01
Sep
2011

NO ONE TAKES LUNCH ON THEIR LUNCH HOUR, by Matt Pine

Find Chicago writer Pine’s second story for THE2NDHAND below. For more of his work, visit his site.

He’d be dead before lunch, if the mark showed up. But there were all sorts of cops in the Loop: on bicycles, on dune buggies, in squad cars, on horses, on Segways — a clash of transportation eras, downtown, at least when cops were involved. The mark was late.

The sun fell between buildings in milky strands and the air was cool, which gave the day an autumnal feel, although this happened in early spring. He wore sunglasses, a windbreaker, and carried a folded Redeye. He paced, trying to look like he wasn’t pacing. Intermittently, he took pictures on a disposable camera of the buildings he thought might appeal to tourists. The camera was out of film, but he continued to raise it to his eye, align the viewfinder with glass window grids, and press the button.

He was looking for three officers traveling on foot, two men and a woman, career friends to all appearances. Most days they walked out of the pedway beside the cultural center, laughing, twirling billy clubs, walking three abreast and entirely dominating the sidewalk. If he’d done any more planning, he’d have learned the cops’ names — or maybe he wouldn’t have, because that’d’ve meant getting close enough to read their nametags, and they might’ve read the look in his eyes, and that’d’ve spoiled everything.

But he knew their routine — hopefully that was enough — how nearly every day for lunch they cut over to Jewelers Row on Wabash, beneath the El tracks. One by one, they filled the doorway of a diamond shop, where in the back the owner maintained a falafel counter. Many times he’d watched them order three lentil soups, three chicken shawarmas, and three cans of Diet Pepsi. The male cops were white, with matching push-broom mustaches and large guts that squeezed from their bulletproof vests like frosting from Double Stuff Oreos. The female cop was also white, with a lesser gut and a fainter mustache. Most days, they took lunch between 12:45 and 1:30. But then some days they never came, and he didn’t know why, and there was no pattern to it. It was 1:35. Most days, they came.

He waited, and for a change, he was lucky. Real lucky, because just as the three cops came out of the Pedway, huffing from the double flight of stairs, a Brown Line train approached overhead going north, and a Green Line train looped overhead going south. This was too perfect! This was great luck! he thought, as he threw away the sunglasses and disposable camera. He took an X-Acto knife from his pocket and slipped off the safety cap. He crouched beside the door to the diamond shop.

As the two trains double-banged the girders and double-blasted sparks from the rails, at the precise moment when the noise overhead could send the coolest native into deafened panic, he slashed the female cop across her face. Her hands flew to her flapping, bleeding, bisected cheek. The male cops were fast with billy clubs and red with rage. He was glad he’d picked white cops, so that no one involved could be accused of racism, and he was saddened that misogyny was an inextricable part of the plan, because he wasn’t a misogynist. Don’t stop, he mentally encouraged the police officers, don’t get tired, keep swing until I’m done. His note was in his pocket, inside of a waterproof Ziploc. I hope they read it, he thought as his vision twirled black, I hope they know there was no other way, and that I’m sorry, and oh, oh, he thought, what sweet ecstasy.

THE DETECTIVE DRIVES HOME

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