A Stab in the Dark

A detective. A forensic scientist. A journalist.
Three lives drawn together by a murder.
When evidence lies and the case evolves, who can you trust in a city full of lies?
---- Updated every Wednesday ----

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9. Beer and Takeout

​Jackie

Somewhere in London, a killer was on the loose, and it was my job to find them and make them pay. And I would. But first, I was going to order pizza, turn on Netflix, and enjoy a night in with my colleague and best friend.

Someone had dumped a Domino’s pamphlet through my apartment door about a week prior, and I found it crumpled up in the wastepaper basket under my desk. The company phone number was printed in big red letters on the back. As I dialled the number on my cellphone and told the bored-sounding teenager on the other end what I wanted, I found myself looking forward to taking the evening off. I was exhausted, and I felt like some time off was long overdue. After all, I did devote an inordinately large amount of time and energy to my job, and although anyone who works a job like mine is expected to make sacrifices, I did have a bit of a reputation for being obsessive. My colleagues were constantly telling me that I worked too hard; that I let myself become consumed by every single unsolved case that passed over my desk; that I needed to “chill out” from time to time. Well, tonight was as good a night as any, and I was going to “chill out.” For a time, at least.

Even as I ordered Lloyd’s favourite pizza and began scrolling through movies on Netflix, I could hear a little voice in the back of my head telling me that I was being selfish.

‘What are you doing, Jackie?’ It goaded. ‘What are you doing? There’s a killer on the loose! And what, exactly, are you doing to stop them?’

I was sitting in my nice warm living room with a TV remote in my hand, waiting for my friend to knock on the door. But I couldn’t help feeling that somewhere in London, someone was standing on a cold street corner with a knife in their hand, waiting for their next victim to wander by.

There’s a killer on the loose, and you don’t care. They could be anywhere! Right now, they could be walking down your street. They could be living down the hallway from you. They could be right outside your door, and you wouldn’t care. Enjoy your pizza. Enjoy your movie. But when you find yourself standing over the body of their next victim, remember to regret your selfishness.’

I knew that I would.

Realising that I had reached the end of the Netflix Recommended section, I set the remote down and decided that I would let Lloyd choose what to watch. I sat there for a moment, staring at the TV screen, until the silence was broken by the sound of a knock on the door. Shoving my guilt to the back of my mind, I made my way across the hallway and unlatched the door. I was tired, but when my eyes met Lloyd’s, my warm smile came naturally.

“Hi, Lloyd.” I said.

“Hey, Jackie,” he said. He returned my smile, but his face was pale, and his eyes were tinged with red, betraying the tears he had shed alone. I closed the door behind him as he stepped inside, leading him across the hall into the living room.

“I’ve ordered the pizzas already. Ham and pineapple okay with you?”

“Yep, you know me all right.” Lloyd took a seat on the sofa, and I flopped down beside him.

“D’you want to choose a movie? I can’t find anything.” I said, picking up the remote and offering it to him.

“Thanks.” He took the remote and began to scroll through the list of movies. “Hey, I’ve been meaning to see the new Fast and Furious. That okay with you?”

“Oh, heck yeah. I didn’t even know it was out.”

He began to type the name of the movie into the search bar, and there was another knock on the door.

“That’ll be the pizzas. I won’t be a second.”

 I made my way across the hallway, opened the door, and paid the delivery man. Taking the steaming hot pizzas, I closed the door and yelled through to Lloyd,

“D’you want a beer? I’ve got some in the freezer.”

“Yes, please.”

I went into the kitchen and grabbed two cans of Guinness. Then I carried the pizzas into the living room and closed the door, holding out one of the two steaming hot boxes. Lloyd smiled as he took it from me.

“Wow, this smells amazing, Jackie.”

Taking a seat on the couch beside Lloyd, I opened my own box and inhaled deeply. “Yeah.”

My mouth was already watering as I slid out a slice of pizza and sank my teeth into it.

“You know, I haven’t eaten anything all damn day,” I said through a mouthful of cheese and pepperoni.

Lloyd smiled as he took a bite of his own pizza. “I guess justice doesn’t take coffee breaks.”

“You can say that again.” My first slice of pizza was gone before I could finish my sentence, and I grabbed another. “You found the movie?”

“Yep. I’ve got it on pause. Shall we watch?”

“Hell yeah.”

A swell of music erupted from the TV as the movie began. I finished my second slice and resisted the urge to lick my fingers.

“Your pizza okay?”

“It’s delicious. What’ve you got?”

“Uh, chicken and pepperoni.”

“Hey, wait a second. You can’t have chicken on a pizza. That’s like putting mustard on a cake!”

I raised an eyebrow and took another bite. “You’ve literally got a freaking pineapple on your pizza. Pineapple isn’t even savoury.”

He grinned at me. “Yeah, but it’s delicious.”

I returned the grin, and we turned back to the TV. We didn’t speak again for another half hour or so; I got the feeling that Lloyd just wanted to lose himself in the movie for a little while, and that was okay. I finished my pizza and leaned back on the sofa. The movie wasn’t that good, but I was enjoying it. More than that, I was enjoying Lloyd’s company, and although he was silent, his eyes fixed on the screen, I could tell that he was grateful for mine. After a little while, he got up off the sofa and began to head for the door.

“Where are you going, Lloyd?”

“Oh- just to put this in the bin.” He held up his empty pizza box.

“Don’t bother. Just dump it on the coffee table.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I mean, this room isn’t exactly tidy.”

The floor was carpeted with documents, and the glass coffee table was groaning under the weight of a dozen folders and files. I had always tried to keep my work locked away in my office, but it had gradually made a mess of my nice, tidy apartment, just as it had made a mess of my nice, tidy life. Lloyd placed his pizza box on top of the nearest pile and sat back down.

“You know, you can’t keep letting this stuff take over your life, Jackie. Put the files away every once in a while, yeah?”

I didn’t answer, instead fixing my attention on the movie. The black walls of my living room were splashed with orange and red as something dramatically blew up on screen, but I didn’t know who or what it was, and I didn’t really care. Suddenly, all I could think about was work. What the hell was I doing? Somewhere in London, a killer was on the loose, and I was eating pizza, watching Netflix, and sitting on my ass doing absolutely nothing. I was being selfish.

I placed Lloyd’s empty pizza box on the floor and went to grab a file from the top of the stack, but Lloyd’s hand was in the way. I looked up and saw his eyes staring into mine, a look of concern on his face.

“Jackie, it’s okay. You don’t have to do this to yourself. You don’t have to work so hard all the time.”

I suddenly felt bad. He had arrived on my doorstep with tears in his eyes, needing a night in and a friend to share it with, and now he was comforting me.

“Lloyd, I’m so sorry. I-“

“No, it’s okay. I’m okay. Here- put that thing down.”

I placed the file carefully back on the pile, and leant back just in time to see Lloyd reaching into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small book.

“How about some light reading instead?”

I frowned and took the book from him, recognising it as the diary from Martha’s apartment.

“Don’t you need to, uh...”

“I already did all the DNA stuff. I figured you’d want to read it.”

I flicked through the book, immediately noticing that several pages in the middle were missing. “Hey, what’s this?”

“Yeah, I noticed that too. Seems weird.”

“I wonder if-“

“Don’t worry about it right now,” he said quickly. “This movie’s just getting good. Just, you know... chill out. Just for tonight? For me?”

I smiled and placed my hand on his. “Sure.”

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