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The Murder - Loose Ends

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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Constable Phineas Sweetly sat at the duty desk with his feet up and a tin mug of strong black coffee held in one hand while he read. Constable Sweetly didn’t mind holding down the fort while his compatriots attended the funeral of the Magrat girl. He and his wife were new in town and didn’t know many people yet, so there was that. But mainly he didn’t mind because Phineas was a thoughtful man, used to spending long hours alone and very comfortable with his own company.

Since retiring from the Enforcers many years ago, Sweetly had become a guard. Being a guard suited him. It was rather like still being an Enforcer in many ways, long periods of standing around doing nothing with sudden violent interludes where bullets flew and people died. He preferred the standing around bit, it let him put the things he saw as he stood guarding whatever it was this time into their place in the world. But, he was always up for the sudden violent interludes when they came, good exercise for the heart as long as a bullet didn’t stop it. And, as long as he was paid, Phineas wasn’t too fussed who he did the guarding for, or what he guarded for that matter. But he made it very clear to his prospective employer that he was a guard, not a henchman, not an assassin, not anything at all other than a guard. As long as his employer understood that, he would diligently and loyally serve whoever paid his wages. And Phineas Sweetly had certainly worked for some very disreputable people in the past. Not to mention the odd nut-job. That crazy bitch building the bomb thing in the radio station at Spider Hill being a case in point.

But, creeping old age and a nagging wife, whom he adored and would do anything for, had led him here to Hope Springs. It wasn’t that he couldn’t chase down the bad guys anymore, it just took him longer. And, her indoors had heard good things about this town, so here they were. He soon found out, to his surprise, that there weren’t any guarding jobs to be had in Hope but the town’s mayor was setting up a constabulary of some kind and his best beloved had talked him into applying because, well, he’d be ‘guarding’ the whole town.

So here he was. Not a guard, but guarding a town. Not a guard, but guarding a prisoner. It worked for him.

Phineas sipped the steaming coffee and turned the page. It was the file of the murder everyone had been pulling long shifts working on. Nobody had specifically said he ‘couldn’t’ read it. And, he had needed something to stimulate his mind while everyone else was down at the school hall, he was a thoughtful man after all.

Halfway down the page, Phineas pursed his lips and his brow crinkled under the severe and perfectly flat buzzcut that had been his trademark since his sergeant days. He pulled some photographs from their envelope at the back of the file and compared them to the written description. Boots. Phineas was good at boots. He had worn a lot of different boots over the years. Taught a lot of recruits how to soften leather, how to polish them so that they could see their scared faces in them, even how to resole a favourite pair using old tyre rubber, the ready made sole that pretty much most of the population used. Yeah, he was good at boots.

The boots in the photos, however, were special. Ignoring the fact that he was looking at the boot prints on the dead flesh of a once pretty girl, Phineas immediately identified the distinctive print of a military boot. A very deep print designed to be long-lasting and to give good grip over all surfaces. A recruit’s first pair of boots were well made, and therefore expensive. A soldier had to look after his feet, if you couldn’t walk, you couldn’t soldier and it was unfair on your buddies to ask them to carry you because you’d neglected your basic foot hygene. So, unless the lad back there in the cells had stolen a pair, these boots weren’t his.

The second set of prints, and whoever had been wearing these boots had really been stamping down hard on the dead girl, were totally different. Flat soled, so no tread mark. A big, chunky heel with a deep instep. Carefully placed nails attaching the heel, and exactly spaced stitches attaching the flat leather sole. Riding boots, and not cheap. Not that you could buy cheap riding boots anyway, but these were a cut above. Again, unless young whatshisname had stolen these boots, he would be unlikely to have ever been able to buy them.

Phineas got up, wiped the scuff marks that his own boots had made on the duty desk, put the file under his arm and carried his coffee to the back of the building where the cells were. He wanted to have a little chat with the prisoner about boots.

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Joe Spivey's picture

When Phineas got to the cell, it was to find the prisoner stretched out on the cot with his arms behind his head. The kid’s sunken eyes followed the constable as he approached and they stared at each other through the bars for a few seconds. Phineas took a drink of his coffee, savouring the strong beans before swallowing.

“On your feet, boy.

Arthur never moved.

“Fuck you…” The pause was filled with malice. “…CUNTstable.”

Phineas snorted softly. He took a step backwards and dragged up an ancient hardbacked chair.

“Yeah, can’t say as I blame you.” He positioned the chair just out of arm’s reach of the bars and sat down, making the joints of the old chair creak in protest. “I’d be full of sass and vinegar too in your place.” He sat the still steaming tin mug down on the floor next to him and opened the folder.

Arthur watched. He recognised the folder from the interviews with the Chief Constable.

Phineas leafed through the pages, turning photographs as if to get a better look but really only doing so to fix the prisoner’s attention and focus his mind. He didn’t look up when he spoke.

“Everyone’s away at the funeral of that girl you murdered.”

It took some seconds before Arthur answered.

“I didn’t murder her. It was an accident.”

“Uhuh. That’s what it says you said in here.”

“It’s true. I just wanted to talk.”

Phineas looked up and smiled.

“Of course, you did.”

“I did!”

The constable sniffed loudly.

“Whatever. Doesn’t bother me one way or the other, son. I guess they’ll figure out the truth of the matter before they hang you.”

Arthur sat up on the bed.

“Wh…at?”

“Or not. I don’t know how they do it here. Me and the wife haven’t been here long enough to know things like that.”

Arthur lay down again, his hands going back behind his head.

“They, won’t hang me. The mayor wouldn’t allow that.”

To Phineas, it sounded like the kid was trying to convince himself with his own words.

“Yeah, I get that vibe from her.” He went back to looking through the file. Then stopped. “Say, is she related to that kid who works in the sick bay?”

“Doctor Troy? Yes. The mayor is her mom.”

Doctor Troy? That little girl is a goddamn doctor?”

Arthur shrugged.

“She’s a clone. They both are.”

“Ahhhh. Clones. Right, that explains it. The Chief is too,” Phineas lifted his hands into the air and waggled his fingers. “One of the ‘woo-woo’ kind. Creepy as fuck.”

The description of the Chief Constable as ‘creepy’ actually cracked a smile on Arthur’s face and he sat up again.

“Yeah. He does shit with his mind. Makes things float around, sets light to stuff with like…” The seventeen-year-old clicked his fingers. “Poof!”

“Not the kind of man you want angry with you, son. You be careful with him.”

Arthur nodded. He had seen the anger in the Chief Constable’s eyes more than once.

Phineas lifted out a photograph and looked closely at it.

“Now, it says here that after you killed… sorry. After she died, you just ran back home.”

Arthur shrugged.

“That’s right.”

Phineas turned the photograph around and held it out towards the bars so the teenager could see.

“Then how did these boot marks get all over her? Someone gave that girl a real good kicking.”

Arthur stared at the picture of Magrat laying cold and dead on the stainless-steel autopsy table. The bright lights above the body bringing each knife wound and each bruise into livid clarity. Long seconds later he managed to drag his eyes away.

“I didn’t do that. Or any of those other knife stabs.”

Phineas returned the picture to the folder.

“Yeah, we know that. Soon after you left, someone dragged her body under that old trailer. Then, a few hours later, probably that same someone came back with a friend and did all that to her.” Phineas watched the boy’s face. “Whoever it was, one of them was wearing military boots, enforcer boots. Probably new boots because the tread in those pictures looks barely worn.” Phineas lowered his voice to a soft whisper. “Son. Do you know anyone who wears boots like that? Who was wearing boots like that, that day?”

The old constable barely breathed as he watched the concentration take over the young prisoner’s face. Then, there it was, a slight catch of the breath and the boy’s eyes lifted to look into his own.

It was an hour later when the chief and the others got back from the funeral. Phineas could see on their faces that they had all been affected by what he guessed had been a solemn and moving occasion. The Chief Constable headed straight for his office. His angry stride matched the glare in his eyes. Phineas changed his mind about talking to him. Instead, his touched the arm of Sargent Alana.

“Sarge?”

She looked up at him, irritation flashed across her face for a moment but was gone just as soon.

“What is it constable?”

“Can I have a word with you?"

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Joe Spivey's picture

It was two minutes to six in the morning. The Chief constable stood on the still damp pavement with Constable Sweetly by his side. His thoughts about possible promotion for the man next to him were interrupted by the activity across the street as several constables, led by Sargent Alana, took up positions at the front and rear doors of the home of Jonas Barret. Shadow checked his watch. Outside Jonas’ front door, Alana was looking over her shoulder, waiting for his signal. He checked his watch again, then gave an exaggerated nod of his head.

Jonas Barret’s front door crashed inwards in a shower of splinters and shouted commands and the gathered constables disappeared inside. Shadow and Sweetly set of across the road at a leisurely pace. They made their way past the shattered front door and then past the rigid, wary constables who lined the passageway and guarded the flung open doors to various downstairs rooms.

The final “Clear!” was shouted from somewhere upstairs just as a shocked and sleep addled Jonas was being roughly escorted from the bottom of the stairs and then bundled into the untidy waiting mess that was the living room. Alana joined her boss moments later and Shadow indicated with a twitch of his head that the two constables who had helped Jonas down the stairs could now leave. Alana closed the door behind them.

Shadow stood in the middle of the room.

“Sit down Mr. Barret.”

Jonas, still in his boxers and, for some reason, a pair of socks. Remained defiantly standing, even if he was shaking like a leaf.

“What the hell! You can’t just come barging into a guy’s…”

But that was as far as he got before Alana stepped forward and, with a firm push of her hand in the centre of Jonas’ chest, sent him staggering backwards onto his cluttered couch.

Shadow folded his arms.

“Obviously, we can. Now then. Where were you at the time that young lady was being murdered?”

Jonas rubbed his chest.

“I don’t remember.”

“Witnesses put you in the Black Beer.”

Jonas looked up sullenly.

“Maybe. Probably. There’s isn’t much else to do since I lost my job.”

“So, you had been drinking?”

“Yes.”

“Those witnesses also said you’d been there most of the afternoon too, drinking heavily.”

“I ain’t denying it.”

Just then, the door opened and constable Sweetly came in carrying a bundle of clothes.

Shadow nodded to Alana, who pulled out a pair of handcuffs.

“Jonas Barret.” He said, turning back to the half-dressed man on the couch. “I’m arresting you for tampering with a crime scene, removing evidence, and defilement of a corpse.”

Jonas went white, his jaw dropping open.

Sweetly stepped forward.

“Get dressed.” He passed the man a pair of trousers. “These your pants?”

Jonas recovered and snatched them from the constable.

“Of course, they damn well are.” He started to pull them on.

“And are these your boots?” Sweetly asked, holding out a pair of polished, new military issue boots.

Jonas stood up, pulling up his pants.

“Yes dammit! Those are my boots. These are my pants and this is my damned house! Not that that seems to matter a shit!”

Sweetly and Shadow shared a glance.

Once Jonas was dressed, Alana put the handcuffs on him and took him by the arm. Jonas turned to the Chief Constable.

“You just wait ‘till Hana hears about this. You’ll see.”

Shadow grinned.

“Oh, I can’t wait. In fact, I’m going over there right now.”

Speechless, Jonas Barret was led out of his house to a waiting car.

At nine thirty, Shadow called in at the mayor’s office with the Barret siblings damning statements… And a request to build more cells due to overcrowding.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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