I looked at O’Halloran, and in the back of my mind, a small alarm bell started ringing.
“Maternity leave?” I said, with a puzzled look on my face.
“Yeah.” replied O’Halloran with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s a kind of special holiday they give to ladies who’ve just had babies.”
“Can you describe Scofield?” I said. I was trying to remember the figure from this morning. I hadn’t really got a look at their face, just seen them from the back. Medium height, medium build. I’d noticed the clothes more than the person. Could it have been a woman? Didn’t seem likely.
O’Halloran must’ve realised that this wasn’t just banter anymore, and dropped the genial act to reveal a cop whose mind was still clearly razor sharp. He stared out of the door for a few moments.
“Five four, a hundred, maybe hundred and ten pounds - that was before the pregnancy. Blonde, shoulder length hair, freckles.”
He looked at me quizzically.
“No, no.” I said. “Must’ve got her mixed up with someone else. Just need to go back and check something. I’ll see you later. ”
I swiped back in and headed down to the archive again. On the way I bumped into Harris, one of the detectives I knew from the old days.
“Is Russo around today?” I asked.
“Nope,” said Harris. “Left for L.A. this morning.”
“Yup. Got some conference or course or somethin’ out there next week. Decided to take a few days leave to catch up with family I think. He was in yesterday though.” he added.
I thanked him, and continued down to the archive.
I swiped in, and the female officer that had been there yesterday was back, working at the same terminal. She looked up as I walked in.
“Hi.” I said, walking over and proffering a hand. “I don’t think we’ve ever met properly. Able. Chuck Able. Freelancer.”
She stood up and we shook.
“Lucy Baines. You used to be the wrangler here, right?”
“Long time ago, but yep, that was me.”
Lucy was a small woman, late twenties with a dark, boyish hairstyle and an elfin face. She studied me with intense brown eyes.
“You were here yesterday, too, weren’t you?” she said.
“I was. Sorry to keep interrupting you.”
“S’ok.” she said. "Nice to have a bit of company to be honest. I never see anybody down here.”
“No?” I said. “Don’t people come down with requests?”
She waved at the screen. “Everything gets mailed to me these days. The only time I get someone coming down in person is if it’s really urgent. Haven’t had one of those for months.”
“Ever get anyone coming down to do their own research?” I asked, as I put my coat over the back of a chair. “Some of the detectives in my day had a thing about doing it all themselves.”
She laughed. “Maybe they were a bit more diligent in your day.” she said. “Right now, I doubt most of the detectives’ department could find this place with a map!”
I laughed too. “Fair enough. Well, better crack on.”
She nodded and went back to her machine.
Me? I went back to the security files.
I took a copy of the archive door log for the past 6 months, and then started working through it. It became pretty obvious there were only a handful of people who ever came down. I started checking the badges.
Baines. Down virtually every day, Monday to Friday. Rarely got in before midday, only once before 11.00am. Usually here to 5.30pm.
Me. I’d been in several times over the six months with a variety of visitor badges.
Richardson. Eric Richardson was another Freelancer who I knew well enough to go for a beer with now and again. He’d been in four times in the last six months. It certainly wasn’t him I’d seen this morning.
Cleaning staff. The cleaners badge was restricted as to when it could access the archive. They had a window of thirty minutes on a Tuesday afternoon, and even then they could only get in when the room was already occupied.
And finally, Scofield.
Scofield had been in forty-seven times in the last six months. Always early, never stayed later than 10.00am. Most of the time, gone by 9.00am.
Some digging, and I’m ashamed to say, a password that I’d ‘borrowed’ a few months earlier got me into the Station’s personnel records.
I looked up Scofield.
Karen Scofield was indeed signed off on maternity leave. Had been for nearly seven months. She’d taken her full twelve month allowance, so wasn’t due back until well into the new year. I didn’t know much about bringing up babies, but I’m pretty sure they kept you busy enough that you wouldn’t consider disguising yourself as a man, growing five inches and sneaking into work early two or three times a week.
All of which begged the question, who was the guy in the suit and what was he doing in here?
I rolled up my sleeves and started typing.
Two hours later I was still concentrating hard, so I jumped when Lucy tapped me on the shoulder.
“I’m going to grab a coffee. Want one?
“Wouldn’t say no. Thanks. Black, no sugar.”
She disappeared up the corridor and came back a few moments with a couple of vending machine brews that made me think longingly of the real java at the Cup ‘O’ Joe.
“Thanks!” I said.
As we sipped hot coffee we chit-chatted for a few minutes.
“Oh, hey,” I said, during a lull in the conversation. “I bumped into someone this morning and I can’t for the life of me remember his name. Fifties maybe, about five ten, hundred and sixty pounds, short dark hair. Was wearing a grey suit - looked expensive. Any idea?”
She thought for a minute.
“Sorry.” She shook her head.
I retrieved the datastick and pocketed it.
“Think I’m calling it a day,” I said. “Might see you again.”
“Take it easy.” she said, without looking up.
I took my time walking back to the front of the Station. I was pretty sure I wasn’t about to bump into the guy again, but I kept my eyes open anyway. I wasn’t too suprised when I got to O’Halloran’s desk without running into the mystery man.
“Pat? Ring any bells?” I said, and gave him the same description I’d given Baines.
“Back in my younger days, Chuck,” said O’Halloran. “the only people you’d find in a Police station were cops and criminals. These days...” He threw his hands in the air. “More people in suits than uniforms. City Hall. Mayor’s Office. Attorneys. Civil rights people. Reporters. I must see thirty different suits a day, and I’ve no idea who half of them are, or what they’re doing here.”
He promised to keep an eye out. Meanwhile I was looking at my watch. I was due to meet Flint at 3.00pm, which gave me half an hour. I hopped the subway and headed north.
I made my way into the park, bang on 3.00pm and headed for the lake. As I approached I could see Flint, feeding the ducks with some bread. I walked past him a short way, and when he’d finished the bread, he walked over, much to the ducks’ disappointment.
“Heard anything interesting lately?”
He chuckled. “More than you can possibly imagine. Most of which you wouldn’t be interested in.”
I looked at him.
“Most? Or all?”
I waited. If Flint was going to talk, he’d talk. If he wasn’t, then nothing I could say or do would make any difference.
“Did a bit of asking around about your family.” I noted that he didn’t refer to them by name. Flint, while one of the calmest people I’d ever met, could give English a run for his money when it came to being paranoid.
“Interesting couple of kids.” I suggested.
“Not so much.” he said, flatly. “Mother, on the other hand...”
I turnd to look at him. “Mother’s dead.” I said. “Boat accident.”
“She certainly died in a boat.” he said, letting the words just hang there, laden with meaning. For a long time he didn’t say anything. Then he turned and started to walk away.
After a couple of paces he stopped and turned around. “Talking of people who are no longer with us, did you hear that Frost died last year? Won’t see his like again. A real pro. Don’t think people appreciated his art while he was alive. Went over their heads.”
He walked off without looking back.
I stared after him, unpicking what he’d said. Frost’s work did indeed go over most people’s heads. And not being appreciated was just how he wanted it. If nobody knew he’d been working, so much the better.
Frost, until his recent demise, had been one of the best hitmen on the east coast.