It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to post a Friday Flash story. It’s my birthday tomorrow (April 17th) so I thought I’d use that as an excuse to do one. I hope you like it. It’s a little sci-fi detective thing, with a touch of noir.
Death of a Taxi Driver
by Alan Baxter
Inspector Grey squinted up into a cold, gusting rain. He pulled the collar of his heavy coat tighter, shivering. The last cup of lukewarm coffee he had managed to grab before leaving the station was doing little to warm him. He trudged across the shiny road towards a dented Chrysler AT47 Hovercar, wedged at an obtuse angle between lamppost, wall and kerb. A standard city taxi, like dozens of others flitting back and forth, up and down. The triangular sign on its roof was cracked, dark. The passenger door hung open.
A young officer stood by the wreck, his shoulders hunched, cap pressed tightly down on his forehead. He nodded as Grey approached. Grey nodded back. ‘So what am I doing here, kid? Some bozo wrecking his cab hardly warrants my attention.’
The young officer smiled tightly, pointed to the driver’s door. Grey bent to look in. The driver’s face was pale, shock frozen in his features. Or surprise? He wore a bright white T-shirt, with a dark scarlet stain spreading below his left shoulder, an obvious puncture wound in the centre. Pretty accurate targeting of the heart. But what with?
Grey looked past the driver at the toughened security screen that surrounded his seat, floor to ceiling plastic bubble. There were scratch marks on it, a few tears in the ceiling fabric, scuff marks on the dash. Right at the level of the driver’s elbow was smear in the toughened plastic, like it had melted and run, about two inches wide. ‘Got a crowbar?’
The kid nodded and walked away. When he returned Grey simply pointed at the driver’s door. The kid, with considerable effort, popped it open.
Grey reached inside his coat, rooting around for a pen. He leaned inside the car, past the driver, used the pen to gently probe the melted plastic. It was soft, thick, viscous in the middle. His pen was slightly melted when he pulled it away. ‘Forensics on their way?’
The young officer nodded. ‘Should be here any minute.’
Grey pointed at the rippled teardrop in the security screen. ‘Have them analyse that first. It’ll be some kind of acid.’
The kid leaned in for a closer look. ‘No problem.’
Grey stuffed his hands deep into his pockets, shaking his head slightly, rain flicking from his tousled hair. ‘Anything else I should know about?’
‘No, sir. We didn’t touch a thing yet. Just waiting for you and the lab boys.’
Typical street cop, new on the force, scared by all the horror stories. Find something a little out of the ordinary and immediately call in a higher ranking officer, a different division. There were an infinite number of deaths and injuries awaiting every soul in this overloaded, degenerating city. Anything a person could do to avoid bumping into one was a constant priority. Grey rummaged in his voluminous coat again, pulled out a flashlight, laser pointer one end, regular torch the other. Flicking his thumb over a small stud he let his eyes follow the bright beam into the driver’s lap, punching away the shadows.
The driver wore faded blue jeans, his limp left hand rested on his ample thigh. Grey let the beam wander down into the floor pan, sneakered feet among steely grey pedals. Something flashed dully, catching his eye. ‘Got an evidence bag?’ he asked, not looking around.
A polythene grip-top bag appeared over his left shoulder. Grey put his hand inside, pulled it on like a glove. He reached down and picked up the object from the floor of the car, pulling the bag back the right way, the item, untouched, now inside. He stepped back from the car for a look at it just as the forensic team arrived. He heard the young officer pointing out the acid mark to them as he watched his evidence bag gently reflect the street light. Rivulets chased each other across its plastic surface as the rain blew past.
‘They’re checking that mark now, sir. What the hell is that?’
Grey smiled inwardly, but his face was far too out of practice to follow suit. How quickly times change. ‘It’s a firearm, kid. Only it fires little lead projectiles, forced out at great velocity by an explosion caused by a chemical reaction in the barrel.’
The young cop looked closely for a second, wiping rain from his eyes. ‘Really? That’s an old gun? I’ve never seen a real one before.’
Grey didn’t bother to answer that. He simply said, ‘It’s an antique. Probably a family heirloom.’
‘Hey, Grey.’ The forensics officer, Derkins on his nametag, handed over a data chip. ‘It’s acid all right. Pretty powerful stuff too.’
Grey nodded. ‘Thanks. You’ll find he died of a projectile wound to the heart.’
Derkins looked at the bag in Grey’s hand. ‘From that?’ His voice betrayed his uncertainty.
‘Yeah. From this.’
The young cop called out as Grey headed back to his own car. ‘Hey, is that it?’ He looked lost and forlorn through the haze of rain.
Grey paused, half turned around. ‘Yeah, that’s it. Your taxi driver has a fare that tries to melt through the security screen with acid to rob him. So he pulls out the family heirloom, thinking he’s going to defend himself. Trouble is, he doesn’t understand an old weapon drawback – ricochet. Look it up in the dictionary. That security screen was tougher than he thought it was.’ He lobbed the evidence bag containing the old revolver to the young cop, who caught it awkwardly, like it might explode in his face. ‘You may as well file the report too, kid.’