Bruno’s face lit up, and he took in a deep breath of fresh air, as he led Wally down the path that led to the river walk.
“What are we doing here?” Wally asked in confusion.
“You got something against fresh air, kid?” Bruno chuckled. “I always find a long walk helps when I need to think.”
“But we left the car at Big Tony’s,” Wally explained. “Why didn’t we drive here?”
Bruno raised an eyebrow to the rookie’s annoying questioning.
“You wanna drive someplace to take a walk? How stupid is that? You know, this place used to be beautiful back in the day…”
Wally looked down the path, and found that very hard to believe. There was trash strewn along the sides of the path, which were also lined with overgrown grass and weeds. The benches were covered in graffiti, the blacktop was cracked in multiple places, and grass and weeds rose up through those cracks.
“This path opened the year I graduated from the Academy,” Bruno continued as he led the way. “Back in those ancient times, I’d run every day, and always worked this path into my route.”
“What happened?” Wally asked as he picked up an empty beer bottle, and put it in a garbage can that was already overflowing with other trash.
Bruno shrugged. “What always happens. Budgets got cut. Politicians moved on to other causes. Once the city stopped caring, the runners and the families stopped coming, and the seedier element claimed it as their own.”
“Imagine that,” Wally said under his breath as he looked out at the river. “Still a great view. Guess you can’t take that away.”
Bruno nodded his agreement. “The irony being that the city has to spend money to have cops rouse the homeless from the benches every morning, and increase patrols to the area to deal with the drug dealers. Ain’t that a kick in the nuts?”
Wally chuckled, and then they walked in silence. As they approached the short tunnel where the path cut under the bridge, Bruno smiled again.
“My favorite thing about this path is on the other side.”
He picked up the pace, and Wally’s interest was suddenly piqued.
When they came out of the tunnel, there was a little hill to the left with a shady tree, under which was a couple of tables and benches. Bruno went straight up the hill, and Wally had no choice but to follow.
“I thought this was so damn classy,” Bruno announced as he pointed at the tables.
Two chess boards were chiseled into the table tops. Plastic chess pieces sat haphazardly on the boards, but there were even more in the grass around the table.
Bruno meticulously picked up every fallen piece and returned them to the tables.
“You play chess?” Wally asked with surprise.
“You saying I ain’t got the look of a chess player?” Bruno challenged as he quickly placed the pieces in the proper positions on both boards.
“Sorry, but you don’t seem the type…” Wally replied.
Bruno sat down, and motioned for Wally to take the seat across from him.
“I had a pitching coach in the minor leagues who encouraged me to learn,” Bruno admitted as he stared at the pieces in front of him like he really wanted to start a game.
“Are you giving me information about your past?” Wally asked mockingly.
Bruno looked up from the board, and shot him a glare. “You now know more about my past than ninety-nine percent of the people we work with. If you find yourself tempted to share this info with anyone, remember that I have a gun…”
Wally laughed and Bruno smiled.
“Anyways, this coach told me that a good chess player is always like three to five moves ahead of his opponent, and a good pitcher should do the same.”
Wally nodded like that made sense.
“So did it help?”
Bruno picked up the King and rolled it around in his palm. “Am I pitching in Yankee Stadium, or am I shooting the shit about the good old days with you?”
Wally tipped over his King to symbolize that he surrendered.
“This case got me thinking about what my pitching coach said,” Bruno explained. “I feel like we keep trying to jump a few moves ahead in our assumptions about our missing corpse, but every time we learn something new, I realize we’re totally off base.”
Wally looked confused. “How so?”
“We assumed that this had something to do with the break ins around St. Sebastian’s. Then we assumed he owed money to The Heathens. Then we assumed The Heathens found out he was ratting them out. Then we assumed it had something to do with him stealing that bike.”
Wally nodded. “But those were all assumptions based on the evidence we were given. Isn’t it a Detective’s job to deduce and make such assumptions?”
Bruno shook his head emphatically. “Ain’t no one ever told you what happens when you assume? Yeah, a good detective sifts through the evidence to find the tiny nuggets of gold sprinkled in with all the other shit. But more importantly, a good detective don’t let the evidence grab him by the balls and lead him around.”
Wally cringed at that one, but fought off the urge to cross his legs. He knew he’d never hear the end of it if Bruno noticed.
“We’ve made way too many assumptions about our victim,” Bruno spelled it out in case Wally wasn’t following. “We assumed he was just some dirt bag homeless guy, who pulled little jobs to feed his drug and gambling habits.”
Wally just nodded.
Wally blushed slightly. “I can call her office to see if she’s free this afternoon…”
Bruno waved off that idea, and then stared down at the chess board as if he were trying to plan his next three moves.
“She’s more likely to talk outta school if we get her away from work,” Bruno decided. “You know where Maggie McGee’s is? Tell her to meet us there at 7 for a drink.”
“Okay,” Wally said a little too enthusiastically as his mind drifted to the idea of spending time with Michelle in a social setting.
“And as much as it pains me to say it, I think we gotta go back to that convent and take another run at that scary Nun. I ain’t buying her story. At least not all of it.”
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll go to Hell for accusing a Nun of lying?” Wally teased.
“Look around, kid. We’re already there,” Bruno quipped.
Before Wally could say anything, Bruno’s phone rang. He quickly took it out of his pocket and glanced at the screen.
“Speaking of Hell, it’s Lucifer himself,” he explained as he answered. “Good morning, Captain. May the Force be with you!”
Bruno quickly moved the phone away from his ear, and Wally could hear Captain Hamel screaming at Bruno on the other end.
“We’ll be right there,” Bruno promised and disconnected the call.
“What was that about?” Wally asked.
“This case just keeps getting better and better,” was all Bruno would tell him.
He gently placed the King back on the chess board, and then led the way down the hill to the beat up path.
TO BE CONTINUED…