So last week I posted a story called “The Greatest” for Friday’s short fiction post. It was actually the worst, so I rewrote it. It’s not quite as “detective short fiction” as I was going for, but it’s better and I like it. I changed some names, too. Here’s the new version.
Detective Mark sat at his short metal desk across the row from Detectives Logsdon and Ballou. Mark read reports. He drank coffee while he held the phone against his ear with his shoulder and dialed and stared at a report.
“I’m trying to reach a Mr. Geer. Yes, I’m Detective Andy Mark I was wondering when the last time you saw or spoke with a Elizabeth Singleton?” He said. A paper football landed on Mark’s desk. Ballou and Logsdon picked up the phones on their desks and started dialing. Mark hung up the phone and dialed a second number. “Hello. I’m Detective Andy Mark and I’m trying to reach a Mr. Rose,” Mark said. He hung up the phone and flicked the folded paper to Logsdon’s desk. Logsdon flicked it to Ballou. Ballou blocked it with his free hand, stood up, and talked into the phone.
“Yes, yes, hi, yes, Mr. Fox?” Ballou said. Mark and Logsdon turned to him and listened. Mark stood up and flagged towards a desk past the window ahead. A woman with squared -thin blue framed glasses picked up her phone and typed on her keyboard, her red nails shining on and off in the sunlight through the window like stage lights. “I’m uh, well my name’s Travis. Travis Ballou. Yes, uhuh. Ball-ew. Yes. And, well, I work at a uh,” Ballou looked over to the woman at the computer. She rolled her hands at him and nodded. “Uh, well, I work Downtown. Here in Louisville, yes. It’s the building on 6th and Broadway. Yeah, the Louisville Metro Police Department. That’s right. And we were wondering if you knew anything that could help us locate Elizabeth Singleton. Goddamn it,” Ballou said. He slammed the phone back down. Mark and Logsdon rolled back to the center of their desks. Logsdon picked up the phone and dialed. Mark marked a large X across the page in front of him. He turned the paper over and under, creased the corner under the staple, and dropped it back down in front of him. Logsdon hung up his phone.
“This is gonna take all day,” Logsdon said. He reached into his right pocket and pulled out a quarter. “Mark?”
“Nope, it was me and you last time,” Mark said. He dialed a number.
“Call it, Ballou,” Logsdon said. He flipped the coin.
“Heads,” Ballou said, rubbing his left ear. Mark slapped the back of his hand.
“Tails,” Mark said.
“Goddamn it, Logsdon,” Ballou said. He stood up and adjusted the tail of his button up hanging over his pants.
Chief Milburn stepped between their desks, suit crisp and clean and fitted. She spoke with the woman by the window. The woman at the desk passed a pair of headphones to her. She bent, planted her elbows, and listened over the desk. Ballou walked past the women.
“You walking?” the woman behind the desk said. The department laughed. Ballou stretched his upper lip to his nose at her and walked down between the desks. The faint gray stains scattered all over his navy pants were visible in the beam of light across the path. He put his left hand in his pocket at the Safe Workplace sign. He scratched his curly head on his way out the door.
Chief Milburn handed the headphones back to the woman behind the desk and walked back the way she came.
“Voice and patterns doesn’t match. It wasn’t him,” she said. She patted Mark’s desk. Her silver chainlink bracelet hit against the metal. She disappeared around the hall. Logsdon laughed hard. A busy signal sounded from his receiver. He continued to laugh.
“Are you gonna tell him?” Logsdon said.
“I’m not telling him anything,” Mark said. He picked up the phone and dialed. Logsdon stopped laughing after a few more breaths and returned to dialing. Mark didn’t get anyone on the phone before Ballou got back with a white bag that smelled of onion rings. Mark locked his computer as Ballou tossed him a ball of foil. Mark sighed as he opened the burger on the table. He grabbed his Word’s Greatest Singer mug and filled it with coffee from the pot in the back of the hallway behind his desk. He swirled his coffee around in his mug and sipped it as he read each letter of the Respect sign above the sink. He grabbed a paper towel from the holder on the wall. Logsdon and Ball had already eaten half their burgers when he got back to his desk. He sighed when he sat down.
“Something wrong?” Logsdon said. He pushed his glasses back up on his nose.
“Tired of burgers,” Mark said. He wiped the pool of grease in the wrinkles of the foil away with the paper towel.
“Yeah, well, loser picks,” Ballou said. He threw an onion ring at Logsdon. Logsdon moved his lips to one side of his face and his nose to the other. He wiped the grease off with his cuff.
A brown-haired man in tan corduroy pants and a white button up came over and peaked under Ballou’s desk. He held his paper-wrapped sandwich up in one hand and his badge in the other as he squatted. His badge said Mueller.
“Still got both shoes, Ballou?” Mueller said. Ballou kept a straight face. Mueller laughed and moaned and went on back to the coffee in the corner of the hall. Ballou put down his burger. Mark picked up his and took a bite. He looked around at the other desks sitting two by two throughout the department and admired their decorations. Mueller had a 4×6 of him and his partner, Walker, in the corner facing out for the entire department to see.
“How much more you got, Old Man?” Logsdon said. He chewed as lettuce hang over his chin. Mayonnaise splattered up his glasses. He wiped his frame with his cuff. The mayonnaise smeared. He chewed on.
“Only about a few pages in,” Mark said.
“Dialing for a paycheck. We’re gonna be here all night,” Logsdon said. Mark rolled up the rest of his burger and tossed it into the trash outside his desk. He took his mug back to the coffee pot in the back of the hall. Chief Milburn poured herself a cup of coffee into her World’s Greatest Dancer cup.
“Mark. Have to make a fresh pot,” Chief Milburn said.
“It’s alright, I’ve got it,” Mark said. She turned to walk further down the hall. Mark pulled a filter and a pouch of grounds from the drawer under the sink. He filled the machine and pushed the brew button. He watched her hips swing down the hall. When the coffee started to run, he stepped after her.
“What is it?” She said. She continued on down the hall.
“Ma’am? I was wondering about that request I put in a while back?”
“About getting a new partner.”
“I denied it.”
Mark stopped. Chief Milburn took a few more big strides and then stopped and turned around.
“Can I ask why?” Mark kept his head up and his eyes above her neck.
“You’re with Logsdon and Ballou. That’s the way it has to be for now,” she said.
“Young? Inexperienced? Fresh from the academy?”
“Experienced? Good at your job? Been here longer than almost everyone else around that corner?”
“That’s the way it is,” she said. Her bracelet jiggled as she stirred her coffee. She took a sip and turned around. Mark watched her walk down the hall in her skinny black shoes, tapered black pants, and black sports jacket. He sipped his coffee as he walked back to his desk.
“Help, someone, my shoes, my shoes,” Mueller said. He ran around between the desks. The department laughed.
“God damn it,” Ballou said. He sat in his chair and stared at his burger. Logsdon took off his glasses and wiped the mayonnaise with his shirt tail. Mark dialed numbers.