Friday morning. I was now on the clock exclusively for Sandra Titus.
As much as I hate doing so, I decided to spend a little time down at the police station. No sense going over any tracks that might have already been walked over... or trampled on, knowing the investigative style of a couple of my former fellow officers.
As usual, the moment that I enter the department I get directed to the office of Captain Merle Griffin. Not because I have some clout that guarantees me an audience with the head of the division, but because he wants no one else in the department talking to me about ongoing investigations. Ever.
Unfortunately, his restrictions also mean that no one is to talk to me about certain closed cases, either. I quickly determined that the closed case regarding the disappearance of Holly Fortuna was one of those he didn’t want anyone talking about to me. And it became quickly apparent that Griffin wasn’t going to be any more forthcoming with details, either.
“I came here for some information and cooperation, Griff, not to be stonewalled for the sheer sake of it.”
“I’m not stonewalling you, Case,” he replied with a sneer that confirmed that that was exactly what he was doing, and enjoying it. “It’s a need-to-know thing. There isn’t anything of any real value that you need to know about the Fortuna case. In fact, there’s nothing you ever need to know about any case other than just staying out of the way and letting us do our jobs. You know, the real cops.”
I smiled and nodded. I was used to the derision. Lord knows I lived with it long enough while I actually worked under then-Sergeant Merle Griffin
“Maybe if the ‘real cops’ could – or would – invest time into my client’s case, I’d let them just go at it,” I replied. “But you can’t afford the manpower on this kind of investigation. That’s why I can make a decent living as a P.I. with this kind of case.”
“You mean a case where you collect per diem for not much effort because there is no case.”
“Her mother seems to think there’s a case to be investigated, and that’s good enough for me to go on.”
“And you’ll milk it for all it’s worth,” Griffin said with his trademark sneer.
“Did you ever at all try looking for Holly Fortuna, Griff? I mean really tried?”
“Yeah,” he replied, taking a seat in his high-backed leather chair. “We spent time on it, right up until the money started to show up at the Titus place.”
“You ‘spent time on it’,” I repeated sarcastically. “What, you mulled it over one morning while taking a crap?”
“It wasn’t a major case, Case.”
“You mean it wasn’t high-profile enough for you or the mayor to get your face in the papers.”
“No, asshole. I mean that there were no signs of violence, nothing to indicate that the woman was taken against her will, and no ransom demands to an otherwise well-to-do family.” Griff leaned back in his chair and rocked slowly. “I talked to the husband myself and got nothing out of him, either.”
“Probably because you bored him to death.”
“Probably because the jerk had nothing to do with her disappearance other than give her a reason to up and leave, dickhead,” growled Griff bitterly. “And once the first Western Union transfer came in, our investigation came to a halt because Miss Fortuna appeared to be both alive and unwilling to come home. Case closed.”
“That doesn’t mean that I can’t oblige my client’s – her mother’s – search for the woman,” I said. “Not to mention that there’s a little boy that surely wants his mommy. If nothing else, a child might deserve some answer as to why his mother wants nothing to do with him.”
Griffin nodded, giving my concerns an entire nanosecond of validity.
“So, am I gonna get some smidgeon of cooperation here, if not for me, at least for the kid?” God, I hated playing the ‘poor helpless child’ card.
“Sorry, Case. There really isn’t anything I can give you that you haven’t already figured out, what with your amazing investigative skills and all.”
“I do pretty damn good right up until I get blatant interference from the Department,” I said, directing my accusation towards Griffin with a stern gaze.
“Yeah, but, you know, being the great detective that you are, why’d you wash out of the Department?” he asked with another self-righteous sneer.
“You well know I didn’t ‘wash out’, Griff.” I shot him another pointed stare. “Unlike some other career guys here, I didn’t want to play the political ass-kissing game and pray for a promotion.”
Griffin snorted a cold laugh.
“Some of us don’t have to kiss ass to get promoted, Case. Some of us earn it by doing a good job. Following procedure. Not playing the loose cannon.” This time it was Griffin with the pointed, accusing stare.
“I never was good with authority,” I replied. Honestly.
“The way I hear it, you’re not too good about keeping your dick in your pants, either.”
And this mattered, why?
“A perk of my chosen profession, Griff,” I said.
“Banging your clients is a perk,” he chuckled. “How ethical.”
“Far more ethical than banging a helpless crime victim as a means of ‘consoling’ her.”
Griffin’s head jerked as if I’d just poked him in the nose.
“Yeah, Griff, I know about the complaint that home-invasion victim filed against you last year.”
“It didn’t stick,” he said defensively. “It got thrown out… dismissed.”
“How much of the city’s money went into sweeping that one under the rug, Griff? The difference between you and me is that, yeah, I might end up with a client sucking my dick now and then, but it sure beats sucking the mayor’s dick every other day to keep my job.”
Griffin immediately jumped up from his chair, his face turning a shade of red that was a likely warning signal of a pending stroke, shouting, “Get the fuck out of my office, Case!”
I turned for the door, but it swung open before I could grab the knob. In walked none other than Mayor Scott Walker. He’d undoubtedly heard Griffin’s outburst on his approach, and his eyes darted curiously between Griff and me.
“Am I interrupting something here, gentlemen?” he asked suspiciously.
“Not at all,” I replied. With a nod towards the captain, I parted with, “I guess it must be one of those ‘every other’ days, Griff. Time to get to work!”
If I hadn’t witnessed it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it, but damned if Griffin’s face didn’t turn even redder as I stepped out of his office.