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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 4

Jaco was in Trauma Two by the time Chandler parked his car illegally in front of the emergency entrance and pushed through the cops lining the corridor. The police officer who had been shot lay in Trauma One, and since that was where most of the attention was directed, Chandler was able to slip into Jaco's surgery by doing little more than lifting his press credentials and waving them at no one in particular.

Almost immediately, he wished he'd waited outside.

There was blood everywhere-on the examining table, on the floor and on the five doctors and nurses who leaned over Phil Jaco with various instruments. His face seemed to have caved in on itself, as if he had somehow swallowed his own teeth, nose and cheeks in one great gulp. What was left wasn't something immediately recognizable as a face.

Two IVs had been set up, and lactated ringers flowed into his veins, but as Chandler watched from the doorway, Jaco's skin went suddenly from the color of a robin's egg to the color of a deep pool in summer.

"Stridor!" the surgeon shouted.

Jaco, in respiratory distress, wheezed and struggled on the table as blood bubbled from his mouth and nose. He needed air, but the massive facial edema made normal breathing impossible. At the surgeon's order, a second-year resident made an incision under the Adam's apple and inserted a large steel needle, through which air began to enter Jaco's lungs.

Almost immediately, the blue cast to his skin began to disappear, and doctors turned their attention to raising his blood pressure.

"Notice the bloated stomach," the surgeon instructed. MCV was a teaching hospital, and even in the midst of a crisis, senior staff found opportunity to lecture.

"Internal bleeding," the resident said, quickly.


"We need to draw blood for type and cross-match."

"Correct," the surgeon said. "And we need X-rays of the chest and abdomen."

As they swung a camera-and-arm mechanism around for the X-rays, somebody bumped the door against Chandler, and he stepped aside. It was the cop who had been with Robinson at the scene. He stared at Chandler suspiciously.

"Reporter," Chandler said.

The cop frowned and stepped up behind the surgeon.

"Has he said anything?"

"Of course not," the surgeon replied, without looking up.

The cop lingered, fascinated with Jaco's face. "Let me know if he talks."

The surgeon grunted. The cop walked out.

"Fractured ribs eight through twelve," someone yelled, from across the room.

"I'd like a CAT," the resident said, but the surgeon shook his head.

"No time."

The surgeon picked up a scalpel and, with a short, darting motion, made a small incision under Jaco's navel. Then he inserted a catheter to drain fluid from the abdomen. For a moment, everyone watched the fluid flow through the tube into a plastic bag on the floor. It was pure blood-a liter or more.

Immediately, Jaco's abdomen was opened up, and the surgeon reached in behind the fractured ribs and felt what he suspected: a mushy spleen. It was too badly damaged to save, so he pulled the spleen from behind the rib cage, severed it and shut off the connected arteries.
That's when Chandler walked out of the room.


Lieutenant Robinson sat filling out his report in the waiting room, so Chandler got two cups of coffee from the vending machine and carried them over to Robinson's chair. Captain Brenda Montgomery, chief of the detective division, walked out of the room where the wounded officer lay. She was visibly upset, though she had enough presence to scowl at Chandler as she walked toward the door. They knew each other, but not well. She sometimes showed up at the television station with Robinson for a call-in show, a regular feature of Channel 4. The station often invited police to join the regular volunteer staff to go on the air and invite viewers to call in police tips. It was a useful service that got results. There had even been occasions when wanted criminals would see the invitation to turn in a criminal and call in to report themselves. Robinson watched Montgomery leave the hospital, then took the coffee as if he had been waiting for it. Chandler waited for him to take a sip, and then he asked the obvious question.

"Any theories yet?"

Robinson glanced up and shrugged. "Not really. Could have been a professional job, I guess."

"How so?"

"The guy's face was bashed in by at least two blows that would have broken the attacker's hand if he wasn't wearing protection. Which he had to be wearing. My guess would be a sap glove."

"Sap glove?"

"Yeah," Robinson said. "One of those gloves you can get out of Soldiers of Fortune. It's filled with lead pellets. You know, to weight your hand."

"Damn. Not many people have things like that, huh?"

Robinson shrugged. "Some do."

"Then you think it was a contract job?"

"Right off-hand, I'd say: I don't know. How's that?"

"Any witnesses?"


"How's the officer who got shot?"

"Not good. He's on life support," Robinson said, lowering his voice even more.

"Any idea who hit him?"

"None. He didn't call in. Apparently he just pulled the guy. Don't know why. Nothing serious. Didn't even have his book with him."

"Who called it in?"

"A citizen," Robinson said. "He said he didn't see anything, just heard a car screeching, went outside and saw Burke lying in the street."


"Bill Burke, Patrolman."

"Who was the citizen?"

"The owner of Buddy's Restaurant, just up the street from the shooting."

"I've got a theory," Chandler said.

"Already? What took you so long?"

"The guy who hit Phil Jaco was speeding down Cary Street, and Burke pulled him over."



"Burke would have called in before he made the stop."

"What if he didn't have time?"

"We have procedures, Chandler."

"Okay. Who called in the Jaco thing?"

"I don't know. A neighbor, I guess."

"You don't think much of my theory do you, Lieutenant?"

"Look, I've got work to do. When you solve the Burke shooting, give me a call. If it's connected to the other thing, I'll say you're brilliant and recommend you for a citizen's plaque or something. Okay?"

"Thanks, Lieutenant. You've given me incentive."

Robinson stood up and joined a group of officers across the room. After writing a few notes in his pad, Chandler glanced at Gloria Jaco. She sat in a beige chair next to the window with a Styrofoam cup of coffee balanced delicately on her knee, as if she were taking tea alone on a slow Saturday morning. After confirming that the protective neighbor wasn't around, Chandler crossed the room and knelt beside Jaco's wife.

"I'm sorry to bother you. My name is Chandler Harris. I'm a reporter with WRT-TV."

"So? "she said coldly, not looking at him.

"I know this is a terrible time to do this," Chandler said, "but I was wondering if I could ask you a couple questions."

She shrugged. "I didn't know you did news on the weekend."

"Yes, ma'am, I do. I mean, we do. Would you spell your husband's last name?"

"J-A-C-O. Just like it sounds."

Chandler scribbled it down on his note pad. "And his age?"



"Why do you care?"

"I may be able to help."

She shrugged. "He's president of Family Bakeries."

'Family Bakeries,' Chandler wrote, telling himself he'd never eat their cookies after having seen their president's face.

"How long have you been married, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Forever," she said.

"That's a long time these days."

"You don't need to tell me," she responded coldly. She leaned over the side of her chair and took a cigarette out of her purse.

"I'm going to ask you a few more questions," Chandler said, as she held a lighter up to the cigarette. "They're a little personal, though, and you shouldn't feel a need to answer them, of course."

"Of course," she said, without emotion.

In rapid succession, Gloria Jaco denied that her husband was in financial trouble, was involved with another woman, gambled or socialized with anyone who might be associated with organized crime. She also denied that it was even faintly possible that her husband might be involved with another man. Lieutenant Robinson had asked that, and to hear it again disturbed Mrs. Jaco. It was a thought she had never had.

Chandler stopped the questions for a moment to find her an ashtray-it was a no-smoking area, so she ended up using his empty coffee cup-and then he resumed. She didn't know the details of her husband's finances or business dealings, but she conceded that he was a good person, of sorts.

"Even in recession years," she said, "Phil did not reduce his staff. When times are tough," she added, smiling bitterly, "people still eat cookies."

For a moment, Chandler wondered that the woman who had been in a state of panic a half hour earlier was now capable of sarcasm.

"Thank you," Chandler said. "I guess you have a point." He started to walk away, then turned for one more question. "Mrs. Jaco, you found your husband?"


"Did you call the ambulance for your husband?"

"Yes. But I was a little late."

"A little late?"

"The lady at 911 said she had already gotten the call, and an ambulance was on the way. She told me to relax."

"Did she say who called?"

"No." Mrs. Jaco shrugged and flicked a length of ash into the cup. "She just said the ambulance would be there any minute."

Chandler thanked her and looked around for a pay phone. There was one in the waiting room, but he wanted more privacy. He found a vacant office down the hall and dialed the television station.


"Charlie," Chandler said, after a few rings. "I think we should send Wally over to the assault victim's house in River Heights for some video after he finishes with the cop story."

"It's just an assault, right?"

"Yeah," Chandler said. "But it looks like a professional job, and you don't get those in River Heights. Besides, I think there might be a connection to the cop shooting. It's not out of the way. Wally can snag it on the way back to the station."

"Anything else?"

"No, not at the moment. I'll call you back shortly."

He hung up the phone and headed straight for police headquarters, which was located in the Public Safety building three blocks away. The Police, Fire and Rescue Phone Center filled the basement of the building. Everyone was too busy to notice him, so Chandler walked down the stairs without showing his press credentials to anyone. All that red tape, he thought—going through the process of getting press ID, as if it were for the CIA or something—and nobody wants to see my press pass.

Six or seven phone operators tucked behind partition walls hardly noticed Chandler enter the dark room. As he hesitated, wondering who was in charge, an older man walked out of a corner office.

"May I help you?"

"I'm Chandler Harris with WRT-TV. I just left the hospital."

"How's the wounded officer?"

"Not good, I'm afraid. I think they're just keeping him alive."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Who was-excuse me-who is he?"

"Patrolman Bill Burke. That's all I know."

"I don't know him."

"I don't either," Chandler said. "Apparently, he pulled a vehicle over, and the driver shot him when he approached the car."


For a moment, Chandler stood next to the man and shook his head. Then, as the man started to turn away, Chandler asked him the question he'd come to pose.

"Before Burke was shot, there was an assault in River Heights. I suspect it might be connected to the Burke shooting, but the police don't see it yet. Can you tell me where the River Heights call came from? I mean, I don't want to cause a problem but..."

"No problem."

The supervisor, apparently unruffled by the unauthorized request, walked over to a computer screen and tapped keys on the keyboard. A few seconds later, the information came up on the screen.

"Lockdale Lane, 10:37 a.m., from—the Jaco house. Same place we sent the ambulance."

"Yes, I know. Mrs. Jaco called it in. But she said you-or your operator, rather-told her that it had already been called in. Is there another call listed?"

The supervisor played with the keys some more and called up another screen of data.

"Here we go," he said. "10:24 a.m. Wait a minute."

"What's wrong?"

"This number."


"It's a pay phone."


"3619 Cary Street, outside of-"

"Buddy's Restaurant?"

"How did you know?"

"I didn't," Chandler said, elated. "I just guessed. Thank you very much, Mr.-"

"Hilton. Jerry Hilton. Used to be a cop myself."

"Is that right?"

"Yeah, I spent seventeen years on the street. Couldn't take it any more. So they promoted me to this basement."

"Were you a detective?"

"Nope. But I solved a lot of cases."

"Mr. Hilton, you may have just solved another one. Thanks for your help."

"Any time Mr.—what did you say your name was?"

"Chandler. Chandler Harris from WRT-TV."

"Do you work with Brady Soles?"

"Yeah. In fact, I'll be filling in for Brady next week."

"I don't like him—I watch Channel Nine, to tell you the truth. But I'll look for you."

"Thanks. Tuesday night. I start Tuesday night."

Chandler hustled back up the stairs and drove toward the TV station. On the way, he called Charlie again and ordered some exterior shots of Buddy's Restaurant, featuring the phone booth outside.

"I'll explain later," he said, before Charlie could ask.

Then he hung up, checked his address book and dialed the number for Robinson's supervisor, Captain Brenda Montgomery. If Robinson had no imagination, he would go over his head.

Robinson, he muttered, would be sorry.

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.


Graphic Design by D.A. Frostick 
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