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STAKEOUT ON MILLENNIUM DRIVE
by Ian Woollen
Assistant Deputy Mayor Randall T. Fleck wakes dutifully at five a.m. He forces himself up without an alarm clock, so as not to disturb his wife. His clothes await him on a suit rack, hung out the night before. He rises immediately, knowing that even the briefest indulgence in a curl-up could mean falling back to sleep for days.
Twenty knee bends. Twenty-five push-ups. Shower, shave, brush teeth. He squints hard at the steamy face in the mirror, as if making sure it belongs to him. The mole on the cleft chin is a clue.
His underwear drawer is empty again. He shuffles barefoot downstairs and digs out clean shorts from the dryer. The only pair of clean socks is blue, which won’t match his black shoes. He picks out the cordovan wingtips and checks the scuff on the soles. One difference between the dress code in the Indianapolis Government Center and the city halls back east is that the brass here seem to tolerate about twenty percent more scuff on their soles. His shoulder holster (Mayor’s orders) is a pain, but helps in gaining acceptance from the police staff.
As Randall Fleck finishes dressing, his teenage daughter emerges from her room, lurches past him with a grunt. She climbs into the bed he just vacated. His wife rolls over and waves feebly before falling back to sleep. Fleck leaves the bedroom, trying not to speculate on what time they will eventually rise this morning. If his daughter misses another day of school, the principal has threatened expulsion. This could cause problems for Fleck, if the Mayor finds out. The Mayor runs a very tight ship. Fleck makes a mental note to chat with the School Superintendent, who also gets to work early and often rides up on the same elevator with him in the Government Center building.
Fleck silently recites the Lord’s Prayer. Though not deeply religious, he is an ardent traditionalist and also believes in spreading his bets.
Driving south on Capitol Avenue, sipping black coffee, listening to AM news, Assistant Deputy Mayor Randall Fleck enjoys a few minutes of feeling ready to handle whatever challenges this day will bring. A half mile later he is forced to stop behind two cars blocking the street while their drivers lean out for a visit. Randall Fleck waits patiently, telling himself that such a neighborly scene is why Indianapolis is more livable than Baltimore. Reminding himself that the traffic here is generally much more bearable. And the cost of living is lower.
He arrives at his downtown office shortly after six a.m. Today he brings donuts for the staff. Keeps them guessing. He flicks on the overheads, the coffee maker, CNN. He is slated to brief the Mayor at nine on his recommendations for upgrading the police department’s image—new uniforms, a larger bicycle brigade, reviving the Policeman’s Ball. He wants to use this hour before the secretaries arrive to practice his presentation. But waiting for him square in the middle of his desk are two fat, snail-mail envelopes. His name and address are hand-written in a forced, looping scrawl that reminds him of his daughter’s penmanship. Probably another anonymous complaint from a disgruntled IPD staffer trying to go over a captain’s head.
Monday, June 3
Assistant Deputy Mayor Randall T. Fleck, Police Liaison
Government Center Building, 37th Floor
45 E. Market St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Kurt Blackwood III, Surveillance Technician
101 Millennium Drive
Somewhere in the southside netherworld of
RE: The accidental killing of Patrolman Louis Gracia
Dear Assistant Deputy Mayor Fleck:
Reporting for duty, sir.
You don’t know me. And I don’t know you. But please sit back and allow this to soak in, and I’m sure we’ll find some mutual understanding. At first, people think I’m an annoying gadfly. I test out as an ENFJ, if that helps any. Meaning, I’m an extroverted introvert, whose bark is worse than his bite. Around the dinner table in my parents’ house, instead of a grace, we said a nightly Apology. Friends tell me I’m an acquired taste. One former girlfriend put it this way, “Kurt, you’re a heart completely hidden, but bleeding all over the place.”
Correction. I actually do know a few choice things about you, Fleck. Don’t worry. This is not a shakedown. Right now all I want is your attention, and enough time to let me open a vein. I researched your feature profile, as yet unpublished, for the Whipping Post. After you did such a bang-up job of riding into town last year to clean up the police department mess triggered by the Hoosier Steakhouse Riot—at the behest of your old chum, the Reverend Mayor.
So, this little situation down here ought to be a snap.
That is, if a trail of unanswered questions about patrolman Gracia’s ‘accidental’ killing don’t end up leading to one of the Reverend Mayor’s many doorsteps. Questions such as—1) How is it that Gracia was sent out without a partner? 2) How is it that the still-unreleased names of the killers are discreetly left out of the press, while the weapon—a collector’s item .45 that once belonged to native son John Dillinger—gets all the media attention? 3) How is it that the Bugle article on patrolman Gracia’s attempt to stop a domestic squabble at 101 Millennium Drive reports that the husband fired the fatal shot at what he thought was an intruder? When, in fact, the one eyewitness to the event (me) told your investigator that the wife answered Gracia’s repeated knocks at the front door.
A sampling of the questions that need attention.
Thus my surveillance perch across from the suspect’s house in a scuffed white ’89 Econoline that was formerly my great aunt’s wheelchair van. It—and my dad’s unscuffed hardhat (he was an architect who never did more than minor house additions) create enough of a disguise for now. I look like a snoozy hod-carrier from the nearby construction crews framing out “LUXURY HOMES IN THE $190s” on the last of Johnson County’s farmland.
And so we begin, Mister Assistant Deputy.
Or rather, continue beginning. Being relatively new at your job, you may not realize how many requests your office fielded over the years from the freebie, new-age Whipping Post for a reporter to do a ridealong story with an IPD cop. Granted, “reporter” is a bit of a glorified term for us pop-chop hacks.
These quarterly requests were a ritual game for my now ex-boss, Bonzo McCray, of the three-ringed nose. He took your office’s repeated refusals as proof of his own stature as a viable Opposition Figure and proof that the weekly Whipping Post must be striking nerves somewhere in the calcified political hierarchy of Indianapolis.
Mister Assistant Deputy, when you came to town, fresh from whatever personal debacle happened back there in Baltimore, things changed at the IPD. By the way, you covered your tracks well, re: the demise of your budding political career in Maryland. Rumors pointed to a rival candidate unearthing a long-thought-lost teenage cameo in an early Lon Walters film. Did you really masturbate into Divine’s ear? Sorry. Objection sustained.
So—after being in Naptown less than two months, you actually GRANTED Bonzo’s request for a day-in-the-life-of-a-cop story... well, that created some major confusion among the Whipping Post staff. And put the publication of your profile on hold. Did you just not know the local turf yet? Or did this confirm speculation about you operating as the Reverend Mayor’s political rubber gloves man? Was this a clever public-relations attempt to seduce the alternative press?
All of this confusion resulted in Bonzo ordering me out of my comfy, corner chair in the reference room at the Central Library. The boss actually pays for a cab ride to IPD headquarters to meet a previously unknown cop named Louis Gracia. Why, you ask, would he send me—a guy with no professional journalism training, a guy who pens an historical oddities column, NAPTOWN NUGGETS, and an occasional wiseass movie review?
Because a reputation for stumbling onto high-level hanky-panky has attached itself to my gadfly career. Witness the Transit system debacle—all starts simply because I’m miffed that the Capitol Ave. vehicle never comes on time, so I crank out a Naptown Nuggets column about the demise of the reliable trolley cars (thanks to Detroit’s corporate skullduggery) in which I jokingly wonder, what if the Transit schedule is a charade to make us think there’s really a working system, what if they just send around a decoy vehicle here and there, pocketing the rest of the tax dollar funding? How was I to know where that would lead?
And as for discovering that a certain unnameable corporation conducted preliminary tests of an certain unnameable product in the municipal water system...See, everyone was reading The Thanatos Syndrome that year, and all I did was say out loud what was on everyone’s mind. It’s in the water. It was in the water. How else to explain a hitherto mildly depressed town stealing a professional sports franchise away from you-know-where in the middle of the night?
Ergo my assignment with patrolman Louis Gracia on the fateful evening of May 5th, right here in southside subdivision-ville. He was sent to investigate Mohawk Mike Freeman, the holdout farmer on the fifteen adjoining acres between Millennium Drive and Highway 37 who was reputedly baiting the new neighborhood’s teens.
Now, Mister Assistant Deputy, with all due respect, it is your turn to explain how Louis Gracia was ever ordered out of his comfy chair at headquarters, not to mention how he ever became a patrolman.
That sappy, motormouth Goliath. One uglyish dude. His eye-glasses squeezing into the fat of his temples. That bulge on his forehead above his left eyebrow—like the hood of a muscle car, where an extra piece of engine is doctored in. With him that bulge being whatever part of his revved up brain lodged there, dictating oratory on raising Chihuahuas, on how to make an ‘Elvis special’ peanut butter and banana sandwich, on why the Dolts will never win a Super Bowl, and the startling truth about New Age-ism being none other than the world preparing for a return to tribalism after nuclear holocaust.
He was having fun with me, the gullible longhair journalist.
Showing off his double-jointed elbow tricks. Saving his chewing gum behind his ear. We only knew each other for about six hours.
Louis dies on the sidewalk, dies in my lap, in my arms, in my face, from a gunshot wound to the stomach, bleeding gallons of real blood, hot sticky real, red blood, guts oozing through my fingers trying to push them back into the hole in his belly, his fat earthworm lips quivering, raspy, pleading,
—Can you hear me? Can you hear me?
Unfortunately, I hear him only too well. That Voice. Talking to me. Blaming me, accusing me, ordering me back to the scene of the crime—as if this were my own crime. As if I’m somehow responsible.
Kurt Blackwood III
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