Maxwell Brogue stood in the interrogation room. Chained to the table was one Timothy Shanks, a.k.a.: Crooked Timmy. Detective Grimes ceased her pacing when she saw Maxwell. A slight smile grew on her face. The tall Detective Hatts was in a corner, leaning against the wall.
“Oh boy, are you in trouble now, Tim,” Hatts said, straightening up. He walked over to the man in handcuffs. Leaning in, he pointed to Maxwell. “See that man there? He’s the one who busted this case wide open. He found your hammer in the floorboards.”
Crooked Timmy looked up at Maxwell with bloodshot, beady eyes. His expression was hard and violent.
“You wouldn’t be in here right now if it weren’t for him,” Hatts said.
Tim’s face got harder.
“Who are you?” he asked Maxwell.
“This is the city’s finest private detective,” Grimes said. “Max Brogue.”
“Heh, you need a private dick?” Crooked Timmy said. “That’s pretty pathetic, detectives.”
“Keep laughing, Tim,” Hatts said. “A few minutes with Brogue here, you’ll be singing like a bird.”
“Show ‘em what you got, Max,” Grimes said.
Maxwell, his head still pounding, crossed the room. He reached the corner where the coffee machine was sitting. Ignoring the chief’s directions, he poured himself a fresh cup. He sucked it down. It burned, oh yes, but he didn’t care.
“Hey!” Crooked Timmy said. “That pot was supposed to be for me.”
“Shut up,” Hatts said. “Brogue can have as much coffee as he wants. You don’t get a cup until you talk.”
“I told you already, I had nothin’ to do with those murders,” Crooked Timmy said. “The hardware store guy was lying—I was never in there.”
“Keep saying that and you’ll stay in here a long time,” Grimes said.
The two police detectives walked over to Maxwell. They spoke in low voices.
“We’ve been hammering this guy all night,” Grimes said. “Tough as they say.”
“But you, Brogue, have been able to rile him up for the first time,” Hatts said.
“That cup of coffee,” Hatts said. “You saw how he reacted. He’s shaken. Brilliant move, Max.”
“It’s obvious this guy is intimidated by you,” Grimes said. “We’re going to step out for a minute. Give you a chance to be alone with him.”
“Me. Alone. With him?”
“Exactly,” Hatts said. “Really give it to him. This is one of the worst scum bags the city’s ever produced. A crook. An enforcer. A murderer. Don’t hold back.”
Before Maxwell could respond, the police left the room. The door shut with a dull thud. Crooked Timmy turned in his chair to get a look at Maxwell, who was still in the corner by the coffee machine. He refilled his cup and walked around to the front of the table.
“You’re supposed to be some badass? Do your worst. I ain’t scared of you—or any of those pencil necks out there.”
Maxwell set down his cup. He stared at the hardened criminal, scrambling for something to say. Nothing came to mind.
“You just gonna ogle me like?” Tim said. “I ain’t your girlfriend.”
The detective scratched his chin. Pulling out the chair, he sat across from Crooked Timmy. Just far enough away, though, that the criminal couldn’t reach him. There was a file folder on the table. Maxwell slid it over, hoping to find something that could save him. He opened the folder to find gruesome crime scene photos.
“Pretty awful stuff, huh?” Crooked Timmy said. “Proves I didn’t do it. I’m not a butcher. When I work, I use finesse. Discretion. I would never leave a job that sloppy. There is such a thing as professional ethics.”
Maxwell slowly closed the file. He was having trouble keeping down the coffee.
“You’re the one that found the hammer, right?” Crooked Timmy said. “Doesn’t it seem odd that a killer would hide his murder weapon right by the crime scene? Nah… the killer wanted you to find that hammer.”
Maxwell furrowed his brow. He was rubbing his tongue against the roof of his mouth. It was tingling, thanks to the burns from the coffee.
“And don’t get me started on the hardware store guy,” Tim said. “Probably was pressured by someone to give me up.”
The detective swirled the coffee around in his cup. There hadn’t been cream or sugar by the machine. It could have really used some cream.
“Sure,” Tim said. “Maybe I know who could have made the hardware store owner finger me. But I’m not giving you their name. That would be suicide. I have a reputation to uphold. I’m not afraid of the chair–no way. Not compared to what they would do.”
Maxwell put the cup to his lips and took another sip.
“You really ain’t gonna give me a cup of coffee?” Crooked Timmy asked. He tried to cross his arms, but the cuffs stopped him. “I know my rights. You can’t hold me without charging. And all you got is circumstantial.”
Maxwell put down the cup. He pulled the folder back over and flipped through the rest of the files. There were long lists of items found at the crime scene. Detailed reports from the officers. He lifted it up to hide Timmy’s gruesome face.
“You’re really just going to sit there are ignore me?” Crooked Timmy said, leaning forward. “Is this how you treat all your cases? What kind of cruel sadistic monster are you? I have a wife and kids, you know! Well, not exactly. I have a girlfriend, though. Several.”
Maxwell tried to hide his face from the criminal.
“Listen to me!” Tim slammed his fists against the table. The solid metal surface shuddered. “I hate it when people don’t listen to me!”
The detective kept the folder between himself and Tim. He slid further back from the table.
“I’m not going down for this,” Tim said. “You can’t make me talk. I’ll bust outta this place before that.”
He slammed the table again, this time with all his might. Maxwell almost fell over. The folder flew from his hands. The mostly-full coffee cup jumped. It spun end over end, spilling most of its contents into Crooked Timmy’s face.
“Arrrggggh! God, it burns! Alright. Alright. I’ll talk.”
The door burst open. Detectives Hatts and Grimes rushed in.
“Good Lord, Brogue, what did you do to him?” Hatts shouted.
“Get him away from me,” Tim said, waving a hand at Maxwell. “I’ll talk. It was Vinny the Finch. He’s been running the shops along the docks for months now. Mad that I refuse to work with him. He framed me.”
Grimes hollered at several officers to take Tim away. Maxwell stood up, his eyes on the coffee machine in the corner. A hand grabbed him by the arm and dragged him from the room.
“Great job, Maxwell, as always,” said the chief. “A bit rough with the coffee, though. We can’t have you assaulting perps like that. Won’t look good if the lawyers catch wind of it. I’ll overlook it this one time, though.”
The chief burst into a grin. “You ol’ son of a gun. I knew you’d do it!”
To be continued…