Joe's brooding brown eyes followed Inspector Crabbe as he made his way around his file laden desk to his waiting chair. Joe had known Arthur Crabbe since the man had been an ambitious sergeant.
Joe had seen and fed that ambition, giving occasional valuable leads, and pointing the NFPD man in the right direction when the case would otherwise have floundered...
At the same time helping remove some of Joe's rivals from the scene. Only when Crabbe finally swapped his stripes for shoulder pips did Joe start calling in favours.
A sizeable monthly remuneration helped cloud the inspector's conscience.
But now this.
"Why is my little girl's nanny freezing her bum off in one of your cells, Arthur?"
Across the desk, Arthur made a space and opened the manila folder he had brought in with him.
"Henningsdottir." Joe corrected with what he hoped was the right inflection. It sounded more or less right to his ears.
"If you are going to arrest her, then you could at least get her bloody name right." It had the hoped-for effect.
Crabbe quickly looked down at his file. Joe stifled a smile.
"Er... Hen... Hennings... Dorter...? Doter?" Arthur glanced up for confirmation from Joe that he had got it right.
Joe rolled his eyes, overdramatically.
"Whatever. Never mind. Just tell me what she is supposed to have done and what you think you've got on her."
Although nothing in the room had changed.
Joe was now seated on expensive leather while Arthur squirmed in discomfort on a hard wooden chair with the one leg sawed just a fraction shorter than the other three.
"Er, yes. Right. Well, ahem. Miss... Your 'nanny' has been arrested for the attempted murder of Hanne Berg, the CEO of..." He checked the file again.
"The Ranyhyn Company, a small business that deals in..."
"We all know what The Ranyhyn Company 'deals' in, and it's got nothing to do with whatever you've got written down there."
Inspector Crabbe bristled visibly.
"Malicious gossip. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that..."
Joe's face split into a huge grin.
"Ohhhhh I see now."
Crabbe stopped mid-sentence.
"Why you found the balls to show up at my gaff, upset my family and walk away with MY employee. Berg's either got you by the short and curlies or she's paying you big bucks."
"I don't know what you mean, Joe."
"Come off it, Arthur. It's a dangerous game you're playing here sunshine. Not that I blame you mind, that Dwight bloke is enough to scare a bent copper straight.
" Joe's grin went from nice to nasty. "Well, almost. Eh Arthur?"
The skin between Crabbe's top lip and his nose showed the first beads of moisture.
"I..." But nothing followed the pronoun.
Joe took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"So, what evidence do you have that this skinny little girl who earns her living looking after other peoples' kids almost took out such a prominent local 'businesswoman?"
"She had a gun."
"Everybody past puberty has a gun, Arthur."
"She was about to flee New Flagstaff."
"And everybody also wishes they could flee New bloody Flagstaff; I know I do."
"She admitted having an argument with Miss Berg earlier in the evening."
"Just having an argument isn't really a motive, Arthur. What was it about?"
Crabbe looked deflated.
"She wouldn't say."
Joe's face softened. The smile became benign, friendly, bordering on brotherly.
"Arthur. You don't have enough to hold her. You know it. I know it. Hell, even the guy moping the corridor outside your office knows it.
How about I take her home with me? She won't leave Flag; you have my word. And once we find out who really shot Hanne Berg, you won't be left looking so much like a prize prat. What do you say?"
For a few moments, the inspector considered possible comebacks. But if Joe had seen the holes in his case, then the smart-arse lawyer Joe would be hiring as soon as he left here would too.
He sighed and reached for the intercom.
"Fine, Joe. But you keep a close eye on her." He flicked the switch. "Dybbol? Fetch the girl. Tell her she's freed under her own recong... Recognis... Tell her she's freed on bail.
Her employer is here to take her home."
Arthur and Joe stood up and shook hands across the desk. Then Arthur opened the door for Joe. Just as the door was shutting behind him, Joe turned and stopped it with his hand.
"Oh, and Arthur. If you ever come to my house like that again..."
Arthur Crabbe swallowed as he found himself looking into the smile of a shark.
Joe leaned in.
"... I'll return the favour."
Silja sat tight-lipped in the passenger seat of Joe's van. She could see Joe's knuckles showing white even against his pallid skin.
She listened to him breathing through his nose, it was slow, regular, but through his nose, audible above the rumble of the van and the odd crashed gear change.
Silja rubbed at the chafing left on her wrists by several applications of handcuffs. She was not looking forward to arriving at Chez- Spivey, not one bit.
Inspector Crabbe hurriedly hid the large whisky in his desk drawer when there was a tapping on his office door.
Pity, he had needed that whisky badly after Joe left and had had only one sip which was not enough to settle his nerves.
It was Kopkage. "What's with letting the girl go, Boss?"
Crabbe bristled. "Bailed! Not freed." At least he still had authority over his squad, it made him feel better. "Sit!"
Crabbe was feeling the downside of playing both ends against the middle. He knew that taking The Ranyhyn shilling was not necessarily a good idea.
Joe was right, Dwight Frye could be very scary, Crabbe could not trust him. Not that he could trust Joe, but at least Joe was honest, in his own way.
Joe was old school and everything was on a 'quid-pro-quo' basis that he understood. Yes, Joe had the muscle that could piss on anyone's parade, but at least you would see it coming.
He was not as convinced that Frye or Miss damned Hanne Berg would be so predictable. Maybe it would be better for him if she did 'join the choir invisible'.
Crabbe shook that thought out of his mind.
"Boss?" Kopkage brought Crabbe back to the here and now.
"Bail." Crabbe sat forward "We need more on her if we are going to make this stick. The girl is our only lead, and our only witness is Mr Frye."
"Maybe we bring Frye in. Maybe he was the shooter." Kopkage offered helpfully.
Crabbe shuddered at the mere mention of that possibility. "Don't be stupid! It's got to be the girl; I am sure of it. We just need more proof."
Crabbe's rheumy eyes settle on Kopkage. "Go over and talk to Frye, check his statement and see if he can add anything, especially about this cat-fight. Ask around some more. Witnesses. Anyone!"
"Anyone?" Kopkage's voice held a slight tone of caution which Crabbe caught on to. Crabbe raises his hands slightly. Kopkage knew what that meant.
Anyone except known close associates of Joe Spivey Esq. Kopkage nodded.
Putting two bricks together, he understood why Crabbe was: one, looking uncomfortable, and two, insisting on a certain level of discretion.
Kopkage knew Crabbe was on the take, a morsel he kept to himself. Despite everything, Kopkage was loyal to his boss. Kop looked at his rather large wristwatch, then at Crabbe.
"I'll see what I can do."