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The Lost Lamb
By Kenny Ferguson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Kenny Ferguson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE ROBBERY
ANGUS BRANIGAN LURKED IN THE BACK AILSES OF A NEW YORK CITY Grocery Store waiting for a lone female customer to leave. He filled a basket with unwanted items as he listened to the woman's unnecessary babbling with the owner. "C'mon, c'mon." Branigan muttered every few seconds as he hawked at the woman between the gondolas. Money makes everything better. He felt the gun in his waistband. Once I pay those lousy loan sharks, I'll be alright again. When the woman began walking toward the exit, Branigan lowered his shopping basket, removed his gun, crossed himself, and headed for the sales counter.
Two blocks from the grocery store, Police Officer, Gustav Jager, crumpled the empty pack of cigarettes in his hand and tossed it out the window of his patrol car. His thoughts were of his mother standing in the doorway at home and her constant nagging about his cigarette smoking.
"Gustavo," she would repeat, "You're never going meet a nice girl with that cigarette hanging from your mouth."
He did promise her that he would quit smoking by his thirtieth birthday and had every intention of doing so but his birthday was a good two months away and he couldn't stop now. He was studying hard to take the up coming Sergeant's exam this Saturday and needed to keep his cool. Drumming his fingers against the dashboard of the patrol car, he urged his partner to stop at the grocery store on the next street.
When the patrol car came to a stop outside the all night grocery store, Jager climbed out and ambled around to the driver's side of the patrol car. Stretching his body, he twisted sideways to note a series of far off lightning flashes in the night sky. "Looks like an artillery barrage, Sal."
Salvatore Caruso leaned toward his side view mirror. "That's a bad storm, Gus and it's coming this way." Caruso began counting to himself as he waited for the thunderclap to arrive.
"I need a pack of butts and some coffee. You want anything?"
A faint bang of thunder finally came. "Four miles."
"The storm is four miles away."
"You want a container of coffee?"
"Hot coffee?" Caruso wiped the sweat from his neck with a paper napkin. "Nah, it's a nice quiet night. Get me a cold one and we'll park by the river and watch the ferry boats."
Jager grinned, squared his cap to his head, and began walking to the grocery store. As he paused at the front door of the store to watch the shapely female coming out. The faint rumblings of thunder in the western sky became louder, and louder, offering a possible break in the current heat wave. He engaged the woman in a brief conversation.
As soon as Branigan reached the counter, he shoved his long nose revolver against he owner's ribs. "This is a robbery, old man."
Ding Bang Wu backed away from the huge gun and raised his hands in submission.
Branigan flicked his weapon at a stock boy sitting on an empty box, ushering him into the small closet size room behind the cash register. "I don't want to hurt anybody but I need the money in the cash register and the cash in the bank bag. The one you keep in there." Branigan jabbed the heavy barrel Smith & Wesson revolver at the little room. "Just put the bank bag and the cash in a brown paper bag and back away. Then you and the kid stay in the closet for ten minutes and nobody gets hurt." Branigan held out the watch on his non-shooting wrist so Wu could see the time. "After I leave, you keep your mouth shut and you live, understand?"
Wu and the stock boy began speaking to each other in Chinese.
"Hey," Branigan hammered the muzzle of the gun on the counter, "None of that Wang-Pu crap, huh. It's very rude to speak to the guy who's robbing you in a language he doesn't understand? Speak English!"
Wu had been robbed four times since he opened his store three years ago and understood exactly what was happening. He was able to speak broken English but continued to play dumb and speak to his stock boy in Chinese.
Branigan leaned closer to the two men, again urging them to put the money in a bag. Then he pounded the buttons on the register until the cash drawer flew open.
Wu glanced at the front door before turning to face Branigan. The woman had stepped outside but held the front door open with her shoulder. Wu dropped his two hands and brought them together in a prayer like gesture and turned himself to caution the stock boy.
Branigan felt threatened by Wu's sudden gesture and whacked the old man with the weighty revolver. The gun caught Wu above the right eye and he crumpled to the floor behind the counter. The stock boy dropped down to help his unconscious boss and Branigan grabbed the kid by the shirt and shoved him toward the small room. "Okay, Chinky boy. You get that money now, chop-chop." Branigan looked around the kid and pointed at the small room. "It's in there, you jerk. Just get the money bag."
The stock boy, Chin Chow, placed his hands on the top of his head and crouched down over his wounded employer.
At 10:35 PM Officer Jager exchanged smiles and good night greetings with the young woman and entered the store but he continued to admire her charms as she walked away. He didn't notice that the man at the counter was holding a gun.
Branigan saw the cop pausing in the doorway and concealed his weapon behind a box of doughnuts. There was no time to put the gun away and leave. No time to escape the situation with out a confrontation. No time for words or apologies, he was going to get caught. He pretended to be making a purchase as the unsuspecting cop entered the store.
Ten steps into the store; Officer Jager spotted the gun in Branigan's hand and instinctively moved to draw his weapon.
Branigan thought to knock the cop down and run but he tripped and fell against the counter. The gun jerked in his hand and he fired two wild shots. The first bullet shattered the glass in the front door. The second bullet ripped through Jager's neck spraying red blood across a stack of bright yellow cereal boxes.
Jager dropped his weapon and clutched at his neck wound with both hands but it was a useless attempt to stop the bleeding. Blood gushed between his fingers and he staggered against a food gondola and crashed to the floor with an assortment of boxes and cans. Dizzy and disorientated, he called his partner's name but there was no sound, no word. Jager rolled over on his back as the room darkened and spun like a merry-go-round. He could only watch the shooter bolt for the front door. He couldn't move his arms.
Startled by the gunfire and shattering glass, Officer Caruso sprang from his patrol car and drew his Gluck automatic pistol. He pointed his gun at the shattered doorway and inched forward. Bringing his portable radio to his lips with his non-shooting hand, he shouted. "10-13! 10-13! Shots fired, Eighth Avenue and West 12th Street, 10-13! 10-13!" Caruso moved closer and closer to the grocery store. "Gus! Gus!" He called "You alright, boy?" He only heard the screaming cries of the Chinese stock boy coming from the store.
Just then a man leaped through the broken glass door onto the sidewalk. The man glanced at Caruso, turned, and darted north on Eighth Avenue.
Caruso hesitated until he saw his bloodstained partner on the floor and the gun dangling from fleeing man's hand. He ordered the man with the gun to stop and mechanically stepped to the left, crouched, and fired three rounds at the perpetrator. All three bullets hit the target. Caruso was an expert marksman. The three bullets tore into the man's back; he stumbled and slammed down hard against the concrete sidewalk. Blood oozed from the back of the man's expensive looking gray suit jacket.
Caruso rushed into the store to help his partner. "Officer down!" He screamed into his portable radio. "Officer down! Eighth Avenue and West 12th Street. 10-13, Police Officer shot. "Send an ambulance with a rush!"
Caruso could see that his partner's wound was serious. The stock boy was holding a clutch of paper towels against his partner's neck in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Jager was ebbing in and out of consciousness. His puppy dog eyes were begging for help.
Seconds later, two more patrol cars came to a screeching halt outside the grocery store and by the sound of the sirens; a dozen more were still coming. Cops and bystanders crowded around the small store. One of the arriving cops used his radio to speed up the ambulance. Another cop knelt down behind Chin Chow who was keeping Jager alive. "We've got to move him now, Sal." The cop urged. "He's losing too much blood."
Just as the two cops were about to lift Jager, two Emergency Medical Technicians pushed their way through the crowd and dropped down next to the wounded officer. One took over for Chin Chow, nudging him aside and capping off Jager's flow of blood with a clamp. The two medics and two cops lifted Jager to a stretcher and rushed him outside to the ambulance. The ambulance raced off toward Saint Vincent's Hospital with a police escort. Their lights and sirens faded in the confusion.
Patrol sergeant, Richard McKenna was now at the scene barking out orders. "You stay here!" He put his hand on Caruso's chest to stop him from following his partner to the hospital. McKenna had fifteen years of street experience as a patrol sergeant and knew precisely what to do in this situation.
"But that's my partner, Sarge."
"I'll cut you loose as soon as I can, Sal." McKenna beckoned to one of the responding cops and ordered him to safeguard the crime scene. He assigned another cop to keep the noisy bystanders away from the store and the other to keep the vehicle traffic outside moving. He stationed his driver, Otto LoBianco, at the front door of the grocery store. Otto dropped anchor at the front door with a clipboard and a radio. LoBianco was also a seasoned veteran and a Sergeant's chauffeur for over ten years. Nobody would enter or leave that crime scene without identifying himself to him.
"Where's the perp, Caruso?" McKenna asked.
"Outside on the sidewalk. I think he's dead; I shot him three times, Sarge. Caruso led McKenna to the door and pointed north to an empty spot on the sidewalk. "What the...." He was startled to see that the body of the perpetrator was gone. There was a twenty-four inch puddle of blood in the middle of the sidewalk and a blood trail leading north on Eighth Avenue but the perpetrator was nowhere in sight.
"I guess he wasn't quite dead. Huh, kid?"
Caruso scanned the Avenue in both directions. "He couldn't have gotten far, Sarge." Caruso was hot to search for the wounded perpetrator but McKenna held him back again.
"First things first," McKenna took a hold of Caruso and shook him to get his attention. "First, give a full description of the perpetrator to Otto. Then we'll all go looking for this guy. The three policemen huddled near the front door of the grocery store until Caruso dictated the description to Otto LoBianco.
LoBianco printed the description on his clipboard as Caruso spoke. Then Sergeant Mckenna read the description to the radio dispatcher using Caruso's radio. "Sixth Precinct Sergeant to Central, K."
"Six Sergeant, K."
"39 Eighth Avenue is a 10-30, assault and robbery. Shots were fired. A member of the service was shot and seriously wounded. He was removed to Saint Vincent's Hospital by ambulance. The perpetrator, also shot, escaped in an unknown direction." McKenna pulled the clipboard closer. "We're looking for a male, white, 35 to 40 years of age. Wearing a gray business suit and a white shirt, no tie. The suspect is wanted for shooting a police officer. Did you get that? The wounded officer was removed to Saint Vincent's. The suspect was also shot and wounded and fled the scene. Give the description to all surrounding precincts and hospitals. Have an Emergency Service Unit and the Detectives on night watch 10-85 me at the scene forthwith and notify the Duty Captain." McKenna handed Caruso his radio. "Did Jager say anything?"
"Yeah," Caruso looked off in the direction of the ambulance. "Something about not listening to his mother."
Chapter TwoTHE CHURCH
BRANIGAN HAD SCAMPERED TWO BLOCKS NORTH on Eighth Avenue. As he turned west on the corner on 14th Street, the gun slipped from his hand, bounced once on the street and skidded into a sewer drain. He tried to walk at a normal pace and not draw attention to himself but every few steps he stumbled like a drunken man. His heart fluttering and vision slipping in and out of focus; he couldn't breathe and locked his arms across his chest in an attempt to stop the bleeding. When the flashing lights of a patrol car came at him, he braced himself against a building and waited to be arrested. He knew he needed medical help and wouldn't mind being arrested now but the police car raced passed him without stopping. He stumbled another hundred feet and fell into the dark alcove of the Epiphany Church just as a blinding flash of lightning hissed above him in the night sky.
"Shit!" He cried out, "I can't do anything right. I lost a poker game with a winning hand, I lost my wife and my kids and I couldn't rob a dumb Chinaman. Now I can't even get myself caught." He looked at his blood soaked shirt. "Jesus, I'm gonna die here." He wedged himself between the wall and the worn granite steps of the lower chapel and looked up at a noisy, agitated sky. He moved back when another flash of lightning buzzed above him and an awesome thunderclap quickly followed. It was as if the lightning bolts were chasing him. He looked around the area again. "I don't want to die." He looked up, "Don't let me die here," He pleaded. "I know I've been a bad boy but it wasn't all my fault." Then there was a short period of silence which was interrupted by a single drop of rain splattering on the hot sidewalk like a suicidal bee. Splat! The raindrop exploded on contact. Then another drop and another and another. Spat! Splat! Splat! One by one the huge drops crashed against the hot, dry, pavement like frozen bullets. Then the silence came again as if someone had turned off the volume knob of the world. Branigan tapped at his ears until a loud and slow ripping of the sky ended with another deafening thunderclap. Then the rain came again but this time it came in buckets. Drenching the dry pavement with cold clear water. Washing the dirty streets and sidewalks with God's water. Now he was soaking wet and cold. The rain rushed into rivers of water and flooded the streets. The rushing waters scooped up bottles, cups, and trash and carried it to the sewer drains on the corners. The washed away debris quickly clogged the sewers and vehicle traffic came to a standstill in eight inches of water. As the rainwater inched over the curbs and sidewalks and poured down the steps of the lower church, Branigan moved deeper into the church alcove. He tried using his soaking wet cell phone but it was dead then leaned on the heavy brass door latch behind him, the door swung open. He scanned the interior and remembered the old neighborhood church he attended as a child.
His eyes strained to see inside the dimly lighted chapel. If I could only find a telephone, I could call my friend, Rooney. He could get his father's car and come for me. Branigan moved from the door to a row of pews but the pain was too great. His chest was on fire and he labored to get a few short, choppy breaths of air. The blood had seeped down and stained his pants and socks. He tried to move again but only sank deeper into a pew. Except for a dozen flickering candles, the interior of the old church was in total darkness. Well, at least it's dry in here but there's no telephone. He squinted again. Why would a church have a telephone anyway? People don't use telephones to talk to the invisible God. They come here so they can talk directly to him. Branigan scanned the lower church again and recalled his boyhood days ...
... He remembered a young boy Kneeling on a hard wooden pew and listening to the military whispers of ugly nuns. Mimicking the movements of other kids as they robotically sat, stood, and kneeled in response to the words of the priest. He merely moved his mouth when others responded. He never understood any of it. He hated religious instructions. He tried lifting himself again but his strength was gone. He looked up at the face of the statue above him as he sank lower in the pew. "Please, don't let me die here."
Excerpted from The Lost Lamb by Kenny Ferguson Copyright © 2011 by Kenny Ferguson. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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