“Listen up,” Flaherty said
soberly. He motioned for help in holding the sketch he’d spread onto the hood
of the unmarked Dodge. They’d gathered just before midnight on the back parking
lot of the church of something or other on the far east side. The sharp
December north wind relentlessly found any leak in the clothing of the half
dozen plain clothes cops huddled around.
“We know from last night this
punk prick is a shooter. Snitch just come out and said Thompkins is stoned and
conked out in this rear room.” He pointed to the crude map. “That don’t mean
he’ll stay that way. Like to have SWAT out here, but as y’all know, they’re
tied up on that barricaded nut case on Second Avenue. Gotta couple uniforms
comin’ out, instead.”
“Hell, Flaherty, we can handle
this guy,” said a detective.
The wind whipped the lapels of
Flaherty’s heavy coat. He pulled up the hood. “Yeah, but don’t forget, this guy
beat his mother to death with a ball peen hammer when he was thirteen because
she wouldn’t give him money to buy a fudgesicle. Parole system keeps turnin’
the mu’fucker loose.”
Bennie Ray Thompkins,
twenty-four, with a three-page sheet and two trips inside, had gunned down the
Vietnamese owner of a convenience store eight blocks away the previous evening.
Security cameras had been Bennie Ray’s undoing in this case. Identification was
A marked squad car rolled up.
Two officers got out, zipping their jackets. Instead of the usual one cop, one
car policy, a training officer with a rank rookie aboard had been assigned.
Manpower shortages often resulted in T.O.’s as young as their early twenties
monitoring a twenty-year-old.
Flaherty and Detective Sheena
Easton both recognized the pair. They had watched several games of the police
league autumn basketball tournament a month before. The two young officers were
big, black, and outstanding athletes.
The driver recognized both
homicide detectives. “Hey, folks, ya’ll getting’ off the desk for a little real
police work?” he laughed. “I’m Willie Jackson and this mope is my hopeless
trainee, Darius Washington.”
In standard southern police
etiquette, they shook hands all around. Washington, robust and good natured,
flashed a toothy grin, showing a single gold tooth. He quipped, “Glad to make
Sheena smiled in the darkness.
Washington was just a big overgrown kid full of energy who would go far in the
cop world or in anything else he attempted.
Flaherty said, “Jackson, you
cover the back. No door, only windows, but he could jump. Washington, you come
with us to the front. Just sorta lay back. We just need a uniform present so
this redneck toad can’t claim he didn’t know we were cops.”
Jackson disappeared around a
They mounted the apartment
stairs as quietly as possible. Washington pushed ahead and kicked the door. The
doorframe crashed inside onto the floor. In the flickering illumination of
flashlights, Bennie Ray Thompkins, far from asleep, rushed down a hallway
waving a .22 revolver. Lowering his head, he butted Flaherty to the floor, then
fired a shot which, incredibly, hit no one. Washington bear-hugged the fugitive
and tossed him into a corner. As Thompkins landed, he fired another wild shot.
The glut of cops instantly had Thompkins disarmed and face down in handcuffs.
“Anybody hurt.” Flaherty barked.
Mumbled negative replies from around the room resulted. “Let’s toss the place.
Might find God knows what.”.
Suddenly, Washington gasped,
“All the excitement is making me sick. I’m gonna barf or something. I gotta sit
down.” He flopped on a battered sofa, his head lolling backward awkwardly.
Flashlight examination showed
his left low topped boot was quickly filling with deep crimson blood. Someone
slit his trousers. They rolled him on his stomach. The last tiny, errant .22
round had found the artery in the back of his knee. Washington was already
unconscious. Sheena called 911.
Cold, blind panic followed as
belts, a necktie, and a curtain cord were attempted as tourniquets accompanied
by mouth to mouth, profanity, prayer, and death threats against Thompkins.
Washington, big, and full of
life, was dead in less than three minutes. Jackson rushed in and instantly
burst into tears. He sat beside Washington, holding his cold hand briefly, then
EMT’s rolled up downstairs.
Sheena, standing in the doorway, saw them crawl past Jackson, slumped on the
The lieutenant arrived. Sheena
watched him follow the EMT’s past Jackson without speaking.
The lieutenant caught Flaherty’s
eye. “What the fuck went down?” he growled.
Flaherty and the Lieutenant
spoke quietly for several minutes before the Lieutenant turned away. “Shooting
team is on the way out,” he said softly.
Thompkins, handcuffed on the
floor, sneered, “Offed me a fuckin’ cop. Gimme a chance and I’ll do some more
of you mu’fuckers.”
A cop kicked Thompkins in his
ribs, eliciting a cry of pain. Then Flaherty gave him two in the guts.
Thompkins gasped for air.
The lieutenant, an old timer,
looked away. Knowing what he didn’t see he couldn’t report, he went back out
onto the landing.
Sheena stepped out onto the
landing to hold the door as EMT’s manhandled Washington’s big frame out on a
gurney. Protocol required that Washington be transported to County General to
allow a physician to declare the official cause of death. She squeezed past the
gurney, coming down ahead of the sad procession to where Jackson sat sobbing.
The icy wind seemed to increase as she picked her way through trash and debris
on the steps. “Jackson,
you gotta scoot over, kid.”
One of the EMTs said, “He’s
fine, we can make it.”
Sheena put a hand on Jackson’s
shoulder as the two straining men boosted the gurney over him. “Jackson, is there anything I can do?” she
asked in hopeless fury.
“Good God,” Jackson sobbed. “We
were gonna go Christmas shopping when we got off in the morning. Darius and his
wife have a new baby. Mother of God, I guess I’m gonna have to go talk to her.”
Sheena stood in the cold,
searching for words to offer to accompany Jackson to visit Washington’s wife.
The lieutenant walked down and said, “Jackson, I’ll drive us to see
Washington’s wife. Sheena, you stay here until the lab squints show up.”
Lost in tears, Sheena spat,
“God, where the hell were you?”
The lieutenant nodded.
Jackson didn’t look up.
Clifton, forty years a cop, has been shot at, shot,
stabbed, lied to and about, and often misunderstood. He currently lives on a
dusty north Texas ranch, where he doesn’t give a damn if school keeps, or not.
Clifton has published approximately 120 short fiction pieces, including upwards
of fifty in Bewildering Stories Mag. He currently has three novels
available through Amazon and other outlets: Nights on Fire, Murdering
Homer, and Dragon Marks Eight. He blogs at
Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines.
She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous
Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals
such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s
Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous
anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to
Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from
the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such
as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish
Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus
Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern