This is the first chapter of the new novel I’m working on. Those of you who read my short story The Ferryman will already know the backstory of the main character, although, I plan to bring it out later in the first quarter of the book.
You must login to vote
I am open to any and all helpful critiques at this point. This is a work in progress.
Thanks -- Paul
THE DEVIL'S CIRCUS
September in LA. The circus wouldn’t hit town for another month, but the advance scouts were slinking about.
It was an hour before dawn. Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Henry Cooper was lying in wait in the parking lot of a crumpling strip mall. The windshield of his dark blue Crown Victoria was blurred with the early season precipitation made up of heavy mist, but not actual rain. He kept the engine idling and the heater running.
The only businesses open so early in the morning were Rudy’s Donuts at the far end of the strip of cheap buildings, and Tornado Boxing Gym at the other. Cooper was parked in front of the ancient fitness center. A steaming cup of Rudy’s coffee and a bag of old fashion dunkers perched on the seat next to him. Inside the open gym doors, a half-dozen fighters looking like bad extras from a B-movie were going through individual routines.
Cooper thought he was paying attention to his surroundings, waiting for Jack Rafferty to appear, but suddenly there was a body standing next to the open driver’s side window.
“You waiting for me?”
Cooper’s head whipped around. He hated being caught out, but played it cool. “You get up damned early, Jack.”
“Have to get the roadwork in sometime.” At forty-six years old, Rafferty stood six-foot-two. His lean frame held a hundred-and–eighty pounds of packed and knotted muscle. He wore his dark hair short, giving free reign to the lines and creases of gaunt facial features. Cooper had no doubt that after than twenty-five years on the job, Rafferty could still fit into his original academy uniform.
The sweet odor of heated sweat oozed through the double layers of Rafferty’s sleeveless sweatshirts. His muscular arms were slick with misting rain.
“We need to talk,” Cooper said.
Rafferty looked into the gym, fixated on finishing his workout. “Forty-five minutes going to make any difference?”
Cooper raised his cup of coffee. “I have supplies and paperwork. I’ll be here when you’re done.”
Rafferty nodded and trotted into the gymnasium.
Three-quarters of an hour later, he slid into the passenger seat of Cooper’s plainclothes sedan. Rafferty had his own cup of coffee, but snagged one of Cooper’s dunkers.
“Don’t have no calories if somebody else buys them,” he said, taking a bite and chewing with pleasure.
Cooper set down the report he’d been reviewing. Streaky gray daylight leaked through the dark clouds outside the now steamed up windows. He rubbed his eyes.
Rafferty watched him. “I’m sure as hell glad I don’t have your job. You look like crap.”
Rafferty nodded. He popped the second half of the donut into his mouth.
“When is your next fight?” Cooper asked.
“Two weeks at the Fight for Life charity benefit.”
“Aren’t you getting a little too old to be trading punches?”
“They can keep me out of the Police Olympics because they set an age limit of thirty-five, but as long as there are firemen willing to take it on the chin from a cop, I’ll continue to fight in the Guns and Hoses tournaments.”
The two men looked at each other.
Rafferty cut to the chase. “So, how bad are you going to screw me?”
“What makes you think I’m going to screw you?”
“Deputy chief’s don’t wake up before dawn to ambush detectives. They sure as hell don’t wait patiently while the detective finishes his workout. And they never, ever, buy the donuts unless they want to make you do something you don’t want to do.”
Cooper raised his eye brows and nodded. “How long has it been since Cory Verdon killed himself?”
Rafferty took a beat. “Two years.”
“For two years you’ve been hiding, doing administrative work, shuffling papers, and counting widgets.”
“I wasn’t the one who removed me from the field.”
“That was procedure. You’re the one who never made the move to get back into the field.”
Rafferty was silent. He sipped his coffee.
“It’s time to come back into the fold, Jack,” Cooper said. “I need the Ferryman.”
Rafferty swallowed. The nickname still haunted him. The image of the ferryman who took souls across the river Styx had been appropriate when he was known as the best interrogator on the department. However, that was before he actually delivered Cory Verdon to Hell.
“I don’t know if he’s around anymore,” Rafferty said.
“You didn’t kill Verdon. He took his own life.”
“Tell it to my shrink.”
“It’s time to get over yourself.” Cooper waited for a response. When he didn’t get one, he continued. “Followng a plan devised by Assistant Chief Thorpe, Chief Braddock has ordered the centralization of the geographic area sex crimes units at the bureau level.” The LAPD was broken down into nineteen geographic areas grouped evenly under the umbrella of four bureaus. Cooper was in charge of West Bureau. “You’re the most experienced sex crimes detective I’ve got. I want you to run the West Bureau unit.”
The two men were silent. Cooper waiting. Rafferty thinking.
“No,” Rafferty said eventually. He sipped coffee.
“I could order you.”
“You could, but you won’t.”
“No I won’t, but I also know you don’t want to spend the last few years of your career in obscurity. You’ve always been the guy who wanted to make a difference.”
“Only rookies think they can make a difference.”
“Don’t dance with me here, Jack. You’ve spent two years licking your wounds. You’re not perfect – so what?”
“I pushed Cory Verdon until he killed himself. I was convinced he was guilty. Without that kind of faith in my own judgement, I can’t do what I used to do.”
“Hogwash. If we all stopped doing our jobs because we make mistakes, all of us would be on welfare.”
“My mistake cost a man his life.”
“Yeah? And how many suspect’s have you put away where they can’t hurt other victims? One screw up, no matter how big, doesn’t wipe out all the good work that went before. I need you, Jack. The city needs you. This is what you do, who you are. You’ve done your penance, it’s time for a comeback.”
Rafferty sat quietly before asking, “Didn’t the department just decentralize the homicide units?”
“Yeah. Ain’t bureaucracy grand?”
Jack broke off half of another donut. “Why isn’t a lieutenant or a captain heading up this madness?”
“No money in the city budget.” Cooper kept his excitement low key. Rafferty was coming around. “Are you saying you can’t handle the job?”
“No. I’m trying to figure which bureaucratic twit is going to think they’re in charge.”
“That would be me.”
Rafferty raised his eyebrows. “I thought you wanted me to take this job?”
“Life can’t be all peaches and cream, but I’ll give you a free hand.”
“How many times in the last twenty-five years have I heard that lie?”
“Have I ever lied to you?”
Jack digested the question along with the remaining half of the second donut.
He took a sip of coffee. “No,” he said.
“There is one catch.”
Jack laughed. “There always is.”
“You’re starting from scratch. There’s nowhere yet to house the unit, there are no cars or computers available, and no budget for any new equipment.”
“Give me a break. Who’s going to staff the squad?”
“We’ll pull the sex detectives from each of the geographic areas.”
“You want me to do this, I get to pick the personnel – starting with Lurch.”
“That was way too easy. When does the anvil drop on my head?”
“You can handpick your detectives if you promise me you’ll be up and running in a month.
Jack almost snorted coffee out his nose. “From scratch? Why?”
“It’s political. Thorpe is under a mandate from Braddock to renovate the department’s detective configuration. Rumors are he isn’t moving fast enough. The chief could shift him sideways, and Assistant Chief McKay is slavering to take over – not a good thing.”
“I take it Thorpe is your rabbi, and McKay has other favorites.”
“Right, but it’s also much more,” Cooper said. “LAPD’s rape clearance rate is in the dumper. The filing rate in cases where there is an arrestee is even more of a joke. With rape being the only sex crime statistic considered by the FBI’s national figures, nobody gives a damn about other felony sex crimes. Can you tell me the difference in the trauma between a rape and a force oral copulation or a child molest?”
“You’re preaching to the choir,” Rafferty. “I’ve been spouting these complaints for years.”
“Exactly why I need you. You know what you’re up against. Right now, Thorpe is on our side. He wants to make a difference. McKay, on the other hand, thinks women and children are just another special interest group. If he can shuffle Thorpe off to the side, sex crimes are going to be ignored again in favor of gangs and narcotics. We have to get these units up and running successfully before McKay can get his knife into Thorpe’s back.”
“And you think the area captains are going to sit still while I chip away at their empires? They’re not going to want to give up resources and personnel. There’s going to be a crap storm.”
“Not your problem. I’ll run the gauntlet with the captains. You speak with my voice. Anybody complains, tell ‘em to see me. Just get it done.”
Rafferty eyed another of Cooper’s donuts, but restrained himself. “Sounds like it’s going to be a wild ride. Can I have a couple of hours before I give you a decision?”
Cooper gave Rafferty a sharp glance. He’d known the man a long time, but Cory Verdon had done more damage than just killing himself. Cooper needed Rafferty, but in some ways it was a desperate gamble. “What are you going to do, ? Think about it?”
“No. I’m going to pray about it.”