By Steve Burns
Continued from Chapter 30.
Joe sat in his recliner at his apartment. The early morning sunlight filtered through the rain soaked curtains of his kitchen. Last night’s burrito still sat, uneaten, on the kitchen table. He took an occasional sip from the flat coke, now diluted by the melted ice. A small square bandage adorned his forehead where he had been sutured by Dr. Carrington. His hearing had almost returned to normal. He was very tired, but he could not sleep. In his hands, he slowly spun the business card which Dr. Carrington had given him the night before, contemplating the simple message; “One day at a time.” Joe had been sober now for almost twenty four hours, about twenty three hours longer than he had been in years.
He had been released from the hospital just before sunrise. The ride to his apartment with Scott Raines had been quiet. He was to be put on paid administrative leave. As a result of the shooting, however, Scott Raines had given him one week to decide what he wanted to do.
Joe had tried to sleep, but the dream came again. This time Joey had been joined by others. The faces of Alfred Schmidt, Donna Bosch, Tyrone Brown and the countless others he had seen die in the past floated by in the water as he held Joey’s lifeless body in his arms. No longer did Francine scream at him, but another figure appeared standing at the far end of the pool. It was Sheila. She was propped up like a scarecrow, roosters running around her feet, as she glared at him. She opened her hideous black mouth and cackled at him. Joe awoke, not with a start, but the feeling of an oppressive weight on his chest. He was not so much afraid, rather he felt helpless.
He made his way from the bedroom to his recliner, his sanctuary. Careful to avoid any news stations, he settled on a channel showing cartoons. The violent soldiers, chiseled and Aryan, skillfully destroyed everything in their path. The episode ended with the soldiers lining up and telling the kids at home to follow the golden rule and don’t do drugs.
“Oh, that’ll make ’em be good little Nazis,” said Joe out loud, before turning the volume to mute as a group of sewer dwelling turtles and a huge rat cleared the city of crime.
Joe had reached bottom. He knew it. Something had to change. He experienced what others have described as a moment of clarity. All he had to do was telephone Dr. Carrington. Just a start; maybe that was all it took. He snubbed out his cigarette in the overflowing ashtray and reached for the telephone. Before he could lift the receiver, it began to ring.
The first ring startled Joe and he recoiled. He simply stared at the telephone through the second and third ring. On the fourth ring he picked up the receiver.
“Hello?” he said.
“Joe, did I wake you up?” it was the voice of Scott Raines.
“No, Scott, I was just resting, watching the idiot box to unwind. What’s up?”
“I thought you might like to know we caught Jefferson.”
“Great,” said Joe, only a little excitedly. “Did you get the girl?”
“No, Joe, she is still out there. That is the reason I called. She called me at the hospital…”
“Hospital? What are you doing at the hospital?” interrupted Joe.
“Carl was shot.” replied Scott, then quickly adding, “Not seriously. He was hit in the…uh…buttocks.” He waited for Joe to make a joke. None came.
“He’s going to be all right?” asked an obviously concerned Joe.
“Yes, he will be all right. I am afraid Colin took a pretty good pasting as well,” continued Scott Raines.
“Colin took on Jefferson, one on one. He is going to be OK, too. I will explain what happened in a minute. I have a more pressing matter.” He paused. “Joe, we have identified Pete’s murderer as Sheila Masters. In fact, she killed the other two, maybe one other. We are looking into that right now. She just called the station and, not knowing who she was, they had her call me here. Joe, she thinks you killed her partner…”
“Wait a minute, Scott, I didn’t even fire my piece,” said Joe, defensively.
“I know that. Hell, we all know that. The fact of the matter is, she thinks you killed her friend, Tyrone. She said she will talk to you and give herself up to you alone.” Scott Raines paused. “She says she will kill someone else if she does not talk to you. Joe, you are off administrative leave. I am sending a patrol unit to pick you up. You must be at the office in fifty minutes to take her call.”
Joe was dumbfounded. Two minutes earlier, he had given up; nobody wanted him. Now Scott Raines stopped just short of begging him to come back.
“I’ll be there, Scott.”
“Thanks, Joe. We will work this thing out.”
“Sure, Scott, I’m sure we will. Listen, I’ve got to get dressed. I’ll be there.”
“I will see you when you get here, Joe.”
Joe hung up the telephone. He went to the bathroom, stripped, turned on the shower and climbed in. He kept the water cold and the shower brief. He quickly dry-shaved, brushed his teeth and combed his thinning hair. From the bedroom closet, he took his only neatly pressed dark suit. Wrapped in a dry cleaner’s plastic bag, one clean white shirt hung next to the suit. He pulled the shirt from its wrapper and slid the starched material over his damp skin. He found a pair of clean dark socks from the back of the dresser drawer and put them on. He took his dress brogues from a shoe box on the top shelf and laced them up. A subtle flowered tie of lavender and grey completed his outfit.
Scott had taken neither his badge nor his gun the night before. Joe quickly ran a wad of Never-Dull over the badge to polish it before clipping it to his waistband. He replaced the old ammunition in his Police Special and slid it into the holster on his waist.
Joe paused to look in the mirror. He was far from perfect, but it was an improvement. A knock at the door signaled the arrival of the patrol officers. Joe grabbed his pack of Camels and lit one before leaving the apartment.
Joe stepped off the elevator on the seventh floor and walked resolutely to the homicide office. On the ride to the station, the patrol officers had briefed Joe on the capture of Jefferson and the subsequent usurpation by the Feds. Joe had taken the news in stride. He was all business now, and what happened to Jefferson was not his problem. He was focused on one thing now, and that was the capture of Sheila Masters. It had finally come down to Joe taking this evil bitch off the streets.
Joe was greeted at the door of the homicide office by Shelley and Robert Joplin.
“Where’s Scott?” said Joe.
“Well, good morning to you,” said Shelley, put off by his abruptness.
“Not now, Trudeau. Just tell me where Scott is.”
“In the conference room, Joe. They have the phone set up in there.”
With a nod, Joe headed down the hall. In the conference room he found Scott Raines, two lieutenants and a captain. A tape recorder was hooked up to the telephone.
“Good morning, Joe. You know Lieutenant McElroy, Lieutenant Overstreet and Captain Walker.”
“Good morning, Joe,” they said almost in unison.
“Good morning, sirs,” replied Joe with a nod. He took a seat next to the telephone, pulled a cigarette from his coat pocket and lit it, ignoring the looks from the administrators.
Scott Raines smiled. “Joe, let me bring you up to speed.”
Joe held up his hand. He was in control. “I was briefed by the patrol officers on the way in. We need to focus on Sheila Masters. What do we know about her?”
“The Louisiana Prison Board just faxed her record to…” Scott Raines was interrupted by the buzz of the telephone intercom. He picked it up.
“Thank you, Nancy. Joe. It is her, line three.” said Scott, handing the receiver to Joe.
Joe took the receiver, breathed deeply and depressed the flashing button.
“This Detective Amadiana. Is this Sheila?” said Joe calmly. The others in the room listened silently to the conversation on the intercom.
“So, you know my name, asshole,” hissed Sheila.
“Please, call me Joe,” he replied, noting the southern twang in her voice.
“I’ll call you whatever I want,” said Sheila.
“Fine. I understand you want to talk to me,” Joe took a drag from his cigarette.
“That’s right, asshole. You killed my friend last night.”
“I sure did. Now, what is it that you want?”
“Your sergeant is a lyin’ son-of-a-bitch.”
“That he is,” said Joe, smiling at Scott Raines. “That aside, I understand you want to turn yourself in to me, personally.”
“Yep, you are going to be the one who arrests me, but…it isn’t going to be easy.”
“Well, why don’t you and I get the particulars down so we can get this started,” said Joe.
“You think you’re pretty fucking cool. Well, this is how it goes. I’m in Pacific Beach, you know where that is?”
“There’s this church on Grand Avenue and it’s got this daycare center, full of little kids right now. You be there in twenty minutes, or there are going to a lot of sad parents tonight. Any other pigs try to come in, I start slicing the little darlin’s up. See you soon.” Sheila Masters hung up the telephone.
“Jesus!” gasped Lieutenant McElroy.
Joe gathered himself for a second. “Let’s roll, I’ve got twenty minutes.” As he ran from the conference room he called to Shelley, “Trudeau, you’re with me.” He hit the elevator at a dead run with Shelley and Scott Raines. As the door closed he yelled out, “Captain, you keep those fucking hot dogs in SWAT out of there.”
“Right,” managed the Captain, suddenly realizing he took an order from a detective.
The trio made the parking lot in seconds and found a patrol car waiting. “Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach. Now!” Joe almost shouted. The young patrol officer peeled out of the parking lot, turning on his lights and siren, heading straight for the freeway. They now had seventeen minutes.
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