Book 1: All The Way Gone (excerpt)

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The on-and-off drizzle falling over much of Brooklyn since dawn is off again. Prospect Park, its trees still holding onto many of their leaves so late in the year, is damp, chilly and gray as Jack Turner bursts through the tree line. Later, some witnesses will describe him as frantic, while others will tell the police the man seemed deranged.

“Has anyone seen my wife?” he blurts out, dirt smudged across his running suit. “Excuse me,” he says, breathlessly, reaching out to people as he moves quickly down the park drive. “Have you seen a woman … about this tall?” He holds his bloody, scraped arm out in front of his chest. “Short black hair, wearing a dark blue running suit with white stripes down the sides,” he says, motioning his arms up and down his sides like a man impersonating a monkey to amuse children — but he’s not laughing. “And down along the pants.”

People shake their heads. “No, sorry.” Some are frightened by this man, who himself seems frightened and crazy.

He continues along the park drive, asking other runners the same questions. “Excuse me… Have you seen a woman about this tall, with short black hair? She’s wearing a dark blue running suit with white stripes down the sides.”

“No, sorry.”

“Nope.”

“No … but are you OK?” one of them asks, but he keeps moving.

Two women walk around him, giving him a wide berth. “What’s wrong with that man?” the older one asks.

“Nothing, Mom. He’s just upset about something. It has nothing to do with us. Let’s go.”

He continues past them to a grassy area, not far from the Grand Army Plaza entrance, known as Nellie’s Lawn, where a couple of Haitian boys are kicking a soccer ball. He describes his wife, but the boys shake their heads.

There’s a tear midway down the right leg of his running pants. His knee is cut. There’s dirt mixed with blood. Bits of dried leaves and dirt are ground into his pants. There are scratches on his chin.

“Excuse me, have you seen a woman about this tall with ….”

***

Detective Marty Lufkin pulls his pants up around his expansive waistline, smiling as he tugs his rumpled shirt down in front. “Kid, let me tell you about bad backs, OK? I wrenched my back falling down a flight of stairs.”

“Were you in pursuit?” the rookie asks.

“Yeah,” Marty says, running his palm over thinning, gray hair.

“Pursuit my ass. He was in pursuit of the men’s room,” Detective Ryan Sullivan says, laughing as he leans against a row of steel gray filing cabinets.

Sullivan appears to the rookie to be a much sharper cop, with his crisp white shirt, neat blue trousers and gold tie.

“OK, but I wasn’t drunk,” Marty laughs in response.

“You were drunk on duty?” the rookie asks, mildly horrified.

“I wasn’t on duty, kid.” Marty turns to Ryan. “You see the ideas you put in his head? Kid thinks I’m drinking on the job for Chrissakes.”

“Oh,” Ryan says, turning to the rookie and resting a thick-fingered hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Marty doesn’t drink on the job, kid.” He gently pats the rookie’s back, then turns to Marty. “OK?”

“Yeah. Now where … oh right. So two steps down and bam! The next thing I know I’m at the bottom of those steps… flat out. When I get up I feel this twinge in my lower back, but it didn’t feel like any big thing.”

“Next day, though ….” Ryan prompts.

“Right… Next day I’m in so much pain I can’t do nothing I don’t feel it in my back. So I go to this doctor and he says, ‘Go see a chiropractor.’ The chiropractor, he does a little heat with a paddle thing… sonar something. Sonogram?”

“Ultrasound,” Ryan says.

“Yeah, whatever the fuck he does, and then he says, ‘You should go for a massage,’ and gives me a phone number. So I give them a jingle and this Chinese broad answers.”

“Korean,” Ryan corrects him.

“Yeah. So I go over there the next day. It’s in this high-rise building in midtown with a doorman. Decent digs, you know? This Chinese broad greets me.”

“Korean… They’re all Koreans,” Ryan inserts.

“Yeah, right. So this one walks me to a cubicle, I get undressed, wrap a towel on, hop up on the massage table and put my face in the hole. This other broad comes in and goes to work on me.

“It’s a pretty good massage, she’s getting the kinks out nice and I’m feeling good and loose there. Then she says roll over, so I do. No sooner am I on my back then she’s snapped on a surgical glove and she’s reachin’ under the towel for my package!” Marty tries to look offended. Ryan simply smirks.

“And she says to me, ‘You want re-rease?’ and I’m thinking, what the fuck … my chiro sends me to a happy-ending joint? I can’t believe this. And, of course, I’m thinking my wife would fucking murder me if she found out.”

“Not like she was doing anything like that for you anyway,” Ryan laughs.

“Shut up, knucklehead, and let me finish my story.”

Ryan raises his hands, feigning surrender.

“So I say, ‘No honey, not today, thanks.’ And she shrugs, pulls the glove off her hand and tosses it in the trash on her way out. I get dressed and go out to the reception desk. The broad there asks me was everything OK. So I say, ‘Sure, everything was fine.’ Then she says, ‘One-hundred-fifty dollar.’ And I say, ‘One-hundred-fifty dollar what? It’s seventy-five what I was told on the phone.’ And she says, ‘Yes, but you have special massagee, one-hundred-fifty dollar.’ And I say, ‘I did not have special massagee, I had regular massagee.’ Now I’m pissed so I’m yelling and everyone in the joint is looking at us. Then she yells, ‘You had re-rease, you pay one hundred fifty’ and I yell back, ‘I did not have re-rease.’”

Unable to contain himself, Ryan says, “She’s got him mispronouncing it now … I love that.”

“Yeah,” Marty continues. “So finally I flash my shield and she shuts the fuck up right quick. I drop seventy-five in cash on the desk and walk out.”

Marty pauses and looks at the rookie with a straight face. Ryan is laughing silently, the veins of his thick neck popping under the ruddy Irish skin.

The rookie looks anxiously from Marty to Ryan. “So did you go back and bust the joint or what?”

Marty returns his gaze with the slightest trace of disgust. “Hey kid, I’m murder squad, not fucking vice.”

“So you didn’t do anything about it?” the rookie asks incredulously.

“Oh no, kid,” Ryan breaks in, finally controlling his laughter. “He found out that if he’d gotten a receipt, insurance would have reimbursed him for, like, eighty percent.”

“That’s right, therapeutic massage is a partially covered expense under our medical plan,” Marty says.

“So now he goes like clockwork every other week. They give him special massagee with re-rease at the regular rate and a receipt for one-hundred-and-fifty dollars, so the whole thing costs Marty not one dime.”

“But that’s fraud … and illegal … and … and what about your wife?”

“You got a lot to learn, kid,” Ryan says.

“My wife left me for a contractor months ago.”

“And she wouldn’t have cared if she did know,” Ryan puts in.

“Shut up you,” Marty says.

“Yeah, OK stud,” Ryan laughs as he pokes at Marty’s flabby belly for emphasis.

Marty joins in with Ryan’s laughter as the rookie looks from one to the other then turns slightly, staring at the crinkled notes taped up in a jumble on the dull green wall. Faces stare back from black and white photos, but they have no answers for the rookie, so he walks away shaking his head.

“I would say the kid is perplexed,” Ryan says with a smirk.

“He’ll be back, soon as he figures out how to fake a back injury. He’ll be wanting that number.”

A uniformed cop steps into the room and looks at Marty Lufkin. “Detective? You got a minute?”

***

The initial rush of adrenaline has burned off and Jack is calmer.

A patrol car rolls along the drive. Jack waves for it to stop as he walks toward it. The car stops in front of the park zoo and Jack approaches from the passenger side then bends forward, putting his hands on his knees to see fully inside the car.

“Anything wrong, sir?” asks Rodriguez, the cop in the passenger seat.

“Yes, my wife … she’s … I can’t find her.”

“Was she here in the park?”

“Yes, we came out for a run,” Jack says, running a hand through his hair, slick now from the cold drizzle that’s started to fall.

“When was this?”

“About an hour ago, maybe longer… I don’t know. I don’t know what time it is now.”

Rodriguez glances at his watch. “It’s ten o’clock now, sir.” He takes Jack in: his appearance, his thin yet powerful build, torn clothes, scraped and dirty hands, the cut on his chin, the expensive sports watch. Judging from his hair and the absence of any lines around the eyes and mouth, he figures Jack for mid-30s.

“We got out here about eight this morning. She should have made the plaza by eight thirty. I went ahead … she was only a few minutes behind me, but she never made it to the end,” Jack says.

“Can you describe her for me?”

“Yeah, she’s five-foot-two, short black hair, brown eyes, about 110 pounds, 45 years old, but she looks younger. She’s wearing a dark blue running suit with white stripes down the sides and white sneakers.”

“Race?” Rodriguez asks.

“No we were just out for a regular run,” Jack responds, appearing perplexed.

“No, sir, what race is your wife? Is she Caucasian like you?”

“Oh, oh … sorry, I’m …” Jack touches his head and makes a little flipping motion with his hand. “She’s light skinned, half white, half Columbian.”

Sitting in the driver’s seat, Officer Maloney leans over a little to get closer to Jack. “Alright, we’ll put her down as Hispanic, OK?” he says, grabbing the mic.

“Why don’t you get in and we’ll ride around, see if we can’t spot her,” Rodriguez says as Maloney gives the wife’s description to dispatch.

Jack opens the rear door and climbs in. When he shuts the door he thinks of a time years before when he’d been in the back of a police car after a long, bad drunken night.

“You OK, pal?” Maloney asks, looking at Jack in the rearview mirror.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“You look a might pale there… not gonna be sick are you?”

“No, no. It’s just being back here.”

“Remind you of something?” Rodriguez asks.

Jack hesitates a moment. “All those shows,” he says. “All those reality shows you see these days. The people in the back of the police cars, you never think of yourself there.”

“Uh huh,” Maloney says as he shifts into drive and rolls the car up the Park Drive and through Battle Pass, back the way Jack had come.

Rodriguez grabs the radio, calls into dispatch.

“Can we get a check on any ambulance activity around the park this morning, other than that kid who got hit?”

“Roger,” the dispatcher replies.

“Out,” Rodriguez says, then turns his head a bit toward Jack. “I’m thinking maybe your wife hurt herself.”

The windshield wipers make a loud, sudden noise as they scrape along the glass, streaking the droplets of water into one large swath, blurring the view.

“I thought of that. I ran home earlier to check the answering machine and my cell phone, but there was nothing.”

“These things generally work themselves out, sir. There’s always an explanation,” Maloney says.

They drive around the northern tip of the park, then south again on the main drive.

As they approach Center Drive, one of two traverses between the east and west sides of the main park drive, Maloney turns to Jack. “Would your wife have maybe gone through here or Wellhouse Drive?”

“We … no. At least I don’t think so, we were only going once around the park drive today,” Jack says, sounding unsure.

The wipers scrape along the glass again then go quiet as the drizzle turns to rain. They continue on the park drive until it loops around the lake at the southernmost section of the park. Once they’ve gone around the park completely, they drive through both traverses and back onto the main drive, heading north, then coming up over the tip past Grand Army Plaza and then south again until they reach the 15th street entrance to the park.

Another police car is parked down the entrance road near the large columns that grace the roadway leading into the park just off Bartel-Pritchard Circle. They roll up alongside, lining up the driver’s side windows.

“Anything?” Maloney asks the cops in the other car.

“Nope.”

“Alright.”

“What are you gonna do?” asks the driver of the other car, Officer Gilroy.

“We’ll take him in, let the dicks handle it.”

Jack is looking out the rear window, back at the park drive.

“Hey what about that kid this morning, huh?” Gilroy says.

“Yeah, what a mess,” Rodriguez says.

“You ask me, it was only a matter of time before something like that happened, way those fuckin’ bikes come flying down that hill,” says Walsh, the cop in the passenger seat of the other car.

Jack is staring at a runner going past the horse corral.

“You’re right… act like they’re Lance Armstrong or something,” agrees Rodriguez.

“Alright, we better roll out,” Maloney says. “We’ll catch you later.”

“Later,” Gilroy says.

Maloney turns the car around and heads back onto the park drive. Jack looks out at the corral as they roll past.

Maloney looks at Jack in the rearview mirror. “Mr. Turner? We’re gonna give this over to the detectives, OK? We’ll keep an eye out, but you should talk to them.”

“OK,” Jack says absently, still looking out the window. There’s a long pause as Jack watches the horse corral disappear around the bend. The rain has suddenly stopped. When he can no longer see the corral, Jack faces forward. “That other cop mentioned something about a kid getting hit. What happened?”

“Oh, this morning, yeah, a kid got hit by a bicycle. Damn shame,” Maloney says.

“When was this?”

“Around seven a.m.”

“Is the child OK?” Jack asks.

“Nah, he died at the scene. Head trauma. His mother was there, screaming her lungs out.”

“Thing of it is,” Rodriguez breaks in, matter-of-factly, “I think the bike guy figures he’s got the right of way, so running into someone isn’t his problem.”

“What makes you think that?” Jack asks.

“’Cause I remember the same guy got into it with a runner last year. I had to break up a fistfight between them, and the guy on the bike kept yelling about ‘right-of-way’ … that he had the ‘right-of-way.’ I told him that didn’t give him the right to run people down or punch them in the face, but I don’t think he got it.”

“He’ll get it now. They booked him on manslaughter charges, and somebody said the kid’s father is a heavyweight lawyer,” Maloney says.

“You think the guy’s gonna do time?” Rodriguez asks.

“He might. He just might.”

They pull into a spot in front of the 78th precinct house and all three of them get out of the car, walk up the steps, and enter through the large green door. Jack notices that this precinct looks like every other one he’s ever been in, but it also resembles every public school he’s ever attended. He wonders if that’s intentional or a coincidence of city planning or finance. Build the cheapest structure that’ll last a century and only paint it once every other decade.

“Mr. Turner, wait here, please,” Maloney says, motioning toward a wooden bench attached to the bottom half of a brick-and-windowed wall. The window is the old-style safety glass with thin strands of twisted wire threaded through the panes, making small diamond shapes. This keeps the thick glass from shattering into dangerous jagged pieces if someone hits it hard or with a blunt object, like a chair or a bullet. Jack wrestles a cell phone out of his pocket and hits the speed dial for his office.

“Keri Peterson.”

“Hi Keri, it’s Jack.”

“Oh Jack, hi. You not coming in today?” she asks in her usual cheery phone voice.

“Yeah … no … I’m not coming in. Is Melissa around?”

“I think she’s in her office with someone. Do you want me to see if I can get her attention?”

“No, just let her know I’m not coming in today… family emergency.”

“Is everything OK?” Keri asks, switching to her concerned voice.

“It will be,” Jack says as he runs his hand along the bench. “I’ll be in tomorrow. Just let her know for me, OK?”

“OK Jack. You take care.”

“Alright, I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks.”

“Bye,” she says, returning to her cheery voice.

Jack shoves the phone back in his pocket. If he acts as if nothing is wrong, if he can convince others around him everything is normal, then it will be.  All this will be alright. Nothing is wrong. Everything is as it should be. If only. If only everything weren’t so wrong – if only, if only, if only. ‘Just keep it together Jack,’ he thinks. ‘Keep it together boy. We’ll get through this if you keep your cool.’

© Copyright  D James Eldon

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Obviously, there is a lot more to this story. And you can read it all by following these links:
– For KINDLE version, click here
– For paperback, click here
– For the NOOK version, click here

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