11,041 vagabonds plus:
This is the city.
A densely packed metropolis teeters delicately between those that keep their noses clean, and the honkers out to cheat, steal, and spit out mucused mayhem. And sometimes it boils down to plain old murder. When it gets serious that's where I come in.
I carry a badge.
It was overcast. We were working the day watch out of Homicide. My partner is Frank Smith. The Captain, Mort Welch.
My name is Friday.
Captain Welch strode up to the desk opposite where Frank had one bite of a pink cream donut and was about to take another but stopped when he saw the pale, hollow-eyed stare of our commander. I knew it was bad. A call came in about a woman found dead in the Sandstone Tower Apartments, and smothering my cigarette out into the pink donut in my ashtray, we headed out.
The death scene was on the seventh floor. The coroner was just departing as we got off the drafty elevator.
'Charlie. What'ya got'?
'Hour. Maybe hour and a quarter'.
'Thanks. You done'?
I lit a cigarette. We halved the floor and started pounding doors. All deaf and blind except when eying the peep holes. Typical. At the end of the hall I looked down from the window near the fire escape and saw the silent ambulance roll sadly away. I felt a tap on my shoulder, and turning faced an inebriated man, whiskey-glass eyed, blinking close nose to nose, then back peddling away into the dark. Top heavy, he staggered close again.
'Silv silver 4 Door'.
'Down alley see', he pointed.
'What about it, sir'?
'Scratchy scratchy', as he pantomimed clawing to the face. 'That be his'. Charlie did mention to Frank the corpse had messy fingernails, most likely battling death with swipes at the attacker.
'Are you implying the man that owns that 1974 Ford Sedan has scratches on his face'?
'Ding ding ding youse can have anything from the top row'.
Frank yawned in our fourth hour watching the suspect vehicle. He was doing pretty good up to then, but those donut stomach rumblings can be the start of something bad. Then, in our sixth hungry hour, events hurled in slow motion. A man in a red hooded sweatshirt jumped into the Ford and was off. We had the advantage since narrow alleyways permeate all twelve buildings of Sandstone place, leaving little clearance. The chase was on. Topping speeds of eight miles an hour, we rode the Ford's bumper, slowing to maybe four but not quite five on sharp-edge turn after turn, the Ford sparking sideview mirrors against trash bins, parked cars, a fire escape landing pole, nudging a screeching bag lady who fisted off a souvenir sideview mirror for her collection, and finally ramming into a black and white with red silent lights with visibility of maybe fifteen yards on a clear day.
The suspect bolted from his dual side-scratched car and sidled in between a brick wall and the police cruiser trying to run away, but Frank managed to squeeze off one 38 special round nose, all 158 grains of it, boring into red hood's calf going a heck of a lot faster than eight miles an hour.
photo: Lee Friedlander
from America by Car
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