Thursday, October 12, 2006

Capitol Hill Street Blues

Let's say, and why not, that you're a big, tough cop. Not one of the sleek new "community police" types but a real old fashioned street monster.

You've got a big stick and you're not afraid to use it.

Now over on the east side of your beat there's a duplex. The Kim brothers have lived there, geez, like forever. They were a pretty tight family once, but after the big neighborhood bust-up in the Forties one of the Kims came under the influence of Big Joe, the hoodlum that ran the Big Red Machine over on the east side. Kim North, let's call him, came out from under Joe's influence a real ugly customer: a mean, vicious paranoid loner. You had to step in when he tried to beat up on his brother Kim South during the Fifties. It was ug-LEE - all of you came out of it pretty banged up, and nobody shook hands afterwards. Red Kim stomped back to his apartment and has been sulking behind the door ever since. Still paranoid. Still angry.

In fact, you've had trouble with him ever since. Walking your beat you hear the Chang family and the Yamamotos next door telling you that Red Kim's been beating and starving his family. Every so often his dogs come through the fence and bite one of the South Kim's kids, or he fires a shot out the window just, it seems, to rattle the neighborhood.

But now you think you may have a bigger problem. Red Kim's been seen lugging dynamite into the house. The neighbors have heard him ranting and hammering in his basement at all hours. They (and Clancy back at the station house, who's got snitches in the neighborhood) are telling you that he might be making some sort of real nasty bomb.

Now back in the old day's you'd have knocked once and busted down the door, dragging the crazy Red bastard down to the cooler while beating taraddidles into his skull. But that was before last week, when you tangled with the Qaeda mob from East 43rd, before you went fifteen rounds with the Jihadi Brothers (who are still raising hell every night down at the An Bar on East Falluja - you groan when you remember that you are gonna have to be back there tonight to give them their daily beat-down...), before you had to commit yourself to a precautionary punch-up with the Pushtun ring, still trying to muscle back into the opium business you knocked them out of four years ago, before you committed to strolling by the Farsi clan corner to give them the stink-eye and remind them who is has the biggest pair of balls in the Gulf District.

Your big stick feels more like a bent coat hanger these days.

But, still, it's part of your beat. And you feel like you gotta do something. The neighbors keep looking at you. You wanted to be the cop, the lawbringer, the peacemaker.

You think: I don't wanna look like one of those weenie touchy-feely cops, standing at the door with your hat in your hand trying to get that Red bastard to talk nice to you. So you stomp up the stairs. You announce loudly that you're not here to talk to some blackmailing red bastard commie. That you'll think about not busting down the door only if the slimy a-hole inside throws out his dynamite and gets down on his knees and begs you not to give him a rap in the nuts. You holler over to the Changs (who aren't exactly your best friend, but, what the hell) that you expect them to back you up on this and join you in convincing their ol' pal to give up. As you start feeling pretty foolish standing there looking weak you might even throw in some hard words about "regime change" and "liberation" - it's hard to think calmly when you're getting steamed like you are.

As you stand there, listening to the odd banging noises and muttered conversation inside the locked start to wonder:

Is this doing any good?

So would it hurt to talk to the little bastard?

How much weaker do I look standing on this doorstep with my hand?

And you think to yourself - some days, you just can't seem to catch a break...but some days you look back and want to kick youself in the ass for being so damn pig-headed that you were willing to pay any price to look like the baddest cop on the street.

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