“You can’t take
her out!” Carlotta said, standing with her back to the door and her arms crossed.
“It’s too cold. She’ll get sick.”
“You have no say in the matter,” Jodi said,
glaring at her mother-in-law and trying to keep from exploding. “I’m the mother.
Besides, it’s nearly fifty outside, and she has a warm jacket. Get out of the way.
“Then I’m going with you.”
“The hell you are!”
“Don’t use language like that in front of the
Jodi fumed, trying to remain calm. When she had herself under control, in as
reasonable tone as she could manage, she said, “We’ve all been cooped up here
for over two weeks. Marissa and I both need fresh air and she needs time with her mother.”
“Where are you taking her?” Carlotta asked,
pushing her head forward and sneering. “To meet with your boyfriend? One of the men
you cheated with when Tony was alive?”
“Go fuck yourself, Carlotta!” Jodi yelled, her
self-control giving way. “I don’t have a boyfriend, and even if I did, it’d be
none of your business. In the ten years we were married, I gave him three kids and never
cheated once! Tony couldn’t say the same! If he hadn’t killed himself by crashing
my car into a tree while he was drunk, we’d be divorced by now!”
language,” Carlotta said, as Jodi bent down, winced in pain, and scooped up Marissa.
She took a moment to collect herself, grabbed the stroller, elbowed Carlotta aside, and
opened the door.
“I’d leave, but somebody has to protect the children from their slut
of a mother,” Carlotta shouted, just before the apartment door slammed shut.
If only she would leave, Jodi thought,
as she headed toward the park. If I could afford
a full-time nanny, even a part-time one, I’d kick that bitch out on her ass.
giving herself a chance to both cool off and let the fire in her ribs recede, Jodi took
out her phone and called her boss. “Hey, Jodi,” he said. “How you doing?”
“You’ve got to put me back to work, LT,” Jodi
pleaded. “My mother-in-law is driving me bonkers. If I don’t get away from her,
the next case you take will be arresting me for killing her. I’ll plead justifiable
“I hear traffic in the background,” he said,
laughing. “You at least got away for a while.”
taking Marissa to a park. That was an ordeal in itself.”
the bitch said she wouldn’t allow Marissa out because it’s too cold. Cripes,
it’s fifty, and I’m not exactly bringing her out naked. When I said I’m
the mother and she had no say, she decided that she was going to come along. I told her
that wasn’t going to happen because I needed alone time with my daughter. The kids
turn to her more than to me now.”
“Well, it seems like you handled that situation appropriately.”
“You don’t know her like I do. She thinks I’m
going to a park that’s about four blocks from our place. I know she plans to wait
ten minutes and then go there herself. Once she’s there I couldn’t very well
force her to leave. It’s a public park.”
what are you going to do?”
“I’m not going to that one. I’m going to one
about a mile and half from our apartment. She won’t walk that far even if she could
figure out where I went, and she doesn’t drive. The downside is the neighborhood’s
not that great. Not that ours is so wonderful either.”
“I can tell there’s still a problem. What?”
“It’s not beyond her to
call the police and tell them Marissa’s been kidnapped.”
“You’re the police,” the lieutenant pointed
“Yeah, but it’d be a hassle and it’d be
embarrassing. Help me out. Let me come back early.”
can’t do that, Jodi. The doctors said you need at least another week of convalescent
“I feel great,” Jodi lied. “Really. Let me do
desk duty. Anything.”
“You just complained that your kids turn to
their grandmother more than to you,” the lieutenant reminded her. “If you stay
home you have the opportunity to bond with them.”
know, I know,” Jodi said with a sigh. “Commuting from Queens to Manhattan,
plus regular hours, plus overtime means some days I don’t see the kids until after
they’re asleep. I wish I could afford to live in Manhattan.”
“You know what housing costs are in New York.”
“That’s something else. I think, … oh shit! Something’s
come up. I’ll get back to you in a few minutes.”
“Possibly. I can handle it. I’ll call back.”
me your location.”
A dark blue van with a bumper sticker reading “Gulderson Academy Soccer”
pulled up just ahead of her. Three well-dressed young men, looking a little too old
for high school, emerged blocking the sidewalk. Wafting after them was the distinct odor
of marijuana. Jodi knew that rich kids, especially athletes, who couldn’t get into
the college of their choice, sometimes went to Gulderson for a post-graduate year.
“Hello, miss,” one of them said, with a small
bow. “The gentlemen with me and I have decided to skip classes today to celebrate
our conference winning victory. We invite you to enter the van to join in on the festivities.”
anyway, but I’ll pass,” Jodi said.
“Our invitation is not optional,” number Two said, taking a step toward
her. “Get in the fucking van! Now!”
“Listen, guys,” Jodi said, backing up a step. “I’m
feeling more than a little cranky right now, so before someone gets hurt, just move along.”
“I do believe it’s that time of the month,” One
said, stepping toward the van and making a sweeping enter gesture with his right arm. “Don’t you worry about that, sweet
thing. A little blood doesn’t bother us. Climb right in.”
continued toward her. She pushed the stroller up against the apartment house on her right,
and twisted back intending to reach for her badge. She came up short and gasped, as pain
from her cracked ribs lanced through her body. Two grabbed her left upper arm. She kicked
him in the crotch. Hard. He bent over in pain, screaming and releasing his hold. She grasped
his arm, twisted it up behind his back, dislocating his elbow, and ran him face first into
a tree to her left. His screaming stopped. He fell, stunned and bleeding, with a broken
Jodi started to take a deep breath, but stopped as the pain from her ribs once again
went through her. One came over, pushed her to the ground, and pulled out a knife. He loomed
over her with the rictus of a smile, while swishing his knife back and forth. Jodi noted
that his pupils were dilated and there was a small amount of white powder near his left
nostril. Evidently they were doing more than smoking grass.
in for it now, bitch!” One said, kicking her hip as she lay on the ground. “After
we do you, we’re gonna push you out bare-ass naked. Maybe cut you up a little, too.”
swung the knife toward her in a roundhouse right. His posturing, however, gave her time
to recover. She kicked his knife arm with her left leg, causing the knife to rise up so
that it missed her. Using her right leg, she knocked his legs out from under him. He staggered,
whirled trying to keep his balance, overcompensated, and fell with his head near hers.
She rolled to her right, keeping her upper torso rigid, grasped his hair with her left
hand and slammed his head twice on the sidewalk. He lay motionless.
Three, the largest preppy, had been watching his buddies with a smirk on his face. He pulled
out his own knife, and stepped toward Marissa’s stroller, saying, “I have to
admit, you’re a feisty little cunt. But you’ll be more cooperative if you don’t
want anything to happen to the kid.”
fucking move, asshole,” Jodi commanded.
He barked a laugh and looked contemptuously at her. Then he froze at the sight of
a nine millimeter Berretta pointing in his direction.
trust you’ve heard the cliché about bringing a knife to a gun fight,” Jodi
said, getting painfully to her feet. “But go ahead. Give me an excuse. Take one more
step toward my daughter. You’ll spend the rest of your life with no kneecaps, getting
around in a wheelchair. And don’t think I won’t shoot. You guys have brightened
an otherwise miserable day for me.”
they were both aware of a siren, as a patrol car pulled around the corner and came to a
screeching halt. A policeman stepped out of the passenger seat with his own firearm freed
from its holster but not yet raised, and said, “Put the gun down ma’am, do
it … oh, it’s you Jodi.”
glanced to her left and saw a large black man with graying hair and sergeant stripes on
his sleeve. The nametag on his uniform read “Cawdrell.”
“Hey, Bill,” she said, smiling, as she thought that she’d
at last caught a break. “I didn’t
know you worked in Queens. Congratulations on making sergeant. I think you’re going
to need a bus for those two, and a wagon for this douche-bag. Check the van for coke and
weed. My lieutenant call you?”
“Got sent here by dispatch,” Cawdrell said, shrugging. “Don’t
know who called them.”
An elderly man came out of an apartment house, saying, “I saw the whole thing.
These three punks tried to attack this lady. I’ve never seen anybody move so fast
in my life. It was better than a TV show. It’s a good thing the baby wasn’t
With his last sentence, he tried to lift Marissa out of her stroller. The little
girl started to scream. Jodi put her gun away and took Marissa from the man, trying to
ignore the pain in her side. The girl buried her face in her mother’s neck, saying
“Mommy, Mommy,” holding on tightly. Jodi felt a measure of satisfaction that
her daughter wanted to be comforted by her rather than by a stranger. Nor did she call
for her grandmother.
In the meantime, a policewoman had gotten out of the driver’s side of the
patrol car and was putting handcuffs on Three.
“I’ve called it in, Sarge,” she said, staring at Jodi.
“Good work, Kathy,” Cawdrell said, nodding in approval. “Kathy Pokorni meet Jodi Cinto. Jodi and
I used to work together in Manhattan. I was her partner until she made detective.”
To Jodi, he said, “When I passed the sergeant’s exam, the only opening was
in Queens.” Then turning toward the old man, he said, “Thank you for your help,
sir. These idiots made the mistake of accosting the toughest little lady who ever put on
a police uniform.”
“Cinto,” Pokorni said. “You the one who took
out that mob guy?”
“Yeah,” Jodi said, as she took painful
breaths, and put Marisssa back in the stroller. “It put me on the sidelines for a
while.” To Cawdrell, she said, “Listen Bill. I’m sure this man will give you
a complete accounting of what happened here. My daughter’s upset. I was taking her
to the park, and I’d like to continue. How about if I come to the precinct house
this afternoon and give my statement?”
“You didn’t actually discharge your weapon,
did you?” Cawdrell asked.
“No. No shots were fired.”
“Fine. Professional courtesy.”
Jodi continued toward the park she thought, I’m
too old for this physical shit. I’ve got to resolve the family situation, even if
it means going over to the dark side of the force. She took out her phone and wallet,
removed a business card from the wallet, and punched in the number written on the back
of the card.
“Feinstein,” a voice said.
Jodi Cinto, Mr. Feinstein.”
“What can I do for you, Ms. Cinto?”
call me Jodi. Is that position you offered a couple months ago still open?”
it is. Does this call mean you want to take it? And call me Izzy.”
the money’s right, I do. I need to get more than I’m getting now. A lot more.”
do you make now?”
Jodi said, exaggerating a little by including her overtime pay. $95,000 sounded
like a lot, but with New York prices, and five people to support, she was living
from paycheck to paycheck with her credit cards maxed out. Plus, the piece of shit car
she’d bought to replace the one her late husband wrecked was spending too much time
in the shop. To make matters worse, the mayor wanted to cut back on overtime. Carlotta
contributed nothing to household expenses, claiming her contribution was babysitting and
doing some chores. If Jodi could get $150,000 from Feinstein, she could move to a better
neighborhood and possibly get a part-time nanny. That would allow her to get her mother-in-law
out of the house.
think I can offer a bit more than that,” the infamous and insanely expensive defense
attorney said. “I really need a good chief investigator. Let’s multiply that
by three. How does $285,000 per annum sound? Plus bonuses.”
Jodi was dumbfounded. With that much she could buy a house, get a new
car, and afford a full-time nanny. She smiled as she thought, Goodbye, Carlotta.
Evidently taking her silence as meaning it wasn’t
enough, Feinstein said, “I’ll sweeten the pot a little. I’m in Atlanta
right now, but you go to my office–Lexington near 93rd–tomorrow
to fill out the paperwork. I’ll have my administrative assistant give you a check
for ten, no make it fifteen thousand as a signing bonus.”
got a deal, Izzy,” Jodi said, feeling as if a huge weight had been lifted from
Stephen Tillman is an emeritus professor
of Mathematics at Wilkes University, where he taught for forty-two years. Wilkes is a small,
private college located in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Brown
University. He is an avid
reader of mysteries and science fiction. Short stories he has written include,
“The Tunnels,” published in the January 2015 issue of Mysterical-E,
“Payback,” published in September 2016, in Twisted Sister Lit Mag,
“Cold-Blooded,” accepted for publication by Vinculinc, Inc., “Reversal,”
published in January 2017 in Twisted Sister Lit Mag, “Invasion,”
published in May 2017 in Scarlet Leaf Review, “Dust Pile,” accepted for
publication by Vinculinc, Inc., and “Caged,” published in June 2017 by Aphelion.