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American Crime

THE DETECTIVE

Millicent Billy worked her way through the files, gradually piecing together an accurate picture of the fraud, the subject of this enquiry. Not part of the main fraud squad office, she sat alone, surrounded by boxes and, automatically, her hand would reach out to the large bag of M+Ms on her desk. Though she was well regarded for her forensic ability, she longed to do real police work instead of the glorified clerical work that she was constantly pigeon-holed with.

As the lunch hour arrived, she opened the door that led into the main office where a gathering of male detectives sat hunched over their computers working away. 

“Lunch”, she shouted.

Immediately, her fellow detectives began yelling out their orders, talking over each other and creating a cacophony of noisy bedlam. Millicent walked calmly towards the exit and, as she walked, men shouted out changes and additions to their orders but Millicent just kept on walking. On her return, she went silently from desk to desk distributing the exact order to the right detective.  Back in her room, she sniffed at her pizza with anticipation. If she had one addiction in life, unfortunately for her figure, it was food and Millicent, a big girl with a shock of curly red hair, never, ever shared her food.

A knock on the door surprised her because none of this motley crew of detectives ever knocked. Annoyed and hungry, the lunch hour being sacrosanct, she opened the door to find it was a man who appeared slightly familiar.

“May I come in, Milly?”

God, she hated that abbreviation of her name. Milly Billy! It was what the men liked to call her, putting her back in her box, whenever she uncovered a new file lead. Real detective work was for men and, to them, she wasn’t a real cop.

“It’s Millicent, actually.  Millicent Billy”.

“I’m sorry, Millicent.”.

Milly gestured to the chair next to her own.

“Do I know you? You look awfully familiar”.

“I’m Captain Mike Shaw, Homicide. You may have seen me on the news recently”.

 She remembered now.

“You’re the one that’s taken over the Oswald case”.

‘That’s right. Of course, it’s not a homicide case, not yet at least, but I’ve been ordered to take it on. Anna Oswald disappeared a little over three weeks ago and City Hall wants the case wrapped up. A couple of anomalies were found in the files. These things happen of course but, it was decided to bring in a fresh team. Look, the reason I’m here, detective, is to ask if you’d help me.

“To take care of the files?”

Of course, she thought. What else would it be? Either way, she was going to say yes. Files for a possible murder case had to be more interesting than finance stuff.

“Yes…and no. You see my superiors are telling me to abandon the existing case work and re-start the investigation from scratch but…”

“You want me to sift through the files and eliminate the dross?”

“Yes. But it’s not just that. I want you to be part of my task force. You’d be based in the incident room. Frankly, I need someone like you”.

Milly had trouble believing what she was hearing. This was her dream; to be a real cop. There had to be a catch.

“Why me?”

“Look, I have a team of dedicated officers, all male, but you…you would bring something unique to our team; a woman’s perspective. Plus, I saw you in action with that lunch order. You were mighty impressive. What do you say? You in?”

“Can I offer you a slice of my pizza?”

The following morning, Milly reported to the Oswald incident room, nervous as hell, but nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to her. Shaw showed her to her desk.  

“You’re just in time. I’m about to start our daily briefing”.

Mike Shaw stood in front of the room and went over the facts with several detectives offering input and Milly realised just how little progress had been made. As the briefing ended, Shaw pointed to Milly and told the room:

“This is Millicent Billy. She has a sharp brain and is a whizz with files. She is joining our team as from today”.

Milly’s face flushed as red as her hair as the men all turned as one to look at her, disinterestedly. She’d thought about wearing a suit and heels but had decided to stick to her voluminous sweats and comfortable trainers. After all, she was wanted for her brain -not her looks.

By 12 noon, she was feeling hungry so she stood and addressed the room:

“Excuse me, I’m going for lunch. Would anybody like me to fetch them something?”

It was as if she hadn’t spoken. Not a single person acknowledged her. 

“EXCUSE ME!”

Twenty surprised heads turned her way. There was a slight hesitation - then the usual chaotic clamour as orders were shouted out. When Milly returned and distributed the food correctly, the detectives could not help but be impressed with her mental ability to absorb and retain without needing to write anything down.

Detective Harry Kerridge, 5th Precinct, had made two stupid errors. Firstly, he had entered the time of one interview as 8 when everybody in the force used the 24 hour clock and it should have stated 0800 for am or 20.00 for pm. Though insignificant in itself, this error had served to trigger a deeper dive into the paper work unearthing his second error: measuring the distance in miles from where Anna Oswald had last been seen and the place where a car, believed to have been involved in the incident, had been sighted, Kerridge had listed 34 miles. This, in essence, ruled out that car being connected to the abduction because there was simply no way that the person fleeing the scene could have covered that distance so quickly. When a second detective had re-checked the distance, it had actually been 24 miles. This, of course, was a significant error.

Milly knocked on the door of Kerridge’s home. For some strange reason, this place gave her the creeps but she couldn’t put her finger on why. The door opened revealing a glassy eyed, unshaven man who eyed Milly suspiciously.

“Detective Kerridge? I’m Detective Billy. Might I please have a few words?”

Kerridge looked Milly up and down through his drunken haze.

“You don’t look like a cop.”

Milly flashed her ID and Kerridge let her in. The place was a mess. Empty beer and liquor bottles abounded, discarded fast food boxes everywhere.

“Sir, you made two fundamental errors in your reports. I’m sure you know the ones I’m referring to as you are currently under suspension pending investigation. Do you mind telling me how come you managed to be so inaccurate?’

“First, you addressed me as Detective, then it was Mr. Kerridge, now it’s Sir. What’s next?”

“Can you please just answer the question, Mr. Kerridge?”

The man looked at her spitefully and spat out:

“I’m dyslexic! I can’t help it. I could measure the distance between you and me right now, four times, and I’d get four different answers. Happy now?”

Milly looked at him incredulously.

“You didn’t think to tell somebody? This could be a murder investigation. A young woman is missing, Mr. Kerridge. Do you not realise that you actually could have jeopardised the investigation?”

As she left, she noticed a vehicle, covered in a tarp in the side alley of the house.

All this driving around was hungry work so, as she topped up her gas tank, she treated herself to a Hershey bar. Back in the car, her cell phone rang. It was her mother.

“How’s it going, honey?”

“Good, mom. I’m actually out on an investigation right now”.

“They treating you okay, sweetie? No Milly Billy stuff?”

“Oh God, mom, why did you ever call me Milly with a surname like ours?”

“I didn’t name you Milly. I named you Millicent. You should be grateful your father didn’t get his way. He wanted to call you Hildred. Can you imagine that shortened?”

The two burst out laughing.

Milly tracked down Kerridge’s wife through her sister’s address that she had given when filing a complaint about her husband’s abusive behaviour.

Ursula Kerridge was quite a pretty, little thing, she thought, as she sat in the lounge of the Brooklyn apartment sipping coffee.  

“There is no way I am ever going back to that man. He freaked me out”.

“How so, Mrs. Kerridge?”

“His sexual depravity. It just got worse and worse but it was more talking about what he was going to do that turned him on. It was violent, sick stuff. I reported him but cops all stick together. Not you. I mean the men. You seem nice. Can I get you more coffee?”

“Sure, uh, I don’t suppose you have any cookies?”

At the 5th Precinct on Elizabeth Street, Milly spoke to Kerridge’s former partner, an older detective. 

“Nasty piece of work. Didn’t trust him and hated riding with him. There was talk of him abusing his wife, too”.

“Were you aware that Kerridge is dyslexic? Had a problem with numbers?”

“Sure, everybody knew. We used to laugh actually. If he called in a plate, he’d always get the letters wrong.  As for numbers, that man was a mathematical genius. He could calculate the odds on any bets we laid quicker than any bookie”.

Using her cell, Milly quickly googled dyslexia: word blindness, not number blindness. The son of a bitch had lied to her.

Maggie Arthur lived twenty four miles from the park where Anna Oswald had last been seen. On her way over to the woman’s house, Milly spotted a McDonalds and pulled into the drive-thru for a snack, forgetting the difficulty of eating a burger while driving. 

It was getting dark as she parked across the road from the house. 

“So, I’m basically just going over statements, Mrs. Arthur. You say you saw a car pass your house at exactly 7pm on the night that Anna went missing. That would be about 15 minutes after she was last seen in the park so your sighting is very important to us. Can you please tell me what you saw and how you knew the precise time?”

“Well, like I already said, I looked out and saw a sedan driving away from the parkland”.

Milly stood up and stared out of the window.

‘’Ma’am, it would have been about this time, right? But, as I look out, all I can see is darkness. If a car passed now, I wouldn’t be able to recognise it, especially a black one like you described”.

“Black? Oh no, I said it was blue”.

Milly turned to her, surprised.

“You mean as in navy blue - which could be mistaken for black?”

Shaking her head, Mrs. Arthur turned to her young son.

“Joey, get mommy your blue car, honey”.

The boy ran out of the living room, returning almost immediately, with a bright blue, toy racing car.

“It was this colour; royal blue”.

Milly was stunned. Yet another anomaly; this time, a major deviation.

“I still don’t understand how you could have seen it. It’s almost pitch black outside”.

Joining Milly at the window, Mrs. Arthur smiled.

“It is pitch black. But watch”.

Within seconds, street lights, that had been concealed by the lush foliage of trees, lit up and the entire road became illuminated, highlighting Milly’s own car across the way.

“Seven o’ clock, on the dot. That’s how I was so sure of the time”.

As Milly rushed from the house, she turned and asked:

“Do you recall the name of the police officer you gave this information to?”

“Sorry, I don’t. Uh, do you know that you have ketchup all over your top?”

As Milly was turning her car around, she saw Mrs. Arthur waving to her. She wound down her window as the woman handed her a business card.

“Sorry. I forgot. He gave me this card”.

Shivers running down her spine, Milly stared at the white piece of cardboard with the embossed name: Detective Harry Kerridge, 5th Precinct.

At Kerridge’s house, Milly sat and waited in the darkness. She had called in, requesting backup and had been ordered to wait for support to arrive but she just wanted to take a peek at the car she’d seen earlier so, stealthily, she walked up the side of the house and, kneeling down, lifted the tarp The torch of her phone shone on the car; royal blue! Her heart started beating wildly. Suddenly, she spotted movement at the back of the house and, impulsively, she began to creep down the side of the house, each step on the gravel sounding like a gunshot to her over sensitive ears.

As she peeped carefully around the corner, she could make out the shape of a large shed at the rear of the yard. Eyes constantly on the shed door, she drew her service pistol from her holster, grasping it with both hands; the first time that she had ever taken it from her holster while on duty. Oh my God, she thought, this is so not what I’ve been used to. 

Just then, the shed door opened. Kerridge, illuminated by the reflection of the torch he was holding. With a start, Milly noticed two bound feet on the floor of the shed as Kerridge struggled with the torch and the lock at the same time.  

Without hesitation, Milly broke cover and ran across the grass towards the shed.

“Freeze! Hands in the air. Now!”

Kerridge dropped the lock and the torch and bolted for the garden wall but slipped on the wet turf. Milly threw herself on top of him; her heft finally being put to good use. Though he struggled, Kerridge was no match for her and she soon had him in handcuffs; another first. Milly could see the flashing lights of several police cars arriving at the front and shouted: “Back here”.

Anna Oswald was found, bound and gagged in the shed. Though Kerridge had talked of doing all sorts of things to her, he had, thankfully, not yet carried out any of his threats, seeming to have derived more pleasure from seeing the fear in her eyes. When Anna saw Milly’s mud splattered corpulence in the doorway, flashing her police ID, she burst into tears.

The following morning, recovered from the giant adrenaline dump of the night before, Milly was overwhelmed by the standing ovation she received as she entered the incident room. To a man, they stood and applauded the new member of their team. Mike Shaw announced: 

“Guys, let’s hear it for Detective Milly Billy!”

July 23, 2023 10:45

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6 comments

David Allday
00:38 Aug 14, 2023

A fun read.

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Karen Corr
14:09 Aug 03, 2023

Loved your story. I can imagine a series. ( A Millicent Billy Novel)

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Jonathan Page
15:53 Jul 30, 2023

I'm hungry.

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Lara Deppe
15:41 Jul 29, 2023

I love a chunky lead character with untapped potential!

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Mary Bendickson
16:20 Jul 23, 2023

Yay! She got to throw her weight around.

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Unknown User
21:40 Aug 02, 2023

<removed by user>

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