I could not see the street or much of the estate. We were enclosed in a glass and concrete canyon, windows out of which leaned men and women with morning hair and mugs of drink, eating breakfast and watching us.
‘Bradshaw.’ I nodded at whomever that was. Someone offered a coffee but I shook my head and looked at the man I had come to see.
He lay near the skate ramps. Nothing is still like the dead are still. The wind moves their hair, as it moved his, and they don’t respond at all. He was in an ugly pose, his face to the ground. Even from this distance I could recognise him.
It was a couple of hours since the body had been discovered. I held my breath and bent down toward the dirt, to look at his face. His eyes were closed, as if sleeping.
‘Not here yet, Inspector…’
‘Tell me when she gets here.’ No one was allowed to touch the body until Jones, the patho, had arrived. I had other things I could do in the meantime. I lit a Marlboro and took the smoke deep into my lungs, as if it were oxygen to a drowner.
There was a wet mattress nearby, its belly torn and frayed, exposing rusty wire innards.
‘That was on him.’ The constable who spoke was Charlotte York, innocent enough that she wouldn’t have been my first choice for this scene but still a smart young woman.
‘Odd place for a body. Still, not the worst crime I’ve seen in this neighbourhood.’
‘I figured you’d been here before. The Valley of The Twenty-Something?’
‘Yeah.’ It had been an early assignment for me, for all of us at the Extreme Crimes Unit. It had gotten messy.
Jones had arrived with her assistant. I looked at my watch. Jones ignored me. When she bent over to the body she wheezed. She certified death, making observations while the assistant wrote them down.
‘Time?’ I said.
‘Twelve hours-ish, and you can’t smoke here,’ Jones said. I ignored her, but flicked my cigarette ash behind me, away from the body.
Jones pressed down on one of the man’s limbs. He rocked; in rigour, on unstable ground, he’d assumed the position of his death lying on other contours.
‘He wasn’t killed here. Do we have an ID?’
‘No need,’ I answered. ‘I know him.’
Jones and York both looked at me. ‘Why didn’t you mention this earlier?’
‘His name is Petrovsky.’
‘By birth, yes. An artist. Upper East Side. Nice apartment. Makes his coffee a little strong for my tastes. ’
‘He’s your ex.’ A statement, not a question. I nodded, taking a final drag of the Marlboro and stubbing the smouldering butt into the dirt with my heel.
‘I thought after years of odd men, God had finally thrown you a bone. Instead, he threw you a stiff,’ muttered Jones. ‘This love stuff is a motherfucker.’
(with profound apologies to both Mieville & Bushnell)