Extrospection - Take 3 (An Original Short Story)
A mere two weeks out of training school and this was the end result. A second nightshift run partnered up with a cop almost two decades his senior, to break him in to his new role slow. The stories exchanged back at the academy painted a very different picture to how real life now appeared in law enforcement. Brad rested his head upon the window of the car door. At least an hour had passed, patrolling identical looking streets with not a soul in sight. Boredom had sunk it’s long talons into this already drawn out and dreary watch. He turned to look over at Al, combing the derelict roads with one lazy arm slumped over the wheel.
”Tell me you ain’t been doing this for most of your career at this precinct.” The look returned from Al was one of disbelief. The many years of fulfilling his role as a seasoned servant of justice had taught him more than any training manual ever could. So those thoughtless pearls of wisdom delivered with such bluntness served as a minor shock to him.
”And what makes you say something like that?” He asked with a genial smile spread across his face.
”Well, this town. I mean, it’s dead.” Brad replied, gazing back out at some dishevelled apartment blocks. ”Nothing happens at night. Just a collection of empty streets and alleys. I was hoping for a transfer upstate to where the real action lies, you know? That’s the whole point I signed up for this gig. No offense mind.”
Al shot him a wide grin, disguising a cold hidden smirk. ”None taken. It’s just I’ve never witnessed a small-fry rookie cop wanting to get caught up in this game so bad before. Oh, erm… No offense, of course.” Brad pursed his lips together at the speed in which he’d been cut down to size. Feeling the fool, he thought it best to just shut up and keep listening. So Al was more than happy to oblige.
”You know, son. Don’t let this black blanket of a façade fool you, OK?” He continued as Brad shifted his body to look at him. ”In all my thirty years on the force, I’ve had two young cadets die on me already. Both of them, not much older than you. These lands are brimming with hidden activity. You don’t need me to tell you that, right? You know who I'm talking about. Los Magra? This here is their turf. Behind the walls of many of these old houses and buildings we’re passing by, the shit that’s going on within will make your stomach turn.”
”Like what, sir?” Brad asked, further adjusting the position in his seat to better face Al.
”Bad things. And just call me Al from now on, OK?” Brad nodded his acknowledge back. ”All my experience in this game has taught me one fundamental thing. The quiet calm you hear outside right now? That’s when the neighbourhood is at it’s most dangerous. It’d do you good to always bear that in mind from here on in. Don't get complacent about this job. Or you could end up biting the bullet just like my two horizontal friends did. You hear me?”
Brad’s focus keep drifting to morbid curiosity as he kept wandering back to his partner’s previous statement. ”I understand, Al. I guess I started taking everything I was seeing at face value too early in the "game" as you call it. But what exactly are those “bad things” that go on in the neighbourhood?”
”Everything you were seeing?” Al exclaimed back. ”You’ve been on the beat for all of two days. Are you serious?” Before the two men could resume their conversation, the radio crackled into life. A hoarse-throated woman’s voice sounded out of a tinny speaker under the dashboard. ”Dispatch. We've got an alarm triggered on 107 Priory Street. A convenience store owned by a Mr. Anthony Robinson.”
Al grabbed a plastic, black receiver and responded. ”10.4… We’re on our way.”
As he cradled it back in place, the car sped up. ”You wanted action? Well, next time be careful what you wish for.”
Though Brad had appeared not to hear him. His thoughts were tuned in to the upcoming episode of drama awaiting them. He had enough local knowledge about this town to know that their destination was but a couple of blocks away. ”What do you think is going on?”
Al picked up on the sudden sense of nervousness next to him. A far cry from the confident patrolman of just a few moments ago. Though having been exposed to a host of new recruits in the past with extraordinary personalities, he decided to ease up on the paternal lecture for now. ”Should be OK, Brad. We get this from time to time. Probably a faulty connection with the buildings electrics. Maybe some kids playing the fool. Who knows? But we gotta check it out. In fact, here’s our stop up just ahead over there.” The squad car pulled close to the side of the kerb with the main high street a few yards further up. ”Parking is a bitch outside his store.” Al muttered in his usual throaty drawl. ”We’ll just walk the rest of the way.”
The two officers stepped out into the near pitch black narrow alleyway. Not a glimmer of activity either direction, with the exception of the cool night breeze. They strolled up the sidewalk toward the end of the street. Brad felt a soft dig to the ribs as Al leaned over. ”This should be just a routine stop-and-go inspection. As I said, you’ll be getting a lot of these. Just stay vigilant though as you never can tell if…”
”Get back!” exclaimed Brad, swinging one arm into his partner’s chest and tucking him back behind the street corner. Before Al had a chance to react, Brad lifted an index finger up to his lips. ”Did you see that?” He whispered.
”See what, damnit?” Replied Al, now also reducing his voice down to a guttural croak.
”As you rounded the corner, across the street. There’s a guy crouched down behind a truck parked up near the sidewalk. I think he's staking the place out. Have a look.” After giving the rookie cop a brief angry stare down at his manhandling, he peered around the corner. It was a good way off, but he could just make out the faint outline of a lone figure wearing what appeared to be a white t-shirt. His eyes widened with suspicion. ”Boy, you got some pair of eyeballs on you.” He mumbled through the corner of his mouth, watching the hunched youth. ”Can’t believe you saw that? But I’ll tell you what. I ain’t seen nothing like this in a long time. Mr. Robinson’s store next door is still open and this has all the hallmarks of a robbery about to take place.” He was about to turn back when a second figure popped his head over the rear tail-end of the abandoned truck. A trickle of electric anxiousness ran down his spine. He spied the two of them for a couple seconds longer. ”OK, now this looks bad.”
He moved back under the cover of darkness and signalled to his partner. ”Lucky you. Looks like you actually got your wish tonight, son. If this is Los Magra activity, we could have a major situation brewing here. Get yourself prepped if I need you to cover me.”
”Sure thing, Al.” Brad answered back over his shoulder. He had noticed the sudden change in him. Gone was the wannabe hero of their fallen city and in his place, nothing but a scared little runt. Al felt a sliver of satisfaction at this revelation, however fleeting it was, as his attentions were honed in on something of much higher importance. He readied himself to duck his head out to check again when a low murmur caused him to look back. A pale, shocked face glared back at him out of the gloom. Brad’s lower lip trembled in the cold night air. ”What is it, boy?” He asked in an impatient hurry.
”I could have sworn… I mean… I think I may have left my firearm in my locker.” His solitary one-man backup aid was crumbling before his very eyes. Now the cowering, frightened upstart beneath was exposed in all his shamed glory. Al’s mouth drooped open in disbelieving astonishment. ”You shiting me right now? You telling me all this time you didn’t even feel the light weight of your empty holster at your side? You fucking idiot! Our lives are at stake here!” It was plain to see the rookie was lost in a sea of confusion. The timing was as bad as it gets . Al thought quick and calm for the both of them. ”Get your ass to the car and radio in backup. Now!”
Brad obediently rushed off down the alleyway as he pushed his head round the street corner once more. Al swore he spotted some other foreign movement in the shadows far ahead on the same stretch of road. He squinted hard but his aged eyes were not what they used to be. A moment later, the original duo sped fast across the street. Al looked back over his shoulder at the lone squad car parked up. The lights were on inside as Brad was seen speaking into the receiver, the door still ajar. He shook his head and closed his eyes tight. Realising his partner was a shivering wreck of a man who may well have served out his last night as an officer of the law, Al gripped his gun with both hands. It was common place for gang members to be armed to the teeth and with the two possibility of his suspects strapping firearms, the odds were firmly stacked against him. It was now or never. He gritted his teeth and took in two deep breaths. A surprise scare might cause them to hightail it out of there. A cop brandishing a firearm in the air should signal trouble, even for those vicious bastards, he thought. It may buy him enough time until the cavalry showed up to save the day.
His tired pulse raced hard as he dashed out into the street. Just in time to see the youths enter the premise. A single shot rang out through the store front. He was too late…