Officers Boyd and Fletcher sat in a small briefing room inside the Empress State Building, listening to a really quirky commander. It was meant to be a brief briefing, but the man had spent the better part of half an hour sharing jokes, anecdotes and bits of weird police news. Finally, he got around to the matter.
“An assassination spree is in progress in Africa’s most populous country. As you already know, the bloodshed is something very usual during election periods in those parts. The coming elections are almost a year away, which means the killing season began a little early this time.”
He grinned, took a gulp from his tea cup and dropped the cup on the table beside him. “Thus far nearly fifty prominent souls have perished in cold blood, and it appears the guns are only rehearsing. On Election Day proper in the past the death toll has run into thousands, and in years when ethnic adn religious matters assist politics, the death toll can run into tens of thousands.”
The officers took the commander’s statistics with a pinch of salt; he was known for giving off weird facts with questionable origins. He continued.
“It is bad after all. That country, as confused as it is, already has more than twice the population of ours. The people are cheerfully chasing China at full throttle. If election-related assassination is the only way they can stop themselves, then it would be nicer for them to hold elections at least yearly. That way, they can pull off a decent downsizing in a decade or so.”
Chief Inspector Boyd from Forensic Investigation Unit laughed heartily. His colleague from the Fingerprint Bureau, Inspector Fletcher, only managed a brief smile. It took a lot to make him laugh. The commander nevertheless continued.
‘The Yard has been approached by the police over there to help investigate the assassination of a senator, and the commissioner has in turn turned to us in the Specialist Crime Directorate. We have selected you for this assignment and though the circumstances there may be less than ideal, we expect you to do your very best.”
Both officers didn’t need any new training on their jobs, but they sure needed a lot of orientation on the environment they were travelling to. And the more information they got on the country, the more they were at a loss as to which were real and which were extensions of the commander’s wit.
“For instance,” said the commander, “some of the officers you will work with might be learning about forensics for the first time, having depended largely on shibboleths like torture, hearsay and superstition as sources of evidence and intelligence gathering. To buttress the point, all of the late senator’s domestic staff as well as all unimportant neighbours within a block radius of his house have been captured as suspects and are still in custody.”
Boyd wanted to ask if they would not take some members of Human Rights Watch along with them in the light of the last piece of information, but the commander continued before he could interrupt.
“Talking of superstitious policing, officers over there have only recently arrested a goat on charges of armed robbery, claiming that a human robber had magically transformed into the goat at the sight of the police.”
Even Fletcher joined in the long peal of laughter that followed, both officers believing the commander to be really stretching his sense of humour. Bu when the commander distributed newspaper clips on the case from a file on the table, the officers stiffened. This assignment, the commander concluded, promised to be the most interesting that Boyd and Fletcher had ever been involved in.
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