"You know," I said, my voice a low growl, "I'm thinking that I'm not going to get my money back by standing around talking to you, Monkeybutt. You can find out who lived here from the neighbours."
"And what if I don't want to talk to the neighbours, Mac?"
"Then you're not doing your job, Monkeybutt." She winced a little that time. "Something got murdered in here," and I gestured around me at the sticky red floor, "and that's a noisy business."
"And you'd know about that, wouldn't you, Mac?"
"I've heard the noises coming from the police interrogation cells, if that's what you mean? From the cell adjoining, most often." I stared into her eyes, daring her to deny it, and she stared right back, her eyes tiny cold ice chips hidden deep in her head by the layers of makeup. For a moment I wondered if there might be a tiny powderdrift happening below one eye, but then she moved her head and her face was as smooth and glacial as before.
"Tell me who lived her, Mac, and you can go."
I almost pushed past her, but I could see her Forensics team coming down the corridor now, and while I reckoned I could just about outrun any of those fatties, the crap they were carrying would slow me down a lot if they just dropped it, which they probably would. They had a roll of plastic sheeting as wide as a man (well, not as wide as one of them, obviously), little cases they carried by the handle, bigger cases that they wheeled along, plastic buckets that sloshed and some carrier bags that... that were take-out food by the smell. I found myself slightly nauseated that they could bring themselves to stomach food at a murder scene like this, and I've been in this game for longer than you'd like to imagine. I've seen men killed in inventive ways, and in boring ways, and sometimes I've contributed in some small way, to the execution of justice. My mind bounced briefly back to watching a man fall from the roof of a hotel because he wasn't expecting me to appear from behind a heating vent, and then later of trying to get information out of him before his shattered ribs and punctured lungs did for him. In retrospect, kicking him in the side to make him talk faster was probably counterproductive.
I looked at Natasha again and decided to tell her what the neighbours would.
"I was sleeping at the time, and I never go out of my own flat anyway," I said.
"That's what the neighbours will say, Mac," she said. "You're not a neighbour here. You're not a neighbour anywhere. Even the rats and cockroaches band together and form housing associations to get you evicted."
I nodded. My living arrangements are unusual by most people's standards, but they work for me and people like Monkeybutt don't need to know anything about them. "Fine, Monkeybutt," I said, and ducked. My spine cracked like I was stamping on those wretched Housing Association cockroaches and pain shot up and down both my arms simultaneously, but my head just got below the sweep of her arm and she ended up slapping the doorjamb instead of me. She said nothing, but I could see from the whiteness of her fingers that it must have hurt. "Little Boy Blue lived here, the jazz musician. He's a hep cat, and he might have been out working tonight, so this blood might not even be his."
"I see," she said nodding. "And the eviscerated sheep? You don't think the blood might be theirs?"
"I don't think for people who don't pay me," I said smoothly.
"So you don't think, then?" The slap might have missed but that jab hurt almost as much.
"I've got a home to go to," I said, and she looked like she didn't believe me. Little gasps of powder broke from her forehead like bonzai volcanic eruptions as she frowned, tiny craze lines showing me where the frown-lines should have been.
"Go then, Mac," she said. "And keep your nose out of police business. I'm shutting down all organised crime in this city, and I think you're a crime all by yourself."
"Feeling's mutual," I said, and had the pleasure of seeing yet more puffs of powder escape her face as she tried to look bewildered underneath all that make-up.