I turned the ringer off. Why am I hearing text notifications? Why am I hearing anything?
Apple’s gone to shit without Steve Jobs.
Sam Porter rolled to his right, his hand blindly groping for the phone on the nightstand.
His alarm clock crashed to the floor with a thunk unique to cheap electronics from China.
When his fingers found the phone, he wrestled the device from the charging cable and brought it to his face, squinting at the small, bright screen.
CALL ME — 911.
A text from Nash.
Porter looked over at his wife’s side of the bed, empty except for a note — Went to get milk, be back soon. xoxo, Heather
He grunted and again glanced at his phone.
So much for a quiet morning.
Porter sat up and dialed his partner. He answered on the second ring.
The other man fell silent for a moment. “I’m sorry, Porter. I debated whether or not to contact you. Must have dialed your number a dozen times and couldn’t bring myself to actually place the call. I finally decided it would be best just to text you. Give you a chance to ignore me, you know?”
“It’s fine, Nash. What have you got?”
Another pause. “You’ll want to see for yourself.”
“There’s been an accident.”
Porter rubbed his temple. “An accident? We’re Homicide. Why would we respond to an accident?”
“You’ve gotta trust me on this. You’ll want to see it,” Nash told him again. There was an edge to his voice.
Porter sighed. “Where?”
“Near Hyde Park, off Fifty-Fifth. I just texted you the address.”
His phone pinged loudly in his ear, and he jerked it away from his head.
He looked down at the screen, noted the address, and went back to the call.
“I can be there in about thirty minutes. Will that work?”
“Yeah,” Nash replied. “We’re not going anywhere soon.”
Porter disconnected the call and eased his legs off the side of the bed, listening to the various pops and creaks his tired fifty-two-year-old body made in protest.
The sun had begun its ascent, and light peeked in from between the closed blinds of the bedroom window. Funny how quiet and gloomy the apartment felt without Heather around.
Went to get milk. From the hardwood floor his alarm clock blinked up at him with a cracked face displaying characters no longer resembling numbers.
Today was going to be one of those days.
There had been a lot of those days lately.
Porter emerged from the apartment ten minutes later dressed in his Sunday best — a rumpled navy suit he’d bought off the rack at Men’s Wearhouse nearly a decade earlier — and made his way down the four flights of stairs to the cramped lobby of his building. He stopped at the mailboxes, pulled out his cell phone, and punched in his wife’s phone number.
“You’ve reached the phone of Heather Porter. Since this is voice mail, I most likely saw your name on caller ID and decided I did not wish to speak to you. If you’re willing to pay tribute in the form of chocolate cake or other assorted offerings of dietary delight, text me the details and I’ll reconsider your position in my social roster and possibly get back to you later. If you’re a salesperson trying to get me to switch carriers, you might as well hang up now. AT&T owns me for at least another year. All others, please leave a message. Keep in mind my loving husband is a cop with anger issues, and he carries a large gun.”
Porter smiled. Her voice always made him smile. “Hey, Button. It’s just me. Nash called. There’s something going on near Hyde Park; I’m meeting him down there. I’ll give you a call later when I know what time I’ll be home.” He added, “Oh, and I think there’s something wrong with our alarm clock.”
He dropped the phone into his pocket and pushed through the door, the brisk Chicago air reminding him that fall was preparing to step aside for winter.
2 Porter Day 1 6:45 a.m.
Porter took Lake Park Avenue and made good time, arriving at about a quarter to seven. Chicago Metro had Woodlawn at Fifty-Fifth completely barricaded. He could make out the lights from blocks away — at least a dozen units, an ambulance, two fire trucks. Twenty officers, possibly more. Press too.
He slowed his late-model Dodge Charger as he approached the chaos, and held his badge out the window. A young officer, no more than a kid, ducked under the yellow crime-scene tape and ran over. “Detective Porter? Nash told me to wait for you. Park anywhere — we’ve cordoned off the entire block.”
Porter nodded, then pulled up beside one of the fire trucks and climbed out. “Where’s Nash?”
The kid handed him a cup of coffee. “Over there, near the ambulance.”
He spotted Nash’s large frame speaking to Tom Eisley from the medical examiner’s office. At nearly six foot three, he towered over the much smaller man. He looked like he’d put on a few pounds in the weeks since Porter had seen him, the telltale cop’s belly hanging prominently over his belt.
Nash waved him over.
Eisley greeted Porter with a slight nod and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “How are you holding up, Sam?” He held a clipboard loaded with at least a ream of paper. In today’s world of tablets and smartphones, the man always seemed to have a clipboard on hand; his fingers flipped nervously through the pages.
“I imagine he’s getting tired of people asking him how he’s holding up, how he’s doing, how he’s hanging, or any other variation of well-being assertion,” Nash grumbled.
“It’s fine. I’m fine.” He forced a smile. “Thank you for asking, Tom.”
“Anything you need, just ask.” Eisley shot Nash a glance.
“I appreciate that.” Porter turned back to Nash. “So, an accident?”
Nash nodded at a city bus parked near the curb about fifty feet away. “Man versus machine. Come on.”
Porter followed him, with Eisley a few paces behind, clipboard in tow.
A CSI tech photographed the front of the bus. Dented grill. Cracked paint an inch above the right headlight. Another investigator picked at something buried in the right front tire tread.
As they neared, he spotted the black body bag among a sea of uniforms standing before a growing crowd.
“The bus was moving at a good clip; its next stop is nearly a mile down the road,” Nash told them.
“I wasn’t speeding, dammit! Check the GPS. Don’t be throwing accusations like that out there!”
Porter turned to his left to find the bus driver. He was a big man, at least three hundred pounds. His black CTA jacket strained against the bulk it had been tasked to hold together. His wiry gray hair was matted on the left and reaching for the sky on the right. Nervous eyes stared back at them, jumping from Porter, to Nash, then Eisley, and back again. “That crazy fucker jumped right out in front of me. This ain’t no accident. He offed himself.”
“Nobody said you did anything wrong,” Nash assured him.
Eisley’s phone rang. He glanced at the display, held up a finger, and walked a few paces to the side to take the call.
The driver went on. “You start spreading around that I was speeding, and there goes my job, my pension . . . think I wanna be looking for work at my age? In this shit economy?”
Porter caught a glimpse of the man’s name tag. “Mr. Nelson, how about you take a deep breath and try to calm down?”
Sweat trickled down the man’s red face. “I’m gonna be pushing a broom somewhere all because that little prick picked my bus. I got thirty-one years behind me without an incident, and now this bullshit.”
Porter put his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Do you think you can tell me what happened?”
“I need to keep my mouth shut until my union rep gets here, that’s what I need to do.”
“I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.”
The driver frowned. “What are you gonna do for me?”
“I can put in a good word with Manny Polanski down at Transit, for starters. If you didn’t do anything wrong, if you cooperate with us, there’s no reason for you to get suspended.”
“Shit. You think I’ll get suspended over this?” He wiped the sweat from his brow. “Jesus, I can’t afford that.”
“I don’t think they’ll do that if they know you worked with us, that you tried to help. There might not even be a need for a hearing,” Porter assured him.
By request, my review of The Fourth Monkey is no longer available - any where or on any website. Apologies to those who enjoy reading my reviews. I will not be reviewing The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker.