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Sunshine Injection, Prologue

A Bert Jarvis and Narcoleptic Ned Mystery

By Charles BoydPublished about a year ago 25 min read

Content warning: this story contains direct depictions of racism, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry, as well as various forms of police violence/misconduct. In this capacity, for the purpose of realism, it includes certain villains using slurs against various groups. It also contains references to incidents "off-page" that involve pedophilia, other abuse of children, and torturing of animals. There is also a level of profanity similar to a typical R-rated film. Reader discretion, especially for readers under 17, is advised.

Note: This is part of a series of detective stories that I have drafted. There are a total of 4 other stories which I have drafted featuring the character of Bert Jarvis as the protagonist and 3 other stories in featuring the character of Narcoleptic Ned as the protagonist, 1 of which includes Bert as a supporting character. I have chosen to start by posting this story on Vocal because as the most recent one I have written, I feel it best reflects my current writing talent (or lack thereof!) Since this story features a number of returning characters, including Bert and Ned, I've posted here a guide to characters that have appeared in previous stories:

Major Characters Returning From Previous Stories (Ages listed refer to their ages in 2015, when most of the story takes place, not in 2000, when the prologue takes place)

Bert Jarvis—Age 65; physically enormous (6’9”, 350 pounds) gay, white private investigator from Vermont who specializes in exceptionally dangerous cases; ex-Special Forces; martial arts expert with training in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, boxing, Karate, and freestyle wrestling

“Narcoleptic” Ned Cheney—Age 27; nerdy, narcoleptic, African American private investigator from Atlanta; has a green belt in Karate and low level Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai training.

Rebecca Roth—Age 40; nerdy, Jewish comic book store worker and wife of Ned; grew up in New York City and is exclusively attracted to younger black guys.

Harry Cheney Roth—Age 3 months; adopted biracial son of Ned and Rebecca

Hermione Cheney Roth—Age 5 years, Great Pyrenees owned by Ned and Rebecca

Minor Characters Returning From Previous Stories

Heidi Schmidt—Age 79; human rights lawyer, widow of Bert’s murdered Army buddy, Brandon

Otis Cheney—Age 56; Ned’s father and mostly conservative homicide detective with the Atlanta Police Department

George Blanchett—Age 59; Bert’s husband and private investigator assistant (visiting friends in Massachusetts while Sunshine Injection takes place)

Albert Carlson—Age 40; Otis’s homicide detective partner in the APD; white liberal Minneapolis patrolman who moved to Atlanta and joined the APD

Noah Chambers—Age 66; racist, white, very right-wing APD lieutenant

Prologue: Tampa, Florida, 2000

Bert Jarvis sat in the courtroom on the witness stand, the August heat and his suit and khaki pants causing him to sweat like a hog even inside. He despised the summer weather down South and much preferred Vermont, where he had been born, raised, and still lived today. His old adversary, Isaiah Strong, stood cross-examining him. Bert and Strong had crossed paths two years ago during the Chester Marcomb trial. A former segregationist—the word “former” being used loosely—Strong had a passion for defending right-wing clients. The more bigoted, reactionary, and generally reprehensible the clients were, the more he seemed to relish defending them. “Mr. Jarvis, according to your findings, the officers and detectives from the Tampa Police Department currently named in the lawsuit have a pattern of racially profiling black people. As regards the officers, you cite as evidence the fact that they have been pulling over a disproportionately high number of black motorists and searching their cars in traffic stops. As regards the detectives, you cite as evidence the fact that they have interrogated a disproportionate number of black suspects. Do I have you right?”

Does this little shit think I can’t see exactly what he’s trying to set me up for? Bert thought. “That was only part of the evidence, which you’d know if you’d read my statements all the way through.”

“Careful, Mr. Jarvis, I don’t like your tone,” the judge said. Judge Dick Dickson was sixty-eight years old, thin, and bald, with a thin, white mustache. He had worked as a defense attorney for fifteen years before making it to the bench, but he was known for generally favoring the prosecutors. Having had a reputation for underhanded, grandstanding courtroom tactics as a lawyer, he reminded Bert of a formerly raucous teenager who had become an overly strict teacher. In short, he seemed to have it in his head that every defense attorney was like he had been. All of that did not necessarily offer any insights as to how he would rule in this case, since there were no government prosecutors, and this was not a criminal trial. Rather, this was a civil trial, and the black plaintiffs were being represented by Heidi Schmidt, a human rights lawyer. Rather than the dynamic of a typical criminal case, in which the State prosecuted private citizens, a private citizen working for a private organization was suing agents of the State. Would Dickson’s pro-prosecution bias prejudice him in favor of the lawyer targeting the defendants? Or would it make him reflexively pro-government and lead to him ruling in favor of the cops?

Bert rolled his eyes and continued more politely. “What we figured out by very carefully examining the evidence we collected is that they were pulling over, searching, and interrogating black people at a much higher rate than white people even after controlling for all the variables. That means even if you take speeding, outstanding warrants, busted tail lights, criminal records, all that out of the equation, they were still being pulled over, searched, and interrogated at a much higher rate. We also figured out that the drivers pulled over were less likely to be found with contraband than white drivers. With the detectives, there were dozens of cases where the detectives interrogated black people who were later found to have nothing to do with the crimes while white people who would normally be considered persons of interest were left alone. In at least six of these cases, the killer was later found to have been white.” That tone nice enough for you, Judge? Bert had been cross-examined by sleazy lawyers a number of times in Vermont courtrooms and never been reprimanded by a judge for speaking to any of these lawyers the way that he had spoken to Strong. The best way to stick it to Strong, Bert reminded himself. Is to win the case. His reputation has already taken a hit, because he couldn’t get Marcomb off. Another big loss like this could really fuck him over.

“Your Honor, I would ask that Mr. Jarvis’s comments about other evidence be stricken from the record. They went far beyond the question I asked.”

“Overruled,” the judge said. “You asked if Bert was basing his claims of racial profiling on disproportionate rates of stops, searches, and interrogations. He replied that these were part of but not all of the evidence.”

Bert smirked.

“Mr. Jarvis,” said Strong. “Are you aware that, statistically, African Americans commit a very disproportionate amount of crime?”

There was an audible gasp in the courtroom, and Strong added, “It gives me no great pleasure to say that, but the statistics on the subject are clear.”

“Yes, I’m aware,” Bert said. “I also know about root causes. If you look at the history of—”

“Objection!” cried Strong. “Your Honor, Mr. Jarvis is once again veering off topic from the question I asked him.”

“Sustained. Mr. Jarvis, you are not here to be a sociologist. You were asked about racial disparities in crime rates, not the cause of crime rates.”

And, Dickson’s back to being a dick. That was fast, Bert thought.

Strong said, “So, you agree with my point that blacks commit crime at higher rates than whites? Yes or no?”

Bert clenched his teeth. “In the aggregate, yeah,”

“Having established this fact, couldn’t the higher rate of blacks being stopped, searched, and interrogated be just a result of a disproportionately high number of criminal offenders being black?”

“No, it couldn’t. Because like I said, we controlled for all the possible variables when we were looking at our findings. And if the different rates o’ stops and searches were just caused by higher crime rates and not racial profiling, it wouldn’t make sense that black drivers who got searched would be found with contraband less often than white drivers who got searched. If there wasn’t racial profilin’ goin’ on, you’d expect them to be as likely or likelier than white drivers to be found with contraband. We also found that the difference in the percent of white versus black drivers who got pulled over was less at night than in the daytime.”

Strong’s nostrils flared. “No further questions, Your Honor.”

Bert smirked. Little shit thought he could get one over on me. He had another thing coming.

Next, it was the turn of Heidi Schmidt, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, to interrogate one of the Tampa police detectives. Sixty-four years old, Heidi was very small, with short, curly blond hair and pasty-white skin. The man she was interrogating, Detective Holland Smathers, was tall and broad-shouldered with ash-blond hair. Bert estimated that he was probably about forty years old, and his face resembled a hawk except for the very noticeable tan from a lifetime of living in Florida. Before Heidi could even speak, Smathers glared at Strong. He might be regretting his choice of a lawyer! Bert thought, gleefully.

“Detective Smathers,” Heidi said, the slightest trace of a Chicago accent in her voice. “Eight months ago, you were the head detective investigating the murder of Karen Brady, is that correct?”

“Yes, I was,”

“Can you please list the names of suspects whom you questioned in the connection with the murder during the first month of the investigation?”

“Jamar Milsap, Sandra Dupree, and Jerome Washington,”

“Ah yes. Can you tell me the race of each of those suspects?”


“Which one was black?” Heidi asked, clearly feigning ignorance to drive the point home.

“All three of them,” Smathers clutched the front of the witness stand, looking as though he were about to break it.

“All three of them? Very well. Why did you consider each of them as suspects?”

“Ms. Brady’s husband, Wentworth Brady, had a security camera outside his house. The day of the murder, he caught Mr. Milsap on camera walking back and forth past the house several times. He told us that he believed Milsap might have killed his wife.”

“Did he have any evidence that led him to suspect this other than the tape?”

Smathers sat silently for a moment before Heidi asked, “Would you like me to repeat the question?”

Smathers’s face was beginning to redden. He looked as though he wanted to come up over the witness stand and attack Heidi. “There was no additional evidence. But Mr. Brady claimed, and I felt at the time that Milsap walking past the house repeatedly was suspicious enough to warrant an investigation. I felt that as the widower of the victim, we should give some respect to his instincts on this.”

“Did you, now? Tell me about Mr. Milsap’s criminal record,”

“Criminal record? What do you mean?”

“What did his criminal record consist of? He must have had some sort of rap sheet to make you so suspicious of him.”

“He had never been caught committing a crime,”

A beady-eyed, bald-headed white man in his early fifties in a business suit and tie that Bert recognized as Walter Fairfield, a high-ranking police union official, closed his eyes and exhaled as soon as Smathers made that statement. Heidi seized on the response like a tiny shark smelling blood in the water. “‘He had never been caught committing a crime,’” she repeated. “What exactly does that mean? Do you have reason to suspect that there were crimes he committed for which he was never convicted?”

“Miss Schmidt, I don’t like your tone. You are asking me very leading questions with the assumption that I’m a racist because I’m a cop and from the South.”

“I’ll have you know I’ve sued police in Chicago also, Detective Smathers. And believe me, the reason I’m accusing you of racial profiling is not because you’re a cop, it’s because you’ve been committing racial profiling.”

“Objection!” Strong cried out. Dickson pounded his gavel. “Miss Schmidt, please get back to the specific question at hand.”

“Certainly, Your Honor. Was Mr. Milsap ever arrested for a crime?”

Smathers looked as though he was forcing the words out of his mouth. “He was arrested for a liquor store robbery three years ago.”

“And was he charged?”


“Why was he not charged?”

Smathers bared his teeth for a moment, then said, “Because he was mistaken for the actual perpetrator and released as soon as the Tampa police realized their mistake.”

“You don’t say? I looked into the details of that incident, and I found that Mr. Milsap is 5’7” and one hundred forty pounds, while the perpetrator was 6’ and one hundred ninety pounds. Ah well, I’m sure they had some other physical similarities.”

Fairfield ran his fingers through his face as Smathers’s knuckles whitened. Bert watched the police detective intently. A small part of him feared that Smathers might actually try to lunge at Heidi. It seemed highly unlikely that the Florida man would do something so stupid, but Bert wanted to be ready to spring into action if things really did go that way.

“So to be clear,” Heidi continued. “We are in agreement that Mr. Milsap was never charged for or convicted of any crime before this investigation and has not been charged or convicted since? And we are in agreement that there is no evidence that he has ever committed a crime?”

“Yes, that’s right,”

“Tell me, Detective Smathers, did your department eventually solve this case?”


“And who was the perpetrator?”

“You know who the perpetrator was, it was in every local newspaper,”

Heidi smiled, slightly. “I live in Dallas. Tell me who the perpetrator was,”

Bert grinned, knowing exactly what was coming. Smathers glowered at Heidi. “It was Wentworth Brady,”

“Wentworth Brady. How long was it before you made any attempt to investigate Mr. Brady as a suspect?”

“Five weeks,”

“Did you have any reason to suspect him originally?”

“Not at that time, no,”

“Not at the time? Well, that’s interesting, because I came across court records involving the two of them. Two years before the murder, she filed for divorce and went midway through course proceedings before withdrawing the petition. Would you care to tell this court what she stated was the reason that she filed for divorce?”

“Objection!” exclaimed Strong. “Your Honor, opposing counsel is revisiting multiple old cases that have nothing to do with this lawsuit.”

“Your Honor, I am attempting to provide context about the Tampa Police Department’s policing practices. This information is critical to that.”

“Overruled,” the judge sighed.

Smathers spoke slowly and tersely. “She said that he had grabbed her by the throat and pinned her against the refrigerator.”

“Correct. After he punched her in the face on a separate occasion. Could you explain why he was not an immediate suspect?”

“Because he’d never been accused of murder. The fact that he’d been accused of one crime didn’t mean it was likely that he’d committed another completely different crime.”

“You don’t think someone who has already been accused of assaulting their wife should be considered a suspect if she turns up dead?”

“Not without more evidence, which we did eventually find,”

“But you considered someone having walked past the house to be evidence?”

Smathers’s nostrils flared. “Have you ever been a cop? Have you ever had to investigate a murder?”

“No, but that does not seem to constitute an argument. Do you have a specific response to the question I just asked you?”

“Listen here—”

“Your honor, perhaps we could take a short recess before resuming the court proceedings!” interrupted Isaiah Strong, a clear note of panic in his voice.

Outside the courtroom, Strong whispered to Smathers and Fairfield, “We need to make an affirmative case for racial profiling as a necessary policing practice,”

Fairfield groaned. “That’ll go over real well. The New Jersey police just got raked across the coals for it. Both Gore and Bush are talking about how it’s horrible and has to end. If you go back in that courtroom, and you try to actually argue that, ‘yes, Tampa police are racially profiling black people, but that’s a good thing,’ we’re screwed.”

“Well, we’re not doing too well right now anyway,” Smathers said. “Maybe it’s time for a change of strategy.”

“What if we were to defend racial profiling without defending racial profiling?” Strong suggested.

“Come again?” Fairfield asked.

“There’s a lot of disagreement over what the definition of racial profiling is. What if we were to define racial profiling as targeting people only because of their race and for no other reason? Then, we could easily argue that the Tampa police don’t engage in racial profiling, they just race as one of many different factors to decide who to profile.”

Smathers nodded, smiling. “I like that. I mean, it’s not politically correct, but it’s true, I don’t profile people just based on race. It’s not like I’m going around questioning or searching eighty year-old black women.”

Fairfield shook his head. “You understand that, and I understand that, but to the judge, that’s going to look like you’re just splitting hairs,”

“What we’ve just laid out is the position of the Fraternal Order of Police,” pointed out Strong. “We’ve been trying to beat that Yankee lawyer, her black clients, and her homosexual private eye on their own, politically correct terms, trying to say that you oppose racial profiling and would never do it. Well, look how far that has gotten us. It’s time to make the case that smart policemen take race into account when looking at who to pull over, question, or search and that this is the price we pay for having the police keep us safe.”

“That’s exactly what we need to do,” Smathers said.

Fairfield hesitated for a moment, running his hands over his bald head, before speaking. “Mr. Strong, given how this case has gone so far, I’m willing to defer to your judgement on this and let you and Detective Smathers pursue your strategy. But if the we lose this case, you’ll both be hung out to dry.”

Smathers took a step forward toward the union official. Smathers raised a hand, and Fairfield flinched, before the police detective patted him on the shoulder. “It’s nice to know you’ve always got my back, Mr. Fairfield.”

When the court reconvened, Heidi resumed questioning Smathers. “Detective Smathers, just to remove any ambiguity, do you stand by your claim that a video of Jamar Milsap walking by the residence where a victim was killed on the day of her murder was enough to make him a suspect?”

“Yes, ma’am, I do,”

“And do you stand by your claim that race had nothing to do with why he was considered as a suspect?”

“Actually, I wouldn’t make the claim that race had nothing to do with why we investigated him,”

Bert almost fell out of his chair. He’s admitting to it? The private investigator thought in disbelief. What kind of crazy strategy is this?

Heidi raised an eyebrow. “Detective Smathers, I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly. You are saying that race did have to do with why Mr. Milsap was considered as a suspect? You are admitting that he was racially profiled?”

“Oh, race was one of a number of reasons why he was considered as a suspect. But I wouldn’t consider that to be racial profiling, because he wasn’t targeted solely on the basis of race. I also factored in his age, sex, his hands being in his pockets on the video, and his proximity to the victim on the day of the murder.”

He can’t be serious. This racist idiot must’ve gotten his brain fried from being in the heat too long. He’s about to kill any chance the Tampa police have of winning this case!

“Your honor,” said Heidi. “Let the record reflect that Detective Smathers has admitted under oath to racially profiling black people in his duties as an agent of the State.”

“I’ve never racially profiled anyone,” Smathers insisted. “Racial profiling would suggest that I automatically profile anyone black. But if Mr. Milsap had been, for example, an elderly black woman who lived in the neighborhood, I wouldn’t have ever considered her as a suspect.”

“Your honor, this is a semantic dodge. Detective Smathers is trying to use a rhetorical sleight of hand to claim that deliberately using race as a reason to consider someone as a suspect when the perpetrator is of an unknown race is somehow not racial profiling. This would mean, for example, that even Mark Fuhrman’s self-professed habit of automatically stopping black men riding in cars with white women wouldn’t constitute racial profiling, because he didn’t stop black men riding in the car with black women. If we extended this to employment discrimination, it would obliterate existing workplace protection laws by establishing the principle that denying someone a job for being black is acceptable as long as their race was only one of the reasons.”

Bert noticed Fairfield glower at Strong. Strong held up a finger, perhaps signaling to the union official that he was about to turn the tide. Good luck with that, Bert thought.

“I have no further questions for Mr. Smathers at this time,” Heidi told Dickson.

Strong stood up to deliver his closing statement. “The reality is that black men are vastly overrepresented among individuals who commit murder. I wish with all my heart that this were not so, but the data is clear. Another reality is that the police have a finite amount of time and resources to investigate suspects. This means that they have to develop a formula for determining who to consider as suspects. Any good formula must take into account what demographic groups are statistically more likely to commit crime. Young, black men are one of those demographic groups.” From there, Strong spent the next ten minutes defending racial profiling while insisting that what the TPD was doing somehow did not constitute racial profiling, because people were not being targeted exclusively based on race. Bert’s disgust increased the longer he spoke. Judging from the glare on Heidi’s face, she was having a similar reaction. Strong finished by saying, “For these reasons, Your Honor, we ask that you approve our motion to dismiss this frivolous lawsuit and allow the fine officers of the TPD to resume their work of protecting the public.”

When it was Heidi’s turn to deliver her closing, she took a deep breath, clearly trying to maintain her composure. “Racial disparities in crime exist. I am not attempting to deny that here. I was frankly disappointed by Mr. Strong’s apparent unwillingness to mention even in passing the root causes of why racial disparities in crime rates exist. It seems to me a bit unreasonable to use the legacy of racial discrimination in this country to justify more racial discrimination. Furthermore, the arguments for the effectiveness of racial profiling are weak at best. We have already seen how Detective Smathers using race as a factor in deciding who to investigate delayed the apprehending of the real culprit in a first degree murder case. More broadly, the aggregate rates at which black people, white people, or any people of any other race commit crime tells us nothing about the likelihood that any black individual is going to commit a crime, because there are simply too many variables at play. But even putting aside why racial disparities in crime exist and why racial profiling is not an effective tool for law enforcement, the actions of Detective Smathers and all too many other members of the TPD are illegal. The Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits government discrimination on the basis of race, and it does not make any allowances for discrimination based partly on race and partly on other factors.” For fifteen minutes, Heidi attempted to make a case against racial profiling couched in legal arguments but also relying on sympathetic stories of innocent black people such as Milsap unfairly targeted by police. To finish her closing argument, she stated, “The idea that race can ever be a factor in who to profile, except in very select circumstances where the race of the perpetrator is already known, makes a mockery of our legal system, and it cannot exist alongside equality under the law.”

Dickson deliberated for thirty minutes. During that time, Bert and Heidi talked. “You did great,” Bert told her.

“So did you. I really wish we could have had Milsap testify in addition to the other profiling victims we had give testimony. But after what happened to him, he moved to Toronto, and we couldn’t get in contact with him in time for the trial.”

“It doesn’t matter. We got the TPD dead to rights, especially that bastard, Smathers. He literally admitted on the stand that he racially profiled black people. I don’t know what Strong was thinkin’, lettin’ one o’ his clients go with that strategy. Well, actually, I do. You give Strong long enough, he can’t stop himself from remindin’ everyone what a bigot he is.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Heidi said. “For the last thirty years, Strong has been pretty good at hiding his racial bigotry. Blatant racism was more his style back in the sixties. I think he took a gamble that the judge would buy his bizzare definition of racial profiling, and I’m just hoping he overplayed his hand.”

“Once this is all over, I need to come to Dallas to visit you and Brandon. It’s been too long since I’ve been down to see you guys. I talked to Brandon on the phone the other night, but I need to actually visit again.”

“That would be great, we’d both love that,”

When Dickson reentered the courtroom, he looked exhausted and wore a downcast expression on his face. “This case is a very complicated one. It touches on many longstanding legal issues in American life: proper policing, race, due process, and constitutional law. While I sympathize with the difficult job that our law enforcement personnel do every day, it is abundantly clear to me that, in the incidents brought to light in this trial, members of the Tampa police force, including Detective Smathers, violated the rights of a number of black suspects who later turned out to be innocent. Furthermore, it is clear that race was one of the reasons that these suspects’ rights were violated.”

Bert grinned. We’re going to win this!

Then, the axe fell. “However, even egregious violations of civil rights by the police are not enough for me to find in favor of the plaintiffs. In order for me to find in favor of the plaintiffs, it would need to be established that the police knew that they were violating rights that had already been established in prior case law.”

“What the fuck?” Bert muttered. Heidi’s face was turning red. Smathers, Fairfield, and Strong were all slowly starting to smile. The judge continued pontificating. “There is currently no court ruling on racial profiling that covers the city of Tampa. There is neither a federal law nor a city ordinance in Tampa that prohibits racial profiling by police. With that in mind, while the actions of Detective Smathers and other Tampa police were egregious, it is not at all clear to me that they knew these actions were illegal at the time. Ergo, I have no choice but to grant the defendants’ motion to dismiss.”

By now, Strong was grinning from ear to ear. Smathers clapped him on the back. Fairfield grabbed his hand and shook it. Bert wanted to vomit. Heidi stood up to her full but very limited height. “Your honor, this legal reasoning gives police almost complete carte blanche to violate citizens’ rights at will. If every judge in the country followed this principle—”

Dickson loudly pounded the gavel. “Ms. Schmidt, mind your tone, or I will hold you in contempt. If you feel the law should prohibit racial profiling, you are free to lobby for laws against it. If you want to challenge the constitutionality of racial profiling in court, you are free to do so. But you are not free to demand that I create new legal principles to satisfy your personal views. Detective Smathers, I would advise that you and other members of the TPD be more careful to not violate people’s rights in your police work.”

Oh yeah, that lecture’s really going to make an impression on them after they’ve literally admitted to racial profiling in court and gotten completely away with it. This judge is such a piece of shit! Fairfield, Strong, and Smathers all smirked. Bert ran his hands through his hair several times, trying to keep his temper down. “What kind of legal bullshit is this?” He muttered to Heidi. He overheard Fairfield telling Strong and Smathers, “Applebee’s on me tonight, boys!” and had to clench his fists. “The court system clearly isn’t going to be the place we get justice,” Heidi said, quietly. “At least not in Florida. There’s going to have to be a law passed in Congress to deal with this. With the way things are now, nobody is going to want to file another lawsuit over racial profiling when there’s just been a case where it got proven in court and the judge just shrugged it off.”

Short Story

About the Creator

Charles Boyd

I'm a dog dad, historian, activist, and writer. I taught for 3 years and am starting a History PhD program. I write fantasy, mysteries, and historical nonfiction. I'm proud to get blocked by white supremacists, antigay activists and TERFs.

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