Thursday, February 2, 2012
Now, here's Chapter Two:
“That is totally disgusting.” Sharon Dupont shook her head, her pretty mouth drawing down into a frown as new Paskagankee Police Chief Mike McMahon attempted to navigate a large steak bomb in the passenger seat of their parked cruiser. He grinned at the petite officer’s horrified expression as he chomped away, bread and cheese and bits of steak, onions and peppers littering the cruiser’s cloth bench seat, forming an ever-growing circle around him.
He swallowed and licked his lips. “You’re just jealous. You decided to pass up this traditional American feast and now you’re sorry you didn’t get something too, so you could join in the fun.”
“Are you kidding me?” she countered. “After being subjected to this display, I might not ever eat anything again, never mind dead animal flesh.”
McMahon reached across the seat and waved the partially eaten sandwich in front of her, drawing another frown. He nodded knowingly. “Jealousy. It’s very unbecoming.”
Mike McMahon had been in town for just over a week. He had edged out a total of zero other applicants for the chief of police job in the isolated northern Maine town of Paskagankee—population four thousand, give or take. Outgoing Chief Wally Court—a fitting name for a law enforcement officer, McMahon thought—had reviewed Mike’s application and conducted a thirty-minute telephone interview followed by a two-hour personal meeting before hiring him within a matter of days.
In neither of the interviews had Court asked Mike the obvious question of why he wanted to move from Revere, Massachusetts—a hardscrabble community just north of Boston—to a sleepy hamlet like Paskagankee while still in the prime of his career, and for that Mike was grateful. Maybe the chief had heard about the shooting last year and understood Mike’s need to get away from Revere, or maybe he just didn’t give a damn why anyone would want the job and was just thankful someone did. Either way, though, Mike had escaped his old life, which was exactly what he needed.
Mike had been surprised by the apparent contradiction that was Chief Wally Court. His office, where the in-person job interview had taken place, had been neat to the point of obsession, with the obligatory citations and photos of the chief glad-handing dignitaries adorning his walls and with a shipshape desk devoid of any hint of clutter.
The outgoing chief’s personal appearance, however, had been a different story. His graying hair badly needed a trim, as did his beard. He sported at least a three-day growth of salt and pepper on a face clearly unused to the intrusion. His uniform was heavily wrinkled and appeared slept-in, and Court sweated profusely throughout the interview, looking extremely uncomfortable, as if he had somewhere else he needed to be.
Mike thought it all added up to something strange; there was clearly more to the story of retiring Paskagankee Police Chief Wally Court than met the eye. Perhaps the man was ill. Whatever his situation, it didn’t really matter. Mike had been notified three days after the unusual interview that the job was his if he wanted it. Furthermore, the town needed him to start as soon as possible due to the imminent retirement of Chief Court, a circumstance that fit Mike’s desires perfectly.
The first thing McMahon had done upon his arrival in town was to introduce himself to his small force of officers and announce he would not be changing any procedures or assignments right away, but rather that he would take the next month or two and accompany an officer on routine patrols in order to familiarize himself with the town and its people. He had chosen rookie Sharon Dupont to train with for no particular reason other than she was relatively new to the force, so he assumed she would be less likely to kick and scream and raise a fuss about having to babysit the new boss than a more established veteran would be.
Now the two were trading barbs like partners and friends, despite the fact Dupont had been on the job just six months and McMahon brought fifteen years of law enforcement experience to Paskagankee, all of it on a busy metropolitan police force.
A light-falling mist drizzled around the cruiser as the two sat in the otherwise empty parking lot of the town’s only funeral home, using a hand-held radar gun to clock cars passing by on Route 14. The effort was mostly for show, an attempt to discourage townspeople from speeding rather than actually to ticket drivers.
Mike prepared to wave what was left of his sandwich in Officer Dupont’s face again, just to enjoy her reaction, when a muddy, faded maroon Ford pickup flashed by, at least fifteen years old, losing the battle to rust and traveling a good twenty-five miles per hour over the posted speed limit of forty-five. The truck roared through a massive puddle, kicking up an impressive rooster tail of spray and fishtailing momentarily before regaining traction on the wet pavement and continuing along the road. The driver was clearly in a hurry and had not noticed the police cruiser, despite the fact it was parked in the middle of an otherwise empty lot.
Dupont looked a question at Mike, her short black hair framing her face in a very appealing way. “Go get him,” he said, nodding, and she hit the gas, pulling smoothly out of the lot and overtaking the pickup within a quarter-mile, an impressive feat considering the truck’s speed.
She hit her blues and the driver of the pickup traveled another several hundred feet before apparently noticing the cruiser and pulling to the side of the road without benefit of a turn signal. Sharon eased up behind the truck and prepared to step into the falling drizzle. Mike asked, “You want some help?”
“Nah,” she replied. “No sense in us both getting soaked.”
“Good answer. You’ve really got a future in my department.” He grinned as she whacked him on the arm with her hat and climbed out of the cruiser. He admired her slim form as she walked away—she looked good even in the unflattering blue uniform blouse and dark grey slacks of the Paskagankee Police Department.
Officer Dupont approached the battered pickup truck and Mike was unsurprised to see the occupant hand his license and registration through the window immediately upon her arrival at the door. It was obvious he had fished the required documents out of his wallet and glove compartment while they had had their brief conversation inside the cruiser.
“Had a little experience at this, have you?” Mike muttered to himself and then sat up straight in his seat as the driver’s side door of the truck opened abruptly and a man stepped unsteadily to the pavement. His first instinct was to rush to the rookie’s defense, but he forced himself to wait and watch, to stay in the cruiser and see how she would react. Had he not been riding shotgun to learn the ins and outs of this small town, she would have been patrolling this remote stretch of road alone, best to let her handle the incident by herself.
Standard department procedure dictated that the officer instruct the driver to wait in his vehicle while she returned to her cruiser to check for outstanding warrants. Mike was certain she had done just that as she approached the truck, so the man’s exiting the vehicle in spite of that warning constituted an aggressive action and cause for concern.
Mike’s concern turned to amusement, though, as the obviously drunk driver proved no match for Officer Dupont, despite his being at least eight inches taller and probably close to one hundred pounds heavier than she was. No sooner had his feet splashed down on the wet pavement than she grabbed him by the wrist, forcing his hand backward and using the resulting leverage to spin him around and slam him face first into the side of his truck. She kicked his feet apart and quickly patted him down for weapons, then slapped cuffs on his wrists and marched him to the rear of the cruiser, dumping him unceremoniously into the back seat while he sputtered indignantly about police brutality.
As soon as the man looked up through the cage separating the back seat from the front and saw Mike, he stopped complaining and slurred, “Who’re you?”
“New police chief,” Mike answered. “My name is Mike McMahon and I understand you have a problem with my officer?”
“You’re damn right I do! You saw her beat on me for no good goddamned reason, and I want to file a complaint.”
“That’s certainly your right,” Mike told him. “But you do understand I sat in this cruiser and watched the entire little episode, and aside from the ease with which she subdued you, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I’ll be happy to testify to that in court if necessary.”
“But nothing,” Mike interrupted. “Did Officer Dupont instruct you to remain inside your vehicle?”
“Well, yeah,” he reluctantly admitted.
“And you stepped out of your vehicle anyway?”
“Then all I can tell you is you’re lucky it wasn’t me out there because you’d be on your way to the hospital right now, rather than to a warm, comfortable holding cell.”
The man slumped back in his seat and shook his head petulantly, turning to look out the side window as Sharon Dupont steered the cruiser off the side of the road and accelerated back toward town. Mike winked at her and she smiled.
In the back seat, the man suddenly found his second wind. “Hey, girlie, how’s your daddy?” he taunted.
Mike glanced at Sharon and held his tongue. Her face reddened, and she stared steadfastly through the windshield as she drove, ignoring their passenger.
“I said, how’s your daddy?” he repeated in a louder voice as if perhaps she had not heard him, despite the fact it should have been obvious she had, even to a drunken lout.
“He’s dead, Earl, you know that. Now do yourself a favor and shut your mouth,” she said sharply.
“Your new girlfriend tell you her daddy used to be one of my best drinking buddies?” This time, Mike decided, the man in the back seat must be addressing him. “Or at least he was before the pretty little thing sitting next to you replaced him. ‘Course, I s’pose it goes without sayin’ that he don’t come around too much no more. You know, what with his being dead and all. Ain’t that right, baby doll?” His voice resumed its taunting tone as he again addressed Sharon Dupont.
Mike glanced sideways at his officer and saw a hard set to her jaw. She was grinding her teeth and a vein throbbed in her forehead, and she looked like she might explode at any moment.
Mike decided enough was enough. For whatever reason, this drunken idiot was getting to the young officer, and it was time to put a stop to it. “Hey dumbass, open your mouth one more time,” he said, turning in his seat and staring down the man in back, “and we’ll add assaulting a peace officer to the drunk-driving charge. You mull that over in your tiny little brain, but remember, just one more word and you’re going to be sorry you ever opened your toothless mouth. That’s a promise.”
The drunk’s mouth dropped open comically but the remainder of the fifteen minute ride to the police station passed in silence. The pair brought the man into the station and deposited him into holding. Mike sipped a coffee while Officer Dupont processed the drunk-driving suspect. One thing common to police stations everywhere, he mused, was the consistently bad coffee. It was as if the worst coffeemakers in the world were reserved for the cops, to be filled with the stalest coffee and brewed with the nastiest water.
Posted by Al Leverone at 11:05 AM