Close Range Excerpt
On his way to the Miami Police Department, Detective Sergeant Rick Malone pulled into Green Shoots, a popular restaurant in Miami, known for serving excellent breakfast and freshly brewed coffee. Even though he could grab a donut and a cup of coffee in the squad room with his fellow law enforcement officers, he preferred to stop at this diner every morning. He was a regular there, hooked on their rich Columbian blend, always brewed to perfection. He took his coffee the same way every day—black, two sugars. The coffee had a distinctive flavor, a strong caramel sweetness. He always ordered sixteen ounces, two cups, in a big Styrofoam cup to go.
Unfastening his seatbelt, he climbed out of his unmarked blue sedan, noticing the place was a beehive of activity. Many cars were parked in front of the restaurant and, looking over his right shoulder, he could see a steady stream of traffic pulling into the parking lot. Heading toward the building, one vehicle caught his attention, a blue and white Ford F-15 pickup truck, parked diagonally, taking up two parking spots. Malone hated it when people parked their vehicles like that, demonstrating a lack of respect for everyone else. On the back of the improperly parked pickup truck, a bumper sticker had an unusual statement written on it, all in black capital letters—RUDE, CRUDE, AND SOCIALLY OFFENSIVE. Shaking his head, Malone realized it took all types of people to make the world go round, especially in Miami.
Pulling open the glass door, Malone entered the restaurant. On either side of the entrance, there were several tables and booths, all situated in front of large storefront windows. Weaving through a few customers on the floor, Malone dropped down on a leather stool behind the counter. The place was crowded, with people sitting to his left and right, some enjoying their food with beverages, others waiting for waiters and waitresses to take their orders. A few customers looked upset, obviously growing impatient, not wanting to wait any longer to be served. Beth Smith, the owner of the restaurant, came out of the kitchen, headed past the cash register, and stopped behind the waist-high counter.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes,” she said. “Ever get tired of coming here?”
“It’s nice to see you, too.” Malone gave her a grin. “I’ll have the usual.”
Beth’s face grew tight. “Any news about my son? I can’t stop thinking about him.”
Malone had a few detectives looking for her son. Having fallen off the wagon, her son spent most of his time drinking booze. Beth had put down her foot, giving her son an ultimatum, either quit drinking or get out of her house. In a drunken stupor, her son moved out a few days ago, never to be heard of again. “No, I haven’t heard anything,” Malone finally said. “But I’ve got some good detectives on the case, combing the city, looking for him.”
“I should have tried to get him into a treatment facility, instead of kicking him out.”
“We’re going to find him, all right. Try not to worry too much.”
“Thanks for helping me. I really appreciate everything you’ve done so far.”
“Don’t give it a second thought.”
Beth cocked an eyebrow. “You can’t get enough of this place, can you?”
Malone was on good terms with the owner, having stopped her restaurant from being robbed six months ago. While Malone was waiting for his coffee on the morning in question, a man burst into the diner, waving a gun around and demanding all the cash from the register. With lightning fast reflexes, Malone quickly subdued the suspect, disarmed him, and slapped handcuffs on him. Ever since that incident happened, Beth had opened up to him, obviously grateful for having a detective frequenting her business. “I’m hooked on your coffee,” Malone finally said. “It’s the best in Miami. What else can I say? I just can’t seem to get enough.”
“You and everyone else here.” She gestured around the crowded dining room. She appeared to be in her mid-forties, with a soft oval face, long thick black hair, and sparkling brown eyes. “People keep coming here, I’ll have to get a bigger place.”
“That’s not a bad thing, is it?”
Beth looked concerned. “That’s all me and Dave argue about.”
Malone knew she was having problems with her boyfriend. Over the past few months, he’d been forced to break up several heated disputes between them. All of their arguments focused on the same thing—the restaurant’s profits. “How does Dave feel about expanding?”
“He’s all for it, of course. In fact, he’s already picked out a prime location.” She grabbed a large Styrofoam cup, filled it almost to the top with hot coffee, and put two packages of raw sugar in it. Setting it down on the countertop, she put her hands on her hips. “Dave has never been happy with our partnership agreement. Eighty me, twenty him. It’s always been a point of contention between us. In fact, he wants me to change the agreement, making us equal owners. You know, fifty, fifty. But this restaurant has been in my family for a long time. It’s been passed down from one generation to the next.”
“That’s a really good point.”
“But I don’t want to be selfish. I mean, Dave works really hard, seven days a week.”
Dave came out of the kitchen, shaking his head, a solemn look on his face. He appeared to be in his late forties, with a craggy face, a strong chin, short-cropped black hair, and deep-set brown eyes. He walked past the cash register and stopped in front of Beth. Placing his hands on his hips, he stared her down, obviously looking for a fight.
Beth looked at him with concern. “What’s wrong?”
“Look at this place,” Dave said. “It keeps getting busier and busier.”
“That’s what every restaurant owner dreams of, isn’t it?”
Dave’s face reddened. “No, not me, that’s for sure. Not with my current percentage.”
“We’ve discussed this before, over and over. We can’t keep beating a dead horse.”
“You’re just being cheap, stingy.” Dave raised his voice. “We need to be equal owners.”
“Let’s talk about it later, after you’ve calmed down.”
Dave slammed his fist on the counter. “We’re going to settle this now. Once and for all.”
“I’m not going to discuss this with you. Not when you’re this upset.”
Dave grasped her shoulders and shook them. “Stop being difficult to deal with.”
Realizing the situation was escalating, Malone got to his feet, leaned over the counter, and grabbed Dave by the shirt collar. Dave was taken off guard, a surprise look on his face, clearly not wanting to get into trouble with the law.
“I’m sorry for losing my cool,” Dave said, dropping his hands to his sides. “I feel like I’m getting the short end of the stick, working around the clock, seven days a week.”
“Don’t put your hands on her again,” Malone said. “That’s not how you handle things.”
Dave nodded. “You’re right. I’m wrong. I shouldn’t have acted like that.”
Malone released him, sat back down on the leather stool, and took a sip of his coffee. No matter how upset you got in an argument, it wasn’t all right to get physical with a woman. It was a cowardly act, something a man shouldn’t do.
Beth went up on her tiptoes and hugged Dave. “We’ll work out something, I promise.”
A big, burly man made his way through the restaurant, yelling at customers, telling them to get out of his way. He appeared to be in his late thirties, with a weightlifter’s build, a thick neck, broad-shoulders, and big arms and legs. He stopped next to Malone, staring at Beth and Dave behind the waist-high counter. “The service here really sucks.”
Beth gestured around the room. “We’re busy. But I’ll be happy to take your order.”
“No, I’m already late for an appointment, all because of your poor service.”
“I’m sorry we couldn’t accommodate you. We’ll try to do better next time.”
The man scoffed. “Comp my meals for a week, lady. Give them all to me for free.”
“That’s not how I conduct my business.”
The man blew out a disgusted breath. He picked up a customer’s plate from the counter, filled with bacon, eggs, and grits, and threw it at her feet. The plate shattered into pieces, the food splattering on the tile floor. The guy reached for another customer’s plate, but, before he could pick it up off the counter, Malone grabbed him and threw him to the ground. The man got to his feet, his hands up, and threw a looping right hook. Malone ducked, avoiding the hard punch, and delivered a crushing blow to the guy’s windpipe. Gasping for breath, his hands at his throat, the man collapsed to his knees. Malone handcuffed him, yanked him to his feet, and escorted him out of the restaurant. Heading across the parking lot, the man stared at the blue and white Ford F-15 pickup truck, the one that was improperly parked and had the offensive bumper sticker on it.
Malone stopped dead in his tracks. “Is this your vehicle?”
“Your bumper sticker describes you to a tee. Rude, crude, and socially offensive.”
The man gave him a hard look. “Let me go. I didn’t know you were the law.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
The man gave him a snapping front leg kick, aiming for his groin. Using his high-speed reflexes, Malone darted to the side, avoiding the kick, and countered with a powerful right jab to the man’s kidney. Stunned, the guy collapsed to his knees, where he grunted through his teeth in anguish. Malone grabbed him by the hair, yanked him to his feet, and threw him into the back seat of his blue sedan.
Copyright © 2022 RUSSELL WILLIAMS
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental and is not the intention of the author.