Natalie purchased a bus ticket to Kansas City the next morning. Her next move was to get Don to Port Authority and out of New York as early as possible. She also wrote down the address of another homeless shelter called Hope & Faith. Mid-south would be a perfect place for Don to stay off the radar. Maybe he’ll find a job off the books and decide to start a new life there. Or perhaps he can save some money and travel out of the country, like Mexico or Cuba. Approaching Arthur Avenue, Natalie grew worried at the sight of yellow caution tape blocking off the street. New York’s Finest from the 66th Precinct fended off a large crowd of onlookers. Playing it safe, Natalie made a broken U-turn and parked a block away. Whatever you do Don, please stay inside.
Walking closer to the ruckus, she noticed broken glass in front of the Inner Life of Holy Worship Church. Blood spatter on the sidewalk. EMTs wheeled out a body bag on top of a gurney. Natalie pushed passed the spectators and ducked under the yellow tape, hoping her worst fear hadn’t come true. Just then, Officer Zack Metzger, assigned to handle crowd control, stood in her way with his arms spread open.
“I need to see the body,” she insisted, but the officer demanded she turn back. “I think that’s a friend of mine! Would you please get out my way?!” Officer Metzger still refused. “GET OUT OF MY WAY DAMMIT!!!”
Natalie pushed him aside and Metzger grabbed her arm, preventing her from going any further. She tugged and pulled away, but the officer was latched onto her like an octopus.
“Hold it! HOLD IT!” yelled another officer from afar. He was about the
size of two men but had a friendly smile that could light up the cloudiest day.
His hands were as big as oven mitts with the complexion of a leather glove. “I’ll take it from here, Metzger. Why don’t you go down the block and handle the news crews?” Natalie yanked her arm away from the officer and coldly stared. Metzger saluted before walking away.
Natalie turned her attention to this big man that intervened. She tightened her eyes. He looked familiar. Of course! It was Warren Sutter, an old friend from her days of patrolling the streets of Brooklyn. He, too, was a friend of Martha’s. However, she chose to keep her death a secret or else they would spend hours reminiscing about old times. Hours were the last thing that needed to be wasted.
“Natalie!” said Warren with an ear-to-ear grin.
“Warren?” she gasped. “How ya been, big guy?!” She stretched her arms up to hug him. “Still see you’re as big as a house. What are you doing here?”
“Ah, nuthin’, just layin’ my thang down on these streets, ya know? However long it takes for these knuckleheads to wise up, I’ll still be here to give ‘em trouble.” Warren looked at her and smirked. “Mmm-mmm. Still lookin’ as fine
as ever I see. So, how you’ve been doing?”
“Pretty much the same. Why did you transfer up here to the BX? Did you buy a house or something?”
“Nah, I split from our department shortly after you did. Guys started talking nonsense about getting paid more and exacting revenge and all that. I gave them the lowdown about us protecting the public and honoring the colors we sport on this job every day, but they weren’t trying to hear that. Gave me an eerie feeling, ya know? That ain’t what I signed up for. So, I decided to come back here, to my hometown, where I know my work can make a difference.”
“What was that scuffle all about with Metzger?”
“Ah, nothing – I was jus’ trippin’ that’s all. I brought a friend of mine to the shelter across the street yesterday and for a moment I thought that could be him in that body bag,” She shook her head and chuckled. “A momentary freak out on my part, I guess.”
“Hmm,” Warren raised an eyebrow. “Why would you think he’d be dead at a crime scene?”
“Paranoia, I guess. Ya see he’s not from around these parts. What happened anyway?”
“I won’t bother with the gory details, but it appears to be a case of murder and attempted robbery. Not sure how it happened though. DT’s and CSI are on their way to investigate.”
“Has anyone from the shelter been out here?”
“Nope. Got the whole block sealed. No one gets out and nobody’s coming
in. Maybe your friend is still stuck inside. I can walk you to him if you want.”
Even with Warren being an old friend, Natalie couldn’t afford to trust anybody. “That’s okay,” she brushed off. “Guess I’ll check on my friend later after the dust settles. At least I know he’s safe in there. I better go. You take care of yourself big man.”
“You know where I am now, Nat. If you ever need me for anything, I’m here for ya.”
“I appreciate that.”
Natalie retreated through the crowd and headed back to her car. Guessing no
news was good news, she decided to wait until the crowds dispersed. Robbing a church? Who would do something so ludicrous? And then be killed for it? Must’ve had valuable artifacts or something. If Don did what she told him to do, then perhaps he ran under the closest bed once the chaos started. At least that’s what she hoped.
From out of nowhere came a strung-out young man, dressed like a high fashion thug, very artificial. He crept next to her and hissed, “C’mere Ma. Lemme talk to ya for a min-it.”
Without stopping, Natalie sarcastically replied, “Call my office and make an
“Nah, I’m on the real Ma. I saw you arguin’ with that cop.”
“Yeah? Well, I don’t sign autographs.”
“Dem cops don’t know a damn thing, but I see things ’round here, ya heard? Learn some stuff by watching TV.”
“Good for you. Can you count from A to Z as well?”
“You here fo dat white boy cop aren’t chu?” Natalie stopped. “I saw ya
bring ‘em here last night. Crass, right? Everyone’s lookin’ for him...escapin’ that raid and all.”
Natalie grabbed him by his shirt and dragged him into the alley. She flung him against a brick wall and pressed the shirt collar up against his throat. “Who are you?!” she threatened. “Who sent you?!” The thug gagged for air. “You better talk to me or else I’ll snap your neck like a twig.”
“Nobody...I swear!” he gagged. “I work for no one yo! I just see things…I
can help you, lady! Help…you.”
She released his shirt and the thug quickly inhaled for air. He massaged his throat and held on the wall for balance. Giving him a minute to catch his breath, Natalie glanced out at the street. No sign of any cops. “Where do you live?” she asked.
“I ain’t got no home,” he coughed. “Been stayin’ in dat shelter for a hot minute. Best place fo me ta handle my business without being seen or heard from -”
“Look, I don’t want your damn life story. Just tell me what you know.”
“I-ight. Last night, I was chillin’ with my boys out in front of the shelter and that white boy came lookin’ out the window. I offered him a puff, but he was
like nah. Then we heard glass breakin’ across the street and these guys ran out that church.”
“Yeah, a few of dem. Carrying these big ass bags like Jay-Z packin’ for a world tour. Then ya man Crass ran out there like a superhero, yellin’ at them to stop.”
“He ran out there! Alone?” “Yeah, he went fo self yo.”
“Dammit!” She pressed one side of her head and sighed. “What else happened?”
“Dem guys bum-rushed him, but your man did his thing! He gave ‘em the hands and laid dem cats out, bobbin’ and weavin’ like Sugar Ray yo!”
“Wait. Are you telling me he foiled the robbery?”
“Yea! After that, this husky broad on a motorcycle stopped right in front
of dem. She stepped up with some ol’ Crocodile Dundee lookin’ knife and jus’
started slicin’ cats for no reason!” “A blonde chick?”
“Yeah, man! She got Schwarzenegger arms as big as my legs, yo! Ugly as hell, too!”
“What did Crass do?” She hoped to hear that he ran back inside.
“He must’ve known that broad because he grabbed a thief’s gun and started blastin’! Poppin’ mad slugs in her chest, shootin’ without stoppin’!”
“Was she hurt?”
“Nah! That’s what bugged me out. She ain’t drop at all. Hell, she acted like it didn’t hurt!” Natalie was shocked. “Ya boy beat the hell outta her whateva
he got his hands on: garbage, bottles, even a damn steel rod. None of them worked.” The thug shook his head. “She then took out a big ass blade and sliced his chest in half. Then chopped his head clean off.”
Natalie facepalmed, holding back the tears. She felt guilty for not getting him out of town sooner. “You i-ight lady?”
“Yeah,” she said, wiping her eyes. “What happened to the thieves?” “Man them dudes hauled ass, bleedin’ like pigs ‘cause she started slicin’
them up, too. Then a car and a jeep swerved onto da scene. They scooped up
those bags and split. And dat’s all I know.”
She took out the bundle of money intended for Don and stuffed it in the thug’s hand. “Forget you saw me.”
Pacing back to her car, Natalie felt stress run up her neck. Her eyes watered. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Based on the thug’s story, Don died a hero. He also died at the hands of Cat Strutter. Two murders under her watch. Sorrow turned to anger. “No more.”