This here is the first short story in the Fox Kennedy files. I was going to wait until I had all of them done to start uploading the collection, but it might take longer than I ever could have anticipated. However, I will start uploading them, in chronological order. They're all written in different points of view, so I'll put that in an A/N at the beginning of each story. This one's in the point of view of an unnamed private investigator.
I had never expected to be cleaning out somebody else's desk. Most certainly not Ripley's. I'd always thought I'd love to see him gone, but not like this. He was the sort of man that everybody hated; he was blunt, harsh, and didn't take crap from anybody. He was impossible to work with. But he sure wasn't a man you wanted as your enemy. He definitely wasn't a man you wanted as your boss. Especially if he had a reason not to like you. I'm not quite sure of his reason, but he didn't like me. Perhaps it was that I so often showed up late for work, or lost the files from cases, or forgot them on the kitchen table. Maybe it was that my desk was never clean, you could never make sense of my office, and my work was always sloppy. There might of been a lot of reasons, but I don't think it really matters anymore. It might have been justified, but there's no way to know now. He isn't around to dislike anyone anymore. Now he's gone, and I'm not sure if anybody really cares. I'm not quite sure why I care. Or if I care. But something about me wonders: why did he take that case? He could have sent anyone else from the company, he was the supervisor, but he decided to handle this one personally. If he hadn't, it would have been somebody else. Maybe someone somebody cared about.
I never realised how unglamorous being a private investigator is. There's no gun fights and late night stakeouts, mostly just following middle aged men around to reassure their paranoid wives, and the occasional spray painted car that the police can't be bothered with. It's mostly office work. Not exactly what I had hoped for, in the least. Not what I expected. And when you die in the line of work, there's no parade, no public mourning, not even the tiniest bit of grief from your co-workers. Nobody to care, or even really notice that you're gone. Hardly even anyone willing to clean out your desk for you. You're just put in a box marked handle with care, like a little cardboard coffin. I guess that was meant to be some sort of sick joke.
The police actually came looking for help on this case. They wanted us to work with them, to bring the guy down. Strange, I know, but they couldn't handle this on their own. Or maybe they were just too scared. They'd been after this guy for a while, and he'd been giving them a lot of trouble. They were probably happy to be able to unload it on somebody else. And for some reason, Ripley decided to take it on himself, rather than bossing everybody else around. It wasn't like him. He normally sent somebody else out to the field, and just did the office stuff. Maybe he'd known how it would end? Nobody else had expected what had happened – heck! Most of us pitied the poor little psycho. Ripley was not a man you wanted to be on the bad end of. Take it from someone who knows, I'd been there enough. We were all in a state of shock when we heard what had happened. Shock, but not grief.
The box was delivered in the early hours, sealed with duct tape and marked 'fragile – handle with care'. There was no name on it, just the address of the building where the company's offices were. There was no return adress. No way of tracing it, either. Almost like it came out of nowhere. It was the secretary who opened it. Poor woman. You really have to feel sorry for her. She was the one who found him, hacked to pieces and shoved inside that little cardboard coffin. The one who found the bloodied note with the shredded remnants of a man. It can't have been a very nice thing to see. From what I've been told she screamed, so loud it could be heard floors above. I don't know, I wasn't there, but I know people who were. I would never have been in that early.
It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle for the coroner, trying to tell limbs apart and one chunk of severed flesh from another. I'm glad it wasn't me trying to work it out. I just get to clean out his office. It was hard to believe that it had ever been a man, with the state he was left in. DNA confirmed it had been Ripley in the box, who hadn't been seen since two days before its delivery. There was no other way to tell, he'd been left in so many pieces, nobody would have recognised him. It was just as quickly confirmed who was responsible, from the note. The note that could barely be read through the blood. None of us really needed it to know who'd killed him, the police just wanted the evidence. They should have had enough. Anybody could have guessed who was responsible, but the confirmation might have helped, had anybody been concerned, or grieving for him.
I haven't actually seen the note, and apparently, most of it was illegible through the blood. From what I've heard it was more or less just taunting. Taunting us, taunting the police, the media, the public. Saying that we'd never catch him, that that's what would happen to people who tried. He developed a reputation for it - the lunatic, the one Ripley went after - taunting the police and playing games with them. He must have thought he was real clever, winding us all up like that. He didn't really wind anyone but the police up, though. None of us cared about Ripley, the media loved the story, and the public had better things to do, at least until he got near one of them. But he drove the police round the bend. It was like cat and mouse, with him always the cat. It's almost scary, at times, to think that there are people out there like that. But it reminds me why I took this job. Because I couldn't get into the police. At least it meant he couldn't drive me mad like he did them.
I don't mind when people talk about it. It isn't difficult for me, doesn't make me sad. Not really. I don't really mind what they say, either. Not even when the guys say they want to congratulate him, the 'great' Fox Kennedy, for doing that to Ripley. I wouldn't congratulate a murderer, ever, but I still liked Ripley no more than the rest of them. But that doesn't stop me thinking about it, how much he must have suffered at the end, in those last few moments. How painful it must have been. How much I hope that I'll never die like that. I wonder what he was thinking; if he knew how little people would care. Whether he'd wish for a family so he would be remembered, or was grateful he'd no one to leave behind. Did he hate Kennedy, for what happened? Would he hate us, because none of us really cared? Would he hate me for clearing out his office and packing all his things away, like he was never there to begin with?
Ripley didn't like me, and I never liked him. It's an accepted fact. But to some degree, you have to respect the man. The police were all too frightened to take on the case; I doubt anyone in the office would have wanted to, either. Most would have walked out if he'd told them to. I suppose that's why none of them tried to stop him going. He knew how dangerous a man he would be taking on, and so did everyone else, but he did anyway. He knew the risks. Perhaps he knew how little he had to lose. So that's why I'm cleaning out his desk for him, putting everything in little cardboard boxes so much like his own. Marking them 'fragile' when necessary. Like one of life's sick little jokes.