scott flander
four to midnight
sons of the city
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scott flander
four to midnight
sons of the city
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sons of the city
chapter one reviews
I was hoping to have a quiet evening, no shootings, no foot pursuits, no 302s taking off their clothes in the middle of Baltimore Avenue and claiming to be the original Adam from the Garden of Eden. But this was the night that Mickey Bravelli was holding his big fundraiser at Lucky's Little Italy, and my brilliant lieutenant wanted me there.

Somehow his tiny brain remembered that I had come to the 20th from the Organized Crime Unit. Eddie, you know their names and faces, he said.

Yeah, unfortunately, I said.

So instead of leaving me in peace, he told me to spend the night outside Lucky's, keeping an eye on things. Never mind that some plainclothes guys from my old unit would be there, which meant we really didn't need a uniformed presence. Never mind that I was a sergeant, and had a whole squad to watch out for. The lieutenant didn't care.

Just sit in your patrol car across the street from the restaurant, he said.

Just bend over so I can stick my foot up your ass, I didn't say.

Lucky's was in the heart of Westmount, an Italian neighborhood of narrow brick rowhouses and corner stores in West Philadelphia. Whenever anyone in Westmount wanted to throw a big party — a wedding reception, a 50th anniversary — they booked the Roma Room at Lucky's.

Tonight, it was reserved for Bravelli and his friends. One of his guys was being tried for the fourth time for bribing a judge — the first three cases had ended in mistrials — and he had run out of money for lawyers. Bravelli was holding a $250-a-plate dinner to help him out, and who was going to say no?

I decided to take Nick along for the ride. Nick was my younger cousin, and he was also in my squad. You're not supposed to supervise your relatives, but the bosses conveniently forgot that when they decided to dump me in the 20th.

Throughout the evening, Nick and I watched a steady stream of Bravelli's pals arrive at the restaurant. Most of the younger guys wore black — black suits, or black sports jackets with turtlenecks. Their girlfriends were all wearing short, super-tight dresses with beads and rhinestones, with slits all over the place and necklines so low their breasts were practically hanging out.

The older guys, with their thinning hair and bulging jowls, looked like they had just thrown on whatever was handy in their closet — rumpled blue or gray sports jacket, white shirt, no tie. They generally walked in together in groups of three or four, like ducks heading for the water, their bellies sort of leading the way.

I was hoping the mob fashion show would cheer Nick up, but he was only half-paying attention. He seemed lost in his own world, the way he had been for the past six weeks, ever since his father — my Uncle Jimmy — had tripped over a bucket of tar on a rowhouse roof in Westmount and cartwheeled over the edge. Nick had been on the roof, he had seen it happen. And he blamed himself for not being able to save his father, in the way people are always blaming themselves for things they can't control.

"Hey, Nicky," I said, "you know any of these guys?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, some of 'em. At least the young ones. We all sat next to each other in home room at West Philly."

"These lowlifes actually went to high school?"

"That's where the girls were. That's why we all went."

"And you became a cop, because we all know how much the girls like a man in uniform."

Nick gave me a small smile, and watched the people going into Lucky's.

"What the hell we doin' out here, Eddie?"

"Watching the evening's entertainment."

"I don't mean just tonight," he said. "I mean every night."

A big Cadillac was pulling up to the red canopy that led from the sidewalk to Lucky's front door. Some young guy I'd never seen hopped out, ran around to the passenger door and opened it. This girl got out, this beautiful girl, maybe 24, with long brown hair, she was wearing a short, light-blue dress, it just made you fall in love with her. As she got out, and her boyfriend was closing the car door, she turned away from him, toward the street where she thought no one was looking, and spit out her gum.

Nick was staring at his feet. "You ever sorry you became a cop, Eddie?"

"C'mon," I said, "you can't be tired of the job already, Nicky, you've only been a cop for four years. Most guys don't get bitter and cynical for at least five years."

Nick gave a laugh. His mother and my mother were sisters, but when people saw the two of us together, they couldn't believe we were related. Nick's father was Italian, and that half had gotten the upper hand when Nick was born. He had a dark face, jet-black hair, and big round brown eyes, the kind girls loved.

My father, on the other hand, had given me his thick brown hair, green eyes, and square jaw. I was also a hell of a lot taller than Nick, and more inclined than he was to get a little exercise once in a while.

Nick turned to me. "It's all your fuckin' fault, you know."

"What is?"

"You're the one who said I should become a cop."

"I never said that. You came to me, you said, What's it like being a cop?"

"And what'd you say, Eddie?"

"I don't remember."

"The fuck you don't. You said it was like being part of a big family. Where everyone takes care of each other."

"Well, maybe I did say that."

Nick shook his head. "It's all just bullshit, Eddie. Guys don't watch out for each other here."

"Some of them do."

"What about Henry Booth? You think he cares?"

Booth was our pea-brained lieutenant.

"People like him don't count," I said.

"What about Joe Gorko? I'm gettin' my ass kicked in front of a house on Pine the other day, I call for an assist, Gorko shows up, sees he'll actually have to get in a fight, and then he drives right by, pretendin' like he doesn't even see me. Fuckin' coward."

"People like him don't count."

"Yeah, well, who fuckin' does count, Eddie?"

"How about your partner? Steve would do anything for you."

"Yeah," Nick said, looking down. "He would." Neither of us said anything for a couple of minutes, and it was Nick who finally spoke.

"Don't you ever clean out your fuckin' car?" He was looking at the trash around his feet. There were Dunkin' Donuts bags, and McDonald's wrappers, and a grease-soaked paper bag that probably once held a cheesesteak.

"Aw, Thompson left his shit here again?" I said. "That fat fuck."

"He eats this much every day?" Nick was stirring the pile of trash around with his left shoe.

"That's nothin'," I said. "That was probably just breakfast."


"You know, Nicky, when you first become a cop, you think you can clean up the city. Then after you're here for a while, you realize you can't do that, so you say, I'll just clean up my district. But you can't do that either, so you say, OK, one corner, I know I can keep one corner clean. Finally you get to the point where you say, Screw it, all I'm gonna do is keep my car clean. And you can't even fuckin' do that."

Nick put on a thin smile. "But it's like a family, right?"

Everyone going into Lucky's had to walk past the overly excited TV reporters who had set up camp next to the red canopy. It looked like a Hollywood premiere — the TV reporters had absolutely no idea who was connected and who wasn't, so they filmed everybody coming in. It could have been a waiter late for work, the TV cameras suddenly turned on him like he was Al Capone.

All the guests were greeted at the door by a short guy in a lime-green suit and oversized wrap-around sunglasses, like the kind old people wear after they have cataract surgery. This was Spock. Technically he was an associate of Bravelli's crew, but he was somewhere between a gofer and a mascot. When I was in OC — that's what we called the Organized Crime Unit — we picked Spock up a few times for questioning. The conversation usually went like this:

"What's your name?"


"What's your real name?"

"I just tole ya, it's Spock."

"What are you, a fucking Klingon?"

"No, I'm Italian."

"Really? What part of Italy do the Spocks come from?"

"I ain't never been to Italy."

"How about outer space?"

"I ain't never been there, neither."

Tonight it looked like he was the emcee at Lucky's, smiling, saying hello to all the guests, ushering them to the door. I half expected to see him carrying around a microphone.

It was a warm June evening, and curious neighbors were gathered in clumps on the sidewalk across from Lucky's. The restaurant faced a block of two-story rowhouses that had plain concrete steps instead of porches. Some of the houses had been converted into modest neighborhood businesses — a small Italian bakery, a florist, a beauty supply shop — and the owners lived on the second floor.

Many of the onlookers tonight were worn-out housewives in their 40s or 50s, giggling with each other like high school girls. In their midst I saw Doc Bizbee and two other plainclothes guys from OC I didn't recognize. I guess they were getting new people all the time. All three were wearing golf shirts and faded jeans and white sneaks, my old uniform. They were gathered around a freshly painted bright-orange fire hydrant like it was a campfire, their arms crossed, trading stories while they casually watched the goings-on across the street. I was thinking that if I hadn't been busted out of the unit six months ago, I would have been with them now.

As if on cue, a brown Plymouth pulled up and stopped next to ours. It was not a pleasant sight: Capt. Lenny Lanier, the Organized Crime Unit's boss, was behind the wheel. I had forgotten he would be here, I had probably just blocked it out. Lanier pushed the button that lowered the passenger window, and waited until it was all the way down.

"How's it going, guys?" he asked.

I just looked at him, not saying anything. He was an ugly bastard — dark circles under his eyes, and a perpetual five o'clock shadow, no matter how often he shaved. I had always wondered why someone with a face like his would ever be made captain.

"How you doin', Eddie?" he asked.

"What do you care?"

"Now, c'mon, Eddie, don't be that way."

"Exactly how do you want me to be, Captain?"

Lanier tried to smile, which with that face was always a mistake. "I'm sorry it had to happen the way it did."

"Yeah? Well, bite my ass, Captain."

The smile disappeared. I guess it finally dawned on him that I wasn't going to suggest we go get a beer. He powered up the window and pulled off.

Nick and I looked at each other, and said at the same time, "Fuck him."

I smiled at Nick. He was a good kid.

My eye caught some movement in the rear-view mirror. Three men in dark suits, coming up the sidewalk from behind us. Without thinking, I put my hand on my gun. They were radiating danger, you could almost see it shooting through the air like tracers.

"Here they come," I said to Nick, as they walked by our car. It was Mickey Bravelli, with two guys from his crew. One of them was Frankie Canaletto, his lieutenant. Last I heard, the DA's office was close to charging him with murder for an old unsolved mob hit. The third guy was Goop, Bravelli's musclebound driver and bodyguard.

Bravelli was about 35, my age, and he had an athletic look, like a tennis player, though I doubt he ever even saw a tennis game in his life. There weren't exactly a lot of tennis courts in West Philly.

He had gold chains around his neck and his hair slicked back. So did Canaletto, who always walked around with his chest stuck out. Even Goop had the gold chains and the slicked-back hair. That was the look.

Bravelli led the way as the three of them crossed the street at an angle in front of us, heading toward the red canopy. They all turned to see who was in the police car, and it took Bravelli about two seconds to recognize me. He had seen me plenty of times when I was in OC, but I was always in plainclothes.

Without stopping, Bravelli gave me a puzzled look, like he was asking, What are you doin' in uniform? Like he was actually concerned for me. But I could tell by his mocking eyes that he thought it was funny to see me sitting there in my little police car.

They kept going. And as the three of them neared the red canopy, the TV crews spotted them and swung their cameras around, like a flock of birds suddenly shifting direction. Bravelli, striding toward the entrance, smoothed back his hair with both hands, and straightened his tie and his suit jacket. I realized then why he had come on foot — if he had pulled up in a car, he would have been on camera for only a few seconds. But walking down the street with his men, like he was leading a gang of gunslingers into town, he could be the star of his own movie. Sure enough, the TV crews couldn't get enough of him — their cameras picked him up as he strutted across the street, and stayed glued to him until he was through the front door.

There was an emergency tone on the radio — priority call.

"All units, we have 9th District cars in pursuit of a black Mercedes heading west on Walnut from 30th. Wanted for a founded carjacking."

Nick looked at me. "Maybe he'll turn off of Walnut."

"Yeah," I said. "And maybe he won't."

We were on Walnut at 72nd. The pursuit was more than forty blocks away, but it was heading straight toward us.

"We could pull the car in the middle of the street," Nick suggested.

"And what?" I said. "Be a one-car road block? What are we gonna do, hold up our hands and say, Could you please stop?"

I knew that as the Mercedes flew down Walnut, it would pick up every police car in the district. Which meant that if the pursuit got this far — and it would only take three or four minutes — they'd all be screaming by Lucky's at 90 miles an hour.

And there, halfway out into the street, were four TV camera crews, side by side, all getting the same pointless shot of the front of the restaurant, all about to be mowed down. I jumped out of my car and ran down the middle of the street toward them. Nick was instantly at my side, and we both turned up the hand-held police radios on our gunbelts.

"He's past 35th!" someone yelled over whooping sirens.

"36th! Now 36th!" shouted another voice.

Jesus, he was moving fast.

I reached the camera crews. "Get out of the street, now," I ordered.

We tried to herd them toward the sidewalk. A perky-looking blonde TV reporter in a red dress and bright-red lipsticked lips put her hand on her hip.

"Officer, we have every right to be here—"

"We got a high-speed pursuit coming right down Walnut," I said, trying to stay calm so they would be calm. "Get out of the street."

I could hear on the radio that they were past 45th. The perky blonde looked over my shoulder at her cameraman. "Eric, let's get a good shot of it."

"Now!" I yelled.

"OK, OK," she said, almost pouting.

Tim Timberlane, a jerkoff TV reporter from Channel 7, had his hand to his earplug and was yelling into his microphone, "I wanna go live, I wanna go live."

I had seen Timberlane a lot on TV. A real smarmy guy about 27 with a talent for showing cops in the worst possible light. No matter what the story was, we were always the bad guys. A true asshole.

The other camera crews were drifting toward the sidewalk, but Timberlane wouldn't move. We began to hear the sirens.

"Get out of the fucking street!" I yelled at him.

He still didn't move. I couldn't believe anyone could be this stupid. I just grabbed his arm and started pulling.

Timberlane didn't take his eyes off the camera. "We're being harassed by the police, right here on live TV, you're seeing this live. Officer, will you give us your name, can we have your name, please?"

The pursuit was less than two blocks away, its chorus of sirens growing louder each moment, beginning to drown out everything.

I was trying to drag Timberlane and his cameraman to the sidewalk, but they kept resisting, they didn't want to move. And then I turned and there was the Mercedes, heading right at us, right in our lane. Shit, I thought, he's going to get us all.

The driver must have suddenly seen us as well, because he jerked the wheel and the Mercedes swerved across two lanes of Walnut. It was going out of control, and started clipping all the guests' parked Lincolns and Cadillacs, BANG, BANG, BANG, and then it jerked back across Walnut toward us and Lucky's canopy.

Timberlane and his cameraman finally started running, leaving me for an instant facing the Mercedes, meeting the eyes of a terrified black teen-ager behind the wheel. I jumped back, falling onto the street, and the Mercedes whooshed by, brakes screeching. People dove out of the way as the car jumped the curb, knocked down the brass poles supporting the canopy, then slid along the restaurant's red stucco front wall, shooting out sparks and leaving a trail of the car's black paint. The Mercedes probably would have kept going forever, but it hit a brass standpipe coming out of the wall and bounced back across the sidewalk, spun halfway around, and lurched to a violent stop.

All over the street, police cars were squealing to a halt. The doors of the Mercedes popped open and two black kids jumped out. Both had guns, big ones. They looked around and saw that in a moment they would be trapped on all sides. And they started running towards me.

I grabbed my gun and tried to get on my knees, so I could at least get off a shot. I looked around for Nick, he was pulling his gun out. But it wasn't me the two black kids were heading for, it was the restaurant. They darted under the half-fallen canopy and disappeared through Lucky's front door.

Nick reached me and grabbed my arm, boosting me onto my feet. By now, cops were jumping out of their cars, unholstering their guns. Nick and I ducked under the canopy and pulled open the door. My view was blocked by the big fountain at the entrance, and we heard the chaos before we saw it — shouts of men and women, tables being overturned, plates crashing.

As I swung around the fountain, I saw the two black kids careening toward the rear of the massive dining room, knocking into tables, pushing back waiters. They seemed to be headed toward the kitchen straight back, but suddenly darted to the left, toward a set of closed rough-hewn wooden doors. They probably didn't notice the hand-lettered sign over the doors, but I did. In a smooth, cursive script, it said, "Roma Room."

The black kid in the lead pulled open one of the wooden doors, and they both dove inside and disappeared as the door closed behind. Bravelli and his guests were about to get a very big surprise.

We barreled past a blur of families who were already half on their feet, clutching white tablecloths that were turning red with spilled wine. There was no direct path to the Roma Room, only around this table, back around that one. At last I reached the door. Holding my gun in my right hand, I grabbed one of the big wooden handles with my left and pulled. Nothing. Maybe you were supposed to push. I tried that, nothing again, then tried the other handle, pushing and pulling, knowing the doors were locked, not accepting it.

"Police!" I yelled. "Open it up."

Something was happening inside, I could hear it through the doors. Shouting, yelling, something heavy falling. I was waiting for gunfire.

Nick was right there with me. "How could it be locked?" he asked.

"You think I know?"

Cops were piling around me. Three or four of us grabbed the handle together and pulled as hard as we could.

"Now push," I said.

From inside, we heard the crash of glasses and plates, and some kind of slapping sound, like a beaver's tail hitting the water.

We all pushed, and still the door didn't move.

"I don't fucking believe this," I yelled in frustration. "Let's try through the kitchen."

A few moments later I was leading a dozen cops past big pots of steaming spaghetti sauce. We headed in the direction of the Roma Room — basically, to the left — but the kitchen was like a maze. Bread warmers, walk-in freezers, boxes of potatoes stacked to the ceiling. Twice we hit dead-ends.

A chef was staring at us.

"Where's the Roma Room?" I yelled at him. He blinked and his mouth dropped open. We all waited, waited, waited. He blinked again.

A few feet away, a wide-eyed Hispanic guy was watching us, frozen in the act of pulling silverware from a dishwasher.

"Roma Room," I said. "Where's the door?"

He shrugged. "No Ingles."

"Roma!" I shouted at him. "Roma! Is Roma fuckin' English?" He shrugged again.

We tried another route, past a wall of employee lockers, and this time we saw a set of swinging stainless-steel doors with small windows at eye level.

"Gotta be it," I said, and we charged ahead, pushing through the doors into the Roma Room. We were on the far end, but in the center we could see 10, 15 guys crowded together, kicking and yelling at something. When they spotted us, they hurriedly backed off, like jackals temporarily abandoning their kill. It didn't take long to see what they had been doing. Lying on the floor were the two black kids, their faces bloody and contorted in pain.

One was balled up in a fetal position, holding his side, tears and blood dripping onto the polished hardwood floor. The other was on his stomach, his left hand up, his head turned the other way. His eyes were squeezed closed, like he was waiting for the next kick. Their guns were gone.

"Call Rescue," I told Nick.

I scanned the room. It was quiet now; all the men were back at the big round tables with their wives and girlfriends. They looked at us innocently, like they had showed up just a second ahead of us, and were as surprised as we were to see these two black kids bloody on the floor.

"Anybody want to tell me what happened here?" I asked, knowing it was a stupid question.

"I didn't see nothin'," said a young guy sitting nearby, all serious. He looked around. "Anybody see what happened?" He waited a moment, then turned back to me apologetically. "I don't think here nobody saw nothin', Sergeant. Sorry we couldn't be more help. Have a nice day."

A few titters came from around the room. They knew they were going to get away with it, they didn't doubt it for a moment. Now I had no choice but to nail as many of them as I could.

Goop was sitting at another nearby table. I definitely remembered seeing him in the group kicking the kids. I could start with him.

"OK, Goop, let's go," I said. "Stand up."

"Huh?" He couldn't believe it.

"Stand up."

"You don't got to do it, Goop," someone yelled.

I turned toward Nick. His regular partner, Steve Ryder, was with him now. He must have been part of the pursuit.

"Nick, Steve," I said. "Lock this guy up."

Goop seemed offended. "Wha'd I do?"

"What do you think?"

Nick and Steve reached to grab him, but he jumped up and took a few steps backward, knocking into the next table. "I ain't goin' nowhere," he snarled.

Guys began standing at all the tables, and some of the ones at the far corners of the room were already starting to head in our direction. Most of the cops who had come into the room had already left, and there were only about seven of us now, standing together. There were maybe a hundred of these guys. Not the best of odds, and they were probably better-armed than we were.

The two black kids were still lying on the floor, but now they were watching us. You could see them asking, in silent questioning, What was this wasp's nest they had stumbled into?

Bravelli's men were closing in on us, tightening the circle. Nick had his hand on his holstered gun, and he glanced at me. "Now I know how Custer felt."

The doors from the kitchen popped open, and Tim Timberlane came through, followed by his cameraman. The camera light flipped on, bathing the room in a garish glare.

"Get them out of here," I yelled. But who was I saying that to? All the cops were with me, the only people by the door were mob guys. We watched as four or five of them politely pushed Timberlane and his cameraman out of the Roma Room and back into the kitchen. I had to admit, they were a lot nicer about it then some of my guys would have been.

Maybe the camera would have helped us, maybe Bravelli's people would have backed off rather than taken a chance of starring on the 6 o'clock news. I didn't care — whatever was going to happen was between us and them. It was private.

I turned away from the kitchen doors, back to the menace at hand. And standing there was Bravelli himself, looking a little impatient, like his linguine was getting cold.

"I think it would be better if you just leave now, North," he said. "And take these two Comanches with you."

I ignored him, and turned to Nick. "Other than Goop, who else was kicking the kids?"

"What's your fuckin' problem?" Bravelli asked. "We did you a favor. Hey, nobody got hurt, right?"

I looked at the two black kids. "Almost nobody."

"They didn't deserve it?"

"You don't even know what they did, why they ran in here."

"Like it makes a fuckin' difference? They come in with guns, there's women in here. You can't do your job, North, we will."

"So this is just more of your vigilante shit, is that what's going on?"

Bravelli shrugged, like he didn't know what I was talking about. But he knew. More and more during the last two months, people in the Italian neighborhood had been taking the law into their own hands. Whenever blacks were caught breaking into houses or trying to steal cars, people wouldn't call the police — at least not right away. They'd dispense their own justice, and by the time we'd arrive, the blacks would be half-dead.

We all knew Bravelli was behind it. He was the one egging the neighbors on, saying it was up to them to keep the scum out of Westmount. Sometimes his guys even provided the muscle. I had no idea what Bravelli got out of it. Maybe he was just trying to be a local hero.

Standing there looking at Bravelli, there was no way I was going to back down. Even if all we got was Goop, that'd be enough.

Nick had his handcuffs out, ready, and I nodded to him to go ahead. Nick tried to grab Goop's arm, but Goop — more annoyed than anything else — put his palm on Nick's chest and pushed hard. Nick ended up three feet back, and he almost tripped over one of the black kids.

My cops were getting a little nervous. Bravelli's guys were moving closer, they were absolutely unafraid of us. I didn't want to take my gun out — my cops would have followed my lead, and then there would have been guns all over the place.

For some reason, Bravelli's eyes settled on the silver nameplate over the badge on Steve's blue police shirt.

"Ryder," he said, taking a step forward to get a closer look. "Hmmm. Police Commissioner's son, right? I heard a lot about you."

Steve stood his ground, and just stared at Bravelli. I always thought it was amazing how much Steve resembled his father, how with their easy good looks, their blue eyes and thick, dark eyebrows, they seemed like father-and-son actors out of Hollywood.

Bravelli didn't take his eyes off of Steve, it was weird. I stepped between them and got in Bravelli's face.

"Leave him alone," I said.

"It's OK, Sarge," said Steve.

Bravelli looked at me and shook his head. "Yeah, Sarge, it's OK," he mocked. "Except that you should of left when you had the chance. Now you're way outnumbered."

"Really?" I asked, and then clicked the microphone on my shirt lapel. I bent my head to the microphone, still looking at Bravelli, and tried to sound slightly bored. "Radio, this is 20-C Charlie, I need an assist in the Roma Room at Lucky's."

I straightened my head back up. "OK, let's do a count, Bravelli. We got 7,000 guys. How many you got?"

I knew I wouldn't have long to wait — plenty of cops would still be hanging around outside the restaurant. Two burst in from the kitchen, and then two more, and there was a tremendous banging on the main wooden doors.

"They're still locked," said Nick, but a moment later the doors burst open, and blue shirts were flowing into the room. Nick looked at me, like, How come we couldn't do that?

Bravelli's men just stood there, afraid to try anything now, but unwilling to retreat. Bravelli looked very pissed, which made me feel good for the first time all night.

Lanier appeared next to me. "Everybody OK here?" he asked, looking around.

"We're all fine and dandy."

Two paramedics with orange first-aid boxes picked their way through the crowd and reached the two carjackers.

"OK,' said Lanier. "now I want everybody out."

"Sure, Captain. Right after I lock up about a dozen assholes for assaulting my prisoners."

"No," he said. "Once Rescue gets these two out of here, we're leaving.


"No," he said again. "There's already a media cluster-fuck outside, I'm not going to let it get ten times worse."

I knew Bravelli was looking at me, waiting for me to glance over, for our eyes to meet. I wasn't going to do it.

Other paramedics were arriving, and everyone — cops, mob guys — watched as the two kids were loaded onto stretchers and carried out of the room. When they were gone, Lanier turned to the largest group of cops and announced, "I'm canceling the assist. We're all leaving."

Then he turned and walked out. Bravelli laughed, and I couldn't help it, I looked at him.

"You really are a fuckin' failure at everything, aren't you?" he asked me. Then he snapped his fingers, as if he had just thought of something. "Hey, North, why don't you go to work for the Parking Authority, I bet you can handle writing tickets. If my dumb brother-in-law can do it, anybody can."

One of his pals standing near me started laughing, and I practically had to call on God to keep from smashing my fist into Bravelli's face.

It was almost dark when we got outside. As I walked alone toward my patrol car, Lanier intercepted me.

"I just wanted to let you know, Eddie, this wasn't personal."

"Sure, Captain. Like getting me transferred wasn't personal, either."

"Eddie, we've been over this — I had to report those calls to the bosses."

"No one has to report anonymous calls, Captain, and you know it. And now I'm not even in your unit anymore, and you humiliate me in there tonight, in front of all those lowlifes. You know what, Captain? You are the biggest asshole in a department of assholes."

I didn't wait around for his reaction, I just turned and headed for my car.

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