Serial cop drama. Check back for a new chapter every week — or maybe sooner.
CONTENT NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG READERS.
(From Chapter 7) The man sitting in the chair in front of a television that is still on looks just like Steve Bartman 2003. Dark sweatshirt, green turtleneck, the Cubs cap and, of course, the glasses. He looks like he’s watching a game, the game. He’s got a pained expression, like it had just happened. He had reached out, and he knew his life would never be the same.
This poor guy was frozen in that moment, and he would definitely not be the same.
“I’d say he’s been dead since last night,” Kowalski says. “TV is on WGN. Time of death could coincide with the Cubs game. We’re processing the scene.”
Sullivan snaps out of his reverie.
“Jesus H. Christ,” he says.
“How does nobody see nothing?” Sullivan says in the car after a long day of processing the scene, talking to neighbors. “Nobody sees a guy lugging around a goat head. Nobody sees someone coming or going from two dead guys’ apartments. What we got, a ghost?”
“No sign of forced entry again,” Jackson says. “Again within a few blocks of Wrigley.”
As they pull up to the station, Sullivan says: “I’m off the clock and going to get a beer. You want one?”
“Will wonders never cease,” Jackson says.
“Forget it,” Sullivan says quickly. “Just thought we could run over the case, but screw you.”
“Jeez, Sullivan,” Jackson says. “You’re like dealing with one of them Siegfried and Roy tigers. One minute you’re all friendly and then you bite my head off. Shit man, I’ll get a beer.”
“Fine,” Sullivan barks. “Follow me.”
Jackson gets his car and pulls around. Sullivan pulls out and leads him a few miles from the station into Rogers Park where he pulls up to a hole in the wall bar that looks like it is avoiding attracting customers based on the half-lit Old Style sign in front.
The assorted old men at the bar look up when they enter and do a double take that Jackson knows all too well. But they turn their white heads back to the bar soon enough, exhausted by the strain of that extra look.
Sullivan orders a Budweiser draft, and Jackson says he’ll take one too.
“Can I get a shot of Jim Beam too?” Jackson asks the bartender, who nods assent.
“Make that two, too,” Sullivan says, glad that Jackson took the lead on something stronger than beer.
“Lot of Q-tips in this place,” Jackson says after the bartender walks away.
“Q-tips, what the hell are you talking about?” Sullivan says.
“Look around,” Jackson says smiling. “White hair. Q-tips.”
“Very funny,” Sullivan says. “You’re lucky they don’t swab your ass out of here. Back in the day …”
The bartender sets down their beers and pours the whiskey.
“That must have been way, way back in the day,” Jackson says.
Sullivan starts to smile but takes a long swig from his beer before Jackson can see him enjoy the joke.
“Here’s to catching this freak Cubs fan,” Jackson says, raising his shot.
Sullivan picks up the whiskey and they both knock it back.
Billy admired the photo of “Bartman” for a while and would have stared at it longer, but he knew he needed to get back to work.
So he sits and studies his charts, trying to come up with his next move. He is deep in thought, his eyes moving systematically over the names and numbers in front of him, but something keeps trying to wiggle its way from the outside into his consciousness. He automatically keeps it at bay until frustration starts to infiltrate his studies. He’s not seeing what he needs to see. He’s not, not …
“What the hell is that sound?” he hisses and stops his work and cocks his ear.
He hears the faint meowing of a cat. Again and again.
He stands and follows the sound to the door, which he unlocks. Stepping into the hall he stops and finds that it is louder here. Down the hall, to the front door. The sound is coming from just on the other side.
He takes a quick look through the peephole and then unlocks the deadbolts.
The long-haired cat on the other side looks up. It is not afraid. It walks up and before he can step back, it rubs its side against his leg, purring. He recognizes it as Mrs. Milito’s cat.
Billy looks down the stairs and seeing nobody, snatches up the cat and quickly closes the door. The deadbolts snap back into place.
“Enough of talking about the nut job that we know very little about,” Sullivan says, his words a little slower and a little freer due to the beers and whiskey. “Why the hell are you a White Sox fan, Jackson?”
“My dad,” Jackson says. “He followed the White Sox. He grew up on the South Side, so I guess it made sense. We’d sit there at night, him with a 40, me with a Dr. Pepper. We had Harry Caray back in those days. Jimmy Piersall. Falstaff, right? They drank Falstaff, I think. Shit, I don’t know. But it was a good time.”
“Yeah, Falstaff,” Sullivan says. “Man, that was some shitty beer. But Harry and Jimmy, they were funny. I’ll give you that.”
“You got a son, right?” Jackson says. “He a Cubs fan or you turn him to the White Sox with your endearing demeanor?”
“Very funny, Jackson,” Sullivan says.
“Really, though, he a Cubs fan? You watch games together,” Jackson says.
“Yeah, we watched games,” Sullivan says. “He was a Cubs fan. I don’t know now.”
“What, he switched, lives someplace else, what?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Sullivan says, taking a swig.
“What?” Jackson says.
“Doesn’t fucking matter,” Sullivan says, setting down his beer and looking at Jackson sternly but with a hint of sadness where the core of anger usually resides. “I’m out of here.”
“No big deal,” Jackson offers. “Didn’t mean to pry.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sullivan says. “Big day tomorrow. Later.”
He turns and shuffles out the door.
The next morning Billy bounds down the steps, ever-present crisp and clean Cubs hat on his head, and heads toward the front door of the building.
Mrs. Milito throws open her apartment door.
“Hi Billy,” she says. “I’m glad to catch you. Have you seen my Mittens? I can’t find him anywhere, and he never stays out like this.”
Her voice edges toward frantic.
“Your cat. Why no, Mrs. Milito. I haven’t seen him,” Billy says. “But if I do I’ll bring him right home.”
He pulls open the door and then turns back.
“You have a good day, Mrs. Milito,” he says with a smile.
The sun hits Sullivan’s eye and causes him to twitch, but he remains asleep. The light expands across his face and he squints.
He looks around and realizes with a sinking feeling that he didn’t make it out of his recliner. Two beer cans sit on the table next to him. The television is on.
“This day is gonna suck,” he says, pushing the chair to an upright position, which makes his head spin a little.
“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” the little voice repeats over and over.
“What buddy?” Jackson says, opening one eye to see his son’s head five inches away from his own.
He’s standing next to the bed. “You gonna stay in bed all day?” he says.
“Not all day, buddy,” Jackson says. “Maybe 15 minutes.”
“15 minutes,” his son says. “That’s forever. Mommy says that if you’re going to be out all hours you gotta pay the price. How much you gotta pay Mommy, Dad?”
“Probably a lot, buddy,” Jackson says with a weak smile and struggles to sit up.
Continue to Chapter 9.
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