By Bryon Quertermous
Bryon Quertermous's first play, a shameless rip-off of the Maltese Falcon, was produced when he was 19. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Whitewater Review, Captive Ape, Detective Mystery Stories, Flash Shots, and Crimespree. He is currently in the creative writing program at Eastern Michigan University. Contact him through his website at http://bryonquertermous.blogspot.com
Detroit, Michigan 1:05 a.m.
The temperature was stuck at 80 and the electricity in the air was peeling the grease off the walls in the Breakfast Anytime Diner. Detective David Birney pocketed the two dollar bills left on the table for a tip as he squeezed himself into a back corner booth.
"Iím sick of being the fucking bad guy," he said to his former partner, Tom Atkins.
"Itís the movies," Atkins said. "They love the cops."
"There are rotten cops."
"Theyíre even more popular."
"Itís not like I want to fucking be Serpico but a little recognition would be nice."
"At least weíre not in LA."
Birney didnít want to think about LA. He was hungry and he wanted to eat before he fully realized how nasty the diner was.
"Steak and eggs. Double," he yelled across the room to the waitress. He turned to Atkins. "You want anything?"
"I hope this little snitch doesnít expect us to buy him breakfast," Birney said.
"They never do. Most of the time they throw up."
"This place isnít going to help any. Why here?"
"Itís dark, out of the way-"
"And dirtier than my toilet after taco night."
There are very few clean places in Detroit, but way down Gratiot Avenue, near Detroit City Airport, is a whole different level of dirty. Breakfast Anytime is between two burned out apartment buildings and across the street from a Popeyeís Chicken/ White Castle combo store and yet another burned out building. None of the street lights worked but the few occupied buildings were strip clubs and liquor stores with garish neon signs providing the minimum light needed for drug dealing and petty thievery.
The little bell over the door jingled when a wiry young black man entered. He wore blue uniform pants with a black sleeveless t-shirt and had the toned physique and gritty stare of a cop. A half-smoked cigarette dangled from the officerís bottom lip as he took a napkin from the counter and mopped the sweat from his bald head before heading toward the back of the diner.
Atkins stood up. Birney turned to look toward the door.
"The new ones always look like they just came from the gym," Birney said under his breath.
"Officer Dade," Atkins said to the officer.
"What's he doing here?" Dade asked.
"That's Detective Birney," Atkins said, sitting down.
"No. What are you doing here?" Dade said, pointing to Atkins.
Before Atkins could answer, a man wearing a ski mask entered the diner. Birney and the officer had their backs to the door and Atkins was watching the waitress so nobody noticed when the masked man pulled out a handgun. Everybody noticed when he shot the officer twice in the back.
Atkins jumped out of his seat and plowed into the waitress, but even with eggs and coffee on his pants he continued after the masked man as Birney struggled to get out of the booth. When Birney busted loose Atkins was already out the door so he contented himself with checking for the officerís vital signs.
Atkins exited the diner just as the masked man was getting into a car that sped out of the parking lot westbound onto Gratiot Avenue in front of a semi truck. Atkins thought the car was moving fast enough to beat the truck until the car swerved back toward the diner and the truck couldn't stop. Birney heard the crash inside the diner and waddled outside in time to see Atkins running toward the crumpled remains of the car.
Both detectives had their guns out and were on alert so they noticed this time when the driver of the car stumbled out of the wreckage and started shooting. The driverís shots went wide, Atkinsís shots didnít. He dropped the driver with three clustered shots to his center of mass.
"Fuck," Birney said, coming up beside Atkins. "Nice shot."
"I didnítÖshitÖhe was the one who started-"
"Hey nobodyís blaming you. Iím just glad I didnít shoot him."
"Shit," Atkins said again.
"I told you not to worry about-"
"No, shit. Look who that is."
Birney looked at the body slumped in the middle of the road. He didnít recognize the face.
"I donít get it," he said.
Atkins pointed inside the car. The man had pulled his mask off and was holding it in his fist when the car was hit. Birney immediately recognized the man as Donald Ovitz, Chief Inspector of the Detroit Police Department.
"Thatís bad," Birney said.
Atkins continued pointing at the car. Birneyís gaze moved to the body in the back seat. A red headed girl was pinned against the back passengerís window; she wasnít moving. Her hands were cuffed behind her and the only thing she was wearing was a plain white bra and blue panties.
Detroit, Michigan 12:07 a.m.
Danny Rogers was fucking Miss October on the piano when Officer Perkins shot him in the head. Olivia Perkins was still in her uniform from the 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. shift. She had wiry red hair and breasts that made her badge stick out like a tin sled on top of an enormous blue polyester mountain.
They were in the rehearsal room of a former strip club downriver on the outskirts of Detroit surrounded by vacant auto plants. Two poles remained in the middle of the room and the walls smelled like stale flesh and rancid perfume. The piano was a white baby grand on loan from the Motor City Opera Company and Rogersís blood was spreading creatively across the lacquer finish.
"Go," Perkins said to Miss October.
Miss October went.
Perkins shot Rogers again and reholstered her gun. She stripped off Rogersís clothes then her own, silently thanking her luck that Rogersís shirt was white and pants were dark, not the other way around. It was the end of the week and the only underwear she had left was a plain white bra and a pair of neon blue panties.
"Nice ass," a voice behind her said.
ďShit! Jesus, Donald. I told you to call me first."
Donald Ovitz shrugged and handed Perkins a black corpse bag.
"Your partner is keeping the car warm," he said.
"Heís not my partner, Donald."
Ovitz shrugged again and continued staring at Perkinsís ass. It was toned but had enough jiggle to it that it still seemed real.
After zipping Rogers into the bag and redressing in his clothes, Perkins grabbed one end of the body bag and lifted it. Ovitz took the hint and grabbed the other end. They dumped the body in the trunk of a plain blue sedan and got in the car.
"Did you get the tape?" the driver asked.
Perkins pulled a tape out of Rogersís pants and popped it into the car tape deck.
Birney and Atkins watched from inside the diner as more officers arrived at the scene followed by paramedics. The last car to show was a beat up unmarked police sedan. A stocky detectives got out of the car and came into the diner.
Birney pushed the cassette tape on the table towards his partner.
Birney had found it in the dead officerís back pocket.
"I thought you didnít want to be the bad guy."
"Put it in your pocket," Birney said. "Now."
"They need to shut this place down," the detectives said, approaching Atkins and Birney. "These are the biggest fucking rats Iíve ever seen."
Atkins offered his hand. "Iím Detective Tom Atkins. This is my partner David Birney and yes, we are with internal affairs."
"Howdy," Birney said, making mock rat chewing faces.
"Why are you guys here?" the detective asked.
"Ambiance," Birney said.
"You see the kid get shot?"
"I did," Atkins said. "Detective Birney had his back to the door.Ē
"I tried to turn around,Ē added Birney, ďbut got stuck on a count of I have a big gut."
The detective smirked. "You must be the pride of the department."
"Is IAD taking this case?" The detective asked. "I want to know before we waste any more time talking to you."
"The victim was a cop. Thatís IAD territory. But weíre not on duty so we wonít catch the case," Atkins said.
Birney pointed to a uniformed officer standing outside in front of the dinerís entrance talking with the truck driver who was still shaking.
"We told him everything sir. If you have any questions."
When the detective was gone, Atkins pulled the tape out of his pocket.
"This is not our tape," Chief Inspector Ovitz said.
"These are show tunes," the driver said.
"I kind of like them,Ē said Perkins.Ē He was a good composer before I shot him."
The driver popped the tape out of the deck and threw it at Perkins.
"Do we need to go back?" He asked.
"That was the tape he had on him. He must have brought the wrong tape."
"We can hit his house," Perkins said. "He canít walk in on us or anything."
"Weíre on a schedule, Perkins."
"Itís murder and blackmail. Letís be a little flexible, eh?"
"This is not funny."
Perkins flipped the tape over and reinserted it into the tape deck. More piano music came through the speakers.
"He also does classical," Perkins said. "Quite the renaissance man."
"And you shot him in the head. Letís do what we need to do and get on with it," Ovitz said.
Perkins gave the driver directions to Danny Rogersí house in Royal Oak. When they pulled up to the house, there was a Detroit Police cruiser in the driveway.
Atkins and Birney were confused as they listened to the tape in their car. Birneyís taste in music ran more toward blues and jazz, Atkins was a rock and roll guy. Neither of them cared for show tunes.
"I wonder if the kid wrote it."
"Cop by day, composer by night?"
"You think it has anything to do with his unpleasant demise?" Birney asked.
"I canít imagine somebody would kill for this, but Iíll keep it anyway. You never know," Atkins said.
Ovitz and Perkins watched from down the street as Officer Adam Dade came out of the house without shutting the door behind him. He quickly got into his patrol car and pulled out of the driveway. The patrol car took off away from the blue sedan. Ovitz smacked Perkins on the back of the head.
"Go check the house."
"Donít fucking hit me, Donald. Give me your gloves."
Ovitz pulled off his thin, black leather gloves and gave them to Perkins.
"Itís fucking tropical outside," the driver said to Ovitz. "Gloves seem a little suspicious, donít they?"
"I donít plan on anyone seeing me. Go, officer."
When Perkins got out of the car and headed toward the house, Ovitz took her seat up front. Perkins flipped him off before going into the house. She was in the house for only a few minutes before she rushed out looking as disturbed as Dade had. She didnít close the door behind her either.
"Weíre fucked," she said, crawling into the backseat. "Follow him."
"I donít under"
"We donít have time, Donald."
"You will explain before"
Perkins ignored Ovitz and looked at the driver.
"Go, I said!"
Atkins and Birney decided it was time to leave the diner when they each had a piece of pie and the last ambulance left the parking lot. The waitress brought them their check but waved them off when they reached for their wallets.
"I have to write up a bill according to the rules, but I canít let you pay. You saved my life," she said.
"After the shots we left the diner," Atkins said. "Thereís no reason we shouldnít-"
"If the shocked young lady wants to buy us pie then far be it from us to deprive her of that blessing," Birney said.
"Seriously, itís my pleasure," she said.
"We donít want to cost you anything, maíam."
The waitress squatted down next to Atkins and leaned in toward his ear.
"My name is Amy and itís really no big deal. Iíll overcharge one of the pricks who always grab my ass."
"Itís been a pleasure Amy, but we need to be about the cityís work," Birney said.
On the way to their car, a greasy man in greasy overalls approached Birney and Atkins. He spit a wad of tobacco juice on the ground in front of Birney's feet.
"Somethin' ain't right in the trunk," he said, pointing to the remains of the getaway car.
"And what ain't right, sir?" Birney asked, checking his shoe for stray juice.
"I went to hook my rig up to the back and, well, there's a bag in the trunk all crumpled up."
"A grocery bag? A duffle bag?"
"A body bag," the man said.
The two detectives followed the man back to the wreckage where the trunk was popped open.
"I must've hit it when I was hooking the bumper up," the man said, smacking the trunk. "You wanna open it?"
Atkins reached into the trunk and unzipped the black bag enough to see a face.
"Shit, get the detective's back here," he said.
"Ain't you a detective?" The man asked.
The driver had taken off after Dade despite Ovitzís objection but Ovitz kept pushing Perkins to tell them what sheíd seen in the house.
"He has the tape," she said.
"Maybe we should listen to the tape we already have again," Ovitz said. "Maybe we missed something."
"You think he just fast forwarded past his show tune compositions and began recording blackmail material in the middle of a tape?"
"Let's get that tape back," Ovitz said.
"That sounds like a brilliant idea, Inspector."
After a couple of hairy turns and a few ignored red lights, the driver followed the officer to a neighborhood of rickety, yet cozy, small homes near downtown. Perkins didnít bother knocking; she went through Dade's open front door.
"You need to keep your door closed officer, any tramp could walk in off the street and take advantage of you," she said, sneaking up behind Dade.
Dade brought her close and kissed her. He began undressing her as he slipped his tongue into her mouth.
"Nice ass," he said when Perkins was down to just her underwear.
He was already down to his boxer shorts and a t-shirt. His uniform and utility belt were in a pile on the couch.
"We donít have time for this, Tar Baby. I need that tape," Perkins said.
Dade moved to the window when he let go of Perkins. He pushed the curtain aside and saw the blue sedan in his driveway.
"You were following me, at Rogers' house," he said.
"Very observant, officer. Now the tape."
Dade made a move to embrace Perkins again but she dodged him this time.
"I listened to the tape," he said.
Perkins didn't answer right away. Dade didnít say anything else.
"AndÖ?" Perkins finally said.
"You're fucking him. You're fucking your boss."
"That's none of your business Tar Baby."
"They know about us," Dade said. "I got a call from the rat squad."
"You didn't tell them anything did you, baby?"
"I'm supposed to meet them in a half hour. I want to see what they know."
"You little prick. What are you trying to do to me?"
"I just want to find out what they know. I'm not going to tell-"
"Just give me the tape," Perkins said.
Dade moved to the kitchen, where the tape sat on the counter.
As soon as he turned his back Perkins took the gun and handcuffs from his uniform on the couch. When Dade came out of the kitchen with the tape, she put the gun to his head. Dade didnít move as Perkins took the tape from his hands, but when she grabbed his hand and tried to move him toward the couch in front of the window, Dade whipped both hands out and gripped Perkins' gun arm in a textbook offensive move. He shoved her arm up and tried to push it back and break it, but she fought back and rammed him backward into the window.
The window didnít break but the curtain rod fell off and tangled Dade and Perkins together. Dade got out of the mess first and when Perkins emerged from the knot of blue velvet cloth he punched her in the side of the face. Perkins fell back onto the couch and Dade snapped the handcuffs on her before she regained her composure. She swore and screamed at him as he gathered up her clothes and pulled his pants back on before leaving the house through the garage.
Ovitz was getting out of the sedan when Dade almost backed over him with his truck on his way out of the driveway. It took him a second to decide whether to check on Perkins or go after Dade and by the time he'd made his decision Perkins was opening the front door with her hands behind her.
"Why are you in your under-"
"He's going to the fucking cops, Donald. Go!"
Ovitz got back into the front seat and Perkins fell into the back seat as the driver took off after Dade.
"That's Danny Rogers' body," Birney said. "Shit, now the tape makes sense."
"Suddenly a show tune fan?"
"Rogers was a composer. His uncle owns a bunch of theaters."
"I know," Atkins said.
"I swear to God if you tell anyone-"
"Tell anyone what?"
"I was taking piano lessons from him. It was going to be an anniversary present."
Birney bit the inside of his mouth hard trying not to laugh but he couldnít help himself and laughed anyway, spitting blood along the corner of his mouth.
"He's got this shitty little studio out on Gratiot-"
"Wait a minute, there's a lot of stuff that could go down in a shitty little studio," Birney said. "We should listen to the rest of the tape."
"I donít know. I think the tape my just be a loose thread," Atkins said.
"We donít have any other threads. Where's the tape?"
"I really donít think-"
"Where's the tape?" Birney asked again.
When they pulled up to the Breakfast Anytime Diner, Dade was getting out of his truck. Ovitz looked in the back seat at Perkins handcuffed in her underwear and then at the driver.
"I suppose I'm going to have to kill him," he said.
"I killed Rogers," Perkins said. "But this is the last one, I promise."
"This would be easier if you didnít fuck every cop you came into contact with."
"You're the one who gets jealous and has to kill everybody I screw."
"Donít make me sound like a psycho officer. I'm not killing Atkins am I?"
"His guilt will kill him," Perkins said. "Honest bastard."
Ovitz reached under the seat and pulled out a black ski mask and a disposable .38 revolver. He pulled on the mask and followed Dade into the diner.
The tape went on for about thirty minutes before Birney heard Atkins' voice. He didnít recognize the second voice.
"It's Olivia Perkins," Atkins said. "The redhead."
"The red head? WhatÖoh Jesus. The one in handcuffs?"
"I had nothing to do with that."
"How long have you been sleeping with her?"
"I donít know, a month or so. Danny introduced us."
"So this is what Dade was going to tell us?"
"You saw his face when he recognized me," Atkins said.
"Looks like you're the last good cop, Davey."
Ovitz's first instinct after shooting Dade was to turn the gun on Atkins but Olivia had insisted he be spared so he hurried back to the car. As Ovitz slammed the door shut, the driver pulled out of the parking lot in front of a semi truck.
"Did you get the tape?" Perkins asked.
The car barely missed being hit by the truck but Ovitz reached over the driver and swerved the car back toward the diner.
"I forgot the"
Bryon Quertermous ©2005
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