Queen Street Nick is a brutal 60’s office block that’s almost ugly enough to be the twin of Saint Nicks. As a law abiding citizen who is always busy on doors open day I had never been inside it before. I hadn’t missed much.
On the inside, once you get beyond the newly refurbished entrance suite, it looks like every other office building of the period only with added cop. It smells of cop too. It’s a mix of very old cigarette smoke, whiskey, sweat, take-away meals, strong tea and bad coffee. I’m surprised you can still pick up the cigarette smoke. I can’t help wonder if that note in the smell isn’t some kind of glamour.
In keeping with department policy I can’t use any real names, or even ranks, so all I can tell you is that the woman I met was senior enough that I was surprised that the person behind the rank and the surname was female. I guessed that she was older than me but not by much and like most cops her eyes looked older than the rest of her and she didn’t get enough sun. She was smartly dressed and wore immaculate minimalist make-up that I envied. Her hair was cut in a sharp asymmetric bob and I guessed that her hair straighteners alone must cost more than my entire outfit. I shall call her Detective Jayne.
I could tell that she was embarrassed at having to call in outside help, relieved that the help had arrived in the shape of another woman but still worried that I was going to make a fool of her.
Step one when working with the police (according to the fieldwork handbook) is to dispel any fears they may have that you are here to take over, make them look bad, steal their case or be aggressively weird at their subordinates. You have to reassure them that your job is to find out if the case is the kind of weird that careers do not recover from and then to take away the weird and leave only nice clean paperwork with their name on the top.
“I’ve never called in… you people before.” She said. I detected a very slight hint of Glaswegian in her accent.
“Most people just call us the Department. You might find that it helps eliminate those awkward pauses.” I said. And immediately regretted it. Great. Now I sound like a smart arse. Quick try to sound funny or self effacing or just less smug.
“Of course that’s if they’re feeling polite. I hear the Met call us the Odd Squad when they’re admitting they call us anything at all.” I said. Not much better really but at least she was smiling.
“So you’ve looked over the case file?” She said.
“And been to the scene of the crime.” I said.
“You’re sure it is a crime.” She said.
“I’m about 90% sure. But I feel I have to warn you I don’t usually do this sort of thing. I have as much experience of crime scenes as you do of the Department.”
“Then why are you here? This is a serious investigation. Is the Department really so short staffed?” She said. So I’d definitely overdone the humility.
“Partly for my local knowledge. Partly because I’m a secret historian and I’m used to looking into the stuff that no-one else can be bothered to look into. But mainly it’s cause I can understand the accent. Do you really want to unleash some southerner on Northfield social work clients without a translator?” I said. That hit home a little and she grinned.
“Anyway. I think I can put your mind at rest a little.” I said.
“There is a supernatural element. There has not been a mass outbreak of laziness in the ranks,” I resisted the urge to add ‘any more than usual’, “there is a glamour at work.”
“And that means?” She said.
“It’s a kind of magic that works only on the mind and the senses. They’re usually associated with the Fae but they can be created by humans. This one is a very powerful concealment glamour. Basically it convinces everyone who comes anywhere near it that there’s nothing strange going on. It’s strongest at the scene but it can be passed on by touch. Anyone who’s been to the scene can pass it on and it’ll be passed on down the chain of custody along with the physical evidence.” I said.
“But you’re immune to it?” She said.
“Only because I spotted it. This kind of magic looses its power once you know it’s there. I only spotted it because it had faded since the death and because I see them all the time in my usual line of work.” I said.
She didn’t say anything straight away. I could see she was thinking it through. She flicked through the case file. I could tell she was testing my hypothesis. Without the glamour clouding her mind she was able to see the thing clearly and she was clearly seeing the same thing I’d seen in the room.
“She really was murdered in a locked room by someone who left no evidence of themselves and then vanished into thin air.” She said.
“And if we explain about the… glamour to CID they’ll be able to see it too?” She said.
“Ah. Well. Do you really want to tell a squad of detective that they’ve been taken in by a kind of magic usually associated with Faeries?” I said.
“And even if you did tell them we still don’t know what we’re looking for. The killer could be a person or it could be something so weird we don’t even have a name for it yet.”
“How are we going to do this?” She said.
“I’m no expert and the decision is up to you but it seems like I make the specialist enquiries, you make the regular ones and when we work out who or what did it either you nick them or I call in the cavalry.” I said.
“Cavalry?” She said.