Civil War: Chapter 13
Michael Francis Franklin walked into his San Jose home at six thirty-seven on November 18, 2016. In his hands were a dozen envelopes and ads from his mailbox. On his mind was Amanda Mateo.
Franklin was married from 1999 to 2006. He could remember about an hour and a half of being happily married. The rest was torture. In the decade since his divorce, Mike had come to accept that he was meant to be alone. Most nights. While he was a cop.
But he’d only be a cop for six more months.
Mike was a good looking guy. He didn’t always know it, but he knew it now. He’d learned, as a cop, to let the evidence speak for itself, and the evidence was he could get laid whenever he wanted. The surprising thing to Mike was that he didn’t want to get laid more often.
On November 18, 2016, for the first time in ten years, Mike was thinking about a girl but not about getting laid. Well, not exactly. He was thinking about a perilous word.
I think I love her, he thought. I think I’m in love.
He didn’t need a photo of Amanda Mateo. He remembered every detail of her face, her voice, her laugh, her purple oxford shirt, her Old Navy women’s khakis, her red Converse Chuck Taylors, and even her Louis Vuitton purse. He knew that make-up companies would go out of business if every woman had her complexion. He was pretty sure she wore no make-up. He heard her giggle in his mind, and he kicked himself for making her laugh more. I’ll fix that, he thought.
Then he remembered the case and cursed himself a little. That poor kid needs me thinking clearly, he thought.
Mike changed into civies and walked two blocks to Mike’s, a pub and grill where everybody knew his name, and he was sure to be the only cop.
Mike lived in a neighborhood a few cops could afford. Not because he was crooked, which wasn’t uncommon among Silicon Valley cops, but because Mike was single, no kids, and he happened to smell opportunity during the housing crash in 2009.
Mike bought a house in San Jose that sold for two million just a year before he bought it for seven hundred thousand. He put in another fifty grand to bring up to his standards. The last time he ran comps on Zillow, his house was worth 3.5 million. The average regular at Mike’s paid that much for the place they were in. Mike was a bum compared to them.
“Tanquery and club?” asked Joaquin, the regular Friday bartender.
“Always,” said Mike. “How you doing, Jack?”
“Pretty good, Meester Franklin. Pretty good.”
Mike wondered why a guy with that accent didn’t just call him “señor.”
“Anything worth reporting, Jack?”
“No, señor.” There it is. “Quiet night. Silent night.” Joaquin laughed at his own joke. Mike followed.
“Some fine señoritas just left. I tried to save one for you,” said Joaquin.
“I think I found one,” said Mike.
“Oh, yeah? Tell me about her.”
“She’s part of a case. But when the case is closed, I’m going to bring her by here. You can see for yourself.”
“She must be fine. Is she Mexicano?’
“I guess. Yeah, probably. How can I tell?”
Joaquin laughed as he dried a beer glass. “You can tell when you get her home. If she in charge, she Mexicano. If you in charge, she something else.”
“I’m a cop. I’m always in charge,” Mike said.
“Oh, señor, you haven’t met the right Mexicano chicita.” Joaquin laughed and walked away to take a drink order from a waitress. Somehow, Joaquin had magically placed a Tanquery and club with lime in front of Mike.
Mike squeezed the lime wedge into the drink, dropped the wedge in, and took a sip.
“Forty-niners worth a crap this year?”
Mike looked to his left. A big guy had decided to talk football.
“I dunno. Probably not with Kaepernick’s bullshit.”
The guy laughed. “Yeah. Distractions.”
Mike really wanted to talk to Joaquin or think about Amanda. The fat guy talking football distracted him from those two goals.
“My name’s Phil. Phil Armbrewster,” the fat guy says, extending his hand.
“Mike Franklin,” Mike said, taking Phil’s hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Same here,” Phil said. “Nice place.”
“Yeah. Quiet. Friendly.”
“Listen, Mike. Some friends of mine told me you were involved in a case at a school around here. They wanted me to tell you that there’s a teacher involved who ain’t no good. You’d be smart to stay away from her, ya know?”
Phil finished his beer and set the mug on the bar. Joaquin was down at the other end mixing complicated drinks for yuppies. Mike felt a little uncomfortable.
“Not sure what you’re talking about, friend. You’re too nice a guy to threaten a cop.”
“Oh, are you a cop? I’m sorry. Maybe I have the wrong guy. The guy I’m looking for is pretty smart.”
Mike’s ears burned. “I heard what you said. It sounded like a threat. You might want to clarify.”
“I’m just sayin’, Mike, those young girls can be trouble, ya know? You gotta be careful who you hang with, what you listen to. Stick with the story, ya know?”
Fat guy Phil tossed a twenty onto the bar spun to his left and flopped out of the barstool. He walked straight to the door and into the night.
Mike watched him leave, but, as big as he was, he disappeared in the parking lot before Mike could spot his car.
“Where your muchacha, Señor Mike? You should call her. I want to meet her,” said Joaquin.
Mike wasn’t quite as jovial, or confident, as he’d been when Joaquin talked to him earlier.
“Probably not a good night for that,” Franklin told Joaquin. “Maybe later.” Then he looked at his phone.
Text from Amanda Mateo:
Something I need to tell you. Can we meet up?
Mike thought about the pros and cons of an off-duty meeting with a material witness in an active. Terrible idea, he thought—six months to retirement.
So he replied:
Love to. Where?
19459 Riverview Dr. Second floor. Apartment with balloons on the door.
Franklin downed his drink and imitated fat Phil by tossing a twenty onto the bar. He waved to Joaquin and shot out the door.