Can You Hear Me Now?
By J. Bayer
Jennings noticed the little things. As a patrolman, he’d see the dim glow of a cigarette in a parked car on a deserted street, then connect it with a porch light that should have been lit. After thirty years, Jennings had forgotten how many crooks he’d nabbed because he saw the little things.
As a shift sergeant, he still observed carefully, though his subjects were most often the patrolmen on his shift who thought they could get something over on him. Such was the case with patrolmen Hawkins and Silverstein.
Jennings didn’t care much for Hawkins; he was a smart-aleck and more concerned with dipping his wick than doing the job. Jennings had already forbid Hawkins to carry a cell phone while he was on duty because he frequently missed the dispatchers’ calls. Silverstein, on the other hand, was Jennings’ kind of cop – observant, dedicated, and diligent about completing his reports on time.
Three times in as many days, Jennings heard dispatch send Silverstein to investigate reports in Hawkins’ patrol area. This was a common occurrence; one patrolman often covered another’s beat if he was already handling a complaint. But in Hawkins’ case, he’d put himself out of service to make phone calls, and Jennings was convinced his calls were to one or another of the girlfriends he bragged about.
Jennings had planned to question Hawkins, but decided to let things play out when he observed Silverstein taking care of the problem himself.
All the patrolmen had a personal cubbyhole, used for interdepartmental mail. Hawkins had a habit of eating an apple or other piece of fruit during shift meetings and he’d stash it in his cubbyhole while out gassing and inspecting his patrol car.
As Jennings sat in his office, he observed Silverstein injecting something into Hawkins’ apple with a syringe.
Over the next several shifts, Hawkins put himself out of service several times each night and twice returned inexplicably to the station to change his uniform.
Curious, Jennings pulled Silverstein aside, and asked, “What was it?”
Silverstein grinned. “Machine oil.”