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June 10, 2024

After Life 06

By Sand Pilarski

Chapter Six: Bad Guys

Roj was back in Garrison's office to view his entrance into the mess. She watched with extreme pleasure the widening of his eyes, the reddening of his face, the contortion of his brows and mouth as he surveyed the damage. She felt as though her face, had she had one any more, would have imaged the comfortable smile of a sated cat. "Kelley!" he bellowed. "Who the hell has been in this office?"

His secretary, Kelley Shugart, ran out into the hallway, her bony knees peeking from beneath her skirt as she scrabbled to Garrison's side. "Oh, my God! No one has the keys to your office but you, Sir! No one, not even me, except the building security office!"

"Get someone up here from Forensics, NOW. Dust this shit for prints. Someone is going to jail for this."

Each level of his discovery gave her greater waves of satisfaction. First the room, then the sideboard, as he went to fortify the coffee he was carrying. Roj went close to him the better to study his facial expressions. He purpled again, seeing all the empty bottles. "God damn it, what the fuck is this about?"

Better still was his reaction to the discovery of his sloppy file drawer. He jumped back in his wheeled executive office chair as though he had seen a rattlesnake. She was sitting -- although she didn't have a body -- on the side of his desk, just admiring his lack of aplomb. Time seemed to slow, and she went around him, from front to back, side to side, to appreciate how outraged he was. His rage vibrated off him like heat distortion, like sparklers jiggling in the hands of children on the Fourth of July. And he hasn't even seen the bathroom yet, she chortled.

Two clowns from Forensics scuttled in the door, crowding each other. They stopped just inside the office. "Wow. Holy shit," Jim Harvey said.

The other one, Les Osbourne, muttered, "Some one is in some deep shit."

"That's right," Garrison roared. "Get me some prints and let's find out who this lousy bastard is! Gotta be someone in the building! Get after it!"

Would the fingerprints reveal her identity? She didn't know. And it wouldn't matter, would it, if they did. What would Garrison do, have her body exhumed and arrest what was left of it? She imagined her mostly headless carcass on the witness stand, being asked questions while exam-gloved assistants held her decomposing body upright. Go for it, Garrison, you gleaming hole.

By and by, while Osbourne and Harvey checked for fingerprints, Garrison decided he had to relieve himself of morning coffee, or whatever. Roj followed him, reveling in his shout of outrage at the massacre of his potty.

Naughty potty, Roj felt herself giggle.

Raging, Garrison went to the men's restroom, with Roj shamelessly following him. As the Dirty Boss shifted himself back and forth before the urinal, Roj gently lifted his wallet from his back pocket, priding herself on her smooth removal. She went out of the restroom on his heels, then went up to Personnel on the third floor with Morton, who was delivering paperwork from the first floor, hoping he wouldn't notice a wallet floating behind him.

She made it into Personnel with the wallet, not knowing if it helped or not to tuck it into what might be an armpit. Normally in this office, people kept a bleary eye on who was coming and going, but didn't leave their focus off the stuff on their desk, lest they be asked to do something they felt was below their station ... which was to keep seats warm and talk back and forth as they input information, often inaccurately.

Roj stuffed the wallet behind a wilting potted peace plant, waiting until break time. She didn't need sleep, but fidgeted, looking around for something to do until the next time she needed to take action.

"You have hours. Why don't you go and watch the patrolmen, and see which one Garrison calls to assist him?" Desai said nearby.

"Are you shadowing me?"

"More or less," Desai answered amiably.

"Why, am I a threat?"

"No, Roj, I'm just with you."

"I'm fine on my own," Roj told him with heat.

"You weren't, now were you? And you're not now. And so, I'm with you."

Roj had no reason to believe Desai, but she abandoned her windowsill post in Personnel and dropped to the first floor, where officers and sergeants manned desks and took names, numbers, and preliminary stories from handcuffed and non-handcuffed perps and victims.

She moved among the people, listening for key words: meth, Trapester, Garrison, The Boss ... she watched the pyrotechnics of rage, the fretting flecks of fear, the oozing pus of hatred and willful wrongdoing, and the dusty patina of sheer boredom.

Boredom, in dealing with criminal activity. Here was an armed thief, who had held up a deli at gunpoint. The officer taking his information was barely listening to him, bored out of his mind with the tedium of Just Another Crook. It was obvious to the felon, who watched the officer warily, but not in fear. The officer was not particularly upset by the infraction, so why should the robber be? It was all part of what they do.

We've grown into a society that thinks playing Cops and Robbers is a way of life. Have people always been that way?

Roj expected Desai to say something, weigh in on that question, but there was no voice. She moved on, drifting between the desks and cubicles. At the sound of a phone slamming onto its base, she looked over the aisles to see Hennessey stand up and call to Anderson, "Gotta go upstairs. Chief wants to talk to me."

She followed him.

To her surprise, Garrison greeted Hennessey and led him into the stairwell rather than talk to him in his office, where Osbourne and Harvey were still dusting shards and fixtures.

"Was that bastard Trapester in here last night?" Garrison snarled, rounding on Hennessey.

"No, Chief, he wasn't. Don't need to be worried about him. He's been totally fuckin' deranged drunk since Roj was killed."

"Are you sure?" Garrison demanded. "Someone got into my office last night and trashed it. Who else on the force could have done that?"

"Have you checked for prints on the Security Office keys, or asked them who might have come in?"

They returned to Garrison's office. Garrison picked up his phone and pressed a button to page his secretary. "Kelley, get me the Security Office, now."

While he waited for his call to go through, Roj observed that Hennessey didn't even wince when Garrison referred to Matt as "that bastard Trapester." Yep, Danny was right, and Desai had a good idea.

Hennessey is not only crooked, he's practically in confidence. She decided to follow him for a while.

He went back downstairs and got on the phone to night shift people, waking them, demanding to know if Matt Trapester had been into the offices the night before. All negative answers. Who had come in besides On-Duty, or civilians? No one.

While he angrily interrogated, Roj stole his cell phone from his In basket, turned it off, and hid it beneath the next desk.

Is displacing things "stealing" -- is taking things from crooks in order to try to right wrongs "stealing" -- is wanting to know who Hennessey is calling "theft of information" or merely investigation? Ah, well, I stole the stupid phone from him, so I guess that qualifies as theft."I'm a thief. Desai will be disappointed in me. Sorry, Desai. Messing with shifty types is just so satisfying I can't seem to resist."

Slamming the phone down, Hennessey stood and rapped on the edge of the adjoining cubicle. "Marley, answer my damn phone if it rings, will you? Garrison's got the red ass and it's giving me the shits."

Marley nodded from his chair, cramming an unrecognizable McBreakfast-style sandwich into his face.

Yes, Marley, do answer the phone if it rings. Roj picked up Hennessey's phone and turned it over. She moved the little switch beneath it to "Silent" and replaced the plastic artifact to its previous site as exactly as she could, matching its feet to the clean tracks among the dust and crumbs.

Oh, the price one pays for being Garrison's buddy, Roj sighed, pressing buttons on Hennessey's computer. Once again, thank you, Danny for your invaluable help. Smiling contentedly, she let the computer do its magic and Restore to Factory Settings.

"Yes, that's a kind of theft, too," said Desai.

"I can see that," Roj replied. "Wait until you see what I do with Garrison's credit cards."

"What could you possibly purchase with his credit that would benefit you?"

"Oh, nothing. But wouldn't it do him some virtue to purchase enough blankets for the homeless shelter downtown?"

"You think you are Robin Hood."

"No, not really. It was just an idea. Something he'd be hard put to take back, something that might do someone some good."

Desai folded arms across the chest. "They have enough blankets there. Invest in canned meat, if you must spend."

"Got it. Hennessey's afraid of Garrison, big time. He wasn't kidding when he said he had the shits. He's in collusion, definitely, but I can't see him as the connection, not if he's that fearful."

There was no answer, so Roj left Hennessey's desk and drifted on, listening to conversations all around. Though she had no nose any more, she sniffed, seeking a further connection with the reeking assassin who had shot her head off. The scent had been apparent in Garrison's office -- one of these policemen might have been involved with the crime.

There! She caught a whiff of the bad odor. Costaine. And nearby, another -- Navarro! And the plain clothes detective, Anderson, smelled even more strongly of that ugly scent. And yet another, even through the cloud of her perfume, Hammer.

Roj was overcome by the magnitude of the corruption. It was one thing to blithely say, "This is a racket, and half the precinct is on the take," but altogether another to look at the mess and try to fix things. You couldn't just take out one or another of them; the tendrils of deceit and greed had wrapped around so many people, so many connections, that it would be impossible to eradicate it. Roj drifted out to the front sidewalk, not wishing to look at the faces distorted by wickedness.

People don't think that you can know anything about them just by their looks, but you can, she thought. Or is it that I can see it only because I'm dead? She tried to remember what it had been like to be alive, what thoughts had been in her head when she would pass through this room each day on her way to work upstairs.

"Mornin,' Roj!" she remembered Bill Grady's cheerful voice as clearly as if he had spoken now, saw the genuine smile on his face, and the glow of honor brightening his eyes. He was honest, at least in her memory of him, a policeman who felt he was doing good work in keeping order for the people around him. In this memory of him, he seemed larger than he was in person -- there was a strong sense of him viewing the civilians as his, not in greed or covetousness or in power, but his to defend and protect.

On the other side of the fence was Hammer, who generally didn't speak to Roj at all, contenting herself with a little wave of her fingers. In Roj's memory of her, she could see jealousy like sticky jelly smears all over her. She couldn't have been a friend to Roj -- she was constantly furious that Matt had ignored her and fallen for a weenie like Upstairs Wuss Rodgers.

Before I met Matt, I wasn't too observant, just wanted to get to my desk and do my job. And after I met him, I never came in the door or through the room that I didn't look to see if he was around, and no one else really mattered all that much.

She would have preferred, just then, to go in search of Matt and gaze at him some more, but it was near break time and she really did want to see what more mischief she could get up to in the name of justice.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-12-04
Image(s) are public domain.
1 Reader Comments
Ralph Bland
04:25:54 PM
The plot thickens and the suspect list gets longer! I like it. I really liked that line about sparklers jiggling in the hands of children on the 4th.
Do you have any background in law enforcement?
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