by Steven Cuffari
The blue and white Crown Victoria sat outside the Crowswood projects in Queens. Chang and Lopez sat inside, waiting patiently for instructions over the radio.
“I thought you quit?” said Chang sitting in the driver’s seat.
Lopez took a drag off his freshly lit cigarette and exhaled the potent smoke out the window.
“I did. But coming here stresses me out. I’m from Brooklyn. I don’t know this hood.”
“Yeah, and I’m from Manhattan. What’s the difference? It’s all New York. Listen, we’re here just to keep a presence, the plain clothes guys will call us if they need us. We’ll be here a couple more hours and split. Trust me.”
Lopez exhaled another lungfull of smoke. “I do.” He smiled.
Chang shook his head and laughed a little. He looked toward the projects. It was a quiet night, no one was around.
“So who’s working tonight then?” asked Lopez.
Chang kept his eyes trained on the empty courtyard of the public housing complex and didn’t answer.
“Chang?” Lopez took another drag.
Chang sighed and turned to Lopez. “Look, it doesn’t fucking matter who’s working up there. We sit here, do our jobs and go home tonight. Easy.”
Lopez took another drag and eyeballed his partner. “That why you became a cop, Chang?”
“Ho ho! Listen, Lopez. I’ve been doing this thing for 7 years. You been doing it for 2. You know how things go. When we can do the right thing, we do it. That don’t mean we’ve got to make a fuss every time one of the boys greases up.”
“Jeez, you’re jaded. Just tell me who’s up there.”
“What does it matter? If you came in on time, you’d know these things.”
“You’re gonna throw that in my face? You know I got two kids at home and Julia busts her ass at the diner.”
“I got two kids and my wife… Listen, this ain’t about who’s got it worse. You got your problems, and I got mine. I come in on time. You don’t. I ain’t your boss. I’m your partner. I’m just saying. Come in on time and you’d know these things.”
Lopez eyeballed his partner again and continued to smoke.
“You gonna smoke the filter on that thing too?”
Lopez looked at the butt and exhaled. “Shit!” He tossed it out the window. He blew the excess smoke in front of his face and waved it away with his hands. He turned to Chang and raised his eyebrows.
Chang looked at the young jovial face of his partner and laughed a little. “You’re a piece of work. You wanna know who’s up there?”
“No, I changed my mind. Yes, of course! I’ve been asking you this whole time, haven’t I?”
Chang sighed. “It’s Poletano and his boys.”
“What the fuck! Are you serious? That guy’s a killer! And he hates us! Oh Jesus.”
“Calm the fuck down, Lopez.”
“Chang! You’ve got to be kidding me! We should call in a 10-10 and get the hell out of here.”
“We’re not doing that. Wait, stop. Pay attention. Look across the street.”
A hooded man dressed in camouflage pants stood on the corner.
“That’s a perfect 10-10. We should go over,” said Lopez.
“He’s just standing there.”
“That’s enough for me. Seriously, I just want to get out of here now.”
“We’ll get out of here soon if we just stick to the assignment. There are plenty of other uniforms that will have our backs. Forget about Poletano.”
“Jesus, Chang. Fine. I just hope I don’t see that motherfucker.”
“Oh wait. Check this out. You might just get your wish. Check this guy out.”
A man passed in front of them and crossed the street to the hooded man.
“That guy’s white,” said Lopez. “Now’s our chance. That’s an arrest, I can feel it.”
“No, we’re staying put.”
The white man approached the hooded man and they slapped hands, appeared to be talking.
“That dude with the camo is a dealer, Chang. Come on,” said Lopez.
“Wait. Did you see that? Did they just point at us?”
“I told you. Now’s our chance!”
“No. He just pulled out his badge. That white guy’s a cop.”
“Great. I fucking knew it! He’s taking our collar.”
“Calm down, rookie.”
“Oh man, I told you to stop calling me that.”
“You’re acting like a rookie.”
“We just missed an arrest because of you.”
“Oh really? Keep watching.”
The men across the street slapped hands again and the hooded man turned and disappeared.
“It was nothing. Just relax Lopez. There are informants all over this place.”
“I need another cigarette.”
The white man came back across the street.
“Go ahead. Light up. It’s your lungs.”
Lopez pulled one out and tapped it against his palm heel.
“Is he coming over here?” asked Chang.
Lopez looked. “He is. Shit, I hope he’s not one of Poletano’s boys.” He took a deep drag of his cigarette.
“Probably is. Don’t worry about it.”
“Shit, here he comes.”
The undercover cop tapped on Chang’s window. His badge was still in plain sight.
Chang rolled down the window. “Hey officer…” When he noticed it was Poletano, his tone changed involuntarily. “Oh. Hey, Dan.”
“You guys doing alright?”
Chang nodded. “Yep.”
“Shouldn’t you be upstairs protecting and serving with the rest of your boys?” asked Lopez.
“Lopez…” said Chang telling him to shut up with his eyes.
Poletano lowered his head and leaned in to get a better look at Lopez. He smiled and gave him a menacing look.
Lopez stared back and puffed smoke out the window. He didn’t take his eyes off Poletano.
Chang interrupted their contest. “So you boys alright up there?”
Poletano tore his gaze from Lopez and smiled at Chang. “Yeah. We’re all done up there. Just tying up a few loose ends.”
“Right,” said Lopez.
“So, what are you doing down here?” asked Chang.
Poletano looked across the street where he was talking to the hooded man. “Oh, you mean that? No that was something I’ve been meaning to take care of for a while. Something personal.”
Chang raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Oh.”
Poletano kept smiling. “I would ask if you guys wanted part of the pad, but I know the answer.”
Lopez groaned, took a drag and looked away.
Chang forced a laugh. “No, no. We’re good. Don’t worry about us.”
Poletano continued to smile. “Oh, no. I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Lopez and Chang watched Poletano as he stared at them and smiled.
“Well,” said Poletano. “Looks like you guys can finish up for tonight. We’re done here. There’s no sense in you sticking around for nothing.”
Lopez exhaled. “Cool,” he said. “Let’s go.”
“We’ll wait around for the call,” said Chang.
Poletano smiled at him.
“Oh come on, Chang!” said Lopez.
“Always by the book,” said Poletano. “Makes you dependable. We could use you in Narcotics.”
Chang laughed. “No, no. You know I like the streets.”
Poletano laughed with him. “Well, you guys have a good night, then.” He tapped the car door and stood up straight.
“Thanks, you too,” said Chang.
“Yeah, see you around,” said Lopez.
Poletano lowered his head again and looked at Lopez. “Yeah, right.” He tapped the car door again and walked away. “Good night, boys!” He walked to the corner and disappeared.
“Let’s just go,” Lopez said.
“We’ll wait for the call.”
“It’s just a formality! Come on!”
“We’ll wait for the call.”
Lopez took a drag and blew smoke out the window.
“Oh god, I’m asking for a new partner tomorrow!”
“No you’re not,” said Chang.
“Yes, I am.”
Chang laughed. “You love being my partner!”
“Not at times like this.” He took another drag and couldn’t help but laugh. When he turned to exhale out the window, he was startled. A man was standing outside the car. “What the–!” Two shots to his head silenced Lopez.
Chang tried to get out of the car, but two more shots stopped him. He squirmed and managed to get the door open. There was one more shot. He slid out of the car and onto the sidewalk.
By the time the sirens of other police cruisers whirred in the distance, they were already dead.