UNDERGROWTH - ROB KITCHIN
‘For fuck’s sake,’ Pete muttered, ‘how come we always get the crappy jobs?’
The rain was drifting in on a cold, east wind; a fine mist that managed to work its way through outer layers. They’d already scoured the laneway for a knife or bloodied clothes, poking away at the foliage with stakes. Now they were wading through sodden ferns under the canopy of a small copse, their clothes snagging on tangles of brambles, hands stung by nettles.
‘You’d sooner be pushing paper, yeah?’ Harry replied.
‘We’ve got the fucker, so why can’t we wait until it stops fecking raining?’
‘Because Johnny Cronin knows this is the only way a skanky fucker like you gets a shower. We’re just here to make sure you wash the shampoo off properly.’
‘Says the man who only has three pairs of underpants and only does a wash once a week,' Pete scoffed. ‘I say we call it quits. All we’re going to catch is pneumonia. We’re just wasting our time.’
‘Will you two stop bloody moaning?’ Chloe Gaines snapped. She’d no idea what crime she’d committed to be punished by an afternoon with Harry and Pete, two dinosaurs from another era - unreconstructed, misogynist cops on the slow road to retirement. ‘Jesus, it’s only a bit of rain.’
‘I don’t see you stripping off yer’ wet gear,’ Harry replied, ‘dancing around to some rain god.’
‘Rubbing the shampoo in,’ Pete added.
‘For god’s sake - how old are you, five?’ Gaines asked, rolling her eyes.
‘What the...’ Harry trailed off, picking at the ground with his staff, revealing a withered condom. ‘Ah, Jesus, you could have cleaned up after yourself, Pete.’
‘Well, it looks like your size.’
‘If that was mine you could tie five knots in it and it would still be bigger than that.’
Gaines snorted in derision. She pressed on ahead, wondering how either man had managed to find a wife.
Harry shared a look with Pete and nodded conspiratorially towards Gaines. ‘Here’s one for you. How’s a woman like a condom?’
Pete shrugged and ducked under a low branch.
‘Both spend more time in your wallet than on your prick.’
Gaines swivelled round, her face flushed red. ‘I’ve warned you before. Any more jokes like that and I’ll be reporting you for sexual harassment.’
‘Relax will you, Chloe. It’s just a joke. Jesus.’
‘It’s not just a joke.’
‘What do you do with 365 used condoms?’ Harry continued, as if to make a point. ‘Melt them down, make a tyre, and call it a Goodyear.’
As he uttered the punch line, his footing shot out from under him and he slid down a bank which had been hidden from view by the undergrowth, plunging into freezing black water.
Harry let out a roar. ‘Fuck! Jesus wept!’
Chloe and Pete hurried back and stared down the slope at him, neck deep in water.
‘Relax, you big girl,’ Pete said. ‘I’ll pass you the shampoo.’
‘Fuck you! I’ve found that fuckin’ knife.’ Harry’s hand emerged from the filthy water clutching the blade, blood seeping out between his fingers.
‘Don’t bleed on it!’ Gaines said. ‘You’re contaminating the evidence.’
‘Are you’re taking the piss? I’ve just managed to stab myself.’
‘Yeah, on a murder weapon! For Christ’s sake, Harry.’
‘I’ve just scared the shit out of myself sliding down here; I stab myself, and all you’re worried about is the poxy knife.’
‘It sounds like you better wash you underpants whilst you’re down there,’ Pete added.
‘And fuck you, too!’ Harry spluttered, shivering in the freezing pool. 'Get down here and help me out.’
Gaines kicked the condom, it plopping into water next to him. ‘Here, grab hold of that life raft.’
BIO: Rob Kitchin is director of a research institute in Ireland and is the author of two police procedural novels and author or editor of seventeen other books. His passions are reading and writing crime fiction and undertaking research on social issues. He blogs at The View from the Blue House and Ireland After NAMA.