The Rookie Mistake

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young, headstrong policewoman is partnered with the only other woman on the force for what is supposed to be a simple and low-risk overnight stakeout. When complications arise, tensions flare between the two.

Submitted: September 02, 2019

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Submitted: September 02, 2019

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It was past midnight when the cold really set in.

More than once, Shannen had to get out and spray de-icer on the windscreen so that they could see what they were looking at. The cold was piercing; at times she could have sworn the blood was freezing in her veins. Regardless, she never once complained.

Shannen knew that she wasn't the brightest spark. The police psychoanalyst had described her as headstrong and rash. One of her teachers in high school had described her as over-zealous. Her mother, in her eloquent way, had simply stated that her daughter was "good at nothing that required the least bit of sense". Nevertheless, they had each claimed that Shannen's most redeeming quality was her fastidious demeanour.

Despite that, if she had been complaining, she felt that her complaints would have been justified. The heater was broken in the old unmarked police cruiser and every time she exhaled, narrow tendrils of gas formed a fog in front of her face. After a while, it became a way of amusing herself. When Shannen had joined the police force and been assigned to a stakeout as her first post, she had imagined it to be rather more exciting. Instead, she had been cooped in this piece-of-shit car for four hours freezing her ass off, and there was still five more hours left to go.

Finally, boredom began taking its toll. Frustrated, Shannen turned to her partner and said, "Did the captain tell you what time this meeting was supposed to be happening?"

Her partner smirked.

"Why? Do you have some place to be, sweetheart?"

Shannen narrowed her eyes, angry at the use of the demeaning word. "No, I'm just sick of sitting here. There must be something better we could be doing than waiting around".

That earned her a look of contempt.

"If you're lucky, the majority of your career will involve waiting around and doing fuck all. However, if you're in such a damn hurry to get yourself shot, by all means, go over, knock and ask Dr. Druglord what time he’s planning on hosting his tea party."

Embarrassed, Shannen turned away and withheld any further questions. The other members of the precinct had warned her that her partner was poor company, but she had put this down to sexism, given that she was the only other woman in the precinct. Clearly though, their criticisms were justified.

Her partner's name was Bernadette Stroud. She was forty-nine, short and built like a barrel. She constantly reeked of tobacco smoke and her face was seemingly twisted into a perpetual sneer. Despite this, she was also one of the most experienced officers in the precinct with nearly twenty-five years of service under her belt.

At first, Shannen had been infuriated when her captain had partnered her with the only other woman in the precinct because it seemed blatantly sexist and lazy. “They’re lumping me in with the only other woman so we can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ about babies and dresses and other shit,” she had complained to her husband. Her tone had changed slightly when she learned of Stroud’s experience; Shannen figured she could learn a lot from a woman who had managed to survive in an all-male precinct for so long. Sadly, her first meeting with Stroud had shown her clearly why she had survived in the precinct: she was an intensely difficult and unlikeable person, and everyone was afraid to get in her way. As such, she did as she pleased without fear of repercussions.

As if to re-affirm his point, ten minutes later, Stroud fell asleep. Her snores were loud and coarse, like a broken motor that couldn’t run consistently. Clearly, she didn’t think much of their assignment.  

Shannen had been excited at the prospect of surveilling a known drug dealer. She had seen plenty of exciting cases in her previous precinct, and she had been pleased with the idea of a baptism of fire into her new job with a high profile case. Sadly though, this assignment was far from an episode of Narcos. The drug being supplied were opioids; in essence, some doctor was selling six-month supplies of medications that were being stolen from a hospital pharmacy out of his daughter’s play-house in their back garden. The case was basically cut and dried. The hospital had tipped them off, and prior surveillance that Stroud had done on the house had shown that every evening after the doctor arrived home, people would come knocking at the front door in drips and drabs. It was being passed off as a private home clinic, designed to earn him some extra money. The doctor was doing such a shit job at covering his tracks that Stroud and Shannen could basically knock on his door right now and that would be it.

Unfortunately, the captain was a bit of a glory hunter. Word came through that a local gang were readying themselves for a large intake of opioids, and suspicions were that the doctor was their supplier. The captain’s hope was that if they surveilled the doctor long enough, a point-of-contact gang member would show up and they could arrest him and the doctor. This, in turn, would lead to more arrests of members higher up the food chain.

 Stroud had boiled it down into simpler terms: “Some middle-aged jack-off who thinks he’s Walter White is selling off-brand Oxycontin to old people, and now some tattoo’d idiot wants to be able to sell them to kids to pass off as E’s. And we’re the two fucking morons who have gotten stuck with hauling their asses in, spending hours processing them, only for the pasty-faced doctor to get a suspended sentence while the brown kid gets sent down for twenty.”

Stroud certainly was eloquent if nothing else.

The arrest was not high-profile, despite the captain’s desire to make it seem so. Shannen knew better than to think that two arrests would lead to a gang being brought down. Still, it had to be done, and it would earn Shannen some prestige within the precinct.

However, the specificities of the meeting were unknown and despite constant surveillance on the doctor, he had met with no one. Shannen and Stroud were one of several teams that had monitored him in rotation in recent weeks, but it was looking ever more likely that nothing was going to come of the tip.

It was against regulation, but Shannen decided that she had to get out of the car. She needed to stretch his legs and breathe fresh air. She wanted to get away from the sound and stink of Bernadette Stroud, for a few minutes at least. Shannen got out and closed her passenger-side door. She took a deep breath in and began coughing. The air was freezing and it hurt her lungs.

That was when the car arrived.

Shannen heard it coming from behind her and ducked swiftly to avoid being seen. The car was an old Volskwagen and it pulled into the driveway of the house that she had been watching with Stroud all night.

Three men stepped out of the car.

“Shit,” Shannen said under her breath.

They had only been expecting one gang member, probably some rookie kid looking to make a name for himself. This was different though. From what she could see, the men who had stepped out of the car were no rookies. They moved swiftly and assuredly, checking their surroundings all the time. Shannen dropped her head and sat on the pavement with her back against the car. She counted to three, and chanced another look.

One of the men had gone to the trunk of the car and opened it while the other two had gone to the door. Shannen heard a faint knock, and watched as the doctor opened the door. She could not hear the ensuing conversation, but judging by the look on his face, he too had not been expecting three men. He was a diminutive figure, and was clearly ill-at-ease among the tall and imposing gang members.

It was the meeting Shannen and Stroud had been waiting for, but the increased presence changed the situation. A simple arrest was now unlikely.

Still, something had to be done.

As silently as she could, Shannen opened the passenger door of the car and

slipped the top half of her body inside the car again, and began shaking Stroud in an effort to wake her. It was no use, however. She was practically comatose.

Not wanting to waste time, Shannen grabbed the police radio mic that was attached to the dash, pressed the button and spoke: “Car B-22 to Base, over.”

“This is Base, Stroud? That you?”

Shannen rolled her eyes at the use of names over the radio channel. Night shift radio operators never tended to be the best police officers, but this was a new level of idiocy.

“It’s her partner. Our customer has arrived, but he’s brought company. Three males: two Latino, one skinny Caucasian man. Possibly armed. Please advise.”

A hiss of feedback, and then silence.

Shannen looked back over to the house. The three men were now standing on the porch, but were starting to make their way inside the house. Shannen pressed the talk button again.

“Base, this is B-22. Please advise. The three men have now entered the house; we believe the deal is happening now.”

Another hiss of feedback, and then a voice came through the radio, different to the previous one.

“Where is your partner, rookie?”

Shit. It was the Captain’s voice.

Shannen now had to make the uncomfortable choice of whether to rat Stroud out, or lie to the Captain. She turned to Stroud and shook her again: no reaction. She may as well be shaking a corpse. She sighed.

“She’s currently around the side trying to get a view of the deal as it occurs, Captain.”

There was a brief pause, as if the Captain was considering the validity of this statement.

“I see,” he said. He was clearly not convinced at all, but Shannen knew that ratting on a colleague, even one as universally-disliked as Stroud, would earn her the wrong kind of reputation.

“Is there any way of making immediate contact with your partner?”

He clearly knew the situation. Shannen turned to look at Stroud just in time for her to let out a loud snore.

“Negative, Base. My partner is currently operating radio silence.”

Another pause. “Well, in that case, sit tight. Backup is on its way.”

“Base, I believe that backup may not arrive in time. The customers won’t stay much longer.”

The Captain was not in the mood to discuss it. “Well, without being able to get assistance from your partner, you will not be able to enter the scene. Sit tight, rookie, and wait for backup. Base, out.”

Shannen squeezed the radio mic in frustration. She turned to look at Stroud. Her incompetence and lack of respect for her job was going to cost them their arrest, made all the more infuriating by the fact that they had two extra to now bring in.

She decided that she was done with being delicate.

Without stopping long enough to think about how reckless it was, she took her cold cup of coffee from the cup-holder between the seats, took the lid off, and threw the contents on to Stroud’s face.

The coffee was stone cold, but the reaction was an immediate one.

Stroud woke up instantly, startled and coughing. She turned and saw the empty coffee cup in Shannen’s hand and, without saying a word, went to reach for her holster.

This time it was Shannen’s reaction which was immediate, and it needed to be. Stroud reached for her holster much quicker than Shannen would have anticipated, and she swung her arm around with gun in hand.

She reached across and pulled Stroud’s right arm, with which she was holding her gun, across her body, while simultaneously twisting her left arm up and in between her shoulder blades.

This caused Stroud to fall forward and smack the side of her face into the dashboard, and the gun fell out of her hand and into Shannen’s lap.

“You have fancy moves, bitch, but the second you let me go, I’m gonna wallop you in the eye,” Stroud sneered, her cheek rubbing off the dashboard leather.

Shannen twisted Stroud’s arm higher up her back, and she winced.

“What sort of a fucking psychotic piece of shit are you?” Shannen shouted, in a whisper, trying not to wake the neighbourhood. “You were going to shoot me because I spilled a bit of coffee on you?”

“Wasn’t going to shoot you; wouldn’t waste the bullet,” Stroud sneered. “I was just going to smash your nose to learn ya’ some manners.”

Shannen scoffed in disbelief; Stroud wasn’t as bad as the rumours had led her to believe. She was a million times worse.

“Well, while you were there in a whiskey-induced coma, our buyer showed up, with two friends in tow. And now, they’re all inside.”

Stroud stopped struggling. “Did you call it in?”

“Of course I fucking called it in. They told me that they were sending backup.”

“And what did you say about me on your little radio chat? Ratted me out, I suppose?” she said, practically spitting with contempt.

Shannen bristled. She would have resented anyone assuming that she would rat out a partner, but the idea of Stroud taking the moral high ground was more than she could bear. “No, you useless asshole, I didn’t. Not that the Captain believed a word of the lie I told him. Now, if you’re ready to start acting like a fucking cop for a change, I’ll let you go and we’ll catch them coming out.”

Stroud looked up from the dash in astonishment. “What the fuck are you talking about? I’m not catching anyone. You said it yourself, the Captain said backup was coming.”

“Yes, and by the time the backup arrives, they’ll be long gone and we’ll look like the dumbest assholes breathing,” Shannen hissed.

Stroud sighed with frustration. “Listen sweetheart, I know you want to prove that you have big balls to the Captain, and I get that you want to show all the boys in the department that ‘girls can do anything boys can do’, or whatever chirpy millennial slogan it is that you’re trying to push. But you don’t know if those fuckers are armed or not, and we’re outnumbered two to one. I’m not disobeying a direct order, and a sensible order at that, just so you get to go on some dumbass crusade for feminism that’s going to get you killed.”

Shannen was silent. Then, she let Stroud go. She let out a pained grunt, and sat back upright. After briefly massaging her arms, she held out her hand expectantly for Shannen to return her firearm. Begrudgingly, Shannen handed it back to her.

“Why are you like this?” Shannen asked, shaking her head.

“Oh, fuck off, kid,” Stroud replied witheringly, “I don’t owe you any fucking explanation. I’ve been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive probably, so don’t give me shit about the way I operate.”

“So, what? We’re going to let them get away? Is that the genius plan you’ve concocted using your wealth of hard-earned experience?”

“Pre-fuckin’-cisely. This guy is an idiot who hosts meetings with criminal gangs in his own fuckin’ home in the depths of shitty suburbia. You really think he won’t give us another chance?”

Shannen was irritated, but she could see the logic behind Stroud’s argument. Even as things stood, backup was probably less than ten minutes away, and the men were still inside, which meant that her interference could ruin the arrests. Another difficulty added was her own lack of protection. Vests and other protective gear were issued based on the risk of possible violence assigned to the case. The doctor was designated as very low risk of violence, whereas the young gang member was deemed to be moderate risk of violence. This was not high enough for them to be given bulletproof gear or helmets. And while she and Stroud were referencing the men in terms of not knowing whether or not they had weapons, they both knew that men like those always carried weapons.

Just then, the door of the house opened and the men began to emerge. There were some quiet words exchanged. The skinny man had made his way directly to the car, and stood waiting as the other two were talking on the porch. In the car, Shannen turned to Stroud and looked at her square in the eye.

“Are you coming?”

Stroud’s look was not contemptuous for a change; rather, she looked disappointed.

“No, I’m not.”

Shannen unholstered her weapon, slid the safety to off, and loaded a round into the chamber. Then, gently, she opened the car door and stepped.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you if this goes to shit.”

She turned back and Stroud had turned her body away from Shannen’s open door, refusing to look her in the eye.

Without a word, she closed the door again, and began walking purposefully up the street in the direction of the house, with her gun held out in front of her. She kept her eyes trained on the three men as she walked, trying to find signs of weapons. None of them had an obvious holster under their arm or at their side, but in the dark, it was difficult to make out if any of them had a gun in their waistband or at their ankle. The two men on the porch were now making their way towards the car, but they were deep in conversation and hadn’t spotted her. The third man was already sitting in the front passenger seat of the car.

As she got closer, Shannen realised that in her haste, she had forgotten to formulate an actual plan. Did she try and surprise them or just go in all guns blazing? Suddenly she wished she had stayed in the car, but she was now within fifty yards of the house, so it was too late to turn back.

The man in the car was the first one to notice her.

He had his back to her, but Shannen assumed that he had seen her in the wing mirror. He started to get out of the car and, in doing so, caused the other two men to look up from their conversation and see her walking towards them.

There was nothing else for it. The men’s response was either going to be fight or flight and she couldn’t give them the opportunity to do either. She began running with her gun pointed out in front of her.

"Police! Hands in the air, all of you!”

The men looked confused. They were probably expecting her to be some busybody neighbour, so her announcement had caught them off guard. The shorter of the two Latino men began putting his hands up, but his companion quickly shoved his arms down and looked at him angrily.

Shannen was now standing on the front lawn, less than ten yards from the man in the car and maybe fifteen from the other two. “I said get your goddamn hands up,” she repeated loudly.

The taller of the two Latino men smirked. “What seems to be the problem here, Ma’am?”

Shannen stepped forward and pointed the gun directly at the man who had spoken.

 “I’m not interested in having a discussion with you, now get your hands up.”

His smirk disappeared and he began raising his hands. “I see police aggression is still in full swing.”

“What is it that you imagine that we’ve done, other than getting some fresh, night air?”

This time it was the skinny man who spoke.

“Illegal purchase of stolen narcotics.”

“Narcotics?” he said with mock surprise, turning and laughing to his colleagues. “Were you fellas aware that we’re on CSI? ‘Narcotics’, she says!”

The two men laughed and the one who had his hands up had put them down again. Out of the corner of her eye, Shannen could see that a few of the houses on the street had faces peering out through the windows. The residents of one house had even opened their front door a crack to get a better view. Shannen needed to act with more purpose before the situation got completely out of hand.

Without warning, she fired a shot into the air.

The three men flinched and covered their ears. The neighbour’s door quickly shut.

“Okay, assholes, I’m going to say this one more goddamn time: put your hands into the fucking air, NOW.”

The men immediately raised their arms high above their heads.

“Crazy bitch!” the skinny man shouted.

She approached him. “Turn around,” she ordered.

Slowly, the man turned to face the house. When he did, she patted him down with her free hand, ensuring to keep the gun trained on the other two men. They didn’t move, and she patted down the first man quickly. Thankfully, he wasn’t carrying a weapon.

“Now, walk slowly towards your friends with your hands in the air. When I tell you, you’re going to stop and kneel down with your hands on your head. Move.”

The man did as he was instructed, and moved slowly and purposefully until Shannen told him to stop, keeping her gun trained on the back of his head, and her eyes darting back and forth between the three men. When instructing him to kneel, she ensured to keep a gap between him and the other two men so that he could not interfere when she was checking them for weapons.

She moved over to the second man, the smaller of the two and ordered him to turn around. He smirked and looked to his partner, but the proximity of the gun barrel to his face meant that he knew better than to try anything. As he turned, she looked at the taller man. “Move four steps to your left.”

The man stared at her coldly. “Are you going to make me?”

Before he could react, she shot at his feet. Once again, the three men flinched, and the taller man promptly moved four steps to his left. The smaller man had now turned fully, and she promptly patted him down as she had done with the first. Once again, she found no weapon, and she ordered the man to kneel down and put his hands on his head.

She now approached the third man, who seemed to be the leader of the three. Without being asked, he began to turn around. Shannen stepped forward to pat him down, but as she did so, he launched a kick backwards towards her knee. He had aimed too high, but the heel of his boot caught Shannen painfully on the thigh causing her to stumble back. As she stumbled, he turned and tried to swing a punch towards her head.

The punch was wild and full of anger. It was also clumsy and Shannen ducked swiftly, aimed quickly, and shot the man point blank, causing him to fall backwards.

Despite the close proximity, she had been off-balance and the shot had caught the man in the left shoulder, coming out the back and smashing the window just above them. As soon as he fell, Shannen rushed over to him, gun raised. He was groaning in pain, and clutching at his shoulder with his other hand. The bullet had come out again so he was not in much immediate danger, but blood had seeped through the gaps in his fingers and was running down his right arm. While he lay there, she checked him for weapons.

Like his two counterparts, he was unarmed.

“Shit,” she thought. She needed Stroud over here, and quickly. This was going to get news coverage for all the wrong reasons.

The other two men were staring at her silently, anger etched across their faces. Shannen stared back at them, standing over the other man. Without breaking eye contact, she detached her walkie-talkie from her belt and pressed the talk button. “Stroud, this is Barkley, I’ve subdued the three perps and I need assistance now. Over.”

There was no response on the radio.

Shannen turned to look at the car down the street, keeping the gun trained on the two men. It was too dark; she couldn’t make out the unmarked cruiser through the gloom. She pressed the talk button again. “Stroud, Barkley. Pick up your radio now. I need immediate assistance; one of the perps is down, gunshot wound to the shoulder. Please respond, over.” Once again, there was no response, not even a hiss of feedback.

The fucker had turned her radio off.

She turned back around to find the other two men were smirking at her. “Right,” she thought. “Time to take control of this situation again.” She couldn’t radio the backup without making her way to the cruiser. She needed to get the two men subdued fully so that she could deal with the gunshot wound. She only had one pair of handcuffs, so she instead reached for her cable ties. She took out two, and walked around in front of the men so that she was now facing the street.

“Okay, gentlemen, hands…”

The force of the shot against her back threw her forward, and she landed on the ground between the two men, and the world went black.

 

*

 

When she opened her eyes, the world had been tilted on its side, and she was resting against a blurry wall of green. The ringing in her ear was louder than a jet engine. She tried to breathe in, and immediately winced. The pain was immeasurable. It felt like someone had sprayed her with a machine gun. That was not possible, however, she had only heard one shot. Somewhere behind her, she could hear muffled voices arguing.

Where had the shot come from? Where the hell was Stroud?

As the world began to come back into focus, she could see a black smudge amongst all the green. Her gun. It was within touching distance. She had no idea what the men were saying; her hearing was still too muffled.

Slowly, she started to slide her hand forward from her body. Once again, the pain washed over her in a hideous wave. Her entire body was screaming in agony, worse pain than she had ever thought possible. She was within inches of the gun when it overcame her and she cried out. Behind her, the muffled voices stopped. The men quickly made their way over to her, and suddenly a hand appeared in her line of vision, and plucked the gun from the ground. She looked up, it was the skinny man.

“You’re hard to kill,” he said grimly, as she stared up at him. His voice was not fully clear, but he was standing close enough to her that it was not as badly muffled as before.

Another voice came from behind her, it sounded like the smaller man. He sounded enraged. “You must be the most incompetent piece of shit I’ve ever dealt with in this business. Shoot a cop on your own goddamn front lawn and couldn’t even do it right.”

“I panicked, she would have arrested you and we would all have been sent to prison,” a third voice said anxiously, “I didn’t know what else to do.”

The doctor. She had totally forgotten about the doctor. He was the one who had shot her. She closed her eyes and cursed herself for being so monumentally stupid.

“You could have kept your head, you dumb prick,” the skinny man growled. “You had the drop on her. You could have hit her with the butt of the gun and we’d have gotten away. Instead, you’ve probably killed the bitch and now, you’re going to bring a giant shitstorm down on our heads.”

“I’m sorry, I-”

“Give him the fucking gun,” the small man shouted.

The doctor walked over to the skinny man, and into Shannen’s view. He was even less impressive up close. He was much shorter than the skinny man, bald and sweating profusedly. His hands were shaking as he handed over his weapon to the bald man. He made brief eye contact with Shannen as he let it go, and quickly averted his eyes; he looked like he might get sick.

Shannen looked back at the skinny man to see the gun that had shot her and, had she not been in incredible pain, she might have laughed. It was an old-fashioned double-barreled shotgun, probably either a Winchester or a Ruger. It was the sort of thing you would see in a video game like Red Dead Redemption, or a bad John Wayne movie. It was the type of gun that only idiotic middle-aged white men who fancied themselves as an outlaw would buy. The skinny man shared her reservations, turning to the doctor, “’Fuck you think you are, Doc Holliday?” The doctor stared at his feet, embarrassed and nervous.

“We need to go now, man, he needs to be stitched up,” the small man said, presumably referring to the tall one whom she had shot.

“I know,” he replied. He turned to the doctor and grabbed him by the throat, “you’re coming for a ride amigo.”

Shannen could feel her strength fading; she was sure that she was going to pass out soon. Her back felt slick from the blood, the shotgun shrapnel digging into her more with every laboured breath.

She could hear shuffling and someone count to three followed by a groan. She assumed they were getting the tall man whom she had shot to his feet.

“How do we deal with her?” she heard the small man ask.

She heard more shuffling, and suddenly the two men were standing over her; the taller man was being held upright by the smaller one. As she turned her head to look at them, she felt hot blood trickle out of the corner of her mouth and coughed. The cough sent pain coursing through her body and she winced immediately.

The tall man looked down at her, and briefly cast his eyes at what she assumed was now a pool of blood forming on the grass beside her back.

“She’s been dealt with,” he said. The two men turned around and disappeared from her vision. There was some more shuffling, groaning and she heard the skinny man barking some orders at the doctor. Then there was a door slam, followed by another. The sound of the car starting came after, and she heard it reversing out of the driveway. After that, the sounds were too distant for Shannen’s damaged ears to register properly. Eventually, the distant rumblings were gone, and the street was silent again. She wondered if Stroud was still in the parked car, or if she had given up all pretense and driven off. She tried to listen to see if she could hear sirens; surely one of the neighbours who had been watching had called 911 at this stage?. She thought of her daughter and her husband at home, and wondered how she was going to explain this one from her hospital bed.

Just that moment, she began seeing the flashing lights reflected off the windows and the dew on the grass, and the very faint sound of sirens appeared in her ears. Shannen tried to turn, but found that she couldn’t muster the strength. She also noticed that the pain had disappeared. It reminded her of when she and her daughter used to sit on their hands and laugh when the feeling would disappear.

She smiled; it was a good memory.

 

 

******************************************************

 

Stroud awoke from her renewed slumber to the sound of a shotgun blast.

The sound was incredibly loud, even down the street in the car. She woke up disoriented and confused, and her head was pounding. She spat into an empty coffee cup, and muttered something about the cheap whiskey she had been drinking earlier.

Only then did she remember that the kid was gone.

"For fuck's sake..." Stroud swore.

The windscreen and side windows were fogged up, so Stroud had no idea what had just happened. She tried to wipe the windscreen with the sleeve of her jacket. Through a condensation blur, she could make out the doctor, with what looked like a Ruger Gold Belt, standing on the porch. On the grass, the three men stood over a body, one of the Latinos propping up the other. They were standing over a body on the ground.

“Motherfucker,” Stroud said.

This was bad for Stroud. These three morons wouldn’t hang around for long, and judging by the fact that it was the doctor who shot the kid, he would be piled into the car as well, shuttled off to some tract of wasteland and shot in the back of the head. One of the neighbours would have called in the shooting, and backup, real backup this time, would be on the way. There would be major questions about where Stroud was when all of this happened, and why she hadn’t been in radio contact. The captain had wanted her gone for a while and this would be the perfect opportunity to hang her out to dry, particularly if the kid survived and told them what really happened.

She needed to get over there and get out ahead of this, and quickly.

The men didn’t seem to be in any hurry; the doctor had just handed over his gun to the skinny white guy. While they spoke, Stroud took out her walkie-talkie, keeping an eye on the men through the small window in the condensation. The first question that would be asked of Stroud when she went in for debriefing would be where she was when the shot was fired. She would deal with that once the men had left. She would go around the block to the back of the house and emerge from around the side. This, ironically, would be backed up by the kid’s radio contact with the precinct where she had lied to the captain.

Her other issue was the radio. Stroud would be questioned as to why she didn’t maintain radio contact with Barkley throughout. Fortunately, Stroud knew how she could fix that. From her days of working in a pawn shop, Stroud knew that walkie-talkies, even the high-grade ones used by the police department, were notoriously unreliable. Stroud opened the glove compartment, took out a small Philip’s head screwdriver, and quickly used it to remove the back cover of the device. Just above the battery socket was the back of a small circuit board. Stroud needed to be deft here: her walkie-talkie would be checked, and if there was any obvious sign of interference, she would be screwed. The problem needed to be very subtle, so the radio’s ‘malfunction’ didn’t arouse suspicion. Stroud tilted the open walkie downward and, in doing so, gave her a view of several wires within. She picked a red wire, and used the head of her screwdriver to roll it up tight. She then gently tugged on the wire until she felt it come slightly loose.

Perfect.

She looked up again and saw that the men had gone while she was working. She quickly put the back panel back on, re-tightened the screws, and then popped the screwdriver into the empty coffee cup she had spat into, jamming in a couple of tissues on top of it so that it didn’t rattle around, before attaching the lid.

In the distance, she heard the first sirens rippling through the cool night air.

She looked back over at the lawn of the house. Thankfully, none of the neighbours had ventured over to check if Barkley was still alive. Stroud quickly re-attached her walkie to her belt, and got out of the car.

Five minutes of half running, half gasping for air and nearly vomiting, Stroud emerged from around the side of the house and threw herself down beside Barkley’s body. Up the street, she could see the first patrol cars approaching, with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.

“Showtime,” she said, smirking to herself.

She looked over at Barkley. She was lying on her side, her eyes were open and emoty. Her hair was matted with blood, and there was a red line across her cheek where more blood had trickled out of her mouth. Stroud reached over to check her pulse and felt nothing.

“You dumb fuckin’ kid,” Stroud thought to herself.

Just then, the first patrol cars pulled up and Stroud pinched her leg hard that she wailed with agony.

 

******************************************************

 

 

A few hours later, at nine, Stroud walked through the doors of her favourite bar. There was nobody there at that time of morning except her brother, Mike, who was wiping down some tables. He owned the bar, and nodded to Stroud as she entered. It didn't happen every day, but it wasn't an unusual occurrence to see her in the bar that early. However, it didn't mean she was a welcome sight. Mike hated his elder sister, for the same reasons most people did. Stroud knew, but he didn't care. Mike sold the cheapest whiskey in town so he could spit in Stroud's face for all she cared. She took a seat on one of the bar stools.

"Jack on the rocks. And be quick about it, I have a meeting with the captain in thirty minutes."

Stroud had performed well at the crime scene. She had been inconsolable by the other cops and medical staff, so much so that after the captain arrived and unsuccessfully attempted questioning her for ten minutes, she had been allowed to go home, on the allowance that she report for debriefing at nine-thirty the following morning.

"So am I to take it you lost another one?" Mike asked. Over the twenty-five years she'd been a policeman, Stroud had had seventeen partners, six of them had now been killed in the line of duty.

"Yep,” she replied, before inhaling her glass of whiskey. “Another.”

Mike gave her a look of derision, but duly poured another glass. “What happened?”

Stroud looked at her brother as if he had asked the dumbest question in the world, “What do you think happened?”

Mike bent down and picked up the remote for the TV that sat above the bar and switched it on. The news was on. The headline read: "City Mourns as Hero Rookie Cop Slain". Stroud saw a picture of the kid in her uniform. She had been pretty: long, curly black hair with dark brown eyes and sallow skin. A second image showed her at her graduation from the academy, no more than a year ago. With her in the photo was an attractive man with blonde hair and deep blue eyes, and in his arms was a small baby, no more than a few months old. A girl by the looks of it.

Stroud averted her gaze.

"Only twenty-three, Jesus Christ," Mike said. He turned to her, “Where were you when this went down?”

Stroud smirked at him, “Not getting shot.”

She finished her third glass, and as she got up to leave, she tossed his money on the counter.

"Bernie."

Stroud stopped. He hadn’t called her Bernie since they were kids; usually, Mike didn’t address her by name at all. She turned around to a look of genuine concern on his face.

"That child is going to wake up this morning without a mother."

"Yeah, so?"

Mike screwed up his face in anger, "You used to feel things, Bernie. You used to care about what happened to people. Maybe you didn’t know this kid very well, but she died on your watch. Don’t you think she deserved someone having her back last night?”

Stroud looked blankly at him, and said nothing.

"Whenever the tables have turned and it's your face on that TV screen, who do you think will mourn you, huh? I sure as hell won't. Nobody is going to give a fuck. That kid has been there for what, two months? She's getting a city funeral. You've been there twenty-five years and I doubt anyone will even shed a tear. So what, Bernie, what do you think will happen whenever it's you?"

Stroud eyed her brother coldly.

"I suppose you'll go out of business."

 


© Copyright 2020 Andy Cornell. All rights reserved.

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