Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another False Start

Since it's becoming a kind of blog feature, I'm going to try and post some more of my false starts as they come up. These are things that could be stories, if I had a mind to finish them.  Sometimes I want to go in another direction and sometimes I'm just playing around.

Looking through my files, I found this one.  I can't remember where I was going with it, but reading it again several months after writing it, I was semi-impressed.  I was clearly going for a Elmore Leonard/Michael Connelly thing here, and that's probably why I left it.

But, you know, it's worth a read.  Mingle, who's a royal bastard, and Boone, who's a stand-up guy, will be back, I'm sure.  Check it out after the jump and let me know what you think in the comments.

Boone rounded the corner into his cubicle just as Sam Mingle was putting his flask away. The corner of Boone’s mouth curled into a little grin, but he didn’t say anything about the flask.

 He said, “She’s here.”

“Bout time,” Mingle said, straightening his tie. He grabbed the SUE REDMOND file off a stack of other files and his jacket off the hook. 

“You talk to her yet?”

Boone shook his head. “Just got the call. She’s waiting for us at the front desk.”

They navigated the maze of cubicles that made up the Pattern Crimes Bureau and went through the secured doors to the reception area. In one of the chairs along the wall Sue Redmond sat poking at a smartphone. Mingle noted details: chipped nail polish, a small scar above her lip from an old piercing, a bracelet of faded vines tattooed around her wrist. She wore a hoodie zipped up all the way to the neck and faded jeans lined with unnecessary spangles. The dark circles under her eyes were almost certainly applied with a brush. A huge canvas purse took up the entire space in the chair beside her.

Her hairstyle was different from the one she wore in her mugshot. It was shorter now and pinned up on top of her head in a mess of blonde curls, part fashion statement, part lack of effort.

She looked up when Boone said her name.

“Miss Redmond? I’m Randall Boone and this is my partner Sam Mingle. Thanks for agreeing to meet with us today. We think you might have information that could help us in an investigation. You’re not under suspicion for any crime, okay? We just want to ask you a few questions. That’s all.”

Sue nodded, eyes wide and pensive. She said, “Mmkay,” letting it trail off.

Mingle said, “Before we get started, do you have any questions for us?”

She thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. Her curls shook with it. Mingle could tell she had a million questions, but none of them were going to come out of her mouth in the form of words, not yet anyway.

“Then if you wouldn’t mind,” Mingle said, gesturing for her to follow him.

They cleared her with a visitors badge from the receptionist and took her to one of the meeting rooms off the main hallway. She dropped the massive purse in the corner and sat in the chair facing the door, hands in her lap, doe-eyes blinking. Mingle sat down across from her while Boone stood leaning against the wall, scratching at his teeth with a toothpick. He liked to stand and at six feet four, he liked to get the most of the height advantage he had over most people. If he was sitting, you might forget how big he is. So he stands.

Mingle thumbed through her file for a moment, but he already knew the particulars. Parents divorced, lives with her father, dropped out of school, a white girl who hangs out with black gang members. He wondered if she talked street. So far she hadn’t said a word.

“So you know we’re cops,” he said, “but do you know what we do?”

She stared at him blankly.

“We’re on the gang unit, a special detail actually, focusing on one gang in particular, one of the worst gangs in the city actually. Drugs, robbery, rape, murder. They’ve done it all. And while we don’t think you’re affiliated with them criminally, we do think that you associate with them socially. For instance, you know Alphonso Vine.”

Sue Redmond crinkled her brow. “Who?”

Mingle said, “Alphonso Vine, goes by Bunny on the street.” What he didn’t say was that they had Bunny locked up on a double-murder charge, but he figured that Sue Redmond already knew that.

“Oh, Bunny. Yeah, I know Bunny,” she said. “You guys brought me in here because of Bunny?”

Mingle said, “I don’t give a shit about Bunny. He’s going down without my help. We got two witnesses, the weapon in the trunk, the lab work. We don’t need your help on Bunny. Bunny’s done. He’s old news. I want to know about your friend Ricky Turner.”

The expression on Sue Redmond’s face didn’t change, but her earrings flashed when her ears twitched.

Mingle repeated the name. “Richard Allen Turner, goes by Ricky. Know him?”

“Um,” Sue Redmond said, sucking on her lip. She was deciding just how evasive she was going to be.

“When Bunny was caught,” Mingle said, referring to the file, “he was driving a gray 1992 Nissan Maxima, license plate number 587-JUL. You’ve already admitted, and the records show, that vehicle belongs to you.”

“Yeah, then Bunny totaled it.”

“That same vehicle was observed parked in Ricky Turner’s driveway at least ten times between February tenth and the twenty-first. Bunny wasn’t driving it then, was he?”

Sue Redmond started gnawing on a chipped fingernail. “No,” she said.

“Can you tell me who was driving the Maxima between February tenth and the twenty-first?” Mingle asked.

Sue ground down on her cuticle but said nothing.

“Come on, Sue,” Mingle said. He sucked in a deep breath, then let it out. “I think we should cut the shit. We know who your friends are. You know why? Because your name keeps popping up when they keep getting caught. Do you see how this works? Bunny wrecks your car, we run your plate. And what’s this? We get a hit from another investigation. Same car, same plate. It’s sitting pretty outside Ricky’s house for two months. You’re there so often, it’s almost like you live there. Surveillance reports record ‘white female, blond’ entering and exiting at all hours of the day. Are you sure you can explain that without admitting you know Ricky Turner?”

Sue removed the finger from her mouth. “I know him,” she said. “But he ain’t exactly what I’d call a friend.”

“You know he’s a drug dealer, right?”

Sue shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “I guess. I don’t know. I’m not involved with any of that shit.”

“He’s a drug dealer,” Mingle said. “You didn’t know that?”

Sue crossed her arms, pressed her lips together in a frown.

“Look, I can’t offer you any immunity but I can tell you this. You’re not under suspicion for any crimes, nor are you a target for prosecution…at this time. If you cooperate fully and willingly, nothing will happen to you. Your friends, they’re going to jail. You can’t do anything about that. Whether it’s this case or the next one, they’re going down. But you, you don’t have to.” Mingle shook his thumb at Boone. “We’re the only ones who are going to help you, Sue, and deep down I think you know it. Might not seem like it, might even seem like we’re the bad guys. But just remember, we’re not asking you to betray you friends. We’re just asking that you don’t betray yourself.”

Boone pushed off the wall and came over to the table, leaning on it with two hairy fists. He towered over Sue Redmond, casting an ominous shadow, but he said in a gentle voice, “We’re not asking you to testify. A case like this, it’s going to be made on evidence, not testimony. Your name is already in the record, but for legal purposes, we’re prepared to name you a confidential informant."

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