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Star Witness
About the Author: Joe Giordano's stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines including Mystery Weekly, The Saturday Evening Post, and Shenandoah. His novels, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story (2015), and Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller (2017) were published by Harvard Square Editions. Rogue Phoenix Press published Drone Strike in 2019.

Madeline called. The much younger wife of my first precinct captain. She’s a redhead who dolls-up like a Vogue model. When I worked for her husband, she’d send me on errands. After I’d delivered dry cleaning or their white poodle Fifi from the groomer, she’d touch me enough to make me uncomfortable. Cancer took the captain, and I hadn’t heard from her in years. Her call requesting my help had the familiar tone I remembered of expecting me to comply. My loyalty to her late husband got me to respond. My name’s Bragg, and I’m a homicide gold-shield detective out of Brooklyn South.

She answered the door in a clinging purple sequined sheath dress and looked me up and down. “Blue eyes, you’ve kept yourself in shape.”

She never used my name. With a tinge of annoyance, I asked, “What’s up?”

She pointed to a brown cardboard package about the size of a shoebox lying face down on her porch. “I can’t see the label,” she said. “I’m afraid it’s a bomb.”

Not since the 1950s Mad Bomber scare had Brooklyn residents been as tense. In the prior fifteen days, five IEDs had exploded in various Brooklyn neighborhoods killing six people. The newspapers screamed for results, but we rope-a-doped their questions because there was no progress in the case to report. We cautioned the public against opening suspicious packages, which is why I received Madeline’s call.

“Did you order anything from Amazon?” I asked.

“I’m expecting shoes from Saks tomorrow.”

I turned over the box. The label had her name and address. My penknife sliced through the packaging, finding red, nearly-nude, ankle-strap sandals inside.

She put a hand on my waist. “Come in. I’ll get you something to drink while I try them on.”

“I have an appointment with my boss,” I said quickly.

As I turned to leave, her face looked sulky.

Lieutenant Dixon was a grizzled African American. He waved me into his office. Before my butt hit the chair, he said, “I’m assigning you a partner.”

I stiffened. “I work best alone.”

“We’re going to test that theory.”

“Tell me,” I said stifling my annoyance.

Dixon shoved a manila folder across his desk.

“Casey London,” I said, my eyebrows rising. “A woman?”

Dixon responded sarcastically. “Nice to know you can read.”

I flipped a page. “She made detective five years younger than I did.”

“She’s probably smarter than you.”

I almost made a snarky remark about affirmative action. Dixon was a decent boss and a good cop, but he might’ve taken it personally. “She’s hardly out of diapers,” I said.

He gave me a mirthless smile. “Jealous?”

I stammered. “Not at all.”

“I expect you’ll want to coach her.”

“Oh, she’d love that,” I said smirking.

“The photo doesn’t do her justice.”

Casey London’s head shot pictured her eight-point police hat pulled down shading her eyes. A take-me-seriously glare into the camera couldn’t hide that she was gorgeous.

I didn’t want a partner, certainly not one who had something to prove and inexperienced to boot. I made a final attempt to dissuade him. “Why don’t you pair her with somebody else?”

Dixon raised a finger. “Make this work or your next partner will have halitosis that will curl your toenails.”

Unambiguously clear. “Where is she?”

Dixon pointed toward the squad room. “I’m assigning the two of you to work with the FBI on this bomber case,” he said. “We’ve hit a wall, and they want us to re-interview the victims’ families. Pick up London and get started. When you’re done, report to Agent Gerald Blander at Federal Plaza in Manhattan.”

I recognized London from the photo. Her ebony black hair was tied in a ponytail and she’d put on just a trace of lipstick and makeup. She wore a gray pinstripe pantsuit with a white blouse. She stood from behind her desk, and I took the hand she offered.

“Bragg,” I said. “Pleased to be working with you.”

“Do you have a first name?”

“Just Bragg.”

“That’s what I heard.” She said in a mock-gruff voice, “I’m Bragg and I work alone.” She chuckled.

This story appears in our JUL 2020 Issue
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