“I think I figured out how you did it,” I whispered to my partner.
Mark glanced over at me. I was the last student who would attend the Mark Gibbon School of Advanced Detective Studies before its proprietor and sole instructor retired from the City of Miami Police Department.
Nearly forty men and women were standing in the auditorium’s wings waiting to be introduced. The chief called the names of the men and women getting Community Service Awards. CSA’s were like merit badges for helping little old ladies cross the street. The men and women earning them were the desk cops, the public relations types, and the gophers for the brass. They needed something to brighten up their dress blues and look like real cops.
“But, grasshopper, knowing why gets you a gold star.” said Mark, taking his hand from my shoulder and clapping for his brother officers as they walked out onto the stage. But he had a big smile on his face. He was proud to be busted by his rookie detective partner.
I was Mark Gibbon’s partner because Carlos Lacosa had pumped six 9mm slugs into his former partner, Gaylord “Tank” Jefferson. Lacosa’s reputation with the City of Miami PD had not been good before that incident. He was a standard mid-level scumbag who’d been in and out of jail for drugs and armed robbery. Then Mark got something big on Carlos and turned him into the perfect confidential informant, squawking long and loud like the wild parrots who swarm through palm trees all over Miami.
Mark only wanted to give Carlos a new assignment on the day Tank got killed. The good old boys from the establishment Colombia cartel and the new kids on the block from the upstart Venezuela mob had decided to settle their differences OK Corral style. Unfortunately they had killed a few civilians in the process. So Carlos, who was from Nicaragua and prided himself on being able to get along with any of the Spanish speaking gangs, was going to be enlisted by Mark to find and sell out the few Colombians and Venezuelans left after the melee.
Mark always held his “contract negotiations” at an out-of-the-way bar called the Pink Lizard in Liberty City, a poor, black section of Miami that defied any and all attempts at gentrification. The Lizard was neutral territory, a place where the two sides – the good guys, us, and the bad guys, them—could get together. We could have a beer, a burger, and get a little business done without alerting both sides of the criminal justice system and pissing off (a) Madam State Attorney who didn’t like anything that smacked of a deal with the devil, which, with Carlos, it was, and (b) the other bad guys who weren’t invited and might think their interests were being sold down the polluted Miami River, which of course they were.
I’d met Tank a few times as a patrol officer and then served on the same squad with him when I moved up to detective. Tank was not an “A” student in the Mark Gibbon School of Advanced Detective Studies. He’d been a defensive lineman at Florida State under the legendary Bobby Bowden, where he had gotten his nickname. Like an army tank, he crushed anybody in front of him even if going around was quicker.
Mark and Tank met Carlos in the Pink Lizard’s parking lot. Instead of going inside and sharing a pitcher and a greasy but incredibly good Lizard Burger, Tank put it in gear and ground forward, verbal guns blazing. Carlos, his back literally against the bar’s rear wall, thought it was a setup.
Mark had led Carlos to believe he was there to send the other guys to jail. Now it looked like Tank was blaming Carlos for the civilians being killed. The shooters were Colombians and Venezuelans. Carlos, a hothead at times, got in Tank’s face. What are you thinking, man? I’m Nicaraguan.
Tank took out his cuffs. Carlos was going in.
Carlos pulled his gun. He put his first round into Mark’s leg, knocking him onto the ground. He then put six rounds into Tank’s armor.
Mark admitted to me that a lot of what had happened was Tank’s fault. There were rules at the Lizard, the most important being that you didn’t arrest your confidential informant in front of the whole world. Carlos had been a gentleman about it; his single round took Mark out of the fight. He then dealt with Tank mano-a-mano.
Excellently written mystery with a complicated wind-up and nice after story.
This was a great story, well written. I've spent many winters in South Florida, enjoyed the story and the location. A good read.