Signs by D.I. Jolly
For Context please read Mind Games first.
As soon as the elevator door opened Jamie knew something was wrong. He lived in a quieter part of the city, not exactly the safest, but everyone knew he was a cop and knew to stay away. The hallway smelt the way perfume companies wanted you to believe lavender and roses smelt, and it set off warning bells in his mind. Sanity told him to go downstairs and across the street to the little coffee shop and call for back up. But it had been that kind of a week and he was in the mood to take on his problem’s fists first. He was tired of misdirection and cats’ paws, so he cracked his neck, checked his gun and walked through his front door.
The woman sitting on his coffee table smoking was making no effort to hide and it only made him feel more frustrated and played, he knew there was an angle coming and he was either too angry or too tired to have a clear idea as from where.
“Good evening detective Taylor.”
Her voice sounded the way cheap champagne tasted, good after a few bottles of something better but too sharp if you’re sober. He knew her as the woman who ran a local jazz bar. In his head she was filed under harmless when alone, but never alone, so he pulled the gun out of his pocket, levelled it at her and said.
“Breaking and entering is a crime, and I’m in no mood to play so get whoever you’ve got hiding out into the open or I’m gonna drag you down to the station and booking you right now.”
It bothered him how calm she looked and he hated the way she raised her hand and clicked her fingers. To his surprise, nothing happened and he was left standing, holding his gun with no one new to point it at.
“This is how you treat someone who comes to you for help? It’s no wonder everyone hates the police.”
Jamie’s eyes narrowed,
He did a quick sweep of his place while the woman rolled her eyes and lit herself another cigarette.
“There’s no one else here you know, I don’t need a babysitter every time I go out.”
“Lady, for a whole bunch of reasons that I don’t care to go into right now, I don’t care what you have to say. Also, put that cigarette out, this is a non-smoking building.”
She scoffed and obliged by stubbing it out onto the tabletop. Once the place was clear and the door bolted, he turned his attention back to the woman.
“Disregarding for a moment how you got in here Mrs Jones, I’d like you to tell me why you’re here. And fair warning if I don’t like the answer, I’m throwing you out, and if I really don’t like your answer, I’m throwing you out of the window.”
She smiled which made him more uncomfortable.
“One of those days was it? Well, at least it’s nice to know my reputation proceeds me. I have information that you want.”
“I doubt that but it’s sadly not enough for me to break glass over, so get out because yes it’s been one of those days.”
“Yes, a day spent solving sudoku puzzles.”
Her words sent a bolt of lightning through his body and his gun was back up and pointed at her head faster than he thought he could move.
“You better start talking, and I mean now!”
For the first time, her face shifted to display emotion and her eyes darted from side to side.
“I want to tell you, that’s why I’m here but I can’t talk here, we need to get to my safe house.”
Jamie pulled back the hammer on his gun and blew out a breath.
“Honey the only places we’re going together is the station and eventually Hell. So, you can talk now, or you can talk in the station where I will book you from breaking and entering.”
She pulled her shoulders back and did her best to face off against him, but her heart wasn’t in it. She had actually come to him for help. She put her hands up in front of her face and looked away saying.
“Alright, alright, look. About two weeks ago a guy comes into the bar looking for work, but not bar work, if you know what I mean. Said he was new in town and looking to establish himself. He ended up at Alexis’s table and they got to whispering. None of my business. A few nights later he comes back in, takes a booth and just enjoys some drinks and the music comes back in every night that week. Eventually, he starts talking to one of the singers and they go home together, none of my business. She comes back in the next day and I hear her talking to one of the other girls, and she’s saying the damnedest things. Turns out the guy had no interest in working for Alexis and was asking all kind of question about who was working the city, and while he was sleeping she looked around his place and said he had bunches of these number puzzles that couldn’t be solved. Then this morning the news about Alexis comes out and the puzzles being sent to the cops and I start thinking this guy isn’t looking for work, he’s looking to take over.”
Jamie narrowed his eyes.
“The news about Alexis?”
Mrs Jones stamped her foot in frustration.
“You know what kind of people come to my bar. It’s not my fault they like to talk. Stop focusing on the wrong part of the story. I know where your man slept 4 nights ago, and probably still sleeps there now.”
Jamie couldn’t shake the feeling that anyone that careful would slip up so easily, but he also knew that Syn Island was not your normal city and maybe he underestimated how carefully criminals protect the status quo.
“Right, come with me.”
“Where are we going?”
“Well, it isn’t Hell.”
“I can’t be seen going to the police station, it’ll ruin my reputation as a legit businesswoman. Why do you think I came here in the first place?”
For an instant, he thought about clocking her in the jaw and carrying her out. But this was Mrs Jones, and she never went anywhere alone. Just because there wasn’t anyone in the flat didn’t mean there wasn’t someone somewhere. She pulled her shoulders back up and returned to her usual calm and collected demeanour, then fished a piece of paper out of her handbag.
“It’s all here, I want you to stop this bastard. Alexis was one of my best customers and always good for a laugh. We don’t have space in this city for serial killers.”
She quickly made her way to the door, undid the locks and tottered out, lighting a cigarette on her way. Jamie stood holding information he had to act on, but he also knew that he probably had about energy to not crack his head open on the floor on the way down. So, he grabbed his mug of two-day-old coffee and used it down some pills he shouldn’t have had, and headed out himself. The address was only four blocks away and maybe, just maybe, if he hurried and prayed in just the right way, he could catch the guy who’d been playing mind games with them for the last week.
It took a few minutes for him to find the right building but only one strong ram with his shoulder to pop the lock on the front door. He then cracked a smile when he read the caution sign hanging on the elevator door and then started up the stairs. The whole way he thought about how he needed to call for backup and how much of a bad idea it was to go after leads alone, especially leads like this one. But he didn’t have a choice. Rather do it wrong and get the right result, then play it right and let a madman run free. The thought frightened him, not because he disagreed, but because it made more sense than usual. When he reached the door with the number he’d been given, he decided that since he was playing it hard and loose with the rules, he’d play it hard and loose with the door. He took a breath and threw himself at it only to have it open at the same moment his shoulder should have made contact. He fell into someone and they both went down hard. Jamie pushed to make sure he ended up on top and looked down into the face of a girl who sang at the jazz bar. Then he looked the bright white light of nothingness that seemed to fill every sense he had until his head landed on the floor with a thump and everything turned black.