*Recounted “off-the-record” by Inspector Gullo to our intrepid correspondent, Raja Romeo.
TWO HOURS BEFORE THE COURT HEARING:
The air conditioner’s narcotic hum and the swirling bouquet of air-spray jasmines deepened my snooze.
I slouched lower in the IGP’s indestructible mahogany chair studded with fern-green leather and happily smacked my lips.
On the matching glass-top desk before me, my weather-beaten beret settled among the scrap heap of case files, while the sleeves of my sky-blue collared shirt blotted from last night’s chicken korma.
Summer afternoons at police headquarters are swell. The boss buggers off to his post-lunch siesta and I get to chill in his throne. To think I once considered joining the customs department. Those fools are likely roasting in the sun chasing after cross-dressing smugglers.
The IGP’s office was a shrine to colonial baboos and their white man complex: its floor a shimmering oakwood atop which set furniture in the Victorian style and shellacked as reflective glass.
The desk faced a wall of windows; darkly tinted and rowed with pull-down blinds. And to my right, beside the door, stood the real showstopper: a six-feet tall wooden display case chock-full of assorted trophies; a fair few of which I’m certain were undeserved.
My stonelike eyelid pried open and I glimpsed my watch. Thirty minutes till he returns, groggy and hollering for tea. I best ready a pot soon lest he undertake a surprise inspection of the country.
I shifted onto the other buttock and hugged the backrest. Zzz. Zzz.
The door swooshed open and a draft hit my face.
My crows-feet tightened, but the eyes stayed shut. Stupid peon. I’ve told him a million times not to disturb my nap. I’ll raid his shack for moonshine tonight, that’ll teach the dimwit some manners.
A swishing sound neared and my chair jolted from a swift kick.
My throat singed from acid reflux as I jerked upright in the chair.
A grumpy walrus of a man tut-tutted at me from inches away, the lapels of his sable robe embroidered with motific gold stripes down to the knees.
My pop-eyes met his glare. Goddammit, why’s the top judge here? Better the angel of death than him.
I bolted to my feet and squared my shoulders into a po-faced salute.
Justice Gulzar stepped back and suspired. “What are you doing, ferret-face?” he snapped.
My breath cinched. Crap, crap. I arched my spine into the letter C and rose onto my tiptoes, still saluting.
“I’m keeping the seat warm, sir, yes, sir.”
He glanced round the room; his brow cocked. “Where’s your idiot boss? Or does he prefer I cuss him out in court again?”
Who the hell knows? “The bathroom, sir, yes, sir.”
He shot me a dirty look and then his gaze rolled to my epaulet. “An inspector lounging in the IGP’s chair? Shameful,” he said, snorting.
I gulped. Boss will skewer me if the old-timer finks about this. Mother-lover, why doesn’t he just drop dead?
He shooed me away with a flick of his wrist and plumped into the chair.
I scampered opposite the desk and threw him sheepish stares; my fingers locked behind my back and tinkling an invisible piano.
He flipped through the pileup of files and his nose wrinkled. “Are you his aide?”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
“Where’s the report on the kidnapped journalist? That contemptuous halfwit with the malang (madman) hair?”
The Gordian knot in my gut released. Splendid, a chance to appease this vampire. The boss be damned; it’s not my fault he needs to sleep or pee half the day.
I stepped toward the desk, simpering. “It’ll be here by evening pigeon, sir, yes, sir. I personally dispatched the swiftest bird in our kit!”
His shiny pate raised in slow motion and his dead eyes flashed disgust. “You’re fired,” he said with a quick draw of his finger gun.
My mouth fell open. Son of a dog. Who died and made him Donald Trump?
“You can’t do that,” I said, gasping.
“I’m the long dong of the law, son. I do as I please. Your boss is lucky he amuses the sacred cows or it’d be off with his head too. Humph, pigeons. What lunacy!”
A sharp pain sniped my left shoulder and my limbs numbed as if I’d sipped hemlock. Sister-lover, how can he fire a career cop? I have rights! Right?
I slumped to my haunches clutching the heart and whined.
Papers soon slapped the glass-top and he grunted. Then he leaned across and scowled at me.
“Go die elsewhere or I’ll have my men-in-black beat death out of you.”
I choked down a pitiful sob, though others escaped me. He’d wash my undies if I were a high-profile criminal.
I dropped to all fours and toddled toward the exit with the grace of a drunk platypus; grimacing as random splinters peaking up the hardwood piked my knees.
“Hang on, you wretch,” he boomed and got to his feet, flourishing a ballpoint pen like a pompous wizard.
I paused mid-doggy stride and pouted at him.
His pen raked the clumps of snowy hair above his ear. “Are these pigeons of yours any good?”
“They always get the job done,” I said dully.
“Well, I need a job done, but this stays between us. I sought someone reliable, and here you are padding about like a Chihuahua.”
Why, the arrogant twit!
I arose into a kneel and frowned. “What do you want?”
His voice lowered to a whisper. “Letters. Delivered to a certain person in a certain house. Hush, hush, especially from the missus.”
I blinked on repeat and made a simian face. Astagfirullah, he wants police pigeons to deliver his love letters?
“What’s in it for me?”
He broke into a smug grin. “Your job? Your legs?”
Terror grew loogie-thick in my chest. His black-coated goons thrashed us at the last sit-in. Why don’t they send the fiends to liberate Kashmir and hopefully perish in the process?
I fussily scrubbed my neck. “But what about the boss? He’ll toss me in jail the second he finds out.”
He tugged on his lapels and harrumphed. “Don’t you worry about that, ferret-face. Who do you think hand-delivers PM Khan’s special mail?”
THE HEADLINE NEXT MORNING:
Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Thursday excoriated the Islamabad police chief for a delay in the probe into veteran journalist Matiullah Jan's abduction from the federal capital last month and rejected the report submitted by the police.
The chief justice said that the police force is just sitting around in a bureaucratic fashion and sending letters here and there instead of taking concrete action. He noted that the police "have no clue how to conduct an investigation using modern techniques".
The chief justice went on to say that the IGP is responsible for every moment spent probing a crime. "An officer's job is not to sit at the office and warm his seat. His job is to get up, run around, and get things done."
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