Fictional piece by Julie Ann Tunstall
It was 6pm and Lt Christine Cagney was sitting in her office at New York's 7th Precinct. It had been almost 7 months now since she'd been handed her own squad and she was wondering when Marquette was going to trust her with more important cases. The biggest thing to fall into her hands so far had been a small time narcotics case. It was important to stop a low life like Miguel Jose Martinez dealing drugs to high school kids, but frankly she wanted a juicy murder case, she was getting bored. She'd dealt with much bigger fish as both a sergeant and a detective over at the 14th and she was regretting her decision to leave. Oh yeah the pay check was bigger, but Cagney had never been in it for the money. It had always been the excitement, the desire to succeed, the fact that she was damned good at her job that had stoked her fire.
She could sit here and procrastinate forever, but fact was she had a dinner date at the Lacey's. She'd been promising Mary Beth she'd go over to Queens for the last three weeks, but with one thing or another she'd put it off time and again. Tonight she decided, it was time to visit her friend.
On arrival at the Lacey's Chris was greeted with hugs and kisses from Michael and Alice. Mary Beth made a fuss of her friend, telling her how great she looked, and Harvey came out of the kitchen, covered in spaghetti sauce, to plant a huge, if somewhat tomatoey, kiss on Christine's cheek. Every time she came to the Lacey's Chris wondered why she'd put off her visits for so long. She liked it here, there was a warm, friendly atmosphere and she could rely on good old Harve to make her favourite spaghetti sauce in honour of the occasion.
After dinner whilst Harvey was putting Alice Christine to bed, Chris confided in Mary Beth about her thoughts from earlier that evening. She was really regretting leaving the 14th. Ok so she had her own squad, but she'd felt much more appreciated back at the 14th. Samuels had always rated Cagney, trusted her with the most important cases. "I may be paranoid Mary Beth", said Chris, "but it just seems that Marquette has never treated me with any respect since the whole Hennessey thing. So I got my promotion, why the hell does it feel like I've taken a backwards step?". "Chris", sighed Mary Beth. "You got where you always wanted to be, you're in charge aren't you? Isn't that what you always wanted?. Chris thought about this for a moment then said "I guess you're right, but I still feel like I'm a cog trapped in the wheel of the 'old boy network'. Marquette hates me and on top of all that the squad don't seem to Gel, not like the old gang at the 14th. No, Marquette's got me exactly where he wants me Mary Beth. Dress it up any way you like, promotion's just a fancy word. I may be in the pilot's seat but Marquettes still operating the controls". "Don't tie yourself up in knots Chris, you're a fantastic detective, you know that", said Mary Beth. "Yeah, now I just need an opportunity to prove it to Marquette. Oh well, guess the dream of becoming the first female commissioner can be thrown out the window".
Mary Beth gave Christine a look that said she didn't want the conversation to go along this path all evening and quickly changing the subject asked "So, how are things with Mr Amatucci?". She still couldn't bring herself to refer to him by his first name. She wasn't keen. To be honest she thought Chris was too good for him, although she'd never dare say it. "Honestly Mary Beth?. That's another area of my life that's rather complicated. We've been drifting apart recently. I think you may have been right when you said I couldn't go out with anyone who hadn't graduated college. I don't know, the difference, well it just gets to you after a while".
Quickly changing the subject again, before Harvey got dragged into it, Mary Beth asked. "Do you want to make a night of it and stay over?" "No thanks replied Chris "but you're right, it is getting late and I've got to be in early tomorrow morning. Some new detective, Marianne Potier is starting at the 7th. Wouldn't want an overkeen Rookie arriving before the boss. See you Mary Beth, love to Harve and the kids". "Yeah see you", replied Mary Beth. "Don't leave it so long next time".
Next morning Christine's instincts were proved right. At 7.30 on the dot Deputy Inspector Knelman came walking into the squadroom with a small, dark-haired woman of around 35 by his side. Chris smiled to herself. Had she and Mary Beth looked as green when they'd first walked into the 14th?. "Good morning Inspector, good morning detective Potier", said Chris with genuine enthusiasm. The prospect of new blood in this squad could only be a positive in Lt Cagney's eyes. "Morning lieutenant", said Knelman. "This is detective Marianne Potier, I'm assigning her to detective Cronin. I'm sure that with his experience she'll learn quickly". "Good choice Inspector, but detective Cronin is on holiday for another week yet. He doesn't get back from Italy until next Friday", said Cagney. "I'm aware of that lieutenant, and that's why detective Potier will be following you for the next week. You can show her the ropes". Marianne Potier went over to shake Chris's hand. "I've heard so much about you Lieutenant Cagney. In fact I've been following your work for some time now. To be honest I fought to get this spot. If I'm going to be a detective I'd like to work for the best". Christine's vanity took over here. She liked this woman, they were going to get along just fine. Seeing as the 7th was not catching much at the moment, Chris made Marianne a coffee, showed her to her desk and gave her some reports to type up. May as well start as you mean to go on thought Chris, and working for Cagney meant hard work without a great deal of respite.
At around 11am Lt Cagney's phone began to ring. She listened carefully to the information she was being given then replaced the receiver, a tingle running down her spine. Talk about the luck of the Irish. This could be the case of the decade, and it had fallen right into Cagney's lap. Sheik Abdul Hussani of the Arabian Embassy had just been shot dead in broad daylight. He had been giving a press conference on the 42nd floor of the Empire State Building. Apparently the bullet had come through an open window from the building opposite. There were several witnesses but not much information was coming forward. Chris looked around the squadroom. Who could she trust with a biggy like this?. She decided to take the case herself. Cracking an assassination of this calibre couldn't do her career any harm.
Cagney grabbed her coat, scarf and purse and headed out of her office. She stopped by Potier's desk, couldn't do any harm to give the kid a taste of what real police work was like. "Come on Marianne, wanna see some real police action?".
In the car on the way over to 5th Avenue and 34th Street Chris filled Marianne in on the details of the case. What she would have given for an opportunity like this on her first day as a detective, she thought.
On their arrival they saw that the Empire State had been cordoned off and Forensics were there already. Cagney and Potier were waved through by the uniforms on duty. Cagney decided to start at the top and work her way down. She'd begin by interviewing reporters from the New York Times. The Evening Standard reporters would be here for a while yet.
Firstly she approached a well-groomed, auburn-haired woman in her late thirties or early forties. The woman was obviously very shaken, her hand quivering as she raised her cigarette to her mouth. "So Mrs........" "Stattler, Margaret Stattler", interrupted the woman. "So, Mrs Statler, what exactly did you see?", enquired Cagney. "It's difficult to remember exactly what went on, everything happened so quickly", went on Mrs Stattler. "Take your time", said Chris "and tell me everything you saw, any details that stick in your mind". "We were all sitting on those chairs over there, I had a dictophone but I was taking notes at the same time. Mr Hussani had been talking for about three minutes when we heard the shot. Everyone turned to look at the open window, when I glanced back inside the room Mr Hussani was already dead. I had to cover my eyes. The left side of his face was completely covered in blood. The man who was sitting beside me, he was from the Rochester Herald I think, well he was shaking uncontrollably and then he vomited on the floor. One of the Sheik's entourage, a guard I think, ran over to the window, and that's all I remember. We were told we couldn't leave until the NYPD arrived, and here I am now talking to you. That's it".
"Thank you Mrs Stattler", uttered Chris. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to hand over the dictophone and your notes. Tell me, did you stop the dictophone when the commotion started or did you just leave it running?. Please try to remember, it could be important". "I don't remember touching it", said Mrs Stattler "it should have carried on recording until the tape ran out".
"That could really help", said Chris "If you remember anything at all, please contact me lieutenant Cagney, at the 7th Precinct". Chris gave the woman her card and moved on to the next witness.
After a full day of interviews Chris had come up with very little. The witness reports had all been very similar. Only one man, a guard of Sheik Hussani, had thought he saw a figure make a run from the building opposite, along 34th Street and into Macy's. t made sense though, the perpetrator may have panicked and where better to lose yourself in a crowd than the world's largest department store?.
Back at the 7th, after dispatching the appropriate reports to Forensics and Ballistics, Christine decided to call it a night. Tomorrow she and detective Potier would interview people on the street. There were two vendors that she herself knew of who worked outside Macy's. One selling chilli dogs, the other hot roasted nuts. They could have seen something unusual. Unlikely but possible. There wasn't a great deal she could do here now. It was gone 9pm already and tonight she had a date with a bubble bath and she meant to keep it.
Early the next morning Cagney and Potier were out interviewing vendors, shopkeepers and members of the public who worked on and around 34th Street and 5th Avenue. Cagney was just about to call it a day when a thought entered her head. Hadn't there been been a bookie? an old grey-haired type who used the phonebox on the corner of 34th as his contact number. She and Lacey had busted him in their earlier days as detectives. If only she could remember his name. On a hunch she phoned Lacey. It proved to be a wise decision. Lacey remembered him alright, even remembered the name of the bar he used to hang out in. Joshua Raymond was his name, and he was a regular at the Limelight strip joint on the corner of 48th and 7th. She could be onto something here, she hoped to God the old timer was still in business. If he'd been there yesterday at around 11 he could just hold the key to the information she was looking for. It was her last hope she had to give it a go.
Cagney picked up Marianne from Macy's where she'd been interviewing workers, and they headed back to the 7th.She filled Marianne in on the details of what she planned to do, just in case something should go wrong or she needed back up. Then she went home, she had a long night ahead of her.
Whilst she was in the shower Chris heard the phone ring and the answer machine switch on . She'd listen to it before she went out.
The message had been brief, it was Nick. He said he'd left 6 messages with Marianne over the past day and a half. Obviously Chris couldn't be bothered replying so they were through. She'd known it was coming for a while now, but she still felt sad. If only Marianne had passed on the messages the split could have been more amicable. But what the hell, she was a rookie right?, probably too caught up in the excitement of the case.
The Limelight Club was dark and dingy. Good job that Chris had dressed down for the occasion. She sauntered over to the bar and ordered a club soda and a scotch. She sipped slowly on the soda and poured the scotch into a nearby plant pot when the barman was busy serving someone else. She waited about twenty minutes then deemed it appropriate to start fishing for information. "Josh not been in tonight?", Chris asked the bartender "He owe you money or something'", he replied, answering her question with one of his own. "No, nothing like that", went on Chris "just wanted to place a bet on the 2.45 tomorrow , thought I'd find him here is all". "Normally you would ", said the bartender "but we ain't seen him for a couple of days, think he may have gone underground".
Chris got up late the following morning. She hated getting stuck in Manhattan's rush hour traffic, but she had to get to work somehow. She wanted to stop by 34th Street again, wait around a bit, see if Josh turned up.
On arrival at the precinct Chris was met by Marquette, Knelman and another bunch of high ranking NYPD officials. "What the hell did you think you were playing at Cagney?", exploded Marquette. Chris was bewildered. "What do you mean Inspector? I don't understand". "The Hussani case Cagney, you've blown it big style. The Feds thought that they were onto something here, but their leads been blown away due to some hair-brained, hot-dog idea you had", Marquette continued. "Woah, what do you mean the Feds, this was my case, our case here at the 7th", retorted Cagney with a certain amount of ferocity. "We've had a suspect for quite some time now, it needed to be approached with subtlety, to ensure a conviction, this guy's big time lieutenant. Thanks to you the guy's vanished into thin air and the case has been blown out of the water. If only you hadn't spoken to that Raymond guy, our guy wouldn't have been tipped off and the old fool might still be alive.", went on Marquette.
"Hold it right there", continued Cagney. "I've not even spoken to Joshua Raymond......" "Don't give me that crap Cagney", interrupted Marquette "the guy was found dead in a dumpster behind Macy's at 6.30 this morning, and your card was stuffed in his pocket. Marianne's already filled us in on the details of your hair-brained expedition last night. Would you believe the kid was worried, thought something might have happened to you". "Hang on just a minute Sir", went on Cagney "I may have intended speaking to Joshua Raymond , I even went to the Limelight last night, but he wasn't there. Nobody's seen or heard from him for two days". "Cut the bull Cagney. This could prove extremely costly to the department and damaging to your career. I can pull this promotion just as quickly as I awarded it, quicker in fact. Go home Cagney, call it personal time. You haven't heard the last of this. Who's the rookie here Potier or you?".
Chris on seeing that she was in a no win situation, grabbed her stuff and stormed out of the precinct slamming the door behind her. She was fuming, but beneath the anger was fear. She'd spent her whole career giving 110%, she just hoped she'd still have a job in the morning.
She was blinded by anger and instinctively stopped at the first liquor store she came across. She bought a bottle of scotch. After consuming two glasses of the alcohol Chris began to cry. She threw the bottle against the wall and watched as it smashed into tiny pieces. The potent smell engulfed the apartment. Chris was in trouble. She couldn't trust herself anymore, she'd slipped off the wagon after years of sobriety. So she did the only thing she could think of and drove over to Queens. She just hoped Mary Beth would be in.
When Mary Beth opened the door she immediately sensed that something was wrong. "Chris, you've been drinking", she said in almost a whisper. "Two glasses", replied Chris I'm in trouble Mary Beth. I don't know what to do, but I'm here". "You've done the right thing Chris. Come in, let's talk".
Chris explained the whole situation, starting with the messages not being passed on resulting in the break up with Nick, right up to recent events and being sent home. "I don't know how the hell he got the tip off Mary Beth, only Marianne knew what I was doing, it's impossible. How did that guy know we were onto him?". "Well it looks to me Partner like Marianne the rookie may not be quite as naive as you thought", said Mary Beth. "No way Mary Beth", protested Chris "she's as green as a meadow in spring. Anyhow why would she want to stitch me up? she thinks I'm great, she even followed my work before she joined the squad", went on Chris.
"I smell a rat my friend", said Mary Beth "You need to confront the girl, get a wire" "I can't do it on my own", said Chris "I need back up, Marquette thinks I'm scum Mary Beth, he'll never set it up". "Samuels will", said Mary Beth "he trusts your integrity, we've got to speak to him, he'll do it Chris I know he will. Please Chris give it a shot", she implored.
The two women set off for the 14th Precinct. Chris just hoped that Samuels had enough faith in her to go against his superiors, if it didn't work out they'd both be for the highjump.
"I don't like it Cagney", said Lt Samuels. "This could be costly for the both of us, but if you're determined then I'll go along with it, just don't let me down, I hope we have something on this rookie.
Chris phoned Marianne the same afternoon and arranged a meeting for the evening. She said she wanted to discuss case details so that Marianne could continue to work efficiently in Cagney's absence.
Chris was nervous. 8 o'clock was approaching fast. She got into the car and drove to Flannery's where she'd arranged to meet Marianne. To her relief the detective was already there when she arrived. Cagney didn't know what she hoped to achieve by this. Lacey was wrong ,she knew it. Marianne was just a rookie, there was no hidden agenda here. After buying them both a drink Chris said "Ok I'm laying it on the line Potier. I don't know why or how you did it but you stitched me up". To Chris's surprise Potier just laughed. "I thought you'd have figured it out before now Cagney". "I don't understand Marianne, why, what have I ever done to you?", Chris asked with tears in her eyes. "Me personally, nothing, but you've ruined my brother's life you bitch. You obviously didn't learn as much as you thought on your junior year in Paris. Potier, French for Potter. Yes Christine, I'm Brad Potter's baby sister. Surprising how easy it is to have your name changed these days. My brother practically brought me up after our parents were killed in a car accident and you took him away from me Lieutenant Cagney". "But Marianne, he raped me, your brother is a rapist". "Not so Lieutenant, you went on a date with him, you led him on ",. Marianne almost spat the words out. "So how did you do it?", asked Cagney. "I knew you were meeting that Raymond guy, I knew there was something in it. So I got there first, got to him before he even went into the club. I offered him a thousand dollars for information. A man down on his luck will tell you all you need to know for a thousand dollars Lieutenant. We walked down towards Macy's, it was easy really, then I shot him, took my money back and stuffed your card in his pocket. All it took then was one simple phone call to our man and he disappeared never to return . So the perp gets away and your in it up to your eyeballs Lieutenant Cagney". "Why tell me all this Potter, you know you'll be up on a murder charge", said Chris. "Career don't mean that much to me really, never has, but my brother well that's something else", explained Marianne. "No it's been worth it, I've enjoyed bringing you down Cagney. As for a murder charge, you'll never make it stick. Let's face it you have zero credibility as far as Marquette is concerned. Face facts Lieutenant your career is over.".
"Too bad Potter. Someone still has faith in me. I'm wired Marianne, you just said all this to Lieutenant Bert Samuels of the 14th Precinct. The game's over. Do I need to read you your rights?" FREEZE FRAME
You can send the author commments at: Julie Ann Tunstall
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