by Jon Batson
When police detective Max Cole buys a DVD from the $2 bin at the discount store, he has no idea that the plot of the movie would parallel his current case, right down to the ex-girlfriend.
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Detective Max Cole could not believe his eyes: The plot of the $2 movie he bought at the discount store was the same as the case he was investigating. That is, until he saved the life of a small-time crook and went off-script. Can he salvage enough of the plot to arrest the bad guys and still keep his girlfriend from being kidnapped?
The street lit up with headlights as the line of cars sped through the cramped streets of Old Town. Blue and red ghosts danced around the street, reflected off of the buildings, swirling in a crazed light show that seemed to go with the sound track of wailing sirens and squealing tires. Gunshots burst from the lead car, a gunman leaning out of the window to fire a pump-action shotgun at the following police cars. The prowlers swerved, somehow avoiding being hit by the flying buckshot. Behind the frantic procession of screaming black-and-whites was a two-door convertible, two-tone, red and white. The man at the wheel swerved wildly to avoid wheel rims and flying buckshot. He took out a pistol and fired, left-handed, as the line of cars took a wide turn to the left. The gunman in the front car slumped, dropping the shotgun.
“Yeah, right!” I said, putting the empty popcorn bowl on the side table. “Only in the movies. The bad guy can’t hit a line of police cars with a shotgun, but the intrepid hero takes him out with a single shot, left handed while negotiating a turn, shooting past all the other cops in the chase. I should be so lucky!”
The driver of the lead vehicle was noticeably shaken, beads of sweat forming on his forehead as it creased with worry, his brows knitted, furtively looking from the rear-view mirror to the streets before him, seeking an exit. Above him, a helicopter beat out a tempo while giving the crooks a follow-spot. A swerve to the right took out one of the cop cars as it hit a peddler’s cart, flipped twice and went through a store window.
“Nothing like seeing a cop car get destroyed to guarantee an enthusiastic audience!” I said to the TV, remembering “Smokey and the Bandit” and other thrilling police car demolition movies.
The man in the convertible stood up for an instant, shooting at the lead car. The bullet went through the side window as the car rounded the curve and buried itself in the shoulder of the driver. The driver lost control of the car and flipped it three times, landing on its roof. The black-and-whites pulled up, their sirens whining down like dying swans. Uniformed officers surrounded the car, guns drawn. The man in the convertible walked to the edge of the circle, stopped by a man in a suit.
“Hold it right there, Mike. You know you’re under suspension.”
“It’s still my case, Murphy.”
“Well, now you’re under arrest. Gimme your gun.”
“Ringggg!” went my phone. I grabbed the clicker and put the DVD on pause.
“Whatcha doin’?” said my partner, Frank.
“Watchin’ a movie. What’re you up to?”
“Nothin’, is it any good?”
“Naw! It’s the one about the rogue cop who’s always in trouble with his boss and gets suspended so he has to solve the crime alone and the trail of evidence leads to the mayor’s office.”
“Oh, yeah, I think I’ve seen that one – about forty times with forty different heroes.” Frank’s laugh came across the phone like a foghorn across the river.
He was a good partner, but enjoyed his laugh a bit too much for my taste. He would laugh too long and too loud about too much. I waited for the horse-laugh to stop, holding a bored look on my face, as if he could see it and get the message.
He was right, though, I had seen this plot a few times myself. Steve McQueen did it best in Bullitt. Stephen Seagal used the old twist in a couple of movies. Clint Eastwood rehashed the storyline a time or two before him. Seemed like every small-budget B-movie about a metropolitan police force comes up with the same old tired stuff. It starts with a partner shot while battling overwhelming odds, or maybe some horrible attack on the family of the hero, usually with lots of blood. Then there’s the scream-out in the Captain’s office where the hero loses his badge and gun, but he has another on his ankle and he swears to solve the case anyway. There’s shootouts and chases and the discovery of evidence that ties the crime wave directly to some high-ranking official whose dirty-as-sin and sleazy as a Fifth Street pimp. The corruption goes all the way to the top but the hero gets the drop on them in the end. The sour faces of the bad guys let you know that they see their domination of the city and their wave of unfettered crime coming to a close. The hero gets the girl and his job back. I could write it myself.
“What was this one called again?” I picked up the case. “Blue Standoff.”
“Oh, yeah, with the chase that ends in more cop cars getting wrecked than there are in the whole state,” chuckled Frank.
“That’s the one, ‘and the evidence leads right to you, Mayor!’ This guy kills me!”
“Well, good, now that you know the plot, turn it off because I need you to come and look at something. I’m out here in the Projects, at the house we were at last night, where the domestic disturbance was reported.”
“There was nothing happening when we got there.”
“Yeah, well, I know why. Get here fast!”
Frank hung up. He was off duty, we both were. A guy’s gotta have some down-time. It wasn’t like him to go chasing ghosts off-hours. We had both been on the Force long enough to know when to call it a day.
I got up, put on my jacket and grabbed my badge and gun. By now, it was a habit: put on jacket, pick up badge, pick up gun. If I walked out without them, I’d feel naked.
The house was left pretty much as it had been before Frank’s call. Living alone has certain perks: you don’t have to clean up after yourself – ever, and if you want to leave the DVD in the player, there’s no one to sharply mention it.
As the door slammed behind me, I thought of Jackie, the crazy redhead who had recently slammed the same door behind her. She had finally gotten sick of me coming home at all hours – or not at all – and went back to mama. She couldn’t nag me into changing, and beating me into submission wasn’t going to happen, so she left to find someone with a sane job, someone who cares about what she wants – someone else. I missed Jackie.
She was short with a mass of red curls and a cute, little nose, big-blue eyes and chipmunk cheeks. She wasn’t like the flash girlfriend of Mike Whats-his-cop in the movie. That one was oodles blond hair, busty with legs down to the floor; the sleek sport model with the sultry voice and a taste for dangerous men. Why couldn’t I find one like her?
I still missed Jackie, she was cute and fun. She took my mind off of the job – when I got home from it. Keeping an eye on this town is full-time. Too many cops had exes and kids they never saw because when their weekend came up, they were kneeling beside a steaming corpse and a smoking gun.