|My Throw Down Piece
Patrick J. Lambe
It was him again, her Ďfriendí.
"Kellyís not here. Iíll tell her you dropped by."
I tried to close the door on him, wondered why I had opened it in
the first place.
"She borrowed a book, for class. Said I could pick it up
I remembered sheíd mentioned something about it before she put
her clothes on earlier, right before she left.
I moved aside to give him space to walk in. I wished I could
explain it to him. Some people are incapable of love, oblivious to
the offering. People like that; we seek each other out, sleep with
I went to the bathroom. She used to have a roommate but she had
the place to herself now. I guess having strange men around all the
time was not conducive to studying.
I could hear the kid padding around the dorm room, pawing through
things for his book. Kelly looked good on the outside, talk to her
for a few minutes and -if you hadnít been burned by someone like her
years before- you might fall for her. She reminded me of a slightly
dented can hiding botulism under the label. Her sex life was a cross
between the Kinsey Report and the Kama Sutra.
My calling her damaged is more than ironic. Iím thirty-seven
years old, and still a cop, at least until the Internal Affairs
Division is done with their review. And Iím going to have to dodge a
resident assistant when I leave in five minutes.
The kid's gone by the time I get back from the bathroom. Soís my
throw down piece.
First time I saw her, saw them, was a late afternoon. I had to
meet Reese and Terence to talk about an upcoming job. Iíd grabbed
some food from the take-out place next door and was sipping a
Johnnie Walker Black on the rocks when I caught her reflection in
the mirror. She was wearing one of those pseudo military jackets,
the kind with the fake fur lining and white and gray synthetic
strands sewn into the hood. I donít know what theyíre called now,
but I called mine a snorkel jacket when I got my first one in
third-grade. I hadnít seen one in years, and then all of a sudden
every woman under twenty five was wearing them.
The kid followed behind her, his eyes taking in the ambiance of
the Court Tavern: the barber chair the bouncer sat in at the
entrance, the lawyers who had been here since lunch time and would
be here till eight.
They sat down at the end of the bar, ordered a pitcher. Reese and
Terence came in. By the time we were through discussing business,
there was a crowd of men around them, around her. The kid was
sitting in the corner, wedged between the jukebox and the bar,
staring into a pint glass.
A Woman like Kelly, youíve got to watch it when she uses the word
Ďfriendí, because it has a different meaning depending on her
inflection of the word, and the time of the week. Me, I was a
Ďfriendí, one she slept with. The kid, he was a Ďfriendí, one she
didnít sleep with, wouldnít sleep with. Who knows how many Ďfriendsí
she has, how many categories? She threw the word around so much I
think she occasionally believed she had friends. One thingís for
sure, none of them were women.
She knew what she wanted. Problem was she wanted something
different every five minutes. She wasnít bad at heart. I really
donít believe she ever meant to hurt anyone, but she was unwilling
or incapable of seeing the damage caused in her wake.
The kid thought he was her friend, was trying hard to be her
friend, but he didnít realize yet that she was incapable of
friendship; or at least friendship with any definition he could
And now he was walking around with my gun.
"Weíve got a problem Reece." I was calling from the pay phone in
the dorm hallway. Kelly didnít have a phone in her dorm room; she
did all of her communication through a cell phone.
"What kind of problem?"
"That girl I was seeingÖ"
"We donít have a problem Tolland, or at least we shouldnít. I
thought you saw that train wreck miles before it happened, like you
were psychic or something."
"Sheís got this friend, thinks heís in love with her."
I told him.
"So what? I know they took your service pistol when you got
suspended. The gun the kid lifted, itís unregistered, right?"
"You holding something back Tolland?"
"Just worried what the kid's going to do with the gun."
"Why get yourself so worked up? If he wanted to use it on you he
would have this morning."
"I guess youíre right."
"Get your badge bunny out of town for a while. Weíll find the
Every woman Iíve been with has told me one of three things, some
of them two. Kelly was the first trifecta.
- I never do this with a guy I hardly know
- I used to work as a model
- I was molested as child.
The first statement: almost assuredly a lie. Iím not the best
looking guy, the most charming; theyíve been with better guys that
theyíve known less. The second: mostly true. Maybe they posed in an
art class somewhere, or a small town appliance store had a black and
white add in the local paper and they used her in it. The third:
well, I donít work on the sex crimes unit; Iím cynical when it comes
to motives, besides my own. But why would someone lie about
something like that?
The thing about the gun; I had fired it recently. Coincidentally
it was the same night as the second time I ran into them. I was
walking into the Somerset Diner on Easton Avenue, headed towards the
counter when I noticed someone watching me.
He was dressed in a gray uniform, slightly too small for him,
with black stripes down the side. Rent a cop. I looked closer and
remembered the first time I saw the face, sticking out of the collar
like a balloon with a few too many air molecules, through the
bulletproof windshield of an armored car. I had placed a piece of
paper in front of him, on the outside of the windshield. It said:
ĎC4. I used half this amount to blow up a tank in Iraq in 1991í.
Reese had put a large brick of modeling clay on the hood and
unrolled a coil of wire out into an alley. The guard had thrown his
gun out before he exited the armored car.
I donít know how he recognized me. We were wearing masks at the
time of the robbery. Maybe it was the way I carried myself,
something in my eyes. He looked away, paid the waitress before he
was halfway through with his dinner, walked out the front door.
I grabbed my coffee to go and hustled out the back entrance,
caught up with him right before he turned the key to the ignition. I
showed him the gun, kept it trained on him as I went around the side
of the car and opened up the passenger door.
I stopped at two or three bars after I was done with the driver,
knocking back Scotch neat. I donít know how I wound up next to her
in the center of the throng of guys around her. Donít remember what
I said to convince her to come home with me. She put her hand on my
chest as we were walking out the door.
"Iíve got to say goodbye to my friend."
She went to the corner of the bar, sat down next to him. Put her
hand on his knee. Said something he didnít want to hear, something
neither one of them understood. She came back to me after a few
"You really shouldnít do that to him."
"Weíre just friends. He understands."
I could tell by the way he looked at me when we walked out of the
bar that she was right, he did understand. This wasnít the first
time she had come to a bar with this kid, left with another man. If
he kept hanging around with her, it wouldnít be the last.
The gun was untraceable but there was a problem with it. I had to
hand over my badge and service pistol when I got suspended. I made
it halfway out the Captainís door before he stopped me. Told me he
didnít want another Columbine. I handed my throw down piece over to
him. He dropped it off at my house a few days later, after I cooled
down. Heíd recognize it if it showed up in an evidence room.
I should have gotten rid of it after the armored car driver. I
was planning on it, but without access to a well-stocked evidence
room anymore, throw down pieces were hard to come by. And a cop like
meÖ well I need a throw down piece.
I ran into the kid a week after I started sleeping with Kelly. It
was a crowded Thursday at the Court Tavern. He was talking with a
guy around his own age sitting next to him at the bar. I took a seat
next to him, the only vacant one in the place; overheard part of
"You should sprout a set of balls, see some other chick. What
about that girl Heidi? I know she likes you."
"Itís just, Iíve got this thing for Kelly."
"Sheís bad news, not worth the effort."
I ordered a Scotch. The kid must have recognized my voice because
he turned around. His face tensed up when we made eye contact.
"Your buddyís right. Why are you putting yourself through
"Listen Tolland, Kelly and I are just friends."
"Thereís no reason to be friends with a woman you want to sleep
with if itís not gonna happen. In fact, youíd have a better chance
if you ignored her a little. Maybe treat her a little shitty once in
a while. Donít answer a few phone calls."
"Heís right Mike," his friend said.
"Why the advice? I didnít think youíd want to help out the
"I see exactly where itís going with me and Kelly. Itíll last a
few weeks, a month maybe. Sheíll get bored, sheís bored already.
Sheíll run into some guy in a band or someone with an interesting
drug problem. Some head case she can complain to you about. Sheíll
tell me she just wants to be friends. Iíll say, OK and weíll
probably never talk to each other again."
"You donít care about her at all?" Mike said.
"She doesnít particularly care about me, or you, or anyone else
besides herself for that matter. Sheís my throw down piece. She does
the job at hand but Iíd be stupid holding onto her for long."
"Youíre wrong about her."
"How many men do you think sheís been with?"
"Itís none of my business." I could tell he was dying to
"She told me. Or at least she gave me a number. Closing in on
three digits. I doubt itís true, but I donít think itís off my much.
A woman whoís been with too many men is damaged. Youíre not the
repairman. You should stay away from her. Sheís only good for one
thing, and sheís not giving it to you."
I could tell he wanted to take a poke at me, but Kelly must have
told him I was a cop. And he knew, deep down, I was right.
"Why did you call me Carol?" Kelly asked. Iíd caught up with her
at the Melody, a popular dance club. Sheíd just come out of the
bathroom trailing some dark haired guy dressed in a lot of leather.
He took two steps back after I grabbed her by her arm and hauled her
off to a quiet corner. He shrugged, ordered another beer with a shot
"Whereís you friend, Mike?" I got close enough to see a small
glob of semen in the corner of her mouth, just beyond the orbit of
"Whyíd you call me Carol?" She asked again.
"It doesnít matter. Whereís Mike? Heís in trouble and I can help
"Itís not the first time."
"I can imagine with the fucking way you act."
She looked at me puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
"Mike getting in trouble over you, with the way you twist him
"I wasnít talking about Mike."
"You called me Carol once before, when we were together, in bed.
Who the fuck is Carol?"
"Some girl I knew fifteen years ago."
"Were you fucking her?"
"Do you know where Mike is or not?"
I felt a hand surround my elbow, smelled beer on my face as the
guy whoís DNA I had just been staring at spun me around. I punched
once, hard in his forehead; turned around to face Kelly.
"I wasnít fucking her. If you keep this up youíll be responsible
for more violent incidents than me. You should call up some guy
youíre fucking out of town and shack up with him for a few days.
Your friend has my gun, and if he doesnít use it on you, Iím
tempted to do it myself."
I lucked out at the Court. My bartender buddy is an aspiring film
maker who hates cops and criminals. Canít figure which side Iím on,
so he tolerates me. He knows Mike and his friend. Theyíre film
students who stop by and talk with him about movies. He doesnít know
where Mike lives, but he gives me an address for his buddy.
I drive over to his apartment, off campus on Sudyam Street. One
of those houses split into an apartment on each floor. The bottom
door is slightly ajar. I push it open. Find Mike sitting on the
carpet in the bedroom, the gun in his hand, his buddy sprawled out
on the floor. Looks like he has two in him.
Mike comes out of it for a second. He points the gun at me.
I put my hands up. "Donít. I can help."
He puts the gun down, stares at his buddyís corpse. "Why would I
want to shoot you?"
Letís see. Iíve been sleeping with the woman you love, have no
respect for her, practically called her a slut to your face. I
didnít say this but he answered my concerns anyway.
"She canít help it. Sheíll sleep with practically anyone, besides
me. You just have to catch her on the right night. I actually turned
her down the first night I met her. Blew my opportunity before I
really had it. I wanted to get to know her better. I should have
realized there wasnít much to get to know."
I walked over to him, picked the gun out of his hand.
"He shouldnít have slept with her. He knew how I felt. He was
supposed to be my best friend."
I swung the cylinder out: three in the armored car driver, two in
Mikeís friend. That leaves one to complement the suicide part of the
equation. But thereís the Captain - the gunís inevitable trip to the
"Iíll come with you Tolland. Give a full confession. Youíre a
I wasnít really a cop, hadnít been one for a long time, if
"Weíll take a restraining order out on each other."
"What the hell are you talking about Tolland?"
"Get up." He stood. I caught him by surprise; clocked him hard in
the face. Just above the eye. Hit him a few more times.
"You were never here. You stormed over to my house. We fought
over the girl. Iíll take care of the gun."
I put my hands down to my sides. "Now itís your turn. Itíll do
you some good. But if you knock out any teeth, Iím using the last
bullet on you."
Patrick J. Lambe writes: "The first time I heard my native
state called New Joisey was by some guy who didnít know the
difference between the Dome at Rahway and the Dome of the Rock. I
tried to explain it to him, but realized I didnít know the
difference myself. The ten people who can handle their rís in the
state call it New Jersey. Iíve lived here most of my life; busted my
hump as a restaurant worker, lumberyard dog, truck driver,
dispatcher, college scam artist, construction drone etc. Iím
currently working as a telephone technician while writing crime
stories. I've had stories at Plots with Guns, Hardluck
Stories, Shots, Shred of Evidence and various
other on-line and print magazines. Please check out my web site at