Affirmative Action

Chapter One

It took less than seven minutes, blue roof and grill lights flashing, to drive by way of the Nimitz Freeway and 14th Avenue from Café Italiano Pietro on the Oakland estuary to the Alameda County Medical Center.  Detective Sergeant Hector Gutierrez drove, blowing away traffic with judicious use of siren and brights.  Lieutenant Jake Harris, deputy-commander of the Robbery-Homicide Division of the Oakland, California Police Department was riding shotgun.  Officer Danner, a seasoned street-cop, rode in back.

Gutierrez parked the unmarked Crown Victoria in the emergency bay of Highland Hospital, the East Bay’s designated Trauma Center.  Lieutenant Harris opened his door and was dismounting even before the cruiser stopped rolling.  The officers went directly to the emergency admitting nurse.  Harris showed her the gold shield he wore on his belt and said, “Was a shooting victim brought here within the last hour or so?”

“Yes, two.  One’s still in surgery but the other died on the table.”

“Did you admit them?”

“Yes, the one that died; the man who rode in the ambulance with the paramedics filled out the admission form.  The other’s still a John Doe,” as she handed him the two clipboards.  Harris saw that the victim’s name was Robert Ames.  The time stamp on the form said admission had been at 11:04 P.M. and the nurse had noted attending reported death at 11:09 P.M.  Someone had written a question mark in the space for middle name; checked the box for sex, male; entered the race as Caucasian and age, 53.  Also, the statement listing the responsible party had been obliterated and the bloodstained signature appeared to be J. E. Tyne.

Harris glanced at the other form and saw it was for an elderly man, age sixty-seventy with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest.  Must be old man D’Agostino, he thought, as he drew one line through John Doe, initialed the entry and wrote in D’Agostino’s full name.  Returning to the other clipboard he said, “Looks like our friend does not want to be financially liable for the cost of this visit.”  The nurse smiled but she seemed uncomfortable with Harris’ remark.  “Is he still here?”

“Yes, he’s in that waiting room,” pointing to a door just outside the emergency rooms.

“Would you please look in that room and see if he is alone?  If he isn’t please make a mental note of how many others are in that room and where they are standing or sitting?  Then come back and talk to me.”

The nurse was gone less than a minute and reported that the man was alone.

Harris decided not to wait for backup, drew his weapon and motioned for the two officers to follow him.  The door to the waiting room had a small glass window in it and he could see a man in a blue T-shirt sitting with his back to the door straddling a chair with his head on his arms.  He said, “Hec, you first through the door and move left.  I’ll follow.  Danner, you follow me and move right.  I want him alive but let’s not take any chances.  He may be armed so be prepared to shoot.”

Gutierrez opened the door taking care to make no sound and slipped through and held the door open with his shoulder until he felt Harris touch him lightly on the arm.  Danner followed Harris and gently and soundlessly let the door close behind them.  The man did not move and gave no indication that he’d heard them.  All three approached to within six feet of the man, each with his weapon raised and held in a two-handed grip and Harris said, “You there in the blue T-shirt, sit up and place your hands behind your back.  We are the police.  We don’t want to shoot you but we will if you resist.”

The man sat up and turned his face and left shoulder towards them, “No, don’t turn and don’t stand, just keep sitting facing away and drop your hands behind you.”

The room was dead quiet.  The man was absolutely still.  He had a muscular neck and his thighs, shoulders and upper arms were tensed and it looked like he was about to lunge at them but finally he turned away.  The tension in his neck and shoulders eased and he lowered his hands to his sides and Harris motioned for Danner to cuff him, which he did, then he gripped the man by his upper arm, stood him up and turned him to face the officers.

The man was above medium height, perhaps five-ten or a bit more.  He had a full beard, neatly trimmed, and gray eyes but if you looked closely you could see they were more green than gray.  His long curly hair, the color of charcoal, was pulled back into a neat ponytail and he looked fit, like a construction worker that did hard physical labor with his hands, a mason perhaps or a carpenter.  The beard was pepper and salt around the mouth but mostly the color of his hair, except for the dried blood… lots of it on his cheeks and chin.  The hands were large, not long but with thick fingers and heavy wrists.  The lean hard face and powerful body said young but the deep creases that ran from his nose to his mouth and the lines in his forehead and the crow’s feet around his eyes said middle aged.  He had blood smeared on his face above the beard, his arms and the front of his T-shirt, his knees and his pants below the knees and there were tear streaks in the dried blood on his face.  The blood on his cheeks had collected in the fine network of wrinkles below his eyes so that it looked as if he had dusted his face with pink talcum powder.

“What’s your name?”

“Tyne.”

“Let’s see the bottom of your right shoe?”

The man bent his knee and raised his foot and Harris noted the dried blood.

“How did you get all that blood on you?”

The man looked down at his chest as if he was seeing the blood for the first time, and after a moment’s hesitation said, “It must be Bob’s blood.  I tried to help him.  I must have got his blood on me.”

“Who is Bob?”

“Bob Ames… Robert Ames.  I work for him…” He hesitated and then said: “A surgeon said he died on the operating table, so I guess that means I worked for him.”

“Did you shoot him?”

“No, a man at the restaurant shot him, the one with the shotgun.”

“There are six dead at that restaurant.  Did you shoot them?”

“Two, I only shot two… no three… one got away.  The ones I shot, they shot the others… one of them shot Bob.”

Harris quickly patted the man down searching for a weapon and found none.  “Where is your weapon?”

“Not armed… I’m not armed.”

“If you’re not armed, how did you shoot three people?”

“After the man shot Bob I took the shotgun away from him and struck him with it.  I knocked him down but it must have been a glancing blow because he reached for a pistol in his belt.  I shot him with the shotgun.  I then used his pistol to shoot the other two.  They were all wearing stocking masks.  No one could recognize them.  They should have left… after they shot the two suits.  That’s what it was all about… they were after those two guys… not anyone in the restaurant.  But one of them, the second one I shot just had to have the girl… Pietro’s granddaughter.  Stupid fucking asshole.  That’s when the old man took a shot at him.  Too bad he missed.  After that it was… shit, it doesn’t get any worse.”

“How did you disarm a man with a shotgun who had already shot your friend?”

“He was right in the middle of it and just for a moment got distracted… after he shot Bob.  They were wrestling for the gun and… understand something, Bob’s intentions were good but he was clueless… grabbed the gun by the barrel.  The guy shot him and that’s when I took it away from him… when he was working the action.  I guess I’m lucky Bob made that move.  If he hadn’t we’d probably both be dead.”

“Where is the gun you used?”

“The shotgun… I left it on the floor and the pistol… I left on the bar.”

“What’s your full name?”

“Jonathan Elliot Tyne.”

“Do you have any identification on you?”

“Yes, right front pocket.”

Harris nodded at Gutierrez who removed a wallet from the man’s pocket.  As Gutierrez sorted through its contents he said, “His name is Tyne with a Martinez address on a California driver’s license.  Lots of plastic: Visa credit and ATM, both Bank of America, both bearing the name Tyne, a Coast Guard OUPV and some business cards with his name on them.  The cards say he’s a consultant with Cromwell, Ames & Associates with a San Francisco address. Forty-four dollars in bills, an AAA membership card, a Red Cross blood donor’s card, health insurance card, a PADI open water diver’s ID card, his picture on the back and some credit slips for gas and a couple of meals.”  Gutierrez put Tyne’s wallet in his inside jacket pocket.

“Am I under arrest?”

“No, but you will have to come with us until we can sort all this out.”

They led the man out and made him sit in the back seat of the cruiser.  Danner nudged him firmly behind the knee and Gutierrez kept his head from hitting the doorframe while Harris sat beside him.  When they reached the Alameda County Courthouse they walked him into the Oakland Police wing of the building, emptied his pockets removing a cell phone, a plastic contact lens case and a key ring.  One of them asked him if he was wearing contact lenses, and when he said yes, opened both the L and the R caps.  He must have been satisfied Tyne was not hiding illegal contraband in the case as he stuffed it back into his pants pocket.  They then locked him in a wire-mesh holding cell in the Robbery-Homicide Division’s squad bay.  During the ride from the hospital Harris read the man his Miranda rights but the man refused to acknowledge he had heard.  He stared silently out the window of the cruiser and ignored Harris’ questions and Harris noted ruefully to himself that the backup units he’d called for never arrived.

Tyne stared unseeing out the window, his mind turned back to the events of that day…

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