Authors: Anthony Thomas
Twist of Justice
Chief Dexter Pate loosened his tie, brown with pink and green psychedelic swirls, and leaned back in his chair. Captain Davis scribbled on his notepad as Pate
asked me questions. I was thinking about that tie. Pate must have bought it in the 1970s and still thought it was hip.
“Detective Jackson, did you punch the Assistant District Attorney Dave Robinson in the face in court today?”
I didn’t answer right away. Captain Davis never looked up at me. He just kept writing. The chief was waiting for my answer. I held him out a little bit longer. The captain looked at me.
“Jared, I want to remind you that you can answer these questions. And please be truthful. This is not a criminal procedure but an administrative procedure. You have already been read the Garrity Rights and you waived them. Now I am only going to ask one more time. Did you…”
“Yes, sir! I punched him in his face and it felt good doing it. I mean, C’mon! He just let a pedophile go free because he didn’t use the evidence I presented.” Both of them stared at me.
“Okay! Chief, I apologize
but I worked by butt off trying to nail that guy and put him in prison where he belongs. But now, instead of him making car tags, he is coloring books and planting tulips at Bryce Mental Hospital.”
Chief Pate sat up in straight in his chair. “Detective Jackson, you do understand that you can be terminated for this type of behavior, correct?”
I looked him in the eye and nodded. I never liked him anyway. Since he threw his hat in the ring to run for Sheriff, he had
He micromanaged everybody. He was bad enough before, but now it was backfiring on him. Everybody felt it. Arrogant wasn’t the word. Self-satisfied was more like it.
“Yes sir,” I replied.
“OK! I’m going to review all of this—including your personnel folder—and make my decision tomorrow. In the meantime, you can try and influence my decision by impressing your chain of command tonight by going over to Judge Middlebrooks’. He wanted to talk with you as well. He is expecting you to show up at 9:00 PM sharp. And remember, anything else tonight and you will be looking for another job.”
I got up and walked out. I was glad to get out of that office. I still had my badge and gun but tomorrow might be different. I really didn’t care anymore. I decided I would go home and run on the treadmill and throw the free weights around to burn off steam before going to see the judge.
I’d wanted to go private investigator for about a year now. My last partner had quit the force and started a little agency. He asked me to join him many times when we talked over my frustrations, but I always said, “Not right now, but soon.”
This night, I believed
was finally here. I’m 43, 6’3 and weigh 255. Maybe it is time to get out of politics. Yes, I said politics
After all, that is what policing has come to. Hasn’t it?
I checked out a mirror. Some people say I look like Terry Crews, the actor and former defensive end. After all, I had played football too. Maybe I could bust into the Hollywood scene. Nah--I loved being a cop. It was just that lately it was starting to disgust me on many levels. Well,
the Chief would solve that problem for me tomorrow if he decided to fire me.
* * *
On my drive to Judge Middlebrooks’ house, I called my girlfriend Charlotte and left a message that I would call her later tonight when I was done meeting with the judge.
I let my window down at nose level to allow fresh air to circulate and restore my energy. The air was moist but cool with drizzles of rain pelting the windshield. It was dark. There was nothing around me but this shiny wet two-lane highway and a yellow right curve road sign.
That was a gunshot! I jumped in my seat. I stopped my car in the middle of the road. I didn’t know where that shot came from but I wasn’t about to just drive up on whoever was shooting. Was someone hunting--at this time of night? I saw a clearing up ahead just before the curve and pulled off the road unto it. But, it sounded almost like a firecracker. I hoped that it was, but my better instinct said no. I had an uneasy feeling in my gut. I knew it was a gunshot. I served 10 years in the Army with the 5
Special Forces Group and had been a police officer now for close to 8 years and it was no doubt in my mind. That was definitely a gunshot.
I grabbed my Glock .45 from the console and racked a round in the chamber. Wherever that shot came from, I wanted to be ready.
I let my driver window down further to listen and stay watchful of anything that didn’t look friendly. I eased my car back on the road. Just as I negotiated the curve, I saw a car pulled off to the side of the road with the lights off. I stopped. I didn’t want to get any closer until I knew for sure that someone knew my location in case I needed backup. I called 911 and gave the dispatcher my name and badge number, and a brief description of the car from what I could see in the dark from about 500 feet and I told the person on the line about the gunshot and that I was on Alabama route 298, west of Highway 11.
“10-4 Detective Jackson, units have been dispatched to your location, be safe,” she replied. I hung up, and pulled onto the side of the road and shut my car off and took the keys out of the ignition. I clenched my .45 and grabbed my badge from the sun visor. I got out of the car slowly and left the door ajar. Fortunately had I turned the headlamps off before getting out. I didn’t want to be seen as an easy target in case the person who fired the shot was still around.
I eased my way up to the black Mercedes Benz, looking through the windows as I made my way up to the driver side door. To my surprise, nobody was there. I heard rustling somewhere, an animal escaping into the darkness. Then I realized someone was getting away! I quickly moved around to the other side of the car and just as I stepped off into the grass, I tripped over a body on the ground. I now knew why I heard a gunshot. I quickly got up but it was quiet. No more rustling, no bugs making noise, and no scared animals running. All was quiet and I knew better than to go off in a blind search in the dark.
I stayed low near the car so that I wouldn’t be in silhouette. I took a close look at the person lying on the ground. She was probably in her 40’s, blonde, and from the gold bracelet and diamond rings she was wearing, she appeared to be one of those rich white ladies who spend their waking hours shopping and reading fashion magazines.
I pulled out my cell phone to call 911 again. I paused when I saw amber lights in the distance. As they got closer, I examined the scene again, mentally taking in every detail I could before it became swamped with crime scene units and the news media I’m sure had their sources as well.
I walked to the other side of the car and realized I didn’t have a flashlight on me. I quickly holstered my gun and held my hands out with my badge facing the headlights of the patrol car. Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore were still fresh on a lot of people’s minds. Everybody was mad about cops shooting black people and I hoped that had nothing to do with this. Some white nut might want to turn the tide by taking out a black cop just for good measure. The patrol car stopped and two young white officers got out with their guns drawn. I tensed up.
“I’m a police officer, here is my badge.”
The first officer looked at my badge and ID and recognized me. “Detective Jackson,” he sighed and holstered his weapon. He turned and faced the other officer, “He’s one of us!”
The other officer holstered his weapon and walked up closer to his partner and me. I was glad to see it was Chad Caddis, an officer I trained when he was a rookie. Chad introduced me to the other officer, a serious-looking kid with straight brown hair and brown eyes. We shook hands and quickly got back to business.
“Chad, we have a dead body on the ground on the other side of the car and a suspect who ran into the woods as I came up about five minutes ago.”
“Okay, Detective,” he looked at his partner, “Turn on the spotlight and shine it into the woods.”
Chad called in the license plate and then we walked over to the body to wait for the response from dispatch. He aimed his flashlight at the victim’s face. She was pretty. He lowered the light slowly to her torso. There was blood all over her that seemed to come from the small red hole in the center of her chest.
“Yep, there’s no doubt she was shot, detective, and with a small caliber round at close range it seems.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, “I did not check for any identification because of the unknown subject in the woods.”
“So detective, what brings you out this way?” he asked as he started looking around I suppose for the woman’s purse.
I knew the drill. Chad was following protocol, asking questions because he had to do the Police Report. “I was going to visit Judge Middlebrooks at his home but I think I got lost somehow.”
He nodded with a smirk, “It wouldn’t have anything to do with you punching out the District attorney in court today, would it?” I gave him my best I-don’t-know shoulder lift. He knew it was bullshit.
“Yep detective, you missed your turn about three miles back. You should have turned left on Highway 11 and then got on route 71 North.”
I glanced over at the other officer. Chad looked also. “He’s my trainee.”
“Got anything, Bill?”
“No sir, nothing so far.”
“Ok, go ahead and shine your light over here by Chad and me so we can secure this scene.”
The Dispatcher came over the radio. “Headquarters to Papa 294!”
Chad keyed his handheld radio mic, “Papa 294; go ahead.”
“Papa 294, the 10-28 you requested information on, comes back to a Julia Middlebrooks.”
The mention of her name startled us all and then we looked at the body. Chad looked at me and then reluctantly spoke into the mic again.
“Papa 294 to headquarters, do we have anymore 10-18 on this subject and also a description?”
“Standby Papa 294.” A few seconds passed and the dispatch was back on the air.
“Headquarters to Papa 294, that is affirmative. Subject is Julia Middlebrooks, Date of Birth 04/01/72 with blonde hair and blue eyes, 5’2” in height and 127 in weight. The address on file is 4750 Country Club Lane, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.”
“10-4 Headquarters,” said Chad somberly, “that subject is going to be our 10-89.”
It seemed like the dispatcher took a minute to digest the reply and came back on somberly, “10-4, I will notify homicide and the CSU’s and change the call sign to 10-92.”
Police 10 codes are used to keep the nosey ear hustlers such as the media and private citizens who have scanners, from knowing what we are talking about. 10-89 is for dead body and 10-92 is the code for murder.
It did not take long for the word to spread. There were five reporters, two helicopters, and a few onlookers who probably were asleep until they saw all the flashing lights and heard the helicopter circling in the air. K9 units were already in the woods searching for the unsub, which is cop shorthand for “unknown subject.” The scene got chaotic quickly and my biggest concern was trying to keep everybody including other officers from trampling over evidence until CSU arrived.
Once CSU arrived, they put up a shelter over the body and started collecting evidence from the crime scene. I couldn’t help but wonder if our unsub was still out in those woods watching us. I figured he might be gone with the helicopters circling the area with that bright spotlight they use. Still I was not sure.
* * *
Chief Pate walked under the yellow crime scene tape after speaking with Bill
who was logging everyone’s name at the scene. He spoke with Chad first and I saw Chad point him over to me.
“Detective, what do we have so far?” he said buttoning his suit jacket.
I assumed he needed something to go on before he did his press conference. Since he had
put his hat in the ring for Sheriff, this was going to be a high profile crime.
“Chief, so far we have the body of a woman that has been shot in the chest. Her assailant ran off in the woods. K9 units are on the trail as we speak, but it does not look like a robbery gone badly.”
“That’s pretty thin Detective,” he said, a little disappointed. The way he gritted his teeth, it looked like he wanted to fire me right then and there. But he had to smile for the cameras.
He turned to face the reporters who were all hurling questions at him at once. They got quiet when he began to speak.
“Ladies and Gentleman, a short while ago, one of my officers discovered a body and at this point, we are still working the crime scene for more information. I will provide you more details in the morning in the City Hall Conference room. Thank you and have a good night.” He then got back in his car and drove away.
The other officers at the crime scene tape started expanding the tape as an encouragement for the reporters to leave. They all got the message except Charlotte Reed. She was a news hound and beautiful too I might say. She and I were going together, but we tried to keep everything professional. Charlotte had the warmest personality. Her big brown eyes, smooth cocoa skin,
and sexy frame could influence a man to do what she wanted him to do even if it meant he would get hurt in the process. We met at Johnny’s in Central Plaza after I had just testified in court on a murder a few months back. I bought her a hotdog, all the way, with mustard, ketchup, onions, relish, and sauerkraut. We had a few dates and I really liked her. Smart as she was she had a gentle way about her. I might have been falling in love. That was a real romantic hot dog.