To a bull, everyone looks like they’re shopping for China.
Craig “Bull” Rudzewicz, the Central City Police Department’s top cop, reached into the bottom drawer of his desk, and his fingers brushed the ice pick he kept next to the bottle of bourbon hidden beneath an empty manilla folder.
As he poured himself two fingers, Bull’s mind wandered. He knew the rumors. Lieutenants, detectives, and patrol officers all told different tales about the ice pick. Most thought it was a knife, and the most common versions claimed that he’d taken a blade from an attacker and returned it using undue force. Many assumed the knife in his desk had caused the scar that stretched from the bald crease in his high fade over his ear across his neck to his collarbone. The less tactful asked about it. He didn’t tell them that the knife was an ice pick, that an ice pick couldn’t cause such a scar, or that he’d gotten the scar in a car accident. He usually didn’t tell them anything, not if he didn’t need to.
In his job, silence preserved careers.
He’d stolen the ice pick on his honeymoon. He and his wife had stayed at a cabin up north. It had been his first year on the job, and she was working as a clerk in a grocery store. They hadn’t had much money then, and they’d rented a rustic cabin. The cabin had been built without electricity and wired later, some of the wires ran exposed along the ceiling. He’d found the ice pick in a drawer, left there from the days when ice had been delivered in blocks and needed to be chipped. He and his wife had a wonderful time, a week without television, a telephone, work, or visitors. They’d spent hours reading, making love, and listening to a local Northwoods station on an old radio, the only source of entertainment. The morning they’d left, he’d shoved the ice pick into his suitcase on a whim, a souvenir from a simpler time.
He and his wife were still together, though they’d seldom been as happy as they’d been that week. He worked long hours, and he’d done what it took to climb to the top of the department’s ladder. Mrs. Rudzewicz had adjusted to long silences, lonely nights, and the social realities required of a politician’s wife. Once, she’d asked him if he kept a knife in his desk, a knife he’d used to kill a man. She wouldn’t tell him where she’d heard the rumor. When he told her about the ice pick, she’d asked why people talked about him that way. He’d told her the truth; they wanted a reason to be afraid.
It was the closest she’d ever come to asking if he’d ever killed someone. She didn’t ask, and he didn’t divulge.
The truth was, his job had never been that violent. He’d wrestled drunks and broken up fights when on patrol, but he was a broad and strong man. Between his size and his uniform, he’d been able to intimidate all but the most hardened criminals. Waite Park had been his least desirable patrol, but the city offered more dangerous neighborhoods, the parts of town his steady rise bypassed.
Bull had faced political dangers. He’d been earmarked for advancement his second year on the job, when a reporter had asked him if he thought a colleague’s use of force had been justified. He’d said that police protected and served law abiding citizens. Violence was only ever a last resort, and if used, all other options must’ve been exhausted. Every officer in the department knew the incident in question violated policy. Nonetheless, Bull held the party line. His colleague had been put on a night desk and quietly tossed a year later; Bull had been promoted. Interdepartmental politics, city politics, and the media bureaucracy, unlike anything he’d experienced on the street, required compromise.
Bull swallowed a mouthful of Bourbon. He’d served his city well. Under his watch, he’d kept the peace. What more could he have done?