Law enforcement is a job like any other in one regard. You have hardworking, diligent people who wake up every day and do their absolute best to preserve our society from the darkness that threatens to overwhelm it. On the other hand, you have those who would push our society headfirst into chaos and destruction. Jake A. Wilkins, Michael Tate, and Woodrow Smith were such men.
All three were members of the Bay Springs Police Squadron, or BSPS, as it was known to the locals. Sketchiness and shady under dealings marred the reputation of the three men within the halls of the precinct.
No one dared look under the rocks when it came to them. “The less we know about it, the better” became the motto when it came to dealing with Wilkins, Tate, and Smith.
Rumors persisted about the men and their corruption. These mutterings spoke of murder for hire, rape, threats, and bribery. Brave souls would come forward to testify against these men, and then, these witnesses would disappear and never be heard from again. No one dared to do anything about it.
Wilkins, Tate, and Smith were at breakfast when Officers P. Belton and Judith came in for coffee. The trio noticed Judith and Smith said, “Looking good there, officer. Maybe come by the clubhouse later, and we will work something out.”
“Yeah,” Tate added. “We’ll work that snobbishness out of you. Help you relax some.”
P. Belton turned at the bar and glared at the trio of men. Judith kept her eyes to the front, not trusting herself to look at the men. She knew her fear would show if she did. Wilkins scooted his chair back and walked up to the two officers.
“I apologize for the boorish behavior of my friends. They don’t mean any harm.”
Of the three, Wilkins scared Judith the most. He was charismatic, good looking, and well-groomed. He spoke in a cultured voice and had piercing blue eyes. Tate and Smith did not dare make a move without Wilkins. Now, here he was looking her up and down, and she knew he could smell her vulnerability.
“You and your friends wouldn’t know anything about the rape and murder of a young woman named Janie, would you?”
Wilkins took his eyes from Judith and looked at P. Belton. His smile held no warmth, and he shook his head no. “Can’t say I do, Officer Belton. This city is rough, and someone needs to clean it up.”
“I agree,” Belton said. “As a matter of fact, her father might be the man to do the job.”
“Well, you know what they say, don’t you Belton?”
“What’s that, Wilkins?”
“There’s always that one idiot who thinks he can change the world, and then someone pays to have him killed to convince the rest it’s not worth the trouble. Stick to patrolling with this sexy fox you got riding with you and leave the major cases to the professionals. You will live longer.”
Wilkins smacked Judith across her butt with his left hand, and the sound filled the restaurant. Judith blushed red, and she bit down on her lip. P. Belton felt his anger rise, but he clenched his fists and did nothing.
Tate and Smith roared with laughter. Wilkins leaned close to Judith’s ear and whispered, “You need to loosen up, or maybe you need help loosening up, either way, come by the clubhouse and I will help you out.”
The trio departed, and P. Belton and Judith sat quietly, neither one addressed the disrespect shown to Judith. As a Christian, she was told that she must love everyone. Yet for all her faith, she had a tough time loving people like Wilkins. By that, she meant despicable, dishonest, loathsome caricatures of humanity that served evil.
The ‘greater good’ was much ballyhooed in modern society, but it was only given lip service. It ranked up there with compassion, tolerance, and other such ‘virtues.’
“Hey pard, do you think Janie’s father will go out looking for those who raped his daughter?”
P. Belton looked at Judith and smiled. He was a good fifteen years older than his partner and had over twenty years on the streets. He nodded his head and said, “Yep, Judith. Freeman ain’t the kind of man to take a beating laying down. If he starts something, he will mean to finish it. They hurt his kid, and he won’t rest until either they’re dead or he is.”
“So, what do we do?”
“We stay out of the way and clean up the mess when the smoke clears.”
“You aim to let him kill them?”
“No, I aim to stay out of the way and keep my life. I hope you’re smart and will do the same. If you don’t, I’ll buy nice flowers to put on your gravestone.”
Judith sipped her coffee and stared at the wall behind the bar. The wall was adorned with sport clippings, local athletes, and celebrities that claimed the area as their starting point. It was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of local fame. Pictures of local service members were at the end of the bar. She walked down there and searched for Mr. Freeman’s face. He wasn’t on the wall.
She walked back to P. Belton and asked, “How do you know so much about him, P.?”
“Men like him are made of sterner stuff than most, Judith. They’re forged in the fires of war, combat, deadly situations, and other things normal men don’t go through. You didn’t notice how he kept his composure, even when you gave him heart rendering news? That is years of discipline in play. People like him do the dirty work that keeps this nation free, and they do it without any praise or glory. Freedom is a nasty bit of business, with an excessive cost, and someone must pay the price. He’s one of those.”
“That doesn’t explain how you knew.”
“I was once like him.”
“No, Judith. A flawed man.”