The Big Fear
speech. One that Mulino knew well. He had given it himself at Ramsay’s trial. Sparks knew that. He was throwing it back in his face.
    “The kid’s locker is here?”
    Sparks turned from his roost and walked to the row of lockers on the far wall. The officers kept their noses at their terminals. Mulino wasn’t sure if they were really that devoted to their menial tasks or if they were simply terrified of their sergeant. He knew what it was like to be a junior cop, though, to hope that you could just be invisible while the storm passes by.
    At the lockers, Sparks turned, his eyes fixed on Mulino’s feet, checking to make sure he was behind the blue line. The detective was a civilian to him now. He fished a small key from his pocket and unlatched the cabinet, then reached into a cubbyhole like a magician proving his hat is truly empty.
    “I didn’t see it on the boat, Detective, but he didn’t leave it here. And I’ll be sure to tell the investigators and the evidence guys the same thing.”
    Mulino nodded. As Sparks turned back to the front of the precinct, Mulino scanned the row of rookies. There was one, near the back, trying a little too hard to look like he was working. It was cool in the stationhouse, but the kid had sweat on his temples, was breathing heavier than you’d think you’d need to sitting at a computer. A chubby face, short dark hair, sort of spacey eyes. Mulino looked down to the nameplate. Del Rio. He looked at the face again. The eyes. He thought maybe he remembered him from that night.
    “Officer Del Rio. You came on board the boat after, too, didn’t you? You were out there.”
    The kid gulped and looked up at his sergeant. The glassy eyes clouded over in confusion. Sparks didn’t take his eyes off Mulino while he addressed Del Rio. “Officer, you don’t answer that question or any other questions until you have permission from me to be released from duty.”
    Mulino smiled. “You get promoted up to four-to-twelves along with your sergeant, Officer? You do some exceptional work that night?”
    Sparks had made it back to his perch at the entrance to the precinct and nudged Mulino toward the door without ever touching him. “I am happy to chat with you a little off the record, Detective. I can handle it. But you don’t need to bring my men into this.”
    “I’m sure you can spare Officer Del Rio from his World of Warcraft league or whatever it is you have these guys doing.”
    “That’s going to be all, Detective.”
    “Officer Del Rio, you saw Rowson’s gun, didn’t you? Or are you the one who tossed it off the boat?”
    In retrospect it was a bad idea to walk past Sergeant Sparks, but Mulino wanted an answer from Del Rio before the sergeant could coach him. But before the detective was a foot past the blue line, Sergeant Sparks had grabbed his left arm, twisted it to the side, and flipped and pinned him to the ground. Mulino’s shoulder ached with pain, but he could feel the sergeant easing up on him. Sparks was not going to pour the pressure on. He was a fellow cop, after all. The sergeant loosened his grip and Mulino snapped his arm free, twisted himself out and sprang to his feet. In the moment, he could always summon the energy back, if it came to it.
    He stared down the sergeant, ready to have it out. Mulino could see the recognition in Sparks’s face, could see that he knew Mulino was faster and stronger than he looked. That Mulino had probably been on the force long enough to have gotten in a couple of scraps with other cops, and knew how these things went. Mulino knew that Sparks didn’t want to risk losing a fistfight on the floor of his own command.
    But Mulino knew something else as well. He was a detective under investigation. He didn’t have his weapon. He wasn’t supposed to be in this precinct at all. If it came down to it, an incident report showing that he’d even been here could be the end of his pension, however the shooting case went down. He backed off

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