By Sean Tuohy
All the evil that happened started when Amanda Molina, a fifth grader from Davie, Florida got snatched off the street while walking to school one cool November morning. Within an hour she was reported missing by the school, her parents notified, and a report was sent out to local police, state troopers, and the media. Robby Hanes, a three-time loser with a meth habit, took Amanda. He grabbed the nine-year-old black-haired girl off the corner violently, leaving behind one scuffed pink tennis shoe, and threw her in the back of his Ford pickup. He slapped and punched Amanda, giving her a black eye.
Robby was no sex-predator. He had no thrills for little girls. He liked them young, but not that young. He knew two Cubans who would buy Amanda for a cool nine hundred bucks. Robby could care less what they did with her. He needed the green, nothing else. He set up a meeting at the Evergreen Motel on North U.S. 27, a single-story flop house built in the 1960s in the middle of the Everglades. The neon road sign had been smashed years before. All the rooms smelled of mold, and the parking lot was made from loose gravel. The rooms were all by the hour.
By the afternoon thick brooding rain clouds rolled in from the northwest and threatened rain. The sky rumbled with thunder. Robby paid for his room at the Evergreen and dragged in a sobbing Amanda. Once inside, he tied her hands together with zip ties and pushed her on to the soiled carpet. Robby, to make sure she wouldn’t try anything, kneeled down and shoved his face into Amanda’s. She repelled back in disgust and terror as Robby spoke.
“You fuckin’ run,” Robby threatened, “I’ll kill your family. Got me?”
Amanda released a whimper, which was enough to satisfied Robby.
He flopped down on the dusty bed and flipped on the television. The Cubans would be here shortly.
* * *
Detective Eli Cohan didn’t hear about Amanda Molina because he had his radio flipped off. He drove his unmarked Ford with one hand; the other was busy unscrewing a nip bottle, which he downed in one gulp. Cohan had been a Broward County sheriff deputy for nine years. Six of those years were spent loaded. He liked pills. He needed pills. His shoulder was three types of messed up after Haitians loaded up on angel dust threw Cohan against a brick wall. The doctors all said the same thing: the pain will always be there. Cohan popped pills morning, afternoon, and night. When he couldn’t get pills, he drank. Cheap vodka worked the fastest. That had been his third nip of the morning.
Cohan pulled onto 27 and gunned the engine of the Crown Vic down the two-lane blacktop. He raced around lumbering trucks and slow moving cars. He tapped fingers against the wheel. He was jittery. He had run out last night and couldn’t get a re-up until this morning. The night had been hell; cold shakes, vomiting, and nightmares. He had shit himself. Blinding sunlight glared on the windshield, making Cohan groan and fumble for his sunglasses. Soon after, rain clouds bullied their way in and blocked out the sun. Cohan was thirty-three, small, and lean with a swimmer’s build. Brown, shaggy hair and three days of growth on his face. He was a Florida Jew, but hadn’t believed in God since high school.
The Ford spun into the Evergreen motel parking lot kicking up dust. Cohan parked at the far end, away from the manager’s office. Cohan rubbed his temples, which felt like they were about to implode. He grinded his teeth as he kicked open the door. The Glock 23 clipped to his jeans clunked as he stepped out. The air smelled of rain. Cohan took in the parking lot; a rusted Ford on its last leg was parked four spaces over with a BMW double parked behind it. Through the rear window Cohan could make out the head of someone in the passenger seat. Cohan walked over to the room marked number 11. He slammed a fist against the door. Behind the door he heard a television go mute, movement, rushing bare feet coming toward the door. The door opened slightly, the security chain clanking into place. Buggy formed in a crack in the door, his long thin face, scabbed dry lips, and sunken eyes glaring at Cohan.
“You’re late,” Buggy said quickly.
Cohan remained silent; he didn’t want this to last any longer than it needed. He slipped over the bills. Buggy shut the door. Rustling behind the door followed by more bare feet. The door was ripped open and Buggy handed over a bag with six pills.
“Enjoy,” Buggy said, slamming the door.
Cohan dry swallowed two pills and strolled back to the Ford. He pocketed the baggy. He went back to his car and noticed movement from the right side. The BMW’s passenger door opened and a heavy Cuban wearing sunglasses and a purple button-up got out. He opened the rear door and waited. The Cuban was watching the motel.
Cohan stopped and without realizing his hand dropped to the butt of his gun.
The door to the motel room the pick-up was parked at opened and another Cuban, overweight and in a pink shirt, hurried out with a little girl missing a shoe in his grasp. In the door frame, a lanky meth head fella watched.
This was all bad mojo.
“Hey!” Cohan shouted.
Pink Shirt halted and looked toward Cohan. Meth Head, startled and spooked, spun around to find Cohan. Purple Shirt at the car was swearing in Spanish.
For half a second there was no movement, no sound, nothing at all but the rumble of thunder.
Pink Shirt, holding the girl, bolted toward the car. Meth Head dove into his room and disappeared.
Cohan moved toward the BMW, now gripping his Glock in his hands.
The Cuban threw the girl’s small frame into the back seat and slammed the door shut. Purple climbed back inside while Pink raced to the driver’s side.
A gunshot echoed and the bullet slammed into the ground at Cohan’s feet. Cohan skidded to a stop and pivoted with the gun leading the way toward Meth Head, who stood in a weak stance in the doorframe with an ancient .38, smoke curling from the barrel.
“Drop it!” Cohan warned and then fired three quick rounds. Two went wide and slammed into the doorframe causing wood to splitter and fly. The third caught Meth Head in the chest. His dirt-smudged shirt bloomed red and he stumbled back into his room.
Tires crunched on gravel and Cohan spun back around to see the BMW speeding away leaving a trail of dust.
Cohan fired at the tires. Bullets pinged and panged off the metal rear. The rear left tire exploded and the car dropped. Pink lost control, and the car fish tailed into a cloud of dust and ran against the motel.
Cohan rushed forward, gun held low, toward the now stalled out Beamer. Overhead lighting cracked and on cue fat raindrops began to fall.
Cohan was five feet from the driver’s side when the passenger side door was kicked open. Purple’s wide face popped into frame. He held a silver MAC-10 over the roof of the Beamer.
“No,” Cohan said to himself and fired a single round.
The wall of the motel was painted red with a splat. Purple Shirt’s head snapped back violently and fell out of sight behind the car.
As Purple Shirt’s brains spattered on the wall, the driver’s door was pushed open and Pink Shirt stepped out. Cohan saw something clasped in Pink Shirt’s hands and Cohan fired three rounds into the driver’s side door. The door window shattered and Pink Shirt let out a yelp as he crumbled to the ground.
Cohan was breathless. His heart pounded so loud he could hear nothing else. He stood for a moment in the roaring silence that comes only after a gun battle. The manager’s office door opened and a frail looking man poked his head out.
“Call the police!” Cohan barked at the man as he moved toward the BMW.
Cohan ripped open the rear door of the BMW and felt pain shooting up his right side. He winced and gritted his teeth. Cohan looked down to find his black polo shirt moist with blood. A bullet had gotten him. Cohan fought the pain and looked into the back seat.
Amanda sobbed, tears raining down her brown checks, eyes blood shot. Cohan and Amanda locked eyes, and he could see the fear.
“I’m a cop,” Cohan said softly and held out a hand.
Amanda reached out with her bound hands. Cohan grabbed her and yanked her out of the car. He hoisted her up, winced again in pain, and hurried away from the BMW just as three BSO squad cars screamed into the Evergreen motel’s parking lot.
The bullet had grazed Cohan without hitting anything major. He was losing a lot of blood and went into shock. Purple Shirt had gotten a round off before he lost his brains. Amanda and Cohan were rushed to Broward General. The media caught a tearful reunion of Amanda and her grateful parents.
They found the pills both in the pocket of his jeans and pumping in his veins. Cohan was locked up at Broward General in a private room. He had a view of the rooftop. The rain had come, soaked everything, and was now gone.
Sheriff Albert Kinney stepped into the room in full uniform. Into his third year as Broward’s sheriff, Kinney had lost what was left of his hair. He was an imposing man with a thick grey moustache parked on his upper lip. Kinney wasted no time.
“You’re a pill head,” Kinney said matter-of-factly.
Cohan began to speak but Kinney held up a palm for him to stop, “Report came back. You’re goddamn high.”
Kinney sat down in an empty chair against the bland-colored wall and let out a deep breath.
“The whole country has heard what you did” Kinney said. “CNN picked up the story an hour ago. You are a hero for the next fifteen minutes, Cohan, and then shit is gonna hit the fan.”
“You need me to say something?”
“No, I need you to not be a pill head,” Kinney snapped back and fell silent for a long moment. “The pills we found on you are in the trash, the report is in my hands, and we’ve told the news that you were following up on a tip.”
“What happens next?” Cohan asked, trying to hide the building fear that was growing in his voice.
Kinney looked at Cohan with a pair of dead grey eyes and said,
“You get clean.”
* * *
Rehab nearly killed Cohan. He was sent up to a place in the panhandle under a false name, Kinney had set it up. While Cohan got the poison purged from his system his face was featured on every news program.
Hero cop saves kidnapping victim….
…Justice served by hero…
The hero was laid up in a bed shaking, weeping, and wishing for death. He walked out clean and sober. He was welcomed with open arms and cheers. Reporters calling and begging for an interview. The Molinas wanted to meet and thank the man who saved his daughter. Cohan said no. They sent a card and Cohan tossed it. Amanda sent a card she wrote, the lettering done nicely, and Cohan kept that card at his desk.
He was put on light desk duty, paper work, and he welcomed it. He sat in his office and kept his head down. He wanted to be left alone. Cohan spent hours at his desk recalling disgraces in his life. Pills swallowed. Drug money slipped into his pocket. Roughing up tweekers for the hell of it. Cohan hated himself for a long time. With each new memory brought back to the forefront Cohan knew he was scum. He attended meetings that told him he wasn’t, told him to embrace his misdoings and to carry on with life.
That’s what he planned to do.
It was a hot May morning when Cohan got the call. It was Friday and Amanda Molina, now entering high school, ate breakfast and went to school. Cohan thought about her often; how was she? Did she remember him? Did she think about him as much as he thought about her? He never reached out to her. He kept his distance.
That morning, Cohan sipped lukewarm coffee and scanned reports. His office was in the rear of the detective’s bureau and over looked the bullpen. The morning frenzy had not swooped in just yet and Cohan enjoyed the silence.
His cell phone chimed; the number on the screen was blocked.
Cohan answered, cradling the phone between his ear and shoulder, and scanned reports.
“It’s the hero cop,” the jolly voice said.
Cohan cocked an eyebrow.
“Long time no talk, big man,” The voice carried on. “I never see you no more. I miss you. You miss me?”
The voice clicked with a memory bank in Cohan’s brain.
“I like to go by James now, “ Buggy told Cohan. “Because Buggy didn’t fit me.”
Cohan’s heart raced. He hadn’t seen the pill pusher since the Evergreen Motel shooting. There had no mention of Buggy in any of the reports. Cohan felt a wave of dread wash over him in that moment.
“Got time for coffee?”
“Coffee?” Cohan stammered.
“Yeah, look we got to talk, we got to talk about the motel.”
There it was, Cohan thought.
Buggy chuckled and said,
“Yeah, you know the motel. I remember it. Do you?”
“Where are we meeting?”
They met at Express Coffee, a coffee stand painted in faded neon blue on Andrews. Cohan pulled into the parking lot and found Buggy, now James, waiting for him. Buggy must have cleaned himself up. The long narrow face now had flesh and color. He wore jeans and black t-shirt while leaning against a battered sedan with tinted windows.
Cohan got out of the car slowly; he brushed a hand against the holstered pistol.
Buggy smiled from ear to ear. Cohan felt an explosion of anger in his head.
“Good to see you, Detective,” Buggy said.
“What do you want?”
“No small talk?” Buggy smiled wider. “You never did make time to talk. What do I want? I want you to listen to me.”
“That’s what I’m doing,” Cohan said.
“You killed three guys while high. I know this and you know this but the news don’t know it. They called you a hero cop. Big hero who was high out of his mind.”
“Old news,” Cohan said. “I’m three years clean.”
“Good for you. I’m on month number seven. Got locked up in Polk County for a while. I got to say being sober is not bad.”
Cohan glared at Buggy and asked,
“Are you here to threaten me?”
Buggy waved Cohan’s comment off.
“Naw, I just want to know what you are going to do to keep me silent. I got an idea what you-“
Cohan launched himself at Buggy, grabbed shirt collar, and slammed him against the Saturn.
“You got nothing but—” Cohan said through gritted teeth.
“Fuck you!” Buggy shouted. “Got your deed to rights, motherfucker. I got you buying pills off me. I got you taking pills in front of me. I go to the news, I share my story, and you find yourself in the dead zone.”
Cohan’s grip grew tighter. Three years of clean and sober. Three years of living the good life. Three years gone down the drain. Cohan loosened his grip and stepped back slowly.
“How much you want?” Cohan asked in defeat.
“Last month BSO snatched a hundred pounds of pills that they found in Miramar. Good stuff. I want it.”
They sat in Buggy’s car; Cohan in the passenger seat and Buggy behind the wheel. Cohan thought about yanking his Glock and plugging three bullets in to Buggy.
“Suspect approached with the intent to cause me harm which forced me to use my weapon,” Cohan thought. No go. BSO would investigate and find his story was filled with holes.
“The pills are locked away.”
“I know that, Detective, I know that but you can get them. You walk in, get me the pills, and we call it even.”
“You want me to steal for you?”
“You score me the pills and I go away forever.”
Cohan’s hand drifted back toward his gun and the idea of killing Buggy grew stronger.
“I got a girl,” Buggy said after a long moment. “She knows what I know too. Something happen to me and she makes the calls. She will take you through the shit so don’t get smart.”
“I can’t walk out with a hundred pills,” Cohan said. “No way. Not even the Sheriff could do that.”
“Get some of them,” Buggy said with a hint of annoyance in his voice. “I don’t need all of it but I need some. Get me a couple grand’s worth and we’ll be even.”
Cohan’s head was splitting. The bullet wound from the Evergreen ached suddenly and all Cohan wanted was pills to take away the pain.
“Give me a day,” Cohan told Buggy and then got of the car.
The evidence warehouse for Broward’s sheriff office was located on Sunrise Blvd behind a chain link fence. During the day two deputies were on duty, normally a rookie or elderly dog close to pulling the pin. Cohan sat in the office with the latter of the two as the elderly deputy squinted at a computer screen.
“I’ll find it,” the senior told Cohan over his shoulder while he squinted at the screen.
“You know I can find it on my own,” Cohan began to rise from his chair.
The cop waved Cohan to sit down.
“I’ll find it just give me a damn—” The cop squinted harder and leaned in close to the screen and then smiled brightly. “Look at this!”
The senior officer led Cohan between the stacks looking at a slip of paper. Cohan was a few steps behind.
“You put those three down at the motel?” The cop asked over his shoulder.
“Yeah,” Cohan said noncommittally.
“That was the Lord’s work you did that day sending those three to hell.” The cop stopped and looked at Cohan. “You believe in God?”
The cop thought about this for a long minute and nodded deciding that this was good enough for him.
“Your drugs are over here.”
They walked deep into the warehouse and came to a stop before a metal shelf that held several hundred pounds of pills. Cohan stared at the bags and the urge came back. He wanted those pills, needed those pills. He suddenly imagined himself shoving fistfuls of bright colored pills in his mouth like mad dog. Cohan gulped, suppressed the urge.
“Is this it?” The cop asked. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Cohan nodded slowly.
* * *
“Who the hell is this?” Cohan asked, his right hand falling to his gun butt.
Buggy stood ten feet away hands up in the air. Behind him a stubby man with tree trunk size arms stood. The man had a shaved head and a nasty frown. He had trouble stamped on his forehead.
“This guy?” Buggy said. “This guy is my friend Bishop. He’s cool.”
“I’m cool,” Bishop croaked.
“I don’t care if he’s cool,” Cohan snapped. “I don’t know him and I don’t want to know him. He comes close I pump him full of lead.”
Cohan’s gaze was hard and his fingers were now gripping the butt tightly.
“Look, Detective,” Buggy said. “This here is my business partner. He just wants to hear your idea.”
“I’m here to listen,” Bishop echoed. “That’s all.”
“I don’t like it.”
“You don’t need to like it. You just have to give us your idea.”
Cohan fell silent. His shoulder pulsed with pain. He began to rub it but stopped suddenly.
“There is no way I can get it out without getting caught,” Cohan told the pair.
“Then how do you get it to us?” Buggy pushed.
“I don’t bring it to you,” Cohan told him. “I bring you to it.”
* * *
Cohan rented a single-story family house in Dania Beach near Fort Lauderdale Airport. The whine of jet engines rocked the night sky. The house was void of anything personal and many of the rooms sat empty. Cohan sat hunched over the kitchen counter that evening, the hum of the air conditioner filling the background, scribing a letter. He wrote three lines in crooked black ink. Pleased with the message, he sealed the letter in an envelope.
* * *
That night, the heat was thick and hung in the air like a wet towel. Despite the AC turned to full blast, Cohan was sweating. Buggy and Bishop ducked down in the back seat. Cohan felt hard metal prodding him through the back of his seat.
“Try something smart,” Buggy warned in a whisper. “I’ll pump buckshot into your back. Got me?”
Cohan said nothing.
They arrived at the warehouse just past ten. Cohan was buzzed in and pulled up close to the front door. Cohan took a moment to gather himself.
“Camera is placed just above the door,” he said over his shoulder. “Once the door opens you come busting in. Make sure you make this look good.”
Cohan stood at the door, one hand on the handle and his head craned up toward the camera. He gave a short wave. The door buzzed open. Cohan pulled it open and got slammed from behind. Cohan flew inside and skidded to the floor. Rushing feet past his head. A boot caught Cohan in the midsection and he lost his breath. Cohan hacked on the cold floor. He looked up as the two figures of Buggy and Bishop hurried past him toward the glass walled office. Bishop, the bigger of the two, kicked open the door and strode in with the shotgun leveled at his hip.
At the sight of the barrel, the old cop guarding the place put his hands up in the air. Bishop yanked the old timer out of the chair onto the floor by the collar.
“Don’t move!” Bishop shouted into the man’s ear.
Buggy came back and helped Cohan up on to his feet and dragged him to the office.
“Where is it?” Buggy asked, poking Cohan in the side with his pistol.
Cohan sucked air through gritted teeth as he showed Buggy through the stacks. Bishop stayed with Old Timer.
“Why’d you kick me?”
“Got make it look good, right?”
They turned the corner and came to a stop before the pills. Buggy went wide at the sight and smile crept on to his face slowly.
Buggy threw the plastic baggies into a black leather bag. He filled it quickly. Cohan leaned against a stack rubbing his ribs.
“You are good, Detective,” Buggy said over his shoulder.
“Hurry it up,” Cohan said. “We’re gonna need to call this in.”
“What are you gonna say?”
“That two masked men jumped me outside of my house and forced me here at gun point.”
Buggy stopped and then slowly moved toward Cohan, the pistol down at his thigh.
“You gonna give them names?”
Cohan shock his head.
“No. I just need you gone. Gone for good.”
“Sure thing, Detective.”
A shotgun blast shook the walls. Cohan and Buggy snapped up and look back toward the office at the same time. They bolted back down the stacks and came into the office. The air smelled of gunpowder. The windows of the office were splattered with blood and fluid. Bishop stood in the doorway, smoking shotgun at his hip, staring at his handy work. Cohan shouldered past Bishop and found his heart stopping.
The old man’s chest was a mess of blood and guts. He stared blankly at the ceiling. His legs and arms spasmed. The smell of voided bowels filled the cramped spaced. Cohan’s legs gave out and he fell to the floor.
Buggy slapped Bishop out of his giddy daze.
“What happened?” Buggy snapped
“He made a move! He made a move against me! I put him down,” Bishop growled.
The couple began to shout at one another, their voices rising and carrying. Cohan stared at the corpse in front of him. Cohan noticed the old timer’s piece, a battered old Sig 226, on the counter next to the phone. Cohan dragged the body to the phone and snatched up the gun. He pressed the phone to his ear and leveled the gun at Bishop.
“What the hell are you doing?” Buggy said.
The line picked up.
“Officer down at the—” Cohan began but never finished.
Bishop brought up the shotgun. Cohan dropped the phone to the floor and fired two shots. They went wide and chewed up the doorframe. Bishop and Buggy ducked out of the way.
Bishop blindly fired into the office. Buckshot shattered the windows. Cohan hit the floor hard and rolled while firing. His ears rang. Clouds of smoke filled the room.
Cohan scrambled to his feet breathlessly and carefully moved toward the door, pistol leading the way. He found Buggy spread on the floor at the door lying on his back. A hole in his head and baggies of spilled pills carpeting the ground beside him.
The door to his right banged open and Cohan pivoted toward the sound. He covered the ground quickly and crashed through the door into the parking lot. Bishop was at the car’s driver side door. He spotted Cohan coming out the door and brought the shotgun up to bear.
Bishop and Cohan pulled their triggers at the same time. Cohan rapid fired and emptied the clip into Bishop. The round cut Bishop’s legs out and he crumbled to the ground.
The door absorbed Bishop’s buckshot.
Cohan stood rigid in the parking lot, empty gun in his white knuckled grip. He took in a breath. Pain washed over him. Cohan went weak and his legs gave out. Cohan fell like an aged oak tree. He landed with a thud and found blood oozing from holes in his chest.
Cohan craned his head up toward the night sky and took in the twinkling stars and smiled.
* * *
Amanda Molina loved Eli Cohan. Her heart, all of it, belonged to the man. She thought about him once day. She wondered what he was doing, eating, thinking and whether he thought about her like she thought about him. She wrote to him but heard nothing. The doctors, and there had been many since she had been taken, told her to move on and release her hold on the past. Amanda didn’t want to release Eli Cohan.
The day she found a letter with her name for her in the mailbox after school she didn’t think much of it. Like most teenage girls she rarely received mail, and with her birthday around the corner she assumed it was a card from a relative she didn’t see often. Amanda carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the lined paper from within. She read the single line over and over again.
Amanda, You were the only thing that I ever did right in my life. Eli
Sean Tuohy currently resides in Boston, Mass., and is working on his next screenplay. His love of pop culture and films scares small children. Tuohy once worked as a professional clown.
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