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hvysmker
March 14th, 2015, 10:09 PM
“Up against the wall, Michaels,” I ordered. “You should know the position by now, you little turd.” I was on patrol in the Pigeon Taco section of town, named after those greasers' favorite free lunch. The pigeons were free, though mostly hunted to extinction. In my experience, the residents stole more tacos from local stores than they made themselves. It was a poor area. Disadvantaged? Ha, mostly lazy thieves. Looking around, I could see able-bodied men watching through windows, and it was a Friday, a work day for most of us.

“Wa’cha got there, Mike?” I’d seen this scam, make it scum, artist ambling along without a care in the world. On that street, long blond hair gave him away. When he saw my car, he skedaddled around a corner. Up to no good, I’ll bet. Probably holding.

“None’a you business, piggy. Get off’a my ass, man.”

Him in position, spread across a wall, I patted him down. He jumped when I squeezed and jerked his testicles, not strictly necessary though satisfying to myself. “Nothing there. You ain't grown no balls since the last time, have you?”

A minute later, I found a cellphone in his sock, a fancy pink do-anything model. Somehow, it seemed out of place with that scumbag. Pink, to me, meant female. Especially with little bunny rabbits dancing on the screensaver.

“Your pals know you like pink?" I laughed. “And what’s this, Michaels?"

That “this” was a Hefty bag of white powder, maybe a quarter-pound. Giving it an informal field test of feel, sniff, and taste, I figured it to be powdered coke. Both items went into my pocket.

It being only an hour before shift-change, I didn’t really want to bring the bastard in. I had a hot date with a senorita that night and was tired of being late. Booking the thief would probably mean sleeping alone. Besides, I needed drugs for a snitch, to keep her happy. She preferred crack but powder would have to do.

I cuffed him across the back of the head, slamming the cocksucker’s face into the bricks. “I’ll cut you a break this time. Don’t let me see you here in TacoLand again. You stand out like a stiff cock at a lez party.”

He dropped his hands and spun around. I faced a set of deadly black eyes and clenched fists.

"You don't think I know you're gonna use that shit? You're not letting me go on a lark, cop. You want a free baggie." A grin split his face as he spit out nose blood mixed with saliva. "One of these days. One of these days I'll catch you without that fucking badge."

I shrugged. "Eighty-Seventh. Ask for Harry Lozinski." At 6' 4" and 240 lbs, I wasn't really worried. Unless he packed. Even then, it wouldn't be the first time. He was wrong in one respect. I don't use drugs -- not even aspirin.

Putting a beefy arm around skinny shoulders, I patted him on the back. “Tell ya what, Mike. You might just get this coke back ... you do a little searching for me?”

“You ... you confusing me with one’a those lowlifes what snitches.”

“No. Not accusing you, Mike, telling you right out.” I held the bag up so he could see it. “I need this to pay for information. It might as well be you. This on spec? You owe someone? and gotta pay them back?”

“Fuck you.”

I brought an evidence bag from my back pocket, crinkled up from long disuse, and handed it to the asshole. “Hold this open.”

As he watched, I poured a little less than half the powder into a plastic bag held by a shaky hand, playing with the fucker by deliberately spilling a little on his wrist. “This should keep you alive and walking. You might break even. You ain’t much good to me in the ground.”

“What you want, anyhow?”

“What you got? Anything interesting from the sewer.”

After licking powder from his hand, he spit again, glared at me, and left. The skell looked all the world like a slinking rat. A dangerous slinking rat.

Back in the car, I turned on the dome light inside and played with that pink phone. On a whim, I used my notebook to copy numbers. We’re constantly copying information, needed or not. More than once, they’ve come in handy. Better to have those hasty notes and not need them, than need and not have them. If the phone has been used for illegal purposes, the detectives might make something of those numbers. While digging around in its internal memory, I found what was probably the owner.

“Damn,” I muttered to myself. Surprise. The phone seemed to be stolen. “Jennie Jimson, age 20,” it said, along with an address downtown. The numbers were probably her friends and family, nothing to interest us. Shit! At least the address was on the way to the station, requiring only a block or so detour. I might as well return it, maybe take a stolen-property report.

Actually, a “no” on the report, I thought upon reflection. I already knew who stole the damned thing, and let him go. Least I could give it back to the kid. I could already hear her. “Thank you, officer.” She’d give me a shy look. “I must’a left it on the counter of Walmart when I bought my tampons. It’s my time of month, you know.” He-he.

There would go any chance of a thank you fuck. Girls were getting smarter lately. There’s probably a little book they buy to give smart answers to ex-boyfriends, and cops. What ever happened to the good old days, when a hard-working flatfoot could get laid off the cuff? Back when this uniform meant respect, I thought while settling back into the black-and-white.

Looking at my watch and seeing I had a half-hour of shift to go, just about enough time, I started up and pulled from the curb.

***

It was a cul-de-sac of single-residency homes, kind of an expensive project off the main drag of Houston Street. The kind of place business owners would use, close to their work. Number 1124 happened to be the third green house in a row, all from the same blueprints.

Parking my unit, I trotted up a walk to a small porch and rang a buzzer. It took eight or ten tries, me with one eye on my watch, before the door was answered.

She was a knockout, a blonde and beautiful twenty-something, long hair hastily arranged to hide prominent nipples as seen glimpsed between a network of spider strands in a see-through blouse. It almost worked.

“What the fuck you want?” There went certain illusions.

“Uh. You lose a phone? A cell phone?”

“Yeah. At Walmart, I think.”

“Really! Don’t tell me you were buying ta....” I couldn’t finish. I couldn’t.

“Yeah. Tampons. So what? It’s my time of month.”

My God, I thought. She has that fucking book.

“I.... Sorry. I think I have your phone. Here. Is this yours?”

I tried to hide my embarrassment as I handed her the cellphone.

“Oh! You found it, officer. It has the numbers of my friends and relatives. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”

I was hoping, in vain, that I’d at least get a hug, but was disappointed as she held out a dainty soft hand to shake mine ... then closed the fucking door.

On the way out, I noticed a ten-year-old bright-red Volkswagen at the head of her driveway, with a larger black Lincoln behind it. On a whim, I copied both plates into my notebook. On the way to the station, only a few blocks away, I debated over writing a report on the phone, leaving Michaels off, of course ... but never got around to it. That date, you know? I wanted to get home, shower, and change. I had all the info and could have done it later.

The next day, I finished a belated drawn-out report on a jewelry story break-in a few days before. I don’t care much for paperwork. Hungry, I stopped at the station cafeteria to grab a hamburger before going back on patrol.

Sitting alone, I was dipping a fry when the table tipped a bit as two detectives joined me.

“How’s the weather out there, Harry?” one asked. “It raining yet?”

“Na, Joe. A little sprinkle awhile ago but nothing much.”

He turned to his companion, an older guy named Fred. “What’cha got on, man? The Jefferson case?”

“Yah. The cops all the way out in fucking Omaha caught him last night,” the older detective answered. “Don’t know how he made it there. The take at that gas station was only $50.”

“Better check his route out, ya know. Bet’cha he held someone or something up on’a way for gas money. Me, I caught the Jimson killing. Looker. Shot in’a left tit then had her head stomped in.”

“When that happen? I missed that briefing.”

“Yesterday morning. The ME ain’t got a time down yet, ya know? Still gotta cut her open, check the inside'a those boobs.”

“Hey, hey, Joe.” I ask, the name catching my attention, “What’s this about a Jimson woman? It wasn’t in that turn-around off Houston, was it?”

“Sure, Harry. You know the area? I ne’er been there before, ya know?”

“Not only know it, but was there yesterday afternoon, returning a cellphone. Jennie Jimson, right? Tall blonde, stacked?”

“The name’s right, but she’s a -- was -- a brunette, bout thirty.”

“One I talked to was younger, college age and blonde.”

“Tell ya what, Harry. You maybe saw the killer, ya know?” He looked at the ceiling, as though thinking. “Tell ya what. Why’n-cha finish your sandwich and turn in your unit? Then meet me up at my squad-room in your civies. I’ll talk’ta the lieutenant.”

Outside, it was pouring rain. It felt good to pull the squad car into a garage bay. Looked to me like I had some time inside, dry, talking to Joe. Alright by me. First, though, I took a few minutes to scribble out a report on returning that cell, backdated to yesterday. I could always say I left it in the unit, forgetting to drop it into the patrol’s “in” basket. It was yet another case where copying apparently useless information came in handy to save my ass.

I found Joe pacing the detective squad room. He appeared glad to see me. Instead of being angry for me taking my time. He smiled, put an arm around my shoulder and steered me to a desk in the corner.

“Have a seat, Harry, and tell me all ya know bout the Jimson woman you saw. Every little bit, ya hear?”

Using my little notebook, I spent ten minutes going over the occasion, from finding the phone, leaving out Michaels, to returning it to the blonde. I also told him about the phone numbers I’d copied down. I figured I might get in trouble about the cocaine, but’d have to take the chance. In a thorough investigation, it was all or nothing and might come out anyway. Joe is an ex-patrolman and I hoped he’d understand if I told him verbally later.

“Tell ya what. You get the reverse phone book, over by the water cooler if that damned Mathews ain’t got it in his drawer again, and trace those numbers. I’m glad ya thought ta note the damned things down. Might be something there, ya know? Mebbe that blonde gal was waiting or searching for the phone, ya know?”

As I returned with the dog-eared phone book, he continued, “I talked ta Louie, ya know? He called your boss, said ya was ta work here on special duty ta help on this case. Baptiste, my partner’s, off this week. Sick mother or some damned thing. Okay?”

My heart fluttered. Only on the job a year, and already bumped to detective. Even if temp. Fucking “a” it was okay. “Yeah. Thanks, Joe.”

“Don’t thank me. Louie says you’re the only one can identify the blonde, ya know? Figures, why a hell not?”

While I’m leafing through pages, he’s on the phone with the Medical Examiner, Patrol, the victim’s telephone company, cellphone company, and who knows the hell else. Some of the numbers I’m on are private residences, only one a name I recognize. “Joe.” I interrupt him between calls, “Joe. I got Frankie Musello here. Like in mobster one.”

“Yeah. Figures. She’s got a dozen calls back and forth to that character, thirty last month. On’a cell. None on her landline. I’m thinking, I’m thinking that phone was important. Like, ya know, the killer didn’t want us ta find and trace it. Fifteen, twenty cellphone companies in this damned town. Without the phone, we might ne’er have knowed it, ya know?”

A little later the BMV identifies the Lincoln as belonging to Joseph “Piggy” Catrino, one of Musello’s men. Frankie’s well known to have a preference for young women.

After we’re done, he tells me, “Le’s go. We’ll check-in with’a M.E., get his report, then hit the scene, see what’s going on there.”

He drove an unmarked unit, me waiting in the vehicle while he picked up the report. “Aren’t we going to examine the body?” I ask as he got back in.

“You like ta see dead corpses? Go’on in if ya want. I’ll go over a report while you’re in there. Me, I don’t see no reason. Ya sees one, ya sees them all, ya know?”

“No. That’s alright. I just thought it was what detectives always do.”

“Na. Only on tv.” He slaps the medical report, in a manila envelope. “It’s all in’a here.”

We make a detour at a housing area, Joe parking in front of a high-rise in front of a fireplug. “Watch’a car. Okay, Harry? I gotta go see somebody a minute, ya know? Be back in’a few.”

I see him reach under the seat, bringing out something to put in a pocket. Inadvertently hitting his arm on the steering wheel, the object falls to land on the seat, from where Fred hurriedly snaps it up. It’s a pint baggy of what looks like marijuana.

“You ain’t gonna say nothing, right? My wife has a habit, ya know?”

“Say what about what, Joe? I’ve been looking out my window.” Whoooo, I think. No need to worry about that coke of Michael’s. Which reminds me, I still haven’t taken Janel, my snitch, that powder. She’ll be having a shit fit and I don’t want her committing more crimes to get her own. I talked to an assistant prosecutor and can get her off a blackmailing charge, but only if she stays a good girl.

When we get to that now-familiar green house, the place looks like yesterday, only with two patrolmen sitting on the front steps. One patrol unit and a Crime Scene truck are parked in the drive, the latter with one end in the street. The Volkswagen from my first visit was gone. The BMV listed it as belonging to Jennie, the victim.

“Hi, Trix,” Joe greets a young woman wearing a yellow plastic bodysuit. She’s running a vacuum cleaner on the living room carpet. “Trix, this is Harry Loz ... Loosin...."

“Lozinski,” I correct him. “How’s it going, Trixie?” I’ve seen her around the lunchroom. I’ve wanted to meet her, but was too shy. What with her normal coterie of admirers pulling out chairs, getting her food and, in general, hogging the local redheaded temptress.

“Lozinski? Right. He’s working this case with me, ya know?"

“Lo, Harry. I noticed you around the station. Wondered why you ignore me.”

“You’re hard to ignore, Trixie. I figured that with all those admirers, my attention was hardly needed.”

“Got anything new, Trixie? We think it might be a mob thing, ya know? Musello an his pal Piggy might be involved.”

“Crap! Hard to prove anything on those guys. They cover themselves six ways from Sunday. Don’t walk in the dining room. I still have to sweep it for evidence.”

“A shitter done, or I gotta use’a yard?” Joe asks. “Don’t particularly wanna dig holes there or a neighbor might call a cop, ya know?” He laughs, getting a wave from Trixie to go ahead.

Waiting for Joe and watching the luscious redhead bent over to change and tag the sweeper bag, I lean over her. “Nice perfume, or is it your natural flavor? The rest taste as good?”

“Oriental Violets, a present from my significant other.” She looks at me and grins.

“Oh.” Bet she’s got a copy of that damned book.

Speaking of books, I peruse a small bookshelf while waiting. A small red volume, lying on its side, is titled, “Combating Lame Pick Up Lines.” Damn! I fucking well knew it.

By the time Joe returned, the girl was sweeping in the dining room. I called him over and pointed at the red book.

“So? We have one’a those in’a lounge at’a station.”

“No shit. Trixie read it?”

He shruged. “Dunno.”

The rest of the day is spent questioning neighbors. Other patrolmen have already talked to some, the ones home at the time and which answered their doors. Many weren’t or didn’t and we had a few different questions. The earlier queries were general types, such as whether they knew the victim and what kind of a neighbor she was.

Ours were mostly the same, to be matched with their previous answers. We also had a few new ones, such as showing pictures of Frankie and Piggy and asking about that Lincoln. Too bad we didn’t have the pink cell. Not thinking it important at the time, I might easily have missed information stored on it.

On the way back to the station, I noticed something, telling Joe to, “Swing around the block.”

“Why’s at?”

“I think I saw that red Volkswagen. The one that belonged to our victim.”

“Pro’ly ‘nother one. I think hers was towed to the garage ta be checked by the crime scene people.”

“Think? You sure? I didn’t see it mentioned on their first report. Only reason I know is because I saw it yesterday.”

“Don’t hurt none ta check, ya know?”

He turned and circled the block. It was a red Volkswagen parked in front of a vacant lot, and the license numbers matched.

“What’a hell’s it doing here?” he asked. Joe used the radio to check with the crime scene people, learning they’d never seen the car. Never swept or printed it. They did say they’d be glad to send a tow truck.

“Someone better stay here,” Joe said, “and go back with the tow truck, ya know? Chain of Evidence thing.”

“Yeah. I know the rules. Way things go, it may be hours, those people are so slow.”

I looked over. He was staring at me. I stared back. We both, however, knew he was the boss.

“I’ll wait,” I said.

“H’okay. Thanks, Harry. Maybe I can get home on time for a change. Tell ya what. I’ll meet ya back at’a victim’s house at ten in'a morning. You can sleep in tomorrow. Okay?”

“Sure. Whatever you say, Joe.”

He drove off, leaving me to stand, walk around the red vehicle and sit on the curb. Three hours later, the tow truck arrived.

“Sorry, pal. We’re backed up at the garage. Got here soon as I could. This here evidence or a pickup? We treat them different. Can’t have no hasty fingerprints on evidence, and gotta be parked at a special place at the lot.”

As he carefully, oh so carefully -- maybe because of my presence -- jangled chains and, lift-motor growling, prepared to secure the Volkswagen, my attention was on his actions, not the scene. All I was thinking was that he’d better hurry the hell up. I still had that coke to deliver before going home. And it was across town, yet.

I heard an angry voice behind me. “Hey! Mac! What the fuck you doing stealing my car.”

I turned. A Lincoln, looking like the one I’d seen before, was parked behind us. Two men were out, coming toward me, a third getting out of the backseat. I recognized Piggy Catrino from his mugshot, seen only that evening. Damn. Was it only five hours ago? Shit.

I suppose the tow truck driver must have also identified them. I saw him hurriedly climbing back into his truck. In our city, police garage workers are very often hired from those failing the police training academy. After all, they’re already vetted for training, having a step up from your average civilian for the job. If they’re also decent mechanics, getting hired for the garage is easy.

“Get that shit off my bug, ya hear?” the one man ordered. “It’s a legal parking spot and hasn’t been here long.”

It was obvious to me that he didn’t recognize me as a police officer. And the truck only had city markings, at least in general. It did have “police department” on the door panels, but the doors were both open and they’d approached from behind.

My other thoughts were, three to one, and probably all of us armed. Still uncertain as to what to do, it didn’t take long before all of them crowded around, listening to Piggy berate me.

“What’s your beef, asshole? You annoyed by us parking near your house? Old car’s annoy your tight holier than thou ass or something?” He stood, hands on hips, glaring at me. “I got news for you, citizen. I’m also a tax payer, just like you, and can park any fucking place I choose.”

One of the other punks stood behind Piggy, grinning to beat the band. What worried me was the other, him walking alongside the tow truck toward the cab.

I had to do something, and quick ... but what? See, I’m not an experienced detective, and that situation was never covered in the academy. In short, have they committed any crime? I had an idea.

“If it’s yours, I’m sorry, mister. Can you show me or the tow driver proof? Once we’re called, we have to tow it unless the owner tells us different.”

“Bastards. I think the title’s inside,” Piggy says. “I’ll get it.”

I waited until he unlocked the Volkswagen and was sitting inside before showing my badge and pistol. “You’re under arrest.” I'd think up some charge later, I hoped.

Hearing a loud clanking of chains, along with a loud “Jesus Christ,” I looked over to see the one punk fighting to untangle a cluster of heavy chains from his shoulder. The tow truck driver stood nearby, a wrecking bar clutched, like a rifle, in both hands. The third punk slumped against the truck, obviously undecided.

“You two get over here, too,” I ordered.

Luckily, him working for the department, the tow driver happened to have extra hand-irons stored away in the back of his truck.

“What the fuck you charging me with?” Piggy screamed, trying to look like a porcine monster but coming across as a slab of ribs.

“Hmmm. Since it’s not your vehicle, probably at least attempted car theft. If you’re implicated in a murder, both that and messing with evidence. I’m sure we’ll find something.”

Upon returning to the station and booking the three, also signing the Volkswagen’s custody to the chief mechanic, the desk sergeant wanted to know about calling Joe back.

“Na, sarge. Let him be surprised in the morning.”

***

I parked my car down the street from Janel’s one-bedroom apartment. I hoped she was still home and not out committing further crimes to get her drug of choice. Baggie of coke in my pocket, I almost ran up three sets of stairs, only to find the door locked and no answer to my knocks. I’d missed her.

Christ,” I muttered to myself. With her experience and the entire city out there, the girl could be anywhere. Anywhere at all.

Despondent, I was halfway down my first flight, when I heard her say, above me, “About fucking time.”

She’d been in the shitter down the hall. I saw I’d barely made it, though, since she was dressed in a hooker uniform of short slit-skirt and low-cut blouse -- ready for a night’s work.

“You got my crack, Harry? You promised.”

“No crack, but I have powder.” I tossed it to her.

“Com’on in awhile, cop. Give ya a beer or something.”

“Ya’know something, Janel,” I told her. “As tired, sore, and horny as I am, I think I’ll take you up on the offer.” On entering the squalid rented room, I looked around. “You ain’t got any little red books lying around, do you?”

She shook her head. “I can’t read worth shit.”

The End.
Charlie