H Is For Homicide Page 29

’’Bibianna, you're going to have to talk to them. Those people tried to kill you. There's a dead man on the sidewalk...’’

Fury flashed across her face and her voice rose several notches. ’’Just leave me alone!’’

Several people turned to look at us, including the beat officer, who began to walk in our direction. She put a hand on her left hip, touching her nightstick like a talisman. As she approached, I checked the name on her tag. Officer D. Janofsky. Probably Diane or Deborah. She didn't look like a Dorothy. Up close, I could see that she was in her late twenties, probably new to the department. I knew most of the officers who worked in this area, but she was not one I'd met. Her manner was cautious, her expression alert. Like many cops, she'd learned to disconnect her emotions. ’’Everything okay here?’’

She scarcely had the words out when a third patrol car skidded around the corner. All three of us turned as the car came to a halt some distance away. Tuesday night in Santa Teresa is usually very quiet, so aside from the obvious desire to assist a fellow officer, the officer responding must have been thrilled to see some action. This was better than rousting the homeless down at the railroad tracks. Janofsky turned her attention to Bibianna, whose face had darkened. I was keeping tabs on Tate out of the corner of my eye, and I realized, as had Bibianna, that he had been taken into custody.

’’Keep her away from me,’’ Bibianna said.

’’We're fine,’’ I said, hoping to defuse the situation.

Janofsky ignored me, fixing Bibianna with a testy look. ’’I'd like to see your driver's license.’’ She reached for her flashlight as if she meant to examine the license once Bibianna had produced it. I knew from experience a flashlight that size could serve as a powerful protective weapon. I watched apprehensively.

’’What for?’’ Bibianna asked.

’’Ma'am, could you show me some identification?’’

’’F*k you,’’ Bibianna said. She managed to infuse the two words with maximum boredom and maximum contempt. Why was she being so belligerent? I could feel my own temper climb and I knew the policewoman was close to blowing. This was no time to fool around. For all Janofsky knew, Bibianna had shot the man herself.

’’Her name is Diaz,’’ I interjected. ’’She's upset about the shooting. Can I answer any questions for you? My name's Hannah Moore.’’ I was babbling like an idiot, trying to offset some of the tension in the air. The patrol car with Tate in it pulled away from the curb, easing through the crowd of curiosity seekers that was milling about.

Bibianna turned on me. ’’Keep out of this. Where are they taking Tate?’’

’’Probably to the station. He'll be fine. Don't worry about it. Just cool it. You've already got enough trouble on your hands.’’

’’Could you get out of the car, please?’’ the officer said. She backed up half a step and planted her feet.

I said, ’’Goddamn it, Bibianna. Would you just do what the lady says? You've got your tit in a wringer. Don't you get that?’’

Bibianna bolted from the car abruptly and gave me a shove that nearly knocked me over backward. I caught myself on the open car door, grabbing at the handle to retain my balance. Bibianna drove a shoulder into Officer Janofsky, catching her off-guard. Janofsky barked out an expletive, startled by the assault. Bibianna punched her in the face, swung around, and punched at me, too, grazing my temple with a fist the size and shape of a broken rock. That sucker hurt. For someone so petite, she really managed to pack a wallop.

Officer Janofsky went into combat mode. Before the other two officers even understood what was going on, she slammed Bibianna up against the car, grabbing one wrist in the process. Cops know how to pinch little hurt places on the human body that'll drop you in your tracks. I saw Bibianna stiffen and her face twist with pain as a pertinent nerve was tweaked beyond endurance. Janofsky jerked Bibianna's arms back and snapped a set of cuffs on her. I felt my heart sink. They'd march her off to jail and keep her there for life. I could see, in a flash, that if I wanted to maintain our connection, I only had one choice here. I grabbed Officer Janofsky by the arm. ’’Hey, get off her. You can't treat her that way!’’

Janofsky leveled me with a look. She was trembling with rage, in no mood to take any sass from the likes of me. ’’Back up!’’ she snapped.

’’You back up!’’ I snapped back. Out of the comer of my eye, I could see two male cops coming up on my right. Here goes ’’assault on a police officer,’’ I thought. I hauled off and socked Officer Janofsky in the face. The next thing I knew, I was flat on the pavement, my wrists handcuffed behind me, the right side of my face being ground into the concrete. Some cop had his knee in the middle of my back. I could hardly breathe, and for a moment I worried he'd crush my rib cage. It hurt like hell, but I couldn't even get out a ’’guff’’ of protest. I'd been effectively incapacitated, not in pain, but certainly penitent. Having made his point, the guy got up. I stayed where I was, reluctant to risk a crack in the head with a nightstick. As an addendum to my discomfort, the drizzle was suddenly upgraded to a dainty pitter-patter. I groaned involuntarily. I heard Bibianna shriek, a sound more related to outrage than pain. I inched up my head in time to see her kick Janofsky in the kneecap. The officer's adrenaline was already up and I was afraid she'd go after Bibianna with the flashlight. She grabbed her by the throat, trying to get a choke hold. One of Janofsky's fellow officers intervened at that point, which was fortunate. I laid my cheek down against the pavement, waiting for the melodrama to play itself out. The raindrops, as they hit the sidewalk, rebounded in my face. I stared at the tiny pebbles embedded in the concrete, using auditory cues to re-create the activities taking place around me. It was like listening to a sporting event on the radio. I grew weary trying to visualize the play as it progressed. Drops of water began to slide down the side of my face, collecting on the pavement in a shallow pool near my cheek. I felt like one of those protesters whose pictures you see in the paper. I craned my head around, resting my chin on the walk.

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