|Just a Job
By B.R. Stateham
It wasn’t a question; more of a statement. I glanced up from loading the Kimber, clicked the thumb lock off and
stared at my partner.
We were standing in the darkness of an alley which ran down the length of a red brick building housing an
Italian restaurant by the name of Genoa’s. It was almost midnight. It was hot, muggy; a deep summer’s night.
The alley smelled of urine and cat piss. Filled with trash.
Glancing around the corner of the building I could see the big Lincoln Town Car. One lone mug stood, arms
folded, leaning against the car and waited. Waited for the boss.
I stepped back and looked at my partner. Fifteen years together. Two cops, first working the streets as uniformed
officers. Now as partners carrying the gold shields of detectives. Fifteen years.
It was like a marriage. Get to know someone very intimately working this long with someone. In his smallish
brown eyes was no hesitation. No concern. Just iron-forged absolution. He knew this was the only way. The
only way to get the job done.
“I’m sure,” I said, shoving the .45 caliber Kimber underneath my left armpit. “We’ll give him his chance. If he
takes it we’ll do it the right way. If not...”
I left it at that.
We’re cops. We’re supposed to follow the rules. Find the bad guys. Find the evidence to arrest them. Send them
to jail. Go after the next bad guy. Yeah, sure. But it rarely works that way. Sure, for the poor sonofabitch who’s
just an ordinary crook the system more or less works the way it’s supposed to. Ordinary crooks do ordinary
crime. They make ordinary mistakes.
But if you have intelligence? If you own tons of money? If you own a whole city worth of politicians and
judges? And—if you are absolutely and unequivocally ruthless and certifiable insane?
That’s when the rules change. That’s when the system becomes the plaything of the truly gifted criminal.
Carmen Roberto was just such a creature. Owned the courts. Owned half of the police force. Had a gaggle of
lawyers who covered his tracks a layers upon layers of legalize not even a Buddha could fathom. Ruthless.
Night before last he carved up a rookie police officer with a dull butcher’s knife, slicing off hands and feet, one at
a time. Then left him swinging in chains from a meat rack at a packing company down on the south end of
town. Left him alive. For a few minutes longer.
The kid had been a rookie cop all of three days. Made the mistake of pulling Roberto’s Town Car over for a
traffic citation. That’s all it took to get killed in this city. Just piss off Carmen.
“Ready?” I asked, looking at the mug beside.
He nodded and I stepped out of the alley and started walking down the sidewalk toward Genoa’s front door. The
gorilla in front of us turned his head idly, saw the two of us walking toward him. His composure changed
immediately. He snapped off the car and reached inside his jacket and pulled out a cell phone. I could see him
speed dialing. There were a few quick words and the ape nodded. Slipping the phone back into his jacket he
continued to stand, arms down his sides, as we walked past him and entered the restaurant’s door.Carmen
Roberto was waiting for us. Sitting in the middle of the restaurant at a table littered with dirty dishes and empty
There were only three people with him: two big men with bulging muscles and dead faces stood just behind him
dressed in hand-made silk suits with big bulges visible just underneath armpits. They had their arms folded over
their chests. Hands close to hardware if it came to that.
Robert sat leaning back in his chair, a big grin filled with perfect white teeth flashing at us. He was dressed in a
light sport coat, tailored slacks, white leather Gucci loafers and no socks. He seemed infinitely pleased at seeing
“Turner! Frank! I thought I might have the pleasure of seeing you tonight. Come in, come in! Sit. Have some
wine with me.”
The two monoliths watched us closely as we strolled into the restaurant, grabbed some chairs and sat down. The
place reeked with cheap tomato sauce and garlic. Only the whine of an overworked air conditioner disturbed the
“The word’s out,” I said, draping hands over the back of the chair and leaning forward. “There’s a contract out
“Hell, says who?” laughed Roberto, shaking his head and reaching over to grab a bottle of wine and pouring
“Just head it a couple of hours ago. Seems like there’s some people back East who think you went too far in
making such a bloody mess of that rookie cop. The news is all over it. Making all kinds of demands to clean up
the city. Bad publicity. You know, shit like that.”
“So what? I didn’t do anything. My hands are clean on this.”
The way he said it. The snarl of contempt in his voice. I would have pulled the Kimber and shot him right where
“So here’s the deal. Come with us. We take you to a safe house until it’s time for the trial. Confess to the murder
of the cop and go to jail. Live out the rest of your life behind bars. At least you’ll be alive.”
Carmen stopped pouring his wine and stared at me. Color flushed from his face and look of death glittered in his
eyes. Ever wonder what Death looks like when he stares at you? Look into the eyes of a sociopath.
“You here to do the trick. Turner? You? A goody two-shoes, flat footed, know-nothing cop with your pet gorilla
here as a sidekick? You think you can take me down?”
A smiled drifted across my lips. Frank, sitting beside me, was as silent as an Easter Island statue.
“You know we don’t play that way, Carmen. We’re supposed to be the good guys. But you believe me or not.
Your funeral. You’re going down. Soon. We’re here to offer you a way out.”
“Get the fuck outta here, Turner. Get out while I’m still in a good mood. Fuck with me again and you’ll have
reasons to regret it. Hear me?”
I heard him. Heard exactly what I expected. Even grinned and nodded as Frank and I stood up and pushed the
“Be seeing’ya, Carmen. I’ll bring roses to your funeral.”
We walked out of the restaurant lose and easy. Which surprised us. Both of us thought the crazy son-of-a-bitch
would go ape shit on us the moment our backs were turned. But he didn’t.
Walking out into the muggy heat of the night I glanced at the big guy standing beside the Town Car. Our eyes
locked onto each other for a second. We moved on down the pavement and stepped into alley. Sliding into the
darkness we stopped, turned, and waited.
Carmen Roberto came charging out of the restaurant waving hands around and screaming profanities. Some
asshole back East wanted to off him! Off Carmen Roberto! That son-of-a-bitch was going to pay. Pay dearly.
We watched as one of Carmen’s hands opened a back door to the limo. Carmen slid in, followed by his goons.
The driver waited until everyone was in the car before turning and walking slowly around the front of the car. g
the door he slid in.
And then three bright flashes in the car. Three thundering blasts from a 9 mm. A nine, like a .45 caliber, makes
a hell of a lot of noise when it goes off. String three shots together back to back in rapid succession and it wakes
up a neighborhood. Dogs started barking. A cat came flying out of metal trashcan behind us, the lid of the can
rattling on the alley pavement.The front door of the limo flew open. Slowly, almost gently, the big driver got out,
stood up, turned and faced the car. In his hands was the nine he had used. He was cleaning the prints off it with
a cloth. Satisfied the job was complete he tossed the gun into the back of the car—into the back where the three
dead men lay slumped over each other in a sea of blood—and closed the door.
He looked up and toward us. Toward the dark alley. His eyes and mine met. He nodded. Job completed.
Neither Frank nor I made any attempt to stop him.
Justice had to be done.
Debts had to be paid.
And this dark, evil world continues to turn.