mysteries and motorcycles
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The First Domino - First chapter
Some days the smell death hangs in the air. Today was that kind of day.
The yellow crime scene barrier tape fluttered in the light breeze. A heavy pall of silence covered the investigating officers. Today they had lost one of their own.
All Tony Pontello ever wanted out of life was to be a good cop like his father and grandfather. It was his dream. Tony was wearing his uniform when he died.
This would be a special investigation with no less than six detectives assigned to gathering clues and evidence. Some of them were on the scene already and others had been summoned. Detective Sergeant Otis Springfield was there to direct operations. Tomorrow he was scheduled to take over the Lieutenant’s job as head of the Homicide Division in the first precinct with his formal promotion scheduled for next Friday. Otis knew that this case would likely be his first assignment at an administration level. His partner, Sergeant Albert McCoy, was helping the evidence team, taking measurements to record how far some of the pieces of the car had been thrown by the force of the explosion.
The car, what was left of it, was parked in the alley behind The Emerald Den. “The Den,” had a reputation as a trouble spot but the past few years the police visits had been fewer. Perhaps the crowd had gotten older; mellowed. The marked police cruiser, passenger side up tight against the building, was badly twisted, the complete left side ripped open and the roof peeled back by the blast. Detroit had its share of car bombings in the past but Detective Springfield couldn’t remember seeing one with this much damage. From the looks of it, whoever placed the explosives knew what they were doing. It appeared that the bomb had been placed on a thick metal plate and then been
shoved under the seat so that the blast would all be directed upward. The amount of explosives used was puzzling. The blast would have been lethal with a quarter of what had been planted. The police officer’s mangled body still lay in the alley covered with a plastic tarp. The medical examiner was on his way but it would be nothing more than a formality.
Otis Springfield wandered out toward the street but stopped short when he noticed something unusual lying in a crack in the asphalt. “Hey McCoy, come have a look at this.”
Sergeant McCoy moved slowly to where his partner stood. Otis pointed toward the ground at a denture, an upper plate. His smile was forced and painful. “Remember when Tony first got his false teeth?”
“I sure do,” answered McCoy. “He used to take them out as soon as he got home from work and not put them back in until he went out of the house. Once we had a three day weekend and got to feeling so comfortable without ‘em that he forgot all about them and showed up at the precinct on Monday without his teeth?”
Otis chuckled “Yeah. The guys called him ‘Tony Teeth’ for at least six months.”
McCoy looked back at the twisted wreck of a police car. “Doesn’t look as if he planned on making an arrest, the way he parked the car up against the building like that. He must’ve just stopped in to see somebody.”
“Or for lunch,” speculated Otis. “This place makes a killer hamburger. Besides, he was an ‘A’ car and Tony knew better than to get into anything chancy when he was working alone. It surprises me that he’d come here though. The place isn’t always exactly ‘cop friendly.’”
“Wasn’t he just working neighborhood patrol?” asked McCoy. “I mean, he wasn’t following up anything specific was he?”
Otis slowly shook his head. “Nah, his patrol sergeant says he didn’t even have any court cases pending.”
“It sure wasn’t an unexpected encounter though. This thing took some planning. Somebody wanted him dead.” McCoy glanced back at the shambles in the alley. “I guess we’ll have to start with his notebook and then check out all the reports he’s filed. Probably have to go back a few months.”
Otis turned to speak to two detectives who had just rounded the corner. “You guys just come from inside the bar?”
The taller one nodded. “We got all their names, customers and the bartender, and a dozen or so statements. Nothing very good, though. Nobody saw it happen. The bartender says that everybody’s still in there that was here when the bomb went off. I guess they’d all been there for a while. Post time at the track isn’t until three-ten and these guys are all railbirds. They usually hang out and drink beer until it’s time to head to the track. Bartender says that Tony came in, had a Diet Coke and stood by the service bar like he was waiting for somebody. He hung around for about a half-hour, kept checking his watch and then just up and left. Barkeep says that nobody talked to Tony the whole time he was in there.”
Another detective, standing next to a patrol car held up a cell phone and yelled to Otis. “Hey Otis, Lieutenant wants to talk to you.”
Otis took the phone, turned his back to the grisly scene and spoke into the receiver, “Springfield here.” He paced back and forth as he listened, answering only in short partial sentences, his face an expressionless mask and his towering athletic frame dwarfing the officers around him. Finally he held the phone out at arms length and pushed the button to end the call. He handed it back to the detective with a short, “Thanks,” and rejoined McCoy in the sunlight at the entrance to the alley. “This could be connected,” he said. “A uniform was just found on the floor of a parking deck over by the old ballpark in the third precinct with his head caved in. Typical blunt force trauma, probably by some sort of wrecking bar or pipe. Sounds like he never saw it coming. Somebody got him from behind. His gun is still in the holster.”
McCoy stood motionless, a light breeze ruffling his dust colored hair. “Who was it?”
“Fitzgerald,” replied Otis.
“The old philosopher? Ah no, he was a terrific guy. I think I heard that he was going to retire at the end of this year. I wonder if… Two cops being murdered on in the same day isn’t very common, gives me an eerie feeling.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” said Otis. He started to say more when his radio crackled with an officer down alert. He sprinted for the big Ford police cruiser to take the call. There’d been a hit and run. And it was no accident. Officer Ray Mantay was an old friend and partner of Otis’s. They had worked the motor-traffic division together twenty years ago back in the days when they had to kick-start their Harleys. After the first “Rocky” movie, Mantay started calling Otis “Creed” because he thought that Otis looked just like Apollo Creed, the boxer who fought Sylvester Stallone. Otis stared at the radio in the police cruiser, thinking that this all had to be a bad dream. Three cops, three friends, three wonderful guys dead. Cut down in one morning.
He returned to the alley and called all of the officers together. “Someone’s killing cops. That makes three in less than two hours. We’ve got a maniac out there. They want me back at the precinct for a briefing right away. McCoy will be taking over as lead detective until I can get free. In the meantime I don’t know what else to say except watch your back, I don’t want anybody working alone. Any of you guys in one man cars, I want you running in tandem until you’re all back at the precinct. Got it?” The determination etched on the faces of the detectives told Otis that they didn’t need to ask questions. They knew what needed to be done and were ready to swing into action. Otis hopped in the cruiser, made a sweeping U-turn and headed back to the main station. When he arrived, the place was already buzzing. Everyone moved with quiet deliberation, focused on the task at hand. Mercifully, there had been no more reports of fallen officers. An alert was sent to all units, briefings held, strategies planned, teams formed. Police headquarters had assumed the look of a war room. No one would be leaving early tonight.
Posted by The Unreal McCoy ::
7:38 AM ::
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