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The streets were still wet that morning, the dark and stormy night seemed to have cleansed the asphalt of the previous day's grime. As I made my way up the stairs and into the old station for my last day, I noticed how much everything had changed, yet nothing had changed at all. If only these walls could talk, I thought, the stories they would tell.
Captain Millhouse would be chomping at the bit to get to me. With all due respect it wouldn't bother me in the least if I never saw him again. Not after what he had done…
Being a homicide detective for 35 years, there wasn't much I hadn't seen. These days I just wanted out. The world had changed; I didn't understand it any longer. I had seen so much but knew so little. It was a cruel world and I was through trying to save it. I could feel the winds of change, and my ship had sailed long ago.
Sanchez came walking over, the hotshot rookie had been my partner for the last 4 months, cocky as ever, he was fresh off the beat and ready to save the world. The kid was good, but I would never admit it to his face. He was already too big for his designer trousers.
“Hey old man, how are ya feeling?” He was chewing gum and grinning, he was always grinning.
“I’m getting by” I grunted, making it obvious that I wasn't in the mood chit chat.
I took a sip of my cold black coffee. It had been almost a year since Caldwell had passed. Not a day went by that I didn't think about him.
“We got a lead on your guy last night. Found an acquaintance of his over at Riley’s. Says he won’t talk, wants to speak with a lawyer."
My blood started to boil as I thought about the Baker case. It was the last of the loose ends and I was determined to close the case. The guy had been a like a vampire, striking at night and leaving few leads. I had a bad feeling about this one, it wouldn't end well.
“And?” I tried to speak calmly.
“He’s being interrogated as we speak. We’ll get him to talk, don’t you worry. How was the doctor’s office, you going to live?” Sanchez said, as cool as a cucumber.
“Yes, I’m fine.” I answered, wanting to change the subject.
He leaned in closer, with an exaggerated sniff.
“You know, you really should quit, you’re not getting any younger.”
“Yeah yeah, when do I get a crack at this guy?”
“Relax, Swanson, we've got this under control, nice and easy today.”
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I was determined to get this guy to talk. Somebody’s got to do the dirty work, and these younger cops just weren't up to snuff. I took a seat at my desk, trying to ignore the shooting pain in my back, At 58 I was too old for this stuff. I couldn't get my mind off of the Baker case though; I wanted to nab this guy.
I pulled up the file that I'd come to know by heart. It had been almost two years since that first call, I could still smell the scene. I glazed over the file, thinking about that fateful day. It was not for the faint at heart, blood was everywhere. The victim was only 17. She had made the mistake of catching a ride with this creep, and it had cost her her life.
There had been five victims since, and we had been close on his heels, never quite able to catch him, my skin was crawling just thinking about it. We had recovered a hat, along with one of his fingers that he had lost in a knife fight with one of our uniforms.
The cop on duty had engaged the killer, and lost his gun in the process. In a valiant effort, he had fallen victim to the scumbag in the messy fight. We had a name, but he had many aliases. As the father of two girls it sickened me to think that this animal was still out there on the loose.
To be completely honest, I hadn’t been the same detective since this case, it really got under my skin. This one was personal. Caldwell had been on to him from the beginning. And he had been close, but this guy was always one step ahead.
Captain Millhouse had been talking to the reporters constantly in the days leading up to my partner's death. He loved the attention, and never turned down an interview. I can't say for sure he said too much, but he said a lot.
What happened to Caldwell may have been coincidental, but I didn't think so. Regardless, I had never forgiven Millhouse for his loose lips, and I never would.
I had been grasping at straws lately, doing everything in my power to get this guy. And now I was burned out. Johnson and Leebrick came by my desk to wish me well. We had been through a lot together over the years, Johnson had only 3 years until he could make his escape.
“So, what’s next, golf?”
"I don’t think so fellas, I would spend more time tracking down my ball than I do these perps.” I say and we all laugh. This is the part I would miss, shooting the breeze with the guys, the old school guys that had paid their dues and put their necks on the line for one another.
Throughout the day, many visitors dropped by and said their goodbyes. I reminded them that I was not dying, and that I may even visit. I thought about the interrogation room, at times wanting to rush in, lock stock and barrel. But I had little time to think about it as my attention was directed to another well wisher stopping by.
I spent the rest of my morning closing cases and boxing up memories. Lunch was at Mogul’s, and the guys pick up my tab as we rehash old war stories. I’m not used to all of the attention but my complaints fall on deaf ears. Oh well, it is my last day
Captain Millhouse joins us, and the pompous bastard actually stood up and gave a toast to a “checkered career” and a guy who has “walked the walk”. What an ass. Sanchez iwa grinning from ear to ear, thoroughly enjoying my embarrassment.
Back at the station, I inquired about the perp. After being told everything was under control, I went back to my desk to start boxing my things up.
My mind wanders back to the Baker file. I had faith in Sanchez and his abilities. Truth be told, the kid was leaps and bounds ahead of me at that age, and he has the go get 'em attitude that it takes to face the challenges ahead.
I had gotten most of my things cleaned up when Sanchez came rushing towards me. Gone is his cocky demeanor.
"Swanson, I need you in the interrogation room."
I dropped an old picture into a box and we hurried down the dark hall to the back.
"What's going on, what do we have? Has his lawyer shown up? What have you gotten out of him? " My mind was racing.
"I'll let you have a crack at it, just go in." He says, opening the door.
I had been down this hall countless times. I had gotten confessions out of hundreds of suspects in the bright and warm room. Although I wasn't exactly proud of what I had done at times to get them, I did what I had to do. I took a deep breath before going in. I hadn't even been properly briefed on the situation. I opened the door.
My heart almost kicked as the surge of excitement was almost more than it could stand. They were packed like sardines in the small room. It must have been nearly 40 of us. Luckily I wasn't packing heat at the moment.
"I'm guilty, I'm guilty! Don't shoot!" Johnson yelled in a high pitch voice, holding his hands above his head. There was a huge farewell banner hung up along with a decorative cake and refreshments.
After the handshaking and the hugs, I slowly begin to make my exit. There were no tears, at least not on my part. it had been a nice run, I'll admit, but the time was right. It was time to leave.
On the way home, I called my wife, Shirley, to see if she wanted me to pick up anything. My honey-do list had been growing for over a year, and I was actually looking forward to getting started. She had steaks planned for dinner and I was in the mood for a drink. I pulled into the lot of the liquor store, examining every car before I parked. There was a dog in the back seat of a small import, while a teenage girl waited in a white station wagon near the recycling bins. Force of habit I guess.
Inside the store, I picked up a bottle of Maker's and made my way towards the check out line. There were 4 males and 1 female in the store. The males ranged from roughly 25 to 45. The female was with one of the males, and looked worried. I snuck a closer look at the man, I knew the tattoos and the wrinkles on his weathered face. When he reached out to pay, I noticed a missing finger.
I took a deep breath and tried to steady myself. For the last 2 years one case had consumed me as I had been unable to crack it. Now, as fate would have it, I had finally come across the one that had eluded me for so long. As the cashier bagged the bottle I weighted my options. Retirement would have to wait just a bit longer....