Legacy – 4
A gentle knocking drew his eyes up from the paperwork that covered his desk.
Ballard leaned from behind the frame, his waxy face making an attempt at a smile. It didn’t work. He was repulsive, both physically and personally, and Alder wondered if the man had ever managed a genuine expression in his whole life.
“Got a minute?”
Alder looked back down at the mess in front of him and gently tossed his pen on it.
“Sure, Jim.” he replied, “What’s up?”
“Well,” he said, slithering through the door like a human snake, “I’m having some trouble with the case, and I’m hoping I can pick your brain.”
The case, thought Alder, as if there was only one.
“What exactly do you think I can do to help?”
“Well…”, Ballard began, but his smirk was just too much to take. He looked like a fly rubbing its forelegs together in anticipation of digging in to its favorite fare.
“Cut the shit. Just cut the shit and say it.”
“Say it? Say what? Bob, I just…”
“You just have nothing. You have no clues, you have no leads, and now you’re turning back on me. It’s what any amatuer sleuth would do.”
“Why did you get the note, Bob?” Ballard all but yelled, not liking the comparison, “Why did the killer leave it on your car?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you do. I think you know more about this than you’re saying.”
“I don’t care what you think.” At the words, Ballard recoiled as though slapped. He buckled down and leaned forward, trying to tighten the screws.
“Well, maybe you better care. And maybe you’d better take this opportunity to tell me anything you know, because…”
“So you got a search warrant?”
“What?! Who told you about it?”
“No one. Jim, I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but I’m a detective. And I’ve been one since before you even had pimples to play with. You think I haven’t noticed the looks I’ve been getting around here? You think I don’t know what’s going on? You’re under pressure to find someone, anyone. And you’re going to try to lay this on me.”
Ballard’s face became even more disgusting as the blood drained from it. He almost seemed like he was about to cry.
“I believe you know something about it, and I’m going to find out.” he spat, and practically ran for the door. Alder rose and followed him. He saw the other cops quickly turn away or drop their eyes and pretend to be busy. To the retreating Ballard he called out.
“I’ll say it again. I don’t care what you believe. I don’t care what you think and I don’t care how you feel. And if you were half the detective you thought you were, you wouldn’t either.”
As his eyes passed over the others, he had to admit that it hurt. These men and women had been like family a month before. They had respected and admired him, but now they were hungry to see how far he would fall. How quickly they had changed with nothing more than a suggestion.
He wondered if they could ever look at him the way they had before but then decided that it didn’t matter.
He would never see them the same.
Story by Joe Stanley