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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - One

Submitted: June 03, 2019

Reads: 216

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 03, 2019






- 1 -


The janitor, a small man named Marsh, watched out his dirty basement window as the pair of polished black boots marched quickly along the stone path toward the street. Marsh was a man with history, or so he liked to hint to anyone who would listen. Mainly though, Marsh was just a harmless old drunk with too many lost dreams. As a result, he was suspicious of everything because he blamed everyone but himself for his depressed state. The sight of the boots seemed to have set off alarm bells in Marsh’s muddled brain. Not two minutes earlier he had heard some banging around and the sound of breaking glass coming from an upstairs apartment - maybe the boots had something to do with that.

Marsh rushed for his paint chipped door and stumbled up the stairs to the lobby bashing his left shin on the way. He got there just as the man in the boots reached the street, turned right, and disappeared around the corner of the building. The man was wearing a long overcoat and when he went around the corner it lifted up like a cape that for some reason reminded Marsh of his father. Marsh followed the man outside. He had no idea why. It wasn’t like he had a plan or knew what he was doing - it was as if some part of his brain was operating on its own without Marsh’s control or consent. But something pulled him on; a dim thought that maybe there was something in it for him. But what? The question never occurred to Marsh. He just went with his instincts, like a moth to the flame. Poor Marsh, if he had only had different parents.

The caped man in the polished boots opened the door to a black, 500 Series Mercedes and was about to climb in when he paused and looked back in the direction of the building. He saw a small, disheveled looking man, wearing an old tartan bathrobe, holding a beer bottle, frozen in his tracks staring back at him. The man’s eyes were wide as saucers, and ringed in black like a raccoon. There was no question, the janitor had seen him and could probably identify him; or maybe not, but this was a situation that would need attention.

Marsh watched as the Mercedes pulled away from the curb. He could see the license plate clearly - now if he could just remember it long enough to get back to his dingy apartment and write it down. He took a guzzle from the beer he was holding and thought about grasshoppers being the best bait for catching brook trout. Then he glanced around and realized he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk in his bathrobe. It scared him because he couldn’t remember what he was doing there. Then he remembered the black boots and some idea of money but that was all.


Ashley Park was once the home of a wealthy garment manufacturer named Warner Ashley. His descendants had given the estate to the city, mostly to avoid costly taxes even though they made speeches about what Warner had really wanted and how proud he would have been to see the park today.  It was forty acres of manicured lawns, tiled ponds, and groves of trees, smack dab in the center of the city. Gravel paths crisscrossed the area like happy gray ribbons. On a sunny summer day, it was like a picture out of a modern impressionist scrap book. Children were everywhere. Young, pert moms in pony tails and diaphanous skirts. Painted toes. Perfect white teeth and their little boys sailing red and blue boats on the big pond. Diffused light.  Shades of green. An Irish festival of green. But, like everything else in the universe, when day turns to night, other things happen. Night things. Nocturnal happenings. And that is when Ashley Park becomes ground zero for the drug and prostitution business in the city. Once sunny paths become muted tunnels of longing, greed and revenge. And another species of human being comes out to play.

The police knew the place well. It was the start of Neon Block. There’s one in every town. A place where people went to satisfy their secret compulsions. Middle-aged men with clammy palms and flabby bodies search the shadows for their fantasies. Boys, girls, children - with nothing to offer but their hard bodies and smooth skin. It made some people want to help, to save the young from exploitation. They saw it as their calling, like a priest who answers the call of God, they answered the call of their own conscience.

Enter Norman Swan,  the quintessential social worker. Totally unhip and didn’t care. Wore funny clothes and parted his hair. His beat was a group of residential group homes that were part of the Department of Youth Protection. His homes were girls only. The youngest was twelve, the oldest eighteen. After that, if they got into trouble the adult system got them. Norman preferred working with the young ones - he believed that he could save them, turn their lives around, which was pretty incredible since in fifteen years he wasn’t certain that he could point to one real success story. So much damage had been done to them by the time they got into the system, but there had been minor victories. Enough to keep him going and hoping that maybe there were good things coming from all of it - in little ways. Norman had learned to think small.

Norman left his beat-up old Volvo a block away and walked to Ashley Park with a determined stride. One of his girls had been picked up two days ago dealing drugs and when he went to visit her in detention she told him that Crissy O’Brian was working the Neon Block as a hooker for Bruno Lash - a psycho pimp with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Norman Swan cared for Crissy O’Brian, like a big brother. He wanted to save her more than anything else in the world. She was fifteen and she had been in the system since she was ten. She had been sent to one of Norman’s group homes after being in detention for almost a year after running away from her mother’s home and getting caught shoplifting. A red ribbon story. Government certified delinquent. Norman knew the first time he set eyes on her pretty freckled face that if he didn’t do something very quickly she would end up on the streets. She was too attractive in that youthful sexy way to be missed by the slick pimps on Neon Block that preyed on the dream infested kids that wandered into their webs of promises and lies.

Warner Ashley had turned in his grave so many times at the sight of what had become of his once elegant property that he could have been forgiven if he thought Norman was just another john looking for some action. And Warner probably had a good laugh when he saw the police car drive up behind Norman.

A big, beefy cop emerged from the cruiser using both hands and breathing hard. He was holding a long, metal, flashlight which he tapped threateningly in an open palm. Norman recognized the officer as he unfolded from the car like an inflatable doll.

“It’s me, Sergeant,” said Norman, in a friendly whisper. “Norman Swan - Department of Youth Protection. Bowling night for kids - remember?”

Norman flashed his ID and the big cop jettisoned his threatening demeanor instantly.

“Jesus, Norm - what the hell are you doing out here this time of night?”

“I heard one of my girls was working the park, maybe you’ve seen her?” Norman produced a photograph of a smiling, awkward-looking girl with a party hat on, about to blow out some candles on a birthday cake.

“Her name is Crissy O’Brian - she ran away from her group home three weeks ago.”

The big cop turned his flashlight on the picture.

“Never seen her, buddy. Sorry,” he said, shaking his big head slowly from side to side. “Cute kid, though - reminds me of my niece.”

 “I have information that she is working for Bruno Lash,” said Norman, an edge of worry in his voice.

“Too bad for her is all I can say.” The cop turned off his flashlight; his way of saying she was gone. Next. And next after that. Next. Next. Next.

“There’s no end to the supply is there, Norm?” said the beefy Sergeant in a wistful voice that sounded almost like he cared, or felt something - but was really just boredom.

“Ever think of doing something different with your life, officer?” asked Norman, in a serious tone.

“Not me, Norm. Cops have been in my family going back three generations. It‘s all I know. What about you? Don’t you ever get tired of the futility of it all?”

Norman looked at the picture of Crissy and felt a wave of sadness surge through his tired body. He didn’t really want to talk to the cop. It depressed him, and yet he knew he had started the banter.

“I’m immune to futility,” said Norman, injecting his voice with some levity and smiling. “Been there, done that. Call me if you see her, will you, Sarg? I’d really appreciate it.”

“Sure, Norm. You be careful out here, understand?”

The big cop returned to his patrol car and drove off. Norman watched him go, then turned his attention back to the park, and his thoughts drifted to Bruno Lash and the young lives he was helping to destroy. It was like an insane carousel ride where all the horses are the devil and the machine never stops turning, snatching up new riders from the passing crowd. Norman thought about a world where only good things happened and people always think of the other person first. It was a dream, to Norman’s mind, worth attaining.

He looked back into the park and saw shadows moving in the shadows, and it gave him goose bumps.


Crissy O’Brian saw the patrol car drive past on the far side of the boulevard. Like most of the girls on the street she didn’t really mind the cops being around - they never bothered the girls and it made their work feel a bit safer knowing they were there. Of course, once you got into a customer’s car you were on your own. Crissy carried pepper spray just in case, but she never had to use it. Most of her customers were just lonely guys who needed sex to make them feel normal and happy.

Crissy was with her best friend Debbie, who was sixteen and came from another city. They had met through Debbie’s pimp, Bruno Lash. Debbie was in love with Bruno and wanted to have his baby.

“Then he’ll marry me,” said Debbie, with the absolute certainty of a simple minded person. “He’ll have to.”

“Why would he have to?” asked Crissy, who knew better - since she was sleeping with Bruno and he had told her that he hated Debbie.

“Because deep down inside Bruno is basically a good person and besides, he’s Catholic and against abortion but mostly because he loves me,” said Debbie, firmly.

“Would you still work the streets after you have the baby?” asked Crissy, resolving in her own mind to talk to Bruno about setting Debbie straight.

 “If Bruno wanted me to - but I know he wouldn’t.” She smiled at Crissy. “He cares for me too much and he would never want to put me and especially the baby in harm’s way. Never.”

The two girls turned off the sidewalk and entered Ashley Park along one of the paths that cut through to the other side where most of the traffic cruised and where they did their business. Debbie continued talking about Bruno and all the wonderful things she saw in him despite the fact that he liked to beat her up.

Norman spotted them immediately. Two young girls with long gangly bare legs and small boyish hips. For a moment, Norman thought about Halloween and the little girls that used to come to his parents’ house, dressed up in adult clothes with make-up on and high heels - trick-or-treating.

Norman started toward the girls at a relaxed pace. He wasn’t certain what Crissy would do when she saw him - run probably. He stuck his hand in his pocket and felt the smooth cold steel of the handcuffs he was carrying. He hoped he wouldn’t have to use, but would if necessary. He had worn running shoes and was ready to do whatever it took to get her back into a treatment facility. He knew she would resist, they always do unless they’re afraid, and then they just use you until the fear has passed and they feel immortal again. Then they run.

Crissy spotted Norman as he entered the dim cone of light cast by one of the ancient street lamps that Warner Ashley had imported from Belgium just before the outbreak of World War One. Her first reaction was to curse under her breath, which got Debbie’s attention, except she thought Crissy was responding to her.

“What do you mean shit?” she asked, turning instantly defensive. “Bruno loved his Mom more than anyone else - until he met me and he said so.”

“Not that,” said Crissy, jerking her head towards

Norman who was gradually increasing his speed as he got closer to them. “Him - that’s my fuckin’ social worker coming towards us.”

Debbie looked over and saw Norman closing in quickly.

“Run,” Crissy shouted. “Run.”

The two girls bolted like frightened fawns, all gangly arms and legs, little purses stuffed with condoms flapping in the air behind them.

Norman caught up to Crissy easily, but restraining her and getting the cuffs on was a completely different matter. He did try reasoning with her but that was a total waste of time. She wanted to claw his eyes out, and if that didn’t work she would smash her knee into his groin. Anything to get free, even while Norman pleaded with her to meet him halfway. They fell to the ground, with Norman on top and Crissy writhing and twisting under his weight, spitting and scratching like a wild cat caught in a net. It took all of Norman’s strength to get the handcuffs on her small wrists, and even then she continued to fight, even after he pulled her to her feet. She refused to move and he had to drag her away. He felt terrible even though he knew he was doing the right thing.

Debbie made it to the street and looked back. She could see the social worker pulling Crissy off in the opposite direction, with her screaming and cursing and yelling for help. It would have been easy for her to raise the alarm along the street, and someone probably would have tried to do something - a few of the male prostitutes were into body building and were very strong. There was also an unwritten law that street people tried to protect one another, but that kind of thinking wasn’t going through Debbie’s jerky brain at that moment. Instead, she was thinking how happy she was, lucky she was, that Crissy would be locked up and unable to have sex with Bruno - as if she didn’t know. The little bitch.

Bruno Lash was sipping a triple nonfat carmel mocha frappachino and sitting on the hood of his new, shiny black, Mustang convertible, talking to a Chinese pimp named Ming about the porno film business when he saw Debbie stumble out of the park entrance. He knew instinctively that something was wrong and he moved fast. If someone was screwing with his girls he would take care of them. Bruno sprinted up the street and reached Debbie in a few seconds.

“What the hell’s going on?” he screamed in her face.

“Where’s Crissy?”

He didn’t wait for an answer. He ran past Debbie into the park and saw Crissy with Norman Swan. Norman and Bruno were old acquaintances from when Bruno was in the Youth Protection program - the same one that Crissy was in now. The Youth Protection program was where Bruno did most of his recruiting. It was a pool of endless, screwed-up young girls who had nobody to protect them, except losers like Norman Swan.

Bruno caught up with them, just as they reached the street. He smashed Norman in the face, dropping him on the spot. Then he drove his Doc Martens into Norman’s chest, snapping two ribs like bread sticks. Blood began to ooze from Norman’s nose and right ear as he lay on the ground, his head exploding with pain while Bruno dug the handcuff key out of his jacket pocket.

Bruno set Crissy free and was about to deliver another dose of pain to Norman’s broken body when Crissy stopped him.

“Leave him Bruno, he’s only doing his job,” she said, surprised by her own calm state of mind.

Bruno restrained himself - not because he gave a shit about Norman Swan, but because he sensed that Crissy would love him more if he did - and that gave him power. Crissy was a money maker. Guys loved her. They all thought they were having sex with the girl next door. She was an extremely valuable piece of property. He threw her a wink and a cocky smile, then he crouched down, close to Norman’s ear and whispered, “If you ever try to take her from me again, I’ll kill you. Understand? I’ll kill you and I’ll get away with it. So fuck off and don’t ever come back.”

Bruno grabbed Crissy and they took off across the park towards the other entrance where Debbie stood, chewing on a finger nail and wondering how she was going to get out of this one.

“Why the fuck didn’t you say something, you dumb ass?” Bruno screamed in her face again. “You’re just fuckin’ lucky you have a friend like Crissy. Now get your butt out there and get to work.”

Debbie scurried off without a word, glad she hadn’t been beaten. Bruno stroked Crissy’s wrists. “Are you ok?” he asked, in a genuine caring tone of voice.

“I’m sore. He fell on me. I think I bruised my butt.”

 Bruno wrapped his arms around Crissy and pulled her close. His hands rubbing her bottom gently.

“Debbie’s going to see us,” Crissy protested half- heartedly. She had already figured that Debbie must have known about them, otherwise why didn’t she try to help her?

“Good! I hope she does, because she and me are finished. It’s over. You’re my special babe now.”

They kissed. A long wet one. Debbie watched from across the street. Bruno was just trying to make her jealous, but it wouldn’t work. She would get him back - the life growing in her body would make certain of that. A car pulled up beside her and she climbed in. The car drove away. Bruno put an arm around Crissy.

“You feel ok to work?” he asked, his words dripping with sincerity.

Crissy knew why Bruno was being so nice to her but she didn’t hold it against him. It was just business.

“Come on,” said Bruno, grabbing her hand and pulling her after him. “The old farts over on the West side asked for you again. That’s totally hot, Babe. You’re like the flavor of the month. Can you dig it?”

The old guys that Bruno was referring to were actually not that old, mostly they were in their fifties. The man that wanted Crissy had been in Vietnam and had acquired a taste for young girls in the bars in Saigon. He treated Crissy really well and paid her much more than her normal fee and sometimes, if he was feeling particularly hungry, she would stay with him all night and he would just keep doing it to her, over and over in all sorts of ways.  It always left her exhausted and sore. She figured he had a lot of money because of the quality of his clothes and the fact he was wearing an fifty thousand dollar Swiss watch. The one that you don’t own, just look after for the next generation. He told her to call him Scar because of the scar left after the medics had removed a chunk of shrapnel from his back.  Other than that, she knew nothing about him.

Norman knew he was sporting some broken ribs and a chipped tooth or two. His head ached, and his own blood tasted terrible. He got to his feet with some pain and was confused about what to do next. Strangely, even though he was hurting, he somehow felt strong. Tough. It was an alien experience and as such really attracted Norman’s attention.

So, instead of going home and soaking in a hot tub for a few hours, Norman pushed his sore body in the same direction Crissy and Bruno had gone. When he reached the street, he saw them standing beside a 500-Series black Mercedes, talking to the driver who was visible only as a shadow. After a few moments, Bruno opened the rear door and Crissy started to climb inside. That’s when Norman Swan snapped and a kind of crazed primordial instinct overtook him. He charged across the street like an ancient warrior, ready to rescue the damsel in distress.

He was all action - shoving Bruno aside, grabbing the rear door handle and pulling it open.  Bruno tried with all his strength to pull Norman out of the rear seat, but Norman was possessed and Bruno was no match for him. Norman got ahold of Crissy and started to reverse himself out of the car with his prize. It was at that point that he looked up and saw the face of the driver looking back at him. A strangely banal face. A lipless slit for a mouth and cold blue eyes framed by a skull cap of short white hair. A compelling version of evil if there ever was one.  Then everything went dark.


Jimmy Gold believed in the power of truth. He believed it was his job to show that truth, and his instrument of choice was the video camera. That’s why Jimmy rode around in a police cruiser with two cops, taking video footage of their activities. Jimmy was the Producer, Director, Editor and Cameraman of a reality tv show entitled:“Emergency Response.” He had a deal with a local cable company to air the show, and if things kept going theway they were, he was pretty sure he could score a cable network deal for next season. Life was good  and for the first time in his life he was beginning to think that maybe he would get married, even though he didn’thave anyone particular in mind. The idea just kept bouncing around in his head, especially when he saw an  attractive woman - which is to say he thought about it all the time.

The first call of the night came in at 9:57 pm. Jimmy and the two cops he was riding with were cruising around waiting for something to happen. It was dispatch, reporting a possible homicide.

The driver, a young Latino named Marco, slammed his foot to the floor and the patrol car took off like a time capsule. Maureen, his red-headed, freckle-faced, Irish partner flicked on the dome lights and the siren.

“Shit, a homicide,” she said, excitedly. “The royal flush of crimes. Must be our lucky night, right Marco?”

“ I just hope it ain’t too stinking gory. I hate that shit. I remember the first time I saw the color of a brain. It was all over a white tile bathroom. Fuckin’ shotgun, blew the saps head off.”

“That’s something you never forget,” said Maureen, knowingly.

Jimmy pointed his camera at Maureen and made a focus adjustment.

“Can we do the intro, Mo..?”

“Sure, no trouble. Just say the word.”

“The word is now. Tape’s rolling - go for it. Take one.”

Maureen turned in her seat and looked straight at Jimmy’s camera.

“We have just received a call to go to a location where a murder has allegedly taken place. My partner and I have a single objective: To secure the location for investigators and forensics. With any crime it is very important to make certain that nothing is disturbed because there are always clues, no matter how small and insignificant”

“That was great,” said Jimmy, enthusiastically. She was a doll. He sometimes dreamed about her. “We’re going to make an actress out of you yet.”

She smiled. Jimmy was a nice guy - sweet - and she had gotten used to having him ride along with them. What she was having trouble with was his hitting on her all the time. He was very discreet about it, but she was pretty sure he had a crush on her. She just had to find the right moment to let him know that she was gay.

The sound of the patrol car echoed through the empty streets and Jimmy could feel his heart accelerating in tandem with the engine. It didn’t matter how many times he did this, there was just something about the speed and sound of a siren that got his adrenaline pumping.

The location was an apartment building on the West side. A squat, dark brick structure with an open courtyard that lead to the front entrance. It was four stories high and the crime scene was on the first floor. Several of the tenants were standing in the hallway when Jimmy and the police arrived. An old lady in a thread-bare housecoat was crying. It turned out later that she had been the one who discovered the body. It was male. Mid-forties. The apartment had been totaled. Whoever had committed the crime must have been after something; at least that’s what Jimmy’s amateur detective intuition told him as he readied his camera to record the scene.

Because it was a killing, Jimmy knew that the police would start getting jittery. They hardly noticed it themselves, but he noticed it - solving a murder was the - how did she put it? “...the Royal flush of crime.” She was right. More police arrived, then the forensic team. The crowd in the hall had multiplied like germs and were making a lot of noise. News crews began to show up. Murders were like that, people had a morbid fascination with the death.

The police found porno movies and a marijuana stash along with a stack of hard core porno mags in a closet. There were also some sex toys in the same closet and some Polaroid shots of Crissy O’Brian, completely naked. You could see that the male officers were a bit self-conscious at having a woman in their midst - even though they all knew she was gay. In fact, that seemed to make it worse.

“Don’t worry boys, I can handle it,” said Maureen in a tough tone. “I know you’re basically all pigs anyway.”

They all laughed nervously.

She hated being treated differently.

Jimmy got the whole thing on tape. Close-ups of the grass, the porno titles. The tarp covered body. Forensic investigators putting things in baggies. All the stuff his audience loved to see.

“So who was the guy?” asked Jimmy, as he, Marco and Maureen walked back to their patrol car.

“Someone told me, but I can’t remember,” said Marco.

“His name is Norman Swan,” said Maureen. “He was a social worker.”



© Copyright 2020 sidney j bailey. All rights reserved.


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