Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Bare Facts of the Case

by Michael Dymmoch

“I think my kid’s in there.”

Sergeant Norma McLaughlin looked as perturbed as anyone had ever seen her. A twenty-three year veteran of the CPD, she was as tough as any man in the 19th District. She was five-five and couldn’t have weighed more than 140 pounds in full gear. Her usually serene face was dark with anger.

Her lieutenant, Andy Nowicki, said, “Yeah. We’re gonna get him out.” He kept his voice low but didn’t’ have to whisper. Thrash metal music leaked into the hall from behind the apartment door.

Then Nowicki seemed to realize who Mclaughlin was. “Jesus! How’d you hear about this?”

“It’s all over the air. You think I don’t recognize my son’s address?”

Nowicki nodded. “SWAT and the hostage negotiator’ll be here shortly.”

“How’s that gonna help? You don’t know what’s going on in there. You don’t even know how many are in there.”

“We’re workin’ on that.” Nowicki turned to one of the beat cops. “The doorman call the other tenants?”

“Yeah,” the copper said. “Told ‘em to stay in their units no matter what.”

“Not good enough,” McLaughlin told Nowicki. “I’m not gonna stand here with my thumb up my ass. I’m going in.”

“No, you’re not. You’re not a negotiator, Sergeant. And we’re not gonna spook those guys and have them start shooting. Or give them any more hostages.”

“I won’t spook ‘em. I’ll go in and find out how many there are and let you know.”

“No!” He looked around, spotted a female officer waiting down the hall for orders. He crooked his finger at her.

The officer came forward and waited.

“Take Sergeant McLaughlin back to her unit and wait with her.”

The uniform nodded uncomfortably, and waved down the hall in the direction of the elevator. “Sarge.”

McLaughlin looked ready to do murder but didn’t argue as the beat cop moved between her and hers son’s apartment. They walked to the elevator. The beat cop pressed the down button. As they waited for the car, McLaughlin glanced around wildly—up and down the hall, into the garbage can next to the door.

The elevator opened. McLaughlin ignored it, sprang forward to snatch an empty beer bottle out of the can. She turned back toward Nowicki and the two beat cops waiting out of sight of the apartment door’s peephole.

“I got an idea.”

She shoved the bottle at the police woman, “Hold this,” and raced back toward the others.

As the beat cops jumped to head her off, she unbuckled her service belt and dropped it, stripped off her safety vest and kicked off her boots. She started unbuttoning her shirt.

“What the hell are you doing?” Nowicki whispered.

She planted a heel on the toe of her opposite sock and lifted the foot to pull the sock off. When the lieutenant reached for her arm, she tossed her shirt in his face. Pulling her bra off overhead, she charged the police woman who’d followed her, still holding the empty bottle.

The police woman grabbed at her and had the bra shoved into her hand. The other cops froze in disbelief. Or horror at seeing a veteran officer lose it suddenly.

McLaughlin dropped her trousers and stepped out of them. She grabbed the bottle from the horrified policewoman and reversed course, dodging between the stupefied coppers like Thomas Jones running the ball on a good day.

“Stay outta sight,” she demanded.

McLaughlin wasn’t fat, but she was in her forties. Her skin hung loose in places, stretch marked and patchy. Ample breasts sagged over a thickened midriff; hips and thighs were dimpled with cellulite.

When she reached her son’s apartment, she shifted her grip on the bottle and pounded on the door. “Turn down the damn noise!” She sounded drunk. She looked smashed or deranged as she swayed unsteadily in front of the peephole in only her briefs.

Nowicki sucked a breath in through his mouth and forgot to let it out. The male coppers stood flat-footed and slack-jawed.

“Come on, turn that shit down! “McLaughlin could probably be heard in the lobby downstairs. “Knock it off! Or at least play something decent!” She started pounding on the door again.

The coppers closest to her flattened themselves against the wall, hiding from peep hole.

Suddenly the door flew open. Before whoever was behind it could react, McLaughlin staggered forward, forcing him to back up to avoid a collision.

“You bastards gotta turn down the stereo.” She waved the bottle overhead, swinging it to her left as she stumbled across the threshold.

The cops in the doorway used the distraction to charge in behind her, Nowicki brought up the rear.

* * *

“Tell me what happened in your own words, son,” Nowicki said.

A wagon crew had transported the offenders to Western and Belmont; the beat coppers were stationed in the hall. The tiny studio apartment was crowded with Nowicki and McLaughlin on the couch—McLaughlin wrapped in a blanket, and the two freed hostages—a twenty something couple—sharing a chair opposite. An evidence technician was processing the bathroom. McLaughlin’s clothes and duty belt lay in a neat pile just inside the apartment door.

The kid—who, mercifully, was not McLaughlin’s son—swallowed and said, “This guy knocked on the door and said he had our pizza.” He looked at Nowicki. “When I opened the door to tell him we didn’t order any, he forced his way in. He put a gun in my face and told me to get his drugs.”

He glanced at McLaughlin—not his mother, but…. He blushed and glanced away. “I swear to God, I don’t know what he was talking about. The only drugs we do are Old Style and MGD.”

McLaughlin smiled encouragingly. Nowicki nodded. “Go on.”

“Then she—“ He nodded toward his girlfriend who was cradling a steaming coffee mug in both hands as she shivered in her seat. “…Came out of the bathroom and saw the gun and ran back in. She must’ve called 911. On her cell.”

The girlfriend nodded her confirmation.

The young man stared at the girl until the detective said, “Then what happened?”

“He ran over and kicked in the door. Dragged her out.”

“I hid the cell,” the girl said.

“I told them we don’t even live here, that we’re just visiting.”

“They started screaming at us,” the girl added, “calling us liars.”

The kid went on. “I knew we had to stall ‘til the police got here, so I told them Mike’d be back in an hour.”

“Will he?” Mike’s mother asked.

The kid twitched. “He’s at work.”

“Why’d these guys think you had their drugs?” Nowicki demanded.

The kid shrugged—too casual to be lying. “Probably got the wrong apartment. The guys next door party all the time.” He started chewing on a fingernail.

“Go on.”

The kid shrugged again, dropped his hands to his knees. “They said, ‘We’ll wait.’”

“Then we heard pounding on the door and yelling. They thought it was the cops at first. But one of ‘em said, ‘No, the cops’d just break down the door.’ The other one said, ‘Go see who it is.’ And the first one did.” The kid stared at his knees.

“And then?” Nowicki prodded.

The kid blushed. “The guy said, ‘It’s some drunk naked broad.’ The other one said, ‘Tell her to shut the fuck up and get lost.’” The kid looked at Nowicki. “When the guy opened the door, she…” He pointed at McLaughlin without looking at her. “…Sort of fell through the doorway. And— You know the rest.”

McLaughlin leaned toward him. “Tell us about these guys next door.”

The kid shrugged again. “They have loud parties. Sometimes people knock on Mike’s door by mistake.”

Janet added, “He’s complained to the doorman, but nobody does anything about them.”

McLaughlin smiled at her. “Maybe someone will now.”

The evidence tech came out and said, “All yours.” He started packing up his gear.

Nowicki looked at McLaughlin and hooked his thumb toward the bathroom. “You can get dressed now.”

She gave him a look and headed toward the pile of her clothes.

“Oh, and Sergeant—”

She stopped and waited.

“I’m gonna let you write this one up.”

* * *
© 2007 MADymmoch


Barbara D'Amato said...

Great stuff, Michael. Thanks.

Marie Carnes said...

That was excellent. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Rosemary Harris said...

I've never read anything by you before so thanks for the taste...liked it a lot..although I winced at the description of the not fat, but flabby, saggy, splotchy 40 yr old body...

Maryann Mercer said...

Thanks, Michael...I wasn't at all sure how it was going to turn out. Good ending :o)