Cold Mac & Cheese and other musings

March 9, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – scene 1

The Dead Man’s Hand
By Douglas Lutz / copyright March 2010

After a slow count to five, the chloroform had done its job, rendering the old man motionless. Time was short; voices could be heard just down the walkway. This job needed to be finished quickly and there was always the getaway to consider. Much harder to get paid if you’re in jail. Concentrate. Ignore the voices for a second. Now, put the pistol in his hands; point it backwards. Get a good grip on the hands and aim center mass. Carefully manipulate the pliable digits; slowly squeeze the trigger. The 6 inch, nickel plated.38 came to life like a dog whose bite was worse than its bark, sending a spiraling chunk of metal through the skin, past the ribcage and into the heart. The tumbling bullet tore through the massive muscle of life, carrying much of it out the exit wound in back, fusing flesh and blood with the fibers of the office chair’s naugahyde back rest. Mission accomplished.

Calvin Baxter’s 12 pots full of blue crab were better than he had expected, considering the weekend’s Nor’easter had turned the normally tranquil waters of the Chesapeake Bay into a dark green, foamy grog. Hell, the boat almost sank twice and the last thing Calvin wanted to do was catch a ride with a nearby Coast Guard helicopter. The weather had cleared that morning, just hours before the Concept 2 was to pull into the marina off of 67th street. Retired and now living alone, Calvin had little human interaction of consequence and each Sunday afternoon he looked forward to selling his catch, stocking up on a few supplies and maybe, if he was lucky, spending an hour or so just hanging out at the marina. There was no kidding himself. Calvin tried to believe it was the extra cash he made selling crustaceans that made his day worthwhile, but no, deep down Calvin Baxter knew it was the few minutes, that precious quarter of an hour he would get to spend with the dock girl, Kay, that kept him coming back to the same marina, week after week. Today was no exception. Kay had already helped him off-load the blue crab and was returning with his cash, a receipt and a cart full of basic supplies, the type needed by someone who lived on their boat. A muffled pistol shot grabbed both of their attentions.

Calvin knew what had happened. Thirty years a cop, 18 years a detective on the homicide squad of the Norfolk Police Department had given him the experience to know that a fairly large caliber pistol, possibly a .45, had just been discharged inside the marina office. “Damn, here we go…” Calvin muttered as he picked up his cell phone and called 911. “Yeah, this is Detective Calvin Baxter, Norfolk PD. Just heard a shot fired inside the marina office on 67th street. No one seen entering or leaving the premises.” The dispatcher went through her normal procedures, sending the report to the nearest unit. Calvin knew he was in Virginia Beach and while he knew some of the older guys there, he didn’t want to bully his way onto their turf. “Yeah, I’ll wait outside for the marked unit.” Calvin reached into a drawer just inside the pilot house of his little boat, pulling out a Sig Sauer .38, the detective’s preferred handgun.

“What’s going on? What just happened?” Kay said with more than a little fear in her voice. Quite shaken, she had almost rolled the ice chest right into the drink. “Stay here, Kay. Probably a robbery in progress. With one shot, it’s already gotten ugly.” “I’ll stay here on the boat, if you don’t mind.”

Weapon in hand, Calvin moved down the dock towards the office. He heard voices to his right. There, on the fantail of one of the larger yachts, were four men. “Hey, our buddy is in there,” one said, pointing to the office. “Don’t worry, I’m a cop. Stay where you are until we find out what’s going on.”


September 7, 2008

Checkmate 9

“They need to see you at 8:30; bring your gun and your badge…just in case. You know the deal, I’m sure.” Words he had heard spoken before to other officers, but had never dreamed would be addressed to him. “Sure, Lou. I’ll be there. Hopefully this won’t take too long, either way it goes…”

It’s never a good day when someone has to speak to the IA, the Internal Affairs department.  Those detectives were not only the best in their respective departments, but they had an aura of secrecy about them.  Ruthless in their determination, absolute in their confidentiality, the mere names of the IA members were closely guarded.  The less known about them, the better and easier they could operate across the functional and political boundaries that existed within the force as a whole.  Frank had been considered for a spot at one time, but unknown to him, he was found “unqualified due to personal attributes.”  The IA had investigated him and knew of his extramarital excursions.  Too much of an opportunity for bias, prejudice and/or blackmail for Frank to be effective.

“Detective Quadro, the purpose of this meeting is to inform you that we are investigating your possible involvement in the murder case of one Cliff Culpepper.  We are not accusing you of the crime at this time, and we certainly hope that we do not have to do so in the future.  All we are trying to do is establish in what fashion you have a relationship to the case.  This is a standard procedural inquiry, as I am sure you are aware, and as long as you fully cooperate with our investigation, barring any unforeseen complications, you should be back on the job very quickly.  While you are not under oath, we ask that you tell the truth since any testimony today may need to be used in court at a later date.  Do you understand the purpose of this meeting?”

The IA man had read the statement very deliberately, almost devoid of any true conversational tone.  For legal purposes the statement had to be read and he had to agree to it.  The IA clearly wanted to present the obligatory oratory in the least confrontational manner so as to put Frank at ease, possibly getting him to let his guard down just enough to unintentionally let go of a clue.

“I understand.  Let’s just get this over with, please.”

“Frank, my name is Dan Hollingsworth.  I’m a detective over in narcotics.  This shouldn’t take too long. There is, however, one more standard procedure that we must take care of before we can continue…”

Frank knew that a cop’s two most valuable possessions were his badge and his gun.  During any IA interview, the officer being questioned had to place both on the desk, symbolizing that his life as a certified peace officer and all that it entailed was literally “on the table for all to see.”

Unclipping the gold shield from his belt, Frank carefully and gently placed it on the desk, centered between the two of them, with the badge facing Dan, as if to remind him that while he was doing the investigating – he needed to remember that he was addressing a fellow detective.

The gun took a little more time.  Grasping the handle of his 45 caliber Colt semi automatic, Frank tilted the piece forward enough to unlock it from his holster.  These holsters were somewhat new, specifically designed for police departments.  A locking mechanism was positioned in such a way that the officer could easily pull the gun, but a suspect or assailant would not be able to pull the handle at the correct angle to release the gun from the holster. This holster had already been credited with saving numerous lives; it was a favorite among most law enforcement types.

When handing a firearm over to another person, there is an unwritten ritual that must be followed.  Failure to use this ritual places the recipient at a disadvantage, not knowing the true intention of the deliverer.  Frank knew better than to press his luck any further than his little display of machismo with the badge.  He unholstered the 45, pointed it up and away from Dan, then pressing the magazine release button, allowed the magazine to drop from his weapon. Catching it as it fell, Frank placed the magazine on the desk, next to the badge.

Holding the gun with his left hand, Frank then grasped the upper receiver and pulled back.  The internal ejector popped the remaining round out of the weapon.  Frank let it fall to the desk as he locked the upper assembly in place, to the rear.  Taking one last look at the chamber to ensure there were no live rounds still inside the gun, Frank cautiously placed the Colt 1911 on the desk, barrel pointed away from both he and Dan.  If there was one thing that every peace officer took seriously, it was his or her service weapon.

“Thank you.  Let’s begin with your relationship to Cliff Culpepper…”

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