Authors: Ross H. Spencer
A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.
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Copyright © 1989 by Ross H. Spencer
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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First Diversion Books edition March 2015
The Fifth Script
is dedicated to Vic Zileski, who brightened my murky past — and to Shirley Spencer, who brightens my murky present.
When all things were just as they seemed,
Man didn’t lie, he never schemed,
But, being man, he always dreamed
Of wealth, a kingdom on a hill,
Of power great, then greater still,
Of nations bowing to his will.
Man’s want must rapidly exceed
The limits of his honest need
And want, unbridled, turns to greed.
So, man, who plays the role of saint,
Has forged a world of stain and taint
Where all things seem just as they ain’t.
Monroe D. Underwood
When Lacey Lockington interrupted certain suspicious-appearing negotiations being conducted near the corners of Belmont and Kimball Avenues, a pair of alarmed potential buyers lit out for the Wyoming timberline. Not so in the case of the potential seller, who whipped out a Beretta automatic pistol. Interpreting this as a hostile and threatening act, Lacey Lockington shot the potential seller between the eyes. The .38 slug romped merrily into the twisted recesses of Sapphire Joe Solano’s dark little brain, and he toppled from the curb squarely into the path of an overdue Federal Express truck. Sapphire Joe Solano had been an enterprising young heroin hustler, Lacey Lockington was a middle-aging Chicago plainclothes cop.
The incident, being routine as Chicago incidents go, drew minor mention from the news community, the Chicago
ignored it completely, and the Chicago
jumped over it. The Chicago
had spent the better part of three decades fashioning mountains from dung heaps, supporting left-wing political candidates, championing controversial causes, and insisting that the majority is always wrong, an editorial policy that had borne scant harvest in Chicago because Chicago’s majority subscribed to the
and Chicago’s minority had never learned to read. Nevertheless, the Chicago
money, with its antagonistic, sensationalist marketing of such news as it chose to market, rarely in keeping with public moods, playing the role of devil’s advocate to the hilt.
In the instance of Sapphire Joe Solano, the
August 10 edition was quick to admit that “sales of mind-altering chemicals constituted a mushrooming problem within the city;” agreeing that it deserved “immediate and diligent attention;” “
”, it went on, “an even more insidious and deadly plague was prowling the midnight streets of Chicago.” That plague was wanton police violence.
The guidon bearer for the Chicago
tubthumping safaris was a newspaper woman named Stella Starbright whose five times weekly column,
Stella on State Street
, declared that “some scant measure of human compassion might have been excercised here”—surely a police officer of Lacey Lockington’s experience should have been capable of disarming Sapphire Joe Solano, or shooting him in the knee, or doing
thing, “Oh, Dear God in Heaven,”
short of blasting the back of Solano’s head into the middle of North Kimball Avenue. Stella reasoned that Joe Solano had been a product of troubled times, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who’d never gotten a fair shake at the hands of society; that he’d been a delinquent before he’d left the cradle, and that there was absolutely no record of his having been counselled in
fashion by any
—aside from an occasional wallop in the mouth with a patrolman’s nightstick. The lad could have been turned around, Stella said, but no one had tried because no one had given “two whoops in hell.” Then Stella got down to brass tacks. She stated that Detective Sergeant Lacey Lockington might very well be another of those hair-trigger personalities all too often encountered in the ranks of Chicago’s law enforcement agencies, one more member of the self-appointed judge, jury, and executioner school.
The term “snakebitten” isn’t necessarily confined to the poor bastard who’s been nailed in the ankle by a water moccasin. It also applies to the baseball team that can’t win for losing; to the housewife who spills the coffee after she’s scorched the oatmeal; to the quail hunter whose first shot of the season blows a game warden’s balls off. It refers to an inexplicable span of time during which nothing goes right. It’s a condition known to all, but there are those among us who seem more vulnerable to the affliction, those with whom it lingers longer, with whom it would appear to be almost chronic. Lacey Lockington was one of these. He was on familiar terms with the malady, knew its early symptoms, and recognized the Sapphire Joe Solano business as a likely beginning for another stretch of snakebite.
Lockington wasn’t a prophet, nor was he a fatalist by any stretch of the imagination, but he was fully cognizant of the fact that we are set on an unalterable course for tomorrow, and that most of us get there most of the time. So it was then that Lacey Lockington edged warily into each new day until he came to the tomorrow that saw him kill young Timothy Gozzen.
It came about on a sunny Wednesday afternoon in an alley, a few doors south of Diversey Avenue. Timothy Gozzen had snatched a six-year-old girl by the halter of her sunsuit from the seat of her tricycle and dragged the bewildered, screaming tyke into the dilapidated garage of an abandoned dwelling. Lockington, heading back to his West Barry Avenue apartment after a long and fruitless stakeout on Division Street, had taken notice of this burst of activity. He’d braked his aging blue Pontiac Catalina to a tire-smoking halt, unlimbering his .38 police special to sprint down the alley and into the garage. He’d covered Gozzen, Gozzen had dropped the youngster and made a break for it, and Lockington had shot him through the throat, severing the jugular vein.
By and large, the affair drew yawns from the media, but the ever-testy Chicago
was Johnny-at-the-rathole with Stella Starbright waxing tearfully eloquent. She argued that although Timothy Gozzen’s intentions had probably added up to something a few degrees south of honorable,
it was a matter of irrefutable record that Gozzen had been a mentally disturbed boy, neglected and abused in an impoverished foster home, shunned by classmates, ignored by teachers to whom he’d turned for help. There wasn’t a single “smidgen” of doubt—poor nineteen-year-old Timothy Gozzen had been the warped creation, the utterly hapless victim of an apathetic society that had chosen to bury its blunders rather than face up to them.
The entire “barbaric incident” could have been avoided, Stella Starbright opined, had Detective Sergeant Lacey Lockington maintained presence of mind to pursue the unarmed stripling, catch him, overpower him, and turn him over to an appropriate agency for rehabilitation. True, she said, this had been Timothy Gozzen’s sixth presumably sexually-slanted brush with the law, but no criminal charges had ever been filed against the lad, and half-a-dozen presumptions do not a conviction make.
It was a lengthy column, taking up nearly half of the
third page. It pointed out that Lockington had probably been well within the boundaries of his extensive authority, and therein lay the fault—his authority was
extensive, virtually limitless, he was in a position to play God, and turning a man of Lockington’s obvious leanings loose in such a preserve was closely akin to turning a hungry saber-toothed tiger loose in the corner meat market.
Having checked police records, Stella stated they revealed that Lacey Lockington had killed before, more than once, and he was very good at it. Ah, yes, there was a great deal more to this than met the undiscerning eye. Another criminal lurked in the trash-strewn alleys of America’s great cities, one infinitely more dangerous than a regiment of small-time drug peddlers and addled childmolesters. He was the kill-crazy police officer who blew somebody’s brains out and asked questions afterward, if indeed he bothered to ask questions at all. There was an overabundance of these rogue cops. Their number was legion, and this unchecked vigilante horde was epitomized in the person of one Chicago Detective Sergeant Lacey Lockington!
Stella Starbright dragged out her crystal ball and made a prediction—a calloused Chicago populace would give Lockington an approving nod for his cold-blooded slaying of the disoriented Timothy Gozzen. And why not, Stella asked, after all, the color line hadn’t been violated, a white hadn’t murdered a black, nor a black a white, and so long as whites shot whites and blacks shot blacks, and just about everybody shot Puerto Ricans, what did it matter anyway? “Well, Dear God in Heaven,” it
matter, Stella fumed, it just wasn’t all that darned simple. This was a close call, much too close to be glossed over by a perfunctory stamp of public acceptance. She called for immediate civil action against a rabid wolf in the fold and the rapacious jungle element he symbolized.
Her case presented, Stella Starbright popped with her second prophecy of the day—Lacey Lockington would kill again, and again, and probably again. He would kill repeatedly and without just cause; he would kill for the hell of it, for the sheer joy of killing. He would continue to terrorize the City of Chicago until he was brought under control. And when, oh, Dear God in Heaven,
Lockington awakened to a cloudy Thursday morning, the taste of the Timothy Gozzen killing still bitter in his mouth. Determined to dwell on the episode as little as possible, he spat it out and phoned the South State Street desk to take two days of his annual leave and spent the early hours of his holiday with the Cider Press Federation.
The Cider Press Federation had been designed to occupy the vast void left by Julie. It had fallen considerably short of its intended purpose but it’d helped just a bit, providing Lockington with a flimsy buffer between himself and reality, and he’d spent innumerable hours immersed in the activities of the six-team baseball circuit. Its play was complicated, controlled by an intricate combination of cards, dice and highly detailed charts, and Lockington had made a policy of turning to the game when memories of Julie swamped his lonely hours.
Of the half-dozen entries in the Cider Press Federation pennant race, Lockington had become attached to the Pepper Valley Crickets, without knowing why. Certainly, the Crickets didn’t have pennant potential—they possessed excellent speed, but their pitching was mediocre at best, they lacked a consistent long ball hitter, and their fielding left much to be desired. Currently mired in fourth place, they trailed the league-leading Delta River Weevils by a dozen games. Bad fortune notwithstanding, Lockington played the Cider Press Federation’s season one game at a time, hoping for a Pepper Valley turn-around, exulting in its victories and lamenting its losses. His picking of the Crickets had been a great deal like getting married, he thought—a man just hauls off and does it, then spends the remainder of his days making the best of it. Which was one reason Lockington had never married. There were others, probably, but he’d never looked for them. One was all he’d needed.