Chalked: Part 16

frompartsunknownchalked“Killer?” Barrister repeated as his brow fell like a Neanderthal. “How’s that?” He quickly bent down on the cold cement platform and swiped his hand through the newly arrived. “He’s not there,” Barrister said.

“Of course he’s not there,” Johnny said. “No one was ever there.”

“Not even the woman? So you admit it?” Barrister said. “It’s only hocus-pocus, an illusion you contrived? Someone else had a hand in this with you,” he mumbled, and then eyed Johnny’s dad, but backed out of that thought without a word. “You … you couldn’t have done this alone.”

“I’m not alone,” Johnny said.

“Right … who is it?” Barrister said.

“Not like that,” Johnny said.

“Fag off with the cryptology,” Barrister said. “Who the hell…?”

“It wasn’t an illusion either,” Johnny added.

“I’ve had enough with you.” Barrister reached for his cuffs. “Obstruction, that’s what this is. You’re going in.”

“Obstruction of what?” Officer Joseph said, placing himself between Johnny and Barrister. “He just told you it’s the killer.”

“Oh … and how pray tell would he know that?” Barrister asked, jiggling the cuffs in his hand.

“She told me?” Johnny said.

“She told you?”

“Yes, Johann.”

Barrister scratched at his scruff. “… The woman killed here?”

“Yes,” Johnny said. “Her name is Johann.”

“Is? Was, you mean.”

“Detective … you’ll see that I mean what I say,” Johnny replied. “If I said, ‘Is,’ then I meant ‘is’.”

Barrister glowered at Johnny without saying a word, but there was no silence as the scrabbling pens of the reporters, across paper, and blinking flash bulbs took up the slack, reacquainting Barrister with his forgotten surroundings. “Fag off!” he shouted to the lot of them, and turned back to Johnny. “All right then,” he said, shaking his head. “Let me call the precinct if we got him. If we don’t, you, you’re comin’ in.” Barrister took a step away from them as he lifted his coat. “And don’t you go anywhere,” he warned.

“Me?” Johnny said. “I’m not moving.”

corelhandheld“Right right … you mean what you say and all your bloody nonsense.” Barrister took up his radio from his belt beneath his coat and pressed the button. “Precinct 17, this is Barrister, come back.”

“Yes, detective, this is Gerald,” a voice rose from the radio. “What can I do you?”

“That homicide at Lexington Station,” Barrister asked, “any progress in the investigation?”

“… Progress, detective?”

“Caught … have you caught the woman’s killer yet?” Barrister clarified.

“Yet? Can’t say we have,” Gerald answered. “You’re a heap impatient ain’t ya, detective. That case ain’t 24 hours old, but ain’t you…?”

“Yes, I am, thank you, Gerald,” Barrister said, cutting the officer short, and returned the radio to his belt strap. “I believe you heard that,” Barrister said, eyeing Johnny and his father. “And like you: I mean what I say. So … you’re comin’ in.”

“But that’s not right,” Johnny protested, and falling from his confidence, quickly gazed around, searching for Johann and an explanation … but found none.

“And that that is you,” Barrister said, slapping the cuffs on him … and grinned. “You ain’t right. But to show you I’m not anything but kindhearted, I’ll find a good shrink for you. I will.” He put up his arm before them like a shield. “Out of the way!” he cried to the throng of news agents and their cameramen, and pushed through. “Officer Trent,” he shouted over his shoulder, “you keep this crime scene secure! You hear?!”

“Yes, sir!”

Suddenly having a thought, Barrister quickly confiscated one of the many cameras from the crowd.

corelcam

“Nuh uh,” he said, holding it back, as the startled cameraman instinctively tried to recover his nabbed equipment … but finally finding it futile, the cameraman resigned to what was to come and quit antagonizing the detective. Barrister thumbed a button on its rear and gazed at some photos in the camera’s inventory. “Ah, I need that.” An elongated smile accompanied Barrister and his coat and the camera. “Thank you,” he said to the disgruntled photojournalist. “You can reclaim it at the precinct later.”

The news crews were torn between the departing detective and his prey, and the man’s frozen ghost on the train station platform, creating a less dense pocket of fluctuating arms and legs, tripods and microphones for Officer Joseph to squeeze through after his son.

“Do you know this Johnny?” the short-haired woman reporter with the bounce homed in on him.

Officer Joseph unceremoniously refused a comment, leaving her and the rest of her needling colleagues behind … but even as he did … he wondered the same question for himself.

(To Be Continued)

Roger McManus

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