“Dev, what makes you tick?”
“Hatred. Pure hatred!”
“What is wrong with you, Sheehan?”
“Listen up, Captain,” I said, swiping the shot glass off the round table with my left hand while standing up and knocking my chair over backwards onto the floor, all in one motion. The people sitting nearby jumped up from their tables and backed away. “Do you want me to lie or do you want to hear the truth?”
At the sound of the shattered glass, the bald-headed bartender vaulted over the bar and stood next to me with a bar towel in his right hand.
“Listen, Dev, we don’t need any trouble from you,” he hissed through his teeth.
“What are you going to do? Call the cops?”
He shook his head. “Yeah, like that’s going to help, seeing that both of you are wearing your black uniforms right now.”
I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.
“Calling the cops won’t help, but instead I’ll whistle and Shorty will show up from the kitchen. He still remembers the night you sucker-punched him and handcuffed him to the tree outside. He believes the leather blackjack attached to his wrist will make the difference this time and you know, he’s itching to find out,” he said with a smirk on his pockmarked face.
“Bring him on! I’m ready!” I said, clenching both fists and stretching up to my full height of six feet three inches.
“Dev, sit down,” said Captain, tossing a twenty-dollar bill onto our table. “Here’s for the damage. We won’t cause any more trouble tonight, okay?”
The bartender scooped up the bill with his left hand and headed back toward the bar, slapping the towel against his right leg as he walked.
I picked up my chair and sat down, looking across the table at Captain Salvatore Testa, my best friend since attending third grade together at Holy Rosary Grade School, in what used to be Little Italy in northeast Los Angeles. Time had treated Captain well over the previous twenty-six years. Thick dark hair and clear brown eyes complemented his iron-man chiseled body. But his phone call at 1700 hours to meet him at Bundy’s Bar, near Echo Park, had irked me because I had other plans for the evening, which had to be canceled.
“Is this about Kathy?” he whispered.
Just hearing her name spoken by a friend who knew her prodded me out of my sour attitude into a solemn one. You’d think that I would have been better about hiding my feelings after eighteen months, but the guilt I felt over her brutal murder had not lessened one bit inside me. Whiskey helped, but still the nightmares returned every night, showing her bloody body lying in that hospital’s parking lot. Her second trimester baby boy, which had been ripped out of her stomach, lay atop her. His decapitated head had never been found and was probably resting in the murderer’s trophy case.
“How can it not be? She was my kid sister, for heavens’ sake. I practically raised her after Mom died.”
“Dev, I know, I know,” whispered Captain leaning across the table, “but are you working on her case?”
“I work it on my off-hours. So, it’s not hurting your precious budget.”
Captain slammed the table with his right fist.
“Lieutenant Sheehan, we’re talking about conflict of interest, not my budget!”
“Cap, she and her son’s murders have officially been placed in the cold case file. You know as well as I do with three to four hundred new homicides in LA every month and an understaffed police force, their murders will never be worked again. I promised myself I would find that man and bring him to justice.”
He blew out his breath. “What do you have so far?”
“I have copies of all the files and reports. I’ve checked them out. The biggest error that I can see is that the investigators focused too long on a seventeen-year old MS-13 member. Eventually, a cop came forward with an alibi for the kid, saying he was in a fight at a McDonalds, twenty miles from the murder scene. By that time, the investigators overlooked what I believe was the best lead.”
“Okay, I’m hooked. Tell me more.”
“A witness saw a medium sized, well-built, red-haired man with a grocery bag walking down the sidewalk. She said he had a large “Roll Tide” tattoo on his left shoulder and wore black pants, black shoes and a black sleeveless t-shirt.”
“What are you doing with that info?”
“If the man was walking, it means he may have lived in the area. So, I’m going door to door. Someone is bound to know something, right?”
“Keep me in the loop and don’t do anything crazy.”
Captain folded his arms across his chest.
“I didn’t call you here to talk about your investigation or your life. I came to ask you to head a security detail tomorrow, guarding Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Grayson Armstrong and three other important men.”
“General Armstrong will be hosting a meeting with General Yitzhak Ben-David of Israel, General Akeem Najjar of Jordan and General Rashad Kadir of Syria at LAX Airport tomorrow at 0700 hours. It’s a secret meeting and will be held in a cordoned off room. We are backup to the Elite Special Reaction Team Forces who are guarding the four generals, but I want our butts covered.”
“What if I say no?” I asked, knowing his answer ahead of time.
“Then I’d have to order you to do it, Lieutenant Sheehan.”
“Okay, my answer is yes.”
Captain handed a command packet with all of the needed codes and security info across the table to me. I slipped it into my jacket pocket, next to my backup pistol.
“And Lieutenant Sheehan?”
He stood up, leaned over and looked straight into my eyes. “I’m walking out of Bundy’s Bar right now and so are you. That’s an order.”
I smiled and stood up.
“Hey, bartender,” I shouted over my shoulder at the bartender. He turned to look at me. “Tell Shorty, I’ll see him next time, when I’m alone.”
Be honest about what you think, okay?