I headed back up to my office. As I came up to my door I stopped to get out my keys, and while I did, I looked down.
There’s a neat old trick - you’ve probably seen it in the movies, but it works. When you go out, you put a small slip of paper inbetween the door and the frame. If the paper’s on the floor when you come back, you know someone’s opened the door. This usually means that either your office has been turned over, or there’s a goon inside waiting to rearrange your face.
While I stood looking for my keys, I saw several small pieces of paper on the floor. I hadn’t done the paper-in-the-frame trick this time, but it was a reminder that the building hadn’t been cleaned in the past ten years or so.
I made a mental note to do something about it. Then I scratched that and revised the mental note to lower my standards until I didn’t care about the mess.
None of this helped me with my immediate problem. Someone had just tried to mow me down, and it’s possible that they’d left someone in the office just in case the hit and run didn’t work.
I unlocked the door as quietly as I could, pushed it open a fraction and listened.
Silence. I fished my revolver out anyway.
I knelt down. If someone was waiting to put a slug through my heart when the door opened, well now if would be going six inches over my head. I pushed the door open a fraction more, and then just enough to see into the office.
Two eyes met mine.
A small black cat was staring at me with a ‘Do you know what time it is? I need feeding!’ look on her face. That was good enough for me. If anyone had broken in, Lady Ella would have been bravely hiding behind the sofa. I hung up my coat and mulled things over while I opened a can of tuna for the cat. She tried to help by climbing up my leg and was rewarded with an all-expenses-paid, one-way flight to the sofa.
She stalked back past me as I put the food down. The look I got was ‘Thanks Buster, but you’re still going to wake up with a furball in your mouth.’ Then she turned her back on me and got on with the business of eating.
I poured myself a glass of lunch, sat down at my desk and fired up the machine. As the datastick poured its contents into memory, I cracked my knuckles and pulled up some homebrew code. I pointed it at the files I’d just loaded and let it run in the background. It was something that I’d cobbled together with the help of English a few years back, and it was designed to look for links and connections, and suggest further paths to follow. It didn’t always work that well - in the early days, I’d been looking for a siamese cat for a Mrs King, and it had suggested that the most likely thief was Yul Brynner, but it had been refined a bit since then.
The icon on the screen revolved slowly, indicating that it was ploughing through the terabytes of data - it was unlikely that it would produce anything in under a couple of hours. I left the code to do its thing.
As the afternoon sun played off the glass in my hand, I reviewed the facts. Within five hours of taking the case, somebody had apparently tried to kill me, I was up $200 and down one hat. Also, there was something that Chastity had said earlier that was bugging me. I tried to think what it was, but it stayed out of reach like a $40 bottle of scotch when you’ve only got $39 in your wallet.
All of which made me think this was probably the most interesting case I’d landed for a good long time. I’d enjoy cracking this one. Or end up dead.
While the code wrangled the data, my thoughts drifted back to the conversation in Captain Russo’s office...
“Able. Listen up.”
“I’m all ears, Captain.”
“No. You’re all smart-alec mouth - that’s your problem, now zip it and listen. I’ve got a job for you.”
I kept my mouth shut.
“We’ve got a leak.”
“Do I look like a plumber?”
What can I say? Old habits die hard.
“Someone in this Precinct is leaking information. Over the past six months, fourteen cases that should have been guaranteed prosecutions have failed because the defence got wind of something. Witnesses have been silenced. Vital documents have gone missing. A couple of raids that should have been formalities have been blown because somehow the target knew we were coming.”
“Okay.” I said. “Where do I fit in to all this?”
“If I get Internal Affairs in here it’ll be like putting out a banner saying ‘We’re on to you.’ Whoever it is will just shut down for a while and that’ll be that. You, however...” he continued. “...nobody looks twice at you. You’re in and out of here often enough, you’re reliable, and even though you’re a wise-ass, you’re a trustworthy wise-ass.”
I decided to take that as a compliment.
“I need you to see what you can turn up without ruffling any feathers. For the time being, you report to me, and me only. Okay?”
I thought it over. I didn’t like the idea of snooping on people I’d worked with, but then again, lives could be at risk if this got out of hand.
“Good.” said Captain Russo. He filled me in on what little information he had, and then I was back on my way to the archives.
That had been a couple of hours ago. Thinking about it, it could actually work to my advantage. I’d have a reason to be in the station without needing to call in favours. That meant I’ve have pretty much unrestricted data access for a while, which could only come in handy. And like the Captain said, nobody really took much notice of me, so it’s not like I’d have to come up with some elaborate cover story.
My concerns about the morals of the job were allayed, there was nothing I could do with the data for a while and the cat was fed. Conscious of the fact that Chastity was paying me by the hour, I walked over to the sofa, kicked off my shoes and grabbed some shut eye.