“What did the note say?” Oliver Helmsley was a large man in every meaning of the term. He ducked to get through doorways and when drinking with his buddies at a bar they would always ask him to place his hands over their face, his fingers lacing over their skulls like a basketball. They all got a kick out of it and Oliver enjoyed the attention. His size never bothered him. His mother was a petite woman and would tell Oliver he was her ‘safe bear’. The comfort he brought her in her final days by holding her tiny hands in his was part of what made him comfortable with his own size. There was no one around to help her pass in peace, no one to help them in general. He was used to it but it bothered him that there was nothing they could do.
He was nineteen, a grown man on his own now. After the lonely burial under the rainy Chicago skies he joined the Army. After the Lusitania sank in war two years prior he wanted to enlist right then and there, but he stayed behind for his ailing mother. The army eventually led him to joining the force until the bone-chilling cold had him yearning for the warm dry weather of the west. He jumped at the chance when an opening was made in a California desert town he had never heard of called Victorville. Sounds like an easy job, Oliver – Frank, his partner had said. It has to be easier than dealing with Chi-town.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Detective Pedersen read. The note had been folded in half on the table. He stared at the note for a long time and then ran his thumb over the indentation of the writing. His brows furrowed together forming a deep V at the top of his nose.
Pedersen took a deep, cleansing breath and Helmsley watched his partner sort through his thoughts. This was where Pedersen had a gift. Between the war, the army, and now the force Helmsley thought he had seen it all. His partner, however, had something almost otherworldly.
John Pedersen’s eyes rested on the bluish tinted hand of the victim where a fly sat cleaning its rear legs. The finger still rested on the trigger, bent as if to fire one more time. A bluish blemish pooled around the base of the thumb.
“Suicide note?” Helmsley asked. He squinted against the bright sun shining through the dusty window, which gave the room an sepia effect.
Pedersen shrugged, snapping out of his reverie. “You tell me.”
Helmsley sighed. “There goes everything.”
“Yup,” Pedersen agreed and glanced around the room, taking in the rest of the details the way only a detective could, planting it to memory.
A younger officer that had been watching the front of the brownstone stepped into the small living room. Oliver raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“A call just came over the radio.”
“And?” Pedersen asked. Oliver glanced at his partner. The look of worry on his face matched his own.
“There’s a fire on Seneca.”
“Shit,” Oliver smoothed his large hand over his large face. He looked tired. But he had looked tired since the day before his mama died. “Alright, let’s go.”