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From Justice Comes Violence
“The bar was noisy, but the booming music and the boisterous men sitting around the table made me smile. Glasses, frothing at the top, were clinked around. Smiles were more abundant than the drinks, although without the latter the former wouldn’t exist tonight. I could hardly live with those guys, but a day without them drove me mad. It was the same when he had braces as a kid. They were a nuisance, but the day I got them off I spent hours running my tongue over my teeth. It was as if a part of myself was missing. For the past four years, I had become a part of something much larger than myself. The uniform and the badge were just symbols, meaningless without anything to back it up. Some officers, when they’re asked why they joined the force, they point at their badge or their gun. Me, on the other hand, I just pull out a picture of my co-workers. My friends. My lifelines.
We threw back the drinks one after another. For some, like Oswald or Flinn, pint after pint didn’t seem change them a bit. It was either a statement of their intestinal fortitude or their normal working state. I still was sipping on my third, or maybe it was my fourth. I wasn’t keeping count. Luckily, neither was anyone else. After yet another joke about their wives, the music in the bar cut short. We knew the cue. Tossing a few former presidents on the table, with a catcall or two to a waitress, our caravan piled out into the street. Slurred goodbyes were offered as most of the guys fell into cabs, giggling like girls about something I’d rather not repeat. I didn’t need a cab; my apartment was only a few blocks away. Sorros, my partner, Vinnie Soros, that is, decided to catch some fresh air with me. We didn’t rush back to my place; Vinnie had no where to go after that. Of course, he had his apartment, but it wasn’t the crowning gem in his life. A bedroom, a bathroom, and a wall of movies that would take his mind of his life for a few hours. The happiest hours of his life.
It wasn’t our luckiest night. A block away, work crews had the whole street blocked off. We couldn’t even manage to slip by the few crewmen lingering about. I never thought to show my badge. If I had, maybe things would have been different.
We turned right and walked farther down a few blocks, just to shoot the breeze. Conversation was flowing; there was no need to make Vinnie go home to Tom Cruise. We talked about our boss, our pay, our future. None of the topics was very cheerful or optimistic. The landscape was changing as we walked. My decent row of apartments became a segment of public housing units. The uniform design, stark brick and black windows, didn’t provide any sense of “urban warmth,” as my mother had called it when I first moved here. Vinnie began to talk a bit slower, his head moving a bit from side to side. I assumed it was the drinks coursing through his veins. Looking around for a cab, I decided we should probably turn back. But Vinnie stopped me when I began to turn around. He told me to look to my left. All I saw was a dim streetlamp, a garbage can, and a kid, probably in his teens, mulling about. I questioned Vinnie about it, but he didn’t answer for a few seconds. I saw his hand move to his badge on his hip and I became confused. I was pretty sure this type of thing, working while “not being in the best state of mind,” was prohibited. I would know; I still kept the introductory manual on my desk. Vinnie walked down the street; I had to follow. He was about five yards from the teenager when he started talking. I didn’t completely here (I was still catching up) but he said something about drugs and dangerous things happening on the streets. The kid, he wasn’t wearing what they usually wear around there, didn’t seem to answer. Vinnie spoke louder and louder, repeating the same things. The kid started to walk the other way, pretty fast actually. I told Vinnie we should go, but then he did it. I couldn’t stop him, trust me, he did it so fast. His hand moved to his side and then back up before I knew what he had grabbed. His voice was garbled from the night’s activities; I doubt he even made a coherent sentence together. But the kid got the message. He stopped and turned. When he saw what Vinnie was doing, he ran. I would have too. But there was still a lot of street left. There wasn’t much of a chance.
I remember he hit the ground pretty hard; his body bounced around once or twice. We stood there, Vinnie and me, for about a minute before we spoke. He started soft, then erupted into a string of profanities. I said my share of those as well, but then Vinnie looked at me. His eyes were the widest I’ve seen them and his hands were doing double-time, even for an Italian guy like himself. He begged me, grabbed my arms and shook me, and even yelled at me. Things about loyalty, forgiveness, and even God. I just pointed at the kid and yelled back. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. For all the times I’ve read the manual, that wasn’t in there. Back and forth, we shouted at each other. Of course, people started to come out. You would think with all the things that happen there, those people would get used to it by now. But there they were, hanging around on porches, in doorways, some looking through small openings in the windows. I didn’t have a good feeling about anything at this point.
It didn’t take long for the realization to set in, for both the people around us and for Vinnie. I heard some screams, some shouts, and then the gun go off. For a second, I didn’t think I was going to leave that street on my own two feet. But Vinnie fired into the air, above the crowd. He started to bark orders, for people to go back inside their apartments. He shoved his radio into my hands and told me to call for a bus. An ambulance, that is. I waited too long, I guess, because he hit me. Not too hard, but it left a mark on the side of my head. He yelled again. “Do it now, Greg! Now!” I couldn’t.
The crowd began to close in. It was two against twenty, I would guess. Vinnie got really nervous. He began to curse me, I could hear him, and his fingers opened and closed against the grip of his gun. By this time, he had walked a few yards away from me. There was still some space between us and the crowd, maybe ten yards. One of the bigger men in the crowd, I remember he was covered with tattoos, moved to the front. He began to yell at Vinnie and his hand moved close to his pocket. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but I guess I knew what was going to happen before it all went down.”
“Thank you very much, Officer Parker.” The officer interviewing him, a veteran of the system, stopped the recorder on the desk. “I’ll call if I have any questions, but I think everything is in order.” He paused before leaving. “I’m very sorry about your partner.” He turned and exited.
“Wait,” I called. The officer poked his head in the doorway. I waited for a minute before asking him, “what was the boy Vinnie,” I couldn’t bring myself to say it, but the officer nodded, “what was the boy doing?”
The officer rubbed his chin and sighed. “He was picking up medicine. For his grandmother. She’s seventy-four years old and probably won’t make it past the winter.” Before leaving, “lung cancer,” he added.
I put my head into my hands, and for the first time since joining, I didn’t know who I was crying for.