Professional

This is a very short story I wrote years and years ago for an assignment in University. I think it was supposed to be a study on crafting a story through dialogue. It’s nothing special and relatively cliché, but I enjoyed toying with the crime/quasi-hardboiled genre.

Smoke encircled his head, a drunken thought balloon from a comic book, as he dabbed away the last surviving ash of his cigarette. Reemus was worn out and lethargic, but obviously that didn’t account for his superiors. Sitting in the precinct office, it had just skimmed past nine o’clock in the evening and he was staring at the phone. He was hoping for a ring to interrupt his Lieutenant who stood over his desk, howling in raspy anger.

“You’d better get your act together quick, detective. Any more of this shit and it’ll make the papers. Headlines make me look bad and when I look bad, the city does too. And when that happens, I’ll be out of a job…then who knows what the commissioner will do to your sorry ass!”

Reemus smirked sharply. “Uh huh,” he acknowledged, leaning back in his chair to take one long drag from a newly lit cigarette.

Uh huh is right. Now get down to the west end, there’s another mess to check out.” The lieutenant walked away in a flurry.

A few janitors still ambled around the otherwise empty building, coming and going with maybe a secretary or desk guard. On nights like these, other than the lieutenant himself, probably nobody knew if Reemus was ever there or not. Maybe not even the Lieutenant.

Reemus grabbed his tweed coat and headed out into the streets.

The night was young, dim and misty. Surely it would age into rain showers before long.  Not good for evidence. Not good for blood stains. He lit another cigarette as he clambered down the steps descending from the station, creeping sloth-like into the road and through the ruddy gleam of the street lights.

It was a lonely town. Not because nobody was in it but because nobody cared about it. Alleyways and parking lots, the marinas, parks and diners were all littered. Not with garbage, with derelicts. The two aren’t mutually exclusive though, one could suppose.

Upstanding citizens used to keep an eye out for the softer-looking folk, giving their enlightened experience as canonical precaution: Don’t go cutting through those alleyways and Stay away from the overpasses they would caution. Never walk with your hands in your pockets at night—you never know when a thief or hooligan could jump out at you. Those soft words are long since buried under threatening glances and hardened guises, but Reemus wasn’t soft-looking. And he didn’t keep his hands in his pockets—they wouldn’t know what he was holding, that was how he understood it.

He was barely a block from his office before he had lit another cigarette.

The west end was dirty and bleak. People would be careful to avoid puddles because they were usually accumulated blood or urine. That didn’t bother him much.

He arrived at the crime scene a few cigarettes later, his hair soaking wet. It was a dingy convenience joint. The owner was a rotund lady, bellowing incomprehensibly as she bawled her eyes out. She stood out front with another officer and Reemus found his way to the back of the building.

“Fuck, Reemus, you ever heard of an umbrella?”

“Nope. Care to enlighten me?”

It was Officer Leeks. She was a scrappy rookie. Detective Reemus liked her. She was an honest cop and Reemus appreciated that. Leeks laughed.

“Not gonna be here long, anyway. Not a hell of a lot to gather.”

Reemus ducked under the caution tape. There was no need for it, really. Nobody would’ve been overly interested, especially here.

Keeled over against the dumpster was the body.  It was a handsome corpse—a bit of an oxymoron, but it was true—a young man, couldn’t have been much more than twenty-five. Reemus took a drag from his cigarette, fighting to keep it alive in the rain. “Bet he looked even better in the daylight.”

Leeks shrugged. “Yea I’d say so. Total of seven stab wounds,” she began, leaning down to open his pea coat, revealing a bloodied lace shirt.  “Most to the chest”.

Reemus just watched. He paced around and looked at the body, gutter water splashing down from the convenience store eaves and flowing across the victims brown leather boots; the blood puddle was thinning out. He peeked out to the front parking lot. The fat lady was still crying.

“No footprints, then?” he asked, smoking creeping out the corners of his mouth.

Leeks spoke reluctantly. “No sir. Even if there were, the rain mostly would’ve taken care of them.”

“Mmm.”

The two stood silently for a while, reviewing the contents of the victim’s wallet:  Donnel something-or-other, aged 24, organ donor. Leeks broke the silence.

“Ah…hey Reemus, sorry to hear about your wife.”

Reemus looked up from the guy’s license.

“I know where you’re coming from. My husband walked out on me after fucking his bowling instructor.”  He paused. “Fucking dick.”

Reemus looked contemplative for a moment before putting the victim’s belongings back into the wallet. He handed it to Leeks. “Thanks,” he said, before walking back out front.

“Hi ma’am, I’m Detective Reemus. I was wondering if I could have the keys to your garbage dumpster out back.”

The lady looked puzzled, but went inside for a short moment before returning with a rusted link of keys. “It’s this one,” she said, gripping the smaller of the two square keys, “the other one is for the restroom. It don’t get used much.”

“Thanks.” He returned to the back of the building while one of the officers out front yelled at him.

“Reemus! Boss is out front.”

He handed the keys to Leeks, gripping the small one. “What’s this?” she asked.

“Open the dumpster,” said Reemus. “Fish around.”

Leeks took the keys as the Detective left. Reemus went to the window of a cruiser parked on the sidewalk. It was Lieutenant Aldridge.

“Got anything yet, Reemus?”

“About as much as I had when you sent me here thirty minutes ago.” He paused. “Well actually, his name was Donnel.”

“Sweet Christmas, Detective, have you got any fucking evidence?”

“Not yet.”

The Lieutenant sighed. “Look Reemus, the commish just got a call from the mayor, who’s been riding my ass about four murders in four nights. He’s still riding my ass but now he’s made it more intimate by breathing down my neck at the same time–and I haven’t got diddly-fuck to say back?”

Reemus was silent.

“Well? Pull up your fucking socks, Reemus. Killers aren’t professionals, you’re the professional! Find me something!”

The cruiser pulled away, leaving Reemus alone on the sidewalk. Two officers approached him from the front of the store.

“Damn, Reemus. The boss fucks your wife a few weeks back and you gonna let him talk shit like that? His ego’s already through the roof.” Both officers laughed.

“Fuck you, Murray. The Commissioner will put that shithole out of a job soon enough.  People who go around fucking another man’s wife deserve it anyway.”

“And you think you’ll be keeping your job?” Murray snapped.

“I’m a professional, Murray, the Commissioner knows that.”

He started towards the back of the store and saw Leeks shaking her head.

“Nothing in there but garbage.”

Reemus looked in the dumpster.

“Very observant, Leeks.”

Reemus stood in contemplation. Leeks spoke up. “Ain’t gonna look good, you know, all these killings going uncontested. We’re supposed to be the city of angels after all.”

Reemus looked out front.“Well you better go tell the boys that we got nothing. Time for clean up.”

“Boss ain’t gonna be happy. He’s already on thin ice with the commissioner and the mayor. A few more of these slip by and that ice could break.”

“Yea, well then maybe the new guy will be able to sort it out.”

“It ain’t that easy,” Leeks replied. “Just wish the mayor could see that.”

Leeks walked around front to the other officers as Reemus stood by the young corpse.  The gutter flow had been reduced to a stagnant drip. He grinned as he patted the concealed trench knife in his inner pocket.

“Some things are easy.”

-B.W. Gladney

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2 thoughts on “Professional

  1. Wicked storytelling. It’s a short story alright – plot, dialogue, a beginning, middle, end and a twist worthy of O. Henry. Ticks all the boxes Brett, well done. The only comment I could make is that you decide early in the piece what to call Reemus – The Detective; the Detective; Reemus. I’d go for introducing him by name then changing to the noun – being consistent makes things easier for the reader.

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