Kicking a door in is a lot harder than they make it look on TV.

When he was alive, Detective Smoke’s heart would always sink when he arrived on a scene with a door forcibly removed from it’s hinges. It suggested a few things, none of them good; extreme violence, frightened or apathetic neighbours, a physically dangerous perpetrator. Burglars generally use a crowbar or similar to force a lock. Anyone willing– and able– to take the time to do it this way was not someone Smoke was super excited about maybe having to physically restrain later.

He’d also, given the choice, really rather not have had to see what they did once they got to the other side of that door.

Since he died it bothered him a lot less.

He breezed past the NO ENTRY sign and into building. Back when he was alive he’d have had to show the nervous young officer outside his ID, but now he could just choose not to be seen. This had it’s downsides; sometimes the uniforms on scene would be privy to local whispers that his fellow plain clothes types considered irrelevant. And they could almost always be scared into making a coffee run. Smoke couldn’t drink coffee anymore, but he wanted to. Other than the door there were no immediate signs of struggle. That said, there wasn’t any furniture to overturn or carpeting to ruck. The house was empty, had been for a while.

Smoke’s first thought was squatters, but the lack of graffiti and litter made that seem less likely. He drifted from room to room, looking for the crime in this scene. He found her upstairs, in what would presumably be the master bedroom. A large space overlooking the overgrown back garden. Her body was gone, but she was still here, standing over a large dark stain on the floorboards. Her stress and confusion was palpable, in every sense– it was plain on her face, but Smoke could also feel it, radiating out from her in waves and filling the room. He didn’t know if it would be the same for a living person, but he had to push through it like water to walk towards her. It muddled his mind, her fear and disorientation leaking in at the edges. When he finally stopped in front of her he had to take a moment to re-centre himself before speaking.

“Hi there,” he said. “You’re probably wondering what the hell is going on”.

She blinked, and for the first time her gaze focused on him. her face looked young, but

that didn’t necessarily mean she was, just that she’d pictured herself that way in her head when she was alive. Smoke was the opposite; he’d always felt much older than his years, and his face now reflected that. Other ghosts told him he looked ancient. He hoped, in situations like this, that it made him seem reassuring.

“Am I dead?” Her voice was quiet but clear. It surprised him how often this was the first thing they asked. When he’d started doing this he’d expected most people to share his own initial denial. But it turned out that your average person was generally pretty quick to accept the facts, when the time came.

“Yes you are,” he told her. “So am I. My name is Smoke, and when I was alive I was a policeman. Turns out I wasn’t ready to retire. I want to help find who did this to you.”

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David Wynne

David Wynne

David Wynne is a cartoonist from south east London now living in Hove. He likes loud music and probably drinks more than he should. He tries to be nice. He really does try.

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