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41

There were worse things than being suspended, Brinkley was finding out. In truth it didn't feel so different, except for the money. He'd never felt a part of Two Squad anyway and had been on the outside looking in most of the time on the job. Now it was just official. Also it gave him more time to freelance. On the Newlin case. He stayed in the loop, thanks to the reporters who had gotten him suspended. The newspapers had the blow-by-blow of Newlin attacking his lawyer, and Brinkley knew instantly it was a scam. The man just did not have it in him. Brinkley had also heard that the prelim had gone down with new counsel, and that the judge had ruled for the Commonwealth and also set bail.

He was driving downtown in his black '68 Beetle, rotted at the doorjambs and chassis. The cold wind whistled through the rust holes, and he had to keep his leather jacket buttoned. Someday the Beetle's floor would fall out, but that was part of the fun. It ran great and the vinyl seats were still free of duct tape. Sheree had been too ashamed of the car to drive around in it and had dubbed it Shit Car. Brinkley used to call it that, too. Until today.

He cruised forward with the aftermarket C D player loud in the midday traffic, feeling like a kid playing hooky. Beside him on the seat was the FedEx package in a soft envelope. He stopped at the red light on Broad Street, where a brother pulled up in a cherry red 'Vette. Brinkley kept his eyes straight ahead. Just let him say something. A man can drive any damn car he wants to.

The traffic light turned green, and Brinkley hit the gas. The Corvette wouldn't approve of his music either. It

wasn't rap or jazz; it was Elvis. Brinkley had a collection of over a hundred CDs and had been to Graceland three times. Each time he had been the only black detective from Philly in line, but he didn't care. Sheree hadn't gone with him on any of the trips. She didn't appreciate the King, which bugged him, and Brinkley clung to that thought. It was good to be having some bad memories of her. Maybe he could string them along, one after the other like keys on a ring, and not want her back.

He turned the corner, spotted the building up on his left, and slowed to a stop in front of it. Then he flicked on faint blinkers, grabbed the FedEx package, and climbed out of the Beetle.


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