Excerpt from Broken, a work in progress.
Senior Inspector Jack Tyler hated receiving calls about missing children, especially in the wee hours of the morning. Half asleep, he jogged down five stories of stairs to the foyer of his apartment building. Each step nudged his mind toward wakefulness. He left the building at a run, and kept his speed the first two blocks north. He slowed his pace to turn east, and to avoid a few puddles. His heart rate was up and he felt a little more grounded in this world.
On the far corner in front of his destination, seemingly unbothered by the aftermath of a heavy drizzle, a crowd of punks jostled each other in mock martial arts posturing. The light was low, emanating from one source, a yellow bug light over the door of the building. Sleepy residents leaned out of their darkened windows, yelling at them to stop and go home. He counted eight males, and one female. The youths’ movements were just uncoordinated enough to indicate that it was the end of a revel, not the start.
He stopped about forty yards from them to pull his credentials, and check the snap on the security strap for the gun hidden under his jacket. Revelers were unpredictable and it was unclear if he was seeing exhaustion, drunkenness, or a group high on something. With as much bravado as he could muster, he approached them. “Inspector Tyler, Detroit PD.”
The female looked up and ran. Alerted by her reaction, the males followed like a flock of crows. A ninth person hiding in the shadows stepped into the yellow light. The man, who was puffed up like a threatening bear, clenched his fists and faced Jack. Jack was tall; this man was taller by at least two inches. His shoulders were broader by half.
“What the fuck do you want, pig?” he said. A momentary gleam flashed in his eyes that said, ‘I know you.’
Jack supposed his involvement in high profile cases may have given his name a modicum of notoriety, but to his knowledge, his face had never appeared in the media. Had they had a previous encounter? He zipped through his mental catalog of remembered faces, but could not find this man in it. Rattled, he said with authority, “Excuse me. I need to talk to a lady in that building behind you.”
The kid swaggered toward Jack. “You ain’t got no business with anyone here,” he growled.
“Look man,” said Jack, flashing his credentials with one hand, while holding his other up in a peace offering. “I didn’t make the call. There is a distraught mother in there worried about her kid. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”
“You see a kid, here?” he snarled.
Just one, thought Jack, close enough to see that the man was barely in his twenties, twenty-five at most. “Look, I have no problem with you; I just want to talk to the worried mom.”
The kid backed down a notch.
“We good?” said Jack.
“Phillip, you let that po-leese by, you hear?” said a woman from the second story.
“Ain’t Phillip no more. Folks ‘round here call me Rat Snatcher,” he yelled at her.
“Rat Snatcher,” she belly laughed. “I don’t give no nevermind about that. You let that officer up here, you hear me Phillip?”
The bear of a kid cut his sleeve and shoved his fist toward Jack. Then he turned and swaggered down the street.
“Your mother too, buddy,” Jack muttered as he ran up the stairs to the door of the building. He could feel Rat Snatcher’s acute stare hot against his back, but he didn’t turn to confirm it. He had his name, Phillip. There was at least one person who knew him. If Rat Snatcher was involved in this missing child case, he knew he would have no trouble finding him again. For now, it was best to leave grumbling bears alone.