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NYPD Homicide Detective John Keegan thought he was done with high profile cases. His next case, the murder of Konstantin K-Drugs Volkyv, seems like a worthless investigation into the untimely death of a drug dealer who had it coming. Not long into the case, Keegan gets the sense he s in deep once again. Even he doesn t realize the case will turn his whole life upside down. The investigation into Volkyv s death exposes a criminal underground and a vigilante s plot to avenge his family. The victims are all criminals and Keegan must remind himself of his duty and not his emotional reaction to the occupations of the murdered. Keegan s life will be torn apart after doing something every cop fears: killing in the line of duty. He s partnered again with Rick Calhill, a man destroyed by the murderous rampage and subsequent suicide of his wife. While working the case, Calhill will try to piece his life back together and prove his worth to the department. Death will reach two people close to Keegan, causing him to question his beliefs and his purpose. It will all lead to a final confrontation with the vigilante where Keegan must be willing to risk his own life to solve the most important case of his career. He thought the academy prepared him for everything. His superiors led him each step of the way. Now, he is alone. View table of contents...


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Submitted:Feb 23, 2007    Reads: 138    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Prologue

Ican still see it. The image replays in my mind uncontrol

lably, overcoming me at any part of the day. People say

it will go away, that time will heal the wound and ease the

pain. I know this isn't true. They don't know because it didn't

happen to them. I was one of them, one of most of the population

who never had his or her life changed in an instant.

Unfortunately, I lived too close to it, dangerously too close,

and I guess you could say it was only a matter of time.

His face is still there, in my head, in my dreams, in my

thoughts forever. Worst part about it was killing him wasn't

really my fault. I've concluded that he wanted to die, that he

made me his vehicle in an elaborate suicide plot. Maybe I've

done this to make the whole thing easier for me to live with.

I don't know. I just know that I'll never be the same, forever

changed by becoming a killer. I'm sure countless men have

gone through the same thing, and I am not implying that my

situation is different, or even in any way special. I just know

that it is my situation, and only someone who has been

through it can understand. I haven't really found anyone

that fits that bill, at least anyone who I can talk to. Plenty of

guys on the job have killed in the line of duty, and I know a

few of them personally, but they don't seem to want to talk

about it, instead either shutting themselves off completely or

doing their talking behind the psychologist's closed door.

I don't want to go either way. I don't want to close myself

off or sit in some office listening to a guy who earned his

PhD and now thinks he can solve my problem via a variety

of pre-determined techniques and mood-altering drugs. I

have to deal with this my own way, though I must admit I

haven't succeeded just yet. People who know me will probably

say I have closed myself off, but then again, they've said

that ever since I became a cop. I just don't like to chatter,

and I find most conversations meaningless trips through

someone's life and achievements, most of which hold no

importance to me. Hearing about how a guy made VP or

some other empty title promotion is about as pertinent to me

as listening to a lecture on Medieval Drama. Neither has a

chance at holding my attention. I'm not always high on the

invite list for most parties.

Solace is a hard thing to find when you don't know where

to look for it. I could tell you dozens of places it doesn't hang

out, most notably the local bar or at the bottom of a bottle.

I've looked in both places several times to no avail. That

doesn't mean I'll stop looking, only because it's become

obvious I need some sort of chemical help, and I prefer the

sort that comes in a clear bottle that's easy to open, instead

of a little brown one that takes effort.

None of this would really matter if I'd had any ability

whatsoever to take advice. I like to think that I listen when

someone throws a kernel of information my way, but the

truth is I listen with one ear and retain nothing. I prefer to

go my own route. I like when I come to something that

works through my own efforts instead of asking for directions.

Yeah, I'm hell to drive with in this game of life. That's probably

why my passenger seat has stayed relatively empty all

these years.

So, I killed someone. In the line of duty. I did my job. No

charges were pressed, no internal investigations were

launched. I had to deal with the same IA bastards that tried

to ruin my life a couple of years back, but they are easy to deal

with when they have no ulterior motives. I even got pats on

the back for my work, along with a certificate from our

glorious mayor commending me on a job well done. The

6 J O H N M I S A K

damn thing is still in the box they gave it to me in, and it'll

stay that way. I keep trying to find a way to justify this in my

own moral outlook. I might be all over the board with my

views and ideas, and I might give a rat's ass about religion and

a God who stares down on me with a smirk. Yes, I know I

capitalized the 'G'. I really have no idea what's on his reading

list, and I am not about to take a chance. What I'm trying

to say is, though I could be accused of being a moral outcast,

I have strong feelings on what is right and what is wrong.

Murder's wrong. And I can't even find a way to allow it in my

moral scope, under any circumstance. I'd never really thought

about it until it happened. I don't think anyone really does.

Worst part was I didn't even go for a kill shot.

I've seen some strange cases, dealt with corruption, deception,

and just about anything else you'd expect a homicide

detective in New York City to experience. They told us about

the risks in the academy, and they repeated them each step

of the way, each promotion and new assignment. Funny, the

risks were supposed to be ours, how we had to put our lives

on the line every time we put on that uniform or flashed the

badge. You learn to put off those risks, remove them from

your mind so you can operate. No one ever warned me about

taking someone's life while on the job.

D e a t h Kn e l l 7

1

Ilike to read the paper. Of all the activities available in this

entertainment-based world, reading the paper is the

only one that allows me to relax. Even though I find myself

at odds with the thinly veiled intentions of most reporters,

I enjoy sitting at my makeshift dinner table after work,

perusing through the previous day's events. I've made the

paper a few times myself, and though this isn't half as exciting

as most people think, I secretly look for my name each time

I go through whatever paper I am reading.

As a homicide detective, I of course pay particular attention

to murder anywhere in the country. It's quite amazing

when you realize how many people are murdered over the

course of a week. That's not even including the people who

are never listed as a murder, which is a number quite higher

than most people imagine. Murder, it seems, is a matter of

political angling, like just about everything else these days.

On this particular day, I found a mention of a murder in

Central Park. Though not my jurisdiction, Central Park

holds a bit of an allure to me, mainly because, while growing

up, the park had been used by all sorts of lurkers, rapists,

drug dealers, and of course, run-of-the-mill murderers. They

did some cleaning up in the 90's, and Central Park became

a glowing example of what can be done when politicians,

citizens, and the police force all work together toward the

same goal. To see that a body had been found there caught

my eye instantly.

The paper, the New York Post on this day, showed a photo

of a body bag being carted into the back of an ambulance,

Medical Examiner Bryan Coltrain standing next to the open

door, the same empty look on his face that seemed to grace

it perpetually. I could feel the scene myself; I could smell the

distinct odor of the plastic bag. Instantly, I wanted to be

there. I wanted to see the body, search it for clues. I wanted

to dig around the area, question family members and friends

of the victim in the hopes of leading to the culprit. Yes, the

mention of murder excited me. I couldn't help that. Death

was part of my job, and I enjoyed my job possibly more than

I should have. The same way a restaurateur perks up when

hungry people walk into his establishment, I got a tinge of

excitement when I read about someone passing on, especially

when it seemed that someone else helped them pass on.

I put the paper down and lit a cigarette, a habit that,

looking back, seemed all to perfect for a man who deals with

death. I ran through my mind the detectives who worked

in the Central Park precinct, the homicide detectives that I

met in court, at those stupid fund raisers they make us go to,

and at the bars we all seemed to find ourselves in at some

point in the week. Instantly, I knew who had the case. Marcus

Lay, a middle-aged man who I'd actually worked with for a

short time when I had a beat. He was a nice guy, and he was

black. I'm not saying that there is any relation between the

two. I just have to say Marcus is black because that's important

to him. I never really found out why, though I suspect

it has something to do with the fact that he made it to detective

when most of the other guys in his neighborhood made

it to jail. Like I said, I liked Marcus, even if he sometimes had

a heavy hand in dishing out opinions and advice.

I thought about the last time I spoke to Marcus, and

realized it was at one of those fundraisers. At the time, he'd

been with his woman of the month, but from what I'd

heard, that one had actually won the Lay Lottery and wore

an engagement ring from him. I couldn't remember if he'd

actually gotten married, mainly because such news just

D e a t h Kn e l l 9

wasn't that important to me. I'd recently decided that

marriage was what I wanted, but I didn't think about that

on a daily basis, and I could have cared less about hearing

the sordid tale of someone else taking the plunge that awaits

most of us.

Marcus lived in the city, not far from where I called home.

He owned an apartment somewhere in the fifties, in a fairly

affluent area, a bit too rich for my taste. To be honest, it was

too rich for my poorly planned budget. Marcus was clean.

He just kept his head when it came to finances. In the mess

I called my kitchen, I found the phone book I rarely used and

got Marcus' number. I don't know why I felt compelled to

call. Something about that body caught me, and I had to

have some details.

Marcus answered the phone on the second ring. It was

only eight at night, so I knew I wasn't disturbing him. "Yeah,"

he said.

"Hey Marcus, John Keegan here."

"Keegan," Marcus said, "what could you possibly want?"

He knew. I didn't doubt that for a second.

"Wanted to hear about how the other half lives," I said.

"We live fine."

"You've got the Central Park case, don't you?"

"I might. Is this a business call, or do you just want to hear

all the steamy details?" Marcus asked.

"Steamy details. You know I am a sucker for them."

"Not much to tell right now," he said.

"Keeping a tight lid?" I asked.

"Lot of outside influences on this one. Gonna be the sort

of thing that we have to carry out carefully." That meant

either someone prominent was tied to the victim or just that

the media had an interest. I figured the latter. Finding a body

in Central Park caught the attention of the media just as it

did mine.

"Well, I'd like to hear what you can tell. Busy?"

1 0 J O H N M I S A K

"Not really," Marcus said.

"Meet me at Donovan's," I said, naming a place that was

as low profile as I could think of. I figured Marcus didn't

want to meet at a cop hangout. Too many questions to answer

there.

"Fine. See you there in a half-hour. Just understand that

I'm only going for a free drink, not because I have so much

I can tell you."

"I'm sure you'll find a way to entertain me."

I must admit I was excited. It had been a few months

since I was involved in any way with a case of substance. I'd

worked a few stiffs since my last real case, and that last case

had been a doozy, to say the least. Maybe premonition had

something to do with why I wanted information on this case

as bad as I did. Of course, I can't explain that. If I did, I'd be

giving up way too much too soon, and there is absolutely

no fun in that.

I found Marcus sitting at a small table toward the back of

Donovan's. As its name implies, it was an Irish joint, complete

with Guinness on tap and the same wood bar that seemed to

be in all Irish-influenced watering holes. The place was busy

for a Thursday night, with what seemed like a bunch of regulars

seated at the bar watching a soccer game on the three

televisions behind it. I walked past them and over to where

Marcus was sitting. I noticed he wasn't drinking anything.

As if he'd read my mind, he said, "Person getting the information

gets the drinks."

I had no problems with that, even though I have been

accused of receiving far more drinks than I bought. "Still

drinking that single-malt sissy crap?" I asked.

Marcus smiled. "Good taste never changes. Glenlivet," he

instructed.

"On the way."

I walked over to the bartender, a surly man who stood

somewhere in the mid-sixes, with a protruding beer gut and

D e a t h Kn e l l 1 1

bright white hair. He noticed me-actually, he noticed the

twenty I held in my hand-and walked over.

"What do you need?" he asked in a heavy Irish accent.

"Dewar's and soda and a Glenlivet, neat."

He gave me a sideways look; this probably stemmed from

my 'neat' statement, and then went to get the drinks. I could

smell Southern Comfort around me somewhere, a scent that

almost immediately gives me the gag reflex. I met Southern

Comfort at a bachelor party in my twenties and we certainly

didn't hit it off. To tell it right, Southern Comfort kicked

my ass.

Thankfully, the bartender was quick with the drinks and

brought them over. He took my twenty, trading it for a five

and two singles. Thirteen bucks for two drinks in a run down

Irish bar. I left him a single and walked back to Marcus.

I handed Marcus his drink and he took a sniff first, then

a small sip.

"Nothing tastes better than a free drink," he said, smiling.

"I can think of a few things," I said.

"Yeah, but some of us have never had to pay for such

things."

"Not from what I hear. Rumor has it a woman is walking

around with a rock that put a dent in your checking account."

"She's got the gold band to match it now," Marcus said.

I raised my glass. "Congratulations, as odd as that sounds."

We clinked glasses. "Thanks," Marcus said. I caught his

eyes. There was something there I hadn't noticed right away.

Marcus was one of those guys who let just about everything

slide off him. He'd seen his share of problems, that I knew,

but he never let it get into him. Something had penetrated

that defense, and I hoped he'd tell me what it was.

"Alright, I paid the price of admission. Spill it," I said.

Marcus looked around the room, an automatic reaction

when you're about to discuss a case. "Like I said, not a lot to

spill."

1 2 J O H N M I S A K

"Well, you've got to give me some value for my dollar.

Make that seven dollars."

"Price you gotta pay," Marcus said. "You know they found

the body yesterday?"

I nodded.

"Girl. Woman. Thirties."

"Rape?" I asked.

"Looks that way. Dirty job, too. Couple of scratches here

and there. Knife wound. What did the final job seems to be

a heavy, blunt object. This was an angry kill, if you ask me."

I could tell there was more behind what Marcus told me.

We homicide boys have strong stomachs or we wouldn't be

doing what we do, so when something gets us acting strange,

it sure can't be pretty.

"Go on," I said.

Marcus took another sip of his drink. "They caved the

whole left side of her head in. Guys at the ME office don't

think the first few shots did her in, and they think the last

few were for posterity. Some of the rape might be the same

way."

"Nice to know we have such upstanding people in the

neighborhood."

"They weren't smart, and if you ask me, they wanted to

send some sort of message. Leaving the body in Central Park's

gotta mean something too, but I just can't figure it out."

"Little early to be worrying yourself about that," I said.

"Now, why the tight lid?"

"She's the daughter of someone with some clout," Marcus

said.

"What sort of clout?"

"Dollar-sort. Her father does some pretty good numbers."

"Someone I know?" I asked.

Marcus shook his head. "Doubtful. Doesn't make the

papers or the celebrity list, but he's made a name for himself

in his own sector."

D e a t h Kn e l l 1 3

"What sector is that?"

"Science. Works with some sort of physics. Engineer sort

who turned an idea into a windfall. Keeps a low profile,

though."

"You meet him yet?"

"No. He's out of town, out of reach. Supposed to be back

tomorrow. I don't even know if anyone's told him yet. Gonna

be a tough one to take," Marcus said.

Marcus still looked preoccupied. I knew better than to

press. He was the sort that would tell me in due time if he

wanted to. We were the same in this respect. I think it is

why we got along. Marcus was one of those people you tell

yourself you should hang out with more but never do. At

least, that's how I felt about it. He might have thought I was

a complete moron.

"Worst part, being the one who has to tell him."

"I won't be doing that," Marcus said, "That's the wife's job."

"How'd she take it?"

"Initially, in stride. Think it was shock. Couple of hours

later, I hear she's at the ME office, demanding to see the

body again. They let her in, then had to haul her out.

Probably got her on something to kill the pain."

Drugs. For some reason doctors give them away like candy

during such times. Guess they figure it is better than letting

someone grieve in their own fashion. Can't let people do

things for themselves. There's no money in that.

Marcus finished his drink. "Need another?" I asked.

"No. You know what they say about cops hitting the hard

stuff."

"Yeah, it gets them drunk."

Marcus laughed. He had a deep voice and a deeper laugh.

If you don't know him, the laugh can actually be frightening.

Coming from a guy who stands about six-two with a face that

looks like it is carved from stone a laugh like his can go right

through you. I thought it was funny.

1 4 J O H N M I S A K

"How're things going for you, Keegan?" Marcus asked.

"They haven't killed me and they still let me carry a gun."

Two of the atrocities of life. Any action by you?"

I assumed Marcus knew about what I'd been through a

while back, so I didn't recount the story for him. "Dead."

Marcus laughed again. "I'd be turning down cases if I

were you. You seem to always get the bad ones."

"The others just aren't enough fun," I said, finishing my

drink. If Marcus would have gone for a second, I would have

done the same. I really wasn't in the mood for drinking, so

the fact that he didn't was welcome.

"You'd fight for this case if it was in your juri, wouldn't

you?" he asked.

I shook my head. "Nah. I don't believe in tipping the

scales."

"Bullshit. You called me as soon as you found out, didn't

you?"

Nailed. "Only because the park interests me. I think if I

worked in your spot, it would have lost its allure a while ago."

"Maybe," Marcus said.

"You request this one, or have it stuffed in your hands?"

"Little of both. I was next on call, but Witherspoon told

me he knew I wanted it, so he lobbed it my way to avoid any

conflict."

"You flying solo?" I asked.

"No. Cooper's with me. Know him?"

Paul Cooper went to the academy with me. He was a

vanilla type, so middle-of-the-road that I had absolutely no

opinion about him, which was a rarity.

I nodded.

"Not a bad guy," Marcus said.

"About all I can say about him."

"I've worked a few with him. Good paperwork, decent

ideas, and he never fights his position strong enough to piss

you off. Sort of like not having a partner."

D e a t h Kn e l l 1 5

"Wish I had someone like that in South," I said.

"Calhill back?" That'd be Rick Calhill, my sometime

partner and friend.

"Sort of."

Marcus shook his head. "Amazing he came this far."

"He's doing it for the kids," I said. Calhill had to go

through a tragedy unlike any I could have ever imagined.

He lost his wife, almost lost his job, and got a suspension to

boot. I was one of the few that gave him even the slightest

chance to make it back to the job.

"Gotta hand it to him. They pair you guys up again?"

"Not yet. Think it's coming soon. He's different. I think

I'll even like working with him this time around," I said.

"Calhill's a good man," Marcus said, "and a good detective.

I'd work with him any day."

"A year ago, I'd have told you to take him. Now I just

hope I can help."

"That's big of you," Marcus said sarcastically.

"I'm not all asshole. Just part of me."

"More than one part."

"What else is going on with this case?" I asked.

"Not much else. Got nothing in the way of motive.

Despite the dirty job, the scene was empty. They knew what

they were doing, if you ask me. They might have been stupid,

but yet they seemed to have a handle on this sort of thing."

"Father involved you think?"

"Doubtful. He's a scientist."

"What does the mother do?"

"Runs a small bookshop on the east side. Nothing there

either."

"What do you know of the girl?"

"Out of work. Took some time off to write. Was an editor

for a magazine for six years. Think she might have burned

out."

"Yeah, magazine writing's gotta be tough."

1 6 J O H N M I S A K

"Just a hunch on that one. She ran a feminist magazine.

Well, they didn't call it exactly, but that's what was implied,"

Marcus said.

"They never have any good pictures in those rags."

"I guess they do if you are a feminist."

"What do they like to look at, men with needles sticking

out of their dicks?"

Marcus laughed again, and this caught the attention of a

few people at the bar. This made me laugh, something I

never do, so you know.

"Been reading them lately?" Marcus asked.

"Your wife left one at my apartment the other night."

"You could never satisfy my wife."

"Hey, I do have some Italian in me," I said in my defense.

Marcus chuckled. "I didn't mean it that way. She needs

someone to talk to. You probably just roll over and go to

sleep."

"Sometimes I fall asleep right on top of them. Keeps their

upper body in shape when they have to push me off."

"Your sickness knows no boundaries."

"Some, but not many."

I could tell by Marcus' mood that he didn't want to talk

about the case anymore. I'd gotten what I came for, some

details to go along with the pictures in my mind. I needed

them. I really don't know why. I guess it really doesn't make

a difference. Something drove me to meet Marcus.

We talked about nothing for a little while, and then he said

he had to get back to his wife. I walked out with him and

decided against taking a cab back to my apartment. Judging

from the extra layer around my stomach, I needed a little

exercise. The walk home cleared my mind.

D e a t h Kn e l l 1 7





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