The first few pages of SHOSHANA:


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Early Saturday morning, January 6, 1990

By one-thirty I was wiped out enough to risk breaking a Rule of Patrol. Hidden behind a school, I slouched in my patrol car and shut my eyes, but that lasted two minutes–a loud burst of static followed by The Voice blew away the silence. I shot up and nearly toppled a cup of cold coffee. She bleated, “All units, signal fifty-eight.” I scrambled through papers in my patrol box for the Codes-and-Signals card, then ran a nervous finger down the column. Fifty-eight, Sexual Assault.
Cops had nicknamed the young dispatcher “The Voice From Heaven,” but urgency robbed her usually sultry tone. “BOLO for an older blue Ford van, right-side damage, plate’s unknown.” I jotted on my notepad, then she fed us more info in unfamiliar, clipped staccato, “Suspect’s a tall white male, muscular build, black knit ski mask.” She omitted the location of the scene, a tactic to skirt any scoop-crazed news reporters who happened to be out cruising for diabolical things that might come over their police scanners. The Voice cleared her throat. “Amber 22, C-Three.” That cop acknowledged her with a mic-click. “Red 42, seven the lieutenant at Post Road and Maple.” I knew “C-Three” meant phone the Desk, and “a seven” was a meeting, but during my brief stint as a cop, radio-speak was still a foreign language and harder to follow when things heated up. And this was the first time I’d ever heard The Voice rattled.
The road sergeant called “Red 41” over the air twice before I recognized that was me.
I tried to sound aware, “41’s on.”
He ordered me to give him a seven at a church in Green 32, the southeast sector. I drove onto Ash Lane, realizing that “hidden behind a school” had been a fool’s gamble–a supervisor on
a hunt would’ve seen my car’s one-way tire tracks. Rookies still on probation got slammed with three-day suspensions without pay for transgressions like sleeping.
Sam Costanzo was parked in front of a hardware store on the Post Road, a perfect vantage point to eyeball traffic. I detoured around the sarge’s order, rolled in next to him, and powered my window down. “You know what happened, Sam?”
“Some filth ball snatched a girl in Fore N’Aft’s lot. You just missed the lieutenant.” He didn’t look at me, he watched weather-conscious drivers creep by under the speed limit.
“I drove by there earlier, it was mobbed.” Wind chilled my arm on the window slit.
He eyed me sideways for a second. “You hear the van info?”
I looked at my scribbles. “Yeah, an older Ford. You hear Tomasky call me?” Of course he’d heard it.
“He’s posting you at Fishers Hill Beach. Grab a coffee, you’ll be there a while. The van’s blue, by the way,” he said at his windshield, like I was a distraction to make him miss the prize.
I asked his profile, “So he kidnapped her?”
“Better not keep the sergeant waiting.”
I took off, bought a large cup at the drive-up window of an all-night place, and headed to the rendezvous. The most direct route took me past the Fore N’Aft, one of Westcove’s ten upscale drinking dens that jammed to capacity even on snowy nights, an incentive for us to pluck fresh pads of accident forms from the paperwork rack before we hit the streets. New Year’s Eves ignited a week of boozing–snow or no snow, partiers will be partiers. I slowed down by the popular nightclub. Two patrol cars with roof lights working were parked behind a green Camry. A large horde of jacketed drinkers had abandoned their last-call imported beers and gathered outside to gawk at the cops scouring the ground with flashlights inside a cordon of yellow tape.
A van was backing down a long driveway two residential blocks from the church. Its headlights were off, its brake lights popped red. I was too far past to read its plate, call it in, and learn if it was a vehicle reported stolen, or registered to a convicted felon with priors for sexual assault. And why no headlights? My untested instinct was to reverse course, go after it, and see if it was an older blue Ford. But afraid of looking like an idiot playing cop on the radio–odds were heavy that driveway-man was an oblivious citizen with lousy work hours like mine, and I’d be broadcasting my incompetence to the entire shift–I continued to the irascible boss. I should’ve heeded my mentor Morris and committed to portrait painting as a full-time occupation, because I was going to suck at police work.
I parked driver-to-driver alongside hardball Bill Tomasky, a wide sergeant who wore a fat, gray, handlebar mustache. The icy boss-of-the-road had his face scrunched into ornery, which I attributed to the newest crime mess.
“Took ya long enough,” he snarled. “Follow me.” I kept my mouth shut about the van so he didn’t re-train his high capacity mood exclusively at me. He led me to the beach on frozen roads, and the final one was Shore Drive, a steep, unsalted ramp. Near the bottom, my brakes locked and my car slid, missing his rear end by inches. The silhouette of his fat head moved side to side, then he eased his car forward, a veteran of negotiating ice.
He stuck me at the entrance. The Town Highway’s skeletal evening crew rarely padlocked the gates at sundown like they were supposed to year round, and they never got around to it even when the entire Department was ordered in from home to plow snow. Now a psychopath had morphed the desolate shore spot into a crime scene necessitating the current police invasion. Tomasky directed me to keep my roof rack lights activated and to keep out people foolish enough to challenge the weather-stricken road for a closer view of the lightshow. “Pay attention, don’t let a soul in, including the press. Get off your ass and get out of the car if that’s what it takes to stop them.”
“Yes sir, I will.”
“The D.B.’s on the way. The animal raped and mauled somebody’s daughter, left her bare-ass in the snow. Lucky to be alive.” I knew from rides-along with training officers that he was a family man who had three daughters, and that rape cases tear up fathers in police suits. He shifted into drive. “Hiltz and Jonsie are in there covering tire tracks with tarps. Fuckin’ snow.” He u-turned and renegotiated the perilous road; in my rearview his car’s hot breath dissipated into the freezing air.
I kept my window open and let my idling cruiser’s heat blast. I uncapped the coffee while whispers of snow drifted down. A hundred feet in, a sharp curve bent the entrance drive to deny me a view of the scene. The intense strobes of cadmium red and cobalt blue pulsated in contrapuntal rhythm from the patrol cars inside, throwing eerie bursts of color over the snow-covered mounds of sand out of which poked stubborn blades of impervious beach grass. Snowflakes carried the police hues until they reached the beams of my headlights. At the far end of the inlet’s frozen marsh, multi-million-dollar contemporaries sat with floodlights burning like the eyes of resting monsters. The mammoth houses sheltered families who’d slept while a girl’s nightmare played out. Lights came on as sleepers quit their beds and got up to peer and speculate. Inevitable phone calls would bother The Voice, “What’s going on at our beach?”
Irate wind brought turbulence to the incoming tide, instigating seawater to lash the boulders dumped along the roadside decades ago to form a long, immovable retaining wall to the beachhead. Outdoor winter crime scenes are the worst. On New Year’s Eve I’d gone to my first DWI fatality and puked at the sight of my first violent death–the guys told me it was okay, lots of
cops lost their lunches the first time. I stayed at that scene for three torturous hours and froze my ass off in icy rain. The Police Academy didn’t prepare cadets for the real deal.
I was three months out of that grueling half-year school, and I’d finished the mandatory rides with Field Training Officers. I was buried on the midnight shift in supposedly harmless Westcove, a near-flawless jewel on the state’s bipolar shoreline–within a thirty mile stretch from Bridge City to the New York state line, squalor and blight alternated with wealth and opulence town line to town line, like two opposite and contentious personalities forced to live together.
I’d signed up for my first killer-double-shift: midnight-to-eight, then eight-to-four at time and half. Good pay but at the stiff price veterans had warned me about, that by two in the afternoon a body craved sleep like a post-op patient’s in a recovery room. I eschewed their advice to get a nap in, instead blowing one off to finish a small portrait commission from a frame shop. But the clock stopped me a few brushstrokes from done, calling me into the shower at ten- thirty at night. How the hell did I end up a cop? I blamed my personal bully, my old man.
The night he and Ma took me to a Greek diner for my birthday–he was a real sport–he threw me a curve ball. “You’ve been to the New Hope train station before, right?”
“You need a ride?”
“No. You know it’s the end of Metro North’s line outta Grand Central, right?”
“Uh huh.”
“Well tonight’s the end of the line for this gravy train, I’m done supporting you. Get a real fuckin’ job. You’re twenty-three and you can’t make a livin’ painting pictures. Get a life.”
Happy Birthday, Artie.
I’d never stood up to him and his convoluted, smart ass analogies he threw out like slaps. “Police Officer, Westcove” caught my eye in the job ads. Good pay, great benefits, even a pension after twenty years, I’d only be forty something. How hard could that job be in a soft town where there wasn’t much crime? I was six foot two with ingrained skills from a black belt in tae kwon do, although I didn’t practice anymore. My father smirked at the cop-job idea, Ma cried, and my best friend Morris railed against it.

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