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Don Stoll
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ym75stonesgirl.jpg
Art by Darren Blanch © 2019

Stones Girl

by Don Stoll

Detective 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.

“McCartney singing about his dog,” she teased. “Where’s the anarchy?”

“Was about Jane Asher, darling,” Nigel said.

“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 tits.

Chief Inspector Redmond crooked his finger. Flay trailed after to his office.

“Want you 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.”

“Worried the blacks will riot, Chief Inspector?”

He didn’t answer.

“And if Storey and Rice were at fault?”

“Too Bad’s 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.”

“But just in case, sir,” she said.

He turned away.

 “Help for me, sir?”

 “Wasting time, Flay.”

 After 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.

 Thinking Sarge’s 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. 

 Warm 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.

 Spotless inside.   

 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.       

 Paki gardener outside, inside straightaway put off by the smell. Stale, she thought, like what they teach these poor buggers.

 “Alice Coughlin,” said the owlish woman behind the counter glancing at the picture of the ginger-haired freckled girl.

 “Brooch been in the family?” Flay said. “Looks well loved, Mrs.—”              

 “My 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.”

 They laughed.                                        

 “Anyway, Alice Coughlin,” Flay said.       

 “Just expelled. Marks good, but. . .” 

 “Boys, alcohol, drugs?”

 Olive looked around. She and Flay were alone.

 “Add girls.”

 “She funny?” Flay said in mock horror, catching Olive’s eye to see if she’d caught the mockery.                        

 “Experimenting,” 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 couple.”

 Olive cleared her throat.     

 “Family mum about plans after the expulsion?” Flay said.                  

 “Dad 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.”                       

 “Still,” 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. . .”                

 “Our 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.             

 She 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 him.

 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 it?”  

 “Meant he wasn’t a big strapping bloke,” Storey said.

 “Wasn’t. 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 said. 

 “Bird the darky was shagging,” Flay said. “Know her?”   

 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 alley.               

 “Funny the attraction young birds have to black chaps,” she said.  

 They looked at their shoes.       

 “But understand why white chaps feel threatened.”

 “Threatened?” Storey said. 

 “More like animals. More physical, so more sexual. But male animals not always gentle toward their females.”

 Watching Storey.

 “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 drown.”

 “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.”  

 Storey looked squarely at Flay.

 “We don’t know the bird in that picture,” he said.  

 “Keep a log of all your partner’s acquaintances?” she smiled.    

 “I don’t 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.    

“Just saw his mum,” she said. “Heard all about her boy.”

“We’re sorry,” Storey said, not sounding sorry. “But it’s self-preservation.”

“Wild man he was,” Rice added, wiping his snot away.

“Strength in him you didn’t know where it come from,” Storey said.

Flay returned the Polaroids to her pocket.

“Wasting time,” she said. “I can find Alice Coughlin, ask whether you’re mates.”    

“So what if we know Alice?” Storey snarled. “Protecting her. And her reputation.”

“Already tarnished,” 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.”

“You’re clueless,” Storey laughed.

“Don’t want him to die,” Rice said.

“Shut it, Rice,” Storey said. 

“How 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.”

“You fancy them,” Storey said.

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 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.”

She smelled his sour breath.  

“Fancy the black chaps less than seeing you burn,” she said.

They were almost touching.

“This personal, Detective Inspector?”

“Don’t think you are a person, Storey.”

Her tits brushed against him.

“Elasticity gone,” he said. “Wander about on their own, do they?”

Flay blinked.

“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?”

“Sticking to our story,” Rice said.

She’d forgotten Rice.

“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.

“Wouldn’t listen,” he said. “Bloke attacked us.”

He’d run his fingers through his dark hair and made a cat’s breakfast of it. Smiling now, he patted it back in place.

#

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 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 her legs.

“Alice Coughlin?” Flay stammered, 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 Flay of the Metropolitan Police,” Flay said with her back already turned.        

“Lying out not good for skin like yours,” she said, a mistake because it right off conjured the image of the girl’s ivory flesh.

“I’m 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.

Hiding her eyes behind oversized sunglasses, Alice gestured toward facing lawn chairs.

“Detective Inspector,” Flay said. “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?” Alice said.

“Officers are fine,” Flay said. “Mr. Too Bad didn’t leave a scratch.”

“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?   

Flay recognized the need to focus on her inquiry.

“I get angry at work, the blokes laugh,” she said. 

Alice seemed curious.

“Woman copper. What’s that like?”  

“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.”

From the telly, Flay thought. Good idea, though.

“Old 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.

“You’re better off expelled,” Alice smiled, but not smiling said “You wired now?”     

“Have a look,” Flay said, undoing her top two buttons and fingering the third.

Alice’s eyes popped. 

“You’re barking mad,” she said.

“Point is what you’re mad at.”  

“What you mean?”          

“Bit older than you,” Flay said. “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 mums.”

“You a mum?” Alice said, looking surprised.

“No time.”

“Not sure I want to be. So many things wrong with the world.”

Alice swept her arm toward her father’s house.

“How do I deserve this?” she said.

“Father 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.

“What about them that work hard but don’t get rewarded?” Alice said.

Where’s this going? Flay wondered.  

“Mustn’t speak like this to Pete and Teddy.”

“Storey 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?” she said.

“Knew Teddy’s brother at my last school. Brother and Teddy both fancied me.”

“You went for Teddy. Bit old, isn’t he?”

“Didn’t go for him, but had a motor and made good money.”

Alice paused.

“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 Teddy he 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 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?”     

“Not saying Pete didn’t fancy me—”  

“Course not,” Flay smiled.

“—but 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.

“He took Polaroids.”

“Pete did?”

“Teddy,” Alice laughed. “But he 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,” she said.

“You trusted him,” Flay said soothingly. “Sometimes we trust the wrong people, but can’t do without trust altogether. World would be unbearable.”

Alice smiled.  

“Didn’t 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.”  

#

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.      

END


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 (karimufoundation.org) to bring new schools, clean water, and clinics emphasizing women's and children's health to three contiguous Tanzanian villages.

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