Three Shots


Everyone here but me belongs to NBC, Tom Fontana, Dick Wolf, and those folks. I'm not looking to buy, heck, I'm not even serious about renting.I'm just squatting. Don't sue, I'm poorer than I look.

One Bourbon

The first place I could think of going was the Waterfront. That's a good sign, right? If I can think of it as a safe haven right away, maybe our customers will, too.

Fortunately, the only person there was the bartender, so there was no one to see me shaking. I'd like to think I'm calm under pressure, that as an elite member of the Baltimore City Police Department I have nerves of steel. I don't. I have nerves of glass. Especially when I've just killed a man.

I went into the kitchen and tried to fix myself a sandwich, but I wasn't really hungry and abandoned ship halfway between putting the bread on the plate and opening the fridge. So instead, I washed my hands again. Out, out damned spot, indeed.

The first time I read "Macbeth" was in high school. I never understood how guilt could overcome someone like that. If you're going to kill someone, at least have the guts to live with it. I thought working Homicide would only reaffirm that notion.

It doesn't. Sure, the dumb mooks who kill for fun, who kill for profit, who kill out of some strange justification, they can live with it. They deny doing the dirty deed more to piss off the detectives than out of any actual belief that we'll take them at their word and release them. They'll do the time, content to know that their image has gotten a boost, even if they're not on the street to enjoy it. Murder isn't wrong to these geniuses because human life isn't something of value. Robbery is a greater offense, you see, because a gold watch can be pawned. You can only sell your soul metaphorically. These folks don't do metaphors.

It's the other people, the non-criminals, who prove just how keen an observer of the human condition Billy Shakespeare really was. The involuntary manslaughters, the justifiable homicides, the accidents and mistakes, those people, they don't need three witches in the woods to make them cry. They've done something that they've always viewed as unthinkable. They've taken another life.

So what am I? I'm in that third group, halfway between accident and accepting. I know I've done something wrong. I've just played God and I'm not sure I'll be able to handle it. Screw your courage to the sticking place, Macbeth.

I probably won't get caught. Gordon Pratt put three detectives in the hospital. Fucker used teflon bullets and nearly killed Kay, Beau, and Stan. I committed an almost perfect crime. A black-market silencer, latex gloves, no witnesses, no physical evidence. I wore K-mart clothes that have since been burned. The only weak link is that I used my service weapon. But that's not as stupid as it sounds. The investigation of this crime is going to be so cursory as to be inconsequential. No cop is going to turn one of his own in -- and it's obvious that a cop did this. Even Frank, with his holier-than-thou morals, understands the laws of the jungle.

So, like Macbeth, it won't be me versus the authorities. It will be me versus my conscience. And considering all the other things I've done in my life, all the things I will do in the future, what's one more load to bear?

It won't be guilt that does me in. Instead, it will be the knowledge, which I will try and deny until my dying breath, that Stan would never, ever have done this for me. Mitch, maybe. But not me.

And that's what sends me to the storeroom for a brand new bottle of Early Times.

*****

One Scotch

Thank god Meldrick isn't doing the bar tonight. I don't think I could deal with him right now and I don't want to have to drink among strangers.

But I need a drink. Badly. Munch is giving me Scotch instead of whiskey. Tells me I won't notice the difference after a while and they are running low on Beam. I don't care, not tonight.

What the *fuck* was I thinking? Oh, yeah, right. I wasn't thinking. It's that Irish temper, huh? No, it was the absolute lack of brains is what it was. Another Dewars, Munchling!

Had I been thinking at all, I would have popped Mahoney in private. Without witnesses. Not even Lewis, who doesn't trust me anymore anyways. And sure as hell without Terri anywhere near. She's sweet and all, but underneath that good-friend exterior lies the heart of the selfish bitch she really is.

Wanna know why she calls me Sir Michael? Because back in the Academy, I rescued her from a couple of angry ex-classmates. They were drunk off their asses -- even more drunk than I plan on getting tonight -- and had cornered her in the Academy parking lot. I didn't find out until later that the reason they were ex-classmates is that Stivers had gone to the administration after she found them copying off each other on the Crime Scene Procedures exam. Had I known then that she had ratted them out, I would have gone the other way. Terri ended up class valedictorian because one of the guys she got booted out would have been the real one.

But now I'm stuck. And it's only going to be a matter of time until she turns me in, too. Lewis won't. He doesn't trust me, but he ain't gonna turn me in. He knows I wouldn't rat on him, so he'll do the same for me. Partners are supposed to do that sort of thing.

Mahoney had to be stopped. He was just going to be killing more and more innocent people. All those kids were going to grow up thinking Luther Mahoney was a pillar of the fucking community and it was going to get harder and harder to bring him down. I know how the brass works here. The commissioner, the deputies, even Barnfather and especially Gaffney. They know which side their bread is buttered on and it ain't the side of justice. Mahoney would have died an old man, peacefully in his bed, and been given a royal burial if someone didn't stop him.

I just wish it wasn't me who did. Not because it was dirty work. When I took that oath at graduation from the Academy, I swore to uphold the law and preserve justice. That means doing it any way necessary. I can handle it -- sure, Mikey, and how many weeks ago was it that Meldrick pulled your Glock out of your mouth? -- but I'd handle it better if it didn't mean my parents had to think that they produced three bad seeds, not just Heckyl and Jeckyl in Ohio, or wherever the fuck Drew and Greg are. Mom and Dad don't deserve that.

So I'm sitting here at the bar, watching the level go down and down in the Dewars bottle. Munch doesn't know what's wrong. Or, actually, what's different that's wrong. Nobody looks at me right anymore. They're all looking for the dark side. Proof that I was bought by the Rolands, proof that I would have turned in the guys from Arson to save my own ass (would I have?), proof that I'm related to Drew and Greg after all.

Lewis is gonna be looking at me funny, too. He's gonna start freaking out that I'm gonna eat my gun again. But I can't, not now. I have to make sure that someone knows the truth once Terri spills the beans. 'Cuz I guarantee, she's gonna leave out the part that makes her look less that perfect. I have to stay alive to protect Meldrick, my *partner*, from whatever shitstorm comes down. Because I started it.

When you look at it without knowing what really went down, all that happened was that I popped a guy with his gun down. It was a clean shoot -- Mahoney had a gun pointed at my partner when Stivers and I got there. But I know how things can get screwed up.

The bottle is starting to head towards halfway empty and I'm feeling it. It's okay when I sit still, but boy does the room spin when I move. I'm an extreme drunk -- if I'm happy when I start drinking, I get very happy. When I'm angry, I get very angry. And when I'm miserable like I am now, I'm a sad drunk. And right now, I don't know how much sadder I could get. In every sense of the term.

Munch has my car keys. He's telling me Bayliss is going to take me to my boat, since Lewis isn't around. I don't want to go home now. I wish Julianna was here. I get seasick when I'm drunk and alone on my boat. And I don't want Timmy and his puppy-dog eyes sitting with me until I either pass out or puke my guts out.

*****

One Beer

It's not my shift at the bar, so I'm free to drink as much of whatever I choose. I'm going with Natty Bo. By the gallon.

I'm a cheap drunk, I admit it. I'm even cheaper because I haven't drank in so long. Buddhists are supposed to be careful about that stuff. That, and the doctors told me to lay off the liquor until after everything around my liver healed.

If Frank were here, he'd tell me how appopriate it was that all it took for me to get trippy was a few beers. I'm so easy to provoke into everything else -- anger, amusement, righteous indignation, sadness, love.

But Frank's not here. In fact, Frank's not being here is one of the reasons I am. Frank would have done something, said something that would have kept me from doing what I just did tonight. Tonight, I went from speaking for the dead to adding to their numbers.

I try to tell myself that by killing Luke Ryland, I am saving lives. Ryland would have gone to New Orleans and done the same thing he did here. I am preventing a homicide, which is something that every Homicide detective should aspire to do.

But I'm having a hard time convincing myself of this. And it's all because of Frank. Frank didn't believe in justifiable homicide. If someone is dead when they shouldn't be, it's murder. He tried to let that girl off, but that wasn't about her, it was about me, and I know that now.

But Ryland should be dead, just not in the way Frank would deem acceptable. How can we be angels of justice when justice fails us like that? I saved innocent lives by killing someone in cold blood. Did the angels of justice fall, or did justice itself fall first, setting the angels free?

A long time ago, when I asked Frank why whichever cop shot Gordon Pratt should get away, he said it was because we are the good guys. Are we really? I let someone get away with murder (it was Munch, I know it was, and I let him go), but will that same favor be extended to me? It sure as hell wasn't granted to Kellerman. And I'm a lot more like Kellerman than Munch.

Preventive murder. Maybe that's why I was never angry with Mike, at least not after I read the reports. I knew, even before I could have possibly known, that there was a connection between the two of us. Frank roasted Mikey alive in the box, so I heard. There is no justifiable homicide, I can still hear Frank's voice echoing in my head, and it doesn't matter who the victim is and who the murderer is.

But that's hypocrisy, Frank. I've finally caught you. You let Munch get away, too -- you must have known as well as I did -- but you couldn't let Mikey off the hook. Your stellar powers of logic, honed by the Jesuits, failed you. I've caught you and you're not here to accept your failure with the usual lack of grace. You're a sore loser, Frank, and you took your toys home rather than face the fact that you lost.

I hate you sometimes, Frank. I hate that you were always able to leave your work at home and lead a normal, well-adjusted life in the real world. I hate that you never doubt yourself. I hate you for never showing me any affection, any indication at all that I didn't piss you off, unless you needed to. I hate that you abandoned me.

So I'm left here, with three empty beer glasses and one guilty conscience. Were you here, you'd tell me I've had a guilty conscience for as long as you've known me. But you're not here, are you, Frank?

And I'm glad. I don't know that I want you to see what I've become.

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