- Publisher: Aarluuk Press
Plain Clothes Problems*
© Christoffer Petersen, 2021
This story is a work of fiction.
*This story will be reworked, bundled, and sold at a later date.
Constable Atii Napa walked out of Sergeant Duneq’s new office less than three minutes after he called her in. She threw me an apologetic look which I ignored, then carried on, her wet boots squealing along the tiled corridor, towards the changing rooms. I let her go without so much as a second glance, preferring to fume a little longer in anticipation of the grilling I was about to get inside Duneq’s office. It was all her fault, of course. I just needed to decide just how far under a Nuuk city bus I was willing to throw her.
“Get in here, Jensen!”
My teeth grated at the sound of Duneq’s shout. His words dripped with pleasure. If Atii was the appetizer, then I was the main course.
I stood up, curled my hair around my ears, and then tightened my utility belt another notch, pulling it a little higher up my waist, above my jeans, before walking the last, and longest metre, of the corridor into Duneq’s office.
The picture of the Danish queen Margrethe on the wall behind Duneq’s desk caught me by surprise. It was normal to have the queen hanging somewhere in the police station – all police stations in Greenland – but she seemed out-of-place above Duneq’s head, as if she wasn’t completely comfortable.
I knew exactly how she felt.
I scanned the rest of the tiny space as Duneq made a show of looking through a file he pulled from a gunmetal grey filing cabinet pushed into the corner of the room. It could have been my file. I expected it was, and he would no doubt use it to point out my many infractions, including disobeying orders, or letting personal feelings get in the way of my job. The list went on. The fact that I had a list of my own violations in my head only made things worse, and I felt my cheeks glow as a sudden rush of blood to my head coloured them.
“You’re out of uniform, Jensen.”
“Yes, Sergeant,” I said.
Duneq closed the folder with his pudgy fingers and looked up at me. I caught the wicked gleam of pleasure in his eye and followed his gaze as it dropped to my utility belt and the pistol I had holstered at my side.
“Out of uniform and armed, Constable.” Duneq’s jowls wobbled for a second as he stifled a chuckle, and then he looked up and stared me in the eye. “Should I fire you now, or would you like a moment to explain?”
“I’d like to explain,” I said – no hesitation, just a simple need to set the record straight. I could almost hear the city bus on the main street running through the centre of Nuuk as I prepared to throw Atii under it. “It’s Atii’s fault,” I said. The words slipped out before I had given them much thought. Perhaps it was out of desperation, of simply that I was scared that this really was it, that I had used up all my chances, and Duneq could finally kick me off the force.
“Funny,” he said, which only made me frown as I dipped my head to look at him. “That’s exactly what Constable Napa said.”
“Aap.” Duneq’s chair squeaked as he leaned back in it. “She took full responsibility, and explained it was a prank that got out of hand, and she was fully to blame.”
“Yes, Sergeant,” I said. It was better than I could have hoped for, but I felt my curious frown crease the skin above my nose as Duneq’s lips spread into a generous smile.
“And naturally, given that it is about you, Jensen,” Duneq said. “I don’t believe a word of it.”
Deep frown, getting deeper by the second.
“So, if you don’t mind, Constable,” he said, gesturing at my casual ensemble. “Please tell me, one…” He raised a thick thumb. “Why you are out of uniform. Two – running around Nuuk with a pistol. And why I have an incident report on my desk from a shop keeper claiming you tried to rob his store.”
I took a breath, and said, “I can explain, Sergeant.”
At least, I thought I could.
What Sergeant Duneq didn’t need to know was that it started the night before, with a mad hour in my apartment with two girls just blowing off a little steam. Atii needed to unload – more woes about her and Gaba – to which I responded with a little less attention than Atii expected or needed, as she put it. She flicked two fingers of wine from her glass at my face, catching me completely by surprise and spotting my newly cleaned blouse.
No, it wasn’t new. The rent for my apartment took a huge chunk of my money every month, so new wasn’t possible. But it was clean. I put it on just half an hour before Atii arrived at my door with a bottle of cheap wine and big brown puppy dog eyes, and a pouty lip. I let her in, and a glass of wine later, she spoiled my blouse.
It could have ended there. And maybe, if I had been smart, and not so obsessed with having nothing else clean to wear, it would have.
But it didn’t.
I threw a bowl of potato chips at her.
Atii returned fire with the dip – Crème fraîche.
To be fair, she did apologise as the dip dripped out of my hair, onto my cheek and down my neck. But then she laughed, tears streaming out of her eyes. She tried to wipe them away. Which is when I walked past the couch, into the kitchen area, and grabbed the can of whipped cream I had in the fridge. Atii was still laughing when I popped the cap and blasted her in the face.
And yes, it got even crazier from that point on.
Atii used the rest of her wine, splashing it across the couch. Then she ran for the spare bedroom, taking cover as I blasted her again with the whipped cream. The range of the can was limited, so I squirted the last of the cream into my hands like snowballs and gave chase.
It’s just possible Atii might have tried to block the door to the spare bedroom with a cupboard, and that the cupboard might have crashed onto the floor, and the neighbours just might have called the police.
I say possible, because with all the shrieking – all me, I confess – and the giggling – mostly Atii – neither of us heard the neighbours knocking on the walls, and when the police arrived… Well, Atii and I had taken the fight into the shower – fully clothed, of course. More shrieks followed until the water finally warmed up and we rinsed our clothes.
We never heard Constable Kuno Smidt’s knock on the door.
We were lucky it was him.
Of course, because it was my apartment, and the door was open, he came in, expecting the worst. Atii is less bashful than me, so she handled Kuno’s sudden appearance in the bathroom better than I did, and far, far better than him.
Yes, we were naked when he walked in. And no, it wasn’t easy to explain. But Atii did her best after she blasted Kuno for barging into my bathroom.
“The neighbours called,” he said, as Atii slapped her hand against his chest, pushing him out of the bathroom and into the lounge as I grabbed a set of towels.
“It’s us, Kuno,” she said.
Which, of course, only made it worse, as he tried to explain knowing it was my apartment only made him more worried something terrible might be happening.
“Something terrible did happen,” I said as I walked out of the bathroom. I threw Atii her towel, then pointed at the devastation in my lounge and kitchen. “She ruined my blouse,” I said, one hand clutching my towel as I jabbed my finger at Atii.
I didn’t tell Duneq any of that, and luckily for us, Kuno didn’t either.
But then the real problems started the following morning when Atii broke the ceasefire Kuno had negotiated and pelted me with a flour bomb she had prepared at breakfast.
“Constable Napa threw a flour bomb at you?” Duneq said. He narrowed his eyes, which made his eyebrows prickle, and I noticed just how thick they were.
“Yes,” I said. “In the car park, right at the start of our shift.”
“Flour can be brushed off,” Duneq said.
I nodded. He was right. But Atii hit me with the flour bomb right outside the door.
“And the guy cleaning the windows,” I said, pausing as I thought about the sequence of events.
“The window cleaner?”
“Yes.” I nodded again, wondering if I was nodding too much. “He might have been surprised,” I said.
“When Napa threw the flour bomb?”
“No,” I said. “When I shrieked.”
“And the window cleaner dropped his bucket.”
I had it now – the sequence: flour, then shriek, then bucket of water. Unless… and this was the tricky part… I did wonder if Atii had tipped the cleaner to drop the water on me when I was covered in flour. It made sense that I would shriek when the water hit me. Not the flour.
“Pranks have no place in the workplace, Jensen.”
He took a moment to fix me with another hard stare, then waved his hand for me to continue. “Tell me why the owner of the kiosk thought you were trying to rob him.”
“Yes,” I said. “About that.”
There was another squeak as Duneq leaned back in his chair, followed by a raising of the eyebrows which I interpreted as his I’m waiting look.
“I came back inside to change. But I didn’t have a spare uniform.”
“So you changed into your jeans?”
“Yes,” I said, with another nod, as if we were now on the same page, and it all made sense.
“And you continued your shift with Constable Napa.”
“Dressed as you are now?”
“Armed with your service pistol.”
I felt another pinch of my curious frown as I wondered who was telling the story. But then I realised where Duneq was going, and that someone had talked.
“I had two pistols, Sergeant. This one,” I said, tapping my service pistol in the holster. “And this one.” I lifted the front of my jacket and pulled out a fluorescent orange water pistol. One of the older constables had her son at work one day, and he had left it behind. I shrugged and pointed the pistol at Duneq.
I probably shouldn’t have squeezed the trigger, but…
“I thought it was empty,” I said, as Duneq roared something like put the gun down, Jensen. I caught my name, but the rest was in Greenlandic, and I still struggle with that.
Of course, I also struggled not to giggle as Sergeant Taatsiaq Sinniisi burst into Duneq’s tiny office, looking for the weapon Duneq was shouting about. It was a classic case of misunderstanding, and an almost perfect re-enactment of what happened in the kiosk when I chased Atii inside with the water pistol.
The store owner saw a cop come rushing through the door, followed by me – in plainclothes, gun in hand – chasing after her. I might have had a look of serious intent on my face, which I guessed is how the store owner described me as I squirted the pistol at Atii. She might have slipped and toppled a newspaper carousel, and I might have pointed the pistol at the store owner and said something like…
“Do you have ToffeePops?”
My favourite biscuit snack of the month.
“Stick ‘em up, were the words you used,” Duneq said, after assuring Taatsiaq he did not need the services of Greenland’s Special Response Unit.
“It could sound like that,” I said, lowering the water pistol.
I heard sniggering outside, but kept a straight face. It wasn’t too difficult to do, especially as I was about to get fired.
Any second now, I thought, as Duneq took another look at the file.
I held my breath as he wiped the last of the water from his face.
“However, Constable,” he said.
“By an amazing stroke of luck…” Duneq’s jowls wobbled as he shook his head. “Something I’m still struggling to believe.”
“The kiosk owner, Aqqa Johansen, added a confession to his report when I sent Constable Smidt to follow up on the incident.” Duneq scowled at another snigger from the corridor. “It turns out Aqqa Johansen was quite shocked, and believed he was under surveillance, and that he might get favourable treatment if he came clean and gave up his personal stash of cannabis, and the cannabis he was intending to sell.” Duneq closed the file and nodded in the direction of the interview rooms a little further along the corridor. “Smidt is taking his full statement now.”
“Yes, Sergeant.” I swallowed, not really knowing what else to say.
“The commissioner is pleased,” Duneq said, through gritted teeth. “He thinks this is a good result.”
“And…” Duneq took a breath and placed his hands flat on his desk as if to steady himself. “He wants me to congratulate you and Napa on a…” Another pause. More gritting of teeth. “A job well done.”
“Yes, Sergeant.” I tried not to smile, but as my lips started to twitch, I felt it best to leave, and asked for permission to do so.
“You can leave, Jensen,” Duneq said. “But first, give me your pistol.”
My smile disappeared the second he said it and I reached for the snap on my holster to relinquish my sidearm – my last act as a Greenlandic police officer.
“The other pistol, Constable,” Duneq said.
“Yes, Sergeant,” I said with a smile as I slid the water pistol onto his desk.
© Christoffer Petersen, 2021