Excerpt of Clear Blue Sky
Clear Blue Sky by
It's the beginning of a gorgeous September in The City That Never Sleeps. Summer may be officially over, but Labor Day Weekend means ethnic festivals and dancing in the streets and lots of overtime for police officer Tony Cavalucci. When crowd control gets unusually dangerous, Tony starts to wonder why he even does this kind of work. And going home doesn't bring him any more respect. His neurotic and dramatic family disapproves of both Tony's fiance and the positive changes in his life.
But Tuesday is coming, and Tony hasn't seen anything yet.
On September 11, Tony finds himself in brand-new territory. As he fights to survive and help others survive as well, he learns again what family means, what faith means, and what life itself means. This fast-paced and deeply moving page-turner is at times funny, at times horrible, and always full of humanity, compassion, and the presence of God.
In New York City, September is a beautiful month. The summer humidity is gone, and the skies are warm and clear. It’s also the time of street festivals throughout the five boroughs of the city. Neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island close off their streets, and people bring their picnic tables and grills out from the backyard for block parties. We sit and schmooze with neighbors we’ll argue over parking spots with for the rest of the year and talk about who died, who moved, who got arrested, and how bad the neighborhood’s getting. We also have the San Gennaro feast, with the annual procession of the statue of the patron saint of Naples paraded through the streets of Little Italy, and the smell of sausage and peppers, zeppoli, and cannolli from the street vendors fills the air. Labor Day starts it off with the West Indian Day parade on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.
September 11, 2001, was a beautiful clear day with a soft wind blowing from the north. It was also the electoral primaries in New York City. With new term restrictions, there was a mass exodus of a lot of the incumbent locals, and the new blood wasn’t impressing any of us. The last thing we needed was another mayor who hated cops and handed the streets back to the perps.
But all of this was forgotten at 8:46 that morning when American Airlines flight 11 slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center and began the darkest day New York City has ever seen. This forever changed not only our skyline but also the lives of everyone in our city. And the soft winds that blew that day were of smoke and fire and death.
My name is Tony Cavalucci, and this is my eleventh year as a New York City cop. I’ve spent most of my career working midnights in a sector car in Times Square. My precinct is in Midtown Manhattan, in a detached, brown brick building off 9th Avenue that enhances the gloominess of the mostly commercial, litter- and graffiti-filled block.
I came here six months out of the Academy at twenty-two years old, and I’ve worked patrol here ever since. I was hoping to be “out of the bag,” as we call it, and in the plainclothes Anti-Crime Unit before the end of the year. That move would eventually take me from Anti-Crime to Robbery in Progress—or RIP, as we call it—with my silver shield, and then on to the Precinct Detective Unit with my gold shield.
It was September 2, the Sunday before Labor Day, and even though it was 70 degrees outside, it was hot in the precinct. It would take a couple of weeks for the cooler air to make its way inside, and I was already starting to sweat under my vest. I was standing by the radio room with a cup of coffee, waiting for my partner, Joe Fiore, to come up from the locker room. I had a couple of minutes before roll call to shoot the breeze with Vince Puletti, the old-timer who runs the radio room. He was standing at the open door, with the ancient cassette radio on the battered metal desk tuned to the oldies station. He was listening to either Norm N. Nite or Cousin Brucie; I couldn’t tell with the static. The wire hanger wrapped in foil that he’d stuck in the spot where the antenna snapped off wasn’t helping, and I wondered how he could listen to it that way.
Vince has at least thirty years on. He’s big and beefy and won’t give the time of day to any cop with less than five years on. He’s bald except for the band of hair around the back of his head and has hands like sledgehammers. He reminds me of the bulldog on the Tom and Jerry cartoons; all he needs is a spike collar around his neck. He smokes two packs of Marlboros a day, has high blood pressure, and is so big in the gut he can’t see his shoes anymore. He’s been having some stomach problems lately, but it obviously isn’t affecting his weight. He puts the max into his deferred comp and spends most of his time watching his investments and hoping he can retire without having to work another job.
“How’s it goin’, Vince?” I asked, shaking his hand.
“Ah, can’t complain,” he said, grabbing his belt and hoisting up his pants over his stomach like he always does. They slid right back down, so I don’t know why he bothers.
John Quinn from the four to twelve handed Vince his radio and said, “I’m outta here.”
“Have a good one,” Vince called after him and stuck the radio into one of the chargers mounted on the wall behind him. I watched the charger lights go from red to yellow to green and back to red to show the battery was charging.
We heard the front door open, and we both turned to look as one of the new rookies came in. He stopped in front of the flags stationed just inside the door, saluted, and headed toward the stairwell to go upstairs.
“Is it that time again already?” I asked.
“Yeah, we got the rookies coming in tonight,” he said, shaking his head. “Sorriest bunch I’ve seen yet.”
Vince was talking about the brand-new rookies, the ones that have been writing summonses in their field training units since they got out of the Academy in July. Tonight would be their first roll call with the squad.
I’ve known Vince for almost eleven years, and every year when the new rookies come in he says they’re the worst cops he’s ever seen and how if this is all we got, the department is going down the tubes.
“Joe Fiore.” Vince smiled past me as my partner came upstairs from the locker room.
“Hey, Vince. Hey, buddy,” Fiore said, shaking our hands.
I started working with Fiore last June when my partner John Conte blew out his knee and needed surgery. Sergeant Hanrahan put me with Fiore, saying there was a lot I could learn from him. Fiore only had a couple more years on the job than me, so I didn’t know what the boss was talking about. Looking back, he was right. There was a lot I could learn from Fiore, but it wasn’t about police work. When I met him I was depressed from just breaking up with someone I’d been seeing for a few years, I was in the bar more than I was home, and I was toying with the idea of eating my gun. Fiore stood by me when I crashed and brought me into his family and his church. He also introduced me to Michele Dugan, the woman I’ll be marrying this November. I’ve changed a lot this year, and when I get up in the morning and look in the mirror I’m not disgusted with what I see there anymore. I’m probably closer to Fiore than I am to my own brother. To be honest, he’s the best friend I’ve ever had.
“Ready for tomorrow?” Fiore asked me, smiling.
“If I didn’t need the money, I’d be home eating hot dogs,” I said.
“You guys working the West Indian Day parade?” Vince asked, shaking his head. “You’re outta your mind. You couldn’t get me to work that on a bet.”
Before Vince could go off on a tirade about the parade, Joe and I made our way over to the muster room, where roll call is held. The room is about thirty feet long by thirty feet wide with a wall of gated windows on one side. The other walls have crime stats, bios of wanted perps, and precinct club news that nobody reads. I saw a hand truck full of boxes taped shut. There must have been a sting operation on the four to twelve, and the boxes were taped shut to give the property clerk something to do in the morning. There were also two bicycles with evidence voucher sheets stapled around the handlebars leaning against the desk. The windows were open to let in some of the cool air and exhaust fumes, and I could detect the faint smell of urine, since the windows face the alley between the buildings.
The room was buzzing as we waited for Sergeant Hanrahan to give the attention to the roll call order. Hanrahan is a good boss. He’s been my sergeant for a lot of years now, and except when he put me with Joe, I’ve never had a problem with him. He’s in his late thirties, about six feet tall, with dark hair and deep blue eyes. He has some gray in his hair, but he’s got a baby face, so it doesn’t age him.
“The color of the day is white,” Hanrahan said, giving the citywide color plainclothes cops use to identify themselves as police and keep them from getting shot if they’re stopped by uniformed officers and reach for their badges.
Hanrahan went through his usual spiel, going from the color of the day right into the sectors.
“Adam-Boy, 1886, five o’clock meal,” which designated their sector, the number of the patrol car they’d be driving, and their meal hour.
“Charlie-Frank, 1883, four o’clock meal.”
O’Brien was recently back from a stint in the pension section after an off-duty domestic incident involving his wife and the guy she was sleeping with. She claimed he threatened to shoot her and let off a round in the house. He was cleared of discharging his weapon a while ago, and last week he was cleared of the death threat and finally allowed back to work.
Sergeant Hanrahan went through David-George, which is me and Joe, and Eddie-Henry, which is Rooney and Connelly.
Midtown is divided up into sectors. The sectors in my command include the Garment District, 34th Street, Port Authority, Penn Station, Grand Central Station, Madison Square Garden, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and 42nd Street between 7th and 8th avenues, which all the old-timers call the Deuce.
When he finished up the sectors and got to the foot posts, there were a couple of new names, one of them being Nick Romano’s replacement. Nick worked with us until last spring when he went over to FDNY.
“Snout?” Hanrahan said it like a question, and it came out with a choke.
“Here,” a female answered, and we all swung our eyes toward her. She was tall and skinny, with curly dark blond hair and the fair skin and smattering of freckles that pegged her as Irish.
“Look at the Snout on her,” Rooney called out.
A couple of snorts went up around the room as Hanrahan shook his head and said, “Robbery post 4.” He gave Bruno Galotti robbery post 5 and called out two more new names. One of them was Walsh, a massive, dopey looking blond-haired guy. His upper body was huge, and his biceps were straining against the sleeves of his uniform.
“Here,” Walsh boomed, his voice deep and thick.
I looked over at him and thought, He’s exactly what you want with you when it all hits the fan and you need some muscle.
“We’ve got a new interim order about tasering emotionally disturbed persons,” Hanrahan said, looking at a piece of paper on the podium. “There was an incident up in the Bronx where an EDP had soaked himself with gasoline earlier, and when the taser hit him he lit up like a Roman candle.” He looked around the room. “So if you have an EDP who looks wet or you smell gasoline, let me or one of the sergeants know so we don’t have a repeat of this occurrence.”
This kind of thing happens sometimes. We try to lock up an EDP, and they’re so psycho they wind up getting hurt. A lot of times we can’t get close enough to them to know if they smell like gasoline or if they’re soaking wet before they get tasered. It’s not like we have time to ask them, or like they’re willing to cooperate with us, but we end up looking bad anyway.
Hanrahan finally wrapped it up with, “You new guys”—he looked around the room at the rookies—“make sure you don’t walk up together to your foot posts. Try to stay separate.” They used to tell us this in the Academy. A group of rookies is an easy target, and someone who hates cops enough would get more bang for his buck with a bunch of rookies if he was looking to hurt us.
“Cavalucci, Fiore, Connelly, Rooney, and Davis, see me after the roll call,” Hanrahan said as he grabbed his papers off the podium. As we approached him he said, “Make sure you’re back at the house by 7:20 so we can be on the road by 7:30,” which was the time we would leave the precinct to head out to the West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn.
“You working the detail, boss?” Rooney asked. “You must really need the money.”
“I got four kids in Catholic school, my oldest is in high school,” Hanrahan said. “Five grand a year just for her tuition.”
“You should move to Long Island,” Joe said. “You could send your kids to public school and save money on tuition.”
“Yeah, and pay ten grand a year in taxes. No thanks, I’ll stay in Queens,” Hanrahan said, walking toward the desk to give Lieutenant Coughlin the sectors so he could call them in to Central.
“Central” stands for central communications, the familiar unknown voices that transmit our jobs from the 911 operators. The Central operators each work one division made up of three commands. When 911 gets a call, they dispatch it to Central, who then transmits to us.
When we went back over to the radio room, Vince was scowling at a baby-faced rookie standing over by the desk talking to Lieutenant Coughlin from the midnights.
The rookie he was watching now, a kid named Perez, made the mistake of letting Vince overhear him telling a couple of his buddies to stay away from the old-timers ’cause they’ll get you in trouble. Vince was standing with his arms folded and a scowl on his face, staring the kid down, which is mild compared to what he used to do.
“What’s the matter, Vince?” I asked as he glared at Perez.
Vince pointed over at the desk and said, “Look at this meatball.” He was shaking his head in disgust.
Perez had come out of the back by the cells with a couple of EMS guys and a perp in a wheelchair wearing a Bronx party hat—a bloodstained, gauze-wrapped turban—from having his head busted.
“What’s the collar for?” the lou was asking Perez.
“Past assault,” Perez said.
“Past assault? Past assault? Pass the pepper, you moron!” Vince yelled. “It’s assault in the past!”
Perez got red in the face when everyone around us started laughing. “He tossed a bottle into a crowd of people outside a bar on 8th Avenue. They caught up with him at the light on 44th Street. Officers Alvarez and Rivera locked up the two guys that hit him.”
I saw the corner of the lou’s mouth twitch a little. We call Alvarez and Rivera Rice and Beans, but Perez wasn’t chummy enough to call them that.
“Is he going to the hospital?” the lou asked.
“Yeah,” Perez said with a nod, looking nervously at Vince.
Vince stared at him until he went out the front doors of the precinct. Terri Marks was working the desk. She’s half in love with Fiore and was looking at him sideways through her black-eyelined silver blue eyes.
“So when are you gonna leave your wife for me?” she asked.
“It’s never gonna happen, Terr,” Joe said with a smile.
I shook my head and laughed. We go through this just about every night. Terri’s divorced, no kids, with the wear and tear of eighteen years on the job. Vince says she was beautiful once, before the years and the booze got the best of her. For all her show about wanting Fiore to fool around with her, I have the feeling she’d be disappointed if he did.
We grabbed our radios and Bruno Galotti and went out to our RMP. We grabbed the copy of the Daily News that Rice and Beans had left in the car from the four to twelve and threw our hats on the backseat. The car was pretty clean. Before I met Fiore I used to lose it and throw all the trash out onto the street if someone left my car dirty. Now I usually clean it out without saying anything, but a couple of times I got mad enough to dump the garbage outside their locker.
We drove to the corner of 9th Avenue and threw Bruno out of the car to get us coffee and the Post. I used to throw Nick Romano out of the car to get our coffee, but since he went over to the fire department, Bruno’s all I got to boss around. He’s not as much fun as Nick. He never argues with me.
Mike Rooney pulled his RMP up behind us. Rooney’s the clown of our squad. He’s a big Irishman who’s built like a linebacker and drinks like a fish. He’s got a mop of brown hair, blue eyes, and a big belly laugh. He’s a good cop and probably would be a lot further up the ranks if he could shut his mouth and watch the drinking. He’s the kind of guy they’re talking about when they say, “God invented alcohol so the Irish wouldn’t rule the earth.”
He started singing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore,” over the patrol car’s PA system. I shook my head and ignored him. He was always calling me, Joe, and Bruno dagos and greaseballs. Bruno takes offense at any kind of slur against Italians. He was born in Brooklyn, but his parents were off the boat and they speak Italian at home. He’s not too bright, and when he got the flag of Italy tattooed on his arm he got the colors backwards and wound up with Portugal or something.
While Joe and I are loyal Italians, stuff like that doesn’t bother us. My fiancée, Michele, is only half Italian, and my grandmother says when I have kids I’ll dilute the Italian blood. The way I see it, if I dilute the blood my son won’t look like a goombah and my daughter won’t have hair on her upper lip.
Bruno, Joe, and I all look Italian. Joe is a couple of inches taller than me, about six foot. He has dark wavy hair and brown eyes, but his skin is lighter. Bruno and I both have thick black hair and olive skin. Bruno has big brown eyes and a gullible look that reminds me of Baby Huey. My eyes are light, almost hazel, but I still look like I should be wearing six gold chains and looking for the hood ornament to my caddy.
“Did Geri drop your change again?” I asked Bruno when he got back in the car and handed Joe and me our coffee.
“Yeah,” he said. “I think she does it on purpose.”
“Nothing gets past you, Bruno,” I said.
Geri works midnights at the deli and is always sexually harassing the cops in one way or another. She drops our change so we have to bend over and get it and find her smiling when we stand back up. She has a couple of perverted T-shirts about calling 911 and says a lot of raunchy things about handcuffs and nightsticks. Joe and I pretty much ignore her, but her and Rooney hit it off, and I was sure he’d be in there for the next ten minutes joking back and forth with her.
“Why is Vince always like that to the rookies?” Bruno asked as we drove up 8th Avenue.
“That’s nothing,” I said. “You should have seen what he was like when I came on.”
“It’s like he loves to humiliate us,” Bruno said.
“Be glad that’s all he does,” I said. “Remember when the rookies were coming out of the Academy with 9mm’s and the old-timers still had the .38’s?”
“I think that was before my time,” Bruno said.
“I remember it,” Fiore threw in. “The old-timers had to qualify, and these guys were coming out of the Academy with them. I was working out in Queens then, and I remember a lot of the old-timers not wanting to use the Glock.”
“Exactly,” I said. “And Vince took a real dislike to one of the gung-ho rookies. The rookie was standing at attention in the front of the roll call with a couple of his Academy buddies, and Vince stood behind him. Vince had taken the bullets out of his .38 Smith & Wesson and started dry firing the gun next to the rookie’s ear—click, click, click—slowly and methodically.
“The rookies were looking at each other, wondering if the old-timer was psycho enough to shoot them in the back. The sarge at the time was also an old-timer who was amused by the whole thing. He stopped and said, ‘Alright, cut it out now,’ but he laughed when he said it. The rookies looked at each other again, shocked that the sarge didn’t blast Vince. The sarge gave them a wicked smile, and I watched the color drain from their faces. When the sarge went back to the roll call, Vince started dry firing in rapid succession—click click, click—and by the time he hit the sixth round, one of the rookies fainted dead on the floor.”
As I drove past 40th Street I saw the group of rookies, including Snout, walking together up 8th Avenue. Bruno waved to them, but they didn’t see him. They looked more promising now that they disobeyed a direct order from the boss. It’s the ones like Perez who do everything they’re told that you gotta watch.
I pulled over at 44th and 8th to let Bruno out.
“Pick me up for my meal?” he asked.
“No problem, Bruno,” I said, thinking of Nick, who used to ask me the same thing every night.
I started to pull away from the curb, when Central came over the radio with, “I got a job in the South. A female is being harassed by a group of people and a man on a horse at four-five and eight.”
I gave Fiore a “What’s this?” look and saw Galotti on the sidewalk fumbling with his radio. “Robbery post 5. I’ll take that job,” he said.
Snout came over the air with, “Uh, robbery 4 . . . robbery post 4. I’ll respond to that too.”
Central came back with “Which job are you responding to, robbery post 4?” Central likes to mess with the rookies too.
“Uh, the horse job.”
Someone yelled, “Rookie!” and horse snorts and neighs started coming over the air.
“Robbery post 4, that’s at four-five and eight.” I could hear the smile in Central’s voice. Then all the rookies chimed in.
“Robbery 3 to Central.”
“Go ahead, robbery 3.”
“I’m gonna go to four-five and eight also.”
Robbery 7 cut off robbery 3. “I’m going too.”
Central cut in with, “Units, you’re cutting each other off.”
“We better go over there to help them out,” Joe said.
“This should be interesting,” I said. I love working midnights. People are always nuttier when the sun goes down.
Joe waved Bruno over, and he got back in the car. I threw the lights on as I approached 45th Street. On the east side of 45th and 8th we saw a guy on a horse standing a little south of 45th Street near the curb.
I pulled up next to the horse, just past the entrance to the Milford Plaza. I saw two guys, one with a camera, laughing while a Park Avenue–looking female talked on a cell phone while staring them down.
The horse was big and brown, with a black mane and tail. It started doing a little nervous dance, I guess from the turret lights. The tail swished, the ears came up and back, and it jerked its head up and back every time the red light on the turret swung around.
There was a hot dog cart on the corner where a vendor wearing a white sweatshirt with a blue apron over it was selling Sabretts to the theater crowd. It was late for him to be out, but the line was three deep as people stopped to get a hot dog and see what was going on. About ten feet down from the cart, a table was set up where a guy was selling framed prints of different spots around the city.
We walked toward the small crowd that had gathered, and the cameraman walked over to the guy on the horse and pointed his camera lens down at the street. He pulled his headset off, and it hung around his neck.
“Officer, I called you,” the female on the cell said. She had dark hair and blue eyes, was maybe in her midthirties, and wore a black dress and pearls. Looked like money.
“What happened?” I asked.
“I was coming from the theater,” she said, pointing up toward Schubert Alley, “and these men approached me and started asking me questions. When I wouldn’t answer their questions they started yelling and cursing at—”
“Officer, we have a permit,” one of them cut her off with his British accent. “We’re documentary filmmakers.”
I guess he was the mouthpiece, because he held up his hand to one of the other guys who started walking over. I didn’t like him already.
“Excuse me, I was talking,” the woman said, staring at him. “As I was saying”—she looked at me—“when I told him not to curse at me, he pushed me.”
“He pushed you? Give me the permit.” Joe glared at him. He took the permit and press card and as he was reading asked, “What’s with the horse?”
“People see the horse, and they stop to talk and pet it. It gives us an opportunity to interview them, uh, question them.” The mouthpiece said it like Joe was too stupid to understand what interview meant. He was tall, over six foot, with blue eyes and dark hair. He was the best looking one out of the group, confident, and used to getting his way.
“I did not stop to talk to you or pet your horse!” the female said, raising her voice.
“What are you doing here?” Joe asked him.
“We’re just interviewing people randomly,” he said, a smile pasted on his face.
“About what?” Joe wasn’t smiling.
“The city nightlife in Times Square.”
“So why is she telling me you’re cursing at her?” I threw in.
He hesitated. “We weren’t. We were just asking questions, and she got mad.”
“What kind of questions?” I asked.
“Do you feel safe walking the streets at night?” he said with a shrug.
The female cut in. “I told him I wasn’t interested in answering his questions, and he asked if I worked in a peep show, what kind of sex I liked.” She added some other stuff that they said that was pretty gross. She wasn’t the type to approach from that angle. They were probably just mad that she blew them off, so they started mouthing off. I guess they didn’t expect her to call us.
“Officer, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” the mouthpiece said, dismissing her.
I looked over at her. She was upset enough to call us, and I didn’t think she was lying. I looked back at them. There were four of them: one with the camera, one on the horse, a female, and the guy talking to me. The female was holding a tripod and had what looked to be a camera bag slung over her shoulder. They were trying hard to look artsy, unshaved, and shabby in their designer clothes. Instead, they reminded me of the squatters down in Alphabet City, where they move into abandoned buildings acting like they own the place.
I heard the jingling of cuffs and the clanging of nightsticks as the stampede of rookies came running up behind me.
“You got a permit for that horse?” We all turned, speechless, to see Walsh, the muscle-head rookie, stomping toward the guy on the horse.
“Whoa, hold on there, tiger,” I said, grabbing his arm. “You only need a permit for a horse and carriage, not a horse.”
“Really?” Walsh asked, cementing the public’s theory in general that cops are stupid. I was glad he didn’t start scratching his head.
“Yeah,” I said. “It’s the same thing as riding a bike. You just have to obey the traffic laws.”
The rookies gathered around us, still out of breath from running up 8th Avenue.
“Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do,” I said. “Show us the tape when you were interviewing her.” I pointed to the female in the black dress. “If nobody was harassing her, you can go on with what you were doing.”
“You’re not allowed to see this tape. It’s protected under the First Amendment. I know my rights,” the mouthpiece said as he shook his head at me like I was too stupid for him to talk to. I hear people talk about their rights all the time, but it’s much more annoying with a British accent.
“You’re an American citizen?” Joe asked, a lot nicer than I would have.
I smiled at his blank look, but he regrouped quickly enough and said, “I have a permit.”
“I don’t know, Joe,” I said to Fiore. “You think documentary filmmakers get diplomatic immunity?”
Joe smiled at him. “Maybe you can call over to the UN and see if they can help you out with that.”
“Buddy, come here,” I called to the guy with the camera. “And you, John Wayne”—I pointed to the one on the horse—“off the horse.”
They looked at each other.
“Today,” I said.
He got off the horse, still holding the reins as the cameraman walked over to me.
“I know my rights,” the mouthpiece said, getting louder.
“Listen,” I said. “We can straighten this all out and avoid going back to the precinct if you let us watch the tape.” I turned back to the cameraman. “Now show us the tape.”
He lifted up the camera for me to look at, and the mouthpiece jumped in front of him. “I told you, you can’t see the tape. I have a permit. I know my rights.”
“I know your rights too,” I said, half yelling. “And that camera is investigatory evidence, the only evidence we have of what happened.” The louder I got, the more he backed down.
“Now, you have two choices,” I continued. “One”—I counted off on my fingers—“you can show me the tape, or two, Officer Galotti here is gonna lock you up and let a judge decide whether or not we can see it.”
Galotti gave me a blank look and then nodded his head.
“That’s right,” Galotti said, reaching for his cuffs. I saw the other rookies reach for theirs and move in closer, itching for a collar that didn’t involve force or gunshots.
“You don’t have a permit to harass people,” I said. “Let us look at the tape. If you didn’t do anything wrong, you can leave.”
The female in the black dress was looking pretty smug, so I knew there was something on the tape they didn’t want us to see.
I heard Fiore get on the radio, “South David to Central.”
“Go ahead, South David.”
“Can you have the sergeant respond to four-five and eight, nonemergency.”
“This camera is worth over a hundred thousand dollars!” the mouthpiece was yelling. “It’s not ours, it’s the production company’s. You can’t take it!”
About three minutes later Sergeant Hanrahan pulled behind my RMP, and him and his driver, Noreen, got out of the car. Noreen put her hat on over her hair, which was falling out of the clip on top of her head.
“What’s going on?” Hanrahan asked.
Joe pulled him to the side. He turned his back to us while he filled in the sarge, talking low so as not to incite anyone. Hanrahan was nodding, and every once in a while he would look over at one of them and nod.
The mouthpiece was still in my face. The cameraman was next to him, and the guy with the horse and the female stood by the street. The female was short, with a mop of curly brown hair. She started to pet the horse’s neck, talking quietly to it.
“Okay, this is what we’re gonna do to clear this up,” Hanrahan said loudly, walking back toward us. “Either we see the film, or we lock you all up and take the camera.”
“No!” the mouthpiece said, shaking his head. “I know my rights—you can’t take the camera.”
“Wrong,” Hanrahan said and turned to us. “Joe, grab the camera.” He pointed to the cameraman and the mouthpiece. “Tony, Bruno, lock them up.” He spotted Snout with the other rookies and gave her a “Come here” signal. “Snout, grab the female.” Then he got on the radio and had Rooney and Connelly respond to take the complainant back to the precinct.
The complainant smiled. “That’s fine with me.” She looked at her watch. “Will I be long?”
“Shouldn’t be,” I said, shaking my head.
She looked at the mouthpiece and said, “It’s worth it.”
I said, “C’mon, get up against the car,” as Joe took the camera and placed it on the sidewalk.
As I put the mouthpiece on the hood of the RMP, he said, “You can’t do this! I know my rights.”
“Just show them the tape!” This was from the curly-haired female that Snout was cuffing. He gave her a look that told me we were gonna lock them up anyway once we saw it.
“Bruno, you gotta lock him up too,” Joe said, nodding toward the guy with the horse.
Once we got the four of them handcuffed and spread-eagle against the RMP, I said, “Now, this is New York City nightlife. You want me to get this on tape for your documentary? We’ll even pass the peep show on the way down to the precinct if you want.” I guess they didn’t think that was funny, and none of them said another word.
“What do we do with the horse?” Bruno asked Hanrahan.
“I’ll ride it,” Walsh jumped in.
When you’re a rookie you always volunteer to do stuff like this. As time goes on you learn to shut your mouth and let the new schmuck take it.
“You know how to ride a horse?” Hanrahan asked, skeptical.
“Sure,” Walsh said with a shrug. “How hard could it be?”
Hanrahan looked at Joe and me. “Either of you know how to ride a horse?”
We both shook our heads no.
“Boss, I got it,” Walsh said. “I’ve ridden before.”
“I don’t think pony rides at the zoo count,” I said.
Hanrahan smiled and shrugged his shoulders. “Let him ride it.”
Walsh got on the horse, putting his left foot in the stirrup and hopping off his right foot to propel himself over. As he grabbed the saddle, the horse started to turn in a circle.
“I gotta see this,” Hanrahan said, shaking his head.
As Walsh pulled the reins to the right, the horse started going the other way in a circle. Walsh tried to nudge it forward with his knee and actually said “Giddyap,” but the thing wouldn’t go forward. He gave it a small kick in the side, and the horse took off. He pulled back the reins and said “Whoa,” and the horse stopped and started to walk backwards.
“Anybody else know how to ride a horse?” Hanrahan called over to the rookies and got a bunch of blank looks. He looked over at Walsh, who was now kicking the horse in both sides, sending it into a full gallop and almost flipping himself backwards. We heard the screech of tires as a cab entering the crosswalk at 45th Street almost picked off Walsh and the horse. The guy that’d been riding him started to move toward Walsh, but I grabbed him. “Nothing’s gonna happen,” I said.
Once the light changed, Walsh made it across 8th Avenue okay, heading west on 45th Street.
“We’ll follow him to make sure he doesn’t kill himself on the way back,” Joe said.
Hanrahan nodded, his eyes still on Walsh.
We put the horseman and the cameraman in our car and the female and the mouthpiece in the sergeant’s car with Snout. Bruno got in the car with us and radioed Central.
“Robbery post 5 to Central.”
“Go ahead, robbery post 5.”
“I got four under and a horse at four-five and eight.”
“That’s zero zero twenty hours, robbery post 5.”
Clear Blue Sky by F.P. Lione published by Revell Books
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Used with permission.