[Yet another portion of A Republic of Books, more of which can be found elsewhere on this ethereal site.]

 

    Honest cops are a lot like honest reporters. There aren’t many of them around, and they both work for naturally corrupt organizations with political agendas that otherwise fill necessary ends in a society that wants more than its willing to give in return. The question comes up, why do they do it? Comes up a lot. Like every morning when I’m drinking my coffee.

    But this morning was a little different. This morning I got a call from Peter Ignatz and he tells me that they have killed George Jones.

    George was one of the good ones. He was in for over twenty years, had stalled out as Lieutenant because he wouldn’t take the bribes, and should have been good for another ten, at least. Before that he had been a Marine. He could take care of himself. So they shot him in the back.

    My paper is not going to assign me to the story. My editor knows George was a friend of mine. So it’s on me to do what I will. Peter understands that I understand all that.

    The wisdom that can be found in a cup of coffee can be measured by the ounce. I use a pretty large mug, myself. Still, I couldn’t handle all the thoughts.

    So I call over to Matty Morris, George’s old girl friend, and we have the talk. Out of respect, I would have gone over there in person but I know she has family around and she doesn’t need me in the mix. George married Talia Russell. Matty married Burt Ferris. They both had the kids they wanted, just not the same ones.

    Matty answers the phone and starts crying the second she hears my voice.

    All I can says is, “I’m sorry.”

    She manages to say, “It’s your fault.”

    “Yeah.”

    “Do you know anything else yet?”

    “Nothing. Peter just called and he told me. Georgie was out doing some research in the South End last night. There were a couple of shots. Likely never saw it coming. He was found by a hockey fan coming down the ramp out of the Garden. Peter is putting David Loures on it. He told me to stay away.”

    “If you need anything, I still have friends in the Department.”

    “I’ll let you know. Take care.”

    So I had another cup of coffee to see if it would make me any smarter.

    She was right, of course. It was my fault. Pretty much all of it. I’m the one who talked Georgie into staying on the force when Matty told him she wouldn’t marry him unless he quit. So it’s all on me.

    I went over to see Talia then. The kids are too young to understand what’s going on. They’re looking worried because Talia’s been crying and they go all smiles for me with the usual ‘Joe, Joe, Joe.’ Her whole family is over there. Her mother is giving me the evil eye. Her dad looks lost.

    After the condolences and the hugs, Talia says, “It’s you’re fault.”

    I can handle that, too. I introduced them.

    Next stop was Sudbury Street and the Police station.

    Whenever any cop gets killed, there is a lot of activity. I got a pass and went up to see Fred Elliot. He’s a sergeant and he’s dependable. He’s in community relations now, but he did his time on the street and he was a friend of Georgie’s.

    He waves me into a chair and closes a door.

    I ask, “What do they know?”

    “Nothing. It was out of the blue. He was over there to talk to a ticket scalper named Larry Summers. Summers was a no-show. They have him in for questioning right now. The word is Summers was home because he got a call warning him to stay home. He didn’t even know George was looking for him. He just figured they didn’t have enough stubs to go around. Has no idea why George would want to talk to him.”

    “Was George working solo.”

    “Apparently. But you know the problem there. Who do you trust?”

    “Sure. . . . Any clue what George was working on?”

    “Somebody does. But they’re not saying. I was told to mind my own business.”

    “What does your gut tell you?”

    “It was professional. . . .”

    “Shit.”

    “Exactly.”

    “Who should I talk to?”

    “You should talk to Robbie Joyce. I know he was talking to Georgie yesterday morning. I saw them. I think he’d know what was going on. But it was Robbie’s man, Shawn, that told me to mind my own business.”

    Something to consider.

    “Any ideas?”

    “As I see it, it’s likely just a matter of simple math. No calculus. Robbie Joyce is part of the task force working on the gangs. Anyone of that lot’s capable of doing something like this. Mostly it’s about the drugs. There’s some gun-running. There’s a little prostitution—but that end is mostly tied up by the locals.”

    “If it was a gang hit, why do you think it was done by a pro.”

    “I didn’t say it was a gang hit.”

    Fred’s voice got hard. I was jumping too fast.

    “Who’s in charge of the task force?”

    “Ed Murray.”

    “He’s the Mayor’s guy, isn’t he.“

    “Righto.”

    I didn’t say ‘shit’ this time. It wasn’t unnecessary.

    Next item on the menu was breakfast. It’s good to eat at least twice a day. It was already ten o’clock and my stomach was speaking to me loud enough to be heard by others.

    It’s a cool morning. I pumped some more quarters in the meter and walked over to the old West End—what’s left of it. There’s a new place there run by a brunette who used to be a waitress over at Charlie’s on Columbus and it’s worth the walk. Lucille does not like to be called ‘Lucy,’ but she called the place ‘Lucy’s’ anyway because that’s what everyone called it once they knew. She’s very smart that way. For instance, she can’t cook. With her it’s all customer service, but she hires good cooks. And she opened the joint with her own money. I never thought about it but saving your tips can add up.

    I see Lucille by the register and she’s looking very good for someone working sixteen hours a day. She’s over to me before I can get my butt on the stool.

    “I’m sorry. I heard about George.”

    What do you say? At least she took the silence for an answer and went away.

    I told the kid behind the counter what I wanted and stared out the widow for distraction.

    There was a big black curly haired dog there, probably what they call a Labradoodle mix—cute as hell—all curls and posture, and he’s tied up to the meter, sitting at attention and watching the door. With other things on my mind, I’d missed him when I came in. I looked around the restaurant trying to pick out the owner. There’s a petite woman with a laptop on her table who keeps looking up to check on him.

    I’m wishing these days that I had a dog. At least it would be someone at home to talk to.

    The petite woman is only a few feet away so when she looks up again I say,
“It must be hard to take care of a big dog in the city?” I know it is. I was just making small talk.

    “Yeah. But it’s not mine. I got stuck with him.”

    “You don’t like dogs?”

    “Too much trouble. My asshole ex-boyfriend dumped him on me.”

    “Too bad. . . .”And then I had one of those totally irrational thoughts. “If your boy friend doesn’t show up again, call me. I’m looking for a dog.”

    I handed her my card.

    “Seriously?”

    I just gave that a nod. She had my card in her hand.

    I ate my breakfast pretty quickly and on the way out I stopped to give the dog a little attention. It was a good dog, but maybe a little too pretty. But then again, maybe not. Guys can be pretty, I guess. Never thought about it.