O’MALLEY’S WAS hopping! The pungent aromas of fried onions and stale beer did not dissuade the loyal patrons. There was sure to be a Red Sox or Patriots game playing on the wide screens throughout the bar. Friday nights were always busy because the local cops met to swap stories of great or not-so-great adventures from their recent shifts.
This Friday was special. Detective Roger Murphy was retiring after forty-five years with the force. The usual crowd plus city officials joined the party. Everyone looked the other way tonight as Last Call at one a.m., per city ordinance, came and went without a whimper.
Bartender George Collins knew his customers. He kept the frosty mugs sliding down the hammered copper bar into the hands of waiting patrons. Each glass would complain as the next mug sliding down hit the one sent before.
“Just like my commute on I-93!” George called out. “Move those glasses along, guys!”
Two men had the place of honor on the right side of the bar. A young, slim man towered over the shorter, more sturdy-looking older man.
“Here’s to my partner and mentor, Roger Murphy, on his long, deserved retirement!” the tall man said.
The crowd shouted, “Here, here! Speech… speech… speech… Murph…Murph… Murph!”
The revelers banged their glasses on the tabletops and called for the guest of honor to step forward. Roger Murphy climbed onto his chair a little unsteady, slowed by beer and age.
“Okay, okay,” he shouted. The throng settled down to listen to their beloved chief detective.
“First, I need to thank you folks…,” he cleared his throat and paused. The bar was silent.
“This is a day I have anticipated for many months. But I never thought it would be this hard to say ‘farewell’!” His voice broke.
Murphy continued. “To all of you who have worked with me and supported me throughout my tenure at the Old Town precinct, I thank you! Mayor Dawkins and District Attorney, Abrahms, and the entire city, I salute you!”
Murphy stopped to wipe his eyes with a crisp white handkerchief.
“I salute my partner and protégé, Jay Baker.” Murphy gave the tall young man who had introduced him a salute. “He has all my confidence going forward in his career. I have no doubt he will save your butts many times, as he did mine!”
Jay gave Murphy a “thumbs up”. “You gave me a lot more than I gave you, you S.O.B.!” he shouted.
Murphy slapped Jay on the back. Everyone cheered. Murphy held up his hand to quiet them down.
“Most of all,” Murphy continued. “I need to thank my wife, Mary. All these years she worried. Now she can simply be annoyed!”
Mary Murphy took her husband’s hand as he stepped down to stand beside her. “For your information, my dear, I’ve been both worried and annoyed for forty-five years!” Mary turned and kissed her husband.
“Okay, fellow officers and guests! Cake and a round of champagne on me!” Jay raised his flute as trays of clinking champagne glasses were passed around the room. Mary and Roger Murphy cut the large sheet cake, passing out pieces to the hungry guests. Jay relished the marble cake with butter cream frosting. Murphy obliged by giving his partner a hearty slice.
As the partygoers enjoyed their cake, Murphy pulled Jay aside.
“Jay, I have a big favor to ask of you. Can you step outside with me to my car?”
“Sure,” Jay replied.
The men weaved their way through the happy folks and exited the noisy bar.
“As you can see, I have the parking spot of honor this evening,” Murphy said. His black sedan was parked right in front of the bar and was draped with crime tape.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Jay said. “I was with you the whole time.”
The men laughed. Murphy clicked the trunk open and pointed to a cardboard “banker’s box”.
“This holds the records on a cold case I’ve been working on since it was hot. Ten years. I wanted to have this solved before my retirement. But I’m tired, and I have stale eyes.”
Jay was perplexed. “I’ve been with you for ten years. Why didn’t I know about this one?”
Murphy stroked the box top and spoke softly. “You were a rookie cop on the streets learning your beat when this incident happened. When you made detective, this case was handled by another team. I had to recuse myself. The trail went cold, and the case was moved from the active files. Once the case was moved to the cold files, I got the chief’s permission to work it, so long as it was kept quiet. The precinct was under a lot of pressure to solve many other open cases. If I found some evidence that proved valuable, the chief would reopen this case. But I had no such luck.”
“Why were you recused?” Jay asked.
“Ten years ago, an eleven-year-old girl disappeared while on a school field trip. My granddaughter, Cindy, was her best friend, and her appointed buddy that day. As Cindy was a witness and a family member, I had to recuse myself. The defense in a trial could push for dismissal due to a conflict of interest. The chief was taking no chances.”
Jay thought for a moment. “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to solve this case. Of course, you’ll have to work your active cases and do this on the QT, on your own time. Start from the beginning with no preconceived notions. This is important, to both me and my granddaughter”.
Murphy’s eyes watered. He squared his shoulders and looked at his partner.
“Let me know if you need me. And keep me in the loop as you make progress.”
“I may call you from time to time, but this is my case now, Roger.”
Jay lifted the box from the trunk. “Such a lightweight box for such a heavy burden! Now, you’d better get back to your party. I’m heading home.”
The street was quiet at two-thirty in the morning. Jay crossed to his black SUV, setting the box on the passenger seat. He sat behind the wheel and the motor hummed to life. Jay patted the box and pulled the seat belt around his precious cargo.
“I’ll find you, little girl. For Murph.”