“Untitled Police Vignette”

I wrote this real quick a few months ago and just ran across it again. Oh, and my bad for the lack of updates on life. (Paste is fun. Life is good.)

On a frantic Phoenician city we stand, we stare, we silently smoke our cigarettes. For Allen Winpine and myself, the night is young even though most of the drunkards are passed out in cabs or vomiting in alleys right about now. The embers light his face dully, but I notice a gleam in his eyes that I hadn’t seen in ages. We had been partners for only a handful of years, but we knew each other coming out of the academy. Our paths weaved in and out of each other as unies until we met again as plain-clothed detectives. It’s nice to see him crack a smile when a fresh faced couple asks for a smoke. Tequila leaps from their mouths. The closer I look I notice she’s more underage that I thought. I know Allen wants to beat the shit out of this punk, but we’re there on other business.

“Get the fuck out of here,” his voice is raspy. The smoke has infiltrated his lungs for far too long. I know my lungs are just as bad. He coughs, “Nothing to do here. Let’s grab a burrito or something. Where we can talk without all this Goddamn noise.”

The silent air warms me as a walk; it doesn’t hinder the flights of the butt as I flick it into a gutter. Red flares shatter against the pavement. I try to inhale some fresh air, but realize the city polluted the desert and everything is going to shit. Allen’s eyes watch me. There’s something on his mind.

“Do you ever think about getting out?”

“Of this?” I look him up and down. His cigarette is out and he lights another. I offer him my lighter. “Not unless I will the Goddamn lottery. This pension is too good to pass up.”

I laugh, he laughs, we laugh together. Our echos break the silences of the garage where we parked. I tell him there’s no smoking in my car — Mary will have a fit. We stand again, but there is no filth to observe here. We’re all alone.

“Doesn’t it ever bother you? All of the motherfuckers we have to deal with?”

“They’re the ones who pay the bills. Without them, what the hell do we have to do?”

His cigarette is nowhere near finished, but he tosses it over my shoulder. It rolls underneath a car and he tells me he’s still hungry. The burrito place he likes is down near the train. Small time peddlers lurk in the shadows, preying on thirteen year old little shits who think rebelling against their parents make them chiefs or something.

“Do you still enjoy it?”

Allen continues to rattle off his questions. I know he’s searching desperately for something. I tell him I still enjoy the hunt. That nothing gets me off like taking someone down. The faces of surprise still make me wonder how no one ever thinks they’ll be caught. Our line of work is different, I remind him and tell him that nobody ever sees us coming.

“Then do we even exist? We’re nobodies. We act like cops; we act like husbands; we act like cokeheads; and pimps; and lonely business men looking to get laid.”

“It’s our job. Would you rather be some pathetic traffic cops sitting on your ass all day. Who the fuck cares if someone is going three miles per hour over.”

“What about when you were working domestic abuse cases. Don’t you think that was worth it?” His burrito is nearly gone. Beans are oozing out of it from every which way. “Or rape? What if someone attacked Mary? You wouldn’t want the unies to be able to help right away?”

“I’d kill whoever did it myself. Come on, Allen. What’s gotten into you?”

“I just didn’t expect it all to turn out like this.”

Never before did I question if he was able to handle what we do. I think he is the best man for what we do; better than me. We fall silent. The wear and tear shows on his skin. We’re still young, and maybe he still feels young. You need to in our line of work. Allen’s eyes focus deep behind me. I’m curious to what he’s looking at, but am afraid if I look I’ll see a younger version of us: bright eyed and ready to strap handcuffs on some grotesque mother fucker. There’s no question that I’m afraid of what my younger self would think of me now. Never did I ever think I’d succumb to the methods I use now. When I first made detective, Lieutenant Braxton told me I needed to harden up. That my biggest weakness was that I was a pussy. I vowed that day to do everything in my power to never go soft. Sure I made some bad choices along the way, but now I’m here. And from where I’m sitting here is good. Allen must be going soft. I know if I ask he’ll say he is. The misery of hearing him say those words is more than I can bare.

“We have to move,” I tell him after noticing the hands on my wristwatch. “We need to be there in fifteen minutes.”

Allen finishes his burrito and thinks about another smoke. We don’t have time. Even this late at night, getting across town is a bitch. At a red light he asks me what the purpose of everything is. He genuinely wants to know and though he knows I don’t have an answer, I feel like I should. Instead, I shrug and in a whisper tell him that’s the beauty of life. A lump in my throat stops me from saying anything else. I know he’s soft. We continue driving under the speed limit to avoid a detection. Traffic cops love getting late night speeders, and we can’t afford any detainment. The red light ahead of us turns green just as my foot begins to break.

I turn left, then right, and left again. The alley is desolate. We’re early.

“Let’s go,” I tell him and pop the trunk. The muffled screaming breaks the still of the night. Whoever she is, Allen shuts her up with a blow to the head. Watching him makes me realize how better he is. I peer in either direction before helping towards the dumpster.

 

“How much is this one?”

“She was worth it,” I tell him, but his head tilts demanding a value. “It’s enough, trust me.”

The silencer muffles it all. Only a brief whimper knocks around before we pick up the body and toss it into the dumpster. They’ll be here any minutes, I remind him. I feel he’s about to tell me he wants out of our side job. They won’t like that. With a cigarette in his mouth, Allen asks for my lighter again. I let him enjoy one last drag before I pull the trigger.

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