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Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


The Sunset Lounge
Gene Cox

Chapter 3

Chandler wove through traffic on the Turnpike, wishing, as he often did, that he had a siren and a red light he could stick on the dashboard. Then he'd spread the cars like Moses parting the Red Sea. It was a pet peeve; the slowest drivers seem to prefer the passing lane. The right lane is supposed to be for slower drivers, but they rarely use it. Slow drivers like the passing lane. They seem to think they own it, that it was created for them. He was briefly furious, thinking of those who lose their tempers behind the wheel. He understood road rage, without becoming a participant. It took him almost fifteen minutes just to reach the Boulevard Bridge, and then he got hung up in traffic because somebody in a minivan wanted to shoot the breeze with Amos.

To Amos James, an elderly but affable gentleman, collecting tolls at the Boulevard bridge was more than a job. It was a social event. It never occurred to Amos that he was directly related to the traffic jams which formed at the bridge. He was just being sociable, saying hi and catching up on the latest local chat. Usually, Chandler lingered politely with Amos, but today he watched the minivan for a brief eternity before leaning on the horn. Almost immediately, the driver waved over his shoulder and pulled out of the toll booth. Other cars passed by Amos a little quicker now, fearful of or perhaps grateful for Chandler's horn. Chandler pulled up to the booth.

"Good morning, Mr. TV Man. What brings you across the river this morning?"

"Morning, Amos," Chandler said. "Got to hurry."

He tossed into the tray the collection of nickels, dimes, and pennies left over from McDonald's, and before they had settled in the chute, he sped up the incline.

"Go get 'em, Newsman," Amos shouted. Expectantly, he eyed Chandler's contribution. The toll was twenty cents; Chandler had tossed in seventy-three. Amos smiled as he stoked the excess coins out of the pan and dropped them into his pocket.

The river was low, and Chandler could see a mass of bleached-tan stones beneath him, flickering through the railings. Halfway up the hill, his eyes found the trees that grew up around River Heights and sheltered it from the outside world. Somewhere in there, inside that curtain of trees, might lie a useful weekend diversion, he told himself, hopefully. Within moments, he turned onto Cary Street and was greeted by a row of three police cars racing toward him. Quickly, he pulled onto the shoulder and watched the cars zip past. His Saab quivered in their wake.

A fourth cop car pulled off of Lockdale Lane a block away and sped after the other cops. It must have left the scene of the assault, he figured. Chandler considered turning around to follow the speeding cops, but he couldn't find an opening in the traffic. So he drove down to Lockdale and turned into River Heights. He cruised one block with nothing but a few leaves blowing across the road. Then, out of nowhere, an ambulance with flashing red lights rushed past him and disappeared down Cary, in the direction of the Medical College of Virginia-the same way the cops had headed.

That was probably a first for River Heights, Chandler thought. Usually, the residents had the good breeding to die quietly. And none of them left the neighborhood with sirens blaring. Who knows. Maybe the victim would get a stern letter from the River Heights Civic Association urging him to cease and desist such loud behavior. A cop car turned the corner behind Chandler and passed him in a blur.

Somewhere, the association was already dictating that letter.

Chandler reached for his portable emergency scanner and locked out the other channels, so he could monitor the conversation between the paramedics and MCV.

The chatter was urgent.

"We have a white male about fifty with multiple face fractures—apparent assault—blood pressure eighty over fifty, pulse one-thirty. Subject is unresponsive."

Eighty over fifty was bad news, an indication of internal bleeding. The paramedics would put mast trousers on the victim to squeeze blood from the lower extremities to his upper body.

"The patient is becoming combative," the paramedic continued, out of breath. "Trying to sit up. ETA about ten minutes."

Chandler started again to turn and follow the ambulance but changed his mind and continued to the scene of the assault. He was almost there. If it turned out to be nothing, he would go for the other emergency, whatever it was.

A lone police cruiser sat at the foot of the driveway when Chandler pulled up. A woman wearing a baby-blue nightgown and matching robe was being hugged protectively by an elderly man near the foot of the driveway while Lieutenant Glen Robinson attempted to ask questions. Another officer Chandler didn't know stood in the far corner of the yard, interviewing the handful of onlookers.

Robinson, he knew. Robinson was a poster child for the Richmond P.D.-tall, handsome, articulate, African-American. He could have been a movie star, but he chose to be a cop instead. Whenever local news needed a cop for TV, Robinson got the call. Though Robinson never said much and always wore a poker face, Chandler counted him among the better cops to work with. He seemed intelligent, but perhaps it was a ruse. One can often impress others by keeping one's mouth shut.

After glancing at the puddle of blood and glittering tooth fragments, Chandler slipped his press credentials around his neck and climbed out of the car. When the elderly man saw him approaching, he pulled the woman in the bathrobe away, toward the house. Chandler stood alone with Robinson and his notepad.

"Mr. Harris," Robinson said. "Welcome to another routine day in River Heights."

"What the hell happened here, anyway?"

"Somebody beat the crap out of this guy," Robinson said. "Don't know why yet."
Robinson, satisfied that he had said either enough or too much, walked back to his cruiser.

Chandler turned his attention back to the woman in the bathrobe, but as he approached, the elderly man helped her into a car and offered him a threatening look.

"What the hell do you want?"

"I'd just like to ask a few questions," Chandler said.

"Get off this property," the man said.

Then he got in the car and drove away.

For a few minutes, the two cops made a show of going door to door, looking for witnesses. They walked quickly, then left quickly, as if they didn't expect much. Apparently, they got it. After they checked the last house on the block, they jumped into their patrol car and raced off as if they didn't want to be there in the first place. Almost immediately, the onlookers drifted back to their homes. No one bothered with the bloody mess on the driveway. Apparently, the hired help didn't work on the weekend.

Chandler retrieved his cell phone from the front seat and called Charlie at the station.

"Channel 4 News," Charlie said, in a rush. "May I help you?"

"This is Chandler. Grab the criss-cross and tell me who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane."

"Wait a minute, Chandler. I've got something else going on."


There was no answer. Charlie had laid the receiver on the desk. Chandler could hear urgent traffic on the scanners, but he couldn't make out what it was. He hung up the phone and dialed another news number. The phone rang several times. Finally, Charlie answered.

"Damn it, Charlie, don't put me on hold again. Now, who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane?"

"Okay, okay. I've got an officer down, and Wally isn't answering. I've got to find

Wally or my ass has had it."

Chandler started the car and pulled away from the curb.

"Where's the officer down?"

"On Cary," Charlie said. "Where are you?"

"I'm headed toward Cary. How far down is it?"

"At Lombardy."

"I'm on my way. Who's the photog on call?"

"Richard, I think."

"Call him," Chandler said. "He lives five minutes away. I'll meet him there. We'll find Wally later."

Chandler sped down Cary toward Lombardy. When he arrived, he saw a Channel 4 News car already on the scene. It was Wally. Chandler jumped from his car and ran through the crowd. The other police cars at the scene were speeding away under full siren and lights.

"What happened?"

"A police officer's been shot," Wally said.

"Did you get it?"

"We got everything. The cop pulled somebody over, and the guy just shot him."

"Is he dead?"

"I don't know," Wally said. "They were doing CPR before they put him in the ambulance. I don't think he was breathing."

"Obviously not," Chandler said, "if they were doing CPR."

"Yeah," Wally mumbled. "I guess."

While his photographer continued to shoot tape, Wally wandered about with an unattached microphone, asking questions of people who had no answers.

"Wally," Chandler yelled. "Your microphone's not connected."

"Damn it, Chandler. I'm doing the best I can. Leave me alone!"

"You're doing fine, Wally. But unless you plug the microphone into the camera, you won't have any sound."

"I got here first, damn it. Now get lost. This is my story."

For a moment, Chandler watched Wally rush about with the loose microphone wire whipping around him. Then Chandler walked back to his car and headed toward MCV. Halfway there, he called Charlie to report that Wally had the pictures, if not sound, and that he would stand by at the hospital with more information.

"Meanwhile, give me the name of the unfortunate guy who lives at 1619 Lockdale Lane."

"Sure," Charlie said. "Sorry about the confusion earlier. Let's see—here we go. The name is Philip Jaco. J-A-C-O."

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4



About the AuthorGene Cox photo © WWBT News Channel 12

Gene Cox is the news anchor for WWBT NBC-12 in Richmond, Virginia. He is also the author of Glazed Donuts and Peccadilloes and Other Strange Animals. The Sunset Lounge is his first Chandler Harris mystery.

Click here to read WAG's extended essay about him.


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