Fresh outta the academy, every rookie has a perception of the world.
Some look at it in black and white.
Others see shades of grey.
And some see a shower of shit.
Me? I saw blue. My father was a cop and a damn fine one at that. Ever since I was a boy, I wanted nothing more than to join the force. My first day out of the academy, I was thrown into the CPD and assigned a training officer; Nick Nolan.
Nick wasn’t happy about having me tag along. I remember walking into the changing rooms, squeezing past everyone else as I searched for a locker only to be cornered by him and two others I’d somewhat affectionately come to know as Chalk and Cheese.
Nolan was in his forties, a stern stoic face with a chiselled jaw. He was bald, with plenty of stubble. His piercing blue eyes gave me the impression he wasn’t to be fucked with.
I was right.
Chalk and Cheese on the other hand, well, they weren’t so terrifying.
Chalk was a little fat guy, all sweat patches and grease.
Cheese, if he wasn’t so damn good looking, people might realize he was dumb as fuck.
Anyway, they cornered me, right?
“Look kid, you’re gonna wash out in a few days,” Nolan said confidently. “So how about you do us a solid and get the fuck out of here now, alright?”
I didn’t even respond at first. I just stared at him like some dumb kid.
He looked at the other two and scoffed.
“You ain’t that bright, are ya?” He scolded me. “Get the fuck out.”
He waved me away like I was a piece of shit. But I stood my ground. By the time he walked off and turned around to see what I was doing, I was unloading gear into my locker as if the conversation never happened. My pops always taught me to stand like a man, whatever the eventual cost.
“Alright boy, you’ve got some balls. That was your first test; stay calm, don’t take the bait and you’ll do fine on this job.”
I walked over with a smile, offering a rookie handshake.
“Fuck off with that kid. I’m Nick, that’s Chalk and that’s Cheese. Don’t ask about the nicknames. You can call me Nolan and you’re riding with me.”
That first day was full of little tests like that but by the end of it, we’d already grown closer together. Training Day wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but it was the best of many worse days to come.
I still look back at that day, and if I knew then what I know now, I might have had seconds thoughts about what I had gotten myself into.
They say you live and learn on this job. I learned from the best. But sometimes even the best have flaws that can’t be ignored.
The day we pulled down that street is one I’ll never forget.
It was quiet; serene almost.
We hadn’t been called out but Nolan said he needed to run a personal errant that wouldn’t take too long. I sat in the car and waited for what had to be twenty minutes before I heard the gun shot.
At first, my ears rung.
I didn’t quite get it.
But despite my brain being behind, my body was way ahead. Before I even knew what had happened I was bursting down the door of that house and what I found inside, I never expected in a million years.
A man, twenty three, shot dead by my training officer in his own home.
I couldn’t explain it at first. I stood with my gun drawn, looking at Nolan in shock.
“I had to do it kid, he pulled on me.”
At first I wanted nothing more than to believe that, only when I looked around, I couldn’t find a weapon.
Nolan noticed, taking one from inside his boot and placing it near the body.
“Come on, we’ve gotta get outta here.”
I spent the next twenty minutes of that journey trying to pluck up the courage to ask what the fuck I’d just witnessed. Turned out, I didn’t have to.
“I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you he deserved it. I don’t police the same way as everyone else, you probably know that by now. What I do to keep the peace, it takes a little something extra, kiddo.”
“You killed that man,” my naivety blossomed powerfully.
“I did what I had to do to protect many more that need it. Look, come with me tomorrow night and I’ll show you what this is all about. I’ll show you the bigger picture. Once you see what we’re trying to do, you’ll know that we’re doing the right thing. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”
I didn’t want to go but my curiosity had peaked. Besides, if I didn’t, would I be the next body dropped by him? I said sure and arranged a time to meet him.
The next twenty four hours were filled with self-doubt and curiosity.
As news of that man’s murder filtered throughout the station, news and television networks, I began wondering if anyone could place us at the scene.
I began to panic.
I knew what I was doing. I knew why I was doing it. I knew right from wrong but it didn’t matter. I didn’t have a choice but to keep my mouth shut.
That’s what I did.
The very next night, I was the very place I didn’t want to be. I was off duty with Nolan, driving down a darkened street towards an office building kept snugly at the end of an alleyway. I didn’t ask questions, I didn’t dare.
Hell, I may not like the immediate answers.
“When we arrive, you need to keep your mouth shut, alright?” Nolan reminded me. “They’re going to be pissed I brought you, so let me do the talking.”
We pulled up down the alley, right outside the building and headed inside. It was your typical office space and we went immediately to the boardroom at the back, where five men and a woman awaited us.
They weren’t pleased.
I daren’t take a seat inside that hostile environment. I decided to stand by the door, just in case I needed a quick exit. Nolan on the other hand, he casually sat down.
“Are you kidding me?” One of them asked. He was a bulky guy, at least two hundred and fifty pounds of muscle. I recognised him, but I couldn’t place from where. His light brown hair and piercing blue eyes kept me looking sheepishly in another direction.
“He can be trusted. I took down Wheeler and he happened upon it. I had two choices, bring him into the circle or kill him.”
My eyes widened.
“Do you know how dangerous this is?” A female asked. She was wearing street clothes, mid-forties, and quite blunt. “If this little cunt talks, everything is done.”
“Hey kid, what do you know?” The original man asked.
I looked at Nolan for permission to speak and he nodded.
“Nothing. All I know is that Wheeler deserved it,” I responded quietly.
The man stood up and walked over to me, offering me a handshake.
“My name is Detective Johnson and this,” he said pointing around the group. “Is the committee.”
They were all cops? That came as a surprise.
“We’re cops that want a better future for this city and we’ve come together to do that. That means putting our fingers in a lot of different pies and working outside the law. It’s all for the greater good of this great city.”
They all nod. They all believe this.
“Nolan thinks you can be trusted, so we’ll give you a shot. If you do what we ask, you’re in; if you fail, then Nolan will put you down.”
My mind raced. There were a hundred thoughts a second flashing through it. What had I gotten myself into? How could I get out?
“Three weeks’ time, you’ll need to deliver a shipment of goods to the pier just outside town and collect the money. You’ll have starve off the desire to put those assholes in the ground, kid, then get your ass back to a secure location where we’ll be waiting for you.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I was being commissioned for a shady deal.
“No fucking around. Do that and you’ll be blood into the committee. Understand?”
I nodded. “So, you’ve all had to do this?”
The female cop piped up. “Every single one of us.”
“GETTING TO GRIPS”
I spent the next few weeks debating what I was going to do. I wanted to be a good cop. I wanted to be the best cop I could be; a lot like my father. He would’ve never took part in something like this and he was the reason I became a cop in the first place.
Nolan kept sounding me out and making sure I had my head on straight. We kept working the job together, day in and day out, but that didn’t change anything. I had to remain focused on both tasks, ensuring I was up to either one when they called.
We sat in a car on our break, watching the world go by.
“If you’re thinking about backing out, you’re making a mistake, kid. I’m sorry I dragged you into this but I didn’t have a choice. You saw what you saw.”
I grunted. “I’m not going to back out. I know what I have to do.”
“Then why the long face? You’ve been silent for nearly three days now. The job is tomorrow and I’m not confident in what you’re saying. You know what the consequences are, don’t ya?”
He kept repeating that. You know what the consequences are, he’d say. It was a veiled threat at best. The consequences if I didn’t go through with this would be that he’d have to killed me. That much was clear. Though if you ask me, even to this day, I don’t think he would’ve went through with it.
“Tell me why?” I remember asking. “Tell me why you do what you do.”
“It started when my wife got killed. The guy who did it, he was a scumbag – a predator. He followed her to her car one night and assaulted her. She didn’t stand a chance, kid. I remember finding that son of a bitch and putting a bullet right between his fucking eyes – only it was Johnson who found me after.”
I knew there was a reason.
“He could’ve arrested me but he didn’t. He offered me the chance to join the committee and work for this town in other ways. We do what we have to do to survive; to make it better for the people in this city. The drug cartels work through us. We manage distribution, take a cut and ensure it doesn’t touch the schools and stays in certain neighbourhoods. It works out well. We have relationships with the gangs that work to prevent harm from hitting the streets and schools. They operate within our guidelines and we provide them protection.”
“You’re working for the bad guys?” I asked. “How can you do that?”
“For the greater good,” he said as if I was naive. “Do you know what would happen if we didn’t exist? There would be drugs flooding the schools and shoot outs in all kinds of different neighbourhoods. You’d have gang wars on every street. We prevent that. Tomorrow, you’ll prevent that.”
It was a noble quest.
I understood it.
I just didn’t agree with it.
Being the bad guy to be the good guy, and taking a cut for yourself? That’s self service, whichever way you look at it. It isn’t as simple as keeping the bad shit off the streets and out of the schools, not when it lines your bank account.
I knew what I had gotten myself into and it was time to blood in, or bail out.
I remember the night like it was yesterday.
The weather was so cold I could see my breath. I drove to the buy with the window open and my heart racing. In the back seat was a suitcase I was frankly too afraid to open. I knew what was inside it; it was cocaine, but I didn’t feel like confirming.
I pulled up to the pier and dipped my lights before shutting my engine off. Two men were waiting for me by a black Sedan, knowing I was on my way.
I wanted to get in, get out, and not look back.
Having gotten out of the truck with the suitcase, I walked over, placed it in their open trunk and waited as they looked inside.
That confirmed it; I was delivering narcotics.
“They said they were sending a new guy but we didn’t expect you,” the head honcho said. He was latino, six feet four with a bald head. There were tattoo’s everywhere. “You look like a rookie to me, esse.”
“Got the money?” I replied.
Got the money.
I fit right in, didn’t I?
“Yeah, we’ve got it. Carlos, open that shit up.”
I took one look, grabbed it, nodded and walked away. I wanted out of there as quickly as fucking possible. The sooner I got back to the warehouse, the sooner I could get home and escape this bullshit.
I literally sped there.
There was no way I didn’t break the law on more than one occasion on that night. Truth be told, it was the least of a long line of criminal offences I had committed.
It wasn’t why I became a cop.
So there I was, sat in my truck outside this warehouse, debating what would happen if I didn’t go inside. I knew it wasn’t an option but hell, it felt good to fantasise.
I remember walking in there and being surprised by what I saw. Nolan and Johnson awaited me, but I expected more of a turnout. They had big smiles on their faces almost the minute they saw the briefcase of cash in my hand. I placed it down on a table in front of me and popped it open.
“I told you he could be trusted,” Nolan said proudly.
Johnson offered me a handshake and smiled.
“Do you know what you’ve done here, kid? You’ve saved lives tonight. We busted those drugs from one of the hoods not complying with our rules. We couldn’t let it get lost in the system so we took it back here and sold it on. With this money, we put our kids through colleges AND we grease the wheels that keep the streets safe.”
“You really believe that shit, don’t you?” I said. They both stopped what they were doing immediately and looked at me. “You’re crooks. You’ve stolen from bad guys and sold to other bad guys, where those drugs will end up back in Mexican schools, killing those kids instead.”
“What the fuck Nolan?” Johnson quizzed. “I thought he saw the bigger picture?”
“The bigger picture of you two lining your wallets?” I added. I shook my head. “Yeah, I saw the bigger picture eight months ago when I was recruited out of the academy.”
Suddenly, flashing lights swarm the building as officers rush inside, guns pointed at Nolan and Johnson. They quickly dropped to their knees, the idea of betrayal finally hitting them.
A female agent walked in, badge around her neck.
“My name is FBI Agent Annie Walker and you gentlemen are under arrest.”
“Kid, what the fuck have you done!?” Nolan cried.
I stood before him, squatting down.
“Do you know how long we’ve been planning this?” I asked him with a smirk. “They recruited me out of the academy, showed me what you’ve done and asked me for my help. I didn’t plan on coming in to nail corrupt cops but when I saw the bodies left in your wake, I couldn’t help myself.”
“That’s right,” Annie butted in. “And you’ve done a great job, kid.”
“The committee won’t die with us, you fuckhead. There’s a lot more out there like us and you won’t find them at all. You just wait until they find out about this; you’re fucking dead.”
I began to walk away.
“I might be dead, I might be the best cop out there or the worst, but the one fucking thing I’m not is corrupt. You’re right about one thing, boys; you don’t have to follow all the rules. Maybe a good cop doesn’t. But what a good cop is, fundamentally, is good. You should’ve reminded yourselves that.”
To say I didn’t want to do it is an understatement. To say I was afraid of the consequences, well, that’s an understatement too.
But you know what?
It shaped my whole career.
I left that warehouse that night knowing what kind of cop I wanted to be. I knew I had to bend or break the rules occasionally to get the job done. I knew the committee had a purpose and it wouldn’t be stopped.
And whatever the consequences of that, it was worth it.