Nick PT Barnum's Misdemeanor Homicide
If you enjoyed this short crime fiction you may like this one:
Pulling one hand from the warmth of his pocket, Detective Peter O’Brien bent down to grab the dead man’s chin, pushing his head to one side to get a better look at the gunshot wound. The small, charred hole had blood oozing out like a slow leak.
"This was the cause of his demise," he said. " Man’s got a hole in his head and life just poured out. The poor bastard.."
" With today’s technology we can’t patch up that hole, huh?" Fuentes replied.
"I don’t think so," O’Brien grimaced. " That hole just ended all his hopes and dreams."
"Well, maybe he didn’t have any hopes and dreams. I mean living here on the streets can really kill any desire to fulfill dreams. Am I right?."
O’Brien nodded, his face the very picture of contemplation. He looked around at the heart of the PT Barnum Housing Projects, about a dozen Bridgeport police officers watching their breath freeze over the crime scene. Then he looked over and saw the shift commander laughing hard in the yellow and blue strobe of the emergency lights. Captain Paul Wilson was also acting commander while Captain Frank Roque was on medical leave.
The shift commander walked over to O’Brien and the dead man. He glared at Fuentes, but quickly returned his attention to the dead.
"Okay, did anybody talk to this guy before he bit the dust?" asked the commanding officer as he blew warmth into his cupped hands with a couple of bursts.
" The poor soul was ten-seven when we got here,’ Fuentes replied.
The ten-seven was the police code for " out of service."As Officer Alfredo Fuentes just applied it to human life.
"Beautiful," said the shift commander. "Did anyone go through his pockets?"
"Not yet," O’Brien replied.
The shift commander blew several more bursts of warm air into his cupped hands and moved closer to the body. "Where the fuck are his pockets?"
"He’s got a pair of swimming trunks under the sweat suit," said O’Brien. " I think he keeps all his belongings in those pockets."
Fuentes grinned as he watched the shift commander straddle the body, one foot on each side of the dead man’s waist, and he began tugging violently at the sweat pants. The tugging moved the body a little away from the curb leaving a thin film of matted blood and brain matter on the asphalt.
" Watch for needles," Fuentes said.
"Needles?" he glared. " I wouldn’t have to be checking his fucking pockets if you guys were doing your job."
Fuentes nodded obediently.
With the yellow and blue strobe light dancing off of O’Brien’s pale face, he moved a step closer to Fuentes as if to give him some type of moral support. Peter O’Brien was a veteran of the Bridgeport Police Department. He had seen a lot of shift commanders come and go. He didn’t particularly like this one, but his day shall soon come too. O’Brien was a barrel chested, meaty man with a completely shaved head. His eyes were light blue, but that night the whites of his eyes were blood shot. The cold air also gave his pale head some redness. It was added color he really didn’t care for.
Officer Alfredo Fuentes was once a Jai-alia player in Milford. He was very strong, and his body would support that statement. He stood about six feet, and he had a receding hair line. His complexion was on the olive side, but that night, he too was redden by the cold February air.
The shift commander pulled his meaty hand out of the dead man’s pocket causing some change to spill out. There wasn’t enough for bus fare, but there was enough to make some noise on the street.
" I can’t find a wallet," he half shouted. " But I’m not going to keep looking. This dead son of a bitch stinks like shit. I’ll wait for the meat movers to come. I know you guys called them, right?"
" Of course," O’Brien replied.
"They should be on their way," Fuentes added.
The shift commander nodded slowly. " How many times was he hit?"
"Two times," O’Brien answered.
"I just see the one hole."
O’Brien lifted the body by the armpits revealing a second hole above the left shoulder blade. " Two times."
The shift commander nodded slowly again.
"I have some men asking questions," said O’Brien. " We should have another detail of officers coming by in the morning to continue the rounds of questioning."
"Yeah," he looked away. "Damn, can’t wait until the shift is over. I’m tired and I want to lay these bones down."
"Don’t know why this mother fucker decided to get shot on my watch. He couldn’t wait until my shift was over? That mother fucker!"
The two words that ran through O’Brien’s head were Mental Case. He couldn’t believe that someone actually gave the shift commander a badge, stripes, and sent him out into the streets of Bridgeport with a bad attitude. The city wasn’t a bad city, but it had its share of violence, filth and despair. O’Brien didn’t want to paint a pretty picture, but it had to be protected, respected, and treated like home. The night was long, but he didn’t really need the shift commander’s chorus of complaints. He gets that from the blue jacketed rookies who want to carve their names into the city as a super hero. After a while, they learn that it’s just impossible. They are so much better off just protecting and serving.
"Where the hell are the meat packers?" he shouted.
"They’ll be here, relax," O’Brien flexed.
His poorly aged line face moved closer to O’Brien and he tightened his lips. "Don’t try me."
O’Brien nodded but didn’t back down. The fact that O’Brien was able to keep a straight face, he knew he avoided a departmental complaint. The shift commander was very good when it came to issuing such complaints. He was the type of commander that would write you up even if you shook four times at the urinal. He was simply a son of a bitch.
The medical examiners finally arrived and motored up to the dead man. The driver of the ME truck jumped out first. He looked at the body which was sprawled on his back, legs in the gutter, arms partly extended, head facing the entrance to the projects. The dead man’s brown eyes were fixed under half lids. The expression was that of extreme horror and despair. It appeared to the naked eye that he knew he was going to be shot.
"Bullets was the cause of death," Fuentes said.
"Yeah, well with our legal system the way it is today, I bet with a good lawyer the murderer can get off easily with a slap on the wrist," said the lead ME.
Fuentes looked confused.
"Think about it, " he continued. " He will tell the jury that the man died of a heart attack because he heard the bullets coming, and then he’ll prove that in court."
Fuentes chuckled, but without disrespect for the dead.
A uniform female officer walked up to O’Brien and tugged on his jacket. She moved closer and lowered her voice. She wanted to tell him about a witness and she was acting as if conveying the information was simply an embarrassing display. Or perhaps it was the simple fact that she wanted nothing to do with the shift commander.
"What is it?" O’Brien whispered back.
"There’s a young woman who went into section B across the street. She told me that she was there when this man got shot. She said she was the one who called the police."
" She saw it?"
" Yeah, she said it was a thin black man wearing dark clothes. She said he shot the man twice and ran off toward Railroad Avenue."
" Two sides of Railroad Avenue," O’Brien half whispered. " A thin black male?"
It wasn’t much for O’Brien to work with. There were thousands of thin black males who wear dark clothes living in the city. He had to narrow the gap. He looked at the female officer and nodded vaguely. " Go chat with her. See if you can get me something more."
" Yes sir."
The shift commander started barking orders at the medical examiners. His arms were flailing like a madman. The expression on the medical examiner’s face was that of a flustered school child to whom the logic of a simple math equation had just been revealed. What really crossed the lead medical examiner’s mind was another death. The death he was considering was a beating. He wanted to pick up the corpse and beat the shift commander to death with it.
The medical examiners moved quickly as they tagged and moved the body off the street and into the wagon. O’Brien understood the shift’s commanders need to get the body off the road as quickly as possible. There was just no need for a dead man to be on the streets of this fair city.
The less eyes on it, the better.
© 2012 Frank Atanacio
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