The detective walks from the bar out to the heat and darkness. Sudden silence. Jasmine in the air, the fecund scent of a nearby creek. The scent of herbicide, the scent of engine exhaust. Birches scatter the wide field toward faraway hills—the trees appear as individual clusters but are one organism. Gravel and century-old pavement beneath his boots. Endless landscape awash in moonlight. Headlights approach from the distance, then the cataclysm of a tanker rig blasting through midnight. Silence returns gradually and the detective walks to the Jeep, driving south from marsh country with the wind whipping through the open vehicle.
Fifteen miles later he glides into an office park with few cars in the lot. Building C, Unit six. He parks at the entrance curb and kills the engine, then walks to the door and presses the button. The door buzzes open and he approaches the darkened front desk. A man appears in the shadows to his left and greets him apologetically.
Sorry to startle you, he says. The lights have been out all day. Follow me.
The detective follows the man down a hall into an office lit by a floor lamp connected to a portable electric generator.
Have a seat, says the man.
No, thank you, says the detective. This shouldn’t take long.
After a pause the man nods and leans over to pull open a desk drawer. The detective hates moments like this. Anything could be in that drawer. He holds his breath. The man lifts a folder from the drawer and reaches it across the desk for the detective to take.
It’s all there, says the man. Military record, current registered address. Names and addresses of family and friends, names of closest colleagues in the police force. A dozen or so photographs.
Destroy everything when you’re finished. I don’t want any more part of this.
The detective reaches into his rear pant pocket and tosses the small roll of rubber-banded cash at the man, who drops it, picks it up, drops it again.
The detective returns down the dark hall and outside to his Jeep. He wraps the folder in a towel from the back and secures it underneath the seat. He drives south and east with the moon’s guidance toward a most elusive goal: the confrontation of an injustice and the finality of its resolution.