By way of contrast, the Lieutenant Detective has no mustache and keeps his face clean-shaven, which happens to be rather in fashion these days. Also in fashion is the haphazard style with which he combs his hair back using hair cream. Almost always, a lock or two comes loose and falls quavering over one eye, only to have him run a hand through his hair and push it back up. On his forehead is a sizable scar that runs from the center of his brow toward one eye and has the strange effect of enhancing his features. He is young, perhaps no more than one or two years my senior, and because he is a detective and not a patrolman he is not required to wear a uniform. His clothes are quite smart, but he wears them in a peculiar manner; he always looks as though he slid out of bed and just happened to fall into them. Everything about him has a jaunty slack to it, down to his spats, which have never once appeared nearly as white or as clean as the male typist's did. This is not to imply the Lieutenant Detective is unhygienic, but rather that he is simply not tidy.
In fact, although he appears perpetually rumpled, I am fairly con?dent the Lieutenant Detective's hygiene habits are regular. He used to lean over my desk frequently to talk to me, and I noticed he always smelled of Pears' soap. When I asked him once wasn't that brand of soap wasn't generally preferred by ladies and not men, he colored up and seemed to take it very roughly, even though I hadn't meant anything by it. He left my question unanswered and avoided me for almost two weeks afterward. Since then he no longer smells of Pears' soap. The other day he leaned over my desknot to talk to me, but rather to silently retrieve one of my transcriptsand I noticed now he smells of a different soap, one whose perfume is meant to imitate the aroma of expensive cigars and old leather.
One reason I dislike working with the Lieutenant Detective and prefer working with the Sergeant is that the Lieutenant Detective mainly investigates homicides, which means if I am asked to go into the interrogation room with him, it is most likely to take down the confession of a suspected murderer on the stenotype. There is no apology in the Lieutenant Detective's voice, as there would be in the Sergeant's, when he requests that I join him. In fact, sometimes I think I detect a hint of challenge in his voice. On the surface, of course, he is all very brisk and businesslike.
They think we are the weaker sex, but I doubt the men have considered the fact that we women must hear every confession twice. That is, once I've taken dictation on the stenotype, I must type it all over again in plain English on the typewriter, as the men cannot read shorthand. To them, the marks on the stenotype rolls appear like hieroglyphics. I don't mind typing and retyping these stories as much as I know I'm supposed to mind, but it is a bit off-putting to go over the details of a stabbing or bludgeoning just prior to, say, the lunch or dinner hour. You see, the trouble is once they've abandoned the notion of denying their crimes and they've decided to go ahead and come clean, the suspects are frequently very speci?c about the mess that results from such acts. As a moral person, I do not relish hearing these gruesome details, although I would be loath for the Lieutenant Detective to perceive my discomfort, as he would surely see it as evidence of my weak and womanly stomach. I assure you, my stomach is not weak on this score.
Of course, I'll admit there is something indirectly intimate about hearing these confessions along with another person, and I can't say I enjoy sharing such moments with the Lieutenant Detective. Quite often the suspect being questioned by the Lieutenant Detective has killed a woman, and more often than not in such cases the suspect has done some rather wicked things to his victim ?rst. When taking the confession of a suspect who has attacked a young woman in the most brutal way, it feels as though all the air goes out of the room. Sometimes I am aware of the Lieutenant Detective glancing at my face when the confessor recalls the most violent parts, observing me impassively. During such moments I feel like a science experiment. Or perhaps like one of those psychological studies that have become all the rage these days. I sit and type and try my best to ignore him.
Excerpted from The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Rindell. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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