Thursday, October 29, 2015

Still Life, Chapter One

Murphy sat at his desk in the station, a lit cigarette hanging limply from his mouth as he stared at the computer screen in front of him. The man’s five o’clock shadow was fully growing in, something that the Sergeant hated seeing.

Luckily Murphy was a detective, and a damn good one at that, otherwise he might be forced to shave.
“Having any luck?” O’Neil asked, waddling up between the desks while chewing on a handful of shelled peanuts. Murphy rolled his eyes but made a token effort of looking like he was working.
“None yet, but the informant said the drugs wouldn’t be arriving for days,” Murphy said, not bothering to look at his corpulent co-worker. They’d been tipped off by one of the many rats they had littered throughout the gangs in San Antonio that a big shipment of cocaine and automatic weapons was on its way in, and the Third Street Gang were hell bound on getting it. Murphy had been working with every sting operative in the city, keeping them on high alert: he needed to know when that truck entered the city limits, and where they were going to unload it.
The screen in front of him showed the mug shot of a two-bit hitman by the name of William Morsely, a sociopath that had spent more time in prison than out of one. The man was currently on parole, but word on the grapevine was he’d just accepted a hit on a local businessman’s wife.
The owner of a popular chain of tattoo shops, the man had caught wind of his wife cheating on him. Rather than do the honest thing and divorce her, he’d had one of “his” men (a narc for Murphy) arrange a meeting with Morsely, where they arranged the wife’s untimely demise. Thanks to the narc, the whole thing was recorded and Murphy finally had an airtight case to send this scumbag to prison for life. This would be his third strike, and in Texas, you only got three.
A perverse part of Murphy wanted to let Morsely kill the woman, just so he could go to trial for a Capital Offense and risk getting the death penalty. But no, he thought as he crushed out his cigarette in his ashtray, I’m not that jaded yet.
Closing the window and saving the file, Murphy grabbed his coat and badge and stood up, patting O’Neil on the back. “Let’s go,” he said.
Patrick O’Neil was a man of habits, Murphy noticed. He always ate unsalted peanuts straight from a slim blue plastic packet, of which he had dozens littering his desk and car. Despite his girth, he was fast on his feet and even faster on the draw, a gun advocate that made Charlton Heston look like a hippy by comparison. The man used an old fashioned Luger, with permission from the chief-of-police, stating that he was more accurate with the dated gun. Murphy didn’t know about that, but he’d seen O’Neil shoot down rabid PCP fiend from thirty paces, blowing a hole through his head big enough to fit an arm through.
The man also had an inordinate fascination with crossword puzzles, something Murphy couldn’t understand. Oh sure, if O’Neil was good at them he might understand the oddity, but O’Neil was terrible at them, his diction limited to simple words and phrases that he used in everyday life. Murphy knew he was married, but chose to never speak of that aspect of O’Neil’s life, even when O’Neil brought it up.
Murphy was of the opinion that being a police officer was more than a job, it was a lifestyle. When you graduated from the academy you joined a workforce that held society together at the seams and did everything in your power to keep it that way. Sometimes you had to bend the law, but the ends always justified the means.
Walking out of the station while shucking on his jacket, he zipped it up to keep the nip of the cool autumn air from flowing over his skin. O’Neil did the same thing though he was spilling peanuts from his little package as he did so.
“You driving?” Murphy asked, knowing the answer already. Murphy detested driving, and O’Neil knew this: Murphy was just asking to be polite.
O’Neil nodded a smile on his face. “Of course,” he replied. “Where are we off to tonight?”
Murphy waited until O’Neil had opened his door, thereby unlocking the passenger door of the 2010 Charger. Getting in, he buckled his safety belt and reached up to grab the grip, knowing he would need it for the traffic they were about to enter. Turning to O’Neil as clambered in after him, Murphy gave a humorless grin.
“We’re off to arrest Tony Perkins,” Murphy said, earning a groan from O’Neil.
“Perkins, again? Haven’t you pumped that kid for information enough over the last few weeks?” O’Neil asked as he started up the car, turning down the radio as it came blaring on.
Murphy winced at the loud burst of music before looking at O’Neil. “Perkins father is second-in-command to one of the biggest crime bosses in San Antonio, and I know for a fact he plans on following in the family business.”
“Yeah, how’s that?” O’Neil asked as he looked over his shoulder to back up from his parking spot.
“The kid told me so last time I had him down here. I cut him a deal saying we’d cut back on raids for marijuana and small arms so long as he kept the harder stuff off the street when he came to power,” Murphey explained. “He didn’t seem like he wanted to listen at first, but after explaining to him that he’s an adult in the eyes of the law, he changed his tune pretty quickly.”
“What’d he have on him at the time?” O’Neil asked.
“Unregistered Glock and a half-pound of hash,” Murphy shrugged. “Way I figure it he’s just dealing pot to teenagers and stoners as it is, the worst he’s going to do is shoot a rival drug dealer or junkie.”
“The Captain know you’re making these deals?” O’Neil asked, looking over at Murphy.
Murphy shook his head. “The Captain told me to try and keep the streets clean and that’s what I’m doing. He knows enough as it is while still being able to claim plausible deniability.”
“While I, on the other hand, would go to the slammer with you,” O’Neil grunts as he merges lanes.
“You’re the one who wanted to be partners with me, chump,” Murphy said with a sardonic grin.
The rode in silence for a while, O’Neil chewing on his peanuts while Murphy stewed in his own thoughts. After ten minutes, they pulled up in front of a rundown shack of a bar, the Thirsty Devil, where O’Neil put it in the park. He looked over at Murphy, swallowing the last of his peanuts.
“You ready?” He asked.
“As always,” Murphy said, opening his door and heaving himself out of the low car.
The parking lot was filthy, crushed beer cans and used condoms littering the pavement. Murphy turned his nose up at them while his partner came up beside him. It was early in the evening, so there were only a few cars in the parking lot, with a lone motorcycle that Murphy automatically recognized as belonging to Tony Perkins.
“He’s here,” Murphy said, slowly walking towards the front door of the bar.
“Isn’t he always?” O’Neil asked.
“Seems like it,” Murphy groused as he was stopped by the doorman, an older Hispanic man in a vest showing off muscles and tattoos.
“You guys on the invite list?” He asked, showing a clipboard with a few sheets of paper clipped to it.
Murphy fished out his badge and flashed it to the doorman, who merely sneered. “Relax, we’re not raiding the place, we just wanna speak to one of the patrons.”
The man eyed them for a moment before nodding and opening the door for them. Murphy walked inside, the interior of the bar darker than the outside by several degrees, as well as cooler. A long bar sat against the far wall while tables dominated the center of the room, the stools bolted to the floor to prevent them from being used as weapons. A few men and women looked up from their drinks at the two men who entered, but soon lost interest and returned to wallowing in their liquor.
Murphy scanned the room and saw Tony in the back, at the lone pool table, playing by himself. Weaving his way through the tables, Murphy held up a hand to Tony, catching his attention. “Hey,” Murphy said.
Tony, for his part, looked surprised to see Murphy. “Shit man, what do you want now? I’ve only been dealing reefer like you asked me to and I haven’t sold a gun in weeks!”
“I’m not here about that,” Murphy said as O’Neil moved and picked up a pool stick. “I need some information.”
“”On what?” Tony asked, his narrow face and darting eyes making him appear like an oversized rat.
“On the shipment coming into town in the next few days. You know the one I’m talking about,” Murphy said, watching as O’Neil lined up a shot and sank a ball in the corner pocket.
“Look, man, just cause I got connections doesn’t mean I know about everything, alright? I don’t know about any shipment,” Tony said, holding up his hands in submission.
“What do you think about that O’Neil?” Murphy asked loudly, staring into Tony’s eyes.
“I think it’s a crock of shit,” O’Neil said, planting another ball into a side pocket.
“It isn’t, I swear it isn’t!” Tony said, exchanging looks between O’Neil and Murphy. “Look, I can ask around for you, see what I can dig up, yeah? Maybe I can find out something about this shipment?”
Murphy hummed as if he were considering the offer. “That could work. Provided you get me some information before the shipment reaches town.”
“O-Of course,” Tony said.
“Tell you what,” Murphy said, pulling a slim notebook from his breast pocket. “You write down three street addresses for me and I’ll make sure they get raided in the next twenty-four hours. If I do that for you, you think you can get me the information I need?”
Tony’s eyes shined, the prospect of getting rid of rival drug dealers always something the young man entertained. “Sure, I can do that.”
Tony took the notebook and walked over to a table where he sat down, scribbling furiously, mumbling to himself. O’Neil walked over to Murphy, leaning in to have a word. “Do you think he’s telling the truth?”
Murphy shrugged. “I don’t know, but I just got three drug dens the Captain can have raided before midnight. That should count for something.”
O’Neil shook his head. “Can’t believe you can get them to turn on each other like that. I always thought junkies and thieves would rather die than work for the police.”
“Their biggest fear is not getting their next fix. Prison will put a stop to that in a big hurry,” Murphy said as Tony walked up, handing over the notepad and a pen.
“Those three places I know deal meth and heroin, as well as a few other hard drugs. One of ‘em sells guns too.” Tony said, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I’ll ask around about a shipment, see what I can dig up for you.”
“Good. I’ll meet you back here tomorrow,” Murphy said as he began to walk away. O’Neil lined up one more shot and sank the eight ball with a smile before tossing the stick on the red felt table.
The two detectives walked out into the cooling afternoon air, where Murphy lit up a cigarette, before loading themselves into the car. O’Neil looked over at Murphy, expecting orders on where to go now.
“Back to the station, I still have some work to do before I can make an arrest on a suspect in an attempted murder case,” Murphy said, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
“Attempted murder? What else do you need?” O’Neil asked, pulling out of the parking lot and onto San Pedro road.
“The location of the criminal, for one,” Murphy grunted.

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