Martens discarded the no-longer-clean crime-of-scene overalls and scowled into the interior of the blood-splattered walk-in food freezer as he watched the police lensman diligently snapping away at rows of naked chicken carcasses, trays of whole cold-eyed salmon and tuna, and the two relatively fresh human stiffs hanging from meat hooks where they had been hidden between the carcasses of long dead pigs and cattle. Photograph it all, he had said. Anything that doesn’t move.
God, he thought to himself, that’s the third ethnic eatery taken out in as many weeks. Obviously not paying their protection money or someone’s seriously into bigotry. He shook his head. What with fewer detectives on the force and the increase in any type of crime you choose to mention, it was almost time for him to hand in his badge. Get some PI cards printed and hire himself out as bodyguard to some self-indulgent celebrity.
He walked over to Rubens who was on the front step examining a lock on the door and at the same time cussing the reporter from the Enquirer, the guy who could never take no for an answer. He watched him for a minute or so. Rubens knew what he was doing. He knew his craft. “What do you reckon, Rube? Anything interesting?”
Rubens wasn’t the sort of person to answer a question in a hurry. He liked to think and he liked to think clearly. And he knew that Martens would give him the space he needed to do this. He always had ever since they had started to work together some five years ago.
Rubens stood up and, slamming the door in the face of the newspaperman, stepped inside. “Nothing yet. But looks professional. Very. Either they had keys or they were from the Agency.”
Not the Agency, thought Martens. More likely City Hall. He reckoned he could smell that mix of evil and corruption that Mayor Clancy and her entourage gave off wherever they went. The Agency doesn’t do serial killings, but Clancy certainly does.
Rubens watched microscopic muscle movements playing discreetly on Marten’s otherwise inscrutable face and knew what he was thinking. He knew the backstory. Hell, he had been part of it. The three of them, himself, Martens and the lovely Siobhan Clancy, had grown up together, gone to school together. Wednesday afternoons they had always bunked off together and spent time and money in the Roxy on Palace Street watching the latest B movies from the cheaper studios in Los Angeles. They shared the same street education. He also knew where it had all gone wrong.
His reverie was interrupted. “You smell anything?” Softly, from Martens.
Rubens took his time. Breathed in. Carefully. The stench caught in his nostrils, at the back of his throat. Yep, he recognized it. But you can’t go in front of the judge and say, “Well, it’s obviously the Mayor. You can smell it.” The judge has never done time on the beat. Never worked with or learnt from Martens. Never known how to interpret those feelings that invaded the gut from time to time. The judge needs concrete evidence. And that assumes his honour himself isn’t Clancy’s second cousin by marriage and consequently on the payroll.
“Yeah, I got it. No doubt but no proof.” He rubbed his chin. Need to shave more often, he thought. And get that tooth fixed.
The scowl returned to Martens’ face. “Yeah. No doubt but no proof.” He fumbled in his pockets for a peppermint. His addiction. No longer cigarettes. “We’re over stretched. Spread too thin. We need a result. Pronto. We need more plainclothes on this, more intelligence. Need to consolidate our resources. And expand. Bring in the team from Parker Street. Especially that new girl. Andrea Roberts. She’s got the instinct.”
Rubens thought about Andrea Roberts. Recent recruit from the private security industry. Older than most, indeed not much younger than himself. And what he had seen of her, he agreed she had the instinct. Seemed to have above average brainpower. Was a grafter. He could see the three of them working well together. He and Martens would mould her right. Teach her the craft. And tried hard not to dwell on the disturbing fact that she wasn’t the ugliest person on the force.
Later that week Rubens brought Martens the news. “It’s mixed. We can’t have the extra hands. Parker Street is doing litter patrol for the next few weeks. Mayor’s got some foreign delegates visiting and she wants the streets looking pretty.” He spat into the gutter. “But we get Andrea Roberts. That’s positive.”
Martens nodded. City Hall blocking him again. Not surprising. But pleased to have Andrea Roberts. Somebody must be trying to wreck her career, putting her in his team. Well, they’ve got that wrong.
Later that evening Siobhan Clancy sipped her third Jack Daniels from a cut-glass tumbler as she finished off a phone call, “That’s how we’ll play it, Andrea. Just keep the info flowing. That way nobody gets hurt.”
© Patrick Prinsloo