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Whores .30: Punch Drunk


  10:32:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1416 words  
Categories: Whores

Whores .30: Punch Drunk

I showed at work for the last few hours. I hadn?t slept right. But at shift change, Candi came in, all smiles. She told me something big was happening in the morning, that she was going to finish setting it up, but all of us were going to be involved. It made me worry she knew about the hospital, what I?d done, that she?d worked it out despite my interference, so she was going to have her arrest and a complicit cop to boot.

What made that worse, what made me so much more certain she was preparing to crucify me, was she made no attempt to acknowledge the last time I?d seen her. Not a sly smile, or a sparkle in her eye. She was already trying to divorce herself from me. I could feel it.

Not that I wanted to rehash what happened. It made sick and excited at the same time. I hated myself nearly as much as I thought I hated her- only the one was starting to feel realer than the other.

I had a lousy night, after that. I came damn close to turning the footage from the hospital over several times. Really, the only reason I didn't, is I realized that too much time had passed for even the most convoluted of explanations: ?somehow I dumped the most important couple seconds of footage to my phone without realizing it before reporting that the footage was ruined.?

But I'd come to grips with it. And with a little perspective, I thought I'd done the right thing- even if I freaked out a little afterwards and considered undoing it. Well, okay, I hadn't entirely come to grips with it, because I realized if anybody from the police tech unit looked at those recorders, they'd probably be able to tell what I'd done.

So I was still more than a little freaked out. And that's why, against what would probably qualify as my better judgment, I was sitting in a bar, soaking my troubles.

I'd just killed my first scotch, and was still chest-high in my own bullshit, when I felt a man's hand on my shoulder.

?What're you drinking?? he asked.

?Scotch, on the rocks.?

?Two,? the man said to the bartender, sitting down on the seat next to me. ?I figure a drink either buys me sympathy, or works as a down-payment for the seat I'm about to chase you out of.? He was already half in the bag, and I wondered if he?d been chased out of the last bar he?d been in. But there was something familiar about him, I felt I knew him, or maybe I just knew that look in his eyes.

?If I knew you were buying sympathy, I'd have specified top shelf.? He grinned, but I was having trouble pulling myself away from the haze of liquor and my own troubles enough to really listen.

?I figure I'm sympathetic enough, once I get into it. But what are you drinking for?? he asked.

?Excuse me??

?You're alone. But you're paying twice here what it would cost you to drink that scotch at home. So why aren't you home??

?Job stress,? I told him, but maybe it was that I didn?t want to be alone, either. ?And I work enough out of the home that it doesn't feel like escaping it, drinking there.?

?That's fair,? he said, and sipped from his scotch. ?But sympathy's a two-way street. You want a sympathetic ear, I have a couple- and I'm deep enough into scotches myself that I likely won't recall anything sensitive come the morning.?

?I'm good,? I told him.   

?Well, the invitation's open, if you change your mind.? He drained his scotch and motioned for the bartender to bring two more. ?Have you got kids??

?Nope,? I told him, and took a drink.

?I don't know if it's the kind of world worth bringing more into,? he admitted to me. ?But I have one.? He showed me a picture on his phone. ?That's the picture I show people.? He pushed a button, and the picture changed. ?And this is the last time I saw her.? It was the same girl, shrieking, her face contorted in grief, being held back by a bailiff in a courtroom. ?Her whore of a mother got full custody. I don't care- I don't- that she got custody. The life I live, now, I don't want to put my daughter in any kind of jeopardy. But she forbids visitation. I haven't even seen my daughter in two years. She's walking, by now. Talking. Christ, she might have said 'dada' by now; or she might have asked, ?where's dada?'? He wiped at his face with his forearm, pretending it was for sweat, but between how long he kept it there and the way he sniffled, it was clearly all show.

He emerged a bit more composed. ?I miss my daughter. But the reason I?m so fucked up over this is we had a son, too. Just a few months old,? he looked down and touched his belly. ?She killed him. Not for any other reason than to spite me. He died because she wasn?t comfortable with the world I wanted to live in. I?m fighting, to this damn day, to live in a world where she can have the right to make that choice, but I never, for the life of me thought she?d make that choice without me.?

?What kind of a bitch does that? I should have told her sooner, sure, what I do, where I'd go. But... there was another girl. Earlier in my life. She was the reason I started doing this, and I knew my wife... she would have felt like what I was doing, doing it because of another woman, was me being unfaithful. But I was doing it for her, too. Not that she was ever anything but an ungrateful fucking whore!?

He was a loud-mouthed son of a bitch. Some of the things he was upset about made sense; but I'd had a lousy few days, and I was getting tired of this kind of shit. That, and there was at least one other cop in the bar with me, and if he kept running his mouth he was going to attract his attention. So I belted him across the face.

He was drunk enough he didn't even register taking the punch, just sat on the floorboards, dazed, blinking. Having been there before, I imagined his thought processes were slowly working through whether or not he'd fallen off the stool, and whether or not he should try and play it off as a joke to save face. I knew it could be whole minutes before he put together the hurt in his cheek with his fall.   

I killed the last of my scotch on the rocks, not paying any attention to the way the ice violently smacked me in the face. Then I scooped the ice into my hand and left.

The man I?d recognized as a cop followed me out of the bar, and I fumbled for my badge, figuring that'd go a ways to explaining myself. ?Harmon?? he asked, and I realized I didn't need it. ?Hell of a punch you threw. But I can't help but wonder why you didn?t do the civilized thing, like flash your badge or pull your gun. Laying a guy out like that, it isn't civilized.?

?I'm not sure he was, either.? He was going to say something else, probably about getting a cab home, but one pulled up to the corner in front of me, so he turned around and went back inside.

But the real reason I hadn't used my authority to shut that drunk up, was I had never been comfortable with the coercion inherent in that kind of conflict resolution. You put a badge or a gun in somebody's face, and you're threatening their whole damn world, because an arrest can screw them- especially now that even a job slinging burgers comes with a morality contract.

But punching a guy for being an ass, that still feels democratic to me; maybe like a fractured knuckle, too, from the way it throbbed.

It wasn't until I was sitting in the back of that cab, rubbing scotch-soaked ice on my knuckles, that I wondered if that drunk might have been the man from the tape. Couldn't have been, I thought. The world wasn't that strange.

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