In his free time

the off-duty cop sipped his coffee. Later, he might stop by the pool hall. The owner, a shaky old guy, was always complaining about “hoodlums” and telling the cop he could play for free.

Trouble is, he didn’t want free. But even now, the waitress wouldn’t let him pay for his bagel. Same at the fruit stand. Same at the tiki bar near the beach, north of the palm trees lining the boulevard.

It was only at the seedy motel at the edge of town. No one knew him there. When he pushed a folded twenty across the bar, no one winked it back at him. No one told him, officer, this is on me, and when he went out to the parking lot and stared up at the balcony, third room in from the corner, and waited for his wife and her lover to show up in the window, nasty silhouette that they were, no one would expect him to be the goddam hero.

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