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The Circuit Riders   By:

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On the Board, they were just little lights that glowed. But out there in the night of the city jungle, they represented human passions virulent emotions and deadly crimes to be ...

by R. C. FitzPatrick

Illustrated by Schoenherr

He was an old man and very drunk. Very drunk or very sick. It was the middle of the day and the day was hot, but the old man had on a suit, and a sweater under the suit. He stopped walking and stood still, swaying gently on widespread legs, and tried to focus his eyes. He lived here ... around here ... somewhere around here. He continued on, stumbling up the street.

He finally made it home. He lived on the second floor and he dragged himself up the narrow staircase with both hands clutching the railing. But he was still very careful of the paper bag under his arm. The bag was full of beer.

Once in the room, he managed to take off his coat before he sank down on the bed. He just sat there, vacant and lost and empty, and drank his beer.

It was a hot, muggy, August afternoon Wednesday in Pittsburgh. The broad rivers put moisture in the air, and the high hills kept it there. Light breezes were broken up and diverted by the hills before they could bring more than a breath of relief.

In the East Liberty precinct station the doors and windows were opened wide to snare the vagrant breezes. There were eight men in the room; the desk sergeant, two beat cops waiting to go on duty, the audio controller, the deAngelis operator, two reporters, and a local book ... businessman. From the back of the building, the jail proper, the voice of a prisoner asking for a match floated out to the men in the room, and a few minutes later they heard the slow, exasperated steps of the turnkey as he walked over to give his prisoner a light.

At 3:32 pm, the deAngelis board came alive as half a dozen lights flashed red, and the needles on the dials below them trembled in the seventies and eighties. Every other light on the board showed varying shades of pink, registering in the sixties. The operator glanced at the board, started to note the times and intensities of two of the dials in his log, scratched them out, then went on with his conversation with the audio controller. The younger reporter got up and came over to the board. The controller and the operator looked up at him.

"Nothing," said the operator shaking his head in a negative. "Bad call at the ball game, probably." He nodded his head towards the lights on the deAngelis, "They'll be gone in five, ten minutes."

The controller reached over and turned up the volume on his radio. The radio should not have been there, but as long as everyone did his job and kept the volume low, the Captain looked the other way. The set belonged to the precinct.

The announcer's voice came on, "... ning up, he's fuming. Doak is holding Sterrett back. What a beef! Brutaugh's got his nose not two inches from Frascoli's face, and Brother! is he letting him have it. Oh! Oh! Here comes Gilbert off the mound; he's stalking over. When Gil puts up a holler, you know he thinks it's a good one. Brutaugh keeps pointing at the foul line you can see from here the chalk's been wiped away he's insisting the runner slid out of the base path. Frascoli's walking away, but Danny's going right aft ..." The controller turned the volume down again.

The lights on the deAngelis board kept flickering, but by 3:37 all but two had gone out, one by one. These two showed readings in the high sixties; one flared briefly to 78.2 then went out. Brutaugh was no longer in the ball game. By 3:41 only one light still glowed, and it was steadily fading.

Throughout the long, hot, humid afternoon the board held its reddish, irritated overtones, and occasional readings flashed in and out of the seventies. At four o'clock the new duty section came on; the deAngelis operator, whose name was Chuck Matesic, was replaced by an operator named Charlie Blaney... Continue reading book >>

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