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My Throw Down Piece

Patrick J. Lambe

 

It was him again, her Ďfriendí.

"Kellyís not here. Iíll tell her you dropped by."

I tried to close the door on him, wondered why I had opened it in the first place.

"She borrowed a book, for class. Said I could pick it up today."

I remembered sheíd mentioned something about it before she put her clothes on earlier, right before she left.

I moved aside to give him space to walk in. I wished I could explain it to him. Some people are incapable of love, oblivious to the offering. People like that; we seek each other out, sleep with each other.

I went to the bathroom. She used to have a roommate but she had the place to herself now. I guess having strange men around all the time was not conducive to studying.

I could hear the kid padding around the dorm room, pawing through things for his book. Kelly looked good on the outside, talk to her for a few minutes and -if you hadnít been burned by someone like her years before- you might fall for her. She reminded me of a slightly dented can hiding botulism under the label. Her sex life was a cross between the Kinsey Report and the Kama Sutra.

My calling her damaged is more than ironic. Iím thirty-seven years old, and still a cop, at least until the Internal Affairs Division is done with their review. And Iím going to have to dodge a resident assistant when I leave in five minutes.

The kid's gone by the time I get back from the bathroom. Soís my throw down piece.

*

First time I saw her, saw them, was a late afternoon. I had to meet Reese and Terence to talk about an upcoming job. Iíd grabbed some food from the take-out place next door and was sipping a Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks when I caught her reflection in the mirror. She was wearing one of those pseudo military jackets, the kind with the fake fur lining and white and gray synthetic strands sewn into the hood. I donít know what theyíre called now, but I called mine a snorkel jacket when I got my first one in third-grade. I hadnít seen one in years, and then all of a sudden every woman under twenty five was wearing them.

The kid followed behind her, his eyes taking in the ambiance of the Court Tavern: the barber chair the bouncer sat in at the entrance, the lawyers who had been here since lunch time and would be here till eight.

They sat down at the end of the bar, ordered a pitcher. Reese and Terence came in. By the time we were through discussing business, there was a crowd of men around them, around her. The kid was sitting in the corner, wedged between the jukebox and the bar, staring into a pint glass.

*

A Woman like Kelly, youíve got to watch it when she uses the word Ďfriendí, because it has a different meaning depending on her inflection of the word, and the time of the week. Me, I was a Ďfriendí, one she slept with. The kid, he was a Ďfriendí, one she didnít sleep with, wouldnít sleep with. Who knows how many Ďfriendsí she has, how many categories? She threw the word around so much I think she occasionally believed she had friends. One thingís for sure, none of them were women.

She knew what she wanted. Problem was she wanted something different every five minutes. She wasnít bad at heart. I really donít believe she ever meant to hurt anyone, but she was unwilling or incapable of seeing the damage caused in her wake.

The kid thought he was her friend, was trying hard to be her friend, but he didnít realize yet that she was incapable of friendship; or at least friendship with any definition he could understand.

And now he was walking around with my gun.

*

"Weíve got a problem Reece." I was calling from the pay phone in the dorm hallway. Kelly didnít have a phone in her dorm room; she did all of her communication through a cell phone.

"What kind of problem?"

"That girl I was seeingÖ"

"We donít have a problem Tolland, or at least we shouldnít. I thought you saw that train wreck miles before it happened, like you were psychic or something."

"Sheís got this friend, thinks heís in love with her."

"And."

I told him.

"So what? I know they took your service pistol when you got suspended. The gun the kid lifted, itís unregistered, right?"

"Yeah."

"You holding something back Tolland?"

"Just worried what the kid's going to do with the gun."

"Why get yourself so worked up? If he wanted to use it on you he would have this morning."

"I guess youíre right."

"Get your badge bunny out of town for a while. Weíll find the kid."

*

Every woman Iíve been with has told me one of three things, some of them two. Kelly was the first trifecta.

    1. I never do this with a guy I hardly know
    2. I used to work as a model
    3. I was molested as child.

The first statement: almost assuredly a lie. Iím not the best looking guy, the most charming; theyíve been with better guys that theyíve known less. The second: mostly true. Maybe they posed in an art class somewhere, or a small town appliance store had a black and white add in the local paper and they used her in it. The third: well, I donít work on the sex crimes unit; Iím cynical when it comes to motives, besides my own. But why would someone lie about something like that?

*

The thing about the gun; I had fired it recently. Coincidentally it was the same night as the second time I ran into them. I was walking into the Somerset Diner on Easton Avenue, headed towards the counter when I noticed someone watching me.

He was dressed in a gray uniform, slightly too small for him, with black stripes down the side. Rent a cop. I looked closer and remembered the first time I saw the face, sticking out of the collar like a balloon with a few too many air molecules, through the bulletproof windshield of an armored car. I had placed a piece of paper in front of him, on the outside of the windshield. It said: ĎC4. I used half this amount to blow up a tank in Iraq in 1991í. Reese had put a large brick of modeling clay on the hood and unrolled a coil of wire out into an alley. The guard had thrown his gun out before he exited the armored car.

I donít know how he recognized me. We were wearing masks at the time of the robbery. Maybe it was the way I carried myself, something in my eyes. He looked away, paid the waitress before he was halfway through with his dinner, walked out the front door.

I grabbed my coffee to go and hustled out the back entrance, caught up with him right before he turned the key to the ignition. I showed him the gun, kept it trained on him as I went around the side of the car and opened up the passenger door.

*

I stopped at two or three bars after I was done with the driver, knocking back Scotch neat. I donít know how I wound up next to her in the center of the throng of guys around her. Donít remember what I said to convince her to come home with me. She put her hand on my chest as we were walking out the door.

"Iíve got to say goodbye to my friend."

She went to the corner of the bar, sat down next to him. Put her hand on his knee. Said something he didnít want to hear, something neither one of them understood. She came back to me after a few minutes.

"You really shouldnít do that to him."

"Weíre just friends. He understands."

I could tell by the way he looked at me when we walked out of the bar that she was right, he did understand. This wasnít the first time she had come to a bar with this kid, left with another man. If he kept hanging around with her, it wouldnít be the last.

*

The gun was untraceable but there was a problem with it. I had to hand over my badge and service pistol when I got suspended. I made it halfway out the Captainís door before he stopped me. Told me he didnít want another Columbine. I handed my throw down piece over to him. He dropped it off at my house a few days later, after I cooled down. Heíd recognize it if it showed up in an evidence room.

I should have gotten rid of it after the armored car driver. I was planning on it, but without access to a well-stocked evidence room anymore, throw down pieces were hard to come by. And a cop like meÖ well I need a throw down piece.

*

I ran into the kid a week after I started sleeping with Kelly. It was a crowded Thursday at the Court Tavern. He was talking with a guy around his own age sitting next to him at the bar. I took a seat next to him, the only vacant one in the place; overheard part of their conversation.

"You should sprout a set of balls, see some other chick. What about that girl Heidi? I know she likes you."

"Itís just, Iíve got this thing for Kelly."

"Sheís bad news, not worth the effort."

I ordered a Scotch. The kid must have recognized my voice because he turned around. His face tensed up when we made eye contact.

"Your buddyís right. Why are you putting yourself through it?"

"Listen Tolland, Kelly and I are just friends."

"Thereís no reason to be friends with a woman you want to sleep with if itís not gonna happen. In fact, youíd have a better chance if you ignored her a little. Maybe treat her a little shitty once in a while. Donít answer a few phone calls."

"Heís right Mike," his friend said.

"Why the advice? I didnít think youíd want to help out the competition."

"I see exactly where itís going with me and Kelly. Itíll last a few weeks, a month maybe. Sheíll get bored, sheís bored already. Sheíll run into some guy in a band or someone with an interesting drug problem. Some head case she can complain to you about. Sheíll tell me she just wants to be friends. Iíll say, OK and weíll probably never talk to each other again."

"You donít care about her at all?" Mike said.

"She doesnít particularly care about me, or you, or anyone else besides herself for that matter. Sheís my throw down piece. She does the job at hand but Iíd be stupid holding onto her for long."

"Youíre wrong about her."

"How many men do you think sheís been with?"

"Itís none of my business." I could tell he was dying to know.

"She told me. Or at least she gave me a number. Closing in on three digits. I doubt itís true, but I donít think itís off my much. A woman whoís been with too many men is damaged. Youíre not the repairman. You should stay away from her. Sheís only good for one thing, and sheís not giving it to you."

I could tell he wanted to take a poke at me, but Kelly must have told him I was a cop. And he knew, deep down, I was right.

*

"Why did you call me Carol?" Kelly asked. Iíd caught up with her at the Melody, a popular dance club. Sheíd just come out of the bathroom trailing some dark haired guy dressed in a lot of leather. He took two steps back after I grabbed her by her arm and hauled her off to a quiet corner. He shrugged, ordered another beer with a shot chaser.

"Whereís you friend, Mike?" I got close enough to see a small glob of semen in the corner of her mouth, just beyond the orbit of her tongue.

"Whyíd you call me Carol?" She asked again.

"It doesnít matter. Whereís Mike? Heís in trouble and I can help him."

"Itís not the first time."

"I can imagine with the fucking way you act."

She looked at me puzzled. "What are you talking about?"

"Mike getting in trouble over you, with the way you twist him around."

"I wasnít talking about Mike."

"Well."

"You called me Carol once before, when we were together, in bed. Who the fuck is Carol?"

"Some girl I knew fifteen years ago."

"Were you fucking her?"

"Do you know where Mike is or not?"

I felt a hand surround my elbow, smelled beer on my face as the guy whoís DNA I had just been staring at spun me around. I punched once, hard in his forehead; turned around to face Kelly.

"I wasnít fucking her. If you keep this up youíll be responsible for more violent incidents than me. You should call up some guy youíre fucking out of town and shack up with him for a few days. Your friend has my gun, and if he doesnít use it on you, Iím tempted to do it myself."

 

*

I lucked out at the Court. My bartender buddy is an aspiring film maker who hates cops and criminals. Canít figure which side Iím on, so he tolerates me. He knows Mike and his friend. Theyíre film students who stop by and talk with him about movies. He doesnít know where Mike lives, but he gives me an address for his buddy.

I drive over to his apartment, off campus on Sudyam Street. One of those houses split into an apartment on each floor. The bottom door is slightly ajar. I push it open. Find Mike sitting on the carpet in the bedroom, the gun in his hand, his buddy sprawled out on the floor. Looks like he has two in him.

Mike comes out of it for a second. He points the gun at me.

I put my hands up. "Donít. I can help."

He puts the gun down, stares at his buddyís corpse. "Why would I want to shoot you?"

Letís see. Iíve been sleeping with the woman you love, have no respect for her, practically called her a slut to your face. I didnít say this but he answered my concerns anyway.

"She canít help it. Sheíll sleep with practically anyone, besides me. You just have to catch her on the right night. I actually turned her down the first night I met her. Blew my opportunity before I really had it. I wanted to get to know her better. I should have realized there wasnít much to get to know."

I walked over to him, picked the gun out of his hand.

"He shouldnít have slept with her. He knew how I felt. He was supposed to be my best friend."

I swung the cylinder out: three in the armored car driver, two in Mikeís friend. That leaves one to complement the suicide part of the equation. But thereís the Captain - the gunís inevitable trip to the evidence room.

"Iíll come with you Tolland. Give a full confession. Youíre a cop."

I wasnít really a cop, hadnít been one for a long time, if ever.

"Weíll take a restraining order out on each other."

"What the hell are you talking about Tolland?"

"Get up." He stood. I caught him by surprise; clocked him hard in the face. Just above the eye. Hit him a few more times.

"You were never here. You stormed over to my house. We fought over the girl. Iíll take care of the gun."

I put my hands down to my sides. "Now itís your turn. Itíll do you some good. But if you knock out any teeth, Iím using the last bullet on you."


Patrick J. Lambe writes: "The first time I heard my native state called New Joisey was by some guy who didnít know the difference between the Dome at Rahway and the Dome of the Rock. I tried to explain it to him, but realized I didnít know the difference myself. The ten people who can handle their rís in the state call it New Jersey. Iíve lived here most of my life; busted my hump as a restaurant worker, lumberyard dog, truck driver, dispatcher, college scam artist, construction drone etc. Iím currently working as a telephone technician while writing crime stories. I've had stories at Plots with Guns, Hardluck Stories, Shots, Shred of Evidence and various other on-line and print magazines. Please check out my web site at http://patlambe.com."

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