Authors: John Dunning
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Police Procedural
I snuffed that thought fast. One of my problems was beginning to resolve itself. In another twenty minutes it would be daylight: then, I thought, we could see the dog from the road. That would make it legitimate discovery, as long as Jackie didn’t find out that we’d been here earlier. I wasn’t going to tell him. Hennessey wasn’t. Nasses was the unknown factor. I gave up the idea of confronting Jackie as he stepped from his car. I decided to do it by the book from here on out. I would join the boys in the bushes across the road. When Jackie did come home, we’d go get the car and pull up in front and ring his doorbell, as proper as Emily Post.
Let the fun begin, I thought.
We waited almost
another hour before Jackie came home. We heard him first—the squeal of the tires, the angry, impatient growl of the engine. “Helluva way to treat a car like that,” Hennessey said. The Lamborghini roared past in a swirl of dust. It made the turn and went behind the house and into the garage. Jackie came out, looking as he had the first time I’d seen him, like some plastic hero from Muscle Beach. He was a serious bodybuilder: his arms looked like a pair of legs, his chest like a fifty-gallon drum. He had grown himself a mustache and he needed a haircut. The image was formidable, a guy you don’t mess with. He stopped for a moment and looked at the dog, and the anger began again. “Get out of that car!” he shouted, and the woman peeped meekly through the open garage door. “Come on, come on!” Jackie said. She was none too happy about it: I could see that even from where we crouched in the bushes. Jackie grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and pushed her toward the house. They disappeared inside.
We waited. Nothing happened.
“Looks like the ball’s in our court,” Hennessey said.
“Yeah. Let’s go see the son of a bitch.”
We walked down the road to the car; then we drove back and turned into Jackie Newton’s drive, three officers of the law, proper to the bone. We stepped out and started up the walk. You could see the dog even from there, swinging grotesquely from the tree.
“Jesus, look at that,” Nasses said. “You boys see that last night?”
“See what?” I said.
Nasses gave a dry laugh. “Play it that way, then. I’ll help if I can.”
“Translate it for us, Nasses.”
“Don’t ask me to lie to cover your ass. I won’t volunteer anything, but don’t ask me to lie.”
“Ring the doorbell,” I said.
I had my badge pinned to my belt, like some cop on a TV show. I was pumped up: I always was when I was about to face Jackie. I heard him coming. The door opened and he filled the space.
“Mr. Newton?” Nasses said.
Jackie had seen me right off. He looked straight through Nasses and locked eyes with me. He probably didn’t even notice yet that Nasses was black.
“I’m Officer Nasses, Jeffco Sheriffs Department. These gentlemen are from the Denver police. They’d like to ask you a few questions.”
His eyes cut to my badge. Nasses had taken a little involuntary step to one side. There was nothing between Jackie Newton and me but two feet of violent air.
“Hello, Jackie,” I said.
“What the fuck do you want, Janeway?”
“You must be having trouble with your ears. The man just told you, I want to ask you a few questions.”
“You arresting me for something?”
“Go fuck yourself. Bust me right now or come back with a warrant.”
“How do you know I don’t have a warrant?”
“If you did you’d use it. Go away, you’re wasting my time.”
He started to close the door. I stepped past Nasses and put my foot in it. I started reading him his rights, thinking maybe it would throw him off, buy me a minute. At least if he slipped and said something, we’d be protected.
He listened, uncertain.
“Where were you last night?” I said.
I drove out on the plains. I was gone all night and, yeah, I had company. I got an alibi for any goddamn thing you want to dream up about last night.“
“Where’s your alibi, Newton? I want to see him.”
“Her, flatfoot, her… my alibi’s a girl.”
“Bring her down.”
“Come back with a warrant.”
Again he tried to close the door. Again I put my foot in it.
“I told you, Newton, you’ve got the right to remain silent. That doesn’t mean you can keep me from a witness. Now bring the girl down here or I’ll have your ass in jail for obstruction of justice.”
It was a bluff and I figured Jackie would know it. He didn’t know it, not for sure. He went and got the girl, who actually was a woman in her late twenties.
He had slapped her at least three times: there were that many distinct welts on her face. In another day she’d look like she’d been face-first through a gauntlet.
“Would you step outside, miss?”
She did. She was blond, and might’ve been pretty in a glassy kind of way. She wasn’t pretty now.
“What’s your name?”
“You haven’t got to tell him one fucking thing,” Jackie Newton said. There was an implication in his voice that she’d better not.
“What’s your name, miss?”
“Do you need help?”
She looked confused, scared.
“We can take you out of here if you want to go,” I said.
“She doesn’t want to go anywhere with you, cop,” Jackie Newton said.
“Miss?” I tried for eye contact, but I couldn’t get a rise out of her. “Did this jerk beat you up?”
“She ran into a door,” Jackie Newton said.
“You’d better get that door fixed, Newton. Looks like she ran into it three or four times.”
“She ran into a goddamn door, okay? You want to make something out of that?”
“Miss,” I said. “Do you want to go with us?”
“I don’t know,” she said shakily.
“We could go over to the car and talk it over. Come on, let’s do that.”
“She’s going nowhere with you, cop.”
“Don’t pay any attention to that,” I said. “If you want to go, you go. Fatso’s got nothing to say about it.”
I knew that would get to him. He balled up his fists and said, “I’ll show you fat, motherfucker. Take off your badge and I’ll beat your fuckin‘ head in.”
I gave him a bitter, pathetic smile, the kind you’d give a talking worm. I kept looking at him the whole time I was talking to her. “I want you to be very sure, miss, what your options are. It’s all up to you. If this jerk beat you up, you can file charges against him. He can do some good time for that. Maybe when he gets out he won’t feel so frisky.”
“I’ve had about enough of this shit,” Jackie Newton said.
“I don’t think so, Newton. You and me, we’ve got a long way to go with each other.”
“You wanna go now, Janeway? You wanna go now, huh? What do you say, cop, just you and me, bare hands, an old-fashioned fight to the finish.”
“I see you’ve been reading comic books again, Jackie. I wish I could accommodate you, I really do. You could show me how you beat up women and murder dogs. Or murder bums on the street.”
“Is that what this is about? Are you still trying to stick me with that?”
“I’m going to stick you with it, pal. You watch me.”
“Why don’t you fight me, Janeway? Just pick the place and time.”
“I wish I could. We don’t do things that way.”
“That don’t surprise me. Now if you’re all through, I’m going in.”
I had been working my way slowly around, putting more distance between Newton and the woman. Now I put an arm out and moved her completely aside.
‘Barbara,“ I said. ”Why don’t you come on with us?“
“I wouldn’t do that,” Jackie Newton said.
“You wouldn’t do anything unless it was stupid or mean,” I said. I got my hand on her shoulder and guided her away from the house. We got her to the car and inside, and there she broke down in a fit of sobbing. Her whole body trembled. I took off my coat and covered her shoulders, but it was a long time before she was ready to tell us about it.
We let Nasses off in Jeffco and were coming down Sixth Avenue toward Denver when I started to get her story. Hennessey was driving and Barbara was huddled against the shotgun door. I was in the back, leaning over the seat. I started with the little things. Her last name was Crowell. She lived in a Capitol Hill walk-up near Eleventh and Pearl. She worked for one of the companies that did business with Jackie Newton. Yesterday was the first time she had seen him… socially. She was flattered that he had asked her: he was rich and some people found him attractive. No one had warned her what he was really like.
It had happened pretty much as I had figured. Jackie’s idea of a date was apparent soon after they arrived at his house. He had a waterbed the size of a football field, with a hot tub, mirrors, the whole nine yards. That hadn’t bothered her much: she wasn’t entirely indisposed to going down with a guy the first time out, if she liked him. If a guy knew how to treat a girl, what was the harm in it? But then the dog ate the steaks and Jackie went crazy. You wouldn’t believe how strong he was. That was a big dog, and he’d pulled it up over that limb like it weighed nothing. She had tried to stop him: she hated cruelty, she just couldn’t stand there and watch that animal kick its life out. She had tried to cut the rope and Jackie slugged her. He was strong, all right, no mistake about it. With one punch he knocked her senseless.
The next fifteen hours was a nightmare. When she opened her eyes she was in the car. They were on the interstate heading east out of Denver. He drove the same way he did everything, always one inch from the brink of insanity. He kept his foot jammed on the floorboards—Jesus, you couldn’t imagine a car could go that fast. Later he’d gone off the freeway into a narrow country road. Once they’d stopped in the middle of nowhere. She didn’t seem to want to go into that, but I had started to taste blood and there was no way I was going to let her drop it.
“Barbara,” I said softly. “Did he rape you?”
She shook her head.
“Because if he did, you know, we can give him a lot of grief.”
“I didn’t struggle.”
“You don’t have to struggle for it to be rape.”
She took a deep shivery breath. I gave her a handkerchief and she dabbed her eyes.
“Barbara,” I said.
“I just want to forget about it.”
“I can see that you do, and I understand that. But if you don’t do something he’ll just do it again.”
“Not to me.”
We didn’t say anything more for a minute. Hennessey drove smoothly into the city, turning north on Santa Fe. From there we could go easily to her place or to Denver General.
“We need to go to the hospital,” I said. “Get you examined, get a doctor involved. You can make up your mind what to do later, but we need to get this done now.”
“I want to forget it. I want to go home.”
I sighed tiredly. “Jackie wins again.”
“He’d win anyway. They’d let him off, and then where would I be?”
I couldn’t argue with her. The way I had taken her out of there, without a warrant or probable cause, might give a judge fits. We could make the probable cause argument to some judges and win, based on what we had seen from our stakeout across the road. But there was another kind of judge who always held a cop’s nuts to the ground, who’d view everything said and done after I’d stuck my foot in the door as tainted evidence. It was the luck of the draw.
We pulled up at her place on Pearl Street. She didn’t want us to come in, but I had a few more questions. I wanted to hear all of it, everything they’d been doing since yesterday afternoon. Nothing much to tell, she said: he just drove like a maniac and she huddled in the car and expected death every minute. Once he had run over a flock of chickens. If there was anything on the road, a squirrel, chipmunk, any living thing, he’d swerve and crush it.
That car, though, was something else. That car was amazing.
She had been with Jackie Newton without a break since 3:00 p.m. yesterday. They had gone halfway across Kansas before he’d turned and come back.
She knew nothing about a dead man in an alley.
Sometimes when i
get going, I can work thirty hours without a break. This is tough on my partner, especially a guy like Hennessey, who needs his beauty rest. Neal went home to catch up on lost sleep and I went running. I used to be a marathon man in college. I can still do thirty miles, but it’s harder and I’m slower now. I’m not bad for my age and I go through a lot of pain to keep it that way. I run two, three times a week, and every year I run in the Bolder Boulder and finish respectably. I don’t try to beat the world anymore: if I can just hold up my little part in it, that’s enough. When I was young I had thoughts of a career in the ring, but the cops won my heart and my mind and balls soon followed. You’ve got to be realistic, as people keep telling me. It’s a long way from the Golden Gloves to any kind of fighting career, and I had seen enough of the fight game to know it wasn’t for me. While I was at it, I was pretty good. I had people comparing me to Marciano. I was light for a heavyweight, just over one ninety, but so was Marciano. I was fast and tough: no one had ever been able to knock me down. It was said that I could hit like a mule and take any punch ever thrown. I liked it when they said that.
This is all by way of saying that I’d‘ve been delighted to take on Jackie Newton some dark night. He had me by four inches in height, at least that much in reach, and thirty pounds that would never be called excess baggage. On paper he should whip my ass. But that’s what they said about Jess Willard when he ran into another of my old heroes, Jack Dempsey. Dempsey put that lardbucket flat on the floor, and when it was over Willard’s corner was screaming about plaster of paris and everything but the Rock of Gibraltar being in Dempsey’s gloves. It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, is it? And I had a feeling that, under all that bullshit, Jackie Newton didn’t have much heart.
The one sure thing was that I’d never find out. It got tiresome, always having to play by the rules while the other guy did his mugging and raping under a cloak of protections and rights. I jogged out Sixth Avenue, past expensive homes along the parkway. Somewhere, somehow, I was missing something: I didn’t know what. I had stepped off the treadmill way back when and didn’t know how to get on again. I was molded by a conservative father; I had rejected him and everything he stood for, I’d fought in the last stages of Vietnam, returned a fiery liberal, and slowly, over the past decade, I had watched those values trickle away as well. Today I’m a mess of contradictory political views. I believe in human rights: I liked Jimmy Carter for that reason alone, though I later came to believe that he had sold out his own cause in the game of pure Politics. I think the Miranda ruling has generally been good, though the public will never know what a pain it can be to work with. I believe in due process, but enough is enough: I’m a fan of a just and swift execution where vicious killers are concerned. It’s just ridiculous to keep a guy like Ted Bundy on death row for ten years. I don’t believe it when psychologists tell me the death penalty doesn’t deter—take a look at kidnapping statistics in the 1930s, when it was made a capital crime after the murder of the Lindbergh baby, before you start to argue with me. I think justice started collapsing under its own weight when they let shrinks into the courtroom. The plain fact is, for some murderers, I just don’t care whether they were incapable of reason, were whipped as children for wetting the bed, or had a mother who bayed at the moon. Gacy, Bundy, Manson, Speck—you’ll never make me believe the world is a better place with that quartet alive and kicking. I hate abortion, but I’d never pass a law telling a woman she couldn’t have one. I believe in the ERA, find it hard to understand why two hundred years after the Bill of Rights we’re still arguing about rights for half our people. I like black people, some of them a lot. I supported busing when it was necessary and would again, but there’s something about affirmative action that leaves me cold. You can’t take away one man’s rights and give them to another, even in a good cause. I was burned out, and never more than today. My police career had been solid, some said brilliant, but I was on a long slide to nowhere, a treadmill to oblivion, as Fred Allen called it. These are the days that try men’s souls. I wanted to fight Jackie Newton with a broken bottle and a tire iron, and society, decency, and my own good sense said,
You can’t do that
. There was something about gun law that was immensely appealing: it really cut through the crap and got to the heart of things. Barbaric? Maybe. But I’ll tell you this: watching a guy kill people and not being able to do a damn thing about it, that’s no bowl of cherries either.