A Hotdog And A Handshake
A Hotdog And A Handshake
Chief Inspector Chase McLeay slammed on the brakes of his newly bought sedan, bringing it to halt inches away from the porch of his bungalow. Turning off the ignition, he put the car key in his shirt pocket and carefully slid out of the driver’s seat. Taking out a bunch of keys from the same pocket, he made his way to the front door, climbing the small set of stairs two at a time. Before he could insert the key into the interlock though, his hand stopped, almost instinctively.
Something did not feel right.
Although there was nothing to indicate the presence of another soul in the vicinity, McLeay’s gut told him otherwise. Perhaps he was just being paranoid. But a healthy dose of paranoia is what had helped Chief Inspector Chase McLeay stay alive for so long in this dangerous profession, and he knew better than to simply shrug it away.
His first instincts were to take his service pistol out of the holster and barge into the house, and he might have done the same if he was a tad younger and a bit fitter. But now, with two years shy of retirement and a beer belly that was threatening to break the shackles of his shirt, he had no option but to take a more cautious approach of infiltration.
McLeay tiptoed his way to the back of the house and at once, his brown eyes darted to the only object that stuck out like a sore thumb in the greenery of the backyard – a familiar-looking motorcycle with a familiar-looking number plate. Even though this could potentially mean that his façade was up, he couldn’t help but smile at the sight.
The protégé had turned out to be a prodigy, he thought to himself as he made his way back to the main door. He opened the holster attached to his belt and wrapped his fingers around the cold, metallic frame of the Beretta, contemplating whether or not to take out the pistol. Eventually, though, he decided against it. If he played this game right, he would not need it. He had already shed enough blood as it was; he didn’t want any more unnecessary complications.
But if Murphy from the eponymous law showed up, as he had made a habit of, this could very well be the end of his career and reputation, and quite possibly, his life.
With these thoughts in mind, Chief Inspector Chase McLeay took a deep breath and inserted the key in the interlock’s cavity.
“Come on, come on, come on,” I begged the safe, trying my best to crack it open before the owner of the house came back. But none of my police training was of any help. And why would it be? After all, the safe was installed by the man who oversaw our training at the camp and had evidently put all the necessary countermeasures.
Before trying my luck at the safe, I had ransacked the entire bungalow to find evidence that I hoped did not exist. I hoped that the crime I was about to accuse my mentor of committing was all in my head. But as I began accumulating the pieces of the puzzle, it became clear that the death of Mrs. Laura McLeay was no accident.
Putting my ear close to the vault, I decided to dish out one last Hail Mary attempt at opening it, but before I could turn the knob, I felt a gush of cold air entering my eardrums.
This could mean only one thing – the main door had been opened.
“I can’t say I’m surprised to see you, junior,” Chief Inspector Chase McLeay stepped inside, closing the door calmly behind him. “I could sense that you, unlike the others at the department, were still suspicious of me, not willing to believe that a car crash was, in fact, just a car crash.”
“And I was right, wasn’t I?” I turned to face my mentor, the disgust apparent in my voice. “Why? Just, why?”
McLeay simply smiled at my question, eyeing me from top to bottom, waiting to decide if I worthy of an explanation. “How much did you find out?” he asked in retaliation, evidently making up his mind that he didn’t owe me one.
“Enough to send you to the gallows.”
“I would highly doubt that.”
“Mrs. McLeay had an insurance policy, right? How much was it? One million,” I declared.
“I hope you realize that this is not new information. The department already knows about this.”
“But they haven’t put a stay order on the policy, have they? Is one million enough to kill your own wife?”
“You are an able cop, junior. You can figure it out for yourself.”
“I am not interested in playing a cat and mouse game with you,” I lashed out. “If you haven’t figured it out yet, I have the upper hand right now. And you don’t want to test my patience.”
“Or what? You’ll arrest me? What would that get you? A hotdog and a handshake. Congratulations!”
“Some things are more important than money.”
“And some others are not,” the chief inspector grinned slyly.
I did not reply. It was important to assess my position. I had not brought my gun with me since I was expecting to slither out unnoticed. Rookie mistake. McLeay hadn’t been so clumsy, as the Beretta hanging from his waist proclaimed.
“I don’t want to hurt you, junior. You know that.” The chief inspector probably sensed me glancing at the holster. “What I am suggesting is for the betterment of both of us.”
I took my time to answer. “Go ahead,” I finally said, crossing my arms.
“Two hundred grand. In five unequal installments.” After a brief pause filled with silence, he continued, “You could start a business with it. You could go into creative writing. You always fancied being a crime writer, didn’t you? Don’t think too much junior. Two hundred dollars is a hell lot of money to turn down.”
This time, it was my turn to smile. “But it is still less than five million, isn’t it?”
At once, the grin on the visage of Chase McLeay evaporated.
“I was hoping to drop this bomb in court. But now that we are in the middle of a negotiation,” I said, taking out a piece of document from my pocket, “it’s better to put all my cards on the table.
“Your wife had another life insurance, one that no one knew about, except you. This one, worth five million. You were planning to put these five in a Swiss bank account and donate all of the one million from the ‘cheaper’ policy to an NGO for brownie points.
“You are a good man, Mr. McLeay, helping the poor. How about you continue playing your philanthropic gimmick and donate a million to this poor man right here?”
McLeay was unfazed. For the first time since he had entered his bungalow, he allowed his cool, calm demeanour to take a back seat. “You know, you should be grateful for what you get. All this evidence wouldn’t hold –”
“I could have asked for a 40-60 share, or even a 50-50. But I’m being grateful and asking for one million, only.” I spoke out of turn, stressing at the last word.
Chase McLeay appeared to ponder for a few seconds, though I already knew what his decision was going to be.
“Deal,” I concurred, extending my hand. The chief inspector though did not reciprocate the gesture. “I hope you will hand over all the evidence before you leave.”
“Absolutely. Except for this insurance policy,” I waved the documents in front of him. “I’d like to keep it as a, well, insurance policy.”
McLeay did not seem thrilled with the idea, but he let it slide. “Let this prove that I trust you, junior,” he said as I made my way towards the main door. “And let it be known that people who break my trust don’t live long.”
“Is that a threat?” I asked, my fingers grabbing the doorknob.
“It’s a request. Don’t make any wrong moves. Please.”
He did not need to make a ‘request’. I had already decided what I wanted to do, and nothing would change my mind.
I walked out of the bungalow, retrieved my motorcycle, revved up its engine, and drove back to my house. One million is indeed a lot of money to turn down, and I had no intention of blowing my chance at it.
* TWO MONTHS LATER *
I believe this is the part where either Mrs. McLeay comes into my dreams or I meet with one of her relatives who tells me how good of a woman she was, which miraculously awakens my guilty conscience and I make my way to the police station, my chest swelled with pride, my forehead frowned with focus, and my body language oozing determination, while the Avengers theme plays in the background.
I apologize to my esteemed readers since none of this happened. (The Avengers theme was a dead giveaway.)
I could generate some sympathy for myself by conjuring up a cock-and-bull story about how my mother was suffering from stage-4 cancer and how desperately I needed the money for a last resort operation, but then, I would be lying straight through my teeth.
The straight-forward fact of the matter is, I did it for myself. And myself only. I own up to it. I have zero regrets.
You see, I had been working as a cop for five years at that point, protecting the people while having no regard for personal safety, only to be on the receiving end of what Mr. McLeay so eloquently put as ‘a hotdog and a handshake’. Movie actors, sportsmen, bankers, hell, even those software engineering nerds earn more bucks than people like us who put their lives on the line and endure unimaginable pain every hour of the day, every day of the week. And for what? A dime and a nickel and a yearly event where celebrities perform to thank us for our services? I don’t do it for the thanks, ladies and gentlemen. I do it for the money. And honestly, the money we earn is simply not enough.
You are expected to play with the cards you are dealt with, but if an opportunity comes where you can see your opponents’ cards, do you take it, or do you look away? I know what I would do. A clear conscience doesn't pay bills; money does.
Although I would be lying if I said that this decision didn’t affect me at all. For the first couple of days, I felt like justice was denied to Mrs. McLeay, and that I had played a huge part in this miscarriage. But when the chief inspector, true to his word, sent the first installment, the feeling began to wither away. Time heals all wounds, and time coupled with money is an excellent healer.
The first thing I did after receiving the cheque was to resign from the police force. I have never been a high-maintenance guy, and one million to me is good enough for a lifetime. Although I don’t expect Mr. McLeay to double-cross me, I have the insurance policy hidden in a conveniently placed part of my house, just in case.
Now, as I reach the end of documenting my experience, which, by the way, will be published in the next edition of Mystery Monthly, (Buy the yearly subscription for a measly sum of $9.99. Hurry! Offer available for a limited time period only!) I realize that the story breaks all the clichés that my esteemed readers would expect from this genre. Your protagonist doesn’t infer the modus operandi of the crime through a series of logical deductions. Your protagonist doesn’t outsmart the bad guy and put him behind bars. Your protagonist doesn’t help good triumph over evil. I apologize to my esteemed readers in case my singular narrative did not meet your lofty expectations.
But, as unique as my experience was, there was one very common cliché that managed to creep in, and I couldn’t be happier that it did. What’s the cliché, you ask?
Your protagonist went on live happily ever after.