Michael Chelly had been called out at morning roll-call for a special assignment. The other cadets had been released for the eight hour shift of foot patrol. Technically the cadets were members of law enforcement but they were armed with trash bags, plastic gloves and “frog stickers”. Sacramento foot patrol was not a choice assignment.
Michael had been called out for special assignment once before. He had enjoyed it immensely and he was sure that his talents were finally being recognized.
Michael found the white, GMC Acadia parked in front of headquarters in the No Parking zone. He impatiently looked around for the driver.
A fat, old detective pushed off from the shade tree he had been leaning against. “What took you so long?” the man asked, not really expecting an answer.
Michael had taken a few extra minutes to gather his things. He filled his water bottle and check his grooming. It was important to have his body art display where each piece was highlighted but did not clash with any other piercing, implant or tats. Michael knew that you could run into anybody here in Sacramento and first impressions were important.
Michael bristled at the question. The detective was clearly a duffer who was too incompetent to do anything but chauffeur people who were important.
Michael decided that the right thing to do was to assert is dominance and then to ‘forgive’ the chauffeur after letting him stew a little while.
“You got sent to pick me up. I am here. We can go.” Michael commanded. His speech pattern was a hybrid of Valley Speak and random emphasis and unexpected drawling of vowels. It projected an impression of endless boredom and a lofty contempt for the little people.
The fat man pointed at the passenger door. No way in hell was Chelly going to drive. For one thing, Chelly had no clue where they were going.
Chelly could be forgiven for thinking Ralph was fat and old. There were almost no fat people left in Cali anymore. Chelly saw a large man and assumed he was fat. He did not know to look for double chins and beer guts. Ralph had neither.
Chelly would have been surprised to learn that Ralph was only five years older than he was. Ralph’s face was innocent of SPF lotions and was unadorned with LED or fiber-optic implants or tats or any of the other markers that were much loved by hip, young people.
Chelly was further thrown by Ralph’s choice of clothing. Ralph was not wearing any kind of uniform. He was wearing baggy cargo pants and a voluminous, nubbly tweed sport coat. Chelly thought Ralph used the stretched-out pockets to carry sandwiches or bottles of booze. Heck, everybody on foot patrol lifted food from the merchants…or so Chelly assumed. Cali certainly did not pay enough for a decent life. Extorting and stealing from merchants was part of being a cop. But it was crass to carry so much away that it made your pockets lumpy.
Ralph drove quickly and well.
Chelly would never admit it, but it was exhilarating to ride in a private automobile after a decade of walking and riding municipal busses that stopped twice every block.
The combination of rocketing along at twice the speed limit and the icy blast of the air conditioning was sufficiently novel to silence Chelly for about five minutes. And then he had to start talking.
Chelly assumed the big lump who was driving was stymied with how to converse with a social superior. Chelly started talking out of misplaced sense of noblesse oblige.
Frankly, Ralph had forgotten about his passenger and was focusing on driving. He was not worried about getting stopped. Every private vehicle had a transponder in the roof-mounted shark fin. His identified him as “Cleanup”. There was not a cop in Cali who was going to stop Cleanup. He was focusing on missing potholes and road trash.
Chelly started talking about the topic that he was the most comfortable with, a subject upon which he was an indisputable authority: Himself.
He started with his fifteen second elevator pitch and it morphed into a ninety minute monolog. Ralph was treated to a running history of Chelly’s academic prowess, the people who thwarted his advancement due to envy, his romantic conquests, his tastes in music, the advanced social position and immense wealth of his family…. Classic motor-mouth diarrhea.
Chelly must have felt a subconscious desire to impress the old detective. His monolog kept looping around and intersecting with his secret, special assignment down in Los Angeles. By the end of the third intersection, Chelly had revealed everything short of his victim’s name and finger prints.
Chelly belated asked Ralph “What is the assignment?” as Ralph slowed and turned into a drive leading down, into a quarry.
“You have to identify a Jane Doe.” Ralph replied.
“Why me?” Chelly asked.
“HQ thinks it might be somebody you worked with in LA. Forensics wants an ID before they roll a team out here for a couple of days. They don’t waste time on stiffs who aren’t important.” Ralph said. For him, that was a long speech.
Ralph drove down the steep, winding drive. There was a pristine, crystal blue lake in the bottom of the quarry. Near the shore a four door sedan was parked on the left side of the road. The nose of the car was pointing toward the lake. The car had smoked glass windows. The front window on the passenger side was cracked open about an inch.
“Just look in and let me know if you think the stiff is somebody you used to work with.” Ralph instructed.
Ralph parked in the center of the road a car length behind it. Ralph beat Chelly to the car, primarily because he was closer to it. Chelly had to brush past Ralph to look through the crack. He bent over to peer into the dim interior.