“Now, Mr. Banks, are you usually out this late?” Appleby coughed into his fist, shifted his weight from his right foot to his left. “You and your dog?”
“Insomnia,” replied Andre.
Appleby offered a sympathetic nod. The witness didn’t seem too disturbed by the dead body, but this was Atlanta. This was MLK Drive. Death had long ago put up residence here. Appleby had worked this beat for ten years. If every person in this neighborhood was gathered together, the stories they could tell. After all, as an officer of the law, he only dealt with what was reported. What went unreported—those were the crimes that gave him nightmares.
“Well, Mr. Banks, we’ll need to get an official statement, but it probably doesn’t have to be—”
The glass bulbs atop the police cruiser exploded in a crescendo of noise. All four of them—Andre, Moira, Appleby, and Harper—glanced at the ground, now covered in shards, then at the roof of the car, then at each other. Moira cocked her head in thought.
“Someone must’ve thrown a baseball or something,” said Appleby.
Harper had his gun out. “Show yourselves, you little pricks!”
With the discotheque lights gone, the only illumination left was the milky oval of the streetlight, and that enabled them to see each other, but not whoever had shattered the glass. Harper cocked his gun, and Appleby reached for his. They relied on their ears to detect the vandal, but could only hear their own heartbeats in the cold night air.
Then Harper didn’t even hear that, because a bullet passed through his brainpan and he was dead. He collapsed like a stringless marionette, not three feet from the body of the bum.
Appleby opened his mouth to speak, scream, something, but a second bullet took care of that, and he joined his partner on the gray pavement. The blood from their wounds dripped out of their bodies and comingled, like holding hands.
A minute passed.
Andre didn’t move.
Moira trotted over to Appleby’s body and poked at his cheek with one of her front paws. She looked back at her master and whimpered.
Slowly, Andre took a step toward the squad car. He would be safe inside the squad car. They were bulletproof, right?
“Moira,” he whispered. “Come here, girl.”
She followed him as he inched away from the carnage. The car was twenty feet away. Presumably, the doors were unlocked. He would get inside and radio for help and he’d be safe. He and Moira would be okay.
Fifteen feet away, they reached the pool of glass. Moira skirted around it. She and Andre were almost out of the arc of the streetlight. Ten feet away, and Andre decided that going slow made no sense—he wasn’t walking a tightrope. He took a deep breath (as he taught his students to do at Hosea Williams) and prepared to sprint.
The third bullet dropped him before he had a chance.
And the fourth bullet took care of the dog.
Clouds shifted. The streetlight hummed. At 4:25 a.m., the squad car’s radio squawked to life. Dispatch wanted a 10-4 on their whereabouts, over. By 4:40 a.m., Dispatch got antsy and sent out Pennington and O’Daye to investigate. Pennington and O’Daye arrived at five to six. Dawn was just a commercial break away.
Pennington got out first, while O’Daye shifted the car into Park. They both saw the car, then the bodies. O’Daye called it in, tried to remain calm, but her voice trembled like a plucked string.
“Dispatch, this is Baker-82. We’re at the scene. We have four bodies, repeat four bodies. Officers Harper and Appleby are down. Request immediate backup. Over.”
Gabe Pennington scanned the area with his hazel eyes. His prescription lenses fogged up from the cold, and with frustration and panic he lifted a gloved hand and wiped them clean. No doubt about it—that was Roy Appleby. Ever since his divorce, Pennington had played poker at the bastard’s house every Saturday night. Appleby was a lousy poker player but he loved the game. Pennington hated the game, but craved the companionship. He was living out of a motel room off I75. It was Appleby who’d reached out to him. Now the man was leaking blood on MLK Drive. Damn it.
“Copy Baker-82,” Dispatch responded with the same authority as always, “Backup is on the way. Dispatch out.”
Officer O’Daye stared through the windshield. “Maybe they’re still alive.”
Pennington glanced down at her, then back at the bodies in the milky oval. Indeed, his first instinct had been to rush out to them and check for pulses. Perform CPR. But they didn’t know the scope of the scenario, and until you knew the scope of the scenario, you played it safe. Safe may not have worked for his marriage, but it had kept him clean of serious injury for fourteen years on the force. O’Daye was young. She would learn.
As he rejoined her in the car, Melissa O’Daye checked the time on her wristwatch. 6:00 a.m. Soon the block would be awake. Parents would be walking their kids, all bundled up in their woolies, across the street to Hosea Williams. The corner boys would be out soon too, and the early-bird alcoholics. None of them had to see this. No one should have to see this. She shouldn’t have had to see this. She should’ve been in bed. She didn’t need the overtime. What was she trying to—
The dog moaned.
O’Daye and Pennington popped to attention.
The little dog was half in the light and half out. They’d just assumed she wasn’t breathing, just like the others, but she moaned again, breathy, tenuous.
“Christ Jesus,” O’Daye muttered.
She opened her door.
“Wait.” Pennington held up a hand. “There’s nothing you can do.”
“Nothing I can…? That dog’s alive!”
“Are you a vet? No. So sit tight. Backup will be here momentarily.”
“We can’t just—”
“It’s not cowardice,” he explained. “It’s procedure.”
She closed her door.
The dog, Moira, age three, wept. She was dying and she knew it and just wanted to pull herself to a dark and quiet place, away from her master. But she couldn’t move. All she could do was fill the January air with her requiem sobs.
When backup arrived, they showed in droves. Three squad cars and two additional unmarked vehicles pulled up to the crime scene. Officers were down—their brothers and sisters in blue were damn sure going to avenge their deaths. Their sirens crashed through the neighborhood like an aural hurricane. Parents and children sat up in their beds and pondered the end of the world. Some peered out their windows. Some bolted shut their doors. Even the sun peeked out over the skyscrapers to catch a glimpse of the ruckus.
Lead officer on scene was Deputy Chief Perry Roman. He was division commander over Zone 4. Appleby and Harper were his men. He climbed out of his beige station wagon, left his microsuede unbuttoned (and his paint-spattered Police Academy sweatshirt exposed), and quickly assigned roles:
“O’Daye and Pennington, tape off the area and assist in crowd control. Halloway and Cruise, Jaymon and DeWright, canvass the area. Williams, Kayless, Ogleby, take statements, someone must’ve seen something. Detectives, homicides don’t get plainer than this. You know what to do.”
Officer O’Daye wanted to check on the dog. She couldn’t hear her keening anymore—there was too much chatter now in the air—but she needed to know if the dog was still alive. It’s not that she had dogs of her own…she didn’t have any pets at all. She lived alone in her apartment. Is that why she worked the overtime? And now she was pining away for an animal (and not for any of the four human beings!). Foolish. She shuffled