Major Crimes Unit took over and I spent majority of the day with Briers answering any question Gordon's top crew came up with.
This meant spending far too many hours in same space with Briers.
Up to this moment in life I had in my silent moments been ashamed by the fact the stench of burnt up human flesh brought broiled chicken to my mind.
Not something that comes out in any other conversation except those in a therapists office.
Or outside Arkham.
Until detective Brier decided to confide and tell how arson victims cause him to crave for kebab.
It wasn't a dark bitter joke unless one considers his life as such.
Worst was that this actually meant something to Briers. That we were almost friends. That after nine grueling hours at the crime scene and at police headquarters we bonded.
Under flourescent light in hallway right next to men's room you hear how charred people make someone you know from years back to desire fastfood.
I had no idea to which of us I felt more sorry, myself or Tom.
MCU had ID'd the victim from dentals, Dr. Patrick Peltway, and concluded that yes it was an arson homicide.
There was no immediate clear perp. Everyone was afraid that the trail might grow colder faster than it took the ashes of the penthouse to cool off.
And while they co-operated I got the full textbook ”ongoing investigation makes it impossible to reveal jadajadajada something something” speech.
I was almost on my way back home with copies when Briers caught me up.
”Crowne, sent some love your way”
I must have had something wrong with my hearing.
He smiled. There was no way this was anything good.
”But really...Crowne..” he was sombre”You know...the corner of Lark and Mahnke”
”Yeah, you too Briers. The corner of Lark and Mahnke.”
I turned and walked away. It was good to know I had any friends on the force.
I took the bus home. As I live just about the exactly opposite side of Gotham from police HQ it takes a long time to get there. But it gave me ample opportunity to go through the files.
Public transport in Gotham has undeserved bad reputation. Gangs and petty crooks mostly know better than to cause trouble. During the 28 years I've lived here there has been just two threats of bodily harm while in a bus. In fifth grade Lem Stone tried to bully my lunchmoney to impress his friends and Sally Rothchild and a few years back two junkie mooks wanted my laptop.
Lem got his nose broken, I got suspended from school for two weeks and on to the first and second base with Sally. The junkies took the next stop once figuring out that my colt .45 auto most likely beats their switchblades.
There was just one big problem taking the bus, but if I was lucky it wasn't for the next few stops at least.
My own pics and those of GCPD made it sure the fire was intentional. Unknown powerful rapid accelarant had burst the main living space into an utter inferno within fractions of a second. As the autopsy hadn't yet been performed it was unclear whether Patrick Donald Peltway had burned alive or died instantly from concussive trauma caused by force of the blast. And behind door number three was everyones favorite: suffocated to death as the air burned out.
Victims file was short.
Patrick Donald Peltway, male, caucasian 49 years old. Married with Nora Jean Peltway, 35. No children, no siblings. Parents dead. No criminal record, one parking ticket.
No known criminal contacts.
But there was an obvious catch.
The man was loaded.
He was full partner in Lee,Cho &Hughes, one of biggest clinics of Gotham's boom industry: cosmetic surgery.
Now cosmetic surgery isn't first thing people think when you say Gotham city, but it is quite logical once you think about it. We have our rich and famous people here. You honestly thought that all those socialites and models throwing their selves at Bruce Wayne and his ilk just have good genes and slap on some maybelline?
And since this place has extremely high freak per capita that has it's own fallout too. The top guys have been flown in by Wayne to work on Two-face's ugly mug. And his victims. And those of others.
Most gothamites live ordinary life, minding their own business and every once in while you go out on an evening to seven-eleven to buy few rolls of toiletpaper, few beers and detergent you bump into homely overweight mother of two. And scream like a little girl once you see her face twisted into a permanent sickening grin and hear her wheezing breathing....yeah there are survivors of Joker's laughing gas attacks but they or their life aren't the same.
This makes Peltway and his collagues very rich professionals indeed. And as an added bonus their line of work appeals also to those criminal elements who want a new start.
I get pulled out of my thoughts as the worst thing that can happen in Gotham's public transport happens: the doors open and endless hordes of japanese tourists fresh out of connection to Giardino airport pack in with their cameras and videocameras. They chatter and shriek and chant while constantly taking pictures. I swear there are more pictures of Gotham's stark steel skies and drab rooftops in japanese harddrives and polaroids then there probably is actual sky in Gotham itself.
One of them looks at me, nods politely, smiles with all his pearlies, shows me thumbs up and declares ”kohhh-moh-lee” and coyly returns back taking snapshots of skyline through the window.
As they excitedly run to the other side of bus yelping either that or the other japanese word every gothamite knows I try to delve deeper into the files.
But to no avail. The japanese just keep on going.
”Kohh-moh-lee! Kohh-moh-lee! Bat-to! Bat-to!”
Yeah. Right. Welcome to Batcity.
I step off at Miles O'Hara square and walk last couple blocks to home. People who know Gotham tend to jump a bit when you tell them you live on Park Row.
”Crime alley? Isn't there like a firefight every night?”
Those people never come down here. Sure, loads of no-good junkies, pimps and gangbangers and they like to flash their stupidity and proneness to violence. But most folks here are just hardworking average joes and janes. Bluecollar people providing food, services and construction to those better off.
I make a shortcut via Breyfogle street and get inside my building.
In the downstairs lobby there's beatup sofa that almost disappears underneath Big Mattie.
Mattie used to play defense in Gotham raiders before he became ”personal safety coach”. Both me and Stu call him a bodyguard but not to his face.
”tha man wit' tha Crown. You have a visitor”
Mattie's steakpans, that he for some reason calls hands, formed vintage coke bottle shape into air in front of him.
”Oh please, not one of Stu's groupies again?”
There is one significant problem living next-door neighbour to a successful Gotham city glamrocker. While vicinity of Park row cuts down the paparazzi(and Big Mattie folds the rest)it's that once you make friends with the guy and he gets into his onetrack mind that his buddy needs to get laid more consequences arent as fun as one might imagine.
”uh-huh, no not this time. And hey, be honest: what was wrong with Stacy bro? Huh?”
”Not funny Mat, not funny at all”
I climb the stairs up.
”mr. Crowne you have a lady friend waiting for you” Mrs. Majarowzski croons out. Most tenants believe the super needs to repaint second floor thrice a year solely on account of Mrs. Majarowzski's voice.
”I know mrs Majarowzski, I know.Thank you”
I had hoped to pass with just that. No such luck.
”She looks decent and smart” the piercing howl strikes my back and sends nasty shivers along my spine ” not like those usual floozies of his”
last word sends some phglem to accompany spite and yet manages to raise my interest on my visitor.
I live on the third floor. She waited by my door.
The mystery woman lived up to promises. Shoulder lenght auburn-tinted hair popped her face out. Quite striking and beautiful but not in the conventional way, high cheekbones and dark eyes make you notice her nose. It's hawkish and quite prominent in oddly appealing manner. She carries herself well. Not an athlete but in good shape. Smart off-the-rack navy blue jersey blazer with matching pencil skirt and a white blouse state business.
They also hug her figure so that most will never notice low-cut hiking boots or the surplus military parka flung over her arm.
A whole another set of business there.
”Hello mr Crowne.My name is Dolores Grange”
”Nice for you, something I can help you with?”
Brief smile flickers at her lips, the kind that has ability to cloud men's minds. And quite likely some women's too.
”I sure hope so mr. Crowne I'd like to talk about your case and do an article about it for the Gotham gazette”
Dry laughter escaped from me before regained my composure. I will kill Briers.
”look lady it's a police investigation and my line of work...”
”I have checked it with your employers at GFL and signed an NDA with Eliza Patterson”
Why did life hate me?
”Just wait” I told her and fumbled out my mobile.
Eliza answered on the second ring
”had a feeling you might call me”
”Seriously, a reporter?”
”She agreed to the NDA and her editor talked with Phil. They see it as a way to get good publicity for us for once.”
Eliza must have heard my sigh
”I tried explaining we are talking about you”
”Gee, thanks Liz”
”You are welcome. And oh by the way” there was shuffling of papers ” she is 29,single, graduated from Star City University and has done out of seas work for Daily Planet, covered the elections in Corto Maltese, uprising in Bialya and did a series about Qurac.”
Great , nothing like a warchaser.
”so basicly that's her in a nutshell. Sent the same to your e-mail but you haven't read it have you?”
”No” she knew me far too well
”Basicly she is smart and esteemed writer. Please T, make an effort. I'll get you bonus for it ok?”
”Ok Liz, I'll try”
Dolores flashed that man-eating confident smile of hers as I hung up.
”maybe” I said looking for my keys” but only if lady of my life agrees on it.”
I started to open the door. It might get ugly. She wouldn't be the first woman Trudy chews up.