Feather in the Tar: And so the Story Goes

       Cochran stands up out of the vinyl waiting room chair. She sighs and wipes her brow. She is tired and uncomfortable. She walks across the lobby of San Francisco General for the 100th time with the events at the Marina Lounge running over and over in her head. Could I have stopped it? He didn’t move, but he wouldn’t lie down. Did he raise both hands? Should I have waited for SWAT? Oh my god, Sams, Alan has lost his right hand. That thing wouldn’t stop. What can I say to him? I know I shot it five or six times to the chest and back. Why did I shoot out the door? I hit Seven. That man, that thing just wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t let it get to the public. “Alan, Alan I am so sorry,” she says to herself. What the hell was it? She wrings her hands. What the hell was that thing?

       “Lieutenant Cochran,” Andrew Li, the Chief of Police walks up to her. He extends his hand, “this is Lieutenant Wong, he’s the head of Internal Affairs.

       “I am sorry about Sergeant Samson, your partner.” Wong shakes her hand.

       “This is the Mayor’s liaison officer, Steven McKentridge, and I believe you met Abigail Romanivski, the chair of the police review board.”

       Cochran shakes each ones hand in turn. McKentridge’s is sweatier than hers and Emily crosses her arms over her chest, hand to sleeve, to dry her palm. “What’s going on? Why are you all here?”

       “Lieutenant Cochran,” Dr. Patel walks over to the group. “Does Alan have any relatives in town?”

       “No.” Cochran answers

       “How is he Doc?” The Chief asks.

       “I’m really his closest family in San Francisco doctor.” Cochran says. “He has a sister, but she is in San Diego. She’s a flight attendant and I left a message with her service.”

       “OK. Let’s talk over here for a minute.” Patel leads her off to a corner of the room. The others continue a heated discussion; three against one with the review board member in opposition.

       “How is Alan?” Emily asks.

       “He is going to be fine. He is resting now, but we will have to keep him for maybe two or more days.”

       “Can I see him?”

       “Not yet. Get some sleep and come back tomorrow. He is not in any danger, and just needs some rest,” Dr. Patel assures her.

       “His hand?”

       “I should be talking to his sister, but I guess it’s OK. I know police partners are like a part-time marriage.” The Dr. grabs her hand, “he’s lost it.”

       “His hand?” Cochran reiterates.

       “Yes, I am afraid he has lost his right hand.” The doctor states frankly.

       “Oh no, Alan, I am so sorry.” Cochran begins to weep.

       “He’ll be OK, he just needs to sleep.” Dr. Patel turns to head back.

       “Doctor, Dr. Patel, how is our brave hero?” The chief stops her before she can leave.

       “He’s fine, he’s not in any danger. He just needs rest, and we should be able to release him in a couple of days.” Dr. Patel says and walks to the door.

       “Good, that’s good take care of him doc.” The chief says to her back. “Doctor, oh Dr. Patel,” the chief walks over to her as she stands in the doorway. “Do you have a private room we can borrow for a few minutes?”

       “Uh, talk to reception, I am sure they can help you.” The doctor smiles and exits backwards.

       “Wong, go find us somewhere private to speak.” The chief instructs the lieutenant.

       This can’t be good, Emily thinks to herself. She sits down and stares at the floor. The others remain standing. What do these people want? I am so tired. Samson is OK and I need sleep.

       “Lieutenant Cochran, we have something urgent to discuss with you.” The Chief says, “details we don’t understand.”

       Emily doesn’t answer. Her trance grows deeper and deeper as the immediate stress over Sam’s condition lifts. Sleep is catching her.

       “Get us all a cup of coffee, would you McKentridge.” The Chief asks rhetorically to the liaison officer.

       “Sure Chief, I saw a machine down the hall.” He walks off.

       “This will not take long Cochran, we just need to clear up a few things.” He repeats, but Emily is not listening. Romanivski sighs hard; her frown deepens into its usual pattern. She has sat on the police review board for five years, the last two as chair, but she is a predictable tiresome dance. CYA and competitive gain, it is a truism that all politics, the most difficult politics, are local.

       The Chief’s phone rings, “yes, 5th floor administrative conference room. Yes, 30 minutes total. I am sure that will be sufficient. What is the room number? 512 south wing, yes we will be right up.”

       The group sits at the end of a 12-person conference table. Wong arrives with a tray of coffees, sugars, and dry creamers. He sits it between everyone. The chief takes the first, black no additives.

       “Err, worse than in the department.” He utters and sits the Styrofoam cup down on the table.

       “Do we have to do this now, Chief?” Lieutenant Cochran asks. “It’s highly irregular.” She takes the last coffee and adds two sugars, no cream.

       “Yes, it is absolutely urgent that we get in front of this. I read your preliminary report, and I am not sure what to make of it?”


       “You fired three times hitting the suspect in the chest, and twice at his back, hitting him or something once, and a private detective once. You said the first shots to his chest did not stop the assailant, how can that be? Were you using a standard issue weapon?” Wong asks.

       “And how the HELL did one of the victims, one of your witnesses get cut in half?” Romanivski pounds on the table. “Witnesses don’t just get cut in half.”

       “You read my preliminary report? I thought the board didn’t get involved until final revue?” Cochran focuses on Romanivski. Emily’s eyelids squint almost shut and juts out her chin, as her indifference grows hot. Everyone at the table is starring at her as her face reddens.

       “Calm down, Lieutenant. All will become self-evident.” Chief Li’s voice of command tempers Cochran’s boil. She breathes in and out slowly, directly.

       “The mayor’s office wants all the details kept our of the media as much as possible. No corroboration from the Police or Fire and Rescue. We can’t afford a panic.” McKientridge chimes in as the voice of the mayor’s office.

       “You read what happened. I am not making it up.” Emily says. A tense quiet shadows the table as several file folders are taken out of the liaison’s briefcase and handed to each.

       “How could three 9mm slugs to the chest not stop your suspect? Was he wearing Kevlar or something else?” The Chief asks more forcefully.

       “No. I don’t know. He had a black leather duster on with the arm burnt off. His body was encased with some kind of framework.”

       “You saw a burst of white smoke or steam when he fell to the ground? After allegedly hitting him in the back?” Wong asks, his voice is steady, louder.

       “YES, yes. I don’t know why it, why the 9’s didn’t stop him. He could’ve been on PCP or something. We’ll know when the lab finishes tox-tests.” Cochran sighs and sips the coffee cup.

       “People, please. The minutia is not as important right now as getting a statement that makes sense to the public. We can’t perpetuate,” he picks up a copy of Cochran’s handwritten report, “a robot or monster decapitated several citizens and could not be stopped with direct hits from an officer’s gun at point blank.”

       “We can’t incite a speculation panic. We are not in Roswell.” McKentridge reinforces the Chief’s sentiments.

       “WHAT? The public has right to know if it is in jeopardy.” Romanivski points at the Chief as she stands up. “You can’t keep this buried, how will the police protect us. It is unconscionable to hide the facts. It’s a breach of public safety.”

       “Is it more safe to incite panic or have everyone arming themselves with whatever to protect their families from monsters or robots? Can you imagine how many more homicides we will have just from accidents and family disputes?”

       The liaison to the mayor’s office stands up, facing Romanivski. “I could draw a bead on you right now, as a monster.”

       “You son of bitch, that’s crazy talk. California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the state. Everyone’s not going to go out an buy a gun.” The review board chairwoman rebukes him. “Next you be telling me that pedophiles will be clamoring to change our gun laws.”

       “Pedophiles? I am protestant and we know who the peter-asses are.” A bead of sweat forms on McKentridge’s head.

       “People, people, this is not a board of supervisors meeting. Please we’ve got to come up with a rational statement to calm the public. How many people were at the crime scene, Cochran?” The Chief attempts to regain control.

       Lieutenant Cochran lays her head on the table; her coffee cup is empty. She rises up and her eyelids are barely open. He eyes are bloodshot, and she doesn’t have any more fluid for tears. “I don’t know Chief, about 30, I think.”

       “30 WITNESSES saw this, this man cut Ms. Hallowell in half?” Romanivski shouts.

       “Yeah, but what ever he was using cauterized the wound. There was not a lot of blood or viscera. It was like a magic trick. You couldn’t be sure about what the hell you were seeing, much less accept it.” Cochran answers.

       “Hum, it could have been an illusion? A magic trick?” Chief Li asks.

       “MAGIC? You are risking the public safety with a wave of your blue wand?” Romanivski is incredulous.

       McKentridge, the mayor’s liaison to the police department sighs, shakes his head, and rolls his eyes, “whatever.”

       “If it was a magic trick, Genie Hallowell is still dead.” Cochran lays her head back on the table.

       “I’ve an idea chief,” Wong stands up and everyone sits. Romaninski leans back deep in her chair with her arms folded across her chest. McKentridge on the opposite side of the table assumes a near reflection of her, scowling at her.

       “Ok Wong, what?” The chief, sitting at the edge of his seat looks over at Lieutenant Wong.

       “We lay responsibility on Ms. Genie Hallowell.” He starts.

       “WHAT! THAT’S ABSURD.” Romanivski yells.

       “No, no, hear me out.” Wong pleads.

       “What the fuck, Wong?” Cochran raises her head, “she may have been a whore, but she wasn’t a murderer. I should know; I spoke with her for several hours before the bar.”

       “Go on.” The chief opens his palm at Lieutenant Wong. “Everyone else, SIT THE FUCK DOWN.”

       “OK. Hallowell has a record. Cochran was interviewing her for a murder that is linked to the case. She was at the scene.”

       “She’s not a killer, and don’t forget her friend Seven Bardo.” Cochran emphasizes.

       “Bardo is a looser.” Wong adds, “As I recall you had an horizontal relationship with him?”

       “Yeah SO, that’s old news and irrelevant.” Lieutenant Cochran pushes her chair out from the table as if she is going to get up.

       “No wait Lieutenant, go on Wong.” The chief redirects the discussion.

       “Let’s say, what if one of her clients fell head over heels in love with her.” Wong continues. “You know the type, a geek of some sort, a computer loner whose only dates are paid.”

       “WTF.” Romanivski chimes in.

       “Yes, I think I understand,” the Chief continues, “he’s a Star Wars geek and creates his own light saber.”

       “Yeah, only it’s not real, but a lit sword of some sort, a katana. It is short enough to conceal in a sleeve.” McKentridge joins in on the brainstorm.

       “You three should move south to LA LA.” Romaninski reacts.

       “No, I think that would work.” The Chief says, “he is high on a variant form of meth or/or PCP or something new; he was a super geek, and he accidently kills her before being shot by police; you Cochran.”

       She rubs her eyes and shakes her head, “I think I am dreaming. Will someone please taser me to please wake me up?”

       “Listen Lieutenant Cochran, and I use your rank hypothetically now, this is your career on the line. You shot a bystander and the perpetrator killed someone after you allegedly shot him three times in the heart. How do you think the media and the community are going to run with that?”

       “Chief that is not what happened. What about Bardo? He was her friend and he’ll never go along.” Cochran adds.

       “Bardo, Bardo is a paid dick. He’ll do what he’s told if he wants to stay in San Francisco.” The chief says, “he’s your problem if you want to keep your rank, Lieutenant.”

       “You people are nuts.” Romanivski says and stands, folder in hands as if she is leaving. “I’ll never go along with this.”

       “Wait chairman,” McKentridge chimes in, “remember that sex-worker free clinic and referral you were attempting to set up in SOMA last year? I think the Mayor might be able to find funding for it in his discretionary budget. I am sure you could spin the murder to get a running start on raising the rest.”

       “What?” Romaninski pauses, “sale my soul to the mayor. We’ve already established you are living in a fantasy. Do you need to seek a shrink as well?”

       “No, but the Mayor has influential friends with deep pockets. I’ll bet your could start a foundation even.” McKentridge sweetens the deal. “You could name it after your daughter. Wasn’t she killed by her handler or someone?”

       Romaninski puff up her chest, shuts up, and sits down.

       “Ok, we’re agreed.” The chief actuates the cover story, “I’ll get my legal assistant to write up the report, and we’ll meet to ratify it. Then, Lt. Cochran will take care of her dick and submit it.”

       “And Alan Samson?”

       “Sergeant Samson will be promoted to Lt and retire with full benefits including medical.” Chief Li says.

       “The mayor will recognize him as a hero of the city and give him our highest award for public service beyond duty.” McKentridge adds.

       “We could name the health ward after him in our new Eva Romanivski Human Restoration Center.” Romanivski adds, content with the good work she is going to do, and for possilbe political gain. Maybe she will run for mayor, she thinks to herself, Mayor Romanivski.

       Emily is almost asleep, “can I go home now,” Cochran asks as she raises her head of the desk again. The room is empty.

       “We’ll have to cut those pipes off of the body tomorrow.” Dr. Raymond Caracass, Senior Pathologist for San Francisco Police Department, says to his assistant Carl Looming. “Cut the clothes off tonight, wash the body, and in to the cooler before you go home.”

       “Ok boss,” Looming responds.

       “I’ll fingerprint him when I return. I’m going to get a coffee; it’s been a long day. Do you want anything from Starbucks?”

       “A chi latte would be nice. I’ll get my wallet.”

       “Don’t worry. I’ll get it, and thanks for staying so late.” Caracass says as he turns and leaves the lab.

       Frank’s body lies face up on a stainless steel gurney. He still has his backpack on forcing his chin up in the air. “You were a handsome fellow,” Carl says out loud to himself. Frank is one of four new bodies in the morgue to process tonight On an average day, only one or two victims are in the cooler. Carl picks up a pair of razor-sharp, stainless steel snips and begins cutting Frank’s suit off. He cuts along the sides of the torso, through the coat and shirt at the same time. He cuts along the each sleeve and lifts the front of the outfit off in one piece, folds it, and places it in an evidence bag. He writes the case number, the date, the time, and his ID-number on the bag in permanent marker. Strange, there is no trauma around the bullet holes. Carl starts on the pants; he cuts down the side of each seam through Frank’s under garments, and lifts off both legs in one piece.

       Even stranger, Carl thinks to himself, this frame is not a costume. It appears to be attached to the bone through the skin. I think we are going to need a cutting torch tomorrow. Carl places a second gurney next to Frank’s and locks the wheels in place. He will have to roll the body to get the backside of Frank’s suit off. With the added weight of the frame, it takes a several attempts. Carl breaks out into a sweat as he strains to roll the body onto the new platform.

       “Hum,” Carl dips his surgical gloves into the puddle that formed under the body. He rubs it between his hands and lifts it to his nose for a smell. Odd, it smells like silicone, and where’s the dried blood from the 9’s?

       Carl walks away from the gurney to replace his gloves and sack the old ones. While at the supply cabinet, he hears a pop and whoosh. He looks over his shoulder, but can detect what caused it.

{DiagnosticReport#00000001.Boiler:true#00000010.Processor:true#00000011. Network:true#00000110.Conduit:true:95%#00000101.Conduit:false:right arm #00000110.Drive1:false#00000111.Drive2:true#00001000.Pressure System:true: 75%#00001001.PressureSystem:false:right arm#00001010.OpticalLensRight: true#00001011.OpticalLensLeft:false}


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