Trick or Retreat

Contributor: Gary Clifton

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Hillary Washington had been Mrs. Clarence Washington until two years earlier. Then cancer took Clarence.  In a neighborhood where ninety-eight percent of the population was terrified of the other two percent, she was unafraid - Clarences's.32 still lay in a kitchen drawer.  She opened the door to a young white man.  The pirate-like bandana atop his head was probably a costume - it was Halloween.  But no treat was involved.  Her trick reward was rape, murder, arson.
    Homicide sent out Detectives Harper and Garnet.  Red Harper, in Homicide since before electricity, with a thin rim of red hair surrounding plenty of bald head, was big, tough, and never without a nasty cigar polluting the atmosphere.  Margaret "Maggs" Garnet, new in Homicide, was leggy, black, beautiful.   A graduate of Texas Tech via a track scholarship, she could outrun and then kick the ass of most men they encountered.
    As they examined Mrs. Washington's crime scene, a patrolman caught Harper's eye.  "Neighbors report a white guy wearing a plaid doo-rag ran from the scene."
    "White boy on foot around Fair Park shouldn't be hard to find," Maggs said. "Sure a fine day to look," she gestured to the beautiful autumn day.
    So as cops should, they cruised the area.  Harper, driving missed the light at the Grand Avenue entrance to the Cotton Bowl.  Three U.S. Marines, splendid and ram-rod straight in their dress blue uniforms were manning a "Dollars for Wounded Warriors" booth on the sidewalk.  A clown, presumably another Marine, stood ringing a bell.  Maggs winked at an African American Marine who was movie star handsome and bigger than Harper.  The kid smiled back.  
    They hadn't driven two blocks when Maggs shouted: "There, Harper."  In half a heartbeat, Maggs had bailed out and was full bore after a greasy white kid with a plaid bandana tired around his head.
    With Harper following in the car, to Maggs's chagrin, the kid went over a fence on Grand avenue and disappeared into the vast housing project behind.  She'd lost him.  When Harper puffed up, Maggs waved a shoe.  "Tennis shoe?" Harper said.
    "Christ, Harper," It's a Michael Jordan...costs two hundred.  Somewhere back in there is a white guy wearing a damned rag on his head and one shoe," she gestured, "...who just might have Mrs. Washington's piggy bank in his pocket."  They radioed a description of the suspect to all units.  Another hour's search failed to find their man.
        They'd just dropped the Jordan at the crime lab behind Parkland Hospital when dispatch advised them to look into an assault victim wearing one Jordan who'd just been ambulanced into Parkland.  In the ER they found, Jim Bob Griffin, white male 20, with two convictions for assault and robbery.  He had sustained six broken ribs, two broken arms, a fractured jaw, and a concussion   But, he'd retained plenty of mouth.  "Damned clown jumped me, them some others tried to kill me.  Ain't did shit."
    Then, E.M.T.'s wheeled a clown down the hallway, closely followed by three uniformed Marines.  The clown lay face down, a gash to his left shoulder blade.  "That's the crew from Far Park," Maggs said.  Besides the patient on the cart, the kid she'd flirted with was bleeding from his right hand.
    Harper turned back to Jim Bob's gurney.  "Mean ol' clown beat up on you, huh.  Maybe we just found this bully.  Shoulda picked on the Easter Bunny.  Heard he's a real whoosh."
    "Kiss my ass, pig.  Ast the sumbitch for a little change and he done this to me.  Am I gonna die?"
    "Absolutely, dude, and with any luck at all that would be today."   
    A uniformed officer walked in, holding up a stubby switchblade in a plastic bag.  "This jerk-off thought he could take on the Marines with a Barlow knife," he grinned.  "He...uh finished second.  After they kicked the dog shit out of him he ran in front of a D.A.R.T. bus."  He leaned close to Harper and Maggs.  "But them kids did all the damage...the bus just glazed him."
    Harper stepped into the curtained cubicle where a physician was stitching up the clown's back.  The patient was lean and muscular with a tattoo:  Semper Fi  on his forearm.  "You guys have to report this?"
    "Yessir," all four snap-answered as one.
    Harper sat down and wrote out the following report:  "Suspect, Jim Bob Griffin,  suspect in a rape, murder, arson earlier in the day, attempted armed robbery of U.S. Marine Wonski who improvised, adapted, and took evasive action.  Suspect fled, ran into the path of a D.A.R.T.  bus and sustained injuries requiring hospitalization at Parkland.  If suspect survives, he will be charged with armed robbery, assault, and  damaging a city owned vehicle."
    As he finished, his cellular rang.  He spoke briefly and hung up.  "DNA on the Jordan matches Mrs. Washington and ol' Jim Bob both," he grinned at Maggs.  "Hey, Jim Bob," he called into the cubicle where Griffin lay on a cart.  "Your Halloween treat is a needle and a three-poison-juice cocktail."
    Maggs, who'd peered over Harper's shoulder as he wrote, said:  "Only just injuries, huh?  Gotta contingency plan if this dirt-bag dies."
    "Haul the carcass to the dog pound?" he rolled the cigar stub.  He tossed a carbon of the report on the injured clown's gurney, then followed Maggs out.  As they cleared the door, Harper fished a fresh cigar from his pocket.
    "Trick or treat officers," the clown called behind them.

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over thirty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. He has an M.S. from Abilene Christian University.
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