DETECTIVE FIRST GRADE
July 9th 3:30 P.M.
Yogi was no dope, Detective Brian McKenna thought as he drove along Empire
Boulevard. This is like Deja Vu all over again.
McKenna looked at his partner, Richie White.
Stuck in deepest, darkest Brooklyn again and working with another hoople.
No more bright lights for me for awhile, no fine restaurants, no
high-fashion good-looking women. How many times have I been sent down?
Four? Five? How many times have I been caught breaking their rules?
McKenna was bored and began feeling sorry
for himself again. Seven One Detective Squad. Certainly not very
glamorous, the main mission being to keep the Hasidic Jews and the Blacks
from killing each other or burning each other out. Angelita disgusted
with both me and the Police Department and threatening to leave. Not much
to smile about. And nobody to blame except myself for this current state
of affairs. Myself, and those jerks in the F.B.I. They don't appreciate
anybody doing the "right thing" when it conflicts with their
But the worst thing about banishment to
Brooklyn is the boredom: there isn't enough worth doing. Nothing
important anyway. After all, it's only Brooklyn. Who cares what happens
here? Nobody I know.
McKenna was driving what the New York City
Police Department calls an "unmarked car". The car fooled no
one in this neighborhood. Everyone knew that two white guys wearing ties
in a four door Plymouth were the "D.T.'s", the Detectives,
"the Man". They might as well have been in full police uniform
driving an ice cream truck.
It was a hot and muggy July afternoon and
the streets were packed with the darker and poorer shades of humanity.
They were stuck in one of those Brooklyn traffic jams that occur for no
good reason and only end by Divine Intervention. McKenna observed the
difference between this particular jam and typical midtown Manhattan
gridlock. Nobody was blowing their horn here, probably realizing that a
show of annoyance could upset the crowded and delicate balance and could
lead to a serious confrontation with fellow motorists. Confrontation was
more dangerous here than in the Bright Lights. This was a notoriously
But the healthy fear evaporated as soon as
anyone noticed that the police were around. The middle-aged, well-built
black man in the car on McKenna's left started blowing his horn and
gesturing in an attempt to get McKenna's attention.
McKenna smiled and stole a quick glance at
his fellow motorist. Everything about the man was big and solid,
including the chunky Buick he was driving. Their eyes met while the big
man simultaneously leaned on his horn and shouted in McKenna's direction.
McKenna couldn't understand because the big man's windows were closed.
Perfect!, McKenna thought. A way to break
the boredom. He faced forward and made a pretense of studiously ignoring
the big man. This implied insult enraged him and he continued blowing his
horn and shouting at McKenna through his closed window. McKenna continued
to ignore him. Finally the man leaned over, rolled down his passenger
window and yelled, "Hey officer, why don't you get out of your car
and do something about this traffic?"
Rising to the occasion, McKenna answered in
his best L.A.P.D. Adam 12 voice, "Excuse me, sir, but I just happened
to notice that you aren't wearing your seatbelt. Do you realize that, in
the event of an accident, you could be seriously injured if you were
ejected from your auto? Not to mention the fact that you are currently
risking being cited for a $50 fine and two points on your license, if any.
I remind you that a conviction for this violation would automatically
entail an increase in the amount of automobile insurance that I am sure
you know you are required to pay by Section 611 of the New York State
Vehicle and Traffic Law."
"If, by your present conduct, you are
going to force me to start doing my sworn duty of enforcing the law, I
feel that I must start on the first violation I encounter, which is the
violation that I have just finished discussing with you, sir."
"Huuhh?" Confusion was engraved
all over the big man's face. McKenna watched as this confusion was slowly
replaced by resentment.
McKenna smiled, leaned out his window, and
said in a stage whisper, "I sure hope this bullshit works on you,
pal, because, just between us, I don't have any summonses and I think I
forgot how to write one anyway. So, please let me slide on this one so
this knucklehead sitting next to me doesn't call me a pussy and break my
balls for the rest of the day. How about it?"
Finally he got it. The big man smiled and
said, "Ain't this a bitch, officer!"
"Thanks, pal. By the way, would you
mind saying that once more, but a little louder so the knucklehead can
The big man leaned forward in his seat,
looked Richie White, and agreed with McKenna's assessment of his
"Sure, officer. AIN'T THIS A
"Thank you, sir, and happy
"One second, officer! I just got to
know your name."
"Brian McKenna, Expert Detective at
your service, sir," answered McKenna with a salute and a smile.
"Pleasure to meet you, Detective
McKenna. I've got to catch you at a party sometime," the big man
said as he returned the salute and rolled up his window.
"I just love that seat belt law,"
McKenna said to White.
White didn't look the slightest bit
disturbed about McKenna's disparaging characterization of him.
"Let's keep this straight, McKenna. You have to play by the rules
and be consistent. Call me either a knucklehead or an asshole in your
stories to these guys. One or the other. Otherwise, the bet's
"O.K., knucklehead. Let's add it up.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but so far today I've got three `Ain't that a
bitches', eight `Say whats', and three `Damns'. Subtracting that
`Officer, you ain't nothing but a no-good mother fucker', I figure you owe
me thirteen dollars."
"Settle for five bucks?"
"For you, anything," McKenna
replied. Sucker, he thought. This guy belongs in Brooklyn.
He even likes it here. He's just like the Eskimos. They think they've
got a great place, too. Richie White and the Eskimos just don't know any
McKenna's eyes were drawn to the pulled,
frayed thread hanging from the elbow of White's jacket. He couldn't help
He doesn't even know it's there, McKenna
thought. A one hundred percent no wrinkle, no iron polyester sports
jacket. What a buy! Looks like one size fits all. I can't even tell
what color it is. How can we possibly get any respect for this police
department when it looks like our detectives get dressed in the dark?
These Brooklyn detectives don't know that this job is fifty percent
appearance. If you look good, people want to talk to you. If people want
to talk to you, the rest of the job is easy. Now, who would want to talk
to this guy? It's not that he's a bad guy. It's just that he hasn't
learned the tricks to make it easy.
White caught McKenna staring at the jacket
and said, "Like it? My wife got it for me for my birthday. She's a
great shopper. Most comfortable jacket I've ever had. And it never
wrinkles. I took it right out of the dryer before work today."
"Yeah, it's nice. I'd like to get
something like that for myself. It looks like it goes with anything.
You can wear it anywhere," McKenna said.
"The great thing about it is that I can
wear any tie I want with it."
"That's great," answered McKenna.
Any tie but that one, he thought.
"I'll bring you in the catalog
tomorrow, if you like. Then I can have my wife put you on the mailing
"Great, thanks," McKenna said.
If my mailman sees that catalog, I'll have to move.
The auto air conditioner was going full
blast. McKenna looked at White, who was rolling up his window to keep the
July heat out. He disapproved, but didn't say anything.
"McKenna," asked White, "How
about rolling up your window before we roast in here?"
"Sorry pal, but I prefer to hear all
the good things that our citizens are saying about us. I never miss an
opportunity to make sure that we're still winning their hearts and
They were headed eastbound in the
stop-and-go traffic, slowly approaching the intersection of Bedford
McKenna had never been able to suppress the
warm feeling of nostalgia that swelled inside him every time he had to
pass this place, now the site of the Ebbets Field Houses. He thought back
to his childhood, when the City was different. Many times his father had
brought him here to watch Duke Snyder, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella and
those other Boys of Summer. Dem Bums, he remembered. Won the National
League Pennant in `52 and `53 and did it again in `55 and `56. They even
finally beat the Yankees and won the World Series in `55, and suddenly
Brooklyn wasn't good enough for them. They started looking around and
after the 1957 season they took the money, packed up, and went off to the
sunshine. They were the first to leave the neighborhood.
McKenna took another look at his
surroundings. Of course, he thought, anyone with sense and enough money
took the hint and soon followed them out.
Look what they did to this place, McKenna
thought. The site of the famous ballpark, once the home of the Brooklyn
Dodgers, was now occupied by six separate twenty-three story buildings
which comprised the Ebbets Field Houses, a low-to-moderate income New York
City Housing Project famous only to the cops who spent a lot of time
trying to catch the assortment of robbers, drug dealers, rapists, and
murderers who lived in these high rises among their victims and
Four cars in front of the Detectives a man
exited the rear seat of a taxi. He walked to the sidewalk, looked around,
and started strolling in their direction. McKenna's instincts startled
him out of his daydreams. He sized the man up instantly. Male, probably
Hispanic, about forty years old, five feet nine inches tall, medium build,
one hundred and sixty pounds, mustache and goatee, swarthy complexion,
well dressed, wearing green snake-skin shoes, green pants, a white shirt,
and an open green nylon windbreaker.
It was the shoes and the windbreaker that
caught McKenna's attention. The shoes were out of place in this
neighborhood. Too Expensive. And it was too hot to be wearing a
windbreaker. As the man approached, McKenna saw that as he walked his
left shoulder was slightly lower than his right shoulder and that he also
swung his left arm slightly away from his body.
Without moving his lips, McKenna said to his
partner, "Don't look now, but get ready! This guy's got a gun in a
shoulder holster." The man was now about ten feet from the front of
Naturally, White turned his head and looked
right at the man as he approached. Why do I bother talking to this guy,
So he also turned and his eyes locked with
the man's as he passed their car. He was right; the guy was definitely
one of the piranhas. In that instant McKenna saw recognition, fear and
apprehension in the man's eyes. Although McKenna and this man had never
seen each other before, they recognized each other. The hunter was about
to become the hunted. They both knew their roles and began formulating
their plans. The game had begun.
The man turned his head forward and
continued walking. McKenna saw that his gait had picked up almost
imperceptibly as he continued down Empire Boulevard.
"Are you sure?", White asked.
"I didn't see it."
McKenna ignored the question. "Let's
get him," he said as he slipped his 9 mm Glock semi-automatic from
the holster on his belt, turned off the car, removed the keys from the
ignition, and handed them to White. He was relieved to see that White had
finally caught on and was removing his own pistol from its holster.
"Don't forget the radio," McKenna
said, meaning the police walkie-talkie. They both took a deep breath and
opened their doors.
Their quarry was sharp. He was thirty feet
behind the detectives when they got out of the car. As soon as he heard
the sound of the doors opening, he took off. He was fast and he wasn't
looking back. Leaving their car right in the middle of traffic, the
detectives gave chase. The race was on.
The piranha ran across Empire Boulevard
through the lanes of stopped cars and headed towards the Ebbets Field
McKenna was delighted. Now there would be
no need to tell any little lies in court about this up-coming arrest.
Flight of a suspect was one of the mitigating circumstances that, in the
eyes of the courts, justify an officer's action when he stops and frisks a
person before he arrests him for unlawful possession of a firearm.
It never even crossed McKenna's mind that
this man might get away. For the past ten years he had run in three
marathons a year. He was fond of saying, "They might be faster for
the first block, but to get away from me they have to run twenty-six miles
in under three hours fifteen minutes." They never could.
The detectives were fifty feet behind the
man by the time he reached the first building in the housing complex. He
hadn't slowed down a bit. McKenna judged the man's pace and started to
pull a little ahead of White.
"Should I put it over?", White
yelled, meaning should he transmit this foot pursuit over the police radio
he was carrying.
McKenna looked over his shoulder at White
and saw that he was red. Looks like I'm going to be on my own in this one
in a little while, he thought.
"Not yet," he answered. McKenna
figured that he might want to have a little private chat with their man
when they caught him, and he wouldn't want to have any other officers
present during this "interview" who could be called to testify
against him later.
The chase continued through the sidewalks of
the complex of buildings. McKenna slowly narrowed the gap while White
fell farther and farther behind. The suspect made a series of right or
left turns at the corner of each building, so that by the time McKenna was
twenty feet behind him they were at about the same point as when they
first entered the housing complex.
By now, this foot pursuit had attracted
quite a bit of attention in the crowded neighborhood. McKenna felt like
they were running across the infield of Ebbets Field on opening day.
People were everywhere and they all stopped whatever they were doing to
watch the game. Both officers knew that the police weren't considered the
home team here.
The man now heard McKenna's footsteps behind
him and he pulled a large, ugly-looking automatic pistol from his shoulder
holster. McKenna saw the weapon and slowed down a bit.
Not just yet, McKenna thought. He didn't
want to risk a gunfight on these crowded streets.
The suspect ran toward a group of
tough-looking Spanish punks wearing gang colors and yelled to them,
"Ayudenme, hermanos!", imploring them for help.
The group gave the man a cheer as he passed
through them. McKenna followed and one of the aspiring gangsters stuck
his foot out as McKenna was passing, catching the instep of McKenna's left
foot while he was in mid-stride. The result was spectacular. McKenna
sprawled face forward on the concrete and slid into second base.
McKenna got up as quick as he could and
turned in time to see White grab the owner of the offending foot. The
rest of the pack was giving a demonstration of the "Big Bang
Theory," scattering to all corners of the universe at close to the
speed of light.
McKenna shouted to his partner, "Let
him go and put it over!". The suspect was now about one hundred feet
in front of him.
He heard White shout into the police radio
the New York City Police Department code call for "Officer Needs
Assistance". "10-13. Ebbets Field Houses. Officers in
civilian clothes chasing male Hispanic armed with a gun."
In the nine radio cars then on patrol in the
71st Precinct, eighteen hearts skipped a beat and the adrenaline started
flowing. In one instant, nine hands reached for the dashboard and turned
on roof lights and sirens. All assignments were put on hold. Nothing
else mattered. A fellow officer was in trouble and requesting assistance.
Within five seconds the front of every police car on patrol in the 71st
Precinct was pointed towards the Ebbets Field Houses.
McKenna heard the wail of the sirens and
wondered, How many collisions did I just cause?
He poured on the speed and as he ran he
heard the sound of White's footsteps behind him. He felt pain in his
right knee, looked down and saw that he had torn the pants knee of his
Botany 500 suit. For the first time McKenna felt anger. Man, do I want
to talk to this guy!
The gap was quickly beginning to narrow.
He's finally getting tired, McKenna thought. Thank God!
The man made a left when McKenna was once
again fifty feet behind him and, gun in hand, ran into the lobby of 277
McKeever Place in the heart of the housing complex. In the lobby were
three middle-aged black women from the building Tenant's Safety Committee,
sitting behind a desk placed in front of the inner lobby door. Their
mission was to screen all non-residents entering the building, an attempt
to keep criminals from using their building as a place of business. The
gunman rushed past them and tried the inner glass door of the lobby. It
was locked. He was cornered.
In unison, the three ladies resigned their
position of trust, got up from their chairs and headed for the front
The gunman turned. "Stop!" he
yelled, and the three ladies froze in the doorway. They were between
McKenna and the gunman. The gunman raised his weapon and placed the short
barrel on top of the shoulder of the closest woman. McKenna dove behind
one of the thick old pollution-scarred sycamore trees that dotted every
New York City Housing Authority housing complex in the City.
The gunman fired a four or five round burst.
McKenna heard the outer glass doors shatter as the rounds slammed into his
tree. The volley of rounds hit the tree with repetitive thumps.
Christ, full automatic!, McKenna thought.
Thank you, God, for this tree.
McKenna peered around the tree and saw that
the three ladies in the lobby were frozen in terror. He couldn't
"Get down!", McKenna yelled.
Everyone in the lobby, including the gunman, instantly dropped to the
ground. From the prone position he fired another burst at McKenna's lucky
tree. Each round hit the tree, but this time the rounds struck closer to
the ground, very near where McKenna had just shown his face.
McKenna looked behind and saw that White had
also dropped to the ground about one hundred feet behind him. He was
yelling excitedly into his radio.
The sound of approaching sirens promised
that help was very close.
McKenna heard another burst of fire from the
lobby and dug himself deeper into the pavement. This time the bullets
weren't meant for him. He peered around the tree and saw the gunman had
fired into the heavy inner glass door, shattering it. He was gone.
McKenna ran in a crouch into the lobby of
the building. The three ladies still lay frozen on the ground.
"Which way?" he asked and three
index fingers pointed up.
McKenna stepped through the blasted door and
ran towards the two elevators in the inner lobby. The floor indicator
lights showed one elevator on the tenth floor and the other on the
No way he's in the elevators, thought
McKenna. Project elevators were notoriously slow, when they worked at
all. He couldn't have gotten so high so fast in these elevators. McKenna
ran to the stairwell, opened the door, and heard the sounds of his man
running up about three floors above him. The stairs were made of steel,
and in the enclosed stairwell the footsteps rang like coins dropping into
a tin cup.
McKenna started up and noted with alarm that
he was making as much noise as the gunman. He counted twenty-four stairs
between each floor. There was a small landing after every twelfth step
where the stairs performed a U-turn on their way up to the next floor.
He took the steps three at a time. When he got to the fifth floor the
gunman's footsteps sounded louder, maybe just two floors above.
This guy's good, McKenna thought, but he's
getting tired now. I've got him.
Suddenly the footsteps above him stopped.
McKenna heard the sound of metal hitting metal and it echoed down the
stairwell. He recognized the sound. The gunman was reloading. He had
just dropped his used magazine from his weapon and was inserting a loaded
clip of ammunition. McKenna heard the distinctive sound of the bolt
snapping closed on a fresh cartridge.
He kept climbing until he estimated that he
was one story below the gunman who, he knew, was waiting for him. The
sounds of many footsteps from the floors far below him meant his
reinforcements were arriving.
Let me try this one, McKenna thought. He
yelled up the stairwell, "Give it up, hombre, so we can both walk out
The gunman's answer was swift and
unexpected. McKenna heard the sound of rapid gunfire, saw the sparks of
ricochets striking the steel and concrete of the stairwell, and staggered
from the force of one of these rounds hitting his bullet-proof vest.
McKenna cried out, more from surprise than
The gunman yelled down the stairwell,
"How do you like that, maricon? Did I get you?"
McKenna resented the gunman's Spanish insult
which implied that McKenna's sexual orientation was a little off. He
could also hear in the man's voice that he was tired and breathing
heavily. Putting pain into his voice, McKenna shouted up, "Just a
scratch, partner!", using his best patent-pending John Wayne
imitation. Regretfully, he ripped open his white on white custom-made
shirt, popping all the buttons, and with his left hand felt his chest
under his vest. No blood. Much of the force of the bullet had been spent
during its course of flight when it ricocheted off the stairs and walls of
the confined stairwell.
Thank you, John and Yoko, he thought.
McKenna had received one of the one hundred vests that John Lennon and
Yoko Ono had donated to the Patrolman's Benevolent Association in 1977, in
the time before the Police Department gave free vests to its officers.
McKenna realized that he was up against the
best he had ever seen. Skip-shooting was something learned only during
intensive military training in house-to-house combat. The way this guy
banked his bullets in the stairwell, I'm glad that I'm not playing
billiards against him, McKenna said to himself.
For the first time the thought crossed his
mind that he might not win this one.
At the sound of the gunshots the footsteps
below him had stopped. McKenna breathed a sigh of relief when he heard
their noise resume. At the same time he heard the sounds of the gunman's
footsteps as he continued his climb.
McKenna took off his shoes and placed them
on the stairs. I should have done this before, he thought. He noticed
with some satisfaction that the sound of his footsteps was now
indistinguishable from the racket that his fellow officers were making
about three floors below him.
McKenna kept himself two floors below the
gunman as he continued his now silent pursuit. When he reached the tenth
floor he heard the squeal of the stairwell door opening on the twelfth.
He could tell by the sound that the gunman's footsteps made on the
concrete of the building hallway that he had finally left the steel
McKenna climbed until he reached the access
door on twelve. He could hear the gunman banging on one of the apartment
doors and yelling, "Open up, Paco. It's Rico."
The stairwell door was half open. McKenna
hesitated a second and then slipped quickly and silently into the
The gunman was twenty feet away. His back
was toward McKenna. He was pounding on the door of the end apartment in
the hallway with the butt of his gun.
McKenna raised his pistol and lined up his
sights on the middle of the gunman's back. He savored the moment of
victory and said, "Surprise, partner!" As the gunman started to
turn with his gun hand raised, McKenna fired three quick shots. The force
slammed the gunman flat against the apartment door. He dropped his gun
and his feet slipped from under him as he slid slowly to the floor. He
moved slightly as McKenna cautiously approached him. When McKenna was
standing over him, the dying man tried to push himself up off the floor.
He managed to turn his head and face McKenna.
McKenna looked into the man's eyes for the
second time and saw that he was right. It was a surprise. He died just as
the first uniformed officers led by Detective White reached the twelfth
floor stairway door.
"Police Officer", McKenna yelled
to them. "It's all over!"
It was then that he saw the hole in the
apartment door that one of his bullets had made after it had passed
through the body of the dead man. And it was then that he heard the
sounds of moaning coming from the other side of the door. McKenna knew he
was wrong. It wasn't all over.
Detective Second Grade Brian McKenna had
just fired his weapon in the line of duty for the second time in his
twenty-three year police career, a career during which he effected more
than eighteen hundred arrests.
McKenna took quick stock of his situation as
he was surrounded by a sea of his fellow police officers. He smiled
slightly as it dawned on him that he was barefoot and without a glove in
left field of the Ebbets Field Houses.