The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 26 – Hardball

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017Chapter 26 – Hardball

Early that evening at the Princess Royal Hospital Troy Jarglebaum studied the mass of direction signs with a sullen heart.

Crap jobs, he thought unhappily. I’m still getting all the crap jobs.

Once upon a time it had been lack of experience. Now Jarglebaum knew it was his age and the fact he was still a Detective Sergeant.

He realised several years ago that he was never going to make Detective Inspector. At first, so he told himself, it was because he was a renegade. A free spirit and innovative thinker whose left-of-field methods rubbed the senior officers up the wrong way. Later he convinced himself being partnered with Tim was the reason.

Resentment knotted his guts as he trudged into the hospital. Jarglebaum was a good cop, clever and resourceful, tough and gifted with insight. The one thing he never understood was that it hadn’t been the lack of results that had been the problem, it was how he had dealt with them.

Over time Troy came to see himself as unlucky, a plodder, an old-time cop, the guy who always arrived a moment too late, the man who missed the vital clue. Slowly he had stopped believing in himself.

He’d lost his coppering mojo, but now he’d had a break, the one he’d always deserved. Now he was moonlighting for Koponen his luck was going to change. The Finn had a hard business nose, a real player. More importantly he valued Troy’s experience and police contacts. Jarglebaum was going to ride to a better life clinging to Koponen’s coat-tails.

Meanwhile there was still coppering to do.

There she was, in a bed in the middle of the ward. Some youngster, her hair like candyfloss, her eyes red-rimmed and bloodshot. Right hand and arm plastered to the elbow. Just another kid who thought they were God’s gift suddenly getting a nasty comeuppance and discovering that the whole world wasn’t there purely for their own convenience.

Jarglebaum pulled out his notebook. Once he’d got this out the way he could go home, get down the boozer and pour this evening’s quota of beer and cheap scotch down his neck.

‘D.S. Jarglebaum.’ Troy flashed his badge and sat down beside the bed. ‘I’m sincerely sorry for what you have been through. How are you feeling, madam?’

‘I’m OK.’ Gabby vaguely waved her good arm. ‘They gave me some stuff. It doesn’t hurt any more but my head’s on a go-slow.’

‘If you feel up to it I need to ask you some questions.’

‘Sure. Ask away, Mr Police-detective-man-person-son.’

Great. Troy flipped open his notebook and licked his pencil.

‘Hey, you guys still do that,’ Gabby said.

‘OK,’ Jarglebaum said, trying to appear interested, ‘Let’s start with your full name.’

‘Gabby. I mean Gabriella.’

‘Full name?’

‘Sorry, head full of cotton-wool…‘

Half an hour later Jarglebaum sat heavily on the wall at the bus stop. He tugged open his collar and groped for his hip flask.

Sometimes you needed a drink just to get your teeth unclenched.

Christ, that poor young woman had just been trying to earn a living and some freak sickos had fucked her up. So what that she had weird hair and probably a load of pointless modern affectations like vegetarianism and decaffeinated tree-hugging. She was just doing her best to get by. Cute too, in an unconventional way. Skinny, though skinny was OK, and also kind of beaky. Jarglebaum was old enough to acknowledge some of his own quirks. For reasons he’d never bothered to fathom a decent-sized schnozzle pressed several of his buttons.

The cheap whisky scorched Jarglebaum’s gums as he sluiced it between his teeth. He’d been wrong about Gabby. He’d taken one look and jumped to conclusions and it was the wrong thing to do. That was his bad, an old man’s habit, not the behaviour of a cop. He was meant to help people not dismiss them out of hand. It didn’t make him feel good about himself. Jarglebaum took another drink then firmly put the flask away.

Hell, he’d make it up, he promised himself. He’d come back and see how she was doing, bring her some grapes, that kind of thing.

‘Goddammit,’ he growled and ground his fist into his palm.

The three scruffy young men standing beside him at the bus stop looked at him askance and took a step away. Jarglebaum had been so lost in thought he hadn’t noticed them arrive.

‘Sorry guys.’ Jarglebaum held up his hands, taking in their unkempt but uniform appearance. Dressed in black drainpipe jeans, sleeveless vests, studded belts and torn jackets, the three looked back at him through the near-identical asymmetric haircuts.

They looked pretty disreputable, probably drug dealers. He didn’t want any trouble. ‘Just come from the hospital.’

‘Sorry to hear that, man,’ the tallest, gangliest one said. ‘You need a mobile you can borrow mine.’

Taken aback, Jarglebaum got to his feet. ‘Thanks, I’m OK, really. It’s not personal, I’ve been to see an assault victim, a young woman. She got messed up for no reason and it made me mad.’

‘There are some shitty people in this world, man.’

Jarglebaum couldn’t help but agree.

‘You a social worker?’

Jarglebaum gave a dry laugh. ‘I’m a cop.’

The three seemed unfazed by the revelation.

‘That’s cool job, man.’

‘Helping people, solving crimes.’

They seemed sincere.

Jarglebaum felt disassociated.

I don’t get this world any more, he thought, or it doesn’t get me. I look at people and I can’t work out who they are.

The thing was, it was worse than that. A lot of the whisky Jarglebaum swilled had been for himself. Despite the strong painkillers Gabby had given clear and accurate descriptions. Jarglebaum had a damned good idea who was responsible. Hell, no, he knew exactly who had crushed Gabby’s hand and killed those innocent little animals.

He knew.

When he started moonlighting for Koponen he’d known the Finn played hardball and that had been all right. What successful entrepreneur didn’t cut corners and pull the occasional fast move? That was the very reason he’d hired Jarglebaum. Unfamiliar with English law Koponen needed to know what he could bend and what he couldn’t break, just how finely those corners could be cut before the law got interested. Koponen was all right but those three women of his were something else. Koponen didn’t see it but he needed to be told. It wasn’t going to be easy, the Finn doted on his mistresses, especially Dolores.

Exactly what had he got himself mixed up in? Jarglebaum fought off a wave of futility and self-doubt. Back in the old days he always knew which side he was on.

‘You OK, man?’ The young men looked concerned.

‘Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. So tell me, what do you guys do?’

‘We’re a band, man. Modern jazz. Petersen and Brubeck up to Washington, those dudes.’

‘I love jazz,’ Jarglebaum exclaimed. ‘You know Esbjorn Svensson?’

‘Awesome.’

‘Could never do what he did.’

A surge of goodwill filled Jarglebaum. He stuck out his hand. ‘Pleasure to meet you guys.’

‘Likewise, man.’

To be continued…


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