Riding shotgun in the blue and white, Ken Best, a barrel-chested 26 year-old patrolman, smiled as the car rounded the corner and the driver goosed it down Beach Avenue.
“She working?” Best asked.
“Don't know,” Lance Grimwood answered. “If she ain't? Plan B. Need my fix.”
Grimwood eased his foot off the gas as they came up on the corner of River.
Best looked out at the girls strutting, the cold breeze blowing on their scantily-clad bodies to no effect.
“Vice boys were here last week,” Grimwood explained. “A few girls are still in the joint, waiting for their pimps to bail them. As if.”
Best laughed as the girls nodded to him, some with defiance, others with plain old fear.
“Explains why it's deader than a nun's cunt. Where is she?”
Grimwood scanned the street, shook his head. “Damnit.”
“Wanna try 7th?”
“Negative. She don't go with Worm.”
Best pouted. He'd been looking forward to spending some time with her, but it wouldn’t happen. Time for something new.
They came up on a pair of girls dressed in flashy micro-skirts, a blonde, wide hips, wider derriere, and a raven-haired, skinny girl with store-bought fun bags.
“Stop,” Best said.
Grimwood pulled to the curb, and Best lowered his window. The blonde he’d seen here before. Her friend seemed new, so he turned to her and smiled. She spat on the ground. “No freebies.”
Best shrugged. “That's alright, Darling. We just like to party. Ask her, she knows us.”
The blonde smirked. “Go, V. They won't leave you alone if not,” she sneered, her eyes gunning down Best.
“Fuck,” V said.
Best winked at the blonde, who gave him the finger as her friend climbed in the backseat.
“Where we going?” V asked.
Grimwood looked at her in the rearview. “Nice place, where nobody’ll bother us. It’s our spot.”
Best nodded, then fetched a brown paper bag from under his seat. Out came a pint of bourbon. Best twisted the cap and brought it to his lips. He took a long swallow, then handed it to Grimwood.
Grimwood took his eyes off the road and drank. “Thirsty?” he asked V.
She sighed. “Let's get this done.”
Grimwood frowned. “Drop the attitude.”
“I fucking hate wasting time with a couple of drunks.”
Grimwood looked at his partner, and pouted playfully. “I think Missy needs to cheer up. Do we have something to get her in the mood?”
“Yep.” Best reached into the bag again, his hand coming out with a plastic baggie this time. He pulled out a couple of tightly rolled joints. Grimwood told him to wait as he pulled car into a dark alley running between two abandoned buildings. It opened up into a deserted parking lot.
“Alright,” Grimwood said as he cut the engine. “Light’em up!”
Best struck a match, put the flame to the tip of one joint. He handed it to his partner. Best lit the other, turned to pass it to her.
“This better be good,” V said as she locked her lips around it and took a deep pull.
“Not as good as what you're gonna get,” Grimwood said, laughing. He opened the door and slid out of the car.
Next thing she knew, both men were opening the back doors, and the one who'd been driving was pulling her out and tearing at her clothes.
The grass was very potent. Or the booze was. So V blacked out. She wasn't sure how long she was out, but when she came to, the driver was slapping her and prying her mouth open so she’d take him in.
He was sitting in the back, legs hanging out. V was bent over him, her naked ass in the air as the other cop stood behind her. They passed a new bottle back and forth, laughing their heads off, calling her names, their screams echoing off the building walls.
Suddenly, a shadow passed over the car.
Seconds later, a deafening explosion tore through the silence, followed by three more bursts.
The shadow vanished.
Detective Al Timlin bent under the tape and greeted Sergeant Luis Clemente, a burly latino who'd been on the job forever.
“They yours, Luis?” Timlin asked as they shook hands.
Clemente nodded, pursed his lips. “Best and Grimwood. I had my doubts about Grim, but Best? I would never have thought...”
The men walked towards the cruiser, which was lit by a portable floodlight and surrounded by CSU techs.
“Where's the girl?”
“Memorial Hospital. In shock.” Clemente coughed. “Needed a shower, too.”
Some scene. The cruiser's doors were open. On the driver's side, Ken Best's body lay on the ground. Timlin knew him from past cases. He’d been hit in the head and chest. The back seat, covered in blood and brains, hosted another officer whose flaccid penis hung out of his boxers.
Timlin sighed. “You notify the families yet?”
Clemente shook his head. “Grimwood's divorced. No kids, ex lives out west. I'll let her sleep, call later. Best has a wife and twins. Madre de Dios, Al, they're barely out of diapers.”
Timlin clasped the man's shoulder. “Lieutenant Cooper is on his way. The Chief of D's too, for all the good he’ll be. I'll let the techs work before the shit hits the fan. I'll be at Memorial. Keep me posted. Sorry about your guys.”
Head down, Timlin zipped through the hospital lobby, and climbed the stairs to the sixth floor. He inspected his loafers all the way to room 609, where an Asian patrolman, Vuong, stopped him.
Timlin flashed his badge.
“She’s sleeping,” Vuong explained. “Nurse checks in on her every so often.”
Timlin nodded. “Anyone come by?”
“Alright. Excuse me.”
Vuong took his seat and Timlin let himself in the room.
Timlin shuffled to the bed, and took a closer look at the sleeping woman. Her black hair was matted to her scalp, her forehead beaded with sweat. Her lips moved, but made no sound.
The room door opened. A nurse grabbed a clipboard at the end of the bed. She glanced at Timlin, her brow furrowed. He showed her his badge, and she nodded. She looked up at the bedside monitor, jotted something down, and put the clipboard back.
She gestured for Timlin to follow her, and they stepped into the hall. “If and when she comes to, you can talk to her. She was quite shaken. I don’t know how much help she’ll be.”
Timlin nodded. The nurse left, and Timlin went back in.
He located the remote for the overhead set, pulled up a chair, and settled in.
“What- where- what am I doing here?”
Timlin shut the television and stood. “Memorial Hospital. Room 609.”
She looked up at him through slitted eyes, frowned. “What happened?”
“Why don't you start by telling me your name? Your real name.”
Timlin noted it, then described what he assumed had happened.
“Do you remember anything?”
She inhaled deeply, then rubbed her eyes with slender hands. “Those cops came around, right. My friend Carmen, right, she told me to be cool, she knew them, said they were looking for Kanesha. But Kanesha hasn’t been around all week, so they told me to get in the car, right. They had booze and weed. We went-”
Timlin held up a hand to stop her. “Back up a bit. This other girl? The one they were looking for?”
“Yes. What's her full name? Do you know her?”
Melanie shrugged. “Not to talk to. She’s a bitch, right. Always fights. She wrong up here,” Melanie tapped her temple.
“So, they took you to the parking lot?”
“They said it was their place. We drank and smoked, right, then we--”
She stopped, and her mind seemed to wander. Timlin thought he’d lost her.
“Is that when it happened?” Trying to get her started again.
She turned toward him, fear written across her face.
“Don’t worry, Melanie. You’re safe with us.”
She nodded. “I was going down on the bigger one, right, so my face was in his lap. I saw a shadow out of the corner of my eye, and then there was blood all over the place. Shit, brains were in my hair.”
Melanie closed her eyes and let her head fall on the flimsy pillow. “I’m tired, right.”
Timlin closed his notepad. He thought of putting a hand on her arm, but refrained. “Thanks. I'll be in touch.”
She was asleep before he left the room.
Over in the Vice squad room, Ed Spencer scanned the overnight event log while the coffee percolated. The murders were not logged, but it was all the rage this morning.
Al Timlin was waiting for Spencer when he got back to his desk.
“No rest for the wicked,” said Spencer. “You catch it?”
“Who else?” Timlin grabbed a chair from another desk, fell into it. “The patrol boys picked up a pro off the corner of Beach and River. You guys hit that block last week, correct?”
“We did,” Spencer answered as he shuffled papers. “Mayor’s orders. Some Trump-wannabe wants to buy the waterfront, build condos. We drop in, slap the cuffs on a few johns, run some girls in. Hizzonner wants it clean.”
Timlin nodded curtly. “Wanted to run a couple of names by you. Melanie Little. And I’ve only got a first name on another. Kanesha.”
Spencer rolled his chair to a filing cabinet, and pulled out a thick manila file. He skimmed the first few pages before stopping.
He handed Timlin an arrest report.
“Kanesha Lamont's been around,” Spencer explained as Timlin read. “First arrest was in '04.”
Timlin looked up. “Born in 1987?”
“Started young,” Spencer chuckled. “Still looks young. Never a shortage of johns hunting for just that.”
“Where can I find her?”
“Last-known is on there. Ain't been verified, mind you, but give it a shot.”
Timlin jotted down the address. “Anything else I should know about the area?”
Spencer smiled. “Wear a hat.”
Cooper grabbed Timlin as he returned to the squad room.
“Missing Persons called,” Cooper said. “Little's a runaway.”
Cooper extended a printout to Timlin. “Left Colorado six weeks ago. Folks waited to report it. Seems she's done it before. Now, get this: she’s 15.”
“Lovely. Spencer knows Lamont, who our guys wanted. She’s a veteran, started out young and still looks the part. Got her last-known.”
Cooper grinned. “Should be an interesting meet.”
“Why we sign up, Coop.”
It took five minutes of negociating for Kanesha Lamont to open.
She did look young, but worn: wrangled hair, chewed-out nails, and hollow eyes. She wore a faded gray hoodie that was baggy on her lanky frame. That and torn jeans left most of her body covered.
“This about Marvin? Because I ain’t seen him.”
Lamont exhaled loudly, tumbled into an old, torn black leather chair. “Better ya 'on't know. What now, off'cer?”
“Detective.” Lamont curled up, knees to forehead. She hugged herself. “Word is you like to party with some of our boys. That true?”
Lamont started rocking.
“Kanesha. Kanesha.” She kept rocking. “Ken Best. Lance Grimwood. They your customers?”
Her head popped out. “Customers pay.” She kept rocking.
“They didn't pay?”
“Nah. Sometimes, they'd share some junk. Jus' weed. Basta'ds be too cheap fo' good shit.”
“You see them often?”
She shrugged. “Coupla times.”
“When was the last time you were with them?”
“Dunno. Before jail.”
Timlin nodded. “Why haven’t you been on this week?”
“Flu or sumpin'. Prob'bly caught it in your shithole.”
Timlin scratched his chin.
“Stay available,” he told her as he let himself out.
As he pulled up to the station, Timlin noticed the satelitte trucks lined up, their antennas deployed, ready for their midday live feed. As if they had a built-in honing mechanism, a dozen reporters surrounded his car as he parked.
Timlin gently but firmly opened the door, forcing a couple of reporters to dive out of the way, and let himself out of the vehicle. Questions flew in all directions, but he ignored them and climbed the stairs to the front door.
On the way up, Timlin stopped for an egg sandwich from a vending machine.
He’d barely taken a bite before Cooper was at his desk, worry on his face.
“Give me something good for my meeting at the Hall.”
“Lamont says Grim and Best were regulars who didn’t pay, only shared dope. Afraid that's all I got for now.”
Cooper sighed heavily. “Let's see how fast the politicos tear me a new asshole.”
Timlin wolfed down his sandwich, then grabbed the phone.
Clemente picked up on the second ring.
“Luis. Timlin. How're you doing?”
Clemente sighed. “Been better. Guys are going nuts. You hear the shit Media is putting out? I'm thinking of cuffing the guys to their desks so they don't go and turn the city upside down.”
Timlin had caught the news on the radio earlier. Media Relations, probably under orders from the Chief, who got his from City Hall, had made no effort to hide the fact that Best and Grimwood were rogue officers who disrespected the badge.
“Have you had a chance to talk to them?” Timlin asked. “Previous partners, maybe?”
“Erik Larsen is the only one still around,” Clemente said. “Larsen partnered with Grimwood when he broke in.”
“He knows nothing about Grimwood and hookers. Worst he’s seen was a hand-out from Crown Liquors once or twice.”
“You still see Grimwood as the leader? And Best going along?”
“Yeah. Grimwood, he got hurt a few years back. Got hooked on painkillers while he was off.”
“You get anything from their families?”
“Grimwood ain’t got anybody who’d know anything. And Best, well, his wife and parents never heard him mention any enemies or trouble. Kept to himself. With regards to the job, that is.”
“Thanks, Luis. Good luck with your guys.”
After getting coffee, Timlin passed in front of Cooper's office and caught the lieutenant snapping his fingers at him as he talked on the phone.
“Someone's asking for you,” Cooper said, cradling the phone. “Downstairs.”
Timlin put his coffee down and ran to the stairs.
“Ray, you got something for me?”
The sergeant hooked a meaty finger towards a thin man with disheveled hair sitting calmly across from his desk.
Timlin approached the man. “Sir? Al Timlin, Homicide. Can I help you?”
The man looked up at him with dead eyes. He smiled, showing awful dentition. The man whispered something which Timlin didn't hear.
“Come closer,” the man said, slightly louder.
Timlin bent forward and grimaced as he breathed in the man's nasty breath.
“Them two cops?”
“Right,” Timlin said, breathing through his mouth.
“I... killed... them...”
Timlin moved quickly.
If this was legit, Timlin wanted to keep him talking. If it turned out he was getting jerked around, better get it over with and get back to work.
“You want me to sit in?” Cooper asked.
Timlin shook his head. “Watch. Make sure the tapes roll.”
Cooper nodded and the men split up.
“Mister... Radomski, was it?” Timlin said to the man, who sat ramrod-straight in his chair, his dead eyes staring straight ahead.
“Call me Kurt. We'll be linked forever, Al. Might as well be on a first-name basis.”
“I have to read you your rights, Kurt.”
“Cut the crap. I don't care about that shit. I confess. I killed them cops.”
Radomski's hand went into his jacket and Timlin froze.
Timlin realized that Radomski wasn't cuffed to the table. Had he been frisked?
Radomski's hand came up.
Timlin jumped up and pulled his own gun, pointed it at Radomski's chest.
Radomski smiled, and slowly dropped the gun on the table, withdrawing his hand.
“A Glock, Al,” explained Radomski with a satisfied grin on his face. “The white coats'll tell you it's the murder weapon. My fingerprints are on it. I bought it, legally. Paper trail. Everything's been done for you, Al.”
Timlin pointed his own gun to the floor, and took the Glock off the table.
“Now, I know what you’re thinking. Guy walks in and hands you everything on a silver platter. It’s your lucky day. I did it, I shot them two cops.”
Radomski shrugged, smiled.
“I felt like it.”
Melanie Little had been moved to the detention ward. A couple of dicks from Denver were flying in on a red-eye to take her home.
She was nibbling at a plate of scrambled eggs when Timlin entered. She looked at him, sighed, and turned to the window.
“Melanie, I'd like you to look at this,” Timlin explained. “Have you seen this man before?”
Timlin held up Radomski's mug shot. She ignored him.
“You ever gonna leave me alone?”
She tore the picture from him and frowned.
“Who the fuck is this?”
Timlin took the picture. “You've never seen this man?” She shook her head. “He confessed to the murders.”
Timlin realized this was going nowhere. Time to cut his losses.
“Fuck you!” she yelled at his back.
The flying plate hit the wall to Timlin's right, some egg landing on his shoulder.
He brushed it off without breaking stride.
Kanesha Lamont looked like hell. Timlin guessed it wasn't the flu.
“Kanesha, this'll take a minute. Then I'll leave you alone, unless you want my help.”
Lamont scoffed. “Big bad five-oh saving the po' ho. Fuck. What ya want?”
Timlin shook his head, took out the picture. He flipped it to show her.
“Oh! My God!”
Lamont put a hand over her mouth, fell back against a wall.
“Wh- where- what- where did you get that?”
Timlin approached her, hoping she'd calm down. “This is Kurt Radomski. He confessed to the murders.”
“You know him?” She nodded. “Where do you know him from?”
“He my father.”