Drake wiped the whiskey from his lips with the back of his hand and was about to reach for another when the radio on the passenger seat suddenly squawked.
It had been six months since his radio had come alive with all the clarity of an AM station in the Lincoln Tunnel. The first month, he had checked the batteries nearly every day, making sure that they were still good, hoping that he would hear his name being called.
The second month, he had kept it close to his side.
By the third month, he had begun to loathe the thing, and now, sixth months after his partner’s murder, it held all the appeal of a rotten banana.
“Drake?” the staticky voice chirped again.
Drake cleared his throat and grabbed the radio. No matter what had happened, he still had a job to do.
“Drake here,” he said, surprised at how calm and even his voice sounded.
“A body was found in an abandoned warehouse in Clinton Hill this morning.”
What, no welcome back, Drake? No, we missed you, Damien?
His brow furrowed and his brain immediately started to formulate a scenario based only on those four words: abandoned warehouse, Clinton Hill.
“Where in the Hill?”
And with that, his narrative was nearly complete.
There was a short pause.
“No. Well-dressed man, expensive shoes.”
The narrative dissolved.
“Just get there, Drake.”
The radio clicked, and Drake pushed his lips together, surprised by the dispatcher’s curtness. He debated pushing the button and asking more questions, but the abrupt tone and end to the conversation changed his mind.
Drake suddenly wished that he had more whiskey left, but the only bottle remaining in his car was
Listerine. He filled his mouth, swished, spat, and then started his car.
Twenty minutes later, he arrived at his first crime scene in six months.
There were more squad cars than Drake expected, even if the victim had been wearing “expensive shoes”. Clinton Hill was no stranger to its share of homicides, but most were drug related, usually involving local residents.
The last time he had been in the neighborhood, he had been investigating a small-time meth pusher who had been murdered by repeated blows to his head with a towel rack of all things.
Three staggered police cars blocked the entrance to a narrow alley, and Drake had already been forced to weave between two others to gain access to the adjoining street.
Drake parked next to one of the squad cars, briefly smelled his breath and then stepped out into the sun.
He had taken maybe three steps before a man in uniform approached. He opened his mouth to say something, but Drake held up his shield before he got a word out.
“Detective Drake,” he said, lips pressed together tightly. “Homicide.”
The uniform was a dark black man with a bristly mustache and light eyes, as if he was wearing colored contacts. As a policeman for a decade, and a homicide detective for four years, Drake thought he knew most, if not all, of the beat cops in NYC. Not everyone, surely, there were over thirty-thousand of New York’s Finest on payroll, but someone like this, a man in his mid-to-late forties, in this neighborhood, he should have definitely come across in the past.
But while he was a stranger to Drake, the way the uniform looked at him, as if Drake had uttered a blaspheme in church, suggested some recognition on his part.
Drake made a face.
“And? The body?”
Dark lids slid over gray eyes in a slow blink.
“Sorry, come with me please, Detective.”
The lean black man, who hadn’t offered his name in return, briskly walked toward the alley. Several of
the other officers that they passed stared at them, and it was all Drake could do not to stare back, to ask them what the hell they were looking at.
His first thought was that Suzan’s psychiatrist had called him in, or worse, placed a complaint. But given his history, he knew that the strangely silent radio now clipped to his hip would have crackled like the Fourth of July if that were the case.
You’re imagining things just like back at the school, he scolded himself.
They had nearly reached the yellow police tape with the ubiquitous CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS written on it, when a young woman, not much older than Suzan herself, came toward him. She was short, maybe five-four, with dark brown hair tucked neatly behind her ears. Her eyes, which were locked on him, were a brilliant green color, but aside from them and a slight blush to her cheeks, her face was otherwise devoid of color.
A reporter? Some broad straight out of NYU trying to boost her blog ratings? How did she get past the uniforms?
Drake reached out and put a hand on the officer’s shoulder in front of him.
“Hey, what’s she doing here? She a reporter? I—” hate reporters, he was about to say, when the man shrugged him off awkwardly and continued forward.
Before he could speak again, the woman, for despite her short stature and smallish features he now saw was in her mid-thirties, lifted the yellow tape and tilted her head as an invitation for him to duck under.
“Homicide Detective Damien Drake,” he said curtly. The woman nodded, and again gestured for him to pass under the tape.
This time he obliged.
When he was on the other side, she turned and started down what he now saw was an alley that extended for maybe a hundred and fifty yards.
He reached out again, but pulled his hand at the last second.
“Umm, and you are?” he said, trying not to sound like a complete asshole.
She craned her neck around, and he was surprised that she was holding a hand out to him.
Drake hesitated, his eyes darting to her hand, before coming back to her face.
“Yeah, but who are you?”
A hint of a smile crossed her lips.
Drake raised an eyebrow, then quickly lowered it when he realized that his reaction was not only expected, but desired, as well.
“I’m your new partner.”