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Luke Fox’s life is a mess. He’s got four unsolved murder cases keeping him up at night and a boss riding him for results. When an old retired cop offers him some unsolicited advice that seems too good to be true, Luke might learn the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.

Age Rating: 18+

 

The Mentor by Steve Gee is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

Summary

Luke Fox’s life is a mess. He’s got four unsolved murder cases keeping him up at night and a boss riding him for results. When an old retired cop offers him some unsolicited advice that seems too good to be true, Luke might learn the hard way to be careful what he wishes for.

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Steve Gee

LUKE

Luke Fox lounged across his workstation with his hand supporting his head while he re-read over all the evidence from his three active murder cases.

He desperately hoped something would jump out at him from the pages, but there was nothing. He continually kept coming up empty.

Normally, he would have already established firm leads on a suspect, or better still, wrapped up these cases by now.

But all three remained unsolved with no suspects or any likelihood of arrests in the near future.

That was a fact not lost on his lieutenant.

“Fox!” Lieutenant Husken bellowed across the bullpen

Luke’s head snapped up from his reading. Husken’s head poked out from his office door. He beckoned toward Luke. “My office,” Husken said, then retreated into his office.

The stern-faced lieutenant stood at his side of the desk when Luke entered. He gestured to the visitor’s chair. “Sit,” he directed.

Luke slid into the chair and watched Husken take his seat.

Three files sat neatly at the side of Husken’s desk. He slid them closer and opened the top file. After a short read, his eyes lifted to Luke. “Claire O’ Connor,” Husken said.

Luke nodded. He knew where this was heading.

“The journalist found murdered in her Brooklyn hotel room,” Husken continued. “Where are we at with that…? It’s been over ten weeks.”

Luke edged himself to the front of his chair and rested his elbows on the desk. He slowly shook his head.

“Still the same, boss. I keep coming up empty on that one,” Luke said. “No witnesses. No trace evidence. There is nothing because it all took place in the confines of a hotel room.”

Husken held an unconvinced glare on Luke. “There has to be something. There has to be some evidence that will identify a killer. She didn’t strangle herself,” Husken said.

“The room had been wiped down afterward. Evidence had been removed from the room. I checked the hotel security footage and—”

Husken held up a hand at Luke. “I’m aware of all that.” Husken gestured to the file. “I’m asking if you have anything new…any new leads to identify the killer.”

Luke shrugged. His head bowed. He rubbed a hand across his mouth. “I got nothing,” was all he offered.

Husken glared at Luke, clearly dissatisfied with the response. He closed the folder, then opened the second folder and read from it.

“John Bishop, found shot and killed in his car in DUMBO six weeks ago.” Husken’s eyes lifted to Luke. His glare was as clear as any spoken word.

Luke couldn’t hold the lieutenant’s glare. His eyes dropped. It pained him that he also had nothing. “I suspect the killer was from the Projects, but no one is talking down there,” Luke said.

“Got a weapon? Got a witness? Got a suspect? Got anything?”

Luke shook his head. “Nothing.”

Husken sighed. He closed the folder and opened the third folder. “Linda Fulton. This is now over three weeks old,” Husken said.

Luke fell back in his chair. “I liked the husband, but he has since been cleared. The husband claimed to have disturbed the offender who fled and we’ve got nothin’, not even a description.”

Husken closed the file and clasped his hands together on the desk. He stared across at Luke, allowing a moment of silence to pass by.

“These are three cases that I expected you would have had something for me by now. The Luke FoxI know would’ve had something by now..,” Husken said.

“What happened to that go-getter that came here six years ago? What happened to that fighter? The guy who never gives up, no matter what?”

Luke’s head lowered.

“I want that guy back,” Husken said. “You need that guy back.”

“I’m just in a bit of a slump at the moment, boss.”

“Bullshit,” Husken snapped. “You’re not in a slump. You’re a shadow of your former self.” Husken flicked the back of his hand at Luke. “You’re letting this broad affect your life.”

Husken glared at Luke. “So she walked out on you…get over it. Mix some cement in your morning coffee or something and harden up.”

“It’s not that easy, boss. Eight years we were together… Eight years,” Luke said.

“We were planning to get married and everything. Then, out of the blue, she dumps me. She gives me the old it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech.”

“Frankly, Fox, I don’t give a shit,” Husken said. “All I care about is the clearance rate of your cases. You have gone from one of my best detectives to… I don’t know what you are now.”

Husken shook his head. He glared at Luke’s bowed head. “If you’re not up to it, say now.

“If you don’t think you’ve got what it takes anymore to be a detective, just say the word and I’ll re-assign the cases. I need results and I can’t wait until you get your shit together.”

“I’ve got this, boss.”

“Do you? Do you really? I’m not seeing any evidence of that. All I’m seeing is someone who was once an A-Grade investigator is now…this.” He flicked his hand at Luke.

“I remember we talked a while back after you solved that North Brooklyn murder about how you were chasing promotion to detective, second grade. Back then, I’d have said you were a shoo-in.

“But now, I’m not even sure you are worthy of carrying a gold shield.”

Luke didn’t respond. His head dropped and his shoulders slumped. He had nothing to offer in his defense. He navel gazed while Husken continued.

“You need to show me that you are able to put all that personal stuff behind you and focus on your work. You need to move on.

“You need to get me results; otherwise, your position as a detective will come under further scrutiny and review, and based on what you’ve shown me so far, it could very well be considered untenable.

“You won’t have to worry about getting that promotion…you’ll no longer be a detective. Can I make myself any clearer?”

Luke shook his lowered head. This was all new to him. He had never been on the receiving end of such a stern dressing down that challenged his work ethic.

Since becoming a detective and joining the 84th Precinct six years ago, Luke had one goal: to be promoted to detective, second grade. He’d worked hard to achieve the results required to be considered.

But not only did his promotion look lost, he learned that he could be busted back to uniform unless he could turn things around. To a competitive high achiever like Luke, that was devastating.

A knock on the lieutenant’s office door broke the extended silence and Luke’s self-pity wallowing. One of Luke’s detective colleagues entered the office.

“We’ve just had a report of a young girl that’s gone missing in Boerum Hill. Mother found the front door ajar when she woke this morning. When she checked on her daughter, she wasn’t in her bed…”

“How old?” Husken asked.

“Ah, eight. Suspected abduction. The first responders are calling for a detective to attend. Who do you want to send?”

Husken rubbed a thoughtful hand across his chin. His eyes flicked to Luke. Several seconds of silence passed by while he regarded Luke. His eyes narrowed.

“I'm gonna give this to you, Fox.”

Luke’s eyebrows arched. His mouth fell open. “But I’ve already got three on my plate, boss. We’ve just talked about the difficulties I am having with them.”

“I am aware of that,” Husken said. “This is a fresh case, a fresh start, and quite frankly, it will be your last chance to show me you still have what it takes.”

Husken held Luke’s gaze. “Solve this one, and do it quickly. Prove me wrong. The ball’s in your court, son. Don’t let me down…but more importantly, don’t let yourself down.”

Husken flicked his hand toward the door. “That’ll be all.”

Luke pushed himself from his seat and stood. He eyed the lieutenant unfavorably before turning and exiting the office.

How the hell am I going to fit this one into my workload, he wondered as he ambled back to his desk.

***

Luke sat at his desk reviewing his case files. It had been ten days since Husken gave him his last chance ultimatum and, while that was not a lengthy time frame, he should've had something by now.

But he had nothing. He was no closer to solving this latest case, let alone the other three he already had on his books.

The stress and pressures of the day’s work combined with the lack of physical activity from having sat at his desk most of the day finally started to take its toll.

He struggled to remain focused. He fought to keep his eyes open.

Luke checked the time. It was 9.45 p.m. His helpless gaze dropped back to the reams of records and statements spread across his desk. He exhaled as he shook a frustrated head at what he saw.

Luke sat back in his chair and locked his fingers behind his head. He lifted his weary eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling.

After fourteen hours straight Luke decided he'd had enough for the day and quickly cleared his desk of all the records and documents in preparation to head home.

Luke secured his case files away and made his way out of the building, leaving only the cleaning staff behind.

With hands buried deep into his pockets, he stood momentarily on the street before he opted to head to nearby Barnaby’s Barfor a well-earned nightcap or three.

The fresh air from the short stroll failed to distract Luke from his troubled thoughts and worries, but he arrived at Barnaby’s with a hard-earned thirst.

The affable barman, Benny stood at the door end of the bar polishing glasses when Luke arrived. He greeted Luke when he entered.

“Hey, here he is,” Benny said, shifting his focus toward Luke entering from the street.

“How are you this evening, Detective?” Benny sounded genuinely interested, rather than offering a standard banal greeting.

Typical of a cop, Luke scanned the bar patronage as he entered, assessing the clientele in attendance. The bar was unusually quiet, although it was getting late.

“I’m hanging in there, Benny,” Luke said. “A little thirsty, but I’m still hanging in there.”

“Now, thirsty I can help you with, Detective,” Benny said, punctuating his comment with a finger point. He smiled his trademark grin that illuminated his entire face.

“You missed everyone earlier,” Benny said as set up a glass and collected a bottle from the back of the bar. “I think they’ve all gone now,” he said with a quick check toward the rear of the room.

“There were quite a few of ’em in,” he said as he poured Luke a shot of his preferred poison—Jack Daniels, straight up.

On most nights after five, the detectives from the 84th could be found occupying the booths located toward the darker, more private rear corner of the room, sharing a post-shift drink.

The booths they regularly occupied were affectionately referred to by the regular patrons as The Cop’s Cave.

As soon as Benny finished pouring, Luke picked up his first drink and with a flick of his head, emptied the contents before replacing the glass on the bar.

“Keep ‘em coming, Benny.” He slapped his open hand on the bar.

“Tough day, eh?” Benny said.

“More like a tough month, I’d say,” Luke said as he watched his next round being poured. “Set me up with another six of these. That’ll do for a start.”

Luke jabbed his thumb toward the rear of the room. “I’ll take them down the back. Just bring them down to me when you’re ready, Benny, thanks.”

Luke scooped up his freshly poured drink and made his way to his usual spot in the rear corner—down in The Cave.

 

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2

LUKE

Luke was barely discernible through the hovering clouds of lingering second-hand cigarette smoke and low-level mood lighting as he sat facing the rear wall.

Propped up by his arms, his vacant red-eyes fell over the six empty and six full shot glasses spread out on the table in front of him.

Luke slipped his gold shield from his belt and slammed it onto the table beside the once-treasured photo of his fiancée. The two things that he held special in his life, side-by-side in front of him.

He lifted another shot, paused briefly to admire the honey-gold contents while he rolled the shot glass in his fingertips, then drained the glass in one gulp.

His eyes dropped to the photo on the table; a three-inch by two-inch smiling headshot of the love of his life, and up until recently, the woman he planned to marry.

He lifted the photo and collapsed back into his chair. His shoulders slumped as his glazed eyes never left the small photo perched in his fingertips.

Luke’s face tightened. With a defiant shake of his head, he ripped the photograph in half, then flicked the pieces across the table.

Maybe he was reluctantly toasting the sudden end of their relationship, or maybe he simply tried to numb the hurt.

But as the fractured photo floated to the table, Luke lifted shot number eight and quickly downed it, then forcefully slammed the empty glass back onto the table.

Luke’s eyes shifted to his gold shield. He lifted it from the table and cupped it in his hand. It was now all he had left, but it too was under threat of being taken away.

He lifted shot number nine. He rolled the glass through his fingers as his thoughts rewound to his lieutenant’s threats. His bleary focus returned to the raised shot glass between his fingers.

His thoughts went blank. “Fuck my life,” he blurted then drained the glass in one gulp.

After he slammed the empty onto the table Luke fell onto his outstretched arms, as the warming liquid slid down his throat. His eyes fell to the collection of empty shot glasses before him.

How could everything have turned to shit so quickly?

A deep, but calm voice emanating from somewhere behind Luke distracted his wallowing.

“That’s not going to help you with your problems, son.”

Luke glanced over his shoulder. An elderly man stood just back, behind him. Luke returned his bleary-eyed gaze to the wall in front, “Who says I’ve got problems, old man?”

The elderly man moved into Luke’s view and stood at the end of the table. Luke slowly lifted his bloodshot eyes to the standing man.

The old man was a typical, but stylish grandfatherly type. He wore a dark gray fedora hat, a full-length lightweight overcoat over a dark suit and striped tie, and carried a walking stick.

“Do you mind if I have a seat?” the old man gestured to the seat across from Luke.

Luke extended his open hand. “Be my guest,” Luke said. He watched as the old man slowly lowered himself into the chair opposite Luke.

Once comfortable, the old man leaned his walking stick against the rear wall and removed his hat, which he placed on the table to his left.

The old man’s silver-gray hair was tidy and short, probably barber styled, and it framed his well-weathered, but tanned face.

The many lines and wrinkles embedded on his face were characteristic of an elderly man having lived a long and eventful life.

Luke noticed the handle of the walking cane was a small skull carved into what appeared to be ivory.

“Like your handle there,” Luke said with a lift of his chin toward the propped-up walking cane.

The old man turned awkwardly and glanced over his shoulder. “Oh, yes,” he said. “It was a gift actually. It sort of grew on me after a while.”

“Can I get you a drink?” Luke offered his guest.

The old man raised a hand to Luke. “Thank you…but not for me. I’ve had enough.”

Luke felt a little uncomfortable as the old man sat silently staring at him. Several seconds ticked by before the old man eventually spoke.

“You’re not the first person with relationship problems, son, and you certainly won’t be the last, but knocking back shot after shot is not the answer to your problems.

“Take it from someone who knows. Believe me, I have been there.”

Luke leaned onto his elbows as he regarded his visitor. “Who says I’ve got relationship problems, old man?”

The old man lifted his chin to the torn photograph on the table. Luke’s eyes followed to what was left of the photo.

“Well, tonight, I don’t think it will hurt,” Luke said. “So, anyway, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” Luke asked.

“You’re a young cop, aren’t you?” the old man asked, ignoring Luke’s question.

Luke’s concerned eyes dropped to his shield. He lifted it up and slid it into his inner suit pocket. His inbuilt safety radar tried to assess any threat from this strange old man.

The old man held up a hand. “It’s OK. I’m not here to make trouble. I was a cop myself.

“A detective—retired of course—from the 90th Precinct. Worked there for thirty-five years,” he said proudly. “Brian Murphy’s the name.”

A slight sense of relief washed over Luke. He extended his hand across the table toward the old man. “Luke…Luke Fox,” he said.

The old man smiled and lifted his right hand to indicate his swollen and distorted arthritic fingers.

“Sorry son, my hand-shaking days are long gone…I can barely grip that thing.” He jabbed his crooked thumb over his shoulder at his walking stick.

Luke smiled. “The 90th, eh. Up in Williamsburg. So, where did you work in the 90th?” Luke leaned back onto his elbows.

“Northern Brooklyn Homicide for thirty-five years. Been retired now for eighteen years, and you know what?

“I’m eighty-three years old and I still miss it; the work, the challenges, the chase, the hunt, and the camaraderie—everything about it. It was a special life for me, son.”

Luke noticed the old man had a glint in his eye when he talked about his former job. He was impressed by his guest's history.

“Wow, Northern Brooklyn Homicide,” Luke said. “Tough gig. You must’ve had some interesting cases in your time there.”

The old man nodded. “But what about you?” he said. He flicked a finger at Luke. “I see you carry a gold shield?”

Luke nodded. “Yup, just over six years now,” he said as he sat back in his chair.

“But things aren’t going as you planned, are they?” the old man asked.

Luke frowned. “How do you mean?”

“All this.” The old man waved a hand over Luke’s collection of shot glasses and torn photographs on the table.

“This can only be because you are trying to numb the memory of something gone wrong. Why else would you be sitting alone in a bar at…,” the old man checked his watch, “ten thirty-five on a weeknight.”

Luke shrugged. “I’ll be OK.”

“How old are you, son?” the old man asked. “If you don’t mind me asking?”

“Twenty-eight.”

The old man nodded. “Look, you’ve got your life ahead of you. From my experience, I’ve always believed that a problem shared is a problem halved.

“Why don’t you unburden yourself on me. Try me,” he said, returning a comforting smile at Luke. “What have you got to lose? Cop to cop.”

Luke held an uncertain gaze at his guest. His eyes narrowed as he wondered why the old man was here, especially this late at night.

“Are you sure I can’t get you a drink?” Luke asked.

“Positive. I’m good, thank you. You’re probably wondering why I’m here talking to you,” the old man said.

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“There’s nothing sinister going on, son. I just noticed you knocking back shot after shot, so I thought I would come over and see what was wrong. See if I could help.”

Luke’s assessing eyes again narrowed at the old man across from him as he contemplated.

What the heck. Can’t hurt, can it?

“You ever have any cases that you just couldn’t solve, no matter what you did, or how hard you tried?” Luke asked.

The old man's mouth straightened. He firmly shook his head.

“I don’t care what you say, or how many cold cases there are out there. No crook is that clever. There is always an answer out there somewhere. You just have to find it.

“If you have a murder, then you must have a murderer. Someone had to have done it. Look for the clues. Look for the answers to the puzzle—you just have to find ‘em. And never, ever give up looking.”

“Were there any you couldn’t solve?”

The old man firmly shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “There was not a single crook that got away with murder on my watch. It was my job to catch them, and God help me, that’s what I did.”

The old man had a calming effect on Luke. He liked the old guy, even though he had only just met him.

He looked like someone’s grandfather, but he also gave the impression he would have been a tough old bastard in his day.

But the retired old cop sitting across the table from Luke was also gentle and caring. He helped Luke deal with why he was there and his world of problems.

Luke decided to unburden himself on the old man.

He mentioned how his fiancée, the girl of dreams of eight years, suddenly walked out on him and since then, he just hasn’t been able to focus on his cases, his promotion, his life—anything.

Luke mentioned how his lieutenant gave him a new case, along with an ultimatum—solve this new case, or risk being busted back to uniform.

He told of his frustrations at how he already has three other cases he struggled with—all vicious murders that he has progressed as far as he can and he was unable to find any new evidence or leads.

The old man sat listening to everything Luke said, intently regarding Luke as he spoke.

“So,” Luke said after delivering the reason why he was alone in a bar, drowning his sorrows. “There you have it. That is why my life has turned to shit. I have never had problems solving cases.

“In fact, I can say without any conceited arrogance that I have solved some of the most difficult cases the 84th has investigated,” he said proudly.

“But these cases…,” he waved the back of his hand. “With all the shit going on, these have me stumped.”

When Luke finished talking the old man sat silent. He allowed several beats to pass while he regarded Luke. He nodded slightly, then said, “How bad do you want to stay a detective, son?”

“More than anything,” Luke said. “It was my dream. It was why I became a cop. I wanted to be a homicide investigator and I wanted to be the best.”

“OK then,” the old man said. “Firstly, you have to forget about this girl. If she can walk out on you after eight years, she wasn’t the one, son.

“She could’ve walked out on you at any time, even after you were married. She did you a favor, believe me. Close that chapter.”

He swiped a hand across the table, like a blackjack player signaling to stand.

“You will find a new girl, one that will catch your eye. A girl that will make you happy and will be with you forever. Just not that one.” The old man flicked a finger at the photograph fragments.

“Next,” he continued, “I want you to walk me through each of your cases; the ones causing you problems. I want to hear the circumstances of each offense, the evidence you have, the evidence you need…

“I want to know everything if I am going to help you.”

Luke watched the old man as he spoke.

He suddenly held a controlling presence in the room. The old man instantly commanded respect. He had charisma and confidence, yet he was a no-nonsense, take-charge kind of guy.

In the short time Luke has known the old man, he had grown to like him and he allowed himself to fall under the old man’s control. He shrugged to himself.

“Why not,” Luke said. “If you’ve got the time to listen, I would love to bounce my cases off you.”

“First,” the old man said, “you get rid of those.” He indicated the shot glasses in front of Luke. “You don’t need ‘em. Move them over there,” the old man gestured to the side of the table.

Luke responded by doing as he was told.

“Now,” the old man began, “why don’t you start with the most recent case. The last chance one the lieutenant gave you.”

Luke rubbed a contemplative hand across his mouth. “OK. The latest case involved the abduction of an eight-year-old girl from her home in Boerum Hill…”

 

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