Being Inspired, maybe - 99

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:


And, then, the words:


It was not going to be a good morning

The hot water system packed it in, a fuse blew taking out all the kitchen appliances, and then the front door key went missing.

It was as if the Gods were trying to tell Detective James J Jones that this was not a day to go into work.

As it was, it had been a last-minute decision by the department doctor to clear Jones for active duty, mainly because Jones had told her that he would go crazy if he had to stay home any longer.
But it was not t the mental aspect of Jones' injury that concerned the doctor, it was whether the physical wounds had mended.  Certainly, there would be no chasing suspects down dark alleys, or getting into a shootout, all past activities of the cop that was first to put himself in the line of fire.

That last time, three months earlier, had nearly killed him.  He had the near-death experience to vouch for it.  A voice telling him he'd used up the last of his nine lives.

Now, he was only cleared for light duties, or, more or less, chained to a desk.  He wasn't looking forward to it.

Fuse replaced, keys found, call made to the building super to arrange a plumber, he'd shower and change at the office before reporting for duty.

After shaking every hand from the elevator lobby to the office of the Captain, he was glad to sit down.  The Captain had welcomed him at the door, showed the others back to their desks, then closed the door before resuming his seat behind the large untidy desk.

Closed doors, Jones thought, were trouble. 

Jones waited while the Captain obviously went through the topics in his head first.  He was a man who rarely spoke before considering what was to be said, sometimes an irritating trait, particularly at press conferences.

"Firstly, I'm glad to see you're back, in one piece, at least from the outside, and ready, if only at a slower pace for a few weeks, to go back to work.  I read the doctor's report, and I think you understand what is required."  The accompanying stern look was meant to reinforce the expected behavior from his subordinate.

"I'll do what I have to."

"Says a man with measured reluctance, and crossed fingers behind his back.  How long have we known each other Jim?"

Too long, he thought.  But it was not with resentment and any rancor.  Jones had made his bed and was content to lie in it.

"Since the academy."

The Captain had shown then he was fast track material, Jones a so-so detective that would bounce around the precincts until the two met again 15 years later.

"So, you know that I know what you're like.  There will be no more life-threatening theatrics.  I've picked out a case for you so work on, one that on high have asked to be reopened, and they asked for my best detective.  You just got an unheralded promotion."

"A cold case?"

"Only by a few months.  The dust hasn't settled yet.  And you get our new and brightest star to work with you.  I want you to show her how detective work is done, the right way."

Which meant she was a troublemaker or had an upstairs connection, and no one wanted to work with her.

"Are you sure there's no one else?"  The idea of a cold case and babysitting didn't appeal to him in the slightest.

"I'll be very grateful if you take this off my hands.  Very grateful, if you get my drift.  The detective you'll be working with was on the original investigation team, so you'll have access to first-hand information.  The files are on your desk.  Her name is Melanie Atwater.  Play nice."

The Captain stood, went over and opened the door.

"I suppose..." Jones said as he stood.

"No.  This or back on leave.  Your choice, right now."

Jones shrugged.  How bad could it be?


During Jones's absence, he had been moved to a corner of the office, the one where the new recruits were sent. 

Purgatory, by any other name.

Hot in summer, cold in winter, and the place where everyone stored what wouldn't fit in their desks, stuff that filled a stack of boxes beside and on top or a row of overfilled filing cabinets.

Space had been cleared for a second desk, currently unattended, but there were signs of habitation with a handbag on the desk and a jacket draped over the back of the seat.

The desktop was a mess, with half a dozen empty coffee cups and paper bags scattered beside the computer screen, and the keyboard looked as though it had suffered several coffee spills.  Either side of the keyboard were several piles of files.  One was sitting on the only clear space, open, and displaying a photograph of a girl, obviously dead and the photo was of the body at the crime scene.

"Oh, who are you?"

A woman's voice came from behind him, and he turned.  It must be the infamous Melanie Atwater.  Infamous only because of the way the Captain spoke of her.

"Jones, Andy, detective.  You would be Atwater."

"Melanie.  Yes.  You're that officer who was shot multiple times and died."

He was not sure if that was awe or surprise in her tone.  "As you can see, the reports were greatly exaggerated.  The Captain just told me we are working on a cold case."

She continued on to her desk and sat down.  She'd brought another cup of coffee, takeaway, not the ghastly office brew which he doubted had improved in the time he'd been missing, to add to the collection.

"You might remember it.  The Sandra Walkins case."

"Ruled a suicide, wasn't it?  How did it get to be a cold case when it was open and shut when the medical examiner signed off on it?"

Jones remembered the case well, it was the day before he was injured, and thinking to himself that the scumbag he was about to go and arrest was typical of the lowlifes peddling tainted drugs to silly young people had more money than sense.  Sandra Wilkins was just another case in point, rich and distant parents, a million-dollar lifestyle, and a life completely wasted.

The father, a very rich man who threw millions into appropriate political campaigns used his wealth and influence to side-track a large swath of the department's resources over a claim that she had been murdered, but, in the end, no evidence could be found that anyone else was in the department, that there were enough bagged drugs on the dining table to prove she was a habitual user, had taken one too many syringes and taken a wrong turn at the balcony.

A young man, caught by her building's security cameras arriving with a parcel, and minutes later leaving without one was arrested and charged with supply, not murder.  He seemed more surprised than the police when he was arrested virtually without a fight or running which, he should have the moment his face appeared in every paper and on every television screen in the state.   Alan Bent, an honors student at Uni, no previous form as a user, or a seller, was charged, found guilty, and sent to jail for 5 years.

He said he was set up.  He said he was innocent.  He was now in a coma, and not expected to live.  His five years just became a death sentence.

"Five days ago, we got an anonymous tip."

"And we believe this because?"

She handed Jones a sheet of paper in a plastic evidence bag.  A handwritten note in an almost illegible scrawl, it would be interesting to see what the handwriting expert had to say about it, and the person who wrote it.

"You got the wrong perp.  You got it all wrong, typical.  The girl who swan dived was not Sandra, no she was called Ellie Blessen, missing two years.  Check your missing persons, you will see I'm right."

"This doesn't prove anything," Jones said.  "One of her junkie friends having a laugh."

"That's what the Captain and three experts thought and dismissed it.  I thought it odd, so I checked on the so-called missing Ellie."  She reached over to another pile of folders and pulled one out from the middle of the stack, opened it, and handed me a photo from it.

Jones assumed this was Ellie.  Very much alive when the photo was taken.  And, very much a doppelganger for the victim.

Melanie then said, "We had enough photos of the victim, so I did a comparison."

"And?"

"It seems we got it wrong.  Sandra didn't die that night, Ellie did."



© Charles Heath 2020

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