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The Paths We Take #24: Bleed

Jul 31, 2018






Detective Townsend


The call from Molly came in while Luke was asleep in the back room. I let him stay at the cabin for the rest of the day; it wasn’t safe for him to go home — it wasn’t safe for him anywhere.

“You screwed me. I gave you information. Now they think I helped Kyle kill that girl.”


“That girl. The one all over the news. The whole drug-deal gone-bad story . . . Dead cop? Are you even trying to help me?” Molly asked.

Her words circled in my mind, but then, in a rush of clarity, I realized that he had gotten to Molly. I didn’t know how he found her, but as the Sergeant of the Special Investigations Unit, he has access to all the files regarding confidential informants in the system — even the Drugs and Vice informants, or Kyle gave her up.

“Are you even listening asshole?” She screamed through the phone.

“I’m going to make a call and clear this up,” I tried to reassure her, but I knew that Sgt Marks had planned everything out the way he wanted.

“I need to go . . . Don’t you know this is going to ruin my life?” she cried. I could hear her lungs struggling to fill and the panicked gasps that followed. “They must’ve asked him about me,” she managed to spit out between violent exhales that pounded the phone.

“Why would they ask Kyle about you?”

“Because he was with me in the car that morning. He saw the van too, but he said to keep my mouth shut because he didn’t want to put himself on the radar,” Molly explained. “He said he trusted The Breed more than the cops. He knew the cops wouldn’t help.”

I knew Kyle’s handler was some mid-level Breed member, but I would never find out a name unless he wanted to die or save himself; the latter is how I believed Marks got to Kyle. Threaten a man’s life and he will risk everything else to keep it.

“You can trust me Molly. Just tell me the cop’s name who talked to you and I will call him,” I offered.

“I don’t have a name . . . and you can’t call him. You’d have to call her.”

The her that she was referring to was Chavez. I pulled the phone away from my ear, hoping that a few seconds of silence would help me clear my mind, but it was useless. I needed to meet with Molly.

“Where are you? Home?” I asked. Another pause. I could hear a muffled voice in the background — a man’s voice. I heard her whispering but couldn’t make out the words.

“Kyle just got here. They let him out. He says he trusts you, but that doesn’t matter anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because you can’t help us . . . They’re coming for you,” she said before she ended the call.

When you pin on the badge, you accept the inherent dangers of the job. The shield signifies that you believe in your bones that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, that you stand for a cause, and that everyone standing behind that shield bleeds a deep blue. What you don’t realize until you’ve been on the job long enough, is just how many people want you to bleed.

I called Kristin. The phone rang a couple of times, and I could feel my arms tense to the point I almost couldn’t move them as I waited. Another ring. My stomach felt like I swallowed a bag of concrete that had just hardened.

“Hey babe,” she answered, the tension melted from my arms, and the phone, which had been shaking in rhythm with my hand, steadied. “Hello,” she said again after I hadn’t said anything.

“Hey. Just seeing how ready you were to talk to me,” I tried joking, my voice cracking as I struggled with the words.

“Why don’t you come home and find out,” she teased, in her soap-opera voice, trying to sound more sexy than usual.

“Do you need me to grab milk on the way home,” I asked as the tension seized my arms again.

There was silence for a few seconds, and then Kristin responded, “No, I have a full gallon.” It was the answer that I hoped for.

“What’s wrong Gavin?” she insisted.

“I’m not sure exactly, but I’ll be home soon. Don’t answer the door,” I said.

We had several coded phrases tucked away in the back of our minds in the event that we needed to use them. The question, “Do you need me to grab milk on the way home?” seems common enough for anyone listening in on the conversation, but Kristin knows that if she responds with “Yes. Make sure it’s two percent,” then I will know she’s in trouble.

The first time I mentioned coming up with a code, Kristin laughed and asked, “Paranoid much?” It’s common for a gang to put hit out on a cop, especially cops who disrupt their drug enterprise. That is also why she keeps a .38 in her bedside table.

There was just enough signal on my phone to search Molly’s Facebook profile for any indication to where she would be running off with Kyle. She had the typical college-girl profile, with a few pictures that might be questionable to future employers — her holding a can of Budweiser while she kissed another girl on the cheek in her bikini, a long rant about how marijuana should be legalized, and then a photo of her jumping a fence to the pool at one of the nearby apartment complexes, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I decided to leave Luke at the cabin alone. He was still sleeping, and he was safer at the cabin than anywhere else. I made the hike back towards the car, but when I got closer, I could see a dark object sitting in the center of the hood. I unholstered my M&P and used the trees for cover as I made my way to the left of the road behind a thick oak that had fallen. When I got closer, I realized the object was a hammer.

I scanned the area, but there was nothing in sight. I could hear the crunching of leaves in the distance, but the sound was soft, and the stride was more like a scurry of chipmunk or squirrel. I waited. Nothing.

As I eased out from the tree line, I noticed that the ball-peen hammer was placed on top of a deep carving in the paint on the hood of the car. The symbol, if you didn’t know anything about gangs, would look patriotic — thirteen stars lined in a circle and thirteen stripes in a rectangular pattern. It was the flag of The Breed Motorcycle Club, and the ball-peen hammer is their weapon of choice.

Suspect faces faded in and out of my mind while I gathered the hammer into an evidence bag and then put the bag in the trunk. I imagined my car exploding, shards of hot metal and melting plastic shooting into the air as the flames and clouds of black smoke consumed the car, but when I turned the key, it started as usual, a dull hum against the sounds of the forest.

As I drove, guilt set in, and I felt responsible for what was happening to Molly. She was just a kid who made a few bad decisions, and now the life that she had imagined for herself was over. I struggled with how I would handle the situation. Every scenario that I played in my head ended in a way that I couldn’t live with. Every step that I took sent ripples that would affect everyone around me. It’s a tough thing being responsible for someone else’s pain — people do enough damage to themselves — they don’t need my help.

The house was dark when I got home, but that’s how I wanted it. Kristin knew that she should make it appear that she wasn’t home. I called her again, and she met me at the front door, gripped my shoulders in her delicate hands, and then pulled me to her. She was strong, and I knew she could take care of herself if she had to, but I still wouldn’t forgive myself if something were to happen to her because of the job.

“You want dinner?” she asked.

“I have to go to the station. I need to see about a couple of things,” I told her, leaving out what had happened to my car. “Save some for me?”

My cell buzzed, and I kissed Kristin as I shut the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. The battery indicator was blinking red, and I didn’t want to know what Lieutenant Mason was calling me about. I wanted to have a normal evening, if such a thing existed. The sit-down-to-dinner kind of evening, a watch-a-movie kind of evening, or even a read-a-book kind of evening, as long as it wasn’t one of those hackneyed detective novels. I answered the phone anyway.

“What the hell is going on in this town Gavin? It’s one of yours this time. You better get over to Sam’s near the bridge — it’s a mess. I’ll meet you over there,” Mason huffed. I could tell he was getting close to the scene, the sirens blaring in the background. “How about listen to the radio every once in-a-while. You’re a drug cop now, but you’re still a damn cop,” Mason fumed.

. . .


Sam’s was a used-car dealership that sat next to the downtown bridge. The seventy-year old Sam was a Vietnam Vet who hired the cheapest labor he could find to fix up junkyard-worthy beaters and sell them to unsuspecting parents of newly-licensed drivers, or the kind of drivers that needed the transaction off the records. Behind the trailer that served as an office was a dirt lot with patches of rusty engine parts and old tires stacked almost as high as the bridge itself.

The lot was taped off and a uniform was standing near the entrance with a crime scene log attached to a clipboard. I parked on shoulder across the street and checked in with the uniform who noted my name, unit ID number, and my arrival time on the log.

As I walked behind the trailer, I could see the group of Special Investigations Detectives huddled around a late model green Jeep Cherokee. Sergeant Marks looked up and watched me as I walked towards the vehicle. My stride turned into a trudge when I realized what was in front of me.

I saw the arm hanging out of the passenger side window. Molly’s silver bracelet with the three pink lines, the one she cherished since her mother had passed away from cancer, was still on her limp wrist. My knees almost buckled as the heaviness built in my chest. I kept walking, ignoring the stares of the other detectives as I passed them.

Molly’s body was bloodied and bruised from her hair to her toenails, her left cheek was caved-in, and her front teeth were missing. I looked over to the driver’s seat and watched as the blood dripped from Kyle’s face onto the steering wheel where his forehead was resting. I knew right away that they had been beaten to death — probably with a hammer.

“You should take better care of your people.”

The words hit my ears like flaming arrows. I turned around and started towards Marks, picking up speed with every step, but I hit a wall of Special Investigations detectives before I could reach him.

“Townsend. With me. Now!” Lieutenant Mason shouted from the trailer. The other detectives shoved me away, and I made my way over to the trailer.

“What the hell are you doing? You trying to get yourself put on admin leave?” Lieutenant Mason cautioned as I straightened my coat and smoothed back my hair with my sweat-drenched hands.

“I’m sorry, but —” I started, before being cut off by Mason’s glare.

“Why were you the last person this girl called before she was murdered?” he asked.

“She’s a CI. I was working a case and she called me about some new information,” I responded, not sure how much I should tell Mason.

“Ride with me to the station,” Mason commanded.

“I can drive sir, I —”

“Get in the fucking car.”

I didn’t argue with him any further. Whatever strength I had left, I knew I would need. The uniform lifted the crime scene tape and Mason drove out of Sam’s. I saw Chavez and another detective standing next to my car staring at the carving in my hood. Lillian flashed a smile that looked like a white beam of light against her tanned complexion — a smile that said — It’s time to bleed.

© Josiah A. Miller 2018. All Rights Reserved.