Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 031 - Kieran Shea

THE BACK UP MAN - KIERAN SHEA

Patrolman Anthony Bossone stared Sergeant Sara Jacobs in the eye.

“It’ll be better if it’s me, Sergeant.”

Jacobs held a brown leather writing pad close to her barrel-like breasts and cast a skeptical eye at Bossone. She then looked over her shoulder at the townhouse seventy-five yards away. The house was a brick duplex from the fifties, kitchen in the bottom front off a concrete porch. Two bedroom up top, one bath, and an end unit. A chain-linked fence in front caged a swatch of grass long overdue for a trim. Per procedure, the second duplex unit and the homes nearby had been cleared, and a block down in either direction a half a dozen cruisers stabbed off the corner, lightbars rolling. Sniffing out fresh meat, a television microwave truck staked out the asphalt beyond.

“That’s not advised, Bossone,” Jacobs said turning back to face him. “I called you out of courtesy, not for you to try to diffuse this.”

“Yeah, I know. But, Sergeant, O’Neil is—like—my partner.”

“And, again, please note—like—my courtesy.”

Bossone steepled his hands, “But I can get him to give up.”

“Uh-huh. I’m sure you can. But no.”

“Why not?”

Jacobs leaned in, “Maybe because you’re not trained in this sort of situation? Hmm? Or do I have to go into the whole rank business? Didn’t think so. Listen, what matters right now is I’m OIC and we’re going to wait this one out. Your buddy in there called a little while ago and sounded dead-drunk and dog-tired. He’s either going to fall asleep and we gas him or—”

“Or he suicides before he passes out? That’s just great.”

“Look,” Jacobs said, “I know you want to help. And I know he’s your partner and all that, but you have to trust me here. We’ve got this. Not the first cop to with PTSD and booze. Just stay with his girlfriend over there. Comfort her. She needs a friendly face right now.”

Bossone glanced down the street at Peggy Tindall, his partner’s live-in girlfriend. Peggy sat on an ambulance gurney, long dark hair scrunched in a hasty ponytail. She looked wispy as a child in an oversized purple t-shirt, her skinny legs dangling. She winced as a paramedic swabbed the ragged gash on her cheek. Peggy then saw Bossone and immediately started bucking sobs so hard that the paramedic glared over his shoulder at Bossone. Bossone looked back at the duplex’s dark windows.

Jacobs cell phone warbled on her hip. She took the call and walked away. A minute later, she returned.

“All right,” she sighed. “Fuck. Despite my gut feelings and better professional judgment, it’s hero time, Bossone. Suit up.”

Bossone stiffened, “No shit?”

“None. Motherfucker just called and says if it’s you, he’ll surrender without shooting anybody, including himself.”

“Goddamn.”

“You’d better pray he’s telling the truth because if he shoots you and you die? I am going to yank that defibrillator from the paramedics truck, shock you back to life, and then kick you to death all over again.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”

“Suit up. Tactical will give you a vest and shadow you outside when you go.” Jacobs folded a stick of Juicy Fruit gum into her brilliantly white teeth and walked toward the tactical team leader. “All right, people. Get your signals straight and let’s close the fucking deal.”

*

Only after he announced himself and confessed that he was armed did O’Neil tell Bossone he could enter. Bossone eased the front door open and slipped quietly into the duplex’s foyer. Tapping the door closed with the heel of his sneaker, he let out a slow, controlled breath and relaxed his grip on his Beretta.

Bossone knew the layout. A doorway to the kitchen was just off to his right by five feet. The kitchen had two arched doorways, one off the foyer where he stood and one aft that led to a very small dining room. He announced himself one more time and slowly peeked around the corner into the kitchen. Empty. He swept across the kitchen to the dining area’s doorway and peeked again. Kevin O’Neil sat to the right at an antique oak table in one of four high-backed wooden chairs.

O’Neil was naked save for a pair of striped white and blue boxer shorts. One of his hands was high on the neck of a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, the other cupped the stock of Benelli SuperNova twelve gauge on the table.

Bossone knew the shotgun. O’Neil had wanted a Benelli ever since he got back from his second tour in Iraq. O’Neil told him all about how, over in Ramadi, humps like him kept SuperNovas in their Humvees for close encounters with tenacious insurgents who just didn’t know the meaning of back the fuck off. Pump action, four plus one round capacity, one beer heavier than a six pack of tall boys with a soul-less black matte finish. Ghost ring sighting, as if sighting mattered with a pistol-gripped twelve gauge at close range. Bossone recalled O’Neil lecturing him.

“You guineas know three things cold,” O’Neil had said.

They were drinking Captain Morgan spiked coffee early one morning last December at a friend’s farm just over the state line. Turkey hunting was a bust that morning so they took to blowing holes in an old chicken shed just for fun.

“Fucking guineas know good food, good wine, and great shotguns…”

Bloodshot eyes greasy with scotch and tears, O’Neil rolled a look up and down Bossone’s two-handed combat stance as he stepped around the corner. O’Neil gave him a wink and hefted the bottle.

“Drink, buddy?”

Bossone shook his head.

O’Neil tsked, set the bottle down and sneered. “You always were a fucking lightweight, Bossone.” The cap was off the bottle and O’Neil took a long scorching slug. “My old man? My old man always said you could never trust a man who passes on an offered drink. A man like that? Got issues.”

“Didn’t your dad die of liver disease?”

O’Neil shrugged. “Yeah, but not really. More of a broken heart. My mom stepped out on his ass a lot before he went around the bend on the vodka.”

“Oh.”

“I’m drunk, you know.”

Bossone puffed a grunt, “Yeah. So I see.”

O’Neil added, “Drunk and done, buddy. Drunk and done. They’re going to have my badge for this. Be lucky if I don’t do bitch time in state.”

“You don’t know that.”

O’Neil bobbed his head in the direction of the front of the house, “Oh yeah? You thinking I could get away with a psych plea with that show out there?”

“Maybe.”

“Boo-hoo, poor me. It was the stress that made me do it, your honor, the stress of the job and the stress of the war. Too much stress. Boo-hoo, I’m such a pussy.” O’Neil snorted some snot. “Who’s lead?”

“OIC is Jacobs. County crisis squad.”

“Never had the pleasure.”

“Yeah. Hard ass. Called me at home.” Bossone licked his lips and settled more into his stance. “A few others are out there too. Bates. Mitchell. Saw Caswell, too. They think you’re suicidal and you’re scaring the crap out of people, Kev. Me included.”

“Awww.”

“Can I ask you something?"

“Mm?”

“That shotgun loaded?”

O’Neil coughed a laugh, “Please. I’m drunk but I’m not stupid. Of course it’s loaded.”

“Want to clear it for me? Maybe lay it on the floor and slide it over?”

“No. Not really. No.”

“Peggy claims you pointed that gun at her.”

“Yeah? Well, so what if I did?”

“For the record, I’m going to pretend you denied that.” Sweat soaked Bossone’s back and torso and he could feel the trickling streams soaking the waistband of his jeans. O’Neil tilted back his chair.

“So it’s my word against hers, huh?”

“Maybe. But you did hit her. She’s the right to press charges on that.”

“The right. Ha! That fucking cunt deserved it.”

“Come on, man.”

“And look at you. You. You all supercop and shit. Bet you want me to make some kind of move so you can take me out clean, right? Make all this easier?”

“What are you talking about?”

O’Neil squinted, “See then you could bang my girlfriend without having to worry about me blowing your head off.”

*

“Sergeant?”

Sergeant Jacobs turned to the officer at her elbow, “What the fuck do you want?”

“There’s something you should know. I mean, we just learned something.”

“What?”

“The victim, O’Neil’s girlfriend. Peggy Tindall. She’s worried.”

“So?”

“She said she saw Officer Bossone go in ahead of the team and—”

“And what? What?”

“She told us Bossone and her have been seeing each other.”

Jacobs squeezed her eyes shut and groaned.

“Well, there goes my fucking promotion,” she said.

*

“How long?” Bossone asked.

O’Neil creaked forward on his chair and briefly tongued the inside of his cheek. “Tonight. Found her condoms a while ago so I knew for a few weeks now she’d been going strange but I finally found out it was you tonight. See, I v-sectioned my balls a while ago ‘cause I don’t want kids and my junk is cleaner than bleach, but I should’ve known even without the condoms. The weird excuses, Peggy all saying she was just all traumatized and shit with me being gone so long. Tonight, I just couldn’t take it no more so I confronted her when she came home. A belt buckle to the face really speeds up a confession, you know that?”

“Goddamn it.”

“Thought she was fucking someone at her job, maybe her manager. ‘Magine my surprise when she said it was you.”

“You shouldn’t have hit her, Kev.”

“Hit her? I beat her like a dog.”

“Not her fault she doesn’t love you anymore, man.”

“Thanks for that insight, scumbag.”

Bossone’s mind raced. He calculated the split second swing time on the Benelli, the relative safety of the doorway. At this range and with no time to spread, the shotgun would easily take his skull clean off. “Look, man, I’m not going to lie to you,” Bossone said. “Yeah. I did it. We did it and I’m sorry and all, but we need to play this straight, man. This is some seriously fucked up shit but this isn’t the way to handle it. Things like this, they just happen. I mean, I don’t know. She was just there one day.”

O’Neil’s thumb tapped the Benelli fast, like a drum beat.

“Just there, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“Was it my first tour or my second?”

Bossone shoulders ached from holding his stance. His Beretta bobbed.

“It started when you were gone the second time. When you came back it was harder, all that sneaking around. We were working on a way to air it, to tell you.”

“Fuck your air it.”

“I’m just leveling with you, man. Come on. Just give it, just give up the weapon. This is bad but it’s no reason to kill yourself.”

O’Neil’s lips tightened. “Who said anything about killing myself?”

When their eyes locked again, Bossone made his decision. He shouted loud as he possibly could and dove right, “No! Put the gun down! No!”

Bossone’s preemption drew the hoped response. O’Neil swung the shotgun up from the table, but he was far too sluggish from the booze. Bossone squeezed off two quick shots before O’Neil could fire. The first bullet missed but the second threw most of O’Neil’s face up a framed mirror on the dining room far wall.

Tactical burst in next, doing their badass Batman thing. Lots of muffled screaming, Bossone’s ears ringing.

Bossone released his weapon as ordered and radios crackled and sputtered. Lots of profanity all around. Bossone closed his eyes.

Christ, he hoped Peggy kept her big, stupid mouth shut.

BIO: Kieran Shea’s short crime fiction has appeared in a bunch of ‘zines—Plots with Guns and the now-defunct Demolition most recently. Living outside Annapolis, Maryland…he bitterly kicks the tires of the status quo on principle and drinks far too much coffee.

5 comments:

Glenn Gray said...

Dug that a lot, Kieran. Tight, tense, great dialogue. Also liked the all dialogue "Barnes Is Bitter" over at Powder Burn. GG

Al Tucher said...

I second that. Dialog that bleeds.

Cormac Brown said...

Good stuff, good denoument and great pacing.

David Cranmer said...

Another great story from your keyboard. It seems like you knock out two or three of 'em while I'm still working on my first paragraph.

Susan and Vernon said...

Really tight writing, and a sweet tee up for the ending. Keep it up, you belong in noir.