The Good Cop: A Mysteryby Brad Parks
As long as Newark Eagle-Examiner reporter Carter Ross turns in his stories on deadline, no one bats an eye if he doesn't wander into the newsroom until 10 or 11 in the morning. So it's an unpleasant surprise when he's awakened at 8:38 a.m. by a phone call from his boss, telling him a local policeman was killed and to get the story. Shaking himself awake,/i>
As long as Newark Eagle-Examiner reporter Carter Ross turns in his stories on deadline, no one bats an eye if he doesn't wander into the newsroom until 10 or 11 in the morning. So it's an unpleasant surprise when he's awakened at 8:38 a.m. by a phone call from his boss, telling him a local policeman was killed and to get the story. Shaking himself awake, Carter heads off to interview the cop's widow. And then he gets another call: the story's off, the cop committed suicide.
But Carter can't understand why a man with a job he loved, a beautiful wife, and plans to take his adorable children to Disney World would suddenly kill himself. And when Carter's attempts to learn more are repeatedly blocked, it's clear someone knows more than he's saying about the cop's death. The question is, who? And what does he have to hide? Carter, with his usual single-minded devotion to a good story—and to the memory of a Newark policeman—will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.
In The Good Cop, Brad Parks is back with all the humor, charm, and human insight his readers have come to expect, and more.
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The Good Cop
By Brad Parks
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 Brad Parks
All rights reserved.
Among the many reasons I enjoy being a newspaper reporter — not the least of which are the freedom, the fun, and the constitutionally protected right to announce when people are acting like idiots — one of the small-but-important pleasures is what I'm doing each morning at eight thirty-eight.
At 8:38 A.M., I imagine most gainfully employed, industrious members of our society are already enjoined in the struggle that is their daily grind. They have attended to their grooming needs, squeezed themselves into their workaday uniforms, rushed through a meal that puts the "fast" in "breakfast," and made the necessary concessions to their caffeine addictions.
At 8:38 A.M., they are inhaling the carbon-tinged exhaust fumes from the car in front of them on the Garden State Parkway; or they are recovering from the latest skirmish in the ongoing Battle of No, You Cannot Wear That to School; or they are checking their e-mails, looking at their schedules, and generally girding themselves for all that is to come.
At 8:38 A.M., I do solemnly swear that I, Carter Ross, am asleep.
In my profession, this is not necessarily a sign of sloth. Editors typically have established hours, but reporters adapt their schedules to the demands of their beat. Courthouse reporters are at the whim of their trial; education reporters learn to make calls during the school day; sports reporters, the vampires of the journalism world, primarily work at night. As an investigative reporter, I don't have a beat per se. No one expects to see me in the office at any particular time of the day, and certainly not at 8:38 A.M., when most self-respecting American newsrooms are devoid of all but the barest minimum of personnel. Anywhere from ten to eleven is considered a more fashionable arrival time. So I pretty much get up when I feel like it. I have a need to set an alarm maybe five times a year.
I often make up for it on the other end because while my day may come in like a lamb, it often goes out like a lion, with sources and editors and deadline all screaming at me simultaneously. My employer, the Newark Eagle-Examiner — New Jersey's largest and most tenacious disseminator of responsibly vetted information — always gets its pound of flesh out of me.
Nevertheless, if I do happen to wake up when there is an unsightly number (like an eight or, God forbid, a seven) leading the digital clock by my bedside, I take pride in rolling over and snoozing until I see a more proper number (like a nine or a ten). The main characters in my life — be it my colleagues, my friends, or Deadline, the cat who reliably joins me in my morning slumber — know this about me.
So it came as something of a surprise when I became aware that my landline, the number almost no one used anymore, was ringing one sunless Monday morning in March at exactly 8:38 A.M.
"Hello?" I said, sounding a bit guttural.
"Carter, it's Katie Mossman."
Katie was one of the editors on what was formally called the Nonstop News Desk, which had been created a few years back to feed the insatiable content beast that is our Web site. Informally, we reporters called it the All-Slop News Desk — "the Slop" for short — because that's about what we shoveled into it.
"What's up, Katie?"
"We got a dead Newark cop," she replied, and I immediately sat up in bed and grabbed a notepad.
For as much as law enforcement and media sometimes find themselves at odds, we in the Fourth Estate recognize that those who are sworn to uphold the law not only perform a vital function for public safety but represent all of us in doing it. An attack on one of their number is an attack on everyone. Police officers who die in the line of duty are heroes and are treated as such. In other words, dead cops equal big news.
"Okay. What do you need from me?"
"I don't know. I don't think we have a game plan yet. I just called Tina to tell her about it and she said I should call you and, quote, 'Get his sorry ass out of bed.'"
As the assistant managing editor for local news, Tina Thompson was my boss. She and I also had a fairly complex, on-and-off relationship (currently: off). In both roles, she was not especially shy about expressing her needs.
"You can tell her it's out," I said. "What's this cop's name?"
"From what we're hearing, it's Darius Kipps. K-I-P-P-S. Detective Sergeant Darius Kipps."
The name meant nothing to me. While I wasn't strictly a cops reporter, I had a decent number of contacts in the Newark Police Department. Still, there were more than a thousand cops on the force and I knew only a fraction of them.
"What happened to him?"
"We don't know that yet, either. The Newark PD hasn't announced any of this. We're just getting this from sources. We haven't even put it online yet because we don't have it confirmed."
"So how do we know this mystery cop is dead?"
"One of the photogs was listening to the scanner this morning and said there was a lot of chatter about something going down at the Fourth Precinct. We figured it out from there."
I knew the Fourth Precinct well. It was in the Central Ward, in the heart of a Newark neighborhood that had been making news, not all of it good, for a long time.
"Got it. What does Tina want from me?"
"Plans are still being formed. At this point, she just wants everyone in here. It's one of those all-hands-on-deck things."
That, of course, was the reaction of most editors to a big story. Gather up your reporters — they sometimes referred to us as "resources" so we wouldn't be confused with human beings — and then figure out what to do with us later. It usually just meant we'd be bumping into one another all day long.
But, in truth, the only thing worse than doing all that bumping was being left out of it. I told Katie her message had been delivered, then hung up. There would be no dawdling in bed on this day. Anyone with reporter's blood flowing in his veins — and I fancied myself as having a lot of it — wanted in on a story like this.
* * *
As a thirty-two-year-old bachelor with no significant encumbrances, I can be showered, dressed, and ready to ramble in fifteen minutes. Twelve if I really push it.
I streamline this process in several ways. One, there is nothing complicated about my hair. It's brown and short — never more than four weeks away from being cut — and I part it on the side, the same way I've been doing it since I was old enough to hold a brush.
Two, my morning routine involves a bare minimum of lotionry and potionry. I've been told the modern male ought to concern himself with hair product, moisturizer, cologne and/or body spray, and perhaps a half-dozen other products from the health and beauty aisle, all carefully applied and then painstakingly primped. Me, I wear deodorant (primarily out of consideration to my fellow man).
Three, my wardrobe is, quite deliberately, the most boring thing you've ever seen. I have two possible colors of pleated slacks (charcoal and khaki), two colors of shirt (white and blue) and three colors of necktie (red, yellow, or blue). And if you notice, any of the twelve resulting color combinations match just fine. So I can pretty much dive into my closet and grab blindly for anything that's clean, knowing I can't miss.
The end result of all this is not particularly inspiring — I make a Land's End catalogue look avant-garde by comparison — but it works for me. You have to know what flavor of ice cream you are in this world, and I am vanilla.
On this day, my closet dive yielded the racy blend of khaki pants, a white shirt, and a blue tie. I tossed a bit of kibble in a bowl for Deadline — not that he would be awake to eat it for another few hours — then opened my laptop.
I had no intention of going into the office to be one of Tina Thompson's "resources," which would just involve sitting around a conference table until someone told me to do what any good reporter should have been doing all along. Sometimes editors just get in the way like that.
So I got to work. After about five minutes of accessing a few of the databases on which a reporter makes his living, I learned the late Darius Kipps had been with the Newark Police Department for twelve years and three months. He was thirty-seven years old, having celebrated his birthday on the first of March. He was making $93,140 a year, which is not unusual in a state with the nation's highest paid police officers. He had a variety of addresses associated with him — some in Newark, some in Irvington — but seemed to have settled in East Orange.
Sure enough, when I checked the East Orange property tax records, I found a dwelling owned by Noemi and Darius Kipps on Rutledge Avenue.
And that, I had already decided as I closed the lid on my laptop, was where I needed to be.
This was something of a calculated gamble on my part. Without knowing how Darius Kipps met his untimely end, there was no telling what would figure prominently in our story. But, sadly, I could proffer up a reasonable guess. He was a detective, which is usually a pretty safe place for a cop. Unless, of course, you're undercover. Then you're just as exposed to danger as anyone else who tries to make a life on the streets. If not more so. All it takes is some punk deciding you looked at him the wrong way and, not knowing you're a cop, pulling the trigger.
Or maybe something else had befallen Detective Sergeant Kipps. Point is, we had cops reporters who were in a better position to figure it out, leaving me to work other angles. And in a story like this, it was safe to assume that the grieving widow, Noemi Kipps, would be one of those angles.
That meant every minute counted. This was not necessarily out of any concern for the paper's production schedule. It was all about the competition or, more accurately, the lack of it.
A Newark police officer killed in the line of duty would inevitably attract the attention of every television and radio station in the Greater New York area, which only happens to be the biggest media market in the country. All of them would know a grieving widow was a big part of the story, too. And since they have access to the same databases I did, they, too, would soon be heading in the direction of Rutledge Avenue in East Orange.
The cumulative effect of all those reporters would be something like cattle in a field. Put one cow in a small pasture, and what you have is a nice, green plot of earth. She can roam freely, nibbling grass as she feels like it, and generally has a pretty good time of things. Put a whole bunch of cows in that same field, and what you have in fairly short order is a big, stinky, muddy mess. And none of the cows feel like they're getting much of a meal.
So the trick is to be that first cow, then find a way to lock the gate so the rest of the herd can't get in.
Bidding Deadline farewell — he would miss me, but only due to the absence of body heat — I went out into the gray morning, hopped in my car, and began the short drive from my home in Bloomfield to the Kipps household in East Orange.
Along the way, I called Tina. There was a time when Tina and I had a fairly simple understanding: she simply wanted my seed. After two decades of using her beauty and cunning to run roughshod over the male species, cycling through its representatives in a series of relationships that lasted anywhere from one night to one month, she had reached a point where she realized her baby-making years were running short.
She was far too practical and goal-oriented to engage in the imprecise business of courtship, so she mostly judged men on their potential to pass certain desirable characteristics onto her offspring. She was looking for a partner with blue eyes and broad shoulders (check). She wanted him to be at least six feet tall (I'm six foot one). And she was looking for a certain kindly, easygoing disposition (howdy, friend). Hence, she decided I was the ideal sperm donor — and that rather than making the swap in a laboratory, we might as well do it as nature intended.
She made it clear it was a no-strings-attached proposition, that I could taste the fruit without buying the orchard, as it were. The only problem was, I sort of wanted the orchard. So we had reached an impasse in our relationship: namely, I wanted one and she didn't.
Then she got promoted and became my editor, which imposed further impediments to the possibility of our getting together. So we sort of decided to cool it. I say "sort of" because nothing felt very cool when we wound up together after work, especially after a drink or two.
Then, in an unexpected development, I got tired of all that will-they-or-won't-they stuff and started dating Kira O'Brien, a new librarian in the newspaper's research department. Actually, I'm not sure you could call what we did "dating." But that was another story.
Point is, things had been a little strained between Tina and me. She answered her cell phone with a testy: "What do you want?"
"I'm heading to East Orange."
"What's in East Orange?"
"The widow Kipps, from what I've been able to learn," I said.
"Who told you to go after the widow Kipps?"
"No one. But I live about five minutes from her. I can make it there and try to get her talking before every television station in New York has a hairpiece and a microphone camped on her front lawn."
Tina didn't respond for a second or two. I'm sure she was trying to find some reason my plan was a bad one — because that's sort of the way things had been going between us lately — but there were really no nits to pick.
"Fine," she said. "Don't screw it up."
* * *
Knocking on the door of a woman who has just lost her husband — and then having the nerve to ask her all about it — is certainly not one of the cheerier parts of my chosen profession. Done poorly, it can leave you feeling like some exploitative, soul-sucking parasite who feasts on the misery of others. Some reporters flatly loathe the task, even citing it as a reason for leaving the business.
But, strange as it sounds, it might be one of the things I find most satisfying. It's not that I enjoy other people's suffering or that I find the whole business any less discomfiting than anyone else.
It's that I see it as an opportunity to do some real good, in my small way. One of the fundamental things I believe as a writer is that words have the power to move people. They can make us feel angry or hateful or sad, sure. But they can also uplift us. They can provide hope. They can even comfort a grieving family.
And that's what I went into a situation like this trying to do. I believed I could wade into the agony of the Kipps family, and by writing a sympathetic story about Darius — something that captured the best of the man, his service to others and the sacrifice he made — I could make things a little better. Maybe not right away, when everything was still so fresh. But maybe someday it could be something his widow could look at and read with a smile on her face.
With this in mind, I made the turn onto Rutledge Avenue, a street lined with mature trees and cracked sidewalks. East Orange could be a rough town, having long ago been overtaken by the same urban malaise that blighted much of Newark. But this was one of the more livable areas. The definition of "livable" was, of course, that the dope fiends, dealers, and delinquents tended to stay at least a few blocks away.
I slowed as I reached the Kippses' residence, an aging two-story brick duplex with a flower bed full of dead leaves that had accumulated over the winter. There were no window treatments on the second floor, which gave the house an unoccupied look. Except, of course there were lights on. So obviously someone was home. I parallel parked, noting — with relief — the lack of vans with television logos on them. At least for now, it looked like I would have the place to myself.
Walking up a short concrete pathway toward the house, then up the brick steps onto a small front porch, I felt the usual excitement. You never really knew what you were going to get when you knocked on one of these doors. I could be welcomed into the home with open arms, tossed into the street on my ass, or anything in between.
Excerpted from The Good Cop by Brad Parks. Copyright © 2013 Brad Parks. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
BRAD PARKS is the first author to win both the Shamus Award and the Nero Award for Best American Mystery for his debut novel, Faces of the Gone. A former reporter for The Washington Post and The [Newark] Star-Ledger, he lives in Virginia, and The Good Cop is his fourth novel.
BRAD PARKS is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty Awards, three of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. A former reporter for The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger, The Player is his fifth novel. He lives in Virginia with his wife and two small children.
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First off, I read tremendous reviews about this book in the Sunday paper. I was so excited about the review, that I bought the book immediately, not knowing that it's the fourth book in the series. With that said, I will say that this book is a fast read, but, there's not much depth. I found it very inconceivable that a newspaper reporter cracked the case wide open, while the entire police force in Newark, N.J. (one of the toughest, I might say) is looking the other way. Still, it did hold my interest but I don't think I'll be reading another in this series or by this author. His writing style, to me, is somewhat juvenile.
Carter Ross is a reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner. He's been handed an assignment to investigate and write about the death of a Newark policeman. Just as he's beginning, the death is ruled a suicide and Ross is pulled from the story. That should have stopped him, but of course it didn't. The more he learns about Detective Sergeant Darius Kipps, the more convinced Ross is that Kipps didn't commit suicide. In fact, he had everything to live for. Blocked at every turn by the police in his quest, Carter is determined to find out what really happened. Along with his reporting duties, Ross is constantly side-stepping his boss Tina's quest to have him impregnate her. She's decided that he's the perfect candidate to fulfill her dream of having a child before her biological clock runs down. But while Ross is seriously interested in Tina, he's not willing to settle for just being a stud service. Brad Parks has injected a tongue-in-cheek humor in his characters and THE GOOD COP is a hilarious pleasure to read. It doesn't hurt that the setting is many of the New Jersey towns any New Jerseyan is familiar with! I enjoyed THE GOOD COP so much that I've since gone back and read all the rest of the Carter Ross series. I'd suggest you start with an earlier one, but they're all fun to read as Ross tears up the turf in the Garden State!
Brad Parks has a wonderful sense of humor. I really enjoyed this book.
reading a brad parks novel is a real treat. carter ross is a newman that has a nose for news, and trouble. tis time he is looking into a news story and discovers that there could be 'dirty cops' in the city. how to find out and prove it? that is carter's aim. while he is doing that trouble finds him and also leads him to find the answers. thesse stories are brilliantly written and with a touch of wry humor. the characters in carter's life as a newsman are colorful. if you want a real treat, read a carter ross story by brad parks. i guarantee you'll love it!!!