A gang of small-time dealers camps out underneath the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, slipping hits to passing addicts in exchange for ten bucks a pop. It’s blistering hot, and they drink beer to stay cool, sharing a six-pack with a couple of local girls. As the night winds down, a massive black man appears in a coat that’s too heavy for the weather, produces a shotgun, and starts to fire. Among the dead are two supposed customers—an undercover cop and a reporter whom the city will avenge by opening a new front in the war on drugs. The gunman, a full-time crack addict with a boxer’s build and a bulldog’s temper, disappears into the wilds of Brooklyn. To roust him, Stanley Moodrow will rain hell on the borough, breaking in a new partner as he attempts to smoke out the wild man with a shotgun.
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Force of Nature
A Stanley Moodrow Crime Novel
By Stephen Solomita
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Stephen Solomita
All rights reserved.
THE INVESTIGATOR'S DAILY ACTIVITY Report is one of the most creative aspects of police work in New York City. Long ago, when newly-appointed Detective Jim Tilley was still a boy, the NYPD was rocked by an enormous scandal which culminated in the creation of a special investigative body, the Knapp Commission. Crooked cops dominated the news headlines for months as a relentless prosecutor tore through the department, and, once the furor died down, the politicians responded by creating a system of paperwork that, theoretically, forces every cop to account for every minute of his or her working life. Patrolmen, for instance, carry a memo book at all times and are expected to make an entry for each job-related incident on a tour. This memo book is read and signed by the patrol sergeant as he makes his rounds, often several times in the course of a shift.
The principle is the same for the city's detectives, even if the supervision is more sloppy. Detectives are expected to prepare Investigative Daily Activity Reports (universally referred to as "Dailies") and turn them into the precinct whip, usually a lieutenant of detectives, every week or so.
Theoretically, a Daily accounts for every minute of a tour, but most detectives keep them as vague as possible unless they (the detectives) do something worth bragging about. In any event, it is considered absolutely essential that the Daily not include anything of a detective's complex relationship with the ugliest aspects of urban life. One may, in good taste, mention crowd control at a suicide scene, but it is bad form to describe the sound of rubber-soled shoes on small pieces of bone.
For sheer creativity, the Dailies created by Detective Sergeant Stanley Moodrow, a thirty-five-year veteran of the NYPD, were considered the finest in the job. They were invariably obscene, involving complex interviews with the hookers who work Delancey Street or Third Avenue. Interviews that never took place. He would describe their bodies, the clothes they wore (or didn't wear) and their determined efforts to seduce him, sliding out of halters and spandex mini-skirts while he struggled to maintain his sexual integrity. Invariably, they were confidential informants, with properly assigned code names like Mimi or Babette or the queen of the Lower East Side, Cecil the Armenian Hooker. And, also invariably, their information shed light on Moodrow's current case.
Stanley Moodrow may or may not have been the only detective who totally fabricated his Dailies, but it was his opinion that they were never read, in any event. "Look," he explained to his new partner, Jim Tilley, "all the Dailies are collected at the beginning of every month and put in storage. What really matters is that there's paper in the file with Words on it so the whip doesn't feel compelled to cover his own ass by going to the integrity officer with an empty file. Don't forget, the whip probably doesn't write a true report either and if anyone needs information about a particular collar, they go to the complaint and the follow-ups, not the Dailies. The Dailies are nothing but a politician's fantasy of a police department that runs like a prison. It's really a fucking joke."
Tilley nodded solemnly, just as if his opinion of Stanley Moodrow didn't vacillate between aging department dinosaur and self-destructive maniac. Moodrow was the cop who, all by himself, had captured the American Red Army, the terrorist group responsible for the bombing of Herald Square. And then survived the outrage of the department when every reporter in the city knew (though few dared to say it) that he had deliberately held back information and planned to execute the whole bunch personally. His clear lack of contrition had made him a legend in the job, a hero to most and a warning to others. But even cops who always stayed on the right side of the Patrol Guide were willing to concede that Stanley Moodrow probably had the biggest pair of balls in the NYPD.
Jim Tilley's own Daily, meticulously detailing every minute of their tour, had been typed and shoved into a manila envelope before he went to bed. Not that there was anything much to put in it after a single day as Stanley Moodrow's first partner in more than twenty years. But cover your ass is the most fundamental law of self-preservation in the job and Tilley was determined to distance himself from Moodrow by adhering to the letter of NYPD procedural law. Unfortunately, his conscientious attitude had left him with nothing to do except try to read his partner's mind. Which, he concluded after a moment's concentration, was like trying to guess what's inside a refrigerator without opening the door.
If he'd been offered a choice, of course, the young detective would have picked a more conservative man to be his partner, but fate is fate and Jim Tilley's had begun in the Nine Nine, an obscure Brooklyn precinct. In a three-month period, nearly every narc in the house had been arrested for drug-related scams. There had been so many cops involved that each shift had had its own gangs and its own methods. Naturally, the game was generally played by seizing contraband without making an arrest, then reselling to a middle-level dealer in some other borough. But there was one bunch who ripped off dealers set up by their informants, then turned around and fronted the drugs to the same snitches. And there was straight extortion, too, genuine strong-arm, give-me-the-money-or-I'll-blow-your-brains-out scenarios.
The final blow had come in mid-April when, after a raft of police brutality complaints, a gruesome story had come to light. Two black men (both convicted murderers) had been beaten to death on the way to the precinct by four coups, three white and one Hispanic, then buried in the basement of an abandoned building near the Hunt's Point market in the Bronx. Naturally, with that many co-conspirators, somebody, trying to save his own butt, dropped a dime on his brothers. Unfortunately for Jim Tilley, the same rat called the media first and the reporters dug up the bodies and took pictures before the cops could close off the scene.
NYPD Policy Directive B/17-233 came down exactly four days later, proclaiming that nobody, not the oldest veteran, nor the most decorated cop in the department, could walk without a partner, and all cops were to be rotated from precinct to precinct every three years. When the cop unions announced their intention to bring suit against the city, the Mayor backed down on the last part and allowed fifteen-year men to be exempt from transfer. But the partnering bit, though totally unrelated to the corruption it was designed to prevent, stuck, and eighty-seven days later Jim Tilley had a partner.
Curiously, though he continued to scribble furiously, Moodrow was also engaged in the process of sizing up his new partner. Tilley's face was so openly Irish, with its heavy cheekbones and tough-guy jaw belying innocent blue eyes, that it took Moodrow back to his earliest days in the job, a time when the Irish still dominated the department. Moodrow hadn't had a partner since Bartholemew Klug, who'd retired in 1964, and he was more than a little anxious about Tilley's willingness to learn. Of course, Moodrow could have chosen a veteran, but no veteran would have allowed Stanley Moodrow the freedom to be the kind of cop he had always been.
They were sitting in the kitchen of Moodrow's apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a room Tilley would get to know very well. Though he didn't seem to mind the rattle of the ancient air conditioner in the window, Stanley Moodrow hated the noise and the chaos of the 7th Precinct, the endless complaints of criminals brought to justice as well as the angry voices of cops trying to shout them down. To some extent, his status as Captain Allen Epstein's backdoor into the strange mixture of classes and cultures that made up the Lower East Side stemmed as much from Moodrow's desire to avoid the house as from a need always to walk the line between law enforcement (as he understood it) and standard operating procedure.
Finally, just to break the tension, Tilley crossed the room and refilled his coffee cup. He wasn't used to being dismissed, not after a ring career that had run through forty-five amateur and nine professional fights before an opponent's head had put a thick scar above his right eye, a scar that poured blood even in sparring. That butt had driven him out of the ring and into Fordham University where the NYPD recruited him by promising a gold shield, the coveted badge of the detective, after only two years on patrol. He'd graduated in the top five percent of his class at the Police Academy, dominating the other recruits in every aspect of hand-to-had combat and at one-ninety, a mere fifteen pounds above his fighting weight, he sometimes felt he was ready to jump back in the ring whenever a street punk challenged him. That attitude had served him well in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where he'd spent two years on patrol, but it would not, he was beginning to realize, make any impression on Stanley Moodrow.
His black coffee fortified with two teaspoons of sugar, Tilley returned to his seat at the table and stared at his preoccupied partner. Moodrow's face, as big as his features were small, had all the expression of a Spanish melon, but it matched his enormous, square body perfectly. Tilley estimated Moodrow's weight at two-sixty plus and his height at six feet five inches with little, if any, fat hanging over his belt. Moodrow's gut was rounded, all right, but not like he'd stuffed a pillow beneath his shirt; more like a bowling ball.
Twenty minutes later, the bell for the outside door went off and Moodrow, without comment, buzzed his guests inside. "It's Kirkpatrick and O'Neill," he predicted while they waited for their company to arrive, "also known as the Murphy Twins. The only way you could tell them apart is that O'Neill wears scuffed black shoes and Kirkpatrick wears scuffed brown shoes."
As usual, he was right on target. Though they were not related, Kirkpatrick and O'Neill were both tall and broad-shouldered, with red faces and redder noses, enormous guts and no ass. Their belt buckles were down in their crotches and covered by their bellies. After shaking hands with Jim Tilley, they carefully ignored him, while Moodrow, back in his seat and still writing furiously, carefully avoided them. The farce went on for about ten minutes. Until O'Neill couldn't take it anymore.
"Hey, Moodrow," he said, "tell us what kinda bullshit ya puttin' in ya Daily."
"You should only wish it was bullshit," Moodrow answered without looking up.
Kirkpatrick was so excited, his jowls quivered. "I suppose ya spent the night with one of ya hookers? Gathering information." The two of them laughed the same phlegmy laugh, a liquid sound ugly enough to send ordinary humans running. But Moodrow ignored the comment and the laugh, scribbling even faster until he reached the end of the line. Then he scrawled his signature across the bottom of the page and raised his eyes to look at Kirkpatrick and O'Neill.
"Good morning, Sergeant," O'Neill said, bowing his head slightly. "Think you could give us a few minutes of ya precious time? I know you're busy with the Great American Novel." He gestured toward Moodrow's Daily Report. "But what we got's important. You do remember about Levander Greenwood, don't ya? The scumbag who offed all them people by the bridge? Including a cop. We come to beg for ya help in solvin' this important case."
Moodrow looked at Tilley as if they were alone in the room. "You know what he's talking about?"
Tilley nodded, careful not to show his excitement. The papers were calling it the Delancey Street Massacre: four civilians, a reporter and an undercover cop. All taken out within two blocks of the 7th Precinct. Under normal conditions, a rookie wouldn't get within sniffing distance of an investigation this important and Tilley suddenly woke up to the potential benefits of being Stanley Moodrow's partner.
"Levander Greenwood," Moodrow continued, "is an old-timer in the neighborhood. Grew up in the projects and started in the drug business when he was eight. Running heroin for the Baruch Noblemen."
This was a common method used by street level drug dealers to stay out of jail. Juveniles, if caught with narcotics, seldom do serious time. As a street patrolman, Tilley had busted more than one kid (how sophisticated could a ten-year-old be—they just walked up and handed it to whoever the dealer pointed out) and had testified at a number of juvenile hearings. Guaranteed, the first few busts are an automatic probation.
"Now he's thirty," Moodrow continued. "With twenty-two years experience. He's done nearly six years hard and been in court two dozen times. I don't think he wants to go back inside."
O'Neill nodded solemnly. Suddenly, they were four cops talking shop. "That's my make, too. He's not coming in on his own and if we corner the scumbag, he's gonna shoot first." He looked directly at Tilley, probing for weakness. "No warning, y'understand? Ya come around a corner and the motherfucker's liable to be there waiting. Even if he could walk away."
"Well, one thing," Tilley couldn't resist getting in his two cents, "if he wants to stay out of jail so bad, how come he did those people right out in the open? How did he think he could get away with it? Is he stupid?"
"He is stupid," Moodrow said. "But he's also crazy and, from what I hear, does crack full time. He used to be a small-time pimp and a rip-off artist, turning out the runaways coming through the Port Authority bus terminal and taking off middle-class kids from Jersey and Long Island." He turned to Kirkpatrick, nodded at the folder under the detective's arm. "You got a picture?"
Kirkpatrick's thick fingers flipped the pages for a moment, then he passed a standard mug shot to Moodrow who passed it to Tilley. Levander Greenwood stood just over five feet eight inches tall and looked like he weighed two-forty. His neck was wider than his head and his shoulders damn near ran out of the photo. The young cop, staring intently at what he considered the path to promotion, recalled his days as a fighter. He'd fought a number of small men in the ring. The announcers invariably referred to them as "fireplugs." They were usually slow and clumsy, easy to tie-up, but in a narrow corridor without gloves, without rules.... Jim Tilley made a mental decision to get a backup piece and carry it. "Is this guy as strong as he looks?"
"This guy is a fuckin' nightmare." O'Neill turned to his partner. "Am I right?"
Kirkpatrick pinned Tilley with small, glittering, black eyes. Tilley was a novelty, both as a rookie and as Moodrow's partner, and the Murphys were having a good time trying to frighten him. "The only decent thing about a squeal like this is we most likely get to kill the asshole in the end. He's probably stronger than Moodrow. He don't feel no pain in a fight. At least not so you could tell. He'll kill you without thinking twice. Plus, he's been wanted for another murder for nearly six months, so wherever he's got his hole, he's had plenty of time to make it safe." He rubbed his chin, causing his jowls to do a little dance.
"We got Greenwood's name from one of the victims," O'Neill offered. "Little spic name of Angel Rodriguez. He had a bunch of hits and we traded it for the name. Imagine that shit? I gotta give this spic a favor to get him to tell me the name of the scumbag that shot him. You'd expect he'd wanta tell me."
"I think he was glad to talk," Kirkpatrick said. "He just hada save face. That's why the hits. We didn't have no probable cause and the dope wasn't nowhere near the spic, so what's to lose? Anyways, he told us the nigger's been takin' off dealers right and left. Greenwood's a complete outlaw, now, and the Italians got a major contract on him. Only thing is nobody's too anxious to collect. Word on the street is the mighty Kubla Khan got a sawed-off twelve gauge he carries under his coat. Which, by the way, if a guy's wearin' a coat in this weather, he probly does have something underneath. Naturally, Rodriguez don't know where Greenwood's holed up, but he thinks maybe Brooklyn."
Excerpted from Force of Nature by Stephen Solomita. Copyright © 1989 Stephen Solomita. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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