Editor’s note: Steve Burns is a former cop for the San Diego Police Department and first introduced himself to the Free Press as a Sex in San Diego contributor. His 32-chapter novel, The Dove and the Cockerel, is set in the late 80s and takes place over the 72-hour period of an investigation of some murders. A new chapter will be published every Saturday.
Continued from Chapter 1
The chirping of his pager awakened him from a deep and peaceful sleep. In his dream state, the incessant beep, beep, beep was not, however, a pager, but a smoke detector alerting him to the fire, now all around him in his dream.
Damn it. What a time to be buck-naked with Sister Carol Anne, and why the Hell is she more interested in a recipe for salmon mousse than getting out of this burning walk-in closet? were his dreamy, half-awake thoughts.
His mind pulled him up to a conscious state. Awake now, he realized it was the pager which had triggered a rather bizarre set of images, now mere fragmented memories.
“I should really see a shrink,” he muttered to himself.
Colin Fahey had barely turned off the pager and checked the telephone number on the illuminated crystal when his telephone began ringing. The digital number blinked on the telephone handset. It was the DL’s office number followed ominously by the numbers 11-99. Colin involuntarily caught his breath when he saw the last four numbers.
Eleven-99 – the universal police radio code for “officer needs assistance” – means much more than it implies. Broadcast only when an officer is desperate, in extreme danger facing a potentially deadly situation, or worse, the code was rarely used. In over twelve years with the Department, Colin had heard the code broadcast less than a half dozen times. He had never seen it on his pager or telephone.
Still groggy, Colin’s mind was racing as he rolled out of bed and grabbed the portable telephone from the bedside table. He walked out on the balcony of the second floor apartment, so as not to further disturb Claire, who had somehow managed to sleep through the racket. Colin glanced at the clock radio. It read 3:46 a.m.
The balcony overlooked the Pacific Ocean in South Mission Beach and the cool, damp night air of March further cleared his head as he depressed the receiver button on the phone. Lt. Woodruff did not need to identify himself. Colin would have recognized that gravelly voice anywhere, in any language.
“Fahey? This is Lt. Woodruff at Central. Your team’s on call. Get down here ASAP. We just lost one and its real bad.” The Lieutenant was professional, but obviously on edge.
“Who? When?” Colin replied.
“Pete Castillo, about…40, no 45 minutes ago,” Woodruff answered. “Looks like he walked in on a burglary, ambushed. Probably a shotgun to the face. Listen, the patrol units are still trying to put things together. There’s at least one more civilian 11-44, maybe more. Just respond directly to the scene – 833 G Street. I’m trying to get the rest of your team up and going, probably Team One, too.”
“Any suspects?” Colin asked.
“Not yet. I said they’re still trying to put it together down here,” Woodruff replied tersely.
“I’m on my way. Be sure to get the lab team out.” Colin added unnecessarily. Woodruff already had, Colin knew it and he felt foolish for saying it. Even more so when Woodruff sighed heavily on the other end of the line. “Sorry LT, just force of habit.”
“No offense taken. Just get moving,” and Woodruff hung up.
Colin paused for moment to gather his thoughts and shake off the last remnants of sleep. He gazed out over the ocean. In between the usual March storms, it looked more like Lake Pacific tonight. The air was clear and quiet, the stars adding a surreal quality to what he had just heard.
Jesus, Pete Castillo, Colin thought. I’ve known him almost since I started with the Department.
They had worked as partners two summers in a row a few years ago. Once as a tactical unit team in the Heights and then on the Ocean Beach Enforcement Team. Pete had been so patient with Colin while he worked through his rookie clumsiness. Colin had gone onto investigations, first Vice, then up the ladder to Homicide, where he had been for three years. Pete was happy to stay in Patrol, not even opting to take the Sergeant Examination. They had been fairly close, socially, sharing a drink or two over the years. Colin shivered. Reality was catching up with him.
Colin returned to the bedroom and grabbed what he believed to be enough clothes and headed for the bathroom. Claire was still asleep and he tried hard not to wake her. He washed his face and ran a brush through his thick strawberry blonde hair, just starting to gain some gray. He forced some Murine in his eyes and looked into the mirror.
A longtime surfer, he usually lost his tan in the winter months, protecting his body from the cold water with a wetsuit. Working Homicide had not helped the tan either. Not to mention his weight. At five foot nine inches – on a good day – he carried his 185 pounds pretty well. But now looking down the gun barrel at forty, some of that pectoral muscle was beginning to drift south and the abdominals were starting to turn into a belly.
Dressed, Colin returned to the half-light of the bedroom to find Claire sitting up in bed. He must not have been that quiet.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“I’ve got to go out. An officer’s been killed,” Colin answered as calmly as possible. He tried not to worry her. The past two years had been the best he had ever known, and she was the reason.
Looking into her brown eyes with the little gold flecks, Colin had immediately been drawn to Claire that day at the bank where she worked as an assistant manager. Her long chestnut hair and trim figure had not hurt either. After their first date, he knew he could trust her implicitly, and did. She had been a breath of life coming after a stormy, often angry six-year marriage. Claire had even supported him when he decided to quit drinking, standing by him during those shaky first few months. He truly loved her.
“Oh, no,” was all Claire could muster, but her eyes conveyed all her fears.
“It’ll be okay,” Colin lied. “I’ll be back a little later. I’ll call if it’s going to be too late.”
Claire started to get out of bed to follow Colin to the door.
“Don’t get up. It’s late…or early, whatever,” he chuckled softly in an attempt to comfort her. He kissed her gently on the lips and then the forehead. Smiling, he winked and went to the door, clipping his badge and holstered pistol into his waistband. He grabbed a bagel from the kitchen counter on the way out, certain he would have enough coffee soon.
After double checking the lock on the front door, Colin made his way quietly downstairs to the carport. Normally he would have a Department vehicle assigned to him, but his was in the shop overnight being serviced. He was grateful for that tonight. It would give him a chance to clear his head and not listen to the radio chatter on the short trip Downtown. He climbed into his Mercury Cougar and turned over the engine. Selecting a Doors tape, he slipped it into the cassette player. The strains of “L.A. Woman” played as he left the beach and headed for the I-5 South.
As Detective Fahey took the 10th Avenue exit, Jim Morrison was bellowing, “Gotta Mojo Risin’!” Colin had always wondered what that meant. Now, however, was not the time to think about Morrison’s railings, or so he thought.
About the time Fahey was splashing water on his face, another police pager was going off across town in a one bedroom apartment in the bedroom community of Clairemont near I-805; and going off, and going off. Then the telephone began to pulse and after four pulses the answering machine went off: “Hi, name, time, and number and I’ll get back to you. Thanks!”
“Amadiana? Amadiana, are you there? If you are, you better pick up the goddamned phone,” growled Woodruff’s voice.
This last nocturnal interruption was enough for an already testy Sharleen Miter. It was bad enough her carnal partner had fallen asleep and begun snoring during their boozy coupling an hour earlier. Now she couldn’t even get a few hours uninterrupted sleep next to her amour de jour.
Sharleen, none too gently, reached over and whacked the slumbering form next her in the side of the head with one of her beefy hands.
“Wake-up, Joey!” she almost yelled. “The fuckin’ phone’s for you!”
“What the fuck!” Joseph Amadiana shouted sitting bolt upright. Stuck in that limbo state between intoxication and hangover, Joe tactically stopped short of asking, “Who the fuck are you?”
“The phone’s for you, asshole!” Sharleen whined loudly. Joe could now hear Woodruff’s voice commanding him to answer.
Still not quite sure what was happening, Joe lifted the receiver and managed a barely intelligible “Yeah?”
“Amadiana, is that you?” and not waiting for an answer, he continued, “This is Lieutenant Woodruff at Central. You awake yet?”
“Yeah, it’s me, Lieutenant,” mumbled Joe, looking at Sharleen who had now hauled her more than Rubenesque form from the bed and was heading for the bathroom. Oh jeez, tell me I didn’t, he thought.
“Get it together Amadiana, we have an officer down and your team’s on it,” said Woodruff, and paused. “Amadiana, are you there? Wake up!” he bellowed.
“I’m awake, Lieutenant,” replied Joe, as the pager on the bed stand began to chirp again.
I’ve got to get it together here, thought Joe as the pre-hangover headache began to take hold of the front of his head.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant, you kinda got me at an inopportune moment,” Joe said sheepishly. Then looking towards Sharleen sitting on the toilet through the open bathroom door, urinating and releasing a cavernous fart, Joe thought this must be what Hell is like. Or maybe this was Hell and he was already there.
“I’m so sorry,” snapped Woodruff.
“Who is it?” asked Joe, finally deciding he was still alive.
“Pete Castillo,” replied Woodruff, and then, anticipating Joe’s next question, he added, “He died at the scene and we’ve got no suspects. There is one, maybe two more dead civilians at the scene. I’ve already got a hold of the rest of your team and Sgt. Bach’s team is already on the scene. You’re meeting them there.”
“Where?” asked Joe, now wishing he had stopped drinking at 7:00 p.m. as he had planned instead of 2:15 a.m.
“The command post is at 800 G Street,” answered Woodruff a bit more civilly.
“Did you call the lab?” asked Joe, regretting the question as it left his lips.
“Yes, Goddamnit!” barked Woodruff, “Why do every one of you fuckheads ask me that! Just get your ass down there Amadiana. And don’t go back to sleep.”
Woodruff ended the conversation by hanging up.
Joe stood up from the bed, a condom still strategically attached to his flaccid member. “At least I covered up.” he thought as Sharleen exited the bathroom wearing an elasticized moo-moo so colorfully grotesque it looked like Walt Disney had thrown up on it.
“Thanks for the wonderful evening, Joey,” said Sharleen her voiced dripping with sarcasm. “Oh, and if you feel like giving me a call…don’t!” she barked, slamming the door to the apartment behind her.
Joe staggered to the bathroom and turned on the shower; cold.
Aw Jeez, that cow didn’t even flush, thought Joe as the first wave of nausea hit. He stepped into the shower, the icy cold water inducing a fit of retching. He felt like his stomach was trying to escape out his mouth.
The fit passed and he rinsed himself quickly. As he toweled off, he looked into the mirror and death looked back. His face was grey and blotchy, with deep dark circles under his red, weepy eyes. He brushed his teeth and gargled, trying to rid his mouth of the sour taste, hoping he hadn’t used his mouth for anything other than drinking during the previous evening. The image started a new round of retching. Recovering, he dry-shaved his stubble and wondered if he could get a makeover from Oprah.
Although 5-foot-11 and only 165 pounds, he still had a small pot belly. What little hair he had left was almost all grey. Twenty years with the Department had taken its toll on Joseph Amadiana, physically and emotionally.
Joe threw on a pair of beige slacks and a polo shirt which appeared to be the least wrinkled of his wardrobe. He grabbed a heavy windbreaker and thrust a box of Tic-Tacs and a pack of Big Red chewing gum into one of the pockets. In the other he put his badge and worn .38 detective special. He poured three spoonfuls of instant coffee into a mug and added hot water from the kitchen tap. Grabbing his pack of Camels and Zippo lighter, he headed out the door of his apartment.
The combination of the hangover, first drag of his cigarette and brisk night air made Joe light headed and he sat down on the steps in front of his apartment to avoid passing out. Up to this point, Joe had not really given any thought to his task for the night – an officer homicide investigation. Eight years as a homicide detective had definitely jaded him. He was not even getting that feeling of anger over the loss of an officer.
Joe realized he could barely conjure up an image of Pete Castillo. Admittedly he had isolated himself from much of the Department for the past several years, and he felt more put out at having to respond at this time in the morning than anything else.
Somewhat recovered, Joe made his way to his company ride and started the engine. As he headed toward the freeway and switched the radio to frequency five, he became vaguely aware of the absence of radio chatter.
Well at least the drive will be quiet, he thought as he snubbed out his cigarette and headed South on I-805.
Continue to Chapter 3
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