THE BAD COP
“If you open your mouth again, I’ll have to shut it for you.” The man in the police uniform spoke in a low voice, intending to intimidate Joe, and the rest of us were too cowed by the badge to interfere. We all watched silently as Joe backed down.
It wasn’t every day that a cop showed up at a party and started hitting on our female friends. No one knew what to make of it. So we had ignored him, for the most part. After all, cops are the good guys. We’d just partied on, like he wasn’t there, or like his presence was a normal thing.
But that was before he’d started hitting on Joe’s girlfriend. And Joe, who had already drank his share of beer by that point in the party, was just reckless enough to confront the officer.
“Just what the hell you think you’re doing?” Joe had asked belligerently “She’s with me.” Terri, his steady girl, had backed away as the cop spun to face him. She saw the look in the cop’s eyes first. When he turned, though, the rest of us saw what she must have seen. They say the eyes are windows to the soul. If that’s true, this guy’s soul was full of mayhem.
Joe hadn’t noticed, I guess, or else he just didn’t care. “You think you can just crash in here and hit on our women, you better think again.”
The cop spoke those words about shutting Joe’s mouth for him, and I think that’s when he noticed the look in the guy’s eyes. Joe backed away. But the cop’s gaze still held him.
“Outside, asshole,” said the cop, pointing at the door.
Joe was blinking his eyes a lot, as if something blurred his vision. “I ain’t goin’ anywhere,” he finally said. “You go right on outside by yourself.”
“Wimp,” the cop retorted. “Gutless.”
I could see Joe getting angrier and angrier, as the cop kept up the verbal abuse. But he was afraid. Heck, we all felt for him. We were all just glad it wasn’t us that the cop was goading. Finally, Joe turned and headed for the door. Evidently, he decided that he couldn’t take getting dissed like that in front of all his friends, especially in front of his lady.
I don’t know if anyone else saw it, but when the cop moved to follow him, he reached down and unsnapped the leather strap which held his gun in place. It took a minute for the action to register with me, but when it did, I turned to Rich, who was standing next to me, watching the scene as intently as I was.
“He’s gonna kill him,” I said. Rich looked at me like I had just told him that aliens were landing out back by the swimming pool. “I’m serious,” I said. “He’s going for his gun.” I started toward the door, following them, and when I moved, it was as if the spell was broken and everyone at the party followed.
I was almost to the door when the shot rang out. “Oh, God,” I said. “Joe…”
What I saw when I got outside appalled me. The cop was bent over Joe’s prone form, and he was fitting Joe’s fingers around a gun. He looked up, and he knew that I knew what he was doing, somehow. He raised his gun up, pointed it at me, and said, “Get back inside.” I just stood there.
Terri had by now come outside, and she screamed as she saw Joe’s lifeless form sprawled on the lawn, gun clearly visible in his hand, just as the cop had placed it.
“You shut up with that screaming,” the cop said, “or I’ll have to shut you up too.” Terri’s shrieks had degenerated into sobs, by now, and the cop looked at all of us, waving the gun. “Everyone,” he said, standing. “Back inside.”
“Joe didn’t have a gun,” said Terri. “Where did he get a gun?” She was not quite hysterical; the obvious flaw with the picture had cut right through to the thinking parts of her brain.
“It’s a plant,” I whispered. We allowed ourselves to be herded back inside. When we all got inside, the cop announced, “You’re all under arrest.”
“For what?” someone, I think it was Marie, asked.
“Illicit drugs,” he answered. There were, of course, no illegal drugs on the premises. Nothing but alcohol, unless you count the caffeine in the coffee and the cokes, and Rich pointed it out.
The cop walked over to the sofa, where he reached his hand under the cushions and pulled out a baggie of something. I couldn’t tell what from where I stood. “What’s this, smart guy?”
“He just put it there!” exclaimed Brian Cleary, who was closest to the scene. “I saw him!”
“Shut up,” ordered the cop, “unless you want me to shut you up as well, and find some illicit drugs on you, too.” Brian paled, and said nothing.
“There’s more in the bathroom, I think,” mused the cop. “And you have some on you, too,” he said. He was looking at me.
I backed away. I saw him plant the gun. He was going to make me come out dirty, so my word wouldn’t mean much against his. He started toward me.
“You killed him,” I said. He laughed at me.
My reactions took over. I turned and bolted through the kitchen, but the shot froze me in my tracks. The bullet thunked into the wall in front of me. The roar of the gunshot reverberated through my head. I looked around. My friends, the party guests, were totally motionless.
“Freeze or you’re dead,” the cop shouted. He again began to advance on me.
“Why are you trying to railroad us?” I yelled back, panic-stricken. “Who invited you anyway?”
“I invited myself,” he said quietly. “And I decided I don’t like any of you.”
Behind him I saw Terri move. Quietly she picked up a big chunk of glass or quartz or something that adorned the mantel. She moved quickly, and suddenly brought the heavy clear object down on the cop’s head from behind him. He never noticed her.
He went down like a tree struck by lightning. Fibroid material seeped from the wound on the back of his skull. It was deep.
Terri looked at what she had wrought. “Is he…”
I finally was able to move. I checked his pulse. It was weak. “Not yet.”
She sighed, though I couldn’t tell if it was with relief or disappointment.
Rich finally came alive. “Call the police!” he said, and then picked up the phone himself, poking at the buttons. “Line’s dead,” he informed us.
I picked up the walkie talkie that the cop carried, and looked at instructions on how to operate it, or what megahertz the police broadcasted upon. It didn’t take long for me to figure it out. I turned it on and it whirred to life, spewing cop-jargon. I pushed in the talk button and sent out our SOS.
More cops showed up pretty quickly. They looked suspiciously at the two bodies, but our party-crasher still had drugs on him, and we all told the same story. Meanwhile, an ambulance took the still-unconscious cop to the hospital and Joe to wherever they take dead bodies. Terri had broken down and was still sobbing as they loaded her boyfriend’s body into the other vehicle.
We spent the next three hours being questioned, one by one, by police officers. But everyone stuck to their stories, which was easy to do since the stories were true. I wondered what the bad cop would say if and when he regained consciousness. I thought that it would likely center on me as the scapegoat.
I hoped that it wouldn’t come back to haunt me. But I was almost certain that it would.
All of my friends were stunned, the pleasant buzz from alcohol consumption a distant memory. It’s funny how being shot at and terrorized will do that to a person. We left the party, one by one, as the investigating officers dismissed us.
I guess we all learned that monsters can come out in darkness or in sunshine. And they sometimes hide behind that which we trust and depend upon. I guess the blue of the policeman’s uniform did a good job of masking the black of his heart.
We all will remember that for a long time.