Officer Ray Weiss is a cop's son, a cop's grandson. All he's ever wanted is to follow in their footsteps. But when he finds out what the senior officers in Chicago's District 20 have in store for him and the other rookies as "initiation" into their brotherhood, he has to make a choice.
Ray's senior partner, Jack Fiore, asks him to break into a jewelry store and steal a few pieces. It's just a little fun---especially because they're set up to be the first cops on-scene to "discover" the crime. No one gets hurt, and everybody's happy: Fiore gets the jewelry, Ray gets to be one of the boys, and the store owner gets his insurance money. Ray doesn't want to do it, but Fiore leaves him no alternative. . . .
It all goes wrong when Ray breaks into the store and finds a corpse instead of his promised reward. Coincidence, or was that part of the setup, payback for being a reluctant rookie? And it doesn't end there, because Detective Sloane Pearson is on the case, and if Ray doesn't help her look for the killer, she might discover him.
Probable Cause is another gripping read from Theresa Schwegel, the Edgar Award--winning author of Officer Down, whose portrayal of cop culture is as authentic as it comes.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
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About the Author
Theresa Schwegel was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and attended Loyola University there. She received an MFA in screenwriting at Chapman University in California and now lives in Los Angeles. Her first novel, Officer Down, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was shortlisted for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel.
Theresa Schwegel is a Loyola University graduate and the recipient of an MFA in screenwriting at Chapman University. Her debut novel, Officer Down, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was short-listed for the Anthony Award. In 2008, she received the 21st Century Award from the Chicago Public Library Foundation. She lives in Chicago.
Read an Excerpt
By Theresa Schwegel
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Theresa Schwegel
All rights reserved.
The store's alarm doesn't startle anyone. Two blocks away, in a rehabbed three-flat on Washtenaw Avenue, an underwhelmed DePaul professor hears it. He momentarily loses his place in a Tribune article, skims through something about the mayor's unfair hiring practices, yawns, and skips to the METRO section, assuming the alarm is part of whatever movie-of-the-week his wife is watching downstairs on TV. Downstairs, it doesn't matter what's on TV, because his wife is already well into a bottle of average cabernet and the first stages of sleep, dreaming of being appreciated.
A block away, at the intersection of Lincoln and Foster, a taxi driver hears the alarm while he waits at the light. Sirens all sound the same after ten years driving this route: bau, bau, bau, bau; whup-whup-whup-whup-whup-whup — whatever, the driver thinks. The sound is mildly irritating, like any red light. He steps on the gas and makes a right for Lake Shore Drive.
On the sidewalk in front of the store, a homeless woman wanders and, believing the alarm is a signal from her God, is confused as to why there is no church. No church, just Lucky Mike's Electronics: neon-yellow signage over a locked-up storefront, its windows and door fortified top to bottom by steel curtains. The woman moves on, ready to tell any other living soul her predicament.
A decal on Lucky Mike's blacked-out door declares security courtesy of WESTEC: area office located exactly 9.2 miles from the store. There, a little red light blinks on a console, summoning some dispatcher to get off his ass for the third time this shift and send a car. He finishes his pastrami on rye. The dispatcher is used to false alarms.
Seven-and-a-half miles from the store at Spiaggia restaurant, Officer Ray Weiss probably wishes he could hear the alarm. It'd be a nice way to ditch the horrendous dinner date his mother guilted him into making. Monica has already ordered an appetizer and a twenty-dollar glass of some kind of wine she couldn't pronounce, and now she won't shut up about the shopping on Oak Street. She says "eww" in a baby voice when he cracks his knuckles. Weiss tries to act interested in her and decipher the menu at the same time, but he's never heard of half the items, and every one costs more than both his shirt and tie. He orders something with sweetbreads, expecting, well, sweet bread. He's twenty-three. He wants a burger. He wants to get out of there and catch bad guys.
No, the store's alarm doesn't startle anyone, but Jed Pagorski thinks he can feel the adrenaline coming out of his ears. In the alley behind the store, his hands are slippery in his gloves as he jimmies the loading dock's heavy garage door. "Noise" Dubois is over his shoulder, watching, making sure Jed doesn't slip up. It's the heat of the night, Jed thinks; that's why he's sweating. Can Noise tell?
"Rent-a-cops will be here in ten minutes, tops," Jed says. Noise's look says: No shit.
Too late to back out now, Jed thinks. Not that he would. He slides one leg underneath the door, then the other, then his torso, the weight of the door held by his twitching arms like a stacked bench press.
Ten minutes. Less.
"Hold this fucking door up for me." Be in control, Jed thinks. It's all under control. Noise's fingers appear in front of Jed's nose, healthy pink nails against black skin. Underhanded, Noise holds the door.
As soon as Jed slides through, the garage door hits the pavement like a guillotine.
Nine minutes, no counting.
Jed pulls a flashlight from his belt, turns it on, and sweeps the space with light. Layout looks like the map Noise penciled on a napkin at Hamilton's earlier tonight: a doorway behind opens to outside and runs ahead to the showroom; inventory is there to the right; alarm keypad is mounted on the wall, over there.
Nine-one-zero-one-six, Jed repeats in his head, the code memorized easily, after so much practice. The gloves prove difficult as he disables the alarm. The siren stops; his ears ring in the silence. He thinks he hears his own heartbeat. He remembers to breathe.
Jed hears the car pull up out back, just like they planned. One of the tires crunches broken glass in the alley. Car door slams. Seven minutes, Jed thinks, to be on the safe side. To be out of there with no trouble. He approaches the door to the right of the loading dock and presses his ear against it, waiting for the signal. He turns off his flashlight like a conscience. He waits, counting backward from ten three times over, and again, the numbers steadying his concentration.
Jed smiles. He's in it: he's in the game. And he won't get caught — can't, really. He smiles, notices his jaw is clenched. He's so god damn tense he wishes he'd taken Noise up on that drink back at Hamilton's. Sweat trickles through his brow and into his eyes and he wonders, where the hell is Noise?
Be in control. It's all under control. He grips his flashlight like a weapon in his right hand and reaches for the door with his weak left. He turns the lock, it clicks; he pulls the handle down and inches the door open to get a look outside.
Before he can make sense of it the barrel of a gun slips through the crack. The muzzle stops an inch from his face. He drops the flashlight and turns to take cover, but the door is pushed open quickly and with so much force that Jed can't get his feet set. He tumbles to the floor and covers his face with his forearms like a little girl would.
Noise doesn't say anything. Just holsters his gun and stands there, shaking his head.
"God damn, Noise, what the fuck?"
"Is that a question?" Noise swipes Jed's flashlight, then helps Jed to his feet. Through the open door Jed sees the car, trunk open.
Five minutes left, no time for Jed's answer.
He follows Noise into the showroom. The only light comes from a flickering EXIT sign just above them; the front windows are blacked and reinforced, shielding the merchandise from bad reflection during the day and undue interest at night — a security measure, backfired. Noise shines the flashlight over surround sound stereos, home theater systems, digital projection packages. He stops, focuses the beam of light on a 48-inch Sony plasma television.
Jed can't see Noise in the dark so he asks, "That's it?"
"It's a nice TV."
"I know, but that's all we're taking?"
"You think we should load up the backseat? Strap a big screen to the hood?"
Jed knows better than to ask stupid questions. He knows that. He also knows he has to be the one to lift the TV. Sometimes he thinks they only want him for his muscle. Suck it up, he thinks. One TV, maybe three minutes and one fucking nice TV, and he's in no matter why they want him.
Noise disappears as Jed disconnects the control box from the screen. He can't carry both at once, so he takes the box first, out the back, down the steps. He sets it in the trunk like it's his mother's favorite porcelain figurine. Noise sticks his head out the back door, uses Jed's flashlight to inspect the job.
Jed hustles back up the stairs past Noise, says, "I know," assuming Noise's pursed lips were about to squeeze out a customary Be careful.
Jed goes inside, and he can see the finish line now, his vision narrowed in the showroom. He hoists the 48-inch screen under his right arm and negotiates his way through the dark, out the back. Noise isn't there, but there's no time to wonder where he went.
Jed hopes Noise won't harp on him about the screen's scraped edge. Forty-eight inches happen to be a perfect fit for the trunk, except he didn't know that when he gave the screen a little too much elbow grease on the way in.
Jed shuts the trunk and closes his eyes, sealing his fate in the trunk: he is one of them. Finally. And with at least a minute to spare.
"Jed." Noise's tone is far from congratulatory.
Jed looks up: Noise is standing at the top of the steps, holding a VHS tape. Be careful. Jed had mocked him, instead of checking for cameras.
"Surveillance. Man, Noise, I thought —"
"Don't tell me what you thought. Tell me what you know."
Jed's answer comes out like a reflex: "Cover your ass."
Noise stops short of a nod. His body seems to tense from the inside out. Jed watches him, waiting to maybe get yelled at.
A car turns into the alley, shining its high beams on the men. Noise tucks the tape in his jacket and remains on the steps.
"Shit," says Jed, thinking he fucked this up somehow, took too long, and now they'll have his ass. He leans over the trunk, his arms spread, head hanging, like he's ready to get frisked.
The driver pulls up, gets out, says, "What is going on?" "Mr. Lukas?" Noise comes down the steps cautiously, gun drawn, held close to his leg. Jed is afraid to turn around.
"Yes," the driver says. "What in the hell happened?"
Jed can feel the rush in his veins. He stands up, reaches into his jacket, waits for his cue.
"Well?" the driver asks.
Of course Noise doesn't say anything.
Be in control, Jed tells himself. It's all under control. Then he turns slowly, arrogantly, and produces his badge. "I'm sorry, sir, it seems there's been a burglary."CHAPTER 2
A serious-looking white woman grips a knife, her eyes glaring at the camera, her skin tinged orange by the TV's poor color calibration. "To a police officer," she says, "this dagger is a potential weapon." She palms the handle, presents it for a close-up. "But to a Sikh man, this is a kirpan, a sacred symbol carried as a sign of spiritual devotion." The camera zooms out to reveal she's standing in Lincoln Park, next to a Sikh. She smiles at him like he's retarded, then hands him the knife. He bows slightly and steps out of the frame. She notices his turban is casting a distracting shadow, so she moves to the left. "How can we ever understand one another?" she asks the camera. Then she pauses, takes a step forward, and says, "If strength comes from knowledge, cultural sensitivity is muscle."
Ray Weiss cracks his knuckles, looks around the briefing room cautiously, like he's cheating on a test. He's trying to get a read on the other beat cops, to see if anyone else thinks this is complete bullshit.
As the woman starts in about how Saudi Arabians mean yes when they shake their heads from left to right, Field Training Officer Jack Fiore whispers an indecipherable though predictably vulgar comment to his colleague, Noise Dubois. Next to Weiss, Officer Gary Anzalone rocks on the back legs of his metal chair, his iffy balance providing self-entertainment. Across the room, Jed Pagorski is sound asleep. All the guys in between pretend to watch the monitor, their eyes glazed over by real life.
Weiss looks at the District 20 beat map on the wall to his left, though he's studied it so often he sees it when he closes his eyes. To his right, he glances at another ineffective use of space: a corkboard tacked with familiar and otherwise useless information: Beat events, CAPS information, memos about crystal pushers in the LGBT community. Sex offenders, Most Wanteds. Weiss wishes the room had a window. Anzalone beats him to a sigh.
On the TV, some guy in a pinstripe suit says, "With security concerns paramount in current times of turmoil, it is critical to have strong elements of trust and understanding between our law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve." He's probably from the State's Attorney's Office, Weiss figures, since his statement sounds rehearsed and the camera caught him on his way out of the courthouse on La Salle.
When the orange woman returns, pamphlet in hand, Weiss is reminded of the information the stewardess gives you before you fly: great in theory, but when your plane is falling out of the sky, you're going to be shitting your pants, not locating your flotation device. Just like if some Latin King puts a gun in your face — you aren't going to be concerned with his personal space or his religious rights. Weiss looks at his watch. Twenty minutes 'til his four o'clock shift.
"In a city as diverse as Chicago," the orange woman says, "we have many different cultures that view the police from varying perspectives." The Sikh steps up behind her, followed by a black woman, and an Asian couple. A Hispanic woman joins them, holding a vacant-eyed baby; a Hasidic Jew brings up the rear. It's a regular rainbow coalition, Weiss thinks.
"As police officers," the woman says, "you have the responsibility to understand those perspectives to better serve and protect our communities. You earned your badge; now earn their respect." Cue the feel-good music.
Sergeant Flagherty turns on the overhead lights; Weiss' eyes adjust. Flagherty looks like he used to be fat and he walks like he still carries the weight. He goes to the VCR and shuts off the tape, triggering static noise that jerks Jed from sleep. He wipes drool from the corner of his mouth, runs his hand over his buzz cut, tries to focus. Fucking guy, Weiss thinks.
Flagherty picks up a Magic Marker and scrawls on the Dry Erase board: SENSITIVITY. From the back corner of the room, Johnny Giantolli groans like he does when he's imitating his wife.
"We have to do this, guys," Flagherty says, his pronunciation heavy on the a.
"We do this," Walter Guzman says, two seats over from Weiss, "and I still got to spend all day in court with some spic who says I arrested him because he's Mexican." Everyone laughs — even Jed, who just yesterday spent the better part of their workout insisting that Guzman was Japanese. Sure, he has Asian features, Weiss agreed. But what about his name? And the time that guy from the twenty-fourth called him "Galtero"? What about the picture of the Virgin Mary in his locker? Nope, Jed insisted: Guzman's Japanese. Look at his hair. The shape of his eyes.
And now Jed sits there, his big mouth fixed in a contagious, stupid grin, like he knew all along. Weiss wishes he could let himself off as easily.
On the board under SENSITIVITY, Flagherty writes the word SPIC.
"Guzman's only sensitive about his sexual preference," Giantolli says.
"You'd know, you faggot," Mark Sikula says. Weiss thinks he sounds angry, but Giantolli's his partner, so who knows. In the front row, Sikula doesn't turn around.
Flagherty writes FAGGOT on the board.
"Sarge, what's the point here, huh?" Guzman asks. "We don't need a seminar on how to piss each other off."
"It's city-mandated. The department has suffered some serious blows lately. With all the trouble in the twenty-third, cops getting killed —"
"The twenty-third: your old stomping grounds," Fiore says.
"Did you know that woman cop?" Giantolli asks Flagherty. "Was it her fault?"
"Leave it to a woman," Fiore says.
Flagherty ignores him. "We've got problems on the southside, too: racial profiling, police brutality. The press is up the mayor's ass about all this, and he's got enough on his plate. He wants this nipped in the bud, ground level. So the superintendent is cracking down on corruption."
"With a videotape?" Guzman asks.
"They should be showing us National Geographic, the fucking animals we deal with," from under Sikula's breath.
"I'm just following orders," Flagherty says. "You should all give it a try." Flagherty turns back to the board and adds ANIMAL to his list.
"This is ridiculous," Giantolli says. "I need a cup of coffee. Or something I can hang myself with."
"Hey, Flagherty," Fiore says casually. "Why don't you write nigger up there."
There are other black cops in the room, but this was clearly intended for Noise, who is sitting right behind Weiss. Noise Dubois, given name Innis, is a quiet, observant cop — his nickname a testament to his aural acuity, not his mouth — but when he speaks, he always has something to say.
So far, he hasn't. Nobody has said anything. The air in the room is as still as a dead man.
Finally, Flagherty says, "Look, guys. I think the point is made." He puts down the marker, addresses Noise: "None of us is immune to insult."
Weiss hears Noise's chair slide across the linoleum. Uh-oh.
Flagherty swallows hard. He's fairly new to the district, and he isn't quite standing up straight yet. Weiss is pretty sure Noise isn't about to help him feel welcome.
Excerpted from Probable Cause by Theresa Schwegel. Copyright © 2006 Theresa Schwegel. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Probable Cause Theresa Schwegel St. Martin¿s, Jan 2007, $23.95 ISBN: 0312343167 In Chicago rookie patrolman Ray Weiss joins the 20th District. He feels great as he always dreamed of becoming a cop. However, his aspiration turns bitter when Field Training Officer Jack Fiore demands he complete his OJT by fulfilling the ritual that will make him a true member of the force. He must rob Rytoi Jewelry on Argyle Avenue so Jack can give his wife a present and Ray can become one of the guys. Reluctantly Ray breaks into the store with Jack following him inside where they find the murdered corpse of the Lithuanian owner Petras Ipolitas. Knowing they are in trouble as Homicide Detective Sloane Pearson wonders why they were there, Fiore sets in motion a plot to hide their activity. He tracks down an illegal Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Ambrozas, who is found with a trunk filled with firearms who is to take the fall. Ray worries about his future and how his dad a dedicated ethical police officer, proud of his son¿s joining the force, will react. Unable to stay on the sidelines Ray digs on his own and with Sloane, which upsets his district peers especially his ¿mentor¿. --- Readers initially will have mixed feelings towards Ray for his part in the robbery, but his attitude especially towards females will lose him some of the audience¿s empathy until he redeems himself with his efforts to do the right thing. His metamorphous makes this a superb police procedural though the story line has been used before. As with OFFICER DOWN, Theresa Schwegel writes a deep character study of a beleaguered cop struggling as his world spins out of control starting with that first mistake. --- Harriet Klausner