6/24/01: 1alley.wpd


"Catch the tail, Sargent?" The Lieutenants X-ray darted into the rearview its glass eye sleet-streaked and empty. "Glued on soon as we hit Cross-town, and stayed close enough ta suck our muffler."

-04 respond 7161 cop down - City Station dispatch had rapped our number and sent us flying how long ago? Seemed like tomorrow ... I said. "Close enough for nose-bleed ... Buick, black, '98, Firestones ..." It got me hot. I punched the Bandit-chaser 419 a sleek whine returned and frog-skins squirmed ice ... "Happened right after the call, so I expected worse. Make new enemies this week, Lieutenant?"

"I made crab-Louis for Eve and the daughter. Ms Martha was not pleased me usin' her kitchen."

"That could do it ... anyrate tail's vanished. He turned West on Rutledge."

"Turned ... sure it's a he?"

Smirky grin never cracked the Lieutenants lips. Cop rap ... that's all it was before bits of the blue wall got plastered on hell raked and glowing and poking through. I swore darkly, pawed midnight pearl teardrop earings then smoothed a crease, in my black-as-a-bitch lambskin jacket where the ebony 357-S&W grip poked through. "Respectfully, Lieutenant DeLeon fuck you."

Lieutenants thin smile clamp-jawed, like he ever stopped, but I expected arrogance from Nicky like Charlestons worst - city guts run red. Blood pumped so hard in my veins that the diamond choker throbbed and sweat ran down my leg. City Station dispatch rapping the drumbeat -cop down- till radio voices staticed into ether and chewy dark and the sleet, and except for sirens bust cherry wail and red-flash throb and engine moan our cop-car fell silent as a perp drilled dead. -Cop down- The Lieutenant clamp-jaw.

I pushed hard. Frog-skin smoked, round the last corner and lightening crackled over narrowed, broken streets of South Charleston. In the dark you better expect the worst. Anything else for two coppers on a December city-cruise patrol is just nightmare.

Piaget-the-silver-bitch ran a velvet hand over eleven-straight-up. It made a girl horny. I eased our big Ford two car-lengths into the cobbled alley. A blue-flashing Black-and-White had slewed sideway. Brights made ice on the brick explode and wipers crunch sleet and spit at the crowd. Lieutenant crack the Bandit-chaser door and slipped out onto wet cobblestones, collar tight on his trench like a preachers ... working a revival tent of sinners old and fallen and unredeemed.

Most girls didn't see that in the Lieutenant, the hell-bent preacher they got too busy show'n what they had - civs and cop-girlies makes me sick show'n what he could have one looker all right that's Nicky. Damn fool white boy never seems ta notice ... a preacher like I say or maybe he loves his wife. Like his damned shot-gun. The 10-gauge crooked over his arm while he checked the fletchets - high brass loads. Like the Lieutenants stiff neck they blushed red; like Rapture they shined brass and were without God's mercy.

On the pavement I covered his left side, which suits the draw mother-the-bitch-nature bore me and walking two steps behind covered his back. Last week in an alley like this but daylight I covered him ... first time I told him go to white devils hell I'd shoot the ass off some cracker punk and he laughed. Covering his back ... maybe I hate his old-family SOB white ass and it bubbles up sometimes to spew PC drool, but stone truth in an alley not worth dying for busting punks couldn't keep their drawers clean I was a damned-proud black bitch Sargent.

But then crap. First time ya can always hold on all night.

Now, in an alley not worth dying for we were covering two Charleston coppers. Busted up. Right now neither knew his ass from the moon. Right then neither blue-coat cared, though the rookie kneeling in sludge beside his bleeding partner was full of tough talk under the haze of blue throb and pale red fluorescent. "Fucking psycho ...," the young cop was fighting off the terror, biting off pieces and spitting them out "This ain't no four-twenty Lieutenant DeLeon, and the ax-man ain't no shine!"

Nicky winced and I said. "Gets right to the nub, patrolman." My eyes flicked front, to the cops face a river of ice sweat, then into the blank back end of the alley where a street-light didn't shine. "The perp have pals or cover ...?"

Copper-blue head shook. "Insane ...!" He was furiously bandaging his partner's hand - the smashed pulp of a left hand - while trying to focus but his eyes pealed away, plucked into the alley following high-beam splatter against brick walls "... he came out'a nowhere ..."

I shredded foil packets ... "Yeah, that's where they hide," ... jamming tabs at the wounded blue.

Him trying to talk. "Fired ... one ... round ..." White gauze soaking red covered broken bits of the blue wall. "Torso ... think I ... drilled him rights about ch'ere" and his thumb quivered where pain is man's certain companion. He looked at me then the Lieutenant. "I heard you got a new partner, Lieutenant DeLeon ... didn't know it was a gir ... a woman officer."

"Not to worry - Sargent Bowers knows all the moves she's told me twice."

I bit into my lip tasted salt. "That crap I don't need Nic ... Lieutenant ... respectfully request ..." Pain and noise; at the scuffing I whipped round, cause the evening was late and civs were stone terrified, and knowing better it was easy to think dying had stopped.

A deep breath froze on my lips. Red neon flicker bled through the nightclub doors. Trickles of Friday night swells still flowed onto cobbles and behind us porch-lights winked too gawd-damned smart. Mulatto women fluttered like moths from a bat-cave. Another raft of survivors floated by and onto Rutledge. Floated over a litter of butts, red glass vials, plastic snap-offs - chronic, hash oil and amyl nitrate all of them snapped off from back-alley life cracked under loose alligators and tight stiletto heels. What we served and protected ... I went for the Bandit-chaser radio mic.

Eyeballs scrapped my back. "Try the horn again, Sargent."

A dead plastic button rocked under my thumb. "I'll send a pigeon, Lieutenant ..." I didn't look up - I knew his devil eyes had bled back into the alley trying to suck light from dark where he's got to go. 'Are you experienced, Sargent?' Experienced - Negro - Sargent - bitch ... questions - they bled into his devil-blue eyes. "Static, nothing but static! Nobodies comin'! Are we in hell, Lieutenant?"

"Cops purgatory."

Where we were. The HIGH STEPPER CLUB tucked gaudy into the narrow, dark-town side street. Arrows flashed under a smooth, nuzzle-glass walkway and from rails high on the canvas awning. A nine-foot neon flapper strutted above the neon-crusted sliding door. Nylons sagged on the flapper, and she buzzed in the rain like a horny African honeybee. It made a converted warehouse something else, in a string of sagging, brick warehouses. Raked hell. It must have been raked hell before the killing started.

Both officers struggled to their feet. "He busted right through us," moaned the young copper. "What'll I say ..."

On my hip, the chrome 357-S&W rested easy. "Say - you're partner's still alive."

"Bus' right through ... fucking cracker. Lieutenant DeLeon, I..."

His partner, black and blue with Sargent stripes. "... maybe that man be lucky ...," he said wiping blood-smear from his cheek. The service revolver hung limply in his right hand and eyes smokey from Percs and the long drain of Wild Turkey from the Lieutenants silver flask. The 8-inch Colt-Defender barrel felt warm when I took it and reloaded.

"Still using a 32, Sargent", the Lieutenant asked?

"I ain't never kill' a man, Lieutenant. Not in twenty years."

"Good for you."

I spit ... Returned the weapon. "Down there," his partner spit!

I looked down there - down the cobbled alley - where a Negro wouldn't go and wouldn't send a white man if he knew him. Those steps I took fast, before the Lieutenant had a say ... I've always felt the suck of places a copper shouldn't go ... ten steps and a few more I padded quick to the dark alley edge - beyond the red neon door. It looked nothin' special where you die.

Rotting brick. Hidden doorways. Shuttered loading docks; shadowed grill-work. Half-way down a column of yellow bulbs roosted five levels high on a warehouse fire-escape. The iron skeleton went up dark and didn't come down fast. Like the flapper. The alley buzzed and faded, just faded as it fell away winking lewdly how ya couldn't see an end.

Front to back ... that's how the scene flowed. But it started at the neon door. Blood spatters from a 32 caliber gut-shot that won't kill a man, but makes him crazy. If he needed help being crazy I figured not this one. Blood spatters circled black under red and under the awning pointed away where the fluorescent arrow pointed and read HIGH STEPPER Club.

Its patron had come for action - some stayed for it. Lines of black-faced men pressed against brick between the Bandit-Chaser and Rutledge, who knew too much about Charleston justice. And they heard, certainly did like I did the crab-legged shuffle down the alley, off-side the brights creeping high on the right side brick. A slow-legged shuffle, only two legs shuffled like four.

My hand buried in the thick, blue mink band across my forehead, where a copper stays alive. How to figure the shuffling legs? Two legs might have run away, or two stalking legs might scare off cautious a prudent family man, but I've never understood the damned arrogance of evil.

What's that pops yeah

Just another alley ya

Told me Anita each one

Smells the same another


Stop now pops promise

Behind me, where the alley spilled into Rutledge, the Bandit-Chaser slew crossways, to the hubs in fresh swill. Nicky humped over the wheel, spitting into radio crackle, his left hand thumbed hammers on the Big-10 and thumped the roof. A reasonable man would be nervous.

He screamed into the mic, "... forty god-damned minutes!"

How close I came to diving into the suck ... I turned away, walked to his side. "Backup, Lieutenant?"

He pulled up the collar on his trench, as fresh sleet whipped around us, wiped ice-slick from the Big-10 and glanced at his stainless Rolex. "That's us, Sargent. Intersections got flooded - nobody's moving!"

"Except us." And I felt so alone like the Cities motherless child.

Lieutenant reached into the Bandit-Chaser, turned off the headlights and tossed keys to me. "Time to negotiate, Sargent."

"Negotiate ...!"

Blood rush flushed my face and instinctive I reached for his collar, skin on his neck burning my hand. "No fucking way, Nicky! Wait for SWAT. Wait for the hostage team."

"Nicky ..." the Lieutenant chuckled, where something funny had picked at him and stuck in his throat - his stainless Rolex ticked away soundless. His arm raised eyes brushing the Rolex crystal face and his hand my hand ... "In a tight spot that's no place to grab a Lieutenant ... Sargent."

I hate men to touch me ... my fingers tight. "A hostage negotiator - that's what we need. Your god-damned white suit, Nick. We're a fucking bulls-eye! Lieutenant!" I could hear my voice echoing off the bricks but funny, how rancid night humidity can drain sound from air, swallow it like a whore ... and how that suck needs words to hide it the Lieutenants devil eyes caught mine again.

"Okey, alright ... your on-the-record, by-the-book. You see it that way, Sargent? This alley too long for two Charleston coppers?"

Sometimes how I cursed the suck, where a copper shouldn't go, and the Lieutenant, I cursed him too. "This alley's longer than it looks, slower too where it's dark ... but if your damned Rolex says time then we're a minute late." I palmed out the S&W cylinder, shed hollow-points and dropped in eight 140 grain steel-tips.

"We hunting men or metal," jawed the Lieutenant?

"A hard man deserves a cleaner cut. Who wants to go out in pieces?"

"That I'll remember ..."

We laughed. The alley grinned back. Both blues had backed away from their own patrol car, backed together with both pieces covering the steamy rectangle of light escaping the High Stepper's front door. Not one bit did I blame them ... they breathed thick and heavy ... still breathing they might have gone steaming into the nightmare alley ... I respected them.

"Straight shot, huh Sargent ...? The Lieutenants voice husky now, with a casual kind of anticipation, but his face not a kids sandy-hair-in-the-bitch face as I see it sometimes ... Us steps faster now finally I think it's started.

"What I heard and saw ..."

Running, light and old men and copper-blue behind us. "And what you didn't see?"

Me and Nicky his long stride ahead. "Metal, Lieutenant I heard tin-metal." Started ... nothing can stop it -

"Hell, Sargent and I thought it was an ax!"

A smooth sear-sucker jacket and black face swayed from the bricks. He caught us by surprise, the lefty pulled down to a glowing butt, and he pulled us over like a slow freight on a long hill. Huge white eyes first measuring me, and the 357-S&W open on my hip then falling to the Lieutenant. "These shor' be new time' Mista DeLeon."

My leather soles skidded, then stopped. December night whipped chill to the bone. We huddled together, the three of us hunched against foul west wind. It ripped away words. My lips felt for words. I knew the face, but not the man the Lieutenant knew both.

My face hot Nicky with the X-ray. "They call it progress, Mr Betters. It screams not whispers but ... what does the street whisper?"

"Street got a bone-chill tonight, oh yes suh." The old black man laughed low and bitter. "Street say ... tha's a bad-boy, Mista DeLeon, yas Suh done sail down this alley ... have a bad wind behind him."

"Mr. Betters, a man of your experience might not be here, in a bad wind."

Voices agreed, pinpoints buzzing a circle of Edisto reefer. A felt brim pulled down. "Man give me a layover, till the Coast Limited run come Monday."

"I'd sleep till it whistles."

"Make twos of us, Mista DeLeon, wants ta rest from those lonesome lon' track ... Half dat min' gonna sleep right through, but dem young ones got a welcome... what they make a man do ..."

"Makes two of us, Mr. Betters."

"Jes one night ..."

The Lieutenant laughed. "Hahe ha! Only the women want two."

"Thas so true ..." the lefty glowed ... " for the welcome a natural man should be thankful ..." A worn set of eyes slide out from the felt brim. "Some men, they wear out dat welcome, fore they bin' ask'."

I brushed uncomfortable at mink blue - eelskin at my waist felt slick. "Why was a white man in the club?"

White eyes flashed at me like bars on a cage 'what you be thinkin' bitch?' the old man flipped the lefty steaming into a puddle - looked over to the Lieutenant. "He be sell'n, oh yeah, selling that juju oil - numbs it right up, like the young girls need. Some men going to need that."

Nicky said. "Some might ... so he didn't use the ax shaving hash-cubes."

"Hehehe. Thas our daddy's ol' trick, from south islan'... them ol' times ..." and his face dropped under the felt brim, gone silent then said low "... but now ...? Not hardly, Mista DeLeon. He got that nex' to the fire extinguisher, case we have to chop down the doors."

"Folks still burning, eh ..."

"Some do that, and some Nigger just hold the paper - make no difference ..."

"And the girl?"

"Oh, white boy come, do his business, but see the ax and the girl. Los' his head. Not be the first man do that ..." The chuckle yes, and slow anger ... to the deep south side of tired might have been. He tipped back from his face the felt brim, but the wingtips weren't shuffling. "So did the boyfrien' - he be lying in there when somebody got time to look ..."

"You just left him!" It turned blood in my fingers cold and my thumb ached thumbing the cold steel S&W trigger.

"He be widt the Lord - closer than some or if the need comes look fo' yourself."

Look? "Later," I said, and gagged on the vision! EMS would look. Forensics would look. By way of empathy, I had not much business with the dead.

Nicky asked. "Did the white boy come alone?"

"He be alone - less than alone, you know what I'm say'n?"

I pointed down the alley. "And now?"

Time passed slow, and we waited. An answer someplace in the deep South for Mr Betters to find. As I saw it. We waited like an ice-dead alley with a blank, black end till Mr Betters bent his head, and said softly. "Sometime a man like be hear'n juju - what he wants, or what got told to him." Mr Better's felt brim scrapped against the wall. "Now? Tha's one dark alley! One mean crazy. Tha's some fine brown throat he be sharpen'n that blade on. Now!"

The Lieutenant hitched raising chrome shotgun barrels to his shoulder. "I'll watch close for that, Mr. Betters."

Already, I was running. Warnings dull, and bright flash of teeth faded into shadow. Cold swill sloshed over my boots. The Lieutenants sharp, short hot breathes on my neck; us cutting the rectangle of light from the club door and into black brick tunnel where the only sounds were those of swill and footsteps and panting, and then in tinny rasps the scrape of hickory and steel against brick. Then outlines, fuzzy in dim scattered light of two bound shapes, struggling backwards into cones of yellow light. They came up fast, hickory and steel.

Nicky a step ahead now swinging the shotgun 'cross the alley brick wall ta brick wall. Swinging like a clock-pendulum swing counting out last minutes of a mans life already tossed away. The figures sharpened, like cutouts in a doll house, ax-head pinned against a graceful, cinnamon throat that needed love's sharp teeth, just steps away, so close that I could feel the ax blade cut air as it swung.

I shouted. "Nicky!"

He dodged and dipped - blade edge chipped brick over his head my arm took the quick line and fingers squeezing steel tipped lead scorching over his shoulder and chipped brick.

The hob-nail cracker stumbling back and drooling. "Hehe, hehe. Nigger bitch can't shoot worth a damn." Dribbling wasn't the word - his mouth foamed! "This here one gonna get a shot from me, hehe, hehe."

Perp towered over the girl. A rag doll whipped about by a scare-crow - gangly and stupid sporting a split-ass formal pinstripe coat from last years Halloween, and his pink-pumpkin head looked like half the whites west of State Street. Below his chest a striped cotton shirt grew a bullets circular blood stain - red bile but deadly not fast enough. Swollen ears - he had two and the right one hung a gold earing, eyes swollen cocaine-yellow saucers under the fringe of yellow light. But lariat arms - his left hand squeezing a rag-doll breast, dragging and stropped blade shaving hairs on the cinnamon throat. As terror, it had an eloquence that words couldn't describe.

"Fuck you all up. I'm gonna drag this bitch down and fuck you all up," he screamed!"

Its cold eloquence made me wonder, why cops wore blue and Christ had bothered with the nails - Nicky poked out with chrome barrels. Chrome wasn't finding a space, between brown flesh and white. It made a difference. Perp was stepping back, dragging the girl as Nicky and I stepped forward, all of us moving toward the fire-escape still yards behind, but the moving never stopped.

My voice caught raspy. "Lieutenant, shouldn't we be ..."

"Negotiating?" He tipped back the white Panama. "God bless us Sargent, we're gonna negotiate. We will understand this man's problem!"

Words flicked out. "No closer you bastards!"

"There we go. Closer! The first step in any negotiation is understanding, Sargent. And understanding starts with a good first shot! A shot well placed for warning."

"Ai' no nigger bitch need a warning from me, before I pop her and a pig pimp."

A whistle snuck out. "Name's not pig." I cocked the filed trigger on my 357 S&W.

Nickys voice hammered. "What's your name, punk. Charlie?"

"I ain't no Charlie!"

"Funny. You smell like Charlie's asshole." Then he waved the Big-10 across the pair of faces. "That's chocolate suicide, Charlie. Just let her go, and I'll take you to Weight-Watchers."

"Who's fucking Charlie? Get that hehe, hehe!"

"Negotiate, Charlie. Lose the girl, Charlie, slim down or I'll do it for you."

"Fuck you, pig, I ain't losing no weight!"

"On the plan already, Charlie. Slimmer by the second. Sargent, he's got his rights read. We negotiated. Now take off Charlie's right ear."

Nicky dropped the words casual, into the alley like pigeon shit on a rat. First silence even the wind dropped dead. Ya could hear steel scrape a neck-hair. Then ...

"Fucking say what!" Charlie-the-Perp stumbled backward, onto the first rung of the fire-escape. "Not another step, or she's cut - I'll give this bitch a new necklace."

"Hear that, Sargent? Charlie's in the jewelry business. That's good. Wholesale, earnings are cheap."

"Hehe, hahaha! She's Cotex-on-a-coat-hanger, badge-boy!"


"Pony-girl, DeLeon. Know what that means? Do you god-damn know what that means!" Damn the man he'd rip off a chunk of girlie-the-bitch soul before he'd take off her nylons ... that I'd give the Lieutenant - I had to listen, but he didn't have to figure what a woman knew - or what she felt. Or wait for a steel-tip lead slug clicking into place and blowing off like a love letter from de Sade - I leveled the barrel and fired blowing a red stripe down the brick wall that had been an ear. It yanked adrenaline through my brain like a plunging stainless needle mainlining ...

... screams - screams from shock more than agony as the perps face yanked right, like it was watching the ear fly away. Pearls of agony sweat covered his face - ax blade flailed air helpless above the cinnamon throat. It made a difference; it backed him, naked brown legs catching between iron rungs hobnails chattering and muffled cries but it backed him up two more stairs.

Nickys foot caught the bottom iron rung. "Fine shooting, Sargent. Captain Marsh will hear about it, your negotiating skills. Now try a piece of the leg - shave some off just above the shin."

"Nooooo ..."

Charlie's right arm dropped. Ax-head scrapped pain melodies along rusted iron slats - him dragging the girl up - away from the steel-tipped hornets. He should have taken a cab. The chrome hammer clicked and fell, and another stinger flew from my long-barreled white flash and gristle of his right kneecap shattered in a pink, gritty film. Seriousness: steel-tips have plenty and deliver with postage paid.

Screaming ... he couldn't find enough screams in a lung-full of Chesterfields. The ax dropped rattling down the iron and the rag-doll girls breast fell open and free ... in the yellow damp ... Nicky stepped over the rag doll, between her and lariat arms that kept grabbing for missing pieces and loose, bloody ends. Charlie-the-Perp wasn't missing enough, for my tastes and the Lieutenant had mind-creep on my brain.

Nicky said. "How I love negotiating, Sargent! Now, drill out Charlie's eyeball!"

I spit. "Under a brow ... through the droopy lid?"

For just a flash it caught them both: Charlie-the-Perp snatching behind at grumbles seeping from worn brick, and the Lieutenant looking through me like I was a women who never had it all, and figured ta dish out the leftovers. Both of them, the drooling perp ... "Scra ... scra .... fuuuck youse on a fender bitch" ... and the Lieutenant ... "Knock yourself out, Sargent."

I smiled. My lips feeling soft and wet. Again the metallic, revolver rasp chilled my right hand. Night fear spilled hot blood into Charlie's saucer-eyes.

But before the hammer click down he fled, shrieking, scrambling up the ice-slick, rickety iron frame trailing a shattered knee, up to the first railing and then the second ... a scarecrow riding sleet thermals.

Nicky watched, as hawks watch prey frantic and hopeless then said. "Charlie and I half ta negotiate."

"I don't know, Nicky, I got this feeling ..."

"You have my back, Sargent," sez the Lieutenant grimly.

Words dropped behind him like so many cubes of ice breaking on the cobbles ... Nicky scrambled up the fire-escape then him only steps behind with chrome barrels leveled at Charlie-the-bitch-Perps gut. When perp hit the third railing he fell to the iron spewing red, crawling away while the chrome pushed him, away. But he was closer, I saw it so clear way closer to another person than the Lieutenant intended him to be, ever again.

I carried the young girl sobbing to a doorway and sat her down on a wooden box. She was sobbing ..."Is this hell ...?"

"It's purgatory, sweetheart ..." I said and threw perps pinstripe over her shoulders as she shuddered. "...don't burn a finger ..." and ran back to the base of the fire-escape. Knelt on the first step, with my 357-S&W pointing straight into the endless alley dark then glanced above me.

Nicky and the perp stood on the same level yellow lights glared down through the iron slates. Like prison bars are what you stand on. Nicky had cocked both hammers of the Big-10, perp lurched against the rusted iron, leaning as far away and as hard ...

Nicky rapping hard, like a steel hammer on a bent nail. "You gonna talk now, Charlie, or you gonna dive?"

"I ain't no talker."

"Surprise me! Who ya taking the dive for, Charlie?"

"I ain't no tuna gotta make bubbles."

"How 'bouts a salad, Charlie, tuna salad one piece at a time."

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO .... I should'a learned. I should'a cut that bitch when ... No! I want my rights, I want my money."

"What money ...!"

"Hehe ... ya piece a' breath'n dead meat." Charlie flinched on his torn knee and howled, "I want everything taken put back ..."

"Sorry Charlie. They say, hell burns all the missing pieces first," Nicky crooned, jamming the steel barrels into his left elbow.

"NOOOOOOOOOoooo ..."

It didn't give loud, the rusted railing, it just gave throwing the perps howling body over in a swirl of arms and legs. Charlie wailed for the missing ear, as he tumbled, and for the knee in sobbing tin groans that for all their noise could have exploded. The alley shook with metallic whining.

They were ringing my ears .."Heh, Lieutenant," I shout "pay some attention ..."

Perps body falling ... the crunch on cobbles below seconds away came soft and without a scream for the wetness. Charlie couldn't have used the knee; he wasn't walking anywhere. The Lieutenant stared down, at the wreck then away. It made a difference, that I didn't need to look. Or think how human bodies are wet like a dead alley whatever they hide.

'Ya see' I said to myself 'this can't be '... They exploded in my face: high-beams furrowing along brick wall from the alleys dark end ... a motors blood-lust roar and wrinkly, high-pitch scream of tires grabbing at cobblestone. Every part of hell the club hadn't raked driving its hungry bloodstain Buick-the-bitch teeth and driving straight for us.

"Nickyyyyyyy ..."

Straight ... like an alley flinging itself in a straight line got more than one dimension and dimension two has curves ... Exploding lights and engine scream they flung themselves into the alley like a black, chrome edge blade cutting the dark and reaming out the alley straight at us. Clear the clog they screamed you are so fucking set-up and hung-out dead while ya breath City Station will have ta collect blood samples by baking bricks. We will suck your muffer till yer nose can't bleed no more - we will horn your honeybee and static your soul when this chrome bumper finishes with your skin they'll be no more bleeding and no more breathing ... Badge-boys ...

BLAM - a flechet round from the Lieutenants Big-10 ricocheted off steel in the Buick roof - more steel than Detroit's seen since Ford hated Jews. Hate - I had my turn. Three one-two-three KRAK-KRAK-KRAK the S&W pounded in my hand touching off three shots one hole drilled clean where a drivers head should be and both headlights gone dark.

Gun-flash lit the passenger side window and the hard-body TZAM of a Glock. I threw a lead spade into it; the chamber exploded seven-times ZATZATZATZATZATZATZAT like a string of Chinese firecrackers Year-a-the Rat and screams trailed behind like more lost body parts in this alley - everybody got ta give ... give ... Give - don't ditz out on

Me now Anita what's pop gonna

Say he's gonna say girlie

Don't die a dumb copper like me

Oh fuck Anita not now ...

While the Buick mindlessly flew forward, sparks flying from fenders as they scrapped sides of the alley it flew straight like an alley never had a curve for two set-up coppers ... the Buick had come 30 yards with thirty yards between us I leveled 357s front sight on the engine grill as it swelled up from the alley like a mad black whale: Moby Dick-the-bitch in a red brick pipe trying to swallow me ...

... and my feet yanked upwards head followed - the Lieutenants face stretched tight, a yellow ghost leaning over ..."play time's over, Sargent you're on restriction."

Yanked up! Legs pounding, feet hammering ... Nicky was dragging me up. He had steel fingers locked around my right wrist like a man does when he won't let go all night ... I still had a turn and jabbed out my left hand leveled the 357-S&W KRAK-KRAK planted two lead spades through the Buicks sneering chrome smile. It felt like steel needles rushing hate into my brain ... I hate for a man ta swallow me ... gunshots still ringing we pounded the iron steps upward to a railing, pounding steps toward the next as the Buick grill spewing flame a rolling, crackling, billowing fireball smashed into the base of the fire-escape. We threw ourselves forward grabbing the edge of a step and below the terrible ripping of iron ... where shoe-leather pounded was only air and fire and the scream of tired metal ... and we swung free in the air, Buick lurching under us jack-knifing twenty yards before jamming sideways.

It sizzled. Sleet wind blew through carrying the stench of gasoline and metal sheets cried as they exploded ... a fire hammer beating on us and blasts of air clawing ... arms ringing sweat and aching we swung free in the air - fire escape still hanging from the old brick while the Lieutenants Rolex ticked louder than St. Johns bells and my Piaget whispered this wasn't an alley ta die for ... and we couldn't hang on all night. Seconds, maybe time gets so funny it was or minutes felt like all night when I said ...

"We finished playin', Lieutenant?"

"Now Sargent, I was just getting comfortable. How's your shoulder?"

"Just a nick, but the slug cut my bra-strap. Not enough ta keep a good copper down."

"Down ... yes, Captain Marsh gonna wonder about that, how one of his Sargents lost her bra ..."

"Just a strap, Lieutenant ... makes you uncomfortable I'll take it off ..."

"Now that's gonna make the Captain real happy. Maybe we just swing a bit longer."

"Knock yerself out, Lieutenant, but your hands are blue and my lambskin jacket hates ta stretch. How far down?"

"Fifteen feet ... twenty tops! You got the choice. I'll let go if you will."

"I didn't figure ya for that type."

"Headlight are still turned on in the Bandit-chaser. City property, you know - I never mistreat it ..."

"Then ya better turn up the heat, Nicky," my voice cracked and laughed and cried, "bet we got sleet on the windshield."