There was no joke telling that day. Their moods were somber, and Chris seemed to be in somewhat of a daze. Floyd knew there was nothing he could say to console Chris, but offered company and a beer after their end of watch. Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn’t.
Floyd said “death is something we see almost every day, but the death of a child will get to you every time.” Chris asked, “how do you get over something like that?” Floyd shook his head and said, “sometimes you don’t. Not everyone is painted with the same brush, and each person has to find their own way of managing their grief or their anger or their thirst for revenge.”
Gary, who rarely cursed, was completely out of character when he said, “we’ll get that mother fucker. One day, we’ll get that mother fucker.” Maude thought it odd when she noticed the lonesome dove gesture with his cup, as if he was saying, “I’ll drink to that.”
The next several days, Chris canvassed the neighborhood. He went from door to door and was met with the usual, “I ain’t seen nuthin’ and I ain’t talking to no po-po.” Most often, the door was slammed in his face. He knew the responses were out of fear for their lives and yes, their hatred for the police officers who in their eyes, did nothing, but he desperately wanted to find a witness. He wanted justice for the little girl.
After an exhausting day, he knocked on one last door. He expected the same reaction he had become so used to, but at the time, he was so tired, he really didn’t care. Tomorrow was another day, and he would be back. When Chris knocked, an old man answered. Before he could tell him why he was there, the old man said, “you want to know if I saw something, don’t you? I was wondering when you might get around to askin’ me.” Chris wasn’t expecting that response, and stood speechless as the old man said, “the answer is, I sure did. Come on inside here, and I’ll tell you what I saw.”
Chris, still somewhat surprised, took out his notebook and started writing as the old man spoke. “I heard some tires squealing, so I took me a look out that window right there. That’s when I saw the one they call Red Dog leaning out the car, just a sprayin’ bullets. Then that poor little girl’s mama ran out the house, screaming “my baby. My baby. They shot my baby.”
Chris was familiar with Red Dog and his gang. They called themselves “The Dogs of War.” Red Dog had been running drugs in the neighborhood for years, but had a loyal army of protectors, and was virtually untouchable. Several deaths had been attributed to him and his gang, but there were never any witnesses who would come forward.
Everyone knew that Red Dog owned the neighborhood, but he rarely executed his own terroristic death and destruction. That was left up to his soldiers, but this was obviously a strong message to someone, and Red Dog wanted it to be loud and clear.
Chris asked the old man if he would be willing to testify about what he saw. The old man said, “yes. I sure would. We’ve been intimidated by that dog for too long. This used to be a nice neighborhood but it’s changed. I’m afraid to go outside. Everybody on this street is afraid to go outside. The little children are afraid to play in their own yards, and that just ain’t right. And now, look at what’s happened.”
Chris finished taking his statement and the old man said, “you know. I’ve lived in this house for 92 years. I was born here and I intend to die here. I just don’t want some gangster making the arrangements for me to meet my God before I’m ready.”
Chris smiled, shook the old man’s hand and thanked him for his co-operation. The old man said, “do you think you’ll get him?” Chris said, “thanks to you, sir, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
When the boys came into the Waffle Shack the next day, Chris was the last to arrive. As he walked in, he was patting himself on the back, while waiting for the others to ask what was going on. Floyd made the “what’s up?” gesture.
Chris smiled and said, “I found an eye witness to the shooting. One of the neighbors fingered Red Dog.” Richie said, “no shit.” Chris echoed, “no shit.” Richie reached out his hand and said, “congratulations buddy. If you’re not careful, we’re going to have to start calling you a real police officer.”
Chris said, “to put an exclamation point at the end of what Gary said before…we got the mother fucker and a warrant is on the way, even as we speak. It’s going to be a slam dunk, and one of the most dangerous criminals in the city is going away for a long time.”
They gave each other high-fives and then Floyd said, “pretty good job for a rookie cop.” Chris quickly reminded him that he hadn’t been a rookie for more than a year. “You’re still a rookie to me,” Floyd said as he grinned and winked at the other boys.
Maude said, “this calls for a cup of coffee on the house.” Richie looked up and said, “but they’re always on the house, Maude.” She said, “I know but that made it sound a little more special, don’t you think?”
After a smug giggle, the boys toasted each other and said, “here’s to justice.”
The lonesome dove, having heard the conversation, put on his hat and as he was walking out, Maude saw something she had never seen before. A slight smile was on his face, even though it only lasted for a second.
The celebration was short-lived as dispatch came across the walkie, advising a “10-13.” Chris said, “that’s me fellas. Gotta run.”
Chris got into his patrol car and asked dispatch for the “20.” His heart sank when he heard the address. He knew where he was going and he was terrified of what he was going to find.
When he arrived on scene, he was met by one of the firefighters who said, “the victim is a Mr. Stewart. 92 years old. Gunshot wound to the back of the head, execution style.”
Chris hit his knees. When the firefighter asked if he knew the man, Chris didn’t answer. He quickly gained his composure and went into the house. The coroner had already pronounced time of death, and told Chris that it looked to be around two in the morning.
As Chris bent down and put his hand on the old man’s shoulder, the words he had said the day before were screaming in his ears. “I’m afraid to go outside. The little children are afraid to play in their own yards, and that just ain’t right.” That old man wanted to make a difference. He was willing to stand up and do the right thing, and it had cost him his life. Over and over, Chris kept saying, “if I hadn’t talked to the old man, he would still be alive.”
How could he not feel responsible? He wanted to hit something. He wanted to kick something. He wanted to blow someone’s brains out, and he knew who that someone was.
What seemed to be the entire neighborhood was standing by, watching them load the old man’s body into the coroners’ car. Questions were asked but no one was talking. Chris knew that especially now, no one was going to say anything. They didn’t want to end up like the old man. He didn’t blame them, and he didn’t blame them for the way they were all looking at him.
He went to the precinct to file his report and met Floyd on the way. As they were walking in, Red Dog and his high-powered attorney were walking out. He had been released on bond almost immediately after he was brought in and charged.
When Red Dog mockingly grinned, Chris lunged at him. Floyd had to restrain him, while saying, “you don’t want to do this, son. You don’t want to do this.”
Red Dog’s attorney had petitioned the court to have the upcoming trial date set aside, due to lack of evidence and witnesses. Chris knew that it would be granted. There would be no justification for wasting taxpayers’ money, trying to get a conviction with virtually no evidence.
Chris didn’t come to the Waffle Shack for the next few days. His Lieutenant told him to take a few days off. It was going to be a while before he could come to terms with what happened. Floyd, Gary and Richie worried about him, but they knew that he would be alright. It would just take some time.
They tried to lighten the mood by telling Maude some dirty jokes. Maude loved what she called “deliciously dirty jokes” and had a laugh that resonated throughout the entire place.
She said, “okay guys. My turn now. What do you call bears that have no ears?” They all shook their heads and said “don’t know. What?”
Maude smiled and said “B.”
Floyd laughed and said “okay, Maude. I might just to have to write you a citation for that one.”
To be continued________________