Reporting the Impossible.
Mitch Flanagan had taken down every detail, talking to Rose and Mike in the museum. His report ran over twenty pages, and it had taken him all day to type. Well, all but two hours in the afternoon.
They’d had to come away in the middle of the day to spend two hours at the media circus over the Houang death and say they were making progress but couldn’t discuss an ongoing investigation. Jackson had been the one to tell them there was no composite of the killer ready. And they’d both danced around the question of exactly how a skinned girl just a few months out of high school, obviously the victim of a bizarre murder, came to be alone in the driver’s seat of a Mercedes truck that crashed head-on into a cop car. None of the reporters had asked why Houang hadn’t died of shock or blood loss while being skinned, and Flanagan and Jackson had been just as happy not to bring it up.
David Jackson sat staring out the window, watching the cars go by outside and thinking. Finally, he said, “Mitch?”
“Yeah,” Flanagan looked up, still typing.
Jackson frowned and spread his hands. “What the hell do we put in our report?”
“The truth,” Mitch said. “Names and dates and places and what happened and who said what.”
“Yeah,” David said. “And progress on the investigation? Leading theories? Weapons? Motives? Opportunities? What the hell can we say about this whole thing that won’t get us tossed in the booby hatch?”
“Well,” said Mitch. “That Mike Clelland guy, who had the snappy comeback yesterday, you remember?”
David stared out the window. “You mean when he told me, ‘You can’t be a cop if you can’t handle the truth,’ right?”
“Yeah,” said Flanagan. “He was being a smart-ass, but he was right about that. And, I figure, that means the people who are going to read our reports as much as it means us.”
“So, you’re writing, what, that there are telepathic freaks walking around in the city, collecting magic artifacts that make them safe from losing track of who they are, and that one of them has figured out how to get into people’s heads and make folks kill themselves — or each other? And that this mental killer, this bogey man who leaves no evidence and can’t be seen or detected, is now after the two of us?”
Flanagan looked at his report apprehensively. “It does sound crazy,” he said. “But telepathic freaks, check, or how did Clelland do his recitation of everything in our heads yesterday? Losing track of who they are, check, or explain why DeCourtney’s babbling yesterday in the interview room checks against the details of twelve different cases in the cell block where she was held. Magic artifacts that make them safe from losing track of who they are, check, or explain what happened in the museum. And a killer who can get into people’s heads, check, and you’ve got the whole case file that can’t be explained any other way. And the killer is after the two of us, check, or explain what the hell was going on with Houang. David, I know this isn’t gonna be a good career move. But it’s the truth, and we can’t stop this guy if we don’t deal in the truth.”
“You file that report, Mitch, and you won’t be able to stop this guy anyway,” David said quietly, steepling his fingers. “Twenty-four hours after Lieutenant Purdy reads it, you’ll be on vacation and she’ll have me looking for a new partner on this case.” Jackson stood up and took a swig of coffee from a styrofoam cup. “I don’t know what the hell to write,” he said. “But I do know a few things not to write.”
“David,” said Mitch, then trailed off and started again. “David, I just… I don’t know what to tell you, the truth is the only way I know to do it. I’m kind of an old dog here, and writing anything but the truth, no matter what the reasons, may just be a new trick I can’t learn.”
David nodded. He set the coffee cup down and looked out the window for a long moment. “I respect that. I think I believe it, all the newage crap, whether I want to or not. It just doesn’t make sense any other way I can see. Still, this isn’t something we can convince anybody of if they’re not in the case up to their necks. There’s too much voodoo and magic here for a rational mind to believe straight off, and as long as we’re chasing the voodoo and the magic there’s nothing we can hang a conviction on.” He let that hang in the air for a while, to sink in.
Mitch just nodded. There was nothing to say.
David compressed his mouth into a tight line, staring out the window, then continued. “We shouldn’t put anything in our reports that’s not true. But I’m real damn sure that if we put everything into the reports that we think is true, we’re not going to get a chance to stop this guy. And unless all this damn voodoo, somehow, somewhere, leads to something solid and physical and provable, we’re never going to get a conviction.”
David paused, thinking, then went on. “With the media circus about Houang, we’re going to have six or eight detectives assigned here, and somebody’s going to have to bring them all up to speed. We can’t afford to lose your knowledge of the case file, Mitch. And we need you on this investigation, too. I’d never have believed enough of this crazy shit on my own to get this far; this progress is because of you. And if you file that report, it’s going to mean you’re deserting us.”
The two of them looked at each other for a long moment. Finally Mitch spread his hands. “So what do we do?”
David turned around slowly. “I don’t … know,” he said finally. He picked up his jacket and put it on, stretching his arms. “I just don’t know.”
Mitch nodded. “I don’t know for sure, either, David,” he said. “But I’m going to try to play by the rules.”
David nodded and walked out the door.
Mitch looked after him speculatively, then picked up the phone book. “‘Course, I didn’t say which rules,” he muttered as he dialed the police commission.
“Yeah,” he said after the operator picked up on the other end. “I’d like to talk to the licensing division.”
This is one chapter of The Hook, a novel which is being published serially on this site. This page links to all chapters so far serialized.
The complete novel is available from Amazon.