Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Dockland Murders (serial) part 1

            I stood there, the gun still warm in my hand, barrel smoking from the gun battle.
            “Why did he do that, Sarge?  I tried my best to talk him out of it.”
            “Living with the guilt finally got to him, Patti.”
            “Couldn’t he have talked it over?”
            “No, the only thing worse than being a dirty cop, is being the son of a loose cannon, and none came looser than Bill Chart, Patti.”
            I looked around.  There lay the body of Bill's son, my ex-partner, Adrian Chart.
            “I had no choice, he pulled first, Sarge," I said through my tears.
            “I know, Patti, we all saw it.  Nobody blames you.  It was his way out.”
            The last thing I remember was the Sarge saying in a soft tone, "Take a week off Patti, something like this will haunt you. I know. I have been there myself.”  Dazed, I stood there, trying to remember how it had all started . . .
                                                   * * *
            I'd wanted an office and had pestered the sergeant for months for a place to work.  For my sins, I'd got this dark and dingy office with paperwork piled high of old, unsolved murders.  The air was dank with the musty smell of old paper, a place where light had long gone missing.  This was Middleton Detective Agency. Even hardened drunks avoided this run down area of town.  Sitting at the back of the office, I looked in desolation at the pile of old cases, Sgt. Pug Phillips had recently dumped on me.  
            “Why don’t I get anything good?”  I muttered, knowing nobody was listening, or if they were, they didn't care.  Cold coffee was still on the table from last night, the ring marks showing how I had spent the long, hot and humid days at Middleton going over old and long-forgotten cases which had been given to me just so I'd have something to do
            “A young girl, trying to do a man's job" is what the crew said on that first day months ago.”
 Here I was, stuck at the back end of nowhere, in a dark office so lonely I had to get my own coffee and doughnuts. The guys never took any notice.  I often wondered if they would notice if I just didn't turn up. “
            I'd never been a girlie girl.  I was always looking for a mystery to solve rather than play with dolls or admire film stars.  And this was my reward!  All I have is deadbeat job in a run-down office, in the worst part of town.
            Sometimes, I wish I'd just got married like the others; had a nice cozy life and a good husband, I muttered to myself – then, ‘Hell, no! Patti. Where did that come from, gal?”  The drudgery and boredom were getting to me.  All these cases!  Some go back to the '20's.  Most of the witnesses are dead now, I mumbled under my breath. Trust me to get cases that are not only cold, but deader than the dodo.
            Sitting there alone, I was surprised to hear a knock on the door.  I was more surprised that anyone knew where I was.  Standing in the doorway was an old man, leaning on his cane.
“Please come in and sit down.”
            “Thank you, young lady," he said. "I have information on an old case, you might like to re-open.”
            “Why not ask at the desk?”
            “They closed the book years ago, and don’t want old wounds re-opened, that is why.”
            “Which case is this?”
            “It's one from the '20s. It was the Morrissey & Jeffries case.”
            “What can you tell me about it and why should we re-open it now?”
            “I am telling you about it because my spirit is crossing and I want to clear this case up.  You get it re-opened, and I will let you know what I know.”
            “How can I trust you?”
            “Just tell Pug, that Dennis spoke to you.”
            The man got up and walked back down the corridor. When I got up to see which way he went, all I saw was a whiff of smoke.  Looking through the case files I was totally disheartened to see how many had just been left open, with no closure for the families.  Back then, the force could not spare the manpower to chase up leads, what with all the gangsters and bootlegging.
            With Mayor Johnson going for a second term, he needed to show power to the mobs, so all the force was put on alert and other crimes became second rate.
            “So sad," I thought.  "These poor people never had closure.”
            One thing about the Morrissey & Jeffries killing back in 1926 really caught my eye. Link Morrissey and his girl, Darlene Jeffries went for a drive, but never arrived at her parents' house, even though it was only twenty minutes across town.
            Getting up from the desk, I walked back down the dark corridor to the elevator shaft.  Pushing the button to call the aged machine into action, all I could hear was the grinding of gears, as the cable span on the wheel.
            “Shit. Not again.  When are they going to fix this damn thing?”
            Setting off up the ten flights of stairs to the main office, I was already imagining the calls from the men, “Here comes Nancy Drew, lads.”
            Leading the barrage, as always, would be Adrian Chart.  The man was as roughneck as they came.  If he did not draw blood, then it was a lousy fight.  Seven years ago his old man, Bill Chart, had passed away, and Adrian was just like his dad.  His wife had left him six years ago, and then he hit the bottle hard.
            One theory as to why Chart kept his job was the bosses needed his street knowledge to track the mobs.  As a cop, he was one of the worst on the force - but for cracking the heads of gangsters, he had no equal.  They said he lost it all when Maggie left him.  After that, he didn't care what happened.  He'd go in first and take as many down as he could, before a proper enquiry began.
The only trouble was, Chart was as much a threat to his colleagues as he was to the mobs.  He was often so out of control that a situation that could have possibly been resolved, often ended up almost as a gun battle.
            Every day for the last month, when I've logged in, I've had to cope with Chart and his cronies jeering and cat calling.  Chart, and about eight other old-school cops, call ladies ‘doll’, and they should stay at home and tend to the men folk.
            As I walked in, Chart swung around in his chair, “Well look who…”
            As he spoke, I realized I had had enough.  I felt the need to be recognized for what I do – now!
            Before he could finish his sentence, I swung a left and hit him on the jaw.  The force rocked him in his chair so violently that he banged his head on the desk.

            “Anybody else want to take on Nancy Drew?  You over there – you look tough!

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