Three: Chicago


Wally turned on the television as soon as he entered his hotel room.

“Chicago police officers die outside coffee shop.”

Looking into a mirror, Wally smiled his friendly, crooked smile, then removed the horned-rim glasses he did not really need. Wearing a tweed sport coat with patches on the elbows, he looked like a humanities professor just returned from giving a lecture on Petrarch. In the background he could hear the talking head.

“Our reporter at the scene is Kelly Matthews.  Kelly?”

“Thank you, Melinda.  Both officers had just finished breakfast.  Apparently, officer Andrews opened the driver-side door but, before he could even get in, he began having symptoms. Witnesses say he was gasping for breath before he fell to the sidewalk.  Officer Collins rushed to his aid and began giving CPR, when he too began to suffer symptoms.  Eye-witnesses told me both officers struggling to breathe.”

“And are they both dead?” Melinda asked.”

“Oh yes,” replied Wally to the television. “And well deserved.”

Wally’s hair was slicked down from right to left; part of his disguise.  He’d read that men who parted their hair on the right were seen as nerdy, off-putting, harmless and likely to be ignored.

“Just like Clark Kent,” he said, grinning in the mirror.

“Kelly,” continued Melinda, “weren’t both of these officers involved in some kind of civilian death last year?”

“Yes, Melinda.  It happened during a traffic stop involving a black teenage male, Leon Washington. Officer Andrews yanked the boy out of the car and threw him to the ground. Officer Collins placed a boot on the boy’s head while officer Andrews handcuffed him. During the struggle, the boy suffered an asthma.  Thinking the boy was pretending, neither officer paid attention when the boy started begging for his inhaler.  By the time they realized he was in distress, it was too late. The boy died before EMTs arrived on the scene.”

As Wally listened to the television, he donned black nitrile gloves to protect him as he unscrewed the top of the walking cane he adapted to hide the custom spray dispenser he’d used to spray the batrachtoxin on the door handle of the patrol car.  Carefully placing the top of the cane into a plastic hazard bag, he sealed the bag and placed it in a large trash sack.

“As I recall,” continued Melinda, “both officers were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.”

“Yes,” replied Kelly.  “Both were placed on paid leave while an investigation was launched into the death of the Mr. Washington.  The officers claimed that the boy became confrontational when they told him he was being pulled over for a broken taillight. Officer Andrews said Mr. Washington became so aggressive that he feared for his own safety.”

A trained herpetologist, Wally had chosen batrachtoxin because he knew it worked quickly, shutting off the entire body’s ability to communicate with itself. Complete paralysis. Death comes quickly.

“Members of the black community were outraged when both officers were cleared of wrongdoing.  One minister claimed that it was just another case of profiling gone wrong.”

“DWB,” the minister stated, “Driving While Black.”

Wally packed his luggage with the care of the OCD man he was.  From the top of the dresser he retrieved the framed photo of his wife and two-year old son, both killed by a SWAT team who had confused NW Lance Way with NW Lance Circle in Seattle.

“By the time they figure out what killed the cops,” he said to the news anchor, “I’ll already be in Detroit.”

“An autopsy is planned for tomorrow morning,” blared the television.” The chief of police declares that every effort will be made to determine the cause of death, and no stone will be unturned if it is determined foul play was involved.”

Wally turned off the television, grabbed his suitcase and the garbage bag, then took one last look around the room he’d been careful to sanitize.

“And after Detroit,” he said to the now blank screen, “Evanston, Fort Lauderdale, and Georgetown.  The only good cop is a dead cop.”

He left the room with plenty of time to spare.  The flight to Detroit didn’t depart for two hours.

~ fin ~

Michael Coolen is a pianist, composer, actor, performance artist, and writer. His works have been published widely, including the Oregon Poetry Association, Creative Fiction, and Clementine Poetry Journal. He is also a published composer, with works performed around the world, including at Carnegie Hall, MoMA, and the Christie Gallery in New York.