Crime Mystery Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Harris looked around the storage unit, it was stacked floor to ceiling with all Vargas’s cast-offs. Harris was growing to hate the perpetual mocking TOCK of the cheap nasty cuckoo clock. It was one of those mass-produced souvenirs that you bought when you were in the Alps. Just a lump of pine fashioned into a faux Swiss chalet with plastic doors where a cuckoo appeared once an hour to tell you that you were an hour nearer to death. It had a cheap Chinese battery-operated motion instead of the traditional Swiss-made mechanical motion. Harris wondered what was happening when a country famed for their wonderful clocks traded that for a chunk of cheap pine with the Made-in-China label. The joy of having a real cuckoo clock was that the act of winding it each day meant that you formed a relationship with it. The very act brought discipline and a degree of meaning to your day. Get up, breakfast, ablutions, feed the animals, and wind up the clock. Now, something was missing, Mr Duracell meant that the clock fell out of your life for months at an end. 

And now here the clock sat, a discarded memento of a time spent somewhere beautiful, a fake cuckoo clock inside a stacked storage locker lying on its side mocking Harris. A cheap loud TOCK, TOCK, TOCK, and each TOCK counting down to a point in time that was more important to Harris than even his own death. His deadline was now just six hours away, to Harris a very real deadline. If he didn’t find what he was looking for Vargas was going to get away with murder again and that was a fate worse than death. Harris hated Vargas and he always had. Over the last few years, hatred had turned deeper than HATE, much deeper. They had known each other at school and even back then there was hate. Vargas was the school troublemaker and Harris was the school's head prefect. Harris was the upholder of school law and order, and the least popular and least cool person in the whole school. Harris was openly mocked by most of the school, but he was actively sought out by Vargas and taunted mercilessly. In the end, Harris just wilted and hid away for the final six months at school. After school Vargas and Harris went their separate ways. Harris went off to Police College and on to a posting as a constable in Scotland. Vargas went straight into reform school then to prison and graduated as a small-time drug dealer. 

In his mid-twenties, Harris was stationed back in his hometown when Vargas was paroled from his latest prison stay. As part of his parole conditions Vargas had to report to the Police station weekly, and Harris made sure that he laid down the law very clearly to Vargas. One slight parole violation and Harris said that he would come down on Vargas hard. Vargas out of spite violated his probation within a month. Vargas disappeared to Spain for a weekend of partying with his friends and to bring home a shipment of methamphetamines from Belgium. The next time Vargas reported to the police station Harris experienced the most orgasmic moment of his whole life. He got to apply the police-appointed bracelets to Vargas, he added a little push and shove and some taunting in return for what Harris had endured over the years. As he slammed the cell door on Vargas, Harris felt a little cum ejaculating from his penis, he was euphoric that some revenge had finally come. Later that day Vargas had his revenge and Harris never saw that coming. 

Harris turned up to court with a young police-appointed lawyer for what should have been a straightforward “go straight to jail, don’t pass go” for parole violation by Vargas. Against youth and inexperience, Vargas had a very expensive lawyer, who argued that Harris had a deep hatred of Vargas and that their animosity went back over a decade. He brought in witnesses that testified to previous clashes. Stated that Vargas had asked Harris for permission to attend a cousin’s funeral and that Harris had denied him permission out of spite. Harris denied all this but the final nail in his coffin was the station CCTV footage of Harris man-handling and belittling Vargas at the police station. Seen on the footage was Harris roughly dragging a defenceless prone Vargas by his handcuffs while screaming at Vargas “How do you like these bracelets you fucking pond scum”? Vargas walked free that afternoon and straight into a storm of media all keen to lionise a downtrodden victim of police brutality in the season of “I can’t breathe/Black Lives Matter”. Although Vargas sported only at best a Mediterranean complexion, it still made great TV. Harris was stood down, demoted and only just kept his job. 

Over the next four years, Harris climbed back up the career ladder and was given two commendations for bravery in the pursuit of duty. In the same four-year span Vargas climbed his career ladder evolving from mule to enforcer to officer and territory owner. Then one afternoon as spring sprang a body sprung through the ice and meltwater of the local canal. After lots of post-mortem investigative work, coronary work and detective work there was enough circumstantial evidence to build a case against Vargas. Although Harris was not the lead detective or even officially on the team, he was responsible for a huge amount of the evidence against Vargas. The victim was a noted runner for Vargas. The victim was being chased by Vargas for outstanding money from a drug deal gone wrong. Despite being under the ice for maybe two months the victim had a pill box with oxycodone in it and a fingerprint inside the pill box was from Vargas. Add to this that both Vargas's and the victims' Cell phones were pinging from the same cell phone tower at the same times right up until the victim ceased being active on his phone. Harris also found a witness who had been with the victim on the night they had disappeared and stated that the victim expected Vargas to kill him any day. The witness signed a statement and the prosecutor deemed that they had enough evidence. The law is fickle, and a jury only needs to be 1% uncertain for a guilty man to walk free. The witness recanted their statement and left the country shortly thereafter for a job managing a bar in Spain coincidentally owned by Mrs Vargas. Vargas had the same wonderfully convincing lawyer, and he did a lot better than creating 1% uncertainty. 

A week later Harris received a package at work, and after passing it through the scanner at the front desk he opened it. It was April first, so just about anything could have been inside the package. A crowd formed, but not too close to Harris as he nervously opened the package. Only 6 months previously another detective had been sent a pot plant, a purple Orchid supposedly from his wife. Five minutes after it was on his desk it exploded spaying a mist in a 25ft circle that stank like a hundred nervous skunks. It had taken weeks for the smell to dissipate. Still six months on if you ran the air-conditioning the detectives’ office trod a line between comfortably cool and uncomfortably smelly. As Harris opened the box and nothing and burst forth, nearly all his fellow detectives crept nervously closer. Inside the box was a gold-plated men’s bracelet. Called an Amigo bracelet given by a brother from another mother, it had a space to have a name engraved on it. Where Harris’s name, John, should have been, etched in big bold letters was the inscription “GAWM”. Everyone was puzzled and checked that it hadn’t been delivered to the wrong person. Working away diligently at a desk in the far corner was the oldest member of the squad Detective Sergeant Archer. Harris shouted across to Archer asking if he knew anyone who was called GAWM. Archer without pausing replied, “That’s meant to be for you. It’s from Vargas. GAWM is an acronym for Got Away With Murder”.

Five years on and Harris was now standing inside Vargas’s stacked storage unit. On his right wrist, he wore the GAWM bracelet. He put it on the night after he received it and vowed to not take it off till he put Vargas away. On his left wrist was his Apple watch set not to the time but to a countdown clock. Four hours to go, TOCK, TOCK, TOCK and then annoyingly interrupting the anxiety-strewn search, Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo tormenting and teasing them, marking the loss of time. Then suddenly they found it. Undoubtedly the murder weapon, it was hidden, between the cushions of a leather couch at the very back of the storage unit. As quickly as they could, they photographed it in position, nervously bagged it up and returned to the station with the bloodied baseball bat. On the way back to the station travelling at breakneck speed, sirens blazing and with lights flashing the team were high-fiving each other. The bat was matted with blood and the ridges that had been knurled into the face of the bat to turn into a deadly weapon were embedded with skin. The blood also showed fingerprints.

Back at the station after handing the bat to forensics Harris sat at his desk and started writing up his line of evidence. Two days previously an emergency call was placed to the police line reporting a disturbance at the Vargas house. Having a history, it was five hours before the police attended. On many prior occasions, police had been out to the residence, and it had never come to anything. Mr Vargas and Mrs Vargas maintained a passionate but often rocky relationship. Over the years ambulances had attended and administered first aid to both parties. Fire engines visited twice once dousing a car and once a she-shed containing a collection of Barbie dolls, lots of drug paraphernalia and flammable chemicals.

When police arrived, they came in numbers and wearing riot gear. All of which was unnecessary. In the backyard was Mrs Vargas lying face down in a pool of blood that had spread in a three-foot almost perfect circle around her head. The blood was congealed and was turning into a smorgasbord for every fly from a ten-mile radius. A tent was quickly set up around the body and the coroner called. Immediately for Harris, the detective work started. A request to come in for questioning was put out and within minutes of it being broadcast as an all-points bulletin, Vargas surrendered to Harris’s station with his ever-present lawyer in tow. Between Vargas and his lawyer, they goaded and denied and then goaded some more. Harris stayed out of way and didn’t even pop into the adjoining room to watch via the two-way mirror. Vargas’s lawyer was excellent and pretty much goaded the police into arresting Vargas saying that Vargas was due in Spain for a business trip the next day. The Police chief knew that if they let Vargas go that there would be no chance of getting him back from Spain. No formal extradition treaty existed anymore. It was a gamble, but one both sides had to take. If the police could not get enough evidence to arrest Vargas for the murder of Mrs Vargas within 48 hours, they must release Vargas who would be free to abscond anywhere.

Harris 45 hours later was joyously compiling a brief for the prosecutor. He had the murder weapon in his possession. Testimony from a near Neighbour who was an ex-policeman stated he saw a man wearing a black hoodie, sunglasses and a corona mask, looking very much like Vargas running from Vargas’s house and speeding off in Vargas’s car. Harris by checking CCTV images had tracked Vargas’s car, red light by red light, directly to his storage unit. Then from the storage unit CCTV tracked Vargas carrying a full sack to his storage unit and then with the empty sack which he threw into a dumpster on his way back to his car. Only two problems existed. Firstly, the sack wasn’t recovered as the dumpster was emptied and the contents incinerated before police could get the sack. Secondly, at no point in the CCTV footage had Vargas been distinctly identifiable. He had kept his hood up, sunglasses on and a corona mask in place. Harris was despairingly re-watching the CCTV and could see cracks appearing in his case when Archer tapped him on the shoulder. In the footage, Vargas was throwing the sack into the dumpster with his back to the camera. But Archer had seen something none of the others had. In the far corner of the shot was a mirror on the wall placed so that storage unit users could see round corners as they trundled their goods in and out. Vargas was in full view of the mirror and for a fleeting moment as he lifted the lid of the dumpster the lid lifted his cap, his hoodie and sunglasses. Not enough to dislodge them just enough to make the top half of his face recognisable for less than a second; but so recognisable that the police facial recognition software picked 15 facial points unique to Vargas. Now they had someone undeniably Vargas leaving the scene of the crime at the time of the crime. Taking the murder weapon and hiding it. They had Vargas’s latest dump phone which pinged on every cell tower that tallied with the route. A GPS tracker that had been attached to Vargas’s car six months previously also tallied to the route that Vargas had taken to get to the storage unit.

Best of all they had a blood-smeared baseball bat that they were very sure had Vargas’s fingerprints all over it.

Police work is a rollercoaster. Just as Harris reached a crescendo of joy the coroner popped his head around the door. “Good News, definitely Vargas’s fingerprints, Bad news the blood and skin are pigs. Oh, also the murder weapon was a blunt instrument, maybe a cricket bat, not a baseball bat, when you find it, it will likely have blonde hair and a clump of skin embedded in it”. Later it would be found out the baseball bat was used by Vargas to dispatch pigs for butchering and spit roasting.

Harris was back again in the stacked storage unit, disconsolately listening to the TOCK, TOCK, TOCK taunting him. Another hour and it would be all over. Vargas would be gone scot-free. All his life people like Vargas hated him because he was driven by doing the right thing. This meant telling tales and ratting people out regardless of who or what they were to you. A fellow police officer had once tried to bribe him, and he had refused the bribe and ratted out his colleague. Lots of police officers saw the misappropriation of ill-begotten gains as just a levelling of the fields; Harris didn’t. That was not popular. He tried to do the right thing, but it never seemed to work out for him. Harris sat there on the plush leather couch inches away from where the baseball bat had been. Vargas had more stuff here than Harris had in his whole apartment. Any one of the twenty dusty paintings stacked in one corner could pay his salary for a month. In another corner, was a set of mag wheels worth more than his whole car. Tauntingly TOCK, TOCK, TOCK then the final siren his cell phone rang.

It was the detective inspector telling them to come back to the station to process and release Vargas. The prosecutor had said that without a murder weapon, all they proved was that Vargas had taken something to his storage unit and as far as he was aware that was not illegal. Harris felt like bursting into tears. Not sad tears but those painful desperate tears you cry as a child when on Christmas morning you discover that your much anticipated and desperately wanted bike is just a bloody cheap version of an etch-a-sketch that breaks open by Boxing Day spilling grey inky shit all over your new favourite tee-shirt. As he walked towards the door he could hear the mocking TOCK, TOCK, TOCK and then just as he drew level Cuckoo, Cuckoo, Cuckoo. Harris with all his might and with emotion fuelled with anger kicked that cuckoo clock so hard it could have made it back to Switzerland.

At the station when Harris arrived back Vargas was sitting smugly alongside his lawyer. There is something almost vulture-like about lawyers who make a living out of defending the guilty regardless of their crime, they wear an immorality placing them atop the mountain of despicable. There they were a perfect personification of the word ugly. Vargas was bristling with joy like a human firework with his wick smouldering.

Harris limped into the station with a shoe full of blood and three broken toes. Vargas laughed hard, very hard, he could not believe just how good his day was getting. He proffered his hand-cuffed wrists to Harris and demanded cockily to be unlocked. Instead, Harris put the amigo bracelet on Vargas’s wrist. For the first time, an ounce of doubt clouded Vargas’s face. Then Harris placed on the station evidence desk a clear plastic sack. From inside the sack came the still miraculous TOCK, TOCK, TOCK, still going but now mocking a rapidly whitening complexion of Vargas. There in the top right-hand corner of the clock was a bloodied fingerprint and the telltale peroxide blonde hair of Mrs Vargas complete with a chunk of flesh. Vargas looked down at his new bracelet and it now had the word NOT crudely etched before GAWM.  

February 13, 2023 06:50

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