wove through traffic on the Turnpike, wishing, as he often
did, that he had a siren and a red light he could stick
on the dashboard. Then he'd spread the cars like Moses
parting the Red Sea. It was a pet peeve; the slowest drivers
seem to prefer the passing lane. The right lane is supposed
to be for slower drivers, but they rarely use it. Slow
drivers like the passing lane. They seem to think they
own it, that it was created for them. He was briefly furious,
thinking of those who lose their tempers behind the wheel.
He understood road rage, without becoming a participant.
It took him almost fifteen minutes just to reach the Boulevard
Bridge, and then he got hung up in traffic because somebody
in a minivan wanted to shoot the breeze with Amos.
To Amos James, an elderly but affable
gentleman, collecting tolls at the Boulevard bridge was
more than a job. It was a social event. It never occurred
to Amos that he was directly related to the traffic jams
which formed at the bridge. He was just being sociable,
saying hi and catching up on the latest local chat. Usually,
Chandler lingered politely with Amos, but today he watched
the minivan for a brief eternity before leaning on the
horn. Almost immediately, the driver waved over his shoulder
and pulled out of the toll booth. Other cars passed by
Amos a little quicker now, fearful of or perhaps grateful
for Chandler's horn. Chandler pulled up to the booth.
"Good morning, Mr. TV Man. What
brings you across the river this morning?"
"Morning, Amos," Chandler
said. "Got to hurry."
He tossed into the tray the collection
of nickels, dimes, and pennies left over from McDonald's,
and before they had settled in the chute, he sped up the
"Go get 'em, Newsman," Amos
shouted. Expectantly, he eyed Chandler's contribution.
The toll was twenty cents; Chandler had tossed in seventy-three.
Amos smiled as he stoked the excess coins out of the pan
and dropped them into his pocket.
The river was low, and Chandler could
see a mass of bleached-tan stones beneath him, flickering
through the railings. Halfway up the hill, his eyes found
the trees that grew up around River Heights and sheltered
it from the outside world. Somewhere in there, inside
that curtain of trees, might lie a useful weekend diversion,
he told himself, hopefully. Within moments, he turned
onto Cary Street and was greeted by a row of three police
cars racing toward him. Quickly, he pulled onto the shoulder
and watched the cars zip past. His Saab quivered in their
A fourth cop car pulled off of Lockdale
Lane a block away and sped after the other cops. It must
have left the scene of the assault, he figured. Chandler
considered turning around to follow the speeding cops,
but he couldn't find an opening in the traffic. So he
drove down to Lockdale and turned into River Heights.
He cruised one block with nothing but a few leaves blowing
across the road. Then, out of nowhere, an ambulance with
flashing red lights rushed past him and disappeared down
Cary, in the direction of the Medical College of Virginia-the
same way the cops had headed.
That was probably a first for River
Heights, Chandler thought. Usually, the residents had
the good breeding to die quietly. And none of them left
the neighborhood with sirens blaring. Who knows. Maybe
the victim would get a stern letter from the River Heights
Civic Association urging him to cease and desist such
loud behavior. A cop car turned the corner behind Chandler
and passed him in a blur.
Somewhere, the association was already
dictating that letter.
Chandler reached for his portable emergency
scanner and locked out the other channels, so he could
monitor the conversation between the paramedics and MCV.
The chatter was urgent.
"We have a white male about fifty
with multiple face fractures—apparent assault—blood
pressure eighty over fifty, pulse one-thirty. Subject
Eighty over fifty was bad news, an indication
of internal bleeding. The paramedics would put mast trousers
on the victim to squeeze blood from the lower extremities
to his upper body.
"The patient is becoming combative,"
the paramedic continued, out of breath. "Trying to
sit up. ETA about ten minutes."
Chandler started again to turn and follow
the ambulance but changed his mind and continued to the
scene of the assault. He was almost there. If it turned
out to be nothing, he would go for the other emergency,
whatever it was.
lone police cruiser sat at the foot of the driveway when
Chandler pulled up. A woman wearing a baby-blue nightgown
and matching robe was being hugged protectively by an
elderly man near the foot of the driveway while Lieutenant
Glen Robinson attempted to ask questions. Another officer
Chandler didn't know stood in the far corner of the yard,
interviewing the handful of onlookers.
Robinson, he knew. Robinson was a poster
child for the Richmond P.D.-tall, handsome, articulate,
African-American. He could have been a movie star, but
he chose to be a cop instead. Whenever local news needed
a cop for TV, Robinson got the call. Though Robinson never
said much and always wore a poker face, Chandler counted
him among the better cops to work with. He seemed intelligent,
but perhaps it was a ruse. One can often impress others
by keeping one's mouth shut.
After glancing at the puddle of blood
and glittering tooth fragments, Chandler slipped his press
credentials around his neck and climbed out of the car.
When the elderly man saw him approaching, he pulled the
woman in the bathrobe away, toward the house. Chandler
stood alone with Robinson and his notepad.
"Mr. Harris," Robinson said.
"Welcome to another routine day in River Heights."
"What the hell happened here, anyway?"
"Somebody beat the crap out of
this guy," Robinson said. "Don't know why yet."
Robinson, satisfied that he had said either enough or
too much, walked back to his cruiser.
Chandler turned his attention back to
the woman in the bathrobe, but as he approached, the elderly
man helped her into a car and offered him a threatening
"What the hell do you want?"
"I'd just like to ask a few questions,"
"Get off this property," the
Then he got in the car and drove away.
For a few minutes, the two cops made
a show of going door to door, looking for witnesses. They
walked quickly, then left quickly, as if they didn't expect
much. Apparently, they got it. After they checked the
last house on the block, they jumped into their patrol
car and raced off as if they didn't want to be there in
the first place. Almost immediately, the onlookers drifted
back to their homes. No one bothered with the bloody mess
on the driveway. Apparently, the hired help didn't work
on the weekend.
retrieved his cell phone from the front seat and called
Charlie at the station.
"Channel 4 News," Charlie
said, in a rush. "May I help you?"
"This is Chandler. Grab the criss-cross
and tell me who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane."
"Wait a minute, Chandler. I've
got something else going on."
There was no answer. Charlie had laid
the receiver on the desk. Chandler could hear urgent traffic
on the scanners, but he couldn't make out what it was.
He hung up the phone and dialed another news number. The
phone rang several times. Finally, Charlie answered.
"Damn it, Charlie, don't put me
on hold again. Now, who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane?"
"Okay, okay. I've got an officer
down, and Wally isn't answering. I've got to find
Wally or my ass has had it."
Chandler started the car and pulled
away from the curb.
"Where's the officer down?"
"On Cary," Charlie said. "Where
"I'm headed toward Cary. How far
down is it?"
"I'm on my way. Who's the photog
"Richard, I think."
"Call him," Chandler said.
"He lives five minutes away. I'll meet him there.
We'll find Wally later."
Chandler sped down Cary toward Lombardy.
When he arrived, he saw a Channel 4 News car already on
the scene. It was Wally. Chandler jumped from his car
and ran through the crowd. The other police cars at the
scene were speeding away under full siren and lights.
"A police officer's been shot,"
"Did you get it?"
"We got everything. The cop pulled
somebody over, and the guy just shot him."
"Is he dead?"
"I don't know," Wally said.
"They were doing CPR before they put him in the ambulance.
I don't think he was breathing."
"Obviously not," Chandler
said, "if they were doing CPR."
"Yeah," Wally mumbled. "I
While his photographer continued to
shoot tape, Wally wandered about with an unattached microphone,
asking questions of people who had no answers.
"Wally," Chandler yelled.
"Your microphone's not connected."
"Damn it, Chandler. I'm doing the
best I can. Leave me alone!"
"You're doing fine, Wally. But
unless you plug the microphone into the camera, you won't
have any sound."
"I got here first, damn it. Now
get lost. This is my story."
For a moment, Chandler watched Wally
rush about with the loose microphone wire whipping around
him. Then Chandler walked back to his car and headed toward
MCV. Halfway there, he called Charlie to report that Wally
had the pictures, if not sound, and that he would stand
by at the hospital with more information.
"Meanwhile, give me the name of
the unfortunate guy who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane."
"Sure," Charlie said. "Sorry
about the confusion earlier. Let's see—here we go.
The name is Philip Jaco. J-A-C-O."
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