Editor’s Note: This story is a lead-in for A. J.’s latest novel, Forgiving Mariela Camacho, which is the follow-up to his first novel, Forgiving Maximo Rothman. If you enjoy “A Glint of Metal,” you can follow the characters in his newest thriller. This is part 2 of 2.
* * *
Captain McCloskey yawned then looked at his watch. “Kurchenko, let’s get this over with.”
“I thought you should be here for this,” Tolya said.
“You were right to think so, but don’t you think this could have waited till later this morning instead of the middle of the night? IA will have to be here for an official inquest.”
“I know but under the circumstances I thought we should have a kind of off-the-record conversation with Billy before this thing hits the papers this morning.”
Captain McCloskey looked at his watch again. “I suppose you’re right.”
They walked down the hall to the large interrogation room at the end. Billy Iacovino was seated on the far side of the table his arms crossed, his eyes closed. There was dried blood on his shirt.
“Billy,” Tolya said.
Iacovino’s eyes opened. He rose from his chair and extended his hand to Tolya and then to the captain.
“How you doing?” the Captain asked.
“I’m okay,” Iacovino replied.
Tolya and the Captain sat down opposite Iacovino. “You heard what happened? The boy died.”
“Yeah, I heard.” Iacovino said. He crossed his arms against his chest again. “All due respect, why we here? Won’t IA want to have a conversation with me?”
“Yes,” Tolya said. “We thought it would be best if we had a conversation first, just you and us. You know what I mean?”
“No. Whaddaya mean?” Iacovino gave out a nervous chuckle. “Like, so we get our stories straight? There’s only one story.”
Tolya cleared his throat. “You know, Billy, it’s always a pretty tough thing when we fire that gun. It’s the thing we don’t want to do. It happens though and I’ve been there.”
Billy Iacovino smirked and leaned forward his elbows resting on the table. “Yeah Tol, we all remember your SWAT team episode a few years back. Listen, I’m tired, it’s been a long night, I appreciate you and the Cap here wanting to square things up with me but I’m not looking for therapy. They’re gonna send me for that later. Besides I was defending myself, the kid had a gun. It was him or me. You know that’s what they teach us. Defend yourself. If you think the perp is gonna shoot, shoot first and shoot to kill. This ain’t TV and you know that.”
Tolya was surprised. He had known Iacovino for more than 10 years. He was a good cop and a good man. He had never seen him act like a hard ass. Maybe it was just the moment. “Billy, you can go, no problem. We can pick this up with IA tomorrow. Can I ask you one question though?”
“You said he had a gun. No one found any weapons on either kid. By the way you know the other kid is Pete’s son.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“But Billy why did you think there was a gun?”
“When I pulled my weapon and I shouted at them to put their hands up, the one kid he had his hands in the pouch of his sweatshirt. It looked like he was holding something. When he pulled out his hands I saw a glint from the streetlamp against metal. It was a gun. I had to protect myself.”
Tolya glanced at the Captain.
“We understand Billy,” said Captain McCloskey. “You can go. Let’s all get some sleep and pick this up tomorrow.”
Tolya sat back into the corner of the sectional couch under the window in Pete’s apartment. “How’s he doing?”
“Not too good,” Pete said. “I had to get something from the doctor. He was pretty much hysterical after he found out Jose was dead.”
“Maybe you should take a couple days off.”
“I’m gonna have to brother. I gotta be around for him now and also I’m pretty freaked out. That easily could have been Jeremy. You know that’s the one thing I can’t do bro, bury my child. I’d kill myself first.”
“I know. I can’t even think about this shit. I’ve known him all his life. He’s a good kid.”
“That’s right but that don’t matter anymore. It’s not if they’re good kids, it’s where they are and how they’re dressed. I never thought I’d be in this situation.”
“Don’t blame him.”
“I don’t. Well, maybe a little. How many times I told him not to walk around looking like a thug, but you know these kids, they think they’re so tough.”
“It wasn’t that different when we were young.”
“Yes and no. What did Iacovino say last night?”
“It was a little strange. I didn’t like the way he acted, very defensive.”
“That’s weird. He’s usually the nicest guy around.”
“I know. Maybe it’s just the moment, the way he’s taking it.”
“Did he say anything that would explain what happened?”
“Well, that’s what I wanted to talk with you about. We gotta ask Jeremy something. He said Jose had a gun and he was pulling it out of his sweatshirt which is why he fired.”
“I know this kid Tol, no way he had a gun. He got in a little trouble a couple years back for selling pot but nothing serious. Never had any weapons charges.”
“I know, I checked,” said Tolya. “Just stupid kid stuff.”
“You know I didn’t like Jeremy hanging around with him but they’ve been friends since kindergarten.”
“You think you could get him up? I gotta ask him this question before I go back to the precinct. The meeting with IA is in a couple of hours.”
“Let me look in on him.”
Pete walked through the living room to the first door on the right. He slowly pushed the door open and peeked in. Jeremy lay on the bed, his eyes half open.
“You all right?”
“I’m okay. As good as I’m gonna be right now.”
“Uncle Tolya’s here…”
“Can you come out? He needs to ask you something.”
“Do I have to do this now?”
“Yeah it’s important.”
Jeremy got up from the bed and walked to the living room. Pete followed him in. “Hey Uncle Tolya.”
“Hey champ. How you doing?”
“Listen, I know this isn’t the right time but I got to ask you something,” Tolya said.
“Last night, when the cop told you to put your hands up did Jose have anything in his hands that he pulled out of his pocket?”
“Yeah, the keys.”
“What keys?” asked Pete.
Jeremy sighed and put his head in his hands. “I told you last night. He had his uncle’s keys, with the key to the motorcycle, that’s why we were going back to his uncle’s house. He took them by mistake. He has this stupid habit, he gotta have something in his hands to play with all the time so he was playing with the keys in the pouch of his sweatshirt and when the cop said raise your hands he had the keys in his right hand.”
“You sure of this Jeremy?”
“Yeah Pop, I’m positive.”
Tolya lifted the police tape around the crime scene. A small army had assembled across the street and a shrine was already in place on the sidewalk in front of the police tape.
“Pete stand there,” Tolya pointed to a spot in front of the bike.
“Okay,” he replied. He stood in between the dried pool of blood that had escaped Jose’s veins and the motorcycle. The bike handlebar pressed into his back. He didn’t want to step on the blood.
“His hand would have been at least part of the way up before the bullet hit him. The first bullet hit him in the shoulder. It would have pushed his chest forward and the second hit him in the chest and might have jerked him back. Try simulating the movement with your hands up.”
The crowd watched Pete and Tolya. There was some mumbling but no trouble yet. Pete thought for a moment. He closed his eyes and mimicked the motion Tolya described as best he could. He knew the action would have been much faster than his movements. He concentrated on his arm and hand and how it moved.
“Tol, I think I got it, let me try this again.”
Pete repeated the awkward contorted motion but this time with more intensity. He did it a third time to be sure. “Tol, if it’s here it’s behind us.”
Tolya moved around the crime scene and onto the sidewalk, the growing crowd watching them work. He lifted the police tape. Pete ducked under it.
“You trying to cover up evidence, yo?” shouted someone deep in the crowd.
Tolya looked at Pete. “Let it go brother.”
“Okay, Detective,” Pete replied. “And thanks.” He scanned the street. “There, in that direction.” Pete pointed to the right and behind them. They fanned out, Pete to the building immediately behind them and Tolya to the one just north of it. They looked under the cars parked behind the bike as well.
“No, it’s not here,” Pete said, straightening up. “It would have flung farther back.”
Pete looked around. He walked toward the corner of the building directly parallel to the crime scene. At the north corner of the building was a six-foot high wrought iron gate that lead to an alley behind the building where the garbage was kept in plastic bags and old metal cans. “Tol, buzz the super.”
Tolya charged to the front door of the building. The door was locked. The intercom had no identifying information. He pressed the buttons at random. Police,” he shouted, “open the door.”
The door buzzer sounded. Tolya pushed it in. Pete followed him into the building. They knocked on the first door on the left. “Police.”
A woman screamed through the door, “What’s wrong?”
“Where’s the super?” Pete shouted.
“The back apartment on this floor,” she called back.
Tolya rushed back to the last door at the rear of the floor. Tenants were coming out of their apartments. Before he reached the door an overweight middle aged man in a wife beater T-shirt was in the hallway. Tolya pulled out his badge, “Police.”
“You guys are killing me. I’ve been up all night with y’all what you want now?”
“Open the gate to the alley.”
“They looked there last night.”
“Just open it.”
The super waddled down the hall in his slippers. “Could you move it a little?” Tolya screamed from behind him.
“Jeez, move it,” Pete shouted, causing the super to finally pick up his feet. Pete reached the alley before him anyway. “Did the CSU people move these bags last night?”
“The who?” asked the super.
“Don’t you watch TV?” Pete asked. “The cops.”
“I don’t think so. I don’t remember.’
“You’re useless,” Tolya said.
Pete lifted the bags two by two and tossed them back toward the courtyard behind the building. One broke open, the garbage spilling out and splattering against the building foundation.
“Damn, what y’all doin,” shouted the super. “I gotta clean that up now.”
“If I were you I’d keep my mouth shut,” said Pete puffing his chest and staring directly into the super’s eyes. “You’re obstructing our investigation.” He picked up another two bags and tossed them. He caught a glint of metal in his eye and heard a clink as something slid off the black plastic to the broken concrete pavement. There they were, the keys, an ignition key for the motorcycle at the top of the chain. He lifted them up and held them above his head.
“Brother, you wanna walk these back to the station or should we take a ride.”
Tolya smiled. He raised his fist and bumped it against Pete’s.
Pete saw Iacovino standing in the hallway outside the large interrogation room as he and Tolya entered the precinct. Tolya grabbed his upper arm. “Pete, tranki.”
“I just wanna talk to him Tol, that’s all.”
“You wanna do it alone or you want me to be there?”
“Not sure yet, just have my back. We’ll see what happens.”
Tolya followed Pete down the hallway.
“Hey, Billy,” Pete called out.
Iacovino turned in Pete’s direction. He didn’t respond. The man standing next to him was wearing a dark suit and a red tie, clearly a lawyer. He whispered something into Iacovino’s ear.
“Billy,” Pete called out again, this time almost in front of him.
“Pete,” Iacovino said, forcing a smile. “Um, how’s your son?”
“Alive,” Pete said.
“Easy,” Tolya said from behind him.
“Listen, I didn’t know it was your kid.”
“I realize that,” Pete said. “How could you? You don’t know my kid. You think we could talk a minute?”
Iacovino looked at his attorney.
“Private,” Pete said.
Iacovino looked at his attorney again. The attorney shook his head from side to side. “Maybe that should wait till after the inquiry,” the attorney said then turned back toward the IA officers standing in the doorway of the interrogation room.
“Pete,” said Tolya, “maybe we should talk to the Captain first.”
“I don’t think so Tol, I wanna talk to Billy first.” Pete stared directly at Iacovino. “He’s our brother right? We stand with each other.”
Iacovino stared back at Pete. “Of course, brothers always, but my attorney over here, I gotta listen to him. This stuff is pretty serious.”
“It’s up to you Billy, I’m just asking for the courtesy of a conversation. Same as I would do for you.”
Iacovino touched his hand to the attorney’s arm.
“I told you Billy, I don’t think so but it’s up to you,” the attorney said without turning to face Iacovino.
“All right Pete, just you and me. How about the locker room?”
“Tolya’s coming too.”
Iacovino took a breath. “You two ever do anything alone?”
“Yeah,” said Pete.
They walked down the hall and to the basement. Pete closed the door to the locker room and sat down on the edge of the wood bench between the first rows of lockers. “Billy, what happened? Off the record. Just us.”
Iacovino leaned against the wall under the window. He raised his eyebrows. “Look Pete, we known each other a long time, you know I’m a good cop, responsible.”
“I know that, that’s why we wanted to speak to you first.”
“Whaddaya mean first?”
“Billy, what happened?”
“Pete, I’m sorry about your son. If I had known it was him I probably wouldn’t have reacted the same way.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know how this neighborhood is. These kids, they got no respect for nothing, particularly us.”
“You know that’s not true, Billy.”
“Pete, how many years I’m in this precinct? It just gets worse and worse. The kids got no respect.”
“What kind of respect you talking about? From what my kid told me they didn’t even know you were there.”
“That’s my whole point. What were they doing fucking around with someone else’s property? That wasn’t their bike.”
“They’re just kids,” Pete said, getting up from the bench. “And besides it was the dead kid’s uncle’s bike.”
Iacovino moved away from the wall. Pete and Iacovino looked to Tolya like two rams about to butt heads.
“But that’s the problem with these kids, all of them. They get themselves into situations.”
“What kids we talking about?”
“These neighborhood kids, the barrio kids.”
Pete froze. “You mean Dominican kids?”
Iacovino backed up a few steps. “No offense meant, but yes. These Dominican kids. They’re out looking for trouble.”
Pete took a step toward Iacovino. “And you know that cuz you live here in the barrio with us?”
“You know I don’t Pete. Don’t make me out to be one of those asshole cops who only care about the paycheck and the pension. I’m here to help the community but the community has to help us.”
“You’re not helping anyone Billy, especially not yourself if you’re gonna lie.”
“Pete,” Tolya said. “Maybe we should bring this into the inquest.”
“Bring what?” Iacovino said. “You trying to frame me?”
“Billy,” Pete said, stopping a foot in front of him. “Tell me what you told Tolya. How did this happen?”
“Kurchenko, you bastard, you told him what I said in the interview last night? That’s protected. You could be suspended for that.”
Pete came a half step closer. “Billy, tell me, what happened.”
“Okay Pete, you want it? Here’s what happened,” he shouted in Pete’s face. “The dead kid pulled a gun on me. I shot him. I was afraid for my life. I got a wife and kids too. I gotta think about them. I don’t want them burying me.”
Pete pulled his gun in the flash of a nanosecond and pressed it to Iacovino’s temple pushing him back against the wall, his huge forearm pressing into Iacovino’s throat.
“But it would be okay for me to bury my child? For anyone to bury their child? Hah? But especially a Dominican piece of shit like me, right?”
“Pete,” Tolya shouted and pulled him off of Iacovino. “Calm down man.”
As Tolya pulled Pete back the door to the locker room flung open. “What’s going on here?” shouted Captain McCloskey.
“Everything’s cool,” Tolya shouted back.
“Everything’s cool?” choked out Iacovino, coughing and rubbing his neck. “He pulled his fucking gun on me, that fucking spic.”
“Billy, don’t say another word,” the attorney shouted from the hallway.
Pete shook Tolya off of him. He stood up and put his gun back in its holster. “So that’s what I am Billy, a fucking spic? Now tell me what happened to that gun the dead kid pulled on you?”
Iacovino rubbed his neck again where Pete had him pinned to the corner. “What happened to it? For starters I wasn’t gonna say nothing about it once I found out it was your kid. I was trying to protect him and you. But here’s what happened. After I shot the first kid the gun flung backwards out of his hand and your kid jumped behind the cars and grabbed it. He must have dropped it into the sewer drain before I came around him and cuffed him.”
Pete sat down on the bench again. He began to laugh. “You so sure of that?”
“Yeah. And we’ll find that gun today.”
“No, you won’t. Cuz there is no gun.” Pete pulled the keys from his pants pocket. This is what you saw, this is what you thought was the gun, these metal keys reflecting against the light from the streetlamp.”
Iacovino dropped to the floor. “No way.”
The attorney moved through the crowed room to Iacovino. “Don’t say another word. What was said here means nothing. There will be an inquest. What evidence is presented there will decide your case.” He helped Iacovino to his feet. “Let’s go.”
Pete waited till Iacovino was even with him. He grabbed Iacovino’s upper arm with his right hand then whispered in his ear, “Billy, know this, if you had killed my kid, no prison would have been safe enough to keep you alive.”
Iacovino turned his head and said loudly, “Is that a threat, Gonzalvez?”
“No,” Pete said. “It’s a fact.”
* * *
A. J. Sidransky is a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. Born in the Bronx, he resides in Washington Heights with his wife. He has a college age son who attends the University of Miami. He is a life long Yankees fan.
His novel, Forgiving Maximo Rothman was a finalist for Outstanding Debut Fiction by The National Jewish Book Awards. Stealing a Summer’s Afternoon was a finalist for Best Second Novel by Next Generation Indie Book Awards. He is also the author of the short stories “La Libreta,” “Small Axe Salon” and “Mother Knows Best.”
He travels to the Dominican Republic frequently and is fluent in Spanish. Learn more about his work on his website www.ajsidransky.com.