Since completing the Nick Chambers Mysteries, I've started a new book series set in the 1970's. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter.
One: Last Day on the Job
It was 10:45pm. My partner Mike Dawson was driving us back to the station when the call came over radio. We were at the end of our shift and five minutes later it would have been someone else’s headache. Five lousy minutes.
“Code 242 at 567 Broad Street, third floor,” the dispatcher echoed over the radio. Mike looked over at me.
“Wanna pick that up partner?” He asked.
“We’re off in five,” I suggested. “Let’s give it a minute and let the night shift take it.” We waited a minute and the dispatcher came back over the radio.
“Code 242 at 567 Broad Street, third floor. Any unit please respond,” the voice repeated.
“Shit,” I said as I lifted the microphone. “Special unit 44 responding. ETA five minutes,” I reported into the mic.
“Roger that Unit 44,” the dispatcher responded before the radio went silent again. Mike switched on the siren and hit the gas pedal.
567 Broad Street was a three-story tenement in a marginal block of the city. We pulled our unmarked car in front of the house and turned the siren off. We had been assigned a repo’d black 65’ Ford Ltd. It blended nicely into the sketchy neighborhood. I looked up at the old tenement house. The first two floors were darkened, there was a broken window on the second floor, and the third floor had a light on inside. Nobody came out of the house to greet us.
“What do you think Duke,” Mike asked looking up at the old house. I pulled a smoke from my jacket and set a match to it.
“Looks like a reefer pad. Let's get it over with pal,” I said as I stepped out from the car.
Mike followed suit and we started walking up the front steps. We got onto the front porch and rang the buzzer for apartment number three. We waited a minute or two, but nobody responded. Mike pushed at the door and it creaked open. I drew my forty-five from its holster.
We stepped inside a darkened hallway that stunk of cat litter and stale newspapers, then started up the old stairway. We passed a door on the second floor and went straight up to the third. The third-floor door was already cracked open a few inches. Mike knocked anyway.
“Police!” he shouted with authority as he pushed the door completely open. We stepped inside a small kitchen. A dim light was burning over a gas-on-gas stove. Some broken dishes lay scattered on a dirty linoleum floor. A young girl sat at the table holding a bag of ice on her face.
“Police Miss,” Mike repeated in a softer tone. “Did you call in a report to the station?”
The woman lifted the ice bag from her face to reveal a swollen eye and bloody lip. She was young and attractive, maybe nineteen or twenty, with straight blonde hair that fell down neatly over her shoulders. Her good eye was pale blue, her other eye looked bloodshot through the slit in her swollen face. She had a bloodied fat lip, and I noticed two teeth lying in a saucer on the table. She looked up at the two of us.
“Yeah… I called,” she mumbled. “I had a fight with my boyfriend,” she explained.
“I’m Detective Dawson Miss, and this is my partner Detective Jameson,” Mike explained. “Where is your boyfriend now?” She glanced down at the dirty floor.
“He lives in the apartment downstairs, on the second floor,” she explained.
“Did he do that to your face?” Mike asked. She nodded and put the bag of ice back over her eye. Mike looked at me.
“Go down and talk with the boyfriend Duke,” he suggested. “I’ll stay up here and wait for the ambulance to arrive.”
“Your boyfriend got a name Miss?” I asked.
“Billy Benson,” she answered.
I nodded and started back down the old stairway. When I reached the second floor, I rapped heavy on the front door. It took a minute, but soon I heard footsteps on the other side. The door cracked open, still latched on the inside with a chain. The punk inside looked to be in his early twenties, a few years older than his swollen girlfriend upstairs. He was tall and lanky, with long brown hair that ran scraggly down over his shoulders. His face was unshaven, and I could smell reefer smoke inside the apartment. He wore bluejeans and a t-shirt with a peace symbol hand-painted on it. I pulled my badge out and showed it to him.
“Police,” I stated. “Open up.” The kid looked a little stoned and shot an arrogant stare at me.
“Beat it,” he said as he shut the door. I banged twice as hard again on the outside.
“Open up, Police!” I shouted. The punk opened the door again. It was still chained on the inside.
“Police,” I repeated as I stuck my badge up close to the opening in the doorway.
“I got eyes pig,” he replied.
“Well maybe they ain’t so good,” I suggested. “Open the friggin door now shit brain.”
“Like I said… Beat it,” he said stoically as he started to shut the door again. Before the door could latch, it came into contact with the sole of my boot. The chain broke on the inside as the door flew in, hitting the punk in his face. The impact sent him reeling back and down onto a bean-bag chair on the floor. He was grabbing at his bloody nose when I walked inside. He tried to stand up, but his face kissed my boot heel and he fell back down onto the floor.
“Your name Billy Benson?” I questioned.
“What about it pig,” he spewed back up at me, spitting some blood from his mouth.
“Get up punk,” I instructed. He wobbled to his feet.
“You know who my uncle is pig?” he asked as if I should know.
“I’m sure I don’t give a shit, but go ahead and tell me,” I answered.
“You ever hear of District Attorney Benson?” he questioned arrogantly.
“Is that name supposed to scare me shit-brain?” I answered. “Am I supposed to forget about your swollen girlfriend upstairs? Is that name supposed to stop me from giving you a little of your own medicine?” I questioned. He smiled back at me.
“That’s exactly what it means pig,” he stated arrogantly as he pulled a reefer from behind his ear and lit a match to it. “I got real juice, and there ain’t shit you can do about it.” I smiled back at him.
“I suppose you’re right about that,” I admitted. He laughed as he took in a deep drag from the reefer cigarette. Before he could exhale, my fist had made heavy contact with his jaw. I heard his jawbone crack, along with a few teeth on the inside. He fell back limp and unconscious onto the floor. Mike ran into the apartment.
“Dammit Duke, I said to go down and talk with the kid, not beat him to death.” I glanced back at Mike.
“The punk had it coming with the beating he gave the girl upstairs. So maybe he needs some dental work and a little wire job now, nobody’s gonna give a shit about this reefer head.”
A couple of squad cars arrived along with two ambulances. We turned the scene over to the uniformed officers and went out by the back door. Mike drove me home and I went straight to bed.
The next morning, we got called into the Captain’s office. He reamed out Mike for not keeping me in line, then put me on administrative leave, while an investigative hearing was being scheduled to review the case.
The hearing was held exactly two weeks later. I knew my goose was cooked as soon as the punk walked into the hearing room at the station house. He was dressed in a three-piece suit, clean-shaven, and his hair had been trimmed back clean and tight. He looked like a friggin alter-boy. His jaw was wired open an inch or two, just enough to sip in his meals through a straw. There were a few stitches visible above his right eye.
He couldn’t speak very well, so his uncle the D.A. sat beside him during the entire hearing to assist with his testimony. Evidence was heard on the events of that night, and the review panel made their decision in under ten minutes. The panel spent most of that ten minutes talking privately to the D.A. at the front of the hearing room.
That was it for my career, conduct unbecoming a police officer in the City of Providence. I was off the force, stripped of my badge along with any pension I had coming to me. The D.A. had pulled all the strings and dropped a hundred-pound anvil on me.
When I walked out of that stinking hearing room, all I could think of was… five lousy minutes.