by Trevor Hopkins

"I want to know more about my brother," I explained, "I want to know what the police know about him, and what he's been doing in the decades since I saw him last."

"Couldn't you just ask him?" Luncardy pressed, her attention apparently returning to her cigarette.

"I could," I said, "But I wouldn't necessarily get the truth. He might lie or dissemble, or he might just have plain forgotten what he's been up to all these years. Remember, he's a drunk, so I doubt his memory is everything it could be."

"Hmm," Luncardy responded, blowing smoke, not sounding in the least convinced.

"Look," I went on, "I'm pretty sure he's not spent all of that time on the surface. He must have come to the attention of the police in some way. Where's he been, any known associates, that sort of thing. It might just help your clean-up rate statistics."

"Okay," she agreed, knocking cigarette ash into the grey stone ashtray, "Just this once, mind you. I'll see what Central Records know, make a few inquiries in the other precincts. Might take a few days, maybe longer. I'll call you."

She rested the cigarette and holder against the ashtray, then opened her notebook, unscrewed her pen and made a few economical annotations on an otherwise blank page.

"You won't regret this," I promised her, "Frankly, I think at least one of us is going to be surprised by what you turn up. It'll probably be me, but you can never tell."

Luncardy nodded thoughtfully, then pressed a button on the telephone on her desk. A few moments later, the office door opened and the same junior officer stepped inside.

"Mister Gask is just leaving," she said dismissively, returning her attentions to her notebook.

I stood up, put on my hat and trailed after the young copper. As I was guided through the open-plan area where cops write up the reports for filing, I was reminded that police houses are strange places and the individuals in them even more so. Police work is fuelled by a mixture of mind-numbing boredom interspersed with bowel-churning excitement, and this affects different individuals in different ways. Some become introverted and withdrawn. I recognised one old Sergeant - whose name I had never learned - efficient and respected though he might be, but who was so taciturn I could not remember ever hearing him utter more than two words together. Others become gung-ho, blasé, overconfident - I could see a gaggle of younger cops bullshitting around the water cooler, their individuality overcome by immature bluster and macho banter, perhaps just to drown out the nagging voices in their own heads.

When we reached the foyer, I nodded my thanks to the young officer - who seemed well on the way to professional reticence - pushed open the door, and made my way out of the police house and down the street.

Part 17 Part 19