JB Lacaden’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Rick Reilly
The wind had that bite that signaled the coming winter would be a bitch. I sat on the curb with my collar pulled up and a paper cup filled with coffee cradled in my hands. Steam rose from it. Behind me came the sound of leather on pavement.
“I have kids I love, Rick. I have a beautiful wife. I don’t want to die early but if I do, I swear it’ll be because of you,” the baritone voice belonged to Tom Adelman. He sounded pissed, tired, letdown. He sounded like he wanted to be anywhere but here. I don’t blame him. I really screwed up that night. “I remember telling you, just this morning to be precise, to drop the case and move on. The McHale girl committed suicide. End of story.”
Joan McHale, the girl found lying dead on a park bench with a bloody wrist and a crumpled note in one hand. Homeless Mike called it in. I was the one who responded. I was the first one there. Joan McHale, the way she looked that day, that was something I would never forget. Joan was a very beautiful seventeen year-old. She was the type to win prom queens and be head cheerleader. She was the type of girl that every guy would worship. When I found her, even in death, the first thing that came to mind was how beautiful she looked.
I stood up and faced Tom. He was an old man, far too old to be the chief of police. But retirement was on the very bottom of Tom’s list (I doubt if it’s even on the list). Being a cop is in the man’s blood. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. Tom’s a good cop and a better human being. I fear at the thought of him leaving the force.
Tom sighed as he massaged the bridge of his nose. Deep wrinkles ran abound on the man’s face—like dried out rivers snaking here and there. He opened his eyes and looked hard at me. “Let me ask you this, Rick. What do you think happens to a man, a cop no less, who’s caught breaking into another man’s house and rummaging through their belongings?”
I took a sip of coffee and relished at the feeling of warmth spreading inside me. “They go to jail,” I answered.
“Yes, they do. Shit, Rick. I ought to take your badge and lock you up. The guy’s family wants me to! I want to,” Rick ran a hand through his salt and pepper hair. Then his eyes landed on the paper cup in my hand. “Hey, is that my coffee?”
I gave a nod and took another sip. “The car’s not locked and I knew you would have coffee.”
Tom didn’t say anything. He grabbed the cup from my hand and took a huge gulp.
“Look, Tom,” I began to say.
Tom raised a hand, handed back to me the empty paper cup, and started walking towards his car. I followed.
Tom’s car was a brick red, 1981 Ford Fairmont. The car was as much a legend as the man who drove it. The two have been partners ever since Tom joined the force way back when God was planning creation. Tom opened the door but didn’t step inside.
“You’re one of the best cops I have, probably the best. You’re a smart kid but you’re way too stubborn,” Tom sounded tired, really tired. It was the first time I heard him sound like his age. Guilt flooded in my chest. Tom looked at me—the hardness in his eyes had melted. “You’ll stay on the force but, please, drop the McHale case. Not every dead body out there is a murder victim. Some just grew tired of living.” Tom gave me a weary smile and a pat on the shoulder.
I watched the car drive away and turn at the corner. The wind blew knives through me. I took one last look at the house I just broke into—the house of Joan’s boyfriend. I dug my hands deep into my pockets and I felt the papers I stashed earlier—torn pages from Joan’s diary. Pages where some interesting stuff were written, stuff that hinted at improbability of Joan committing suicide. I tossed the paper cup in a row of bushes behind me and I started to walk away.
JB Lacaden dreams of someday being a published writer. He currently resides in Manila, Philippines. He's a lover of comic books, science fiction, and high fantasy. Check out some of his works at http://www.jblearnstowrite.com/ and follow him at @jblearnstowrite.