First place winner in the police procedural category and Grand Prize winner overall!
JAMES FOOT IS DEAD
By Nick Andreychuk
It was an uncomfortably hot summer day--the kind that made your clothes stick to your back and your soda cans perspire. Unfortunately, the blazing heat did little to stop the eerie chill from running down my spine. I had been thinking about the anonymous phone tip that had brought me to Detective Fowley's house. "James Foot is dead," was all that the muffled voice had said. Foot was the alias that Fowley had been using for his latest undercover assignment--a cover that had apparently been compromised. James Fowley and I were friends from way back, so I was more than a little reluctant to enter his house and have my fears confirmed.
As I tried to gather up my nerve, I put my hand on the doorknob and twisted. It was unlocked. But before I could open the door, the sound of a car pulling up the gravel driveway behind me distracted my attention.
I turned around to see another squad car stopping next to mine. A familiar figure stepped out and joined me on the porch. It was my superior, Captain Dourly, and she didn't look happy. From the beginning, she'd been opposed to having her star detective assigned to such a dangerous undercover job, but the Chief had dismissed her objections. If the phone tip was correct, I imagined she'd have a few choice words for him once she returned to the precinct.
Dourly frowned at me. "What are you standing around for?" Without waiting for an answer, she drew her gun and used her free hand to open the door. Stepping in cautiously, she nearly tripped over the body of a man lying on his stomach vertically in front of us.
It was Fowley, and the pool of blood that he was sprawled in left no doubt that the phone tip had been true--he was dead. Evidently he'd been a few feet away from the door when he'd been shot, and had crawled towards his assailant, or the front door to call for help, but had expired where he lay.
We made sure that the house was secure, and then discussed the case. I was of the mindset that a full investigation was required; but the captain felt that it was an "open-shut" case.
"Fowley was working undercover in the Grisbald organization," she said. "They obviously found out that he was a cop and they took care of him--end of story." She took a long swallow from the can of Pepsi she was holding, then sighed. "Look, I know you two were tight, and he was a damn fine detective, but we've never been able to pin a hit on the Grisbalds and I'm not going to get my hopes up on this one..."
Her words passed through my ears like a distant fog. Something was bothering me. It didn't fit the Grisbalds' profile to leave the body behind, any more than it did to provide an anonymous phone tip. And the captain's no-nonsense, business-as-usual dismissal of one of her own only served to heighten my desire for justice--so I wasn't about to just give up. "I've been thinking about that, Captain," I said. "And I think the reason we can't link the Grisbalds to any of the hits that we know they commissioned, is because they have someone on the inside. In fact, the more I think about it, the more sense it makes-- Fowley must have found out who was on the take..."
"Don't be ridiculous--no one under my command is on the take!" She took another swig of Pepsi, and glared at me.
I didn't want to let it go, but Dourly's Pepsi distracted me. It reminded me of the fact that it felt like a sauna in the place--I guess Fowley didn't believe in air-conditioning--and how a cold drink could really help to clear my head. I told the captain that I was going to the kitchen to get a drink (since I didn't think Fowley would mind much in his current condition). I opened the fridge and was quickly reminded that Fowley was an avid Diet Coke drinker. The fridge was full of the stuff; in fact, it was the only beverage in there. After ascertaining that there was ice in the freezer, I checked the pantry for warm drinks, but all I found were several more cases of Diet Coke.
Fowley loved his Diet Coke. Not a very manly drink if you ask me, but what do I know?--I've got a spare tire around my waist and Fowley had a washboard stomach. Actually, the abundance of cola reminded me of Dourly's Pepsi addiction. People often refer to heavy cigarette smokers as "chain-smokers," and that's how I thought of Dourly, as a "chain-cola-drinker." I'd spent enough time with her to know that she drank a minimum of six cans of Pepsi a day. Of course, truth be told, my own Pepsi consumption often rivaled hers. We were both "Pepsi snobs" so to speak, although considering how thirsty I was, I would have considered drinking a Coke. But a Diet Coke? I was of the opinion that Diet Coke smells like old socks, and tastes worse than it smells. Needless to say, I chose to have a glass of ice water.
When I got back into the front room, Dourly scowled at me. "I can't take this heat anymore. Let's continue our conversation back at the station."
She wasn't wearing a jacket, and I could see sweat stains forming under her arms. It wasn't a pretty sight. But what really caught my attention was the tightness of her trousers' pockets. It was suddenly all too clear to me. "Uh, Captain," I said, "Where'd you get that Pepsi from?"
A stricken look crossed her face. "I brought it with me," she snapped.
"No you didn't--you must have left it behind when you were here earlier, because the only thing you were carrying when you entered the house with me was your gun..."
As if the mention of her gun had reminded her of its existence, she suddenly reached for her sidearm.
But I was ready for that. "Don't bother," I said as I leveled my piece directly at her holster.
"It'll be your word against mine," she warned, as I placed my cuffs around her slender wrists.
I read her the rights that she already knew so well, and hauled her back to the station.
It would have been nice to say at this point: "And justice was served. The end." Unfortunately, I'm unable to say that because in this case, justice was not served. There was insufficient evidence to bring Captain Dourly to trial. As she'd said, it ended up being her word against mine. Internal Affairs just laughed at me when I told them that a Pepsi can was my only piece of proof. Of course, it didn't help matters much that the captain and I were ex-lovers. Nor did the fact that we'd joined the squad at the same time and had been the top two candidates for the promotion to captain.
I.A. wrote my accusation off as the jealous ranting of a dumped boyfriend who wanted revenge. The outcome of it all was that an innocent man died in vain and a crooked cop got away with murder. I got a bad rep and a transfer to a seedy district. But worst of all is the fact that I can no longer look at a can of Pepsi, much less drink one...
So now, I "do the Dew."
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