03 December 2010

"Exterior, Alley, Daytime"

By Curtis C. Chen

Detective Burgeson dragged me out to the dumpster, where Morales' body lay under the black tarp.

"Some free advice," she said. "If you ever want to make detective, you need to be more circumspect when interviewing people."

"Who says I want to make detective?" I said.

"You're a good cop, Griff." I could tell it took great effort for her to pay me a compliment. "There aren't enough thinking police in this city. You want to walk a beat for the rest of your life, or do you actually want to put away the bad guys?"

I didn't want to think about this. I might be dead in three years. I didn't want to complicate my life any more than it already had been by my uncontrollable magic superpower.

"In case you haven't noticed," I said, "those of us in uniform are the ones watching your back when you walk into a crime scene. The black-and-whites are first to respond when there's a riot, or a gang war, or a run on DVD players at Walmart."

"I am not in any way belittling the uniformed officers of SFPD," Burgeson said. "But we both know there'll always be more cadets. You can do more than this."

"Why this sudden interest in my career?" I asked. "Last year we didn't even know each other. I don't think we've had ten conversations since then, and most of those were while you were investigating me for Debra's murder. Now suddenly we're best friends?"

Burgeson sighed. "You're treading water, Griff. I know you've been through a lot. Your partner died. That's some heavy shit. But I don't see you dealing with it. You gotta move on, and getting out of that uniform is a big step."

I started walking away. "Thanks for the pep talk, Dr. Shawna. I'm going now."

"Griff! I'm serious!"

I whipped back around and glared at Burgeson. "You think I'm fucking around here? You think I'm wallowing in self-pity or grief?" I felt my hands curling into fists. "Have you ever lost a partner? Have you ever had to watch someone's throat get torn out, and later wonder if you might have been able to prevent it?"

Burgeson shook her head. "No."

"Well, I hope you never have to. And maybe you'd react differently. Maybe you'd make a run for police chief, or sell all your worldly possessions on go on a spiritual odyssey." I felt tears burning behind my eyes. "Or maybe, just maybe, you'd decide that the best way to honor your dead friend is to keep doing the job for which she gave her life. And when it's my time, I hope I go down in the line of duty, because anything less will be an insult to everything that I ever chose to stand for."

We stared at each other without blinking for a long moment.

"Somebody order a meat thermometer?" called a female voice behind me.

I turned to see the ME, Pamela Walker, strolling down the alley. She waved at the tarp. "Is that the body?"


Photo: Dumpsters in an alley by marika.laurel, Seattle, March, 2009