it’s over just like
that—was a young lad meself—I need one more thing from you: need you pulling
well out every time. Want to see shaft.”
“A natural you are, lad,” Spencer laughed. “And lovely glisten on your shaft.”
“Fucking hell,” Ellen said.
Ralph found a rhythm again. Nature took
its course. But the intensity of his orgasm was undercut halfway through by his awareness
of Ellen’s silence.
do something wrong?” he said.
“Twat you are, Ralph.”
“Proud of you, lad,” Spencer said. “Break for the loo?”
Ralph pulled up his trousers as he climbed out of the car dying to pee.
your clothes,” Spencer grinned, “now the body heat’s dissipated.”
off to the side. Ellen went round back of the car. She read by the taillights: 410 NQ.
She headed the opposite way from Ralph.
Ralph returned to the car first. Spencer had locked the doors. Ralph could see him in the
light from the dashboard. The flexible hose now stretched from the dashboard to his crotch.
Ellen was now on the other side of the car.
me coat and bag in there,” she said.
“You promised a fiver,” Ralph shouted.
He banged on the window. Spencer’s contorted
face looked up.
“Give us our money, wanker.”
Turning toward Ellen, Spencer switched on the
overhead light and withdrew from the hose. The semen pooled at the end of his penis. The
expression on his face was that of a man who’d just taken his first mouthful of cold
coffee. He grabbed the gun from the top of the dashboard and pointed it at Ralph.
“Wanker,” Ralph shouted.
With his free hand Spencer stuffed
his penis back into his trousers and rolled the window down a couple of inches. He
fired. Because of the shooting angle through the high narrow opening, the bullet went over
Ralph’s head. He turned and ran, shouting to Ellen to do the same. Spencer pulled
his car back onto the country lane.
that cold?” Ralph said.
Ralph took off his coat and
draped it over her shoulders.
to redeem yourself, Ralphie?”
He wouldn’t meet her gaze.
“You want to play the hero,” she said, “then
do what I say. Knob I was to leave me coat and bag. But I’ll get
“They’re gone, Ellen.
He’s got a motor and we’re hoofing it.”
“Notice his petrol gauge?” she said
walking away. “Nothing open now, he’ll be stuck in the next town.”
Ralph caught up.
“He low on petrol?” he said.
“Too distracted to stop. And you see he
didn’t head back to the main road? Knows there’s a town not far. So I’ve got
“He’s got a gun,”
Ralph said as he blew on his hands.
For perhaps an hour as they walked they heard
only the occasional screech of a barn owl or the occasional barking dog far off. Ralph
didn’t know what to say. He thought under the conditions best to say nothing. Ellen
said twice “Best if we get where we’re going with the pubs still open, that’s
my hope.” Ralph didn’t ask her to explain her plan.
When they finally heard something other than
a barn owl or a barking dog, Ellen knew she was in luck. They heard pub noises.
Ralph didn’t know
she was in luck because he didn’t know her plan. In fact, he knew as they approached
the pub that they were both dead out luck because there was Spencer’s black pre-war
Vauxhall 14-6 saloon car and he was a nasty bloke with a gun.
Ellen knew what Ralph was thinking.
“No need to piss yourself, Ralphie. Wrong
She took off his coat.
“Wear it so they don’t think you’re daft,
attract attention,” she said. “Ask there’s another pub here and how far’s the
a mile,” he said when he came out. “Next town’s maybe five mile.”
gone nine o’clock, Ellen.”
He thought that increased their odds of seeing
Spencer come out of the pub. He thought that couldn’t be good.
“Want the coat back?” he said.
“Bugger the coat,” she said as she walked
away. “Got business.”
Ralph followed. He’d started to feel like
Ellen’s pet Spaniel, but he was warm enough.
your eyes peeled for a big rock,” she said. “But
not too big for swinging.”
He obeyed. She was pleased when he handed her
what he’d found.
She thought the walk to the next pub seemed less
than half a mile. She also thought the steps might have flown by because she was excited.
“Our lad: 410 NQ,” she said when
they came upon the black Vauxhall 14-6 saloon
car parked outside the next pub.
Town proper began far side of the pub, handful
of darkened shops with the first houses a good way off. Mild ruckus from the pub, otherwise
quiet as the dead. Perfect, Ellen thought.
“Even way it’s parked,”
The driver’s side faced
“Lord truly is my fucking
shepherd,” she said. “I shall not want.”
She hefted the rock.
“Anybody comes we
run back way we came,” she said.
She hurled the rock through the back left window.
They waited. No one came. She reached through the broken window. She found the door handle.
She got inside and climbed into the front.
“Get in,” she told Ralph.
She opened the glove box.
“Gun would be better,”
she shrugged. “But torch will do. Or rock.”
“Got the gun on him,” Ralph said.
“If you do need to piss yourself Ralphie, not in here. Manky already.”
She returned to the back.
I got besides not pissing yourself in here,” she said. “Stay awake.”
They waited in silence. Ellen thought maybe another
hour. The minutes didn’t fly past like the steps had coming from the first pub.
Spencer came out. He’d had a few. He got
in and started the engine.
As he turned around she struck him in the left
temple with the torch, producing the desired result.
help scooting him over, Ralphie?”
Ralph jumped out. Opening the passenger door,
he dragged Spencer toward himself.
Ellen studied the fuel
“Five mile to next town, Ralphie? Go three.”
He looked at Ellen.
She watched the odometer.
“Here,” she said after three miles.
She got out. She opened the passenger door. Ralph
had pulled Spencer up against it. She tipped him out.
“He’ll freeze to death.”
“You the weather bloke, predict the overnight
temperature?” she said.
She felt in Spencer’s
trouser pockets. She found his wallet. She looked inside.
“We’ve done well,” she said.
in. She climbed out. She opened Spencer’s coat.
She found the gun in a shoulder holster. She took the gun. She climbed in.
“Freezes to death, Ralphie,
that’s the weather done him in, not me.”
“Want the police,
want a doctor?” she said. “Answer questions, have the whole story come out?
What you done to me?”
Ralph started driving.
“Don’t know if there’s lodging in the next
town,” she said. “Sleep in the car at worst.”
Ralph realized that Ellen frightened him.
“Maybe torch the car in the morning,” she
Ellen’s laughter frightened Ralph even more.
“Share the joke?” he said timidly.
She became serious.
“Wanker on about
faith,” she said. “Faith this, faith that. Silly bugger.”
She’d rested the gun in her lap. She looked
down at it.
Flay’s got faith in herself,” she said.
the hard time Detective Inspector Ellen Flay of the York and North East Yorkshire Police had
finding someone to grant her unorthodox requests. Like the bloke was afraid of her, which
under the conditions was rubbish. Dishy chap named Tommy would cuff her, then say You hold the key just in case. Slip it between her lips, business end out,
so she could reach the lock.
She’d spit it out
saying Not the long hard thing I want in there.
He’d make like to put it back and she’d say Tommy, use your head: everything
you’re about to do to me, get me gasping and howling, and I’m supposed to keep
that key between my lips?
He’d give his puppy look and
she’d say More likely I’d swallow it and he’d say Just
in case. She’d say In case what? He’d say I could have a heart attack.
Constable Tommy was, while she was a seasoned Detective Inspector, recipient of not one
but two Special Commendations. But the difference between Tommy and herself boiled down
to more than age and rank. Tommy had gotten into police work to uphold the law. He wondered
if everything Flay wanted to do in the bedroom was legal or otherwise on the up and up.
But maybe that was it, Flay thought, never mind him being so fit. What
with guilt and all, dishy Tommy could have thought himself into a heart attack.
Flay thought guilt was bollocks.
The people who felt guiltiest had no clue what to feel guilty about. Would Tommy
know to feel guilty about some of the nonsense he’d be called on to do as a copper?
Snatching some innocent colored bloke off the street to pin a crime on, say, or knocking
the poor chap about to get a confession. Good chance Tommy’s guilt and “morality”
would accept that sort of rubbish even if it wouldn’t accept giving Ellen Flay everything
she wanted in the bedroom. Long and short of it was, blokes like Tommy didn’t know
who they were. That left them at the mercy of guilt and “morality.” Flay knew
who she was, so she knew what she would do in bed and what she wouldn’t
do to “solve” a crime and stick some poor sod in the nick.
had gotten into police work for adventure. Which is
what she saw in Colin.
She’d had a couple in The Phoenix, on George Street, when this
bloke maybe about fifty, good decade older than her, swaggered in and took up residence
at the other end of the bar. Got that Ray Davies
look, Flay thought, meaning on the craggy side: long sharp nose with a bit of a hump
got playing sport or fighting, deep creases setting off his cheeks, lips carved big
like a black chap’s. Appreciating me as much
as I appreciate him despite this silly perm, she thought. Smiling
at me and what a smile, that Ray Davies smile his crooked crown jewel except slanting up
to the right instead of the left. You a Kink
too? Kinky like me? You thinking Girl, you really got me goin’? Speak to me and stop chatting with Fat-ass
next to you.
“Been years,” Fat-ass said. “Had enough
of London then? Decided God’s Country’s good enough for you?”
Colin—what Fat-ass had called him—rubbing and blowing on
his hands said, “Can’t get a real winter down South.”
Technically still summer, Flay thought,
but winter never far off here in North Yorkshire.
What a summer, though: Yanks on the moon, know they’ll never have another Kennedy
in the White House, whacking great music festival in the States, Leeds United the champions.
And of surpassing personal significance Ellen
Flay discovers her exotic sexual appetites.
“South in this case meaning South Africa,”
Colin added. “Left London. . . not sure how many years ago.”
“London were too quiet for likes of you?”
Fat-ass grinned as Flay thought Better not have
a good word for apartheid, or I’m right off you Colin.
Colin looked at Flay before answering. She
didn’t know what to make of that, or of the look he gave her with his darting eyes
once he’d spoken. Because he’d lowered his voice just a bit, but she was sure
he’d said something about SWAPO, and pretty sure he hadn’t lowered too much
just so she could hear. She thought He a mercenary?
But for which side? But whole point is it doesn’t matter, right? Or he selling arms?
And she thought Testing me? Letting me hear SWAPO to see if I’d turn tail and run or be
drawn like a moth to the flame?
She nudged her glass forward so it would sit
there like an invitation.
to burn, she thought. Feel on fire already
and want to keep burning.
Colin said “You dry, luv?”
“Highly personal inquiry, isn’t it?” she said.
“You a gynecologist?”
Colin smiled his craggy crooked
smile. A Ray Davies smile except with those lips carved big like a black chap’s
slanting up to the right instead of the left.
“Anyroad,” he said to
Fat-ass, “if you’ll excuse me.”
down to her end of the bar as the barman asked, “Gin
and tonic again?”
Flay nodded. She was a great one for pleases
and thank you’s with barmen and the like. But she was that taken with Colin, she
forgot herself. He can handle himself, she
thought. Hard beneath that leather jacket, and
a hard man’s good to find.
Ellen,” she said. “And I heard the other chap call you Colin.”
Fat-ass who’s pissing off even as I speak, she thought.
“Don’t be a stranger,” Fat-ass said on
his way to the door.
“You headed out then, Mike?” Colin
Like he doesn’t give a fuck, Flay
thought. Wouldn’t want to sound concerned,
twat might change his mind and stay.
“See me mates round Old White Swan,” Fat-ass said winking at Colin and
nodding toward Flay. “Don’t do nowt I wouldn’t do.”
Twat, she thought.
“That a new do?” Colin said. “Goal was
to look black?”
“That a problem?”
Flay said suspiciously.
your hair’s a winner however you do it up.”
Flay appreciated the compliment. She’d
been self-conscious about her perm since getting it on the weekend, but thought now maybe
she could make peace with it.
“You from round here?”
she said. “That why. . .”
“Why Mike knows me?”
Fat-ass knows you, she thought.
“More between Bradford and
Huddersfield,” he said. “Know Mike from Bradford. Worked with him.”
sort of work you do?”
“Whatever needs doing,”
He reached for her hair.
“You mind?” he said.
He took hold of a curl forward of her left ear
and tugged it toward himself. Out of the corner of her eye Flay saw him insert his finger
into the hollow.
curl forming a lovely inviting orifice,” she said.
“Each orifice a bonus added to the three common-or-garden ones.”
“Not a gynecologist,” he grinned. “But
I’ll do a bit of probing, you don’t mind. What line you in?”
boring,” she shrugged. “Own a company, makes
parts for tellies.”
of picking at least one pub for nobody to know you, she thought, not every bloke
at ease with a copper. Golden Fleece over on Pavement also good for that till I investigated
the stabbing there.
“Must do all right,” he said.
brought her drink. She remembered her thank you while thinking Why’s he care? Thought mercenaries
and arms dealers and the like shat five-pound notes.
“Not going to stand here wide-open for
you,” she smiled, “show you my books or other private matters. But yeah, money’s
“Good enough for what?” he said, and
for the barman he added, nodding at his pint, “Tip a whisky in there, chief.”
“Depends on what’s to
be bought. You for sale?”
Wolf’s grin to cover a multitude of
sins, she thought. But I want sin.
“Now you doing the probing,” he said.
“Only if your hands are cold.”
He slid his hand toward her and
she took it in her own hand.
“What your politics, luv?”
he said, too quietly for the barman to hear.
afford politics,” she said just as quietly. “Out
to make a quid, sell my parts to whoever’s buying.”
discuss your parts later,” he said. “But
for my part, was selling to SWAPO—let you infer what I was selling—when some
other blokes who knew what I was selling saw an opportunity.”
Flay sipped her gin and
“Blokes get everything?” she said.
for your drink, didn’t I? And didn’t swim
here from South Africa.”
“Landed on your feet then?”
“Still standing. Not on my knees.”
to see you on your knees,” she said, squeezing
stood between her and one gin and tonic after another.
Certainly not Colin, who happily allowed her to buy him one pint after another and one
whisky after another after being more forthcoming about the extent of his recent financial
effects included making Flay wonder if she’d be able to muster the energy for a good
shag, not a question that often troubled her. Yet the inclusion among said effects of her
growing inability to judge whether it might be wise to fly like a moth to the flame and
burn neutralized all misgivings about her declining energy level. As closing time approached
her thoughts were in the vein of I’ll do
whatever he wants.
came and Colin shoved off of his stool, pleased he could
still stand. He took Flay’s hand and made for the exit, saying “Don’t
want to create suspicion by hanging on till the end.”
Outside, he turned left. A table
and chairs had sat unused on the sidewalk all evening because of the cold. With his
free hand—the one not dragging Flay along—he collected a chair. He plunked it
down in front of the high brick wall that started where The Phoenix building ended.
“Pretend you’re waiting for a bus,” he
I drove, she thought. But parked where?
She looked down George Street in the direction
they’d been going. She didn’t see her car. She looked back the other way. She
didn’t see Colin, but she heard him swearing. His voice was coming from where the
spiked fence began at the far end of the building.
heard his big body hitting the ground. The muffled noise told her he’d hit the grass.
She thought it was odd he’d tried to climb over the fence.
But she also thought Maybe a four-foot fall, he’s fine.
Flay woke up wondering why she had to wake up
since she had such a frightful headache. Bloody cold too, she thought.
Studying her watch with the pretty illuminated face—it took studying because she
wasn’t yet in the best condition to be making out the time—she thought God’s truth 3 AM.
She thought Did I drive here?
She thought Where’s
She thought That sound of breaking glass, that real or a dream?
She thought And if it’s real where’d it come from?
thought Fucking hell, that big
sheet-glass window front of The Phoenix.
But she saw only an empty space maybe six foot
wide and four foot high where the glass should have been. She got out of her chair. Wobbling
a bit less with every step she went over to the empty space to peer into the pub, wondering Who’d do such a
remembered I drove here and car’s next street
over but suddenly she didn’t care because she remembered Colin.
Fell other side of that fence, she remembered. Should see if he’s all right.
she thought Looks like a crime here, should look
at that first.
And then she thought Fucking hell, Colin’s
she called through where the window had been.
I’ll get the door.”
“But what you doing in there?”
swore as making his way through the darkness he collided
“You break this window, Colin?”
“No, luv, broke of its own
He fiddled with the door.
“Was going to break in the
back way, but. . .”
He opened the door.
“Had a kip and woke up to dead quiet,
so why not come at it straight on?” he said.
her hands toward his crotch.
“Got something big and fat
in both pockets,” he said.
He moved her hand in
circles over his right pocket.
wad of notes in there,” he said. “Tonight’s take, and”—moving
her other hand in circles over his left pocket—“you know what that is, luv.”
“You short, I can lend you
a couple hundred quid.”
“But don’t have to pay
this back, do I?” he laughed.
He kissed her mouth with his beer-and-whisky stink. She said “I’m a
police officer” and thought maybe she oughtn’t to have done that.
He pushed her away.
“Lying cow,” he said.
Flay would later ask herself Why’d
I stand there like a target?
would often happen when she looked in the mirror at the scar on her upper lip. But
she found she could live with it as time passed.
She hadn’t seen
him swing his arm. Reeling backward, assisted in the
effort to plant her feet by her success in clutching both sides of the doorframe, a shower
of liquid washed over her. She knew the bastard had struck her with a beer mug.
She would infer later that he hadn’t
expected her to right herself so quickly. Because instead
of following up with a second blow like any sensible bastard bent on mayhem would have
done, he only stood there complacently.
His bloody cheek made
her angry. The arrogant bastard never moved except for
the arm that raised toward his mouth—meaning to swallow the beer he hadn’t
spilled—the mug he’d used to inflict a scar on the wrong person.
She noticed a mug on
the table to her left. A little puddle of beer, flat
as piss, sat on the bottom and a fag butt too. She hefted the mug in her right hand and
with the piss puddle and fag butt along for the ride swung the mug backhand, smooth like
that lovely Arthur Ashe who’d won the U.S. Open last year, aiming at Colin’s
mug as he drank.
She didn’t give a toss that with her blow she’d
cut her hand. Colin was down for the count. She switched on the overhead lights.
The effects of her adrenaline rush having faded, her pain was conspicuous. But less
so than her amusement at seeing that Colin now gave the appearance of possessing an authentic
Ray Davies smile: the cut from her blow began at the left corner of his mouth and angled
diagonally upward to the left.
She thought it a pity he’d turned out a
bastard, since he was so yummy.
Don Stoll has fiction forthcoming
in The Helix; Green Hills Literary Lantern;
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
new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women's and children's health to
three contiguous Tanzanian villages.
In Association with Fossil Publications