At the epicenter of New York City’s dynamic creative industry in Hudson Square, another workday was coming to a close at the Department of Internal Affairs, a bureau dedicated to preserving the integrity and fighting corruption within the NYPD. However, Special Agent Martha Combs was still hard at work, researching two piles of folders on her desk, stemming from the 14th precinct raid. The larger pile represented cops who’ve been under investigation for years while the smaller pile represented cops on the naughty list but with reasonable causes, at least in the eyes of the working man. Her slender nose was just inches away from a stat sheet as she tucked a bunch of strands of her square bob hair behind her ears, wanting to record every listed number into her memory bank.
Interrupting her intense concentration was the rattling sound of her desk telephone. Martha checked the number and saw it was her cousin Natalie Mercedes, her former patrol partner in the NYPD and the only person she trusted with her life.
Five years ago, on the nastiest streets of Brooklyn, Martha and Natalie opposed the most notorious criminals poisoning their community daily. Although teetering over the line of vigilantism several times, these strong black women never crossed over it, staying loyal to the badge and committed to fighting crime by the book. Due to the heavy corruption in her precinct, Martha became motivated to join Internal Affairs and clean up the system from the inside. But right before her examination, Natalie abruptly resigned. She wanted to move ahead with their plans to start a private investigation firm, but Martha
refused. Once receiving word that her promotion to Internal Affairs was granted,
Martha found the opportunity too good to pass up.
While her career took off to new heights, Martha’s personal life had crashed
and burned. She divorced her husband of fourteen years, Samuel Folgers, and
lost custody of their 13-year-old son, Henry Folgers, due to the demanding hours and dangers of her job. She was devastated. From that point on, the job and her cousin were the only two things that kept her from going insane.
“Whazzup girl?” Martha answered.
“Ah, same o’ same o’,” said Natalie. “How’s life in the world of tight suits,
greasy palms, and racist cops?”
“Stressful, annoying, and in a nutshell pretty sad - but thank you, Jesus. How about you? How’s it going in the hood of freelance justice?”
“Still taking out the trash, making some loot here and there. Got a great staff working for me, so it’s all good. I’m on the job right now, but I bet you’ll never guess where?” Martha thought for a minute but came up empty. “Connecticut!”
“Are you serious?” Martha giggled.
“As a damn heart attack. It was supposed to be an open-and-shut domestic violence case, but it turns out this scumbag moonlights as a drug runner for a crew in Hartford. I should take this fool to Small Claims court for gas and toll expenses - but that’s after I bust his ass like he did to his woman.”
Martha laughed. “Have him pay your fee instead.”
“Oh, he’s gonna pay alright. Believe that!” Natalie laughed. “What does
I.A. got you doing this time?”
“Girl, it’s been a rough couple of days. Fraud is becoming an epidemic within these departments and it’s getting contagious. You wouldn’t believe the number of files I have on my desk and they’re all related to that damn raid in Lower Manhattan.”
“I heard about that on the radio. Remember I used to tell you how dirty those 14th cops were? But the whole damn precinct?! Not even I saw that one coming. Do you think they were capable of pulling off such a horrific crime in a short amount of time?”
“That’s what’s puzzling me. Most of these cops have been on our radar for a while, but as I’m reading their jackets, I don’t think any of them would have the balls to kill a crime boss. They’re perverted losers who arrest prostitutes just to get their hands on some booty. Or maybe they played us all for fools by acting lazier than usual. Even as I hear myself say it, it sounds too far-fetched. You agree?”
“Yup. It seems too open-and-shut for me. Something ain’t right.”
Martha sighed. “Where has the time gone Nat? Do you remember when this job used to be fun, like when you got excited to know that you’d be making a difference in someone’s life today? Do you still get that feeling?”
“Not that much. On some days, it does feel like a job, lousy clients or lame cases and such. But some people come to my office because they have no one else to turn to. To those people, I’m making a difference. That’s when I get the goosebumps and feel proud of what I’m doing.”
“Sounds so great. But it doesn’t beat our days together, right?”
“Oh no! I miss our days of chasing down drug dealers, breaking up rumbles, getting into shootouts and all that!” Both ladies laughed. “I also miss happy
hour, us hanging out with Memphis and his wild bunch.”
“Girl, those were the days! I haven’t seen Memph in a minute. Or Naomi.
Have you spoken to either one?”
“Not in years. I don’t even know if he’s still a cop?”
“I hope he is. We need more dedicated cops like him on these streets. I wish you were in the agency with me Nat. We could’ve brought our double-trouble
act to the big time and taken down a lot of these kingpins in power.”
“Part of me still regrets resigning the way I did, but I don’ trust the system, Martha. If anything, I wish you came with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled at your continuing success with I.A., but just imagine if an army of crooked cops decided to take the city under siege? Ah, maybe it’s just paranoia.”
“I’d say so because that’ll never happen Nat. Cops usually break bad for selfish reasons, so there goes the chance of any army being formed. Only a conniving leader can organize a seize of corruption within the ranks, gathering
and negotiating with many cops from separate divisions. Downright impossible.
Now, do you still believe something like that could even happen?”
“Didn’t you just say fraud was becoming an epidemic?”
Martha paused. Cops had been more vigilant these past few years. Could it ironically be happening? Doubt entered her mind, taking the subject more serious than before. “I gotta get back to work,” she hurried. “And for the record, I’m not mad at you for leaving. I love ya girl and I always got your back.”
“I know this already. Still great to hear though.”
“Once this madness is over, we gotta get up again, like a girl’s night out or something. How does that sound?”
“You’re on sista!”
Hanging up the phone, Martha drilled her eyes back toward the staggering police files. Something didn’t sit right as she reviewed John Hart’s report, submitted earlier via messenger. His evidence led a trail to the precinct, but how did he come to this conclusion in just a matter of hours?
She grabbed an officer’s file from the smaller pile, Officer Freddie McMurray. While examining his performance, McMurray got red-flagged for suspicion of extortion. He spent most of his nights in Chinatown, strong-arming drug dealers for ten percent of their profits. However, he was happily married
for twenty years, father to two boys and one girl, and coached Little League
Baseball on the weekends.
“His home life was stable,” she discovered. “Why would he go off the deep end all of a sudden? Murder and armed robbery? It doesn’t make sense.”
She dug deeper into the smaller pile, grabbing a bunch of files at once. Much of these officers had similar backstories: committing wrongful actions with a moral purpose, none involved in criminal espionage. What did Detective Hart have on these guys that she wasn’t seeing?
She then grabbed ten folders from the larger pile and swam through the ocean of reports. These cops, on the other hand, were under investigation for harsher crimes, some involving mafia figureheads. Yet, none was questioned for murder. She couldn’t pinpoint a proper motive. “What are you up to John?” she
Martha searched for John Hart’s profile on the Internal Affairs database, but her access got denied, deeming the file as classified. She used every technical procedure to go around the security blocks and got booted out each time.
Visibly frustrated, she beelined and burst into the office of Inspector Judas
Lee, who was at his desk gathering notes for a meeting. He was one of the
top agents in the agency, working closely with Police Commissioner Wood to establish the NYPD as the premier organization for public safety in the country. Martha Combs was his go-to agent and Lee has given his directors enough confidence to put her in charge of a unit soon.
“Sir,” Martha announced. “I need access to John Hart’s case files.”
“Good afternoon to you, too,” said Inspector Lee. “Having a good day thus
“It’d be a whole lot better if I could get access to that file.”
“You’re a high-ranking agent Combs. You can get them on your own – oh no! Don’t tell me your computer is on the blink again! I swear I’m going to hang the I.T. department by their testicles if they don’t get our systems fully operational by the end of the day.”
“My computer’s fine. And I should have access to every file recorded, but
for some reason, I’m being denied access to this particular file. He’s an officer of the state police.”
“What’s his name?”
“Detective John Hart.”
Inspector Lee was appalled to hear his name. “John Hart?” he asked. “The savior of our city? The golden boy?” Lee chuckled like it was a joke, but the stone look on Martha’s showed she was dead serious. He dropped his smile “You’re not kidding?”
“With all respect, why would I make jokes at a time like this?” “You’re right. Sorry.”
“No problem. Now can I get that file?”
“Why would you not have access to it? Maybe it’s under review by one of the directors, maybe he’s in line for a promotion or something. Also, as I just mentioned, our systems have been screwy all day. Could be several reasons why you can’t open it. Care to elaborate on your assumptions about him?”
She leaned over the inspector’s desk. “Isn’t it odd for one cop to accuse an entire police precinct of wiping out probably the biggest crime syndicate this decade? I’m almost certain Pagnucci had them all on his payroll, but if that’s so, then why go to war with him? On top of that, a large portion of those cops are either overweight or passed their prime. Are they capable of orchestrating such a massacre of epic proportions?”
Lee leaned back in his chair and put his hands together. “Murder is unexplainable, Combs. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have jobs. What I do know about the 14th precinct is that they monitor a highly corrupt district. I’m guessing they were so passionate about serving justice that they lost faith in the judicial system and took matters into their own hands. Sounds logical to me.”
“Throughout the history of law enforcement, have you ever heard of a string of crime bosses being taken down by one detective who wasn’t working with the FBI? How can this man have done what the damn Federal government still has yet to accomplish?”
“Sorry, Combs. Your theory does hold some merit, but I can’t go over the department heads. If they’re holding onto his file, then there has to be a good reason. And if they find some truth to what you’re saying, I’ll alert you
immediately. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading to a meeting. Good day, Ms. Combs.”