Dan Wolmare awoke at his regular time. He didn’t know yet it was going to be anything but a regular day. He crawled out of bed and went through his regular routine--took a piss, read the morning paper, ate a blueberry muffin with margarine, and had one cup of coffee.
After all that was out of the way, he puttered around his bachelor apartment straightening things as he went. When he came to the TV he flicked it on; CNBC popped up on the big screen. He glanced at it for a bit, tore himself away and headed back to the bedroom. He analyzed the unmade bed for a time, turned and walked back to the kitchen.
Dan glanced at the stack of paperwork on the kitchen table that needed attention. It was business related; he worked on it everyday. He had to, in his business there was no other way. But instead of jumping right on it, there was one more little thing he had to do first. It also was something he did every day, although he didn’t consciously realize it. He walked to the door that led out of his apartment, craned his head out, and placed his right eye to the small peephole that gave him a fish-eye view of the hallway outside his door.
And today, as always, he saw nothing unusual...at first. He was peeking directly across from his basement level apartment at the door to the building’s common area laundry room. He had to blink his eye twice and stretch it open wide because this time he did see something move. He peered hard. It was the laundry room door...and it was moving, very slowly, open.
Dan stared, his eye pressed tightly against the peephole, as the laundry door inched open, wider and wider. He could feel his heart begin to beat more rapidly, and his palms, which were pressed flat against the door at shoulder height, were sweating.
The door continued to move until it was more than a foot ajar, then it stopped. Dan licked his dry lips and watched in shock as a head slowly emerged from the laundry room and peered out from around the door. The head was hosting long, black, greasy hair; a wild, full beard and what seemed to Dan a dangerous, paranoid look in its eyes. Shoulders and then a chest came into view, and by the look of them they belonged to a very large man. And now that man was looking intently at Dan’s apartment door. And Dan, of course, knew instinctively who this person was--a cop or a rip-off, that was for sure. Didn’t matter which. Both equally bad news.
As the big man stepped completely from behind the door now, Dan spotted the butt of a pistol protruding from the waist of the man’s pants. Dan’s hand shot to the deadbolt; it was secured. But that didn’t ease his concern because he knew the door could never stand up to this man’s weight. He continued to look through the peephole at the threat only a few feet away. The man didn’t move; he kept his eyes locked on Dan’s door. Dan’s breathing became deeper and faster and he thought it sounded louder now. He tried to control it, imagining the big man might actually hear it.
Dan, worried that his nerves might get the best of him, pulled his face from the door. Told himself to calm down. He could handle this; he knew he could. After all, it was nothing more than an occupational hazard, not that that made it any easier. Of course, a blue valium would’ve been nice now, but he was going to have to deal with this without that aid. And without it his mind raced wondering who among the many people he’d done business with recently had put the finger on him? He shook his head, no time for that now. He’d find out later and deal with that too. Right now the immediate danger was outside, staring at his door, getting ready to make some type of move.
Dan’s eye had only been away from the peephole for a minute when he returned to it and, to his horror, found himself looking into the man’s face which was now only inches away from the apartment’s door.
Dan backed away from the door in shock. His movements were on automatic-pilot now. He watched in terror as the knob on his door turned slowly and quietly back and forth. Thank God for the deadbolt, he thought.
He turned and moved quietly to the kitchen, picked up his cell phone and punched in 911. After a few seconds, Dan, his voice shaking, whispered into the phone, “This is Ken Holland. I’m at 13 Seaside Lane, Building 3, Hampton Beach. Yeah, New Hampshire. There’s a man with a gun trying to break into apartments. He’s just gone down to the basement. Hurry. Please.” He gingerly set the phone down on his paperwork.
He headed swiftly but quietly back to the apartment door and easily placed his eye to the peephole as if it might be hot. The man was still there, but back now about a foot from the door. Dan looked at the man, and the man looked at the door. He watched as the big man removed the handgun from his waist and held it down by his side. Dan tried to swallow, but couldn’t; it was like a baseball was caught in his throat.
They kept it up, Dan waiting for the big man to make his inevitable move, unless...suddenly Dan could hear the squealing of tires and the slamming of car doors. The big man heard the commotion too, his head jerking sideways toward the front door of the building at the sounds. Then he looked back at Dan’s door, a look of bewilderment on his face as if he wasn’t sure what was happening or what he should do about it. The man turned quickly and Dan watched as he bounded up the stairs and out of sight. He heard the building’s heavy front door swing open, and he knew the man was running outside to the parking lot.
In what seemed like only an instant Dan heard an excited voice shout, “Stop. Police.” And a second voice, also excited, “Don’t shoot I’m...” Then he heard a gunshot. Within seconds a flurry of more shots. Then more shouts. Then quiet. Deadly quiet.
Dan dashed to his bedroom. He opened his closet door, reached in and pulled out a battered, brown attache case. He put on a pair of sneakers, tied them, and threw on a light jacket. He could hear sirens now, growing louder, closer.
He grabbed the attache case and walked hurriedly to the kitchen, grabbing the stack of papers off the kitchen table and jamming them into his coat pocket. He moved swiftly to the front door, shifted the deadbolt, opened the door, and stepped into the hallway. He closed the door behind him, banged a right and headed for the building’s rear door.
He stepped out into the sunlight; it was a beautiful day. He walked down the steps and followed the asphalt walkway around the building until he emerged out front. Over to his right, in the parking lot, he could see a half-dozen police cars, marked and unmarked. Closer, at the bottom of the stairs to his building’s front door, stood a semi-circle of policemen standing over what he knew was a body on the pavement. An ambulance, is lights flashing, was pulling up to the group.
Dan hurried along, heading left, away from the police and toward a row of cars parked near the building on the opposite side of his. As he walked at a controlled pace across the parking lot he recognized a neighbor coming from the direction of all the activity. Their paths intersected.
“What happened?” Dan asked breathlessly, the attache case held at his side.
“I guess some cops just shot another cop,” the neighbor answered. “An undercover cop.”
“You mean they shot one of their own? A police officer?”
“I guess they didn’t realize who he was,” the neighbor said, shaking his head sadly. “The guy looked like a bum.”
“Jesus, that’s tragic. You never know what’s going to happen nowadays.” Dan popped the trunk of his car and tossed the attache case into it. He closed the trunk gently and walked around to the driver’s side. He hopped in, started the engine, and then he slowly drove the car through the parking lot, driving respectfully around the multitude of police personnel.
Jed Power is a Hampton Beach, NH based writer and an “Active” member of Mystery Writers of America. His second novel in the Dan Marlowe crime series, “Hampton Beach Homicide,” is now out in both e-versions and Trade Paper.