Back to Part I

It's not easy being an honest cop.

Most cops figure that no matter how corrupt they are, no matter whose take they're on, they're gonna end up doing more good than bad in the world, simply by being a cop--most people I've met, both policemen and otherwise, try to justify their corruption--if only to themselves. No one becomes a cop with the intention of becoming perverted by greed, or any of that shit. This tends to create problems for lots of guys I know, because we don't get paid nearly enough for the job we do for the city, and the pay for turning a blind eye to a crime you don't want to know about anyway (or some other such thing), is usually a lot better. Most corrupt cops are perfectly decent guys, loving husbands and fathers, just trying to support a family in a harsh world.

The one thing that corrupt cops, perfectly decent guys that they are, fear and hate more than any other thing is an honest cop.

I don't have many friends.

There's another kind of corrupt cop, though, and they're usually the easiest kind to spot. These are the guys who have become so tainted by the other side that they've begun to enjoy it. They're the cops with the shifty eyes. Even without my rare gift of sight, there are two easy ways to spot these guys. The first is that they tend to climb the ranks of the force at an unusually fast pace. Most of them will reach a position of fairly significant authority before they're brought down--and most of them are brought down, usually by the folks they're working for--not the taxpayers. The otherfolks. The second way to spot the truly debauched, truly rotten cop is this: he's always the first to pull his gun.

I had one of those cops pull his gun on me tonight. It turned out I'd known him for a lot longer than I'd thought.

I've been on the beat for twelve years--the first sign of an honest cop. I've got one of the nastiest neighborhoods in the city, but most of the folks here know me, and they know my history, and what I did for one of their own, a little girl named Susannah, a couple of years back, and I don't get much trouble. Mostly folks here just keep an eye out for me and avoid doing anything untoward while I'm around. I don't go looking for trouble either, so we've developed a sort of unspoken armistice--which is good. I've killed twice for this job and these people. The first time scared the shit out of me and made me sick. That was okay. The second time I almost enjoyed it. That was most definitely not okay. I'd rather not have to ever do it again. I'm afraid I'd be addicted.

My name is Rafael Abatidor, after my father. My few social friends call me 'Raf'. Around the neighborhood here, they call me 'El Ángelito Pobre': the poor little angel.

If only they knew how close they actually were.

So I'm walking the beat earlier tonight, same as always, same old greasy city rain coming down around me in the night air, when there's suddenly a lot of activity on the police band. I usually keep my radio turned way down while I'm walking the beat, because I like the quiet of these poor city streets. It means that no one is currently being shot on my watch, and, well, no one at the station ever really wants to talk to me anway. Honesty doesn't tend to win a lot of friends. But even with the volume low I can tell there's something going on. So I turn it up. And freeze.

It's coming to a head.

FXXXXXXT--radio, this is unit forty-two. I've just arrived at the warehouse in question. I'm going in. Over.

FFFFFXT--Unit forty-two, stop right where you are. Don't you dare go in there, Keysey. Do not proceed until I arrive. Do you hear me?

The second voice is the Chief. He's the dirtiest cop of a dirty bunch in this city. That's why I've been walking the beat for twelve years. He's covered his tracks well, though, and he must be pretty upset about whatever's going on at that warehouse. Keysey doesn't know it, but if he goes in without the Chief, he probably won't live to regret it. Keysey's a good kid, but practically a rookie. He's been a patrol cruiser in my neighborhood for nearly a month and hasn't quit or asked for a transfer. That's pretty good for cops in this neighborhood. He hasn't had time to go bad yet, and if he tries to play Hero-Cop, he's not going to have the chance.

FXXT--I copy that, Chief, but really, I can handle--

FZZXXT--DO NOT make me repeat myself, forty-two. Stay right where you are. I'll be there shortly.

I have to do something.

I click the TALK button on my radio--something I only very rarely have to do.

Hey, Keysey, Abatidor here. What warehouse you at? I'll meet you there. I say.

FXXZZT--Heya, Raf! It's at the corner of Municipal and Cort--


Yeah. I hear.

The Chief tried to interrupt Keysey, but I got the message. I know this neighborhood well. But Municipal and Cortina is almost two miles from here. No time to run it. I hate it when this happens, but I love the excuse.

The police uniform melts away and I spread my wings. I never get to do this anymore. It's a good thing the hood rats give me space, or there'd be a couple of trips to the hospital in store for 'em. Comes with the territory, I guess. Even in a neighborhood were everyone is raised strict Catholics like this one, they're never ready to actually come face to face with something from their ridiculous Book.

So much gets lost in translation.

The last person to not faint first time he saw me was Bill Blake, who didn't even seem surprised to see me, and he wound up an atheist.

Go figure.

I lift off the ground, letting the cool, wet air move beneath and above and through my wings, and I'm flying again.