It was like an archetypal stand-off in the middle of a dusty western town, two gunmen eyeing each other off, waiting to see who drew first.
Ned had seen Sykes approaching but didn't move. Instead, he kept his eyes on the Detective whilst nonchalantly smoking his cigarette.
Sykes stopped about fifteen feet from Ned. After a few seconds, he said, "Hello Ned."
Ned gave him a long hard stare, blew smoke into the air, and took another puff. He knew Sykes, and the two had sparred before. "What are you doing here. This is private property."
A technicality Sykes thought, but as an officer of the law, he had the right to enter if he considered a crime was being committed, or about to be.
"It's also a crime scene, so I could ask you the same question."
Ned flicked the cigarette butt into the air and watched it land about six feet away in a pothole in the road surface.
"You or that other detective find who killed Theo. The other detective reckoned it was a woman whom he surprised when she was snooping around."
"She wasn't snooping around, and no, she did not kill your brother, someone else did, one of your many enemies, Ned. You and Theo are not very well-liked."
"By the cops maybe. You find the girl?"
"Yes. And she was not responsible for his death. Theo had five bullets in him. One stray, and harmless shot, by the girl, and four from the killer. It was a professional hit, Ned, so you and Theo are working for the wrong crowd this time. Just what are you, and Theo before you, doing here?"
Sykes had noticed Ned had stopped leaning against the car, resisted the urge to have another cigarette by putting the pack back in his pocket, and stood ready for what might come next.
"Doing my job. Why are you here?"
Sykes noted that it was not exactly a welcoming tone or stance. He took a moment to check, mentally, if he could get to the gun quick enough if Ned rushed him. Borderline. He made a mental note to get in some more practice at the gun range.
"Is that the same job your brother Theo was doing? Exactly what was he doing that got him killed?"
"Nothing wrong. It's a simple security guard gig, watching over the property and make sure no one affects an illegal entry, more for their safety than anything else. The property beyond the fence line to the water is unsafe."
'Effect and illegal entry'? That, Sykes thought was Ned's brother Willy speaking. Ned's vocabulary was limited, as was Theo's.
"Have you checked it yourself?"
"Why would I? Didn't you just hear me tell you it's unsafe? My job is to stop people from hurting themselves and hitting the owners with a huge insurance bill."
It was a simple set of instructions Willy had given them, but nothing like the truth. It was a case of keeping it simple stupid for his brothers
There was another reason for their presence which no doubt Willy knew so it would have to wait till he saw him.
Sykes pulled out a card with his name and number on it, took the five or six steps to reach Ned's car, and put the card on the end of the bonnet.
"You call me if you see anyone snooping about before they try to shoot you, too. Or if any girls turn up. And a word of advice, Ned, so you don't end up in jail for life, Theo's killer was not the girl so if you or the equally dim-witted brother, Willy, try anything, I'll know and you will both be the first people I call on."
Ned said nothing, just stood silently, glowering at Sykes.
"Good," Sykes said. "I'm glad that's settled. Say hello to your brother and let him know I'm coming to see him."
Ned glared at him for a few seconds then went back to leaning against his car, totally ignoring the card Sykes had left for him, and lit another cigarette.
He waited until Sykes had left before getting out his cell phone to call his brother.
© Charles Heath 2020
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