Taking shots

Brick shut out the chaos around him, ignoring the happy hour clatter as everyone else on this Friday night seemed to be celebrating something—even if it was simply the end of a shitty work week. Closing them out didn’t take much effort. He was in his head, reliving the hell of the day.

The bartender placed a shot of single malt scotch down in front of him.

“Rough day, detective?” Rusty scooped ice cubes into salt-rimmed highball glasses as he extended a smile.

Brick fingered the shot glass, spun it in a neat little circle and then downed the alcohol. Typically he chose to drink his scotch at home, neat and from a tulip-shaped whiskey glass to enhance the firm, sweet flavor, but not tonight. Tonight he planned to get shit-faced. The sooner the better.

“Yeah, you could say that.” He pushed the glass forward, and Rusty obliged.

“Hope this helps, man.” The bartender took the fancy drinks to the end of the bar where two women were trolling for free rounds using their cleavage as bait.

Brick eyed the amber liquid. The glass was smooth and cool against his fingertips. Clear, thick, and shiny, like the window shattered by a bullet that very morning, right before it exploded through the skull of a seven-year-old boy getting ready for school.

Darnell Singletary, game over. The kid’s mom was gunned down in front of her house as she watered a potted geranium. It was evident at the scene what went down. Darnell caught a stray bullet through the living room window as he watched cartoons and stuffed homework into a backpack.

Brick would bet money the killer was using high-velocity ammo, which in a simple handgun made it harder to handle. Stupid. He had seen it before, gangs buying their guns on the cheap and upping the ante with super speed rounds, the recoil and muzzle blast making it hard for inexperienced shooters to control subsequent firing. The result was stray shots.

Brick caught movement out of the corner of his eye as someone sat down on the barstool next to him. He downed the whiskey, welcoming the burn. He contemplated ordering a burger; a smart man would eat something soon.

He’d gotten called to the scene first thing this morning and worked straight through the day with no thought of food. Not that he was hungry now, but maintaining a stomach lining meant he could keep drinking. Lately, this was the only relief he could find to blur the violence. His job was killing him. It was the kind of grind that turned cops into alcoholics.

“Aren’t you Brickson?”

Brick turned to look at the man. He had buzzed hair, sharp dark eyes, the start of deeper wrinkles in places that made men look distinguished, and women get depressed. A face that looked vaguely familiar. “That’s me.”

“Stan Holland, Anti-Gang Unit.”

“Jon Bricksen, Homicide.”

Stan nodded. “Thought I saw you at the scene today. I meant to introduce myself but didn’t get a chance.” With the circular motion of his hand, he signaled Rusty to bring them another round.

Milwaukee’s Northside District five was a little over seven square miles and heavily populated with some sixty thousand residents. Crime in that condensed area was rampant with gang violence and drugs. Brick knew MPD had plans in the works to enlist the FBI and Chicago SWAT in taking down the street gang called 29 Militants, and it’s partnered groups, Money-Getters, and Hard-Hitters. It was an orchestrated effort akin to waging war.

Brick prayed it would be successful, and some measure of relief would be evident in the community. But, he wouldn’t hold his breath.

“You guys get the shooter?” Brick had been part of the team that processed the scene and would provide the documentation to secure a court case following an arrest. Stan’s team would look for a suspect.

“Yeah. It was a female member’s initiation.” Stan paused, seeming to wait for Brick to react.

It just wasn’t in Brick tonight to feign shock when he felt none.

“Can you believe it? It was an order for retribution on another gang for some shit they did three days ago. Problem was the bitch got the wrong house. That poor kid and his mom got shot because she was too stupid to verify a house number.”

Brick’s head was liquor soaked and full-sponge heavy. And packed with too many visions of death and innocence lost. He couldn’t even tally the number of homicides he’d run solo or assisted in this year where some kid lost his life; he stopped keeping track sometime last month. He tried to remember why he became a cop. There was a moment of panic when he couldn’t recall, as reasons floated around in his head, bumping into each other, unable to reconcile in some suitable form. It was a pivotal moment, one that even in his stupor he saw with razor-sharp clarity.

He was fucked if he didn’t make a change.







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