“You’re from Detroit,” I told him. “If I had been from Detroit, I’d love the suburbs, too.”
Casey seemed surprised that I knew where he was from.
“Earlier you said Young’s arresting officer was an old buddy,” I reminded him.
“Very good, McKenzie. Yeah, I’m from Motown, did seventeen years there, six in homicide. After seventeen years, nothing bothered me. Fourteen-year-old boy rapes and kills an eight-year-old girl, then torches her apartment house killing four more. Didn’t bother me. We take a drug dealer out of his place, his kids are standing there in diapers that haven’t been changed in three days. Didn’t bother me. Three black teenagers rape an elderly white woman to death then hire a high-buck activist lawyer to scream racism when we take them down. Didn’t bother me. Pretty soon my own kids are in trouble in school and that doesn’t bother me. My wife is threatening divorce, that doesn’t bother me.
“Then one day I’m doing shooters in this joint near the Renaissance Center and I realize something better start bothering me pretty damn quick or I’m gonna end up flushing my whole life down the toilet. That evening I saw an ad in the trades for a police chief in St. Anthony Village, Minnesota. Never heard of the place, but I apply—anything to get out of Detroit. They jumped me through some hoops, did the dog and pony show for the city council, gave me the job. That was twenty-seven months ago. Now my life is ordinary and predictable. My kids are happy. My wife is happy. And everything bothers me. I’m telling you this because I know you’ve been there. I checked you out and I know you’ve been there.”
“You checked me out?”
“Of course I did. After the shooting, you know I did. You used to be a pretty good cop.”
“Thank you for saying so.”
“You should have been promoted to sergeant. You should have been in plain clothes. You would have been, too. You were first in line. Only you killed that kid in the convenience store and that ruined everything. Righteous shoot is what they tell me. The store’s security cameras filmed it all. The whole world could see the suspect waving his piece, could see what you did about it. Textbook stuff. Only—shotguns are controversial.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Shotguns are messy and citizens don’t like a mess. There was a lot of loud talk about excessive force that would have been only a whisper if you had used your Glock. Glocks are nice and clean.”
“Except I don’t like the grip.”
“Using the shotgun knocked you to the bottom of the promotion list—SPPD didn’t want to look like it was rewarding an officer accused of using excessive force. I’m guessing you figured that your career was over and that’s why you took the price on Teachwell.”
“Do you have a point here, Chief, or are you just auditioning for Peter Graves’s job on Biography?”
“Ever think of going back?” he asked.
“Your arrest record is outstanding. The Ranking Officer’s Association made you Police Officer of the Year. You were given the citizen’s medal for that Minh Ha thing …”
“Are you offering me a job?”
“I have a budget for twenty officers, but I only have fifteen, including a one-man investigative unit that should be as least three, four guys. There hasn’t been a single day since I arrived here that I haven’t been shorthanded. I hire an officer, he puts in a few years learning the trade, next thing I know he’s taking a better paying job in St. Paul or Minneapolis or somewhere else. Small suburban departments like St. Anthony Village have become little more than training grounds for other, wealthier departments. My senior sergeant—you met him yesterday—suddenly he announces he’s taking a job in Brainerd, wherever the hell that is.”
“Central Minnesota. Great hunting and fishing up there.”
“Whatever. I’m having trouble keeping officers. Worse, I’m having trouble keeping veterans. I understand it. There are just so many slots in a small department like this. You could be here for twenty years and not move up. The only chance you have for promotion is if someone retires. Which brings me to you.”
“You are offering me a job.”
“I would bring you in through a lateral entry program I’ve installed. Which means you’d get credit for your experience. Eleven years and eight months in St. Paul makes you a sergeant in St. Anthony Village. Something else, and this is between you and me. The lieutenant running my investigative unit assures me he’s pulling the pin the day after he puts in his full thirty—at least he had the decency to warn me. If you sign up, I’ll give you a shot at the job. Chief of Detectives.”