The time up until roll call passed slowly. Malloy sat at one of the tables in the break room, paging through the file Mac had given him. The light seemed to grow dimmer and dimmer the more he read until the door popped open and Reed stuck his head in.
“Here you are,” he said. He got himself a cup of coffee and set it in the table beside Malloy. Then he turned the second chair at the table backwards, sat down, and folded his arms on top. He was in uniform. “I’ve been waiting for you in the locker room. What’re you reading?”
Malloy closed the file and slid it to Reed. He took the last drink of cold coffee from the bottom of his cup. Then he tipped his chair back on two legs to set the cup on the counter behind him.
Reed peered at the label. “William Saunders.”
“It’s his file from his time with the Seattle PD.”
“Hm.” Reed looked at it for a couple of breaths. “Anything helpful?”
“Well, as near as I can figure it, he was a stellar cadet, did well as a probationer, and was an officer without stain.”
Reed frowned. “So, not helpful.” He rubbed his face with both hands.
“Did you get any sleep?” Malloy said.
“Not much. The whole thing keeps going around and around in my head.”
Malloy sighed. “Me, too.”
“I mean, why shoot the kid? A no-escape situation. He was unarmed.”
“I asked him why. Know what he said?” Malloy slapped the file. “‘Training kicked in.’”
Reed shoved back from the table and paced away. “Blaming his mistakes on his department. It makes me so hot! We see it all the time, people’s pathetic refusal to take responsibility for their own actions.” He leaned against the wall. “But I still can’t get over it.”
“If we could, what kind of cops would we be?” Malloy looked to his partner. “Cops like Will Saunders. He took things hard, too, I think. Bit of an idealist. When nothing ever seemed to get better, he stopped caring. He gave up on people so that he could stop feeling for them.”
Malloy opened the file. All the pictures of Saunders during his nine years since the academy were taped in the front. All smiling.
“I started to think that way once,” he said. “My second year on the force, a guy murdered three people in a church. He must have decided the best way out was getting himself killed, so he charged us. I pulled the trigger.” He shook his head. “I knew what he’d done, and I wanted to take him, but alive.”
Malloy crossed his arms. “I felt terrible for putting a bullet in him, even though he deserved it, if anyone does. I guess it messed with my head. I almost turned in my badge; that guy would have taken my career down with him, except Moore pulled me out.”
“Yeah. He’d just made sergeant at the time.”
“What did he say?”
“He told me I should feel sorry for him. Pity him. He said that anyone who walks in here, criminal, complainant, or cop, could be the next murderer. You don’t always understand it. In fact you hope you never understand it completely. But if you stop feeling pity, at least on some level, for the criminal, you stop feeling pity for the complainers, then for the innocent. And then you’ve lost yourself.” Malloy looked back at the smiles on the page in front of him. “And I think that’s just what happened to Saunders.”
Reed thought for a moment. “Too bad he didn’t have a Sergeant Moore to set him straight.” Then he smirked. “And good thing you’ll soon be Sergeant Malloy, and set us all straight.”
Copyright © Inkant