“You know,” Jameson said, “in the morning I’m going to look back on this night, and think of it as nothing more than a minor setback.”
Jack closed his eyes for a beat. Outside, a storm assaulted the city, throwing in an occasional burst of lightning and a roll of thunder as additional harassment. Rainwater beaded up on the windshield, and then, coalescing under the force of gravity, ran down the glass in rivulets before wiper blades swished it all away with a steady Thuck… Thuck… Thuck. He opened his eyes again and saw the world through the glass as it really was—a place where lines blurred, straightened out, and blurred again.
He took a deep, slow breath. “A minor setback.”
Beside him, Jameson nodded.
“That’s right. In the grand scheme of things, a whole career is not determined by one event.”
“It can certainly be derailed by one, though.”
Jameson continued as if he hadn’t heard Jack’s remark. “It’s kind of like a work of art. You don’t just look at one brush stroke. You take them all in to form a complete image.”
“And that’ll be your defense?”
Jameson met Jack’s eyes. “There’ll be no defense, my friend. Remember, you’re guilty, too.”
Jack heard the threat and shook his head. “Unh-unh. You can’t put this on me. I didn’t kill that girl.”
“But you were there just the same.”
Yes, he was there. They had been on patrol when Jameson spotted a street punk who regularly sold drugs and went by the name of Jell-O. It was on account of how slippery he was, Jameson told Jack. The kid could wiggle and jiggle and get away if you weren't careful. When Jello-O saw the two of them, he took off at a sprint. They pursued.
They lost the kid when he jumped through the back door of a five-story apartment building. On the second floor, Jameson raised his gun. He said, “What do we have here?” and stepped through a cracked-open doorway. Inside they found a fourteen-year-old girl, clearly home alone and dressed only in panties and a t-shirt that sported a picture of mouse wearing a sombrero and a couple of bandoliers. It held a revolver in each hand. A burning cigarette dangled from its mouth. The girl’s hair was still wet from a recent shower. Jameson licked his lips. “Mm-mmm,” he said, and looked at Jack with a stupid grin as he took the girl by the arm. The images of what happened next still burned in Jack’s mind. Her agonizing cries still registered in his ears. When it was over, Jack stared down at the bruised neck and blank eyes—eyes that had just pleaded with him to make it all stop.
“You stood by and did nothing,” Jameson said now. “You haven’t reported it, either.” He cocked his head to the side and grinned. It was the same grin. Jack hated it. “And that, young officer Broward, is what we call accessory.”
Without another word, Jack opened the passenger door. The roar of rain pounding the sidewalk greeted him as he stepped out of the car.
“Remember,” Jameson called out. “Back the badge. And the badge’ll back you.”
Jack shut the door. He ran up the sidewalk to his house, but he wasn’t fast enough. Light blue turned to navy as the rain soaked through his uniform. He fumbled with his keys and, finally finding the right one, reached up to push the key into the door lock.
A loud bang cut through the storm. Jack whirled around and looked back at the patrol car as two more shots pierced the night. The passenger door opened again, and a small figured stepped out. Even as it walked toward his house, Jack saw the stained panties. He saw the mouse with the sombrero and bandoliers. He pulled his own gun and fired. The girl continued toward him. Panic seized him. How was it even possible? He could still see her dead body on the couch. He watched as her skin turned yellow and then blue.
The revolver jumped and jumped again as Jack fired the rest of his rounds. The gun clicked three more times before the girl stopped in front of him. Jack leaned against the front door and slid down to the cement.
“I… I...” Jack shook his head. He started to cry. “I’m sorry.”
Dark, unsympathetic orbs looked down at him. The girl raised the gun—it was Jameson’s service revolver—and stuck it in Jack’s mouth.