Judge and Jury

By William M. McIntosh

I’ve seen just about everything. Thirty-three years in and I still get excited, though. The chase. The capture. The power. The idea that your hard work has paid off and you’re still the man; there ain’t a feeling that comes close.

I remember my first. I still think about it all the time. Some poor girl no older than twenty, fresh-faced and with no idea what trickin’ll do to a girl. She’d been beaten black and blue and bloodied somethin’ awful. She’d been raped, and when she put up a fight, the sweet soul, she’d been done in with a blunt instrument.

I’m green and don’t know what’s what. I’m a fresh drop from the chicken’s ass as the boys at the precinct used to say, the furthest thing from hard-boiled. I was thinking how I’m big and bad and can stomach anything, but there I was retching up lunch and looking elsewhere. It was all I could do to keep calm enough to call it in.

I’d gotten the complimentary slap on the back and the sanctioned therapy. I’d been saddled with desk work and put through the ringer and handed back my badge and gun. I’d filled out the report and done the investigation and nailed the perp to the fuckin’ wall. I’d gotten the obligatory beer and shot from the boys down at Sal’s. I’d shaken hands till it hurt.

Then there were more girls. Then there were the botched carjackings, the gang shootings, the scorned lovers shot dead. The neglected and murdered foster children. The overdoses. The suicides. The bodies piled sky-high, and my station rose. I went into detective work faster than anybody else in the department. Before most new cops even had a reason to return fire, I was walking a beat in plain street clothes, checking in with informants and infiltrating illegal gambling rings.

My court appearances were epic. I’d testified in so many cases that by the time I made sergeant, I had the respect of every boy in blue in the tristate area. The more administrative my job became, the more chances I had to prowl on my off hours. I’d search the streets all night for action. That first year, I’d handled so many violent crimes that the blood didn’t stain my mind anymore. The blue lights flashed just as often but I could only ever see cherry red.

I could stare a confession out of a thug with no effort at all. I could disarm a felon with a bagel in one hand and the other on my hog. I was tasked with questioning a scumbag in hospital once, some real loser laid up from running from the boys. He’d taken a step too far on a fire escape and tumbled three stories down to wet pavement. Double leg break and a bruised spine. By the time I’d finished with him the bastard actually flatlined. Of course, my clout prevented me from catching any real bullshit over it, if you could even call it bullshit at all. I don’t think ‘that piece of shit had it coming’ and ‘you’re ice-cold, John’ constitutes as so much as a side-eye. I was a folk legend. Paul Bunyan with a night stick. Daniel Boone with a six-shooter. I was John Douglas and John Wayne and every larger-than-life lawman you’d ever seen in a ten-cent spaghetti.

Through my time as sergeant, on through captain and chief, the stories gathered like moss. I’d cleared more vice cases and violent crime investigations than any single cop in city history. My numbers were going national, and so were my stories.

Local news started doing exposés and vignettes on my greatest hits. The boy I pulled from the house fire that made him an orphan? That was my big break. The murder-suicide at the old folk’s home? That was my close-up. The justified shooting of an unarmed black kid outside the Food Lion? That was my encore showing. That is until now.

I’m three years into my commissionership and the thrill is gone. I’m so bored to tears that even when I have vacation hours and substantial time away from the job, I can’t even bring myself to go moonlighting anymore. It’s starting to feel like time to hang it up. To let this life go. To live as a civilian. And I suppose that’s how we got here.

On the eve of my retirement, I’m reminded of that first girl. You wouldn’t believe me now, but it wasn’t in the plan. It wasn’t something ordained. It was a beautiful mistake, and I’d make it a hundred more times. If given the chance, I’d keep on making it until there were no whores left. She’d shaken her ass and tits at me and made nice until she caught the gleam of my badge. I told her I was off-duty and that mommy let me out to play but she wouldn’t have it. Even after I’d had my way and belted my pants she was screaming and kicking. I beat her down and simply couldn’t believe it when she kept fighting. When I brought the blunt edge of the stick down and heard her pretty head crack, it was like the whole world opened up. This was my passion. Law was the game, but I’d reset the rules. I’d been up that john’s ass so much that summer, and had so many statements and girls lined up, it wasn’t hard to pin her on him. He cried and nearly pissed himself on the stand, but I stood firm and flashed my teeth, and the jury came back unanimous.

That very first carjacking? That was my first real attempt. My first project. The Colt I’d removed from evidence went off like a rocket and painted the interior red. The poor bastard who owned it was already knee deep in a robbery confession and now he’d be brought up on murder. Two drops in the bucket. Those two blue-hairs at the old fart house? It wasn’t hard to convince anyone that the old guy couldn’t live with or without the battle-axe. So between Matlock and the six o’ clock news, it’s bedtime for Bonzo, times two. Her, a lazily cut throat that pointed towards a hesitant, weak old man with immediate regret. Him, sedatives cheeked over weeks, crushed up and deposited in the applesauce. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

That kid I’d saved from the fire? I thought he’d seen me standing outside with the Molotov in hand. I swore I’d have to break that boy’s neck and dump him in the swamp, but he never told. He was either too scared to understand or understood all too well to be brave. Maybe coming after the man who roasted your folks seems more dangerous than foster care.

Then there was Sally. Sally had always been with me, ever since I was fresh out of the academy and she worked the switchboards. We married early on, but something was never right. It was like she knew something about me that she wouldn’t acknowledge. Maybe she thought I was out fucking around on her. Maybe she thought I was chasing tail at the greasy motel downtown or popping cherries on Lolita Lane.

I remember at her funeral how the boys crowded around. How they swore they’d find the bastards who got her hooked on junk. How I could depend on them for anything. How sorry they were. Behind my black shades I was crying tears of relief. Sally was gone, my men were behind me, and the coroner was too damned inept to notice the tiny syringe mark I’d left between her big and neighbor toes. Everything was going my way, and my legend was bigger than Jesus. John Lennon would blush.

***

Now I’m sixty-two years young with a sheet so long you could wallpaper with it. Years of arrests, murders, honors, beatings, interrogations, and curbside executions. And very nearly a full retirement with benefits, if only I’d stopped before the slop hit the fan.

I’m not the cop I used to be. My nerves aren’t acid washed and my head isn’t a steel trap anymore. My trigger finger is slow, and I’m so used to making messes that I forgot how to clean them up.

So now I lie here with my ass half-blown off and tubes up my nose. You think you have a place cased and that the sweetie inside is alone for the night and POW, here comes Chicken Little from the henhouse with a loaded rifle and a look like he’s a bull and I’m the shithead matador that just fucked his wife without consent.

Here he is clubbing me to the floor and screaming obscenities, threatening to end me right then and there. I’m up and grabbing for the gun, and we’re spinning around and grunting. The carousel stops when he squeezes down on the trigger, and I feel my right ass cheek explode with fire and my legs give out. I’m down on the ground losing blood when I feel his heel come down hard on my temple until it’s bright white and the ringing swells.  

So then I’m out of surgery and wheeled through the halls, right up to my private room with Wheel of Fortune and green Jello and my boys stationed outside the door. They’re all whispering, and I’m sure they’re arguing over my legacy. Some are saying they knew it all along. Others are probably singing my praises and refusing to believe. Some are surely quiet and questioning their own place in the force.

But I’m watching Vanna flip tiles and working out the second half of Before and After. I’m slurping Jello and puzzling over Potpourri. I’m calling out tossups with bits of green spewing from my mouth.

My trial is set for next month, but I know it will be pushed back. Since my incident downtown inside of What’s-her-face’s flat, they’ve started poring over my career. Revisiting cases and crimes in the books. They’re issuing requests to exhume graves and review CCTV footage. The cases against me are piling up and it’s like I’ve been reborn.

I lived as a hero once but now my legend has transcended. Two for one. I’m going to go down as the most prolific switch hitter in the game. For every arrest in my file, I’ve got three of my own crimes to compare. Every single day on the job was a litany of good cop/bad cop. I was everything to this city. Judge, jury, criminal.   

Now it’s certainly going to be life in prison and/or the stingy little friend. I’ll lie on that vinyl chair and stare into the eyes of the ‘victims’, and my only regret will be that they killed me first.

So that’s that. My shift has ended and my Rolex fits fine. My pink slip shines and I have no regrets. I will punch that ticket with pride. Every one of them had it coming, and you know what? So do I.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to comment. I don’t need to take a statement. You’re free to go. You have the right to remain speechless. Anything you say will be held against you. You have the right to ignore that these things happen. If you can’t afford a clean conscience, one will be faked during confession. Do you understand these motivations as they have been described to you?


Bio: William M. McIntosh is a writer of unpublished drivel and collector of rejection letters. He loves literature, film, and any other kind of art he can get his grubby little fingers on. His work has been published by Maudlin House and The Yard: Crime Blog. He doesn’t tweet, but if he did it would be @moonliteciabata. He is based in Cincinnati.

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