Ghost Car – Part 1

I’m playing around with some fiction, and I’ll be periodically posting some VERY ROUGH drafts of ideas here. Let me know what you think!  

He swore he’d seen that face before. The big brown-black eyes, with the slightly drooped left lid. The nose with the bulbous nostrils & broad flat bridge. The hint of baby fat that still clung to the cheeks. Bryan Hassberger knew that face. The last time he saw it, it was attached to a body riddled with bullets and sprawled on the grass in some old woman’s back yard. He had fired those bullets. He had made sure to empty his magazine, because who needed the guy recovering and making the rounds on cable news telling his version of the story? Easier to shoot first and ask questions later.

So why did he just see that face on a pedestrian crossing the intersection in front of his squad car just now?

He sipped his coffee and squeezed his eyes shut for a second, chalking the vision up to sleep deprivation. These long overnight shifts must be taking their toll. The light turned green, and he moved forward down Collingsworth Street. “What a piece of shit neighborhood,” he muttered to himself. He had patrolled various neighborhoods over the years, but this one was his least favorite. He knew that in decades past, this part of Houston was called the “Bloody Nickel,” and for good reason. Poor, crime-ridden, run down. There were small signals of growth popping up here and there, but mostly, nothing was here but corner stores, payday loan offices, and dilapidated little wood frame houses. And the people – well, the people matched their surroundings. Poor, crime-ridden, run down. A lot of them were harmless. A significant number of the inhabitants were elderly folks who stuck around in the 80s and 90s when everyone who could afford to moved out to the suburbs. Their kids and grandkids made his life hell, though. Crack addicts, alcoholics, gang members, drug dealers, petty thieves, pill heads, prostitutes. His shifts consisted of dealing with society’s throwaways.

A call had come in. Public disturbance near a gas station. He hooked a left on Broyles. Upon arrival, he rolled his eyes. Some guy was yelling and causing a ruckus near the pumps. He looked homeless, and he was either high as hell or mentally ill. Either way, Hassberger wasn’t in the mood for this shit. He put down his coffee and exited his car.

He let out a long, exasperated sigh. Some Black guy, probably in his 40s, likely homeless, was yelling and carrying on. His bushy beard was matted and speckled with gray. He wore a pair of beat up Adidas that had been white long ago. “People can’t even pump gas in peace around here,” he grumbled. He hoped he could convince the man to leave the property without much trouble. He didn’t even feel like arresting him because he didn’t want to have to smell the man’s filth in his car.

“Be careful, now. Watch that trigger,” a voice whispered in his left ear. He jerked his head and was appalled to see that face. That face. Clear as day. He stepped back, unsure of the game his mind was playing with him. There was literally no way this man should have been standing next to him.

“What -”

“I mean, we know you have a history of being a little trigger happy. I’m just saying, watch yourself.” The face sneered at him, a hint of a gold grill sparkling from behind his lips.

Hassberger’s jaw hung slack. It was him – the guy he’d killed months ago. Shawn Clark.

“What’s wrong, big man? Why so quiet?” Clark crossed his arms and shifted his weight, taking on a stance of amused intimidation.

“You can’t be here. Damn it, I need sleep.” Hassberger blinked his eyes a few times and bit the inside of his jaw, trying to wake himself up from what was obviously a nightmare.

“I sure as hell can be here.” Clark’s thick, slow Houston accent made his words run together. “Well, go on. You got work to do. Go handle the man over there.” Clark nodded his head toward the disturbance and casually straightened the pocket square in his dark blue suit. “I look sharp, don’t I? My Big Mama put me away real nice.”

“What the hell is going on?”

“Muhfugga, you slow or something? I know you know who I am. Shit, you cold-hearted, but you can’t be that damn cold to forget somebody you killed. It was only a year ago.”

Hassberger felt as if his head were spinning. Surely this was a joke. “Get away from me.”

Clark chuckled. “Or what? You can’t kill me again.”

“You not in the position to be giving orders,” another voice growled at Hassberger’s back. He turned quickly and gasped. A bright red suit nearly blinded him. He hadn’t heard that voice in years. It belonged to Chris Washington, a man he’d killed early in his career over in Sunnyside. Washington had suffocated while Hassberger tackled him in an attempt to cuff him. He was slight – a lanky dark brown man whose face was all cheekbones and jawline. Hassberger remembered his smart mouth. Washington had given him attitude from the moment he stepped out of his car that day. The skinny asshole should have just done what he was told, and everyone would have been saved a lot of trouble.

Washington walked in front of Hassberger and stood next to Clark. They gave each other one of those elaborate handshakes that Black guys loved. Hassberger’s guts twisted into a hard, uncomfortable knot. This felt real, but it defied all logic. There was no way these two men should have been standing in front of him on this humid evening. He knew that with every fiber of his being, but here they were. Hassberger even caught a faint whiff of a Black & Mild as he stared at them.

He did indeed remember them both. 19-year-old Shawn Clark had been in his grandmother’s backyard taking a phone call when Hassberger shot him. A simple case of mistaken identity. There had been an armed robbery, and the perp had jumped a few fences and was hiding out in another backyard on the same block. Clark just happened to be wearing a similar outfit as the thief that day. Hassberger couldn’t believe a year had already passed. 23-year-old Chris Washington had been a routine traffic stop. Washington had rolled through a stop sign, then refused to cooperate with Hassberger’s reasonable requests. How hard could it be to not resist arrest?

Hassberger had spent some time on administrative leave for the two killings, but he was cleared of any claims of negligence or wrongdoing. It didn’t matter that neither of the men had been armed. Hassberger’s uniform was a near-impenetrable shield. Cops rarely committed murder; they just had unfortunate incidents on the job.

These two unfortunate incidents now stood in front of him. They were so different. Clark’s round young face and stocky build contrasted with Washington’s lithe sharp angles. Their clothes must have been what they wore at their funerals. Clark’s grandmother had chosen his demure blue suit, while Washington’s bright red ensemble reflected the taste of a much younger woman, probably a girlfriend or sister. Hassberger remembered that he had two kids. “Father of Two Killed by Police Officer,” a local newspaper headline had read. Hassberger had felt that the coverage had been unfair. Those headlines should have read “Local Drug Dealer Faces Consequences of His Own Actions.” The only thing the two figures had in common was their obvious hate for Hassberger. It beamed from their eyes and floated around them like rage-tinted heatwaves.

The sweet smell of cheap cigarillos wafted across his nose again. The smell had emitted from Washington’s car that day. As ridiculous as it felt, he found himself addressing them. “What do you want?”

Clark laughed and nudged Washington. “This asshole is asking what we want! You think he really wanna know?”

Washington pursed his thin dark lips. “Vengeance, shithead. You think we disturbed our rest to come have coffee and donuts with your sorry ass?”

~*~*~

Alright, that’s the end of Part 1. Keep following my posts to see what Hassberger has gotten himself into.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

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