Missing in Service (Ch 2)

This is Chapter 2. You really need to read Chapter 1, which can be found here

I regretted telling Katie Rocquet that I would take her case more than Dave regretted uttering the words “Chris, how do you fancy giving Lord Chancellor a go?”  

It was going to be easy money, you know, like the easy money junior doctors make patching up the human carnage of a Saturday night in the ER. And quick money too. And it would have been, if I could have gotten my hands on Kowalski. 

Back at the office Harry was shooting me the sort of looks that said she hadn’t been fed in days. There was nothing else to do, if curiosity didn’t kill the cat, starvation was going to. I had no choice but to head into the horse’s den and get the answer straight from the lion’s mouth. 

I picked up the phone and punched in the number for the Prosecutor’s office. This was a decision I instantly regretted. iPhone screens did not react well to punching. 

It was a couple of rings before a female voice started telling me that I had contacted the Prosecution and that it was real swell that I had done. She seemed very pleased. I decided to box off the niceties and get straight to the point. 

“Look lady, I need to talk to someone about some papers. Stat. Pronto. Stat and pronto. You know what I mean?”

If she knew what I meant she had a funny way of showing it. It would have helped if she had stopped smacking her own gums. This lady could talk. I got the feeling she knew exactly how to push my buttons. I tried again. 

“Sweetheart, if you can just stop yapping over me we might get somewhere, do you get me?”

If she got me, or even heard me, she had a funny way of showing it. She was relentless and remorseless. More relentless and remorseless than Philip Davies opposing something that would make someone’s life better or nicer in some small way. The kind of grinding determination to carry on regardless that put the “illib” in fillibuster. Or something. She was scrambling my brain. 

“If your enquiry is related to a Crown Court matter, please press 1,” she said for the eleventeenth time, “if you wish to speak to the Magistrates section, please press 2. If you want to speak to witness care, press 3. If you actually want to speak to a real life lawyer please press 18 and 1/2 whilst standing on your head reciting the Owl and the Pussycat. Your call is important to us. Goodbye.”

The line went dead. 

“Hello?” I said into the void, “Hello?” Either she had gone or I was about to launch into a Lionel Ritchie tribute number. Either way, I wasn’t dancing on the ceiling. 

First Kowalski and now this broad. It seemed like nobody wanted to talk to me. And when no one wants to talk to you then you begin to wonder what they had to hide. I smelled a rat. 

My thoughts were disturbed by Harry snaking herself around my ankles and heading for the door. Seems like she was registering her displeasure at the absence of food in purely olfactory ways. It was no rat that I could smell. 

Still, there was something fishy going on. With the case, not the cat. I was being given the cold shoulder and was no nearer to discovering where Rocquet’s papers were at. It was time to hit the streets again. 

In every town there is always a guy. It could be a girl. But whether a guy or a girl they were always the guy. The guy who knew everything and everyone. Knew where everyone was at. Had the ear of enough of the right kind of people to be a mine of useful information. And always had enough of the smarts to know that sharing some of that information with the right people could prove to be very mutually beneficial in a mutual kind of way. 

I knew such a guy. He had helped me out plenty of times, on plenty of cases. In turn I had always come running when he needed me. All he had to do was holler. 

The funny thing is, I never knew his name. Not his real name. Guess it just never came up much in conversation. We knew what we had going on was business, not real friendship. We would never just grab a beer together. It was always business. And I just knew him as “The Usher“. 

So fifteen minutes after my unsuccessful call to the Prosecutor I pulled out the bar stool next to my number one stool pigeon.

“Mr Dix,” The Usher addressed me without looking up from his crossword, “what can I do for you today?”

“Ush, I got a problem that I am hoping you can fix….” I began. 

“What seems to be the problem, Mr Dix?” 

I liked that about The Usher. He was always full of old school politeness. Right until you crossed him. Then he wasn’t so polite. Then he was about as polite as .44 slug that had “excuse me” scrawled on it just before it popped into your skull. And he would always make sure those that crossed him got what was coming their way. Not at his hand, you understand, but when you knew the people who The Usher knew, when you had the sort of people who relied on you like they relied on The Usher, settling scores was easy.    

So I explained my problem to The Usher. And as I did so his face darkened. He put his pen down. His crossword remained unsolved. 

“You do know Mad Freddie is going to be involved in that?” His voice was half warning, half concerned enquiry and half threat. “And that means I can’t help you, not this time.” It would be fair to say that what he had to say was less than the sum total of its parts. 

The Usher got up to leave. I laid a heavy hand on his arm. 

“Look Ush, throw me a bone here, I am running out of places to turn,” my voice sounded as desperate as my bank balance. 

The Usher folded his paper and tucked it under his elbow. He looked about him, checking no one was about to overhear what he had to say. He then lent towards me and in a voice as soft as that really good quality quilted toilet paper that koala bears use, whispered a few words to me. 

“All I can say, my old friend, is that it has something to do with a packing and logistics firm. I think they operate out of the docks. It is probably just a front for the real stuff that’s going down. It’s a ‘pile em high and sell em cheap’ kinda outfit. They go by the name “Better Case Management”, but I warn you now, I don’t think you’re invited to the party.”

And with that The Usher straightened up and gave me half a smile. 

“See you soon, Mr Dix, and I hope it’s not as I throw a handful of dirt on to your coffin.”

Before I could say goodbye he was gone. But at least he had given me a lead. I had some information, now it was time to make like Steven Seagal on a stage and act on it.  

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