Detective Carl Graff’s phone chimed, that damn tune his Captain had set as a joke and he was too technologically stupid to remove, and he answered before the first verse of “Wrecking Ball” finished. If nothing else, the song had trained him to answer his Captain’s calls quickly.
“Yo,” he snarled into his phone.
“Carl, we need you to head over to the Rickity Roller.”
“Kids getting in trouble again?”
“No,” his Captain sighed, “there’s been an incident. You’ll be doing more than keeping the peace, more than just strength in numbers.”
“On my way,” he clicked off, shoved the phone back into his pocket and headed for his car. It was a department issued, unmarked, hunk of junk, but it hadn’t failed on him yet and he always felt better about heading towards a crime scene knowing he had his full arsenal of tricks and treats in the trunk.
Carl honked his horn and flashed his high beams to get the throng of gawkers to move out of his way. Amid some cursing and rude gestures, he managed to pull up to the entrance, which had been crisscrossed with yellow crime scene tape. He flashed his badge to the uniform who stepped up to his window, and then surveyed the rest of The Boardwalk amusement park, or Rickity Roller as it was lovingly referred to not just in his department but throughout the town.
The locals hardly ever went, once they passed their teenage years and had grown tired of groping their significant others in the dark corners of the Clown’s Fun House and necking on the Seaward Ferris Wheel. It was a tourist trap and a hub for unruly kids to blow off some steam. Occasionally the youth gathered in greater numbers than the tiny park was equipped to handle and the police were called in to help keep the peace.
Carl hated those calls. They always came on the hottest nights of summer, and he usually ended up having some punk kid throw a soda at him, or key his car, or worse. Then he’d have to cuff them and haul them to the station for processing and a call to their parents for the lucky ones or a night in jail for the unlucky ones, stay late to complete the paperwork and generally rue the day the Rickity Roller was approved by the town council as a way to bolster the coffers. Or whatever asinine excuse they had used at the time.
The only bonus, usually, was he got to see George Rawlings, his old partner when they both wore uniforms to work, before they had both made Detective, and probably the best friend he had. But, Carl hadn’t seen George in over a week and, aside from being annoyed that he wouldn’t get to bum around with him for the next couple hours as they mopped up whatever the mess was, he was starting to worry.
Continuing his assessment of the scene, Carl began counting cars. He noticed at least two other Detective junkers near the entrance, and a whole slew of black and whites. That number of officers in one place was quite the party, which meant it was also quite the mess. When his Captain’s car pulled up behind his a minute later, he started to worry more.
“What brings you out of your dungeon?” Carl met Captain Rickards between their two vehicles, pulled out his pack of Reds and lit a fresh one. The warm pull warded off the chill of the approaching evening and eased the nerves that had popped up when the car had pulled up behind his.
“I don’t want to be here anymore than you want me here, but I’m needed on this one. It’s one of ours in there, in the Fun House.” Captain Rickards flicked his gaze over the fence towards the glare of spinning lights fighting desperately to beat back the coming darkness.
Carl frowned, “Shit.”
“Exactly. I don’t know who it is yet, but we do this one right the first time. No slips. No missteps. No errors. We owe it to them. You got that?”
“Good, now let’s get in there.”
Carl took the last drag from his cigarette, dropped the spent butt to the dirt parking lot and stamped it out with his heel. He knew he could get in trouble for littering like that, especially right in front of his Captain, but in that moment there were much bigger concerns. A cop was down. That took precedent over everything else.
Later the autopsy would confirm what they all knew at the scene, cause of death was cardiac arrest and loss of blood from the single bullet that entered the officer’s back between his lower ribs, tore his insides to shit, and exited just above his sternum. Detective George Rawlings hadn’t been wearing a vest at the time of the incident, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The gunshot residue on his clothes, along with the singed fibers, indicated his assailant had been standing too close for the kevlar to be effective.
After seeing his friend, outlined in blood, Carl lost the the contents of his stomach, a lovely pasta dish from Romero’s that he had finished moments before getting the call from his Captain, but had the training and scene presence to remove himself before he hurled on anything that could be remotely considered as evidence. It was the first time he had ever lost it at a scene, but he took it in stride. Sooner or later it happens to every cop. He spat out as much of the flavor as he could and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
He looked up from his mess when a shadow passed over him to see Captain Rickards standing next to him.
“I’m sorry, Carl. If I had known I wouldn’t have called you in.”
Carl waved him off, then spat and wiped his mouth again.
“Get out of here. Go home. I’ll put in so you get a couple days off on the Department’s dime. Pack up and go fishing or something.”
Carl scowled. That was the last thing he wanted to do. He need to know what happened. He needed to know what the investigation turned up.
He started to shake his head, but Captain Rickards firm tone stopped the rebuttal he had been forming. “You will not be working this case. You will be taking some time off.”
“Fine,” he forced the word through his clenched teeth, fought back a second round of returning dinner, rose to his feet and marched back to his car. The carnival speakers had been silenced, thank God, once the detectives arrived but their work lamps did little to diminish the incessant spiraling, twinkling, flashing lights that bounced through the dank alleys between the park’s buildings.
When he reached the comfort of his car, he slammed the door, lit a new cigarette and closed his eyes against the pain of the lights. Even the sight of his dead friend that greeted his closed lids was a mercy compared to the brightness of the park. But, only for a few seconds, then his stomach started rumbling again and he opened his eyes, fired his engine and peeled out of the parking lot.
Enough of the crowd had dispersed to allow such a maneuver, but he wasn’t sure he would have been able to calm his exit even if they hadn’t. There was a bottle at home calling him and he couldn’t keep it waiting.
The knock on his door came halfway through the bottle. He wasn’t sloppy drunk yet, but he had moved well beyond where he should be trusted to do more than channel surf. He ignored the door. After the scene he had left, it could only be more bad news. He wasn’t in the mood. He didn’t want it. He was on vacation and whatever it was could wait until he was allowed back on duty.
When the knock came again, Carl dragged himself off the couch and swayed to the door, cursing the whole way. His right hand stayed close to his Glock which was tucked into the back of his jeans, as he opened the door with his left hand. He was drunk, but he wasn’t stupid enough to answer the door unarmed. He knew who might be out there, closing up loose ends.
He was more than a bit surprised to see Captain Rickards standing there, flanked by a couple of uniformed officers he didn’t recognize immediately. “Yo, what brings you out to interrupt my vacation?” His words slurred, and he tried to exaggerate his excessive body movement to make them think he was drunker than he was. His gaze passed over the papers in the Captain’s hands to peer between the stoic expressions of the uniformed officers. He knew then they were there to make sure he went peacefully. They were enforcers. The men called upon to back the issuing of a warrant for his arrest in the hopes that just by his presence, they wouldn’t be needed.
In that instant, Carl considered going for his gun. He liked his chances. They wouldn’t expect it of him. They probably still held out some hope that he was innocent of whatever they were accusing him. But, he was too curious how they had found him out, since he truly hadn’t had anything to do with George’s death. He needed to know how his friend’s demise had led them to his door. He stepped back and motioned them in from the dark hallway outside his apartment.
“We’ve got a warrant here,” Captain Rickards started but Carl cut him off before he could finish.
“I can see that,” he fired back. “What are you looking for? How on God’s blue marble can you think I had anything to do with George? Okay, okay, I’ll let you finish,” he said seeing the mixture of sadness and anger in his Captain’s eyes. “What’s the warrant for?”
“Warrants, actually. One to search your apartment,” he deadpanned, “and one for your arrest.”
Carl licked his lips. The liquor had given him a bad case of cotton mouth and his nerves were begging for a cigarette. He would have lit one up to soothe them but he wanted to keep his hands free. His palms were slick with sweat but his face was flushed with embarrassment and anger.
Captain Rickards cocked an eyebrow at his Detective, “Did you know that George had been tailing you for a couple weeks. We’ve got you on video.”
“Damn,” tumbled from Carl’s mouth. His lips loosened by the same liquor that had assuaged the grief in his heart. His best friend had betrayed him. As he went for his gun, he wished he had only had a quarter of the bottle instead of half of it.
The nationwide man hunt for Carl Graff started the next day. At first his fellow officers were loathe to believe the rumors being spread about him, but as the video and wire taps become general knowledge they quickly switched gears and started saying they had always suspected him of being a dirty cop, there was something that wasn’t quite right about him.
As the days turned into weeks turned into months, they assumed that he had used his drug running connections to find safe passage out of the country. Internal Affairs and the FBI got involved and issued formal statements that the rest of the department had been reviewed and was found to be clean, restoring the public’s faith in their men and women in blue. The official results of the investigation were, of course, classified, but John and Susie Public rarely concern themselves with such details.
A cellphone, placed under a chair, playing the “Wrecking Ball” ringtone at the Captain’s funeral, while considered a massive lead at the time, never amounted to anything. The man hunt continues…
Word Count: 2,000
The Who: Dirty Cop (4)
The Where: Amusement Park (2)
The Uh-Oh: Betrayal by best friend! (1)
I used the =randbetween excel function to come up with which prompt words to use. Have no idea what I’m talking about? That’s because I haven’t shown you the prompt yet! This is another Flash Fiction Challange:
Anyway, this week, we’re back with another randomized challenge –
And, this week, I’m letting you have 2000 words instead of 1000.
The way forward is simple: pick (randomly or by hand) one element from each column below (Who, Where, Uh-oh) and smoosh those three together to concoct a single story. For bonus points, you can actually randomize the Who column twice — either to make a combination protagonist (PSYCHIC CELEBRITY! ASSASSIN ACCOUNTANT!) or to choose a second character to go into your tale, either as a supporting character or as an antagonist.
Post this story at your online space.
Link back here.
Due by Friday, the 24th, noon EST.
And the categories are…
The Who (Protagonist)
4. Dirty Cop
The Where (Setting)
1. Nuclear Wasteland
2. Amusement Park
4. Far-Flung Space Station
5. Mad Botanist’s Greenhouse
6. Virtual Reality
7. The Underworld
8. Trailer Park
9. Pirate Ship
The Uh-Oh (Problem)
1. Betrayal by best friend!
2. Left for dead, out for revenge!
3. Encounter with a nemesis!
5. Something precious, stolen!
6. Lovers, separated!
7. Warring against nature!
8. An unsolved murder!
9. A conspiracy, revealed!
10. Besieged by supernatural enemies!
I think this may have been my first attempt at writing a crime thriller, and while there isn’t much crime in it, and it probably isn’t that much of a thriller. I’m pretty pleased with how much I crammed into 2,000 words. What do you think? Did you enjoy it? What would you have done differently?
Or, better yet, roll the dice (pick a prompt word from each category) and play along. Write it, link it, post it.