Spotlight On: Benjamin Maltz-Jones
Welcome back for another exciting instalment of Spotlight On. This month I will be turning the spotlight on Benjamin Maltz-Jones, who, in addition to writing, also does a ridiculously good impression of Mickey Mouse. He is an actor, both of voice and of stage, and he will go on to some excellent things in the future. He will be performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival with With Wings Theatre Company and you can find him on Twitter. He just finished his time at Leicester University and hopefully this will function as an adequate send off. So long, Ben, and thanks for all the fish.
I hate the city at night. The sights, the smells, everything about it seem to swirl together into a distasteful mass. Walking along the corner between Park and Balderdash, you seem to encounter a perfect picture of what the city is really like when there aren’t enough people around to see it. A street vendor stands on the corner, hawking what looks like week old meat to whoever will buy it. It isn’t clear what meat it is, but if you asked he wouldn’t tell you anyway. He shoots me a glance as I walk by, but I keep on walking. You get creeps like that here, but I try to dress as masculine as possible to avoid some of their gazes. I guess I’m furtive like that.
I’m more like freelance police. The budget doesn’t stretch far enough to cover a steady wage for me, and when it comes time for the next round of firings, a female detective is always expendable it seems. If I find this one they’ll have to at least give me a commendation though. Maybe I’ll even get to meet the chief, all I’ve ever heard is a voice on the other end of a telephone. This week I’ve been reading up on this guy called ‘The Explorer’. He’s your average prostitute killer, but as with all these psychos there’s a twist. This one appears to take the idea of sexual conquest far too literally, planting flags in the women he takes to a nearby hotel. The first picture I saw of one of his victims showed a young woman, can’t have been older than 25, with a Union Jack planted straight through her chest. When they opened the Hotel door, ‘Rule Britannia’ started playing. This one seems to have a sense of humor, however macabre.
He got sloppy last time though, left a couple of prints on the shaft. We crosschecked them with Hotel staff, and they didn’t belong to anybody there. So, we checked them against our own database, and voila. One match, and we had a decent picture of his face. Guy called Craig Smith, pretty unassuming looking guy. White male in his mid 30s, average height and looks, short brown hair with frosted tips. I didn’t even know that anybody had those anymore, but there you go. We sent his picture to every hotel in the area near where his last victim was, and a tiny little place called in a match. Owner sounded scared as shit when she called down at the station, voice shaking as she tried to confirm all of his details. I was hanging around disputing a paycheck, so they got me out of their hair by sending me out ahead of a squad. They wanted to see if I could bring him in without causing a fuss, maybe catch him with his pants down, quite literally if his previous history is anything to go by.
* * *
Takes me a couple more minutes to reach the hotel, and the woman at the desk looked about as pale as you could get without fainting. I show her my badge silently and she pointed at a room number on the guest list. Second floor, furthest away from the stairwell. Place didn’t have a lift, so I ran up the stairs and crept down the hallway. Whoever decorated this hotel had an eye for unique details. Frames hung in between each and every door, with the picture inside changing according to whoever was walking by at the time. It’s a cheap trick, but effective from time to time. One of them changed into an advert for some cosmetic product, and started playing an incredibly obnoxious tune. I ran up to it and tapped the mute button on the side, hoping that it didn’t give away my position. I crept to the end of the second floor corridor, and I could hear the panting of the two people behind the door without even having to put my ear to it. I stopped, took a deep breath, and kicked it as hard as I could. They hadn’t given me a key, and I wasn’t about to knock. That didn’t really work well last time.
It wasn’t exactly the most appealing sight that greeted me, two average looking people going at it like animals doesn’t sound like something that would appeal to anybody really.
“Craig Smith, I presume?”
He stops, pulls his pants back up and turns around to look at me. There isn’t fear, but his eyes fill with something. The pigmentation jumps around a bit, and he charges at me, screaming almost incomprehensibly. Well, I haven’t seen that one before. Before I can move he has me pinned up against the wall, and he’s snarling right up in my face.
“I always carry two flagpoles, just in case. Figured you do-gooders would try and catch me at some point”.
I jab him in the ribs with my free hand, and his body convulses slightly, allowing me just enough room to get my other arm free. I bring that down on his left temple, dizzying him. He’s staggered now, but this comes with the unfortunate side effect of causing him to flail wildly in the hope that he hits me.
He hits a wall. That had to hurt, and by the look of seething rage on his face, whatever he’s hopped up on isn’t enough to entirely dull the pain of fist meeting plaster. Oh dear. By the looks of things that wasn’t plaster, it was a metal beam. He’s flailing even harder, swiping wildly in an attempt to forget about the pain. Beam is looking a little worse for wear now though. He charges again, but this time I know where his hands are going to go. Sidestepping out of the way, I bring a foot down just ahead of his own, and he tumbles into the plush carpeting of the room. The poor girl on the bed is just sitting there, covering her modesty with the sheets as she screams. I bring my elbow down on the back of his neck, which stuns him again. Bringing both his hands together behind his back, I snap on a couple of cable ties. Whatever he’s on has made him a little fiery, so he might end up snapping through one of the blasted things. Three ought to do him, but I snap a couple on his ankles too just in case he’s a kicker. Now he’s just writhing on the floor trying desperately to get back up and continue this little scrap. The woman has stopped screaming now, so I have a look around the room. In a bag in the corner I find a couple of flagpoles, each emblazoned with a different nation’s flag, along with a couple of small speakers with a couple of national anthems programmed in to each unit. I look at the woman and she looks back, terrified and relieved at the same time.
“You’ll have to wait for questioning you know.”
“I know. Would he really have…”
“Yes. You’re lucky to still be here.”
She smiles, and we sit, waiting for the squad to arrive. They take their sweet time getting here, but when they do they clean up pretty quickly. The Hotel owner almost has a heart attack when she sees the damage though, and the police aren’t exactly quick to reassure her that she’ll be compensated. I take the woman down for questioning, but it doesn’t last long. She tells me that she met the guy walking around on a street; they went to the nearest hotel, and the rest you know already. I was told to let her go, and I started on Craig. He looks a bit shaken, and when I start talking to him, he just breaks down, saying repeatedly that I have the wrong guy. It seems to last forever, until he just collapses onto the table. The paramedics rush in to the room, and seemingly declare him dead on the spot. They carry him out of the room on a stretcher, and the chief calls me up to his office. Feels like I’m waiting to see the school principal, except I’m fairly sure that I’ve done no wrong. He calls me in, and his first words are an apology. Says he’s sorry for sending me to that hotel all on my own; they thought it was a dead end, the usual scared hotel owner who thinks everybody’s the suspect in question. I don’t know whether to be grateful for the apology or to be insulted at the thought of them only sending me out on dead end jobs. At least I proved myself this time, and the chief isn’t likely to forget that anytime soon.
* * *
I walk out of the station, and something strikes me as odd. There’s a face staring at me, from across the street. Its that woman from the hotel, and she looks like she’s waiting for something. We lock gazes, but she doesn’t smile. She nods at me, and slowly peels off a part of her face, revealing a different skin tone underneath. I don’t think I know how to respond to that, except with the sudden dawning realization that the only reason our murderer is dead may be due to the fact that now we have a silent conviction and an easily closed case. She picks up a long, smooth poster tube and gets into a taxi. I feel my skin crawl.