TIME AND PLACE

back of store

A young cop doing his job. But tonight paths collide, time and place start a drama no one expected.

From my recently released novel SIDE SLIP:

The big membership store closed at nine on Saturday night and the tire shop foreman was glad the guys finished the last car twenty minutes ago and had all slipped out early. He was alone and closed out the computer and pulled the overhead doors down just far enough that he could still step out into the darkening lot behind the shop. He stood there in dim light and waited.

Raiford drove east into what he considered edgy territory. Like Lido, it was necessary in his profession. He went where the money was. The wide streets were not filled with cars but there seemed to be a traffic light every few blocks. The parked sheriff’s car in the strip mall caught his eye as he drove past and he went by his turn just being cautious. He drove farther east, crossing under I-75 and then found a place to turn around and wait for just a minute or two.

The tire foreman lit a cigarette and stepped out away from the door onto the back lot to smoke. His guy was running a little late but drug dealers didn’t work on strict schedules. The tire smell he hated followed him out, if I ever got far enough ahead…

Doug finished and sat for a moment. No calls on his computer aided dispatch screen and the radio was snapping back and forth from the now fatal accident on Beneva. More FHP and sheriff’s cars were on scene and the road was blocked with a detour set. He would have been in the middle of it if he hadn’t been stuck up here.

It was past closing time for most of the stores and he moved the patrol car around to go behind the businesses. There were plenty in his zone to check between now and end of shift.

Raiford saw the time on his phone and decided he wouldn’t wait any longer. He drove back toward I-75 and the big membership store on the other side that had just closed. Turning up the access road, he then pulled in and drove through a nearly empty parking lot toward the rear. He did not see the sheriff’s car pull out from the back of the small shopping center behind him and stop at the red light just short of the access road.

The tire shop foreman flipped his still burning cigarette toward the propane tank and bottle filling station at the end of the rear lot, but it did not meet any stray fumes and just smoked. Raiford pulled around and the headlights cast across the foreman who waved and stepped back to let Raiford pull up and get out of the car.

Doug moved at the green light and turned into the access road to the left. He moved past a larger shopping center and turned into the membership store lot. The shopping carts had been stacked near the closed front doors and minimum lights were on inside. Three cars were still in the lot and Doug registered, managers. He drove past the front, cut off his headlights and pulled around the far corner toward the rear.

“Dude,” the foreman greeted Raiford. Raiford hated that. He was far from a “dude”. The foreman reached into his back pocket and pulled out a thick wad of cash, holding it just at waist height so Raiford could see it in the overhead vapor lighting, “Got my stuff?”

Raiford extended a brown paper lunch bag, its bulge wrapped tightly with several heavy rubber bands, with his right hand and reached for the cash with his left just as Doug’s high beams lit both of them up.

Doug cut a breath in half at the sight a few yards in front of him and reached for the radio mic. Before he could speak, the white guy dropped the handful of bills and ran north toward the fence and the brush beyond. The black guy didn’t move and before he decided to run, Doug had the car slammed into park and was out moving toward him.

“Stop, don’t move!” Doug yelled, surprising himself at how loud it was. His left hand was out pointing at the black guy and he saw that the white guy was over the fence and gone into the woods. Doug kept moving and put his hand on his pistol but did not draw it. He could see no weapons on the black guy, just the brown paper bag in his hand. The pile of money lay on the ground and began to swirl in the light breeze.

Raiford’s heartbeat went from cool to panic in an instant but his prison training began to kick in and he took a deep breath, turning toward the young deputy running at him.

“Drop it, show me your hands!” Doug ordered but to no effect on the black guy who just looked right at him. By now Doug was within a few feet and reached up to the microphone of his portable radio at his shoulder with his left hand to broadcast. He got out, “I-75 and University…” when Raiford threw the paper sack as hard as he could, hitting Doug with a loud smack and causing Doug to release the mic button and bring his left hand up toward his face where the hard as a rock bag hit him.

Raiford wasn’t going back to prison tonight. That much he knew and it spun him into movement. He stepped quickly to the deputy, latching on to the deputy’s wavering left hand and, pulling hard, smashed his forehead squarely into the deputy’s nose. He grabbed at the radio microphone attached to the stunned deputy and ripped it from the deputy’s shoulder flap. He swung it around, wrapping the cord hard and tight around the deputy’s neck and looked straight into his eyes.

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