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Arnold Mancy loved his daughters very much. Everybody in the precinct knew it. His eldest, Tricia, had been born on a bitterly cold night 18 years previous, smack in the middle of a vicious snowstorm. Mancy had carried his wife seven blocks to the nearest hospital once her contractions had started because his car’s engine had frozen solid. Nine hours later, he was rewarded for his efforts, gently cradling his newborn as his exhausted wife looked on. The baby, perhaps sensing how much it was already loved, had smiled up at him and gurgled adorably before falling fast asleep in his arms. The doctors were accustomed to sobbing and infantile temper-tantrums, but they had never seen a baby fresh out of the womb smile before. Arnold Mancy didn’t know that newborn babies generally didn’t smile, and nor would he have cared. It was love at first breath.
Every police officer keeps a special space on his desk for personal family photos or assorted memorabilia. On average, about 90% of the surface is devoted to a computer, paperwork, reports, and the like, with only a small portion being relegated to one’s separate life. Arnold Mancy defied the norm, spreading his family’s history every which way. He used the mug his fourth daughter, Ivy, had given him for his birthday two years previous as a paperweight. It read “World’s Most Awesome-est Dad.” Neither the irony nor the misspelling were lost on Mancy, but he still took it very seriously.
Arnold Mancy was well-liked in his department. His tendency to locate key missing pieces of evidence had earned him the moniker “Bloodhound.” The average outsider would not suspect that the pudgy, 5’2” man with thickset glasses and losing a battle against baldness was a first-rate detective; he looked more like an accountant than an accomplished crime-solver. He did not look like a man that could quickly draw and fire a Glock with startling accuracy, a man who had held the record for “Most Points Acquired” in the precinct’s shooting range for three years running. He did not resemble a man with over 300 collars under his belt, for major crimes and otherwise. And he certainly didn’t even remotely bear resemblance to a man that could easily break down a resistant suspect in an interrogation room. Yet, he was all of these things.
“Hey, Mance. We picked up that guy who was setting all those cars on fire last night. He’s not being very helpful to us. The ‘tenant you’re up to bat.” Officer Goodlow was leaning against Mancy’s desk casually, interrupting Mancy’s perusal of an old case file. The “’tenant” was a reference to Lieutenant Candlewell, the acting chief of the department. Several months back, Candlewell had awarded Mancy the departmental “Award for Excellence” at the annual office Christmas party, citing his “exemplary accomplishments, good attitude, and grace under pressure. A damn good man,” he had called Mancy. Arnold Mancy had smiled modestly and accepted the plaque. His wife and daughters had hung it up in his bedroom at home.
Mancy hated being called “Mance,” but he consented to the affectionate nickname for the time being. “Alright. Tell him I’ll be there in a minute.” Goodlow departed, leaving Mancy to finish looking over the cold case, an arson he had worked right after being assigned to the precinct many years ago. He closed up the file carefully and stored it in its proper place within the filing cabinet. Before he left, he swept his eyes over the collection of photographs criss-crossing his desk, lingering momentarily on one of Tricia. He tore himself away and focused on the task at hand.
Candlewell was standing stock-still, arms folded, gazing intently into the one-way glass mirror that separated the interrogation room from the small, colorless anteroom he was in. Mancy came up right beside him and stared expressionlessly within. A kid (couldn’t be more than eighteen, maybe nineteen) was pacing the room nervously, wiping his sweaty hands on his blue jeans every couple of seconds. Mancy noted that he was built like a football player, a thick torso supporting muscular arms and a proud, jutting jaw. A future Giants linebacker, maybe. He evidently thought he was a tough guy, clad in a dark muscle shirt showing off the tattoo of a snarling pit bull on his bicep with a little cartoon balloon exclaiming “You WANT some of THIS?” Cute, Mancy mused to himself, except the tough guy wasn’t acting so tough right then. Mancy’s eyes didn’t miss the trembling hands, the irregular breathing, and the way his eyes blinked too rapidly. His name was Toby Wilson.
“We got him this mornin’, pickin’ up a pack of smokes,” Candlewell briefed him. “We’re still havin’ trouble with a positive I.D. The old lady who saw the shmuck couldn’t remember if he was tall or short or white or black or anythin’.” Witness testimony, as both men knew, was traditionally unreliable, especially when the witness could barely see two feet straight ahead.
“Does it matter? We’ve still got enough evidence.”
“The crime lab’s still goin’ over the stuff we confiscated from his locker at school. What an idiot. Who leaves lighter fluid and matches in their locker, I ask ya’?”
“Who indeed,” mused Arnold Mancy. “Have you searched his house yet?”
“We just got a warrant from the judge. We’re breakin’ down the door tomorrow mornin’. You want in?”
“Sure, why not?” Mancy headed towards the door so he could start his conversation with Toby.
“Wait a sec, wait a sec.” Mancy stopped in mid-step and turned back to face Candlewell. “We’ve got another eyewitness. Lucky guy got a flat tire on 8th and Madison, just happened to see a guy hurrying away before another car went ka-blooey. Said the guy was wearing was wearing a dark blue and yellow athletic jacket. Those are the colors at Toby’s school.” Candlewell smiled in victory. He knew it was circumstantial, but he had no doubt he could pull lighter fluids off of Toby’s jacket once he found it. Mancy turned back and stepped inside.
Toby relaxed somewhat when the squat, unassuming little man stepped from the outside world into the gloomy 10 x 15 windowless prison he was in. This guy couldn’t do anything to him, could he? Mancy seated himself into the metal chair as if it were the most comfortable recliner in the world and beckoned Toby with his hand to take the other one. Toby complied, a smirk replacing the worry on his face. He bulldozed over guys like this everyday in school.
“2,920 days.” That was all that Mancy said.
Toby was completely lost. “Say what?”
“2,920 days,” Mancy repeated. He folded his hands together on the table in front of him and leaned forward, locking eyes with Toby. “That’s how long you will go to prison if you’re convicted on all counts.” He didn’t even blink while saying this. “And, believe me, you will go. Every single officer in this department, myself included, will make sure of that.”
The confident grin on Toby’s face evaporated as quickly as it had surfaced and was replaced with a look of abject horror. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Arnold Mancy cocked his head and continued on like he hadn’t even heard. “That’s about eight years, Toby. Think of all the things you’ll miss in eight years. You graduate from school in a month, right? Not anymore. And then there’s college. That’s down the tubes.” He made a dismissive motion with his hand. “You won’t get an education. Definitely won’t get a job. Nobody wants to hire a felon…”
“A felon?” Toby was definitely starting to freak out. “I didn’t do nothing! I’m not a felon.”
“Ah, Toby. But what about all those cars you set on fire, huh? You don’t think there was anything wrong with that?”
Toby was in full panic mode. He jumped up and resumed pacing the room. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the seven cars you set ablaze last night in Soho with lighter fluid and matches.” Mancy was raising his voice now. “We found the stuff in your locker, Toby. I have to admit, it’s pretty damning stuff.”
“What stuff? I don’t understand…what are you talking about?”
“You keep saying that. You screwed up, kid! We know everything. We’ve got witnesses and we’ve got the materials you used last night. We’re putting it through forensic analysis right now. We have everything we need to put you away for a good portion of your life.”
“But I didn’t do anything! You’ve got the wrong guy!”
“Lying isn’t going to help you right now. Trust me, it’ll only make things worse. The best thing you can do now is to confess, to own up to what you’ve done. Come on, Toby, be a man.”
“I’m innocent, I swear to God!”
Mancy and Toby argued back and forth for twenty minutes until a thin, pasty-faced man was admitted to the room, identifying himself as Toby’s lawyer and ordering the cessation of any conversation with his client. Mancy left immediately and consulted with Candlewell outside the room.
“I tried, sir. He’s a hard one. I don’t think he’s going to confess. I’ll give it a try again tomorrow, but I just get the feeling he’s going to take the hard road.”
“Ah, whatever. We’ve got enough to bury him. You did good, Mancy. Go home, get some sleep. By the time you come in tomorrow, we’ll have enough to make the kid wish he had never even heard of lighter fluid.”
Arnold Mancy took the subway home; he disliked cars, and preferred to go on foot. As he shut the door to his house, his wife greeted him on the threshold with a kiss. He put his arm around her and followed her back to the kitchen, the delicious aroma coming from the oven encouraging him to take his place at the dinner table.
“So, what’d my hero do today?”
“Oh, not much. Some paperwork from that homicide in Queens. And we pulled some kid, one Toby Wilson. He decided to set a bunch of cars on fire last night. I gave him a talking to. He doesn’t seem very sorry.”
Tricia’s head popped through the doorframe. “Did someone say Toby Wilson?”
“Yeah. Friend of yours?”
“Oh, hi daddy.” His daughter strode over and gave him a kiss on his bald spot. “No, not really. You remember that guy that was supposed to take me to prom but dumped me for Alyssa Burns? That’s him. That’s Toby. Is he in trouble?”
“Yeah, a little bit.”
“Good. I hope that scumbag suffers in jail. He ruined my prom night, daddy. He was the one that made me cry.”
Mancy hugged his daughter tightly and pretended he hadn’t known how bad she had been hurt, but the memory of his baby crying on the most special night of high school was still very clear in his mind. His other daughters trickled into the dining room and they had a nice family dinner.
Later that night, when everyone else in the house was asleep, Mancy carefully climbed out of bed so as to not disturb his wife and padded softly into the family room. His daughter, Evelyn (his third), had fallen asleep on the couch again, and he covered her up with a worn afghan. He made his way outside, carefully opening and closing the door so it wouldn’t squeak. He donned a pair of gloves in his garage and opened up an old trash bag that lay unnoticed in the corner, carefully removing the dark blue and yellow jacket he had hidden the night before, and moved out into the night, doing his best to remain unseen. Two hours later, he was back in bed, sound asleep. Breaking into Toby Wilson’s house hadn’t been difficult, and neither had planting the jacket Mancy had worn the previous night been much of a challenge. Going to the school had taken too much time, and he hadn’t had enough hours of nighttime left to visit Toby’s house, a mistake he had just remedied. The jacket was in plain sight, and would be easily found and catalogued by the officers serving the search warrant the following morning.
Arnold Mancy loved his daughters very much. He also despised anyone who hurt them. But he had gotten his revenge. He could rest easily now.