“There’s no wrong‚ there’s no right‚ there just is.” This is the refrain of Joe Rizzo‚ a decades-long veteran of the NYPD‚ as he passes on the knowledge of his years of experience to his ambiti
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Lou Manfredo served in the Brooklyn criminal justice system for twenty-five years. His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Brooklyn Noir. Rizzo's War is his first novel. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now lives in New Jersey with his wife.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
THE FEAR ENVELOPED HER, and yet, despite it, she found herself oddly detached, being from body, as she ran frantically from the stifling grip of the subway station out into the rainy, darkened street. Her physiology now took full control, and her pupils dilated and gathered in the dim light to scan the streets, the storefronts, the randomly parked automobiles. Like a laser her vision locked on to him, indiscriminate in the distance. Her brain computed: one hundred yards away. Her legs received the computation and turned her body toward him, propelling her faster. How odd, she thought through the terror, as she watched herself from above. It was almost the flight of an inanimate object. So unlike that of a terrified young woman. When her scream came at last, it struck her deeply and primordially, and she ran even faster with the sound of it. A microsecond later the scream reached his ears and she saw his head snap around toward her. The silver object at the crest of his hat glistened in the misty streetlight, and she felt her heart leap wildly in her chest. Oh my God, she thought, a police officer, dear God, a police officer! As he stepped from the curb and started toward her, she swooned and her being suddenly came slamming back into her body from above. Her knees weakened and she faltered, stumbled, and as consciousness left her she fell heavily down, sliding into the grit and slime of the wet, cracked asphalt.
MIKE MCQUEEN sat behind the wheel of the dark gray Chevrolet Impala and listened to the hum of the idling motor. The intermittent slap- slap of the wipers and the soft sound of the rain falling on the sheet metal body were the only other sounds. The Motorola two- way on the seat beside him was silent. The smell of stale cigarettes permeated the car’s interior. It was a slow September night, and he shivered against the dampness. The green digital on the dash told him it was almost one a.m. He glanced across the seat and through the passenger window. He saw his partner, Joe Rizzo, pocketing his change and about to leave the all- night grocer. He held a brown bag in his left hand. McQueen was a six- year veteran of the New York City Police Department, but on this night he felt like a first- day rookie. Six years as a uniformed officer first assigned to Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, then, most recently, its Upper East Side. Sitting in the car, in the heart of the Italian- American ghetto that was Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood, he felt like an out-of-towner in a very alien environment. He had been a detective, third grade, for all of three days, and this night was to be his first field exposure, a midnight- to- eight tour with a fourteen- year detective sergeant first grade, the coffee- buying Rizzo.
Six long years of a fine, solid career, active in felony arrests, not even one civilian complaint, medals, commendations, and a file full of glowing letters from grateful citizens, and all it had gotten him was a choice assignment to a desirable East Side precinct. Then one night he left his radio car to pee in an all- night diner, heard a commotion, looked down an alleyway, and just like that, third grade detective. The gold shield handed to him just three weeks later by the major himself. If you’ve got to fall ass backwards into an arrest, fall into one where the lovely college roommate of the young daughter of the mayor of New York City is about to get raped by a nocturnal predator. Careerwise, it doesn’t get any better than that.
McQueen was smiling at the memory when Rizzo dropped heavily into the passenger seat and slammed the door. “Damn it,” Rizzo said, shifting his large body in the seat. “Can they put some fuckin’ springs in these seats already?” He fished a container of coffee from the bag and passed it to Mc-Queen. They sat in silence as the B train suddenly roared by on the elevated tracks above this length of Eighty- sixth Street. McQueen watched the sparks fly from the third rail contacts and then sparkle and twirl in the rainy night air before flickering and dying away. Through the parallel slots of the overhead tracks, he watched as the twin red taillights of the last car vanished into the distance. The noise of the steel- on- steel wheels and a thousand rattling steel parts and I-beams reverberated in the train’s wake. It made the deserted, rain- washed streets seem even more dismal. McQueen suddenly found himself missing Manhattan.
The grocery had been the scene of a robbery the week before, and Rizzo needed to ask the night man a few questions. McQueen wasn’t quite sure if it was the coffee or the questions which had come as an afterthought. Although he had known Rizzo only two days, he suspected the older man to be somewhat less than an enthusiastic investigator. “Let’s head on back to the house,” Rizzo said, referring to the Sixtysecond Precinct station house, as he sipped his coffee and fished in his outer coat pocket for his Chesterfields. “I’ll write up this interview and show you where to file it.”
McQueen eased the car away from the curb. Rizzo insisted he drive, to get the lay of the neighborhood. McQueen felt disoriented and foolish: he wasn’t even sure which way to the precinct.
Rizzo seemed to sense McQueen’s discomfort. “Make a U-turn,” he said, lighting the Chesterfield. “Head back up Eighty- sixth and make a left on Seventeenth Avenue.” He drew on the cigarette and looked sideways at McQueen. He smiled before he spoke.
“What’s the matter, kid? Missing the bright lights across the river already?” McQueen shrugged. “I guess. I just need time, that’s all.”
He drove slowly through the light rain. Once off Eighty- sixth Street’s commercial strip, they entered a residential area comprised of detached and semi- detached older, brick homes. Mostly two stories, the occasional three- story, some with small, neat gardens or lawns in front. Many had ornate, well- kept statues, some illuminated by Hood lamps, of the Virgin Mary or Saint Anthony or Joseph. McQueen scanned the homes as he drove. The occasional window shone dimly with night- lights glowing from within. They appeared peaceful and warm, and he imagined the families inside, tucked into their beds, alarm clocks set and ready for the coming workday. Everyone safe, everything secure. That’s how it always seemed. But six years had taught him what was more likely going on in some of those houses. The drunken husbands coming home and beating their wives; the junkie sons and daughters; the sickly, lonely old; the forsaken parent found dead in an apartment after the stench of decomposition had reached a neighbor and someone had dialed 911. The memories of an ex- patrol officer. As the radio crackled to life on the seat beside him, he listened with half an ear and wondered what his memories as an ex- detective would someday be.
“Six- Two unit one- seven, see the uniform C.I. Hospital ER. Assault victim, female. Copy, one- seven?”
Rizzo keyed the radio. “Copy, dispatch,” he said.
“Alright, Mike. That call is ours. Straight up this way, turn left on Bay Eighth Street to the Belt Parkway. Go east a few exits and get off at Ocean Parkway. Coney Island Hospital is a block up from the Belt. Looks like it’s gonna be a long night.”
When they entered the hospital, it took some minutes to sort through the half dozen patrol officers milling around the emergency room. Mc-Queen found the right cop, a tall, skinny kid of about twenty- three. He glanced down at the man’s name tag. “How you doing, Marino? I’m McQueen, Mike McQueen. Me and Rizzo are catching to night. What’d ya got?”
The man pulled a thick leather note binder from his rear pocket. He flipped through and found his entry, turned it to face McQueen and held out a Bic pen.
“Can you scratch it for me, Detective? No sergeant here yet.” McQueen took the book and pen, and wrote the date, time, and CHRISTOPER across the bottom of the page, then scribbled his initials and shield number. He handed the book back to Marino. “What’d ya got?” he asked again.
Marino cleared his throat. “I’m not the guy from the scene, that was Willis. He got off at midnight, so he turned it to us and went home. I just got some notes here. Female caucasian, Amy Taylor, twenty- six, single, lives at Eighteen- sixty Sixty- first Street. Coming off the subway at Sixtysecond Street about eleven o’clock, twenty- three hundred, the station’s got no clerk on duty after nine. She goes into one of them— what’d ya call it?—one- way turnstile things, the ones that’ll only let you out, not in. Some guy jumps outa nowhere and grabs her.”
At that point, Rizzo walked up. “Hey, Mike, are you okay with this for a while? My niece is a nurse here, I wanna go say hello, okay?”
Mike glanced at his partner, “Yeah, sure, okay, Joe, go ahead.”
McQueen turned back to Marino, “Go on.” Marino dropped his eyes back to his notes.
“So this guy pins her in the revolving door and shoves a knife in her face. Tells her he’s gonna cut her bad if she don’t help him.”
“Help him what?”
Marino shrugged. “Who the fuck knows? Guy’s got the knife in one hand and his johnson in the other. He’s trying to whack off on her. Never says another word to her, just presses the knife against her throat. Anyway, somehow he drops the weapon and she gets loose, starts to run away. The guy goes after her. She comes out of the station screaming. Willis is on a foot post doing a four- to- midnight, sees her running and screaming and goes over her way. She takes a fall, faints or something, bangs up her head and swells up her knee and breaks two fingers. They got her upstairs in a room, for observation on account of the head wound.”
McQueen thought for a moment. “Did Willis see the guy?” “No, never saw him.” “Any description from the girl?”
“I don’t know, I never even seen her. When I got here she was already upstairs.”
“Okay, stick around till your sergeant shows up and cuts you loose.”
“Can’t you, Detective?” “Can’t I what?” “Cut me loose?”
McQueen frowned and pushed a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I think I can. Do me a favor, though, wait for the sarge, okay?”
Marino shook his head and turned his lips downward. “Yeah, sure, a favor. I’ll go sniff some ether or something.” He walked away, his head still shaking.
McQueen looked around the brightly lit emergency room. He noticed Rizzo down the hall, leaning against a wall, talking to a bleached blond nurse who seemed to be about Rizzo’s age: Gfty. McQueen walked over.
“Hey, Joe, you going to introduce me to your niece?”
Joe turned and looked at McQueen with a puzzled look, then smiled.
“Oh, no, no, turns out she’s not working to night. I’m just making a new friend here, is all.”
“Well, we need to go talk to the victim, this Amy Taylor.” Rizzo frowned. “Is she black?”
“No, cop told me Caucasian. Why? What’s the difference?”
“Kid, I know you’re new here to Bensonhurst, so I’m gonna be patient. Anybody in this neighborhood named Amy Taylor is either black or some yuppie pain- in- the- ass moved here from Boston to be an artist or a dancer or a Broadway star, and she can’t afford to live in Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights or across the river. This here neighborhood is all Italian, kid, everybody— cops, crooks, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. Except for you, of course. You’re the exception. By the way, did I introduce you two? This is the morning shift head nurse, Rosalie Mazzarino. Rosalie, say hello to my boy- wonder partner, Mike Mick- fuckin’-Queen.”
The woman smiled and held out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Mike. Don’t believe anything this guy tells you. Making new friends! I’ve known Joe since he was your age and chasing every nurse in the place.”
She squinted at McQueen, then slipped a pair of glasses out from her hair and over her eyes. “How old are you— twelve?” Mike laughed. “I’m twenty- eight.”
She twisted her mouth up and nodded her head in an approving manner. “And a third grade detective already? I’m impressed.”
Rizzo laughed. “Yeah, so was the mayor. This boy’s a genuine hero with the alma mater gals.”
“Okay, Joe, very good. Now, can we go see the victim?” “You know, kid, I got a problem with that. I can tell you her whole story from right here. She’s from Boston, she wants to be a star, and as soon as you lock up the guy raped her, she’s gonna bring a complaint against you ’cause you showed no respect for the poor shit, a victim of society and all. Why don’t you talk to her. I’ll go see the doctor and get the rape kit and pan ties and we’ll get out of here. The day tour can follow it up later this morning.”
McQueen shook his head. “Wrong crime, partner. No rape, some kind of sexual assault or abuse or what ever.”
“Go ahead, kid, talk to her. It’ll be good experience for you. Me and Rosalie’ll be in one of these linen closets when you get back. I did tell you she was the head nurse, right?”
McQueen walked away with her laughter in his ear. It was going to be a long night. Just as Joe had figured.
HE CHECKED the room number twice before entering. It was a small room with barely enough space for the two hospital beds it held. They were separated by a seriously despondent- looking curtain. The one nearest the door was empty, the mattress exposed. In the dim lighting, McQueen could see the foot of the second bed. The outline of someone’s feet showed through the bedding. A faint and sterile yet vaguely unpleasant odor touched his nostrils. He waited a moment longer for his eyes to adjust to the low light, so soft after the harsh Huorescent glare of the hall. He glanced around for something to knock on to announce his presence. He settled on the foot board of the near bed and rapped gently on the cold metal.
“Hello?” he said softly. “Hello, Ms. Taylor?” The covered feet stirred. He could hear the low rustle of linens. He raised his voice a bit when he spoke again.
“Ms. Taylor? I’m Detective McQueen, police. May I see you for a moment?” A light, hidden by the curtain switched on near the head of the bed. McQueen stood and waited.
“Ms. Taylor? Hello?” The voice was sleepy, possibly sedated. It was a gentle and clear voice, yet it held a tension, an edginess. McQueen imagined that he had woken her and now the reality was hitting her. It had actually happened. No, it hadn’t been a dream. He had seen it a thousand times: the burglarized, the beaten, the raped, robbed, shot, stabbed, pissed on. He had seen it.
“Detective? Did you say ‘detective’? Hello? I can’t see you.” He stepped further into the room, slowly venturing passed the curtain.
Slow and steady, don’t move fast and remember to speak softly. Get her to relax, don’t freak her out. Her beauty struck him immediately. She sat, propped on two pillows, the sheet raised and folded over her breasts. Her arms lay beside her on the bed, palms down, straight out. She appeared to be clinging to the bed, steadying herself against some unseen, not possible force. Her skin was almost translucent, a soft glow emanating from ...
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Book Description Thorndike Press, 2010. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P111410422372