“Ah, Arthur. Glad you could make it.” The Commander was on his feet, and shaking Arthur’s hand before he could make it a few steps into the room. “Come, take a seat- Ah.”
The seat in question was piled high with a stack of equipment. Well-worn field gear. Not something you’d have caught in the old Commander’s office. He chief lifted it and dropped it on top of a growing heap on the floor without delicacy.
The old commander’s office appeared to be in the middle of being torn apart and rebuilt. The contents on the shelves, while never sensibly ordered, were now occupying most of the floor space.
“Sorry about this. This place was a mess.” This new fellow was an interesting choice for a replacement. Arthur had heard of the man, worked under him only a few times, the then Captain of the Red Shift. His bread and butter was the kind of job that got Arthur into all this mess, forays into the Island. Serious shit, on the surface, but…
“It certainly was, Sir.” Arthur resisted the urge to note how much more of a mess it was now. But he must have let his expression betray him. He’d never had a good poker face.
“Yes, well.” The Commander glanced at the mess that caught Arthur’s eye. “Sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch. Can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs and all that. Though, no doubt they’ve found a way these days.”
“Probably, Sir.” Cracking eggs. The Red Captain was better known for cracking heads. PR friendly heads. He was a public personality. And the public lapped him up. They always had a taste for a bit of violence, especially against well-defined bad guys. He’d pioneered bringing cameras into police work. Transparency, it was sold as.
“How long have you been suspended, now, Detective?” Formal title, that’s a good sign.
“A month, Sir.” Thank god it was with pay.
“Well, things are changing around here.” That was certainly true. Even walking through the office, it was like someone had lit a fire under everyone. No naps at desks or thirty minute coffee breaks, everyone was scrambling to look good for the new boss. “We’ve got a lot of pressure on us here, Arthur.”
“There’ve been quite a few, far too public, failings in recent years. That whole Crawford affair, a handful of cover-up’s that got bust, I dread to think of the ones’ that got under the radar. Dirty cops making the news. That thing with the crazy girl.”
Crazy girl. “About that… Your predecessor was keen to-”
“Consider the matter resolved. Gone. Ended. I can’t abide that knife-and-dagger shit. It’s unproductive. The idea is no one even notices you’ve done anything. Not good when someone asks you what you’ve been doing with all their money.”
“And the girl? The news reports?”
“Yes, the news reports… We’ve got the most inoffensive looking malnourished kit getting chased all over a city? We’ve got a shoot-out in a hospital.” He was on his feet, pacing, animated, angry frown firmly fixed on his brow. “Story just broke they’ve been interrogating some school-girl with a spurious connection. There’s a class action suit to navigate with that.”
He spun on his heel and looked at Arthur directly. “The public is beginning to notice. They’re beginning to notice the MPCS’s failings.
“There have always been failings.” Controversies, cover-ups, scandals. Navigating that minefield was half the job.
“They can put up with a bit of a scandal so long as they still feel like we’re doing our job. But there’s only so much we can about the festering, stinking, wound slap bang in the middle of their city. It’s growing. Those snug little operations the gangs have got running on the Island are starting to leak out. It’s affecting the people of the city.”
“The ones that vote anyway.” Arthur commented.
“Voting is trivial. But the protest last week wasn’t.”
“I believe that was an anti-war protest?”
“There is no war.” Not strictly true. There wasn’t a conventional one. Anyway, as far as Arthur understood it that was half the reason they were protesting. The Commander continued regardless, “And the subject is immaterial, it’s getting people worried. Have you seen the latest polls? People don’t trust the police any-more, Arthur. More so than ever. Crime is down as the second most major concern.”
“So they bring you in?”
“I’ve a proven record of results. More importantly, I’ve been the public face of the team that’s been dealing with the Island.”
“Expensive.” During his time off sleuthing he’d taken a long look at the police department. Of course, the live streams, delayed somewhat of course, from his squad’s helmet mounted cameras made for a nice revenue source.
The Commander’s eyebrow rose. “I didn’t know you concerned yourself with the finances of other departments, Detective.”
Time to take a leap of faith here. Besides, it was get in now or stay out forever. “I haven’t been taking my suspension as a holiday, Sir.”
“And you have reason to look at the finances of the MCPS?”
“Nothing concrete, but it’s a good first place to start with any investigation. There’s logic to the saying ‘follow the money’.”
“You know who’s dirty?”
“I have some ideas.”
“Good. This is what I was hoping.” The reasoning for this meeting began to fall into place.
“Why me exactly?” Arthur asked.
“I have here the official reason you were suspended, and I’m not sure it’s reason enough.” He tapped at the screen of his slate. “I know there’s shit being stirred. Best way to find who’s stirring is to ask who’s at the bottom of the pot, getting shat on.”
There was a pause, Arthur’s mind raced trying to figure out the best way to play this guy.
“Have you been there, Arthur?”
“Where else.” He threw his hands up. “The elephant in the room. The Island.”
“My last assignment was to one of the callout teams, Sir. I wasn’t there long though.”
“I’m not talking about callouts, Arthur. No, have you been there. Naked. Without backup, without the armoured truck and the rifles. Without the ability to call in a lift ship if things really go bad.”
Arthur hesitated, a split second of indecision. The flicker of a frown on the Commander’s face shied him away from lying. “Yes… Sir. I have, once. I had to see it for myself.”
He appeared satisfied. “I took that trip myself, Detective. It’s drowning in destitution. Five hundred square kilometres of hell.” Arthur honestly hadn’t thought it was that bad, but he wasn’t going to argue otherwise. “It shouldn’t exist. It’s isolated. There’s no way it’s fires could burn like that without being fed. Someone is feeding it. I have a sneaking suspicion they are in this building, Arthur, and I want them stopped. At all costs, do you understand me?”
All costs. Just what you want to hear… “So, I take it I have my job back?”
“Before today, I was going to cancel this stupid suspension of yours.”
“I’m not.” What the hell? “You’re more use to me like this. I don’t want you tied down, Arthur. You seem like an honest man, and this should be a place of honest men. There’s a need for someone like you in this organisation, but you’re going to have to make space.”
“I see.” Find the right people to rat out and be primed to move in to their boots. Ah… sweet politics.
“I want names. Are you in a position to provide them?”
“Pretty much.” It hadn’t been difficult to work out who was dealing with the major gangs. He’d had to dig into it by default trying to find Alexis’ history. Everything was interconnected. Names were easy. “But I don’t have any proof.”
“I’ll… Let me make a phone call.”
Dr Forrest slipped into the sterilized room, closing and locking the door behind him.
The man was sitting up. One bullet in the gut and one shattered shoulder and he was still sitting up, after a week. It was either impressive, or stupid, and it was certainly a result of a skilled hand and a few chunks of carefully printed bioceramic.
“Are you in charge here?” Croaking voice. Not enough hydration for the throat, a drip can do that.
Dr Forrest stepped forwards and picked up the stale glass of water at the man’s bedside, holding it out to him. “You could say that, Mr Spenser.”
He didn’t move to take the offering.