Death of a Friend
May Brubaker settled to her knees and crouched down below the wall’s top line of bricks. The walled entrance to the new upmarket condo was hot from being in the sun all day and now giving off its stored heat at the end of the day. The heat was seeping through Brubaker’s body armour causing beads of sweat to trickle down her back. The apartment block nestled between two other complexes on the newly developed LA waterfront. In the dim late September evening light, she fingered her Glock special and slowly slipped the safety to off. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly
“I heard that, Brubaker,” Gary Mitchell whispered.
Brubaker smiled and let out a soft sigh.
“Are you ever going to forgive me for that?” She hissed.
“Never,” hissed Mitchell in response, amusement in his voice.
Mitchell was a few feet in front of Brubaker, crouching behind a similar wall across the entrance pathway. Three years ago, Brubaker had been partnered with Mitchell as beat officers in downtown LA. The two had an instant rapport and over the next year became firm friends as well as devoted partners in the LAPD.
It had been during a routine stakeout, in much the same surroundings they found themselves in now, that Brubaker, an inexperienced rookie, had inadvertently shot her partner in his left buttock. It had only been a nick, but it belied the inherent danger all police officers lived with. A simple mistake could cost a life.
Mitchell had taken it in good grace, but the whole department had ribbed Brubaker incessantly. They had even drawn lots to see who would have the misfortune to partner her while Mitchell recovered. No one had won as the Captain had put Brubaker on leave at the same time and told her to go away and think about what she had done.
Although the incident had been dangerous, Mitchell forgave Brubaker at once, but still couldn’t resist pulling Brubaker’s leg about it, even now, three years later.
“Okay! Okay! I still owe you on that one.”
“Big time,” Mitchell hissed a broad smile on his face.
Brubaker was sick of crouching, but there was little she could do. Since she and Mitchell had both made detective grade at much the same time and found themselves as partners once more, they had carried out more drug bust stakeouts than anyone on the force in the last year, and each one seemed to require a wall that had to be crouched behind. The pair were with a half dozen uniformed officers, all in various positions close to their location and each were now starting the inevitable fidget routine associated with long-term crouching activities. May, in particular, was getting exasperated.
“My back’s killing me,” Brubaker whispered.
Mitchell looked across at his partner and smiled.
A subtle click in their earpieces told them that control for the bust was about to make an announcement.
“This is control. This is control. All units stand down. Target has been apprehended. Repeat. Target has been apprehended.”
Brubaker and Mitchell looked at each other with astonished expressions. They were the lead pair and if anyone was going to ‘apprehend’ anyone it should have been them.
Brubaker clicked her wrist-com. “Unit one to control. Say again and advise.”
“This is Control. You heard me Brubaker. Mission accomplished and time to go home.”
Gary Mitchell stood up and stretched his back.
It happened so fast that Brubaker thought she was seeing things.
The shot rang out and as if in slow motion, the bullet, from an underpowered rifle, was already spinning when it hit Mitchell’s forehead. A single low crack pierced the still evening air and the top of Mitchell’s head was history. As Brubaker watched, Mitchell almost turned and a small smile crossed his lips before his knees buckled and he slumped backwards.
Brubaker was over three feet from her partner, but the blood and small chunks of grey matter from Gary Mitchell’s brain still managed to splatter May’s face.
May Brubaker screamed.
May sat at the conference room table, head in her hands, staring at the shiny wooden table-top, numb to the activity going on around her. She was having a hard time of making sense of Gary’s death and had put the world on hold until she could work out what went wrong.
It was over, the bust had happened! What did we do wrong?
Questions tumbled through her tired mind, questions without answers. Only one thing was certain, Gary was dead. She would never see him again, never hear that infectious laugh.
Captain Halloran’s voice finally impinged on May Brubaker’s stunned mind.
“Yes sir,” May said, sitting up straight.
“Answer the question, Brubaker.”
May shook her head. “Sorry, I missed that, what question?”
Halloran sighed and looked to Lieutenant Chappell. Chapple shrugged, not bothering to raise his eyes to meet that of his senior officer, concentrating instead on the pen he was twirling on the table top. “I asked, Brubaker, why you and Gary stood down.”
May frowned at the question. “It came over the comms, we were told the bust had happened and we were to stand down. I queried it, but as I did so Gary stood to stretch and…” May’s voice trailed off.
“I didn’t give any order to stand down,” Chapple said in a deadpan voice, still not raising his eyes to look at anyone in the room.
“You told us to stand down,” Brubaker almost shouted. “I heard you and so did Gary, why else would he stand up?”
Chapple shook his head, his tightly cropped blond hair almost twinkling under the glare of the neon lights. “We were on radio-silence, nobody transmitted.”
“Are you telling me you didn’t hear me query your orders.”
Chapple stood quickly and slammed a palm on the table, sending the pen he was toying with across the table and onto the floor. “I didn’t give any orders! Are you calling me a liar, Brubaker?”
May also stood up, slamming both her palms onto the table, “Yes you son of a bitch, I am calling you a liar.”
“Sit down, both of you,” the Captain’s voice boomed. “We have it all recorded, May, nobody broke radio silence, not even you.”
May Brubaker screamed for the second time that day, this time in fury, as she stormed out of the conference room and out of the LAPD HQ.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2019