THE WOMAN IN THE ALLEYWAY
This was not specific to Central Jamrock, or even the city proper—every city began to smell like meat when you were in this business long enough. But Jamrock was unique in one regard. Whether it was the winding layout of the streets, or the austere buildings, it had a suffocating effect. Scents lingered, seemingly embedding itself in the concrete until the stench of decay permeated the air.
Kim Kitsuragi breathed out through his mouth, and stepped unhurried past the mounds of garbage and down towards the dumpster. The dead end of the alleyway was cordoned off with reflective tape, where Officer Judit Minot stood vigilant with her hands shoved into her jacket pockets. Rats skittered in the shadows, and bills posted along the walls fluttered where they’d ripped against the breeze. It was already getting dim as the sun lowered in the sky.
“Hello, Lieutenant,” she said. Her eyes crinkled at the corners as she attempted a smile.
“Just you then?”
Kim looked over his shoulder. There was no one else, save for a few passersby rubbernecking down the alleyway where the two RCM officers stood in their uniforms.
“It would appear so,” Kim said. “What’s the situation?”
Judit motioned towards the dumpster at the end of the alley. Kim followed.
“At 4:30 in the afternoon, we received a call from the owner of the Fritte around the corner. He was taking out the trash when he found the body behind the dumpster. I got here around a half an hour ago, and waited for you and the lieutenant double-yefreitor to arrive. I haven’t touched the body.”
“Thank you, Officer Minot.”
“Just doing my job,” she said, with a weak smile. “Anyway,” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “I’ll give you space to work.”
Judit stepped away, leaving Kim to the body.
The smell was stronger here, near overpowering, and it was only going to get worse. Still, it was by no means the worst corpse he’d ever smelled. (He’d smelled a lot of corpses.)
He crouched down to get a better look, then pulled out his journal.
Body discovered at approximately 1645. Called into the station approximately 30 mins later. Officer Minot dispatched and stayed with body until homicide unit arrived.
Female victim. Appears to be mid twenties. Occidental. Decomp rate suggests a death of over 24 hours ago, at least, but was not here previously—body moved? Multiple stab wounds through anterior thorax. At least twenty. A crime of passion?
No signs of scene disturbance. Body was likely to be left here sometime the previous night. Body is wrapped in a blanket, as some kind of protection against the elements.
Victim wearing black tights, blue dress, red jacket. Brown hair, long. Well maintained. Her nails are polished and clean. Boots with heels—possibly designer? The blanket itself is a wool blend. Possibly handmade, with a lot of detail. This woman does not look as though she belongs to Central Jamrock.
“She looks like she had an even worse day than I did.”
He paused, standing to turn to where his absent partner had materialized. Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Harry Du Bois stood behind him, his stance unsteady as he wavered. He had his fingers pinched over the bridge of his nose, and the smell of alcohol wafted off of his breath. Past him, Judit looked on with a strained expression.
“Good evening, detective,” Kim said, in the most neutral tone he could muster.
“Sorry I’m late,” Harry said. (He looked very sorry.)
“Well, you’re here now.”
There was no sense in playing into Harry’s self-loathing. At the very least, he’d showed up with gloves he’d started to put on, and had most of his uniform on, his tie, and *both* shoes. Of course he hadn’t even showed up to the station in the morning. He smelled a bit, however, like body odour and mildew, the odour only slightly less offensive than the corpse.
“So what do you think?”
“I haven’t gotten very far,” Kim said, “Based on an initial look, the victim was stabbed several times. I don’t believe she was killed here.”
“You might be right. No blood pooling beneath her. She’s maybe been dead, what, two or three days?”
“I believe so.”
“Someone would’ve noticed her body if it had been here the whole time.”
They crouched on either side of her. Kim started to rifle through her jacket, looking for identifying material that was more than unlikely to be there. You didn’t just kill a woman like that and leave her with ID.
“Hmm. Kim… do you think it’s kind of weird that she’s propped up like this?” Harry said.
Kim glanced over, where Harry was merely staring at her face instead of doing any meaningful investigation. “What’s your theory?”
Harry sniffed, moving the girl’s limp hair off her lifeless face. “So much damage done to her body, but her face is pristine. Someone even went to the trouble of closing her eyes.” He gestured. “The way she’s mostly upright, tucked back here. There’s a dumpster they could’ve thrown her into, but it’s almost like whoever did this cared that she got found.”
“I had considered a crime of passion, yes. More than likely she was killed by someone who knew her.” Kim pulled out his camera, checking the ampoules. “I’ll have Officer Minot take her body to the station so we can more thoroughly examine her later in processing. You and I should go do some interviews—see if anyone in the neighbourhood knows anything about her.”
He raised the camera to his eye. Harry moved back, letting him get a better picture. The flash was blinding, and next to him, Harry flinched.
“Ow—fuck—I forgot how bright that was. Not the greatest thing for a real motherfucker of a hangover.”
Kim stayed silent, instead shaking out the photograph. He glanced at it to make sure he’d gotten a good photo—the lifeless visage of the woman peered back. He tucked it away, looking at the woman before him. He could feel Harry studying her, as well, even as Kim leaned in to press his gloved hand to silently perform the Stations of Breath. The poor woman at least deserved a proper send-off.
He pulled his bloodied hand away and rose to his feet. Harry followed.
“She looks like she doesn’t belong here,” Harry commented. “Like someone put together a puzzle and jammed in an end piece from… from, uh—”
“A different puzzle?”
“Yeah, let’s go with that.”
“I agree.” Kim waved Judit over. “Let’s take her away.”
They bagged the body with only a little difficulty, and put it into the back of Judit’s station issued motor carriage. She waved them off with only a slightly worried look in Harry’s direction.
Standing on the edge of the street, Kim watched the motor carriage disappear around the next corner. The denizens of Central Jamrock seemed not to notice the commotion, or care. Just another dead body on a Tuesday night.
As the afternoon descended into the evening, the last stragglers of the workday disappeared to their bars and cafes, the air scented with the heavy breath of smokers and boozers. Central Jamrock came alive—homeless doing their sweeps along the gutters for bottles and cans, workers hurrying along to their bartending shifts, dealers making their rounds as the daytime drunks decided whether to go home or commit to another bender. This was the shit heap, the street with the bars and strip clubs, and Harry Du Bois fit the puzzle with his unkempt hair and perpetual squint from what had to be a blistering headache.
They had been working together for the better part of a month now, enough time to prove whether the Martinaise case was a miraculous fluke or not. It *felt* like a fluke. He couldn’t seem to come up with any explanation as to Harry’s efficacy, and it was better not to dwell on it. His partner certainly seemed to live up to his name—the Human Can-Opener. The cases flew by, Kim filling out notebook after notebook, Harry finishing bottle after bottle.
*Captain Sober.* That was another name, a name Harry could only live up to ironically.
This was definitely the worst Kim had seen him in awhile. It was cause for concern, but he didn’t let it show.
Kim clasped his hands together behind his back. “I believe the Frittte will be the best starting point. The clerk called it in.”
He nodded his head towards the aforementioned shop. Harry slowly followed his gaze. “Great. I need something for my head anyway.”
Kim motioned him forward. “After you.”
The following interviews were conducted sequentially between 1730 and 2100.
FRANCOIS PRICKETTE, the clerk at Frittte. Witness initially phoned in to report the body. RCM arrived at the Frittte to conduct interview, and witness graciously gave Lt. Double-Yefreitor Du Bois some Magnesium free of charge. A supporter of the RCM. Unlikely to be involved in the murder. His shop is very clean and orderly and exactly like every other Frittte in the area.
According to the witness, he initially discovered the body and called it in shortly after the fact.
“Ain’t out of the ordinary,” Prickette said. He sniffed, leaning over the counter to look out the window. “I find a lot of bodies in my dumpster, call ‘em in every time. This was the fastest response I’ve ever gotten, but I assume it’s because of how fancy that girl’s looking. She was sat up all nice. I felt a bit bad for her, actually.”
“And you did not hear or see anyone leaving the scene?” Kim asked.
“I just work here, pal. I got to work and she was already dead.”
Harry chewed his Magnesium thoughtfully. “Are you sure you’ve never seen the woman before?”
Prickette shrugged. “A girl like that, you’d notice down here. I never seen her before, but there’s all sorts of folks outside who might’ve.”
“Such as?” Harry asked.
“Y’see that apartment building across the street? Has a pretty good view of the alley. The old woman on the second floor wakes up to feed the pigeons from her balcony, she might’ve seen something.”
Kim followed his line of sight over his shoulder. He nodded, then turned back to make a note of it in his ledger. “Ah. Nosy old women are indeed reputable sources.”
“Sure is. Oh, you could check with the street kids outside, them too. Always loitering around trying to steal shit from my store, but they see things.”
Kim’s brow rose. “Thank you.”
“Yeah, thanks for the pills. Headache’s already better,” Harry said, shaking the pill bottle before he pocketed it.
He paused, and already Kim dreaded the next words out of his mouth.
“Actually, would you give me free cigarettes, too? Cigarettes help me solve crimes way better.”
Prickette made a face. Kim pocketed his ledger.
“I believe it’s time for us to go,” Kim said. He grabbed Harry by the elbow, and began nudging him towards the door. “Thank you for your cooperation.”
The RCM were allowed access to the apartment building by the superintendent. JULIE FIORESSE, elderly woman and second floor tenant. There are many cats in this apartment. At least four but less than six (probably). MS. FIORESSE appears to be very nearsighted, and very, very old. Unlikely to have witnessed the crime as it occurred before the sunrise.
“Um,” Harry offered lamely, as he and Kim sat snug on an overstuffed couch that must have dated well before the revolution.
The rest of the furniture was similarly old and musty, but there was no unifying set or aesthetic—likely collected from a variety of antique shops over the years. A thick layer of dust coated every surface, including an extensive tape collection that seemed to span wall to wall. It was cold and drafty, the woman draped herself in so many layers of clothing she looked a bit like a willow tree with her skinny legs poking out at the bottom.
“We would like to ask you some questions relating to a murder investigation,” Kim continued.
“Ooh, a murder! How exciting,” Ms. Fioresse said. Her aged body shook with the vigour of a child’s. It was likely she didn’t see much action anymore. Or see much of anything. Her glasses were thicker than his own, perched precariously at the end of her upturned nose.
“I know, right?” Harry said, matching her enthusiasm.
Kim hummed quietly.
“Can I get you anything? Not much in the house I’m afraid. Since my husband died, it’s been a bit difficult. We didn’t have children, and I don’t need much. So many rooms and just little old me here.”
“It’s quite alright, ma’am, we wouldn’t want to trouble you,” Kim said.
“Oh nonsense. I never have company. Would you boys like some tea?” asked Ms. Fioresse. She stood, and tottered towards the kitchenette, flicking the overhead light on where it made pinging sounds as it flickered on. “I made biscuits.”
Harry looked at him.
“Kim, do we have time for tea?”
“I believe there is time for tea.”
“And biscuits!” Ms. Fioresse exclaimed.
The RCM were offered tea and biscuits (shortbread) by the witness. Her generosity is appreciated by the RCM. The witness reported hearing the sound of an engine early in the morning while feeding the pigeons, but was too visually impaired to have seen the suspect.
(The pigeon’s names are FOOFOO, BISOU and JAMES. It was vital to the witness that this information be reported to the RCM.)
Witness could not identify victim but said that she looked very beautiful in the photograph—even in death. Fancy, like she should be on a magazine cover.
The witness also voiced concern for the local youth down on the street.
Harry reached across the table for more shortbread. Kim nodded, going back to his notebook.
There are drugs everywhere in Jamrock, but worth following up?
RCM officers exited the apartment to question the homeless youth loitering under the streetlight.
Youth would not offer their names, and will be referred to as A (mid-teens, female, likely Mesque), B (mid-teens, on some sort of upper, male) and D (LT. DU BOIS insisted he did not seem like a C, for some reason).
“Cop-esque,” added D.
“Cops copping a feel,” said A, in a shrill voice.
They laughed. Kim was already tired of this conversation.
Kim schooled his expression, even as Harry planted his feet. It was probably to seem authoritative over these brats, but it came off more like he was trying to avoid passing out. The extended hangover had made him a bit green around the gills, even if the combination of the tea, shortbread and magnesium had abated the symptoms of his indulgence somewhat. (Still, it wasn’t like Kim hadn’t seen him pouring whiskey into his tea from a flask hidden in his sleeve—hair of the dog only made the bite of a hangover worse.)
Kim stood silent, his hands clasped behind his back.
“We are investigating the murder of a young woman,” said Harry. “Her body was discovered in the alley this morning, and we were hoping one of you had seen something. We’ve been told you know the area well.”
“Even if we did, why would we tell you anything?” asked D. He spat on the ground, some of the spittle clinging to the ring through his lower lip where he licked it away.
“Why *wouldn’t* you tell us?” asked Harry.
“Why would we want to tell the pigs anything?” retorted D.
“Why wouldn’t you want to tell the pigs anything?”
“Why would I want to? Why what?” D said, confused.
“What does it mean to want?” Harry continued. “What do you want? What do any of us want?”
Kim stood silent. He was more than used to his partner’s ersatz form of questioning.
D seemed perplexed. “Er…”
“What is it that your soul is wanting?” Harry asked. He took a step closer. “When you speak to your soul, what does it call back?”
“Whoa,” B muttered. “That’s deep.”
There was a silence. Kim cleared his throat, stepping forward.
“Do you know this woman?” Kim asked. He pulled the photograph from his jacket, and turned it to face them.
A’s eyes widened. “Oh…”
She covered her mouth. Kim’s eyebrow raised. It was clear she hadn’t meant to react. He exchanged a look with Harry, who turned to the girl.
“So you have seen her?” Harry asked.
Harry gestured. “Was she here doing anything illegal?”
“We aren’t narcs,” D said, inflamed.
“Definitely not narcs,” B replied. There was a bit of hesitation there.
They seemed tense, like they were about to bolt. Kim pocketed the photo, and decided to redirect the conversation.
“Don’t worry. You aren’t the focus of our investigation, and any information you offer won’t get you into any trouble.”
“But if you don’t help me get some drugs, you might be,” Harry said, sternly.
Kim closed his mouth.
“Cop does drugs!?” B exclaimed.
“Cop does *lots* of drugs.” Harry grinned. “I’m a dirty cop, jonesing for some hardcore drugs.”
“Yes…” Kim deadpanned. “*Hardcore* drugs.”
“They’re just messing with us, don’t say anything,” said D.
B frowned. “I don’t know. Look at this guy, I think he does more drugs than *I* do.”
“It’s true,” Harry said. “I’ve done *all* the drugs. So if you have drugs, you should give them to me.”
He jabbed himself in the chest with his thumb. Kim looked on, patient as ever.
“We don’t sell drugs,” A said. “If we did, you think we’d be standing around here starving?”
“Where would one get drugs?” Harry said.
“What will you give us if we tell you?”
“What are your thoughts on shortbread?” Harry asked.
LT. DU BOIS, using his quick thinking, introduced the witnesses to the old woman on the second-floor apartment. The shortbread was highly appreciated, and B had already taken it upon himself to begin sorting MS. FIORESSE’s extensive tape collection.
A chewed her fifth piece of shortbread thoughtfully, glancing back to her friends, who appeared to be already settling in. “Well…”
The witnesses assisted the RCM in their search by directing them to an alternate location in Central Jamrock where illegal activity regularly occurs. To protect the witnesses, the location has been redacted.
The witnesses gave a name in possible connection with the case. THE MAN.
Both lieutenants are armed with their issued service weapon and on the defense. Down a long hallway and—
Kim shut the notebook. He tucked it into his jacket, then clasped his hands behind his back. “Of course. How rude of me.”
Their ‘tour guide’—a rather large man named Bruno in a muscle shirt and ripped jeans—led them down the next dingy hallway. The series of tenements where they’d been directed had taken them underground. Some careful questioning (not really that careful, really—Harry had just given them wild eyes and under some kind of what had to be hypnosis, they’d given him whatever he asked for), they’d ended up in a trap house with a lot of unsavoury folk hanging about.
Inside, there were people using and laying dazed along the floor. It was eerily quiet. The building had probably been respectable at some point, before getting shelled to kingdom come. A web of tarps covered the gaps in the ceiling, shielding the sedate party below from the elements. The inner walls bore the thick scent of incense, and the carpets squished with rainwater underfoot.
Bruno led them to a corner apartment, the door opened in anticipation of their arrival. He stepped aside to let them pass.
“Go ahead,” said Bruno. “You know where to find THE MAN.”
“I do?” Harry said. Any confusion was quickly masked. “Yeah, I do.”
Bruno gave him a look. Kim stayed silent, and followed as Harry stepped through the threshold. Behind them, an audible click of the door, and no sign of Bruno.
“What the fuck kind of name is THE MAN anyway?” Harry muttered.
“And how do you know him, I wonder?”
Kim straightened his glasses. Harry gave him a puppy dog look that Kim was more than immune to.
It was dark in the apartment. Blackout curtains choked out all the light, save for a balmy red glow emitting from the kitchen. It smelled sickly sweet, like burned sugar, and it almost hurt to breathe. Music drifted in from another room, something slow and sad and warbling.
There were tables set up inside, and girls with masks weighing powders on scales. At the back table sat a tall, older man with a cigar, and a dark haired Seolite girl sitting with her feet in his lap. He seemed distracted by the phone on the table, but he raised his head and motioned them forward without looking. The girl couldn’t have been older than seventeen, (though Kim had looked “young for his age” until his hair had finally started to recede at thirty eight—it was hard to say), her dark eyes watching carefully as Kim and Harry approached.
“Ah, *Harrier*. And I see you’ve brought a friend with you,” said THE MAN. He tapped his cigar against the ashtray, smiling upward as he gripped the girl’s ankle. “One of your countrymen, Rina.”
Rina looked up at him, and her eyes narrowed. Kim looked back, but didn’t react. She quickly diverted her attention to the table.
“You know me?” Harry blurted.
THE MAN blinked. “We’ve done plenty of business together. Don’t tell me you’re playing coy, now, policeman. Here for your usual?”
“My partner has had a recent memory episode,” Kim said. “Please forgive him.”
He snorted. “I’m not surprised. The amount of shit I was selling him, it could’ve taken out the entire Coalition.”
“So I’m a *regular*,” Harry murmured. He seemed at least a little sheepish about it.
It was concerning to know his partner was caught up in illegal activity, but not anything unexpected. At the very least, it appeared he’d abstained from buying narcotics since their return from Martinase.
“Something for you, then?” THE MAN said, turning to Kim.
“We have some questions pertaining to a murder investigation.”
“I’m always happy to assist the RCM if it means you’ll allow me to continue my business in peace.” THE MAN flashed a toothy grin. “I bring a lot of work to this neighbourhood, and I don’t tolerate crime or violence on my turf.”
“Of course not,” Kim said, dryly. “No crime here.”
THE MAN nudged the girl’s legs off of his lap, and then leaned forward to thread his fingers together on the table. “So... tell me about this murder.”
Kim pulled out the photograph and handed it over. “This afternoon we discovered the body of a woman in an alley in this neighbourhood. We have been told you may be able to identify her.”
“Quite the looker, isn’t she? Or was,” said THE MAN. “Shame when a beautiful woman has to die—and so violently, too.”
He put the photo down onto the table. Rina leaned over to look, her inky hair swinging with the momentum. When she laid eyes on it, she froze. Her breathing picked up, though she tried to repress it.
“I’m afraid I can’t place her, though.” THE MAN stroked his chin, as if reminiscing. “I remember everyone who passes through here, and I would *definitely* remember a pretty mug like that.”
Kim carefully watched Rina. Beside him, he could sense Harry doing the same.
“We’ll take our search elsewhere, then,” Kim said, carefully.
“Sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you, officers,” THE MAN said. He waved a hand at his drug lab. “You’re still welcome to purchase some of my fine product, of course. We’ll keep it between us.”
Kim opened his mouth to object, but Harry jumped in.
“I’d *love* to buy some drugs!”
“I knew you would, my dear Harry.” THE MAN patted Rina on the knee. “Sweet girl, help the customer with his purchase. Your usual?”
“Yeah, gimme that.”
Rina nodded. She kept her head down as she reached into a kitchen drawer, her quick fingers picking through baggies and bottles. She turned back to them, and extended her hand. “Forty reál.”
“No wonder I’m broke.” Harry dug into his pocket for the money, and quickly exchanged it with the girl. “Thanks.”
Her eyes flicked towards Kim briefly, as if to gauge his reaction. Harry pocketed the drugs.
“If I think of anything I’ll be sure to contact the RCM,” THE MAN said.
“We appreciate any help you can give,” Harry said, with a shit-eating grin.
They left the tenements the exact way they came. Bruno escorted them down the steps, and shut the door behind them, before resuming his place standing guard.
The walk back to the Kineema felt very long. Kim held his tongue, waiting for Harry to explain himself, as he always seemed to.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Harry said, finally.
“You have that look?”
“What look?” Kim asked, perfectly aware that he was indeed giving *that look.*
“The drugs aren’t for me! I swear. I bought them to test against whatever’s in the victim’s system.”
“Ah.” Kim’s ‘look’ receded, slightly. “Quick thinking, detective.”
“You aren’t just saying that to make me feel better, right? You can take them if you want—keep ‘em safe.”
“No, that’s all right,” Kim said. “I believe you.”
Harry breathed an audible sigh of relief. He wasn’t used to being trusted, that much was clear. Even if he hadn’t particularly earned that trust. There was still whiskey on his breath, after all.
“Still,” Harry continued. “They obviously knew me. I’d met THE MAN before. I don’t remember fuck all about that.”
“Perhaps it’s better that way.”
At least, it meant he hadn’t been using (or buying, at least) since Kim had joined the precinct.
“That girl—the young one,” Harry said. “I think she knows something.”
“She certainly seemed to have a reaction to the photograph.”
“Yeah… she’s hiding something. We need to talk to her alone, somehow. I’d say we could bring her in, but I’m not sure that would fly with THE MAN and I think we want to be on his good side, for now, at least.”
“Perhaps we can dispatch a junior officer to follow her tonight, and find out where she lives,” Kim suggested. “We can return to question her tomorrow.”
Harry stroked his chin as Kim fished for the keys to the Kineema.
“So… what do we do now?”
“We should return to the station and take another look at the body,” Kim suggested. “A more thorough examination may give us some leads.”
He looked nauseous all of a sudden. Kim watched him carefully. He knew Harry tried to avoid the station at all costs. It wasn’t exactly a friendly environment for him.
“Perhaps some dinner first?” Kim suggested.
Harry’s eyes brightened. Kim thought, somewhat guiltily, that Harry was a bit like a dog.
“*Fantastic* idea, Kim,” Harry said, slapping him on the back hard enough to take the wind out of him. “What would I do without you?”
They scarfed down cold cut sandwiches and drank black coffee in paper cups before shuttering themselves into the Kineema. A real meal returned some much needed color to Harry’s face, perking him right up. He even made a call to the station to put a tail on the Seolite girl without making a complete ass of himself.
Kim drove them back to Precinct 41 in mostly companionable silence, before Harry started fucking around with the radio and turning the volume up on Speedfreaks FM to his extreme embarrassment. He always got tense when listening to his music within earshot of the other officers, but Harry just drummed his hands on his thighs and made obnoxious guitar sounds and looked out the window at every car that passed like an excited dog. It was enjoyable.
The station was as busy as ever. Jamrock was too small for the amount of ground it had to cover, and there were people constantly going in and out, standing around the sidewalk. The old silk mill with its domed skull towered on the street where it lived, and Kim parked the Kineema along the other rows of horse stalls and motor carriages outside.
They went through the front entrance and through to the bullpen, where officers looked and jeered like they always did whenever Harrier Du Bois showed his face at the precinct. Kim made eye contact with anyone who dared look, successfully cowing more than a few lesser officers into their place.
He knew there was a betting pool going behind his back about how long he would last as Harry’s partner. He’d heard Elfboy and Torson laughing about it in the coffee corner. Kim Kitsuragi would last. He was no quitter.
“Look who finally made it to work,” Jean Vicquemare said, snidely.
He stood at his desk near the edge of the bullpen. After the hubbub in Martinaise, Harry had lost his task force, even though his officers elected to stay in the C-wing. He’d been allowed to keep his job, but only Kim had stayed on as his partner. Officers Minot and Vicquemare helped where they could, but their resources were already stretched to begin with.
“Satellite-officer,” Kim said, in greeting.
“Do you really need to give me shit right now?” Harry said. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
Vicquemare tsked. “Am I supposed to be impressed? Shit, Harry, it’s almost quitting time.” He turned to Kim. “How are you dealing with this?”
“The detective and I work well together,” Kim said and left it at that. He wanted no part in this conversation.
“Really?” Vicquemare scoffed. “Wait til you have to pull him down off a street lamp when he’s tweaked out of his head or wake him up in a puddle of his own piss, then we’ll talk.”
“Can we *please* not talk about that?” Harry snapped.
Vicquemare shut his mouth abruptly. He shuffled some papers, and went back to his desk, where Harry unfortunately followed, dogged as ever. Kim merely clasped his hands behind his back. Out of the periphery of his vision, Judit walked over to the desk with some folders in hand.
“Ah, just the people I was looking for.” Judit forced a smile. “Shall we head down to processing?”
There was an awkward silence. Kim raised his hand to cough.
Harry leaned forward, planting his hands on Vicquemare’s desk.
“Come on, Jean... Can’t we go back to how it was before—”
“*Before*?” Vicquemare laughed. “Don’t give me that bullshit. You don’t even remember what before was like—” Harry opened his mouth, “—and if you do, it won’t be long before you drink and cry yourself into oblivion and forget it all *again.* ”
Vicquemare and Harry glared at each other for a long, tense moment.
Kim lowered his voice. “This isn’t the venue for hashing out personal misgivings.” People were starting to look. “That’s enough.”
Viquemare sighed, and pretended to read a report. Judit looked tired, older than her years. Kim wondered how many arguments just like this she’d witnessed in her short tenure.
Kim patted Harry on the shoulder. “I think we should focus on the case, yefreitor.”
“Sure, Kim. Let’s solve us a case— because I’m a good cop, and it’s my *job* to solve the hell out of this case.”
Vicquemare didn’t bother to spare him a glance. Judit motioned, with a strained look. “Shall we, then?”
“Yes,” Harry declared. "We *shall.*” He didn’t seem altogether convinced, himself.
Processing happened in the basement of the old silk mill, down a set of service elevators that felt like a descent into the pale. It was a place out of time, with great looms along the walls that had gone long since retired. It was quiet, the metal ceilings causing echoes as the service elevator clanged to a stop. Dust fell from above, and Harry coughed loudly without covering his mouth.
It smelled like death. There were bodies on gurneys and people in white jackets milling about. Bright lights lit the corpses like some kind of macabre tableau. Judit led them towards the third body on the gurney, sliding a mask over her face as she went. The smell down here was dreadful.
The alleyway woman had been stripped out of her expensive clothing, and laying under the sheet she looked much more fragile. Her skin had taken on an almost grey pallor, and her dark hair fanned out beneath her head like a dark ocean wave.
“I did an examination to save you two some time,” said Judit. “I finished with her about an hour ago.”
“And what are your initial findings?” Kim said. He took out his notebook.
“The twenty-eight stab wounds to the anterior thorax appear to be the most obvious cause of death,” Judit said. Her voice was slightly muffled. She passed Harry a pair of gloves, and put on some of her own.
He snapped them on, wriggling his fingers. “Anything less than obvious?”
Judit pulled the sheet down to reveal her chest and abdomen, and reached across to pick up one of her arms. “Contusions along the upper arms. Hand shaped. Some of these look older.”
“So she was abused?” Harry asked.
Judit nodded. “It’s likely.” She moved lower, and manipulated the fingers of the dead woman. “There are defensive wounds on the hands and fingers. Slash wounds all over her forearms. This woman fought tooth and nail for her life.”
“Were there injuries indicative of sexual assault?” Kim asked.
“There was no bruising or tearing. There are, however, signs of a sexual encounter under 48 hours ago. No DNA, but I’ve still swabbed her.”
Harry hummed thoughtfully. He examined the knife wounds on her limbs with a careful eye. Kim watched him through his glasses, flicking back to make notes periodically.
“Kim,” Harry said, motioning him over. “Look here.”
There were fine, white lines along the inside of her arm. Almost imperceptible. “Those look quite old,” Kim commented. “Likely self-inflicted.”
“Why would she do something like that?”
Harry’s expression had slipped into a frown. Kim didn’t comment.
“There are fresh ones along her inner thighs,” Judit said, her eyes going soft.
Kim turned his pen to the page.
Victim has signs of self-injury and self-injurious behaviour. Typically such behaviour comes with a penchant for getting oneself into dangerous situations. Possibly what led her to Jamrock.
It seems as though the more recent wounds she was hiding. If not from a lover, then who?
“Her blood may still hold some information,” Kim said.
“Is there a narcotics sample?” Judit asked. She opened her palm the way a teacher would upon discovering their student with a wad of chewing gum.
Harry almost seemed reluctant. Kim didn’t look at him, and kept writing.
With a sigh, Harry handed the baggie over.
“Thank you.” Judit’s eyes crinkled in what was a genuine smile hidden beneath the mask, then turned to put the sample away.
Harry looked to Kim like he was expecting some kind of praise. What did he expect? A pat on the head? Kim raised an eyebrow, but didn’t otherwise react. He kept his mind on the task at hand, instead refocusing his attention to a detail on the woman’s left hand.
“That indent there, on her index finger.”
“She was wearing a ring. Whoever did this to her probably took it.”
Kim nodded. “I don’t believe this crime was entirely drug related. I think it’s—”
“Personal?” Harry interjected. “Yeah, me too.”
“A controlling spouse, perhaps. Jilted ex-lover?”
“Whoever it was,” Harry continued, “We need to find out what that girl Rina knows. She could probably help us identify her.”
Kim nodded. “Let’s finish up with the body. Then, we will debrief.”
“Great! I could use a cigarette.”
Harry pulled off his gloves and waved Judit back over. With a sweep of the sheet, she covered the girl’s face from view for the last time.
It was honestly the part of the day that he looked forward to most. Not just his single cigarette, but the quiet of nighttime, his partner standing beside him in thought. The Jamrock precinct had a second floor balcony, and this time of night, it was usually just the two of them.
The balcony overlooked an empty grey yard that mostly held impounded vehicles, and beyond that were the tenements with its scattered lights. Back here, the sounds of the city could only be muted so much—traffic, the throng of the late night crowds—there was no way out of it. They both belonged to Revachol.
He still only smoked his solitary cigarette, but he’d be lying if he didn’t carry around a few extras. Harry always ended up bumming his, even if he complained about the menthol taste.
“I don’t know why he says that kind of shit right out in the open,” Harry said. He took a long drag, shoving his hand into his pocket as he shuffled his feet.
“Satellite-officer Vicquemare, you mean?”
“It’s like he’s trying to humiliate me.”
“Do you think he would’ve said that if you had been here on time?”
Harry frowned. “Not you too.”
Kim smiled, leaning on his elbows over the railing. “There is no place for personal quibbles in the precinct. Besides, he’s not your keeper.”
“Pretty sure *you* are, Kim.”
“Ah, is that what you call this?”
“Anyway…” Harry tapped the ash off his smoke over the ledge. “This case—what do you think?”
“We made a good start today. We have a person of interest, a lead to chase, a cause of death,” Kim said. He planted his foot against the railing, cocked his hip. “I would’ve liked to have learned the victim’s name. We can resume our investigation in the morning. I have a long way home.”
“How long does it take you to drive, again? Like an hour on the highway?”
“Yes, but I don’t mind.”
“You thinking about moving closer?”
Kim put his cigarette between his lips. He leaned over the railing, looking down at the concrete.
“Man, Kim… how do you look so cool just doing nothing?”
He looked over his shoulder, where Harry had an almost pained look.
“You’re so mysterious all the time. I’ve known you for how long now and I don’t know where you live. You stand there smoking like that and—” Harry spread his palms out for effect, “—like *that!*”
“You think I’m mysterious because I don’t overshare, detective. I’m not that complicated.”
“So you think I’m complicated?”
“That’s one word I’d use.”
“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or a criticism.”
“It is neither. It is merely a fact.”
“Tell me one thing about yourself.”
He raised an eyebrow. Harry practically flinched, but seemed to find his footing, steeling himself. He killed his cigarette, then pointed a wide finger at Kim’s chest.
“I’m a cop. A damn good cop. Sooner or later I’m going to suss out every little thing there is to know about you.”
Kim leaned back against the railing and scanned Harry’s face. Of course he’d let things slip over time—Harry knew more about him than almost anyone, though it was only little crumbs of information. What kind of music he liked, his background, what he looked like in sheer terror, even his sexuality. His last partner hadn’t known about that at all, and Kim had never got the chance to really tell him. Not that Eyes would’ve wanted to know. They had a perfectly professional relationship up until Kim had his blood all over his hands.
Here Harry was asking for one thing. One little thing. Where was the harm in that?
“All right. You can ask *one* question.”
Harry’s face lit up, then immediately fell again. He stroked his chin. “That’s a lot of pressure. Now I have to ask something important...”
“I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
“Let’s have it,” Kim said, playing along. He took one last drag off his cigarette before flicking it away, then turned to face Harry, smiling ever so slightly.
“Okay, Kim. And you have to be honest.”
“Why did you join the 41st precinct when I asked you to?”
*Ah.* Of course he’d ask that.
Kim adjusted his glasses. He could feel the weight of Harry’s gaze as he took his time finding the words.
“I liked the idea of a larger district to take care of. Bigger caseload. A more central station… there is certainly change in the air, and I wanted to be closer to the core of it when the time comes. That, and working under Captain Pryce, of course.”
Harry regarded him silently for a moment. He crossed his arms, as if physically walling himself off.
“Is that it?”
“Yes,” Kim said, with a degree of finality. It was the truth, yes—but not the entire truth.
“Pryce and his stupid piebald,” Harry muttered, to himself. Seeming deflated, he looked up to Kim. “I guess Pryce is as good a reason to be here as any.”
“Yes,” Kim said, with a tiny smile. “He is.”
He pressed away from the railing, then smoothed down his bomber jacket. It was late.
“Need a ride home?” Kim asked.
Harry waved a hand. He looked dejected, where he’d slumped over the railing. “It’s fine. I’ll walk.”
“Of course. I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then. We have a lot of ground to cover.”
“Sure. Whatever you say.”
Kim stood unmoving for a moment. Then, he stepped closer to Harry and raised his hand.
There was a brief moment where he thought Harry wouldn’t react, but a wry grin pulled at his mouth, and Harry slapped his open palm against his. When Kim went low, Harry followed through without a second thought. He could always trust Harry not to leave him hanging.
“Goodnight, detective,” Kim said.
He slipped through the balcony door, and left Harry to the call of the night.
The drive home was unremarkable. The highway was empty this time of night, no one to worry about as he floored the gas pedal, his music blaring loud enough that he didn’t have to think.
Kim’s apartment was a little one bedroom in the industrial harbour. He’d bought it primarily for the garage space on the ground floor. The water pressure was terrible, but it was clean and his neighbours kept to themselves. He’d been coming home to an empty house for as long as he could remember, and so the relative quiet, the solitude didn’t bother him. It was almost a relief—noise seemed to pervade every corner in Jamrock. Just like the smell of meat.
Kim closed the door to his place behind him, flipped the locks, and turned on the light.
Everything was organized as he liked. He took off his shoes and jacket, and put them in their proper place. He padded in socked feet to the kitchenette, and poured himself a tall glass of water that he quickly drained. Harry liked to run everywhere all day, and it always left him exhausted and dehydrated by the time he got home.
He sat down by the window at the part-time kitchen table/part-time desk, the only part of his living space that got a little bit messy. A tall stack of folders, notes, and pencil shavings littered the surface. The folder at the top was on Wild Pines, and another in the corner was his notebook he’d used in Martinaise—”The furies are at home in the mirror,” the case where he’d met Harry, hid within. His fingers lingered over the journal as he pushed the stack to the side. He opened his ledger, flipping pages. Still no title for the woman in the alleyway. No name.
Kim chewed the end of this pen. He knew another who’d taken time to find their name. It had been right in front of him, too.
His thoughts drifted to Harry’s look of disappointment. Perhaps he should’ve been more forthcoming. Kim leaned forward over his notebook, his eyes lowering. He trusted Harry, of course, but it was a whole other story to tell him outright how much he enjoyed his company. It was embarrassing, of course, and even more difficult was how much Harry obviously wanted to hear it.
It had to mean something. He couldn’t just say it to soothe a bruised ego. It mattered to him more than that.
With a sigh, he closed his notebook. It was late, he wasn’t going to get any work of value done. He took a quick shower, perfunctionally jerking himself off, then brushed his teeth and dressed for bed.
As he slipped between the sheets, he took off his glasses and deposited them on the end table by his alarm clock set for five o’clock in the morning. It was already long past midnight.
Kim stared at the pipes running along the ceiling. The groan of water, and the sounds of the cars outside. Suddenly, all he could hear was his breathing. His heartbeat in his ears.
He listened and listened until even that steady beat made way for blissful silence. Still, Kim Kitsuragi did not sleep that night, thinking of smoke, the balcony, the city below, and of words unsaid.