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A Shot In The Dark [3]

Hyle Troy's picture
Submission type:


Silja sat tight lipped in the passenger seat of Joe’s van. She could see Joe’s knuckles showing white even against his pallid skin. She listened to him breathing through his nose, it was slow, regular, but through his nose, audible above the rumble of the van and the odd crashed gear change. Silja rubbed at the chafing left on her wrists by several applications of handcuffs. She was not looking forward to arriving at Chez- Spivey, not one bit.


Inspector Crabbe hurriedly hid the large whisky in his desk drawer when there was a tapping on his office door. Pity, he had needed that whisky badly after Joe left and had had only one sip which was not enough to settle his nerves.

Come in !”

It was Kopkage. “What’s with letting the girl go, Boss?”

Crabbe bristled. “Bailed! Not freed.”At least he still had authority over his squad, it made him feel better. “Sit!”


Crabbe was feeling the downside of playing both ends against the middle. He knew that taking The Ranyhyn schilling was not necessarily a good idea. Joe was right, Dwight Frye could be very scary, he could not trust him. Not that he could trust Joe, but at least Joe was honest, in his own way. Joe was old school and everything was on a ‘quid-pro-quo’ basis that he understood. Yes Joe had the ability to piss on anyone’s parade, but at least you would see it coming. He was not as convinced that Frye, or Miss damned Hanne Berg would be so predictable. Maybe it would be better for him if she did ‘join the choir invisible’. Crabbe shook that thought out of his mind.


Boss?” Kopkage brought Crabbe back to the here and now.

Bail.” Crabbe sat forward “We need more on her if we are going to make this stick. The girl is our only lead and our only witness is Mr. Frye.”

Maybe we bring Frye in. Maybe he was the shooter.” Kopkage offered helpfully.

Crabbe shuddered at the mere mention of that possibility. “Don’t be stupid! It’s got to be the girl, I am sure of it. We just need more proof.”

Crabbe’s rheumy eyes settle on Kopkage. “Go over and talk to Frye, check his statement and see if he can add anything, especially about this cat-fight. Ask around some more. Witnesses. Anyone!”

Anyone?” Kopkage’s voice held a slight tone of caution which Crabbe realised. Crabbe raises his hands slightly. Kopkage knew what that meant. Anyone except known close associates of Joe Spivey esq. Kopkage nodded. Putting two bricks together he understood why Crabbe was: one, looking uncomfortable, and two, insisting on a certain level of discretion. Kopkage knew Crabbe was on the take, a morsel he kept to himself. Despite everything, Kopkage was loyal to his boss. Kop looked at his rather large wristwatch, then at Crabbe.

I’ll see what I can do.”


Two hundred thirty five kilometres away. Henning Mortensson fussed at the decorations in ‘Silja’s room’.

Ever since Hanne had called him the previous night he had been in a high state of excitement after she had told him of Silja’s decision to come home at last. He had hardly slept and he rose early to begin preparations. Hanne had not told him why Silja had changed her mind, but it didn’t matter, he didn’t care. His ‘lítil prinsessa’ was coming home!


All day he had cleaned, such was his happiness. OK he had maybe needed a few nips of the hard stuff ‘just to steady his nerves’ of course.


His heart leaped as he heard the car pull up outside. Then sank. Only Dwight Frye had got out. Were was his little girl?


Henning opened the door before Dwight had a chance to knock. Henning peered past Dwight, looking for his daughter. Dwight put his hand on Henning’s shoulder.


Dwight guided Henning to his chair, gently setting him into it.”

She’s not coming.” he said gently, for a giant.

The old man sat. open mouthed, bewildered. “Not… coming…. ?” The old eyes were misty, wide. Dwight shook his head.

There is more.” Dwight took a deep breath, summoning compassion from somewhere deep. “It’s Hanne. She’s been shot.”

Dwight looked down, the old man’s mouth opened and closed fish-like.

She’ll be fine!” Dwight hastily added, leaving accuracy about Hanne’s condition to one side for a while. “She’s in Hope Springs Clinic, it’s the best!” he added with faux enthusiasm,

Sad helpless eyes looked back from grey brows, Mouth still open.

I’ll take you there. Umm, my car is here. Outside.” Dwight added.

Henning slowly shook his head, his reply came just as slow, with glacial Icelandic accent “No, I follow, I haff… some thingss to be doing.. I follow.. you go, see Hanne, and Seelja. Hoper Spreengs you say?”

Dwight nodded, Henning stood and guided Dwight back to the door with wiry fingers “Are you sure?”

Yess I am shoore. I come soon as I haff getting readied. You go, See Hanne, tell Seelja. Seelja will be upsetted. I come, soon… yes. No worry.”

Dwight bit his tongue, the fact Silja was the culprit was maybe better kept from the old man for now. Dwight felt embarrassed and was actually a little relieved to have an excuse to return to Flagstaff alone. He headed for his car.

Thangg kyu.. fo’ coming Mester Frye.” Henning waved from the door, he would in fact follow as soon as possible, of course.. just as soon as he. Tidied? Yes. But maybe just a glass or two before? Yes. Just a glass or two.


At Chez-Spivey. Anneka was overjoyed. Silja was back. She leaped and hung herself around Silja’s neck tightly. Silja hugged back. Kirsten was coming down the stairs, she also was smiling, but the smile flashed a questioning glance at Joe that Silja did not miss. Behind Silja, Joe shrugged.

She’s back aint’ she?”

Kirsten drew breath to ask how but something in Joe’s glance stopped the words. (for once, thought Joe.) Kirsten’s glance came back to Silja and Silja read it perfectly. The next few hours were going to b very uncomfortable indeed.



Silja. My study. Please.”


Joe Spivey's picture

Dejectedly, Silja followed Joe into his study.

Joe Spivey was born into and grew up in poverty. He was schooled in crime and accepted the casual violence all around him as just the way things were. Only when he joined the army did he get to see that there was maybe something other than that life. During a three month stint working in the Officers’ Mess Joe saw how some people lived in quiet, comfortable opulence. Surrounded by all the good things in life and where whatever they wanted was only a snap of the fingers away. Joe’s study was his personal homage to that lifestyle. Not that he needed it or even sought it, the comfortable home he lived in was Kirsten. His study was simply a nod to his earlier self.

Silja only rarely came in here (usually to retrieve a wandering Anneka). She found the wood panelling, the leather, the books and Joe’s over ornate desk intimidating on the one hand and just a little ridiculous on the other. Right now, though, ‘intimidating’ was definitely winning. Automatically she went to stand in front of Joe’s desk partly because the room demanded it. So she was a little bit discombobulated when Joe veered off to where two small chesterfield sofas faced each other in the heavily curtained alcove of the big bay window.

“Sit down Silja.”

The red leather of the deep buttoned and nail-head trimmed chesterfield sighed softly as Silja sat, huddled up against the low arm with both hands holding onto the arm as if it were some kind of comforter. She was nervous.

Joe poured two large whisky glasses of brandy and held one out to Silja. She was about to refuse but Joe curtailed that the moment as he saw Silja’s lips start to move.

“Take it and drink it.”

Silja took the glass and lifted it to her lips as Joe turned and sat directly opposite her on the twin of the sofa she was sitting on. She pre-grimaced ready for the expected rush of burning alcohol but was pleasantly surprised as a gentle heat filled her mouth and aromatic vapours wafted her palate. She swallowed automatically and her throat was embraced in velvet warmth. Silja blinked and looked at the glass in her hand. The unexpected pleasure of top class brandy eased the tension of the hours since her arrest and Silja relaxed just a little.

Joe used the moment.

“It’s a shock, being arrested. Suddenly you have no control in your life. Somebody else controls what you do. Where you are, even when you eat, sleep and shit. I know because I’ve been there and it’s frightening. But you already know that because you’ve been there before too.” Joe leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees with his own glass nested in his big hands. “But now you’re home. You’re safe.”

Joe’s words allowed Silja to drop the defences she had raised the moment the policemen had crashed through her bedroom door. Defences she had not used in many years, not since the day they had come for her and Momma.

Joe wasn’t good with crying and sat quietly while the tears fell. The only time he moved was to fetch a box of tissues he kept on his desk to wipe Annie’s sticky fingers clean during her occasional ‘escapes’ to his study. This time it wasn’t jam but salty tears that threatened his furniture and he silently handed the box to the sobbing teenager.

Both of their glasses had been refilled by the time Silja’s tear ducts stopped producing. The last of the expensive tissues was used to catch the fallout of a very unladylike nasal explosion. Joe still waited until Silja’s red rimmed eyes finally sought his own.

“How do you feel?”

Silja’s face clouded over like looming thunder.


Joe’s lips twitched. The teenage girl Joe knew and tolerated was back, at least the sulky version was.

Silja took a breath.

“It wasn’t my fault!” She was about to expand on that, at length. But the look in Joe’s eyes acted like a gag. It reminded her there was still a chance that, by the time she left this room, she might not have a job. She stared at Joe.

Joe sat back again, watching Silja in turn.

“Two very simple questions to start with, Silja.” He was rewarded with seeing Silja also sit back against the low back of the chesterfield and assume listening mode. “Now, you can lie to me if you want and I’ll take you at your word. But. If I find out that you have lied to me then bad things will happen. Understand?”

Across the carpet Silja acknowledge with the slowest of nods.

Joe used this tactic often. It gave whoever he was talking to a clear choice and it reminded them that there could be consequences for making the wrong one. Joe was never specific about what the ‘bad things’ might be, much better to let them come up with their own personal nightmare. But there were plenty of rumours around about what happened to people who crossed Joe. Hell, Joe even started some of the rumours himself.

“Okay then. First off, did you shoot Hanne Berg?”


Joe lifted a hand.

“Good. Glad to hear it. Not that she might not deserve a bullet in the brain but I’m relieved that it wasn’t our nanny.” Joe smiled and got a flicker of a response from Silja. “Secondly then. Do you know who did?”

Silja hesitated for a tiny fraction of a second.


“You sure?”

“Yes. Well…” Silja watched Joe’s eyebrows rise like two hairy caterpillars arching their backs. “Maybe Dwight? He’s like Hanne’s head minion or something. He’s… Unstable. Though…”

“Dwight Frye? ‘Unstable’ doesn’t cover half of it. But if Dwight was the shooter then Hanne would be dead and disposed of.” Joe’s eyebrows resumed their slumber. “Besides, shooting isn’t his thing. An axe maybe, or a hammer. Maybe a drill, probably a whole toolbox.” He noticed the mounting horror on Silja’s face. “Besides,” he finished hurriedly. “I think he dotes on her so I don’t see him being our man.”

The pair of them fell silent. Silja could feel the brandy having its effect. She put the still quarter full glass down. Joe noticed. Silja wasn’t a drinker. A glass and a half of brandy was more than enough.

“So, what were you and Hanne arguing about?”


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

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