Feather in the Tar: Evoke 7

          “Sit here, and wait for me to call down for you.” Seven says to Genie as they exit the elevator on the 3rd floor of the Hall of Justice. Wooden benches are outside each of the criminal courts.

           “You don’t want me to go with you?” she asks.

           “Not yet. I want to get a lay of the situation first,” he says. “Don’t worry, everyone will think you’re a juror.”

          She sighs, “OK.”

           “Restrooms are down the hall, but stay out here, and I’ll come down and get you.”

          She interrupts her quivering lips with a slight upturn and stares into Seven’s eyes.

           “Try to relax.” He heads off to the elevator.

          Genie looks up and down the marble hallway. It is cool and as formal as modern gravestones high on the capital curve. Pink marble covers ¾’s way up the walls and green reconstituted tiles with brass grout flatten the floors. All sounds echo in and out then equalize each other with a hard silence. A man in grey suit with a sky blue tie exits the courtroom next to her bench. He looks down and smiles. She returns the favor and sighs.

          Seven pushes the button on the elevator console, number 5. It seems a lifetime since he last saw Emily, and they parted under much less than friendly circumstances.

          I met Lieutenant Emily Cochran while she was investigating a robbery. I was on the trail of a bail jumper from Texas, Raymond “Rodeo” Butler. His ex-wife had sworn out a battery complaint against him, but put up the value of their house, 50k, for bail, and Butler galloped off west into the sunset to San Francisco. Rodeo’s crystal meth habit drove him to any and every kind of quick fix or release. And after his wife caught him a less than fatherly situation with his daughter and her friends, she woke up in a hospital emergency room with black eyes, a broken nose and arm.

          The finder’s fee is two percent, and all I need to do was parse a text and verify to earn it. Bail cases are easy money for empty pockets in the flat time. Lt. Cochran was on the same trail, but after a different saddle.

          Pockets here are deeper than the Pacific is blue, and a string of petty burglaries were annoying some of the old out-of-site money in Pacific Heights. The Mayor’s slacks were on fire from several tongue-lashings from snow hair blue bloods. Solve it or else. Jewelry and cash, nothing larger than a pocketbook or heavier then a book pack went missing. And to throw alcohol on the Mayor’s balls (he is a strong advocate for the homeless) the burglar was using elderly homeless women to fence the lucre on city sidewalks. The mayor found one of his own tie clips on a beach towel in front of city hall.

          I sent the text, but couldn’t get a response or vox. Inspector Cochran showed up on a tip about the cowboy while I was pondering my next step. She saw me casing the joint, and probably recognized me from my work with bail bondsman across the street from the Hall of Justice.

           “Bounty?” She walks over to me.

           “Nah, just a snoop with a cell number.” I say. She quizzes me for the details and with her cool eyes and smile; she stands close enough that I can feel her heat and smell pomegranate. What am I going to do, not cooperate?

           “Backup’s too damn slow and our cowboy’s going to run.” She says. “Are you carrying?”

          Two years in the blue slacks and Cochran ascended to the burglary division. The highest certification score in the history of the department, she is smart, ambitious, and tough; she is a creative thinker and overly tolerant of a colorful sense of humor. History was in her favor as one of the first female detectives to fulfill equal opportunity staffing. Perceptions were not in her favor–brown nose, triple prong, ass sugar–but she kick the shit out of those with an ever cool head, thick hide, and a sharp retort. She’s earned more citations than any inspector in the same period of time.

          Her first partner as an inspector, Samantha Pousnik, was a beautiful young recruit just out of the academy, but with a BS in Psychology from UC Berkeley. Long black hair, 5’10”, 36-24-34, a fitness junkie; and her perfect timing with a wink, a smile, and an earnest question could puddle the iciest blue pit bull.

          Inspector Pousnik was a force of nature, the Mayor’s gem for equal opportunity reform. She was his ticket for a second term, then who knows, governor? The Mayor referred to the two as “new knights of the Emerald City, the face of San Francisco’s future.”

          Old-timers and peers, beat cops and desk climbers, lards and machos preferred other names, the Gynamic Duo, Babes in Boots, and Double Dyke 38’s. The pioneers would just sigh and shake their heads; high profile cases and access to the upper tier assured their success. Pousnik could handle herself in front of any crowd or with any group, and although she could get a laugh with a sexist self-mocking joke, she was strictly professional. No jokes about length, circumference, or stamina. She was one of the blues, only a smarter, faster, big sister.

           “Pous” and “Coch” rolled their eyes, nudged, and winked so many times it became a language between them. Pous was brains and emotion with a flash of the Buddha in her green brown eyes. Coch was patience and intelligence, like the resolute click of a watch’s cogs, her mind never stopped. No door remained closed for long, with or without a key they could always get a boot through.

          At 23, overconfident and almost immortal, like Broom Hilda or Joan of Ark, spoiled on positive feedback with no case log, Pous burst in through and unlocked door for a fence bust at a bathtub LSD lab. Ahead of common sense and a call out Inspector Samantha Pousnik, interfaced in the chest with a pig leg 12-gauge. Coch had paused on the stairs to call for backup then chase a 6-year old child with the bluest eyes back into his apartment. Inspector Emily Cochran descended from bright beacon to a 3-year foot beat in the Marina. The average crime in the old working-class, Italian neighborhood (now young professional bohemia) is double parking while fetching a $3 latte, and the occasional eclectic kleptomaniac. The Mayor lost the election.

           “Uh, yes.” My license is on probation, but I can’t think fast enough; my mind is full of the color of her skin.

           “Let’s go. Back me up.” A quiet, deadly serious voice of command, I am servile and succumb. I pull out a 9m automatic

          Guns clinched like an urban posse, we inch up the stairs, trading point at each landing. On the 2nd floor, a man and his daughter exit their hovel. She has a book bag, and he puts on his trucker cap, Johnson Trawler.

           “Wait, ten minutes,” She buffets them with a whisper. The little girl backs in first, and he shuts the door and spins the deadbolt.

          On the fourth floor, Cochran pauses, “he’s in room 405.” We proceed down the hall. “I’ll go first, and you cover my backside.” I nod my head, and breathing through my gaping mouth, I blush.

           “SF PD,” she yells and raps on the door. No response, so she repeats, “San Francisco Police.” We could hear rapid boot footfalls echo further and further away.

           “Wha, what, what about the fire escape?” I stammer. I stay away from the fast copper as much as possible. I’ve never actually fired on anyone, but practice a lot to keep my credentials current. My probation was from a misfire at qualification, because my pistol was too dirty. The proctor reamed me with a cleaning stick. I thought he was going to smack me for wasting his time, but instead he broke it on the safety rail.

           “Don’t worry, it’s non-functioning.”


           “Afirm. I made sure.” Cochran said. “POLICE,” she yells as loud as she can, and before I can raise my weapon, she raises her boot and kicks the door open.

           “HALT! POLICE!”

          The rustler is knocking out the glass of a window to the fire escape. He turns around quickly. He has something black in his hand, and Cochran yells for him to stop. Too late, she fires. I bump her just before the hammer falls, and her shot goes wild into a kitchen cabinet on the right. The Texan’s eyes are bigger than a cast iron skillet, and all the blood flows out of his face. Almost a ghost, he faints.

           “What the fuck,” she yells and prepares to fire again, but the skillet bounces on the wooden floor next to him. Cochran sighs deep and drops her posture. She walks over and zip-ties Rodeo Butler’s hands behind his back. Her backup arrives and she briefs them.

          I call the bail bondsman, and explain the situation. He offers me the bounty hunter’s fee. An assist with the best of results is as good as a corral on the plains to him. The blue hats drag the suspect out of the room and into the hallway. When he got his legs back, they escorted him downstairs.

          Jotting notes in a leather-bound report’s notebook, Cochran walks over to me as I lean against the doorframe. She extends her hand, “Thanks, that could have been messy,” she says; it was the first time I saw her full smile. I can’t help but smile back and pull her over for squeeze. She doesn’t resist.

           “Here’s my card. Call me if you have any questions about the bust, or,” I look down to the card and up to her grey/blue eyes. She runs her hand through her hair, “call me Em.”

          Cochran works graveyard, ten to eight. She snuck back to burglary, and with her transparent skills, invisible political sublime, she passed the test for Lieutenant when no one was paying attention during the first Dot Com. Lt. Cochran moved to homicide. She’s been on the graveyard for 10 years, and although her closure rate is better than average, upper management always brings up Pousnik.

           “Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring”, Cochran’s phone fills her 20-minute wind down meditation at 10 A.M. two hours late, she saves the red tape manicles for last and least favorite. She sits at her chair, no squeaks and clears her mind. “Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring.” Empty, quiet, empty quiet, she thinks to herself. I am a feather in a pillow at noon. Alone, silence, no one is in this moment. She inhales deeply five times in row, slower with each exhale. I am the time between breaths. Quiet, quiet, blank, I am between time. I pause the next tick. She inhales/exhales slow, slowly, slower, slowly, and slowest.

           “Rrrrring, rrrrring, rrring, rring, ring,” her black Bell recycle uses a mechanical bell that can be heard through two sides of sheetrock, and half wall glass that delineates her fish bowl. I am outside time, she thinks to herself. I am outside the body. Her breath slows; a half a minute to exhale and half a minute to inhale, deep, silent, and slow. Her mind is a void outside reason.

           “Rrrrring, rrrrring, rrring, rring, ring,”

           “Lt.” Sergeant Samson enters his partner’s office with two coffees from Café Rome across the street. His is loaded, cream and sugar, and hers is neat, no additives. They’ve been together for 3 years, longer than both of Samson’s marriages.

           “Lt., Lt. Cochran, Coch,” he says and puts the cups down on her desk.

           “Rrrrring, rrrrring, rrring, rring, ring,” Samson stairs at the phone, at his boss, then at the phone.

           “Ring, ring, ring,” Samson picks up the phone. “Lt Cochran’s desk, Sgt. Samson speaking.”

           “Fuck, Sams, I was clear.” She exhales Monday morning’s frustration, her eyes are glassed over and she winks several times to focus.

           “Sorry Lt., it’s the red line.” He hands the phone to Cochran. A chief from the 60’s, the heyday of T.V. cult classic Batman and Robin, had a separate line put in that connects him directly to all his field officers, Lt’s and above. His nephew was a grip for the show and the tradition stuck. Now one light on all the multiline phones is red.

           “Yes chief,” she answers. “Are you sure it’s connected?” She stands up. “Uh, yes. They’ve confirmed the identity?” She pauses, “Yes sir, we’re on our way.”

          Cochran stretches her arms as Samson picks up her coffee. A question hangs in his eyes as he holds it out to her. “We’ve got another one.” She says and takes the cup, “thanks, get your coat.”

          The two detectives wait at the elevator and as the door opens, Seven sighs, “Lieutenant.” He holds out his hand, but she looks straight through him. “I was just coming to see someone in burglary about a case one of my friends is involved with.” Cochran turns toward the door and stands to the right with Samson between her and Seven. She is quiet.

           “We’re on a call.” Samson says, “not burglary.”

           “Well, the truth is I was inquiring about a homicide?”

           “We’re on call, “ Samson says with more force, “talk to the desk sergeant.

          The elevator dings for the third floor, and Seven tries again. “I’ve a friend that may have seen something at the Bridge Motel on Lombard. Do you know who is assigned to the case?”

          Cochran reaches up and pushes the red stop button. She turns to Seven, “what hotel did you say?”

           “The Bridge on Lombard,” he repeats.

          She crosses the elevator and turns to face Seven. A hands width away, expressionless, she to stares into his eyes. “What do you know about the Bridge?”

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