“I’m sick of this job!” he spoke while looking at himself in the mirror. His own face has become alien to him. He knew it was himself, but still... This man he was staring into was slowly becoming a paler and paler reflection of what he was still carrying inside. He was growing old. Tattered like sleeves of an old sweater. Vanishing and dying away. Devoid of recognition, devoid of decoration. Never turned into a street legend, never even mentioned as a pillar of an era.
Theodor Quantrell, originally from Ghana, born and raised in Los Angeles. An African-American in his forties. A detective in the Violent Crimes Unit.
Tee-Q, a cop from the hood, who dug his neighbors. Sometimes he would use his badge to force the leery dealers from the block to sell him some weed. “ ‘Violent Crimes Unit’ - what a candy-coater , huh?” he would tell kids. “D’ya know what it means, little brother?”
“No, you don’t,” he would answer instead of the interlocutor, adding: “You don’t know, ’cause you’re a kid. That’s why I’ll tell you what it means...”
After explaining to the kids hungry for easy money that he’s a cop who’s never going to give them trouble because they’ll become one of his cases only after their blood has kissed the asphalt they’re raised on - they would sell him the goods. With lumps in their throats and an obligatory discount. Tee Q, however, never took advantage of his privileges. He would always pay the full amount, saying that money is a resource because of which a lot of important things are put at stake. That’s why one should use it abundantly and enjoy everything it can provide. For eventually it will return to make you pay. Like a pendulum that gives you an unforgettable ride to the very edge of energy. To the zero-point. And as soon as you’ve experienced that magical moment you’re already being rushed back unstoppably into the abyss from which you’ve come...
“It’s about to dawn! Again... The habitat of humans. The safe harbour. The domination of sight. The reality in full view of... I hate the fucking flashing thing!” he would say each time he pulled away from the computer at which he’d spent the whole night trying to tie the profile with the motive of a still unknown person. The person on which he’s supposed to pin the responsibility for yesterday’s front page headline of LA Daily News:
“Stripped, raped and strangled”.
He took a sip of coffee and dialled a number.
“Good morning, Sam! Look, I know it’s 5 A.M. and you’re sleeping and shit... but will you please call those hamsters of yours from the nightshift and announce me for the crime scene investigation! Something has just crossed my mind, I’d like to check it, OK?”
“For fuck’s sake, Tee, why are you doing this to me? Go fuck yourself, you idiot! It’s five A.M. for crying out loud! Yes, I will call them, you motherfucker...”
“Fucking cop – crackhead,” muttered Sam, the head of the evidence storage unit, as he was hanging up. Somehow, Tee-Q has really grown to like that greeting. He truly enjoyed waking Sam from his sleep during which he and the missus would fart out the leftovers from the previous day’s dinner under the sheets. Harmony. Marriage. Love...
“Fucking asshole! Here comes a new day. You, the missus and the hordes of the likes of you are about to crawl out soon, pretending to be fresh and rested. Pretending to be carrying the energy which will make this very day special. Masks of happiness. The whole fucking world has started to sport that fake smile woven with the fear of one’s own self. They have started to look like their favorite TV shows. You can just tell who’s hooked on which TV channel. You can follow the direction in which they ran away from themselves. And it’s in a world like this that I have to solve crimes. You’re all under investigation for crying out loud, you motherfuckers!” Tee-Q was mumbling to himself.
“Honey, you’ve been awake all night again? Why are you doing this to yourself, baby? And where’s that kiss, come on and give a kiss to your little girl guarded by a big nigger cop!” Adelle was babbling on her way to the kitchen with such a strength and speed as if she herself haven’t slept a wink.
“Oooh good morning to you too! Just make that coffee and don’t give me that load of shit like you always do, hoping for a different answer, OK? If you wanna take a shit go ahead, there’s the crapper, just don’t give me this!”
Not being able to stand the nagging anymore Tee-Q stormed out of the crib.
“Dawg, let’s move it to that wall next to the ceiling, whaddya think?”
“Let’s do it... You mean here?”
“Ace!” answered Tee, hoping that the pub owner and his worker are finally going to find a common language and agree on the new location for the tin sign which is to decorate the brick interior of the pub Tee-Q gladly visited.
“No one looks at the walls anyways, with all that glamour dazzling from the front pages of the new issues of Who’s Who lying on the tables. ’Cause everyone would like to know what you do to earn a star on the Hollywood Boulevard.”
“Hey Tee! Thanks for the advice, man! I always love to hear a word from my guests.”
“If I were you, I’d sooner thank me for leaving your jaw in one piece after all that honking at the intersection. I saw you, Tom, in that junk of an Audi. Think you’re a tough guy, huh?”
“Fuck dude, I was late for work...” the pub owner twisted his face into a grin, wanting to coax a shred of mercy out of Tee.
“Enough with that grinning, give me a break. We both know I’ve earned my free drink for today, don’t we?” asked Tee with a wink.
“Of course,” Tom smiled sourly, fearing the amount of drink which is about to go down Tee’s throat, leaving Tom with nothing other than utter loss. ’Cause Tee loves to cane it. Very much so.
“Worry not, Tom, I’ll only have two or three glasses of poison, to get my inspiration going. There’s a fucked up murder I have to work on. I’ll spare your jeep for this morning.”
The glasses of whiskey with water started their race. The first, the second, the third... Tee-Q looked thoughtfully into the emptiness which had blocked out his whole world. He neither heard anybody nor saw anything anymore. There was nothing but darkness and silence. Why? Why rape someone in the park and hang them on a tree? It doesn’t fit neither of the MOs known to Tee.
“Damn it!” he grumbled to himself, pushed himself away from the bar and headed for the exit.
“Thanks, Tom. And watch how you’re driving, son!”
“No sweat, Tee!”
He went to the police station. The day was streaming in from the east, painting the dawn red. The night was withdrawing, looking for a place to stay within the new day, from where it will swallow the Sun all over again. A play of light and shadow. A mirage of nature.
“Good morning, gentlemen!”
“ ’Morning, Tee! What brings you here? Mitchells has called to announce you to the guys at the dive. He was pissed off at you for waking him up again.”
“I know, dude. I always do that to him. That old fart!”
They both laughed, shook hands and exchanged a few more friendly words at the check-in desk at the Eighth Police Station. Then Tee went along the hallway to get to the elevator. He pressed the button with an arrow pointing downward. Going down... What a funny symbolism, he thought. The door opened and Tee stepped into the evidence storage room.
“Greets, guys! What’s poppin’?”
“Greets, lieutenant! As usual... Shelves filled with various sealed destinies, judges that don’t sign receipts and cold coffee from home because the coffeemaker is out of order. And no one’s in the mood for walking all the way up to the Narcotics on the fifth floor just for coffee. The TV’s working and that’s OK. The match is tonight. I’ve changed my shift - I’ll be working a double shift so I can watch it in peace. The kids are driving me nuts at home. Huh? Whaddya say? Wise, huh? What I did with shifts.”
“Way to go, Mikey, you’re a true detective! The way you played it! A top strategist indeed!” Tee was encouraging fat Mike, a clerk at the evidence archive. The guy was so lazy and low-minded that Tee just loved going there and exchanging a few words with him. An average LA policeman.
“Say, lemme ask you something. I’m supposed to look at the one from a month ago. The little park near the school. Stabbed in the heart with a knitting needle. Poor thing. Remember?”
“Yeah, yeah... How far have you got with that? Any progress? Have you caught the maniac yet?”
“Nothing yet, Mikey, but I think I’m onto him. I think those two murders are connected! That’s why I need some stuff. I’m trying to put something together...”
“Ugh, I hope the guy burns in hell! Help yourself, Tee, take what you need. But how the hell are you going to find anything? I really admire you people. You always solve the case in the end. I don’t know how you detectives do it, but judging by that evidence there’s nothing more except cops’ fingerprints, dust and tape with the reference number under which I filed the evidence.”
“Art, Mikey, it’s art!” laughed Tee, taking the long knitting needle whose cutting edge had taken her soul 30 days ago and delivered it over to the Almighty.
“I’m kidding, buddy, of course!” he patted Mikey on the shoulder. “Analytics, guidance, constructing theories, dismissing faulty theories, real fingerprints, fake fingerprints, lack of evidence, logical dead ends... it’s hell, my friend! That’s where cases are solved. You see it’s six in the morning, son? And? Am I screwing my wife? No, I’m not! I’m working on the case!”
Mikey smiled at him. Tee smiled back.
“Any news about the cameras around the park, regarding that poor thing from the day before yesterday? The one hanged in the park?”
“Nothing new, Tee, just footage of the patrol from the morning she was found and of you wandering around that part of the park for the umpteenth time, looking for anything...”
“I know! And I’m circling the surrounding buildings like a fucking idiot, looking for a night vision surveillance camera. Do you know how many of them there are around the neighborhood?”
“No, I don’t?!”
“Only one! And it’s ours, in the front yard of the police station. The camera which covers the parking lot. The one that had caught Rodman on tape doing that twinkie from the PR in the patrol car with a fucked-up hood, remember?”
“Hahaha! How can I not remember! Hahaha!”
“I’m off, brother! Keep on keepin’ on!”
“Bye, Tee! Good luck, pal. Good thing you reminded me of it. Boy did I have a laugh! Remember his face in the morning when he realized that we’d all fuckin’ seen it! Ahahaha!”
Tee was already at the door. He waved them good-bye.
Having waited for the night to fall, Tee got out of the house and started the search. He had to find something. Anything! Was he supposed to wait for a new murder to happen every thirty days? He couldn’t let front pages become filled again in a month. He has made up his mind to finish it all not later than tonight. He was thinking: in the middle of the Big park, a crime scene from a month ago, a police checkpoint with a searchlight had been set up. Even if the killer were a complete moron he would never ever consider going back to that location. The little park near the school, a crime scene from three days ago, is still under the watchful eye of the neighborhood hungry for a new sensation. Hungry for attention from the press and for cameras. Hungry for the call from faraway relatives, who’d recognize the address on the news.
No. Those two locations were by no means a subject of interest to himself anymore. However, Tee, an experienced detective from the Eighth LA Police Station, was slowly falling under a keen premonition that he has to be outside tonight. He was roaming the streets which were losing their sharp outlines under the weight of the crawling november night mist. The yellow city lights were increasingly losing the power to light up the surroundings.
“Damn it, he could be anywhere now. If he happens to...”
The night was passing. A quiet, silent night, wrapped up in fog. The sirens have grown silent and so has the radio transmitter. After some roaming through the city Tee approached the police station. Only two blocks away from his workplace he realized he was at the end of his tether.
“I might as well go and deal with the papers, since I’m here. I’ll go search just this last quarter and I’m done walking through the turfs for the night no matter what,” he thought.
It was nearly 10 o’clock and the fog was thick as batter. It was only at a distance of a few meters that the night would unveil some scarce passers-by. They were mostly believers on their way to the evening mass.
Tee stared at his watch. Time was slipping away. Alone on the street, conspicuous and spooky in that fog, Tee was still looking at his watch. “Why not do it this way,” he thought and got even closer to the church.
“Excuse me, young lady! Detective Quantrell from the Eighth.”
“Good evening, detective! Maria, the librarian from from the bookstore opposite your police station, I know you by sight. How can I help you?” the young neighbor asked, smiling.
“I suppose you’re on your way to the mass so I won’t be keeping you too long. The thing is, I’m working on offender profiling regarding a specific crime and I could use a little help from you.”
“Certainly! I can spare a few minutes.”
“Excellent. And thank you. Please come with me to the back of the church. Just be careful, the fog is thick. You know that little grove there at the back, with those annoying crows shitting on the benches. There’s an illuminated spot there, that’s where we’ll talk.”
They went along the path filled with tissues and used condoms, which led to the church summer cottage through the undergrowth. At the first clang of the church bell Tee looked around, bent down and picked up a pointy stone he’d found along the way.
“Improvisation!” he whispered.
“I beg your pardon?’’ asked the librarian.
The blood rushed to Tee’s head. His eyes became bloodshot. His breathing quickened, his nostrils dilated. Pins and needles rushed through his whole body and he could barely keep himself from letting out a scream. The blunt stone blows to the head and the flapping of his coat have once again betrayed his impatience to the silence of the night and revealed him for who he truly is.
The bells died away. From the altar, the priest spoke:
“It’s the Lord’s own word.”
author: Ilija Tegeltija