Rolling the window down hadn’t helped at all. The sun beat down on the tarmac and on my patrol vehicle with all the force of an Aztec god enacting some ancient curse. But that’s what Isaac Newton invented air con for, after all. I’m alone, passing the seconds and glaring at the speed camera monitor. I’ve parked myself just out of sight, so I give drivers a heart attack when they pass a hair over 30. I’m not really that petty, but every time I wave them by with a stern nod, it’s me that they’re staring at. It’s never the playground over the road. It has to be the hand of the law to make them realise their fuck-up, not the children they’re putting at risk pelting along a residential road with a public park.
There’s a boy, looks about eight, who giggles every time he makes the climb back up to ride the slide again. He reminds me of my niece, only three but has that same ability to just laugh and laugh and laugh at anything at all. I was shocked when my sister told me she was expecting. Seemed so soon, somehow. Maybe I’m just sentimental. Little Hales all grown up and taking on the world. I visit often, though. She cooks like a dream, and Steve’s an alright guy. He always struck me as humourless and painful to talk to, but being a father changed him. Pretty chatty nowadays, even if half of it is about Isobel, how well she’s doing at nursery, what she said last night and so on. It’s nice though, seeing an attentive father in his element. But even with all that, I don’t turn up to dinner as often as Haley would like. I just sometimes feel like it’s pity that drives her. Doesn’t want me eating alone.
Little old lady in a Ford focus passes by; she seems hardly able to see over the dashboard. Probably too proud to get herself a cushion. God almighty it’s hot. I can feel the sweat patches under my arms every time I shift. Bad day to run out of short-sleeves, let me tell you. There’s some crying from the playground, looks like the little guy scraped his knee. The other kids are standing by, staring awkwardly as kids do when confronted with any trouble at all. The boy doesn’t like it, clambers to his feet and bolts towards me. I must be parked outside his house. His eyes are on a front door and he’s wiping his eyes when it happens. I only register the sound of the engine when it’s already bearing down on him. A blue Audi. I don’t see the speed but the warning sound chimes so it’s at least 40. Brakes squeal far too late. His tiny body is eclipsed. I miss a breath.
The car passes and the boy is sat there, looking dazed. No idea if he’s clipped or just fell back in shock. He’s not bleeding or unconscious or being dragged a quarter mile along. There are mothers in the playground shouting and running over. They can take care of him, and I’ll take care of the Audi. My sirens are my battlecry, and the car judders to life. The noise seems like it tips the boy over the edge, because he’s wailing as I pass him. He’s going to be alright though. My mind proffers images of what it could have looked like, artist’s impressions of blood and brain scattered over road hot enough to half cook it. I can ignore it while the Audi is in my sights. But once it pulls over, the bile rises in my throat. The smell of it won’t fade, won’t accept that it never was. I park up, shove the door open and vomit onto the road. It’s not much, but it’s enough to exorcise me and quiet my mind. Time to be a professional again. Just let me grab a napkin and I’ll be right with you, Sir.
I’m making the long walk up to the window. The driver is white, late 30s, well-dressed and has a phone in his hand which he holds out the window. He tells me to take it. I hear the chief’s voice and already know how this is going to go. He assures me that he will personally give his brother-in-law a stern talking to. He tells me that he’s a busy guy and probably has some meeting he’s rushing to. I tell him a child was involved. The chief panics for a moment, but only until I tell him the kid is fine. No harm done. He’ll be more careful in the future. You don’t want to make this personal, do you Colborne? I can be a real prick to people who think they can shit on my shoes, Colborne. Always thought you were lieutenant material, Colborne.
This is how it works. You bend over and shut up if you want your job. What would be happening right now if the kid was dead. Would the chief let this asswipe be hung out to dry? Or would he ask me to hand over my camera? Would he ask me to find some other blue Audi? Would he ask me to testify? Maybe letting this guy loose with a stern warning doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Just a little sin. No harm done, after all. But I can’t live like that. If I have to do wrong, I’ll at least have the dignity to choose what wrong I do.
My gun slips out of the holster. My fingers embrace the hot metal, and the barrel swing upwards in a graceful arc. The man seems confused more than scared. I think that’s fair, I’m not really making much sense right now. Should I ask his name first? Would it matter?
The chief’s voice stops rambling on and on when he hears the shots. I can hear confusion, frustration, a slow realisation. He’s swearing as I drag the body out. Blood and brains paint the road. The smell doesn’t seem so bad any more. The blue Audi carries me away from it all.