In his office, small, drab, a room far away, a room getting farther away all the time, a phone rings. It rings for no one.
The detective enters the photographer’s studio just past 10PM, just past the meeting time. It’s dark. Streetlight falls through the tall windows and illuminates shards of wall, floor, desk, a row of modest chairs. Everything is scrubbed white and polished chrome, but all jumbled in the darkness, confused, a scene with the vowels taken out. The door clicks shut behind him. It’s very quiet. He can hear his shoe on the tile. He can hear the blood in his veins. “Hello?” There’s no answer. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around. He steps forward, feels uncertain.
The photographer was supposed to meet him here. He had said he had something important to tell him. Something he couldn’t say on the phone. Something that would blow the case wide open. There was something the detective hadn’t seen, something that would change everything. The photographer had seen it. The photographer knew it. “Meet me at 10 o’clock,” he had said. That was all he said, a least according to his secretary. When the photographer had called, he had been out. She had relayed the message to him. Maybe she had forgotten something, had gotten a detail wrong. But she’d never let him down before.
He didn’t know the photographer well. He had only met him twice. A man with a quick wit and a nervous twitch. On their second meeting, the detective had asked him, “Do you know anything about this?” The photographer had replied, “I’m just a picture snatcher.”
The detective had come alone in a car that did not belong to him, driving on side streets through discreet neighborhoods. The police are looking for him. He had put a kid in the hospital, trying to shake what he needed out of him. Put him in the hospital, but hadn’t shaken hard enough. If he could figure it all out they’d pin a medal on him. If he couldn’t, they’d pin whatever could be made to stick. They’d drop him in a hole and seal the cover shut. They’d be glad for the excuse.