Cohen flashed his badge and the cop lifted the incident tape to allow him through. He walked down to the jetty, buttoning his coat against the wind whipping across the water. Under a dim sodium light, a couple of uniforms stood over a body lying face down in a puddle on the otherwise dry boards. His partner, Robinson, was crouched down next to it, a torch in her hand.
‘What have we got?’ said Cohen.
Robinson answered without looking up. ‘Couple of fishermen hauled him out. Caucasian, mid-forties. Cable ties round his wrists. Bullet to the back of the head.’
‘I guess we can rule out suicide,’ said Cohen. The uniformed cops snickered.
Robinson rolled her eyes, flipped the corpse over and went through his pockets. She fished out a sodden wallet and found a driving licence.
‘Ilyas … something.’
‘Khasbulatov,’ said Cohen. ‘Commonly known as “The Chechen”. One of Torode’s guys.’
‘Drug gang killing,’ he said, yawning. ‘Bag him up. I’m going back to bed.’
The next morning, Cohen arrived to find Robinson already hard at work. She ambushed him at the coffee machine, notebook in hand.
‘You were right about Khasubal…the Chechen guy,’ said Robinson. ‘He came over in ‘96, allegedly fleeing the fighting in Chechnya. Seems he had skills that Torode found useful.’
‘Like how to handle a gun?’
‘Must have been more than that,’ said Robinson. ‘Under Torode’s patronage, he rose up the ranks pretty quickly.’
‘So, it was one of Torode’s enemies who whacked him.’
‘Maybe,’ said Robinson, ‘but apparently he’d fallen out big time with Torode’s new son-in-law, Luc Verlaine.’
‘Verlaine had a beef with with The Chechen?’ said Cohen, stirring his coffee.
‘That’s not all,’ continued Robinson, trailing Cohen to his desk, ‘My snitch also tells me that The Chechen had been secretly meeting with Torode’s main competitor in the local heroin business.’
‘Dan Hatton? Very interesting.’
‘Who should we talk to first?’ said Robinson.
‘As the man sang,’ said Cohen, ‘first we take Dan Hatton, then we take Verlaine.’
‘Spare me, Cohen, please,’ sighed Robinson, picking up the car keys.
‘Sure, I met with Khasbulatov,’ said Hatton. He leaned back in his chair, cigar in hand. ‘His import/export experience, and the inside information he offered, would have been very useful. And he was keen to further his career in my organisation.’
‘Keen?’ said Cohen.
‘Desperate, actually,’ said Hatton. ‘When Torode brought his pushy son-in-law into the business, Khasbulatov knew his time was up. Verlaine’s a snake. A poisonous one.’
Hatton rose to indicate that the meeting was over. ‘Listen – I wanted to hire Khasbulatov, not kill him. But if Verlaine found out he’d been talking to me…’
‘Boom,’ said Cohen. ‘Kentucky Fried Chechen.’
They thanked Hatton and headed off to find Verlaine.
‘Hatton’s story sounds plausible to me,’ said Robinson, starting the car.
‘I agree,’ said Cohen, ‘Moreover, it answers one of life’s eternal questions.’
Cohen cleared his throat. ‘Why did The Chechen cross Torode?’
‘Oh no…’ said Robinson.
‘Oh yes,’ retorted a smiling Cohen. ‘To get to the other side.’
First published in Writers’ Forum, October 2018 issue, as Winner of the Flash Fiction Competition.
The brief for this competition was to write a story that explained ‘why the chicken crossed the road’ – but as far removed from the original joke as possible. It also had to end with the phrase, ‘to get to the other side’. Regarding my inspiration, I said, “The ghost of a famous Canadian songwriter told me to do this as a crime spoof and to mention his name. I was too frightened to argue.”