Authors: Jonathon King
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Fiction, #ebook
A Killing Night
For Jessica and Adam
Things break more in bars than they do outside
hearts, noses, bottles, promises. And in the breaking are beautiful stories.
an, he loved that smile of hers. It was a killer.
He could see her using it from here, flashes of the white teeth that she swore she’d never bleached. The raised cheekbones in her profile every time she turned from the bar back to the register. He was too far away to see her brown eyes, but he knew their shine and the way they laughed when she smiled that smile. It was what had captured him, what made him know that this was the one, the girl who was going to save him this time.
He saw it again but he had to lean forward into the steering wheel to keep it in sight through the window as she swung back to her customer. The guy had parked himself right in front of the taps so he’d get to chat her up every time she poured a beer. When she tossed her hair back over her shoulder, he saw the smile again. That killer smile. His smile. So why the fuck was she giving it to this guy?
“Two-oh-four? Dispatch to two-oh-four.”
The radio squawked and without looking he reached over and turned the volume lower.
“Two-oh-four. Report of an assault from caller at four-twenty- four Northeast Ninth Avenue.”
Assault my ass, he thought. Some old lady trying to get us to run over to her place ’cause she heard a noise that’ll turn out to be the damn cat. You don’t get assaults in that neighborhood at one in the morning. Waste of time. He didn’t bother answering, even though he knew it wasn’t going away.
“Two-oh-four? What’s your location?”
“Shit,” he said out loud, snatching up the mike.
“This is two-oh-four,” he answered, monotone, no emotion in his voice.
“I’m in the two hundred block of South Park Road on that burglary call out. I need to check this alleyway and secure the premises.”
He could hear the exasperation in the dispatcher’s voice. But the hell with her.
“This is four-eighteen dispatch,” came another voice on the box. “I’m clear on the last call, I’ll take that assault.”
“Ten-four, four-eighteen. I’ve got you en route at oh-one- hundred hours.”
Good ol’ Roger, he thought. Always the hustler. Always coming through to build his numbers. He clipped the handset back on the dash and turned back to the bar. The first few pinprick spots of rain began to pepper his windshield and glistened like sugar in the high parking lot lights. She’d be on her shift another two hours. Then she’d do her cleanup for the girls on day shift even if he did try to convince her to leave it for them. Then maybe he’d find out what the hell she’d been talking about earlier with that fucking P.I.
He rolled down his window and took a deep draw of night air and the smell of rain in the breeze. He watched an old Camaro pass slowly through the parking lot and then pull a rolling stop through the stop sign onto Federal. Oughta light that guy up right now, he thought. Even if there isn’t any traffic. These punks who think they can break the law any damn time they feel like it. He watched the red glow of the Camaro’s taillights wink and then fade into the next block.
He turned back to the bar and she was still talking to the guy on the end stool and he could feel the heat rise into his ears and the twitch in his back that made him shift in his seat. The leather of his belt and holster creaked. He picked his personal cell phone up off the passenger seat and hit the speed dial and watched her turn to the bar phone as soon as he heard the ring in his ear.
“Kim’s, can I help you?”
“Only by getting off early,” he said, using his sweet voice.
“Hi, baby,” she answered, but turned away from the window, hiding the smile that was supposed to be his.
“You know I can’t, even if I want to. I’m on alone.”
He watched her turn and hold the mobile phone close to her cheek and then cup her elbow with her palm in a sort of self-hug. He liked the move.
“How’s it going out there tonight?” she asked. “Catch any bad guys?”
He knew she always wanted to hear the stories, take her away from the boring blather in front of her.
“Not much,” he said, not willing to take the effort to make anything up off the cuff. “Pretty quiet. Rain you know. Policeman’s best friend. How’s it in there?”
“Dull,” she said and he saw her step forward and pick up a bar rag while she cradled the phone with her shoulder.
“So who’s the guy you’ve been flirting with for the last half hour?” he said, not able to control himself.
“What? You’re kidding, right?”
He could see her look up at the window on the north side of the bar where he had parked his cruiser in the past.
“Oh. Tell me he’s just another old friend from high school like that last one,” he said.
She kept looking north and then walked out from behind the bar over to an empty table, wiped at the clean surface.
“Yeah, old is right,” she said into the phone. “He’s forty-eight. He’s married to my old boss out at Ranchers.”
She was trying to keep an easy, teasing tone in her voice. He wasn’t close enough to see the tiny prick of fear that stained the light in her eye.
He was silent and watched her give up on the table and then disappear behind a wall and then come back into view in another window. She was wearing that loose white button-down blouse, open wide down the front. She had on a cotton jersey underneath that stretched tight around her breasts and accented her cleavage.
“You gotta wear that shirt open like that all the time?” he said, watching her move close to the window and look out in his direction. The reflective paint on the side of the squad car glowed like neon under the lights and he saw her eyes stop.
“You always seem to like it,” she said and cupped her hand around the mouthpiece of the phone and moved closer to the glass. Her face was shadowed by the angle of the light.
“You know I get jealous,” he said. “It’s just that you’re so beautiful.”
She knew she was not beautiful. It was a line she’d heard a thousand times from men on the other side of the bar, spoken on the scent of bourbon and beer. But his was different. He had been different. She’d liked it when he said it because it wasn’t a joke, or some bad come-on. Even when he’d said it the first time, it was with a touch of passion that made her believe that he believed it. Now she knew too much about where his passion came from and she had to tighten the hold on her stomach to keep the bile from rising in her throat.
In the patrol car the radio squelched again.
“All units, officer in foot pursuit of a fleeing suspect in the nine hundred block of Third Street. Requesting backup.”
The dispatcher had cranked her flat voice up a notch.
His was the only specific call number she used.
“Two-oh-four responding,” he answered into the set while turning the key in the ignition and gunning the engine to life. He’d left his cell phone connection open and said into the phone, “Gotta go catch some bad guys, babe,” and then hit the light bar and siren and pulled out of the parking lot into the street.
He was smiling now, jacked at the chance to show off. She watched the red and blue lights flash across the south windows and felt the small jump of adrenaline nip into her blood.
“But you’ll be back to get me, right?” she said, surprising herself with the coolness of the request.
“Sure, babe. I’ll be back.”
He cut the siren at Ninth Street but kept up the speed, taking a corner with just enough control to keep the tires from yelping on the concrete. He was listening now to the radio crackling with the sounds of the foot chase and location of Roger’s suspect. He could hear his fellow patrolman breathing hard while trying to talk into the microphone that all road officers kept clipped to the shoulder lapel of their shirts.
“Suspect…now northbound on…uh…Thirteenth Ave approaching Fifth.”
The sounds of Roger’s handcuffs ringing and his baton clacking on his belt came through the transmission each time he keyed the mic to speak. This asshole was giving him a pretty good run.
He pushed up his speed and then rode the brakes just a touch while blowing through a stop sign. He was watching for the telltale sweep of headlights. Anything dark was just SOL. From other radio traffic he could tell other units were closing in like some kind of foxhunt. But he wanted to get in there first, and without announcing himself or flushing the runner into somebody else’s hands.
“Two-oh-four. What’s your location?” Dispatch bitch again. “We need to set up a perimeter on the east side of Fifteenth Ave.”
Fuck that. Goddamn perimeter guys always miss out on the good stuff. He ignored the call and doused his flashing light bar and gunned the car up Eighth toward the park. The guy’ll go into the park. They always go into the fucking park, figuring the patrol cars won’t follow them into the trees.
“Suspect is…uh…in the alley moving north…in the six hundred block…uh…toward the park.”
Nice, Roger, he thought, and cut the wheel and jumped a sidewalk onto the sod of the park’s soccer field and felt the fishtail of the Ford’s ass end sliding on grass.
“Description of the suspect, four-eighteen?” dispatch asked.
“White male…heavy, six-foot…wearing, wearing gray cutoff sweatshirt…uh…dark pants…”
Roger was doing a hell of a job but it didn’t sound like he was gonna keep up much longer and this fuck is bound to go for the thick pines at the north side. If he makes that fence behind the library and across Federal, we’re screwed.
He accelerated, throwing up a rooster-tail of grass and black dirt over the field, and killed his headlights. He used the spillover of light from the baseball diamond to aim for the tree line. The radio crackled again and he heard the rustle of metal clacking again but this time no one spoke.
“Four-eighteen? Four-eighteen, what’s your location?” the dispatcher said, worry now sneaking into her voice.
He reached the trees and slurred the car to a stop and kept his eyes at head level, scanning the field for movement. The high baseball lights glowed up and out, leaving the grass in shadow. He opened the driver’s door, congratulated himself on remembering to kill the dome light when the shift started, and stepped out. The air was heavy with the drizzle and the smell of fresh-cut grass. He unsnapped the hammer strap from the 9mm in his holster and squinted, tracking to the west and listening. His eye stopped on something on the black background, a dull flash of white that was there, then gone, then there again. He took a few steps in that direction when the radio came back to life.
“Four-eighteen. Suspect in custody,” Roger said.
He could hear the crackle in both the radio on his shirt and in the air out in front of him and he started jogging.
“Ten-four, four-eighteen. Location?” said the dispatcher.
“On the soccer field, north end of the park.”
As he got closer, he could see Roger, one knee in the back of a big man who was facedown in the grass, bobbing his head from side to side and spitting out fresh clippings that were pasted onto his sweaty face.
“Yo, Rog,” he said as he reached the two. “Olympic fucking speed, man. I didn’t know you were a cross-country star, man.”
Roger’s face was glistening in the spare light. His breathing was heavy and he kept his left hand on the man’s shoulder blades and wiped at the sweat with the short sleeve of his uniform. He already had handcuffs on the man and he let a grin start on the lighted side of his face.
“Figured he’d head this way and I knew once we got in the clear I’d get him in a sprint,” Roger said.
“Olympic fucking speed,” he repeated, standing over Roger and the suspect, watching across the park and picking up the blue and red flashes of other units rolling up on the perimeter.
“Hear that, shit-head? Snared your fat ass with Olympic speed,” he said and kicked the soles of the man’s thick leather boots.
“Where’d you come in, anyway?” Roger said, finally standing up. “I didn’t see your car.”
“I figured the park, too,” he said. “But not on that speed of yours, Rog. Thought I’d cut him off at the tree line.”
The two cops talked as if there were no third party, both of them watching the other marked cars swing their headlights into the parking area to the west of the field. They both leaned over and grabbed an arm and brought him to his knees.
“On your feet, shit-head. Time to march the perp march, brother,” he said.
“I ain’t your fuckin’ brother,” the man said, slurring his words, talking through clenched teeth like his mouth didn’t work right. “An’ I didn’ do no felony. I was jus’ walkin’ downa street an’ this fuck…”
The man snorted when the first spray of Mace hit him in the face. The second shot of chemical started him coughing and squirming between them.
“Jesus, man,” Roger said, turning his own face away from the stinging spray and the canister that had suddenly appeared in the other cop’s hand. “Easy with that stuff. We got him.”
He looked into Roger’s face and gave him that smile of his, holstered the canister and looked back at the gagging prisoner.
“Hey, big man. You do have the right to remain silent,” he said, and now they were half dragging the man into the cross-hatching lights of the other squad cars. Behind them their tracks were three dark stains in the wet grass.
“And if you give up that right, I’ll give you another shot of that shit into that wired-up mouth of yours.”
The big man said nothing.
“That’s it, brother,” the cop said. “Now you know who’s in control.”