Probably the last guy (or gal) that should be doing this, but I'll start the ball rolling. Here is pretty much my one-and-only love/sex scene -- I'm including the set-up, because it's mostly set-up.
Lynch drove to the office, started the file, called around to crime scene and the lab, but nothing new yet. Lynch was feeling juiced. This wasn’t another drive-by where they’d haul in one sullen kid or another, it not making much difference whether they had the right one, because whatever kid they hung it on would have been happy to pop whoever had been popped for whatever dumb-ass reason one of the punks would eventually cop to. It wasn’t another obsessive ex who’d beat the one-time love of his life to death and left enough physical evidence behind for ten trials. That’s how Lynch spent most of his time. Piece work. Spending each day wading through a cesspool of human shit.
It was almost 9:00 pm when Lynch got back to his place. He had the top floor on a four-story he’d bought after his wife died. Used the insurance money, leveraged himself to the nipples. Picked the right neighborhood though – Near North just before it got going. Got a great price because the place was falling apart. But the Lynch family knew tools. Best memories from his childhood were working with the old man. Plaster, plumbing, wiring, whatever. Took Lynch ten years and most of this spare time, but now the place was perfect. Retired cop leased the first floor – cop bar, McGinty’s – two units on two, two units on three, Lynch on top. Cash flow better than his salary, building worth better than a million.
Lynch had opened up his floor, exposed the brick on the exterior walls, sanded and finished the wide plank floors. He kept a weight set and a treadmill in the back. Lynch did a couple sets each of benches, military presses, curls, squats, did a quick 20 minutes on the treadmill. Maintenance. Long day, and going to be a longer one tomorrow, Lynch figuring he’d read for a while and turn in. Just after 10:00 the phone rang.
“Hey, John. Elizabeth Johnson at the Tribune. How are you?”
“I was fine. How’d you get this number?”
“I’m a reporter, John. I’ve got sources.”
“Yeah, well, I’m a cop, Johnson, I’ve got a gun. Look, it’s late. What do you want?”
“What can you tell me about the Marslovak shooting?”
“Come on Johnson. You know we got actual PR guys paid to do this shit. They even got badges and guns and hats, so you can quote them as Sergeant this or Lieutenant that, just like they were real cops. So call the public affairs pukes, will you?”
“And I’m sure they will be very helpful John. I’m sure you’ve filled them in completely. Look, you owe me one.”
Johnson was new in town. She’d been with some paper in Minneapolis for ten years, and she looked Minnesota. Tall, blond, Nordic, broad shoulders, long, long legs. Lynch had talked with her three months before. A couple guys in his division nailed some gang banger on a series of drug killings, and the asshole’s lawyer tried to muddy the water with some made-up crap about payoffs. Lynch’s name hadn’t been in it yet, but it would have been in time. Lawyer was a media savvy radical, big on his image as the savior of the oppressed, always quick with the sound bites, the leaks and the dirty tricks. What he really was was a leech attached to the artery of drug money that kept all his underprivileged friends in nine millimeters. Most of the talking heads on the TV had run with the payoff shit, but Johnson actually checked the facts. Ran a series on the shyster, exposed a mess of scummy trial tactics – blatant race baiting, witness tampering, even a juror who admitted throwing a case after a series of threats. The lawyer ended up getting his bar card yanked, and the gang banger ended up getting the full ride – a place in line for the state sponsored OD. Afterwards, Lynch had bought Johnson a drink. Some sparks, but pretty clear they were both fighting that, too.
“Hey, I said thank you,” said Lynch.
“John, I was new in town, OK? Should have squeezed you for your marker. But you owe me and you know it. How about this. We meet for a drink. I buy this time. I tell you what I need and you decide. That’s fair, right?”
Lynch thought for a moment. Not about the case, but about Johnson. He’d enjoyed the drink last time. And he’d seen her around, she’d say hi, he’d say hi, him always feeling a little visceral tug. And he’d heard she left Minnesota after a divorce. Besides, growing up in Chicago, he understood the algebra of favors. His old man had moonlighted as political ward muscle for years. What was it he used to say? “Everybody’s gotta scratch a few backs. Otherwise, whole world’s got itchy backs. Nobody’s comfortable.”
“Yeah, OK,” Lynch said. “You know McGinty’s?”
“Sure. Half and hour?”
Lynch wondered should he change. After fourteen hours, he figured a shower and a clean shirt, at least. Toweling off, he poked through the closet, and saw the sweater his sister had sent for Christmas. Strange looking roll neck kind of faded lilac thing he always thought looked a little candy assed, but he had to admit his sister knew this kind of shit, so he thought what the hell. He put it on, slid his holster back on his belt.
Johnson was waiting at the end of the bar when he got downstairs. She’d gotten her hair cut, he noticed, very short now. Long neck. Black turtleneck, tight. Black slacks. She looked like a million bucks in stock options.
“John,” she said, getting up from her stool. “Thanks. Really.” Big friendly smile. Lots of straight, white Scandinavian teeth. She put out her hand.
He took it. Big hands, he thought. But his were bigger. He hoped she noticed.
“You know, you are the only person on the face of the earth that calls me John,” he said.
“Really? What should I call you?”
“Most people call me Lynch. There are a couple other options, but you’ll have to buy more than one drink to hear them.”
She slid her hand up to his elbow and turned him into the dimly-lit brick room toward the high-backed wooden booths along the windows that overlooked the river. “Guess we’d better get a table, then,” she said. “It could be a long night.” Different smile, less teeth, more sly.
When the waitress came for their order, Lynch ordered a double Booker’s. The waitress’s smile perked up along with her likely tip. Johnson asked for another Chardonnay.
“You a bourbon connoisseur, Lynch?”
“Hey, you’re buying.”
“You’re really going to get your pound of flesh, aren’t you detective?”
“Pound?” Lynch said, looking up from under his eyebrows with a slight smile. “I’ll take all the flesh you care to offer.” He watched for her reaction.
She tilted her head a little, small chuckle, then looked back.
“That’s a very nice sweater, John Lynch.” Another smile. Not so sly this time. That was the smile he was looking for. She took a long sip from her glass.
“So how’d it go with Eddie Marslovak?” Johnson leaning forward now, forearms on the table.
“Who says I talked to him?”
“Come on, Lynch. You’re the lead on his mother’s murder. He’s maybe the most powerful man in Chicago. What are you going to do, send him an e-mail?”
“Yeah, OK. I talked to Eddie. This your technique Johnson, right for the throat? I don’t get schmoozed?”
“You want schmooze?”
“You’re buying the drinks. Sure. Schmooze me.”
Another smile, a look like he’d surprised her a little, like she was happy about that. “OK, Lynch. Tell me about being the Great White.”
Lynch’s turn to get rocked back a little. Great White. Nickname from his football days at Boston College. White guy – rare for a DB, maybe not at BC, but at most places, decent speed, played strong safety, and tended to leave blood in the water. Little grin from Lynch. Trying not to look too proud about it, the jock thing being a little silly at 46. Still, though. “So who put you onto that, Johnson? That’s going back some.”
“Every girl wants to meet a football hero. Third round pick, right?”
“Green Bay, yeah. Blew out my knee in the preseason. That was that. Happened today, signing bonus be enough to retire on.”
“Shit, I’d be retired by now anyway, Johnson.”
“Yeah, OK. I miss it. I liked it. I was good at it. And there is nothing like completely reordering some wideout’s world view when he tries to go over the middle.”
Johnson laughed. “So why the cops? Why not coach or do TV or whatever?”
“Dad was a cop. Genetic inertia, I guess. So what else you got? Gonna grill me on my aborted engagement to Cindy Tremaine back in the third grade?”
“How about Cabrini, 1984? Want to talk about that?”
She’d read the book on him. Lynch turned to the side, looking out the window over the river. Took a long swallow. In his mind, he could still see the muzzle flashes, hear the round thump into Michealson, hear rounds ripping through the sheet metal on the squad. Remembered getting hit, crawling to the front of the car, laying prone, firing from under the bumper. The first black kid going down, holding his gut, feet kicking, rolling over. The other kid running toward the squad, squeezing off shots. Lynch with one round left, knowing there’d be no chance to reload, lining the kid up, letting him come, putting it right through his chest. Michealson making that gurgling noise, Lynch trying CPR, getting nothing out of it but a mouthful of blood.
Lynch took another swallow, held the glass up and wiggled it at the waitress. “I said schmooze, Johnson. Didn’t ask for a proctological exam. Pick a new subject.”
Waitress put down the new drink, Lynch took a pull. Both of them quiet for a minute, Johnson knowing she’d stepped out of bounds.
“So,” he said. “What about you? Minneapolis, right?”
“Born and raised. Cop family, too. Dad just retired. Chief of Detectives. Older brother’s already a captain at 38, younger brother put in 10 years, law school at night, comer in the DA’s office now.”
“So why’d you skip town? Sounds like you had a house full of sources.”
“When I said cop family, I meant cop family all the way. Not an easy place for a girl with ambitions beyond marrying one of them, which I did, which was a mistake. He wasn’t too keen on me working, especially for the press. After the divorce, I was really out from under all that macho bullshit for the first time. Liked being on my own. Figured I’d be even more on my own down here.”
“Not much use for cops, huh?”
“Don’t get me wrong Lynch. My Dad, my brothers? They are good people. Hard to live with sometimes. I’ve been around cops my whole life. That sense of honor at the core of the whole thing? I like that. You don’t get that with your MBAs. But, with a lot of them, after a while, they never take off the body armor.”
“Yeah. Kevlar man.”
“Don’t worry Johnson. I haven’t put on a vest since I got off patrols.”
“There, you see? We’re hitting it off already.” Johnson getting another wine.
“Yeah. You give good schmooze. Look, I don’t really have shit on the Marslovak shooting yet, and I couldn’t give it to you if I did, you know that. Why the call?”
“I’m not looking for a quote here, Lynch. This is not-for-attribution all the way. Just with Eddie Marslovak in the mix, this is going to be front-burner for awhile. I don’t want to get blindsided by anything.”
“OK. Strictly as background. I talked with Eddie. I think he needs a couple of bushels of Prozac and maybe a decade or two of therapy. But if he ties into the shooting, is going to be sideways – somebody coming back at him out of some deal he screwed them on or something. All I got.”
“OK. Thanks. This will not come back to bite you, honest.”
They talked for another hour. Lynch filling her in on Chicago politics, the kind of stuff you couldn’t know coming in from Minneapolis. The feudal nature of it, the ethnic blocs, the primacy of neighborhood, the mayor’s office passed down from Hurley to Hurley like a family title. And the fixers – the city lifers, on and off the payroll, who had lines into everything, who could pick up a phone from their summer places over on the Michigan shore and conjure up votes from thin air or graveyards.
Got to the point where it had been time to go for a while, both of them still hanging in.
“Hey, Dickey Regan at the Sun-Times says to say hello,” said Johnson.
“You talked to Dickey?”
“I heard you were friends. He gave me the Great White stuff.”
Lynch shook his head and chuckled. “Asshole.”
“He also told me you were good people for a cop. Said you had better things to do on St. Paddy’s Day than get shit-faced with the Emerald Society and plot to undermine our constitutional protections. That’s pretty much a direct quote, by the way.”
“Yeah, well, Dickey and I go back. You can tell him he’s OK, too. For a press weenie.”
Johnson finished her wine. Played with her hair a little, like she wasn’t used to it being short. “You don’t keep your cop armor on all day, do you Lynch?”
“It’s constricting,” he said.
Johnson leaned back in the booth, stretched. “God, four glasses of wine. I knew I shouldn’t have driven. Now I gotta drive home.”
“As a police officer, I would advise against it. I can get a unit to run you home.”
Johnson laughed. “Just what I need, covering the cop beat.”
“We can go to my place for a while, get you some coffee.”
“Inviting me up for coffee Lynch? What’s the matter, don’t have any etchings to show me?” That sly smile again.
“Just an offer in the interest of public safety, Ma’am. All though I do have this extensive collection of ‘70s album covers . . .”
“Except I don’t think you should be driving either.”
“Don’t have to. I live upstairs.”
“Really?” Little tone in her voice. Not sarcasm. That smile again.
“Still like my schmoozing,” Johnson murmured into his neck as they clinched inside Lynch’s door. Both of their coats and four shoes on the floor by their feet. Lynch had untucked her turtleneck and slid his hands up her back.
“I knew you had ways of making me talk, Johnson.”
“If you’re going to keep undressing me, you’re going to have to call me Liz.”
“OK, Liz.” The turtleneck came over her head. Black bra. “Isn’t this the time when we’re supposed to disclose our sexual histories in the interest of public health?”
“Why?” she asked. “Is yours long and varied?”
“Wife died in ‘86. Did some tomcatting around for a few years,” he said. “Only been back in the pool a couple of times since, though.”
“You better have been wearing your trunks,” she said.
“Always wear my trunks.”
“I was divorced 14 months ago,” Johnson said. “Dipped my toe in here and there, but haven’t been doing laps for a while.”
Lynch’s hands ran back down her back to the waist band of her slacks, and then to the front to the buckle of her belt.
“You like to swim?” he asked.
She pulled Lynch’s sweater over his head. “I finished second in the state in the 400 IM in high school,” she answered.
“I can only dog paddle, but I’m vigorous,” said Lynch. “You gonna pull me out if I get in to deep?”
Johnson’s slacks dropped to the floor. Her hands ran down Lynch’s chest and began to work the front of his jeans. “I can do better than that,” she said. “I can give lessons.” His jeans dropped. She ran a finger up the long, white welt on the right side of Lynch’s ribs, and then kissed the round, puckered scar under his left collar bone. “Maybe later you can tell me about these.”
He unhooked her bra, and she pulled back for a second to let it fall down her arms.
“Last one in’s a rotten egg,” said Lynch. She smiled again, even better than last time.
There was a moment later, Johnson on top, rocking, neither of them rushing it, the dim light through the blinds falling in gentle curves across her breasts, when Lynch felt something break and shift inside of him, like a bone that had been set wrong being made straight. All those frantic couplings all those years ago, with Katie in the car before they married, and even after, there always being this savagery to their mating. The cop groupies he’d pick up on Rush street and the cruel gravity of their need, and suddenly this gentility, this fluidity. He was swimming, and not struggling toward the light of the surface, choking for air. Just swimming. For the first time in his life, he could breathe here.