He watched her take the photograph and screw it up and put it in her mouth. What did it mean? He stepped away into the shadows and moved off in the direction of the nearest bar to try and figure that out. Eval Durken at once hated most of the cases he found himself working on , and loved them.
The Flipped Eight was a place he had been to before. Cunning Charlie greeted him at the door, and ushered him into the snug. Garland piled in there too, and they were indeed snug.
‘Here about Toggle, I suppose, eh, Durken?’
‘Why do you ask, Garland?’
‘This is my territory. Don’t like you hanging around snapping up my jobs.’
‘If it were your job, you’d be doing it, no? They stepped over you for a reason, you human turd.’
‘No need to be rude, Durken. Charlie here can testify, I’ve been nothing but polite.’
‘You haven’t bought me a drink, have you?’
‘Nor am I likely to.’
‘Good – just as likely as me discussing a case I am working on with you.’
Charlie and Garland left, very obviously dissatisfied with the response they had received. He got what he needed anyway – a name. Why did they call her Toggle? Who he could ask, he wondered.
There had been bodies, hadn’t there? But they were unable to establish a time of death, a method of killing, or any real motive. He decided he needed go and see the scenes of the crimes for himself.
The first one was in a reed bed by the side of The Wind. What was there to see? What could you judge from the place this long after an event? The reeds were broken towards the centre, in the shape of a small body. They were the only reeds broken – there was no pathway to the scene of the crime. That had him wondering how the cops had got the body out of there. He smiled. Well, there was no crime scene tape anymore, so no one was maintaining the integrity of the site – he might as well just blunder in there, right?
He found what he had been expecting in the centre of the broken reeds, and he wondered how it had been missed. Did they solve the problem of lifting the body out and not disturbing the crime scene, and then just failed to sweep the area?
He uncrumpled it. A little Polaroid picture. He thought they had gone out of vogue. He looked it over and he was sure there was something a little different about it – maybe this was a close approximation of a Polaroid, but not the real McCoy. Something clicked for him – a solution,
He found Officer Cheng in The Blue Light, which made him chuckle, because wasn’t that fucker just as likely to be in The Red Light? Cheng had a gambling problem, and he was so desperate for any cash that Durken didn’t need to have too deep pockets.
Anyway, this time it was an easy ask – he wasn’t looking for something from the evidence locker. What he needed was some copies of the crime scene photos, and some of the autopsy.
Cheng was quick. He sat there looking at the pictures and he wondered if Cheng had glanced at them – probably not, the guy had a notoriously weak stomach.
The body looked like it had suffered some kind of indescribable impact. The body looked like the crumpled picture.
What was Toggle? Not something that your run of the mill cop was going to be able to arrest – of that much he was sure.
He needed something before he confronted her. He had that little portable printer with him that hooked up to his phone. It didn’t take long to track her down, and stood across the road, thankful for the megapixel zoom on his phone camera, he took a picture. He’d made sure the phone and the printer were well charged before he brought them out, and when he plugged the printer in and got that little picture printed, he was proud of the snap he had taken.
She was watching him as he approached her from across the street. He was languid, a practiced lackadaisical stroll as he made his way towards her. Right up close to her, holding her gaze, he was glad that he had been right about the kind of creature that she was … they liked to watch; they weren’t so good at handling fast actions.
He grabbed her by her throat in such a way that he knew her mouth was going to be forced open by the need to breathe – pretend to be human and there are some physiological traps you fall into. As her jaws parted he jammed that little picture in , held her mouth and nose closed, knowing that she would have to swallow.
As he observed the swallowing motion in her throat he stepped back. He got to see something quite special in that moment – the space around her body, like a crumple zone, crushed down to nothing, and the thing that had been Toggle blinked out of existence.