1 – A Job Well Done
“Here’s to a job well done.”
Jonah and Tyler clink their cans together in a brief moment of celebration from their busy lives. On a beautiful, summer day, Jonah and Tyler took a walk to celebrate a successful mission and to take in the warm summer afternoon.
Their work as police officers had forced them to travel throughout the great state of Illinois at a blistering pace. Tasked with a plethora of menial tasks, Jonah and Tyler hardly had a chance to take a breath. This time, however, they were celebrating their first big job together.
Jonah was relatively new to the police department. His hometown of Decatur, Illinois had provided him with a cushy life – one that he resented with all of his being. Desiring a more exciting lifestyle, Jonah signed on with the Decatur police department.
Not accustomed to the hectic, dangerous life of a police officer, Jonah would have been lost without the aid of one of the best officers the department had ever known – Diego Martinez. Martinez personally took Jonah under his wing and taught him the ways of the department.
Martinez, a headstrong man, always had a tendency to act irrationally. One day, when Jonah and Martinez were investigating a case, Martinez charged into a den of criminals and never came back. Ever since that day, Jonah has never been the same.
Tyler was a veteran officer of the department. Because of this, he harbored some resentment for new recruits. Tyler did not particularly like Jonah.
That day marked the completion of their first real task together – a small-scale drug bust. While it had become routine for Tyler, it was still a monumental occasion for Jonah. So, Jonah took Tyler to his favorite park and forced him to drink a can of his favorite beverage. On this wonderful July afternoon, Jonah and Tyler sipped on grape soda without a care in the world.
Then, the phone rang.
2 – The Chief
The Chief sat in his office, nervously squeezing the stress ball that his daughter had given to him as a joke. “‘Stressed’ spelled backwards is ‘desserts.’” It was funny – but he didn’t laugh. Fifteen years in the department stripped him from any shred of humor left in him.
The Chief was sweating nervously. He felt trapped – his tie was too tight, his office seemed to be getting smaller every day, he was getting older… But most of all, the Chief was itching to get his hands dirty. Office work didn’t suit him any longer.
He slid his hand down to the bottom drawer of his desk. The Chief caressed the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels in the drawer longingly. As soon as the Chief reached for his favorite glass, however, his secretary Rita barged in.
“How ya doin’?”
The Chief quickly shut the drawer as if he were caught stealing.
“Gee, you’re jumpy!”
Rita was a sprightly little woman. Though everything about her screamed ‘dainty,’ Rita was as strong as a rock and as witty as a Woody Allen script. Rita was one secretary who nobody wanted to mess with.
“Didn’t get enough sleep last night,” the Chief responded.
“Explains why you haven’t been doing your job! Should I call ‘em for you?”
The Chief suddenly remembered that he was supposed to call Jonah and Tyler, or the “Vested Powers,” as the department had taken to calling them. Rita genuinely frightened him, so he knew that he’d better call.
“No, no, I’ve got it.”
“Well, get on with it! They don’t have all day!”
Rita stepped out of the office and shut the door.
The Chief let out a defeated sigh. He stood up from his creaky, old office chair, took a look out of the window, and punched in Tyler’s number on his old wall phone.
Tyler answered quickly. “Yeah, Sarge?”
“Boys, I’ve got a job for you-“
Suddenly, Rita was on the line. She gave him another stern warning about his health – without realizing that Tyler was on the other side.
The Chief shot back, “Rita, I am aware of my blood pressure!”
Rita gasped in exasperation. She hung up the phone.
The Chief returned to his call, irritated.
“Sorry about that. Get back here as soon as possible; I’ve got a job for you.”
The Chief hung up.
3 – “He who lives by the gun…”
“Looks like we’ve got a job to do,” Tyler said with disappointment.
Jonah looked at Tyler with determination.
“He who lives by the gun… dies by the gun.”
Jonah and Tyler took off on foot. They sprinted through the park in full police attire, alarming every bystander they passed. They ran through a small patch of woods – and then they saw it.
Tyler and Jonah burst out of the thicket with great ferocity to be greeted by the sight of their Cruiser – a pine green, 2004 Chevy Venture. It was the perfect police car – nobody saw it coming.
Tyler and Jonah jumped into the Cruiser and turned the ignition, feeling the power of the beast beneath them. Tyler punched the gas, screeching the tires as he gunned it out of the parking lot.
The Vested Powers arrived at the station, greeted Rita, and took a seat in the Chief’s office.
“We have reason to believe that there is an arms dealer in Decatur.”
Jonah and Tyler removed their sunglasses.
“Now I’m gonna need you boys to hold a stakeout at a few possible locations he may be residing in.”
Jonah shifted in his seat, excited at the thought of another mission.
“This is a difficult task, but you’re the best we have since Martinez… passed.”
Tyler shook his head in memory of the late officer.
“Thanks, boys. I can count on you.”
The Chief held out a folder with the case details. Jonah, overwhelmingly excited for the new task, smacked Tyler’s hand out of the way and took the case file.
4 – The Stakeout
The Vested Powers parked their Cruiser along the side of the road in front of a smaller, middle class ranch-style house. The sun beat down on them and they could feel the minivan heating up. Jonah opened the side door of the van and equipped his trusty binoculars. He didn’t see anything particularly suspicious.
“This place looks pretty shady,” Tyler said, worried.
“It sure does,” Jonah responded.
Tyler felt a rumbling in his stomach. He hadn’t eaten for quite a while.
“Looks like it’s gonna be a long one. Got any snacks with you?”
“Well, of course I do. Never leave home without your rice cakes!”
“Ah sweet, pass one up! I love rice cakes!”
Jonah searched around the backseat of the van. He couldn’t seem to find his rice cakes.
“Dang it,” Jonah replied. “I don’t know where they went, I didn’t bring ‘em!”
“Are you serious?” Tyler was annoyed. “You got anything else then?”
“I got some of these.”
Jonah grabbed a package of Movie Theater Butter microwave popcorn that he had been saving for a special occasion. Jonah felt his mouth watering at the delightful sound of the crinkly package.
“Microwave popcorn? How am I supposed to cook this?”
Tyler threw the package back at Jonah, hitting him squarely in the eye. Secretly, Jonah was relieved.
Some time passed as Jonah and Tyler waited in the van. Suddenly, Jonah spotted something.
“Hold up, something’s happening.”
An older man with glasses came out in front of the house. He picked up a hose and made eye contact with Jonah.
Jonah held his breath in a moment of suspense. He knew that at any second, the man could pull a gun, a bomb, or worse. It suddenly sank in that Jonah was not trained for a situation like this. He was scared for his own safety and for Tyler’s.
The man started up the hose to water the plants in front of the house. He turned back toward the van and waved.
Jonah and Tyler froze. Jonah slowly reached over and shut the door of the green Chevy Venture, still waving to the man as it shut.
Tyler put the car in reverse and stepped on the gas. The Vested Powers fled swiftly.
5 – The Confrontation
Tyler and Jonah sat outside of the second house that the Chief told them to stake out. The house was a brick, two-story house at the end of a somewhat secluded neighborhood. It didn’t seem like a place that an illegal arms dealer would use as headquarters, but Jonah learned that some criminals are craftier than others.
“You sure this is the right place?” Tyler asked. “Not too sure after last time.”
Jonah bobbed his head up and down, trying to see past the landscaping that they had parked behind.
“Yeah, this is the address Chief gave us but… I’ve got a pretty bad feeling about this.”
They noticed a crow calling. It was beginning to get under Jonah’s skin.
Then, the door opened.
Out of the house walked a large, dark-skinned man. He was sweating profusely and looked very annoyed.
The crow’s ominous call persisted.
Suddenly, the Vested Powers realized who they were dealing with.
Tyler ruffled his eyebrows. “Wait, is that… Martinez?”
Jonah felt a rush to his head. He couldn’t believe that his old partner, whose funeral he had attended only weeks ago, was standing right in front of him – as the bad guy.
Diego Martinez pulled out a revolver from the holster on his hip. He aimed it toward the sky and – bang! Martinez shot down the crow that had been bothering them.
Martinez, about to head back inside, took a look out into the lawn. Past the poorly placed landscaping, he noticed a large, green van with two police officers peering at him. He immediately understood what was happening. He turned back to go inside.
Realizing that they were spotted, Tyler immediately sprung into action. “Let’s rock and roll.”
Tyler pulled a shotgun from the floorboard of the van.
Jonah was surprised. “Wait, where’d you get the shotgun?”
“Hey, don’t worry man. I got you an M4!”
Jonah grabbed the M4 rifle from Tyler’s hands and pressed it to his shoulder, ready for action. He smiled giddily at the thought of such a powerful weapon, but the smile quickly faded. This was a time to be serious.
Jonah and Tyler burst from the Cruiser with their weapons right as Martinez walked out of the house. This time, he wore a bulletproof vest and held an AK-74. Martinez pulled the slide back and raised the rifle.
The Vested Powers charged toward him. He pulled the trigger and unloaded at Jonah and Tyler. Before they could fire any shots, they retreated to hide behind the van. Miraculously, neither of them were hit.
Suddenly, Jonah and Tyler heard the door open again.
“Don’t shoot!” The Vested Powers heard a familiar voice shout.
Martinez continued to aim his gun at the van.
Martinez turned around to express his displeasure.
Tyler suddenly recognized the voice.
“Holy crap, that was Chief!”
Jonah peeked up at the man. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
“In a Star Trek Shirt?”
“Boys, put your guns down and your hands up!” The Chief shouted.
6 – The Betrayal
Tyler and Jonah were stuck between a rock and a hard place. They could choose to fight – and likely get turned into Swiss cheese by the Chief’s goon – or they could surrender. Jonah made the call – they were going to surrender their honor to the man whom they once looked up to.
They dropped their weapons to the ground and put their hands up, just like the man told them. Tyler stood up, unwilling to cooperate but not dumb enough to fight back. Jonah and Tyler approached the two traitors with disgust.
The Chief waved Martinez away so that the Vested Powers could talk with him – alone.
“Looks like I’ve got some explaining to do,” the Chief said as he approached.
“Martinez and I have been supplying guns to this area for a long time now – and we want you in on it.”
Tyler was repulsed. “Who do you think you are?”
The Chief gave Tyler a piercing stare. “I’m your boss.”
In that moment, Jonah reflected on what had gotten him there. He thought about his first day on the job, the loss of his old partner, and his first real task with Tyler. He had grown to like working with Tyler. Now, they would get dragged into some black market arms network and they would likely be dead soon.
Suddenly, Jonah realized that Tyler still had a gun in his waistband.
Tyler looked at the Chief. “Not anymore,” he quipped.
Tyler drew his gun and shot the Chief through the knee – crack! The Chief let out a cry of agony and crumpled to the ground. He assumed a fairly relaxed position: lying on his back with his hands behind his head, as if he were lounging in Maui on a warm summer day. He appeared to feel no pain, but it was all a facade – much like his career. Jonah was too shocked and Tyler was too infuriated to bother cuffing him properly anyway.
Tyler stood over the Chief, savoring the sudden shift of power. Now he held all the cards. Jonah stood idly by, dumbfounded at the absurdity of the situation in which he found himself. Tyler aimed the sights of his 9mm pistol right between the Chief’s eyes.
“Don’t even think about it.”
“Jonah, call it in,” Tyler barked.
Jonah snapped out of his trance-like state, grabbed his cell phone, and scuttled off to call the department. Rita picked up the call. Knowing how close she had been to the Chief, he decided to keep it vague.
“You’re gonna love this one. You know how to trace us,” Jonah said.
Tyler’s trigger finger grew itchier by the second, but he had to keep himself from just killing the man.
“Where did he go?” he asked.
“He’s gone to the clearing but you have no idea what’s to come.”
Chief’s statement angered Tyler, but he knew that he should let the others take care of it. He had a traitor to hunt.
7 – “…dies by the gun.”
The Vested Powers made their way to the clearing in the woods that the Chief had described. It was a strange place. They stood in a bulldozed portion of what used to be a densely wooded area. Right next to them was a patch of tall grass. They knew that Martinez was hiding there. Tyler and Jonah surveyed the area to determine where exactly he had gone.
But Tyler had a strange feeling that something was wrong.
His back pressed to Jonah’s, Tyler scanned the horizon for any sign of Martinez’ hulking figure. Nothing. All he could see was vegetation. In this short moment of tranquility, Tyler took a second to reflect on the past few days. He never had a partner like Jonah before, that’s for sure. Strangely enough, Tyler liked Jonah. Jonah reminded Tyler of himself when he first joined the department. Starry-eyed and dumb, just like all of them. But there was something special about Jonah. Something he would miss.
Tyler made one more pass over the grassy expanse when he noticed the shifting of a few blades of grass. Before he could do anything – bang!
Tyler was hit. The bullet from Martinez’ AK-74 went straight through his heart. He did not cry out. The force of the shot threw him to the ground. He died almost instantly.
Jonah turned and saw him falling to the ground and panicked. The man whom he had come to trust with his life was killed right in front of him! Jonah wanted to run and never come back, but that wasn’t part of the oath he took.
Jonah ran from the body to minimize the risk of taking a bullet. All of a sudden, Martinez emerged from the tall grass. Jonah put the stock of his rifle to his shoulder and took aim, but he didn’t pull the trigger. He wanted to fight Martinez – up close and personal.
Martinez pulled the slide back on his gun and fired a few shots toward him, intentionally missing every one. He didn’t want to hurt Jonah – he only wanted to scare him. He wanted to see what his old partner was really capable of. Martinez fired until he ran out of ammo, but Jonah stood his ground.
Martinez removed his bulletproof vest and set his gun down. Jonah dropped his gun and walked toward him. For a silent moment, Jonah looked at Martinez with pure, bitter hatred. Martinez was pleased.
Jonah threw the first punch. Martinez blocked his left hook and countered it with a jab to the gut, knocking the wind out of him. Thud! Martinez tossed Jonah across the clearing as if he were a twig. Sent reeling, Jonah managed to grab the shotgun from Tyler’s body.
Jonah swung the shotgun around toward Martinez’ head, but he caught the gun before it made contact. Jonah instinctively pulled back, and – bang! – he fired the shotgun. The shot barely missed Martinez’ head, sending him into a blind rage. He threw a quick, hard jab at Jonah’s ribs. Martinez grabbed hold of the gun and threw it aside.
Then, Jonah saw a window of opportunity. Thwack! – Jonah threw the hardest right hook he could and it hit Martinez squarely in the jaw, disorienting him. Jonah scrambled toward the shotgun on the ground and picked it up. He cocked it and aimed it at Martinez.
Martinez turned toward Jonah and put his hands up. Jonah knew that the slimy coward would try to talk his way out of it.
“Do what you want. You could shoot me… or you could take your death like a man. Like your buddy over there did.”
Martinez drew the revolver from his holster and pointed it at Jonah.
Martinez grinned. “He who lives by the gun…”
Jonah saw through the ruse.
“…dies by the gun.”
Martinez’ bloodied body crumpled to the ground. Jonah took a moment to breathe. He took a good look at what he had done – and he felt nothing.
Jonah picked up his sunglasses from the ground, put them on, and walked away.
He was done.
Jonah returned to the same gazebo that he had visited with Tyler just a few days before. It was strange to think of how much had changed. He was offered the Chief’s old job at the department but he turned it down. He called it ‘early retirement.’ He had a lot to think about. But most of all, Jonah could not stop thinking about whether or not he could have saved him.
Jonah looked out toward the pond. The sun was setting and it was beautiful. Just for a solitary, bittersweet moment, he took it all in. There wasn’t another person in sight. Quietly, he mourned.
Jonah pulled out two grape sodas – his favorite. He cracked one open and set it on the ledge next to him, where Tyler would have stood. He took a sip of his own and it all came rushing back to him.
He finally accepted that his best friend was dead.
Or was he?