by Gary Clifton
“Lord have mercy!” said Grandma Jackson. “Two days ago, them docs at Parkland said she might lose her feet. Now they sent her home this mornin’.”
S’keena Jackson, age 4, both feet heavily bandaged, labored to pedal a badly burn-damaged tricycle around her grandmother’s cramped living room. A gayly decorated Christmas tree stood in a corner.
Detective Maggs Williams said, “Ms. Jackson, doctors can sometimes work miracles.” She looked sidelong at her partner, Detective Davis McCoy.
McCoy spoke up. “Sure can. Miracles indeed.”
The odor of fresh burn and gasoline fumes hung heavily on the late December air. Next door, the former residence of Ms. Jackson’s daughter, Angel Jackson, lay in a hulk of burned ruin.
Maggs continued: “Ms. Jackson, we offer our heartfelt condolences for the loss of your daughter. We and the entire police department are working night and day to bring her kill... uh” — she glanced at S’keena — “to bring the man responsible to justice.”
Grandma teared up. “She was a jewel, my absolute jewel.”
Maggs asked gently, “How did she get involved with Keven Rucker... uh, Cincinnati Blue, I believe he was called?”
“Jes’ that ol’ dope. Diamond worked regular and never got in no trouble. Blue got her on them pills, then stronger dope. She tried to throw his ass out, and you can see out the window. He tossed one o’ them marmolof cocktails in her bedroom window.”
McCoy didn’t bother to correct Grandma’s identification of the murder weapon to “Molotov.” “Mrs. Jackson, you told responding patrol officers you saw him throw the gas bomb and could positively identify him.”
“Yes, sir, when that ol’ bomb blow up, I could see his face plain as day.”
Maggs asked, “Ms. Jackson, would you have any idea who else might have seen Blue throw the bomb?”
“No. Somebody might have, but I ain’t heard.”
When McCoy and Maggs stood to leave, McCoy stumbled over S’keena on her barely functional tricycle.
“Santa brought that on Christmas morning three days ago,” Grandma said. “Child left it on the back porch. It’s about the only thing we saved from Angels’ things. Child can barely make it go. Lost all her Christmas.”
* * *
McCoy and Maggs spent an hour canvassing the neighborhood with no results. As Maggs pulled away from the curb, McCoy said, “You don’t suppose Blue is dumb enough to sneak back into his mama’s place over on Birmingham, do you?”
“Surely not, but that’s only a few blocks. I hope we can nail this loser for little S’keena’s sake.”
“Well, I want to put enough together to lock him up, but you gotta know better than to let personal emotion get into the mix.”
“Damn, McCoy, your sense of charity is commendable,” she snorted. “I’ll call for cover.”
Several houses down, Maggs pulled up behind the two marked patrol squads who’d responded. She said to the uniformed officers, “McCoy and I will bang on the front door. Blue will probably run rather than fight. He’s always armed and he’s good for the firebombing murder over on Mayfair Christmas night. Be careful.”
McCoy and Maggs leaned close to the front wall on either side of the front door. McCoy knocked and shouted, “Police!” The familiar sound of someone crashing out a door wafted around from the rear, followed by a male voice commanding, “Freeze! Police!”
“Jackpot.” Maggs smiled as she rounded the house. The two patrolmen had Blue face down, handcuffing him.
“Mope tried to haul out his pistol,” said one young officer.
“Well,” McCoy said, “attempted murder of a police officer will fit well with the murder by Molotov of Angel Jackson. Hard luck, Blue.”
The pair of patrolmen agreed to transport Blue to the Sterrett Center. McCoy asked Maggs to drop him at the police garage. “Gotta see the dentist, Maggs. I’ll meet you in the office in a couple of hours. The lieutenant and Internal Affairs both are gonna want to hear what happened.”
* * *
An hour later, McCoy threaded his pickup down a narrow alley and squeezed into the small backyard of Grandma Jackson. Dragging a large box from the truck bed, he manhandled it up the back step. When he knocked on the door, Grandma opened it, stared at the heavy box, and motioned him inside.
He lowered the box to the floor. S’Keena hurried from a side room, bursting with excitement. He dumped out the contents, including a new blue tricycle. The spread of toys, including a shiny red tricycle already cluttering the floor, caught the unflappable McCoy off guard.
From the same room from which S’keena had just emerged, Maggs stepped into the living room. “Dentist, huh,” she chuckled. “McCoy, you aren’t nearly as tough as you think you are.”
Grandma Jackson broke into tears. S’keena was beside herself with joy. The Christmas tree decorations seemed to take on a new sparkle.
“McCoy, I already told Ms. Jackson about Blue.”
Maggs held McCoy’s gaze, both painfully aware a half-dozen tricycles wouldn’t bring back the child’s mama.
Copyright © 2020 by Gary Clifton