TWENTY-SIX

Sunday morning. Doyle is wending his way to work again. The traffic is light, and it’s going to be another beautiful spring day. It feels to Doyle as though the fingers of sunlight reaching to him through his windshield should be accompanied by a heavenly choir. He wonders if he’s being told he should be driving to church instead. To seek some forgiveness. To discover if, even at this late stage, there’s any hope of salvation for him.

Waiting at a stop signal, he glances at the voice recorder sitting on the passenger seat next to him. It also seems to be sending him messages. Trying to entice him. As if it’s saying, Go on, you know you want to. Falling prey to temptation he picks it up and switches it on. And that’s why I don’t go to church anymore, he thinks. The priests always said I was weak. But why the hell not? What’ve I got to lose? Might as well hear what the Lieutenant’s about to hear before he tosses my ass in the slammer and swallows the key.

The music first. Something modern. Doyle knows this song. He’s not good on titles, but the band playing this one sings it time and time again.

Why does it always rain on me?

First clue? Has to be. But it means nothing to Doyle.

Then the killer’s voice breaks in. That damn silky voice that will haunt Doyle forever.

‘Certainly raining a lot on you lately, huh, Cal? If it carries on like this, you’ll need to get yourself a hat. Protect that brain. It’s the only thing that’s going to get you out of this mess.’

The caller pauses for a moment, raising the music’s volume and then lowering it before he speaks again.

Sonofabitch thinks he’s a damn DJ now.

‘I don’t want you making any mistakes on this one, Cal. You don’t have a good record so far. It must be breaking you up inside. How do you cope with that? All those mistakes? It must affect your behavior, your relationships. Maybe I should ask your wife. She of all people must sense something is wrong.’

He pauses again while he gives Doyle another blast of the song.

‘What’s the matter, buddy? Nothing you want to say to me? I understand. You must have a lot on your mind right now. As if all these people dying wasn’t enough. You’ve got the distractions too, right? All that small stuff that just gets in the way. The little irritations that you could do without. It’s all raining down on you, right, Cal?’

The chorus once more. Repeating the title: Why does it always rain on me?

‘It’s okay. You don’t need to say anything. Save your energy for what’s to come. Just remember that I’m here to help when you need me. Speak to you soon, my friend. Oh, and by the way, you have until eight o’clock tonight. Eight p.m. Get it right this time, Cal. I’m rooting for you, buddy.’

The call ends then. Doyle shuts off the recorder. What the hell was that all about? There were clues in there? Rain? What fucking rain?

It angers him that he cannot read anything of value into what he’s just heard. Is he really that stupid? Granted, he’s no chess grandmaster, but can’t he at least do something with what he’s just been given?

Fuck it.

Why am I stressing over this, anyhow? Makes no difference. Not my problem anymore. Let the PD figure it out. Let them decide what to do with me, too.

When he gets to the squadroom, he keeps his hands in his pockets, turning the voice recorder over and over. His mouth is dry. He tries licking his lips, but his tongue rasps on the parched skin. Through the windows looking into the Lieutenant’s office, there is no sign of Cesario.

Doyle turns to LeBlanc, who is biting into a soggy egg and bacon muffin. ‘The boss not in yet?’

LeBlanc wipes yolk from his mouth with a napkin. ‘He’s at the Big House for a meeting. Could be there for a coupla hours.’

Doyle nods his thanks and moves to his desk. Great, he thinks. It’s like pissing your pants and then being told you have to sit in them for the rest of the day.

He does some paperwork, makes some phone calls, answers a few more calls, but he feels he may as well not be there for all the impact he’s making. If all the cops were as absent from the planet as he is today, the crooks could go wild.

At just after ten-fifteen his desk-phone rings again. What is it with you people? Don’t you know it’s a Sunday? A day of rest, folks. Go cut your lawns or visit your aged aunts or jog around the park. Just stop bothering me when I’m on the verge of jumping off the cliff that was my life.

He answers it anyway. Reels off the usual, ‘Eighth Precinct. Detective Doyle.’

‘Detective Doyle? It’s Mrs Sachs here. I hope you don’t mind my bothering you like this, it being a Sunday morning and all.’

Out of the corner of his eye, Doyle catches sight of Lieutenant Cesario entering the room and moving across to his office. He feels his heart start to knock on his rib cage as if to say, You’re on, Doyle. Time for your swan song.

All he needs to do now is get rid of Mrs Sachs.

‘Hello, Mrs Sachs. How are you today?’

‘How am I? I don’t know how I am. I’m either deliriously happy or crushingly disappointed. What should I be, Detective? Tell me how I should feel.’

Doyle watches Cesario take his coat off and sit in his chair. He for one doesn’t look overjoyed. Doyle wonders if he’s getting heat from upstairs over the roommate murders. Well, Lou, maybe I can help you out on that score.

‘I’m sorry, Mrs Sachs. I don’t understand what it is you’re asking me.’

‘Well, you spoke with Mr Repp, didn’t you?’

Doyle recalls his visit to Repp, and it almost causes him to smile.

‘Yes, I spoke with him.’

‘Then I guess what he said to me yesterday must be with your permission. So I should be happy, am I right?’

‘Mrs Sachs, what did Repp say to you, exactly?’

‘That my Patricia is willing to come home. That she’s in some financial trouble, and that if I’m willing to provide the money for her to pay off her bills, she will come back home to me. That’s what he told me, and that’s what I would love to believe. Only. .’

Her voice cuts off, and Doyle is convinced she is choking back a tear. It’s what she would love to believe. But deep down, she knows she is being fleeced. She knows her daughter is dead.

‘Mrs Sachs, can I assume from what you’ve just said that Repp is willing to act as the courier here? That he is offering to take the cash to your daughter and then bring her back?’

‘Yes. That’s what he told me.’

‘And how much money did he say your daughter owes?’

‘Just over four hundred thousand dollars. It’s not the money. The money I can raise. But. .’

Son of a bitch, thinks Doyle. You wouldn’t listen, would you, Repp? I gave you fair warning, but you wouldn’t listen. You’re still gonna take the old lady’s money and then you’re gonna disappear. Well, we’ll see about that.

‘Mrs Sachs, let me look into this, okay? Give me some time to check it out. Meanwhile, keep tight hold of your money. Don’t give Repp a penny till I clear it. Okay?’

‘All right. Yes. Thank you. I’ll wait, but. . I don’t want to lose her, Detective. If she really is willing to come home. .’

‘Just give me until tomorrow, please. One more day to check this story out. Your daughter has been gone since 2001. One more day isn’t going to make a difference.’

There’s a pause, and then: ‘You’re right. I can wait another day. When you’re my age, the days fly past like they’re minutes. I’ll wait. Thank you, Detective. You’ve been good to me.’

‘Goodbye, Mrs Sachs.’

He almost slams the phone down. What the hell does Repp think he’s playing at? Does he think this is a game? Does he think he can just ignore what I said and carry on doing things his way? What a shit. What a lousy, stinking. .

What am I doing?

Why am I getting so caught up in this? Five minutes from now I won’t even be a cop. Repp will be in somebody else’s caseload. Why am I letting him get to me like this?

Why? Because I care, that’s why. I care about people like Mrs Sachs and all the other victims who deserve to have somebody on their side, fighting their corner. It’s why I became a cop.

And that’s what I’ll miss. See, I was wrong. When I sat here complaining about working the small cases instead of the high-profile ones, I had it all wrong. It’s the Mrs Sachses of this world that make the job worthwhile.

And I’m gonna throw it all away.

Doyle looks again into Cesario’s office. This is one of the hardest decisions he’s ever had to make, but he knows he can’t back out now.

He gets up from his desk. Slips his hand into his pocket and grasps the digital recorder. Starts dragging leaden feet toward the Lieutenant’s room.

In the scheme of things, with all these corpses piling up around him, Mrs Sachs’s problems are peanuts. Yes, he’d happily smash Repp’s face in right now if he had the chance, but let’s get things in perspective. People are dying and will continue to die if nothing is done. On that scale, Repp is way down the list. He’s an irrelevance. An irritant. A. .

Doyle stops in his tracks.

What was it the caller said on the phone?

As if all these people dying wasn’t enough. You’ve got the distractions too, right? All that small stuff that just gets in the way. The little irritations that you could do without. It’s all raining down on you, right, Cal?

Doyle stands there in the middle of the squadroom, his eyes darting but seeing nothing as he replays the phone call in his mind.

Shit!

He looks up. He sees Cesario raise his head and catch sight of him, then give him a look of inquiry.

Doyle feels himself being tugged toward Cesario’s office. He takes a step forward.

And before he can stop himself he is spinning on his heels and heading out of the squadroom. He looks straight ahead, blinkered to the other detectives. He marches out into the hallway and then down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Taking them so fast he runs the danger of tripping and sending himself hurtling through the air. But he’s oblivious to the risk. He just needs to know. He needs to find out.

He breezes past the sergeant’s desk, through the wooden front doors and out onto the sidewalk. He takes out his cellphone and speed-dials a number.

A single question burns in his mind. To anyone else it would sound trivial, but to Doyle it’s the most important question in the world. And he knows who will have the answer.

‘Hello?’

‘Hi, hon, it’s me.’ He tries to sound casual, to keep the tremor of urgency out of his voice.

‘Cal, what’s wrong?’

So much for not panicking his wife.

‘Nothing’s wrong. I just need to speak with you.’

‘You’re okay? I mean, the way you were talking last night-’

‘Forget about that. A touch of the blues, that’s all. Today’s another day.’

‘Okay, so good. I’m glad. Because you had me worried.’

‘I know. Forget about it. Seriously.’

‘Okay. So, then, why the call?’

Any other husband might be irritated by the question, the tone of suspicion. But then other husbands probably call home more often than Doyle does. He admits he has only himself to blame. When he has his work head on, home and family tend to get pushed out. It has caused friction between him and Rachel before, and he has promised her that he will try harder. This should be one of those calls, making up for his failings in the past. Unfortunately it isn’t.

‘Well, this is gonna sound kinda weird. But things are pretty quiet down here today and, well, we’re doing a quiz.’

‘A quiz? You’re doing a quiz? In the station house? Things are so slow that you have time to do a quiz? All the criminals in your precinct have decided to take the day off?’

‘Yeah. And I got this question. If we get this right, our team wins.’

‘Callum Doyle! Are you expecting me to help you cheat?’

‘One team point. That’s all we need. And it all rides on this question. Please, hon. You gotta help me out here.’

He hears a sigh, but he knows she can’t resist quiz questions. ‘Shoot.’

‘It’s a music question, okay? Britpop, I think, so right up your street. I recorded a few seconds of it. Ready?’

‘Go ahead.’

He takes out the digital recorder and holds it in front of the phone. He presses the play button. The music comes across loud and clear. Just before the killer’s voice breaks in, Doyle shuts it off and puts the phone back to his ear.

‘Did you hear that?’

‘Yeah. “Why does it always rain on me?” The title’s in the lyrics, Cal.’

‘I know, I know. But I can’t remember who sang it. I need to know the band.’

‘That’s easy,’ she says. And she tells him. Goes on to say, ‘Ask me another.’ But he’s not listening. She said what he thought she would say. What he hoped she would say.

It’s from an album called ‘The Man Who’.

The band’s name is Travis.

The person who is supposed to die at eight o’clock this evening is Travis Repp.

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