Standard Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons living or dead is most likely accidental. Your mileage may vary. Et cetera, ad libitum, ad nauseam, et alii...
Untitled Hard Boiled Detective Story
The three blacks looked hinky. Two came shuckin’ and jivin’ out of the alley, while the big one just shuffled along staring straight ahead. None of them saw me slouched down in the front seat of my car. I’d deliberately parked in the deep shadows cast by a street light located just behind a nice old oak tree that the city had somehow failed to cut down. Across the street, halfway down the block on the far side from the alley a cop was parked with his engine idling. His car was facing me, and his dome light on. He was busy suffering the bane of cops everywhere: paperwork. The cop hadn’t seen me either, but then he wasn’t supposed to.
The three homeboys were dressed in urban BDUs. Black wife beater tee-shirts, baggy denim jeans with the crotch hanging down to their knees, and dark blue jockey shorts. Each gangster had his left pant leg rolled halfway up to his knee, showing white tube socks and bright white Adidas running shoes with the laces untied. Their dark blue ball caps were worn with the brim turned to the left. Each one sported a heavy gold chain with links the size of my thumb, and a palm sized gold dollar sign pendant. The clincher was the blue bandana each boy had strategically hanging from the back pocket of the jeans, left side. These three were Hillionaires of the People Nation, and they were a long way from home.
The leader was a short, wiry teenager. He snapped his head from side to side, looking up and down the street and showing his gold inlaid teeth in a nervous grimace. The young black behind him was massive, with the build of an NFL lineman. He stared straight ahead, eyes devoid of intelligence. His slack features showed all the emotion of a crocodile. An outsize infant’s pacifier hung from his lips. A tall, high yellow brought up the rear. He was slender, and he bounced nervously on the balls of his feet as he walked. His hands jittered around his waistband.
At a sign from the leader, the three ambled slowly across the street, then turned to face the cop, who had his nose buried in his clipboard. Still moving casually, they fanned out to the front and driver’s side of the black and white. All three had their backs to me. The leader signaled the others. As one, they reached under their shirts and fumbled at the waist band of their jeans. That’s when I moved.
I pulled up on the door handle and rolled out of my heap, keeping the door open and staying behind it. I was late to the party. All three had their guns out while I was still getting my hand on my gat. I saw bright muzzle flashes and heard the flat, irregular, bang-bang-bang of nine millimeter pistols. Then I had Betsy out of the shoulder rig. I thumbed the safety off and pointed her at the leader, getting off a fast one. The blast from the .45 made my ears ring. Lady Luck was with me. I saw a spray of blood and the leader went down like he’d been hit with a twelve pound sledge. I didn’t waste any time looking for him; when they drop like that, they’re out of the fight. I swung my pistol to cover the big boy, and when my sights lined up with his massive back I touched the trigger.
My first shot was low and right. I caught him in the kidneys. He arched backward, his face screwed up and his mouth open in a scream, clawing at the pain with his gun hand. I put two more in him, each a little higher than the last and he dropped like three hundred pounds of wet cement on a government funded construction site. That left the third gang banger to deal with, who now realized that someone, somewhere, was being anti-copasetic.
In the second that Tall Boy might have taken cover behind the black and white and put some lead in the air, he screwed up. He took one look at the big one twitching on the pavement in a spreading pool of blood, and he went into hysterics, jabbering and waving his arms around. I took my time.
I framed the black wife beater tee-shirt in the rear sight, then brought the front sight up until it covered the target. I squeezed the trigger lightly and the .45 went off. The tall boy jigged to the side, hunched over and holding his belly. By the time he remembered the gun in his hand he was as flat out of luck as a rail bird backing a ninety-to-one long shot with borrowed cash. I lined up the sights and Betsy bucked twice more. Tall Boy caught both slugs in the boiler house and measured his length in the gutter.
I ejected the magazine and slammed a fresh one home, then I dropped the slide, chambering a round. I looked around for other targets, giving it a slow five count before I came out from behind the door.
The cop was a young guy, barely 25. He came out of his cruiser hunched over, eyes squinted almost shut from the pain. He was holding his chest with one hand and his pistol with the other. He looked at me and raised his gun, then he saw the first body on the ground in front of him. He started to say something, then he vomited. Somewhere in the distance I heard a siren start up, quickly joined by two more.
I put the safety up and slid Betsy back into the shoulder rig, palming my P.I. badge on the way out. I held the ID folder open in front of me while I walked slowly over to the squad car, taking care to give the first body a wide berth. I’d nailed him in the head and the .45 slug had fragmented as it passed through, taking a large quantity of blood, brain matter and bone fragments with it on the way out. Half the gangster’s head was decorating the squad car, standing out in violent compliment to the shot up windshield. I waited politely for the cop to stop ralphing and draw a deep breath. When he did, I stuck my ID in front of him.
“Officer, I’m Art Diamond, private investigator. I’m here to help.”
“They – ”
He doubled over again and heaved, but nothing came up.
“They gave it their very best effort.” I said. “Where did they get you?”
He stood up again, breathing hard and still hunched over. His face and hands were full of tiny cuts from the shattered windshield, and he had a dark stain around his left biceps that was spreading. The glasses he wore had spared his eyes.
“I got my vest on. Those motherfuckers tried to kill me, but I had my vest on. Damn that hurts!”
He looked down at the partially headless gangster, then looked away. I considered my next move. I wanted to walk away from this, but Officer Friendly had gotten too good a look at my pan.
I tried a congenial smile and said, “Did you call for back up?”
He nodded. He was sweating and panting like he’d just finished a marathon session with a sawbuck whore. I wasn’t surprised. The so-called bullet proof vest protects against penetration from small arms, but it doesn’t do a thing against the impact. The vest prevented this cop from springing a leak, but he’d still feel like he’d been worked over with the business end of a ball-peen hammer, and he probably had a handful of busted slats where the bullets had hit him. The shoulder, however, was outside the vest and was bleeding.
“Have you got a first aid kit around somewhere?”
It took him a few seconds to remember.
“In the trunk. There’s a first aid kit in the trunk.”
“Good. Let’s you and me get it out and see if it’s good enough for government work.”
With a little coaxing, he pulled the trunk lever and the lid popped open. I followed him back and took the first aid kit from him, then slammed the lid and set up shop on the trunk. In the street light I was able to make out his name tag: D. Amato.
There was a delayed reaction before he turned his head to face me.
“You’re bleeding all over your shirt. Let me take a look at that little scratch, okay?”
He nodded. I cut the shoulder of his shirt off and saw where one of the slugs had ripped a nasty little trench in the deltoid muscle. When I dumped some disinfectant on it, he didn’t flinch. I wadded up a handful of gauze and put pressure on the wound, trying to stop him from leaking all over the place. I checked for other wounds and didn’t find any.
By this time we’d attracted quite a crowd, none of whom seemed to know any of the dead gangsters, which was nice. The very last thing I wanted was a handful of aunties going into Shaniqua theater about poor Pooky, who was on his way to choir practice when dem po-leeces done kill my lil’ boy! Dey ice mah lil’ Pooky fo’ no ree-zon a’ tawl. One politically correct agitator kept asking what happened, and did the police shoot ‘those young people of color’. There’s one in every crowd, and this one would not shut up. I mentally wished him an encounter with Pooky’s older brother Tyrone, who would happily relieve the agitator of his money, credit cards, and three of his teeth.
I ignore the questions thrown my way. When a pair of the nosey neighbors got too close, I opened my coat and gave ‘em a look at Betsy. They backed off, and word spread that I was packing heat. Strapped is what they call it in this end of town.
Officer Amato leans against the trunk, silently staring into space and swaying gently. I stand next to him, keeping pressure on the bandage and making sure he doesn’t fall over. He looks to me like he might go into shock. About the time I’m starting to seriously worry about him, officialdom arrives in the form of three bubble gum machines and a meat wagon.
The EMTs grill me with the usual questions while the bulls stand back and give me the fish eye.
“How did this happen, exactly?” the shorter of the two EMTs asked me.
“Officer Amato was consumer testing his bullet resistant vest. One of the official government funded quality assurance technicians missed the vest and the nine millimeter test projectile grazed Officer Amato’s arm.”
The EMT gave me a sour look. I smiled at him disarmingly and continued.
“I believe the other projectiles landed squarely on the vest. I recall Officer Amato commenting that the impact of these projectiles caused him a good deal of discomfort.”
“You’re a funny fucker, you know that?” the EMT said.
“Thank you sir. And may I say that it’s a real privilege to get an honest opinion from a man of your stature,” I replied, dead pan. The other EMT looks as though he’d like to laugh, but he thinks better of it.
The EMTs get Amato tied to a stretcher and stash him in the meat wagon, happy to leave the clean up of the other three for someone else. As soon as the wagon pulls out, the bulls take over and unceremoniously relieve me of my gat, slap the bracelets on me, and stuff me into the back seat of a black and white. I sit quietly, watching the circus unfold. Cops pour in like their favorite badge bunny was giving away free c-notes. The police brass arrive and make a big show of asserting their God given authority over the harness bulls. The crime scene boys do their thing, although by this time all three heaters have vanished along with any jewelry or money that might have been just laying around in a dead gangster’s pockets. The uniforms string up eighty yards of yellow crime scene tape, and keep the public back behind it – for their own safety.
The news media arrive. Two TV stations and some hack from the local bird cage liner find this fiasco newsworthy. About the same time as the talking heads get their make-up and lines straight, a plain clothes detective opens the back door of the city owned limousine I’m relaxing in and disturbs my meditation. He leans over and shows me his badge, then introduces himself as Detective Bob Tullmore, homicide. He’s friendly, almost apologetic.
“We got a statement from Officer Amato. Here, let me help you out and we’ll get these cuffs off you.”
I decide to keep my fat yap shut and let him keep talking. I’ll learn more that way.
I struggle out of the squad car and turn around. Tullmore fumbles with the cuffs for a minute, cursing quietly when the key doesn’t work. The key finally turns and the cuffs fall off. I want to rub my wrists but I’m damned if I’ll give any of them the satisfaction.
“Officer Amato and his family asked me to thank you for your help. It looks like you probably saved his life.” Tullmore paused to let me give the standard Aw shucks, tweren’t nothin’ reply, but I keep mum and give him my best deadpan. When the silence stretches out too long, Tullmore continues.
“You feel like making a statement now, or do you want to wait for your lawyer?”
“That kind of depends on you.” I say. “How did Amato say it went down?”
Tullmore grimaces. This goes against everything he’s ever learned, but I just saved a young cop from taking a dirt nap and we both know it. I can see Tullmore thinking the situation over and reaching a quick decision.
“I think that these three came up on Amato while he was preoccupied with his paperwork and opened fire on him with intent to murder him. That pretty much how you see it?”
“You left out the part about how I dinged ‘em. Outside of that, yeah, that’s about how it all went down.”
Tullmore takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
“Want to fill in a few details?”
I shrug. Mama always told me to never talk to strangers, loose women, or cops, but what the hell, right? Sometimes you just have to live dangerously.
I fill him in, not sparing any details. He takes notes, and by the time I’m done I’ve got two more detectives and five gray haired uniforms standing around listening. When I finish they all shake my hand and give me an ‘atta-boy’. Several hand me their business card and tell me to call if I ever need anything. I thank them politely.
The last person to shake my hand is Detective Tullmore, who wordlessly hands me my gat and three magazines, one of which is empty. Seeing the slide is back, I push a full magazine into the stock and chamber a round, then put the safety up and slip Betsy back into my shoulder rig.
“Thanks for everything, and I mean that.” Tullmore says, giving me a final handshake.
“You’re welcome.” I say, buttoning my coat. “I’m just glad everything turned out okay for everyone. Well, almost everyone.”
“Yeah.” Tullmore says with a grin. Then the grin fades.
“You know, you were taking a real chance there. Things could have gone against you, and you understand you’ll likely have to testify in court.”
“Sure I took a chance, but so what? I wasn’t going to just sit there and watch that poor guy get ventilated. Besides, like you say, it ended up okay. No more gang bangin’ for these little yoes.”
“That’s for damned sure.” Tullmore gives me a wave. “See ya.”
“See ya.”I walk back to my heap. The one thing they didn’t ask me was just what the hell I was doing here in the first place. I wondered if I should visit Amato in the hospital, or wait until he was discharged. As shot up as he was he’d likely be relaxing and enjoying hospital chow for a day or two, just for observation. One thing was certain: Amato and I were now buds, and that was going to make my investigation a whole lot easier – unless Amato found out he was the one I was investigating.
End of Chapter One