End of the Line Ch. 02

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The chronological order of my stories is now listed in WifeWatchman’s biography.

Feedback and constructive criticism is very much appreciated, and I encourage feedback for ideas.

This story contains graphic scenes, language and actions that might be extremely offensive to some people. These scenes, words and actions are used only for the literary purposes of this story. The author does not condone murder, racial language, violence, rape or violence against women, and any depictions of any of these in this story should not be construed as acceptance of the above.

Part 5 – Numbed

Wednesday, October 19th. I was sitting in my office, alone. I was totally numb. Numb to everything.

After watching his friend die in his arms, Chief Griswold was beside himself with grief. Cindy attended to him, pulling him away from Smedley as the arriving medics quickly put Smedley in an ambulance and drove him away from the Media’s cameras, and knowing that Smedley was beyond the need of their services.

I vaguely remember taking charge of the scene, having the Police keep everyone who was there available for interviews. Those were quickly processed by the Uniformed Officers at the scene as my Crime Lab people came and began doing their jobs to process the evidence. I was pretty much on autopilot.

John Hardwood began complaining when the Crime Lab set up a tent over the crime scene, which was standard procedure and also blocked the Media’s cameras. I told Rudistan to get Hardwood’s statement as a witness, then kick his ass far, far away from me. Rudistan solemnly but most efficiently implemented my orders.

My wife Laura had come down, her Auxiliary badge gaining her entrance to the area. She helped Cindy with Chief Griswold, and finally went with them as Cindy drove the Chief home. Chief Moynahan got briefings from me and Teresa, then told me he would handle the Press, which he did with his usual sterling ability.

After the chaos died down and the sun began its disappearing act behind the western horizon, I went back to Headquarters. Myron and Mary had already gotten every bit of film footage they could; Paulina had secured warrants for that as well as warrants ordering the Media to give the Police a copy of any footage they had of the scene. KXTC complied quickly; KSTD would require a visit from my Officers with arrest warrants in hand to get what I needed.

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

At 9:00pm, I came out of my deep reverie, amazed that no one had knocked on my door. Going into the hallway, I heard voices in MCD and crossed the hall and went inside there. I saw Cindy, Teddy Parker, and Joanne Cummings Warner at the whiteboards, and David Krueger at a desk, typing on a computer. Also in the room were FBI Special Agents Martin Nash and Sandra Speer.

“Hello, Commander.” Joanne said solemnly upon seeing me come in. “We’re glad you’re here. We’re working up the whiteboards on this.”

“And we could use your help.” Cindy said, finishing Joanne’s unspoken sentiment. “By the way, Martin and Sandra were sent by Jack Muscone, due to the potentially political nature of the attack.”

“Can’t keep Martin away from his old desk, eh?” I said, teasing Nash, which made Sandra smile. “Okay, whaddya got?” I asked. I sat on the edge of a desk and listened and watched as they talked.

Cindy said “First, the motorcyclist. We have footage along the path he took as far south as Jefferson Avenue. Strangely enough, we lost the traffic light cameras along Riverside Drive north of Courthouse Square, and we’re not sure why yet. Also, there’s mud smeared on the license plate of the motorcycle as well as that covering that obstructs the viewing of it.”

“Sir,” said Krueger, almost interrupting Captain Ross, “I’ve compared the footage to the film of the Stiles Campaign Headquarters attack. The motorcycle is the same; we can show that from certain markings and anomalies on the vehicle. We also believe the man is the same, though that’s not as easy to prove without a doubt. The helmet is the best identifying feature, and it appears to be the same.”

“Sir,” said Teddy Parker, “have you watched the videos Detective Kreuger put in the evidence servers?”

“Over and over again.” I said. “For a full frickin’ hour.”

“Yes sir.” said Parker. “What they show is there were four people right where the perp was aiming at. Mr. Smedley, who was struck and killed; Commander Harlow, who Smedley shielded; Public Health Officer Loran T. Michaels, who Fire Marshal Singer tackled to the ground; and of course Fire Marshal Singer herself. The angle of the shooting, as you can see from this still shot we blew up from the video, could have been for any of the four.”

I nodded. “Did Della have her armor on?”

“Yes sir.” said Cindy. “But it was light armor under her shirt, and her jacket doesn’t have any sewn-in protection like yours and mine have.”

“I want some of that for my jacket.” said Joanne.

“Send me the requisition and I’ll approve it.” I said. “And that goes for you too, Parker, and all the Detectives. pangaltı escort Okay, so I see writing on this whiteboard about motives. Walk me through that.”

“Yes sir.” said Cindy. “Taking the previous attack on Jenna’s campaign HQ out of the equation for the moment, we’re asking if there is any motive for these four people. First is Commander Harlow. Her death opens up the Command Group spot once occupied by Robert Brownlee… who’s been trying to get himself back on the Force in that spot.”

“Yep, pretty clear motive, there.” I said.

“Second,” said Parker, “is Loran Michaels. Running for the Council, and leading in that race. Scott Peterson would benefit the most from Michaels’s death as he’s running against Michaels. I might add that the political nature of all that might be a possible tie-in with the Stiles HQ purple smoke-out.”

“True.” I said. “But sticking to just this crime: what about Smedley and Singer?”

Cindy said “Commander Singer has had some issues with other Fire Department personnel, especially back when the EMT issues were really boiling over. There might be some lingering hatreds there, but word I’ve gotten is that all of that had pretty much blown over. I guess there could be some issues about the Command Structure at the Fire Department…”

“Not really.” I said. “Superintendent Davies is being submitted for promotion to Assistant Fire Chief after Zoe turned down that slot to remain where she is. If that’s the reason for this attack, I’m not yet comprehending it.”

“Last is Mr. Smedley himself.” said Joanne, sadness in her voice. “And we have no idea why anyone would want to kill a nice old man like him.”

“Especially since he’s long been a hero in this County.” said Cindy. “And he’s been a recluse for years, and never had a thing to do with politics.”

“I agree.” I said. “And the only possible thing I can think of is that he knows something from the past, and his recent emergence into the spotlight of publicity caused someone to panic. But that’s not just thin, it’s anorexic, so I’m certainly not pushing the idea.”

“If that’s the case, sir,” said Martin Nash, “is Chief Griswold in danger?”

“With Jack Lewis alive and head of the SBI,” I said with some emphasis, “Chief Griswold’s life is always in danger… and Griswold knows it. But I’ll ask him if there’s anything in the past that would cause someone to want to kill Smedley.”

Just then, Martha the M.E. came into the room, somewhat to our surprise, accompanied by the Duty Desk Patrolman. “Sorry to bother you, Commander. I have the autopsy results. Your Patrolman escorted me here to keep two-man control of the evidence.”

“Great!” I said. “Come on in, Martha. Patrolman, you can head back to the Duty Desk, and I’ll be the second man for the evidence.” I said. As the Patrolman left, I asked Martha “You know all my Detectives? And Nash and Speer of the FBI?” Martha said that she did, and everyone said hello as I looked at the report.

“I’ve never been in here before.” Martha said. “So this is where all the brainpower is, eh?”

“With all due respect to the Detectives,” said Cindy, “that’s across the hallway.”

“And we’ll show you Captain Ross’s office in a moment.” I replied adroitly. “So, Martha, what is this about this bullet?”

“Oh yes, that.” Martha said. “Did you know Mr. Smedley had a pacemaker?” We all shook our heads, no, as Martha said “One of the bullets struck the pacemaker, went right into it. Another bullet went through his lower heart and almost all the way through the sternum. And a third bullet struck his scapula and went along a rib before exiting. I think it ended up going sideways between him and Commander Harlow. The Crime Lab is looking for it.”

“If you told them where to look, they’ll find it, too.” I said with confidence.

“Yes sir.” said Martha. “Anyway, Commander, the reason I came over to give you this, is because this is the bullet I took out of the pacemaker.” She handed me the evidence bag with the solid metal bullet. It was deformed, but it did not take me but a second to realize what it was.

“Wow, that’s an armor-piercing bullet!” I said. I handed it to the Detectives so they could examine it. The FBI Agents also looked closely at it. “What caliber, .22?” I asked.

“Yes sir.” said Martha. “Probably .22 Magnum, judging by the rifling. But yes, it’s a cop-killer bullet, even if it’s small caliber. And small caliber bullets can pierce kevlar more effectively than larger calibers. This is meant to defeat light armor as many of you wear.”

“Wow.” I said. “Okay, Parker, if you’ll escort Martha back to the Crime Lab building to keep this evidence under two-man control, I’d appreciate it. And then you can go home. Detective Warner, likewise: go home. Get some sleep.”

“Sir, the killer is still out there and—-” Joanne started.

“Believe me, Detective,” I said, “if there’s a break and we find this guy, you’ll be the first person I call. Now go, and be ready to kick ass in the morning… especially this pendik escort Captain’s ass in the ring during your morning exercises.”

“That’ll be the day.” Cindy said, meaning it as a challenge to light Joanne’s competitive fires. Joanne just pointed two fingers at her own eyes and then at Cindy, making me grunt a short laugh. Then Joanne left.

“No, it won’t be her.” I said. “It’s gonna be the red crowbar, like I said.”

“And like I said: ‘That will be the day.’.” Cindy replied.

“I still don’t know how the Commander won last summer.” Nash said, trying to start trouble in his understated, subtle way. A green crowbar was waved in his general direction.

Just then the Sheriff Department Chief of Staff, Deputy Charles T. Oswald, came in. “Commander, the Sheriff and Chief would like to see you in the Chief’s Conference Room.”

“Okay.” I said. “But Captain Ross and the FBI guys are coming, too.”

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

Sheriff Daniel Allgood was not happy to see Cindy follow me into the room, and was about to say something… until he saw my gray eyes flashing fire. We sat down, the Chief at the head of the table by the door, Sheriff to his left, Commander Della Harlow to his right. I was at the other end, Oswald to my right, Cindy to my left. Martin and Sandra sat off to the side, near to me.

“Okay,” said Allgood, “this is an incredibly tragic day, and I know that you Medal of Valor winners feel it much more strongly than I possibly can, and you want to catch this bastard more than anything. So, what do we have?”

I had Cindy go through what they’d told me in MCD. When she mentioned Loran T. Michaels, it was Daniel Allgood’s eyes turn to flash fire.

“You don’t really think Peterson had anything to do with this, do you?” asked Daniel, anger creeping into his voice.

“As the Iron Crowbar has taught me for months going on years,” Cindy replied, her voice showing that she was not backing down, “once we get our data, then whatever we haven’t eliminated, however improbable, is the truth.”

“Scott Peterson has been a good Police Officer for years!” Allgood stated indignantly. “You can’t just accuse him—“

“Sheriff,” I said strongly, “we are not accusing anyone at this time, just pointing out what we know and the possibilities that arise from it. And I might add, Sheriff, that Julie Newton was a good Data Analyst for us… and Angela Harlan might’ve been one of the best Detectives this Police Force ever had… but you know what happened with both of them. We have to consider all possibilities, including that Scott Peterson would have benefitted politically from Loran Michaels’s death.”

“You’d damn well better not say anything publicly nor to the Press.” warned Allgood. “If you think you can get Peterson beat in the Election by—-“

“Sheriff,” interrupted Sandra Speer, “Commander Troy is right, and he’s not making an accusation. He has to follow the evidence as it comes to him.”

I didn’t like the ‘follow the evidence’ theories, but I appreciated Sandra running interference for me.

“All right.” said Allgood, backing down. “So, what do we have? Is this political? Is it tied into the Stiles attack?”

“I think we’re on safe ground saying that the same person attacked the Stiles Headquarters and the Community Center event.” I said. “And by the nature of the people attacked, we can’t rule out a political motive. That’s why our friends of the FBI are here.”

“Our top brass in Washington are looking into this.” said Nash. “They’re seeing if there are other local political attacks, and seeing if there is a pattern of any kind.”

“And speaking of patt-erns,” said Chief Moynahan in his peculiar inflection of words, “there is no one better at seeing invisible patterns than the Iron Crowbarrrr. So, Commander, do you see anything yet?”

I shook my head. “Not yet. Just an good man dead who should not be.” My words brought home again the sadness of this tragedy.

“Okay, let’s go home.” said Moynahan, not caring what Sheriff Allgood wanted or thought. “What’s the plan of action for tomorrow, Mr. Crowbar?”

“I’m going to talk to Chief Griswold, and see how he’s doing, and my Team and I are going to work like dogs on solving this case.” Cindy nodded vigorously in agreement.

“You have one more duty in addition to solving this case, Mr. Crowbar.” said the Chief. “You, and I mean you personally, will handle the funeral arrangements for Joe Smedley. And you cannot delegate it. I expect you will bring together every tradition and ritual that will give Mr. Smedley the honor he deserves.”

“Yes sir.” I said solemnly. “I will not fail.” And I must not fail, I thought to myself, knowing the weight of the assignment just given me.

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

“What does Teresa drink?” I asked Cindy as we went down the hallway to my office.

“Nothing.” Cindy said. “Maybe a rare shot of bourbon for medicinal reasons, like if she starts getting a sore throat.”

“Medicinal reasons would be the rus escort reason here.” I said. I got the bourbon bottle out of my stash in the drawer, and had Cindy help me bring four shot glasses to Teresa’s office. I knocked and went right on in.

Teresa was sitting at her desk, still numb after all this time. Todd was sitting in the chair in front of the desk, patiently attending her.

Not saying anything, I poured four shots, then raised my glass. “To Joe Smedley.” I said. The others picked up glasses, and we all downed our shots.

“Okay, Todd, take Teresa home. There’s nothing else to be done here tonight.” I said. “Cindy, don’t let me see you in this Headquarters before five o’clock tomorrow morning… and don’t take it easy on Joanne in your training session.”

Todd and Cindy turned to go. Teresa did not move. I waved the others on out, then, once we were alone, I asked “Are you okay?”

“No.” Teresa said. “I mean ‘No sir.’. I am not okay. I watched a good man die today. Why do the good guys die and get hurt, sir? Why Mr. Smedley? Why did Amy have to die, while some bastard who had her organ stolen goes free? Why do you and Cindy get hurt in helicopter crashes or nearly killed in a collapsing church? Why do good guys have to pay the price for evil people?”

“And why do drunk drivers get off while we bury the children killed by them?” I replied, not sparing Teresa one bit what she was thinking but had not said. She looked up at me as I said “The only answer I have, my friend, is the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 45… ‘That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.’.”

Teresa nodded. I poured her another shot and she downed it, then we left for our respective homes.

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

I arrived home at midnight. Two handsome dogs were sitting side by side as I entered the Mountain Nest, partly waiting to be taken out, and partly to be there to comfort me. I petted them and then took them out back. As they did their business, I looked over the Town. The lights seemed a little dimmer with the loss of Joe Smedley. I could feel the somber spirit weighing down the whole community.

Going back inside, I petted the dogs some more while Laura heated up some late supper. As we ate, she said “Chief Griswold and his wife are both just devastated. I gave them both a sedative to get them to sleep through the night.”

“Yes.” I said quietly. “You know, Chief Griswold, and Captain Charles, and Smedley, and some others, they were a tight group back in their day. Chief Moynahan and Molly and Coldiron and Soltis were like that in Midtown. And me and Cindy and Teresa and our Detectives are starting to be like that… more than just a team.”

“Much more than ‘starting to’, if you ask me.” Laura said. “I’ve seen the bonds between all of you.” She was contemplative as we finished up and cleaned the dishes. As we were about to go upstairs, she put her arms around me.

“I’m really sorry about Mr. Smedley.” said Laura as I held her. “I worked with him years ago, to try to get him through his childhood issues and cure his E.D. Nothing worked.” I nodded.

“I hope this won’t sound incredibly selfish.” Laura went on. “But the first thing I thought about when I heard about it… was ‘Thank God it wasn’t my husband!’.” As she nestled into me, I considered all that had happened over the last few years, and how much Laura was contributing her emotions to the battle…

“It’s the good self-ish, not the bad selfish.” I said, kissing her cheek as it all rose within me. “I love you, sweetheart.”

“I love you, too.” she said, then began to weep. We both cried out some emotions in the next few moments…

Part 6 – Legacy and Honor

“This is Bettina Wurtzburg, KXTC Channel Two News.” said the lovely redhead solemnly from in front of Police Headquarters at 7:00am, Thursday, October 20th. “Channel Two News is bringing you continuing coverage of the tragic death of the County’s most decorated hero, Joe Smedley.”

Bouquets of flowers and lighted candles covered the front lawn of Police Headquarters, brought in the night by Citizens. Bettina continued her report: “Mr. Smedley was both a Police Officer and a Firefighter for the Town and County, and earned the Medal of Valor, Police Cross, two Fire Crosses and six Purple Orders in their service. He was gunned down yesterday during an attack on the Ladies Auxiliary event by an unknown gunman on a motorcycle.”

“Police believe the shooter was the same person who threw smoke grenades into the Campaign Headquarters of District Attorney candidate Jenna Stiles. Commander Donald Troy of the Town & County Police Force said that the political nature of the attacks must be taken into consideration, but that other factors may weigh in, as well.”

“Commander Troy would not elaborate further, but said that Joe Smedley will lie in state in the front Atrium of City Hall, beginning at noon today. The University Army ROTC’s cadet Rangers have volunteered to be the honor guard for Mr. Smedley, and the Public is invited to pass by and pay their respects from noon today until 6:00pm Friday. The funeral will be Saturday, and will include a formal procession through Town to the Cemetery.”

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