Historical Note: In 1348, a great mind of the Florentine Renaissance, Giovanni Boccaccio, got to live The Black Death first hand. He survived and the muse sang to him dark music. So much so that he composed a work of short stories that were told over ten days while a fictional group of survivors self-quarantined to avoid Boubonic Plague. While I’m on exile from my office, I’ll see if I can pound out some stories of my own in honor of the scholar and survivor who, along with Geoffrey Chaucer, helped make the short story collection a staple of fictional literature.
Officer Cedric Nolan lived a life based on rules. He worked as a police officer in Alexandria, Virginia. As he aged out of his manly and graceful prime, he didn’t undergo the idealistic process of moving up the spiritual pipeline towards his higher chakras and more noble stimuli. When it came to Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs, he was an ant crawling up one of the pryamids at Thebes. The rules? They were increasingly meaningless bull crap he just did to get himself paid and get himself laid. That was it.
He liked simple stuff. He liked Redskins Football. Cheering on recent editions of the team fulfilled any kinky desire he ever would have developed for submissive sex. He liked beer. He liked scantily-clad waitresses at bars and he got a ‘Dorph fix from pumping lots of heavy iron. His chest, legs and belly grew. He got the nickname “Big C”, and most people pretty much thought he was a reasonable enough eff-up who had Peter-Principaled out as a lower ranking patrol officer on the streets of Lower Alexandria.
As long as he went to the trouble of keeping his uniform sharp, he could still “pull” out of the local community. If his life had no particular aim and purpose, it least it was palliative. He would die one day. It would be over. He wasn’t really sure who would show up for his funeral if the local Police Union didn’t issue a few “suggestions” to a reasonable number of its members.
He didn’t do the whole crazy church thing, so he figured death just made him fertilizer. Maybe life made him fertilizer as well. If you were patrolling Lower Alexandria every night when you hit Age 38, you were basically Occifer Dog Poop anyway. Living and dying made no real difference beyond the ability to still feel pleasant sensations. So he figured he’d stick around and chill while he still was getting The Good Thang. That was the moral gravamen he went out there to serve and protect. That was Summa Theologica for Officer Cedric Nolan.
Redneck Road, (A.K.A. Jefferson Davis Highway, US Route 1), ran through a neighborhood that had undergone demographic evolution as the houses filtered down. Demographic evolution involved most of the white people moving closer to Old Towne or West to Chantilly and Sterling Park. The evolution involved lots of people who only vaguely spoke The Mother Tongue and who looked, behaved, and believed nothing like most of the people they had replaced. Also, there were many more of them, all packed in a similarly-sized geographical area.
The filtering down process involved large, expensive suburban housing getting chopped up and rented out as duplexes. It included the joys of apartment complex landlords getting bought out by The Greater Alexandria Housing Authority so that the apartments could become projects. The hotels filtered down as well. Once the swimming pool was permanently drained and locked, the only people staying there were destitute and desperate – doing what the bottom-feeders did to scrape up that weekly rent.
And the best that Officer Cedric Nolan had ever amounted to was the Knight In Shining Automotive Armor who patrol that desolate wasteland in succor of a law and order that locals yea, verily detested like a conqueror’s imposition. It wasn’t their culture, they were just here to sponge off it. This was analogous to Officer Nolan considering their young women nothing better than life-support systems for a wet and willing vagina. Peace, love and !DIVERSITY!, Baby.
Nolan and his partner Eddie Sortello pondered a few hypotheticals as they rode bleak hours through the typical, urban nocturne. So “C”, what did you think of that Super Bowl, Man?” The question was a conversation-opener. “Sort-Man” knew “C” had pretty much drank through it. Both men had been off-duty and as far away from the local color as they could arrange to be.
“Peyton Manning sucked.” Nolan began. “But Shoot, frikkin’ Cam. Was that a business decision after his fumble or what?”
“Worst Super Bowl ever.” Sort-Man said as he shook his head in distaste. “So what do you think of Jenkins over at that gas station? When was he gonna’ show up? About when Cam Newton dived on the ball for the team?”
“I hated it, Man. I always thought Jenkins was Good Police. Maybe he wasn’t done with a hot date yet or something?”
“Shoot. I’m just pleased that The Salvadoran Gentlemen in question were model citizens and peaceably dispersed.” Sort-Man said in his sarcastically official voice.
“With back-up like that, you’re in front of a review board if you serve and protect.” Nolan said as he chuckled without true mirth at stuff that was way to real to actually be nice-funny.
That’s the thing about philosophical conversations. You sometimes just don’t know when someone gets heavy. You never know when you go off the deep end with the heavy thoughts chained to your ankle. Sort-Man started looking all serious and hypothetical. Nothing pleasant happens when people get all serious and hypothetical. The Helium escapes the balloon and there you are down – down on the latus rectum of street-level reality.
“So let’s say Cam dives on it?” Sort-Man asks. “What if he stays Superman and hits that pile in the biggest game of his life? What happens?”
“Hmmm….” Nolan reaches for a caesura. He doesn’t always think so good, but he feels like he has to now. For some messed-up reason Nolan has to give a No Bravo Sierra answer. This isn’t about Cam, this is more about Jenkins. That gas station thing could have gone the wrong way with a different, more intoxicated offshoot of MS13. Maybe it’s about him. Sort-Man is asking if the partner in the car with him is all in. Nolan hates it when people ask without asking.
“Well, he could have become Drew Brees, or Muhhammad Ali.”
“Huh. How would he have been like Drew Brees?”
“That’s how Brees screwed his shoulder. The Chargers fired him. The Saints picked him up and gave him another shot because he took one for the boys falling on a fumble. He wins a Super Bowl and it’s happily ever after.”
“Yeah, Man! I like that. What about Ali?”
“You see him light The Olympic Torch?”
Nothing else was said the rest of the shift. Either Nolan had gotten that right, or he would seriously wish Cam Newton had never fumbled that damn ball. Ali had gone out there like a gladiator for Don King. His brain had been pulpified to the point where his nervous system no longer quite worked. Getting that torch far enough in the air on a hot Atlanta Night was probably harder than going fifteen rounds against Frasier. The end for Muhammad Ali was Parkinson’s Disease. That’s what he got in return for taking one for the boys.
He’d find out about Brees versus Ali two nights later. Out past Mt Vernon, and you weren’t in George Washington’s America anymore. Amerika out towards Ft. Belvior and Lorton had a nice stretch of Indian Country. It was out beyond were the bars served craft Pale-Ale. Like the Ft. Belvior Engineering Equipment Test Ranges, it was a proving ground. The Operational Testing kicked off a little after 2130 hours.
Bella Noche Pizza might have been haute cuisine back when Nixon was in office. It might have had a coherent name, a legal citizen work-force, and a respectable clientele to match legitimately respectable status. Now people walked there to eat slop and take a break from The Dew Drop Inn or some other flop house. Angry, trapped commuters drove past this stretch wishing it didn’t exist. To the residents, they were a malignant and unpleasant blight like the rest of the world. The wealthy, Northern Virginian outsiders were roynish in their overfed sleekness. While the high and mighty drove past obliviously, the low and desperate played out a cruel and ugly dominance game.
A good citizen threw the flag and Big C and Sort-Man were called in to sort it out. The officers drove into the parking lot. A beaten Chevy “No-Va” had taken another pasting. A woman stood next to the partially-detached front bumper attempting to reattach a partially-detached hair weave. Her other hand gesticulated wildly as her mouth fired florid invective at the rate of fire you could reasonably expect from well-maintained Ma Deuce.
The Hispanic Gentleman she addressed with her ghetto-patois of revolting and perhaps anatomically impossible profanities looked at her and laughed. He put on his prize-winning Screw You Grin and replied “No hablo Ingles, Cunasita.” He spoke this with a level of scorn and contempt you could expect from The Grand Old Duc De Coucy.
Nolan was no foreign language scholar on sabbatical from Vanderbilt. He was, however a solid enough Street Cop to get the gist. The gist, kinda-sorta, was the “Cunasita” was not the proper Honorific that a truly civilized gentleman addressed to a fine and upstanding lady, out to visit a lovely fine-dining establishment.
Sort-Man was utterly nonplussed. “Christ on two sticks.” He cursed as he made the palm to forward gesture that patrol cops all over the world made to express the sentiment “not this s__t again!”.
Nolan performed differently. It was hard to say why. It couldn’t have been the cursing. He had no N-word pass on that one. It must have been the demeanor. That and the smirky, I’m better than you grin. It was definitely that grin that turned the judgement knob on down towards zero and set the ‘roid rage pot on boil.
Meanwhile, Madame Weave had reenacted Hell’s own futile version of Pickett’s Charge at The Hispanic Gentleman and his four fine young rakish retainers. She had the furious windmill going, the weave had flown free and landed in a parking lot puddle. She would probably land a couple of good, hard ones before they set upon her like rottweilers on a raw chunk of steak. Sort-Man was on the horn to Dispatch.
“Sh_t!” He cursed. “The things we do for love.” He did a double-take upon noticing Big C was no longer in the cruiser. “Aww, f–kitty, f–k, f–k, f–k!” He said. Things were about to go wrong.
The Big C blob had all but absorbed The Grand Old Duc De Coucy. The parking lot would probably have a Hispanic Gentleman-shaped pot hole to fill in. Big C’s fists commenced a motion similar to the pistons on a cranked-up engine. Madame Weave stood their stunned. She was in awe at the liquid streak of enraged violence that had just shot past her en route to its target. “Dayum!” was about as close as she got to articulate.
The Grand Old Duc of Coucy’s court retainers yelled lot’s of profound and deeply brilliant things. They also were picking up rocks and a stray chunk of wood that was laying around. Big C was venting years of pent-up job-related frustration on a defenseless target, but the tide was going to turn in about two minutes. This depended upon what Sort-Man chose to do. Seconds counted, back-up units were a couple of minutes away. Sort-Man had a business decision to make….
It was three weeks later and an inquiry board was in session to probe whether the death of Cedric Nolan was truly in the Line Of Duty. Whether Cedric had followed the rules made a difference. There was an elderly relative in Des Moines for whom it would make about an $150K difference. Union membership brought death benefits along with it. That is, as long as the police officer followed proper procedure and was, in fact, on duty or had justifiable cause to act in support of upholding law and order.
Nolan had punched clock and said “Present” at roll-call. On duty wasn’t a big money question here. Mrs. Des Moines was present and tried genuinely hard to shed an honest tear or two for the reviewers. It was now, unlike normal circumstances, worth her while to show some affection for Good, Old Cedric. It worked, it was moving, she was now closer to getting the check she had flown all the way to Virginia to leave with. All that remained was the eyewitness testimony of Cedric’s partner for the last four years. Officer Sortello. Good, Old Sort-Man.
The inquisitors let Sortello sit for a few minutes and ponder before he went before the board. It was the same way Sort-Man and Big C “sweated” some suspected perp that they intended to “son.” There would be the nicer, more empathetic Good Cap. That had always been Sort-Man. He liked to remind Big C that this was because he didn’t smell quite as bad. Then there would be the other guys on the board.
Officer Sortello was “invited” to sit before the board.
Captain Elaine Peterson began and was evidently “Good Cop.” “Officer Sortello, I know that losing a partner is one of the worst things that can happen to a patrol officer. I wanted express our sincere sympathies to you for the loss of a Brother-In-Arms.” She had a good artificial caring face. If she got any more sincere, you’d have to accuse her of actually giving a damn about officers killed in the line of duty, or something.
This was necessary for the board to do it’s set-up properly. She then asked him nicely to go over the events that took place at Bella Noche Pizza. Sort-Man carefully and selectively reconstructed a somewhat edited version of the events that led up to Officer Nolan’s untimely demise. This would leave him in a precarious position.
Sargeant Arthur Spears was next to take his turn on Sort-Man.
“Given recent concerns over policing in minority-majority neighborhoods, how would you categorize Officer Nolan’s attitude towards historically oppressed races?”
“He did his best to treat everyone fairly and equally.”
“Does driving a potential suspect into the asphalt with no prior warning constitute fair treatment of a civilian by a police officer?”
“In certain, limited circumstances, but not under normal ones.”
“So you are of the opinion that violent subdual of an unaware individual could be a valid police procedure?”
“Only in limited situations.”
“Do you believe this was one of those situations?”
“I do sir.”
“The woman involved had engaged five different men in physical combat. They were probably going to injure her very badly. Officer Nolan therefore intervened to protect the woman in question.”
“Do you believe this action was helpful or harmful to returning the situation to balance?”
“It may not have been the best call, but it was made with a threatened civilian’s safety in mind.”
“I notice that you did follow proper procedure and call for back-up. Why didn’t your partner await back-up?”
“He believed that the citizen under threat was in immediate, mortal danger because she had engaged five different men in physical combat.”
“Did he vocalize this to you before he engaged the situation?”
Here Officer Sortello had a decision to make. He had a business decision. If he lied that Nolan had told him at least that he was going in, then that could help Nolan’s only relative that had even bothered to attend his funeral service get $150G. This also implied risk. There could be cellphone film of this up on Facebook or emailed to the Citizen’s Hotline. They might know already exactly what happened. Lying here could sink his career. His review board could be next. How much did he want to fall on that fumble? How much did he believe Big C would have done the same for him? It was a business decision.