After two weeks, life at the Waffle Shack was as normal as it could be, given what happened. Chris was back at work and seemed to be handling himself and his guilt pretty well, although the deaths of the little girl and the old man had clearly taken a toll on him.
The boys were surprised when their Lieutenant came walking in and sat down with them. He said “we got an anonymous tip this morning and Chris, I want you to go out and take point. Richie, I want you to go with him. Peterson is out there now, but I’m going to pull him off.”
“Where are we going, Lieutenant?” Chris asked. “You’re going out Savannah Road to the old abandoned salvage yard and Richie, you’re going to talk to the local hobo. You know who I mean.”
Richie did know the “hobo” and he knew his story. He was called “saggy britches Jack” and he wandered into the yard sometimes to find temporary refuge in a wrecked car. While they were waiting to settle up with Maude, Richie told Chris about him.
“He’s a pitiful figure. I have to go out there now and then to get him to leave. He was a high educated man who lost his job after the crash of ’08. He lost his home and then he lost his wife. He just never could get it together after that so he more or less just put a bottle to his head and pulled the trigger.”
Chris asked why they called him saggy britches Jack. Richie said “he ends up in the hospital a lot. He’ll get beaten up by other homeless people or just a random thug. His clothes are always so filthy, the hospital throws them away and then gives him what they have on hand, which means clothes that don’t fit.”
Chris sort of chuckled when he repeated the name “saggy britches.” Richie said “I don’t call him that. There but by the grace of God, go I or you or anybody else. Let me tell you about that man. He’s intelligent, kind and I don’t believe that he would do anything to hurt me or you or anybody else. He just got hit by the bad luck train.”
When they got to the yard, saggy britches Jack was sitting on the back of a fire truck in handcuffs. Officer Peterson smiled at Richie and said “he’s all yours, pal. Says he ‘saw something’.”
A firefighter came over and said “we’ve got a dead body back here in a car. Gunshot wound to the back of the head, execution style.” Richie told Chris to go with the firefighter to check out the body and he went over to take the handcuffs off of saggy britches Jack.
Richie looked down and said “Jack? Can you talk to me for a minute?” Jack said “boss, I didn’t do anything.” Richie said “I know you didn’t and you don’t have to call me boss.” Jack said “okay boss.”
Richie said “just tell me what you saw.” Jack said “boss, you’re going to think I’m crazy.” Richie said “no I won’t. Just tell me what you saw.” Jack shook his head and said “boss, I really need a drink right now, to you know, steady my nerves.”
Richie said “right now, I want you to take a deep breath and tell me what you saw.” Jack put his hands over his face and said “you’re not going to believe me, boss. I just know you’re not going to believe me.”
Richie said “come on. You know me. Give me the benefit of the doubt and talk to me. What did you see?”
Jack said “boss, I heard what I thought was a gun shot and when I peeped out of the car, I saw this beautiful, willowy blonde walking away. It looked almost like she was floating.”
“I swear to God I saw her. I admit that I was drinking last night and I probably had a snoot-full but I know what I saw.”
Richie patted him on the back and said “okay buddy.” Jack looked at him and said “see. I knew you’d think I was crazy.” Richie said “I don’t think you’re crazy. I just think you might be a little confused.”
Chris came back and said “you’re not going to believe who that is back there.” Richie said “who?” Chris said “Red Dog.” Richie said “are you fucking kidding me?” Chris said “no I’m not. It’s him.”
Was he killed here or brought here? Can you tell?” Richie asked. Chris said “it looks like he was killed here. There’s blood and brains all over the car he’s in but we’ll wait and see what the coroner thinks.”
Jack looked at Richie and said “I told you I heard a gunshot, boss.”
The coroner arrived, pronounced him and agreed that he was most likely killed on site. He put time of death at around two o’clock that morning.
As they put Red Dogs’ body into the back of the car, Chris had an almost evil smile on his face.
He wondered aloud to Richie as to how somebody got Red Dog to the salvage yard alone.
Richie told him to go on down to the station and file the report. “I’ll finish up here,” he said. Chris asked him what he was going to do about Jack. Richie said “he’s not a suspect. He may be a potential witness but that’s questionable at this point. Right now, he’s simply a bystander and that’s what you will put in your report.”
“Seriously?” Chris asked. Richie said “seriously.”
Chris leaned over and whispered “what’s with you and this bum, anyway?” Richie didn’t appreciate Chris’ sudden callousness.
He said “what’s happened to you? What happened to that caring person you used to be? What happened to that compassion?”
Chris said “My caring and compassion got an old man killed, remember?”
Richie said “you’re still young and feeling your oats. I get that. And you think life took a big dump on you and now you think you need to turn into an asshole, right?”
“That’s right.” Chris said.
“One day, you’ll figure it out,” Richie said. “Figure what out?” Chris asked. Richie put his hand on his shoulder and said “an officers’ best weapon is compassion. Remember that. You had it a month ago and you need to get it back.”
Richie put Jack in his car and told him he would take him to a shelter but Jack wanted to go to the park instead. Richie stopped on the way and bought him a hamburger. Then he stopped at the local ABC store and bought him a pint of Vodka.
When Jack got out of the car, he said “boss, I swear I am telling the truth about what I saw.”
To be continued___________________________