BAMFORD

The role of the criminal investigator is often a grueling one. It isn't a line of work for the faint of heart. There's still reward, Judy thought, in knowing that justice has been dealt, and in knowing that victims or families of victims can rest easier. But she seldom felt it truly outweighed the difficulty. What kept her sated wasn't the goodness of her work, it was her ambition and her lust for authority.

Detective Judy. She liked the sound of that title. It gratified her to spin the words around on her tongue, to form each syllable with her lips like she was preaching to a hungry congregation. She had worked hard, studied hard, and stepped on more heads than she cared to count in the battle for that title.

Now her position was in jeopardy. Her title would remain, but the prestige was on the verge of being stolen away from her. The big city she lived in with its astronomical crime rate demanded a change of face. The populace was unhappy with Judy, the talking head that told them that a child was gone, that a gang was loose, that a killer wasn't caught. This despite her shining record of convictions that far outweighed the cold cases. The Chief of Police had personally assured her that it wasn't a demotion, that it was only a relocation.

"Not a demotion my ass," she said. "Bamford is the middle-of-fucking-nowhere."

"I think it'll be good for you," the Chief replied.

She didn't wrest much more out of him than that.

And so she was being shipped off to Bamford. Middle-of-fucking-nowhere, the sort of place where photographers go to build their portfolios. The sunset looked better obscured with smog, Judy thought.

Though less frequent, there was still crime in Bamford. Just like anywhere. It wasn't a month before Judy was leading her first murder investigation amidst the new scenery. "Local gangs should be the first subject of inquiry," she wrote in her report. "Multiple stab wounds ... no obvious motives ... unemployed, lower-class, and in possession of unregistered firearms."

They interviewed the victim's family. Deceased mother, killed by a heart attack - small wonder it never came sooner, judging by her weight in the photos around the house - and an unretired father working nine-to-five in the local supermarket after his foolhardy investments killed his savings. Younger brother who'd moved elsewhere, on to bigger things, a decade back. He never came back to visit, not even for the mother's funeral. Neither brother nor father had spoken to the victim in over a year.

They interviewed his friends. Those who knew him well were tight-lipped, undoubtedly trying to avoid having the police investigate them personally, and nobody else he knew had anything useful to say.

Judy reclined at her desk and mused. It was just a gang dispute. Those happened all the time and they didn't usually get solved. But she couldn't tolerate this failure. The first murder case of a new town. She couldn't introduce herself to the people here by announcing failure.

But there wasn't evidence. It was like searching for a needle - surely more than one, really - in a stack of needles. Hardly idyllic, Bamford was textbook ghetto. She'd counted: the average resident was missing two-and-a-half visible teeth. It was as backwards as a dress on a cock, Judy thought. She caught herself and gagged at the mental image. Christ, she was nearly turning into one of them.

But there would be no charges and there would be no convictions. And the lack of them would continue, considering the nature of the place. Is this what the Chief intended to happen? She'd look just as bad to the public as she did in the city. She'd get moved again, to someplace as bad as, perhaps worse than Bamford. Damn it, she'd only rot in one place and then the next until she resigned. Judy danced her fingers over her sidearm, contemplating oblivion.

No, she decided, and she let her hand drop. She exhaled until she couldn't anymore, and she dammed herself against tears. She would play the game, she would do what she could. She was getting close to old enough that she could have a good excuse for quitting. She'd persevere, she thought, until she could get a nice, lonely place in the city again and forget all about this middle-of-fucking-nowhere shit excuse for a civilized place.

Written by Sophie Kirschner