Portrait of Inspector Tawney

wall-mounted boar head (from the character's hunting), photo courtesy of newsvirginian.com


-A character sketch by Alicia Fuhrman

When the telephone had rung three weeks earlier, Inspector Robert Tawney Jr. let it sound four times before picking up. The impression of excess time on his hands was not one he wanted to give—for Robert Tawney was anything but an idle man, it was simply that time never seemed to run out.
No matter how many pursuits or pastimes he occupied himself with (Moroccan cooking, rock climbing, cycling, boar hunting, the saxophone, sculpting and sketching), time had the annoying way of augmenting itself to allow for utmost efficiency. A list of 1000 tasks would be accomplished by 3:00 PM, so it seemed, forcing a frustrated and exhausted Tawney to a state of vacancy by afternoon tea. Fate, coincidence, illusion…whatever it was, it was inescapable, and he invariably found himself in the sitting room chair of stiff mahogany leather, waiting for the chamomile (plus two parts nonfat milk to one part hot water) to infuse to a satisfying strength, waiting for the telephone to ring, waiting for time to finally grant him the satisfaction of ending the day.

A mirror on the opposite wall was hung in such a way that anyone sitting in Tawney’s chair would be visible in the glass perfectly. Though once a deliberate design choice to amplify mostly empty space, the shining sheet now served as an object of amusement for Tawney to regard his own reflection in. The sturdy slimness of his face and seamless quality of tight but flexible skin; his lower lip with the smallest of creases just enough to make a slight, permanent crookedness; a set of light, flint eyes that never granted others direct contact; though trusting nobody himself, he radiated a sense of integrity that left nearly everyone he met hungry for his approval. He would grin. Good afternoon, self. The face in the mirror would leer. He would rearrange his features to a look of polite inquisition, and reach for the phone.

“Tawney,” he had answered. Here we go again. A call meant only one thing: a murder had occurred. And when the world demands to know whodunit, Robert Tawney has the answers. “Will do.” He held the receiver but did not put it down, dialed “3-9-4”, and a taxi pulled up in front of the building 9 minutes later. Let’s go.


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