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My mother told me they found his body in a dumpster surrounded by moldy food containers and large pieces of partially rotted wood. I tried to care — for her sake and maybe for mine— but I hated him with the kind of deeply felt painful hatred that almost always springs from the gap between what you expected and what you got. My father left when I was 3 and my grandfather had been the male pattern emotional baldness that I learned from and emulated for much of my formative years. He had been crassly wealthy and he used the power of his wealth to persuade with velvet-free iron fists. The fact that he had been found in arguably the most destitute section of town among garbage was, to my mind, only fitting. The problem for me was that, professionally, I had to figure out what happened even if my relationship with him precluded that I actually own the case.
And I had my own problems. I had just been passed over — the second time — for my transfer into the law school Journey Slot. Although I was not bothered since I knew I would get there eventually, my wife understood why I had missed the opportunity and was understandably angry with me. My mother was disappointed, but did not think much about it (which was her general approach to life) until my grandfather helped her see what was not there. He always did.
He convinced my mother that bias against the wealthy was the cause of my trouble, and he told her he had set his sights on making serious trouble for both those on the Journey Board who made the decision and on the kid who was placed ahead of me. Right after she told me of his death, my mother told me that he had set in place the most bizarre machinery to make the lives of all involved seriously miserable.
I did not want the investigation to go in that direction given that my family’s life would become the subject of break room gossip and nastiness-in-the-guise-of-friendly-ribbing in the halls, but the fact that gramps was deeply creative when he wanted to sow misery and had a will as strong as the tentacles of the mechanical jaws of life when he made up his mind, I knew that I had to tell the team what he had been up to. I texted the lieutenant.
“WHAT” he text-shouted.
“I know stuff you need to know”
“No joke — we need to talk.”
“You know where I am.”
And, in fact I did.
I parked the car around the corner from the women’s shelter and walked down the street to the alley that ran behind the shell of the building that had been torched a few weeks ago.
I saw the lieutenant barking orders as if he knew what he was doing even though he was too new to the job to possibly get it right and his personality made it impossible for anyone to actually want to share anything with him that would help him ever get it right. I saw Max approach him and he appeared to intentionally shrink about two inches while dropping his gaze and slowing his gait.
“I think we need your help over here lieutenant. The brass need an update and they want you and only you to be dealing with the press.”
Max handed the lieutenant his phone and the lieutenant handed it back in a few minutes suggesting to Max that although things would probably fall apart without his direction, he was going to have to do what he was told. Max kept his hang-dog posture and nodded sympathetically. The lieutenant disappeared behind the building and Max regained his normal posture and appearance. Then he saw me and began to laugh.
“Ain’t life a bitch? What are you doing here?”
“I called the lieutenant — but it really is you I need to talk to.”
“Walk and talk then…”
Max and I go back a way since we graduated from the same high school and set out on the same Journey Path. His family was as poor as mine was rich. We both had summer jobs working first in our local police station and then for the prison reentry program. We both went to the state university and graduated with the new arts and sciences milestone works degree. My minors were logic and chemistry while his were sociology and psychology. We both went to the police academy, but that is where we began to diverge. I wanted to go into the military before I entered the police force because I wanted to become involved in the “critical issues” task forces. That journey would take me through the military (including some time in spook school), through the police ranks and then to law school (into the legal rights track) so I would have some serious grounding in how to convict crazy fucks without making all of us crazy fucks.
Max and I met up again when I came back to do my stint as a police officer. I liked the work. Too much, according to my wife, who I think might have married me at least partially because she could see that we would be in the fast set when I made it to the plateau I had in my sights. She did not take kindly to my slowing my progress. Max not only slowed his progress, he stopped it. He loved being a detective. He was an amazing detective. He understood that criminals did some heinous stuff, but he refused to hate them as people. He simply wanted to make sure that they would not be in the position that would make it likely they would do nasty stuff again. He could think like them and so he was usually able to see where they would slip up. Max was perfect on the plateau he had chosen, and everyone both knew it and rewarded him financially for it — again through the Journey Program.
Things had really changed since that was enacted 40 years ago. I think my grandfather was one of the shrinking group of people who had fought against it when it was under discussion and continued to wage his own private war against it for years. The wealthy had been split on their support: the older wealthy were against but the younger wealthy had a majority favoring it. Gramps was old in almost every way: old money (and lots of it), old grudges, and old ways of making people pay. In one respect, he was in touch with the new: he hated the Journey Program and everyone and every thing connected with it. It was a rebuke to who he was and a threat to what he could do. Gramps was in touch with the new — but in an old, maybe even ancient way. That could have become the engine of his death, although truthfully, there was a long waiting list of those who would have lit the match on his funeral pyre and a considerable list of those who would have tied him to the post and positioned the oil-soaked wood for maximum effect. There was not going to be a problem getting a reasonable suspect list to interview.
“You know that is my grandfather, right?”
“I know. I was going to call you after things calmed down a bit.”
“You have a suspect list yet?”
“Unless you get clearance for the case, I can’t talk about it — you know that.”
“Unless you help me get clearance you are going to spend a whole lot of unnecessary time and probably get it wrong to boot.”
“Give me a reason that I can float.”
“I can give you at least part of the truth and then we can both try to think of a reason.”
“Gramps was pissed off that I didn’t get the law school Journey Slot. He was never one to think that fairness was a virtue. I know he knew that I did not bother to finish all of my job levels here, but he was old school: if you have the connections and the paper scores, you should be in. He was also one nasty bastard and would not be content until he exacted some pain for the slight.”
“He might have been a pain in the ass, but what could he actually have done other than write nasty letters. I don’t think anyone would be mad enough to off him because of some letters.”
“I don’t know the extent of it, but Mom told me he had plans. He did not share too many details, but Mom knew when he was serious. She thinks that his illness might have progressed and he felt under some time pressure.”
“Can I talk to her?”
“She loved you, so I know it would be ok with her, but I don’t know whether or not it is ok with me. I am sure that she would have told me if she knew anything that would have ended up getting someone irreparably hurt, but she is not programmed to turn her father in unless it was to save me or save a life. That assurance might not be good enough to keep her out of trouble with the law. You cannot hear stuff from her that could put her in jeopardy without in fact putting her in jeopardy. How about I interview her and then tell you what I know. I will instruct her to lawyer up with a bevy of those still on the family payroll otherwise.”
“Such a deal. OK. Get on it though, this is a slow news cycle and the lieutenant has had a fight with his wife.”
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