Thursday, January 19, 2006

Story snippet: "Take me out"

I've been writing another Adam Caldwell story (the main character from In Transit) and I thought I'd post a scene. Adam is working on a story about Darren Rucker, a minor league baseball player accused of killing his girlfriend. In this scene, Adam encounters O'Malley and Robinson, a couple of cops who are generally bad news:

(Later on Sunday afternoon, when Adam comes back from Rev. Wilson's:)

I reached the third floor of my building and stopped short. The door to my apartment was slightly ajar and I heard voices. I approached the door carefully and realized the TV was on. I knew I hadn't left the TV on and I never leave my door unlocked.

I shoved the door open with my hand and stared into my living room: O'Malley and Robinson were sitting on my couch, drinking my beer and watching a ball game on my TV.

"Good afternoon, officers. Why don't you come right in and make yourselves at home?" I said. The cops weren't alarmed or apologetic.

"Don't mind if we do. Huh, huh." Robinson said, with a sort of gorilla chuckle. The man's enough to make you believe in evolution.

"You got some new stuff, didn't ya?" Robinson pointed at the TV and patted the couch.

O'Malley smacked Robinson's shoulder, "Shut up!"

I didn't comment on it, but I made a mental note -- this confirmed my suspicion that the two had been responsible for the trashing of my apartment a few months ago, when I was covering the immigrant smuggling story.

"I don't suppose you're here to admire my d├ęcor. What do you want? And how did you get in here, anyway?"

"The super let us in," O'Malley said.

"Just like that."

"Yeah, just like that. He has a healthy respect for the law, unlike someone else in this room."

"You shouldn't let him talk about you like that, Robinson."

Robinson was paying more attention to the ball game, though. "Huh? Hey, look, Sammy Sosa's comin' up to bat."

"Shut it off you doofus. We've got business to attend to here," O'Malley said, standing up. "We hear you talked to our boy last night."

I knew who O'Malley meant, but I made him tell me.

"I talk to lots of people, all the time. You got someone specific in mind?"

"You always have to be cute, don't you. I'm talkin' about Rucker and you know it."

"Well, yeah, I interviewed him after the ball game. So?"

"So I want your notes."

"No. You can't have them."

I braced myself for what I was sure would come next. I never get away with saying "no" to those two without some painful physical consequences.

But I think my abrupt answer surprised O'Malley because he just stared at me.

"And why not? You know we'll get them sooner or later."

"Not without a subpoena, and maybe not even then. A reporter's notes are protected under Nebraska's shield law."

Maybe O'Malley knew more about the law than I thought, or maybe he had another plan for getting my notes. He motioned to Robinson, who hadn't turned the game off.

"Come on, let's go." Then he pointed his thick finger at me. "I'll get those notes, one way or another. And you can do this" he made a rude gesture "with your subpoena."

"Hey, Sammy just hit a home run!" Robinson sat up and waved his can of beer around, sloshing some out on my coffee table. O'Malley grabbed his partner under the armpit and heaved him up off the couch.

"I told you to turn that off. Let's go! You can watch the game somewhere else."

They left, Robinson grumbling all the way out the door.

I got a rag to wipe up the spilled beer and then sat on the couch, staring at the TV but not really seeing the game. There wasn't anything incriminating in my notes -- all Darren and I talked about was baseball -- but I wasn't going to tell the cops that, at least not when they think they can just park themselves in my apartment and demand my notes. It was a matter of principal. The problems was, it's those matters of principal that keep getting my apartment trashed. I decided to lock my notes and computer up at The Observer office, just to be safe.

Feel free to leave impressions or whatever in the comments.

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