The note was slipped through the bottom gap of the cheap hotel door.
He poured another couple fingers from a brown-bagged bottle. The amber liquid sloshed into the glass.
He capped the bottle and stood.
The news played on the television in silence.
He walked over and picked up the note. On it was a number and a name scrawled in pen. He brought it over to the desk and set it in the ashtray. He took a drink from his glass and shook out a cigarette. He lit it, then set the note on fire.
He breathed out smoke and took another drink.
The walls were so thin he could hear the couple next door, grunts and groans. Couple? More like perp and night-walker in this type of joint, he mused to himself. He took another drag and finished the glass.
His phone buzzed on the desk. It was his partner. He picked it up. “You know I’m off tonight,” he said.
“Yeah, Jack, I know. It’s why I called. Why don’t we get together tonight? Grab a beer. We ain’t done that in awhile.”
Jack hesitated. “Can’t,” he grunted. “Got plans.”
“Since when in the hell do you got plans? You said yourself it’s your night off. C’mon man.”
“No, Derek. Like I said, I got plans. Maybe another time.”
“Maybe another time,” Derek’s voice sounded wooden, cold.
“Tell Theresa I say hi,” Jack said.
“I know what you do, Jack.”
There was a moment of silence. “No, you don’t.”
“You need to stop. Just, come on over and we’ll talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“You can get out, Jack. Let me help. You don’t have to do this.”
“You don’t got a fucking clue, Derek. You don’t know shit. Mind your own goddamn business.” Jack ended the call and hurled the phone across the room.
He took a swig from the bottle and stubbed out the cigarette. Time to work. He grabbed a different phone from the desk and punched in the number from the note.
Someone answered but didn’t say anything.
“I’m here to take out the trash,” Jack said. “You know that’s the stupidest fucking thing to have me say, right?”
A chuckle came back at him. “We play the game, man, you know that. The bag’s at Garden Acres, lucky number 7.”
“You serious? Sending me to a fucking trailer park?”
“Payment will be in the room when you get back, as always.”
He grabbed his badge and gun from the desk. He left the hotel and brought the bottle with him.
Garden Acres sat at the end of dirt road, a sprawl of filthy trailers and filthier families.
Jack parked back up the road a ways and sat in his car, thinking. He took a swig from the bottle. HIs phone rang and he recognized the number. He shook his head and answered it.
“Derek, how the fuck did you get this number?”
“You leave it in your coat and you leave your coat on the chair. I found it and took down the number.”
“You went through my pockets. Why?”
“Because I’m fucking worried about you, Jack, can’t you see that? Ever since Jeannie died, things are different. You’re different. Now you’re doing this shit. Let me help-”
“You can’t help me,” Jack said, then took a deep breath. Despite the booze, he didn’t want to be angry with Derek. They’d been through rough shit together and had been friends for almost as long as he could remember. He tried to moderate his tone of voice. “Listen, Derek. You’ve been my partner and friend for who knows how long so right now, you have to trust me. You have to trust me on this, Derek. You don’t know what’s going on and I can’t tell you. All I can say is this is something I have to do. Trust me, this one last time. Can you do that?”
Jack heard a sigh on the phone, then Derek’s voice. “Yeah, I can do that. Promise me we’ll grab a beer tomorrow? Talk about the good old days, like old times?”
Jack chuckled. “Shit, you know there weren’t any good old days, but yeah, we’ll go to the bar tomorrow.” He hung up and took another swig. He grabbed the silencer off the passenger seat and put it into a pocket.
He got out of the car, patting his gun holstered on his right and slipping his badge in his coat pocket. He closed the door and listened to the forest around him, silent in the night. He walked up the road towards the park.
The dirt road led into the park with trailers on either side. This late, most were dark but a few had lights inside. Nobody was outside. He thought he heard a car door open and shut.
He walked through the park like he was on business, which, he supposed, was true. 1,2,3,4...Numbers on little wooden signs told him he was getting closer. He passed a trailer that had a picnic table out front and a little tricycle in the tiny dirt yard. Thankfully that was number 6.
No families, that had been his number one rule. No families.
Number seven looked worse than most, the windows broken with cardboard covering them, a screen door with no screen banging in the wind, a variety of trash out front, plastic and paper bags, pieces of metal.
Jack walked up the metal steps and tapped at the door.
“Whose there?” A voice called, shaky and high.
“Police, open up James, just want to ask you a few questions.”
He heard frantic movement.
“Just a minute,” called James.
Jack grabbed his badge.
James opened the door a smidge and peered out. His face looked gaunt and his eyes red.
Jack showed his badge. “I’d like to come in and ask you a few questions, that’s all.”
“What’s this about?”
Jack threw his shoulder into the door with all his weight.
The door flew open and James staggered back.
Jack closed the door, calmly.
“What the fuck, man?” James cried out, rubbing his shoulder. “You can’t do that.”
“Like I said, I need to ask you a few questions.”
“It ain’t right,” James said. “I got rights, ya can’t barge in like that, you fuckin’ hurt me.”
“What you got is drugs, in your body on these premises so I can do whatever the hell I like, James, and you’re not going to do a damn thing about it,” Jack said, taking a seat on the arm of a faded yellow couch. “Or should I call in some backup, maybe a couple dogs? You want that, James?”
James swallowed and shook his head. “What do you wanna know?”
“First, I’d like a glass of water.”
James walked into the kitchen with his head down, grumbling to himself. He grabbed a half-clean glass from the counter and turned on the faucet. “What is this even about, man? I don’t know anything.”
Jack took his gun and silencer out. He screwed the silencer on.
James turned and his eyes widened. He looked tense, ready to run.
Jack didn’t want that. “Don’t worry, bud, this is only if you refuse to answer my questions. You tell me the truth and you tell me quick and you got nothing to worry about. Just get me that glass of water.”
James filled the glass and brought it over.
Jack went to take it and shot James in the head. The glass fell, splashing water onto the brown rug.
The body dropped like a sack of potatoes onto the floor.
Jack took a moment to breath.
The door opened and Derek stepped in, gun in hand.
They both raised their guns but neither fired.
Derek kicked the door closed behind him. He glanced at the body on the floor.
“What the fuck are you doing here, Derek?”
“I could ask you the same question, Jack.” Derek shook his head. “I can’t fucking believe it.”
“Derek, get the hell out of here.”
“No way, you fuckin asshole. I gave you a chance. Now, you’re under arrest. Drop the gun and put your hands in the air.”
“Oh shove it, Derek. You followed me, didn’t you? Of course you did. You always wanted to be the hero, didn’t you? Here’s the truth, there aren’t any fucking heroes.”
“I’m not going to say it again, Jack. Drop the gun. You’re under arrest.”
“Don’t do this, Derek. I can’t go to jail. You don’t understand.”
“Put the gun down or I will shoot you.”
Jack took a slow breath. “Okay, Derek, okay,” he said. He fired.
His partner’s head jerked back and his corpse crumpled to the floor.
Jack closed his eyes and took deep breaths. He remembered why he was doing this. It had to be done. It had to be. He unscrewed the silencer and put it in his pocket. He put the gun in his holster. He looked out the windows but there seemed little to no activity out in the trailer park.
He walked out and back to his car, telling himself it was worth it. It was. He got in his car and drove away, passing Derek’s car farther back up the road. He didn’t look at it.
He grabbed the bottle but didn’t drink. After a moment, he put it back. He didn’t want to be drunk. He stopped at a gas station and grabbed a coffee. He finished it by the time he got back to the hotel. He got out and walked up to his room. It would be worth it. It always was.
He slid his key into the lock and opened the door. He walked in and she was standing by the bed.
“Jeannie,” he said, unable to breath every time he saw her.
They embraced and he could forget about everything he’d done, the people he’d murdered, his partner, all of it. He could forget it when he was with her. She made it worth it.
It was worth it. Always.