13th Precinct - Issue Two
By: Bob Yosco
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Contact Information: reviews@shadowkeepzine.com - Continuing the fascinating 13th Precinct, enjoy issue two...

 

Read Previous Issues:  One 

[ RealAudio Version ]

"Don’t fry your clams, kid, there’s dirty money involved and that’s that.” Detective Vic Fleming mumbled as he paused to chew the half slice of pizza that had discouraged his best efforts to swallow in its entirety.

“You don’t think Boyd was involved in…” Johnny started to say.

“Castanet skimming some skell? Nah, Robin frickin Hood should’ a shot arrows as straight as Boyd. I just see you busting your own horns here looking for something that ain’t there. Not to be insensitive to the fact that you lost your partner, but you been on the job long enough to know why people turn up dead like that.”

“Yeah,” Johnny answered. “Money, money, or money. Still doesn’t figure why they snatched him.”

“Who the frig knows why they do anything? Find a way to get inside some thievin’ skells head and you get rich hobnobbin’ with the Feds as a smart-ass consultant. That tattoo place hadda be a front for some serious cash, it’s the Village for chrissake and that means dope money or something just as dirty. Boyd was at the wrong place at the wrong time and who knows if maybe some big shot is connected with the deal and thinks that Boyd got enough of an eyeball to jack him up. Nobody with the balls to cap a cop these days unless it’s some rich dick, anyway. He sends some strung out mope to make sure Boyd don’t tell nobody, and all hell breaks loose. No boogeymen, Johnny, okay? And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you concentrate on the real deal.”

Johnny Hamilton knew that Fleming was right. That the mysterious goings on connected with his partner’s disappearance were nothing more than life in the big city, and hey, stranger things had happened in the Apple. But it had been over a week since he broke into Boyd’s bloodstained apartment, and none of the usual suspects had surfaced to make finding out what really happened any easier. The place was trashed, and nothing was stolen, except they couldn’t find Boyd’s harmonica, but nobody waltzes into a cops crib and Ruby-Ridge’s the place just to snatch a mouth whistle.

“I’m taking off.” Johnny said to Vic as his eye caught the clock on the wall and saw that it was nearly 7 PM. “Mags will have my ass if I miss one more dinner.”

 “Sure kid.” Fleming mumbled around yet another heroic mouthful of pizza. “You go make nice with the girly and leave the overtime to us married guys. Not to be insensitive, but extra cash like this don’t come along that much no more, and I’m milkin this cow till she bleeds. Frigs wont let a man eat, catch that will ya?” The portly Detective nodded in the direction of a suddenly ringing phone.

“13th Squad, Detective Hamilton.” Johnny offered to an unresponsive mouthpiece.

“Damn, again.”

“They hang up?” Fleming asked.

“Dead line. Like nobody was ever even on it.” Johnny answered as he slammed the handset into the receiver.

“Kids. Kids or those wiseasses at One PP timing us to see how long we take to answer. Get us a frickin unlisted number I say, but nobody listens to me.”

“Third time today, Vic. When was the last time you remember that happening?”

“There you go again. Frig, I swear you’re gonna give me agida here. Now get your ass home before that nice girl goes and finds herself a fireman to bump uglies with. Now that’d be a sin, a real…”

Johnny let out a heavy sigh as he walked past the still munching Fleming, and trotted down the stairs leading to the entrance to the 13 Precinct. Maggie was making lasagna so he’d better pick up a decent bottle of Dago-red, and maybe some flowers from one of the shops by the subway. He said goodnight to the desk sergeant and the humid air of the early July evening wrapped itself around him like a sodden hot towel as he turned his thoughts on autopilot to walk the two blocks to the train.

No body. Lots of blood. Boyd gets off three shots. No blood but his, so he misses? Ex-Marine, still shot good scores at the range, so how come he can’t hit somebody right next to him? Drugs involved…maybe. Then why didn’t the perp take the cash from the register? Johnny’s thoughts are jolted out of the way as he catches sight of a banner, a sign waving lazily in the wet warm breeze over a store that hadn’t been there when he passed by this morning.

PAWN. SELL. BUY.

The storefront is barely ten feet wide, the plate glass window taking up nearly all of the frontage save for a space for a narrow door. Behind the window were the usual knickknacks of the pawn trade; music boxes, costume jewelry, a small television, a boom box, some books, and…

Johnny barely noticed the YES, WE’RE OPEN sign as he pushed through the door, and his eyes adjust to the semi-darkness quickly enough to see an elderly man atop a ladder placing something on a high shelf.

“See something you like?” The stooped and silver haired proprietor said with a merchant’s smile as he slowly descended.

“Yeah, in the window. Say, how long you been open for business? I mean, wasn’t this all boarded up this morning?”

“Matter of fact, it was, sir. I’ve been working inside for weeks now to get the place ready for customers and just this afternoon had the workmen take down the timber. The name’s Grapewin, Charlie Grapewin. Something in the window, you say?”

“Yeah, that harmonica. Could I take a look at it?”

“Why of course you may. Not many young people take a liking to the harmonica, not these days. Just give me a moment and I’ll fetch it out for you.”

Johnny focused on slowing his breathing, a coincidence, nothing more than a coincidence. And something about the store, it looked…bigger, lots bigger inside than out. Funny how perspective can play tricks on the eyes. High ceilings so it must be an old store, and the light fixtures looked to predate the coming of electricity…

“Here we are. A MerryNote 3, and in remarkable condition, young man. Sanitized to a fair thee well, of course, everything I receive of this sort is completely…”

“Where’d you get it? Johnny blurted, then hesitated as he saw a look of reproach upon the old mans face from such lack of decorum.

“Really now sir, the pawn clientele cherishes its anonymity as dearly as a churchman guards the whispers from the confessional. I will tell you that it was not stolen, and is in perfect working order.”

“Look, Mr….Grapewin, I’m a cop.” Johnny continued, opening his jacket to display the gold shield attached to the front of his belt. “I’m sorry if I barged in here like a bull in a china shop but a friend of mine lost a harmonica just like that, and I’d kind of like to know who left this here.”

“Ah, another constable and this one looks to purchase rather than sell. Bodes well for an auspicious opening day, I’d say. Since you stand before me with the look of an official inquiry about you, I’ll admit that I acquired the MerryNote from one of your brother officers. The paint on the sign wasn’t even dry when a middle-aged plainclothed policeman dropped the harmonica off and asked if it would be possible to place it in my window.”

“Another cop?” Johnny asked. “When was this, what did he look like?”

“Around half past three this afternoon, if I recall. He was a dark haired gentleman, perhaps as tall as yourself, but a trifle more…haberdashered, if you will.”

“Dark, middle-aged guy in a good suit? Did he leave a name? An address. Phone number…”

“No, sorry Detective but I have no specifics regarding the whereabouts of the gentleman in question. Not a matter of good business practice, this I grant you, but he was after all a policeman and said that he’d keep an eye on the window to see if the piece was sold. I took it on consignment actually, and we never discussed the specific pricing…”

 “Okay Mr. Grapewin, look, I’m going to have to take this back to the…” Johnny interrupted, and then paused as he looked closely at the chromed harmonica in his hand. He’d seen Boyd fool with the thing often enough, and was certain that this was his missing partner’s property. But something, some indescribable feeling, or premonition washed over him and bade him to leave official channels out of this discovery.

“How much?” He asked the patient proprietor.

“How much do feel it is worth to you?”

“Okay, I don’t have a lot of cash on me, but if you’ll take a check or credit card…how much is it worth to me? Look, Mr. Grapewin, I wanna buy this so how much is it going to set me back?”

“Take it.”

“Huh? Take it…just like that?”

“I’m of the feeling that your friend wanted you to have it, Detective. Why don’t you take it with you and I can settle up with him.”

This is crazy, Johnny thought. It couldn’t really be Boyd’s harmonica, and even it was, why did some cop, who just happened to fit Boyd’s description no less, drop it off at a pawnshop? None of it made sense. Nothing involved with the case made sense. Boyd had always tried to warn him about life in the 13th, but Johnny had taken his friend’s advice as an older guy trying to spook a new partner.

“Take it, Johnny.” Grapewin repeated. “There’s a good lad, just put it in your pocket and get yourself home to that girlfriend before she disposes of your dinner and leaves you hungry.”

“And don’t forget the wine.”

**

The Third Street docks, once a bustling center of WWII commerce, had fallen into disrepair and was for the most part abandoned by the law abiding seafaring tradesmen. The insiders joke among the local police was that the docks were a bump-em and dump-em site for the unwanted refuse the mob and other underworld types needed to dispose of.

“They’re at it again, Harry.” Mrs. Florence Ryerson called to her husband as she peeked through the blinds from their 6th floor apartment that overlooked the water.

“Good for them, Flo.” Harry answered aloud, adding under his breath, “I should be so lucky.”

“Harry what if it has something to do with that poor missing girl? Maybe you should come look.” Flo responded as she furiously adjusted her binoculars.

“Missing girl, missing boy, there’s always somebody missing, Flo. Me craning my neck out the window isn’t bringing back whatever they’re dumping so can I watch Leno in peace?”

The small rowboat that had the attention of Mrs. Ryerson stopped as it reached the deepest section of the inlet that fed into the East River, and a shadowy figure began tossing obviously heavy plastic bags into the water.

“I bet it’s her, Harry! Oh my God, a man in a rowboat is throwing his trash in the river, that’s disgusting, Harry.”

“Dead bodies she’s okay with, wasting leftovers makes her verklept.” Harry muttered to Jay.

“That’s it, I’m calling the cops.” Flo shouted.

“Yeah, call the cops. Maybe they’ll take a battleship out of mothballs and sink the rowboat.” Harry mumbled before adding in a louder voice, “They dredge the inlet once a month Flo and they ain’t calling the Marines over a guy and the paper plates from his barbeque.”

** 

A tired Detective Fleming stopped at the Duty Sergeant’s desk and stretched.

“Long day, Vic?” Sergeant Langley asked.

“Yeah, but no bitch from me, Noel. Christmas Club is gonna be so fat maybe Milly remembers we’re married, even. Got anything hot for me?”

 “Usual looneytoons. Old lady Ryerson over on 3rd thinks she’s found where they dumped Jimmy Hoffa, and oh yeah, who’s partnering up with Johnny Hamilton lately?”

“Nobody yet. The Lieutenant wants to let kid to grieve a little so he’s still solo, why?”

“Well somebody better check on his ass cause he left a message a few hours ago and Cochran says he sounded all spacey. Wanted an address checked out, supposedly some new Pawn Shop just a few blocks from here.”

“Guy lost his partner, Sarge, we all need to cut him some slack, okay?”

“Slack sure, but he calls the desk and leaves a bogus address, Vic. Ain’t no Pawn Shop around, friggin place been boarded up almost a year now. The old Henderson Hardware joint, remember? Where that whack-job Henderson hung himself and the rope broke so he laid there three days with a broken hip?”

“Yeah, that was some mess. Johnny passes the place at least twice a day from the subway ride…ain’t like him to frig that address…”

“Listen, it ain’t going in the Daily, okay, I just wanted you to know that somebody’s got to snap this kid out of his daydreaming.”

“Too late to call him now.” Fleming said as he glanced at his watch. “How’s about I promise to talk to him after I get some sleep? And Noel, gimme old lady Ryerson’s address.”

“You frickin OT hound.” Sergeant Langley chuckled. “Okay, you promise to talk to the kid and I write it up like I asked you to check out the Ryerson’s complaint. Deal?”

Christmas was five months away but Milly’s birthday was just around the corner, and with precious little loving going on in the Fleming household Vic would have agreed to check out a rumor that Batman was spotted selling crack in Thompson Square Park.

“Sweet. I’ll swing by the Ryerson’s and then head home. Figure it’ll take me maybe three hours all told and…don’t look at me like that Noel, I promise to talk to the kid, okay…

**

“They weren’t even weighted down. I mean, who dumps bodyparts in the East River and don’t throw in a rock or two?” The technician from the Crime Scene Investigations detail said to the wet-suited diver who sat enjoying a cigarette after his brief swim to retrieve the floating black plastic garbage bags.

“Somebody either wanted them found or didn’t know there’s no more undertow.” The diver responded as he flipped the butt of his cigarette into the water. “My grandfather worked these waters on a tug during the War, and according to him you couldn’t throw a peanut shell in without it sinking like a stone. That’s way back before they flattened out the bottom and all so’s the weekend rich pricks in their fishing boats didn’t get seasick from a little wave or two.”

“Great, Tommy, I’ll be sure to put in my report that Homicide keep an eye out for some rampaging seniors. Hey, where’d Fleming go…he still sick?”

“EMS guys got him in the ambulance under some oxygen, but who knows. Fat frig was tossing pizza chunks to beat the band.”

“Yeah, you’d think Homicide cops’d have stronger guts. Say, when’s your shift end?”

“Ended half an hour ago, Bert. Wanna grab some breakfast?”

“Lemme finish taggin’ an baggin’ and it’s my treat.” Bert answered as he tucked in the pale and soggy hand he’d had the devil of a time getting the report-sticker to adhere to.

**

[ End of Part II

]

Issue One can be read here.

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