Quintin Peterson is always the coolest guy in the room. The hats help. But he’s also got that innate quality where you know he’s the one you want around when all hell breaks loose. For three decades, he was with the DC Metropolitan Police, where he served as a media liaison officer. Dozens of movies made here—“No Way Out,” “The Pelican Brief,” “Enemy of the State,” “In the Line of Fire”—owe their realistic portrayals of DC cops to Quintin.
He retired from the force in 2010 and took a job as a security officer at the Folger Shakespeare Library. That’s where I met him—and soon learned that he was also an artist and writer. Quintin has written two novellas about the Folger, “Guarding Shakespeare” and “The Voynich Gambit,” and his crime noir short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including “DC Noir” edited by George Pelecanos.
Quintin’s latest offering appears in “The Tattered Blue Line: Short Stories of Contemporary Policing” edited by Frank Zafiro. “Mysterious Ways” features Luther Kane, a recurring character who might be the only guy cooler than Quintin. As the story opens, Kane, a detective who has been “ordered back into uniform to push a scout car,” arrives on the scene of a crime on Half Street SW, where a pursuit has led to a horrific crash that killed the fleeing driver—and took two innocent lives
It’s an all-too-familiar scene in DC—gunfire, casualties, yellow crime tape—but Peterson brings depth and nuance to it, zeroing in on Kane, who is wiping sweat from his brow in the stifling heat. “The air was so muggy it was like breathing through a wet army blanket: air you can wear,” he writes. Then in a series of flashbacks, Kane reflects on what brought him to this point—and why he’s feeling “the weight of the world on my shoulders.” He’s been here before, in a way, and the implications are haunting him. “The choices you make can cost you,” he thinks. “In police work, as in life, when you do the right thing sometimes things turn out horribly wrong.”
“Mysterious Ways” is a fine-cut gem of a tale and it’s not the only one in this powerful anthology of stories, all written by law enforcement officers who are grappling with ambiguity and ambivalence. As one character observes, ethics in policing isn’t necessarily black and white. “This is reality,” he says, “and ninety percent of reality is shades of grey. And some of them are grey with brown stains. Can you get your head around that?”
You can find Quintin Peterson on Twitter @luther_kane.