This is the 3rd story in my planned series, The Detective Frank Chronicles. The stories are episodic so you don’t have to read the prior stories to enjoy this one.
If you wish to read the 1st story, Detective Frank’s Daytime Dilemma, you can find it here: https://jackl0073.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/detective-franks-daytime-dilemma/
If you wish to read the 2nd story, Detective Frank Takes a Swing, you can find it here: https://jackl0073.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/detective-frank-takes-a-swing/
The following is a work of fiction. The views and opinions of the characters don’t necessarily reflect those of the author.
It was just like the old days back on the job though this was not quite a stake out as it was protection detail. Officer Holliday loved his family. They were all he lived for, yet he never knew they’d ever be in danger just because certain people took offense to him doing his duty. First came the headlines in the paper then came the threats against him followed soon after by threats to his family. His Dad, Louis Holliday was a good friend of mine, proud that his son had made it onto the Force. Over the years I’ve spent several Thanksgiving dinners at the Holliday household and I remember when his son Michael had been just a wide-eyed boy with his entire future in front of him. He came from good people, and all he ever wanted to do was make his family proud. Even after all the disdain, threats, and humiliation he’s endured over the past months his family had much to be proud of. It’s a shame that there are factions at work right now whose only desire is to besmirch the good name of a loyal and dedicated officer. I’m not just telling you this story because I know the family nor is it because I myself am a retired police officer. I’m telling you this story because maybe there’s someone out there who still needs to be convinced that the majority of cops protecting our city right now are good people. They may not all be perfect, but they deserve to be treated with honor and respect.
It was my eighth straight night on voluntary protection detail. The snow had become a menace that winter and although it wasn’t snowing at the time, there was plenty on the ground. I figured since I knew the family it was the least I could do to help them out. Every night until then had been uneventful. I’d park across the street from Michael’s modest two-family home around 8pm and keep watch all night until 8am. No one had asked me to do it, but I felt like I had to. It made his family feel safe. His wife, Samantha, was such a sweetheart and he had 2 teenage sons. I knew that they would feel safe again in their own home with me outside. They’ve gotten to know me through the years and they know I’m quite the badass who’s fully capable of taking on anyone who’d ever think of messing with them. That’s what loyalty is. Loyalty is having someone’s back and making them feel safe, and I’d like to think I’ve built quite a steady reputation for being loyal throughout the years while I was on the job. Now that I’m retired, why should it be any different?
Samantha frequently came outside to offer me food or coffee despite my protestations. Nights like this call exclusively for soup and coffee. That was my only fuel while I was on the Force whenever I had this kind of assignment so I figure why break with routine. Spaghetti and meatballs are bit too messy to eat in your car anyway. Samantha kept telling me that she couldn’t thank me enough and that she couldn’t believe I’d be doing this for free as a retiree. If she only knew the messes I’ve entangled myself in since retirement, she might have a clue that maybe I haven’t quite settled into retired life just yet. Perhaps, I never will. There are plenty of guys like that who just can’t let go of the badge but those stories rarely end happily. I’m beginning to think my own story to be quite problematic but there is little I can do about that now.
I just knew that Samantha needed to feel safe sleeping in her own home knowing that nothing would happen to her or her family as they slept at night while Michael stayed at a hotel until the media coverage of the story blew over. When some godforsaken hack website published his home address, he nearly hit the roof. The only thing that would reassure him was knowing that I’d be right outside keeping watch over his home every night until things blew over. Trust me when I say that was the only way to convince him to be apart from the family he loved.
My phone rang at about 11:30pm. It was Vivian. We never dated while she was my superior officer nor even after she had left my precinct, but I recently reconnected with her after she phoned me with news that she found her biological mother. That was many months ago now. We met up for coffee and soon afterwards I found myself in a relationship with a woman that I had only known professionally for many years. We did see each other socially quite a few times back then but there was always a respectable distance between us. I suppose a mutual lingering affection existed – that feeling that perhaps we were kindred spirits of a sort – but at the time she was my boss and boy did I keep her busy.
Back then she was Lt. Vivian Marshall to me and every time I’d get myself in a mix I’d find myself along with my partner Hank in her office for the typical commanding officer reaming that is actually quite like the movies. You know those cop movies where the main cop character does something to get himself in trouble early on and then there’s the obligatory scene where said cop gets read the riot act by his commanding officer? Well, for me that was Vivian for a good 6 year stint in my career going back quite a few years ago – more than I care to recount here. There was always an unspoken understanding between us. We were the same age, divorced with kids, and both of us were stubborn and equally pigheaded at times when we couldn’t get our way. After she left my precinct, she softened up towards me considerably and we’ve remained good friends. She retired before me, and every once in a while I’d get a call out of the blue or an invitation to a birthday party. Her call to me months ago about finding her biological mother was different. I thought I heard that frog in her voice indicating that she was teary-eyed. When she finally blurted out that she had found her biological mother after all these years, I didn’t know what to say other than that I was happy for her. We started seeing each other shortly after that.
So the call came in on my cell phone that night as I sat in my car in front of the Holliday house and it was Vivian. She had spent the day getting to know her biological mother after many years of searching. This had been perhaps their 3rd or 4th meeting. I imagine it must have been strange finding an old woman in her mid-70s who had abandoned her when she was a baby but Vivian had quickly developed a rapport with her and it had been important to Vivian to find this woman. She began telling me about her latest visit when I noticed a shadowy figure approaching the house. At first I thought this suspicious person would just walk on by, but whoever it was stepped onto the lawn approaching one of the first floor windows. I dropped my phone and shot out of my car like a cannon. The figure’s arm pulled back in an attempt to throw a heavy object at the living room window when I leapt towards the figure and tackled the person from behind to the ground. A brick covered with a note fixed to a rubber band fell from the person’s hand onto the grass beside us as I turned the person around and saw a woman.
I quickly got back up to my feet and helped the would-be assailant stand up informing her that I was placing her under citizen’s arrest. Before me stood a frightened red-headed, tall woman in her mid to late 30s. She trembled in her black hooded heavy coat, one that had been covered in snow after our awkward little tussle. I might have found her attractive if I had encountered her in a bar with those freckles and dimples on a face that looked as innocent as anything. I asked myself what this person could possibly have to do with attacking a police officer and his family in such a way. I picked up the brick and on the note attached to it had been the slogan that had been repeated at every anti-cop protest that had taken place in the city since Officer Holliday’s fateful encounter with an unarmed black man, “I can’t breathe.” Beneath the words though there had been scribbled a logo or symbol of sorts. I tried to look at it closely but I could barely see. It looked like a triangle with an elephant on top. I couldn’t look at it too long. I began to reach for my cell phone but realized that I had left it in the car.
The woman shivered in front of me not just from the cold but also out of genuine panic and dread. Her delicate hands had turned into a strange pale pinkish white color. As her red hair frayed at the ends and blew about her face I told her, “Listen, the police are going to come soon and take you in. I’m not going to lie. They’re going to ask you some tough questions. Did someone set you up to this?”
The tears running down her face as she nodded all but answered my question. Then, I saw her eyes widen and her mouth gape open. I thought I heard the distinct sound of a car driving across the road, and then it hit. I could feel the bullet tearing through the flesh between my shoulder blades and just as I started to turn around I fell to the ground. My head hit the cold snow beneath me and all I could see was the snow in front of me turning red as if someone had clumsily spilled some red paint on the snow. I knew my wound was behind me so the blood couldn’t have been mine. The blood had to be hers. I turned my neck just enough to see the remnants of her red hair speckled with blood as it blew recklessly in the wind. I could almost see the tattered remnants of the back of the black hood stained with the dark red ink of her blood. Then I remember trying to let out a shout at that moment but succumbing to a restless sleep instead.
I’ve been shot before. This was nothing new, but in all the years of being shot and being shot at I’ve never slipped out of consciousness into a comatose state, and I’ve never had such nightmares haunt me to the point where I begged for the eternal repose of death. Suddenly, it was years ago and I had just put on my uniform for the first time. Looking in the mirror I was shocked to see someone else. Instead of the younger man I was 36 years ago, I saw a grizzled old man in need of a cigarette gulping a bottle of whiskey. The face looked completely unfamiliar, but he wore my uniform and he spoke in my voice as he yelled at my ex-wife to keep the kids quiet and out of the way. All I could do was stand and stare in silence as the man in the scruffy beard adjusted his collar looking back at me snickering and sneering like a scoundrel. He knew I was there. Indeed, he seemed to take an odd pleasure in the fact of my watching. I looked about me and noticed my service revolver sitting on the bed nearby. As I walked over to grab it, the taste of whiskey flooded my mouth. I found myself gulping back swallows and swallows of drink that had never been put to my lips. Picking up the gun, I felt sluggish again. My head was swimming. I felt outside myself. I staggered back to the mirror ready to take aim and fire at this wretched doppelganger on the other side only to find him gone. Suddenly, the cries of my children as infants flooded my eardrums until they were all I could hear. Trying as much as I could to regain some composure, I turned around and started walking towards my bedroom door calling out softly towards my two sons telling them that I would be right there to pick them up and hold them. I found myself wondering as I approached the door, where do I find the baby bottles? Where are the diapers? Where is the formula? Then, I steadied myself and found myself instantly transported to the children’s room where two cribs stood side by side. The crying from both cribs intensified but as I walked closer towards the cribs, the room elongated and the cribs kept moving further and further away. I reached out and called out to my two sons but they didn’t hear me. They kept crying and yelping and snorting and writhing but I could do nothing to help them. Looking down, I saw that bottle of whiskey in my hands and drew it closer to my lips collapsing in utter helplessness. I kept calling out and calling out but nobody heard me. It was as if I wasn’t there. Then, I was running . . . chasing someone. I had to get them. I had made a mistake. Shimata!! That’s the word – the Japanese word – that would fit the situation. I had made a mistake. That was the word that my Japanese girlfriend (what was her name again?) had taught me at that time. It’s the closest thing to a curse word that she would utter out when she made an error. Only this wasn’t her error, it was my error. I was stupid. I was dumb. The guy told me all he wanted to do was reattach his prosthetic leg. What harm could that do? “Officer Flecha, please? I just want to put my leg on I promise I won’t run on you.” What harm could that do? The guy was caught. Why not be charitable? Show the guy some sympathy. The game was over. It was over and done with. What good would it do to humiliate him and take him into the precinct handcuffed balancing himself on one leg? Why not let the man have one last shred of dignity? So, I un-cuffed him and allowed him to put his leg back on only just as soon as he did, he opened the car door and bolted faster than anything. Now, I had to chase him down, but that wasn’t the worst thing. No, the worst thing would be the laughter. This whole thing could follow me for my entire career. Yes, I would come to be known as the cop who let himself get outrun by a one-legged perp. The wind blew across my face as I ran with desperation. My cheeks welled up and now tears started streaming across my face. The speed at which I ran made the tears blow off my face as they would across a speeding windshield. I was gasping and gasping for air. Suddenly, I found myself leaping into the air. I tackled the guy. Off went the leg as I struggled to get my breath back but no matter how much time I took I couldn’t catch my breath. I read the guy his rights again and I noticed he was crying too. Crying because he was caught without his leg again? Perhaps. Did it matter? I told myself that it didn’t. Then, I was surrounded by my fellow officers who took the perp away, but behind my back they all laughed. They laughed and they laughed and there was nothing to comfort me but that one bottle of whiskey I had been nursing since the start of it all. With the addition of a pack of cigarettes, a bar, and an open tab all the pain – the pain of humiliation anyway “Shimata!!”- it all went away, but by the time that happened I had lost something else and I could never get it back.
Reality began to fade again or perhaps it wasn’t reality that was fading. It was the nightmare that faded and reality that returned. Indeed, the reality was that I was in a hospital bed and it was Vivian’s lovely face that I first saw through the haze. “We almost lost you,” She said.
I was still groggy. I searched for words but they had all but escaped me. Perhaps my own vocabulary had won the footrace after all. Looking around, I noticed tubes and felt the stick of an IV needle in me, and I desperately wanted nothing more than to rip it out get out of there. There was an investigation to be done and I was wasting precious time dreaming away while the shooters ran free. Everything flooded back to my mind and I could see the red-head and her brick and her note clear as day in front of my face again. I began to lift myself but Vivian rose from her chair and put her arms around me in gentle restraint.
“You need to rest.”
Finally, I started to talk, “The woman – is she?”
“She’s dead, Frank. One of the bullets hit her right between the eyes. She had no chance.”
“But the note . . .”
“The police have everything they need. The detectives on the case are good group. I used to work with one of them. It’s all in good hands. If the bullet that hit you had been an inch more to the left we wouldn’t be talking right now. You’d be dead or paralyzed.”
“Vivian, I have to find who’s behind this. The woman indicated that she had been set up.”
“I’m sure Detectives Ramos and Claufield are looking into it, but right now I’m concerned about you. Let me get the nurse and let her know you’re awake. There will be plenty of time for you to discuss the case with the detectives. “
“I have to help.”
“Help? Frank, you’ve done enough. Let’s not talk about it now, okay.”
After that, well you can probably guess all the stuff that took place while I was in the hospital. The recovery, the doctors, the detectives with their questions, my official statement, visits from Michael Holliday and his wife – all the stuff you might have expected to happen – it all happened, but nothing could describe the urgency I felt to get healed and to get back on the case. I pride myself on the fact that I never let anyone who took a shot at me get away. That’s something Vivian could never understand. Was the case in capable hands? Of course it was, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a job to do. The sense of duty rose up within me as my body healed. All I could think about was tracking down those shooters, finding out who had sent that woman to throw a brick into the Holliday home, and bringing them all to justice. Vivian may have been a cop in the past, but she was also capable of being passive and letting things like this go. In the past it had been her job to keep me in check and I found myself in familiar territory as she implored to me that not every incident needs to be turned into some vendetta. I listened as she told me I wasn’t a detective anymore. I needed to transition back into civilian life just as she had and that she would help me. I nodded but her words went right through me. They meant nothing, and the more she protested the less she began to mean to me. Did she think she was still my superior officer barking down orders after I slipped up? Did she think that hospital room was her office and my bed the desk between us, an object to wield to rein me in and control me for my own good? I began to secretly resent her for the way she kept talking and talking to me as if these were the old times when we both had lives that still mattered. She wanted me to be like she was – sedate, settled, and sober- content in the knowledge that we can’t take control over the things that matter the most in life. I kept all these feeling bottled up inside me, but each time she spoke to me I wanted a drink and a cigarette – hospital rules and the fucking mayor be damned. Once they had finally let me out of the hospital I took out my frustrations on her by making love to her brutally ignoring the pain I felt in my bones. Even that didn’t satisfy me and I spent the entire first night back home wide awake staring at the ceiling with Vivian’s naked body sleeping peacefully beside me.
Back in my apartment the next morning, she brought me a beer and slipped a business card into my hand before giving me a long kiss full on the lips.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“I think you should talk to somebody.”
“Dr. Helen Markham has helped many men like you transition back into civilian life. She comes highly recommended. Veterans returning from the Middle East struggling with PTSD vouch for her. I have a friend who had a husband return from Iraq and . . .”
“Vivian, I don’t have a problem. It’s not like I‘m coming back from a war zone. I got shot in the back. I just need to find out who did it and why.”
“How many times do I need to tell you you’re not a cop anymore!” Her voice rose with every word. I could tell she had been trying to restrain the tears.
“Come on. Before this happened, you were amused when I talked about what happened in LA and what I went through with Hank’s daughter. This is no different. It’s in my blood to do this. It’s in your blood too. I know you. If this happened to you . . .”
“This would never happen to me. That’s just it. I’ve left the job behind. I wouldn’t do police work again if someone offered me a billion dollars just to be a cop again for a day. I’m retired. I did my part and so did you. It’s time to . . .”
“Time to what? Sit back, get old, and get ready to die? Because that’s what retirement is. That’s what that retirement party they threw for me meant. It meant that that I was done, finished, so why not have a blowout – only I’ve proven over this past year that I still have life in me yet. I caught a man who murdered a soap star. I caught the bitch who slashed the face of Hank’s beautiful daughter, and now I need to do this.”
Vivian look up at the ceiling rolling her eyes, “Do this and then what, Frank? Then what?”
“I don’t know. . . but don’t tell me that I’m finished because I’m not. I’ll never be finished. If I get killed out there then so be it.”
“Then we’re done, Frank. I can’t let myself love a man like you. I can’t!”
An awkward silence and then the doorbell rang. Vivian answered the door. I heard her say, “He’s not going to talk to a reporter.” As soon as I heard that I knew who it was and shouted, “It’s okay! Let him in!”
She walked back into the living room, embraced me, looked me in the eyes and asked, “Are you sure this is what you want?” I nodded in the affirmative. I didn’t even think to say anything only now I wish that I had. She turned around and shot Anthony Valenti a look that would just as soon kill him and told him, “He’s all yours.”
Anthony stood silently in his black vested suit his eyes following her behind as she left walking past him. His five o’clock shadow had started despite the early morning hour, he shifted his neck tie, removed a flask from his inside jacket pocket and said, “Time for a drink, old friend?”
“You bet,” I said, “Good to see you again. How long has it been? Ever win that fucking Pulitzer you were pining away for?”
He chuckled and said, “I’ve learned to accept certain realities. The newspaper business isn’t what it used to be. Heck, it wasn’t what it used to be when I first signed up for it so what else could I expect.”
“I hear ya, Anthony.”
The company and the drinking helped me to at least temporarily put Vivian towards the back of my mind. I never could forget a woman who meant as much to me as she did, but sometimes a man has to just put things on a shelf while he sorts out other things. I wanted to tell her I loved her and I knew she loved me but pride and egos have a nasty habit of getting in the way. It was good to see Anthony again though. As a cop I used to have little or no respect for the media, but Anthony was different. Most of his family including a brother and a sister were on the Force. His old man used to be on the Force, and when the paper he was working for a few years back wanted him to write up some anti-cop garbage to feed the public its usual swill, he upped and quit. It took him a while to get back on his feet but he remained true to himself and loyal to the Police, which is why I knew I could trust him. I knew he had information that didn’t make the papers. It was this information that he was sitting on that could maybe help me find out who was responsible for what happened that night. The sooner I resolved that, the sooner I thought I might be able to win Vivian back and perhaps even let her talk some sense into me. I needed to act fast.
“Well, you already know the identity of the red-head, Lucy Berringer, but what you may not know is that she had a boyfriend, a black guy who went missing 2 months ago. It’s been kept hush-hush. This guy Sam Carter went out after a rendezvous with Lucy at a club and he was expected to be back later that night but disappeared. Strange thing is that not Lucy or even Carter’s family reported him missing.”
“So, how do you know about this?”
“Lucy’s sister told the cops only after they leaned on her for something they didn’t already know. The problem is that the cops don’t know what to do with this bit of information. They are considering all angles but my sources tell me that they still don’t know what Lucy was doing there that night about to throw a brick through the window of the Holliday household. It doesn’t make any sense. A white woman in her mid-30s with no ties to the anti-cop protesters suddenly decides to throw a brick at Officer Holliday’s window. Why?”
I spoke up, “She was set up. That’s why. But by whom?”
“I don’t know, but I bet it has something to do with the disappearance of Sam Carter. Find out what happened to him, and I bet this case blows wide open, and when that happens maybe you give me the exclusive, eh.”
I chuckled, “Don’t let yourself sound so desperate, Anthony. I know you’re a good man, but let’s just take one thing at a time. Besides, you’re the only reporter I know who isn’t a complete bastard so who else would I talk to?”
Before Anthony left I called him back for a minute, “You think flowers ought to do it?”
A sympathetic smile crossed his face, “Not enough flowers in this city, Frank.” He grabbed his fedora from the desk by the door, waved goodbye to me, and left.
I decided to start with the retired parents of Sam Carter. I found them easily enough. These days it doesn’t take much sleuthing to find anybody. Those people who aren’t trying to hide could be found within minutes and those that are trying to hide could perhaps delay the efforts by an hour or two. It’s the ones that hide in plain sight that you need to worry about.
Carter’s parents seemed honest enough. They had been easy to find, and they were hoping I had information on their son. They thought I was still on the job and I didn’t do anything to correct that impression. When I asked why they hadn’t reported their son missing, they started to become defensive.
“We love our son,” Lois Carter said in protest.
“I know that. I just want to help. Is there anything – anything at all – that you haven’t told us yet?”
The father’s eyes tilted down and his face took on a somber impression, “They say that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
“What are you trying to say, Mr. Carter?”
“My son. Well. . .”
“George don’t!” interjected Lois Carter.
“We have to tell the truth, Lois. It’s the only way to find our son dead or alive. It’s the only way we’re going to know for sure.”
“Please, both of you. All I want to do is help you find out what happened to your son. I promise that whatever it is I find, I will share it with you before I share it with anyone else.”
“Alright, our son was being held for ransom – only if we went to the police the kidnappers – whoever did this – they said he would kill us.”
“How much did they want?”
“That’s the thing. He didn’t want money. The man on the phone said it was a matter of patriotism -something about restoring the faith of America. He said he was ex-military and that my son would be free as soon as his mission was accomplished. Then, we never heard from the kidnappers again. Then, you cops came around asking questions about Lucy and I didn’t know what to say. I was told that if I talked to the Police he would kill Sam. Then, one time when Lucy had come over, the phone rang and he gave her . . . instructions. He promised to release Sam once she had done what he told her to do. Then, that whole mess happened at that Officer Holliday’s house and we didn’t know what to do or say. Lucy was a loving and kind woman. She may have been older than Sam but we could tell they were in love. Now, she’s gone and we still don’t know what happened to Sam.”
I left the Carter household reflecting closely on the implications of what I had learned. Sam Carter – a hostage? The perpetrators – ex-military? Could it be possible that the person responsible for this entire mess had been someone unwilling to adjust to his civilian life – someone who took up a cause and now put the lives of innocent people in jeopardy because of his own refusal to stand down as it were? These endless possibilities stirred in my mind cooking up as if they were ingredients in some kind of stir-fry. I thought about this faceless man behind the phone. What was his purpose? Was he acting alone and if not, just who did he work for? I needed to get to the bottom of it all.
On my way back home from seeing the Carter family, I drove past a group of protesters. They were carrying signs saying “No Justice No Peace!” and calling for the blood of Officer Michael Holliday because he had killed an unarmed black man in the line of duty. None of these people seemed to be aware of the sacrifices men and women like Officer Holliday make every day to keep them safe. All they cared about was their own sense of self-righteousness so that they could all feel better about themselves believing that cops are all racists so that minorities could continue to be downtrodden despite the fact the cops I served with had come from all sorts of different backgrounds, religions and races. These fanatics want to believe that cops are all white men when that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact just about every cop I know would give their life to save the life of an innocent person regardless of the color skin of the person they were saving. It’s what’s right. The man who died in the confrontation with Officer Holliday had been a menace to the community. He was a low level hoodlum with a checkered background of domestic abuse who had even thrown his newborn infant son out of a car window just weeks before his death yet he’s now idolized as martyr by these ridiculous liberals. The world has gone astray. What happened to the days when law enforcers were idolized instead of the crooks? Gone are the days of my youth when young boys like me looked up to Dick Tracy, Batman, and Superman. Those were the days when kids wanted to be heroes. We wanted to save innocent lives, and we didn’t care who we were protecting. It would become my duty when I joined the Force, and it’s that sense of duty that compels me today.
Just as I decided to shove the entire thing out of my mind, I noticed that across the way from the protesters, a pro-cop rally had sprung up with far fewer supporters. They were handing out fliers to anyone passing them by. I decided to get out of my car and have a chat and perhaps grab a flyer when something crossed my eye. It was the logo scribbled upon the note wrapped around Lucy’s brick. Had she scribbled it herself since the version on the flyer look polished and professional? Was that her way of letting us know who set her up? I asked the organizer and he told me that the rally had been funded by Gabriel Janus, a wealthy and influential friend of the Fraternal Order of Police. This was his company logo. The man had made many generous contributions both to the Police and to the Republican Party. The organizer I spoke to talked about the man as if he walked on water. It was then that I knew something smelled funny.
I went straight to the Janus Company Headquarters in midtown Manhattan and decided to see what I could find. Once inside the tall post-modern building a life sized statue of the logo greeted me. It was then I figured that it might be impossible to track down this very important man. I was surrounded by important looking men and women in expensive suits and quickly felt out of place. I decided I would try to put on my official demeanor and see if I could catch a receptionist off guard. I put on the old Flecha charm with the young woman in a green dress at a kiosk across the lobby. Oddly enough she hadn’t spotted me as an interloper. Indeed, she seemed flattered with all the attention I had devoted to lavishing upon her. I imagine that important men walked past her every day and never truly stopped to take a genuine interest in her. They only spoke to her when she was needed for something and only complimented her if she was effective at her job.
“The first star I see this evening I’m naming it after you, Deidre. Where have you been all my life?”
“I bet a guy like you gets a lot of women with that line.”
“And if I have it has all been a prelude to you.”
She chuckled while keeping her eyes fixed on me through her angular eyeglasses. The grin on her lips said all I needed to know. I had her. It had been a while since I tried doing something like that cold so it was good to know I still had it in me. I told her I had a very urgent message for Mr. Jannus and that it simply couldn’t wait. “Tell him his friend from the military sent me. He’ll know who I’m talking about.”
After giving me her business card noting her phone number and email address, she got me through to where I needed to go. I found myself on the 11th floor of the building walking down a narrow hallway towards the very last door. Another receptionist waved me though. Mr. Jannus was behind his desk. He was a thin young man in his mid 30s and I could tell right away he had been someone who had felt very accomplished. Even if he had come from a wealthy family, the respect and the authority he had obtained were no easy task for a man this young. He looked like an up and coming politician and the smile he greeted me with through those big wide white teeth told me all I needed to know.
I sat down with all the confidence in the world contemplating how far I would go with my bluff, “Sam Carter has escaped,” I told him.
“That’s impossible. Captain Nelson assured me that would never happen.”
“Well, it has.”
“Then why are you here instead of looking for him?”
“Honestly, none of us know where to look.”
“How far could he have gotten? I mean weren’t you holding him at Nelson’s upstate ranch house? He said it was a few miles in between neighbors. Very secluded. Why come all the way here?”
“You know why.”
Jannus sniffed, “Money. You guys are all the same. I thought this was about patriotism and all that ‘Hooyah!’ shit when it really is all about the payday. Get him on the phone!”
I took out my cell phone and clicked on the one contact I knew would take this man down. As soon as there was an answer I said, “Captain, we have a problem. I think you better talk to Mr. Jannus and really settle this thing once and for all. It’s about the package and our money.”
Jannus yanked the phone from me snarling, “Listen to me Captain Nelson, if I had known you were going to fuck this up and let Sam Carter go free I would have hired one of my other Black-Ops guys. You men are a dime a dozen and I can’t afford fuckups. You’ll get an extra million if you capture him alive but you had better be sure nobody else finds him. This operation has been a mess from the very beginning. The whole purpose of this was to blame one of those anti-cop groups to make them look like the criminals that they really are so they could go running to Al Sharpton and cry about being framed like little babies. This was supposed be about winning the heart of America. Now it’s just a murder and kidnapping until you complete this supposedly new plot of yours to make it look like this Sam Carter set his girlfriend up. We need Carter alive, do you hear me?”
With the volume turned all the way up on my phone, I could hear Anthony’s voice on the other end said, “Loud and clear. You know this entire conversation has just been recorded and within seconds the NYPD will have this and converge upon your office within minutes. Have a good day. I know I will.”
Jannus shot me a look of utter incredulity, “Who the fuck are you?”
“Nobody, I’m just a retired detective,” I said with the biggest shit-eating grin.
“This is entrapment. Nothing I just said . . .”
“Don’t give me that crap. I’ve heard enough lectures recently. If you know what’s best for you, you will cooperate with the police when they arrive. If you don’t, I’ll make sure that Carter gets rescued myself before you have a chance to warn your Black-Ops guys. I’m not carrying a firearm but if you so much as reach for a phone you have no idea how much pain I will inflict upon you.”
Needless to say Jannus sang like a canary when the cops arrived. The FBI got called in almost immediately and staged a raid on Captain Nelson’s upstate ranch house. They rescued Sam Carter but Captain Frederick Nelson, formerly of the U.S. Marines, escaped after a long firefight. Anthony got his exclusive. I imagine his name will be recognized for quite a long while since this story would occupy the front pages for weeks. People might even get motivated to start buying newspapers again. I imagine Anthony to be quite the hero in his own circles. Gabriel Jannus soon went from wealthy accomplished businessman to lifelong scumbag in a matter of seconds. You can bet that his name was shall we say “trending” for days. His confession and his plot had been like something out of the movies. It was all anyone could talk about. I only hope that it brings people together because sometimes it’s not the people who are openly trying to divide us who do the most damage. Usually, it is people like Jannus operating in the shadows manipulating the worst qualities to come out in society. On the surface, it looked like the anti-cop groups would have been behind something like this, but it was really someone far more sinister and divisive who had truly been the linchpin. It’s the scoundrels that hide in plain sight who become the most dangerous and behind just about every scoundrel is the jingoistic call to patriotism to justify their evil deeds. These men don’t know what true patriotism is. They lather themselves with snake oil and tell us what we want to hear. On our side we had Jannus and on the other end they have Al Sharpton. If only Sharpton could be as careless on the phone as Jannus had been.
If only my story ended there. It seems like a neat tidy ending doesn’t it? A few days after Anthony’s story came out, I went to visit Vivian. I decided perhaps a single white rose would do the trick. I rang the bell, she answered the door and seemed surprisingly welcoming towards me. I knew she hadn’t quite forgiven me but just seeing that lovely smile of hers made me melt. I went into my whole spiel and I was about to tell her that I had scheduled an appointment with Dr. Helen Markham just to get her to let me inside when a look of panic crossed her face. She yelled, “GET DOWN!!!”
I heard the firecracker popping sound of gunfire behind me. The two of us crouched and rushed inside. Together we raced towards the back of the house where the kitchen back door was located but we decided that exiting out of the back door would be a mistake. Captain Nelson hadn’t operated alone and there was no doubt a perimeter had already been set up. If we tried to leave the house, we would be easy targets.
“Where’s your firearm?”
“Upstairs locked away in my bedroom!”
“You’re kidding me right!”
“Frank, I’m not a cop anymore. I don’t have guns in every room of the house.”
“Is it at least loaded?”
“Of course it is.”
“I’m going after it. Go down to the basement. Find a hiding spot.”
“Wait! The combination!”
“What is it?”
“Got it,” I said as I bolted upstairs.
By the time I had reached the top step, Captain Nelson had already penetrated the house. He came in alone. He must have let his accomplices remain outside in case we tried to make a run for it. I unlocked the safe, got Vivian’s gun, and carefully made my way back downstairs. He had decided to go downstairs and take care of Vivian first. Then, I heard it. A shot had been fired. I panicked and raced down the basement steps opening fire at the first glimpse of the musclular man. I shot him in the back of his bald head just as he executed Vivian. I was too late. The rest was black . . . darkness enveloped me . . . Then, the sound of sirens. I think you know the rest.
This time the police were able to round up all of Captain Nelson’s accomplices, but somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better. Vivian hadn’t asked to be a part of this, but she’s the one who is gone. I’m the one still here sucking down endless gulps of whiskey until I lose consciousness every night. Dr. Helen Markham reccomended that I write up my story, but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. Writing it down only brings back the anguish I feel. Does it matter to anyone that I wanted to tell Vivian that I loved her but failed to. I doubt it. I doubt anyone is going to read this. My phone kept going off so much after the shooting but I didn’t care who was on the other end. I took my cell phone and threw it out the window the other night. Who needs those things anyway? Does everybody really need to be connected to everybody else? What kind of an age is this anyway. I swear to Christ those things were invented just to prevent men like me from ever obtaining any kind of peace and quiet. As I stare at the whiskey bottle in front of me there is one ultimate transcendent truth this world and this life have to offer. I’ve said it many times before in a past life and I’ll say it again now:
The most beautiful three words in the English language are not “I love you.” That’s okay for the sheep, the saps, and the suckers that inhabit the planet. No, the most beautiful three words ever uttered in the English language are, “Leave Me Alone.” I only wish I had remembered that while Vivian was still alive.