Contributor: Gary Clifton

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Survival...Hell, that's all it ever was, really. The dirtbag and I were the only guys within six blocks of Boystown who weren't gay. I'd bought the shit, handed over the cash, then attempted a simple buy-bust. He pulled a pistol and in the struggle shot himself in the ankle. He lost a foot, got ten years, and DEA transferred me from Chicago to Dallas. I asked IAD if he'd shot off his balls, would it have been Detroit? Nobody laughed.
I'm on the job five years, but when an agent is transferred, they put him to riding with somebody knows the streets for a month or so. I drew a guy like a toad with wings - totally useless. Ol' Hogan chewed this black-crap. When he drove, he spat regularly, coating the driver's side with a layer of black-crap residue. And he never heard a damned word said.
He insisted on driving - never more than 27 miles per hour. Fifth day, we headed out Irving Boulevard, lined with greasy spoons, fine cuisine and heartburn guaranteed. "Stop for some Mexican, Hogan?" I pointed at Los Niño's. "Gotta spit out that black-crap."
"Say which?" He pulled over.
The joint was cafeteria-style, a five foot brick wall dividing a walkway to the serving line. Halfway down, two gunshots cracked outside the front door. A stringy, acne-scarred punk, arms decorated with penitentiary tattoos, stumbled into the lobby. Waving a revolver, he grabbed a teenage, female hostage by the boobs and stood behind her, pistol at her temple.
"Heads up, Hogan," I said.
"Say which?"
A uniformed cop burst in the door, pistol in hand, held at bay by the toad with the hostage. "Put it down, kid," the cop said softly, leveling his pistol. The kid backed toward us on the opposite side of the brick wall.
We were dressed casually - shirttails over our pistols, trying not to look like the law. "Say which?" Ol' Hogan asked.
Snake-bit from Chicago, I sure as hell wasn't going to shoot first and check the target later. Ol' Hogan casually pulled a .357 magnum from under his shirt, rested it on the wall, and cranked off a round at the assailant from thirty feet. I hadn't realized he even had a pistol, let enough sense to use it. A hand's width from the hostage's face, the round caught the kid in the left ear, blew a messy gush of head innards out the other side, then plunked out a front window.
"Hope they weren't making a movie," I said.
"Say which?"
The kid hit the floor partly decapitated in a puddle of brains, the hostage fainted, and the uniform stood, stunned.
"Federal Officers," I waved my badge like a birthday surprise. "Don't shoot."
"Bastard busted two caps at me outside," the officer blurted.
"Say which?" Ol' Hogan slipped the magnum in his rear waistband.
"Hogan, I'm now eligible for the sub-shit-list," I said. "I hope to hell my next stop isn't somewhere without a zip code."
"Say which?" Ol' Hogan turned back to the lunch line.

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Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has over thirty short fiction pieces published or pending with online sites. Clifton has been shot at, shot, stabbed, sued and misunderstood and is now retired.
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