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The Day of the Gun, Part XX


This posting features Chapter 41 of my ongoing action novel, The Day of the Gun.

Chapter 41

“Okay,” he said, holding up his hands. “Let’s say I agree with your story — and I’m not saying I do. But just for the sake of argument, let’s say I concede that your version of events is accurate. What do you want me to do about it? Roth and the Marshal’s Service are handling the thing now. I have no jurisdiction.”

“But chief, you do. That’s just it. These are crimes, and crimes are state and local violations of law.”

“Thanks for the civics lesson.”

She smiled. “I’m just saying there’s a role for you here.”

“That’s not the way the Feds see it.”

“But you’re the law here, chief. You showed that in the Gruesome Twosome case, and you showed it in the cemetery this weekend. They can’t cut you out of the loop.”

He snorted. They could, and they had. “There’s no dealing with Roth. You of all people should know that. Didn’t he throw you out of the hospital on your ass? Pardon my language.”

She ignored the barb. “A temporary setback. Roth can’t cover all the bases. The Marshals are spread too thin.”

Chief Hewson sighed. Dana Dotson was nothing if not tenacious. He had to give her that. That was the reason she was always a first-class reporter and usually such a royal pain in his ass. Theirs was a love-hate relationship for sure.

“The way I figure it,” she continued, plowing on despite his obvious reluctance to discuss the matter. “I figure that Tony the Knife has been laying low for all these years trying to find a DOJ mole. He finally gets somebody on the inside and then he sets up the hit on Martin. I mean, Harris.”

“The hit wasn’t professional — too many loose ends.”

She nodded. “A smokescreen. One of two theories fits here. Either Tony wanted to send a message to the DOJ that he can strike whenever and wherever he likes — even using amateurs — or he wanted to make it look like it wasn’t a professional hit to throw off the local cops — and by ‘cops,’ I mean you.”

“You think I haven’t considered all of the possibilities?”

“Of course you have, chief.”

“Even if Marciano’s behind the whole thing, what do you suggest I do?”

“I thought you’d never ask. There’s nothing like a dose of publicity to smoke out the enemy.”

“Ah. There’s your payoff.”

“Just think about it.”

Chief Hewson rubbed his eyes and sat back in his office chair. This was the first day since the shootings when he hadn’t been inundated with phone calls and requests for interviews from reporters the world over. He had hoped to slip back into some kind of routine, but Dana Dotson would not let him be. His first inclination was to send her back into the cold the same way that he had handled the others, but she appealed to their special relationship. They needed each other — at least until he retired or she moved up to Network.

“I’m an old man. I’m tired. I don’t have that long until retirement. The last thing I wanna do is deal with the media more than I already have. No offense.”

She laughed. It was phony, but effective. “None taken.” She cleared her throat, moving delicately through the chief’s psychic landscape. “Please, chief. You’re not one of those deadwood country sheriffs that fades gently into the good night. You’re too much on the ball for that. I don’t see you burning down the clock.”

He sighed. “Don’t play me, Dana. You of all people should know that stuff doesn’t work with me.”

“C’mon, chief, it works with everyone.”

“Dana. Please.”

“Look, I’m not playing you,” she said, but of course she was. She was a reporter, and she played everybody. Now she played her best card, and he reacted just as she had known he would. “Besides, you need to catch the sonofabitch that killed Detective Marlowe.”

Hewson was instantly on his feet. He could move fast for a tired man of 63 when he wanted to. “Jesus Christ, Dana! Is there nothing beyond the pale?”

She feigned contrition. “I know; I know. I’m just saying.”

“Geez. That’s stepping way beyond the bounds of good taste — even for you.”

“Ouch, chief. That hurts. That really hurts.”

“I swear to God!”

“You know what I say is true, in good taste or not.”

The chief marched over to his office door and looked both ways down the hall. “Don’t let Fazio hear that dribble comin’ out of your mouth. He’s still mourning the death of his partner. The man is out of his mind. We have another funeral coming up.”

“You have to admit I have a point.”

“I admit you’re a ruthless….” He searched for words but he did not find them.

“Bitch?” she offered.

He shrugged and returned to his seat. “You said it. I didn’t.”

“Look, I know I’m not always the most pleasant person.”

He guffawed. “That’s putting it mildly.”

“But that’s beside the point. You want to find out what happened and bring the guilty parties to justice. I want the story of a lifetime. What’s to say we can’t help each other?”

Hewson leaned back in his chair and heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Okay, against my better judgment, I’m listening. What exactly are you proposing?”

Dana leaned forward and tapped on his desk. “First off, I wanna know what you talked about in that emergency session with Roth on Sunday evening.”

“It was confidential. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t tell you about it. You know that.”

She nodded. His response was hardly unexpected. “Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“That’s your grandiose plan — to get me to reveal confidential information?”

“If I can get independent confirmation, will you confirm or deny the information, as appropriate?”

He sighed. “We’ll see. I can’t promise anything.”

“Chief.” They played a subtle game of cat and mice, each participant willingly reciting the expected lines.

“We’ll see, Dana. What else?”

“I need access to files on Steve Harris when he was Kurt Martin. I need to find out how the DOJ’s legendary ‘wall of secrecy’ was breached. I need to know what Roth is up to — what his plans are for Harris. I need to be in the loop.”

Hewson nodded. “Hell, Dana, you need everything. Still, I’m not sure I can give you that information even if I want to. As I said before, I’m out of the loop.”

As if on cue, Scott Petty, the department’s computer geek, leaned into the police chief’s door. “Knock, knock,” he said as he gently rapped three fingers on the side of the door. “Sorry to interrupt, but it’s important.” He sounded excited, out of breath. Glancing at Dana, he hesitated, wondering whether he should proceed.

Hewson waved his hand. “Oh, go ahead, Scott. Whatever it is, she’ll find out about it sooner or later, anyway.”

Petty nodded. “Hello Ms. Dotson.”

She smiled at the young man’s needless formality and obvious awkwardness. “Hello Scott. Whattaya got for us?”

Blushing, Petty turned his attention back to his boss. The sentences seemed to spill out of him as though he could barely pause long enough to formulate whole words before they tumbled from his lips. “Wilma says the police scanner reported a shooting at St. Vincent’s. From what I can tell, the U.S. Attorney and a group of Marshals are on the scene. There’s at least one officer down. We’re getting a series of 911 calls now. The Fire Department’s on the way, too.”

Hewson sprang to his feet yet again. “Is the officer one of ours?”

Petty shrugged. “We’re checking it out. As far as I know, all of our people are accounted for. If anybody’s down, it’s probably a Marshal. There may be civilian casualties as well.”

“And Harris? Did he get hit?”

“As far as we can tell, Harris is unaccounted for.”

Now Dana was on her feet. “Unaccounted for? What does that mean — ‘unaccounted for’?”

Petty ignored her for the moment, preferring to address his remarks to the chief. “Roth won’t tell us much, except that Harris and Mary Elizabeth Johnston both are unaccounted for.”

Hewson was slow on the uptake. “Who?”

The chief may have missed the reference, but Dana Dotson did not. “Oh, my God! This is huge. Have you issued a BOLO?”

Petty was now addressing her. “Yes. Roth issued it on his own authority.”

Hewson shook his head as though he was having a hard time following the course of the narrative. “Where are our guys?”

“Lawson says that Roth left strict orders that local cops are to secure the parameter around the hospital but the interior is his responsibility. He and Armwood are a block away directing traffic. Michelson and Brown are on Wright Avenue setting up sawhorses.”

“Directing traffic? Setting up sawhorses?” The chief looked at his reporter friend. “There. You see what I mean?”

“Roth’s on top of things,” she muttered. It was difficult to tell if she spoke in admiration or awe. “Why didn’t my producers call?”

“On top of things, my ass. Excuse my language. Does it sound like anyone is on top of things?” Hewson rubbed his eyes. “I swear this used to be a quiet little town.”

“Two Marshals were assigned to guard Harris,” Dana said as she whipped a cellphone from her purse and hit the speed dial. “They’re probably the ones hit.” She fixed her intense gaze on Petty. “Was there a fire, too? Did the Marshals get the shooter or shooters?”

The diminutive fellow shrugged, withering under her unrelenting scrutiny. “I don’t know. It just happened. Everything’s up in the air.”

Dana was on her feet, pacing. “Hi, Bob, it’s me,” she shouted into the phone. “Are you guys asleep at the wheel? I need you to meet me at St. Vincent’s with the camera ASAP. Yeah, that’s right. Okay. I’ll see you in ten.” She flipped the phone closed and spun on her heels. “He just heard about it, too. How about a ride, Chief Hewson?”

Normally, the departmental rules were clear. Civilians were not allowed in police cars unless they were being transported into custody, although an occasional ride-along — with the proper indemnification forms signed, of course — was permitted. Hewson did not hesitate, however; these were not normal times. He waved his hand at the young reporter and she followed him to the police cruiser in the parking lot.


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© 2020 J . Michael Martinez