Six (pages 6-10)

The next five pages of Six Years, Six Days – a crime novel by Dawn Hinsley

Read pages 1-5 here

 

5.35pm: Maloney waited for the signal. He had driven a short distance out of town. The contents of the rucksack weighed heavily on his passenger seat. His mobile phone was also flashing, an incoming call on silent. Fitzpatrick. It was becoming harder and harder to find explanations for these periods of absence.

When the break lights ahead flashed three times, he knew he was following the right car. He made a right, then a left, before taking a turn through tall metal gates hanging from their hinges. Beyond the entrance, what had once been a car park was now a series of fractured concrete shapes, laying like an ill-fitting jigsaw with grass and weeds growing rampantly in the cracks. No windows on the building to their right were left intact, even on the fifteenth floor a hole in each pane of glass was splintered by weaving fissures.

When the car in front pulled to a stop, a man in a faded shell suit got out from the driver’s door first – his greying hair slicked back into a pony-tail, matted chest fuzz to match on munificent display. The man opened the rear passenger door for another man to climb out. He uncurled his tall frame, then straightened his tie and rearranged his jacket; buttoning up an expensive grey silk suit.

Maloney got out of his car too, a good twelve feet back. Immediately the man in the shell suit pulled a gun.

“Whoa,” Maloney protested, hands in the air. “What’s this all about?”

“Just being careful,” the man in the smart suit replied, smiling indulgently.

“Have we come here to do a deal or what?” Maloney continued.

“Why the impatience?”

“Let’s just say what I’m packing is burning a hole.” Maloney nodded back towards his car.

“TomBoy get the stuff, MeanMax here is a busy boy.” The suited man smiled again, but this time there was a twitch of caution in this eyes.

TomBoy pulled out a small velvet purse from his boss’s trouser pocket. Maloney found the performance uncomfortable. Then TomBoy walked forward towards Maloney, still pointing a gun at him. Maloney reached out to take the purse, but TomBoy prodded him painfully in the ribs with his firearm. Maloney winced.

“This is an exchange dumb boy. Go get your ‘burning hole’,” shrieked TomBoy. His voice had a metallic quality. He started laughing in the same high pitched squeal, like a pig at an abattoir. His eyes, wild and bright yellow where the whites should have been, were darting all around in a disconcerting manner. Maloney turned and began walking back to his car.

Suddenly TomBoy let off a shot that carved the concrete a foot away from Maloney’s pace. Maloney wasn’t aware of it at the time but he screamed. TomBoy, behind him, was laughing again. Maloney felt sick.

“That’s enough,” shouted the suited man.

Maloney found himself frozen to the spot. His heart was racing excruciatingly in his chest. The governor was suddenly at his side.

“Let me see you’re good for it then son,” was all he said, complete serenity in his voice.

Maloney managed to find a shrill of a response inside his tight throat. “Like we said, half now and half later. Once it’s verified. Yes?”

The suited man nodded, appraising Maloney the entire time.

 

5.55pm: Copeland-Black edged down the stairway to the basement cells. She showed her ID badge to the guard on duty. He smiled and let her pass. It was a quiet night. The person she had come to see was in the last cell, at the end of the moss green painted brick-walled wing. It smelled strongly of ammonia and putrid sick.

The man sat, head bowed, on a tiny cot. Both hands clutching the edge of the bed either side of him. Shoulders curved. His white shirt, with barely visible navy pinstripes, stretched tight around the clean lines of his biceps. Cropped hay-coloured hair.

He didn’t look up until Copeland-Black had rested her forehead against the bars of his cage. She wore a flowing emerald green shirt. A close-fitting straight black skirt, which fell to the floor, outlined her curves like a yacht’s sails as it traced the arcs of its owner’s thighs on the way down. Her auburn hair fell to her shoulders, where it curled. A neat fringe.

Dr Josephine Copeland-Black bent a forearm above her head and stretched the other out along the bars. The man stood, then walked towards her without a sound. He too placed his head against the bars – a few inches away. Sideways on he stared at her. His navy gaze was sub-zero. It always had been. Copeland-Black stared back.

“Hello Lucian,” she said.

The man didn’t speak.

At the top of the gloomy passageway Fitzpatrick stopped in his tracks.

 

~ CHAPTER TWO ~

7.20pm: There was an ache to embrace that delicate, pallid skin once more, but the smell of disinfectant scratching at the insides of his nostrils was a reminder not to. At least there would be no struggling now.

 

 

 

***

 

8.34pm: The rain had been relentless all day. It was now dark. A smudgy orange darkness. The kind of night that made people embrace their own bodies. Copeland-Black backed up as close as possible to the limestone Georgian building, which had been the city’s policing headquarters in the centre of town for 55 years. Hugging the river, the building had once been owned by a tea merchant and a stone plaque by the main entrance still read Stanley Peterson’s Tea Distributors. Now it was home to every department involved in the city’s law enforcement including forensics. Also, a morgue and autopsy rooms in the basement area. Everyone who worked in the building referred to it affectionately as Canton.

Dr Josephine Copeland-Black’s heart sank when she saw two men descend the stone steps from the foyer and approach.

“Long day?” Fitzpatrick spoke first, his civility watchful in tone. Copeland-Black was about to answer but Maloney cut in. Savage and bitter. “We had to let him go. Just so you know. Not enough on him. He’s a cool customer that friend of yours.”

Dr Copeland-Black didn’t reply. Fitzpatrick’s eyes were on her. Tracking her facial expressions. Noting their alterations – accidental and contrived. Doc Cop wasn’t the only one who knew how to read the nuances of body language.

“Alright Sergeant,” he said.

But Maloney wasn’t to be silenced. “All I’m saying is…” he continued. But further discussion was interrupted by the reverberation of a black 1960s Triumph GT6 Spitfire swerving throatily to a stop curb-side. The passenger door pitched open. A man, recently released from their custody, leaned across the red leather front seat and beckoned Josephine in.

 

8.35pm: Maloney’s mouth hung wide.

As Copeland-Black stepped forward she caught him in her peripheral vision – running a hand through his dark brown hair and mouthing ‘Jesus Christ’.

 

8.37pm: “What the fuck is going on here?”

“I don’t know.” Fitzpatrick was still contemplating the backend of the panther-black car as it eased into traffic.

“I don’t like this one bit chief. This smells off, real off to me.”

“I hear you.”

Maloney leaned back against the wall and clenched his fists by his side, fury flaring his nostrils. Fitzpatrick simply stared. His sharp mind, behind hazel eyes, busier than a bird in spring.

 

8.41pm: Dr Copeland-Black pressed her index finger hard against her glabella and closed her eyes. Lucian glanced over at her and something in his mind’s eye snagged on the familiarity of the mannerism. Little had changed in six years.

Neither spoke for 20 minutes.

“Why are you here?” she said.

They’d come to a standstill for a red light.

“Where do you want to go?”

“This isn’t a game Lucian.”

“Tell me where you want to go?” Lucian moved to touch her. Josephine flinched.

“Somewhere. Anywhere.” She said.

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