“A fine office. A very fine office indeed.”
Mayor elect Micky Doyle accepted the compliment from an old friend. He wasn’t really supposed to take up occupancy at City Hall until after proper inauguration but, with possible murder being the reason the last mayor vacated the office so abruptly, City Hall wasn’t quite so picky. Things moved fast in the Shady City and the Hot Seat could never be allowed to cool down.
“I think it suits me,” Micky grinned. “Some might even say it was what I was born for.”
“Indeed. We all have our callings in life. Political office was most definitely yours.”
The old friend was Doctor Winslow, chief clinician of the Harbour House rehabilitation facility. When the Knock Knock Boss Lady was sent down, the Law Makers demanded that the good doctor hand over her Aunt Tawny who was one of his residents. Custody of the Knock Knock Baroness was not forthcoming. Eventually she disappeared without trace from his keep. Winslow maintained that he had no knowledge of Tawny’s current whereabouts and even offered to assist in the search for her. That arrangement suited him just fine because when the Bailiffs were there to greet him in Luen it had looked as though he was running from something. They wanted to peek behind the walls of his precious clinic and he couldn’t have that. His good friend Micky Doyle just happened to be in one of the most prominent positions in the city. His good friend Micky Doyle just happened to be cousin to the fiercest sitting High Court Judge. Both of these things thankfully managed to smooth things over for Winslow. Karyn Doyle was no fool though. She knew his abrupt trip to Luen was no holiday but whilst he made himself useful, he kept himself out of immediate danger. At least until they found his missing resident.
“You keep that pesky cousin of yours off my back and I’ll scratch yours,” was what Winslow put to Micky.
“Gentlemen,” said another. “I would very much like to get to the matter at hand.”
The other cut an interesting figure. He had long curling hair that almost looked like a wig. He had an old fashioned presence complete with top hat – which he kept on whilst they conducted their meeting. His name was Eugene Morris. They called him The Tailor around the city and he was the premier funeral director in Coldford. He was more than that though. He was highly respected and catered to the deaths of so many from all walks of life.
“Yes, of course,” Winslow agreed. “Quite so. Filthy business this is gentlemen but business none the less. I met the girl on many occasions. I considered her aunt not just a resident of mine but a dear friend. Death is such a frequent visitor in my profession that one must put personal feelings aside. I need not tell you that though, Eugene.”
Micky looked across his desk. “So what is to happen?”
Winslow stood and turned his attention to a fresh skeleton. It had been fitted in the Boss Lady’s signature red dress. A wig of soft human hair had been draped on its skull and allowed to flow over the shoulder.
“Preservation is a must,” said Winslow observing the bones. “The bones are fine but I feel her organs – kidneys, liver, spleen – could all be put to good use.”
“Profiteering from her death is highly distasteful,” Eugene put in.
Winslow tutted. “I quite agree. Perhaps you misunderstand me. I don’t mean to profiteer. I’m merely stating the fact that Tabitha’s demise – warranted or not – could help many others live.”
Eugene stood and he too was examining the skeleton.
“Yes but you mean to use the fact the organs once belonged to a prominent figure to drive up the price.”
Winslow shook his head. “My dear friend, I admire your nobility but if I may be candid, profit is what makes the whole world circulate. Without it we may as well all just go straight to your good self for our final suit.”
“The skeleton itself,” The Tailor saw fit to comment. “Cheap sensationalism, unbefitting of a man in high office. What would Her Honour say?” He flicked the red dress and stared into the empty eye sockets.
Micky grinned. “If I am to be Mayor of this city I cannot hide in my cousins shadow. I need to make my own mark. That girl stood as a symbol against everything we were trying to build. Not only that, she was an extortionist and a murderer. Her death and the display of her remains will show others who look to step up to her place that the Shady City will no longer be a home for those who have such a blatant disregard for the rules. Not while I’m mayor.”
Winslow grinned. “Bravo!” he said. “Spoken like a true man of the Hot Seat.”
Eugene didn’t seem convinced but he said nothing.
“The skeleton will be a symbol,” he said, “but doctor, you will deal with the organs as tactfully as Harbour House will allow.”
Eugene nodded. Winslow clasped his hands together.
Micky’s telecom buzzed. He pushed the button to answer.
“You’re campaign adviser, sir. He’s here to go over your inauguration speech.”
“Thank you. Hold him there for a few minutes.”
The Boss Lady skeleton would be stored away. The office would be tidied. The business of the city would go on.
Coldridge Park was home to an expansive cemetery. It was the final resting place of Detective Joel Hickes who had been bludgeoned to death during the transport of Paddy Mack from CPD custody to Coldford Correctional.
Hickes was a good man. He tried to keep a neutral head. I guess it was only inevitable that the tension in the city would catch him in the cross fire.
Lydia took my arm as we entered the gathering of mourners.
“You okay, Sam?” she asked kindly.
I wasn’t. After everything that happened I was far from it, but realising that there were many more worse off than me meant there was still a long way to go.
“I’ll be fine.”
Reynolds and Franklin were the first to greet us. Both of them were members of Lydia’s agency team. They had been particularly close to Hickes. Reynolds looked better. I hadn’t seen him since he had one knock out round with Simon ‘Punch Line’ Penn. He had tried to stop Tabitha escaping the Knock Knock club.
“It’s so sad,” said Franklin. “I never know what to do at these things.”
“Bid a fond farewell, I suppose,” was my suggestion.
Franklin gave a solemn nod of his head. In the distance I spotted Hickes’ wife Olivia. She was swarmed by well wishers and mourners. She seemed to be holding up well. She clasped the hand of her son – Hickes’ step son – Milo. The boy appeared to have garnered a strength beyond his age.
I released Lydia’s arm. “I’m going to speak to Olivia, see if there’s anything she needs.”
The three agents departed. Franklin put his arm around Lydia’s shoulder.
“C’mon babes,” he said with his usual extravagance.
The mourners that swamped Olivia parted as I approached. Releasing her son’s hand Olivia hugged me with a sombre smile.
“I just wanted to see how you were,” I said. It was silly enquiry. Is anyone ever okay with such a loss? Having faced a similar one with my wife, Theresa, I should have understood. I knew what she was going through but death was such a personal thing. I never would fully understand her experience.
“Thank you, Sam,” she said.
She turned to Milo.
“Milo, this is Sam Crusow. He was friend of Joel’s.”
I shook the young man’s hand. He had a strong grip. Just a child, forced to hold it together in an environment that would have broken people many years his senior.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I told him sincerely. “I just wish it could have been under better circumstances.”
Milo managed a smile. “Thank you, Mr Crusow. He was a good man.”
Milo spoke the truth for the adults. He spoke it for the city. Hickes was a good man and the fact of the matter was there would be many more good men and women lost before it was over.
“Mrs Hickes?” We were interrupted. The woman’s voice harsh but suitably sober for the occasion. Thin of face, with black hair and pale complexion. Her expression was severe but genuinely mournful. The Law Makers pin on her blazer glinted. Judge Karyn Doyle, destroyer of the Shanties, closer of City Main and breaker of the Boss Lady offered her condolences.
“Thank you, ma’am,” replied Olivia.
“We’re doing all we can to bring Detective Hickes’ killer to justice. He is a sad loss to the department and to the city.”
She drew a small box from the pocket of her coat. She opened it and a silver commemorative coin with the seal of the city was contained within.
“This rightfully should have been his to thank him for his service. Perhaps in his stead this young man could hold onto it as a reminder of the order we aim to bring to this city.”
She passed the coin to Milo. The little boy was in awe of it.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he said.
“Remember what it means and what your step father gave his life for.”
Milo nodded. He closed the box over and looked to his mother.
“This is Sam Crusow,” Olivia introduced me.
Doyle narrowed her gaze on me.
“I have been following your progress Mr Crusow. I assume now that the trial is over you will be returning to the Coldford Daily?”
“No,” I admitted. “Not right away.”
“The press is a difficult world to navigate,” said The Judge. “I do hope we can come together to bring the shade of the city into new light.”
I agreed. The press had power to topple those on top. It had the power to expose those in the highest positions for the true people underneath. I had to be a level head in a city torn. With those thoughts in mind we bid farewell to Detective Joel Hickes and the way the city used to be.
The apartment the agency had given Lydia was welcoming. Not much time had been allowed to make it a home but attempts by Lydia had made a difference. There was a photo of her and her sister on the table. Cynthia was homelier than Lydia but equally as pretty. Glasses, warm smile, a vet. There was also a photo of her, Franklin, Reynolds and Agent Kim. Before the camera captured their image Lydia must have said something to Kim that caused her to laugh. They were a close knit group and they had welcomed me with open arms. I was thankful for their support then and have been grateful for it every day since.
“Here you are,” Franklin said emerging from his room in the apartment carrying fresh bedding for me.
“Hurry. It’s about to start,” Lydia informed him. Franklin laid the bedding down and threw himself into the sofa, myself sat between the two agents. Lydia passed him a slice of pizza. He examined it.
“You’re a bad influence on me, babes,” he said but he ate it none the less.
On screen a broadcast had been set up outside of City Face, the Mayoral office. The large clock that gave the building its name ticked down on the gathering.
Normally I would have been among the press covering the story but recent events had left me in the need to distance myself. It was the only way I was going to be able to find my own perspective.
“We’re here at City Face where we’re about to welcome Micky Doyle as he takes his place as Coldford City Mayor. I’m Anna Baker from Coldford City News,” the reporter facing the camera explained.
The footage opened to show the lawns outside the building filled with reporters, public and security teams tasked with protecting the mayor.
“I’m surprised they didn’t ask us to run security detail,” Franklin commented.
The camera scanned the crowd. Karyn Doyle could be seen waiting by the side of the stage with her son Cameron.
“City Hall has its own detail,” Lydia answered still watching the screen.
“Didn’t do Feltz much good, did it?” Franklin put in.
Lydia raised her eyebrow. “Do you want to be following Micky Doyle around all day?”
Franklin’s hand raised to his chest. “Ugh, no,” he exclaimed. “The man gives me the creeps.”
The man in question stepped up to the pulpit to give his first speech to the people of Coldford as their mayor.
“We’ll be ready for you in just a couple of minutes, Mr Mayor,” the campaign manager said.
Micky Doyle had never been nervous of public speaking in his life. Head of his debate team at Kingsgate Secondary, student class president for all four years of his undergraduate studies at the university, voted most likely to enter a career in politics. He was nervous then though. It was what Micky was built for. It was what the Doyle blood flowed for. Power. Position. Authority.
Mr Mayor. That was him now and he had the whole city at his feet.
“I will be a fair and just ruler!” he had cried as a boy with a red super hero cape tied around his neck. The D on it was for Doyle. The other boys said it meant Dwarf Dick. Who was laughing now though? You would have to reach beyond the Shady City and all her farthest regions to find a position of authority that was higher than the one he was about to assume. Dwarf Dick Doyle had come far.
Karyn watched him intently from the crowd. Without her father – Sergeant Major Doyle – around, it was to her the leadership of the family fell. Even Micky’s own father looked to the Sergeant Major’s command. Micky supposed some might say the High Court was an authority above the Mayor’s Office and Karyn’s presence in the crowd served as a reminder of that but he wasn’t about to split hairs.
“Good luck Uncle Micky,” Cameron had said.
Kindly boy, beaten down and squeezed below a very thick thumb. What was to be expected when his mother was reputedly the most ferocious sitting High Court Judge the city had ever seen. Micky understood Cameron’s position. The Sergeant Major was pretty much the same. He was always trying to toughen his nephew up. He only had the four girls – Karyn, Ashley, Leslie and Laura – so he saw it as his duty to make a man out of Micky.
The Sergeant Major had torn the cape from him.
“Superheroes are nonsense,” he spat. “It’s a pleasant fiction for children with no other hope or opportunity. They are created in boardrooms to sell toys to gullible fools and children with no one else to look up to. You are better than that. You are a Doyle.”
The Sergeant Major took his cape and disposed of it but he gave Micky something much better in exchange. He gave him the confidence to soar higher than the cape would ever have taken him. Now he was stepping up to the highest office in the land.
“We’re ready for you now, Mr Mayor,” the campaign manager beckoned.
Cheers. Applause. Respect. Appreciation.
“Thank you,” he began. This gave him the chance to remember the opening to his speech. From there the rest of the words would flow.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be in service of the city.”
“But it is with sadness that I fill this role when my predecessor had made such a mark and had a fruitful career ahead of him. Jim Feltz was a great man.”
Need to stop referring to him in the past tense when no body has been uncovered yet.
“Jim Feltz is a good friend. He is sorely missed but let us stay positive. After all, what is Coldford if not able to stay positive through trying times. I owe it to Jim and to everyone else who has ever taken the Hot Seat to do the best I can. I owe it to all who voted for me. I am grateful for the faith you have shown in me.”
Give a few moments to absorb the applause.
“I will clear this city of the lawlessness and deprivation that it faces. Criminals no longer have a place here. We are good people and will no longer be held captive by corruption.”
Good use of word choice.
“Moving forward my office is open to those who need it most. Thugs, murderers and cop killers be damned. This is your warning. It is time to leave Coldford.”
Smile. Look determined. Look sad at the loss of Hickes. Breathe.
There was a thunderous applause. Even Karyn’s tight lips etched a smile. The Sergeant Major would be proud.
A Hot Seat isn’t occupied long.
“Where are you going, mum?” Milo asked.
“I just have a little appointment. I’ll be back by five,” Olivia assured her son.
“Do you want me to come with you?” Milo asked, taking his duty as the man of the house seriously.
Olivia smiled. She brushed his black hair back and caressed his cheek warmly. “I’ll be fine, Jiggles.”
Milo laughed and pulled himself away. “Mum…” he complained. He was too old now for the pet name used for him when he was a baby. It was a name that Tabitha had been first to grace him with because of the way his tubby belly jiggled when he laughed as an infant.
Olivia tousled his hair. “You’re getting too big for your own good,” she commented. “But you’ll always be little jiggles.”
Milo shook his head in exasperation but he was glad his mother was in good spirits.
“I need you to stay here and keep Chloe company.”
Chloe Grover, a skinny girl, simple natured, was a victim of Olivia’s ex husband, Dennis. Prostituted by the Knock Knock manager, Olivia gave her shelter after Dennis was taken in by the Law Makers. She was sat on the floor in front of the television. She was nineteen but Milo was more mature.
“Milo!” she called. “It’s on again.”
Her cheer had come as an advertisement for a new brand of Jolly Shopper Biscuits flashed on screen. Actor Laurence DuBoe was holding a long tailed Macaque named Omari, speaking to her as though they had been friends for years.
Chloe pointed to the screen. “It’s so cute. He can talk to monkeys.”
“I won’t be long,” Olivia kissed her son’s head.
The pregnancy test was positive. The visit to the doctor was all but a formality. The spirit of Detective Hickes would live on after all.
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