Filthy Lucre



     “Brian, just think about it a bit, okay?” she said, her voice soft, careful, “Don’t discount it out of hand.”

“You mean don’t say no, right, Penny?” Bachman replied.

“C’mon, Brian. It’s something she wants, something that will make her happy. You’re a Sergeant now, your schedule is looser, you could pick up a detail maybe…”

“Work an extra off-duty job so Chrissy can ride a horse?” He shook his head, “Penny…I work narcotics, remember? We don’t often work extra details, they’re usually uniform jobs. Hell, you know this. And what about the kitchen? You been bitchin’ about the kitchen since you moved in with Chrissy. What little more money I got with the promotion is gone quickerin’ shit around here.” He rubbed his face with one big hand, not caring if he got the sandwich crumbs out of his mustache.

“Well, Brian,” she forced a smile, not wanting this to turn bad, “You like what comes out of the kitchen, right? And I just think we could break down and get a stove that has more than two burners working, and maybe even a fridge that will hold more than two bottles of beer and a package of hotdogs.”

“Yeah, yeah…”

“C’mon, baby. You said we could fix up the kitchen, and maybe do a little with the master bath. Maybe we could get a loan from the credit union.” She knew it was a mistake as the words came out of her mouth.

“We already tapped the credit union, remember?” he said in a tired voice. “Chrissy can’t go to a dentist like other kids, oh no. She needs a special pediatric guy…charges us a coupla hundred every time she goes there.”

“Ah, Brian…” She turned her face from his, and added, “I’m just part-time in the school office for now, but they’ve already said they’ll take me full-time as soon as they can. And because I work there, we get a break on Chrissy’s tuition, right?”

    He looked at her. Penny Barton, his second wife. Former wife of a firefighter. Fight it though he might, he felt the same rush, the same urges he felt every time he looked at her. Ten years younger than him, golden, sleek…just humming with girl energy. She wore baggy white shorts as she stood in front of him, a thin cotton sleeveless t-shirt, no bra. Stared at him with those damn green eyes that constantly challenged him, constantly asked…you man enough, Bachman? 

“It’s still private school, Penny,” he countered, “And your ex-hero just can’t seem to manage his support payments, can he? He got a new Camero though, don’t he?” He heard his own words, and thought about the child support payments he was making to his first wife, Lydia. He had a son and daughter, both in elementary school, public school. Lydia’s new hero was a lawyer, for cryin’ out loud, and the bastard was on him if a support payment was five minutes late. Through the court, of course. Sniveling weasel wouldn’t come face-to-face, no way. “Crap,” he said.

Penny moved close to him, brushed his mustache with her fingers, then wrapped her hands around the small of his back. She pulled until their hips came together, smiled, raised one eyebrow, and said quietly, “Do I hear a certain, um, anxiousness, in your crabby voice, Bachman? I mean, you sound like you’re all tight and all, like you might not be getting’ enough lovin’.”

Her face was too close, her eyes devouring his. Her warmth pushed against him, her skin glowed, her lips sort of fell away from each other, revealing that pink, knowing tongue. “Penny,” he said tightly, “Come on…we’re talkin’ about things I can’t change…the money…I mean…” Shit, he thought, This is no fair. No fair.

“We’ve got over an hour before Chrissy gets home, Brian,” she said. She kissed him as she massaged the back of his neck with one hand, his bottom with the other.

“Dammit, Penny,” he said as his felt himself surging against her. He followed her into the bedroom like a man possessed, tearing at her clothes, and his.


Three hours later he sat in his leased sedan with Alabamatags, tapped his knuckles impatiently on the steering wheel as he watched the jammed traffic, and thought about her words. The lovemaking had been good, like always, and he had marveled at the intensity, the physicalness of it. He still found it almost hard to believe that a woman like her would be in any way attracted to a guy like him. He was leaning toward forty, an angular, hairy man with long forearms and one crooked ear to match his crooked nose. His thick, rough head of black hair was definitely entering the salt-and-salt stage. He had begun to thicken in the middle, and felt the large metal belt buckle on his wide leather belt actually helped hold things tight. He was prone to faded jeans, work shirts, and worn cowboy boots. He didn’t smoke anymore, at least, but he did like his scotch whiskey. He wasn’t sure if a bottle a week made him an alcoholic. Penny had never given him any grief about it, though. But man, he thought, the lovemaking.  She took from him, gave to him any part, any way, all he wanted until she cried out, over and over. He had immersed himself in her, given himself over to her touch, her power. He had fallen unresisting into the core of her, his mind exploding in white light, his body a hungry nerve-end on fire against her, around her, and in her.

“It’s just an hour riding lesson, baby,” she had said as she watched him get dressed, “On Saturday mornings. On a pony that the riding school provides. It’s been a dream of hers for a while now. I know it’s impractical, I know it’s…hard to justify. But it would make her happy, and she would know you did it, and it would be good…”


He had simply nodded as he stood over her beside the bed. Her eyes held his as he tucked his Sig-Saur into his waistband near the small of his back. He forced his eyes to leave her face, down through the hollow of her neck, across the golden skin of her collarbones to the creamy fullness of her breasts. He bent, kissed first one nipple, then the other. Then he ran his lips lightly down until he kissed her navel. She caught her breath as he moved lower, she put both hands on his head, her fingers in his hair, as he put his face between her legs, and breathed deep the essence of her. When he felt her hips raise up and push against him, he stood, kissed her quickly on the mouth, and left for work.

He glanced at his watch. Stupid traffic. Where the hell were all the motorcycle cops anyway? Sittin’ someplace bein’ cool, he thought, Tryin’ to impress the ladies He needed to get into the office, get on the phone, get the team briefed. An informant that he had personally nurtured for over four months was finally giving him a fat one. Three houses, this evening, tonight. Three houses on the water, with docks. Three houses that would be filled with dope, filled with dopers. His informant, not surprisingly, was also working for a DEA Agent, so something he had been working on had now become a ‘Task Force Operation’…headed by the Miami DEA office. Another fun night in the tropics, he fumed. DEA would be on his streets, with his guys, telling him what to do. “Whatever,” he said to the surrounding traffic, “It’s all for the cause.”

His cellphone buzzed. He looked at the number, grimaced, hesitated, and said tightly, “What?”

“Oh…it’s mister personality,” saidLydia, his first wife, mother of his children. “You sound like you’re not getting enough pussy, Bachman.”

“Lydia,” he said. He bit back his first three immediate responses, took a breath, and added, “What? What,Lydia?”

“Money, Bachman,” answered Lydiabrightly, “Your children…remember little Brian, and Becky? Yes, Bachman, even though Dale is forced to keep mailing you certified letters so you’ll cough up your child support, I’m actually going to have to ask you for more.”

“Weasel-boy has more money than me, Lydia,” said Bachman, “Why do you have to keep bustin’ my balls?”

“Because you emptied those little balls into me, Bachman,” came her reply, “And out popped your children, okay? Yes…I have married a man with a real career now, and he does make a good living, but you are still responsible as a father…”

“What is it, Lydia?” he said, the total frozen hardness in her voice still incomprehensible to him. What did I do to make her hate me so much? He wondered again. “What is it now,Lydia?”

“Braces, Bachman, Teeth, orthodontia, baby. Both of your babies have crooked teeth, and that’s it.”

“Lydia,” he tried, “It’s gonna be hard, right now. I mean…”

“Don’t even start that shit, Bachman,” said Lydia, “Don’t tell me that little nympho you married isn’t getting child support from her ex. And her little girl…where is she going to school? She’s not in public school like your kids, huh?”

“Lydia, crap…c’mon…”

“Don’t crap me, Bachman. You still got that stupid bass-boat with all the goodies and that big macho engine stuck on it?”

Yeah, he thought, I do have a used bass-boat I bought from a guy goin’ through a divorce. I actually take it out fishing once in a while, out where its quiet but for the wind, the water against the hull. Keeps me from goin’ totally friggin’ nuts. Now it’s under a tarp in the back yard, growing mold. He loved the boat, simply said, and those rare times he got to use it.

“Yeah,” he said wearily.

“So sell it, Bachman,” said Lydia, “And maybe you should get the hell out of narcs and go back to uniform, back on the road with patrol so you could line up some fat details and make some money. You need to make more money, Bachman, you hearing me? You got to take a break from what’s between that blonde nympho’s legs and make some more money.”

She disconnected.

The traffic light ahead of him changed, he pulled forward slowly in traffic, and thought about cops and marriage. It was like a circular pattern, he decided, of desire, hope, failure, renewal, desire again, hope…again. Cops need partners, he knew, they just couldn’t keep them. Cops married, had kids, then divorced, re-married, and raised someone else’s kids. He had grown very fond of Chrissy, Penny’s daughter, and of course he loved his own Brian and Becky. It wasn’t only cops, he acknowledged as he thought of Chrissy’s dad, the firefighter now re-married, and the lawyer who had married Lydia after divorcing and giving up his kids. Admittedly, cops had, in his view, taken the whole coupling thing to a new level. There was a captain on the department who held the record with six marriages, although one of those was a repeat. Then there were the two guys, motormen and best friends, who both divorced their wives and promptly married their friends’ wife. It was an even swap, house, kids, dog, bed, wife…and so far it seemed to be holding. He wasn’t naturally sentimental, but accepted the fact that with each change of spouse the cop-dad had to spread his love…for the kids…around more.


He finally made it to the building that housed the Organized Crime/Narcotics offices, waved at one of the secretaries who pointed to a stack of pink message forms, and sat wearily at his desk. He opened his briefcase, pulled out the letter he had been carrying around since the day before, and opened it. One of his credit cards was at its limit, and his payment was late. The company, though reluctant to do so, was suspending his account until he paid the minimum amount plus the late fee. His head pounded, and he rubbed his temples. “Crap,” he said. He rifled through the sheaf of messages, sighed, and called his sister, Mary, who lived in Georgia. While he waited for her to answer, he thought, At least she’s still married to the same guy she started with. Not that it helped, he admitted, since the guy took a nice tumble down the stairs in his own house and broke his neck. Her husband was paralyzed, and Mary worked part-time. He knew what the call was about, of course, as he had been helping out when he could for a few years now. A couple of hundred now and then. Mary answered, and they talked for a few minutes. When he hung up after the usual promises and reassurances, he pinched the bridge of his nose, hard. “A couple of hundred, now and then,” he said. One of the other messages scattered on his desk was from an auto repair shop. The mechanic was the son of a guy Bachman had known for years, had a small shop, survived by word-of-mouth and old customers. The air conditioner had gone out on Lydia’s car, and she had nagged him about his kids riding around in an oven because he couldn’t make it right. He still owed the mechanic three hundred for the stupid compressor. He stuffed the message form into his briefcase, and slammed it shut. Love isn’t the problem, he thought savagely, It’s the friggin’ money, baby.

*                                       *                                           *                  


It was full night, still, muggy, and wet. Bachman sat in his car in the deep sooty shade of a sprawling fichus tree. He listened to the quiet mutterings on two secure-channel radios, and glanced at his work cellphone again. All quiet, was the word. The word from on high, he thought, Word from the all-powerful, all-knowing DEA. He glanced over at the other car parked next to his. One of his guys, a young guy, new to the narc team, beat a nervous tattoo on the steering wheel with his thumbs. The man beside him wore dark sunglasses, and a stingy-brim straw hat with manatees on the band. He was young too, and from the DEA. They were in an upscale, waterfront neighborhood on the east side of town. It was a peaceful area of tree-lined streets, fine houses, and high property taxes. Many driveways had SUV’s, or Volvos, Mercedes, Jags, or all of the above. “Whatever,” he said under his breath.

“You say somethin’, Sarge?” asked the new guy. The DEA agent did not turn his head.


“What about this house we’re gonna take down, Sarge?” asked the new narc, “Gonna be some bad guys? Gonna be some dope like DEA says?”

Bachman shrugged, and thought, Do I look like I got a crystal ball, kid?

“Think they’ll fight?” asked the narc, “Or think they’ll run?”

“They’ll run,” said the DEA agent beside him without turning his head, sunglasses protecting his eyes from the intense night.

“Well,” said the narc as his thumbs beat up the steering wheel, “They can go ahead and run…but they can’t fuckin’ hide, baby.”

Bachman sighed. They had three houses to cover, and had formed, along with the DEA agents fromMiami, three teams. DEA thought they had the “main” house, the “headquarters” house, identified through what the informant told them. All three houses would have load-boats out back, all three would have off-load crews to be arrested, and dope to be seized. The main house, however, would have the largest load, and the ‘main guys’ in the smuggling organization. There might even be some cash there to be seized, although they all knew most of the time the big cash wasn’t anywhere near the dope. Naturally the DEA had set it up so their guys would hit the main house, and the local narcs, with unhappily designated DEA agents in tow, would take care of the others. When it was all said and done, Bachman and his little team had been assigned the smallest, and in DEA’s eyes the least important, house. The teams would move in on the houses when the informant signaled that most of the dope had been off-loaded.

“Whatever,” said Bachman again. The hours passed.


“Go…go…go,” said the voice over the radio, “I say again, go…go…go.”

“Let’s go easy now,” began Bachman as he started his car, but the young narc beside him said, “Yeah…all right,” slammed his car into gear, and spun sideways in the wet leaves until the tires slid onto the pavement. Bachman followed behind the other two as they rocketed toward the house, which squatted in the quiet night one half-block away. Now there were excited voices on the radios, units moving in, superfluous orders being given, call-signs and observations blending and bleeding all over each other. Bachman drove carefully to the house, cut his lights, and coasted into the drive. One small car was there, the windows gauzed with dew. He parked, got out, and pulled his pistol from his waistband. His mouth was dry, his eyes wide. One of the voices on the radio was yelling about someone running, another screamed about having “two at gunpoint in the rear yard” at one of the other houses. Bachman saw the DEA agent and the young narc, already out of their car, which sat sideways in the narrow street at the end of black skid-marks, run toward the house, guns up. The DEA agent looked over a side fence, toward the back yard, and the narc crouched behind a low hedge and peered into the house through the front windows.

“Nothing going on in back!” shouted the DEA guy.

“No movement at all inside!” answered the young narc.

“Hit the back,” called Bachman to the narc. He had carefully gone over their approach with the other two hours ago. He and the DEA stud would hit the front door, the young narc could cover the rear yard. In the excitement, he could see now, that had all gone out the window.


The young narc turned and looked at Bachman, but before he could say anything another voice on the radio yelled “They’re running!” It was from one of the other houses, but both the DEA guy and the narc heard it. At that moment they also heard an engine start, and from the next house a black pickup truck reversed out of the drive and skidded its tires on the street as it sped off, eastbound into the night. That did it.

“There they go!” yelled the DEA agent as he turned and sprinted across the yard to the narc’s car.

“Fuckin’-A!” shouted the narc as he dove behind the wheel.

Bachman stood there and watched as they sped off in pursuit of the pickup truck. “Crap,” he said.


He stood motionless in front of the house for a moment, taking in the night. The enveloping quiet had returned to the neighborhood, and it was peaceful. He looked at the house. There were a few lights on, but no movement. It had the feel of a place unoccupied, abandoned. Still, he made a wary approach, gun drawn. He tried the latch on the side gate, lifted it, and pushed the gate aside. The lawn and shrubbery of the place were manicured, there was a small kidney-shaped swimming pool between the back of the house and the seawall, and a thirty-foot go-fast boat was tied to the sturdy dock. He moved to the rear sliding glass doors of the house. One was pushed open, and he stepped inside on the balls of his feet. He heard moaning.

He froze, his head turned toward the sound. The moaning was that of a woman, and she was not in pain. He moved cautiously into the well-appointed living room, saw no movement, but his eyes were drawn to the flickering light coming from a large flat-screened TV against one wall. There, he discovered the source of the moaning. A porn film was in full throat, and he cocked his head slightly to determine exactly what part of each player he was looking at, and their relation to each other. It took a few seconds to decipher, and when he did he mentally bowed to their agility and prowess. He moved through the house then, quickly, professionally, gun up, eyes wide, mouth agape, nostrils flared. In a minute or two he knew he was alone in the house. Okay, he thought.


The radio bubbled, he listened to the DEA supervisor calling for a couple of marked cars, for the suspects captured, and the two panel trucks on standby…for the dope. Must have hit the mother load at one house, he mused. He waited, but did not hear anything on the radio from his two missing heroes. He shook his head, and began to look around. He knew already there was no dope in this house, not a load of the stuff, anyway, no bales of grass, no bags of coke. He looked into each of the three bedrooms, and opened the kitchen door that lead to the garage. A Lexus SUV was parked there, the hood cold, empty. But the briefcase was in the kitchen, sitting open on a countertop, near the fridge. He approached it slowly, his gun down by his side. His eyes swept the contents in slow motion, he felt a gripping tightness in his chest, and he muttered, “Crap, bullshit, and crap again.”


Money. It was money in the briefcase, layered, banded, green, and powerful. Stacks of hundreds, and his practiced eye tripped from side to side, up and down, and came to the figure of three hundred thousand. He sighed. He remembered something he had noticed in the living room, turned his eyes from the briefcase, and moved out of the kitchen. He nodded as he saw again the two large cardboard boxes he had seen when he first entered the house. They were television boxes, and a thought had crossed his mind as he passed in front of the porn film on the big TV: More TV’s? He stood and listened for a moment, the house, the night, still and quiet. Even the radio was silent. He walked toward the boxes. The top cardboard flaps were

closed, but not taped. With the barrel of his pistol he pulled one back on the nearest box. He leaned forward a bit, and looked in.


Money again.

“And bullshit again,” he said as he stared down into the green. It was money, money, money, complacent, condescending, at ease in its own latent power and sinister, captivating attraction.

He nudged the box with the toe of his right boot. It did not budge. He stepped around it to the other, opened it the same way, chewed his lower lip as he saw more money. Couldn’t move that box with his foot either. He backed across the room, and sat without looking in a leather chair near the big TV. He stared at the boxes, his gun hanging from his fingers. The girl on the screen beside him began raising the pitch and frequency of her moans, and he turned his head. He noticed she had either purposely shaved in a pubic Mohawk, or had designed it to look like a pulsing pink exclamation point. Three men stood around her now, and she had her hands full. A sudden wave of irrational white-hot rage crashed within him, and with one arm he swept the video/CD player off the top of the large TV. It crunched onto the floor after banging off a teak and glass table, pieces of black plastic and tangled wires scattering across the floor. The moans stopped.


He stared at the boxes, thought of the briefcase in the kitchen, and listened to the quiet house. He was alone. He was alone, and would be for some time…plenty of time. He existed in a temporarily disconnected bubble, invisible to the good guys, the bad guys, his men, the brass, the fucking feds.  He pursed his lips, then rubbed his temple with the thumb of his gun hand. He stood, walked across the room to the boxes, and more carefully examined them. This time all the banded stacks of bills he could see were thousands. He looked at the size and depth of the boxes, toed them again to feel their weight. Right off the top of his head, and for a moment he thought the top of his head might actually come off, he guestimated the amount of the boxes to be somewhere in the area of maybe ten million. Maybe more, maybe less…one three, five…it was over a mil, and under the national debt. He straightened. He listened. He looked down into the boxes. For a very long moment he stood motionless, frozen, the sound of his own heart his only affirmation of reality. His eyes swept across the money in the boxes, his mind bounced all over the place. He remembered a drug smuggler he had nailed a couple of years ago. The guy called the cash, ‘Happy Tickets’. So many happy tickets in one place, just sitting there, almost vibrating with potential.

“So, Bachman,” he said. He waited. A voice in his head answered, “So? Bachman?”

“So?” he whispered in a voice filled with conflict, anger, and despair.

Again the voice in his head answered, “So?”

He stared at the boxes, and sighed.


He called the dispatcher on his radio, told her his location, and requested a Shift Commander contact him by radio, then meet him there. He would tell the Shift Commander to call out the two or three bank employees they had used on other deals, and their money counting machines. They would need uniformed guys…one for each box, one for the briefcase. They would need Crime Scene, for the photos. The case and boxes would be weighed, and photographed, and every banded stack of bills marked, dated, and initialed. The integrity of the chain-of-evidence would be carefully maintained. The Chief would be called, and the Public Information Officer would be on hand to answer to the media. It would take hours. It would be a total, gold-plated, ball-busting, Olympian, pain-in-the-ass.


He used the other radio to contact the DEA boss, told him to come to this house, pronto.

“Why?” asked the DEA supervisor, irritated, busy, “That’s the last house, right? The small house?” Before Bachman could answer, the agent said, “What? Okay? Sergeant Bachman…one of my agents told me not to worry about your narc officer and my agent that was with him. They managed to stop a pickup truck that fled from your scene with two suspects, but, uh…they’re not sure they are suspects, uh, might just be neighbors. Anyway…they’ll be heading back to you shortly.” He paused, “What did you need, Sergeant Bachman? Arrest anybody over there?”

Bachman counted to five, took a breath, and replied into the radio, “No sir, no arrests. No contraband here either.” He paused, then said, “We got money, though…lots of money.”

“Money?” came the voice of the DEA boss, “Money? Funny money, foreign money? Monopoly money? What?”

Shut up, piss-ant, thought Bachman, but he answered, “Just money, okay? Plain old cash, the old-fashioned, beaucoup-trouble kind of cold, hard, serious cash money.”

“Who is there with you?” asked the DEA supervisor, his administrator-bureaucrat mind already hard at work.     

“Fuck you,” said Bachman.


*                                         *                                      *


Bachman got home the next morning as the gray turned to orange-gold, a few minutes before Penny’s alarm went off. She would take Chrissy to school in about an hour. He let himself in the front door quietly, balanced on first one leg, then the other while he wrestled the cowboy boots off, and lay his Sig-Saur carefully on the night table beside their bed. His back ached, his head pounded, and he felt tired to the marrow of his bones. He also felt a lightness, like a freedom of some kind, but wrote it off to fatigue. He stood over Penny, staring at her as she slept, her hair tousled and flung across the pillow. God, she was lovely. He bent and softly kissed her on one ear.

“Hmmm?” she said.

He tiptoed out of the room, went to Chrissy’s room, and looked in at her. She slept also, hands on her chest, face angelic in repose. He turned away, and as he crossed the living room again he stopped in front of a framed photo of his other children, Brian and Becky. He held the photo, stared at it, and nodded. He glanced to where he had set his car keys and radio. Saw the yellow newspaper-like monthly publication he had picked up at an all-night newsstand on the way home. It was a boat-trading magazine, with listings and photos from all over the area.

He had decided to sell the bass boat.

He began to strip as he headed for a hot shower. He wanted to wash away the night, and there might even be time to wake up Penny, the best way.










The big cop got out of his cruiser slowly and stood by the open door, one hand resting on the window frame as he surveyed the scene in front of him.

It was the scene of a drowning.

“Hey, Snyder,” called a plainclothes detective standing with spread legs near the edge of a sluggish and dirty canal. The water was almost black, gooey thick with mud and weeds, and dotted here and there with trash, including a couple of old tires and what looked like a rusty refrigerator. And the body, of course. The victim. “You still out pushin’ that black-and-white around with all the years you got on this frigging job? You’re gonna retire in a few years aren’t ya? Why don’t you take a desk job or somethin’…so you don’t have to come to these fucking toilet bowl scenes?”

Precisely, thought Snyder, but he just shrugged.

“Well,” continued the detective, “You still look good in uniform, I’ll say that for ya.” The detective moved his garish tie with one hand while he patted his own swelling gut, and grinned. He stopped grinning when he jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the body in the water. “And what are ya doin’ over here at this floater? It’s not even in your zone. Did you take a Missing Person report or something?”

“I came over to contaminate the scene, Dunphy,” replied Snyder.

“Whatever,” said the detective.


Snyder felt as if his feet were rooted to the wet grass. His chest tightened, his jaw clenched, and he looked at the body in the water. It appeared to be dressed in jeans, and a bit of white t-shirt was visible under the water. It floated bottom-side up as they do. He knew a body sinks to the bottom at first, then, as the natural decomposition begins, the body expands, and comes bobbing to the surface after about twelve hours.

Where was he twelve hours ago? Snyder asked himself. It’s been twice that long since I last saw him.

He watched for a moment as the other cops on the scene did their jobs. Yellow ‘Crime Scene’ tape was strung, photographs were taken, one detective measured the distance from the paved road to the edge of the water, and one walked slowly along the edge of the canal, searching. He saw Dunphy pull a telescoping rod from the trunk of an unmarked unit. Here we go, he thought.

He watched as the detective stood with his polished loafers at the very edge of the canal and leaned forward a bit as he lay the rod out toward the body. Using a small hook at the end of the rod, the detective snagged the back of the jeans, and pulled. Smoothly, the body slid backwards through the water. As it came against the canal edge pushing the curve of a small wave before it, the legs extended, and dirty white sneakers could be seen on the feet. The shoulders, and then the head, wafted to the surface briefly with the movement. It was a male, with medium length dark brown hair.


Snyder ran one hand through his own graying hair, which had been dark brown when Kyle was born. His fingers trembled, and he felt their skittish tattoo on his scalp. Kyle has shoes like that, he thought. His chest tightened even more, and his breathing became shallow. Kyle has jeans, Kyle has white t-shirts. Kyle hates me.

“Oh, sheeeit!” said one of the other cops as Dunphy, rubber gloves on his hands, grabbed the victims ankles and pulled hard enough for the body to slide half out of the water, up onto the dirt and wet stringy grass. The body made an obscene airy, bubbling sound, and the entire area was engulfed in that poison-sweet cloying smell of death.

Snyder was unaware of the smell. His entire being was focused on the body’s dark brown hair. The hair was not cut straight across, but tapered on the neck. Kyle’s hair was tapered too.

“You gonna wait for the Medical Examiner before you pull him all the way out, Dunphy?” asked another detective.

“We’ll be sitting here all frigging day waiting for that canoe-maker,” answered Dunphy, “I just want to get a look at the face, and the front of him.” He shrugged, “If there’s no trauma this piece-of-shit might just be an accidental drowning…”


Not the face. Not the face, thought Snyder. He had spoken to Kyle yesterday, quite by chance. He had gone into a convenience store for a soda, and Kyle was at the counter. He was a good-       looking kid, almost as tall as his dad, but with the fine sculpted features of his mother. Kyle had been paying for a bag of chips and an energy drink. Snyder had grinned, and asked, “That your power lunch, Kyle?” Oh, hey, Dad, Kyle could have said. Yeah…you know me, always worrying about a balanced meal. How are you, Dad? What’s goin’ on? Everything okay at work? That new apartment working out? Mom was talking about you the other day. But he didn’t say those things. He had barely turned his head, smirked, and said tightly, “So what are you, Snyder, the nutrition police now? Gonna throw kids in the tank for not eating right?”

“How are you, Kyle?” Snyder had tried, “How’s your mom? What are you…”

“I’m just peachy, Snyder,” Kyle had responded as he pocketed his change and grabbed his chips and drink, “Mom is peachy, too. See ya.” He had brushed past, swung open the doors, and walked out. Snyder had stood there, a cold hand gripping his chest, so he didn’t see whether Kyle got into a car, or walked, or was with anyone else, or…anything. Kyle, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, was gone.

“Teenagers,” said the heavy-set woman behind the counter who had seen the exchange, “Mine are grown and out of the house now, thank God, but they were a real pain in the butt for a while.”

Kyle is sixteen, thought Snyder, And he’s not really a pain in the butt. He just hates me.

     Snyder watched as Dunphy pulled the body further up onto the bank of the canal, then turned him over to lay face-up, staring at the bleak sky with slitted eyes.

Is it Kyle? Thought Snyder. Is it Kyle, is it Kyle? He leaned over the backs of the detectives, and forced his eyes onto the bloated, bluish-purple face, with its doughy mouth and hideous tongue. Kyle?

“Anybody know this guy?” asked Dunphy in a bored voice, “Recognize him from anywhere, any case we’re working? Is he a local, I can’t tell?” He looked over his shoulder, saw Snyder swaying behind him, and said, “You? Snyder? You run across this kid anywhere? Know who he is?” He stared at Snyder a moment, then added, “You okay, Snyder? You look like you’re gonna have the big one. Don’t even think about taking a dive at one of my fucking crime scenes, got it? You act like you’ve never seen floater before, and this one’s not even very ripe…”


Snyder just shook his head, put one hand up, palm out, and backed away. He made it to his patrol car on shaky legs, and drove off. Kyle hates me, he thought, But that wasn’t Kyle. He was washed in a wave of relief, then dread. It was someone’s son, though, he thought as he drove, Someone’s son. But not Kyle.


*                                                   *                                           *


He had a favorite photograph of Kyle, taken when his son was six years old. It was framed, and sat on a small bookshelf in his new apartment. It was his favorite because it showed Kyle at a time when the boy thought his father was…good. His father was a police man, and went out at night with a gun, and fought the bad guys. His father laughed a lot with his mother, and they were always hugging and stuff. His father was very tall, and strong, and smart, and he knew things. The boy wanted to be like his father…strong, and smart, and good. The photograph showed young Kyle sitting on the hood of a police car, his dad’s hat covering most of his head, his dad’s official police flashlight in his small hands.


There had been no more children after Kyle. It had been a difficult pregnancy, and Trish said it had forever changed her to carry Kyle. But Snyder didn’t mind about more children, and apparently neither did Kyle. His parents doted on him, of course, and he received all of their attention as the only child. He had grown strong, and smart, a good student, liked by his teachers and his friends. A good son. Snyder took him hiking and fishing, and to outdoor sportsman shows. Trish took him to the library, and art fairs. They sat together at the dinner table when Snyder worked days or midnights, and when Snyder came home at the end of afternoon shift he always looked in on his son to give him a goodnight kiss. Life through those years, seemed simple to Snyder…simple because they seemed to be exactly what they were supposed to be. Snyder had a wife who seemed to like him most of the time, and he had a son who loved him, looked up to him, and thought he was…good.


Snyder remembered actually walking up to Trish and putting the back of his fingers on her forehead as she stood there in her pajamas and bare feet. He thought she might have a fever. “I need some time,” she had said, “I feel claustrophobic in our relationship, like my life is completely dominated by what you are and what you do. I need time and space to find out who I am, and Kyle needs to be away from your world so he can see that there is another world out there, a world beyond cops and robbers. Haven’t you noticed how he is turning away from you, from what you represent? Haven’t you noticed how closed he is to you, how resentful? I think if we do this now you might have a chance to save your relationship with him.” She had stepped back, looked into his eyes, and added, “Please don’t fight me on this, okay? I need this. We need this.”


He had been aware of what was going on with Kyle over the last year or so, of course. The teenage Kyle wanted to spend less and less time with his father. The teenage Kyle could barely answer his dad in a sullen, monosyllabic tone, and retreated to his room, cellphone, and the computer at every chance. The teenage Kyle seemed to look upon his dad with barely concealed disdain, and sat in cold silence when in the car with him. As it happened, Snyder had been working lots of “details” for extra pay during those years. Trish had wanted improvements to the house. She wanted a better car, and her degree at college. She wanted Kyle to have braces for his teeth. So Snyder worked long hours, and his son became a teenager who grew more distant with every conversation. Once, a few months before Trish’s announcement, Snyder had tried to engage Kyle in a conversation that might break through the wall. He had only begun when Kyle had interrupted him. “Look, Snyder,” the boy had said with balled fists. Snyder still wasn’t sure why he was no longer called ‘Dad’, but he let it go in the hope that at least Kyle called him something. “You don’t get it, okay? You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am or what I’m trying to be. My friends think you’re like part of some stupid Gestapo machine stomping around interfering with people’s lives and sticking your nose into things you’ll never comprehend. Mom is doing more and more things without you, and you act like you don’t even care. All you do is go off with your cop buddies to ‘fight crime’…and mom is going in another direction. She is your woman, but she’s not with you, Snyder. Me…I’m just playing the game here, okay? School sucks, my life sucks, everything sucks…so leave me alone. Don’t try to be my friend, or anything else.”  My ‘woman’, he had thought. But why does everything suck, Kyle? Why does it suck? His son had turned his back and headed for his bedroom before Snyder could ask.


He had simply said, “Okay, Trish,” in response to his wife’s declaration. He had said “Okay, Trish,” because he quite simply had no other words. His brain, his heart, his very being, stood frozen and uncomprehending, lost, gone, struck dumb. She had, without any perceived warning, hit him with an impossible scenario: Life without Trish. Life without Kyle. He was immediately stupid, immediately outside of his own life. There were no hysterics, no scenes. They went through it with a sort of forced and delicate civility. He moved out. She would, she told him, give it some time. Then she would probably file. He had simply nodded, and said, “Okay, Trish.”


*                                               *                                         *


Two weeks after the body in the water, Snyder arrived on the scene that included two bodies in a car. The car, a small foreign sedan, red in color, had a comically compressed look as it rested against the side of a steel industrial dumpster. From the headlights to the rear door posts the car was folded like a cartoon accordion. Snyder could see the skid marks from the tires where the vehicle left the roadway, barreled across an empty parking lot, and impacted the dumpster head-on. Snyder parked his patrol unit off to the side of a nearby building, took a deep breath, got out, and walked toward the scene. Other cops were already there, and an ambulance. But the Emergency Medical Techs with the ambulance stood under tree across the street, smoking and joking. No need for their services, other than to transport the bodies of the deceased after the cops were done. No one paid Snyder any attention as he approached the car. Kyle didn’t have a car, he thought, certainly not a red car…unless Trish got him one without saying anything, but that couldn’t happen because Trish would be all over me to pay for it and the stupid insurance. He paused, hesitant to get too close. Friends. What about a friend of Kyle’s with a small red car. I don’t know any of Kyle’s friends, with cars or without. “Dammit,” he said.


The airbags had deployed at the time of impact, he saw. They apparently had functioned as designed, but the laws of physics…speed, weight, pounds of pressure at impact…had reduced them to flaccid bibs, impotent, useless. Snyder focused on the driver. He appeared to be young, lean, and black. He wore a hooded yellow sweatshirt, and his hands were actually behind his ears as he gripped the remains of the steering wheel. Kyle had black friends, he remembered, Kyle had black friends and had accused Snyder of being a racist because Snyder had asked him about them. Did they play ball? Were they in some of the same classes as Kyle? What did they do when they hung out together? The conversation had become vicious when Snyder mentioned off-handedly that he had arrested one of Kyle’s friends a couple of months before. The Dean of Boys had called after the kid was found with a small baggie of grass. Snyder took him to the Juvenile Intake Center, did the paperwork, and that had been it. He had only mentioned it to Kyle to…check. To see if Kyle knew if the kid had grass, to see if Kyle smoked. Kyle had gone off on him, of course. He was a racist, targeting black kids because they were black and the dumbass cops thought all black guys played basketball and smoked weed. Snyder had not said anything about basketball, nor did he try to explain to Kyle that he arrested everybody for everything, all the time. He was pretty sure he arrested more Caucasians than African Americans on a monthly basis, but didn’t even try to explain it to Kyle. Kyle had black friends.


He walked slowly over to the passenger side of the ruined car. The passenger was a white male. Shit, Kyle is a white male. He took a breath, shook his head, and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his fists. “Take it easy, Snyder,” he said quietly. He looked again. The white male sat back in the car’s seat, his head thrown back, neck stretched. The windshield was completely broken out, and shattered pieces littered the scene. They also littered what had been the face of the passenger. Snyder reconstructed the horrific split seconds in his mind…shoulders and upper torso punching through the airbag, arms flying up, face and head driving through the exploding windshield, then whipping back into the seat, shards and crumbs of glass dusted across the bloodied body. Bye-bye, just like that. The white male was dressed in a black long-sleeved t-shirt, and had brown hair. Black long sleeve t-shirt? Kyle has one. Brown hair? Yep. Snyder bent closer to study the face. Kyle?


Under the film of blood, the face seemed to have a pasty complexion. Snyder bent closer, and took a good, long look. He smelled what he took to be cologne, but did not recognize the scent. Kyle wore cologne. Snyder had made a joke about it one morning, when Kyle seemed to be awash in it. The joke did not go over well. Look at the face, Snyder, is it him? After careful study, Snyder determined that the dead man’s face at one time was composed of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Beyond that was impossible to imagine. The guy seemed to have a lot of pretty good teeth, though. Snyder pulled back, and as he did he saw the dead man’s right hand. The hand was at a right angle to the wrist, and across the knuckles were faded bluish letters: H-A-T-E. It was a jailhouse tattoo. Kyle hasn’t been to jail, and he has no tattoos. Snyder turned away, looked back, and sighed. “That’s not Kyle,” he said quietly. As he walked back to his squad car, he thought, It’s somebody’s son…but not mine.


*                                            *                                           *


“Kyle has a girlfriend,” said Trish with a small laugh, “Seems nice enough. Quiet.” Another laugh, “Britanny is her name. Full-bodied young woman, if you know what I mean…”

“That’s great,” said Snyder, with forced levity, “It’ll be good for him…let the games begin.” He really didn’t know what to say, or how to say it, when he spoke with Trish now. She had called him to talk about “things”. He wished they had met for coffee or something, rather than a stupid telephone call. He wanted to watch he eyes, look at her lips as she formed the words.

“I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things,” said Trish.

He waited.

“Another one of Kyle’s friends was caught with a little grass. It wasn’t a cop, thank goodness, or the school, it was the kid’s dad. Imagine that evening around the ol’ dinner table.” She paused, and he imagined sitting at the dinner table with Trish and Kyle, and being a dad. “Do you think Kyle is doing it? Drugs? I mean probably grass…right?”

He didn’t know how to respond. After a pause, he tried, “Well, he’s a teenager, and he’s in that atmosphere with his…”

Exactly,” interrupted Trish, “It’s not like he’s out there in the night like the Lone Ranger, getting high and doing crazy stuff. He’s with his friends, and it’s not uncommon now, the grass, I mean, not like he’s…”

“Have you spoken with him about it, Trish?”

“I’ve tried,” she took a deep breath, “But he acts like he doesn’t even want to be around me. I mean, like every one of our conversations is done on the fly…I’m talking, and he’s moving right on past me, either to his room, or out the door.”

“I’ll try to talk to him, Trish.” He said. When, he thought, When will I talk to Kyle?

“Okay.” Trish hesitated, then said in a soft voice, “I’m, uh, I’m seeing someone. I met him at work. He’s not a cop. He’s very laid-back, easy going…pleasant…”

All the things you’re not, Snyder, he thought. Then, even though he tried to stop it, came more. Seeing him. Seeing him. Seeing him naked? Seeing him aroused? Seeing him with his pleasant face between your thighs? Seeing him push his erect but laid-back self against your lips? Seeing him on top of you? The images came into his mind, and he held the phone away from his ear as he violently shook his head.

“I’m telling you about him so you won’t hear it from somebody, or see us somewhere, and get blindsided, okay?” she said. The tone of her voice said, It’s okay, right? You understand…right?

“Okay, Trish,” he said, and hung up the phone.


*                                                 *                                        *


Snyder talked with Kyle, and the boys’ new friend, Britanny, the next day. He was on his way into the donut shop, they were on their way out. Kyle had stopped to hold the door for her, and Snyder saw how the girl smiled at his son. Kyle and Britanny held some kind of iced coffee drinks, with colored straws. Snyder always felt like a caricature going into a donut shop, like, of course I’m going into a donut shop. He locked eyes with his son, and for one agonizing moment he thought the boy was going to just brush past him again. But he stopped, and they stood there on the sidewalk. “You must be Kyle’s dad,” said the girl with a smile as she looked at Snyder’s name pin on his uniform shirt, “I’m Britanny.” She wore a polo shirt, sandals, and jeans with patches on the knees. She had long auburn hair, brushed out shiny and full. She did indeed have a very female body.

“It’s nice to meet you, Britanny,” said Snyder.

“Snyder,” said Kyle, his face tight, defensive.

You think I’m going to do or say something stupid now, don’t you Kyle, thought Snyder. “Kyle,” he said. They walked off arm-in-arm, and he watched them go.


*                                               *                                           *


Two nights after seeing Kyle at the donut shop, Snyder was dispatched to a “Suspicious Incident” call. A gas station manager found the outside bathroom door ajar, but could not get it open. He thought someone might be sleeping inside. Snyder parked his squad and got out, flashlight in hand.

“It’s the goddamned homeless jerks, and the druggies,” said the manager in way of greeting. He was a short chubby man in neat khakis. His thinning black hair was heavy with oil and brushed back over his round skull. “I chase ‘em away, does no good,” he went on with a shrug, “Always wanting a handout, always wanting to use the bathroom, always making a mess.” He walked beside Snyder as they approached the bathroom. “Don’t know how anybody could sleep in that bathroom,” he said, “Half the time there’s piss all over the floor.”

Snyder allowed the man a professional grunt of commiseration.


The door was open about one inch. It was a metal door, once painted white to match the side of the building. The wall was spotted and grimy now, so the door still matched. A spill of dirty yellow light sliced out from inside. Snyder rapped on the door with his flashlight. He pushed on the door, and said loudly, “Hey in there! Look alive! Wake up! The cops are here!” No sound came from inside. “Helloooo,” said Snyder, “Let’s go, sleepyhead…”

He listened. No sound.

“Shit,” grunted Snyder as he put his left shoulder against the door and leaned his weight against it. The door pushed against something inside that yielded and inch or so, then pushed back. Snyder leaned harder. This time the door opened enough for him to get his right eye past the frame. He could see legs, scuffed sneakers, ripped jeans. “Shit,” he said again.

“What?” asked the manager.

Again the voice inside Snyder’s head asked him, beseeched him. Is it him? Is it Kyle? He bit his lip, spread his feet apart, and leaned with all his weight against the door. It was a body on the floor, he knew. A dead body. And the weight of that body was holding the door shut. He grunted, heaved, and managed to push the door far enough for him to turn his shoulders and squeeze inside. He looked down on a young white guy with dark hair dressed in ripped jeans, scuffed sneakers, and a faded blue t-shirt. A young dark-haired white guy like Kyle, who often wore clothes that looked like that, but who rarely slept…or died…on a piss-covered gas station bathroom floor. The guy was dead, and Snyder could see exactly what had killed him. Around his left arm, just above the elbow, the guy had cinched a length of surgical tubing. The hypodermic needle remained stuck into the bluish-gray vein. The bent spoon and bottle-cap cooker lay in the piss beside him. He had shot whatever drug he had cooked down into his vein, put his head back, stretched open his mouth to show his broken and blackened teeth, and died. The guy had squeezed out one tear as he died, and the track of it left a faint trail on his left cheek. Snyder bent close, studied the face, and was hit with the combined smell of the urine on the floor and the mess in the guy’s jeans, and fought the urge to gag. That is not the face of Kyle, he told himself, It is the face of a sad and stupid death, a death of piss and tears and loose bowels and lost chances…but it is not Kyle.


The air he drew into his lungs when he forced his way out of the bathroom was sweet and clean. His head pounded, and his eyes watered. He ignored the barrage of questions coming at him from the gas station manager, and thought, It is someone’s son…but not my Kyle.


*                                    *                                    *


A few days after the call with the dead guy in the bathroom, Snyder was on patrol in a quiet residential neighborhood. It was a little past nine o’clock in the evening, the radio quiet, very little traffic. Snyder daydreamed as he drove, thinking about the early years with Trish, the early years with Kyle. He tried to remember the words to that old Jim Croce tune about time in a bottle. Brake lights caught his eye, and movement in the street a half block in front of him. The brake lights were on a small car, and they kept coming on, then shutting off, as if the driver was rolling forward, then stopping. As he got closer he saw the movement in the street was a person, a girl, beside the car. She seemed to be pulling away from the passenger. He sped up.


As he rolled up on the scene, Snyder could see three males in the car, a small silver Japanese sedan. All three males had ball caps on, and the passenger was half out of the side window, grabbing for a teenage girl, who was slapping at his hands. “No!” she cried out, “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” Snyder heard only one word come from the inside of the car, “Bitch!”

He flipped on his red and blue lights, and hit one quick burst of the siren. He saw the driver look in the side mirror, the other two turn in their seats to stare at the police cruiser behind them. The girl stepped to the side of the street. Snyder expected the driver to take off, and had his thumb on the radio transmitter button clipped to his uniform shirt. But the driver stopped in the middle of the road, and waited. Snyder advised the dispatcher of his location, asked for a back-up unit, and got out of his car, flashlight in his left hand.


“Driver,” he said as he cautiously approached the left rear side of the small call, “Shut the engine off.” He kept an eye on the other two. “Good. Now get out your DL and registration.” He saw how all three occupants of the car, teenagers, now sat staring straight ahead, and he added, “Take the keys out of the ignition, and give them to me with your DL.” Again he thought they might rabbit, but after a moment’s hesitation, the driver complied. “Fine. Now, sit tight.” Snyder turned as another police cruiser pulled behind his, and he saw the driver, a fairly new cop named Munoz, walk up. “Wanna check ID’s on these guys, Munoz?” he directed, “I’m gonna talk to this young lady to see what I’ve got here.”

The young cop nodded and went to the car.


The young girl was Britanny, Kyle’s new friend. She wore black slacks, a blue polo shirt, and sandals. She had been crying.

“Do you remember me, Britanny?” asked Snyder.


“What’s happening here? Why are you out tonight? Are you with these guys?”

The girl began to cry again, softly, and shook her head. When she did not speak, but kept looking over at the guys in the car, Snyder had her follow him back to his cruiser, and let her sit in the front seat. When he got in behind the wheel, he asked again, “Britanny. What’s going on?”

The girl ran her fingers through her hair, bit her lip, then began.


Kyle had been to her house for a couple of hours after dinner, sitting with her while she did her homework, listening to music, and “just hanging around”. Just before nine her dad had come into the living room and said Kyle had to go home. It was a school night, and it was getting late. Kyle got right up, but it made her mad…her dad treating her like a little kid. Kyle had thanked her dad, she said, and shook his hand as he left. She was pretty sure her dad even liked Kyle, she said. After Kyle was gone she had yelled at her dad…about being treated like a kid…and her dad had said something about her acting like one, then turned and went into the kitchen. She had decided to “go for a walk” without telling him, and quietly left the house. She was upset, her mind was all over the place, and she just wanted to think. She had not even made it around the block when these guys in the small silver car drove past. They saw her, backed up, and drove beside her slowly while she walked and tried to ignore them. Then they began to get sort of not nice, and the one was grabbing at her. They wanted her to get into the car with them, and they were going to “make her very happy”. She had pulled away once, and then the passenger grabbed at her again and called her a bad name. Then she saw the flashing lights.

“What do you think they wanted you in the car for,Brittany?” asked Snyder quietly.

“Sex,” she answered just as quietly, “But I’m not…I mean…I, uh…”

“You are lovely,” said Snyder, “You are good, a good person, and not a person who is just going to jump into a car with three guys like that, right?”

She nodded.

“You are good. You are my son Kyle’s friend, and you have a dad who loves you.”

“I know,” she replied.

“Do you know these guys in the car?”



The boy in the passenger seat had an active failure-to-appear warrant for a minor drug violation. Munoz took him into custody. Snyder spent ten minutes with the other two in what might be considered an educational exercise. He made sure they understood how happy he’d be to see them again, then told them to leave. They drove off, nice and easy.

He knew what she’d want before they got there, and he nodded when she asked.

He pulled the cruiser quietly to the curb a half block from her house. She gave his right hand a quick squeeze as she got out, and he watched her all the way to her front door and inside.


*                                                   *                                           *


“So you’re not really just a Gestapo cop, going around hassling people for no reason and busting kids for breaking bogus laws, huh, Dad?”

Snyder wasn’t sure what Kyle meant, but he saw the shy smile on his son’s face, and realized the boy was talking to him. Dad. He nodded. He had just put his gear into his assigned cruiser, out in the parking lot behind the station. He was beginning another shift, and Kyle had approached as he slid behind the wheel. Someone must have let him out the back door of the building.

“Britanny told me what you did,” said Kyle, “She said those guys were assholes…I mean, she didn’t call them that…she said she was sort of nervous, uh, scared. She said you came along just in time, and that you were real cool about dropping her off and all…”

“She’s a nice girl, Kyle,” he said. He shrugged, and added, “Maybe those clowns were just going to hassle her, or maybe it might have turned serious…don’t know. Sometime’s we are actually in the right place at the right time.”

“Yeah,” replied Kyle. He looked at his father, then looked away. He took a breath, and said, “She think’s you’re a good guy.”

Neither one knew what to say next.

After a moment, Snyder asked, “How’s your mom, Kyle?”

The boy grimaced, shook his head, and said, “I guess she’s okay, Dad. She’s got a new friend…she told me she already told you about him…”

“Yeah. She did.” Snyder didn’t know if this was the time he was supposed to go into a big speech about how Kyle should show respect to his mother’s new man, how Kyle should accept him because his mother wanted to be with him and blah, blah, blah. He left it.

“The guy’s a total dork,” said Kyle. “Not like you at all.”

I’ll take it, thought Snyder.

“I gotta go, Dad.”


“Thanks for what you did, with Britanny, I mean,” said his son. He turned away, then stopped, and added, “Maybe we should go have a burger or somethin’ once in a while, Dad. You could give me great advice which I’ll mostly ignore, and I’ll tell you about all the cool things I’m doing that you’re too old to do anymore.”

“Sounds great, son,” replied Snyder.

Sounds great, son.


*                                             *                                        *


One week later. One hour until end-of-shift. Bad coffee and stale donuts spread out on the hood of one of four patrol cruisers in a back alley. The dispatcher breaks into the flying bullshit with a call: A body of a man has been found near the train tracks on the west side of town. The train has stopped, but it is unknown at this time if the man was hit by the train.

“Oh, man,” said Munoz as he gulped the last of his coffee and got his car keys off his belt, “This I gotta see. Coming, Snyder?”

“Nope,” said Snyder.
















Split-tail Heart




The bony fist was hard, scarred, knuckly, tattooed, and accelerating toward Officer Kelly Scott’s pretty face. She didn’t see it coming, concentrating instead on trying to keep a grip on a skinny elbow without applying too much pressure. She intended to bend the arm around behind the struggling man’s back, then handcuff him without having to hurt him. The suspect was an old alcoholic street-person who had been arrested many times in the past. He had tried to walk out of a convenience store with a bottle of cheap wine, and had fought with the manager. The police were called and arrived in time to see the man standing in the parking lot, screaming foul epithets at the front of the store and a few curious bystanders. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Officer Kelly Scott tried to calm the man using verbal skills, or verbal judo, as she had been taught, but he would have none of it. After he turned from her and kicked the door of the police cruiser, she decided to take him into custody. She struggled with him now, saying in an officious tone as she did, “Sir, sir, stop resisting…stop resisting!”


The man’s fist was only two inches from Officer Scott’s nose when it smacked into the open palm of Scott’s partner, Officer Mel Dawson. Dawson’s long fingers wrapped around the bony fist, held it a moment, then began to tighten and twist at the same time. The suspect felt the instant crushing pain, squealed as he went up onto his toes, and then fell to the pavement with a thud as Dawson swept his legs out from under him. Before he could react further, Scott rolled him onto his belly and cuffed his hands behind his back. She blew her blond hair from her brow, and said in a tight voice, “Why did you try to hit me? Why?”

“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’,” cried the man as spit covered his chin, “You dyke bitches hurt me…you hurt me…”

Officer Mel Dawson hitched her uniform pants, bent her long legs, and squatted beside the man. She leaned close to his left ear, and said easily, “Now is the time for you to remain silent, Stainer, keep it shut, understand? If you say anything like that again, or if you start running your mouth on the way to jail, I will pull you out of the back of my car and beat you till you piss your pants, got it? I will beat you until you call for the mother you never had, you worthless, bubbling piece of shit.” She stared at him, her gaze level and cold, and added softly, “Nod your head if you understand.”

He nodded.


Almost one hour later, after their suspect had been booked into jail, Scott and Dawson were back on patrol. Dinnertime traffic was beginning to thin slightly, and the radio was fairly quiet. Scott drove the police cruiser, while Dawson rode shotgun. They had been partnered for two days, and Scott had been pleased and surprised when Dawson let her drive. Kelly Scott was not quite one year out of the academy, still a rookie in many ways. Mel Dawson was a veteran with over ten years on the road, almost all of it in a patrol car. Dawson had a reputation for being a no-nonsense professional, respected by the others on her shift for the way she handled herself. While she drove, Scott glanced at her partner, and thought about her. Dawson was tall, with an athletic build and straight dark brown hair worn short. It wasn’t “butch” short, reflected Scott, but sort of…utilitarian? The short hair framed a strong face, with big brown eyes, a long nose, and a wide mouth. If Dawson wore makeup, Scott couldn’t see it. She had long arms, big hands, and tanned skin. Dawson wore her tailored uniform well; neat, military, and groomed. Her leather gun-belt, equipment, and weapon were used but well-cared for. She carried herself with a loose confidence, a physical presence that seemed relaxed, but with a discernable readiness underneath. Kelly Scott had heard the other rookie officers talk about Dawson, had heard the muttered jibes, the stupid, sophomoric remarks about her personal proclivities. The things they said intrigued Scott, rather than put her off, and she was secretly very pleased to be teamed with the veteran.


Mel Dawson stared out the side window of the cruiser, and thought about her new partner, Kelly Scott. She knew already what Lou would say about the sweet little rookie girl cop, could hear it. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Lou would say, “That is trouble up walking around on great legs, oh yeah.” Unconsciously, Dawson nodded. Lou would be right, of course. Officer Kelly Scott was a little bit of primo baby cop, nice tight nubile body, good legs, small breasts. Probably played volleyball or soccer in high school, not quite the cheerleader type, with stylish corn-silk blond hair, pretty little prom queen face, small hands, big green eyes. Open and friendly, but not bubbly, thank God. Dawson sighed. She’d been told a bit about Scott by the sergeant when he gave her the news of their partnering-up. Scott did well in the academy, had no complaints against her during her probation period, good ratings by her Field Training Officers. Had the right look for the new world of police work, the right personality. Never late, looked sharp, did her job, Scott was destined to become “one of the good ones”. Dawson had the feeling the sergeant was selling Scott a bit too hard, but let it pass. She took the last shot of advice from the sarge, also without commenting. “You already know what they’ll be saying, Dawson,” said the sergeant as he shuffled some papers in his hands, not looking at her, “About you and another female riding together, I mean. It’s just the guys, you know? Cops. Let it slide, let it roll off, ignore it, okay? Anyway, she’s got a boyfriend who works for the Sheriff’s Office, met him in the academy I’m told, so what can they say, right? Work with her, let her learn from you. I think it will be a good match. Okay?” Dawson hung on to the door handle of the cruiser as Scott took a turn a little too fast. “Go easy, Kelly, it’s gonna be a long shift,” she said in a friendly tone. The younger officer nodded, and chewed her lip. Dawson heard the sergeant’s words again, and thought, Whatever. She thought of Lou, and sighed.     


Their next call sent them into a residential district, and the dispatcher had their complete attention long before they arrived at the small, neatly-kept home. A child was missing, a four year old girl. When they pulled into the drive they saw several neighbors on the street, teenagers on bicycles, old people standing in doorways, staring. The sergeant was on the radio, admonishing Dawson and Scott to determine what they had, what they needed, pronto. Both parents, a couple in their late twenties, were emotional. The husband worked hard to put on a brave face, but the wife was in tears. Dawson took the wife into the kitchen, and motioned for Kelly to stay with the husband. After a few minutes they joined again in the living room.

“Okay,”Dawson said to Kelly, “Give the dispatcher the full description of Lauren, and go outside and tell the neighbors to begin looking around their own homes. We know Lauren was here, at the house, one hour ago, playing with her friend, Sissy. Sissy is home, does not know where Lauren went. We don’t have any reports of a stranger in the neighborhood, no suspicious vehicles, nothin’. Obviously this is not a divorce-custody thing, there was no argument or punishment scenario between Lauren and her parents. So let’s get some more units rolling this way, and begin.” Scott walked out of the house, speaking into her radio.

Turning to the parents, Dawson asked, “You searched the yard, all around the house, inside the house?” The man and woman looked at each other, and nodded. The sound of a helicopter could be heard overhead. “That’s ours,” said Dawson, “We’ll get a good search goin’, okay?” The young mother burst into tears. “Show me Lauren’s bedroom,” Dawson said to the dad. It was a small room, filled with hopes and dreams. Mickey, Winnie, Barney, and a myriad of other friendly faces stared at the big angular cop as she looked in the closet and under the bed. “You told me you were in the driveway working on your car,” Dawson said to the husband, “What was your wife doing?”

“Cooking,” answered the man as he ran his fingers through his hair. “She was cooking dinner. This is crazy…this is…what could have happened? We were all right here.”

The young wife walked in then, and her husband hugged her. “We looked everywhere, Officer,” said the wife, “It’s impossible she could have just disappeared like this. Sissy left, Lauren was watching TV, I was doing the laundry and trying to cook dinner…all normal. Nobody climbed into a window and took her or anything…right?”

Scott came in, and said, “Neighbors are looking around. I checked the shrubbery around the house. Nearest water, besides swimming pools, is a canal about three blocks away. I also checked the car in the driveway, including the trunk. She’s not there.”

“Lauren can swim good,” said the dad.


Without saying anything, Dawson walked out of the bedroom, across the living room, and headed for the kitchen. After a moment the others heard her call, “Hey…check this out.” Both parents, and Officer Scott hurried toward the kitchen. Dawson stood at a door at the far end of the kitchen, staring into the small utility room. The room was almost totally filled with a side-by-side washer and dryer, and in front of the dryer was a laundry basket filled with sheets.Dawsonlooked at the parents, gave a shrug, and pulled aside one of the sheets. It was still warm from the dryer, and nestled snugly in it and the rest of the fresh laundry was a little girl, sound asleep.

Lauren,oh my God,” cried the mom as she rushed to the doorway, brushing past Dawson, reaching out for the child.

The dad gave a funny, choking laugh, ran his hands through his hair, and turned this way and that in the kitchen, repeating, “I’ll be darned, I’ll be darned.”

Dawson looked at Scott, and pointed at her radio. Scott walked out of the house, calling off the troops.


A few minutes later, as they drove through the early evening, Scott asked Dawson, “So…how did you know?”

Dawson shrugged, hesitated, and replied, “Didn’t, really. You know we always begin any search inside the home first. She said something about the laundry, and…I don’t know…it triggered something in me.” She shook her head, “Ah, who knows? When I was a kid I used to love it when my mom did the sheets and towels, fresh, warm…comforting, you know?”

“You’re amazing,” said Scott as she drove.

“We got lucky,” said Dawson.

“I got lucky, when I was teamed with you,” answered Scott without turning her head.

Dawson said nothing, and thought about Lou.


*                                            *                                          *


The next afternoon,Dawson waited for Kelly Scott near their assigned patrol unit. Briefing was over, they had already loaded their gear, and it was time to get ten-eight. Kelly had been stopped by another cop, a young guy, close-cropped hair, lots of muscle and teeth, who had called out to her in the parking lot.Dawson knew the guy. He had only a few years on the job, was already on SWAT, a self-described “ass-kicker and name-taker”, a testosterone-driven hot-dog. She watched as the young guy and her partner had an animated conversation, with lots of smiles, gestures, and posturing. She thought Kelly could tone it down a bit as she watched the young woman arch her back, and was suddenly surprised at how the whole scene bothered her. Finally Kelly squeezed the guy’s forearm, and hurried to the car.


“Sorry ‘bout that, Mel,” said Scott as she buckled in behind the wheel, “Friggin’ guys on this department just don’t want to believe I’ve already got a boyfriend.” She backed out of the space, drove across the lot, told the dispatcher on her radio they were in service, and hit the street. She grinned at Dawson, and added, “But then again, some of these guys are definite hunks…”

“If you say so, Kelly,” said Mel.

Something in the tone of her partner’s voice made Scott pause. Then she asked, “What do you mean? Don’t you think some of them are attractive?”

“Doesn’t matter,” replied Dawson, looking out the side window at a man slumped on a nearby bus bench, “They might be the biggest studs anywhere, and they might actually be nice people too. But you don’t play where you work.” She decided the guy on the bench did not need to be checked out. They drove in silence for a few minutes, the radio chatter their background music.

“You don’t play where you work, Kelly,” she said again, “Hell, this is old news, an old truth, known to women in police work for years now.”

“What about you?” asked Kelly. She kept her eyes on the road, but she held her breath waiting for her partner’s answer.

“Do I play where I work?” respondedDawson.


“I have, yes,” said Dawson, aware her young partner really wanted to know. They turned a corner at a large intersection, merged with traffic, and headed downtown. She shrugged, “When I first came on the job, I had a couple of flings. Nothin’ serious. Those sort of hot and crazy things, mindlessly physical, where you can’t think of anything but getting it, you know?”

Kelly nodded, her mouth suddenly dry.

“But stupid,” said Dawson, “And since there are absolutely no secrets on any police department anywhere, eventually hurtful, diminishing, and costly.”


“Reputation. Standing among your peers. We are somehow reduced to a smallness when our bedroom business is known. It becomes part of your resume’, like the number of felony arrests you made last quarter, the number of citizen commendations you got, who you slept with…”

“But we’re young, and physical,” said Kelly, “And we’re out doing sometimes dangerous work, intense work, and hell…even cops need to be held once in a while.” She snorted, “It’s not like it’s friggin’ love, you know? It’s just a release, a physical touch, it’s…it’s…just sex…”

Dawson thought of Lou.


She was Louise, actually. Louise, who had a small picture framing business in one of the malls south of town, Louise who had not one damn thing to do with police work or cops. Louise who was slight and awkward, with slender hands, a long neck, and fine auburn hair she wore in a long ponytail. Louise who closed her eyes and tilted her face back when she kissed, but kept them open when she held you, searching your face, watching to see your eyes change. Louise who had almost no breasts, but perfect nipples, long arms, long slender legs, and fine skin. Louise who was so shy the first time she felt like a fluttery bird to Dawson, all the shades drawn to make the bedroom dark and private. Louise, who had been hers’ for seven years.


“Ten-four, enroute,” said Kelly into the radio with a rising voice as she made a sweeping u-turn and hit the accelerator.

Dawson had heard the call as it came, of course, and it shut her thoughts down. Robbery in progress, shots fired, one suspect still on the scene.

The scene was a convenience store located in the fringe area between a bad neighborhood and a really bad neighborhood. They slid into the parking lot to see a robbery squad unmarked car parked in the shadows of a huge tree at the edge of the lot, the passenger and driver’s doors open. As Dawson jumped out of the squad car she realized they were the first back-ups to arrive. Her gun was in her hand as she saw one plainclothes cop sitting on the sidewalk right in front of the glass doors of the store. His right side was crimson wet with blood. He sat with his left arm behind him to hold himself up, his right hand pressed against his hip. A few feet away lay what she figured to be his gun, a black automatic pistol, and just beyond that, a police radio.

“He’s hurt,” shouted Kelly Scott, “Oh my God…he’s hurt…” She came from around the front of their unit, her eyes wide. She looked down to pull her gun from its holster.

“Stop, Kelly!” yelled Dawson. She swept her right arm toward the right, “Move across the lot to the right side of the doors, I saw movement near the front counter!” She pressed the mic on her radio, and transmitted, “Officer down! Officer down! We need backups and EMS!” She saw Scott moving toward the right side of the glass doors, up against the wall of the building, while she ran in a crouch straight to the sidewalk and front wall of the store, left of the wounded cop.


Dawsonsaw the plainclothes cop’s grimace as he turned his ashen face toward her. “Been shot,” he said in a weirdly conversational voice, “I got the suspect, too, but he’s still armed, I think. See him by the counter? See him sitting there?”

“I see him,” replied Dawson. A young black guy knelt a few feet inside the glass doors, staring at her. He wore jeans and a gray t-shirt with a Jimi Hendrix likeness on the front. It was red with blood.

“Don’t know where my partner is,” continued the robbery cop, “He took off around back chasing the other suspect…”

“Where’s the clerk?” askedDawson, “Do we have a hostage deal here?”

The wounded cop shook his head. “She ran out,” he said, “Ran out right through all the shooting. Don’t know where she…went.”

Dawsoncould hear the sirens filling the air as other units raced toward them.

“What do we do, Mel?” called Kelly from her standing position on the other side of the glass doors, “What do we do?”

“Can you move, Nathan?” asked Dawson. She remembered him from his days in patrol. “I know you’ve been hit, but can you move? You’re sitting where he can still get a shot at you…”

“I know,” answered the other cop through gritted teeth, “But every time I try to move I feel like I’m gonna pass out, and…and that sonofabitch raises his gun at me…”

Dawson knew the cavalry was seconds away. Even if they held what they had it might turn out okay. But then the young black guy took that decision from her.

“He’s getting up!” shouted Kelly Scott, “He’s…he’s…gonna shoot!”


Dawson saw it unfolding, knew with a searing clarity what would happen in the next seconds if she didn’t act. Maybe the wounded young black guy thought he could shoot his way past them and escape. Maybe he figured he was already shot, was going to do life in prison for shooting a cop even if he lived, and didn’t care, or maybe it was suicide by cop. Didn’t matter. She lunged forward, still in a crouch, so her body was between the robbery cop and the young suspect. The glass doors separated them by four or five feet. She sensed her partner staring at her and shouting something, but remained focused on the black hand with the gun as it came up from the suspect’s side, came up steady, the black hole at the end of the barrel pointed into her eyes. Her own gun was up, up and bucking in her right fist. There was a roaring to her right, and she knew Kelly was shooting too. The image of the suspect crystallized, spider-webbed, then shattered as the glass doors disintegrated from the bullets punching through. The glass fell like a curtain of ice, exposing the young black suspect clearly as it did. He leaned forward, as if walking through hail, his body jerking, his left arm across his chest. His right arm was extended outward with the gun, and it jerked too, butDawsoncould not tell if he fired it within the splintering cacophonous seconds. Glass, concrete, potato chips, blood, soda, beer, and candy became instant shrapnel as the front of the store exploded. She felt the wounded cop’s forehead resting against her back as she watched the suspect, a troubled, faraway look on his face, sink slowly to his knees before toppling onto his left side in the carpet of broken glass. The gun slipped out of his quivering fingers, and he was still.


Dawson glanced to her right at Kelly, who leaned out from the edge of the wall in a two-handed firing position. The slide was back on her partner’s automatic pistol, indicating the weapon had expended all the rounds in the magazine. Kelly, her face bright red, her lips compressed into a sneer, her eyes wide and staring at her target, continued to squeeze the gun’s trigger. The tendons on her hands were stretched, and the gun wobbled and jumped as she grunted over and over again.

“Kelly!” shouted Dawson, “Officer Scott! Cease fire, stop!” She saw her partner turn and look at her, and added, “It’s okay, Kelly, it’s all done now…” She made her own weapon safe, and carefully slid it back into its holster on her belt. She knew she had fired three times. She noticed her hand trembled. “It’s all done now.”


A screeching, lurching, chaotic few minutes ensued as patrol units, robbery squad cars, supervisors, and the Emergency Medical trucks slammed into the small parking lot and street beyond.Dawson was surprised to see it was still the late afternoon, the sun was still out, the traffic beginning to build toward rush hour. People gawked in their cars, or jammed the sidewalks craning their necks to get a view. The wounded cop was swarmed by EMT’s, who cut his clothes away from his wound, which was in the fleshy area of his right hip, bandaged him, and hung an IV in one arm. Traffic on the street was halted as the big EMS truck sighed out of the lot enroute to the hospital. The wounded cop’s partner was located behind the store, bruised and scraped, the second suspect laying in the dirt and trash beside him, in handcuffs. A sergeant asked Dawson if she was all right, and she nodded. He pointed to the corner of the store, where Kelly Scott stood at the end of the sidewalk, retching into the dirt of a small alley.Dawson went to her.

“Hey, partner,” she said to the younger woman, “You did good. You did good. You okay now? It’s the nerves, that’s all, like an overdose of adrenalin.” She patted Kelly on the back, then used her fingers to brush the blond hair away from her forehead. “You’re okay now.”

Kelly nodded, and wiped her mouth with the back of her arm. “He wouldn’t fall down,” she said, “I couldn’t hear my gun shooting, but I knew I was shooting, and he wouldn’t fall down…he just stood there with his stupid gun…”

Dawson glanced at the front of the store. The glass doors were shattered, of course, and the metal frames were torn and holed. The front counter had several holes in it, and even the cash register looked like it had been hit. “But he did go down, Kelly,” she said quietly, “We got him, and it looks like Nathan is gonna be okay.”

Kelly shook herself, rubbed her face with the palms of her hands, managed a small smile, and said, “We got him.”


*                                                *                                           *


Dawson stood in the busy hubbub of the Emergency Room and watched Nathan’s wife, a chubby woman with a pretty face and puffy, styled hair, lean over and kiss her husband on his nose. Dawson and Scott had been on their way to the station to meet with the Detectives who would be handling the homicide investigation of the suspect, but were told by a supervisor to swing by the ER on their way in. When they got there they found the media troops were out in force, and had to shoulder their way inside, where they were greeted by many cops, on and off-duty. Most just wanted to be close to them a moment, to grin and say “Good job”. One of the older patrol veterans punched Dawson lightly on the arm and growled, “Did ya have to shoot the shit out of all that beer, and the chips and all?” A Captain walked by as they stood there, and said over his shoulder, “Twenty shell casings scattered in and around those glass doors, and the suspect was hit only five times?” Dawson said nothing, but the old cop next to her sniffed and said sotto voce’, “As if that prick ever fired his gun anywhere but on the qualifying range.”

Dawson wanted to get out of there. The reason they were told to stop by was because Nathan had already told his wife that Dawson had shielded him with her own body, and the woman wanted to thank her. It was an awkward moment for Dawson, who patted Nathan’s wife on the back as she cried and squeezed her in a sincere hug. She introduced Kelly Scott as her partner, making sure everyone knew Scott had been part of the outcome also. For her part, Kelly Scott seemed to like the attention, smiling bravely and nodding.Dawson was not surprised to see most of the guys lingered longer with Kelly, made good eye contact, held her hand, touched her cheeks as they congratulated and commiserated. They were always a bit stand-offish around Dawson, so she was used to it.


She watched again as Nathan’s wife stood over him before they wheeled him into surgery, and was swept with images of Lou. She would lean over the bed when she came in from night shift, and kiss Lou on the nose just like that. She would kiss her on the nose, and squeeze her hand, and Lou’s eyelids would flutter, and she’d smile and stretch. What had happened, she asked herself for the one thousandth time, Where did I go wrong? What could I have done to be a better partner to Lou, a better lover? She thought they were life partners, her and Lou. She’d always be there, they’d always be there. They had even talked about a formal commitment, like marriage. Some couples in their circle had done it, and it was becoming not only fashionable, but acceptable. Not that any formality mattered to her…it was for Lou. She remembered the first time Lou spoke about children. It was during a lovely rainy night, late, they had the French doors open, and a cool, wet breeze stole into their bedroom. They could adopt. Go to China, or Central America. Bring home a child. Be parents. Or they could have a surrogate mom give birth, or Lou could get pregnant by some donor, or some method with doctors. Again, it didn’t matter to Dawson. Kids were not really something she had ever imagined as part of her life, but for Lou, okay. She’d be a parent, she’d be Lou’s partner, and they’d raise their child, or children.


Not long after that, she remembered with an ache, Lou began to change. Dawson couldn’t place her finger on it exactly, but Lou began to distance herself, becoming quiet, sitting alone for hours, deep in thought. Dawson tried to fix it physically, becoming even more attentive than she ever was, keeping the small parts of romance, honing the love-making so Lou would know she was the only one, would know she was loved. But that bitter morning finally came, when Lou told her she “Wasn’t being true to herself”, and thus, she was “Being dishonest with you.” Lou loved her, she explained, but knew in her heart of hearts that no matter how perfect their relationship, she would be incomplete. Lou had to marry a man, become a wife, have babies by him, and live that life. Dawson had been speechless, as if a huge vacuum had instantly sucked the air out of her entire being. It was impossible, she responded when she could finally breathe. They were a couple because Lou was what she was, she explained, They were what they were. They were friends, they were partners, they were lovers for God’s sake…because that’s what they were. Lou had simply shaken her head, and it was the first time since she had been a child that Dawson wept while someone held her.


She still had not recovered from the initial shock when Lou hit her with the next incomprehensible revelation. There already was a man. No, Dawson had never met him, and no, he did not know anything about Dawson or the life, the bed, she shared with Lou. But there was a man. He had a print shop near Lou’s store, and he wanted Lou. So far they had only had lunches together, but Lou knew…it was all laid out in her vision…he was her future. He would be her husband, they would have children. She would be a wife and a mom. She would never forget Dawson, Lou explained, and Dawson should realize these plans in no way diminished what they had been, what they had. Dawson fought it, of course, fought it with words mostly. At her lowest point she told Lou it was okay. She loved Lou and it was okay if Lou desired this other, impossible life. Fine. She, Dawson, would still be there for Lou, would still be her lover even as Lou shared her bed with her husband. Lou could be the man’s wife, and Dawson would be her secret lover. Lou had wept then.

Dawson went away for a few days when it was time for Lou to move out.


*                                        *                                          *


By midnight on the night of the shooting, the bar was filling up. It was a “cop” bar only in the sense that cops from the area frequented it because it was just outside the city limits and stayed open late. But it welcomed a mixed bag of patrons, mostly working class people from the neighborhood. The cops kept to themselves while there, and the “civilians” left them alone. Some dayshift officers were there, a few detectives and other special unit types, and the afternoon shift had been arriving in one’s and two’s for a while. The shoot-out…the wounding of a fellow officer and the killing of an armed suspect…was on everyone’s lips, of course. Nathan would live, and he would recover from his wound, but no one knew if he would be able to return to the job.


Mel Dawson’s first scotch-on-the-rocks sat on the bar in front of her. She had taken one sip, but didn’t really want it. Someone had bought it for her, the bartender said as he put it down. She had shrugged. Several guys had hit her on the arm, or the back, and grinned and said, “Righteous”, or “Nice job”, or “You done good”. She had simply nodded in response, wondering why she had even come there in the first place. Actually, she admitted she was there because Kelly Scott had asked her to come. The rookie was riding the wave of attention garnered from the shooting, and wanted Dawson to share in it. But Dawson was only pretending to join in. She was deeply unsettled, her emotions all over the place. She knew she had participated in something rare and validating in a cop’s world. She had taken action to save a fellow officer from harm, and she had helped blow away a bad guy. What could be better? But she felt enveloped in sadness. A young man had died. For what, the forty-one dollars in the store’s cash register? A good cop would never be the same, and might have to retire because of his wound. And she had taken a life.


“Hey!” yelled a voice, and Dawson turned to see a huddle of young cops a few feet from the bar raising their beer bottles and glasses toward Kelly Scott, who sat on a barstool grinning. The young macho cop Kelly had spoken with at the beginning of the fateful shift did the talking. “I heard that they weren’t so much worried about ol’ Nathan’s gunshot wound as they were about him going into shock when he turned and saw his backup unit was two split-tails!” Everyone laughed or hooted, including Kelly, who then answered, “Oh yeah? Results count, don’t they?” The big cop nodded, still grinning, and said, “Yeah baby…you and Dawson shot the shit out of that sonofabitch…and you can come rescue my ass anytime!” There was more laughter.Dawson turned back to her drink.

A few minutes later Kelly stood close at Dawson’s left elbow, and said into her ear, “You’ll be surprised to learn several of these studs have offered to take me home and comfort me.”Dawson turned and looked at her. Kelly went on with a mischievous grin “I think they just want to take me to bed, what do you think, Mel?”

“Ya think?”

“Two of them offered to make a sandwich with me in the middle, said it would really take my mind off things.”

“I’ll bet,” said Dawson. She wanted to go home.

“You know what, though, Mel?” said Kelly, “I do feel, um, emotional, or vulnerable, or something. Like I really wouldn’t mind being held…”

“What about your boyfriend that works for the Sheriff’s Office?”

“You wanna hear something stupid, Mel?” asked Kelly, “I went home after we did the statements and everything in the Detective Division, and met with him. He had already heard about the…shooting, and he acted all weirded out about it, like I’ve done something he’s never done as a cop. Then I told him the Detective Division Lieutenant stopped me in the hospital parking lot and offered me a Detective’s slot. Said it was true I haven’t been on the job very long, but he thinks I really showed something today, and a couple of guys told him I might make a good Robbery Detective. Somehow that made it even worse with my boyfriend. He acted like he didn’t even want to be around me, all cold and everything. He left before I even came over here.”

“Ah, the weight of those testicles, huh?” respondedDawson. She had already heard about the Robbery Lieutenant offering Kelly a job. She knew why he really wanted to help her get a gold shield, but she didn’t feel like trying to explain things to Kelly right then.

Kelly frowned.

They stayed quiet a moment, shoulder to shoulder.

Kelly moved her face closer to Dawson’s, and said quietly, “Mel, I, uh…I want to ask you something.”

Dawson waited.

“I’ve had a few drinks, and I’ve had a hell of a day, and I do want to be held.” She took a breath. “I want you to hold me, Mel.” She put her right hand on Dawson’s left forearm, and squeezed tightly as she hurried on, her warm fragrant breath on Dawson’s neck and ear.  “I know I’m being crazy forward, and over-the-top bold, but I want you. I want you to take me home, hold me, and make love to me like a woman does to a woman. I’ve never been with another girl before, but I’m uh…I’m curious, and I want to know what’s it like, and I know it will be good and I saw the way you moved today and I’ve watched your eyes and you’ve got those great hands, and you’re strong and smart, and you see things, and you…know.” Her eyes were big, and her tongue came out to trace her lips, “Take me home, Mel, take my clothes off, and take me. Take me to bed, Mel, show me, teach me how to please you…”


And now the thunderous applause from the crowd, thought Dawson. Ladies, here we have an honest-to-God primo piece of fluff, a USDA prime piece of femme female with her motor running, and she’s CURIOUS! She wants it, she wants to know what its like…wants to learn how she can please ME. This is one tasty treat, ladies, a silky blonde, all the long legs and arms, perfect breasts, impatient nipples, flawless skin, all the goodies. And SWEET? Do you think she’ll taste sweet? Yeah baby. Do you think she’ll arch her back and grab the sheets and breathe deep while she says my name over and over again? Do you think she’ll do anything I want her to in bed, and look up at me with those big eyes while she’s doing it? Oh, yeah. This is a gift, ladies, a rare and precious thing standing close and warm, smelling fresh, smiling, waiting. Right here, right now. Mine for the taking.

“Go home, Kelly,” replied Dawson, “We both know you’ve never had any problem finding someone to hold you, and tonight won’t be any different, if that’s what you really want.” She said it gently. She took Kelly’s right hand, brought it to her face, and softly kissed the fingers. Then she lay it flat on the bar, made her left hand into a fist, and tapped it against Kelly’s pretty chin. “Thank you for the extraordinary suggestion,” she went on, “You are beautiful, and I do find you exciting and attractive. But you’re my partner on the job for now, at least until you get your gold shield and move up to Robbery. And that’s how I want to know you, Kelly, no more…no less.”

Kelly Scott’s eyes filled with tears, but none fell down her reddening cheeks. “But I…” she tried, “But I…”

Dawson stood. The bar and crowd sounds around her were diminished as she studied the other woman’s face for a long moment. “Good night, kid,” she said softly.

She drove home slowly, and thought of Lou.











Economy of Words

Although there is some dispute over whether it is authentic Hemingway, the six word short story attributed to him is extremely powerful, revealing, and rich in reflection.

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.”

For sale: An acceptance of the unacceptable.  A divestment, a getting rid of, a wrenching separation. Throwing them away so diminishes their value it cannot be considered. Selling them clings to that value and passes it on. The exchange of money for what the shoes represent is a sad propriety. When added to the other four words it allows us to glance into the room prepared…we see the freshly painted walls, the crib…all the accouterments of anticipation.

Baby shoes: Baby as continuation, generation, procreation. Life. Hopes, dreams, flying machines. Potential  Shoes as an immediately recognized sign of the human. A protective vehicle designed to comfort and propel. Baby shoes encapsulates the new life, all the myriad possibilities. Car-mirror shoes, Winnie-the-Pooh shoes, light-up shoes, sneakers, cleats, deck, hiking, sandal, prom, heels, military, work, patent leather…each a familiar journey marker.

Never used: Never as not now, not ever. No moment. A hard cessation combined with used…worn, walked in, danced in, competed in, fought in, worked in, loved in, promised in…lived in. The ultimate denial of what could have been.

Six words. Limitless images and emotion in the human experience.




Message In A Bottle

I write, therefore I am. Or I am if someone reads what I have written. Each added reader of my written words triggers an exponential explosion of images, ideas, emotion, understanding…sharing. My words take form, life, energy. I become, if only for a moment. It is only for a moment because within a few lines my words and the thoughts they generate become more important, substantive, and enduring than me. I’ll take that moment, then gladly step aside and let my words drift off to be collected and examined by some fellow traveler.

To have my words drift off, never to be captured or examined, would cause the cessation of my am.

When the first pair of human eyes captured the words in Sting’s drifting message in a bottle, he lived again among his fellow travelers. He stood on his island that no longer was, and said, “I am.”