State of Emergency – Chapter 13
March 3, 2011
Chris opened his eyes to a blurry room and a steady, dull ache in his face. He was lying on his side on a plush, cushioned surface, wrists and ankles tied with binder strips. He could see his taser and the heavy Colby revolver lying on the coffee table a few feet away. Everything kept moving, swathed in mist and each time the room shifted, his stomach lurched along with it. He closed his eyes again and wished he was somewhere else. Or someone else.
Someone less of a dismal failure at his own life. Or someone who could quit.
It hadn’t been a dream. Carlyle had caught him and good. His head flopped back to the cushion and he groaned aloud, hating himself.
Kind hands surprised him. A misty white and gold figure loomed over him, smelling of sex with a hint of vanilla, of men’s cologne and grass and gun oil. She moved him around on the couch, helped him sit up, her perfume stronger as she leaned past him to adjust the back cushion and press an ice pack to his bruised and bloody face.
His head pounded. He just stared vaguely at her, saying nothing, wondering what would come next.
A drop of blood splashed from his nose on to her blouse. He quickly shifted his gaze to her face, catching the crinkle of her nose. She pushed his head on to the cushion again and balanced the ice pack over his nose, then padded silently away, into the hallway, hips swinging in her shorts like the pendulum of his ex-wife’s grandfather clock.
Carlyle looked fit to be tied.
He couldn’t help it; what started as a silent inner voice cursing him for stupidity began coming out of his mouth as laughter. The ice pack tumbled off his face, down onto the seat where it slowly started to melt on the couch and his leg. Laughing didn’t help the headache, or the nausea, but he couldn’t stop. All the best intentions in the world, but one knock on the head and he was just a dirty old man.
He stopped laughing.
“Yeah, sorry mate, but Chuckle Vision is off the air.” Carlyle motioned slightly with his gun to emphasize the words. “Couple of things we need to talk about.”
The enforcer sighed to himself. He’d said everything to Carlyle that he needed to say; the man simply wouldn’t listen and Peony – the girl Carlyle thought was his wife – was simply too lost in the twisted wreckage of her own mind to hear. Discussion was pointless, but it gave him hope. Carlyle would have simply shot him while he was out cold if he’d wanted to; if he wanted to talk, Chris got to live.
He tried to speak, but his throat was thick with blood and mucus; he gurgled and rasped and gave way to a fit of coughing. Carlyle threw a box of tissues to him. It landed on his lap and sat there while Chris glared at it, hands tied behind his back. But he still couldn’t bring himself to spit and swallowed awkwardly instead, tasting the coppery tang of his own blood.
“My answers are still gonna be the same, you know? Nothing’s changed…”
Carlyle glared at him. His pose was relaxed, still lounging in the same seat he’d been in when Chris entered, but his feet were spread, ready to take his weight, and his forearms lay on the plush armrests of the chair, primed to throw him forwards, bring that gun to bear or cover his body in defence. The man was serious… and it slowly dawned on Chris that he hadn’t been, before. Not at all. Something had happened and this was no longer a game, not any more.
“Nothing’s changed? What about that scramble-faced cunt of a partner of yours? Did you think bringing him into this was a good idea?”
“What the…” Chris’ jaw hinged open and stayed that way, but Carlyle wasn’t finished.
“Still trying to paint yourself the fucking good cop when the frigging Elephant Man is attacking my family? My fucking family! They have nothing to do with any of this, and you have the nerve to sit there and tell me you just want to talk?” He stopped to draw breath, face flushed and furious and Chris took the opening.
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“He’s your fucking partner, mate.” He made the word drip venom. “You tell me!”
“Derek’s in hospital!”
Carlyle’s gun-hand shifted, then he stopped. Chris couldn’t read his eyes through the shades but he felt the scrutiny.
“You really mean that, don’t you? You didn’t know he was here…” The Englishman shifted in his seat, letting the pistol lie idle on his thigh.
“He’s in England? Wha… But how?” Chris thought about it, running everything Carlyle had said through his mind and thinking back over his last conversation with Derek.
“I’m going to tear away everything he cares about, one by one, then I’m going to take him off the streets FOR GOOD.”
“Oh…” Chris licked suddenly dry lips and swallowed again. The taste of blood seemed apt. “Shit!”
Even in enforcement, even for an enforcer as corrupt as Derek, there were lines. Derek had always trod them carefully in the past, or so Chris had thought. Had his brush with Carlyle, the near-fatal shooting, the mutilation of his face… Had he finally gone over the edge?
He remembered the doctor, green gown streaked with brown, drying blood, standing in front of the swinging door of the operating theatre using words Chris barely understood.
“…intra-cranial focal brain injury… foreign body…”
“We had to remove a bullet from his brain. The trauma is significant. Some permanent damage is inevitable…”
Was that it? Had the bullet in his head kicked Derek loose from his moral tethers? Or was this just… Derek and his “Criminals… anything goes.” Had he simply been too blind to notice who his partner really was?
Carlyle. Chris focused his eyes on the man and shook his head. “I had no idea… I… Well, he… I had no idea!” He looked down at his lap, unable to bear Carlyle’s unseen eyes. “I’m such a fool… So caught up in this case, I never even noticed…”
“Yeah…” Carlyle’s drawl held little sympathy. “I believe you. But about that. I am going to say some things and you are going to listen, this time.”
Walsaw nodded, feeling suddenly so tired, so old, every muscle aching and a low, deep throbbing in his bones.
“Dolly is happy. I haven’t kidnapped her, tricked her, she’s not here against her will. Her parents, that whole case… It’s all dead and gone.” He leaned forward in his chair, looking straight at Chris. “We’re not in San Paro now. We’re out of your jurisdiction. We’re out of the crime game – don’t need it anymore. If you’re looking for a result, that’s it. And if it’s punishment you’re after, well… I think she got enough of that in the nut-house you shut her in when she was nine years old, don’t you?”
He stopped to draw breath and Chris suddenly realized how tired he must be, too. But Carlyle had more to say.
“She doesn’t need you to rescue her. You can dress it up in cop talk all you want, but we both know… You’re not a white knight come to save her, alright? She’s already been saved. She’s not yours to protect; she’s mine. You’re just some old fuck obsessing over a girl half his age.”
It felt like he’d been hit again. And again. He couldn’t breathe, just watched Carlyle and listened, taking the pain, hating the way a part of himself thought it was true. Hating… and fearing it. And it wasn’t over.
“Do you know what she calls you?”
Mutely, Chris shook his head.
Carlyle enunciated every syllable, letting each word sink home.
“‘That… old… ginger… guy.’ Whoever you think you were to her, she doesn’t remember you. You’re just the fuck who keeps chasing her.”
Chris waited for the hammer blow he knew was coming.
“She’s afraid of you.”
There was more that had to be said, a deal to be cut, but once it was done, he let the old man walk. Shoulders slumped as he walked down the driveway, Walsaw looked like a broken man and Carlyle closed the door hoping he was shutting it on that particular problem forever. Despite Derek, despite all the problems to come, one weight, at least, was off his shoulders and he went bounding up the stairs as lithely as a teenager to tell his wife about it.
Their bedroom was empty.
The closet door stood open, a crumpled shirt on the floor, still on its hangar.
“Doll? Where’d you go?”
The window was open, curtains blowing in the breeze. He could hear birdsong from outside, distant cars rushing down the motorway.
There was a CD case on the bed. Just a blank disc in a blank case. And there was no answer.