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 1 of 2.
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Washington Heights, New York
May 8, 2015
Pete slept with his cell phone on the night table, the sound off, the flasher on. He was no stranger to middle-of-the-night calls from the precinct. No cop was, that’s the cop life.
“Gonzalvez,” he said, grabbing the phone and catapulting out of the bed so as not to wake Glynnis. The time read 2:12.
“Pete,” Tolya said.
“Yeah, who were you expecting?” He passed Jeremy’s room on the way to the living room, the door open. He glanced into the darkness wondering why.
“Listen, sit down, something happened,”
“Why you calling from the precinct line?”
“Just listen, I gotta tell you something.”
“All right already, tell me.” Pete caught himself, his voice rising. Tolya could be so irritating sometimes.
“It’s about Jeremy.”
Pete looked toward the open door to Jeremy’s room. He got up from the couch and went into the room and turned on the light. No Jeremy.
“What the hell happened,” he screamed. “Where is he? Is he alive?”
“Brother, he’s okay, calm down. He’s at the precinct. Get down here right away.”
Glynnis came out of their bedroom, followed by Luz from her room a moment later.
“What’s wrong?” Glynnis asked. She looked into Jeremy’s room and screamed. “Dios mio. What happened to him?”
“I’m on my way,” Pete said into the phone then hung up. “I don’t know, but Tolya said he’s okay, so calm down. He’s at the precinct. I’ll tell you this, when I get there I’m gonna kill him myself.”
Tolya intercepted Pete in front of the precinct.
“Where is he?”
“Inside, just give me a minute…”
“A minute? Glynnis is a block and half behind me so you better tell me what’s up before she gets here.”
“He was involved in an incident.”
Pete took a deep breath. This was every parent’s nightmare, at least every parent of a child with skin darker than vanilla ice cream. “Is he shot?”
“He’s shot?” Glynnis shouted from five feet behind them.
“No, no,” Tolya said, reaching for Pete’s shoulder.
Glynnis came up behind them. “Where is he?” she screamed. “Dios, is my son dead?” She balled her hands into fists and slammed them into Pete’s arm knocking Tolya’s hand off. “I told you. How many times. We should have moved away from here. You needed to talk to him.”
“I did,” Pete said, restraining her fists. “Tolya where is he?”
“He’s okay. Glynnis calm down,” Tolya said, reaching for her.
She pulled back. “Don’t tell me to calm down. Where is he?”
“He’s inside. He’s not hurt but another kid is in critical condition. He’s inside waiting for you.”
“Why didn’t they call me?” Pete growled.
“I was here, I was covering for Spivak, his wife gave birth today, so I called. What am I, mangu? I figured it was better if I called than the duty officer.”
Pete pulled Glynnis to him. She was crying. “You gotta calm down querida.”
She took a deep breath, her body shaking. “I just wanna see him.”
“One more moment. Tolya what happened?”
“We’re not entirely sure.”
“Who was it?”
“Iacovino. He was on patrol.”
“He’s a good man. I know him for years,” Pete said.
“I know, me too.”
“Oh my god,” Glynnis squeaked between sobs.
“The other kid’s at Columbia Presbyterian. Iacovino hit him three times. He’s in surgery.”
“I gotta see Jeremy, now.”
“He’s in the back interrogation room.”
Pete looked in through the two-way mirror. Glynnis and Tolya were behind him, Glynnis crying, mumbling, “gracias a dios.”
Jeremy sat in the chair facing the mirror. His skin was almost grey; the color drained nearly out of him. His eyes were swollen. It was obvious he’d been crying. Pete felt like he would break down himself. He loved all his children but Jeremy, well, there was something between them that went deeper than with his others.
The last couple of years had been tough, but now at 18, Jeremy was opening up to him again. He never expected this. He was a cop and Jeremy knew how he felt about “la Calle.” He’d warned him too many times. He took a deep breath and turned the knob on the door.
Jeremy looked up at Pete. He jumped out of the chair. His face contorted in the same way it did when he was a little boy and he had been caught doing something he shouldn’t have. Pete grabbed him and pulled him close. His memory flashed back three and a half decades to his own boyhood in Santo Domingo when his uncle Polito was mother, father, judge and defender, all rolled into one. He recalled Polito’s patience with his bad behavior and gave his son the same.
“It’s okay mijo, cry, cry.” He let Jeremy go and pushed him toward Glynnis. “Now let your mother see you. You scared her half to death.” Pete turned away from them toward Tolya. His throat tightened. He didn’t think he could hold it together.
“You gonna be okay brother?”
“Just give me a minute,” Pete replied. He turned back toward Glynnis and Jeremy. “Amor,” he said. “We have to talk with Jeremy. You gotta wait outside.”
She looked at him then back at Jeremy. “I’ll scream at you later. Thank God you’re all right.” She took a deep breath. “I’m going back to the house. Luz must be scared to death by now,” she said and slipped out the half open doorway.
Pete looked at Jeremy. “Sit down.”
“Pop, let me tell you what happened.”
“I said sit down.”
“Pete, maybe I should do this,” said Tolya.
Pete pulled out the chair opposite Jeremy and gestured toward it. “You are going to do this. I can’t. My interrogation wouldn’t hold up in court.”
“True,” said Tolya, taking the chair.
“But first I gotta say something to my son.
Tolya looked up at Pete leaning against the wall to his left. “Of course, brother.”
Pete looked down at the floor and cleared his throat again then up and directly into Jeremy’s eyes. “Do you know how much I love you, mijo?”
“Pop, yes I…”
“Don’t interrupt me.”
Jeremy nodded his head in agreement.
“Tato. Understand that nothing you can do can change the way I feel about you. That will never change. But, what can change is that if you get yourself killed and god forbid that happens, and I have to bury you and then I have to live with your mother with her eyes killing me for what’s happened every day for the rest of my life you will have broken my heart and I don’t know if I can live with that. I have told you a thousand times you have a choice, la Calle or una vida buena. You are too old for me to control you. You are pretty much a man now and your life or your death is your choice. That could have been you tonight.”
Jeremy dropped his head and began to cry. “Papa, I’m so sorry. It wasn’t like that at all.”
Pete walked the couple of feet around the table and put his hands under Jeremy’s arms and lifted him up. He embraced him. “Okay, okay, now we gotta calm down, act like men.”
“Okay,” Jeremy said between sobs.
“Uncle Tolya is gonna ask you a few questions. Be careful to answer them so that we understand everything that happened the way it happened.” Pete pointed to the chair. “Sit down son, let’s get started. It’s late.”
Jeremy sat down again opposite Tolya. Tolya handed him a couple of tissues. He wiped his eyes and blew his nose. He looked up at Pete and smiled weakly. Pete looked at Tolya and nodded his head almost imperceptibly.
“Jeremy, what were you doing this evening between 188th and 189th Streets on Wadsworth Avenue and who were you with?”
Jeremy took a deep breath. He looked up at Pete again then at Tolya. “I was with my two friends.”
“Jose Acevedo and Ron Martin.”
“But there were only two of you at the scene?”
“Yeah, the three of us were hanging out at Lucky Seven…”
“How did you get in?” Pete interrupted, nearly growling again. “You’re underage, all of you.”
“Pete, tranki,” Tolya said. “Jeremy, please answer your father’s question.”
“We got fake IDs.”
“You’ll be giving that to me,” Pete said.
“Okay, so there were three of you at the bar,” Tolya continued. What happened to the third guy?”
“His girl made a booty call so he went off to see her.”
Tolya shot a glance at Pete, suppressing a smile. “Which guy left?”
“Where did you go with your other friend?” Tolya looked at his pad. “Jose?”
“We stayed for another beer then he said he had to go because he got a text from his uncle. He took his uncle’s keys by mistake and his uncle wanted to go out.”
“Jose lives up on Wadsworth now?” Pete asked.
“No, he lives down by us. His uncle lives up there. He was visiting with his uncle earlier, so when we were almost there he wanted to show me his uncle’s bike.”
Tolya looked at Pete, took in a breath and sighed.
“Now this shit is starting to make some sense,” Pete mumbled.
Jeremy looked at Pete. “Pa, what are you talking about? How can shooting someone start to make sense?”
“Ay mijo, there’s too many things you don’t know. There has been bunch of thefts, mostly motorcycles and a few cars along Wadsworth and Audobon.”
Jeremy jumped out of the chair. “That’s no reason to shoot someone.” He started to shake. “You didn’t see this! There was so much blood. Look, look, it’s all over my shoes and my pants. And what happened to Jose? Is he dead?”
Jeremy collapsed back into the chair. Pete went over to him and put his hands on his shoulders from behind. “Jeremy, I understand, no one is faulting you. You gotta calm down son, we got to ask you more questions. Important questions.”
“First tell me is Jose dead?”
“No, no, he’s in surgery,” Tolya said. “Jeremy you gotta help us to help him.”
Jeremy leaned back in the chair. Pete kept his hands on Jeremy’s shoulders.
“Okay, okay. I understand.”
“Think,” Tolya said. “Remember, what happened. Close your eyes, see it in your mind.”
Jeremy closed his eyes and concentrated. “We were near 188th street. Jose asked me if I ever rode on a motorcycle. I told him no. He said, “You wanna see the coolest thing?” I said sure. He said his uncle rides around on a motorcycle. He’s a very cool guy. He has lots of girls. They like the motorcycle. So he points to this big thing under a tarp if front of his uncle’s building. It’s chained to the lamppost.”
“Okay,” said Tolya. “Then what happened?”
“Jose pulled the tarp off the motorcycle and he got on it. Sat on it. The thing was so big two people could sit on it, a big-ass hog with a red leather seat. He took his uncle’s aviator sunglasses out of the compartment in the front and put them on and he said take a pic of me so I did.”
“With your phone?” Tolya asked.
“Yeah, I got it right here.”
“Give it to me,” Pete said.
“Okay,” Jeremy continued.
“Then he got off and said I should get on and he’d take one of me.”
“Where’s that pic?” Pete asked.
“In his phone.”
“Then I got off and we were gonna put the tarp back on and just then we hear this guy shouting, ‘Put your hands up, police.’ We looked up and he had his gun drawn.”
“Jeremy hold on a second,” Tolya said. “Did you both have your hoods up?”
“I don’t remember? Why?
Pete looked at the photo again. “Yep, he’s got the hood up and the glasses on.”
Tolya shook his head. “What happened then?”
“I gotta think for a minute, it was so fast.” Jeremy hesitated then looked at Pete. “Pop, I don’t really know. The cop shouted something and when Jose put up his hands the cop shot at him. His body jerked, then he fell flat on his face and there was so much blood. I jumped behind the car that was next to the motorcycle. Next thing I remember the cop, and he was a big guy, he’s all over me and I’m on the sidewalk handcuffed. Then he calls for backup on his radio and two minutes later three more cars show up.” Jeremy looked up at Pete. “Pop, I didn’t do nothing. We didn’t do nothing. Okay, so we was drinking, big fucking deal. We didn’t do nothing.”
Pete walked over to Jeremy and sat down in front of him on the grey steel table. “I know son.”
There was a knock on the door.
“Come in,” said Tolya.
A uniformed officer entered. “Detective Kurchenko can I speak to you a moment?” she said.
“We’re back to that again…Detective?” Pete said.
Tolya mouthed ‘fuck you’ to Pete. “Well?” he said to the young woman.
“I think it would be better if we speak outside.”
Tolya got up and left the room closing the door behind him.
“Pop, I’m really sorry,” Jeremy said.
“I know son, we’ll have time for that later.”
Tolya came back into the room. He looked at Pete and Jeremy. “Jose Acevado died 15 minutes ago in surgery.”
(To Be Continued…)
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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.