Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 3

TOC page here.

We left off at the proper cliffhanger point last time, with Diana unable to see the action but hearing Sergeant Brown shout “Subject down! All clear.” after firing gunshots at the man who was in the right kind of van and who Officer Slaughter overheard homeless men referring to as the Bread Man.

Now we shift from hearing to vision:

By the time she lurched to the summit, the scene was easy to spot: the two officers’ Maglites illuminating a patch of ground on the far side of the row of trees.

“Report!” she shouted while picking her way down to them, wishing she had a Maglite, then remembering her phone and using its flashlight.

Brown was standing, a little amped, a lot nervous, his flashlight beam picking out a trail for Diana. Slaughter was leaning against a tree, one hand to her mouth in shock, the other pointing the light straight down.

“Guy wouldn’t stop,” panted Brown as Diana walked up to them. “I was catching up. Then he had a gun.” Brown aimed the flashlight toward where a small, dark man in stained coveralls lay prone, a bloom of blood on his back and a cheap pistol next to his outstretched right hand.

Diana relieved Brown of his weapon. “We’re going to follow procedure here. To the letter. You know everyone’s concerned about police shootings. Tell me how it went so I can get out in front of the narrative when IAB shows up.”

Brown took a few deep breaths. “I ordered him to halt, he ran. I chased him back into the trees and up the hill, I started to catch up. He whirled, I saw the light reflecting off the weapon, I fired. Hit him twice, he wavered, brought up the gun, I fired again, he went down.”

Diana turned to Slaughter, who looked like she was about to vomit. “Officer?”

“I was… I was still coming up the hill when my partner fired. I could only see the top of Brown’s head, couldn’t see the victim—the suspect—at all.”

“Did you have the dashcam running in the squad car?”

“Yes, ma’am. Still is.”

“Okay.” She looked back and forth between them. “Right now, I’d say you’re going to be okay. But I’ve been through this four times, and it’s never easy. You want my advice? Don’t volunteer anything.” She looked at her phone. “Let’s bring the circus to town.”

Within minutes, the first of the wagons arrived. A response team, then Crime Scene: she and Keller made sure Brown’s and the suspect’s weapons were transferred into Keller’s possession according to protocol. They took Slaughter’s, too, for good measure. Next came Chief Purcell, who took Diana aside: “Good shooting?”

“None of them are good, sir. Nothing contradicts Sergeant Brown’s story; but there’s no other witnesses, either. Partner wasn’t there, but she looks ill. Which just shows she’s human.”

“Is this guy our Reaper?”

“No idea, sir. I haven’t let Brown or Slaughter out of my sight. You want to be responsible for them, I’ll–”

“Be thorough, Detective. No media: park is cordoned off.”

Good luck with that, thought Diana, as she walked through the trees and down the slope, using her phone to stay just to the side of the footprints in the dewy grass. Behind her, CSI turned on the klieg lights, making her shadow stand out in front of her. She picked her way down, turning around every ten steps to look back up the hill. One phone call to Andrew would get her a military-grade night vision camera, but thinking about that brought up the stirrings of a tension headache.

Looks like a “good” shooting, in the sense that Brown has done nothing obviously criminal. But of course neither Slaughter nor Diana saw what happened, so anything could be true here, and of course in normal literary fashion I’m going to keep it ambiguous until I’m ready for a big reveal. Brown could be telling the truth; he could have fired first and only seen the ground later; he could have thrown the gun down after the shooting, having kept a throwaway gun for just that purpose—this is sadly not unheard of in stories of police shootings.

Note Diana’s tension between protecting a fellow cop, doing what her chief wants, and finding out the truth. But instead of saying she’s tense about this, I have her do what a normal person would do with the tension, which is to shift it to something tense yet familiar. Thinking about Andrew just gives her a good excuse to have that tension headache. What are we going to find on the dashcam? What’s in the van? We’ll have to see.


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  1. Novel 3: Act I, Chapter 7, Scene 2 | Julian Cage

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