Friday, July 2, 2021

Shadow - A Hannibal Jones Mini-Mystery

 

I’ve known Detective Orson Rissik since what the newspapers called the Blood and Bone case, so when he asked me what I was doing in the Fairfax Municipal Building that morning I just told him straight up. One of the kids from my neighborhood gets shot in the chest, a young black kid whose family I’ve known since I moved in there, I check it out.
 
“But it happened down here in my city,” Rissik said, focusing his dangerous blue eyes on me. “He came all the way to Fairfax to pull a B and E. One of my boys caught him just before dawn, he ran and the cop gave chase. He surprised the cop, who over-reacted. A tragedy but it was a righteous shoot.”
 
Rissik always looked stern, even when he was trying to be reasonable. But I was in no mood to let him shine me on. “Marty wasn’t but 18. His mother woke me up to tell me her only son was killed by a cop. I’m supposed to just blow her off?”
 
Rissik scratched at his head under that haircut that looked like he never left the Marines Corps. I knew he got it. We both had jobs to do. “Alright Jones, what do you need to do for her?”
 
“Let me talk to your man, hear the story firsthand. That way I’ve got something to take back to the grieving family.”
 
* * *
In the break room Rissik introduced me to Paul Brown, a blonde, willowy, twenty-something patrolman whose new career in law enforcement had already crashed and burned. The bags under his eyes and slight coffee shake told me he hadn’t adjusted to the night shift yet. The building was an anthill of frantic activity outside this room, but there between the coffee maker and the food machine the three of us sat on plastic chairs in an island of calm, maybe more like the eye of a hurricane. 
“I feel awful about this,” Brown said over the edge of a cup of coffee. “Most guys go years without every pulling their weapon. Please tell the family how very sorry I am.” 
I remember being a rookie cop. Life can come at you fast. “I’m not here to pass judgment, officer,” I told him. “Just tell me what happened so I can at least offer some explanation to Marty’s mama.” 
Brown looked at the wall as if he was staring at an ugly memory. Or he could have been just getting his story together. When he finally did speak, he addressed Rissik. 
“I was on my way back to base, winding up my patrol out in the Greenway Hills area. I stopped at a light over by Daniels Run Park.  I had the window down, trying to stay alert, you know? And I heard what sounded like glass breaking. I thought I saw movement outside a nearby house, so I drove up into the driveway.”
 
“You were driving alone?” I asked.
 
“Budget cuts,” Rissik said.
 
“I shut off the car, but as I opened the door, I saw this guy come charging around the garage. He saw me and kind of stopped for a minute. He had a small bag in one hand and what I thought could be a firearm in the other. He sure looked like he didn’t belong there. I ordered him to stop, but instead he took off. I chased him into their yard. And… at this point, I drew my service weapon.”
 
I was starting to get the picture. “Was it still dark when you ran after him?”
 
“The sun was just coming up. That was bad, because it was a clear morning, and he was running east. The yard backed to woods, and here I was, chasing a suspect and squinting into the sun.”
 
I got up for more coffee. Over my shoulder I said, “Marty was pretty fast. I’m surprised you didn’t lose him.”
 
“I did for a while,” Brown said. “But he kept charging east and I picked up his trail again and tracked him into another yard. This one had a high fence and I thought maybe I had him cornered. I used a storage shed for cover, peeking around the side with my weapon pointed forward, but with the sun in my eyes like that it was hard to see and I was getting real nervous. I called out for him to come out where I could see him.”
 
“And did he? I would have expected Marty to surrender without a fight.”
 
Brown looked at his shoes. He couldn’t even meet Rissik’s eyes now. “Sir, I was standing there with my weapon on line waiting for a response and it was just silence. No birds, no squirrel sounds, just silence, you know? I was jumpy and tired and trying to stay focused. So when I saw this shadow come up behind me I panicked. I was sure the thief had somehow gotten the drop on me. I turned and fired. The kid went down, but he turned out to be unarmed.”
 
I paced over to the door. My jaw was tight, but I didn’t know for sure if it would be a mistake to try to break this kid down. But I had history with Rissik and decided to trust my instincts about him. When I turned I was looking at Rissik standing beyond Brown, still looking sympathetic. He spoke first.
 
“It’s a hell of a thing,” he began, but I cut him off.
 
“That’s your story, Brown? That’s the story he gave you, Detective? It’s Bullshit, you know.”
 
Rissik was across the room at me. “You’ve been there Jones. I expected you to have more heart.”
 
I help up my hand. “Weren’t you listening? That story won’t hold together.”
 
“What are you implying?” Brown said, finally finding his righteous indignation, albeit a little too late.
 
Rissik isn’t a genius, but he is a good cop. So, I just stood still and watched him go over the morning again in his mind. When his eyes widened, I saw that he heard it at last. Instead of saying another word to me or even to Brown he walked past me to the door and leaned out.
 
“Hey, Sergeant. Come in here a minute. I need you to take a new statement from Brown here.” Then he turned to me. “Do you trust me?”
 
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
 
“Then head on home. This is an internal matter. But you can tell your friends that justice will be done. I promise you that.”
 
Brown jumped up, starting to sweat. “What’s going on? Chief, you said it was a good shoot. And you, Jones, you said you used to be a cop. Maybe you were on the street too long ago to remember what it’s like.”
 
It wasn’t worth it. I grabbed the doorknob to leave, but I wanted him to know how bad a liar he was. “It was a few years ago, kid. But I’ve been out there long enough to know that shadows can’t come up behind you when you’re staring into the sun. If you’re facing the sun, all the shadows fall in the other direction.”

Rissik always looked stern, even when he was trying to be reasonable. But I was in no mood to let him shine me on. “Marty wasn’t but 18. His mother woke me up to tell me her only son was killed by a cop. I’m supposed to just blow her off?”

Rissik scratched at his head under that haircut that looked like he never left the Marines Corps. I knew he got it. We both had jobs to do. “Alright Jones, what do you need to do for her?”

“Let me talk to your man, hear the story firsthand. That way I’ve got something to take back to the grieving family.”

* * *

In the break room Rissik introduced me to Paul Brown, a blonde, willowy, twenty-something patrolman whose new career in law enforcement had already crashed and burned. The bags under his eyes and slight coffee shake told me he hadn’t adjusted to the night shift yet. The building was an anthill of frantic activity outside this room, but there between the coffee maker and the food machine the three of us sat on plastic chairs in an island of calm, maybe more like the eye of a hurricane. 

“I feel awful about this,” Brown said over the edge of a cup of coffee. “Most guys go years without every pulling their weapon. Please tell the family how very sorry I am.” 

I remember being a rookie cop. Life can come at you fast. “I’m not here to pass judgment, officer,” I told him. “Just tell me what happened so I can at least offer some explanation to Marty’s mama.” 

Brown looked at the wall as if he was staring at an ugly memory. Or he could have been just getting his story together. When he finally did speak, he addressed Rissik. 

“I was on my way back to base, winding up my patrol out in the Greenway Hills area. I stopped at a light over by Daniels Run Park.  I had the window down, trying to stay alert, you know? And I heard what sounded like glass breaking. I thought I saw movement outside a nearby house, so I drove up into the driveway.”

“You were driving alone?” I asked.

“Budget cuts,” Rissik said.

“I shut off the car, but as I opened the door, I saw this guy come charging around the garage. He saw me and kind of stopped for a minute. He had a small bag in one hand and what I thought could be a firearm in the other. He sure looked like he didn’t belong there. I ordered him to stop, but instead he took off. I chased him into their yard. And… at this point, I drew my service weapon.”

I was starting to get the picture. “Was it still dark when you ran after him?”

“The sun was just coming up. That was bad, because it was a clear morning, and he was running east. The yard backed to woods, and here I was, chasing a suspect and squinting into the sun.”

I got up for more coffee. Over my shoulder I said, “Marty was pretty fast. I’m surprised you didn’t lose him.”

“I did for a while,” Brown said. “But he kept charging east and I picked up his trail again and tracked him into another yard. This one had a high fence and I thought maybe I had him cornered. I used a storage shed for cover, peeking around the side with my weapon pointed forward, but with the sun in my eyes like that it was hard to see and I was getting real nervous. I called out for him to come out where I could see him.”

“And did he? I would have expected Marty to surrender without a fight.”

Brown looked at his shoes. He couldn’t even meet Rissik’s eyes now. “Sir, I was standing there with my weapon on line waiting for a response and it was just silence. No birds, no squirrel sounds, just silence, you know? I was jumpy and tired and trying to stay focused. So when I saw this shadow come up behind me I panicked. I was sure the thief had somehow gotten the drop on me. I turned and fired. The kid went down, but he turned out to be unarmed.”

I paced over to the door. My jaw was tight, but I didn’t know for sure if it would be a mistake to try to break this kid down. But I had history with Rissik and decided to trust my instincts about him. When I turned I was looking at Rissik standing beyond Brown, still looking sympathetic. He spoke first.

“It’s a hell of a thing,” he began, but I cut him off.

“That’s your story, Brown? That’s the story he gave you, Detective? It’s Bullshit, you know.”

Rissik was across the room at me. “You’ve been there Jones. I expected you to have more heart.”

I help up my hand. “Weren’t you listening? That story won’t hold together.”

“What are you implying?” Brown said, finally finding his righteous indignation, albeit a little too late.

Rissik isn’t a genius, but he is a good cop. So, I just stood still and watched him go over the morning again in his mind. When his eyes widened, I saw that he heard it at last. Instead of saying another word to me or even to Brown he walked past me to the door and leaned out.

“Hey, Sergeant. Come in here a minute. I need you to take a new statement from Brown here.” Then he turned to me. “Do you trust me?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Then head on home. This is an internal matter. But you can tell your friends that justice will be done. I promise you that.”

Brown jumped up, starting to sweat. “What’s going on? Chief, you said it was a good shoot. And you, Jones, you said you used to be a cop. Maybe you were on the street too long ago to remember what it’s like.”

It wasn’t worth it. I grabbed the doorknob to leave, but I wanted him to know how bad a liar he was. “It was a few years ago, kid. But I’ve been out there long enough to know that shadows can’t come up behind you when you’re staring into the sun. If you’re facing the sun, all the shadows fall in the other direction.”

“But it happened down here in my city,” Rissik said, focusing his dangerous blue eyes on me. “He came all the way to Fairfax to pull a B and E. One of my boys caught him just before dawn, he ran and the cop gave chase. He surprised the cop, who over-reacted. A tragedy but it was a righteous shoot.”

Rissik always looked stern, even when he was trying to be reasonable. But I was in no mood to let him shine me on. “Marty wasn’t but 18. His mother woke me up to tell me her only son was killed by a cop. I’m supposed to just blow her off?”

Rissik scratched at his head under that haircut that looked like he never left the Marines Corps. I knew he got it. We both had jobs to do. “Alright Jones, what do you need to do for her?”

“Let me talk to your man, hear the story firsthand. That way I’ve got something to take back to the grieving family.”

* * *

In the break room Rissik introduced me to Paul Brown, a blonde, willowy, twenty-something patrolman whose new career in law enforcement had already crashed and burned. The bags under his eyes and slight coffee shake told me he hadn’t adjusted to the night shift yet. The building was an anthill of frantic activity outside this room, but there between the coffee maker and the food machine the three of us sat on plastic chairs in an island of calm, maybe more like the eye of a hurricane."

“I feel awful about this,” Brown said over the edge of a cup of coffee. “Most guys go years without every pulling their weapon. Please tell the family how very sorry I am.” 

I remember being a rookie cop. Life can come at you fast. “I’m not here to pass judgment, officer,” I told him. “Just tell me what happened so I can at least offer some explanation to Marty’s mama.” 

Brown looked at the wall as if he was staring at an ugly memory. Or he could have been just getting his story together. When he finally did speak, he addressed Rissik. 

“I was on my way back to base, winding up my patrol out in the Greenway Hills area. I stopped at a light over by Daniels Run Park.  I had the window down, trying to stay alert, you know? And I heard what sounded like glass breaking. I thought I saw movement outside a nearby house, so I drove up into the driveway.”

“You were driving alone?” I asked.

“Budget cuts,” Rissik said.

“I shut off the car, but as I opened the door, I saw this guy come charging around the garage. He saw me and kind of stopped for a minute. He had a small bag in one hand and what I thought could be a firearm in the other. He sure looked like he didn’t belong there. I ordered him to stop, but instead he took off. I chased him into their yard. And… at this point, I drew my service weapon.”

I was starting to get the picture. “Was it still dark when you ran after him?”

“The sun was just coming up. That was bad, because it was a clear morning, and he was running east. The yard backed to woods, and here I was, chasing a suspect and squinting into the sun.”

I got up for more coffee. Over my shoulder I said, “Marty was pretty fast. I’m surprised you didn’t lose him.”

“I did for a while,” Brown said. “But he kept charging east and I picked up his trail again and tracked him into another yard. This one had a high fence and I thought maybe I had him cornered. I used a storage shed for cover, peeking around the side with my weapon pointed forward, but with the sun in my eyes like that it was hard to see and I was getting real nervous. I called out for him to come out where I could see him.”

“And did he? I would have expected Marty to surrender without a fight.”

Brown looked at his shoes. He couldn’t even meet Rissik’s eyes now. “Sir, I was standing there with my weapon on line waiting for a response and it was just silence. No birds, no squirrel sounds, just silence, you know? I was jumpy and tired and trying to stay focused. So when I saw this shadow come up behind me I panicked. I was sure the thief had somehow gotten the drop on me. I turned and fired. The kid went down, but he turned out to be unarmed.”

I paced over to the door. My jaw was tight, but I didn’t know for sure if it would be a mistake to try to break this kid down. But I had history with Rissik and decided to trust my instincts about him. When I turned I was looking at Rissik standing beyond Brown, still looking sympathetic. He spoke first.

“It’s a hell of a thing,” he began, but I cut him off.

“That’s your story, Brown? That’s the story he gave you, Detective? It’s Bullshit, you know.”

Rissik was across the room at me. “You’ve been there Jones. I expected you to have more heart.”

I help up my hand. “Weren’t you listening? That story won’t hold together.”

“What are you implying?” Brown said, finally finding his righteous indignation, albeit a little too late.

Rissik isn’t a genius, but he is a good cop. So, I just stood still and watched him go over the morning again in his mind. When his eyes widened, I saw that he heard it at last. Instead of saying another word to me or even to Brown he walked past me to the door and leaned out.

“Hey, Sergeant. Come in here a minute. I need you to take a new statement from Brown here.” Then he turned to me. “Do you trust me?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“Then head on home. This is an internal matter. But you can tell your friends that justice will be done. I promise you that.”

Brown jumped up, starting to sweat. “What’s going on? Chief, you said it was a good shoot. And you, Jones, you said you used to be a cop. Maybe you were on the street too long ago to remember what it’s like.”

It wasn’t worth it. I grabbed the doorknob to leave, but I wanted him to know how bad a liar he was. “It was a few years ago, kid. But I’ve been out there long enough to know that shadows can’t come up behind you when you’re staring into the sun. If you’re facing the sun, all the shadows fall in the other direction.”

Get to know Hannibal Jones better in his mystery series. Autographed copies are available on Austin S. Camacho’s website – https://ascamacho.com/

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