Mother of God,” he whispered as he crossed himself. He was the first to see it, and wished he hadn’t. In all his years in law enforcement he’d never seen anything more brutal and grisly. The head of the man on the floor of the bathroom was reduced to bloody mush. If not for the driver’s license in the man’s wallet, there wouldn’t have been an immediate identification.

The hotel room door had been broken in, and there were cameras everywhere with evidence of the killers preserved in the security room. He had retrieved the DVDs covering the fourth floor and lobby before he got word that the Sheriff might be taking over the investigation. It was clearly a P.D. case, but that wasn’t his decision. He retained the video evidence and waited for an inquiry about it.

Detective Ron Zapinsky understood the politics of investigating and was certain someone had juice, otherwise the Sheriff would have left it alone. Sheriff ’s Lieutenant Bobby Denton was already on the scene, a confirmation there was a heavy connection. Although only a Lieutenant, everyone seemed to bow to his wishes; he had the Sheriff ’s ear.

He waited for marching orders, not caring one way or the other about the investigation; he no longer had a moral code other than following rank and getting through the day as early as possible.

He had a wife, two teenage children, an on-again off-again lover, and four years left before he could retire with twenty; he was counting the days. Being a cop was not what he had imagined, much less what he had planned.

Then he got the call to leave the scene and report back to headquarters immediately—the Chief wanted to meet. Zapinsky’s Chief was a politician, a mayoral appointee. He came up through the ranks never handling the messy stuff. His last stint before his appointment as Chief was internal affairs; he’d investigated cops. That always went wrong with the inline officers, having a boss who had been out to get them.

Ninety minutes later he was standing at the doorway to the Chief ’s reception area. Captain Robert Brucourd, another bureaucrat in whom no cop placed their trust, was abrupt and haughty as he told Zapinsky to follow him into the adjoining conference room. There, sitting at the head of a long conference table was Chief James T. Dickson. “Please take a seat, Detective.

How’s your wife?”
With a surly tone Zapinsky replied:
“Fine, Chief. What’s this about?”

Seemingly ignoring the attitude, the Chief told him: “We have a sensitive issue here with this new homicide. The Sheriff is joining the investigation. You will cooperate with his people. Understood?”

“Anything else, Chief?”
“I understand you’ve already obtained some evidence.” It wasn’t a question.
“I’ve got some video footage.”
“Give it to Captain Brucourd.”
He did, feigning reluctance.
“Chief, this is our case, and that’s critical evidence. Shouldn’t we make a copy?”

His tone was now indignant as though the Chief was making a grievous error.
“You can leave, Detective.”

As he walked down the hallway toward the elevator he knew the Chief and Captain would be talking angrily about him, gossiping, acting like the little bitches they were, but it would take a lot to fire him. Since the Danbrier Police Department was small, it would be difficult to replace him, and long gone were the days when a Chief could discipline a cop without a hearing, thanks to the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.

They didn’t know that on the way back to headquarters Zapinsky had copied and partially viewed that evidence. He saw what was there and might just use it to get something out of the case. It was obvious why the Sheriff had taken over.

For Detective Ron Zapinsky the information on that disk could be something rewarding. That was who he’d become—a less than honorable man, seeking only that which would benefit him. He didn’t like that part of himself but saw so much corruption around him it had rubbed off; his soul was stained.

He would go to the gym and work it out, forget it for now. Exercise would quell his self-loathing and his deep-seated resentment for those who made his life that way, the powerful, the politicians and their puppets. Time was on his side, and he knew exactly what was going to happen, and who was involved. He’d been around long enough to know who ran things, and the value of what he had kept.

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by Gary Wenkle Smith