Hating someone is a waste of time and energy. That was Amanda Drummond’s motto. It was inconvenient―better to pour that extra time and energy into something beneficial and worthwhile, like work or family or other enjoyable things. She learnt this valuable lesson after dealing with a particularly difficult history teacher in her third year of high school, and has kept it with her ever since. Looking back, actively hating her teacher only made her more upset. It was better to take it in her stride and focus on her work. However, if there was anyone who pushed her aphorism, it was Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson.
D.S. Robertson embodied every amoral phenomenon that had made her want to become a police officer in the first place. He was racist, homophobic, classist, sexist, ableist, and from the acidic stink that followed him everywhere: an alcoholic.
She suffered through years of people trying to convince her that police work was a man’s job, only to finally make it to the force and have Bruce Robertson, her co-worker, blatantly undermine her because of her sex. He barely did any work―Amanda even questioned the legality of the miniscule amount he did do―yet still thought of himself as the only appropriate candidate for the D.I. promotion.
Every time he interrupted her in a briefing with something completely non-sequitur, surprised her by being even more disgusting than she previously thought possible, or called her ‘Mandy’, she had to remind herself that there were D.S. Robertsons everywhere, and it was a waste of energy to hate him. Instead, she pitied him for how uneducated and small-minded he was. And disliked him. Strongly.
It was a late night doing overtime at work―the trick is to get all the O.T. out the way in the winter, to make for lay-room in the spring and summer―when the noise complaint came in. Because Peter Inglis was buried under paperwork from a marijuana bust, Gus Bain was out sick, and Bruce Robertson had buggered off home early, that left Amanda Drummond and Raymond Lennox to go bang on a few doors and quiet some people down. These noise complaints were normally nothing serious, but there was the occasional case of domestic violence or gang activity, so Amanda and Ray had to follow protocol.
Lennox was acting strange―jumpy and fidgety like he wasn’t able to stop moving, his eyes slightly red, and occasionally sniffing―in the same way him and Robertson sometimes were when they emerged from a long lunch break on some days. Amanda didn’t want to think about it too much, lest her faith in humanity plummet, but she insisted she be the one to drive the unmarked police car to the source of the complaint.
Lennox didn’t say too much, just tapped his fingers against the armrest in an unsteady rhythmic beat while Amanda drove. The source of the complaint was a large, derelict-looking warehouse a few stories high.
There was a group of people, about four, loitering next to a run down car near the blue-doored entrance. When they saw the approaching vehicle they ditched, all jumping into the car and tearing off. Amanda had a feeling they were probably the cause of the noise complaint, but protocol called for them to check the building in question.
Broken glass littered the floor, along with an occasional loose wire strewn across the otherwise barren cement. They worked their way up each floor, expecting to see the usual signs of a noise complaint from an abandoned building. Something akin to apprehension snaked it’s way up Amanda’s spine when they found nothing. No television sets, no freshly empty liquor bottles or cans, no flashlights, no illegal drug kits. This set her teeth on edge, and when she looked over her shoulder to Lennox, she knew he felt the same from the questioning look in his narrowed eyes.
It could be nothing.
It could be a false alarm.
Most noise complaints from buildings like these were because they were the sites of parties or a junkie hideout. There were no signs of either of those things taking place here.
The further they got to the top floor, the colder it got. Amanda assumed this was just because they had spent more time out of the heated car, and pulled her winter coat tighter around herself.
“Oy, Drummond. Thaur isnae antain here, we should go an’ finish the reports or we’ll be here ‘till tomorrow, yeah?” Ray Lennox looks colder than her, going back and forth between pulling on some leather gloves and zipping up his thin-looking jacket. Amanda shakes her head and continues up the admittedly steep cement steps.
“You know protocol, Ray,” she says, reaching the closed wooden door at the top of the flight of stairs and placing her gloved hand on the handle. Sometimes she feels like she’s the only one who cares about doing this job the right way. The annoyance gets to her and she swings the door open with more force than necessary. “We’ll be―” the words died in her throat.
“Whit is it?” Lennox asks, teeth audibly chattering from the icy, empty cold. He pushes past her, backing up a step to hold onto the door frame when he sees. “Holy fuck.”
The otherwise grey cement floor is marred by a pool of blood and two bodies in the center. Amanda presses her lips together and feels her face grow paler.
She’s seen worse
She’s seen worse
She’s seen worse
Only she knows she hasn’t. Out of all the terrible things she’s seen on the job, nothing had been as terrible as this. The things people can sometimes do to another person can be horrendous, and leave nightmares creeping through Amanda’s sleeping mind for months. Some people are capable of doing evil things. That’s why she always wanted to be a police officer, so she could help make Edinburgh a safer place. And though inappropriate, Amanda always connotated Bruce Robertson as evil in between cases. At work, in the office, he embodied everything she was fighting against. On her first day of work at Edinburgh’s Lothian Constabulary, she heard of Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson, a Scotsman who just transferred from Australia a month before and had already climbed the ranks. They were on the same level of authority, yet his confidence always made him seem above everybody else, even Detective Superintendent Bob Toal. He certainly fancied himself to be. Over time, his short and slightly stocky build, greased black hair, ginger scruff, diabolically arched brows, and intensely condescending blue gaze became something both more and less than human to her. Over the years, within her mind he had become a horrendous caricature she happened to have to work with.
Not a real person.
In an instant, her mind’s illusion of Bruce Robertson shattered into a million pieces and was replaced by this man―small, lying broken and crying in a pool of blood and vomit. It was horrifying to see he was just as human as anyone else, especially in a way as grotesque as this.
It was a hideous wake up call, and the frigid, long-fingered claw of guilt gripped her stomach as she walked slowly up to his prone form, her heels clicking quietly against the floor.
Blood covers him like a second skin, and Amanda doesn’t know whether it’s all his or belongs to the lifeless body which is strewn across him. She makes the mistake of looking into his eyes. The blue eyes that used to startle her with pointed glares in the halls and during briefings were now nothing but black holes, the whites of his eyes standing out unsettlingly against his hollow irises and the dark blood that covered his face. She looks away quickly.
There are clothes thrown to the side―a woman’s once white fur frock and skirt―and Amanda stops breathing when she notices the only thing Bruce wears is a dark colored undershirt.
Amanda draws in a deep breath, the cold stinging her nose, and focuses on the cut above Bruce’s left eyebrow.
She can’t look him in the eyes now. For some reason it seems disrespectful.
She steels herself, willing her voice not to waver. She is not Mandy. She is not Amanda Drummond. She is a first respond D.S. police officer doing her job.
“Bruce,” she says, “can you hear me?” The man’s lips part, a slow, rasping breath leaving them and nothing else. She waits patiently, her stare focused right above his eyes. She suddenly can’t ignore the corpse above him. Although the other man’s build looks scrawny, he’s tall and must weigh quite a lot. The top of his skull is open like a viewing panel at a museum, showcasing bloody brain matter. There’s a gun next to Bruce’s open palm. She slides it away with her foot gently.
She looks back in time to see him blink languidly, heaving another breath.
He can’t breathe properly.
“Bruce―” Amanda stops, turning to Ray, who’s pacing and biting his nails. “Ray, take that off him,” she says, gesturing to the body.
“We can’t―” Ray begins, probably to protest about protocol.
Right now, Amanda can’t bring herself to give a damn about protocol.
He can’t breathe.
Amanda finds Ray’s jumpy gaze and narrows her eyes, tilting her head quickly to the side towards to the body. Ray lets out an uncertain exhale, and then steps forward. He shoots Amanda a look before grabbing a hold of the carcass and heaving to the side, then going back to throw over it’s legs.
Bruce immediately sucks in a lungful of icy winter air, his head rolling to the side.
The first thing Amanda notices is the mess of blood and bone where her co-worker’s knee should be. The damage looks terrible, and indescribably painful. She shrugs off her coat and drapes it over the man, careful to avoid touching the knee, Ray following suit.
Amanda sits next to Bruce while Ray speaks to HQ, presumably Bob Toal. His voice is laden with wavering breaths and bouts of stuttering, but he speaks in a low voice.
Amanda forces herself to think.
How could something like this happen?
Bruce makes a sudden noise beside her, and she jumps, the sound tearing her out of her thoughts and into grotesque reality. His eyes are wide open, the whites still standing out against the blood. New tears streak their way down his cheeks and Amanda can’t breath herself. How could this be the same man she had hated for years . How could this happen to Bruce Robertson?
“Bruce?” It comes out like a question, because after this Amanda isn’t so sure she could ever think of him as D.S. Robertson again. He squeezes his eyes shut, his bottom lip pulled down in a grimace.
She has to say something .
“Bruce it’s okay,” she winces. What a complete and utter lie. “We’re here now. It’s okay.” She hesitates for a second before pulling off her glove and reaching down to grip his hand tightly in hers. The blood is slick against her skin.
She’s seen worse.
No she hasn’t.
At first he doesn’t show any signs of noticing.
She’s stronger than this.
She looks him in the eye, and he stares back.
“Bruce,” she says, “you’re safe now.” She’s surprised when his large hand grips hers back tightly. Tears are still falling from his now half-lidded eyes, and his lips are pressed into a thin line. He squeezes her hand like she’s his lifeline, and she hates it. She isn’t meant to feel pity for Robertson. It feels unnatural.
Uniformed policemen and women arrive shortly. They crowd the room, taking notes, pictures, and DNA samples of the blood and vomit. Bruce has long since closed his eyes, but won’t release his grip on her hand. The clothes in the corner as well as the dead body are collected and taken away.
Eventually the EMT’s arrive and have to extract Amanda from Bruce’s iron grip so they can get him to the hospital. For the first time since Amanda and Ray found him, he speaks. His voice is hoarse and pained, but as soon as an EMT wrestles his hand off of Amanda’s he opens his eyes and snarls.
“No!” He squawks, his voice cracking. What he says next is a slurred, jumbled mess of curses and indecipherable mumbles. This stops suddenly when his knee hits the side of the stretcher and he screams. Amanda’s hands are in fists by her sides, her eyes wide and unblinking. Her jaw clenches as she steps forward, pushing past the EMT’s who are holding him down and inserting a needle into his wrist.
“Bruce, look at me.” She says, and then is at a loss for words as soon as he looks up at her, mouth open and taking ragged breaths, his scream having tapered off into a series of sobbs.
“Mandy?” He says quietly.
She doesn’t know what else to say.
She ends up not having to say anything, because whatever the EMT’s shot into his veins makes his breathing slow and his eyes roll back into his skull.
Once the ambulance has left and most of the uniformed officers have cleared out, Ray strides over to Amanda and sits next to her on the bottom step of the first flight of stairs. They sit in silence for a while, neither saying anything, both cold and without jackets, both staring out at the empty street through the open double-doors at the first snow that’s beginning to fall. Eventually Lennox reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a carton of cigarettes. He offers one to her silently, and while Amanda hasn’t smoked since university she takes one anyway. God knows she needs it after today.
They light up together, sitting side by side in the cold as the smoke winds around them. They don’t say anything.
They don’t need to.