I sped through the mean streets of D.C. I owned a red 2013 AM Lion, a hard-top sports coupe that I barely fit in. It was lousy on gas mileage and when it came to tracking down perps, it stuck out like a sore thumb. But the payments had been made. It was one of my few remaining prized possessions that the army of crooked lawyers dogging me on behalf of the many ex-Mrs. Smashers hadn’t managed to take away from me yet.
“Care to explain what the hell happened back there?” Rosie asked as she sipped her status symbol beverage from the cup’s rim.
“What’s to explain?” I replied. “Kid was dirty. Flagrantly violating the straw ban.”
“He didn’t know,” Rosie said.
“Ignorance of the law is no defense,” I said. “Any fresh-faced police academy cadet knows that. I’m surprised my partner doesn’t.”
“I’m fully aware of that, Smasher! But you know goddamn well you can’t just pull on a kid over a…”
I gritted my teeth. “Over a what?”
Rosie went silent.
“Tell me,” I said. “Over a what? A straw?”
“Yes,” Rosie said. “You can’t whip out a hand cannon and hold it against a child’s head over a lousy, piddly shit, rinky dink straw! There, I said it. Are you happy?”
“Positively blissful,” I said. “At least I know what I’m working with. A hack who won’t do her job.”
Rosie glared at me. “We hand out pamphlets! That’s the job!”
“Maybe for you, sister,” I said. “But Mack Smasher has never half-assed anything a day in his life. When I go in, I go full-assed or I don’t go in at all. What’s your gripe? You think that kid was traumatized? I cured his stutter!”
“You caused his stutter!”
“So, you say,” I said. “I fixed that little prick’s life. Before he met me, he was on the fast track to shitsville. On his way to going down on a straw rap.”
“A fine,” Rosie said.
“Today it’s a straw fine,” I said. “Then another, and another. Pretty soon all those fines stack up and he’s lifting weights in the yard, gobbling knob and joining the Aryan brotherhood just to keep the daily butt rapes he’ll be getting to a minimum. You want that life for him? I don’t. He’ll never hand out another straw again, thanks to me.”
“He’ll probably never have to work another day in his life, thanks to you,” Rosie said. “Did you see how many cameras were on you? Damn it, Smasher, the lawsuits will be endless. You’re going to be on the news, again. It’s only a matter of time before Captain Braddock comes for you and…”
Ring! Rosie pulled out her phone and looked at the screen. “Speak of the devil.” She answered the call. “Hello, sir.”
Captain Braddock, our illustrious superior in the straw law enforcement division, only had one volume – loud. He screamed every word to an ear-splitting decibel. I was able to hear him all the way in the driver’s seat.
“Quan! Where the hell is Smasher?!”
Rosie looked at me. “I…I don’t know, sir.”
“Bullshit!” Braddock said. “You two are all over Lifebox like a pop-up ad for hemorrhoid cream.”
“Um,” Rosie said. “Are hemorrhoid cream ads on Lifebox, sir?”
“They are on mine!” the captain replied. “Shit, you do one web search on how to wipe without turning the inside of your asshole into a California wildfire and Lifebox will try to peddle ass medicine to you for the rest of your days. But that’s neither here, nor there. Don’t play dumb with me. I just saw you with Smasher on that video. Is he there with you now?”
I shook my head no.
“Uh…no, sir,” Rosie said. “Sorry, I chewed him out over that crap he pulled and he just walked off.”
“Damn it!” the captain said. “That no good, lousy, rotten four-flushing son of a shit eating turtle fucker is ruining my life. You have no idea how badly he’s harshing my mellow, Quan.”
“Are you normally mellow, sir?” Rosie asked. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Not usually, no,” Captain Braddock said. “But I had hoped with this new division, I’d be able to live the stress-free life I’d always dreamed of.”
“You and me both,” Rosie said.
“But Smasher’s fucking it all up like a donkey that just got his dick stuck in a cheese grater. You got any idea how far the mayor has his head stuck up my ass?”
“Not as such, no sir.”
“The mayor’s got his head so far up my ass that when I burp I taste his toothpaste,” Captain Braddock said. “You see that dumbass shaven ape of a partner of yours, you tell him to get his ass in to see me pronto, before I shove my foot so far up his ass, he’ll be tasting my orthopedic insert!”
“Will do, sir.”
“You’re a good cop,” Braddock said. “I’d hate to see you get dragged under just because you got paired up with a psycho.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, sir.”
“Damn it,” Braddock said. “When I was hiring officers, it was either Smasher or that little geek, Janson, you know, the mouth breather from the 3rd precinct who falls asleep at his desk all day. You think I should have picked him instead?”
“Uh,” Rosie said. “Most assuredly, sir, but you know what the say. Don’t cry over spilled milk and so on.”
“Watch your ass, Quan,” Braddock said. “Goodbye.”
Rosie hung up the phone. She took a swig of her drink. “Smasher?”
“Captain Braddock would like a word.”
I plugged my phone into my dash. It let up. I called for my phone’s virtual AI assistant. “Sally?”
“Yes, Mack?” the phone replied through my car’s speaker system.
“Play my messages,” I said.
“Wednesday, January 2 at 2:03 p.m.” Sally said.
The captain’s voice played. “Smasher, you lowlife turd licker! What’s this shit I’m hearing about you putting a man in the hospital over a straw? Son of a…you know he’s in traction? Doctors say it’ll be at least six months before he can walk again. Our division just started and you’ve already given it a black eye! The mayor’s got his head so far up my ass that he just popped out of my mouth and licked my eyeball like a frog! Call me.”
Sally piped up again. “Thursday, January 3 at 12:04 p.m.”
Captain Braddock’s voice howled. “Smasher, you bottom feeding toilet bug! I was just one bite into my pastrami on rye when I got a call telling me you took a lead pipe to Fatty Burger’s front window and threw a metal straw dispenser at the manager’s forehead. He’s got a concussion, you animal! Bend me over and fuck me sideways like a two-bit hooker, why don’t you? The mayor’s got his head so far up my ass that he just found a tumor! He says it looks benign, but I’m going to get it checked anyway! You can never be too careful when it comes to your health. Call me.”
One more time for Sally. “Monday, January 7 at 10:19 p.m.”
Captain Braddock. “Smasher, you might think you’re hot shit but I’m warning you! I’m the God of Hellfire and I am prepared to set your ass ablaze! Why am I being told second-hand that you just drove your car through the front door of a Chicken Shack? Then you got out, piled all the straw dispensers in the middle of the floor and built a bonfire? What the fuck, Smasher? No, as the kids say today, ‘What the actual fuck?’ They mayor’s so far up my ass he can do my dental work. Call me.”
Back to Sally. “Tuesday, January 8 at 2:01 p.m.”
The captain. “Smasher, I don’t know what in the name of God and all things holy I did in a past life to deserve an ass clown like you under my command in this one, but I’m reaching for my bible and begging the Lord to forgive me so you’re reign of horseshit will end. Neal Jeffries was just in my office, giving me the nitty gritty on how you got an international killer released just so you can find out where the straw in her cup came from? Goddamn it, Smasher! Are you special? Is that what I’m dealing with? Have you got limited mental faculties? Do I need to pop a crash helmet on your stupid head and stick you in a rubber room where you’ll never hurt yourself or others? Will you think about anyone other than yourself for five minutes? The mayor’s head is so far up my ass that he is literally able to stick his arm up into my head and work my mouth like a puppet, so listen to me loud and clear, you insignificant wart on a syphilitic ferret’s testicle. Stop running amuck on our streets. Stop doing shit that’s going to get your dumb face all over the news and stop making the department look bad! You drop whatever you’re doing right now Smasher. You call me and then you drag your sad, sorry ass into my office so we can have this out, right here and right now!”
“Sally?” I asked.
“Yes, Mack?” the AI replied.
“How many more unplayed messages from Captain Braddock do I have?”
“You have 79 more messages from Captain Joseph Braddock. Shall I play them now?”
“No,” I said, my eyes on the street.
Rosie looked out her window, watching the city life unfold before her as I drove.
“You can’t ignore your commanding officer forever,” Rosie said. “Cops have rules.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Cops also have a code.”
Rosie looked at me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Twenty years,” I said. “Ten partners. I never once threatened to shoot any of them. Not once.”
“Oh,” Rosie said. “You’re going to hit me with the unwritten code bullshit?”
“The thin blue line is only as strong as its weakest link, baby,” I said.
“How many of your former partners pulled out a gun and pressed it up against a teenager’s head, Smasher?”
I thought about the question. “None, but…”
“But nothing,” Rosie said. “You can’t be so far gone that you don’t see what you’re doing is wrong and…wait. Ten partners in twenty years? Where are they now? Transferred?”
“Dead,” I said. “Six feet under. Taking the long dirt nap, the eternal siesta.”
Rosie pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. “Jesus H….I can’t believe this. I’m going to do die.”
“We’re all going to kick the bucket sooner or later,” I said.
“I don’t want to die over a Straw, Smasher.”
“Really? I can’t think of a greater honor.”
Rosie sighed. “They could write an entire psychology textbook about you. They really could.”
We were quiet for a bit, but this time the silence felt uncomfortable. I knew Rosie wanted to claw off my face and wipe her ass with it. As feelings go, it was the pits, but I knew I was in the right. From Columbus to Galileo, everyone who is trying to change the game gets pilloried, and the first cop willing to take on the straw menace was destined to have a similar fate. Still, I held out hope that my partner would eventually come around.
Whump! I went over a speed bump too fast. The whole car shook and Rosie lost her grip on her cup. That expensive designer coffee drink sprayed all over, her lap taking the brunt of the damage.
“Shit!” Rosie shouted. “Where’d you learn how to drive?!”
“Where I learned everything else,” I said. “The School of Mack Smasher’s Hard Knocks. Tuition is free but failure is costly.”
Rosie attempted to wipe the mess from her pants with her bare hands. “Damn it!”
“Is it bad?” I asked.
“Fucking mocha all over me…I look like I sat on Count Chocula’s face!”
My partner fumed. I already knew what she was about to say. Countdown. 3…2…1…
“Shit like this is why the world needs fucking straws!!!”
“Oh boy,” I said. “Here we go. Sure, by all means, start parroting the straw lobby’s talking points to me, why don’t you?”
“The straw lobby?” Rosie asked. “This is just common sense, Smasher. When you’re in your own house, you can drink from the rim of your cup all you want but when you’re out and about, your drink needs to be covered. You trip, stumble, someone bumps into you or your shit for brains partner has too much lead in his foot and before you know it, you’ve ruined your pants.”
“Cry me a river, doll. You know how many pants I’ve ruined on this job? Hell, one-time a perp sliced my trousers clean off with a butterfly knife and I still chased him six blocks in my tighty-whities.”
“You can’t expect people to just walk around the city with an open beverage container,” Rosie said. “People coughing and hacking, all those germs getting into your drink.”
“You know how many times I got sick on this job?” I asked. “Hell, one time I took down an entire terrorist cell while I was fighting bad case of diarrhea.”
“Drinks need covers,” Rosie said. “Otherwise, there’s nothing stopping a bird from flying overhead and taking a shit right into your mocha.”
“I never told you to throw away your cover.”
“How the hell am I supposed to drink out of a covered cup without a straw, dumbass?”
I banged a right. I floored it.
“You cover the cup. When you want a drink, you pop the top off, sip from the rim, then put the cover back on.”
“Oh, fuck me sideways!” Rosie shouted. “Why don’t I just hop on one leg, chew gum and pat my head and stomach at the same time while I’m at it?”
“If you can’t handle basic motor functions, that’s on you, sweetheart.”
“Whatever,” Rosie cried. “The straw ban is bullshit and I don’t care who hears! You hear that world?! My name is Rose Elizabeth Quan! I’m a straw law enforcement officer and even I think the straw law is bullshit!”
I hit the brakes. My ride came to a screeching stop in the middle of traffic. Horns honked. Drivers behind me started screaming up a storm. I didn’t care. I had to confront it, right then.
“What are you doing?” Rosie asked.
“You think the straw ban is bullshit, then hop on out and hitch a ride home, sister. Get yourself transferred to a cushy gig…”
“This WAS a cushy gig!”
“Find another,” I said. “But if you stay in this car, it’s ride against straws or die.”
Rosie looked at the door handle. I could tell she wanted to grab it so badly, but she didn’t. “Fine. Punch it.”