#Friday Read – #Excerpt from Brutal Season

The good news is that I’ve finally finished this book I’ve been writing for so long. I started it in late 2021 when Angel popped into my head again, demanding a story. Due to my friend Ramsay Hunt Syndrome that has caused so many neurological problems and other complications, the writing took many more months than any of the other stories in the Seasons Mystery Series.

The manuscript will be off to an editor next week and when editing is finished, I’ll have it professionally formatted for digital and print. Looking toward a pub date sometime in April, giving me enough time to get those ducks, and a new cover, in order. In the meantime, I’ll post excerpts here every Friday, so enjoy this first one.

Sitting at her desk in the Crimes Against Persons Division of the Dallas Police Department, Detective Sarah Kingsley heard the ping of an incoming text on her partner’s phone and looked over as Angel picked it up and read the message, then slammed her phone down. “Christ! Another black man’s been killed.”

Another ping. This time, from Sarah’s phone. She grabbed it but didn’t check the message. She was unable to tear her gaze from her partner, who radiated a growing anger like heat from an open oven door. “Was it an accident?” She asked the question, hoping, but her instinct answered before her partner.

Fury flashed across Angel Johnson’s face. “No. It was not a goddamn accident. One of our officers shot him. In his own front yard.”

Sarah couldn’t recall a time that she had seen so much anger burning out of her partner’s eyes, but the sight of it now stunned her into silence. She turned away, hoping that if she just gave Angel some time, the heat of that rage would dissipate.

A moment later, Sarah’s phone pinged with another message. She heard the same alert on Angel’s phone and glanced over, but her partner just sat there. Not moving, as if she’d become a stone replica of herself. Sarah looked at her phone, then back to Angel. “It’s McGregor. He wants us in conference room B in ten minutes.”

She waited, but Angel didn’t stir a muscle or blink an eye. It was the longest few minutes in Sarah’s life. She didn’t know what to say. Or even if she should say anything to the woman who could have been a statue in the chair. Maybe it would be best not to poke a hornet’s nest.

Sarah stood. “Okay, then. See you there.”

Still no response, so Sarah quickly strode out of the squad room. She took a moment to relieve her bladder from too much coffee that morning, followed by a splash of cold water on her face to ease the tightness around her eyes. She hated to think of what waited in the conference room.

When she got there, she saw her immediate boss, Lieutenant McGregor; the Chief of D’s, Helen Dorsett; and one of Sarah’s least favorite people on earth, Price, the PR guy for the Dallas Police Department. She was sure that he’d been behind the initial pairing of her with Angel a few years ago to quell community protests over the death of the young black teen that Sarah had shot.

What a nightmare that whole time had been.

Not only had she been forced to kill a kid, something she regretted to this day, Sarah had lost her long-time partner in that same undercover fiasco, but few people had lamented the loss of one of Dallas’s finest. Instead, they’d come at Sarah with all the sound and fury of a marauding army. The Dallas Review Board had almost succeeded in taking her badge, and it was only the intervention of McGregor that had saved her.

Not surprisingly, the outrage had died down to a dull roar after the partnership between her and Angel had been announced. Slick move on the part of the PR department, but not so slick for the detectives. Even though they were in a better place today than at first, too often some racial sensitivity would hit a nerve and push the two women back to square one. Sarah wondered if that would ever stop, and this latest news didn’t bode well for the possibility of them cementing a working relationship any time soon.

Let alone a personal one.

Sarah barely gave Price a nod, but did acknowledge the others in the room, noting how crowded it already was, with detectives standing along the back wall, almost like a line-up. Now she understood why the largest conference room had been chosen. She’d just taken a seat when the door opened and more officers filed in. Some from Vice and more from the CAPERS unit. They were followed by Burt and his partner, Simms, along with Ryan from narcotics and his boss, Lieutenant Webb.

Somebody must have come down hard on Webb about his weight because it looked like he’d dropped at least thirty pounds since the last time Sarah had seen him about six months ago. Good for him, and good for his wife, or whoever it had been that had probably saved him from a coronary.

The door opened again and Angel slipped in, heading for the far end of the conference table. Well away from others already seated there. And definitely well away from Sarah. What the hell? Angel’s whole demeaner still screamed anger. Was she going to be pissed at the whole department because of one idiot who couldn’t control his trigger finger?

The last to arrive was Bruce Walinski from The Special Investigations Unit. Sarah wasn’t surprised to see an SIU officer, although it usually took more than twenty-four hours for their unit to get involved in an officer-related shooting, whether being shot or having to use deadly force.

Things had changed in the investigative process since her face-off with Quinlin a few years ago, and for that she was grateful. Having to discharge your weapon, knowing that someone had to die to protect yourself or the public, or your fellow officers, gives most cops nightmares for weeks, or months, or often for the rest of their lives.

Piling on the guilt like Quinlin had tried with her, didn’t ease any of that trauma.

Now with the new policy and approach to the investigations of cop-related shootings, officers would be spared the same kind of demeaning third degree.

Helen stood and went to the front of the room, facing the large conference table ringed by officers in comfortable wooden chairs. “You all know the basic facts by now. There’s been an officer-involved shooting. What we know so far is that the victim was Jamel Frederickson, age 18. The officer is Brad Smithfield.”

Sarah groaned. She knew full well what that officer was in for.

“Preliminary report states the teen was not armed.”

“Oh shit.” McGregor said.

Helen nodded. “As in feces and the proverbial fan.”

“Do we know any more?” Sarah asked.

“Nothing official yet,” Helen said. But Price has set us up with a live feed from Channel 8 News who has a reporter at the scene.” She motioned to Price who had his laptop open and connected to a large Smart screen on the wall behind Helen. She took a step to the side and Price touched a key, bringing the screen to life.

The scene was chaos. Lights from an ambulance and three police cars swept across yards, the sidewalk and the front of a small brick house. The lights looked like bright yellow and blue strobes at a dance club. People milled around the area, most holding cell phones aloft, recording the moment, probably more for thrills than posterity. Several uniformed officers were doing their best to hold people back from the grassy lawn where the outline of a body could be seen under a white sheet.

Bianca Gomez stood to one side of the chaos, black hair dancing slightly in a low breeze, microphone to her lips. “Bianca Gomez, Channel 8 News, reporting from the scene of a deadly shooting that took place at 6:45 this morning. The victim, 18-year-old Jamel Frederickson, was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced DOA. Rookie Dallas Police officer, Brad Smithfield has been taken to department headquarters where he will be questioned, then put on administrative leave pending a full investigation.”

The reporter paused a moment and Sarah could clearly hear another woman’s voice crying, “My baby. My baby!”

The camera swung around, finally focusing on a rail-thin woman with light mocha skin, mascara running in black rivers down her cheeks. A tall, burly man with ebony skin held her upright as best he could while she wailed, “He killed my baby.”

The reporter’s pause was no coincidence. Sarah was sure of that. A distraught mother made for great television, and Bianca was all about great television.

Slowly the camera panned back to Bianca and she continued. “There are still only few details known about the incident. According to a neighbor, who didn’t want to speak on camera, Jamel has mental health issues and had stopped taking his meds recently. Nobody was aware. Not even his mother, according to the neighbor. The mother came home from work and allegedly found him pacing around the house, cursing and hitting his head with a plastic spatula. He was in a crisis and needed help. The mother called 911and told the dispatcher what was happening and requested an ambulance.”

Another dramatic pause while the camera moved to show the mother being comforted by another woman about the same age. Bianca’s voice came off screen. “Even though Jamel was so big, his mother described him as soft as a teddy bear and just as harmless. As long as he took his meds.”

Bianca continued the report as the camera came back to her. “Before an ambulance could arrive, a patrol car came screaming up the street. According to what the mother told her neighbor, when Jamel saw the police cars he ran out of the house before she could stop him. He was still carrying the spatula and ran toward the two officers, Smithfield and Greg Renshaw who shouted for Jamel to stop.
“He didn’t stop until officer Smithfield put five bullets into this unarmed man.”

“Turn that shit off.” McGregor’s voice was sharp, and Helen didn’t even object to the language. She often did, thinking that cops didn’t have to curse like drunken sailors, but she just nodded to Price, who pushed a key on his laptop.

The screen went blank and silence reigned for just a moment, then Helen cleared her throat. “Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t be having this meeting. But, well… you all know how not normal things are. So, we need to look ahead and make sure we don’t end up like Minneapolis.”

“There are sure to be protests,” Burt said.

Helen nodded. “So, we’re preparing. The mayor has asked for added security around the Federal Building. That seems to be the place where protesters make the most noise.”

“Are we going to be part of that security?” Simms asked, gesturing to the other detectives in the room.

“Not at first,” Helen said. “Grotelli is already pulling his uniformed squad together to hit the streets. The commissioner has authorized overtime for the foreseeable future. You will all be on standby to assist whenever needed. Nobody rests until this is over.”

Sarah knew that lack of sleep included Helen, too. She never asked anything of her team than what she was willing to do. Probably where McGregor learned that basic tenant of leadership.

“You’ll be called for help containing the protestors if things escalate. And they probably will. We all know the history of this town.” Helen paused then nodded toward the captains in the room. “Orders will come through the normal chain of command. We can hope the detective squads won’t be needed for street safety.”

Yeah, Sarah thought. We can hope.

“Nothing goes to the press except through Price.” Helen glanced toward him and Sarah swore he swelled more than a little in importance. Prick. “And nobody goes near the protesters unless they’re assigned to help the uniforms. Got it?”

Helen shot her trademark icy glare around the room skewering each person in turn until getting a gesture of assent. Anyone new to the detective squad who’d never seen this phenomenon before and wondered how this diminutive lady, who looked a cross between Mary Poppins and their own grandmother, had become Chief of Ds, no longer wondered.

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