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?

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18. Drowning.

Lloyd.

They took my car. Those bastards took my car.

 

“Fuck.”

 

As my silver Mercedes pulled out of the car park, I could still hear Max’s manic giggle ringing in my ears. I could still see the way he smiled when he was about to confess. I could still feel the rage boiling in my blood.

 

A white-hot spark of anger tore through me as I bit my lips and fought the urge to scream out into the air.

 

That shit. That absolute little shit.

 

Him and his drunk bloody sidekick had just stolen my car and Chesterfield had let them get away. His incompetence never failed to surprise me and now two people were dead as a consequence. I could feel him lingering behind me as I took a series of breaths and tried to hold myself together as the world tried to drag me over broken glass and pull me apart.

 

Was I okay?

 

Hell no. I hadn’t been okay since Katie had died. I hadn’t been okay since I had held her body in my arms and felt her blood slipping through my fingertips. Sometimes, I could still feel her blood staining my hands and no matter how much I tried, I could never wash it away.

 

My nightmares were like a living thing.

They were like a constant companion that resided in the darkest corners of my brain and waited to latch on to my weakness with claws extended. I was used to it. I was used to working through it because I had no other choice. My mind was simply playing memories on a loop and forcing my body to come along with it. If I was lucky, I could follow my most recent case until completion and then allow my body to shut down. It wasn’t healthy. I knew that, but it was how I operated and how I survived – by my wits and on the edge of complete collapse.

 

A strangled laugh bubbled in my throat as I watched my car fade turn out of the carpark and move towards the road. The wasted one let out a cheer as he held his middle finger up at me and childishly stuck out his tongue. Max simply waved with a smirk on his lips and cut onto the street without indicating. The melody of horns sliced through the air as a wince slipped through my lips.

 

I had the distinct impression that if I ever got my car back, it wouldn’t be in one piece. I only hoped that my insurance company would accept the excuse of ‘left my car unlocked and it was stolen by a murderer and a drunk after they escaped from custody under my watch. What was that? Yes, the break light was already broken. I was going to get it fixed after work. You’ll still pay up, right?’

 

There’s a joke to be said here. I was sure of it. It was hiding somewhere beneath the chill of the air and the rows of parked cars outside of the police station.

I wondered if I’d laugh when I figured it out.

I wondered if it would actually be funny.

  

And then, I snapped.

Gone. Gone. Gone.

Blood on my hands. Blood on my hands again.

Dear God. Katie. Martha. Jackie.

 

Why did I have to lose everyone? Just once, why couldn’t someone else take the fall? Why did the world hate me? The universe seemed to have a sadistic sense of humour and it felt like I was the punchline of every joke.

 

Max was the reason that Jackie was dead.

 

And now I had to bring him to justice.

For Jackie.

 

I turned on Chesterfield.

“Give me your keys.”

 

He glared at me with confusion lacing his features before realisation set in. He shook his head.

 

“Hell no.”

 

“I’m not letting them get away. Not on my watch.”

 

“You’re a forensic. This is not your division. Hell, you’re not paid to do this. It isn’t your job, Kid.”

 

I grit my teeth and bit back a growl. Sometimes I wondered if people like Chesterfield were put on the planet purely to test my anger management skills.

Or lack of.

 

“Jackie is dead. This is beyond personal. I want them locked up. I want them to pay for their crimes.” I was aware of how my voice wavered and how those brats got further and further away with each passing moment.

 

“Not a chance.”

 

I clenched my fists and let the anger flood through me as the image of Jackie’s body filled my mind. She was so young. She was innocent. Max had killed her and I refused to let it go.

 

Finally, I conceded.

 

“I’ll do your paperwork for a month.”

 

Silence.

 

“Two months.”

 

“Deal.”

 

He reached into his pocket as I tapped my foot against the floor.

“So what’s the plan then?”

 

“I’m going to bring them in.”

 

“Alone?”

“Yes.” I answered. “I’ll pull them over and arrest them.”

Chesterfield scrutinized me for a few long moments.

“That’s a shit plan. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” I acknowledged immediately. “They’re way too stubborn for that.”

 

“Okay. As long as you know that.”

 

We stared at each other. Then, he held out the keys.

 

“I’ll get the cells prepped.”

 

I snatched the keys out of his hand and mentally noted down that I owed him a few cans of beer.

And a punch in the face for being an ass.

But now, I had to focus on bringing Dumb and Dumber back into custody. I was still trying to decide which one was which.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Then, I ran over to his car, kitted out with police lights and sirens before opening the door and sliding into the driver’s seat. I inserted the key and listened as the engine burst into life. It purred for a long few moments before I gripped the steering wheel and began to make my escape. My heart raced as I reversed out of the space and briefly contemplated knocking down Chesterfield with his own car.

 

But then I decided against it.

 

There had been more than enough death recently.

 

I exited the car park and indicated before turning onto the road. I flicked the switch as the howl of sirens rung into the air and blue lights flashed all around me.

 

Those bastards would pay.

 

This was not a game.

And I refused to lose. I refused to lose anything else – anyone else.

 

There wasn’t an inch of me that didn’t hurt. It felt like all I was now – pain. It seemed to define me and I hated it. I hated how much it hurt. This felt like all I was now – rage.

 

When Dumb and Dumber were in jail, I could rest. I could let myself heal and breath and remember Jackie as my best friend and not the body that lay before me in a pool of red.  Slowly but surely, I was coming to loathe that specific shade of crimson. It was becoming all too familiar as the days sped away. When this was over, I would take some time off.

I would take some time to recover.

I needed to fix myself before I shattered completely.

 

My first stop was their flat. Because of course, where else would two idiots go after breaking out of the police station? I put on my best welsh voice and proceeded to ask their neighbour to let me up. Mrs Willow – the eighty-two year old – proceeded to make me a cup of coffee as a searched Max and Charlie’s shit-heap of a flat. The whole place smelled of booze and dirty washing as I pulled on my gloves and sifted through their belongings.

 

You can deduce an awful lot about someone from their possessions.

 

I started in Max’s room. On his walls were several of his latest articles including some bullshit about a lawnmower murderer. I scoffed at the nonsense he passed off as facts and the badly veiled insults that filled his work. God knows how Max was considered a ‘professional’ in his industry. I mean, newspapers were dying out and Max was well on his way to ensuring their extinction. I mean, he ended his article about a triple homicide with ‘I hope they’re all okay’.

 

He was referring to the victims.

 

In my mind, I wondered if his lawyers would argue for diminished capacity. They would certainly have enough evidence from his so-called career.

 

Under his bed was a box of comic books and the box set of the Twilight Saga. The pages were obviously well read as I skimmed through a few pages and scoffed. Vampires that sparkle? And I thought Max’s life couldn’t be any more tragic.

Maybe I’d send him a set to read in prison. Maybe I’d enjoy watching him suffer.

 

I looked through his wardrobe and noticed the collection of Batman T-shirts and Superman ties. Dear God, this man was mentally challenged. He called this work attire? I mean, I know my suits were sometimes a bit much but this was the other end of the scale.

 

But I was getting side tracked. I had a job to do and there was no evidence here so I moved on.

 

Next, was Charlie’s room. The scent of alcohol clung to the air as I stepped inside to see an unmade bed and empty bottles covering the bed side table. Dust floated through the air, dancing in the sliver of sunlight and begging to be cleaned after months of build-up. I shook my head and kept on looking. Other than an ‘interesting’ selection of magazines and a couple of self-help books (clearly unread by the state of the room), there was nothing of interest. I fought against my OCD and left the room before the urge to tidy up got any stronger.

 

Finally, I examined the kitchen. What a sad little place. They didn’t even have and coffee. Heathens. The cupboards were void of any food and the fridge was full of beer. A spark of pain shot through me as I recognised Jackie’s favourite brand. More than anything, I wished she was standing next to me, teasing me and pointing me in the right direction.

 

But Max had taken her from me.

 

Moving over to the cutlery draw, I opened it to see a large blade. I lifted it from the draw and examined it in the dim light. What was it that Jackie used to say?

Humans were the deadliest monsters of them all.

 

Maybe she was right.

 

I was interrupted from my thoughts by Mrs Willow hobbling into the room with a china cup of coffee in her shaking hands. I took it with a polite smile and took a sip.

 

I tried not to wince.

 

Sugar. Wonderful. Could my day get any worse?  

 

“Thank you. I think I’m about done here. This has all been very…enlightening.” It  was reassuring to see the state of someone else’s life and to see how it was worse than mine. At least I had order in my life. Shit happened and I dealt with it, unlike some who let it deal with them.

 

“These boys are always in trouble. They’re always up to something!” She spoke with a frail voice as I simply nodded and pretended to care. Behind my blank look, my mind was racing.

 

Where the hell could these idiots be?

 

“Thank you for all of your help. And for the coffee.”

 

“You’re welcome, love. I never have visitors.”

 

And if as she walked away, I tipped the drink into a plant pot then I could hardly feel sorry. The cactus looked half-dead anyway.

And how it was possible to kill a cactus, I had no idea.

 

Closing up the flat with no further clues, I made my way back down to the car and continued my search. I restarted the engine, ignored my four missed calls from Chesterfield and began to drive.

I took a sharp breath as I tore down the streets and searched for my prey.

 

Seconds passed.

Minutes passed.

Hours passed.

 

Soon enough the day melted into night and I remained prowling the streets looking for a silver Mercedes with a journalist and an alcoholic inside. Almost four hours since I started my search, I pulled into a drive thru and ordered a strong black coffee. No, I don’t want any sugar thank you very much.

As I sat in the parking lot with the drink steaming in my grasp, I got out my phone and stared at the screen. A picture of me and Jackie lit up the screen as exhaustion flooded over me.

I just wanted to hear her voice. I just wanted to hear her voice one last time.

 

I went into my contacts and called Jackie’s phone. I stared into the darkness of the night as the phone rung with no answer. Because there would never be an answer ever again.

 

And then I heard her voice.

 

BEEP.

 

Hello! It’s Jackie. If you can’t reach me, call Lloyd. I’m probably with him… Not romantically or anything. Fuck. That sounded wrong. How do I turn this off? Lloyd? LLOYD?”

 

BEEP.

“H-Hey Jackie.” I found myself saying. “I-I miss you. I miss you so damn much. I just wanted- I just wanted to thank you for being my friend and for- and for a-accepting me when no one else would. I’m sorry for failing you…”

 

I took a breath.

“I love you always.”

 

And then I hung up.

 

Sat in a carpark, in the middle of London with a cup of coffee in my hands, I let the tears finally fall.

 

Because it was sink or swim

And I was drowning.

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