The entrance to the crime scene, the weathered and worn cement steps leading down to the subway at Lexington Station, smelling of warm blacktop and a hint of urine, and having signs of stale gum and being spat upon, was an affront, regardless of that, to peace and civility.
Two out of several squad cars, none neatly parked, regulating the flow of traffic into a bottleneck, had their lights whirling and blaring as if trying to land a jumbo jet between the gangly office buildings. The taxis in the clutter appeared to be helping with that imaginary touchdown as their drivers’ hands went to sleep on their horns and seemed to point with their middle fingers to where they’d spotted the descending aircraft. Annoyed pedestrians pushed their way through the stagnant throng, racing the digital faces on their wrists, not wanting to be late for work, but not willing to abandon their hopeless need for morning coffee from the truck that’d been inconveniently encased in the emotional melee. Horrified and nervous bystanders and a batch of professionally eager and callous reporters stood with only their feet behind the police barricades as their hands, those not trying to block out the glare of the morning sun, and voices prodded the poor acne-riddled rookie sap who’d been assigned to gate keeper, intentionally chosen for having been the most ignorant on the incident at hand. The chief lifted the once-crumpled but sheen yellow tape, which had been tied between two of the chipped, light-blue barricades.
“Oh, hello chief.”
“It’s a zoo, ain’t it?” Dinkle, clearly desperate for some camaraderie in the chaotic climate, began to chat up the chief, but before the rookie could anywhere near apply that balm, his eye caught Johnny ducking under the tape at the chief’s rear end, and groped for his billy club. “Hey … hey, buddy, whataya blind? Behind the barricade, okay? This station’s closed.”
“It’s all right, Dinkle.” The chief’s arm opened towards Johnny. “He’s with me. This is Johnny.”
“Johnny? … Oh.” The officer’s hand was stubborn … but finally relaxed off of his club’s handle “Sorry, I didn’t see your badge.”
“My badge … right.” Johnny, with the tip of his tongue thoughtfully clenched between his teeth, quickly shuffled through his pocket and retrieved an old shredded and clumped tissue along with his plastic badge, which read, “Special Cop.” “Here.” and held them both up for the acned gate keeper, and then added … “I should put it on.” Slightly distracted, Johnny eyed the police investigators taking DNA swabs of any puddle of spit or wet chew on the descending subway stairs.
The rookie peered at the piece of plastic as if the walls around his eyes had all been drained of liquid and wrinkled … then blinked and peered even harder, but then, after finding what he saw difficult to fathom, a light bulb lit inside his head for something else, and he suddenly looked up and around at any of the other cops that might be observing them. “Is … is this a joke? Get the rookie?!” he called out to any nearby who might hear him. One of the investigators temporarily gazed up as he plastic-bagged a wet Q-tip.
“No no, I’m here to draw the beacon,” Johnny said cheerfully and smiled, holding up his bucket of crayons as if he’d just knocked on a neighbor’s door and benignly threatened, “Trick or treat.”
The young officer’s closed grin cracked open a bit as he eyed the filled, crayon-scuffed, semi-transparent bucket. “… Really? Wha-wha-what is…?”
“We have to go, Dinkle,” the chief interrupted him, and was relieved to find a distraction that deserved the nearly-unbridled rookie’s response … “Really, you should pay better attention to your duties, Dinkle.” and lifted his head in the direction of a photographer who was gravitating closer to the stairs, this side of the barrier and aimed at that Q-tip.
“Hey, you, I told you already!” Dinkle leaped away in one long stride, with his hand glued to his club handle.
“Come on, Johnny,” the chief said, and quickly led Johnny with a pat on his back, past the investigators and down the discolored and gum-encrusted stairs and into the subway.
Once down and coming on the tollbooth, Johnny searched vigorously in his pocket for a token, but the chief tugged on his sleeve, informing him of the open gate on the side, so that they avoided the turnstiles altogether. “Now don’t touch anything, Johnny,” he warned. “Everything and anything is part of the investigation.”
The scene there, beyond the turnstiles and below the earth, was more subdued. The dim lights painted the underground in dusk while the chatter was more or less synchronized in a similar discussion. Only those who need be were there. Johnny walking along the platform beside the chief, favored the white tiled wall (except where a water stain marked its base) or anything furthest away from the precarious, painted yellow edge, which signaled a drop beyond it into the tracks. Suddenly a push of wind and a roar bellowed out of the tunnel as a train rushed by sweeping up any loose debris from the ground, and put some dust in Johnny’s eye.
“What’s friggin’ going on here?!” Barrister of homicide hollered, but was nearly drowned out till the train had finished going by. “Put a hold on that subway already! It could be blowin’ away possible evidence, people, not to mention anything in the tracks!”
Barrister was anemic in appearance. His jacket looked four times too large, as if he’d been on a date and been handed his suitor’s to keep warm, but he wore a five o’clock shadow like a four letter word to counteract that image of him, warning of the pit bull poised inside, ready to attack. Still, it was a pit bull that had grown tired of having to prove itself with fists, time and time again … although it was a pit bull that had been repetitively successful in doing it. There was no doubt, and the chief knew this, scrappy as he might be, that Barrister would chew up and spit Johnny out if he even hinted at one of his childish grins … unless … Barrister happened to be telling one of his jokes … but Barrister only had one and it was always drawn on and carried out in the same way.
“What do you get when you place a criminal with an electric outlet? … You get a closed circuit … and hopefully enough power to light the town and run my blender, cause I’ll be celebrating with a Piña Colada … better yet … enough of them getting fried to keep me drunk for a year.”
The chief drifted out of that disturbing thought and over to Johnny. “Damn.” The word jumped from his vocal cords before he could shut his mouth. Johnny was already wearing one of his innocuous grins. It bled across his face due to that oversized jacket, which was no less than an indiscreet bully who had set up the new chew toy and would stand back and enjoy watching it get gnawed.
Barrister turned. “Damn what?”
(To Be Continued)