21:23, that evening – 02/09/67
“Car 12k. Car 12k. Reported shots fired at Detective Caruthers’ Ford Mainline Sedan. Registration: Kilo Lima Hotel-2760, all units please respond, possible Code 3. Subject vehicle is parked outside a Denny’s franchise located near the Brooklyn Bridge, the Madison St. one. Car five has already responded and is requesting back up at the scene, the target shooter has reportedly fled north en route to the Downtown hospital. Caution the target is armed, open fire if necessary. Avoid casualties at all costs. Police radio out”
09:26, earlier that morning…
Detective Tom Cole paced up and down the murder scene in Harlem, New York City: a two room flat with a kitchen and bathroom. The main room, a living and bedroom, full of discarded army surplus syrettes of morphine, playboy magazines, a shapeless couch and a coffee table. The table had the corpse’s head blown through it. Cole noted the pink mist lingering amongst the humid air. The pungency of vomit burned his nostrils. He coughed into his fist and started towards Richard Biggs, the county coroner.
Biggs wore a beer belly that hung comfortably over his belt. He possessed withered grey-blue eyes and straw-like hair. Dreadful for fifty six. He had three divorced Latino wives and seven children. Like John Wayne. He was kneeling over the mutilated corpse. Cole rounded the fragmented table and knelt beside him.
“What’ve we got?”
“The vic, a Mr I Ordell, local pimp and drug runner was found by the Polish cleaner. No wallet: no personal effects. Estimated time of death, 03:30am. The shooter had been invited in by the departed: given a cup of out-of-date Joe, half empty. No cream nor sugar. Two shots fired into the rear of the spine and cranium. Nasty piece of work gentlemen. Premeditated due to the lack of prints; most likely wearing gloves. Shots came from a .38, cheap hood pistol. Although it will be some time before I can give you anything more concrete than that.”
Cole nodded appreciatively and turned back to his partner and best-man, Detective Georgie Carruthers. “Any leads?”
“Yeah, a colored lady from across the way.” he scowled.
“Let’s take a look.”
The dynamic duo crossed the icy parking lot, slid under the cordon, weaved through the crowd. Carruthers loosened his necktie as the neighbour reclined upon a wall. A placid smile touched her cheeks, a tea towel covered her braided hair. She shivered in her wiry cardigan.
“Ma’am,” the pair nodded.
“Officers,” was her sheepish reply.
“Name?,” inquired Carruthers.
Ida grimaced before pointing to her door. Carruthers scribbled in his notebook. Paused and flipped a few sheets before asking,
“What is it you told Patrol Officer Kinley ma’am?”
“Well… It was around two, maybe three, when I got in from the Chicago Confetti club just off Broadway…”
Cole interjected. “Know it Carruthers?” The man liked his drink.
“That colossal shithole? Sir please.” He replied.
“I took a taxi, we drew up round the side. He didn’t hear me. I walked up those stairs” she indicated. “Then I noticed the man, tall guy, around six foot, looked like a cop, go into Ordell’s crib. I barely saw his face but he was white, you see...”
Carruthers raised an eyebrow, “So you can’t be certain then, nor could you identify the suspect?”
Thomson shook her head, “No suh”
“Miss, do you know of any persons who are affiliated with Ordell in this neighbourhood?”
Ida glanced around, bowed her head, then shook it.
Carruthers shied away as Cole stepped in.
“Miss, do you expect me to take that for an answer? Spill it unless you want to take a trip down the station with us”. She choked and spluttered at the thought.
“Wilson. Louis Wilson.” She hissed.
As the words fell from Thomson’s mouth her face dropped into an O of terror. Cole followed her trail of sight; a sandy cap concealed the face of a hoodlum, a waistcoat wrapped coolly around his slender figure. The men shared a glance. Then he ran. Tearing through the crowd like a hail of bullets as the duo shot after him; weaving around pedestrians at speed. Carruthers slipped on the ice. Cole ploughed on in the direction of the main street.
Cole pulled his piece, the standard issue colt.45 and ordered Wilson to stop – aiming the pistol at his leg, then dispensed with the idea of shooting at him. He needed Wilson alive. Cole accelerated his pace and turned into an alley; heading him off. His lungs burned as he dug into the powdered snow as hard as he could. He pumped his arms and legs as his heart hammered ceaselessly in his ears in time to his sprint. Asthma had bettered him.
He came to an abrupt stop, squatted down and contemplated sending for a patrol car as he saw Wilson jog past the alley exit. Cole rounded it, whistled before slamming into his man and tackling him to the ground.
He ate the snow. He got to his feet. He raised his guard for the fight.
The suspect fired first with a double jab and a cross. Cole deftly sidestepped, ducked and served him an uppercut to the jaw. The counter-punch dazed him as Cole lashed out. A series of hooks, left and right, caused Wilson’s knees to buckle. Knocking him onto his ass.
Cole seized him by the throat, dragged him out of sight and raised his face to his.
“Why did you run?”
“Cos you’ll frame me for Ordell, Fuck-o”
Cole eased his grip and sniggered. Through gritted teeth Wilson hissed.
“Then it’s on you to reassure me you didn’t kill him, isn’t it fuck-o?”
He groaned. “Man, I don’t speak to no peace officers. Y’all full of shit!”
“Ditto, but this piece of shit can push for the chair or have a kind word with the judge.” He paused. “So spit it out. What do you know about Ordell’s killer?”
“Not too much. He was talking to this cat Momo about this stuff. Morphine. We talking thousands of dollars. It was risky as fuck: looting morphine off the boats from Korea and pushing the dope on the streets without causing some attention. But the West Coast are doing the same with Cohen’s guys.” He snorted. “But the boss had a guy in the NYPD, if we needed muscle or somethin’ take care of. We makes a call and an accident happens, you dig? You gettin’ into some serious shit boy. But ya gotta do somethin’ about this Fed man, before they get to me.”
His voice filled with panic.
“You can’t take on the mob! You gotta skip town and…”
Wilson was cut short: a loud crack. A flash of light. A spurt of blood from his throat as he sagged back, mismatched, into the ground. Cole whirled round armed, Carruthers was there. He clambered over to the corpse and searched him. Without saying a word he majestically revealed the .38; with two empty chambers. He smiled and ingested the peppermint flavour of promotion.
Suspect killed while resisting arrest: case closed.
21:21, that evening…
Cole spluttered as the fumes tugged his chest, Carruthers enjoyed his cigarette, but that wasn’t the reason behind the sour look on Detective Cole’s face. Something was wrong, something didn’t add up.
Who was the guy that entered Ordell’s premises? Why was everyone so spooked? Why hadn’t Wilson produced the gun in the alleyway?
Many other questions ricocheted through Cole’s head as they drove through inner-city New York. The rhythmic beat of horns blaring kept him awake.
They cruised past rows of neon. They cruised adjacent to the sidewalk, then stopped cruising.
Unknowingly they had drawn alongside the Chicago Confetti Club. Carruthers’ head snapped round mechanically, “Ever been in there?” he indicated with a thumb. “It sure bounces,” before rolling on.
Cole’s head went into hyper drive. Carruthers had never been there, he had said so. In a frenzy he recalled his evidence:
No cream nor sugar, six foot, looked like a cop, the Chicago Confetti Club, the miraculous recovery of the .38 and the constant shifty flicker of his notebook.
Then he realised, it had been Carruthers all along.
Sirens filled the night air apprehensively. Cole darted across the road in search of solitude, the gun still in his sweaty shaking hand. Icy tears stung the corners of his eyes as he charged into the nearest building – a hospital. Firing two warning shots into the ceiling, the occupants evacuated with haste. Pandemonium filled the entrance corridor, the Detective instructed a head doctor to call for the police. Cole’s nose ran, he wiped it with a sleeve, before charging into the intensive care unit. Two unconscious men lay adjacent to each other: hooked to life support machines.
Cole drew in deep breaths, sat between them, shaking, placed his weapon, hat and badge on the floor. Carruthers’ blood dripped from his greyish palour as he waited for his resignation of the NYPD to be accepted. Angry footfalls could be heard tearing down the corridor in search of the cop killer…
He retreated into the chair, raised two fingers to his head and with a trembling lip, grimaced before pulling the trigger twice: imitating the gunshots as he did so.
“Car 12k. Car 12k. Please respond…