Thursday, 1 February 2007

Chapter 8: "Sorry Tom..."

It was all going too well. I knew I should have avoided talking to my boss.

“Sorry Tom”, Captain Nash started, “I’ve got some bad news for you.”

I was standing in the Captain’s office, listening to him try to tell me my vacation had been cancelled in the longest, most roundabout way possible. Another crock about me being the best detective he’s got and how he can’t do without me.

I knew what he was trying to say the second he opened his mouth: that my vacation was being cancelled and I’m sure he knew that too but for some reason he felt the need to talk around the subject for several minutes first.

If bullshit were pennies, this guy would be a millionaire.

“If I’m that great, give me a raise then, Captain,” I said once he’d finished telling his story. A completely futile suggestion but I wanted to make him squirm even more.

“Look here Detective, just about everyone who’s got a family has booked time off and the ones that didn’t have called in sick.” He was shouting at me as if it was my fault, like I was in the wrong because I had the nerve to want to take some time off work. Men with families always got the holidays they wanted and I had to pick up the scraps that were left over. That pissed me off.

I should have known though, it was a predictable situation. Good weather always causes people to call in sick. They pretend they’ve been laid up for a few days but when they get back to work they’ve got golden brown sun tans. It’s at times like this when I think the world is full of lazy bums and hard working men like me and my partner Dave are the exception rather than the rule.

“That’s not my problem, Captain,” I protested, “if half your men phone in sick on a sunny day you need to get them in here or fire them. Read them the riot act, for Christ’s sake!”

“You know I can’t do that so I’m afraid it is your problem, Tom. I’ve got dead bodies stacking up all over the city and no one to find out who put them there. God damn it, I wish the situation was different but it’s not.”

My mind was filling with anger and desperation. One emotion was about to bubble over but I didn’t know which one.

“I need some time off, Captain,” I pleaded desperately, “I’ve been working all day and night on the Lewis murder. Now I’ve cracked it, I’ve got to get some sleep. Period. You can’t ask any more from me.”

“Sorry Tom, you’ll need to try and get some sleep tonight. Right now I need you to get over to Mantek at the other end of the city.”

He could have at least tried to look like he was sorry but his expression didn’t change at all. In his mind we got to take vacation as a bonus rather than a right. There was no point arguing any more, I didn’t have any choice. If I protested any more, I’d be heading for suspension or worse. Taking this case was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

“I heard about the attack on Mantek on the radio. What happened?” I asked, resigned to my fate.

“Someone walked in last night, killed two security guards and blew up one of the labs. A young lab technician was working there at the time.”

“Dave’s on vacation. I take it I’m alone on this one?”

“This one’s different. It falls under the jurisdiction of the World Health Organisation. Apparently the lab was being used to research the cure for some disease. The WHO have got the whole place quarantined. Your contact will be Agent Jane Simpson. She’s already on-site.”

Great. I get to work with a woman. No doubt someone else who’ll end up hating me.

The case itself didn’t sound too bad. Most likely animal rights activists and there were only two of those groups with any significant presence in the city. Shouldn’t take too long to ask around and find out who the angriest members of the groups are.

“Any suspects?” I asked.

“You now know everything I know, Detective.” I made a point of asking him for more information every time I got a case, even though he never knew anything of any importance. I thought that one day he might realise all he did was bark orders without giving me anything to work with but that day hadn’t come yet. I doubted it ever would but I hoped he would prove me wrong.

“I don’t have any choice, do I Captain?” I asked, with desperation in my voice.

“You know the answer to that one, Tom,” he said, staring deep into my eyes. “You know the score. You’re the best man for the job. I’d rather have you running at fifty percent than half the other guys running at a hundred percent.”

That would be flattering if it wasn’t a total fabrication.

“I’ll do this for today but you’d better get someone else lined up because I’m calling in sick tomorrow,” I announced.

“Sure you are,” he replied, knowing that I was bluffing.

I turned round and left his office, slamming the door behind me. That was it. Forget about your vacation, Tom. Get out there and get back to work.

It’s hard work being the best.

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