"We did not know this was an NYPD sting!" insisted the smaller cop, who had identified himself as Officer Gordon Cooper of the Seventh Precinct. "We got a tip. Right, Cam?" He looked to his big, beetle-browed partner for support. "A convicted felon by the name of John Hambler called a cop he thought might be dirty, and offered him a stolen car with dope under the spare."
"But he was wrong about the dirty part," asserted Officer Cameron Bell with a challenging look at Ryo and the Chief.
"And now he's conveniently dead, so he can't be questioned about exactly why he believed the cop was dirty," said Ryo coldly.
"Yeah, too bad. But he made a run for it, so I had to do something." Cam shrugged and looked away. "I tried to go for a leg shot, but it didn't work out."
"We got a statement from Detective O'Neill that he heard you urging John Hambler to run," said the Chief.
"Bullshit!" Cam glared at both of them and his face flushed. "That's complete bullshit."
"Our guy was wearing a wire," said Ryo.
"You just listen to your goddamn tape. You won't hear anything like that."
"Calm down, Officer Bell," said Ryo. "That's not what I meant. I was the guy on the other end of the wire, after all. I'm alluding to the fact that you were the one who frisked Detective O'Neill, and you failed to report the fact that he was wearing a microphone and a transmitter to your partner."
"The presence of the wire should have alerted you to the fact that you had stumbled upon a police operation," added the Chief.
"Especially since Detective O'Neill had immediately identified himself as NYPD when he got out of the car, and we have that clearly on tape." Ryo looked from Cam to Gordon. "The fact that one member of an undercover operation was shot dead after the other member identified himself as NYPD, and after a pat-down which should have revealed the presence of recording equipment, speaks of gross negligence. At the very least."
"Hey, we didn't know about no wire!" protested Gordon. "And I never heard no one say NYPD! Did you, Cam?"
Cam shook his head. "Nope," he said firmly.
"What about the wire?" asked Ryo. "I can see you maybe missing the mike, but the transmitter was big enough to be noticed in any standard weapons search."
"I didn't notice any goddamn wire or transmitter."
"And yet you took the trouble to disable it, son," said the Chief. "It stopped transmitting when you put the cuffs on him."
"A transmitter is a delicate piece of equipment." Cam shrugged. "If it got damaged, it was an accident. If I'd known it was there, it wouldn't have gotten damaged."
"This is crazy!" protested Gordon. "We're really sorry we broke up your op, but we had solid intel!"
Ryo noticed that Gordon was more jumpy than Cam, and wondered how much he knew. He hoped he might get an opportunity to question the officer alone, although he doubted it would happen. This matter would go straight to Internal Affairs.
"And at least the guy who got shot wasn't a cop, right?" Gordon looked anxiously from Ryo to the Chief, to Cam and back. "I mean, we ran him for priors when the tip came in and we found quite a list. You guys know what I'm talkin' about. Guy was a bottom feeder, so no great loss, right? The important thing is that the detective's gonna be okay, right?"
Cam turned his head and spoke to Gordon. "Time to shut up, Gordo. IA's gonna be all over us soon, and we might even need lawyers. No more talking until we have fair representation, got it?"
These words caused Gordon to look even more scared, but he did as Cam said. Neither Ryo nor the Chief could get another word out of either of them.
"Dude, it's three fucking a.m.!" Dee stood in the middle of their spacious office at One Police Plaza. "I'm just about asleep on my feet. Tell me again why we're still at work when we started three hours early, and we're running four hours late?"
"Look, Dee, you don't have to stay if you don't want to. But tomorrow is going to be a hellacious day, and I want to get a head start on the paperwork."
"Ryo, you don't get ahead in life by never going to bed," Dee insisted. "So what? Let it be a hellacious day tomorrow. We can handle it, as long as we're not hallucinating from lack of sleep."
"Dee, I don't think you realize that IA is going to be here looking for us first thing in the morning." Ryo opened a desk drawer with rather more force than was necessary, and pulled out a pad of paper. "We're almost certainly going to hear from Officers Bell and Cooper's legal counsel as well. If the press don't show up by breakfast time, I'll be very surprised."
Dee shrugged, his expression unsympathetic. "Who gives a flying fuck? We're on second shift. If they really wanna talk to us that bad, they can come back in the afternoon."
Ryo gritted his teeth and glared at his partner. "Do you want someone like Ross giving a statement on our behalf? What do you think he'll say, huh? 'An otherwise routine sting was seriously bungled by Detectives MacLean and Laytner of the 27th precinct....'"
Dee stared incredulously at him for a second, and then snorted. "Get a grip, dude. Talking to the press is a job for PR, or the Commish himself. Ross may be an asshole, but he's a pro. He wouldn't overstep like that."
Ryo snorted right back. "Oh? Even after you threatened to bitch-slap him, and then called him the Commissioner's favorite K-9 member?"
"Well.... yeah." Dee blinked and then frowned at him. "Ross' loyalty is first and foremost to the NYPD and to the Commish. He'll say shit behind our backs, of course, but not to the press."
"Even if you're right– which I doubt," Ryo said doggedly, "I'm not having it said by the PR department that it was due to our incompetence that a man got killed tonight!"
Dee said, "Ryo, what the hell has gotten into you? This is part of the job. Shit happens. We're just damn lucky it wasn't our buddy Ted who got shot. Sometimes a sting goes sideways, you know that. It would have been nice if we could have gotten access to Mike before Hambler got popped, but it wasn't our night." Dee ran a hand over his stubbly jaw and eyed his desk without enthusiasm. "So he's never coming home again. Everyone else's life goes on. Besides, Hambler was a big fat zero of a human being. You saw the rap sheet. The planet is better off without him."
"Lord, you sound just like that cop from the Seventh. That's pretty cold, Dee."
"It may be cold, but at least these are my real feelings. Do you even know what the hell your real feelings are in this case? Don't go trying to convince yourself you actually gave a shit about Hambler when we both know you didn't. And still don't. Was it the girl? Is that what's rattled you?"
Ryo was silent for a moment, remembering. "She was just so... crazy with grief, wasn't she? Whatever he was, she loved him. And he's never coming home again." He put a hand to his temple, which was throbbing. Maria had smashed her cell phone into the side of his head, and he had a lump there. It had been a very stressful scene, indeed. She went absolutely insane when she heard the news that her boyfriend was dead, shrieking and hurling herself at them.
"You killed him! You killed him!" she screamed. "I wanted him to wear a vest but you said no! YOU forced him to do that dangerous job! You killed him, you MURDERERS!"
Dee got mad at that point and threatened to cuff her and take her in for assaulting a police officer if she didn't settle down. An older man with sad eyes and a resemblance to Maria, stepped forward and took her in hand, speaking urgently to her in Spanish. "Mendigo de usted, mi hija, no los golpeó. Le suplico..."
They left her sobbing passionately in the arms of that man, who was presumably her father, or uncle, or something. When they walked away from the apartment that the late John Hambler had shared with his new family, they did so to a long line of open doors and the stares of the neighbors. Some of the faces were resentful at the sight of police officers, others carefully blank, and still others were openly and morbidly curious. One older woman in a nightgown and a hastily thrown-on housecoat asked them, "Did something happen to Maria's man?"
"I'm sorry, ma'am. I can't tell you," Ryo had said. "But why don't you go and see if she needs anything?"
As soon as they had passed her door, she hustled off down the hall behind them.
Now, at the sight of Ryo with his hand to his head, Dee started forward, his eyes concerned. "How's your head, anyway?"
Ryo shrugged. "Aching. But whatever. It's only a headache. What happened to Hambler was worse." For a moment, he felt desolate. His mind shied away from fully imagining Maria's sense of loss. Hoping for an indication of fellow feeling, he glanced at Dee, but was met by folded arms and a skeptical expression.
"Oh, I get it," said Dee. "You wanna wallow in guilt and self-recrimination for a while and you're pissed that I won't join in."
"That's not true," Ryo protested. "I mean it's true I feel terrible about everything that happened tonight, but I think any normal person would!"
"Oh yeah? Well, lemme tell you something, partner." Dee's eyes flashed dangerously. "If Hambler had been holding a gun on a hostage, you would have plugged him through the heart just like you did all the others, and he'd be every bit as dead as he is now. He was a violent criminal and a lowlife. They lead dangerous lives. Okay, so sometimes one gets capped, just like what happens to undercover cops. Collateral damage, that's all it is to the brass. Why the hell should WE get our shorts in a twist?"
"What do you mean, 'just like all the others?'" Ryo ground out. He felt both surprised and furious.
"I mean your kill rate, dude. You're getting all worked up over the fact that 'we' got poor old sweet, pure, innocent Jerkhammer whacked, and you're forgetting that you, personally, have put a lot of bullets in a lot of guys. More than me, even though I'm the guy who's always in shit for blowing the department's bullet budget. You've killed scumbags directly, never mind indirectly, like tonight. So have I. Guys just like John Hambler. Bad guys, Ryo. Not saints. And I resent the fact that you're tryin' to make me feel guilty over a piece of shit like Hambler when it wasn't me who put a goddamn bullet in the back of his head. It wasn't you, either, even though you're acting like you want it to be."
"I do NOT want it to be my fault!" Ryo was indignant. "Nor am I blaming you. I'm just feeling bad because a man lost his life due to the fact that we blew it tonight."
"The fuck we blew it," snarled Dee. "We did everything by the book. Approval, requisitions, the whole nine yards. What-- were we supposed to look in our NYPD-approved crystal ball and somehow know that two cops would come along out of the blue and fucking murder the guy? I mean, no one could have anticipated that. You're not being fair."
"Oh, yeah?" Ryo shot back. "Well, you're just trying to shift responsibility, as per fucking usual. Nothing's ever your fault is it? Always a million excuses!"
Dee picked up the plastic Knicks mug from his desk and hurled it against the wall. "My fault? Just listen to yourself!" He stared fiercely at Ryo, obviously waiting for him to speak.
Ryo stared back, a million thoughts crashing together in his head, and nothing clear emerging. All he knew was that he felt upset, overwhelmed, fearful, and yes, angry. And Dee was not meeting him halfway, like he had hoped he would, like he needed him to.
Dee made a sound of disgust. "I'm going home. I've had it with this shit."
He stalked out of the office without looking back. Ryo watched him go, his lips pressed tightly together. The sound of Dee's striding footsteps echoed down the empty hallway and then finally disappeared.
The office was quiet now, but it still seemed full of Dee's presence, somehow. Dee's angry, resentful presence. Ryo removed his cell phone and his notebook from his jacket before hanging it up neatly on a hanger. What the hell did Dee mean by bringing up his kill rate like that? It had been a big issue around the Twenty-Seventh about a year ago when JJ had decided he wanted to make a big deal about it. Dee had been nothing but supportive at that time, defending him in public and even dropping the subject, when requested to, in private. But now Dee seemed to want to throw it in his face. What had he done to deserve that? Asshole.
Ryo sighed and sat down at his computer, determined not to waste any more time being mad at Dee when it was three a.m. and he really needed to get his work done so that he could head home for a few hours' rest. If only he wasn't so tired. It was hard to think. He decided to spend no more than thirty minutes making notes to make sure he was ready for tomorrow, just in case he ended up getting in trouble for the way the sting had flopped. Sure, Dee could say they had done everything by the book, but Ryo had been in law enforcement long enough to know that even approvals and signed requisition forms couldn't protect a cop if someone higher up felt that a scapegoat was needed for a particular situation.
It was a full ten minutes before he noticed that his monitor was older, heavier, and slightly smaller than the one he had started the day with. When the realization hit him, he stopped typing mid-word and stared at the monitor with his mouth open for several seconds before swearing softly under his breath.
Ross! It had to be. After that little scene the other day where Ross had tried to confiscate his monitor and Dee had stopped him, who else could possibly be behind this? Ryo threw his notebook down in disgust. There was no way he was going to let Ross get away with such a sneaky and underhanded act. He sat wondering whether to fire off an email right now or to go and talk to his nemesis personally the next day and maybe catch him by surprise. Hopefully by then his current desire to throw the Commissioner's Supervisor of Staff off the Brooklyn Bridge would have abated somewhat. He had just decided to send the Commissioner an email, when his cell phone rang in his pocket. If that was Dee, he had no intention of answering it, but he pulled out the phone to see who it was. Yep, it was Dee, Ryo noted with dark satisfaction. Well, his partner could go suck an egg as far as he was concerned. He didn't want to talk to him again any time soon.
A few minutes later as he was checking Officer Cooper's badge number in his notebook, the phone rang again. "Give it up already, Dee," he muttered under his breath, but lifted his phone to check the call display. This time the number was not one that he knew.
"MacLean," he said briskly.
"Why hello there, Detective. I trust I'm not calling ye at a bad time?" The voice was gleeful, Irish, and grimly familiar.
Ryo felt himself go hot all over. "Lieutenant Abernathy, I presume."
"How about that? The man presumes. It seems to me that all this presumin' you've been doing recently isn't exactly working for you. Now you go ahead and correct me if I'm wrong about that." Abernathy chuckled briefly.
"Lieutenant, I'm sure you're aware by now that a man died because of you tonight!"
"I beg to differ, my boyo. As far as I know, all that happened was that an old, old contact from my undercover days attempted to sell me a stolen vehicle with an illegal substance in it. As I am enjoyin' a leave of absence at the moment, it did seem to me as though this tip ought to be passed along to other officers on active duty. Imagine my surprise when the whole operation turned out to be some kind of inept sting attempt by that blundering pack of amateurs at the Two-Seven! There are those who may not wish to believe that I am the innocent target of a campaign of unfounded persecution, but, by God, my lawyer will have a thing or two to say about this."
"Sir, you've made too many mistakes on too many fronts," Ryo said matter-of-factly, trying to sound more confident than he actually was. "We both know it's just a matter of time before you get caught."
There was a short, mirthless bark of laughter from the other end of the line. "A matter of time, you say? Lad, you may not have as much of that as you think."
The line went dead as Ryo drew breath to answer.
Dee locked the door of his apartment behind him, and kicked off his shoes. Man, was he ever exhausted. His plans included a quick shower and then bed, ASAP. And no way was he going in to work tomorrow. Thursday was his fucking day off, and he planned to sleep until at least noon. He walked into the bedroom to hang up his clothes, trying not to feel guilty about Ryo.
Jesus, why had he gone off on his partner like that? Yeah, Ryo was being an idiot about that fucked up little blame-game he wanted to play, but Dee sincerely regretted bringing up Ryo's rather high kill rate. Police sharpshooters naturally had higher kill rates than the general population of cops, and he knew Ryo was sensitive about it. He stripped off his suit jacket and put it on a hanger, cursing himself for being an asshole. No wonder his partner hadn't answered when he tried to call him from the car. He and Ryo had Friday off together, as well as the first half of Saturday. He had been a fool to lose his temper right before their 'weekend.' He'd be lucky if he could get Ryo speaking to him again before Monday.
After hanging up his pants and peeling off his briefs and socks, he grabbed a fresh towel from a drawer and headed for the bathroom with it wrapped around his waist. Not that he thought any of his neighbors would be awake at this hour, but why give them a free show? His footsteps slowed as he passed the phone. It was worth it to try Ryo one more time. There was about a two percent chance he would answer it. Even if he didn't, Dee resolved to leave an apologetic message this time.
To his irritation, the phone went straight to voice mail without even ringing. Obviously, Ryo was on the phone. Who the hell would he be talking to at this time of night? Dispatch, probably. He listened impatiently to Ryo's polite recorded greeting, and waited for the beep.
"Ryo," he said quickly. "Don't erase this message, okay? I'm sorry for... I'm sorry for all those things I said. I know I was a jerk. I feel like a jerk. I'm too pooped to think right now, but I'll make it up to you. I'll come see you tomorrow, okay? We'll get through the fallout together. I love you."
He sighed as he hung up. There went his much-needed day off. But he needed Ryo more.
~end of Justice, chapter 14~
Additional author's notes:
I think it's time once again to remind you of two things: 1. Brit does her research, and 2. Fictionalized and TV police stories contain higher amounts of danger, deaths, and shootings than do the lives of real-life police officers.
On the first point, I have researched police car cameras, both on cruisers and bait cars, both for the positioning of the cameras and the officers' ability to turn them on or off. Furthermore, some of you may be under the impression that all uniformed police wear cameras and microphones on their uniforms at all times. This is currently true of limited teams of police officers around the USA, specifically Cincinnati, Ohio, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Aberdeen, South Dakota, and San Diego and San Jose, California, but not the NYPD, at least not at this time. I think it is probably the wave of the future, though, and would probably be a good thing.
I know that in real life, most police officers go their whole careers without ever firing their sidearms. Also, real-life police lab turnaround times are considerably longer than we think, if we regularly watch cop shows or read cop fiction. In this story, I am trying to achieve a balance between real life (in which people we know rarely get shot, even if we are police officers) and the exigencies of crime fiction, which in order to hold people's interest, has to contain more drama than is usually found in the real world.
My survey isn't ready yet, but I hope to get it put up in about a week. In the meantime, if you have anything at all to say about this chapter, either positive or negative, I would be greatly interested to hear it! Thanks for reading!