When New York City’s most famous man dies suspiciously, Homicide Detective John Keegan must follow a trail of corruption that may just lead to the top of city government…and the end of his career.
Successful, rich people usually don’t kill themselves. This is the thought that runs through Keegan’s mind when he learns his partner, Rick Calhill, has scored them the Ronald Mullins case. Mullins had it all, money, power, and a beautiful wife. If anyone had a reason to commit suicide, it wasn’t Mullins.
Despite this, the mayor, a good friend of Mullins, is convinced the one-time tycoon killed himself. So is practically everyone else. Except Keegan’s partner. At first, it appears Calhill hopes to use this case to catapult up the NYPD ladder. Then, a case full of corruption and intrigue unravels. So does Keegan’s life.
Keegan and Calhill investigate further, and find out Mullins was preparing a Senate run. They also discover marital problems, and friction between Mullins and his business partner. All of a sudden they can point a finger at half a dozen people who would want the software mogul dead. There is a pattern of corruption in Mullins’ life and in city government, it seems, but before Keegan can make it near an answer, he is in handcuffs, framed, with his whole life falling to pieces around him.
Suspended, threatened, and betrayed, Keegan decides to go it alone, armed only with his belief in justice, and a handful of people he has no choice but to trust. He learns truths about the people he respected most, truths he doesn’t want to know. In the end, he risks his job, and his life to solve the biggest case the city has seen in decades.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I'd tried to write espionage books and they weren't that good. So, one day, I decided to write a mystery. My father was a detective and this inspired me. I wrote the book for myself, and for the first time, didn't let anyone I knew read it. I submitted and two publishing houses accepted.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The short answer is they are all versions of me. That's not entirely true, but writers certainly pluck characters from their perspective. Even if I write about a celebrity, I am giving my perspective on them, so that depiction contains a bit of me in it. For my main character, I would say I took equal parts of my personality, my friends, and my father. In the end, he is not like any of us at all.
I think it was the night that I considered starting a heroin habit that things started to change. It wasn’t out of depression, or over a lost love. It was boredom. Boredom from the monotony of my life. I wanted something new, something that I could make my own, something that could transport me to a more exciting place. A place where I could feel contentment. A place where no one could touch me, or bother me. I knew it was foolish. I knew I wouldn’t ever do it. At least, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t. But it was the excitement of thinking about it that stimulated my creativity again, breathing life into my dead mind. I needed that, more than ever I suppose.
It was a Tuesday, a day which usually brought more boredom than usual. It was my day off, a day I should do my chores, pay my bills, go to the store, and stock my ever-bare cabinets. I hated Tuesdays. I preferred to work, to have something occupy my mind. Then, thoughts of doing drugs wouldn’t enter my idle mind. At work my mind had more pressing concerns that prevented this enveloping boredom. I had a good job. At least, I thought I did. I was a cop. And yes, I knew full well the implications of starting such a habit, considering my profession, but that hadn’t stopped hundreds of men who came before me in my line of work. They set the precedent. I only wished to follow it. I think that was the reason I didn’t do it. Someone else already had. Someone had taken that route. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be considered a pioneer I guess, a man who broke some sort of new ground. Heroin, though a good avenue to take if you need a change of pace, was not my new ground.
Instead of having to look for a way to break new ground, the way came to me. I guess that’s how things work. A case, one that would change the face of law enforcement itself, or at least it seemed so, would be the vehicle. I didn’t know it right then, but I think I sensed it. But, as always, I am getting ahead of myself. There’s more background information that needs to be gone over before I can get into that. I’m not one to expound on details, mainly because I think chatty people are annoying at best. So forgive me if I take on this quality for a little while. Unfortunately, it’s the only way.
So many things have been said about the NYPD that I am quite certain no civilian has any idea what really goes on here. I’ve watched the television shows that try to be a realistic portrayal of life on the New York job. They suck. I’m not being critical, it’s just impossible to convey real-life police images on a television screen. Actors living in Hollywood can’t comprehend what really goes on, and the writers don’t know either, unless they are real police officers. Even then, it doesn’t always come out right. For instance, COPS comes close, but the real cops become the actors, and the camera can change anyone. The minute they become an actor for the camera, they stop being cops, and some truth is lost. Basically, the job is boring most of the time. So, as much as I hate to admit it, there really isn’t much in the way of drama or theatrics on my job. Most of my caseload includes junkies killed by other junkies. To be honest, most of the time we don’t even bother prosecuting because the victims have no family, the accused are in bad enough shape as it is, and will be dead in a few weeks by a similar incident. All the talk about cleaning up the streets of New York is just that— talk. All they’ve done is move the filth underneath the carpet, so to speak. Trust me, no one wants to see what’s under that carpet.
So, I considered myself more of a garbage inspector, sort of a sanitational investigator, if you will. We collect the dead garbage, so that the live stuff has more room to live. Occasionally, we get a ripe case, something like a hooker apparently killed by a big shot corporate exec, but these cases usually end up in countless appeals and legal tangles that does nothing but occupy a cop’s time. Often, it’s our ‘shoddy investigative work’ that creates the mess, or at least that’s what the lawyers have determined. It’s gotten to the point where most of the department doesn’t even want a case thrown on their desk. Any one of them could lead to a demotion, or, more likely, a lawsuit. Since I started on the job, which had to be about nine years ago, I’ve gotten twenty-seven convictions, two hung juries, and about fifty dead-end cases. I’ve also seen three cops in my precinct get indicted on charges they weren’t guilty of. They were just scapegoats, victims of the criminal justice system, which was on the verge of collapse. Luckily, the people in the ivory tower haven’t gotten a hold of me yet, mainly because I have the good fortune of never getting a high profile case. Luck can only run for so long.
Like I said, it was a Tuesday, and I really thought of doing something to break the boredom. Why heroin? Well, a friend of mine, a guy who will go only by the name Jack, planted the seed in my mind almost fifteen years ago. I was a snot-nosed teenager, whining about how life was boring and how much I wanted to do something that was cool. Like I knew what cool was in the first place. I just wanted to do something that made me different. Jack, ever the helpful guy, told me about heroin.
“It’s better than sex man,” he said in that slow, almost drooling drawl that addicts take on after a few hits of the stuff. “It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.”
Considering that I hadn’t truly experienced what sex was like, jumping ahead to something even better right out of the chute seemed compelling. I hadn’t ever experimented with drugs, so they held a certain allure—a dark aura. Kids are attracted to dark auras. Compelled by them, if you will. What didn’t seem compelling was my father’s reaction if he ever found out. Not compelling at all.
“What? Come on. Sex is supposed to be the best thing ever. I mean, it is the best thing ever. How can that stuff be better?”
“It just is,” Jack said. He had a grin a mile wide. “Everyone who has done it says the same thing.
Images of drug dens came to mind. Men and women with no teeth lying on dirty couches. A mouse crawls across the floor and no one moves. I could see that something would have to feel amazing to let all that happen.
“How?” I asked.
“The only way for you to know is to do it yourself.” He produced a small wax-paper bag with brown powder in it. “Skip gym, and we’ll do this behind Shop-Rite.”
I looked at the bag for a moment, considering the power it contained. It would take me to another dimension, I thought, and I tingled at the idea of it. But, that’s all I did. I didn’t cut class when I was in high school. My mother, much to my misfortune, was friendly with the attendance lady, and she always made sure to contact good old Mom whenever I didn’t show up. Bitch.
“Nah, man, not today. Maybe some other time.”
Jack held the bag up and shook it. “Better than sex, man,” he said as he walked away toward the supermarket.
We didn’t talk much after that year. Jack got his “improved sex” too often and was hauled off to jail during junior year. I tried to look him up a few times after I got on the job, but I couldn’t find a trace of him. Probably dead. But the image of him holding that bag and saying, “Better than sex, man” has stayed with me ever since, clear as day. I never really wanted to try it, because I knew what it did to people. I had enough problems. But I got bored. I’d had plenty of sex in my life, some of it pretty good. The thought of doing something better that didn’t come with someone who you had to talk to, buy dinner, and basically keep happy seemed perfect. Well, almost. And I came real close.
It was a phone call which saved me from the brown demon. I sat in my living room, listening to some talk radio show where the host ranted about the problems of the world. It wasn’t that I cared what he had to say, he was a jackass, but I had nothing else better to do, and I didn’t feel like listening to music or watching the train wreck known as prime time TV.
The phone rang and I looked at it, one of those Cobra cordless jobs without an antenna, which I bought because it looked so cool on Seinfeld. I needed to move into the new millennium, soon. I debated about letting the answer machine get it and, in retrospect, maybe I should have done that.
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t bother to try to sound enthusiastic.
“You moron.” Of course, it could be anyone uttering those words to me, but this time it was someone from the department— Rick ‘Listen to Me Because I’ll Be Your Boss Someday’ Calhill. We worked on a few cases and he always called me whenever he needed advice. He was an okay guy, but he was too concerned about moving upward for my taste. I would never make it past Sergeant, if I even made it that far. I had the coveted gold badge, and I got it earlier than most did. I was happy with that. Rick wasn’t.
“Coming from you, that really doesn’t say much.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Rick asked.
“Sitting in my apartment, looking down on the street, waiting for the next stiff. Thinking about starting a heroin habit.”
“You gotta be kidding,” Rick said. I could tell he really didn’t hear what I said. He had other things on his mind.
I answered him with silence.
“Anyway, come meet me at Kasey’s.” I didn’t want to move.
“Something big. Real big. Major.” Rick sounded excited, but then, he always did. Like every twist and turn of life got him riled up. This added to why I didn’t like him.
“I don’t feel like going anywhere. I’m in my boxers, and the only clean clothes I have are the ones I’m wearing tomorrow.” I didn’t lie here.
“So put something dirty on. I’m sure it won’t be the first time. Trust me, you’ll want to hear about this one. It’s huge, and I want you in on it with me.”
I looked around the apartment, my tired eyes falling upon the empty pizza box from the day before. I could go meet Rick, or I could straighten up the place a bit.
It didn’t take long to make a decision.
“Give me twenty minutes.”
“I’ll have a drink ready for you.”
“Now you’re talking.”
I hung up, and started to get back into the clothes I’d thrown on the bed. Well, my foray into the world of drugs and scumbags would have to wait another day. I didn’t want to admit it then, but I was thankful to Rick for making the call. Whatever he had, even another bull case, would occupy my mind for a little while, and I could milk him for a couple of drinks. If what he had for me even closely matched his excitement level, a free dinner loomed on the horizon.
The watch my grandfather gave me told me it was just before nine. Fourth Avenue, right outside my window, had started to slow down. No more honking taxis and stressed out commuters, thank God. Everyone was stressed. It made me laugh. After being on the force for nine years, I realized how good I had it. I had a reason to be stressed, yet, I wasn’t. The people who passed by during rush hour below my window didn’t have a reason. They just needed to be shown better. They didn’t spend their lives looking at the wasted part of society, the broken lives and shattered bodies that occupy the underbelly of the city. I knew I judged them, and harshly. Many times I accused ‘regular’ people of merely working for the paycheck, unless they taught, were a priest, or served me drinks. Once I saw through a cop’s eyes, I had a hard time going back. Maybe I was jealous that some of those people plunked down what amounted to my rent money for Knicks tickets. Maybe I felt my job had more purpose. Cut me some slack. I had just come within two bad decisions of starting a heroin habit.
So, I got into the outfit that cost less than what those guys spend on dinner, strapped on my holster, and put on the beaten brown leather jacket I’d had since I’d started on the job. It didn’t have someone’s name on the inside label, but it was all mine, and all me. I walked into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face. When I looked in the mirror, a tired man looked back at me. It was just what I’d expected to see, but it was still enough to give me a jolt. I wasn’t old. I had just turned thirty-two. But I looked older to myself.
I know that most people, when they read a story told by someone, want to know what that someone looks like, so I’ll indulge that desire for a moment. I stand at about six feet, weigh just shy of the magic 200 mark, and have dark brown hair. Actually, as I looked in the mirror, I saw a war going on in that hair. The gray uniforms attacked the browns, and though it appeared that the browns held off that attack pretty well, the grays had the momentum. I actually looked forward to going completely gray. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I read somewhere that 83% of women find men with gray hair sexy. That was a comforting thought.
As far as what I look like, my eyes are brown, my features comparable to Martin Sheen before aged kicked his ass, and I think I’ve got it together well enough. Some women find me attractive, but that wears off after they deal with me for a week. Oh, and I am single. If you’re interested, and are a good-looking female who can tolerate an intolerable man, you can look me up through the New York Police Department. Detective John Keegan. Don’t send flowers. I don’t like them.
I finished gawking at the ravages of time on my face and got my gun, a chrome Smith and Wesson 380, and put it into my shoulder holster, under my jacket. I grabbed the pack of Marlboros on the TV, and shook the pack. About three left, so good old Rick would have to front the fifteen bucks Kasey’s stole from you for a pack of cigarettes as well. Price you gotta pay.
When I made it to Kasey’s, which sat four blocks east of me on Fourth, the place had a good crowd. A group of guys in suits sat at the end of the bar by the door, watching the Ranger game. Kasey’s was pretty much a cop joint, though I don’t really know how a place becomes something like that. It’s not near any precinct, and though it is a down to earth place, there’s really nothing there that stands out which would make it suitable for blue shirts. Those guys at the end were welcome to come in, but they didn’t fit, and it showed. They were the only ones talking over a whisper.
John, the bartender, nodded when I walked in. I’d known him for about three years, when he started there, and I think we had about two conversations that lasted more than a minute. Still, we had an understanding. He poured the drinks, I drank them and, if there was something interesting to talk about, we did.
A Billy Joel song played quietly on the jukebox, “The Entertainer,” I think. I never liked the man, or his music. That stuff was for Long Island kids who thought they were being bad by listening to a man sing about blowjobs or doing pot. What I did notice about Joel was that his fans were dedicated. You heard one of his songs on the jukebox, like “The Entertainer,” you knew for damn sure that “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “Piano Man,” and “Goodnight Saigon,” weren’t far behind. Yeah, this guy could sing about being in Vietnam, the same way I could sing about wearing a dress. But Christ, don’t go telling a Billy Joel fan that.
And I’ve only worn a dress once.
John gestured toward a booth in the corner, and I saw the back of Rick’s blonde head sticking out. I walked over to the booth, and Rick greeted me with a wide smile, the one he always wore when he smelled a good case. His sense of smell wasn’t particularly good and, at that moment, when I really thought about it, I realized how morbid he was being excited because someone had died. But we all got excited when someone died, especially someone of some importance. Sick, I know. Very sick.
“Jackass,” he said. I always used that word, and Rick abused it. Reason number three for why I generally couldn’t stand him.
“Coming from the Chief,” I replied, and sat down to a Dewar’s and Diet Coke before me. The ice hadn’t even started to melt. As a matter of fact, it still crackled. I liked that. It showed that Rick cared enough to wait for the right time to order the drink. Either that, or John knew better. It didn’t make a difference. It still made me happy.
I took a long sip, let the booze slide down my throat and warm it, then looked at Rick. “What’ve you got?” I asked, trying to sound somewhat interested.
“Oh boy.” He still smiled. I resisted the urge to smack him. I should have a trophy case for the awards I deserve for my restraint with him.
“Uh-huh.” Another sip.
“I’m telling you John, this is it. I just have a feeling. This is the one that’s gonna put me over the top.” See? It’s all about Rick.
“Like the pet store owner two months ago,” I said, flatly. I did like to rub it in sometimes. “That one was real huge.”
“No, this is different.” It must have been, because his voice was going up and down an octave as he talked. He got excited easily, but he really got going on this one. I must say, it got me a little interested to.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“You know Ron Mullins?”
I recognized the name, and raised my eyebrows. Everyone in the city knew him. Millionaire, philanthropist, general ‘guy living the dream’ and making us suffer the nightmare in comparison.
“The software guy?” I asked.
Rick nodded. “That one.”
“What about him?” He started to speak, but I interrupted. “What is it other than the fact he’s dead?” Gotta keep Rick on topic.
“He died in a car crash. But I think it was made to look like he committed suicide.”
“There are some details that don’t make sense. It doesn’t look like he even tried to stop.”
“That’s it? Come on. You’re reaching.”
“Maybe a little. But there isn’t much else. Plus, I smell a murder here.”
He made a good point. It was a major stretch, but there was some sense it in. The man was worth millions, and rumors floated around that he would enter the New York Senatorial race the next year. He had a gorgeous wife, two kids, a private jet, and just about everything else that goes along with being one of the luckiest bastards in the world. Suicide didn’t fit. Car accident could, but it didn’t hurt to look into it a bit further.
I reached into my breast pocket and pulled out my cigarettes. When I did, I realized there was only one left. I put it on my mouth, crushed the pack, and placed it on the table. I lit the cigarette, but before I could even inform Rick that he was buying me another pack, he clumsily reached into his jacket and pulled out one. Helluva guy, I gotta tell you.
“Thanks,” I said.
“No problem. I knew you’d ask for them. Fifteen bucks, too.”
“Price you gotta pay.”
“Yeah, anyway. The guy had no reason to kill himself. At least, no obvious reason. I already got on the horn with Geiger. He’s gonna let us handle this one,” Rick said. Geiger ran Homicide and, though a decent boss, he didn’t exactly fit the description of a nice guy when it came to work. I only wondered what Rick had told him to get a suicide case with such a high profile. I didn’t want to know, because I was involved.
“I can’t believe Geiger has allowed this for a car accident. And what makes you think I am interested?” I asked.
“Like I said, there is nothing else. The rest of the list consists of a dead homeless guy, a 95-year-old man they found rotting in his apartment, and an apparent gang shooting. I figured I was doing you a favor.”
He did. He also put me at risk. This case could have some serious ramifications, but I realized then that I needed just that; something with excitement.
“Okay. What have we got so far?”
“Well, it seems Mr. Mullins ran his $150,000 Mercedes into a wall off FDR Drive three hours ago,” Rick said. That brought a powerful image to my mind. What a way to go.
“I didn’t hear about it on the radio,” I said.
“A couple of uniforms were right around the comer, the street was near dead, and they were able to keep it away from the press so far. I’d say the networks will get wind of it within the hour.”
“So, he drives into a building, and dies. Maybe it was just a car accident.”
When dealing with the rich and famous, we followed up a bit more on things, I hate to say. Rick considered Mullins’ death a homicide because he was rich and famous. Those people get better treatment. If you crash your car into a wall, we cops basically just have you scraped off and move on.
“Maybe. But it is certainly worth delving into a bit, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps. They find a note or anything?” I asked. “Something to go on?”
“Nothing that I know of. His cell phone, which somehow survived the crash intact, was on,” Rick said. “Phone call right before impact, if the math is right.”
“Could have been thrown on by the impact,” I said. “Like a cement-wall-dial.”
Rick gave me a sideways look and shrugged. “Possible, but we’re already checking out who he called last.”
I took another swallow of the drink, emptying it. Without hesitation, John made eye contact with me and nodded again, moving toward the bottle of Dewar’s. What a guy. I looked around the bar. The guys in the suits were still there, and Rod Stewart, of all people, played on the jukebox.
“Okay, so we get the phone records and see who he called. Probably won’t lead anywhere.”
“If it doesn’t, then we certainly don’t have a suicide. Obviously, if he talked on the phone at the time before he killed himself, that call would be important, and the person on the other end will have some information for us,” Rick said, ever-hopeful.
I lit another cigarette. Man, do I miss being able to smoke inside. I know. Most people don’t. I believe the law now is that you can buy a cave and smoke in there on Wednesdays after three. That seems fair.
This case was going to be complicated. Maybe a dead homeless guy case would serve me better. But something nagged at the back of my mind, something about wanting to be stimulated. The opportunity lay before me. I had to take it, for my own sanity.
“How long before we have anything?” I asked.
“Guy down at the station said to call him a little after ten. I say we pay a little visit to whoever Mullins called tonight, see what they talked about.” Rick beamed now, like a little kid who gets to drive the car on his Daddy’s lap. Actually, he bubbled so much with excitement that I felt my own stomach tense a little. That reminded me that my stomach was empty.
“Okay, I think that’s a good idea. We’ve got about an hour, so why don’t we grab a bite here while we wait.”
“It’s after nine. I never eat after nine. Anything you eat late ends up on your gut.” That’s the third reason I thought about strangling Rick almost every day, if you’re counting. Rick obsessed about health, and staying in shape. I didn’t. He was a year younger than me, but built a lot better. He always drank protein shakes, ate health bars, and took vitamins. He was a good specimen, and certainly didn’t fit the donut-eating cop stereotype. He looked like a Hollywood actor. Okay, maybe a soap opera guy. Unfortunately, if you are interested, he is married, with two kids. You could send him flowers, though. He’d probably like them.
“Well, I’m starving, and I do eat when I am hungry. I don’t care what time it is,” I said.
Rick sighed. “Okay, get what you want.”
Chicken fingers and a burger sounded pretty good to me. I gestured to John, who sent the waitress over, a twenty-something blonde who looked way too good to waitress at Kasey’s. Okay, maybe I was horny. Hadn’t been laid in over a month. But, I had good old Rick there, and he’d probably say that having sex after nine was no good for your heart or something like that.
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