“Smasher! You dirty, mold infested parasite growing on the inside of a cow’s rectum! You have screwed me over for the last time! You got any idea the extent of the mess you made? No, you don’t, do you? The only one Mack Smasher ever thinks about is Mack Smasher, right? Well, listen up, shit for brains, and listen good. You better get your head out of your ass and get it into the game before I do my best impression of a Rockette and kick your damn balls so far up your body that you choke to death on them. Am I clear?”
I’d taken Captain Braddock’s abuse all night and into morning, sitting there in his office, my face covered in the man’s spittle and donut crumbs. I would have been pissed at him had I not realized I was causing the old man’s health to deteriorate. He was about 40 pounds overweight, red-faced and sweaty, and breathing heavily. A vein popped out of his forehead every time he yelled and it looked like it was about to pop any second.
“Crystal, sir, but if I could just…”
“But, nothing!” Braddock slammed his fist down on his desk, causing all his paper and knick knacks to fall all over the place. “Smasher, you couldn’t possible fathom the dilly of a pickle you’ve got me in. You think the Mayor is a fan of your antics? Beating citizens up, pulling guns on them, letting a major criminal go and now destruction of a family restaurant with a cartoon mascot? You’re all over the news and the people want to know what the department is allowing you to be a one-man wrecking crew, wreaking havoc all over the city! You think the mayor likes this kind of bad publicity?”
“You’re damn right! You know, uh…the mayor’s head is so far up my ass…shit, I’m tired.”
Captain Braddock took a deep breath. He twisted open a prescription bottle, pulled out three pills, popped them, then chased it down with some water from a plastic bottle. “Damn it, smasher, you’ve got me poppin’ my blood pressure meds like they’re M and M’s!”
“Cap,” I said. “I’m no pharmacist but that probably isn’t a good thing to do.”
The captain wagged his finger in my face. “Shut up! Now, where the hell was I?”
“The mayor’s head up your ass.”
“Right!” Captain Braddock said. “Smasher, the mayor’s head is so far up my ass that I don’t even have to shave anymore. Whenever the hairs on my face start to grow, the mayor’s hand just pops out of my mouth with a safety razor and scrapes them off!”
“I am truly sorry that you’re taking so much heat, boss.”
Braddock pounded his fist again. “You’re sorry?”
“You’re goddamn right you’re sorry! You’re the sorriest excuse for an officer of the law I’ve ever seen! You’re so sorry I can’t stand to look at you!”
Braddock grabbed a remote control and turned on a tv that hanged on his office wall. A news reporter appeared. “Chaos in Foggy Bottom as D.C. straw cop Mack Smasher blows up a family restaurant, leaving this once popular eatery incinerated. I’m Cammy Calhoun-Mariposa with the latest on Mack Smasher’s reign of terror.”
The captain flipped the channel. Another reporter. This one a man. “I’m Martin Anderson-Hernandez and I’m on the scene where D.C. straw cop Mack Smasher just single handedly and without anyone else involved, burnt a restaurant that was adored by local children to the ground.”
“Look at this shit,” Braddock said as he switched channels. “You’re everywhere!”
Yet, another reporter. “Tales of Mack Smasher’s violent, unorthodox methods of straw law enforcement have been all over social media as of late. Just before he literally dumped ten gallons of gasoline all over Golly Gopher’s home, set it ablaze, then urinated on the ashes…”
I looked at the captain. “They’re lying.”
“Shut up!” Braddock said.
The reporter continued. “…he held a teenage barista at gunpoint, all over a straw.”
Cellphone video of my interaction with Liam played. At the particular moment in question, I was yelling at the kid. “Where’d you get the straws, you little puke?”
“That was taken out of context,” I said to the captain.
“You are bending over my world and rawdogging it into oblivion, Smasher,” the captain replied as he switched the channel. Monica Blather and Jim Claymore were at it again.
“Jim, you red meat stuffed, conservative mouth breather from flyover country, I don’t care what you say. Straws will be the death of us all. They are contributing to global warming, which is entirely man made. Every time a man farts, or sneezes, or fills his car with gas or doesn’t separate his trash from his recyclables or yes, even when he uses a plastic drinking straw, the entire temperature of the world goes up another point and before you know it, we’ll all be incinerated.”
“Monica,” Jim replied. “You horse faced old crone, constantly up on this program, bitching and moaning about your abortion rights as if a baby could ever grow inside your gangrenous uterus, don’t sit there and whine to me about global warming, as if that’s even a real thing. Straws, plastic materials, oil, gas, they’re all made from dead dinosaurs, dummy, and if there’s anything that’s more organic and natural than a dead brontosaurus carcass, simmering in the earth for thousands of years until it liquifies enough to create the mother’s milk that fuels our economy, I’d like to see it. I really would.”
“I hope Mack Smasher shoots you and all of your ilk in the face!” Monica cried.
“Oh, there you go with the hypocrisy!” Jim retorted. “Just last week you were complaining that guns are too violent and need to be confiscated from law abiding citizens who just want to use their stockpiles of semi-automatic rifles to hunt deer and ward off intruders.”
“That’s absolutely correct,” Monica said. “Get rid of all the guns and the world will be filled with peace and harmony. It is an undeniable fact that before guns were invented, there was no violence in the world whatsoever.”
“And the week before that you were crying a river about cops,” Jim said.
“Yes!” Monica said. “Racist brutes who sit around dreaming up new ways to torture minorities all day long!”
“But now you’re happy that a rogue cop is running around town, sticking a gun in the face of anyone who sips on a straw?” Jim asked.
“Yes, and I hope he does it forever! Police are the only ones who can be trusted with guns!” Monica replied.
Braddock switched the TV off. “Boy, I must have done some heinous shit in a previous life to deserve you fucking me up in this one, Smasher. I don’t know what I was. A bloodthirsty pirate. A homicidal mad man. A goddamn slave owner. Who knows? All I know is it’s obvious to me that I did something wrong that pissed off God and now, you are my punishment – a cruel, twisted punishment worse than anything ever dreamed up in Dante’s Inferno designed to torment me for the rest of my days.
“Past lives?” I asked. “Dante’s Inferno? Jeeze, boss, is it me or are these chew out sessions getting a little more high-brow?”
“It’s not you,” Braddock said. “I’ve been reading more. Joined a book club. It meets Thursday nights. There are fancy old ladies and tea and scones. It’s delightful, but that’s none of your damn business, Smasher. Now you clean the shit out of your ears and listen to me. We are straw cops. We pass out pamphlets. We issue fines. We work, at most, one hour at of every eight-hour day and then we collect an easy paycheck. That’s it. That’s all we do.”
“So, my partner keeps telling me,” I said.
“She’s a smart woman,” Braddock said. “You should listen to her.”
“Rosie’s great,” I said. “She had my back tonight. Wish I could say the same about you.”
Had my esteemed superior been a cartoon bull, steam would have shot out of his nose. “You don’t think I got your back?”
“No,” I said.
Braddock stood up and leaned over the desk. “Smasher, you miserable, festering boil on a giraffe’s nutsack, all I ever do is stand up for you!”
It was time for the classic angry captain vs. insubordinate detective showdown. I stood up. I leaned over the desk. My boss and eye engaged in an ultra-manly staring contest. The rules were a bit different than the traditional variety. We continued to fling insults at one another and mock each other’s integrity as our eyes remained locked in visual combat.
“Bullshit!” I said. “You stand up for me? You’re one glazed donut away from not being able to stand up at all, you fat walrus!”
“Did you just call me a fat walrus?!” Braddock asked.
“I did! What are you going to do about it?”
“Smasher, if there weren’t fair labor practice laws, I would kick your dick off and drop it down my garbage disposal!”
“I’d like to see you try!” I said. “Aww, you brass types are all alike. Sitting in your fancy chairs and your safe little offices, pushing papers and barking orders, acting like you’re all big and tough when in reality, none of you have walked a beat in years.”
Braddock rested his hands on his girthy hips. “Is that so?”
“It is!” I said. “The department must get a special deal on commanding officers because you’re all exactly the same. You love to shit on me just to save your ass from getting shit on by whoever’s above you, but deep down, you hope I keep doing what I do because you know I’m the only cop around here who gets results…and you know if you were any kind of man, you’d be out there doing it with me.”
“You’re wrong, Smasher!” Braddock said. “I abhor what you do! I polled all the other captains in the department the results were unanimous. They all said if you were under their command, they would have scraped you off their shoes like the fetid pile of doggie doo doo that you are.”
“Hypocritical pricks!” I said. “Everyone loved me up till a week ago.”
“Of course, they did, Smasher,” Braddock said. “No one gave a shit when you pulled a gun on some lowlife pimp, or a degenerate dope pusher. You want to smack real criminals around? Be my guest. Transfer to another division and beat the snot out of the dregs of humanity all day and everyone will be without a single shit to give. But here, in the straw law enforcement division, we have standards…”
I laughed at that comment. I didn’t see any standards at all.
The captain doubled down. “We have standards! And if you press a gun against the head of a boy working the damn coffee machine, shits will be given, Smasher! Of that, I assure you! Multiple shits will be given.”
Braddock clutched his chest and eased his copious bottom back in his chair. “Up your ass with a gallon of gas, Smasher! You’ve got my heart moving like a congo line at the Copacobana.”
I took my seat. “Maybe you ought to just let handle things and go play a round of golf, old timer.”
“Oh, eat a buffet line of dicks, Smasher!” Braddock said. “Spare me your crap about my age. I was out there busting heads before you were even a sperm in your daddy’s balls.”
“I doubt dinosaurs committed many crimes,” I said.
The boss pinched his thumb and forefinger together. “You are this close to me blowing my stack, Smasher and I swear to God, Thor, Jesus, Apollo, Buddha and St. Jerome that if you make me blow my stack, I will cover you from head to toe in the lava of my righteous indignation until you burn to a crisp!”
“Whoa,” I said. “Easy there, big fella.”
The captain was about to throw more abuse my when Rosie walked in, carrying Humberto’s briefcase.
“Quan!” Braddock grumbled. “Where the hell have you been? When I tell my officers to get their asses to my office pronto, then I mean on the double, ASAP!”
Rosie laid the briefcase down on the table. “Sir, I’m sorry, but I just came from the crime lab and…”
“Save it!” Braddock said. “Quan, all night long, Smasher’s been filling my ears full of all kinds of malarkey, nonsensical ramblings about the Strawman this and the Illumistrawti that. Strawmageddon and a covert plot to force every beverage user on earth to drink out of a straw. I know Smasher’s batshit cuckoo crazy bananas but I want to hear it from you. Out of the two of you, you seem like the one with your head on straight, so tell me, do you believe in this crap?”
My partner looked to me, then to the captain. To me. The captain. She did this back and forth for ten seconds at least. “Well…”
“Just give it to me straight, Detective,” Braddock said. “If Smasher’s on to something, then I’ll cut him some slack but if not, whoa boy, am I going to fire his ass out of a cannon.”
“I’d love to see you try,” I said.
“Oh, you’ll see it,” Braddock said. “Don’t you worry about that.”
The captain returned his gaze to Rosie. “Well?”
Rosie took a deep breath. “Sir, here’s the thing, up until tonight, I too shared your opinion that Smasher was, um, batshit cuckoo crazy bananas, or however you put it. But now…”
My partner clacked open the briefcase. It was filled with straws and pieces of paper. Each piece was loaded with handwritten notes and mathematical equations. “It’s all right here, sir,” Rosie said. “Research from Humberto Gonzalez. Between this information and the story Smasher repeated to me after the explosion, it is evident that Humberto was being forced by someone…”
“The Illumistrawti,” I said.
“Apparently,” Rosie said before continuing. “He was being forced to deal plastic straws to Wisenheimer’s customers on the downlow. He then kept detailed notes on how these customers reacted. When they returned for more straws, how often they wanted straws, what mood they were in, how irritable or excited they were, and so on.”
Braddock made a face that looked like he’d just smelled a bad fart. Oh, how badly he wanted to bust my ass only for Rosie to swoop in and cover my cheeks. “That’s some weird ass shit, but who cares? Is it illegal to give out straws and write down what they do with them?”
I threw up my hands in exasperation. “Uh…hello! There’s a straw ban!!!”
“On which there is a grace period, pecker head!” Braddock said. “Your dead contact wouldn’t have been in trouble until July 1 and even then he would’ve just gotten a fine. Now stick a sock in your suck hole, numb nuts. Adults are talking. Please, Quan. Continue.”
“You are right, sir,” Rosie said. “The act of dealing straws and recording the results is odd, but not, on its own, illegal at this time.”
“Booyah!” Braddock shouted. “Bend over, Smasher, ‘cuz you just got your ass rawdogged, long and deep!”
“Hold on a minute,” I said. “There’s gotta be more to this.”
“There is,” Rosie said. “The straws.”
“What about them?” Braddock asked.
“The boys in the crime lab analyzed them,” Rosie said. “They’ve been laced with trace amounts of cocaine.”
I slammed my fist on Braddock’s desk. “I knew it!”
“You’re shitting me,” Braddock said.
“I shit you not,” Rosie replied. “When these straws enter the mouth, the moisture from a customer’s saliva triggers a chemical reaction that causes cocaine to enter the blood stream via the tongue. It’s tasteless, odorless, the customer wouldn’t even know something’s up until he returns to his straw dealer, Jonesing for more.”
“Strung out straw junkies?” Braddock asked. “Is that the line of horse manure you’re peddling to me, Quan?”
“I’m afraid so, sir,” Rosie said.
“This all sounds like theoretical shit,” Braddock said.
“Not at all, sir,” Rosie said. “I watched the crime lab techs conduct their own conclusive experiments.”
Braddock shook his head. “Which consisted of?”
Rosie squirmed in her seat, not relishing the duty to answer her superior’s question. “Um, mostly letting one rat lick a tainted straw until he emitted a series of squeaks which were interpreted to mean that he um…was willing to suck the other lab rat’s dick in exchange for another straw lick, sir.”
“Goddamn it.” Braddock leaned back in his seat. He looked as though a bus had just run him over. “I can’t believe it.”
“Oh yeah,” I said. “Believe it and booyah yourself, baby!”
“Narcotics,” Braddock said. “Criminal conspiracy. Assassination. We aren’t equipped to handle this. I am not equipped to handle this.”
“Relax,” I said.
“No,” Braddock said. “We’ve got to hand this case off to someone else.”
“There’s no one to hand it off to,” I protested. “If the straw ball’s in our court, then we’ve got to dribble it to the hole.”
“Don’t sit there with your smug face and tell me what hole to stick my ball in, Smasher!” Braddock said. “Damn you! By the trident of Poseidon, I damn you for all eternity for bringing this case to my doorstep!”
“OK,” I said. “Let’s dial it back. Now you’re getting a little emotional…”
“Emotional my ass!” Braddock said. “The way this department has treated me all these years and now, with one month left until my retirement, you just had to go poking your nose where it didn’t belong, didn’t you, Smasher?”
“I did my job,” Smasher said. “I’m tired of all this bullshit about pamphlets and fines. A good straw cop investigates any and all straw crimes that come his way, consequences be damned. I’d never be able to sleep at night, knowing that the good people of this district are slowly being turned into vile cokeheads, willing to suck dick just for the chance to suck on another straw.”
Rosie raised her hand. “Actually, we’ve only confirmed a willing to suck dick for a coke infused straw in lab rats. We aren’t sure if it brings out the willingness to uh, perform fellatio, in humans.”
“Assume first and ask questions later, Rosie,” I said. “That’s the number one rule of law enforcement.”
“It isn’t,” Rosie said. “It really isn’t.”
“If we don’t act now, our nation’s capitol will be filled with cocaine addled chode smokers,” I said.
Rosie grin. “So, just another day that ends in Y?”
My partner looked around the room, searching for laughs. None were to be found. “Nobody? OK then.”
“This is huge, boss,” I said.
“I know it is,” Braddock said. “But the timing couldn’t be worse. Damn it, Smasher. In February, I’m going to be a free man. I just put a down payment on a condo in Boca Raton and my wife and I are going to drive down there the second I walk out of this building for good.”
“Aww,” Rosie said. “Sir, that’s sweet.”
“I know it is.” Braddock opened up a desk drawer. He rummaged through it for a minute, making all sorts of clanking sounds, until he produced a bronze urn. He set it down on the desk.
Rosie and I both looked like a couple of deer caught in the headlights.
“Go on,” Braddock said.
“Uh,” I said. “Go on what?”
“Explain to my wife why you felt it was necessary to fuck up the perfect, do-nothing job and go get our division embroiled in a vast conspiracy full of intrigue, mystery and murder most foul, a caper that sounds so dangerous that it is most certainly going to get her husband killed before his retirement!”
I looked at the urn. “So…uh…Mrs. Braddock, see…the thing is…”
I looked at my boss. “Sir, none of this is going to blow back on you.”
“The hell it isn’t!” Braddock shouted. “The mayor’s head is already so far up my ass that my proctologist called to say he can’t give me a colonoscopy because it’s way too crowded back there!”
“And that’s all I need you to do,” I said. “Run interference with the grand high muckety mucks, the political hacks and bottom feeders who lick their fingers and stick them up high to see which way the wind is blowing, and I’ll take care of the rest.”
Braddock rubbed his bloodshot eyes. “Pamphlets. Fines. Seemed like a good way to spend what little time I had left.”
My boss stared at the urn. “Aww, hell. After Marlene died ten years ago, all I had left was the hope that one day I’d get to go down to the Sunshine state and spread my beloved’s ashes all over the parking lot of the Uncle Cornpone’s T-Bone Steak Shack that we spend the majority of our honeymoon fornicating in, within the confines of my Gremlin.”
Rosie appeared puzzled. “The little monsters that break things when you aren’t looking?”
“It was a car!” Braddock said.
“A tiny one,” I replied. “How did you even…”
“We were young and limber,” Braddock said. “People were fitter then. Long before they invented pizza crust stuffed with bacon and hot fudge sauce and other pieces of pizza and what have you. Oh, I’d never be able to rock Marlene’s world in that Gremlin today, but I can at least return her to the place where our life together as man and wife began.”
“Again, sir,” Rosie said. “That’s sweet.”
“Yeah, well,” Braddock said. “It would have been nice, but now Dipshit McGee is gonna get us all killed. Damn it. What a fitting end to a shitty career.”
“Mine?” I asked.
“Oh, hell,” Braddock said. “Everyone thought you were the cream in the coffee until you went and lost your damn mind over the straw ban, Smasher. No, I’m talking about mine. Forty years ago, I was just a young, fresh faced rookie, straight out of the academy, walking the beat on my first day on the job. The sky was sunny, the birds were singing, and I was oh so happy until…”
Braddock cradled his head in his hands. “The incident,” he murmured.
I adjusted my neck collar. “I uh…never wanted to ask but I heard rumors.”
“What incident?” Rosie asked.
“Best to leave it be,” I advised.
“No,” Braddock said as he lifted his head up. “Quan, you deserve to know who you’re working for so, here it goes.”
The captain pulled out a paper bag. He hyperventilated into it, breathing it open and closed, open and closed. When he removed the bag from his face, he blurted it out. “I shot a kid in the face.”
Rosie clasped her hand over her mouth. “Oh my God.”
I shrugged. “Who hasn’t?”
Rosie then looked at me. “Oh my God!”
“Aww,” Braddock said. “The skies were clear with 99.9 percent perfect visibility, but what they don’t tell you in the academy is it’s that .01 percent that will get you.”
“Does it though?” Rosie asked.
“I walked past a child’s birthday party,” Braddock said. “The kid had a plastic toy. A replica from some silly cartoon show about space.”
“Huh,” Rosie said. “Well, I suppose if you were to look at that at the wrong angle…”
“It was pink and purple,” Braddock said. “With green and yellow flashing lights and it made a ‘zappitty zap’ sound whenever the kid squeezed the trigger.”
“Jesus Christ,” Rosie muttered.
“Boss,” I said. “Stop beating yourself up. You were only doing your job. The public at large has no idea the pressure an officer of the law is under, how you have to make life and death decisions in a split second.”
“I know,” Braddock said. “It’s just, ever since that day, I lie awake thinking about how that whole scene played out. The giant, handwritten banner that the boy’s mother had made, saying, “Attention Police: My Son is Playing with a Toy Gun. Please Don’t Shoot Him!’ The boy’s mother running up to me and spending a full fifteen minutes explaining to me how the kid’s gun was a fake that she had bought from a toy store. All the other parents and family members coming up to me, spending another twenty minutes backing up the mother’s story. How I took the toy out of the kid’s hand, examined it, concluded that it was a toy, then put it back in his hand. In retrospect, I can see how these were all warning signs, red flags screaming out at me to not shoot the boy.”
“They definitely were,” Rosie said.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty, boss,” I said. “Every cop has at least one bad call that he spends his life replaying in his head, kicking himself for not doing better but you know what? When the shit goes down, we don’t have the luxury of that level of clarity, do we?”
“We do not,” Braddock said.
“You just have to shoot blindly, empty your clip and hope for the best,” I said.
Braddock nodded. “That you do.”
“Wait,” Rosie said. “I don’t think that’s what you’re supposed to do at all.”
The captain and I ignored Rosie’s protests. Frankly, she was being rather annoying at that moment. Blah, blah, blah, “cops shouldn’t shoot kids” bleeding heart bullshit. You know how it is.
“Still,” Braddock said. “I have to admit that when I left the party, got into my squad car, radioed into the station, asked if anyone could confirm that there was such a toy space gun, got an answer from multiple officers that such a space gun existed, I probably shouldn’t have returned to the party and shot that kid in the face.”
Rosie slapped her forehead. “Mother of God.”
“What?” I asked. “And take the risk that toy space gun wasn’t a Ruger Warhawk in disguise? Pbbht, ok, if you want to be a pussy, then by all means, walk away.”
“I shot that kid in the face, my first day on the job,” Braddock said. “And I’ve had to live with that pain every day, ever since. That mother balling her eyes out, shouting at me, ‘No, wait, stop! Please look at my receipt from the toy store indicating I bought a toy space gun that matches the description of the one my son is holding!’ I’ll second guess myself until the day I die, but I was so hoping to do it on a boat, sailing through that clear, blue Florida water, nothing but a fishing rod in one hand, a cold beer in the other, the thoughts of that boy’s father screaming, ‘Please don’t shoot my son, sir! What if I just take the toy space gun and bust it up with a hammer?’ and me replying, ‘No, I’m sorry, but after two and a half hours of deliberations, I can’t take that chance!’ running through my mind.”
“Sir,” Rosie said. “Not to be rude but how are you still even on the force?”
“Oh, it was a different time back then, Quan,” Braddock said. “A cop had to shoot a dozen kids in the face at least before people started asking questions. Personally, I shot thirteen kids in the face before I got into trouble.”
“Wait,” Rosie said. “The kid you shot in the face on your first day wasn’t the one that got you into trouble?”
“No,” Braddock explained. “After that kid, I shot twelve more kids at twelve separate birthdays, each one holding the same plastic toy space gun. All shot right in the face.”
Rosie squinted at the captain. “It’s just, you know…”
“Oh great,” I said. “Another liberal pantywaist here to shit on our boys in blue.”
“I’m not shitting on anyone,” Rosie said. “It’s just, after the first kid you shot…”
“In the face,” Braddock said. “Yes?”
“Right,” Rosie said. “After the first one, wouldn’t there have been a voice in your head that screamed out, ‘Hey! Stop shooting kids in the face!’”
“I did hear such a voice,” Braddock said.
“And?” Rosie asked.
“I ignored it completely,” Braddock said.
“As any good cop would,” I said.
Braddock and I bumped fists. Rosie appeared ill.
“I repeat my question,” Rosie said. “How do you still have a job?”
“Well,” Braddock said. “Today, if you shoot a kid in the face over a toy space gun, it’ll be a madhouse. An absolute madhouse. The media, the mayor, your commanding officer, they’ll all throw a disco party right up your ass.”
“What a messed-up world,” I said.
“Tell me about it,” Braddock said. “But back in my day, the concern wasn’t so much that you’d shoot another kid in the face but that you might be so worried about the last kid you shot in the face that you’d become to much of a sissy to ever pull out your gun to shoot anyone ever again, out of some bizarre, misguided fear that you’d shoot another kid in the face.”
“I’d call that fear very guided,” Rosie said.
“I told my captain at the time he had nothing to worry about,” Braddock said. “That I’d be more than willing to risk shooting more kids in the face if that’s what it would take to make sure actual, degenerate criminals got shot in the face, but he wouldn’t have it. ‘Braddock,’ he said. ‘I’m benching you in the evidence room, because I know how this old story goes. Today, you’ll be afraid to shoot a kid in the face. Tomorrow, you’ll be afraid to shoot a nun in the face. The day after that, you’ll be afraid to shoot a little old lady on her way to choir practice in the face. You’ll be so afraid that you might shoot the wrong person in the face that you’ll never risk drawing your gun to shoot a bad guy in the face ever again.’ From there on, I was stuck in the evidence room, the records room, hell, after that building I never got another assignment that took me out of this building. Just a bunch of bullshit jobs like this one that would never require me to pull my gun because the brass suffered from the delusional fear that I was afraid to risk shooting kids in the face.”
“Shit,” I said. “That’s extreme.”
“I’ll say,” Braddock said. “And I don’t care what my boss then or any boss I’ve had since then says.”
Braddock reached down to his belt and whipped out his old-school revolver. “I don’t care if I have to shoot a thousand kids in the face, I’ll do it just to shoot one real, honest-to-God perp in the face any day, any time.”
“You got a bad rap, boss,” I said.
“Damn straight,” Braddock said as he holstered his weapon.
Rosie looked like she was full of question. “I…just…but how…and the…I can’t even.”
“I was unfairly railroaded by this department for four decades, Smasher,” Braddock said.
“That you were,” Braddock said.
“But was he?” Rosie asked.
“This department owes me,” Braddock said. “And I’ll be damned if I go down without the pension I am owed just so you can play the hero in some sort of straw related melodrama movie of the week tripe.”
“Let me off the leash, boss,” I said. “And you’ll go down as a hero.”
“I don’t care how I go down, Smasher,” Braddock said. “Just as long as I go down to Florida, dump my old lady in a steak house parking lot, and then fish and drink until I’m good and dead.”
“Boss,” I said. “I swear to you that I will not do anything to jeopardize your career.”
“You already have!” Braddock said. “Your hi-jinx has the mayor rethinking the whole damn straw law! He’s going to meet with the city council to talk about nixing the thing altogether!”
Now, Rosie was mad. “Damn it, Smasher!”
“’Damn it, Smasher’ is right,” Braddock said. The old man pulled a giant stack of paper work out of his desk drawer. “You’ve left me no choice.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“The mountain of paper work I’ll have to fill out just to get your union to not fight it when I fire your dumb ass!” Braddock answered.
“Ha!” I said. “Bless the union!”
“That’s just to start,” Braddock said as he pulled out six more stacks, piling his desk high.
I laughed. “You’ll never get all that filled out!”
“Oh, you don’t think so?” Braddock asked.
“I know so!” I said.
“What you don’t know could fill an airplane hangar, you miserable toilet bug,” Braddock said. “What you’re forgetting is that I’ve spent my entire career pushing paper, so a pile like this doesn’t faze me in the slightest. If anything, it gets my dick rock hard!”
“First time since the Reagan administration, I’d wager,” I said.
“Go on,” Braddock said. “Keep making your jokes, Smasher. Keeping running around town with your tail between your legs, violating every rule on the book, shitting on every procedure, pissing off every politician. The second I finish this pile, you’re done. Gone. Outta here. Bye bye. Sayanora. See you later.”
“Not if I finger the Strawman first,” I noted.
“I’m the best in the biz when it comes to ridiculously long government forms, Smasher,” Braddock said. “I’ll have your ass roasting on a spit before your finger gets anywhere near this cockamamie Strawman, if there even is such a person.”
I could tell it caused her great internal distress, but Rosie stuck up for me just the same. “Sir, though I do agree with your assessment that Smasher is a toilet bug, he did bumble his way into a legit case here. And though I share your desire to hold onto this job and do my time quietly until pension time comes, I can’t ignore major crimes that are unfolding before my very eyes.”
“Sure, you can,” Braddock said. “It’s easy. Just grab a chair, take a nap, and when you wake up, you’ll be that much closer to retirement. I’ve been doing it four decades, and you can too.”
Rosie rolled her eyes. “When you put it like that…”
“Make a decision, Quan,” Braddock said. “It’s either your pension or this dick cheeseburger with extra turd fries of a partner of yours. Look, do I care that some madman is handing out cocaine laced straws that will turn the general public at large into coke crazed nard gobblers?”
“Again,” Rosie said. “That’s only been confirmed in rats.”
“Whatever,” Braddock said. “Do I care about it? Sure. Do I care more about sitting my fat ass on that fishing boat with my retirement check rolling in on time every month? You bet. Do I want to keep the mayor’s head out of my ass for the next month until I can leave this world of shit behind? You’re darn tootin.’”
“Sir,” Rosie said. “Up until tonight, I was ready to take the easy way myself, but now…”
“Keep taking it, Quan,” Braddock said. “Say the word and I’ll transfer you to meter maid duty. Keep an eye out for double parkers for the next couple weeks until I can get this stack of papers filled out and then when Smasher’s gone, I’ll get you transferred back. By then, I’ll be ready to walk out the door and you know what? I’ll even leave behind a letter recommending you as the next captain of the straw law enforcement division. Think of it, Quan. You’re a young woman. Three decades of showing up at 10, playing solitaire on your computer until noon, taking three hour martini lunches, occasionally passing out a pamphlet or a fine to some dickhead who didn’t get the pamphlet, all reimbursed at a captain’s pay and when you retire? You’ll retire on a captain’s pension.”
I could tell the little hamster inside Rosie’s brain wheel was running at warp speed.
“But if Smasher goes down,” Braddock said. “He’s likely to bring you down with him. You want to choose loyalty to your partner over lifelong financial security, be my guest, but personally, I’d sell this prick out of a plug nickel.”
“Your vote of confidence is appreciated, sir,” I said.
“Stifle yourself, gas bag,” Braddock replied. “Personally, Quan, I’d take my offer rather than risk losing my job and ending up as some mall cop in the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere, but that’s just me.”
Rosie’s head looked like it was going to explode from all the pressure.
“Well, Quan,” Braddock said, “What’s it going to be?”
Rosie looked at me, then the captain. Me, then the captain.
“I…I’ve never abandoned a partner yet, sir.”
“Very well,” Braddock said. “You just a dumb move, Quan.”
“I regret it immediately, sir,” Rosie said.
“You should,” Braddock said. “I’ll do my best to keep your ass meat out of the frying pan but if push comes to shove and the mayor wants your ass on a plate, then make no mistake about it. I will immediately start a new stack of paperwork to get rid of you.”
“You’re tough but fair, sir,” Rosie said.
“And you,” Braddock said as he pointed at me. “You’re a loose cannon, Smasher. Your ass is writing checks this department could not possibly ever cash and if you think for one damn minute that my ass is going to underwrite the overdraft on your ass, then you are sorely mistaken.”
“I’d never dream of making your ass my ass’s banker, sir,” I said.
“I should hope not,” Braddock said. “You’re both dismissed.”
Rosie and I stood up. Braddock grabbed a pen, clicked it, and went to work on the stack of papers that, if filed, would seal my fate. The old man mumbled to himself as he filled in the blanks. “Name of Offending Officer? Mack Smasher. Offense Committed: Hmm, let’s see. Best to me vague. Underhanded hi-jinx, duplicitous tomfoolery and chicanery in the first degree.”
As Rosie and I walked out of the room, Braddock called for me without lifting his head from the papers. “Smasher?”
“You put the Strawman on ice and sway public opinion to your side by the time I dot my last I and cross my last T, and I will run this whole mess through the shredder and forget I ever dreamed of getting rid of you.”
“Thanks, boss.” I said. “You old softy, you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Braddock said. “Get the hell outta here, for Christ’s sake. The mayor’s head is so far up my ass that I can’t sneeze without him popping out of my nose to sing an operatic concerto.”