Monday, December 10, 2018

Query 2.11: Miserable Chivalry

Logan stood outside the Delph Police Department and took a deep, calming breath. This building had been his second home for as long as he could remember. Logan had watched the structure grow and morph into what it was today. Much like his own adolescence, the precinct had growing pains, the retrofit of the drone-dome and subsequent hollowing of the substructure to make room for the basement garage had transformed the property into something of an irregular edifice. Logan had watched it’s development longer than most as his mother had been an officer stationed here.

Renna Maxwell had done everything in her power to make sure Logan didn’t pick up her torch. She’d always emphasized the violence and broken homes, the stress and heartache of being the one expected to shovel the shit. Bless her, but it hadn’t done much good. Logan was an only child and the department was the family he never had. When his father died, well loved for keeping mom’s precinct full to bursting in baked goods, it felt like every officer in the city had showed up to pay their respect. Logan had been young then, barely thirteen, but seeing the support for his mother, the words said at the wake that warmed her heart and eased her grief, Logan had decided then and there what path he would take. There had been a lot of firsts that day. It was the first day he realized his father was truly gone. It had been the day Logan had decided where he wanted his life to go. It had been his first taste of whiskey, being included with everyone else toasting his father’s memory. It had burned so terribly. Logan had sputtered and coughed until he thought his lungs would fall out and the man that had stood patting him on the back was the same man he now had to face, Carl James McArthur.

Logan steeled himself and took slow, reluctant steps into an uncertain future. He was basically waved through security check, the lads on duty giving him shit for the paid time off while they were left picking up the slack. Logan smiled, giving a few lackluster rejoinders before making an excuse to push on, promising a proper discussion at some later, unspecified time.

Despite what he’d said to the boys at the front, Logan deliberately took the long way round. He passed the interview rooms, his memories of the more rambunctious interrogations surfacing, unbidden into his thoughts. Logan considered turning into the locker room just to see who was hanging about, but thought better of it, choosing instead to take a detour and pass by the property rooms and evidence locker. He didn’t see anyone manning the plexiglass window as he passed, but Logan couldn’t help wonder if someone hidden back around one of those cabinets wasn’t destroying evidence right now. He decided it was best not to linger, moving to the elevator and up into the office space. As expected with the suspensions, there were fewer people around the place, but every single one of them were moving with a purpose that kept Logan’s interactions to a quick wave, or a hasty word before they were on about their business, which Logan was thankful for.

Logan moved down the central thoroughfare, his focus drawn to the opposite wall and through the open doorway where Carl sat behind his desk, flanked as he always was by stacks of paperwork. The Chief looked his usual shade of pissed and Logan hesitated outside the doorway, wanting for the first time in his life to be oblivious, to have what he knew about the mole, and how he knew it, pulled from his mind so he could exist in blissful ignorance. No such malady befell him, so Logan ripped the band-aid off, rapping his knuckles against the metal door frame to get Carl’s attention.

“Maxwell?” Carl asked, looking up with a questioning frown. “What the hell are you doing here? You’re not due for your reinstatement interview for at least another week.”

“I know, Chief.” Logan said, stepping into the office. “Can we speak privately, sir?” Logan asked, nodding to the door. Carl’s frown deepened, but he gave a nod of consent and Logan quickly closed the door so the two were alone.

Carl leaned back in his chair and gave Logan the once over. Whatever he saw he kept to himself, simply giving another nod for Logan to continue.

“First, sir.” Logan began, reaching into his breast pocket he pulled out a black security key about the size of his thumb. Though it was a relatively tiny thing, Logan could feel the weight of it as he placed it on the table in front of Carl. “You’ll find that will allow you to connect to a complete copy of the DPD database as of yesterday. You should be able to restore what was lost from it.”

Carl sat mute. He just gazed fixedly at the small black rectangle Logan had placed in front of him. It felt like an eternity before Carl broke the silence with a single, pained word.

“Explain.”

Logan hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath waiting for Carl to say something. He let it out in a great rush of air, like a bellows being forcibly pushed. Carl waited, his stoic face giving nothing away, except, perhaps, for his eyes. To Logan, who’d known Carl so long, his eyes looked impossibly sad.

“Sir, it started over a month ago when I was assigned to tail Richard Pythagoras Black…”

Logan told it all, every suspicion, every hunch, every time he’d looked the other way. His involvement in what amounted to criminal conspiracy. How instead of going to his fellow officers, to Carl, he’d teamed up with Py, not only before the Alleyman’s capture, but after. Logan spoke about his growing distrust for the department, how the last few weeks had seen him and Py cobble together evidence of more deaths, more missing persons, and worse, what was almost certainly a mole.

“You’ll find one file in the database that’s for your eyes only, sir. It contains reconstituted case files. Everything we could find that’s been lost, or deliberately altered. The password to access the files… is Marigold.” Carl had sat and listened, rarely even blinking at Logan’s recount, but at the name Marigold, Carl’s eyes closed and he brought his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Marigold had been Logan’s mother’s maiden name. She hadn’t lived to see Logan take the badge, dying of cancer a few years after his father. Logan had always been conflicted about that. She’d never wanted him in uniform, but he knew she’d have been proud to see him in it. It felt somehow appropriate that what would restore so many of the wrongs done in the DPD was the name of a true and honorable officer. If this was Logan saying goodbye to the job, it was only proper his mother be part of that farewell.

“Is that everything, Logan?” Logan caught the knot in his throat and forced it down. Carl hadn’t used Logan’s first name since he was a boy, since before Logan had worn the uniform. It was an indication of what was to come, but Logan would not turn away from the consequences. He would face the repercussions of not finding a way to do things legitimately. Face not being smart enough to work within the bounds of the law. Face not being brave enough to try.

“Yes sir, that is all.”

Carl stood slowly from his chair. He moved around his desk, maneuvering his bulk expertly to avoid disturbing his papers. Logan was expecting the worst. It was well within Carl’s power to arrest Logan on the spot. Carl moved and stood in front of Logan, his face a perfect mask of disappointment.

Carl extended his hand forward. Logan stood dumbfounded for a few seconds before reflexively reaching out to grasp Carl’s hand in kind.

“I’m sorry to see you go, Vergeron’s getting a good man.” Carl’s face remained frowning and detached, but Logan saw a small crinkle by the man’s eyes at Logan’s open mouthed disbelief. “I can’t say I’m surprised given the recent stress. I’m sure they offered you a bundle as well.” Carl released Logan’s hand, patting him on the shoulder and looking him dead in the eye. “Make sure to turn in your gun, badge, and ID before you exit the building.”

“Sir... I’m not sure I understand.”

“When I look at those files,” Carl said, indicating the security key with his thumb pointing over his shoulder, “am I going to find a missing tattoo?”

“...what tattoo?” Logan’s mind was moving at a geriatric pace, understanding colliding with him only as Carl began explaining.

“Davidson and Avery came to me with an interesting story the other day. Seems they can’t find any mention of a certain tattoo in their reports. They swear they wrote it down, but now it seems to have vanished.” Logan was speechless. He was surprised to discover Carl was so well informed, but now that he thought about it, he shouldn’t have expected anything less. “What, you thought I wouldn’t find out? You probably don't know since you’ve been on suspension, but we have an internal investigation around the Alleyman case. Nobody knows how that fucker died, but we’re going to find out.” Carl said, pointing his finger at Logan. “Plus, don’t you think it’s strange that the weapon was never recovered? Don’t you think it’s more likely that someone found it and forgot to turn it in. I find it strange, Maxwell. I know most of this was under FBI jurisdiction, but I’m not going to let the feds shit all over my department. We’ve been scrambling to piece things together for weeks now and the stuff you just brought me is the best information I’ve seen so far. If this is a criminal conspiracy we need to know. Scary to think how deep it might go. You tried to warn me once before, but I wasn’t ready to hear it, well, I’m ready now.”

“Chief, I don’t follow.” By all rights, useful or not, Logan should be in cuffs about now.

“What I’m saying, Logan, is welcome to undercover. Solve this case, then bring it back to us. Gather what you can from Vergeron. Use their leverage to squeeze the FBI. Do what I can’t.”

Logan didn’t know what to think. He new in this moment he should feel thankful… but he didn’t. Logan didn’t feel lucky. He didn’t feel at ease or relieved. If anything, Logan felt somehow cheated. But there was no arguing the point. Even if Logan could form the words right now, he knew Carl wouldn’t budge. So, he did what he’d been trained to do.

Logan placed his arms at his sides and stood tall. He kept his eyes forward, bringing his right hand up rapidly, palm down, thumb extended and joined, to give his Chief a reverent salute. He didn’t know if he’d get a chance to give another one. Carl responded in kind, mimicking the gesture. The two men stood there frozen for a time, two sculptures, as dissimilar as could be imagined, until the smaller of the two sharply brought his arm out and down, breaking the spell.

“If half what you told me is true, Vergeron might be at the center of this conspiracy.” Carl said, reaching around back to his desk to grab the security key and shoving it into his pocket. “We’re lucky to be getting a man on the inside.”

“Honestly, Chief… I don’t know if I want to work for Vergeron.”

Carl’s eyebrows, like two overgrown caterpillars, rose to meet his thinning hairline.

“Really? I just assumed, after all this,” Carl patted his pocket with the security key in it, “you’d be jumping at the chance, this could be one of the biggest busts in precinct history.”

Logan sighed.“ I admit it would be amazing to be a part of, but I don’t know that I’m cut out for this cloak and dagger shit.”

Carl gave a snort. “What have been doing? On the streets, interviewing subjects, running down leads. Doesn’t sound much different from what you’re doing here. Actually, that said…”

Carl trailed off. Logan could tell he was conflicted. Logan could almost see the scales tipping one way and then the other in Carl’s head as he weighed some invisible choice.

“What is it, Chief?”

Carl gave a nod, committing to some mysterious decision.

“Follow me, Maxwell.” Carl said, moving passed Logan and back into the main office. “I think it’s time you met Abigail.”

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