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7

The town of Carrport boasted the fourth-highest-paid municipal police force in New York State. The boys and girls in blue enjoyed that status, and their jobs, and saw no reason to agitate for an increase to Number Three. Crime in Carrport was low, drug use discreet and limited for the most part to the more affluent residents in the privacy of each others homes, and the risk of injury or death on the job was much lower than in, oh, say, certain precincts of New York City. It was true that local rents were high, even on a well-paid cops salary, and local supermarkets charged gourmet prices for normal crap, but so what? COLAS were written into the police contract; they wouldnt suffer. All in all, Service With A Smile might have been a better slogan for the Carrport Municipal Police Department than the To Protect, To Serve, To Uphold And To Honor thought up by some long-forgotten alderman and squeezed onto every CMPD car door, just under the shield.

The CMPDs equipment was also up to snuff, modern and well maintained, though of course not what the police forces of Los Angeles or Miami would consider the state of the art. When money had to be spent, the town fathers preferred to spend it on the personnel rather than on cute toys that would never be needed. (Besides, if the demand for a cute police toy ever did arise, they could always call on the Suffolk County cops, who were also well paid, but who in addition were equipped grandly enough to enable them to invade Syria, if the overtime could be worked out.)

The call that evening to Suffolk County 911 was logged in by the emergency service staff in HQ at Riverhead, at eleven minutes past nine, then rerouted to the CMPD, where the duty sergeant took down the information, understanding at once everything implied by that address, Twenty-Seven Vista Drive, numbers that even in a police report would always be spelled out. He immediately called one of the two cars on patrol duty this evening, manned (and womanned) by Officers Kebble and Overkraut. Kebble was driving this shift, so Overkraut took the squeal: Overkraut.

Prowler captured at Twenty-Seven Vista Drive. Householder is armed and has the suspect in custody. Householder is a Mr. Fairbanks.

The name was known to Kebble and Overkraut, of course, but neither commented. In the old days, there would have been some badinage on the radio at this point, while Kebble sped them toward Vista Drive, but not any more. These days, recordings are made, and kept, of every damn thing. Creativity has been throttled in its crib. On our way, Overkraut told the sergeant and the tape and God knows who else, adding no remark about the richness or famousness of the householder called Fairbanks, and no disparagement voiced about householders packing heat. Over and out, Overkraut said, put the mike away, and made his comments unsupervised to Officer Kebble, who commented back.

There was no need for either the rooflights or the siren, not in Carrport on a quiet spring Thursday evening at quarter past nine. And not if the householder were already holding a gun on the intruder. So Officer Kebble drove swiftly but unobtrusively across town and stopped in the driveway at Twenty-Seven Vista, where the house was lit up like a NASA launch. The officers donned their hats and stepped out of their vehicle. Officer Kebble paused to adjust her equipment belt around her waistit always rode up when she was in the carand then they proceeded to the front door, which opened just as they reached it, and an astonishingly beautiful young woman with tousled hair, wearing a white terry-cloth robe, greeted them, saying in a husky whisper, Oh, good, here you are. Max is in the parlor with him.

Why, Officer Overkraut asked himself, as they thanked the young woman and moved into the house in the direction shed indicated, just why cant Officer Kebble look more like that ?

The parlor. Beige furniture. Gray-green wall-to-wall carpet. Large stone fireplace, with no ashes and irritatingly shiny brass andirons. Prints of paintings of Mediterranean village streets. Lamps with large round pale shades. And Max Fairbanks standing in the middle of the room in another white terry-cloth robe, plus a small dark S&W .38 clamped in his right fist, pointed unswervingly at the burglar, a slope-shouldered defeated-looking fellow in dark clothing and thinning hair, who had an air of such dejection and collapse there seemed no need to point anything at him more threatening than a banana.

Evening, Mr. Fairbanks, Overkraut said, moving toward the burglar, bringing out his handcuffs, being sure not to get in the line of fire.

Very prompt response time, Max Fairbanks said. Very good.

Thank you, sir.

The burglar humbly extended his wrists to be cuffed. Overkraut had meant to cuff him behind his back, but the gesture was so meek, so pathetic, that he hadnt the heart to make things worse for the guy, so he went ahead and squeezed the metal rings onto those bony wrists, while the burglar sighed a long and fatalistic sigh.

While Overkraut frisked the burglar, surprised to find him weaponless, Kebble said, Any idea how many of them broke in, Mr. Fairbanks?

Only this one, I think, Fairbanks answered. Looks like he did something cute to the front-door alarm.

Officer Kebble shook her head, while the extremely attractive young woman in terry-cloth robe number one came in and stood by the door to watch. If only, Kebble said, they would turn those talents to good. But they never do.

Overkraut said, You wont need that pistol any more, sir.

Right. Fairbanks dropped the S&W into his terry-cloth pocket.

Kebble said, Had he taken anything, sir, before you found him?

I dont think so, he was just But then Fairbanks stopped and frowned at the burglar and said, Just a minute.

The burglar lifted his head. What, he said.

Let me see those hands, Fairbanks demanded.

What? What?

Show Mr. Fairbanks your hands, Overkraut said.

I got nothing in my hands. The burglar turned his hands over as best he could with cuffs on, to show his open palms.

No, Fairbanks said. That ring.

The burglar stared. What?

Thats my ring!

The burglar covered the ring with his other hand. No, it isnt!

That son of a bitch took my ring! I left it on the kitchen sink, and

Its my ring!

Quiet, you, Overkraut said, and meaningfully touched the nightstick on his belt.

But

Officers, I want that ring.

But

I dont want you to impound it as evidence, or any of that nonsense, I want my ring back, and I want it now.

Its my ring!

Overkraut faced the agitated burglar. Unless you want real trouble, mac, he said, youll take that ring off this second, and you wont give me any lip.

But

Thats lip.

I

And thats lip, Overkraut said. He slid the nightstick out of its loop on his belt.

The burglar breathed like a bellows, very nearly producing more lip, but managed to control himself. Bobbing on his heels like somebody who needs badly to go to the bathroom, he at last pulled the ring off the finger of his right hand and dropped it into Overkrauts left palm. This isnt right, he said.

Ignoring him, Overkraut turned to drop the ring into Fairbankss palm, saying, Glad you spotted that, sir.

Oh, so am I, Officer. Holding the ring up, smiling on it, he said, There you are, you see? The symbol of twee. I based my whole corporation on this.

If that was an insider tip, Overkraut didnt get it. Well, Im glad you got it back, anyway, sir, he said.

Sounding mulish, the burglar said, It isnt right. Ill go along with some things, but that isnt right.

Officers, Fairbanks said, as he slipped the ring onto the third finger of his own right hand (he had a wedding ring on the left, though the attractive young woman over by the door didnt, Overkraut noticed), officers, I have to say, although Im grateful for your presence, and Im glad we captured this fellow and got my ring back

My ring.

I have to admit, theres a certain embarrassment involved here, andIm not sure how to say this, particularly in front of the, uh, what do you call him? Perpetrator?

Kebble said, Why dont I put him in the car, and call in to the station that we got him, and, sir, you can talk to my partner.

Thats very good, Officer, thank you so much.

Kebble herded the burglar out of the room, the man throwing many sullen looks over his shoulder on the way, and once they had gone, Fairbanks said to Overkraut, Officer, Im now going to explain to you why, although your capture of this felon this evening is creditable and indeed newsworthy, my own presence here, and Miss Kimberlys, are, for a variety of reasons, best left out of the picture.

Mr. Fairbanks, Overkraut said, Im all ears. Which was in fact almost accurate.


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