“Get me Hughes,” said the Captain.
“Is Hughes the right guy for this Cappy?” asked the Lieutenant.
“Of course not,” said the Captain and he slammed the door leaving the Lieutenant on the other side with his stupid questions.
The newspaper pressed the headline before the clerk opened the case file. The crime scene was so fresh it didn’t even stink yet. Two patrolmen waited for a detective to arrive. They stretched yellow tape around the perimeter and snuck glances at the mess inside, hoping they wouldn’t shudder and diappointing themselves when they did.
The city disgorged a heavy case load that week. All over town, things were falling apart and each detective paired up a new crime until all the dance cards were full. Well, all except for Hughes. Hughes had once been a hot-shit-detective, advancing through the academy with unprecedented talent – the test scores and the muscle to back them up. Now he was just hot-shit.
Hughes had at a desk in the back corner of the records room. If you searched his mug, you’d have to sift through equal parts Bailey’s, sugar and donut chunks before you’d find any coffee. His muscles and test scores were now buried under fat layers of failure. Everyone knew he was gone the next time the department made cuts, so everyone ignored him. Until the night the Lieutenant ran through the room yelling his name.
Hughes blinked his eyes repeatedly to wipe the fatigue away. He cracked a raw egg into his coffee mug and swallowed the whole thing in one gulp before his brain could formulate the question, “how long have I had that egg?” He felt the fat on his ribs jiggle when he belched.
He could tell the Lieutenant was eyeing him slantways as they walked upstairs to the Captain’s office. Hughes still had great instincts, especially when he directed them towards himself. The Lieutenant was thinking “why Hughes?” but didn’t have the guts to say it out loud. He didn’t have to; Hughes was thinking the same thing.
Why accept the assignment then? It occurred to Hughes to just hand the file right back to the Captain. In fact, that was what he intended to do, but when his fingertips touched the thick manilla folder, he felt a spark and a current ran up his spine. He stood taller than he had in years.
Hughes looked the Captain in the eyes so there was no misunderstanding between them. Neither man thought Hughes could do the job. But both men knew the department in and out, and while maybe one or two of the junior guys could make a go of it, Hughes was the only one that had a prayer in Hell of bringing it all the way home.
Hughes knew all the usual suspects. On the back side of that coin is that all the usual suspects knew Hughes. Whatever happened that night, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Hughes would get his man, like he had many times in the past, or the man would get Hughes. The only real question was how long it would take.
The rain didn’t make a difference. The evidence had been preserved and Hughes got to work. His tools were rusty, but the hammer still hammered and before long he had a lead. He also had support. Perhaps the rest of the department didn’t count on him anymore, but they didn’t hate the guy. And what the hell, they all wanted to close the case.
Hughes had that lead and he was going to follow it to the ends of the earth. He came to work the next day in pinstripes that mostly fit. But the Captain looked at him and he couldn’t see the muscles and the test scores. He thanked him for the lead and he handed it to Huff. Hughes didn’t even know Huff’s first name, but he understood. He went back to his desk.
Before he sat down, he grabbed his mug and went to the sink to give it a good wash.
Of course Hughes took the case. When his wife introduced him to her friends at parties, she would say “This is my husband Phil and he’s a cop.” At least that’s what she would say if anyone would marry him or invite him to a party. A bad doctor couldn’t pretend he was a shoe salesman if some poor soul walked up to him with a knife stuck between his ribs. He rolled up his sleeves and did his best. A bad cop is still a cop.
Rain delays suck the most on school nights. A nuclear meltdown by David Robertson in the 8th inning threatened to extend this game deep into the recesses of a responsible bed time. But after a fortunate run in the ninth to retake the lead, Mariano Rivera ended things on the happy side of midnight with a 6-5 win.
The game moved quickly enough through six innings – even though the Yankees led 4-1, Chen settled down and began striking out Yankees with alarming ease. Then in the seventh Granderson homered off Chen and that started the Orioles bullpen machine. In the bottom half of that inning, a Markakis homer off Huff got the Yankees up in arms. Joe Girardi used three pitchers to get through the seventh – including rookie Cesar Cabral facing the tying run with two outs.
David Robertson started the eighth with a three-run bulge. Machado took him deep to left and Soriano raced to the wall on a collision course with the burgeoning homer. His leap looked perfect but he hung his head as if he missed it and everybody held their breath. He popped the ball out of his glove and snatched it with his bare hand and smiled. If you weren’t laughing with him, you were probably cursing at him. Maybe both.
Michael Kay blathered about how that play had to knock the wind out of the Orioles. The Orioles tied the game four batters later and the fifth was standing on second with two outs, poised to take the lead. The big blow was Danny Valencia’s three run homer off a grooved first pitch fastball. Soriano’s antics would have played better if the O’s didn’t splatter Robertson all over the infield grass. Somehow, Robertson rebounded and found his curve ball to strike out Wieters and “preserve” the tie.
Brendan Ryan chose a good time to notch his first hit as a Yankee to lead off the ninth. Jim Johnson air-mailed second base on the subsequent bunt and the Yanks had two on with no out. Granderson also bunted and set up Alex Rodriguez for the big moment. The third pitch to Alex was short on a Little League field and bounced to fence allowing Ryan to score. I am not sad that happened, and I’m not certain Alex was going to come through, but I didn’t dread his at bat there like I did a year ago. I thought he was going to get it done.
The O’s walked Alex and got Soriano to bounce into a double play to hold the score at 6-5 for Mariano. He’s pitched a lot lately and not always well, but he was on today. He mowed through three hitters in ten pitches, many of them unhittable. Manny Machado almost broke his wrists swinging at an inside heater.
The strange night didn’t end with the ball game. Turns out the official scorer was so offended by Robertson’s performance that he refused to give him the win. He transferred the win to Mariano, which is all well and good, but if Mariano gets the win then he doesn’t get the save. Nobody should really care about that, but if in 20 years, Craig Kimbrel is breaking Mo’s record, I wonder if they will remember this one.
Rays and Indians won. The Yankees kept pace and head to Boston. Probably without Brett Gardner, who strained an oblique in the first inning. That’s not a quick heal usually, but hopefully Gardner is back out there very soon. All hands on deck and all that.
Hughes spent the rest of the week in those pinstripes. He watched the Captain put the file on a merry-go-round from Huff to Warren to Cabral to Robertson and of course they fucked it up. He could have told the Captain that if you keep looking you’ll find the guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Luckily there was one guy in the department that could close any case, Rivera. He picked up the case where it was left for dead and meticulously put the pieces back together. He got the usual suspects to talk. How did he do it? Hughes never really knew but he suspected there was a pile of broken bats somewhere. Hughes was satisfied to be a small part of a happy ending.
Rivera walked past Hughes desk. There was no reason for him to be in the records room. “Nice suit,” said Rivera.