Snow fell from a gun-metal grey sky and the taxi pulled up at the corner of the street. The buildings, tall, beige stone constructions from last century narrowed the view of the sky from street level, and the snowflakes seemed to fall more heavily when you looked up. The street Martin wanted was cordoned off with blue-and-white police tape; a little further along there was black-and-striped yellow tape as well, just to hint that the police might be dealing with something dangerous. Martin shivered; his coat still wasn’t warm enough for the weather, and though he’d paused at his locker to put a jumper on it wasn’t making as much difference as he’d hoped. He paid the taxi driver, who frowned at the precision with which Martin counted the money out and then sped away without offering a receipt. Martin shrugged, dislodging snowflakes from his black jacket, and then he lifted the police tape to step under it.
A police ghosted forward out of a nearby doorway and laid a hand on top of Martin’s head, pressing down gently. Martin tried to move from under it, but the hand stayed firm on his skull.
“This is a restricted area, Sir,” said the policeman. His voice was neutral but his grip was like iron.
“I’m aware,” said Martin. “I’m allowed to be here.”
“No.” The policeman pushed down harder now, and Martin retreated back under the tape rather than be forced ungracefully to the ground. Once he was on the other side the policeman let go, and Martin could look him in the eye at last. The man was younger than Martin, which annoyed him instantly, and looked more muscular too. He was also wearing a heavy overcoat that looked like wool and definitely looked warm.
Martin smiled thinly, his lips pressed tightly together, and very slowly, telegraphing his moves, unzipped his jacket and opened it out to reveal the inside pocket, then pulled a thin leather document holder, about the size of a passport, from it. He held it out to the policeman, who took it expressionlessly and opened it. He spent nearly a minute reading it, going through the different papers in there, and at one point lifting his head and scrutinising Martin’s face intently – Martin knew then that the man had reached the physical description and photo-id. Finally the policeman closed the wallet up and handed it back. Martin put it away, and lifted the tape again; the policeman made no move to stop him.
“Where do I find your boss?” asked Martin. The policeman didn’t shift his gaze, but pointed upwards and behind him. Martin looked up, having now to shade his eyes from the rapidly-falling snow, and saw another policeman standing on a tiny balcony – were they called Juliet balconies, he wondered for a moment – with a peaked cap shading his face, watching.
“Thanks,” said Martin, annoyed that he couldn’t even worry this young man. He set off down the street towards the black-and-yellow tape and the apartment that he’d been in with Edward. Beneath his feet the snow squeaked as it compressed, and his footprints blurred in twenty seconds; by the time he’d reached the front door of the apartment block the ones by the policeman’s post were invisible unless you were looking for them.
Two more policemen were stood in the entry hall of the building, and Martin had to hold his wallet up to the window and tap on it before they’d even come to the window to see who he was. When they opened the door they made him stand outside while they went through his documents even more meticulously, and when they finally let him in he was shivering uncontrollably.
“First floor first,” said one of the policeman, who had a scar on the side of his neck; white lines where the flesh had been slashed apart and only slowly knitted back together. “You report to Commander Baume; he tells you what you can do and where you can go.”
Martin pressed down the desire to ask the man if he knew what Martin’s job was – he’d read the documents, clearly he did – and reminded himself that this was an action to try and catch the Tailor ultimately. If they didn’t do things like the book then people like Edward got in.
He swallowed, suddenly feeling obscurely grateful that these men were being so meticulous, and pushed the lift button.
“Stairs only,” said the other policeman, pointing.