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.”
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.
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