When John Bassler was a kid his dad told him two things.
“Johnny,” he said, “You give respect where respect is due, but other than that don’t take shit from anybody.”
It was a creed that John lived his life by from little league bean ball brawls, to high school cliques, to the Marines, and as a detective on the streets of Detroit. He was second generation Detroit by way of Hazard, Kentucky. His people came to build the cars and somehow he managed to avoid the Ford plant. The whole family had an accent and he had retained some of his. The street cops thought it was funny when he showed up in creased jeans and work boots carrying the old Smith and Wesson Revolver, still speaking with a hint of Appalachia in his voice. They called him, “hillbilly” when they thought he wasn’t listening. He didn’t mind it much.
John got out of the car and looked around like he always did at a crime scene. It was a residential neighborhood that was typical for the new Detroit, inhabited homes mixed in with the abandoned and burned out ones. He motioned for a radio cop guarding the scene to come over.
“What can I do for you detective?” the uniform cop said.
“Get a couple of patrolmen and go through as many of the nearby abandoned houses as you can. I don’t know what we got here but sometimes these sons of bitches like to watch,” John said.
John’s partner, a clean cut guy named Earl Cook, wore a nice suit, spoke proper English. His family was from down south too, that’s probably why Inspector Roarke partnered them up. The uniform cop looked at Cook.
“Do what he says kid,” Cook said.
John walked over to a body lying next to the curb and studied things. The gravel pushed to the side by the cars, some plastic parts from a fender bender, there was even a small pile of salt left over from the brutally cold winter. He noticed a black rubber mark on the street where a car had spun its tires. There was a small blue tarp spread out on the grass.
“What’s this?” he said to a uniform cop taking pictures.
“Shot was so close it blew part of his face off, scene supervisor wanted it covered up,” the uniform cop said.
If you watched the national news you get the impression that, in Detroit, people get murdered everyday just walking down the street minding their own business. Ninety nine percent of the killings were drug related, theft related, assault related. Some kind of crime went down that made somebody think the killing was necessary, eye for an eye shit. A family member was wailing, standing behind the crime scene tape. John walked over.
“Hey, stop that wailing for a minute,” John said, “Who is the deceased to you?”
“My boy, they killed my boy,” the woman screamed.
“What’s your boy mixed up in? Drugs, stealing, he beat somebody up?”
“He was a good boy, he never done nothing to deserve this.”
“Yeah, yeah,” John said, “on par with the pope right?”
He walked over and stood next to Earl.
“What’d you think John?” Earl said.
“I think we find out what he was involved in and that’ll point us in the right direction. That’s his mama over there acting like she’s gut shot, crocodile tears though and she ain’t talking.”
“We’ve got a positive ID on the victim,” Cook said.
“Good,” John said, “We can start with that. Let’s head on back to headquarters, find out what this dude was up to.”
John saw the duty cop he requested the search from and motioned him over.
“You turn up anything?”
John looked at Earl.
“I guess we can rule out a serial killing sociopath that gets off on this stuff.”
“You know we don’t get assigned those kinds of cases John,” Cook said.