Authors: Austin S. Camacho
Gorman. Hey, did I interrupt anything?”
“Would it matter?” Gorman asked.
“Naaaaah. I just call 'cause I like to listen to that big phony politician's voice of yours.”
“Did you call me at this god-awful hour just to criticize my voice? You? Of all people? The human glasscutter?”
“Yuk, yuk, yuk. No, I just got a chance to sneak away from baggage for a while. I wanted to tell you that my boss here, the one I think is crooked, I'm having dinner tonight with his brother.”
“Why his brother?” Gorman asked.
“His brother is this kind of rich guy. Too rich, if you ask me. And I think if they're hanky-pankying here with drugs, rich brother is involved.”
“I don't know, Ruby. It might be a whole new can of worms you're opening,” Gorman said.
“Look, we're dead-ended and I can't find out anything unless I get closer. But I just wanted to bring you up to speed first, just in case.”
“In case of what?”
“Just in case. What do I know, in case of what? What do you think, I'm a mind reader?”
“I want to talk to you first. When and where?”
“Ten o'clock? The coffee shop at Madison and 63
“I'll be there,” Gorman said.
“God willing and creeks don't rise twixt here and home, so will I,” the chalk-on-slate female voice answered. She paused and said, “You sure I didn't interrupt anything?”
“Of course not,” he said. “This is a civilized household, unlike those you're used to.”
“You're lying,” she said. “But listen, I know you don't go into the office until 8 o'clock. You've got time.”
“What, barely an hour? That's hardly enough time,” he said.
“I've seen your wife, white boy. Dream on.”
The phone clicked dead in his hand.
Paul Gorman laughed aloud.
“The remarkable Ruby Sanchez?” Patsy asked him.
“The one and only.”
“It's kind of early for her to be pestering you, isn't it?”
“I think she's worried about something,” Gorman said. “Not that she'd ever admit it butâ¦”
“She's on a drug case, isn't she?”
“At JFK. We had that retired Port Authority cop out at the airport who got suspended because they found drugs in his locker. Not enough for a criminal case but enough to can him. He came to us, swearing that he was framed. Ruby's still trying to find out if it's true. She thinks there's something more going on and she can't figure out what.”
“You think she's afraid?”
“Patsy, this is a woman who's walking around with a bullet in her spine and might die anytime. I don't think there's anything left in the world that she's afraid of. She sure as hell isn't afraid of me. So if she's a little concerned, well, we'll just have to see.”
He put his arms around Patsy and hugged her. “By the way,” he said, “Ruby said something else.”
“Oh? What was that?”
“She said I had enough time before I had to go to work. So I should go inside and make wild, insane, passionate love to you.”
“She didn't really say that,” Patsy said.
“No. But I could tell she was thinking it.”
Patsy took his hand and led him from the kitchen. “I love that girl,” she said. “Don't let anything happen to her, Paul Gorman.”
The lettering on the office door read simply: B.B.I. Nothing more. No names, no invitation that one should step inside, no explanation. Just B.B.I.
When Paul Gorman pushed the door open and stepped inside, Gunny Robinson knew without looking at his watch that it was exactly 8 a.m. give or take a minute. Gorman was always on time; his face always impassive. Gunny was half-convinced that if Gorman had been involved in a shootout minutes before in the building's lobby, his face as he stepped into the office would deny everything.
Gunny had worked for some impressive men in the Marine Corps, but he placed Gorman in a class of his own.
“Morning, Gunny,” Gorman said in his deep voice. “I trust you had a good evening.”
“No worries, sir.”
Gorman just nodded. He never slowed once he was in the door, but headed directly to his own inner office. As was his habit, he hung his Burberry raincoat in its closet, shifted his charcoal-colored suit jacket until it settled on him just right, then spent a few seconds at the window that would be at his back when he sat at his desk. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back.
Gorman's office, on one of the upper floors of the brick faced skyscraper at 140 West Street, afforded him a perfect view of what was now known as Ground Zero, site of the opening skirmish in what was now a declared war against terror. When the World Trade Center was destroyed, many hundreds of companies scurried around
for space nearby, and within weeks, every available office in the area had been rented. Gorman did not know how The Boss had managed to rent even this small suite of offices, but in the depths of his soul, he understood the meaning of the location, and he paid his respects every morning.
After a moment, he returned to the outer office where he poured his own coffee into a small plain white mug that he took from an overhead shelf. He liked having a sugar bowl with real sugar in it. This morning a few grains of sugar lay on the counter beside the cups. He brushed the loose grains into his hand and dropped them into the wastebasket.
Gunny Robinson followed him back into his inner office.
Gunny was a big man who managed to make his tan lightweight suit look like a uniform. His face was sepia, with the gentle rounded features that most people would associate with professional wrestlers from Samoa, although his own family actually hailed from the tiny Pacific island of Tonga. He rubbed a beefy hand back across his shaved scalp as he ordered his mind to give the morning report.
“All right, Gunny, what's new and exciting?”
“Just moving ahead on the old stuff,” Gunny said. “Mason and Steele are still working on that crooked lawyer, Jerome. Ruby Sanchez reportedâ¦”
“I've heard from Ruby. In all her screeching glory,” Gorman said. “What's Chastity doing?”
“She just got back from vacation and said she'd be in later.”
“Fine. I'll see her then. We'll go over all the rest of the stuff later. Who are our visitors?”
Gunny smiled and said, “How'd you know we had visitors?”
“Somebody spilled sugar outside. You would have cleaned it up.”
“Okay, that accounts for âvisitor.' You said visitors.
“Two extra cups are gone from the shelf. Stop grilling me, Gunny. Who's here?”
“They're on duty now but I got the precinct to give them a pass for a couple of hours. You know one of them, sir. Vinnie Giles from the 87th Precinct. We had him a year ago.”
“Giles,” Gorman repeated. “Compact sort of guy, brush-cut blond hair? Brooklyn tough guy, right? Bensonhurst, I think. Should be taking his detective test soon. He back in trouble?”
“No sir, I just checked the precinct and my sources say he's cleaned up his act. Salt of the earth. He's here about his partner.”
“A referral.” Gorman nodded. That was where their business was supposed to come from. “What do we know about the partner?”
“Under your left hand, sir.”
Gorman looked down at a manila folder labeled “Brooks, Alexander” and opened it. As he glanced at it, he asked. “Whatever happened to that girl I told you to hire?”
“A receptionist?” Gunny asked. “Still looking for the right person. It seems if they've got a big enough brain, they've got too big a mouth.”
“Keep looking. Harder from now on,” Gorman said. “Even if you are a control freak, you're just too valuable to be jumping up every time theâ¦”
On cue, he was interrupted as the telephone rang. Gunny grinned and headed back to his outside desk. Gorman shook his head and focused on the contents of the folder before him.
The information was sparse. Alexander Brooks seemed to be a good cop, but some people in the precinct said lately he seemed to be drinking too much.
Gunny had added some personal notes that he obviously got from Brooks' partner. Brooks looked like a simple, blue collar guy and a hard worker with no trouble
on the job. But his family life seemed to be a mess. Gorman sighed. Family problems were a regular story with beat cops, probably one of the reasons they outpaced America in divorce and suicide.
In the outer office, Gunny Robinson picked up the ringing phone. “BBI,” was all he said.
A deep voice whispered, “I need your help.”
Gunny touched a button, starting a tape recorder hidden within his desk. “Yes, sir. And how did you get this number?”
“I was told to say I got it from one of my friends, one of my very
friends, and that I need to see Mr. Gorman.”
A small smile moved Gunny's tan face as he recognized the “finest” reference to the NYPD. “You in trouble, Mrâ¦?”
“The worst kind,” the whisperer replied. “And for now I think I'll keep my name to myself.”
“Fine. I can give you an appointment this afternoon atâ¦”
“No, I can't come there. Too dangerous. Gorman will have to meet me.”
Gunny talked, was answered and was still listening intently when Gorman came out of his office. When he hung up Gorman asked, “Something important?”
“Just routine office business, boss,” Gunny replied. “Nothing that need concern you.”
“You neither,” Gorman said. “Hire that receptionist.” He paused a second to make sure the message registered, then said, “Okay, then, let's go meet our first contestant, shall we?”
In the small conference room, the two uniformed policemen put down their coffee cups and stood, as if a superior officer had just entered. Gorman immediately recognized Giles but he was more interested in the other
policeman. Brooks' face looked blotchy and his eyes seemed watery. There was a sullen show-me look on his face, as if he had been forced to come to this meeting.
His partner, Giles, mustered a smile when he saw Gorman. At six feet tall, he was Gorman's height, but he seemed slight next to Gorman's bulkiness which was not weight, but size.
“Hi, Mr. Gorman. Remember me?” When Gorman nodded, Giles said, “It's good to see you again. After you helped me out, you told me that if I ever knew another cop who was up against it, I should let you know. This is my partner, Alex Brooks. I thought he should talk to you.”
“Yes,” Gorman said, taking the chair at the head of the table, and waving the two patrolmen to sit. Gunny stood in the open door so he could get the outside telephone if it rang. “It might be a good idea,” Gorman said. “What seems to be the problem, Officer?” he asked. He tried to make his voice soft and reassuring because just by his constant fumbling with his coffee cup, Brooks was showing that he was under stress.
When Brooks was silent for a moment, Giles began, “He's starting to drink too much.”
“Not you,” Gorman said, waving a dismissive hand at Giles. “Let Alex speak for himself.”
This time the silence lasted a full twenty seconds. Gorman knew that this was the critical moment. Patrolman Brooks was deciding whether to bare his soul to a stranger. If he decided not to, he would be out the door in a couple of minutes and that would be the end of it. If he chose to talk to Gorman though, Patrolman Brooks would find himself with more help for his problems than he had ever expected.
But the choice was his.
Finally, Brooks looked up and said, “It's Francine, my wife. She's trying to break me down. And it's working.”
“What exactly is she doing?”
“It's like she's just looking for things to fight with me
about. Nothing's good enough for her anymore. I asked her to go to counseling. She told me that only nuts like me need counseling, not sane people. And the other night I found a business card for a divorce lawyer on the bedroom dresser. She's right about one thing. It is making me nuts.”
Gorman put his palms together and said, “A lot of people get divorced. It shouldn't be the end of your world.”
Brooks sat in sullen silence. He clenched and unclenched his fists. Then did it again.
Gorman looked at him for a few long seconds and then said, “Gunny, please take Officer Giles outside. I want to talk to Patrolman Brooks alone.”
When the door closed behind the other two men, Gorman said, “Okay, just us two. Now what is it? What's the real problem? Divorce isn't the end of the world.”
“I've got a daughter. Amy. She's fourteen. I could live with a divorce. I sure as hell could live without Francine. But the thought of losing my kidâ¦I don't want to deal with that. I've put up with a lot of crap trying to keep my marriage together. But no matter what I try, it isn't good enough.”
“You think your wife is just out of love with you?”
Brooks shrugged. “Seems that way.”
Gorman leaned forward on the table and his voice was crisp and almost accusatory. “You beat her? You cheat on her? You got a secret gambling habit that eats up the household money?”
Brooks seemed stunned by the ferocity of the questions. For a moment, a hint of anger flickered in his face, and then he just shook his head as if nothing in his life mattered anymore. “None of those things.” He sighed. “Why are we here bothering with this?” And then his mood turned to anger. “Who the hell are you anyway? Doctor Phil?”
Gorman said, “Patrolman Brooks, do you know what B.B.I., those initials on the door, stands for?”
“Something blue, I think Vinnie said.”
“It stands for Beyond Blue Investigations. We have only one mission. That is to help policemen in trouble. Any kind of trouble. Now I can't promise to save your marriage. But if your wife is acting strange, if she's going to try to rough you up without causeâ¦well, we'll see what we can do about that.”