Three crooked cops going straight after a murderer
Woody was working on getting high when the phone rang. Dennis was on a date it was a date he paid for, but a date all the same. Os had blood on his hands from a little extracurricular law enforcement. All three men picked up their phones because they were cops, and cops are never really off-duty not even when they’re crooked.
Detective Julie Owen was savagely killed in her own bed, and the unborn child she was carrying is nowhere to be found. The grisly crime has the brass breathing down the necks of the three detectives tasked with finding Julie’s killer. Woody, Dennis, and Os each shared a bond with Julie that went deeper than the blue of their uniforms and have their own reasons to want to find the person responsible for her murder. Secrets drive the investigation secrets that need to stay buried long enough to solve the case.
|Product dimensions:||4.90(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.80(d)|
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OS WAS ON HIS WAY TO SULLY'S TAVERN LATER THAN HE WANTED TO BE. THE piece of shit in the box had refused to crack. Os had sat across from him and let his partner, Woody, do the talking. As usual, Woody spelled it out. He told the guy what they knew for sure and what they would be able to prove in another day or so. Woody could almost always close the case; he never walked into the interview room without knowing all the angles. Most times, the suspect caved under the weight of the evidence amassed, and everyone got to go home on time. Tonight had been different. The little fuck was dead to rights. Woody showed him the images they got off the camera mounted inside the minimart across the street. The images were grainy, but you could see him assaulting the old woman, and Woody talked like they were nails in a coffin. Os watched the rapist sit ramrod straight and stare at the patch of wall between the two cops. He hadn't said he wanted a lawyer, and Woody was doing his best to make him see that a confession was the only chance he had at any kind of a deal.
The bastard kept silent and listened without looking at either cop. It went on and on for hours, until the scumbag said his first word: "Lawyer."
Os had walked back in just in time to hear the single word. The six letters plowed through the carefully orchestrated interrogation like a hand swiping pieces off a chess board two moves away from checkmate. Woody put his hands up, said, "Your funeral," and walked out past Os and the two cups of coffee in his hands. He hadn't given up; he had to pee. He had put down at least six cups of coffee during the interview and had asked for more the second Os moved his chair to stand. Os watched his skinny partner walk out. The rapist kept looking straight ahead.
"You should have talked," Os said.
The guy actually smiled a little bit.
Os felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He wanted to run the rapist's face into the concrete on the other side of the room — hit him hard enough to loosen teeth and break bones — but he couldn't do it here. One room away, there was a television screen that other detectives used to watch the interview. Os had been in that room watching the small television more than he watched his own TV from his couch. He knew the angle of the camera and the less-than-clear image the television would display. Os had chosen the seat on the left; it allowed him to keep his back to the camera.
The camera had been set up with standard dimensions in mind. Os was at least a head taller and fifty pounds heavier than anything resembling a standard human. The non-standard dimensions meant the camera did not do such a good job observing the room when Os was the one seated in the interview chair on the left. Os was six-foot-six, and when he draped his suit jacket over the back of the chair the jacket hung to the floor. The XXL coat made Os's feet impossible to see. Woody had joked about it years ago; he said it made him look like Uncle Fester interrogating a witness. A bunch of detectives laughed and a new nickname was born. The name only lasted a week, but Os never forgot what the camera saw — and didn't see.
Os put down the two coffees in the middle of the table, removed his jacket, and took a seat. "Guess the conversation had to end sometime."
The rapist eyed the coffee. After watching his other interrogator down cup after cup, there was no way he wasn't interested.
Os looked at the cups and then at the man on the other side of the table. He shrugged. "Go ahead."
The man extended two cuffed hands and brought the malleable paper cup slowly to his lips. The coffee was extra bad and extra hot, and Os enjoyed watching the rapist learn it firsthand. The tentative sip burned the man's tongue and he winced before putting the cup down. Os waited until the cup was an inch away from the surface of the table and then he extended his leg. It took little effort to slide the criminal's chair back a few inches. The movement was brief and left no trace in Os's upper body. The rapist had been paying attention to the cup, and he caught on a fraction of a second too late. The rounded wooded edge of the table offered less support than an alcoholic single parent, and the cup toppled into the rapist's lap.
There was a scream and the chair was knocked backwards as the man got to his feet and backed himself into the wall frantically pulling the fabric of his pants away from his body. Os got to his feet too and made a show of pulling napkins out of his pocket. He had spilled enough coffee on his suit to make a habit of taking a thick wad of the thin paper sheets every time he poured a cup. When the screaming man made no move to take them, Os pushed them into his chest and held them there.
"You need to be careful. Those cups can get really hot," Os said in a voice loud enough for the microphone to pick up.
Not only did Os know what the interrogation room cameras could see, he knew what they could hear. Years of interviews inside the room revealed a dead zone that couldn't pick up anything lower than conversational tones. Os was still holding the napkins against the rigid torso of the other man. With only a subtle movement, Os imperceptibly stopped holding the napkins and started digging his thumb into the rapists ribcage. A hand damp with cooled coffee landed on top of Os's and tried to pull the invading digit away. With his head turned from the camera, Os said, "You better hope you get a shitty lawyer. The street is no place for a rapist. All kinds of bad things can happen." The heavy tread of Os's right shoe slowly eased onto the rapist's flimsy Nike. The pressure increased with no recordable evidence other than a sudden gasp too quiet to be heard by the shitty microphone. "Now, apologize for spilling the coffee."
"S — sorry."
Os raised his voice so the microphone would hear him. "Accidents happen."
Os lifted his foot and patted the rapist on the back and turned to get his jacket off the back of the chair.
"Sit tight," Os said. "I'll go see what I can do about getting you that lawyer."
It was late by the time Os clocked out. He had hoped to get to Sully's in time to watch the fight. Sully's was never really busy, and the bartender had no problem changing the television to ESPN2 Classic Boxing when Os asked. Tonight was Cassius Clay versus Sonny Liston. Os always liked Liston. The former heavyweight champ was a leg-breaker for the mob before he turned pro. He was nothing but hard muscle wrapped around a black heart. Liston fought like he was mad at the world. Every punch was meant to hurt — even his jabs had dynamite behind them. Sure, Clay beat him, but Liston made him earn it; he walked out knowing he had been in a fight.
Os kept his head moving while he drove. Years in a patrol car and more years in the army never let him feel comfortable riding with eyes just on the road. He was speeding and not getting anywhere fast because some asshole city worker had timed the lights in such a way that no one could get through more than two greens at a time. He twisted the steering wheel of the Jeep in his hands and swore at the clock. It was eleven-fourteen; the fight was probably already over. He'd show up just in time to see Liston on his back and then he'd have to sit through Ping-Pong from Korea while he finished his drink. The rapist and the missed fight had Os on edge, seeing the guy pissing against the side of a house sent him over.
There were three men loitering on the tiny patch of lawn that made up the front yard, waiting for the fourth guy to finish soaking the bricks. Os had kicked the front door of that house down twice when he was serving warrants on lowlifes squatting inside. The front door was still boarded up, meaning the four guys had enough sense to use the back door. Os pulled into a spot three houses up and got out of the car.
Os walked down the street with his head down. He turned up the collar on his pea coat and dug his hands into his pockets. The day had only gotten as high as minus five; the night saw the afternoon high as some kind of challenge and sent the thermometer down ten degrees just to show it meant business. Os's clothes didn't shout cop and neither did his skin. Most people never figure a black guy for a cop. Os didn't give a shit about what most people took him for. Most of the time, he used society's racism to his advantage; prejudice allowed Os to get much closer to a lot of shitheads. Didn't matter it they were too stupid to think he was a cop — he was.
The four didn't stop their loud conversation until Os left the sidewalk and stepped onto the snow-covered grass. The brown snow resembled nothing on a Christmas card. The city spread a seemingly never-ending supply of sand and salt on the roads and the snowploughs hurled the mess onto the properties along the street. The grass underneath the corrupted snow would only come back under constant care and a ton of water. Os guessed that none of the addicts could grow anything useful.
"Fuck you want?" The question came from a white guy who had decided to sit down on the front steps. His words caused another member of the group, a black guy with a face full of scabs and two missing teeth, to stand.
Os wondered what the four men were hooked on. Meth and crack were everywhere, but fentanyl had moved into town recently and started taking over. A merging of the two drugs was the next progression paramedics were having to deal with. People were calling it Dirty. Looking at the four filthy men, Os briefly wondered if addicts were fans of irony. The four sets of eyes keyed on Os didn't have a trace of fentanyl to them. Each man had an absentminded tick, a bouncing knee or a rapid series of blinks, that didn't read like an opiate.
Os started taking numbers in his head. The talker was number one and the man who stood was his number two. The third guy and the one who had pissed on the side of the house were followers, and not the ones to watch. Everything would flow from the first two junkies.
Os flashed his badge. "Get up."
"Fuckin' cop? Shit, we din do nothin'. What you hasslin' us fo', yo? It's fuckin' pofilin' is what that is," the white guy said.
Os liked that — guy complaining about profiling from a black cop. "Get up," he said again. He opened his coat so the four men could see his gun, and that he was serious. The other two, a Latino and the pisser, a chubby white guy, moved back to the porch steps. Number one stayed on his ass. Os didn't want to do this on the front lawn, so he gave the crackhead something he would like.
"Hands on the side of the building. Let's go."
Os watched number one's drug-fuelled brain process the information. It took a few seconds for him to get the idea — four-on-one, out of sight from the street. He smiled and Os saw that what teeth were left were brown. No one ever seems to put together that if smoking meth can wreck something as hard as a tooth, the organs inside your body don't stand a chance.
"Okay, officer," number one said. "Let's go."
Number two smiled and followed the other man around the house. The last two meth-heads picked up the rear like a shaky caboose. Os watched the pack move as he walked behind them. Pack always felt like the right word. They looked like thin, frail dogs — coyotes. Dogs are scavengers and pack hunters. They isolate something weaker and all take it down, but there's always one alpha dog choosing the prey. The four men roaming outside in the late evening meant they were out of things to smoke — the pack needs to feed again.
Hunters don't go after coyotes — they want bigger game — but they're missing out. Corner a couple of wild dogs, and you're in for a real fight. You'll never look at a deer again.
The narrow alley on the side of the house had brick on one side and a wooden fence, belonging to the house next door, on the other. Os couldn't see number one from where he was standing when the crackhead called out.
"You want our hands in the air officer?"
Os felt the adrenaline kicking in. "On the side of the house."
Here it came.
Number three and four were followers. They were loyal, but they were also high on something made by a kitchen chemist. When they heard their alpha speak, they needed time to process what his words meant and understand that the word "us" meant that they were the ones who were supposed to move first.
Os didn't wait for the electrical impulses to finish running through the damaged circuitry in number three's and four's brains. He kicked the short Latino in the spine before he even made a move. Number four, the Latino, was short — maybe five-foot-five and needle thin. Os's size fourteen shoe hit him on the base of his spine — just above the ass. The spot made sure the little man wouldn't just bounce off his foot. The Latino bent back the wrong way and there was a loud pop that came from somewhere inside him. He fell into his friend and sent him forward and off balance. Os stepped over the Latino and punched number three hard in the back of the head. Number three crashed face first into the side of the house and went down.
Number one and two spilled into the backyard. They had more sense than the other two, and as Os emerged in the backyard, he saw that they already had their hands up.
"C'mon, pig," the words seemed uglier coming from the scabbed face. He moved away from his partner so that Os would have to fight in two directions at once.
"Get a lot of money for that badge and gun," number one said. "A lot."
Os stayed in the corner keeping the mouth of the alley to his back. The meth-heads wanted Os in the middle of the yard and they didn't have a backup plan. Number one and number two tried taunting him with words like pussy and chickenshit when they saw he wasn't going where they wanted him to, butOs didn't move. He just opened his coat and let them see the badge. That kind of desire was a taunt of its own — one that overrides everything else. Instead of sticking with the plan, number two got greedy and moved on Os with a high kick that he didn't expect. Number two was fast for a tweeker, and the kick came in high to the side of his head. The meth-head even yelled, "Hi-yah," as he did it.
Os's reflexes were better than good, and he had the advantage of not being slowed down by a mental fog of meth. Os advanced and flirted with the kick before suddenly changing course and dipping low so that the attack could continue on its path towards a now vacant space. Os let the kick reach full extension before he again altered his course. The split second of lag between extension and retraction was all the time Os needed. He exploded out of the crouch with a vicious two-handed shove that connected with the skinny thigh still hanging around at eye level. Number two was blown off his feet and from the way he held onto his leg after he hit the ground, Os knew something inside was torn. Number one pulled a box-cutter from his pocket and thumbed the blade up. Os could have pulled the Glock at his hip, but this wasn't an arrest and bullets made too much noise. The meth-head came in swinging, slicing the air between them with the blade jabbing forward. The attack was supposed to look skillful and dangerous, but it just looked sloppy.
Number one came in with a vertical strike starting low, aiming to jam the point of the blade into Os's belly and rip it up towards his neck. Os darted in diagonally and passed within inches of the blade. Number one put a lot of force behind the attack and when he missed, he stumbled forward, a victim of his own momentum, towards an elbow already halfway to his nose. Os had put his hips into the attack, providing maximum torque, and number one went down as though he had been struck by lightning. The hard-packed snow collapsed under his falling weight and cradled him. In the dim light provided by the streetlights behind the house, Os could see that the meth-head's face was almost flat now.
Os lifted his foot and felt his other shoe, now under his full bodyweight, sink deeper into the snow. His thick rubber sole dangled over the meth-head's face like a dense black rain cloud. He was about to force his foot down when his phone went off. He thought about ignoring the call, but that wasn't his style — duty called. Os put his foot back down on the snow and fished his phone from his pocket.
"Os, I need you to get down to 110 Ferguson Avenue South," said Jerry Morgan, the homicide unit detective sergeant at Division 1.
The address was vaguely familiar. "What's going on, Jerry? I just clocked out."
Jerry sighed and Os could picture the tubby sergeant searching his desk for some of the candy he kept in constant supply.
"We got an officer down. She wasn't on the job. It happened at her house. She was working gangs. Julie Owen. You know her?"
"No," Os said.
"Someone murdered her. It's bad, Os. I need you down here."
All of the desire to fuck the crackhead up vanished like a coin in a magician's hands.
Os stepped over the limp body on his way back to the street. "I'll be there in ten minutes."
Excerpted from "Tin Men"
Copyright © 2018 Mike Knowles.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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