I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 49
Two hours were left to get in some shut-eye. He had to sleep right where he was or he wouldn’t get any at all.
The steel container reminded him of the back of an army personnel carrier; it was better than listening to working girls and junkies in the basement room.
“I need your medallion, Cullen,” a captain from Internal Affairs Bureau ordered.
“You think it’s a coincidence?” Owen pleaded. “You think the fire sprinklers just happened to go off in an empty space with no fire anywhere?” Owen’s fingers squeezed around the leather, holding tight to the medallion he had earned.
“Give it to him,” the captain from the 19th demanded. The whole thing disgusted him, too. Internal Affairs guys always left him feeling like he needed a long shower.
“See your rep in the a.m.,” the captain said reassuringly. “There’s more here than meets the eye. Suspended or not, you’re a police officer acting in the interests of New York City. We’ve got your back.”
“Your weapon, too,” the IAB officer demanded.
“Unless it’s department-issue, you don’t have to give him nothing,” the captain told Owen. “You are unarmed, right? Detective Lieutenant? Right?”
“Right,” Owen agreed.
IAB and the captain stared one another down. Three in the morning and the captain from the 19th wouldn’t give an inch. “You try to frisk this man and I’ll file charges on you myself,” the captain said. “I guarantee it.”
His medallion was gone. No matter how many times he replayed it in his head, the weight of it leaving his hand remained unreal. He drove alone through the darkness, still hearing their anger. Suspended. Investigation pending.
Spencer is out here and they won’t listen. Nobody believes me.
They would have taken his service weapon, too. He had to lie to keep it. They nearly treated him like a suspect. They would have stood him against the wall and forced him to spread his legs for a pat down. “I’m a detective lieutenant!”
Six detectives from Intel Division, five guys and one gal, people who knew him well, had all gone out to North Bergen. Two detectives and four uniforms from North Bergen PD came along. All by itself, Intel Division was bigger than North Bergen’s entire police department, but everything was done formally; every protocol was observed. There was nothing there. Just a soggy warehouse.
Suspended. Investigation pending.
Owen drove out to Lake Success and pulled up to the curb. For a long time, he sat there staring at Mike and Shelley’s new house from the car. They were supposed to be his friends. Now they’re protecting Callie and the boys from me, he wondered? Why? How did that ever happen?
He didn’t have a plan; he only knew that his family was inside. His family, not theirs. Shelley putting herself in the middle and Mike letting her coach Callie without saying a word. What was that about?
Owen wasn’t seeing a dark house. He wasn’t thinking about the time, four o’clock in the morning. Callie and Liam and Casey were close enough that he could reach out and have them in his arms.
A few minutes were all he was going to ask for—just a chance.
He walked along the side yard to the back door. He could see the red light on the security system. He knew their old code by heart. He figured he would take the key from under the mat, enter the code, and go in. Not bother Mike and Shelley. He wasn’t coming to see the two of them.
He checked under the mat. The key wasn’t there. He ran his fingers across the top of the doorframe. Nothing. He thought about knocking, but he tried the knob first. Locked. The security system came on when he touched the knob. The system bleeped and flashed red. A 20 appeared on the control pad, then counted 19 and down through a twenty-second delay. He looked at the glass; he could punch right through and try the code for their old house, but as the numbers descended, he froze.
It hit zero. The shrill, repeating whirl sounded like it had to be waking the entire neighborhood.
“It’s just me,” Owen shouted over the piercing intensity. “Shut it off!”
Mike’s face appeared behind the glass.
“Jesus, Owen! It’s the middle of the night.” Mike turned his back to the door, obviously hiding the pad from Owen’s view as he punched in the code. “Are you nuts? You shouldn’t be here, man,” he told Owen firmly. “All the drunk-dialing, now this. You’re making things worse. You don’t want to force Callie to get a court order.”
Owen looked around Mike’s frame. Callie was coming down the stairs. She stopped at the doorway into the kitchen, twenty feet away from him.
“I’m not drinking, Cal,” he pleaded. “I swear! Please, Cal. I need you.”
From behind, Shelley came down the stairs and put her arm around Callie’s waist.
“Do you know what time it is, Owen Cullen?” Shelley screeched.
“Please,” Owen asked her. “Just let me kiss the boys goodnight. Then I’ll go. I promise.”
“I’ll call 9-1-1,” Shelley threatened. “You leave here! You leave us alone!”
The 9mm was pressing into his back. Owen reached behind him then immediately pulled his hand away like he had touched a hot stove.
Mike waved toward Shelley with both his palms open, then spun back to the door. “Buddy, you need to go,” Mike told him firmly. “Go and I’ll call you in the morning.”
Callie looked for a moment like she wanted to be angry, but she looked at him standing there, so pathetic, and her anger faltered.
“They took my medallion, Cal,” he cried. “I messed up. The thing on the news? That was me.”
Callie took a step toward him, but Shelley grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back. “You’ve moved on. You’ve got to tell him.”
Callie shook herself free and ran to the door, Shelley chasing. When she fumbled to open the deadbolt, Mike opened the door for her and put his bulk between Shelley and the door.
“Damn it,” Shelley hissed at him.
Callie reached her arms out to stop Owen from wrapping his arms around her but she grasped hold of Owen’s forearms and squeezed.
“I’m helping her rebuild her life, Michael,” Shelley argued. “We’re putting a roof over her and her kids.” Shelley eyed the telephone. Mike read her mind and gestured repeatedly for her to settle down. She shook a fist at her husband and cussed under her breath then turned to listen.
“He’s back,” Owen told Callie, speaking slowly. “And nobody in the department believes me. Cal, they had Spencer caught.
“He got away, that’s why they called me. To catch him. We were right, we were always right, you, me and Tee,” he said. “That job I had, I was in D.C. because I know about Spencer.”
Owen slumped down onto the concrete porch, taking Callie down beside him. They leaned their backs against the door. Callie’s hand stayed on his forearm as both his arms flopped limply at his sides. His long legs stretched out in front of him. He looked exhausted. “The department doesn’t believe me. They took my medallion,” he explained. “I went to North Bergen. Remember I said I was there? There’s nothing there now.
“I have ten thousand dollars, Callie. New bills. If I’m lying, how would I have that? How?”
“I don’t know, O,” Callie told him, petting her hand down his shoulder. “It will be all right. You do the right thing. It’s going to be ok.”
“What is a guy supposed to do? I worked my ass off. All the time!” he insisted. “Did I ever hit you, Cal? Did I ever once hurt the kids?”
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he pleaded for answers.
“I’m not drinking, Cal. You can tell that, right?”
She nodded yes. “What is a man supposed to do? Tell me! What’s a man supposed to do anymore? Just tell me what’s good enough, because I don’t understand! What am I
Callie wrapped her fingers in his big hand. He lifted her fingers and held them to his lips.
Shelley watched through the door, growing more agitated.
“There are children in this house, Michael,” she hissed. “It’s four a.m. Drunk or sober, he’s raving.
“I don’t care what you think. I’m calling the police!”
“Damn it, Shelley!” Mike shouted at her. “Put down the phone!”
There was fear in his voice. Behind him, Shelley had the phone in her hand.
“Owen, you have to leave. You need to go.”
“There is a man at my back door,” Shelley reported. “Owen Cullen. He’s a police officer. He carries a gun.”
She paused, listening. “Because his wife and kids are staying here,” Shelley reported. “Yes, Lake Success. That’s the address. He’s acting crazy.”
“Owen, get out of here!” Mike shouted. “Callie, let him go and you come back inside.
“Owen, you need to go. Now, before this escalates! Callie, tell him you’ll talk in the morning. Really! Callie, come inside. He’s not going to leave unless you come inside!”
It was all a continuation of the same bad dream. The whole night. Everything since Tremaine got killed.
Owen drove in the dark along Horace Harding Expressway. He turned on the police band as he got onto the Long Island Expressway, listening to Manhattan North dispatch and thinking about his medallion as he headed west toward FDR Drive into Lower Manhattan. All quiet.
“You feckin eejit,” he scolded. “Where is your brain? Acting like a fucking crazy person. Think! You didn’t make up Miller or Bishop or Nussbaum or any of them. The warehouse was flooded. That was no coincidence! You need to figure this out! Think!”
He wanted to call. Apologize for setting off the alarm. But Callie promised she would phone. She promised.
When he entered the Midtown Tunnel, he switched the radio to 77WABC and waited for Imus to come on at 6. He thought about going to morning Mass and then he thought about how weird that sounded. Except for Christmas Eve, he hadn’t been to Mass for longer than he could remember.
The DJ on the radio was talking politics. “Ed, what do you think of Americans for Patriotic Action’s new so-called anti-discrimination legislation? Do we need laws to protect the rich? I mean, we have laws protecting gays, laws protecting the handicapped, laws that make it a hate crime to attack people because of their race or their religion. We have laws protecting people who have no legal right to even be in this country! So why do we let everyone take free shots at our most successful, our most philanthropic citizens? What sort of liberal insanity is it that we just let class warfare rage unimpeded? Isn’t attacking people because of their economic status just as much a hate crime?”
Owen groaned and switched back to Manhattan North dispatch. God, I’m so tired, he thought. How did they just disappear so fast, like Miller and the techs never existed? There were all those snipers deployed. People had to have seen them. Doormen, the valets, the caterers.
Pulling his medallion? Suspension pending a hearing? For what? For working while on suspension? If they didn’t believe anything he said, then how could he be working? How did that make any sense?
“Nobody is dead! Maybe you should be thinking about that. Huh, Commissioner? Think about that!”
Spencer used several of the index cards to make meticulous notes: directions and travel time from Yonkers to Park Avenue, time needed to dress and pack supplies and to load the 4Runner. Everything that he needed was set into carefully arranged piles: boots and water, underwear/socks/pants/shirt/vest/jacket, Barrett/ammo clips/Sig Sauer/ammo clips/monocular, roofing mastic/scaffold/plastic wrap/duct tape/tar brush/rollers. He reviewed each stack and then set out two pallets and rolled a canvas tarp for his pillow. After setting his alarm, he had two hours to sleep, provided that he could get to sleep.
His juices were rushing; he felt the warmth moving through his chest. He knew the building, every balcony, every ledge, the elevators, the stairwells; every ingress and every way out was committed to memory a hundred times over. Park would be shut down, so west on 71st. If 71st was shut down, back alley to 72nd. If 72nd blocked, failsafe shift to boiler room 72nd apartments where he had pre-cached two gallons of water, electrolytes, twelve power bars.
Clear the mind. Sleep. Breathe. You’re in a hammock, swaying gently. Breathe. Waves are tumbled into the sand. Breathe. The breeze is warm. Feel it move across your neck. Breathe.
Spencer awakened stiff and aching. Sacking out inside the storage container proved to be a bad call. Lying on the cold metal left his neck stiffened. The cold had penetrated his jawbone. A dead, dull, mind-numbing pain pulsed from his right ankle up through his leg, hip, and into his guts. Every screw and plate inside him displayed like constellation points, each of them gnawing away at his operational capabilities.
He inhaled deeply, focused, and steeled himself. He had to reach out against the container wall and used his upper body muscle groups to spread the load and pressed through up onto his knees, forcing his body upright through the agony.
This is just you. No pack. No weapon. Just you. Stand!
Spencer swallowed the pain, blinked repeatedly until he had it together. Had other members of his unit been dependent upon him, he would have been obliged to stand down. His condition diminished the opportunities for mission success. Running the hill above Mercy’s farm had pumped him up, but now he knew better; he was bullshitting himself. In comparison to the mountains he used to run on regularly, that incline was nothing.
Then he laughed. “This is as close to feeling old as you’re ever going to get.
“This is the preview,” he chuckled, gritting his jaw against the hurt. “You’re never seeing the movie.”
The scaffolding, bucket, tool chest and gym bag were neatly positioned, ready to go. He stared at them; each one represented anguish.
Spencer acted out of character, slowly dressing himself layer by layer, procrastinating. He had devised a way to sink the pistol and three additional loaded clips inside doubled Ziploc bags within the five-gallon bucket of roofing mastic using clear monofilament fishing line tied to the teeth of the lid. He could retrieve the pistol by lifting the lid and reeling the line taut, but he could still open it for inspection without revealing anything. Now he stared at the sixty-five pounds and passed it over, permitting himself to load the lighter supplies first.
Every noise seemed exaggerated by the dark silence in the sleeping trailer park. Even the hiss from the rear tailgate sounded cobra-like as it lifted up. The dashboard clock showed 05:10. He had already set the back seat down the night before and made sure the scaffolding fit inside, but now he doubted that he could get it in without making noise. He managed to get the bucket lifted inside, then tilted it and rolled it into place rather than pushing it and scraping along. He tried to lift the scaffolding and lean it deep inside in order to softly let down the end he was carrying, but the effort was impossibly agonizing. He had to stop or he would risk blacking out. With no other choice, he had to accept the noise and slide the aluminum inside the cargo area. Turning immediately, he shut and locked the container, ignoring the noise. Ollie, the trailer park manager, wouldn’t like it, but it couldn’t be helped.
He pulled through the park without turning on headlights, then cranked the heater up to its highest setting and directed the air down at his legs. The morning news programming replayed the police department spokesman, who was indicating that the initial reports of a potential terrorist event had been discounted.
“Department investigators are now reassuring a frightened public that there was no actual threat,” the reporter said. “According to police, ‘the Departmental coordination and rapid deployment we have just witnessed offer absolute confirmation o
As he drove, the warm air helped; Spencer alternated driving and massaging his knees and thighs. 05:25. He was making good time and decided to drive south along the Harlem River to the East River, taking the longer route instead of driving the Hudson to avoid having to cross Manhattan on surface streets where there might well be a heavy police presence. Between the buildings, the sky was turning a beautiful rich dark blue wrapped by a thin ribbon of gold as he pulled in front of 110 East 71st at 05:52. But it wasn’t Vince inside; Spencer could see Walter, the Lawrence Taylor look-alike standing huge behind the front counter. He put the 4Runner in neutral and bobbed his feet on the floor. If he went ahead, would his legs carry him? He assessed the weight and the distances. Could he make it all the way down and around to the service elevator hauling a hundred-fifty pounds?
Could he wait? Would there never be a better time?
Exhaling hard, he blew out the negative air and stood in front of the glass doors until Walter looked up, folded his newspaper, and ambled forward looking menacing. Spencer knew he was recognized, but that made no difference to Walter.
“Walter, I need to offload before I park. Any chance I can use the placard?” Spencer beseeched. “Five minutes?”
The doorman looked at Spencer, checked his watch, then poked his head out and looked up and down East 71st. “Fifty bucks,” he said.
Walter’s stoic expression said “take it or leave it” loud and clear. Spencer gave in, grabbing the cash out from his front pocket and handing it over. Walter walked back to his desk and remained there, waiting for him to walk over to retrieve the handicapped placard.