Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Better opening for IF/NYPDB

I'm thinking of calling Inherent Flaws/NYPD Blood by a new title -- Betrayed. Does that work? It fits the whole idea of the book -- the cops, by the lead character, but society, by criminals...

Here's the new opening chapter.
In 1962, New York City Detectives assigned to The Special Investigations Unit of the NYPD Narcotics Bureau (SIU), arrested a French Television personality. His car had been shipped to New York from Marseilles, and hidden in secret compartments was 50 kilos (110 pounds) of pure heroin. With an estimated street value of 50 million dollars, The French Connection, as it was referred to, would be the largest single seizure of illicit drugs for years to come. It wound up becoming a book, and then became an Oscar-winning movie that glorifyied the police work. But that was really just the beginning of the story; what happened afterward has been a dark secret of the New York City Police Department.

As with all evidence, the seized drugs were taken to the NYC Police Department’s Property Clerk Office was located. The following year, it was transported to a Federal Laboratory in order to determine its origin. From there, Federal Marshals escorted all 50 kilos to Washington DC for a senate hearing on heroin trafficking. In 1964, it was returned to the NYPD and locked away under the protective gaze of the Property Clerk’s Office.

And quietly vanished.

Now at the time, the Property Clerk's Office was located at 400 Broome Street, within sight of 240 Center Street -- Police Headquarters, at the time, both of them old, cranky buildings that had been put up before God had teeth. There was already talk about moving everything to a new highrise close to Court Square, so maybe it would have been discovered that the drugs were gone, then. But that didn't happen in time for me.

The fact is, my part of this story ended nine years later. Inside Police headquarters. Just past midnight. My life going to hell, just like this city was going. Under siege by crime. Streets empty, silent and dark. Cold. Alone. The few people out always watching back over their shoulder. Yeah, the perfect version of hell.

I don't remember a lot about that night, but images still jump up in front of me. A line of cars parked across from HQ, under this row of ugly brick buildings going two, three, five, seven stories up. Rickety fire escapes dripping down the front of the tallest one, like a cancer, its arched windows looking like they wanted to hide from it. Stores on the ground floor all secured behind rolling metal panels. It's crazy to know that even here, the city’s never been safe.

The visions shift to my girl parked below one of those fire escapes. Top down on her brand new 1973 Eldorado convertible, even though it’s close to snowing. I can still smell it in the air. Smell her perfume. It's like she wants me to see her, wants to make sure I know I'm not alone. Put an ache in my heart to know she cared so much, especially after all I’d put her through.

Now I look back -- I know I should have just got in that Caddy and let her drive me away. Anywhere. Truth is, I thought about it for half a second. I just didn’t realize how bad off I was. Didn’t realize that if I did go into HQ, like I’d been doing for days now. Weeks? Didn't matter; that would be the end of it.

But I wasn't thinking straight, so almost zombie like, I walk across the street. Dark and empty, both ways. Jerky and crazy. Operations was almost finished shifting to One Police Plaza, several blocks south, and I was glad. This once grand dame was way past her prime, with her columns and half-hidden windows and sort-of balconies. She took up the whole narrow block. And the fat iron railings along the sidewalk, put there to keep you from dropping into the gullies that vanished into the basement’s emptiness, it’s like she was giving off this “stay away” vibe. Even the stupid dome on top made her look like she thought she was the capitol of someplace instead of too old to work in the modern world.

More flashes hit me as I get close to the entrance. How abandoned and disarrayed she looks. Nothing was left inside but a couple low-key, bare-bones offices, one of them oh-so-happily involving me. After that was done...after I was done for...the city would try to figure out what to do with this relic. Maybe tear it down and sell the land. Not a bad idea. At least it’d get rid of the bats flying around and screeching in the black, black sky.

Flash as I climb the steps to the main entrance. It's not easy, thanks to the cracks and chips missing in them. Another flash of me shaking so hard, I have to hold onto the banister. And the revolving door is in constant motion, waiting to sweep me in. And half the lights are either busted or missing, making the whole place feel like part of a Hitchcock movie.

Older and darker, inside. More lights burned out. The floor a mess. Shadows everywhere. The only guy I see is a cop sitting at this half-circle of a reception desk. He doesn’t even look up as I enter and whisper, “Hey.”

“Buono -- how ya doin’?” His voice softly echoes and booms.

“I...I been better,” I say, my voice soft and cracking. Dying. I can hear the death in it, even if he can’t. “Been a long day. All these lights missin’ – don’t maintenance care, no more?”

He grunts. Never takes his eyes off whatever he's reading. He has a lamp on his desk and a cushion under his butt; he's set.

I stagger down a corridor. Aim for the lockers next to the office that was crushing my life. That's when I finally pay real attention how quiet it is. Like nobody else is around. Had they already moved the last people over to the new building? I wouldn’t be surprised. That’d keep my secret safe, a secret that was finally shredding my world. Shredding me.

The corridor grows longer. Darker. Shuffling sounds whisper around me, fresh and new, echoing from everywhere. My breathing goes sharp. My eyes dart about, wary. I'm screaming in my mind, "Why're so many light bulbs gone from the fixtures?" That don’t make sense -- unless they’ve been removed. Make it harder to see into the darkness. See past the shadows. Perfect for an ambush.

I'm by the first door on the left. I unsnap the safety harness. Check my pistol. Peek in the room. Nothing but rows of freestanding lockers set up for the few people left in the place. Dark and dirty and empty and quiet and nothing but shadows. Even my breathing echoes.

Or is it mine I hear?

I don’t want to go in there, but God, I want out of this uniform, even more. No more being a cop. Back in street clothes. In my girl’s Caddy. Safe, again.

My shakes became sudden quakes of fear. I do that a lot, now, 'cause I finally realized what I got myself into, and the terror is neverending. Too late to second-guess, now.

I carefully slip inside. Creep past row after row of lockers. Get closer and closer to mine. I see no one. Nothing. I'm sweating, despite the cold. The building's so damn cold. I can watch my breath whisper in and out, like it's trying to escape. They weren’t even bothering with the heat, anymore. Maybe they kept at fifty...but no, no but it feels colder. Like ice.

I finally reach my locker and lean against it, damn near exhausted. I look down at my shaking hand. A thin trail of blood whispers over its skin.

Aw, – I got shot? I got hit? No. No.

I almost faint but slam my head against the locker. It hurts, but it stops me. Gets me back in control. I fumble with the lock’s combination. Run through it three times. Blood smears all over. It pops open. The noise bounces off the walls. I nearly jump out of my skin.

The shadows grow darker. Deeper.

I heard that shuffling sound, again. I freeze. Listen. Nothing but silence. Not even breathing.

I slowly pull off my coat. It doesn’t hurt, but something pulls sharp against my left shoulder. The shirt to my uniform is soaked with blood. I wipe my face. Blood smears over it.

I was hit. Crap, I was hit. Dammit. No keeping it quiet, now.

No, God, I can’t let ‘em know I’m hurt. They’re animals. They’ll take me down and tear me apart. I should take a shower. Oh, that’d be so good. Clean the blood off and warm me and –

I heard the shuffling sound, again. It's close. I start to quake, again. But then I think, maybe it’s my partner come looking for me. He’s a good cop; he’d be worried.

“Bobby?” I called. “Bobby, that you?”

Nothing. Not even the shuffling. Just silence.



A whisper of a sound comes from my right and I turn and find –

A gunman standing at the end of the lockers, raising a pistol!

Everything clicks into slow motion. I yank out my service revolver. Drop to one knee. Fire at him.

My first shot hits his left knee. The second rips through his thigh. Two more hit an arm and a shoulder.

He gets a couple of shots off at me. I feel something punch my side. Then he crashes against an office wall. Lands in a sitting position, his leg twisted under him.

I force myself to rise. Slowly. Carefully. Dizzy and in complete disbelief. This can’t have happened. It couldn’t of.

I inch up to him. Pistol ready but shaking in my bloody hands. Barely under control and hoping to God he isn’t gonna make another move. I hear voices. Footsteps running. Echoing. So far away. Getting closer. Taking forever. Why don't they get here, already, and –

The guy lifts his gun, unsteady.

I fire, again. The bullet explodes through his skull. Blood splatters over me. Covers me. I can't see, there's so much. I drop to my knees, about to pass out – and then I see it.

The gunman’s gold shield.

He's a cop.

A detective!

I just killed a NYPD cop in police headquarters!

“Man, there’s gonna be hell to pay for that,” I think as red covers my eyes and screaming surrounds me and I quietly drift towards darkness...and my trip to hell really begins.

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