Eh, something that I've been knocking around. Not about Davey. About someone who's been around a lot longer.
The thing is, nobody sets out to deliberately mold their own lives. Maybe not nobody. Maybe a few. One or two out of every couple thousand. The rest of us, we just stumble along and hold on to what we trip over and we just make our lives out of what falls to hand.
And the sad part is that we’re not willing to admit it, right? We talk about choices, we talk about weighing the consequences, we talk about how we carefully considered one path over all the others and then strode cheerfully down it.
It’s all crap, of course. We choose so little, find ourselves settled into a life when we’re so young that we can’t really imagine what a life actually entails. We step firmly into the rut that’ll carry us along for the rest of our lives when we’re still at a point when we think the major decisions are in front of us. Jesus, as near as I can tell, we make the choices that define our lives when we’re still in high school, in elementary school, when we’re on the playground and not getting picked first for dodgeball. Right then, you know that you don’t have the choice to do whatever you want and you start living your life like someone else is making all the choices for you.
I stumbled into my gig in high school. Unintentionally, I say. Tall and tough-looking and blessed with a certain wide-eyed menace that was threatening without being particularly overt. That’s all I needed, really. My resume could have listed a few key elements, and those would have been plenty:
Able to stand in the open, in crowds, in the dark without looking intimidated or suspicious
Knows when to duck
Can speak loudly without an undue amount of profanity
Looks okay in suit & trenchcoat
Knows which end of a gun to point away from himself
If I were management, that’s the guy I’d hire.
Right, high school. Career day. They still do that? I dunno. They had just about given up when I was a kid. It was getting a little embarrassing to encourage us to have careers, y’know? But me, yeah, I played basketball and had that look and the GPA was solid B’s and the recruiter from The Post picked me off the floor and asked me if I liked the cop shows on tv.
Sure thing, I said, telling myself that I was waiting for the pitch so I could laugh it off.
‘Cause the cops, he said, they don’t really do that kind of thing anymore.
Like chase down criminals and break down doors and scream through the night in a patrol car with the sirens going and the lights flashing.
They don’t, huh.
No, not anymore. In the past, yeah, of course. These days, though, you’ve got corporate patrol to hand out tickets and break up fistfights and you’ve got a little municipal detective force to try and solve murders and big burglaries, but that’s it.
Okay. So who busts down doors and goes screaming through the night with their sirens flashing?
The recruiter smiled and slid a brochure into my hand. We do.
The brochure was light on details, but had a lot of little cartoons of criminals being chased by guys in trenchcoats and blurbs that said things like “Serve the public trust while making a great salary!” and “Be on the front line of crime deterrence!”
These claims, while not specifically lies, turned out to be inflated even more than I imagined at the time. The recruiter tapped the name printed at the bottom of the brochure: Post Bond & Repatriate. If you’re seventeen, he said, I can get you working as an apprentice. If you’re eighteen, you can get your own bond card. The rest of this, sweeping his arm around the gym, taking in all the kids and the folding tables they were hovering around, the suits from the corporations, that sense of defeatism that pervaded the whole room, the rest of this is just trying to get bodies to sit behind desks. He tapped the brochure again. This takes something special.
I shrugged, I think, and tried to hand him back the brochure. He pushed it back at me. Keep it, he said. Stuff it in your back pocket and look at it tonight when you’re hanging up your clothes tonight. Think about it. Call me if you decide that it looks like something you might be interested in.
It turns out that the part of my job that I dislike the most is the part that ends up being the most lucrative. When my cases are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and making their weeklies on time and getting out from under. And, really, those are the guys that pay my bills and keep me in nice clothes and good booze. But the guys I love are the ones that can’t get it together, the guys that are scraping and scrimping and up against the deadline from word go. The ones that convince their mothers to put up the deed on the condo, the title to the car, cash in the family jewels to get junior outta the slam. And then junior’s gotta start paying down the fines, and for something like aggravated assault or grand larceny that’s an easy seventy, eighty K and, shit, where’s junior gonna get that kind of money?
So, yeah, those guys are heading for a 12:01 the second they sign a contract, and once they flake all my rights come into play. And I get to start kicking in doors and interrogating witnesses and doing a mad chase through the streets to find the bastard before he manages to get the cash together to split town or the coppos clink him up for FTP. I love that part. I love waving the gun and yelling STOP RIGHT THERE and putting my Buick on manual and weaving through traffic as I jack up the throttle. Really, without that part the job would be completely untenable.
This is strictly for pay, you understand. There’s no do-gooder aspect involved. I thought, once, that maybe there would be. That once I got my feet under me, once I understood the details of the job, that I could help people out, could game the system, make the bastards pay through the ass and reach out a helping hand to the good people who made a mistake. And maybe I will, someday. When I can tell a bastard from the good.
But if there was someone I’d help just to help, there’s this girl. Nothing like that, nothing that makes me more of a rat than I already am. This street kid, helped me out finding a guy that had gone to ground in the underground. Nice girl, runaway from Philly. Boop. A street name, of course, and I thought, very briefly, about getting a strand of hair from the collar of her jacket and figuring out who she really was and sending her home. But, shit, I dunno. You’re a kid that’s got the stones to just take off and make your own way, I don’t know that I’ve got the right to second-guess you.
So the girl, yeah, she dropped dime on this real real bad guy and pointed me to the right tunnel at the right time of day and I walked right up and tazed him while he was still sleeping off a drunk. About a perfect collar, really. So Boop got a couple hundred as a finder’s fee and just ‘cause it turned into a nice kinda sunny day by the time I got the bad guy into the Muni system and then back to Angel’s Court to find her to give it to her, I bought her a hot dog and a lemonade and we talked a little.
And so she’s what, sixteen, seventeen and what little life she’s had is what she figures the entire world is made up of, so she tells me about family, back in Philly, and it’s a jumble of moms & dads & siblings who’re sometimes blood and sometimes not. The Multiplicity Marriage thing that took off in the Midwest but never got legislated one way or another. So Boop, yeah, she grows up with a dozen people she calls Mom Judy or Mom Emily, Dad Roger, Dad Ted. Twenty brothers and sisters and they’re mostly made up from bits of the dozen parents’ DNA that were shotgunned into a blank egg, so some of ‘em have Boop’s eyes, her lips, her hair, but none of them really look like her, and none of them feel like blood.
So she goes and she heads for the BC, ‘cause it’s either NYC or the Brass City if you’re an East Coast runaway and New York managed to get the passport thing passed, so it’s real tough to even get a bite to eat without flashing some ID. The BC’s been getting a ton of fresh blood on the streets since the passport thing.
Anyway, yeah, so she ends up in the BC and hooked up with a guy who turned out – Wow! – to be a real piece of crap and then she ran with a gang for a while but the real piece of crap managed to put the gang in the middle of a firefight between the mob and the Muni cops and then went and got killed his own self, leaving Boop out fending for herself. And she’s telling me this and eating her hot dog on a for real stunning spring day and there’s no anger in her, no regret, no pain or fear. She’s just telling this story about things that are going on in her life ‘cause she figures I’m a nice guy who’s interested. And, really, that’s just about the only impetus that would make me a nice guy who’d be interested.
So, sure, for Boop, I’d do a freebie. Knock some heads, flash a badge, talk some shit about Muni regs. Bail her out if she got clipped for shoplifting bottles of water or pickpocketing fatass tourists in Angel’s Court. At least I tell myself that I’d take care of her, but, shit, nothing’s come up so I haven’t really had to prove it, one way or another.