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Gut Instinct
About the Author: James A. Mallory has more than thirty years of experience in newspaper management, editing, and reporting, mainly in Atlanta and Detroit. Hilton Head inspired James to expand to fiction writing and to write two unpublished novels featuring Alonzo Probe. He is a contributor to Hilton Head Monthly Magazine and Black Business Inc. (Greenville, NC).

I cruised down deserted Woodward Avenue long past midnight after nailing Jamerson Weber III with photos of him stepping out with a leggy redhead. The local jewelry store magnate’s soon-to-be ex-wife owed me five grand for the pictures. The payment would cap a lucrative first year as a full-time private investigator. Perhaps, 1975, just twenty-four hours away, would afford me an office with my name, Alonzo Probe, stenciled on the door.

Unlike my mood, the night was cold and unpleasant, the street slushy from a day-long snowstorm. Woodward wasn’t the fastest way to get home, but I had one more surveillance.

Just as I crossed into Detroit at 8 Mile Road, I spotted a man with long blond hair arguing with a woman outside a diner. The lady wore a black leather biker jacket, jeans, and thigh-high boots. Her brunette hair was in a ponytail that flowed from the back of a dark-colored fedora. The hair color and her physical presence suggested I’d found my second target for the night.

I slowed down my 1972 Deuce and a Quarter—Buick called it an Electra 225—and pulled to the curb. A pair of binoculars confirmed my suspicions. It was Debbie, a cop and former lover who’d saved my life earlier in the year.

She was undercover again, and a worried friend had asked me to check on her. I didn’t like what I saw. The man with long blond hair grabbed her arm, but she twisted away. Using both hands, she shoved him to the ground. He pulled a revolver from his camel hair coat. A man in red leather, his skin as dark as charcoal, jumped out of a cherry red Cadillac Coupe DeVille. He screamed, Tommy, don’t and threw a punch that Debbie dodged.

I opened the door, ready to brawl, but I turned my head when I heard squealing tires. A brown Ford sedan was moving at me, forcing me to close the door. I fell back inside, expecting the colliding metal. Instead, the Ford sped toward the fight. I sat up just as the two men dragged a kicking and arms-flailing Debbie into the Caddy before bolting down Woodward, followed by the Ford, which I assumed was Debbie’s backup.

I stayed close until they took the I-94 West exit. I missed the turnoff, thinking I should call the police, but my gut screamed that Debbie could be in immediate danger.

I jerked the steering wheel, causing the car to jump the curb onto frozen grass before it slid onto the icy highway entrance. I raced the Deuce across four lanes to get around a parade of slow-moving tractor-trailer trucks and to keep the bright red Caddy in sight. Several miles later, it darted from the left lane to the far right and sped up the Livernois ramp. The car headed south until Michigan Avenue, the Ford hanging tight. I did the same.

The Caddy turned left, stopping suddenly at an abandoned bar on Michigan. The Ford sped up as I got closer, but the driver surprised me when he careened around a corner away from the scene.

Stunned that a police backup would abandon another cop, I had to refocus when the blond hair guy, the man in the leather coat, and Debbie exited the car. They disappeared to the side of the bar. I pulled behind the Cadillac. I checked my guns, preparing to engage the men, but the trio trudged back in view. The blond guy glared in my direction. He pulled a .38 and fired it in the air. He pointed the gun at Debbie, shouting for his partner to hurry and get inside the car.

I slumped in my seat, unable to take a shot, pissed at being so careless. The men plowed the Caddy through a snow-covered side street, and I kept pace by driving in their tire tracks. The blasting horn of a diesel locomotive broke my concentration. The DeVille lurched forward, nearly airborne, over the track in front of what looked like a slow-moving engine. I prepared to do the same until I realized the train had stopped. I slammed on my brakes, a move that forced my car into a hundred-eighty-degree spin before it skidded into a snowbank.

I gunned the motor, shifting between drive and reverse, rocking the car back and forth until I dislodged from the snow. I swung the Deuce onto the street, now blocked by the locomotive switching freight cars. I’d lost Debbie. She might as well have fallen into an abyss.

A few hours later, I was forced out of bed by the sound of the winter wind blowing across the Detroit River and the morning sunlight coming through my window. I’d tossed and turned while my eyes were closed, worried about my missing friend, but at least I could report that she was alive the last time I saw her.

This story appears in our DEC 2022 Issue
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