“Care for a pie, Inspector?”
Bramley proffered a fist-sized pie. Its glazed pastry was a wonderful, deep brown, guaranteeing a flavour worthy of the tender meat within... only the best for Bramley’s Champion Pies.
There was nothing more suspicious, Inspector Crown thought, than a thin pie-maker. But Bramley was a man who clearly enjoyed his own wares. His apron was draped over an expansive mound of belly, as was proper for a butcher, though he had none of the unnecessary jollity that trade seemed to attract. Anyway, no man had any reason to be jolly all the time unless he had something to hide.
Narrow, dark eyes squinted beadily from Bramley's flabby face. Some people might have called them guilty eyes, the way they were intently watching the Inspector, but Crown knew a baker must rise early and that his taut eyes were merely a symptom of his tiredness.
“Sure,” The Inspector replied.
He took the fine pie and looked at it admiringly. “We’re not supposed to, of course, modern guidelines and all that. One of these keen youngsters would call it a bribe. They’re so scared of anything that isn’t by the book, scared of repercussions and reprimand. It’s a wonder they ever catch a crook. You and me though, Bramley, we’re old school.”
Missing breakfast will do a man’s appetite no favours. The Inspector lifted the pie to his mouth, then stopped as a thought occurred to him. He looked at it and turned it around in his hand, considering.
“People like you and me, Bramley, we understand that you have to take steps to survive in this world. You have to do what has to be done to stay on top. We’re not that different, you know, both at the height of our game, both feeling the snap of modernisation at our heels.”
The butcher-baker nodded in agreement, a faint sheen of sweat beading on his brow. Crown went to take a bite; paused again before he did.
“The modern system supports criminals, you know. They get more rights every year. It’s disgusting. And they play the system, too, looking to get off on technicalities. Well, you have to get up early to put one past me. You know the right people and the street dispenses its own justice, eh, Bramley?”
Inspector Crown looked Bramley straight in the eyes then, his face suddenly very stern, his mood shifting. He tossed the pie across the room, straight into the bin; it flipped the lid and hit the bottom with a heavy thud.
“Now, stop getting creative.” He jabbed a finger at Bramley. “I don’t want to hear of any more missing streetwalkers, got it? I’m the law here, and you’ll stick to what I send you. Or I’ll find me a new pie-man, and you’ll be the one in the pastry coffins.”
Recommended reading: The Star by Stephen Hewitt.