The Very Bad Detective, Part 2

Catch up with Part 1.

The officers were lined up along the hallway. Their heads were erect. Some of them had smiles on their faces. But most had an appropriately stern, but satisfied, look. The front door of the police station swung open. A bit of the lashing rain fell inside. Marching into the building were Detective Hatts and Grimes.

Between them was a large man, bound in handcuffs. His face was pinched and angry. The expression could have curdled milk. The police officers glared at the brute as he walked passed. Hatts and Grimes pushed the man along, serious as headstones. But they did allow the occasional wink and smile at their colleagues. At one point, Hatts indulged in a high-five.

The police watched as the detectives marched the man to a holding cell. They waited until the cell door clanked shut, before bursting into cheers. One of the grisliest murders the city had ever seen. And their own detectives brought in the culprit.

Maxwell Brogue missed the moment. He was in the bathroom.

The precinct returned to its usual bustle as he entered the bullpen. A passing officer explained to him that Hatts and Grimes had returned with the culprit.

“Who?” Maxwell asked.

“Timothy Shanks,” the officer said. “Crooked Timmy, he’s called on the streets. One of the most notorious fighters in the underground boxing scene.”

“Why did they arrest him?” he asked.

“Because of you,” the cop said.

“Me?”

“The hammer you found at the murder scene,” the officer explained. “They were able to trace it back to a hardware store down on Muggs Street. The owner swears it was purchased by Shanks just three days ago.”

“Really?”

The officer slapped Maxwell on the chest with the side of a magazine. “Your detective work helped bring in a would-be serial killer. You oughta be proud. Not every day a private detective gets to help on a big-time case.”

“That’s true.” Maxwell rubbed his temples. “What time is it?”

“Quarter past four.”

“In the morning? I gotta get home,” Maxwell said.

“I wouldn’t. Hatts and Grimes are going to question Shanks. I’m sure the chief will want you around.”

“Okay, fine.”

The officer smiled before he was pulled away. Maxwell walked over to a bench along the wall and sat down. He had a headache. Not a pounding, drive-you-crazy kind of headache. But a dull throbbing. The kind of headache you get when you’re up too late and your brain is telling you to get some sleep.

He had been stuck in the police station for hours. Hatts and Grimes had shuttled him there, telling him to wait. All sorts of business was going on. Reports kept coming in about a case: there had been a gun battle, then an arrest. It was all Maxwell could do not to slip out and grab a taxi. But even the weather wouldn’t oblige. None were stopping.

Now, he couldn’t go home, because of this Shanks business.
From across the bullpen, he spied the break room. It was a shabby, poorly-lit room, with an ancient vending machine and battered fridge. It’s small, round table was occupied by several cops, waiting out their breaks. A few other were standing by the counter, pouring cups of coffee.

Coffee! Maxwell needed coffee. It wasn’t a kind of “Hey, I could enjoy a fresh cup,” kind of need. If he was going to survive the next few hours, he was going to have to pump himself full of caffeine.

He stood up from the bench. The chief’s door swung open. The precinct grew silent as Hatts and Grimes marched toward the holding cells. There was shouting as the detectives manhandled Tim Shanks and dragged him into an interrogation room. The door slammed shut. Everyone could hear the cops contending with the accused killer, their voices bleeding through the thin walls.

Maxwell Brogue turned back to the break room. He sidled past the swarm of police to reach the other side of the station. Pushing through more officers, he finally reached the break room’s counter. To find the coffee pot empty.

“Damn,” he said.

“Oh, sorry, Brogue,” a man in white shirt and tie said. “Took the last cup. Melanie can brew us some more. HEY MEL! NEED MORE COFFEE.”

A woman’s voice answered. “Make it yourself!”

“Aw, Melanie, she’s such a character. YOU’RE THE SECRETARY, IT’S YOUR JOB.”

Maxwell rubbed his temples as the shouting match continued. He slumped into a chair beside the break room table. The table slouched to one side as he rested an elbow on it. Eventually, Melanie appeared. She sauntered over to the coffee machine, flicking the white-shirted man away.

“What, you can’t make a pot of coffee? Are you a child?”

“Just make a pot. Brogue is waiting.”

Melanie looked over at Maxwell. “Oh, my gosh! I didn’t know Max was here. How ya doing, sweetie?”

Maxwell waved a patronizing hand at the woman. “Alright, I guess.”

“I’ll whip you up a fresh pot in no time. I just need to find the filters.”

It took Melanie much longer to get the pot ready than any reasonable human would imagine. Maxwell watched as the pot slowly came to life. It seemed like ages before a single drop of coffee fell into the pot.

“Yeah, that coffee machine’s a piece of crap,” said another cop at the table. “It might be another twenty minutes before it’s ready.”

“Twenty minutes?” Maxwell said.

“There’s probably a fresh pot down by the front desk,” he said.

“The front desk?” Maxwell asked.

“Yeah, Sergeant Boggs likes to keep a pot handy. There’s a little nook by his desk for visitors.”

Maxwell didn’t wait. He got up and pushed through the seemingly unending swarm of police, toward the front of the station. Not far ahead, he saw the back of Sergeant Boggs’ head. In a corner beside his desk was a small table with magazines, paper cups, and a full pot of coffee.

“Brogue!”

Maxwell froze. He turned around to see Chief Sticks. The man was standing outside the interrogation room. He looked furious. Maxwell didn’t keep him waiting. Pushing through the bullpen, he approached the Chief of Police. Sticks’ demeanor softened as he put an arm around Maxwell.

“Listen, buddy, Hatts and Grimes aren’t having any luck with this Shanks character,” he said. “Tough as a dried prune, if you know what I mean.”

“No.”

“You know this case better than anyone,” Sticks said. “Hell, you found the murder weapon. Why don’t you get in there, help them out?”

“Help out Hatts and Grimes?” Maxwell asked.

“You got it. Give Shanks that gumshoe one-two, right? Show him what it’s like to get grilled by a pro.”

Maxwell glanced into the open interrogation room. The giant man was sitting at a table, his hands shackled to a bar. Grimes was pacing the room. Hatts was leaning against a wall, stump of a cigarette in his fingers. In the corner there was a smaller table, with a coffee machine and stack of cups.

“Is that coffee fresh?” Maxwell asked.

“Yeah, of course, just brewed it,” Sticks said.

“Alright, I’ll help.”

He moved toward the room. The chief paused him with a hand.

“Don’t drink any coffee, though. We’re trying to use it as a carrot to entice Shanks.”

“Oh, wonderful.”

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