KELLI COULDN’T BELIEVE THIS GUY, sitting there in his BMW X3, trying to talk her down from a hundred.
"And no condom."
Yeah, right. As if. That didn’t worry her, she’d slip it on, he’d never know, but seventy-five bucks for a blow job. No way.
It was warm in the Beamer, cold on the sidewalk. She’d been out almost an hour, it was after ten and this guy was the first conversation she’d had. Drizzling, cold for the beginning of October. It was only going to get worse.
The guy looked in his wallet and said, "I’ve got four twenties, you want them or not?" He held out the bills and she got in the car.
The door closed so quiet and solid.
Shit, Kelli wondered, how the hell did I end up here? "Pull into the alley, there beside the apartment building, go around back."
Twenty-five storeys high, concrete and steel, an instant slum when it was built in the seventies and it hadn’t aged well. It would have blocked Parkdale’s view of Lake Ontario if the raised six-lane expressway getting everybody with money out of town hadn’t already.
Kelli relaxed. She’d seen the inside of a lot of Beamers and Mercs and, hell, even Land Rovers since coming to Toronto a month back. She looked at the guy, cheapskate biz boy in his thirties, and thought he wasn’t so bad, really, just acting tough. It was always good to get the first one of the night out of the way.
She looked up and saw a man’s face, floating, hanging in the sky. He looked her right in the eye.
Then he smashed into the windshield.
The cheapskate screamed like a girl.
And Kelli just stared at the face on the spiderweb of broken glass. The blood and bits of brain and bone. He must have fallen the full twenty-five floors.
A YOUNG CHINESE COP jumped out of the first car to show up, red lights spinning. He walked around the X3 and looked inside. Kelli said hi, and waved at him.
The shock had worn off pretty fast and now she was just taking everything in. The guy, the customer in the driver’s seat, had tried to get her to leave, telling her she didn’t need to stick around, he wouldn’t tell anyone she was here.
Yeah, right. She wasn’t going to miss this. This was the most exciting thing that had happened to her. Probably ever, if she thought about it.
The young cop, Cheung, spoke into the radio clipped to his collar, then signalled the guy to roll down the window.
Kelli watched him not knowing what to do. He’d need to turn on the engine to get the electric windows working and he didn’t know if he was allowed to do that. He held his hands up, waved them around for a second, and then started the car.
Cheung jumped back.
The guy jumped.
Then he pressed the button and the window rolled down.
Cheung said, "Don’t move."
Twenty minutes later, after more and more cop cars and ambulances showed up, Kelli and Mark Lawson, that was the cheapskate’s name, were standing with the rest of the crowd on Close Avenue. A young, dark-skinned female cop stood beside them, making sure they didn’t go anywhere. Kelli sure didn’t want to, all this excitement, but Lawson would have left his sixty-thousand-dollar car and taken off in a second. The dark-skinned cop was small but Kelli knew her type and knew she was plenty tough enough.
The cop with the small woman cop, a fat white guy in his fifties who’d been driving, was pissed off. He didn’t even get out of the patrol car until the whole place was taped off. They closed off Close Avenue completely south of Queen. This time of night there was only traffic coming and going from the apartment building; the only other place on the block was an elementary school and across the street was the back end of the rehab centre. It was only a block over from Jameson, an exit from the Gardiner Expressway, and had its own little hooker stroll.
A dozen uniform cops ran around and a couple of ambulance guys stood by their rig smoking cigarettes. The body was still on the hood of the Beamer.
Then the detectives arrived.
The first one, the one leading the way, Kelli thought might have been Latin American; he was a big guy, dark skinned, broad shouldered, clean shaven, with short black hair like a crewcut, but there was something about him not really Latino. She wasn’t sure. She watched him get out of the driver’s side of the Crown Vic and take in the whole scene.
The other detective, a white guy in his late forties or early fifties, came around the car from the passenger side. The white guy looked less sure of himself, had less swagger. Kelli thought maybe he just got out of bed.
The fat cop, the pissed-off one, said, "Hey, Armstrong," so Kelli was pretty sure the big dark-skinned guy wasn’t Latino. He didn’t say anything so the uniform cop pointed at her and the cheapskate and said, "Mr. Suburbs here was picking himself up a drive-through BJ and before he could get around back Mohammed took a swan dive onto the hood of the Beamer."
Armstrong said, "You sure he wasn’t pushed?"
"Who gives a shit, he’s dead."
"Yeah." The rain was starting to come down heavier, half snow now. Armstrong said, "He have any ID?"
"I’m not sticking my hand in that shit."
Kelli watched Armstrong look around. She liked the way he looked, the way he took everything in and was clearly in charge but not bossing people around. She thought he might be South Asian, as they seemed to say in Toronto, but he was so big, square-shouldered.
The uniform though, he wanted to be in on everything, just not have to do any work. Kelli’d met plenty of guys like him. He said, "Hey, is he back?"
Armstrong said, "Who?"
"Him. Bergeron." Motioning to the other detective, who was talking to the young Chinese cop.
"What about him?"
"Is he back?"
The fat cop had started out pissed off and now he was shaking his head and rolling his eyes, like talking to a kid. "Detective Bergeron, right over there, is he back at work?"
Armstrong walked past the uniform and said, "No, Brewski, he’s not back at work, he just likes getting up in the middle of the fucking night to come down here and talk to you."
Kelli almost laughed out loud but the uniform cop was so pissed off now and she figured she might have to deal with him later.
She hoped she’d have to deal with this Armstrong.
The uniform cop waited till he was out of earshot, then said, "Why don’t you go back to the fucking reserve, Tonto," and Kelli realized, yeah, that’s it, he’s Native.
ARMSTRONG SAID, "So what’s the matter, you couldn’t manage the X5?" and the guy, Lawson, said, no, that’s not it at all, he just really only needed the six cylinders and Armstrong said, "Yeah, okay, whatever. So, you were just driving down the street and this guy hit your windshield?"
They were standing under the awning in front of the apartment building. There was a small convenience store in the lobby selling cigarettes and lottery tickets, a crowd of at least twenty people standing around. Armstrong looked at them, the potential witnesses, and didn’t think he saw a single one who had English as a first language.
He said to Anjilvel, the young female cop, "How about getting these folks some coffee? You want a coffee?"
Kelli said, yeah, sure, but Lawson said no.
Kelli said, yeah, okay, and Lawson said, no thanks. Armstrong said, "Okay, why don’t you get us a couple of coffees. And not that Coffee Style crap, go on up to the Tim’s. Couple of double doubles."
Anjilvel ran off looking quite determined and Armstrong said, "We really appreciate you sticking around."
Lawson grumbled and stared at the cracked concrete.
Kelli said, "Hey, don’t mention it."
"It’s a real shocking thing to see."
"Did you see him coming?"
Lawson said no, kept staring at the concrete, but Kelli nodded, said, yeah, she did.
"How did he look?"
Kelli didn’t say anything, and Lawson said, "It was just a split second."
Kelli said, "He kind of smiled."
Armstrong looked right at her and said, "Smiled?"
She said, yeah. "He looked peaceful."
Lawson grunted, that smirking kind of disbelief and dismissal. Very biz boy.
Armstrong ignored him though, and said to Kelli, "Not freaked out? Not waving his arms around and screaming?"
"No, definitely not."
"Okay, that’s something. Thanks."
Armstrong walked back into the street, to the X3 with the body still crashed through the windshield. Two men were getting out of a blue van with Toronto Police Forensics Support written on the side of it.
Bergeron flipped his cellphone shut and said to Armstrong, "That was Nichols."
"Let me guess. He’s detained and won’t be coming down." Inspector Alistair Nichols, head of the Homicide Squad, their boss.
"Got nothing to do with it being freezing cold, raining, and Parkdale in the middle of the night."
"Not a thing. But he does want us to be absolutely certain this isn’t a suicide before we get too involved."
One of the forensics guys backed into them while taking pictures and said, "I thought when these guys committed suicide they strapped bombs to themselves and went looking for crowds. Shouldn’t he be up at Bathurst and Steeles?"
Armstrong said, "So, Cruickshank, it’s not suicide?"
"I have no idea." He kept walking around the SUV taking pictures.
The other forensics guy, also white and in his fifties, put a big yellow ruler on what was left of the hood.
Armstrong said, "Come on guys, on TV they could tell us how much this guy weighed just looking at him, they’d measure the wind speed or something and the angle of the fall and tell us exactly what balcony he came off."
Cruickshank stopped taking pictures and said, "Well on TV they have limitless budgets for every crime scene, they have state-of-the-art equipment, they have ten people working on every case." He stopped, really just to get his breath, and Bergeron said, "Ed, it’s okay, he’s just yanking your chain."
Cruickshank said, yeah, right, I know. "Every goddamned time." The Toronto Forensics Scene of Crime team was made up of police officers. Some civilians worked in fingerprint analysis and identification. On minor crimes evidence was collected by SOCO, Scene of Crime Officersregular uniform cops who’d taken a few extra courses. But all major crimes were handled by FIS cops, Forensic Identification Services. They didn’t know if this was a major crime yet. Or a crime, but a dead body meant Homicide detectives took charge.
Bergeron said to Cruikshank, "Whatever you can tell us will be greatly appreciated." Then, walking away, he said to Armstrong, "You on the rag tonight, or what?"
"Well, first Brewski."
Armstrong looked at the uniformed cop sitting in the squad car drinking from the Coffee Style paper cup and nodded. "Yeah, I don’t know. That guy, he just taps my bitch bone."
"Anything else going on?"
"No, I’m fine." He looked at Bergeron and thought, man, I should be the one helping you out, first day back at work and you’ve got to be here.
Copyright © 2008 by John McFetridge
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