(Well, it’s been a while since I’ve put a continuation of this crime novel up in the blog-sphere, so I’ll drop a load on the page today.  For those of you stopping by for the first time, please click into the Archives section, the July 16th posting, They Had the Right to Remain Silent (1), and you’ll be square on the first page of chapter one.  Otherwise, if you’re with the program so far, let’s continue.)
They Had the Right to Remain Silent
Richard S. Jachimecki
Chapter ( xxxiv ) continues…
     Lana entered the kitchen. She had her terry robe and slippers on, and Terrance noticed she had spent time with her hair before coming downstairs.
     “Morning, gentlemen,” she said, pinched Terrance’s side, then kissed the top of Parker’s head, and went to the cabinet for mugs, “we’re getting a late start today, aren’t we?”
     “Did they want you in the pros, Daddy?” Parker asked.
     “Yes,” Terrance said, “I was drafted in one of the later rounds.”
     “Really?” Parker’s eyes grew wide, “din’cha wanna play?”
     “I wanted to be a policeman,” Terrance said, “and that’s the choice I made.”
     “And now you can still kick butt,” Parker nodded.
     “Where did that come from?” Lana asked.
     “Grampa T,” they answered. She shook her head, then looked at Parker’s napkin.
     “Terry,” Lana said, “cookies?”
     “They’re peanut butter,” Terrance countered, “They’ve got protein, right?”
     “He’ll be bouncing off the walls with all the sugar,” she said, “those are the only ones?”
     They nodded. She poured coffee into both mugs, then brought the mugs and set them on the island’s countertop. Terrance picked one up and took a long swallow, while Lana went to the refrigerator and took out a carton of half- and- half, left the door open, poured some into her cup, then placed the carton back into the fridge, and closed the door. She opened the drawer of a lower cabinet and removed a spoon.
     “Parker,” Lana reminded, “closed mouths while we’re eating. I don’t have to hear the Captain crunch.”
     “MmmOh…MmKay,” Parker replied, the cereal filling his cheeks like a chipmunk gathering for the winter.
     “I’ll get the paper,” Terrance said.
     “I’ll do it,” Parker said, jumped off the stool and ran out of the kitchen, opening the swing door with a shoulder block he’d learned at football practice. Lana took a seat on the stool next to the one Parker just exited, and stirred her coffee.
     “Do you ever regret it,” she asked Terrance, “the chance to play in the pros?”
     “I’d be lying,” he answered, “if I said I didn’t wonder about it a little, what it would have been like,” he crossed to the coffee maker with his mug, for a refill, “but you know how I felt about being a cop.”
     “Yes.”
     “And I sure don’t miss being too sore and stiff to get out of bed, the day after a game,” he said, and then leaned over from the counter to kiss her cheek. She remembered the flak he took from sports writers, and some family members, when he made the decision. His resolve and conviction were other reasons that had made her fall in love with him.
     “That would depend on what’s stiff,” she whispered in his ear.
     Terrance drew back with feigned shock, “Why, Mrs. Marshall!
     “When is Mason coming over?” she asked. Parker returned with the Sunday edition of The New York Times, cradled in both arms. Terrance returned to his stool with a filled mug.
     “Sometime between one and two,” he said. Lana glanced at the clock mounted to the wall above the refrigerator.
     “The Stallion game,” Parker said, “starts at four today, Daddy.”
     “How are they doing this year?” Lana asked.
     “They suck,” he said.
     “Parker!” both Terrance and Lana said, then Terrance followed, “none of that language, young man.”
     “Sorry,” Parker replied.
     “Why don’t you head upstairs for a shower,” she said, “your father is going to have to start cooking soon. I’ll be up to check on you.”
     Parker jumped off his stool, then took his bowl, spoon and glass to the sink. He went over and kissed his mother on the cheek while Terrance watched as Parker slid his left hand over the napkin, grab the cookies and put them in his bathrobe pocket. Terrance pulled out the Sports section of the paper and took over Parker’s unoccupied seat, closer to Lana.
     “I’ve got time,” Terrance said, “I’m going to have Mase cook with me. Two is better than one, right?”
     “Mason can cook?”
     “We’ll find out…It’ll be fine…I’ll use Parker too.”
     “This should be interesting.”
     Terrance turned to the page covering the local pro teams and their match- ups for the afternoon games.
     “So,” Lana said, “are the Stallions really that bad?”
     “Without Bayberry on offense?” Terrance sighed, “they suck.”
Chapter ( xxxv )
     BECKER HAD DECIDED TO HEAD WEST and then travel southward on 5th Avenue, along Central Park, idling down to about twenty miles- per- hour. The sun was coming up, and flashed at him between the high risers that passed to his left along with Museum Row, while the dew dripped off the leaves of the oaks and elms, just inside the Park’s stone walls to his right.
     At the edge of the Park, he turned right and went to the southwest corner, then pulled to the curb at Columbus Circle. He took a cinnamon- raisin from the bagel bag, then got out of the car and sat on the corner of the hood, over the passenger- side headlamp. He zipped the front of his suede jacket in response to the chill still lingering from the unexpected cold snap overnight. The light on his back was warm, but the air around him hadn’t caught up yet. He noticed the deeper trees on this side of the park, still well hidden in shade, had leaves laced with the thin, white film of an early frost, though that would be gone within the next few minutes.
     Not wanting to eat alone, he decided to have breakfast with a group of pigeons that showed no fear of his presence; quite the contrary, they cooed and paced around him, their heads bobbing up and down towards the sidewalk, as if to direct him where to throw the pieces of dough he pinched off the bagel. He watched them scurry en masse to each morsel tossed, bumping and tripping over each other.
     He looked toward the Circle, then raised his left hand to shield his eyes from the glare bouncing off the glass Matterhorn that was Time Warner Center. Rather than the weekday racetrack of gray suits and yellow taxis, the Circle’s only dwellers on this early morning were the Chestnuts and Buttermilks, the Smokeys and Bays. They stood peacefully in front of the handsome cabs that soon enough would carry fares wishing to see the Park in a leisurely fashion, or through romantic eyes. Their drivers were busy. They meticulously brushed the equine coats and manes, or polished the black leather and golden brass of the reins, riggings, and blinders. The steeds, oblivious to the grooming, dined on the feed from the canvas bags hanging over their muzzles.
     Becker hadn’t slept well, but relaxed in the surroundings, a respite from the last four days of violence and unanswered questions. He threw the last few bits of cinnamon- swirled bread in different directions, away from the congregated birds, and headed back around the front of the GT, then watched from behind the steering wheel, as the bevy rushed towards the leftovers; wings flapped haphazardly; some in the group using low flight to gain advantage over their counterparts. He turned over the engine and witnessed their clustered takeoff, like escaping from a shotgun’s blast.
     Becker headed southeast on Broadway, and felt like he had the street to himself. One or two heads silhouetted the windows of buses, cabbies were parked or cruised slowly. He reached Times Square, and looked around at the unlit banners, signs and billboard fronts of theaters and stores; even the neons and incandescents took their day of rest, if only for a few morning hours. He bore to the right, and proceeded downtown on 6th Avenue. Hotel first- floor restaurants and corner diners were beginning to fill, and the wafts of bacon, eggs, waffles, and oatmeal – blowing from kitchen exhaust fans – permeated the car’s interior with each passing block. He pulled over and got a coffee from an all- in- one newsstand, then continued south.
     He was tired. He’d lain in bed, starring at the ceiling, then had gotten up and took a second shower. He tried to lie down once more, but found no peace. He spent the remainder of his time pacing through the apartment in the dark, waiting for morning to come. The real investigation would start on Monday. He dreaded the wait.
     At the corner of West Houston Street, Becker turned into the driveway of a soft- cloth car wash. The Mustang was third car in the queue. He sipped the last of his coffee, trying to block out visions of the body with the gaping hole, the smell of burnt flesh, the piercing eyes of Pam’s sketch.
     He lifted the clutch with his left leg to move the car toward the automated cave, steam rolling out of the entrance. He aligned the front wheels into the guide tracks, then set the car in neutral. An attendant wearing yellow rubber boots came to the side window to collect the fee, and Becker watched him walk to the front, then disappear as he squatted and hooked the chassis to a tether underneath. He popped back up and moved out of the car’s path, as a gentle tugging pulled the vehicle into the building and jets of hot water and detergent sprayed from both sides and above. The interior became progressively dimmer. Long strips of chamois- like fabric dangled and swished from side- to- side, then dragged along the top of the car like jellyfish tentacles, working the suds over the hood, then the windshield and roof, finally engulfing the GT’s entirety. A claustrophobic’s version of hell, Becker thought. The car continued to roll along, and traveled through the next phase. Water poured from every angle, lapping over the glass, rinsing away any signs of foam. The interior began to brighten, though the windows were translucent at best through the sheets of water. A framework of spouts applied a hot mist. Becker noticed the distinctive oily aroma of carnuba wax. He heard the cyclone rush of large blowers as air buffet the car, and he watched the beads of moisture scatter off the windshield and then the hood, while the Cobra crept toward the exit. He thought of blood spatter. Jesus, Mason, turn it off for a while.
     Another attendant was at the doorway, and unhooked the guideline. He looked at Becker, raised his hand, then made a swirling motion with his index finger pointing upward. Becker cranked the ignition, shifted to first, and proceeded left onto Houston, then left again, now heading north on 6th Ave, to what he hoped would be another brief diversion. He put on sunglasses to darken the glare of the sun reflecting off the hood’s mirror- like finish. He got a whiff of diesel from the exhaust of the bus which had pulled out in front of him.
     Traffic was beginning to pick up. Becker drove three blocks and started to look for a spot to park. He found an empty section of curb, within view of his destination; the patch of green- painted asphalt, enclosed by twenty- foot tall, chain- link fencing on the northeast corner of 4th Street.
     West 4th Street Courts’ nickname of The Cage was on the nose; it was undersized, about half the square footage of a traditional basketball court, the sideline perimeter lying only a couple of inches inside the fence surrounding it. Becker had played in pickup games on this court in the past, and saw that the style of participation was still reminiscent of his younger days.
     The diminutive space and the looming barricades restricted any type of ‘open’ game, and forced the players into constant contact. He remembered the sensation of confinement, of being penned in, the lack of escape, where winning and survival were synonymous and achieved only by beating your opponent; you had nowhere to hide. Beating, he thought, was the right description. The competitors used methods that pushed the envelope of assault. But these were the guidelines they accepted once they set foot to the playing area. No blood, no foul… Sometimes blood.
     Becker noticed the number of spectators increasing steadily. They leaned up against the outside of the fence and yelled their encouragement or dissatisfaction toward those on the court. Some grasped the links of the fence and shook, which caused the metallic pinging of the tubular framework to resonate around the players’ heads.
     The observers’ catcalling presence heightened the intensity of play; it rubbed raw each athlete’s inner machismo and produced a myriad of responses. Strong ego and talent rose to the level of bravado, and quickly exposed the weaker opponent’s flaws, whose temerity ineffectively belied shortcomings. The superior instinctively pounced upon those less gifted or inexperienced, like predators sensing the wounded. Becker watched the emotionless thrashing that took place in what should have been a lopsided battle. The better team drove the action into the paint, close to the basket; their maneuvers analogous to a rugby scrum, as elbows and shoulder blocks established their dominance, accentuated by endless trash- talking.
     Only one of their opponents, the shortest in the group, had the skills and the tenacity to cause them fits. Clearly heads above his teammates in talent, he kept his side’s score close in the game, with relentless ball handling and dead- eye outside shooting. But the bigger team’s persistence in pure physicality over finesse won out as they bumped, prodded, and leaned into their weaker adversaries. At game’s end the audience clapped their approval, and more so their relief, to the cessation of the drubbing they’d witnessed.
     One of the winning players made a comment toward the star of the losing squad. The wiry kid retaliated with a verbal barrage of his own, which brought laughter from those within earshot, and caused blatant embarrassment to the victors.
     Becker raced to the entry gate, when he saw all five of the larger opposing teammates as they encircled the out- muscled youth, then shoved him from one to the other, while the ring became tighter with each thrust.
     “Break it up!” Becker yelled and the court fell silent, inside and outside the fence. The circle expanded. Becker now stood next to the lone defiant player.
     “This quarrel is over,” he said, and pointed toward the other end of the court, “you can wait for the next game down there.” Three turned and walked away, while two walked backward, giving off threatening looks.
     “Something you wish to add?” Becker said. They turned and caught up with their cohorts.
     Didn’t fucking think so, Becker kept to himself, nostrils flaring.
     “I don’t give in to their shit,” the youth said, fists clenched, visibly shaken.
     “I can see that,” Becker said, “come on,” he put his hand on the adolescent’s shoulder then led him off the court toward the exit; another team came onto the court and the next game commenced.
     “You showed a lot of heart out there,” Becker said, “more than your teammates. What’s your name?” They crossed the street, toward a bodega on the corner opposite the Cage.
     “Bank Shot.”
     “When you’re not on the court.”
     “Michael. And those aren’t my regular teammates. This was a pickup. Those other guys, they play together a lot.”
     “My Captain’s name is Michael, he’s tough just like you. Let’s get you something to drink… So, what was the commotion about?” Becker pushed the door open, and they went inside then crossed the store, to a stand- up cooler which was filled with bottles of different colored sports drinks.
     “The guy called me something…I don’t want to talk about it.”
     “You said something back, got the rest of them all riled up.”
     “I threw it back in their faces,” Michael said, “what they called me.”
     Becker slid open the cooler’s glass door. Michael chose a liter- sized bottle of a fluorescent- blue liquid on the bottom shelf. When he leaned over, the chain around his neck slid out from his collar. On it was a grouping of small rainbow- colored rings. He quickly shoved the chain under his shirt. Becker paid at the counter and they headed back outside.
     “What are you going to do right now?” Becker asked.
     Michael pointed at the entrance to the 4th Street – Washington Square subway station, adjacent to the courts.
     “I’ll go home,” he said, “maybe come back later.”
     “Well, keep up on your game, Bank Shot,” Becker encouraged, “you’ve got some real potential.” They shook hands and Becker headed toward the parked Cobra.
     “You said your Captain’s name was the same as mine,” Michael yelled. The car alarm chirped, as Becker unlocked the GT with the remote on his keyring.
     “You a cop?”
     “Twenty- four, seven,” Becker said, then noticed an approaching blue and white patrol car.
     “It’s cool,” Michael said, as he headed toward the subway entrance. Becker flagged down the uniforms.
     He told the officers about the brief skirmish as a heads- up, then got into his car, and drove northwest a few blocks, to the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue, making a stop at the Village Cigar Store.
     The little, one- storied triangular building had metal signs in any space available, hanging from or propped against its entrance exterior walls. Its large side windows were covered with posters of various musical icons, present and past, who were compatible to the tastes of Greenwich Village.
     Becker breathed in the sandalwood fragrance of the freshly lighted incense cone, burning in a tray on the glass counter that encased paraphernalia; the thin trail of smoke rising from its glowing tip.
     He bought two Arturo Fuente Hemingway Signatures, deciding that this was the day to rekindle a tradition he had had with his former partner, and keep it alive with Terrance. They’d share a smoke after dinner, and he resolved to do it again, when this case was solved.
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