The neighborhood felt strange. Not the typical seedy side of town into which Pete Shaw is typically dispatched. Upper middle-class, manicured lawns, and polished foreign-made automobiles parked in front of freshly painted tropical fruit-colored garage doors. The home security signs oxymoronically blended in, yet stood out from the professional landscaping.
Shaw, no tree expert, suspected there were more majestic palm trees than elm despite the 19 Elm Street address. The homicide detective had little interest in dendrology, although if he thought about it, he’d appreciate the fact that trees didn’t kill each other.
The GPS directed him to a sprawling ranch on the corner. Several police cruisers and a handful of Chevys and Crown Vics were also parked out front. A few loiterers, clad in sandals, sunglasses, and neon-bright shorts that rivaled the neighborhood garage doors gawked. August 6, the first Saturday in August and people were bored. They had nothing better to do.
Shaw waived to a uniformed officer. The cop stopped chewing gum and stepped aside to let Shaw pass. The detective’s cell phone came alive blasting the theme song from an old television police comedy series, Car 54 Where are you? The patrolman’s jaw dropped.
Shaw held up an index finger. “One minute,” he said to the dumbfounded policeman standing sentry. His daughter’s face smiled across the phone’s small screen. “What’s up sweetie? I’m just about to start an investigation. Anything important?”
Stacey Shaw, a twenty-something pharmaceutical rep making her own way worried about her father. In Stacey’s eyes, her father would always be a cop and she felt that the job was too dangerous. Pete raised her alone ever since she played with blocks and dolls. He was all the family she had. Her excitement temporarily dashed, “Oh, never mind then. I’m just on my way to the airport. It’s not important.”
The detective smiled. He smiled every time he spoke to or thought about Stacey. “What’s not important?”
“You’re busy, don’t worry …”
“No I’m not. What’s not important?” The policeman at the door looked away and backed off a few steps after Shaw made eye contact with him.
“I lost twenty-three pounds!” screamed Stacey.
Without thinking, Pete Shaw patted his ample stomach. “Really? That’s great, Stace! How’d you do it?”
“Yogurt. Every morning. No bagels. No carbs. It’s working. I exercise and run every day as well. But, I’ll fill you in later when we’re together. Remember, my plane arrives Ft. Lauderdale late afternoon your time. I’ll take a cab. You’ll be home, right?”
“Wouldn’t miss your arrival for the world!” responded Shaw. He hated planes, didn’t trust them. Hated flying. He tried not to think about it.
“Great! Love you.”
The detective’s grin got a bit wider. “Love you, too. I’m really proud of you …” Before he could finish, Stacey’s bright face disappeared from Shaw’s phone, replaced by a mundane home screen.
The voice after Stacey’s was not as welcome. “Well, if it isn’t Pistol Pete! What are you doing here?”
The ‘Pistol Pete’ nickname still stung. Shaw earned the name during his rookie days. A beat cop at the time, the young Shaw found himself in the middle of a violent mugging. Two men appeared to be beating up a third. Shaw shouted at the trio to stop, but his commands were ignored. When Shaw noticed the men struggle for a loose pistol he drew his police special. He had been on the force less than a month. He ordered the men once more to stop, but again his pleas were ignored. For a brief second, the errant gun pointed at Shaw. He tried to fire his weapon, but the police-issued revolver jammed. Nothing. Turned out the gods smiled on Pete Shaw that afternoon. One of the men was a Good Samaritan trying to break up a skirmish between two mentally challenged adults from a nearby group home. Their gun, it was discovered, turned out to be a toy cap gun. Shaw, first placed on paid leave, returned to a desk job following an intensive internal investigation. He swore never to carry a gun again. He worked his way up the bureaucratic ladder, eventually promoted to homicide detective three years prior.
Pete Shaw’s eyes showed mild disgust. “There’s a dead body here, Jay. I’m a homicide detective. That’s what I’m doing here.”