Captain Marc Hamel never seemed to leave his desk, where he could always be found poring over some file that he read like it contained the secrets to the meaning of life.
Even though he stuck primarily to that one place, Hamel always knew exactly what was going on with everyone under his command. His subordinates jokingly credited that ability to his Jedi powers, and relentlessly peppered their commanding officer with Star Wars jokes and references.
Hamel played along with the ribbings because it made him feel closer to the people he seemed to go out of his way to keep at arm’s length. Plus, he’d never seen a single Star Wars movie or TV series, so the witticisms were basically lost on him.
He was well aware, however, that he shared a name, albeit a different spelling, with the actor who played Luke Skywalker.
Detective Bruno had once asked his boss why he rarely left the confines of his office.
“Because of the people,” Hamel replied. “This building is overrun with them. They all want to talk to me, ask me questions, or request a favor. Or needle me about some silly science fiction movie from the Seventies. I don’t want to deal with that.”
Bruno asked the obvious follow up: “But ain’t they just gonna do all them things in your office?”
Hamel had smiled, which was rare for the man when he was at work, and answered without hesitation, “True, but I can throw them out of my office and then slam the door angrily behind them to make it clear they are not welcome to return.”
Bruno always had that conversation in the back of his mind whenever he entered Hamel’s office.
Part of Hamel’s supposed Jedi powers was his uncanny ability to sense Bruno’s presence even when the detective was not in his direct line of sight.
“I thought you were working with the FBI this week,” Hamel said without looking up from his file when Bruno darkened his doorway.
“I’m heading that way, sir, but first I gotta talk to ya about a time sensitive situation,” Bruno explained and waited for the invitation to enter.
Since he needed a favor, he had wisely not started their interaction with a Star Wars joke.
Hamel waved him into the office, and then finally looked up at him.
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with your protégé, his girlfriend the Assistant District Attorney, and a few associates of yours who allegedly, from the angry phone calls I’ve been receiving all morning, almost brought the Apocalypse upon our fair city, would it?”
Hamel smiled, but it was one of the menacing variety that dared Bruno to even try to reply with one of his trademark smart ass quips.
“Yes, it would, sir.”
Bruno’s short, wisecrack free reply, pleased Hamel.
“With my Jedi powers, I always know what’s going on,” he explained to his detective.
Hamel had made a habit of leaning into the whole Star Wars thing, and knew when to use it to his advantage. Ironically, he had mastered its use to make it his own Jedi Mind Trick.
“Would you like to guess who the angry phone calls were from?”
Hamel motioned for Bruno to step closer to his desk, which was a bad sign because it usually meant he was going to yell at whoever was unlucky enough to be standing before him.
“If I gotta guess, I’d say the Mayor, the Commissioner, and all them ritzy City Council types who live in the neighborhood where the chase occurred,” Bruno replied.
“That’s why you’re my best detective,” Hamel praised him sarcastically. “You can always figure out who or what is causing my migraines. While your answer was correct, it was also incomplete. You forgot all the rich political donors who lost precious beauty sleep because of the screeching of tires, the crashing of cars into trees, and all that noisy gunfire.”
“Remarkably, the Archbishop weighed in as well,” Hamel added. “Not that any of this happened anywhere near a church. I think he was worried that the Mayor and the Commissioner would use the incident as an excuse for their poor play when he beats them at golf this week.”
Bruno wanted to say so many things, but he bit his tongue. He needed Hamel on his side, and he was pretty sure his boss was going to be pissed when he found out what he’d done. So he wisely stood there at parade rest and kept his mouth closed.
“Your silence is unsettling. Say something,” Hamel finally commanded.
“There ain’t no way that Champ and Tex had any criminal intent. Ya met them at the Christmas party, and ya know how they helped me clear two huge cases. They might be flawed and all, but they ain’t no crooks. They certainly ain’t linked to some domestic terrorists.”
“How did I know you were going to say that?” Hamel asked with a heavy sigh.
“Jedi powers,” Bruno let slip out before he could catch himself.
Hamel chuckled. This was the Bruno he was accustomed to and he felt more comfortable dealing with him when he was giving off a little attitude.
“These are the two that you’ve set up with jobs at Maggie’s bar, right?”
“That’s right, sir,” Bruno confirmed. “I’d never let no one that close to Maggie if I thought they was any kinda threat.”
Hamel nodded and motioned for Bruno to sit. Bruno took the seat, but he was eager to move this along because they were working against the clock, even if Hamel didn’t realize it.
“As ya gotta know by now, the FBI is on its way to take over this case, and I mighta…”
Hamel held up a hand to stop him.
“Before you say anything else, I am ordering you to use your current contact with the FBI to see if you can prevent them from taking the lead in this investigation.”
Bruno let out a long sigh of relief. He also wondered if his boss actually did have Jedi powers because the man had just read his mind.
“Now that I’ve given that order, why don’t you tell me what you’ve already done in my name without my knowledge, so I can back you up and confirm that I made that decision whenever the powers that be decide to rain fire and brimstone upon me when the FBI gets pissed?”
Bruno smiled. He really did like working for Hamel, who wasn’t a prick like some of the other brass he’d crossed paths with during his career.
“I mighta asked my contact, who ain’t no fan of the uptight prick who’s on his way here, to go above that agent’s head. I told her we was working in conjunction with Gangs on an operation ya personally approved to infiltrate a new player in the city. The CIs ain’t gonna talk to no one but your people, and ya plan to stash them in a safe house where they will continue to answer only to this department and not the Feds.”
Hamel raised an eyebrow and then allowed a slight smile to grace his tired face.
“Do you really think that’s going to work?” he finally asked. “After all, domestic terrorism would seem to trump whatever case the local police department is trying to build.”
“Ya met my FBI contact,” Bruno reminded him. “She ain’t only way higher up on the FBI food chain than this agent, but she also knows she owes me for blowing off my case when I went to her the first time. She’s gonna make it right. Plus, like I said, she hates this other agent.”
“Let’s not forget that you’re headed out of town to meet her to work that case. Do you really think Officer Wainwright is ready to deal with the FBI without you?”
Bruno hung his head slightly because this was where his grand, spur of the moment plan had hit a bit of a speed bump.
“I ain’t got nothing against the kid’s ability to hold his own with some prickly Harvard grad in a sharp suit. He puts up with me just fine on a daily basis. My worry is the ass hats up in Gangs who we’re gonna need to play along to make this work. They ain’t my biggest fans, and ya ain’t never gonna catch me singing their praises.”
Hamel smiled brightly. “Leave that to me.”
Bruno’s face lit up. “If you’re gonna go all dark side on those losers in Gangs, can I watch?”
“I have something else in mind,” Hamel broke the disappointing news. “While I go talk to the Gang Unit, I need you to get Officer Wainwright over here, arrange for officers to guard your friends’ room at the hospital, and figure out what we’re going to use as a safe house.”
“I’m also going to need to speak to someone in public relations at the hospital. And I should probably talk to Wainwright. Tell him to expect a call from me because I have questions.”
Bruno shot out of his chair, energized and ready to put this all in motion.
“What do ya wanna do if the FBI shows up before we’re ready?” Bruno asked. “I don’t imagine he’s gonna be thrilled and a coupla beat cops won’t know how to stand up to an angry Fed.”
“ADA Ambrose is there, right?” Hamel asked. “I’m sure she’s fluent in FBI, on top of being damn vicious when need be. Tell her she has my permission to do anything necessary to hold him off, and I’ll smooth it over with her boss when he inevitably gets his panties in a bunch.”
“Aye aye, Captain,” Bruno said with a smile and a sharp salute. “May the Force be with ya!”
Hamel rolled his eyes and charged out of his office like a man on a mission. For a man who hated leaving his office, he sure was in a rush to interact with those people he spent so much time trying to avoid.
Wally paced nervously next to Bruno’s desk while they waited for Captain Hamel to return.
“What’s taking him so long?” he asked anxiously as he glanced at this watch.
Bruno looked up from the report he was trying to write. He was about to go out of town and didn’t want to leave behind too much paperwork to bitch about upon his return.
“Relax, Kid,” Bruno declared. “Why don’t ya sit? Ya know, ya look like hell. Don’t ya know ya gotta dress all nice for an important meeting with your boss?”
Wally sat down next to Bruno’s desk in a chair he borrowed from another detective. Even though he worked often with Bruno, he was still just a patrol officer and did not have a desk in the Detectives’ Bullpen.
“You’re hilarious,” Wally replied. “You know I’ve been up all night trying to keep our mutual friends out of the Federal penitentiary.
“Ya know ya get a lot more sassy when you’re tired,” Bruno pointed out without looking up from his report. “I was just bustin’ your balls to try to get ya to calm down.”
Wally exhaled deeply, but it didn’t get rid of all the anxiety.
“I don’t understand how you can be so calm when our friends are in trouble,” he leaned in so that his scolding wouldn’t be overheard. “What’s so important about this mystery case of yours that it supersedes the health and welfare of two people you claim to care about?”
That was enough to get Bruno’s attention, and Wally flinched when Bruno snapped his head around to give him his full, angered focus.
“Look, I know ya ain’t thrilled that I haven’t told ya about this other case, but ya don’t need to act like a jealous girlfriend,” Bruno growled. “It’s not like I’m cheating on ya with the FBI, but I just can’t tell ya about it right now. It’s for your own good, especially now that ya gonna be dealing with this FBI prick. I don’t want him shaking ya down for info.”
“And, yeah, I care about Champ and Tex. That’s why I stuck my neck out here where the Captain coulda lopped it off with a damn rusty machete and really made it hurt.”
Wally made a face and reached up to rub his neck without even realizing he was doing it.
“I’m sorry for doubting you,” Wally replied. “I’m just exhausted and stressed, and I don’t feel right about leaving Michelle alone to deal with the FBI agent…”
Bruno chuckled. “It’s the FBI agent ya oughta be worried about…”
Before Wally could ask him to expand on that, Hamel appeared at the front of the room and waved for them to follow him into his office.
“Ya want me to close the door?” Bruno asked as he followed Wally into the office.
“Leave it open,” Hamel answered with a shake of his head. “Sit down.”
Wally and Bruno took seats in front of the desk.
“You get everything squared away with guards on the room at the hospital?”
“Yes, sir,” Bruno answered. “About the safe house…”
Hamel raised a hand to stop him. “Let’s table that until our contact from the Gangs Unit joins us. Officer Wainwright, Detective Bruno assures me that you have his full confidence to work this case with the detective from that unit. Can I count on you, or do you need me to pass this off to someone with more experience?”
“No, sir,” Wally quickly snapped. “I mean, yes, sir you can count on me. No, sir, you do not need to pass this off to someone with more experience.”
“I’m sorry ya gotta work with whatever prick Gangs sends down,” Bruno lamented.
“That’s not going to be a problem,” Hamel informed them. “On my way up to Gangs, I called Officer Wainwright and had him give me the details of what he’d learned from our Confidential Informants. For the record, that’s how we’re going to refer to them from this point forward. They are not suspects or witnesses or persons of interest.”
Wally and Bruno nodded.
“I found it very interesting that all this was going on at the warehouse, but I hadn’t read a single thing about it in any report from Gangs,” Hamel continued. “So I had things rearranged up there. Officer Wainwright will be working with the new head of the Gangs Unit on this case.”
Bruno raised an eyebrow to that.
“Hello, Arturo,” said the familiar voice from the doorway.
The mention of Bruno’s Christian name caused both of Wally’s eyebrow’s to rise.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Bruno shouted as he leapt out of his seat to greet the new arrival. “How the hell are ya, Joyce?”
“Much better now that I’ve been promoted,” she replied.
The woman in the doorway was maybe five feet tall if the measuring device was being generous. She was thin, athletic, and had a smile that lit up the dim office.
“Detective Joyce Ng, meet Officer Wally Wainwright. Ya ain’t gotta call him by his name, though. He’ll answer to Kid or pretty much anything just so long as ya give him attention, tell him he’s a good cop, and scratch behind his ears a coupla times a shift.”
Ng nudged Bruno in the ribs and went over to shake Wally’s hand.
“It’s nice to finally put a face to the name, Officer Wainwright. Despite all his bluster, Arturo has spoken very highly of you.”
“I’d hate myself if I didn’t ask,” Wally blurted. “But he lets you call him Arturo?”
Ng and Hamel laughed, while Bruno shook his head.
“Don’t get no crazy ideas, Kid,” Bruno warned. “That’s an old joke between us. We used to be partners back in the day, back when they used to force me to pair up. Anyways, even though it’s only two damn letters, I could never say her last name right.”
“So I said, my ears cannot take much more of this,” she jumped in. “Just call me Joyce.”
“Of course, she then insists she’s gotta call me by first name,” Bruno finished the story. “I eventually figured out how to say Ng, but she’s still gotta bust my balls about it.”
“And you used to be partners?” Wally asked in disbelief.
If ever there was an odd couple of detectives it was Bruno and Ng. He was tall and imposing, she was tiny and outgoing.
“Believe it or not, there was a time when I barely spoke a word because this guy had me convinced that the less I said during a shift, the better a detective I’d be.”
“I just like silence, and she bought it for a while,” Bruno quipped.
Wally was pretty sure his head was going to explode. In what universe was Bruno outgoing and funny? When did he have inside jokes and complete another colleague’s sentences? What was happening? Maybe the exhaustion was catching up with him and messing with his perception.
“I gotta warn ya, Kid, ya better not wise off to her like ya do to me,” Bruno advised with a smile. “She’s like that guy in the Lethal Weapon flicks.”
“Oh, so you know martial arts?” Wally asked.
The room fell silent. All the smiles vanished.
“That’s a damn racist thing to say,” Bruno hissed. “Just because she’s Asian, she’s gotta be a black belt? Maybe she only drinks sake and eats fried rice, too?”
Bruno, Ng, and even Hamel glared at Wally, who looked like he wanted to curl up into a ball and somehow vanish into the carpet.
Ng burst out laughing first. Bruno and Hamel soon followed.
“I actually am a black belt, and this wise guy knows I love Chinese food and would eat it every day for lunch if I could,” Ng told Wally. “But the Lethal Weapon reference was to Danny Glover’s character. As in I’m too old for this shit, so don’t mess with me.”
Everyone laughed again. Even Wally managed to chuckle.
“Enough razzing the rookie,” Hamel decided it was time to get down to business. “Detective Ng was just as stunned as I was to learn about the criminal activity our Confidential Informants have uncovered at the warehouse.”
Ng nodded and jumped in. “Let’s just say the previous head of the Gangs Unit had gotten lazy. He liked to blame everything on the Heathens and focused all our assets on them. As far as he was concerned, there were no other gangs operating in the city that were worth investigating.”
“And that’s why he’s the former head of that division,” Hamel added. “I’ve brought Detective Ng up to date as much as I can. Officer Wainwright, I’m going to ask you to fill her in on the rest on the way to the hospital. I assume you’re clear on the safe house plan?”
Wally looked to Bruno for confirmation.
“Yeah, Wally knows my plan, but we ain’t married to it if you wanna suggest something else,” Bruno said to Ng.
“Excellent,” Hamel agreed. “Detective Ng knows the part of the plan I haven’t looped you in on yet, so she will share that with Officer Wainwright on the way.”
Hamel checked with watch. “You better get going. My plan involves the hospital holding a press conference I requested, and one pissed off FBI agent needs to be looped in before he gets even more upset. Definitely keep me posted. I don’t want any more surprises.”
“That ain’t gonna be no problem since I’m headed out to handle that other thing,” Bruno replied.
“Oh, I am worried, Detective Bruno,” Hamel quipped. “Detective Ng credits you with teaching her everything she knows.”
Ng smiled slyly. “I’ll be sure to do you proud, Captain. And then I promise to return here to Dagobah to complete my Jedi training with you.”
Bruno snickered and Hamel rolled his eyes.
“Get the hell out of my office, all of you,” Hamel commanded.
As soon as the office cleared, Hamel took a deep breath, opened the file on his desk, and went back to reading it.
TO BE CONTINUED…