All of us believe that our lives are a film and we are the star. So it must come as something of a shock in that final moment when you look down the barrel of the gun and realise that you are not the star of your own film but only a bit player in someone else’s.
Albertson stood watching the technicians in their white disposable suits working their way around the crime scene. They would find evidence. It was hard these days not to. There was so much forensic technology now. Some of it came up empty with no trace, but there was usually something. How much use it would be, that was never easy to tell.
Albertson checked around the condemned cellar again. This – so far nameless victim –looked as though he thought he was going to be the star in some gangster – or should that be gangsta – film. But he had barely made into the first scene of someone else’s show.
There was at least a score of police and technicians here now, the only audience to the denouement of this unknown actor’s final scene. They were not that good an audience. They’d all seen scenes like this too many times now.
Sometimes, Albertson wondered if all this effort taken to find the killer of some unknown, some bit-part player was really worth it. Was it worth all the time, the expense, the resources, the murder scene theatre?
After all, one less bad guy could only be a good thing, couldn’t it?
He knew it was wrong to think like that. After all, all human lives should be of equal value. But he’d been in the police too long now. He’d seen the casual disregard a good many had for human life, often their own as well as anyone ese’s. This body, lying here – what was left of it – under the bright white forensic lights, would have killed those who had killed him as casually as they swatted summer insects, probably less.
Cross stepped across the aluminium tiles stretched like a path across the crime scene and handed her boss a cup of coffee. ‘What have we got, boss?’ She gave the scene a cursory glance.
Albertson could remember a time before everyone carried cardboard beakers of coffee, but that too was fading along with other old memories.
The body was almost invisible amongst the living bodies around it. The technology and the rest of the crime scene props made this more resemble a scene from a TV cop show than anything real.
Albertson had an almost overwhelming urge to yell ‘Cut!’, then claim it was a wrap and that was all for today. But it was early morning and there would be a long day of over-familiar routine, occasionally interspersed with some novelty of character, time or circumstance that would make this case stand out in its own way. Every case did eventually have some novel feature, something that made it different from the rest. No two cases were alike. That was the problem. Each one’s uniqueness made it impossible to forget until you remembered them all, too many of them.
‘Oh, just the usual gangland, drugs probably.’ Albertson shrugged and swallowed a too hot mouthful of coffee. He gulped the scalding liquid down his dry throat. ‘Come on, Cross. Let’s get on with it.’