“These worst mornings with cold floors and hot windows and merciless light – the soul’s certainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically, and then that going to sleep again at the end of it will be like falling, again, off something tall and sheer.”
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
The morning broke in the most horrifying fashion. Greta woke up in a strange bedroom, freezing, hungover and sleeping next to yet another stranger. She vaguely remembered what had happened the night before. She knew that it had started at Kell’s and moved to a small bar off of Sandy. She felt her stomach drop as she tried to piece the events of the night together. She remembered walking in the cold with this stranger to a dive bar, she remembered him being Australian. She remembered laughing a lot, but could not remember the conversation. Her face flushed with shame when she remembered making out with the stranger on the street, ugh, and in the cab on the way back to his place. Greta tried to understand the appeal of this predicament. She wanted love, but only found an old ashtray of lust.
Foggy and shaky, she found her clothes thrown all over the room and crept out of the house to call a car, the Australian never woke up. She stood out in the front yard of the strangers house. The driver showed up in a small blue sedan. The driver was a kind old man who attempted to make conversation that Greta was too out of to follow. Her words seemed forced, fake and off topic. She wondered if the driver noticed. The ride was difficult and Greta dreaded going into the precinct considering she felt like week old dog shit.
She had just enough time to go home and shower before she had to be at work. The car dropped her off in front of her apartment building. When she opened up the door, her cat rubbed up against her legs crying. She had forgotten to feed him. This added to her guilt and self hatred. She went inside and stood in the doorway for a moment, taking in a deep breath, she walked back to the bathroom. As she peeled off her clothes, she looked at her body in the mirror and felt all of the feelings. Her bathroom had a pink bathtub and pink tile, a pink toilet and gaudy crystal light fixtures. This morning more than usual, the pink hurt her eyes and she had to squint while she climbed into the shower. She wondered if her rendez vous were bringing her comfort or more pain. She knew that what she was doing was dangerous, the hot water of the shower washed the filth off of her body and she stepped out feeling clean on the outside.
The shower was not enough for the rest of her body, she felt slow and her face felt tight when she got to work. A bagel and a coffee did not settle her stomach. When Greta walked into the briefing room, she steeled herself against the tide of questions and held onto each word with an iron grip. Between the shaking, nausea and foggy head, it was all she could do to stay upright in front of her team. Greta looked across the eager faces and found an excuse to slip out for a moment. Greta kept a bottle of whiskey in the air shaft of the bathroom. She made her way to the bathroom and looked around quickly before she fished it out and took a deep, satisfying drink. She began to feel slightly better, a few more drinks and she was buzzed and back on her game.
In a lot of ways, it was a relief for Greta to think that at least there was not much to say about the murder thus far. The body had been decomposing in the yard for at least three months. This meant it had to have been placed there between October and December. There were no fingerprints, fibers, footprints or transfer materials. The forensic evidence had been completely obliterated by the rainy, wet Pacific Northwest winter. There were at least twenty garden stores within a ten mile radius. This seemed to be the only lead at this point in time. Greta sent a young and eager detective, John, out to canvas the garden stores. If he could find the order with each type of plant, maybe he could find the killer. It was a long shot, Greta knew this, but no stone unturned, etc.
When Greta walked back into the room, she stood outside the door for a second to take stock, but ended up overhearing her team talking about her.
Greta heard John say, “She’s washed up, do you remember the case we worked last January?”
Walter replied, “Of course I do, we all do. I think she’s pulled it together since then.”
“She lost the weapon, she lost the key piece of evidence we needed to arrest the rapist.” John said.
Janet listened quietly, she chimed in, “What is in the past is in the past, she is back, she has had three good arrests since then, she completed counselling, talking about her and her past is not going to help us solve this case, today.”
John listened with a look of repulsion and anger on his face, “Did you see her this morning? She looks like shit. Her fucking face is all swollen and it looks like she’s still drunk.”
Janet angrily and firmly said, “It’s time for you to shut your mouth. She is here, she is brilliant, you may not like her methods or her personality for that matter, but she gets her job done, and she does it well. That is more than I can say about you, John. How many tough cases have you solved in the last year?”
John looked at the ground, but everyone in the room knew the answer was none.
Janet put her hand to her ear and said, “Wait what did you say John? None? I’m sorry but I thought you said that you have not solved any cases this year. So stop running your mouth, when you get half as many solves as she does, then you can talk.”
Greta stood as still as a statue in a snowstorm. She hated herself for doing it, but she took one more trip back to the bathroom before returning to the incident room. She took three more drinks. When she returned, she had to pretend that she had not heard them talking. She walked tall even though inside she was as beaten and small as a flat squirrel on the side of the road.
As soon as she was back in the room, Greta asked her sergeant to run DNA, what was left of fingerprints and, and, and she could not find the words…
“The uh… uh….” she stammered.
“The dental records?” her sergeant hesitatingly responded.
“Yes, the dental records,” Greta replied.
Greta’s sergeant tried to hide the confusion and concern that washed across her face, it was too little, too late. She saw John smirk. She imagined slapping him across the face with the ruler on her desk, so as not to hurt her hand.
Trying desperately to redeem herself in front of her team, Greta started peppering them with tasks and questions.
“Did you find any trace evidence at the scene?” Greta asked.
Walter, Claire’s number two answered, “Absolutely not,” to this question.
“Do we have any witnesses?” Greta asked.
“Mimicking Walter, Janet answered, “Absolutely not.”
Walter rolled his eyes, the rest of the team held back laughter. It was neither the time, nor the place.
“What do we know about Annie and Eddie?” Greta asked.
Janet turned her focus on Greta, eyeing her for just a second too long, and said, “Nothing so far.”
Greta looked unsettled by Janet’s knowing gaze and firmly said, “I need someone to find out everything there is to know about these two, Janet I want you on this one.”
“Lastly, We need to establish a timeline.” Greta said confidently, they could say what they wanted, but Greta was good and she knew it.
Her team frantically took notes. Sitting around the table were Portland’s most elite detectives. Janet, Greta’s sergeant was tasked with interviewing witnesses and investigating Annie and Eddie. Greta knew she could trust Janet implicitly. Janet had been on Greta’s team for years now. She was small, but fierce. Janet could see things that other detectives missed. She had a sense about people that few others had. She could smell a liar a mile away. Janet had also been Greta’s only close friend during all of those dark years. Janet had been patient and listed to her, she had been there even when her own marriage was rocky. They had the same morbid sense of humor, and humor is the most important ingredient in a friendship.
As the team began to file out of the room, Greta asked Janet to hang back.
Greta said, “There is just something off about this one.”
Janet laughed and said, “Yeah, cutting up a body and planting flowers in it is pretty, “off.”’
Greta looked at her sideways and mumbled, “Oh fuck you.”
Janet said, “What? Did you say something?”
Greta looked at her and said with no expression, “Nope. What are you talking about?”
“That’s what I thought.” Janet smugly said.
“What does Parker think about this case?” Greta asked.
“Parker is just angry because he knows that when were working on a case like this, he has to be on kid duty, which you know, he is terrible at. After all of these years, he still does not understand what this job is.” Janet said.
“He doesn’t know that you are a detective?” Greta asked with forced incredulity.
“Oh Jesus, shut up Greta. You are such a smart ass. You know exactly what I’m saying.” Janet said with a sigh so deep it threatened to blow Greta over.
“You are saying that after 20 years of marriage and three children, your husband does not understand how difficult this job is.” Greta said in the perfect smart ass voice.
Janet got serious, she looked at Greta in a way that made Greta snap to attention, and said in a quiet voice, “I don’t know if were going to make it through this one.”
“Well, you can always come live with me and my cats, I have an extra cat sweater for you hanging in my closet.” Greta said, as if that was an acceptable solution to a failing marriage.
Janet could not hold back a laugh, she said, “Baby, you always know just the right thing to say!” With that, she headed out into the bullpen and disappeared into the chaos.
As Greta walked away from her, she felt a gust of loneliness blow over her. She felt happy around Janet, but was overcome with the familiar feelings of shame and insufficiency. She truly wondered if she still haves what it takes to go through another investigation of this magnitude. Deep down she knew that she had no other choice, this job was part of who she was as a person. So in order to cope, Greta made her way back into the bathroom. She looked around, pulled off the grate that covered her hiding spot, grabbed the whiskey and sat in one of the bathroom stalls.
People came and went, and Greta sat in there and drank. Finally, Janet made her way into the bathroom looking for Greta. Janet was the only person on earth who understood Greta’s struggles. But like any good friend, she loved despite them, but would not allow Greta to completely self destruct. She she pulled her out of the bathroom and took her to the coffee shop down the street to help her sober up so she could focus on the case.
They sat across the table from each other and Greta said, “I know that Annie and Eddie are involved in the murder, I just don’t know how yet.”
Janet firmly told her to stay seated and went to the counter and ordered two black coffees.