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'Till Death is Uniform
The sound of car horns, the smell of exhaust, the feel of nightfall fast approaching, set River on edge. Every little noise echoed through the cavernous room, making both New York detectives flinch. Lightly creeping across the floor, Detectives James Karmani and River Smith could feel the pressure against them.
They stop to listen, hoping to scope out the whereabouts of the killer. In the distance, a muffled grunt followed by a throaty chuckle, reached them.
Karmani raised his Glock in the direction of the noise, a cloud of floating dust blocking the path. River followed the train of thought her partner was on and moved slowly towards the wall of white and grey. “I think it is coming from up these stairs.” Karmani whispered, his voice laced with tension.
“I will go up first, I trust you to watch my six, Karmani. If I go down, I want you to make the shot, don’t let him stop you. I know he was a friend.” River whispered, sadness lacing her words. Karmani nodded grudgingly, his eyes set in determination; his knuckles were white with the pressure he was exerting on his weapon.
Moving up the stairs, River steadied her breathing, knowing the murderer was trained to kill when threatened. The stairs creaked as she placed her weight upon them. The same with the second stair, the third, the fourth… it was a slow process moving up the spiral, metal staircase.
Reaching the top of the stairs, a light shone out from the door at the end of the hallway, the door cracked open an inch or two. Both detectives stopped and listened for any type of movement. A muffled voice was speaking only to pause. A slap filled the silence seconds later and a shudder passed through the partners. The voice once again began speaking, spurring them into a silent walk, their warm breath rising into the air like chimneys.
Approaching the door, River felt the same cold feeling settle in her bones as she felt the weight of what she was about to do hit her. As her heeled boots moved across the floor she felt a sense of déjà vu.
She remembered that only an hour before, Karmani and herself believed Jethro Mockery was one of the men in blue, helping to find the serial killer.
“I just don’t see any connections!” River sighed in frustration and dropped the case folders upon the desk top. “Have you got anything Karmani?”
“As of now?” River looked up at her partner, her face belying her hope. “No. We haven’t got a hit on the BOLO and we have nothing in the databases matching the fingerprint we found.”
“This isn’t going anywhere fast and we only have,” she paused to look at her watch. “a little over an hour and a half before the killer murders the next vic. Are you sure we haven’t missed something?”
“Pretty sure, Riv. I had Officer Mockery make a copy of all the pictures we took of the bagged evidence at the last crime scene as well as the other four and we still haven’t seen any connections between what was used to kill the vics and the way they were killed.”
River nodded and leaned against her desk, fixing the murder board with a glare. Her eyes ghosted over the pictures hung there, hoping to see through the dirty “glass”. A realization struck her, hard enough to send her flying off the edge of her desk and into Karmani. “I have it but you aren’t going to like it.”
“Spit it out, Riv, we don’t have time for this nonsense!”
“It was Mockery.”
Karmani scrunched his forehead in confusion before it smoothed out. “Oh, you got me there but tell me. What really is your idea?”
“That is my idea.” River watched as Karmani shook his head and grabbed his long forgotten, empty coffee cup. Karmani moved from his desk and walked into the break room. Quickly setting up a search on her computer, she trailed after him, struggling to explain her theory to her partner. “Listen, Karmani, I know it doesn’t seem likely, he did take an oath to protect but it has been known to happen. Even to the best of them, sometimes they crack under the pressure.”
Karmani made his way to the coffee machine, continuing to shake his head. She could tell from the way his shoulders were tensed and the way he busied himself Karmani was no longer listening to her. River felt her frustration boil and she roughly grabbed his arm, “Listen to me, please, James. Listen to what I have to say.”
He looked into her grey eyes and nodded as he recognized her sincerity. “Thank you. Jethro was at all five scenes, correct?” Karmani nodded. “He is the only Uniform to have been at all five scenes, what if he wasn’t there because he was asked to be? What if he was there to make sure he didn’t leave anything behind?”
Karmani shook his head, his eyes narrowing in anger. “Jethro would never do that and you know it, River!”
“I don’t want to believe it either, James, but sometimes we have to face reality and the human aspect of this! Some of us can’t hold up the sky, not all of us are Atlas!”As the last syllable left her mouth, a Uniform popped his head around the corner.
“Detective Smith, your search has finished.” River nodded and looked one last time into her partner’s – her friend’s – eyes.
“Thank you, Officer.” With that, she walked from the break room and to her computer. Closing her eyes, River steeled herself for the results on the screen; she opened her eyes and read the results. A small, unbelieving moan wiggled its way from her throat.
River felt a hand settle itself on her shoulder, knocking her out of her reverie. Turning to look at her partner, River felt a calm peace settle over her. She knew he was with her one hundred percent.
River lifted her foot and kicked in the door, immediately shouting for the suspect to drop his weapon. Her eyes settled upon Jethro Mockery, his hand holding a disposable .9mm enclosed in its grasp.
“Nice of you to join us, River, and James!” He turned almost cheerily towards his friend, opening his free arm as if to give the man a hug, “It is a pleasure to see you as always.”
“Let him go, Jethro, we can end this now and all this can disappear.” River insisted, her eyes flickering between Jethro and his captive.
Jethro’s friendly expression turned into a frown, his finger twitching on the trigger. “No, all these people get to have everything that I have lost. Nothing will change what I am doing. God took everything from me, why should these people get everything I have lost? Huh? Explain that!?”
“I can’t, Jethro, but we can work that out if you just put the weapon down.” River remained calm, noticing her partner becoming fidgety beside her.
“No.” Jethro’s finger tightened on the trigger when a shot sounded. Everything froze as River watched Jethro fall to the ground in agony, clutching at his left knee-cap.
Turning to her right, Karmani holstered his weapon and jogged over to Jethro, kicking his gun towards River and placing a knee into his chest. River bent to retrieve the weapon and turned towards the captive, quickly uncuffing them. Just as she stood back up, SWAT ran in, taking control of the situation.
20 minutes later
As River watched the ambulance pull away from the warehouse, she felt the adrenaline coursing through her body leave her. Turning back towards her car, she observed Karmani standing off to the side, staring up at the night sky that was not obscured by the tall building of Manhattan.
“Are you okay?” She asked, resisting the urge to look at her partner as she moved to stand next to him.
“Yeah, I just…I wish he had told me about him being in trouble. He should have known I would have helped him.” Karmani said, his voice talking on a defeated and confused tone.
“Penny in the air.” River whispered, more to herself than to her partner, her voice getting lost in the wind as it blew through the city. She let the smell of exhaust and the sounds of cars moving through traffic assault her senses.
“He seemed so desperate in there to get everything back, to have everything dear to him returned. He didn’t realize how lucky he was to still have all the essentials. Those people who screwed him over…Jethro was smart enough to appreciate the small things he still had. I just can’t seem to see why he went to the extreme like he did.”
“We may never know, James, just don’t blame yourself. You couldn’t have known about this.” River turned to look at her partner, watching as the pain began to ease from his green eyes, as if washing downstream.
“You’re right. I shouldn’t blame myself. Jethro didn’t talk to me about it and I wasn’t going to pry into his business.” Karmani’s slumped shoulders straightened up again, his usual dominating presence returning to him. “What do you say we go back to the precinct, finish up the paperwork, and let me treat you to dinner? I think it is time I start taking my own advice and cherishing the simple things in life.”
River grinned at her partner’s mannerisms, knowing that he may never get over this but he would work past it. “Sure thing, partner. How about Remy’s? I’m craving his burgers and fries.”
Karmani smirked and held out his arm like a gentleman, waiting until she slid her arm into his before walking.
“And the penny drops.”