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Sample - Rejected - Short Stories

Old Age Blues



Even through my rain-splattered spectacles, I recognised him instantly. Pasty faced, short, stocky, nervous twitching of the lower jaw, looking every which way; this creep was ready to jump. Jesus, he hadn’t the time to fasten his grubby raincoat. He would have to be followed closely, and carefully. His barrel chest stuck out as a warning of the muscular arms beneath the winter clothing. This fucker would not roll over and die without a struggle.

I’m just south of Wall Street, on the left hand side of the one-way system. I’m smartly dressed, suited, beneath my official blue nylon Pakamac. In my left hand pocket I’m holding my wallet identity badge at the ready. In my right hand pocket, I feel the cold steel of my equaliser. I’m ready. I was born ready.

I see him coming closer, moving across my vision from right to left. I look up, and see the lights in the offices on the higher floors being switched off for the night. Behind me, office workers file out, tightening their eyes against the rain falling into their faces. I hang my head and shake the rain from the hair plastered against my brow, then look up quickly; I need to keep him in vision.

A squad car from a local precinct ‘whoop-whoops’ past. The target falters in his stride, and looks away from the blue and white as it glides by. The officers in the car scan the knitted traffic ahead, looking for a break. It takes me back to my days as a rookie.

He slows, and I tense, then squirm, relaxing. The old shot-gun pellets itch beneath the skin around my spine. Evening should be home time, but not for me, that’s when my business begins, so, here I go. Two hours should see this creep out of the picture.

He ducks into a doorway. He is now just left of me. He’s either resting or checking. He’s looking the wrong way, they all do. Ahead and behind, instead of alongside. I’m here, you fucking schmuck.

A bag lady bumps me as she shuffles past, raindrops drip from her face. I think of my mother, back home in the suburbs. Shit, I need some of her life. I want peace and calm. But, I’m in a race; a race against time and circumstances. Not the race against hours or days, or even weeks. My race is five years long.

He’s lighting up - his first mistake. I positively identify him in the light of the flame. He sucks long and hard on the cigarette. And now I see we have Mickey on the corner of the block, that’s all bases covered.

You get caught. Ever so slowly the net encircles you. You’re enjoying the good life, you’re spending, you want, enjoy, the magazine life. The three hundred bucks boat trip, the two-for-one shooting trips costing seven big ones. You get used to it, live it, accept the cost, acquiesce to the interest rates, start running, trying to beat the deadlines of monthly payments, final demands, borrowing, and borrowing… he’s on the move.

Mickey’s voice cuts through the constant static in my ear-piece. “Move you ass-hole, parallel, parallel.” I take off at right angles to the target, speaking into my lapel. “I forgive you this time. Speak to me like that again, and I’ll fucking…”  I up the pace as my man gets his second breath.

My feet are soaking. My priorities are all to fuck. New shoes come as far down my list as food does. Bastard, he’s on to us, I know it. He’s dodging people, overtaking. He’s on the run. Fuck fuck fuck! I want peace, calm, safety. I want out of here.

Don’t take a taxi, please, not a fucking taxi. Shit, ass-hole! Once again, Mickey’s voice screeches in my ear, like a kid, letting everyone know.

“We got him! He took a cab. We got the fucker.”

The ‘we’ word. First person plural. Fucking plural. Now every fucker and their mother know where he’s heading. I flag a cab, flashing my badge. He ignores me? Can you believe that? The goddamn mother ignored me!

Again Mickey’s voice. “I’m here, look right, in the cab, two down from you!” Jesus, I don’t want this, I need to be on my own.

I jog back, get in the cab, start dialling on my cell phone, and speak as soon as the connection is made; I ignore the recipients welcome “He’s spooked. It’s getting outa hand.” I sense Mickey watching me. I know what he’s thinking, ‘How’s it getting outa hand? We’re on his tail.’

I continue giving instructions about how to get an unmarked car in front of our tail, then we’ll overtake him, I’ll switch cars, and then our taxi, which our target undoubtedly knows is following him, drops out of the chase. Mickey looks at me - suspicious.

“What’s the big deal, Lieutenant? We got him, he’s got a briefcase, let’s just lift him. Yeah?”

I give him the trust me look, and sit back in the cab. Mickey strains his neck to keep the target in view. I rotate my head, stretching and contracting the muscles to relax me. Jesus, I could sleep for a year. It’s got to end tonight, one way or another.

A year, yeah, it’s about a year now. Mickey’s voice cuts through my thoughts. Christ, does this kid never relax?

“His name’s Danny, isn’t it Lieutenant? His first name, Danny?”

I nod, still looking out the side window. I can’t be bothered to turn my head. He gets the idea, and lets me be.

Yeah, a year, nearly to the day. And boy did it hit the headlines. Hit home harder than Kennedy’s shooting. Mayor Corelli, shot down on the steps of City Hall, and what does the hit-man do, he gets away on a push-bike. I ask you, a Goddamn push-bike. Only in New York, could it happen. And that’s when our target came to power, Mr Danny Sullivan. I guess he dropped the ‘o’, somewhere along the line, but hell, how Irish looking can you get. Call yourself Saul Goldstein, but, if you’re shaped like a P, got hair the colour of copper pipe, veins on the outside of your cheeks instead of the inside, with a complexion that looks like you’re having a constant hot flush, man, you’re fucking Irish. And that’s that. Me, I’m a little Swede, a little Italian, a little Dutch, a smidgeon Scottish and a little b’dah b’dah b’dah.

But, Danny did a good job. Cut costs, brought new trade to the port, and sharpened up the subway system. So, in a year, he saved money, increased employment, and got the city moving quicker. And then he fucked-up, he tried to do an Elliot Ness.

My cell phone vibrates against my nipple. I swear it sets up a static charge in the pellets in my back.

“Yeah?” I growl

“Everything is in the case, and I mean everything.” says the voice on the phone.

I think for a second. “So, how come he’s still alive?” Again, Mickey looks at me quizzically. I think ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you, Mickey.’

I let the pause on the line hang, I ain’t breaking it, I want an answer.

“He had a deposit box in the Bank of New York.” the voice says, “He was up and running with the goods before we could nail him, then we thought maybe we’d just better tail him, in case he’s got an accomplice. Yeah?”

“Where are you?” I ask, “Okay, two minutes, and tell the rest of the posse to keep well clear. I want to be the one to cuff him.” I flip the phone closed.

Fucking Mickey’s bugging me. He’s like a freakin’ puppy, following me around. Yes Lieutenant, no Lieutenant, hey Lieutenant, whaddya think Lieutentant? If I told him what I think, he’d have me up in front of the fucking board.

I think of the old days, when everything was easy. Fucking black was black and white was white, and my Ma took care of everything. Jesus, she was tough. She’d take anyone on - a docker, a cop, made no difference, ‘Touch my kids and I’ll kill yuh’. But she got respect, and it was respect, not fear.

Days out at Coney Island; everyone knew her, showfolk, stall holders, people on the boardwalk. ‘Hiya Mrs Meirburg, how’s it going? Lovely kids. You’re lookin’ swell’ How the fuck did they know my ma down there? Who am I kidding? I got two brothers and a sister, and no two of us look alike. But she reared us good, a full belly, a smack across the head when we asked for it, and no trouble; we feared her more than the cops.

My nipple vibrates again. I have the phone open and to my ear before Mickey turns around. “Uh uh.” I look up. “Yeah, I see yuh. Now, at the next lights, you jump them, but keep it tight, I don’t want him to follow you. As soon as you cross the intersection pull over, and wait.”

Mickey looks at me. I stare him down. He’s given up on conversation. I lean forward, peering through the smeared windscreen. I should do the driver for ineffective wipers. Am I a fucking bitch or what?

Our line of traffic slows; my guy in front is doing a good job. People are honking, he waits for the amber and then guns the Le Brave as the red comes on. I’m out of the cab before it comes to a stop. I sprint towards the intersection, pass the taxi who ignored my badge and boot in the panel on his front passenger side. I flash my badge, give him a good look at my face, point at him, then give him the finger. Now he knows I bear grudges.  A figure in the rear of his cab, leans forward, then sits back again; a wise move.

I carry on running; horns are blaring, and a truck skids sideways as I sprint across the intersection. What the fuck, it’s wet, he should slow down.

I just get into Doyle’s car when the lights change. He judges it perfectly, the target passes, and we nose a VW out of the way to get in behind Mickey. I can’t hold it any longer, I let out a long ‘Phew’, I’m relaxed; I’m in with someone who understands, not some pious prick of a practicing policeman

“How’s it going with the Kid?” he asks, referring to Mickey.

I shake my head. “He should be in white. He’s so fucking clean he makes Billy Graham look tainted. He’s best out of it. Call the precinct, get them to call him, pull him off the case. Use my name if you have to.”

We’re heading south, I try to figure Mr Danny Sullivan’s next move. He’s got to dump the cab soon, if only to check if he’s been followed. I know he’s from south of the city, off Ocean Parkway, over near Brighton Beach.

As Doyle says “He’s off the case.” I see Mickey’s cab pull over. He gives me a look of pure fucking hatred as we pass him. I give him no expression, just a stare.

Five minutes later and Danny Sullivan exits the cab, outside a Hertz office. I play my hunch and pull up well past, but still pointing south. Doyle grabs the chance to stretch his legs, steps out the car, dives into a doorway, and lights up a cigarette. I sit and think, strengthening my resolve, justifying my plan.

I got five years left with the force, and I got fuck all in the bank, but, I got my pension stacking up nicely. If tonight goes well, I get a desk job, cap the glossy magazine life style, get shot of my debts, and look forward to a nice peaceful, restful retirement. On the other hand, if tonight goes tits up, well, who fucking knows?

Doyle dives in the car, slamming the door quickly behind him, but not fast enough to stop the rain blowing in. “Jesus, is it ever gonna stop? Six freakin’ days now. What say Lieutenant?”

“What say? What fucking say? Where the fuck did you get that expression from? You sound like a fucking English lord, ‘What say?’, I’ll tell you what I say. How come you’re so relaxed? How come I seem to be the only fucker that seems to be the slightest bit concerned about what could well go down tonight? Now tell me that, Mr Fucking What Say!”

“Whoa, whoa, Lieutenant. Take it easy. I am concerned, but I ain’t breaking up over it. Mr Sullivan’s going down tonight, y’know, not ‘could well go down…’, he is going down. That’s a given, so why should I worry. Lieutenant, we got New York’s finest on the case. I ain’t fucking worried!”

New York’s finest, if only he knew. I turn away, annoyed that I showed an inadequacy, a weakness. Ma would have kept schtum. ‘Don’t let anyone see you worried, son, they’ll prey on it, use it in the future.’ Fuck!

I bite back. “Get this thing moving. He’s pulling out, see it, the white saloon?”

I swear Doyle looks at me as if I’m the shit on his shoe. He pulls out and we’re cruising for about five minutes, with our target going every which-way, checking his ass. We driving in total silence, like each of us thinking how to get one over on the other, when he says, “I think we got a tail.” I flick the sun visor down and check in the vanity mirror.

He’s right, but what’s crazy about it is it looks like an NY Yellow Cab.

“Fucking Mickey!” I thump the dash.

“It figures. Young, Keen. What are yuh gonna do?

Doyle’s question is rhetorical. Like, ‘The kid’s ambitious, what did you expect?’

I scratch my head, and run my fingers through my hair. I’m tensing up. “We keep as we are. I figure Sullivan’s heading for Brighton Beach. Once he stops trying to lose what he can’t see, we get ahead of him and lose Mickey at the same time. He hasn’t got a fucking clue where we’re headed, and chances are he’ll try to follow us rather than Sullivan.”

Doyle shrugs, he sure as hell ain’t going to verbally agree with me, and we settle down for the next five minutes, until, eventually, Sullivan seems to be content that no one’s on his tail.

By now, we’ve turned left off Stryker Street, onto the Belt Parkway heading east, running parallel with Neptune Avenue. I start with the directions.

“Take a right, head towards Neptune, and lose him.”

Doyle smokes the tyres as he turns, and within seconds we’re five hundred yards south. I turn and see the cab lurch onto the street, behind us. The guy can’t handle speed, he’s a cab driver for fuck’s sake, and his means of earning a living bounces from one side of the road to the other; he gets it under control and maybe he still has us in sight.

We take a left, a right, a left, and another right. If that driver is still with us, he’s in the wrong job. We hit Neptune, and Doyle sends the needle surging; we’re touching sixty in six seconds. I tell him we need to get onto Ocean Parkway and parked up, before Sullivan meets the intersection. Doyle gives me a ‘Do I look fucking stupid?’ look. His attitude is bugging me; he’s becoming a hindrance - for all his fucking Steve McQueen driving. But, he does his job, and we’re where I want to be with seconds to spare, before Sullivan cruises past. Suddenly, I’m feeling lucky.

“Get on to Mitchison, see if we have a list of Sullivan’s previous addresses. Go back forever. Tell him to ring me on my cell phone.”

I’m now not only feeling lucky, I’m feeling good. We’re on Sullivan’s tail, there’s not another cop in sight, and it looks like I’m gonna be the one to nail him. I’m aware of Doyle talking to the station office, and cop talk on the car radio system, but I’m thinking of retirement. Somewhere down near Atlantic City, maybe halfway between here and there. One hour’s drive would be nice; near enough to keep in touch with old buddies, but far enough away to have some peace and quiet.

Who am I kidding? Out of sight, out of mind. Who’s gonna bother? I’m fucking single, no wife to give my friends a meal when they come visiting, no feminine touch to wherever I live, no…

“… earliest address is Brighton Beach… “

I jump. The fucking radio is blasting out. I look to Doyle.

“I said use my cell phone.” I yell.

Doyle is just as mad. “I told him. I told him, use the fucking cell phone. He’s fucking goofed. What do I do?” Again, a rhetorical question

Against all rules I switch off the radio, pointlessly, the fucking thing is blasting out to every cop in NYPD. Doyle switches it back on again, fucking giving me daggers from his emerald green eyes.

I tear at my tie and then loosen my top button. The air feels good around my neck. Then things get worse. Sullivan has put the pedal to the metal.

“He’s onto us, the fuck” Again, Doyle shows his style. He’s got the car up to speed before he’s finished speaking.

Okay, so now we’re in a chase, without the flashing lights and the whooping horn. I study for a minute; Sullivan is still heading to ground, but he sure as hell ain’t gonna stop with us on his tail.

“What about Scotty?” I yell.

Doyle gives me an ‘And?’ look.

“Scotty. Fucking Scotty. What shift is he on?”

Doyle thinks for a second, then, “Yeah, he’s free, call him.”

Again, I use my cell phone, Scotty connects, and I put him in the picture. Less than a minute later, Scotty’s heading north from the east end of Surf Avenue. I give him Sullivan’s plate number, tell him to park up facing south and instructions to follow him as he passes. Smart, yeah?

Not as smart as my next move. “Pass him.” I tell Doyle. And he does it; he fucking takes off without question. I guess Doyle is smarter than I take him for. We’re touching ninety-eight as we zoom past Sullivan. I don’t look, but I guess he’s wondering what the fuck’s going on. Here he is thinking he’s been tailed, and the two guys barrel past without so much as a glance. All the while, I’m connected to Scotty.

“See us yet?” I ask

“I gotcha; just. You’ve just overtook some fucker, yeah?”

“That’s him, the guy we’ve just passed, that’s Sullivan. You pull out now, we’ll pass, then you tail him. And keep the fucking cell phone connection. You’re the man, Scotty. We’re fucking relying on you for the next few minutes.”

It goes like clockwork, although how the fuck Scotty sees us in the downpour, beats me. We pass Scotty, Sullivan passes Scotty, we hang a left, and Scotty takes over. We are now running parallel with our target on Ocean Parkway, heading south.

I hear the hysteria on the radio. Cars are streaming south through Brooklyn. We got Tony and Schultz tearing down Flatbush Avenue, with Jensen and Triggs coming down Utica. Control is screaming like fuck for Doyle to pick up his radio. He ain’t ignoring it, he just ain’t fucking listening.

All the while, Scotty is talking in my ear. We’re still running parallel, about five hundred yards behind him.

“It ain’t gonna be Brighton Beach, Lieutenant. He’s heading straight south.”

Five minutes later and we’re tucked in behind Scotty, as Sullivan heads for Raritan Bay. We keep up the pretence for another few minutes, and I figure he’s on to us and tagging us along. I order Scotty to bale out, and he peels of west, as Doyle roars up to Sullivan’s back bumper. This is it, game on.

We’ve got minutes before the rest of the cars pull in behind us. I see the chopper overhead. Sullivan does the planning for us; he heads straight for the warehouse district. We chase him for maybe two mile before he side-swipes a parked forklift, exits his car and dives straight through the window of a deserted warehouse. Just like that. Fucking keraam! Like a stuntman! We’re out and running before the glass has landed.

I signal Doyle to stay put, keep everyone out when they get here. I can see the blue flashes in the distance. He covers the window, as I pull the warehouse door along its runners. I let it go, and it closes with a thump.

I get my breath back, creeping forward. My eyes are slowly becoming accustomed to the darkness. I do a Jack Nicholson, after Johnny Carson.

“Heeere’s Johnny.” Silence. He’s either cut his throat as he came through the window, and he’s bleeding to death, or he’s fitter than he looks, and he’s got his breath back. I can’t hear a fucking thing.

Seconds tick away, until I hear footsteps, just a couple, but definitely footsteps, slowly. I swing to my left, gun in my hand, and there he is, coming out of the shadows, into the moonlight. And suddenly he don’t look so menacing. Hands in the air, with a spaghetti stain down the front of his once white shirt. The stain kills the image, and his barrel chest shrinks behind it.

Can I resist a smile - like fuck I can. He stands defiantly, legs apart. I go on the attack, the clock is ticking.

“I got two guns, Danny.”

First he’s puzzled, then realization dawns as I level the gun at the stain on his chest.

He shakes his head. “Ah fuck!”

“Yeah, ‘fuck’. You fuck!” I snap back. “You just couldn’t keep it to yourself could you. You die, the enquiry dies, the secret dies, and I’m as safe as houses. You did a good job, Danny. But you went too far, and you forgot your friends. A lot of good cops are exposed.”

I guess he figures, he may as well get his last few words out.

“You’re fucking corrupt! The whole goddamned bunch. The city deserves better, and I got the evidence.”

I laugh, then steady the gun. I balance myself, the walleted badge on my left side adding ballast. “You’re kidding. We’ve been watching you for weeks. You’ve spoken to no one, and no one’s contacted you. Fuck me, your phone’s been tapped for over two months now.”

“D’yuh think I didn’t know that? They’re on to you Lieutenant, whatever happens to me… “

I hear the blue and whites pulling up outside. The first two would be Tony and Schultz in one car, and Jensen and Triggs in the other. A third car pulls up and that’s when I pull the trigger. It’s too hot for comfort. The force of the bullet knocks him back three-feet.

I get the second gun into Danny’s hand, and pull the trigger as the car doors slam outside. Seconds later, the bullhorn sounds.

“You okay, Lieutenant?”

“I’m coming out, I got the fucker. Keep the lights on the door.”

I yank on the door and hurl it back. I’m feeling good, problem over, look out pension here I come. I exit the spotlight, my eyes clear, and I see – the fucking taxi; that fucking taxi, complete with dented front passenger door. I’m curious; I walk over to the two guys sitting on the bonnet. I know, I just fucking know, they ain’t what they’re supposed to be.

Real smart ass’ they are. “Lieutenant, I’m Nelson,” he says, “and this person, who I bet is not your favourite cab driver, is my partner Collingwood. We’re from Internal Affairs. We’d like to have a few words with you.”

And, as they say, the rest is history. So, just gimme the fucking statement to sign, and let me outta here.