Serial cop drama. Check back for a new chapter every week — or maybe sooner.
CONTENT NOT SUITABLE FOR YOUNG READERS.
(From Chapter 6) “You know we’re going to check into all of this,” Jackson says. “And we respectfully ask that you come to the station and provide us with some DNA. Want to rule you out.”
“Sure, whatever helps,” O’Reilly says, sounding really tired. “Just please don’t get me in trouble with work. Really. Please.”
“We’ll try,” Jackson says.
“I need a drink,” O’Reilly says.
“Don’t we all,” Sullivan says as he and Jackson walk away, leaving O’Reilly looking confused and deflated.
More than a week had passed since Sullivan and Jackson spoke to O’Reilly. The two cops sat in the precinct house going over the file.
“We’ve got a dead goat’s head filled with the blood of a woman, likely enough to say we’ve got a homicide,” Sullivan says. “Dropped off at Wrigley Field.”
“We’ve got a dead male, no personal connection to the Cubs, with a Leon Durham baseball card on his corpse,” Jackson says.
“We’ve got nothing on where this goat came from,” Sullivan says, looking through a file.
“Baseball card is nothing special,” Jackson says. “Topps made a bunch of them. Not rare or worth anything.”
“So we’ve got squat,” Sullivan says.
“Pretty much,” Jackson says.
They both lean back in their chairs and stare into the distance.
“Was watching the Cubs the other day. What do you think about that Baez kid?” Sullivan says.
“What? You talkin’ to me?” Jackson says.
“Yeah, I’m talking to you,” Sullivan says.
“Uh, uh, I think I’m gonna cry Sullivan,” Jackson says with a smile. “You never talk to me except to bark out orders about the job. And for all I hear about you being a Cubs fan, I was thinking you never watched a game in your life ’cause every time I talk about it, you …”
“Shut the F up,” Sullivan says. “Just forget it.”
“All right, all right, just so excited about having a civil discussion,” Jackson says as Sullivan glares. “Really, OK. You know what? I think he’s going to be damn good. Seems raw, gonna strike out a lot at first, but the ball jumps off his bat. What you think?”
“He does strike out a lot,” Sullivan says. “But he’s the first guy with three homers in his first three games since 1954.”
“Holy crap, now John Sullivan is quoting me stats,” Jackson says. “You drunk?”
“That’s it,” Sullivan says. “I’m done. You’re a smart ass. No decent manners.”
Jackson stops smirking. “You know what, you’re right,” Jackson says. “Sorry man. And that is correct, 1954. I figure when you do something in baseball, a game they been playin’ a damn long time, that only one or two guys have ever done, that’s something.”
“Who knows,” Sullivan says. “Sandberg sucked to start his career, and he turned out all right.”
“True,” Jackson says. “Very small sample size. Better to not get to excited. Not like how I feel about how we’re bonding.” Jackson smirks again.
“Idiot,” says Sullivan, not looking exactly happy but not quite as miserable as he has lately.
The phone rings, Sullivan picks it up and any semblance of contentment in his demeanor evaporates.
“We gotta go,” he says.
Billy was angry at Mrs. Milito for poking her nose into his business. Really angry. But that was then. He now feels much more forgiving. He also doesn’t want to have a bad relationship with the landlady who doesn’t bother him in his apartment. It’s just these interactions on the front porch that are bothersome.
“Hi, Mrs. Milito,” Billy says when he sees her on the porch again. “Sorry about the other day. I was in a bad mood.”
She perks right up. “Oh Billy, thanks for saying so,” she says. “I felt really bad for butting into your business. You’re a good tenant, don’t cause no problems. Don’t want to drive you away because I’m a nosy old lady.”
“But you’re not nosy, are you Mrs. Milito?” Billy says.
She hesitates, sensing that dark something in him that she saw last week. “Uh, no,” she says. “Of course not. You pay your rent on time. Keep the common areas clean. Your apartment is spotless, as far as I can tell.”
“Have you been in my apartment, Mrs. Milito?” Billy says, the anger returning.
“No, no,” she says. “Just from what I’ve seen from your door. I mean, from when you are there. When I get the rent, I mean.”
Seeing her so flustered, Billy doesn’t feel bad. He feeds off her fear like a starving man gobbles up a crust of bread. But he doesn’t want her to be so afraid she would change their arrangement, so he tries to defuse the tension the best he can for someone who doesn’t actually feel empathy toward the uncomfortable person.
“It’s OK, it’s OK, Mrs. Milito,” he says smiling. “I’m just messing with you.”
He laughs and wonders if she notices that it’s forced. Her broadening smile reveals that she hasn’t noticed.
“Oh Billy,” she says.
Seeing that everything is back to normal between them, Billy is done with this interaction. He wants out as fast as he can. He had wanted to run up to his apartment, to look at his collection, but he had waited because he knew smoothing things over had to be done. Now, he’s done.
“Gotta go,” Mrs. Milito. “Game on soon.” And he walks away before she can get a word out.
Upstairs, he unlocks the two dead bolts and enters the dark apartment. The shades are drawn. What little light leaks in from the sunset outside reveals a spartan, neat living space. No big screen TV, no leather couch and recliner — just a wooden dining room chair sitting next to a basic green sofa and ugly coffee table. All of the furniture looks as if it came from six different garage sales and was procured for its cheap price and with no regard for how it would all fit together.
Billy walks through the room without registering anything about the contents. He heads down a long hall and stops at the room in the back. The padlock stands in stark contrast to the warm orange wood of the six-panel door. He unlocks it, enters and closes the door quickly behind himself. He secures a slide lock on the other side and stops for a second to listen. Nothing.
He looks up to take in the place where he feels safest in the world. At first glance, you would think it was a a journalist’s office. A sports journalist. Cubs banners, posters and memorabilia cover the walls and a bookshelf in the corner. But once your eyes adjust to the dim light, you’d also see the newspaper clippings of a recent murder in the city. And some kind of charts or brackets, big ones, on the walls. In the midst of this office setting, there is also a small refrigerator in the corner with a glass door revealing test tubes that looks like it would be much more at home in a lab than in a sports writer’s home office.
Billy takes a photo out of his pocket and pins it up on the wall next to the newspaper clippings. He sits back in a desk chair, smiles broadly and spins himself around. On the way back he looks again. Looks just like him, he thinks, just like him. He giggles.
Bartman, only something not right.
“Sweet Jesus, it’s him,” Sullivan says. “I wondered if we should warn the guy, but we thought we were smart. He didn’t kill Durham, just left his card, we thought. Now Bartman’s dead.”
“It’s not him,” Jackson says.
“My ass, it’s not him,” Sullivan says. “Believe me, I remember what the guy looks like.”
“Jackson’s right,” Kowalski says. “It’s not him.”
“Take away the hat, glasses and headphones,” Jackson says. “And it’s not him. If you think about it, can’t imagine that Bartman is still walking around with the same getup he wore in 2003. Not even Bartman would look like Bartman if we found him dead.”
Sullivan just stares.
“Don’t worry, Sullivan” Kowalski says. “We all had the same reaction.”
“Just the reaction he wants us to have,” Jackson says. “This is one twisted mother.”
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.
Continue to Chapter 8.
You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.