After a major confrontation with the villainous men he is pursuing in Bangladesh, the police are now involved. Drake Alexander must explain his actions to the Officer-in-Charge, Inspector Bitan Chowdhury.
Drake leans against the wall of Inspector Chowdhury’s office and crosses his arms. He had been sitting in the same chair Mireille had occupied the day before, telling Chowdhury of the events of the last three years. He had been speaking for over an hour when he had gotten up to stretch half way through, his muscles taut from the day’s action and frustration. He had paced about the office as he related the rest of his story before leaning back against the wall.
The Inspector had interrupted occasionally for clarification on some points of Drake’s narrative but mostly sat unmoving, wrapped up in the details. Drake began by telling Chowdhury of finding Amber and Sakeema, who they were, the condition their bodies were found in. In those very first sentences, Bitan learnt a great deal about the stranger in his office. When Drake had been itemizing the girls’ terrible wounds, he had choked up. Chowdhury, who had been listening while writing his own notes, had looked up at Drake when he had gone quiet. The man was looking him directly in the eyes, not downcast, not covert, and not ashamed. Chowdhury could tell the effort it was taking Drake not to blink. The inspector stared back only for a second, dropping his gaze out of respect. He continued to write when Drake speaks again, stops writing and drops his pencil. The notes can wait, he believes, and listens intently.
“So you see, Inspector, every trail we follow has always led us back to Central America, but it goes cold when you set foot on the isthmus. He could be in the Honduras, Belize, Panama, Guatemala, we don’t know. All we know is that he’s involved in something here in Dhaka. Men, we can safely assume work for him, are chasing one of the slain girls cousin’s, who by the freakiest chance heard someone speak Rizzato’s name.”
“Why didn’t you contact someone in our departments when you arrived”? He asks, his English precise, his accent euphonic.
“Well, as I told you earlier, law enforcement agencies have not been effective in finding Rizzato. It has always been an international screw-up, with arguments over jurisdiction. The girls were in Venezuela, so agents there are involved. The girls were foreigners, one American, one Saudi Arabian living in the U.S.A. on a student visa, so those countries are involved. Bartolommeo Rizzato is a wanted man in several countries, so when his name popped up, they all got involved. Now your people will be involved. Do I need to go on, Inspector? Can’t you see the bureaucratic mess? We had originally planned to do this on our own. But Rae is right, it’s important for us to stay on the right side of the law. I think we need to work together. I have good people with me and we can find him. Let us bring him in.”
Chowdhury gives this idea some thought. He muses that Alexander is probably correct for he knows how red tape can slow down the process when multiple forces are involved. Goodness knows there are too few detectives now for all the investigations to be done.
The Inspector has seen a lot over the years, insensitivity, depravation, cruelty, lies, amongst many things. But his sense of honesty, of a man’s personal honour has not curdled over the years. He looks up at Drake, who is leaning against the wall. His arms are crossed but his chin rests heavily on his chest, eyes closed, features sedate. Chowdhury wonders if it is fatigue or the peace that comes from a complete confession, a sharing of your burden that makes the man so calm.
He studies Alexander for a moment. The man reminds him of a steed, a quarter-horse in its prime. Perhaps it would be wise to allow this man his “private investigation.” Chowdhury believes this man, believes in the depth of his furor and believes in Rae. He sifts through the documentation he’s received on Drake. Honourable discharge, commendations, mostly for his leadership abilities and acts of bravery. Absolutely no criminal record, an abstract so clean it defies possibility. His only black mark was the string of speeding tickets he has accumulated over the last ten years. The man must always be in a hurry.
Chowdhury interrupts Drake’s reverie.
“Mr. Alexander, sit for a moment.”
Drake hesitates; he wants to get this interview over with, to keep searching for Rizzato, not to get comfortable.
“Please, what I want to tell you won’t take long. It will better explain why I feel we should cooperate.” He unsteeples his hands and waves Drake to a more comfortable chair in the corner, to the right of his desk.
Drake is encouraged by the word cooperate and sits in the chair, which is obviously the Inspector’s thinking spot: pipes, tobacco, ashtray, reading glasses, a magnifying glass, all are within easy reach. Like the rest of the office, everything is neatly arranged and spotless.
Chowdhury leans back in his chair; the rocker strains from lack of lubricant and gave a shrill dissent. He points to a large photo hanging over the wooden filing cabinets that claim most of the wall to Drake’s right. Drake has to lean forward to see it clearer. There are four men in yellow and green cricket uniforms, obviously celebrating some victory. The man on the far left – one arm around his fellow player, the other arm lifting a magnum of champagne, bubbles fizzing over the neck – is Chowdhury. The other three are similarly gleeful, which is evident in their ear-to-ear smiles and victorious hand gestures.
“The man on my immediate left is Taj Al-Khuri, who was Rae’s husband. We were great game mates and quite possibly the closest I’ve ever came to having what you might consider a “best friend.” Taj was a man I greatly admired but could never emulate. He wasn’t much for rules, as I suspect you aren’t either. But he was always a man of the law; he walked the line many times but never, not even once, stepped over. He couldn’t be bought, couldn’t be coerced and couldn’t be stopped once his mind was made up. Had he been a... toady I think the British call it, he would have certainly outranked even me, at an earlier age, he was really quite clever and a damn good detective.”
The Inspector twists in his chair, his imagination sending his words off on a tangent, “I still can’t get over the senseless way he died, how some businessman got the best of him, Taj was so much smarter than that...” He only ponders the idea for a few seconds, “Alas, he is dead and we will never know those last moments of his fruitful life, but we do know he married a sensational woman who is just like him. They were a wonderful team, always in love, always together. Poor, poor Mireille. It took her a long time to get over the ordeal.”
He pushes himself away from the desk, rolling on whispering wheels, and rises from his creaking chair. He grabs the chair back and rocks it each way twice, the spring creaking a bit. “I must oil that soon,” he reminds himself. He reaches for Drake’s sidearm, which is resting on the corner of his desk. He picks it up along with the half empty cartridge and gives it back to Drake.
“Now, what I want to say to you, Mr. Alexander is this: Taj and I had a bond, a bond of trust, both officially and personally. I doubt very much that I shall ever attain a comrade such as him again; if I do it will most likely be his widow. But I am not an easy man to get close to. However, I’m not made of stone either. It is because of these two that I will entrust you to do your ‘private investigating.’ I had a chat with Rae earlier today, as you know. I am also acquainted with Uday Saad, albeit not well enough to have been aware of his daughter’s plight. The people you are associated with, I hold in high regard. Therefore, you are free to carry on”.
Drake is relieved to be able to leave; he wants to get to the hospital to check on Dakin.
“Thank you Inspector and I...”
“But,” said the Inspector, interrupting Drake. He walks over to the cabinets the picture hangs above and waves Drake over. When Drake joins him, he points to the man on the far right of the picture and says, “Tomorrow this man will join you, and he will be like flypaper. Are you familiar with flypaper, Mr. Alexander? Extremely sticky stuff, flypaper.”
Chowdhury grins at his metaphor and doesn’t wait for an answer.
“His name is Gurupada Bannerji, some people call him Pada. I am assigning this case to him. He or Rae will liaise with me, keeping me informed as to your progress. Is that clear?”
The scrunched eyebrows and heavy frown on Chowdhury’s face indicate his seriousness; this is not a negotiable issue. Drake nevertheless makes an attempt to dissuade the inspector, “I don’t think we need a babysitter, Inspector. Rae knows her way around. My men and I are familiar with each other and I’m not comfortable with adding an unknown to our efforts. You’ve seen what we are up against. I’m not sure a desk jockey is a good idea.”
Chowdhury grunts and goes back to his desk, “I can assure you, Mr. Alexander that Mr. Bannerji is no desk jockey. He is one of the top three shooters on the police force, both with a pistol and a sniper rifle. He is a practitioner of Haidong Gumdo. He is an all-rounder in cricket, being an exceptional batsman and bowler. He can be brutal if necessary. And he is single, which means he will be able to assist you twenty-four hours a day. I can guarantee that if push comes to shove, Mr. Alexander, Bannerji will be a valuable asset. I also need to remind you that you are short one man at present, with your comrade – who would be in some trouble for carrying side arms without a permit were it not for Rae and me – is in hospital.”
Chowdhury sits in his corner chair and reaches for his pipe. He speaks as he fills it and tamps the tobacco, “I’m going to insist on this Drake, or your investigation will come to a quick end. I also expect that you will stick to the investigating and leave the arresting to us. Of course, I anticipate you will need to defend yourself in certain situations, but I don’t wish for you to provoke anyone. Don’t endanger my people or yours.”
He hesitates before lighting the pipe, then looks up at Drake, who is still standing beside the filing cabinets.
“I don’t think there is anything else to discuss, Mr. Alexander. I have your cell number and Bannerji will be in touch with you in the morning. May I tell him you are an early riser?”
Drake realizes Chowdhury has the advantage and that submitting to his proposal will make searching for Rizzato much easier.
“Fine Inspector, I agree to your conditions and look forward to meeting Mr. Bannerji. I’m available anytime he or you need me. Thanks for your cooperation. If you could arrange for someone to drive me to the hospital, I would appreciate it.”
“Go wait at the entrance and one of my men will escort you. Oh, and I trust you will see to the rental that was destroyed, as well as the other vehicles. I’m certain the rental company won’t be pleased and I’d rather they didn’t have to bother us over this matter.”.
He places a match to the packed bowl of his pipe, sucking in the flame. Thin plumes of aromatic smoke move gently about the room. Drake recognizes Borkum Riff, the same brand his father had smoked, the one with the whiskey flavour. A calm comes over him, a reassurance of something familiar.
“I take full responsibility for the vehicles. I’ll personally see that the rental people are compensated. Is there anything else Inspector? If not, I’ll bid you a good evening.”
Their eyes lock for a moment. There is mutual respect there.
“Good night then, Mr. Alexander. Go cautiously.”
Dark Side of a Promise is a story you don't want to miss. Available at amazon.com or .ca. Ebook version or hard copy. Also available from this website.