I don’t know who’s idea it was to kill this man. I don’t even remember a decision ever having been made. But we were there and it had to be done. I remember the look of pleading and regret in his eyes, perhaps over things left undone or people he had hurt and not apologised too, but now it was too late; he would never get the chance. There were a several of us present, but I was the one who had to pull the trigger. He wasn’t a bad man by any reasonable measure, we could all see that, but events seemed to have taken on an inevitable momentum; like a mud slide, or worse still, a mud slide you don’t know you were in.
Of course there was the money. We were all going to get wads of it, delivered in a clear plastic bag with a slip of paper with our name printed clearly on it. Don’t ask me why it came that way, it just did. Maybe the person giving the orders was a meticulously well organized grandmother who hated throwing things out, I don’t know, But I do know that the gravity of the crime far out weighed any financial remuneration we were going to receive.
And then we found ourselves in a police station. It was about a completely different matter, I’m not sure what, speeding possibly, but it was a very tricky situation to be in as you can imagine having just committed a murder. I was with a woman, one of my co-conspirators, and a detective was asking us various questions. How fast were we going? Where were we going? He was friendly at first, offered us cups of tea, mading pleasant chit chat and then suddenly he changed, like a blue ringed octopus, his anger and hostility appeared out of nowhere. Did we know that a man had been murdered near here? Where were we when it happened? What were we doing?
Maybe that’s what they teach them at detective school, how to go from nice to nasty very quickly, and if that’s the case, then he had topped his class. Did we know this man? What did we have against him? Why did we hate him? Did we know he had a wife and children? Small children! His youngest had just started school. I don’t remember putting up any kind of defence, there didn’t seem to be any point. But we felt exposed like a shop front window with a dismembered human corpse behind it. So we did the only thing we could have done under the circumstances. We backed our way out of that office as politely and as quickly as we could and almost ran down the hallway.
But the building was like a rabbit warren, with corridors that had no windows or offices coming off them that seemed to go on forever, turning left and right, endlessly like a night mare with nasty old yellow lino on the floor that came up at the edges. There were dusty bare light globes that hung from brown cords and I even saw a couple of cockroaches scuttling away as we turned a corner. But worst of all, every time we did turn a corner we saw the angry face of the detective coming around the last one.
I don’t know how long this went on for, minutes or hours, but eventually we emerged into a new space. A friendly well lit space with light coming from above and windows and glass fronted offices all around it. There were machines dispensing coffee and chocolate in one corner, and numerous police hurrying about their business, carrying files and talking in low confidential tones. No one seemed to be paying us any attention at all, and there was no sign of of the angry detective so we got a coffee each from the machine and sat down on one of the old ottoman lounges that had been placed thoughtfully in a corner for the covenience of visitors. And then we found our pay packets.
They were sitting there in full view of everyone who was hurrying past. Two clear plastic bags stuffed full of cash and a piece of paper in each bag with our names on it. So we sat down and put each package into our pockets as casually as we could like a couple of school children stealing sweets at the local shop.
And then a man wearing a dark suit came out of one of the offices and motioned us in. So we followed him and the questioning began again. But this time it was more sympathetic. There was an old valve record player in the corner which was playing a very , sad, jazz classic, I can’t remember which one now, but someone’s heart was broken, and the detective started asking us about our lives. What was our up bring like? Was it difficult? Perhaps one of our parents had a history of alcoholism and there was no food on the table. As he was asking us these questions there was a middle aged woman sitting in the corner taking notes. Her hair was pulled back severely and she was wearing a police uniform with numerous insignias of rank. At one point during the questioning she looked up from her note taking, and appropo of nothing barked at me,
‘Are you having sexual relations with this woman?’ She yelled pointing her clipboard at my female companion. I was so taken aback that at first I couldn’t answer.
‘Sex outside of marriage is illegal in this state you know; they can hang you for it.’
‘No you cant, and anyway I’m not,’ I managed to croak out after a pause.
‘Yes it is,’ she yelled again. ‘Ingnorance of the law is no excuse. They can hang you for that too.’
‘What, for being ignorant?’ I said incredulously.
‘That’s where it all starts,’ said the senior police woman, ‘Hang em before they have a chance to do anything worse.’
‘Don’t you feel sorry for that poor fellow who died?’ asked the detective gentley before I could reply.
‘Yes of course,’ I said.
‘So you did kill him,’ said the police woman. ‘I knew it. All adulterers graduate to murder eventually.’ She gave the detective a satisfied smirk and continued taking notes.
‘That’s ridiculous, ‘I said.
‘No it’s not, it’s a gateway crime,’ she said, ‘hang an adulterer and you prevent a murder.’
‘Why would you feel sorry for him if you didn’t kill him?’ said the detective this time with a nastier edge to his voice.
‘Hang them now, save the public the expense of a trial,’ said the policewoman.
‘Hang them now and prevent the next generation of delinquents,’ said the detective grinning at the police woman.
‘Hang them now and we can go for a long lunch,’ said the police woman returning the smile and adjusting her tightly packed top. Events were taking a very nasty again, so I acted on impulse and I did the only thing I could. I grabbed a revolver that was sitting on the desk in front of me and started to wave it around.
‘No-ones going to hang anyone,’ I said pointing the gun at the woman, figuring in a split second that there was a chemistry between these two, and that the detective wouldn’t risk her life. My companion and I backed our way out of the door getting in each others way as I tried to keep the gun pointed at the police woman and the detective, who were now grinning broadly at each other.
‘You wont get very far,’ said the detective, ‘nobody ever does.’
Then it started again, the nightmarish pursuit down the endless, windowless corridors with the grinning face of the large police woman appearing around each corner behind us just keeping pace as we ran.
And then we were out. On a busy city street with buses and trucks spewing exhaust fumes about our knees, and people scurrying along and paying no attention to each other. The door clicked closed behind us and I hoped that it had locked so our pursuers could not follow us on to the street and pull us back into that dark cockroach ridden maze. But I tried it and it wasn’t locked.
‘We need to get away from here,’ I said to my female companion, ‘they could come out of the hole any second and arrest us.’ I felt a great sense of urgency, a need to be gone, but she said,
‘Where are our pay packets?’ It was true. I checked all my pockets and the money was gone. Somewhere back inside the building, both plastic bags were lying on the ground full of cash, each one with a slip of paper with our names printed clearly; and police everywhere. We had to go back.
So we open the door and slipped back into the dim corridor. But it was dimmer and darker than it had been just a few moments ago, and as we rounded a corner, there she was, standing in the darkness. But she was younger, much younger now, and her blonde hair fell down over the wool shoulder pads of her uniform. She opened her arms slightly and smiled a little. I could smell her apple scented hair conditioner, so I stepped into her and she wrapped her soft arms around me.
‘Do you think I would betray you?’ she said, as she brushed her lips gently up against my cheek.