The Chief was always surrounded by disheveled stacks of paperwork. Each and every stack a precarious thing, seconds away from toppling in a glorious celebration of criminal confetti. Years of paper pushing and general dissatisfaction had molded Carl into something resembling a scowling, freshly pulled beet. His redness was helped not at all by the columns of white that always framed his rotund personage. Logan had often thought about deliberately knocking a stack or two over, just to see the look on Carl’s face as so much departmental bureaucracy crashed to the floor. It would serve him right for not modernizing his operation.
“You rang, Chief?” Logan had taken a casual position against the door frame, not wanting to cross the threshold until properly invited.
“Come in Maxwell, and shut the door.”
Logan knew he wasn’t going to like this. Carl only ever talked in private for three things: shitty assignments, firings, and the occasional promotion. Logan had kept his nose clean, both of his superiors’ assholes and any extra legal activities, which made it all too likely that a shitty assignment was in the works.
“What can I do you for, sir?” Logan said, doing his best to move his well developed mass into the chair opposite Carl without disturbing the paperwork.
“I want you to tail the P.O.I. you snagged in the alley last night.” Carl was already looking over another piece in the endless heap, which was for the best, since the man wouldn’t have taken kindly to the particularly bright shade of pissed that twisted across Logan’s face.
“The walking pocket protector! Didn’t we chip the guy?”
“Nope. Guy was sprung thirty minutes after walking through the door.”
“So, guys got some deep pockets along with his protector.”
Carl glanced up from his desk, breaking away from what looked like the first draft of next year’s budget proposal. “He didn’t spring himself. Like I said, guy was sprung. Shadow him. Guy takes a dump, I want to know if he’s fiber deficient.”
“Come on Chief! One of the drones could pull this…”
“Maxwell, how long does it take to process release paperwork?” It was a soft question. Bait meant to hide the hook. Logan wasn’t about to bite. He’d make Carl work for it.
“No idea...standard pissing time.”
“It takes you fuckers 10 minutes just to open a door. The drive over would have been about that too. So I have some questions Maxwell.” Carl McArthur had made chief for many reasons, but counted among them was his ability to put you on the back foot. Right now Carl’s full attention was leveled at Logan, his eyes like little brown daggers, ready for any opportunity to draw blood.
“Did you or officer Dalton let him call anybody?”
“You know we didn’t,” Logan said wearily.
“Was he on the phone when you found him?”
“Did he in any way make contact with someone besides you and officer Dalton?”
“Jesus Christ, no Carl! The guy didn’t even answer questions on the way in.”
“Did you see anyone else that might have been with him?”
“Not a soul, save the corpse.”
“Then explain to me how he skipped so quickly? Guy makes no contact with anybody after being picked up, walks out before he can even put on the jumper! Please, explain to me how that works?” Carl punctuated his point by sitting back in his chair.
“Rhetorical, Chief?” Logan honestly couldn’t tell. Carl was hard to read sometimes. While he was still intent on Logan, he seemed to have relaxed a bit. If Logan didn’t know better he would say Carl was in better than normal spirits.
“Humor me Maxwell. Lay out the possibilities. Pretend I’m rookie meat, fresh and academy stupid.” Carl was clearly having fun at Logan’s expense. While the Chief didn’t crack even the hint of a smile, the musculature required for such a thing having atrophied long ago, Logan could feel the impression of one hanging in the air.
“All right. I’ll play. Who sprung the guy?” Logan asked, sitting forward and resting his elbows on his knees, interlacing his hands such that they sat just under his nose, covering his mouth and chin. It was a habit he’d picked up somewhere along the way and was his preferred position when indulging in hypotheticals.
“Company called Vergeron fronted the bill. Money was transferred from an offshore account. And before you ask, the company’s one of those fat conglomerate bastards that popped up about fifty years back. Robotics. Pharmaceuticals. Digitization,” Cair growled the word, “got their fingers in every fucking pie.” One of the other reasons Carl was behind that desk was because he had an excellent memory.
“Big data is big money from my understanding. If they’re still standing they’ve got lots of it. What’s the standard release fee for someone like Skippy?” Logan asked, already eliminating a few possibilities from his list.
“Jesus! Is the guy alphabet soup? CEO? CFO?”
“Some kind of data analyst from what we can tell.”
“What a nice employee package Vergeron has.”
“Enough goldbricking Maxwell. How was he sprung so quickly?”
Despite himself Logan was having fun. He was already on the edge of his chair, eager to jump in. He had to be careful though. Of the two things he’d come up with one of his theories was a bit...unsavory.
“Alright rookie,” Logan expounded, playing along with Carl’s game, “possibility the first, Pavement Face had an accomplice. Someone who feared approaching, but also worked for Vergeron. Called it in right after we nabbed him.”
Carl nodded to this. Logan didn’t think for a second the Chief hadn’t thought exactly the same thing. He suspected Carl knew more than he was letting on just to see how Logan worked it through himself.
Maybe there is a promotion in this…
“Second, Vergeron has a friend on the force. Someone who could speed up the release process. Someone on retainer. If one of Vergeron’s employees gets picked up they inform the company, who acts accordingly.”
You’d have to be paying attention to see it. Hell, you’d have to know Carl to see it. Otherwise you might mistake it as pressure. Like gravity had decided to increase without warning. Carl’s face hadn’t changed, not exactly, but every wrinkle seemed to deepen, becoming darker and more pronounced. Logan knew that Carl had been fighting against claims of a corrupt department for years and was aware that it was a sensitive spot for the guy.
And there goes the promotion.
“What I don’t get is all the fuss? If he’s just some white collar why pay out the cash? I admit the how interests me, but so does the why.”
“Listen Maxwell, Dalton’s doing the leg work on Vergeron. He’ll get the ‘why.’ As for your ‘theories’...I know it’s a possibility that we’re dealing with...favoritism,” the word was pure venom from the Chief’s mouth, “but it’s far more likely he had a partner in the field we didn’t see. Just follow the guy, alright. We need this handled. Got too many cases going cold this year. Department needs a win.”
Logan let out a heavy sigh. He knew Carl was grasping at straws here. He also knew that while it was true the department needed a win, the department always needed a win. Something didn’t jive and Logan thought he knew what it might be.
“Are we thinking cover up here, Chief?” Logan didn’t like asking. It was the kind of thing that could break the department if it wasn’t handled right. Carl would almost certainly be asked to retire if such an investigation went pear shaped. The Corp’s powered Delphi. It wouldn’t be David vs. Goliath, it would be David coming face-to-face with his wrathful Creator.
“God no! Jesus, Maxwell. Keep that to yourself. If even a fart wafts into range of media noses that implies cover up I’ll be up to my eyeballs in bullshit suppositions and headline clickbait!”
“Then what is this Carl? Why expend the resour…”
“Enough!” The constant din that sat over the precinct stilled as Carl’s voice rang through not only his office, but most of the station. “This is a routine tail and tag. You hear me. Follow the guy. Report in. Is that too much for you Maxwell?!”
Logan gave a proper salute as he stood up and was about to make a hasty retreat when he realized something rather embarrassing.
“Chief, sorry to ask...what the hell is Pocket Protector’s name? I’ve forgotten.”