Interstate 80…mile marker 47…1:38 a.m.
“Don’t fuck this up.” Frankie says to Driver.
“We got no problems, man.” Driver stands on the shoulder, face harsh in the squad’s glaring spotlight. Hands up, shaking. Driver is scared to death; staring at the .45 staring at him.
Frankie and Gary had pulled three Hefty bags stuffed with weed. Sitting on the trunk now, two hand guns, a knife, eleven tins of heroin. A mostly-smoked spliff. Half-empty Southern Comfort.
Cars and trucks thunder past on the highway. Some drivers honk. One yells something.
Frankie’s partner, Gary, talks to his shoulder mic. “Dispatch from 106. Myself and 107 have two in custody.” Then clanks the driver’s wrist into a set of sleek, black handcuffs.
“You ain’t gotta do this.” Driver pulls his free arm. Gary dances him hard to the trunk. They bang against it and one of the Hefty bags hits the ground. Weed spills.
A semi-rig, horn blasting like a screaming prison, rockets past. Breeze bangs against their faces. Marijuana slips away in the gale.
“Why we gotta go to jail?” Driver asks.
“Three Heftys’ full of smoke, that’s why.” Frankie says.
“I’m saying…take it.” The driver’s voice screws into a whine. “Smoke it. Sell it. I don’t give a shit…but cain’t we boogie outta here?”
Driver flexes. Gary turns the guy’s wrist backward. Then up. The man howls. Gary says, “Stop fighting, buddy. Relax.”
“Dude, you’re breaking him.” The passenger, Mookie, stands on the shoulder. Eyes hard, fist hot and ready.
Frankie puts his Glock against Mookie’s head. “Don’t let that be your last thought.”
The driver fights some more, but Gary gets him cuffed. Walks the guy back to the squad car and puts him in the backseat.
“Can’t believe we’re going to jail for weed.” Mookie says. Watches Gary. Testing the cop, daring the cop to cuff him.
Gary steps up. “Wanna go?”
“So all your cop buddies can fucking Taze me up? Spray me and Taze me? I’ll pass.” Mookie backs away.
Gary winks. “I don’t carry a Taser. Don’t need one. We’re not state police and there’s not a city cop for 50 miles. We’re county. Our back up is…twenty miles away?”
“Thirty…at least.” Frankie says.
The radio squawks. “…107…status?”
“Secure, dispatch.” Frankie says into his shoulder mic.
“So…you and me,” Gary says.
Mookie licks his teeth. But keeps his hands up.
Another semi passes, three or four cars follow; a midnight caravan, bathed in moonlight and the flashing reds and blues.
“We going to have a problem?” Gary says.
Mookie glances at the moon, watches cars pass, shuffles his feet. “Why you doing this? Just take my dope. And the guns, too. Take it all. Price of doing business, man.”
“You think we’re dealers?” Gary asks.
Frankie holsters his gun. “We’re the good guys, Mookie.”
“Justice and apple pie and all that shit?”
Gary taps his silver badge. “Damn straight. You’re the bad guy.”
Frankie says, “We can fight if you want but you’ll still go to jail.”
“Just a little bloody, right?”
Headlights paint Gary and Frankie’s faces. The new car pulls up quick, parks behind it all. Flashing red and blues pop to life.
“No back-up, huh?” Mookie says, then spits. “Fucking liars.”
“Didn’t think anybody was close.” Frankie says. “Just the guy gonna drive you to jail.”
“If I go.”
Gary moves in close. “Do it. I want you to.”
“Gary.” Frankie says, his voice hushed. “Who the fuck is that?”
“Bagged yourself a keeper, looks like.” The new officer says. “I’m Dean. With the task force. I was headed to Chicago for a little night work. Saw this circus. You guys need a hand?”
“I think we’ve got it.” Gary nods toward the squad. “One already in cuffs and ready to go.”
“Coolio.” Dean glances at the loot arrayed over the trunk. “Shit mariah, that’s a load of smoke.”
Frankie laughs. “Not a bad night’s work.”
“Gonna get better yet.” Dean looks at Mookie. “You know who they are, right?”
Gary stiffens. “What?”
Dean gracefully draws his weapon, swivels it between the two cops. “Rogue cops, Mookie. They might’a been officers once…somewhere. Task force is pretty sure they bought their gear at an army-navy surplus store. Squad came from an auction down in Bloomington. Outfitted in their garage, at least that’s what the old lady across the street told me. Drive around the highways, stopping whoever they want and taking whatever shit those people have. We’ve been trying to catch them. I’m a little surprised they managed to stop an actual drug dealer.”
Mookie’s jaw sets. “They were hustling me?”
“Are hustling you.”
“Who the hell are you?” Frankie asks.
“Just a cop trying to do the right thing.”
Gary raises his hands, palms out. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but let’s ease up with the guns and talk a little, okay?”
“No…I don’t think so.”
Dean fires and Gary falls in a spray of red. Before he hits the ground, Dean fires again. Frankie’s forehead disintegrates. He falls on top of Gary. Blood covers both badges.
Mookie stares, wide-eyed. “Task force don’t fuck around, do it?”
“What’s your name?”
“Mookie, listen: they were going to kill you. They don’t leave witnesses. They take your shit and smoke you with a bullet or three to the skull.”
“Yeah, but – “
When he fires, Mookie looks surprised. Eyes are big, round O’s. He gurgles and it sounds a little like, “What the fu – “ Then he falls.
In the squad car, the driver screams. Another shot and he’s quiet.
Dean snatches the loot off the trunk and deposits everything in his car. As he closes the door, he hears the police radio, crackling over the shoulder mics.
“…106? Status?” Then silence. “106 or 107…please respond. What’s your status?”