Story © 2014 Cy Wyss

Cover original images © Shutterstock, design Cy Wyss

Like most bad ideas, it started with alcohol.

Four of us were at Fats, a pool hall on one of countless anonymous side streets between Folsom and Mission, above a porn shop in San Francisco's SoMa district. We'd been there three beers long when we finally got a table and started a game.

My partner, Officer Lukas Richter, was up first. He's an oddball with blue eyes of two different shades. In some lights, his right eye is almost white, like milk glass. He tells me he can see under people's skin with it. I'm inclined to believe him. Our first patrol together he stopped a teen outside a liquor store and pulled an illegal weapon from the boy's jacket --- moments before he was going to rob the place, as the youth admitted tearfully in the course of Richter's ten-minute rebuke. Since then I'd taken to calling my partner el ojo loco.

``Never underestimate a man with Guinness on tap,'' Richter said. He cleared three solids off the break, a good start for us.

Inspector Bill Jakobsen stepped up to the table. He was pure GQ: surfer's complexion, angular jaw, tall athletic build. Tonight he was in faded jeans and a plaid shirt the same bright green as his eyes. None of the rest of us were allowed facial hair but Jakobsen was undercover narcotics so he got to wear a thick mustache and goatee in the same brilliant blond as the unruly waves atop his head.

He said, ``Stout is for pussies. IPA is where it's at.''

He sunk four striped balls and hooked me behind the eight ball. He said, ``It's all you, Cortados. Try not to embarrass yourself.''

That's me, Officer Marcos Cortados. I live to serve and protect, and to make it to fifty-eight without being shot to death.

``Oh, screw you, Jakobsen. How am I supposed to do anything now?''

Richter said, ``Bank the cue ball, you ought to be able to tap the five.''

I missed and swore at the table in Spanish.

Junior Inspector Jim Belfonte, a baby-faced bald man with laughing gray eyes and a stocky build, swore back at me, also in Spanish — sort of.

``Vato,'' I said, ``You just called me a `walking coffee.' ''

Jakobsen chortled. ``Nice.''

``I stand by my insult.''


``Hey, I haven't had Spanish since fucking high school, give me a break.''

Even with the advantage I'd given him, Belfonte sunk only one ball. He handed his cue to Richter.

``Don't make us look too bad, Richter. Remember, we are your superior officers.''

``Superior in a very restricted way, I guess.''

Richter made some killer shots, sinking all four of our remaining balls, then topping that off by banking the eight ball not once but twice and sinking it neatly in the side pocket.

Jakobsen was red in the face. ``No fucking way. You didn't call that, asshole.''

``Yes I did.''

``No you didn't. You only said one bounce.''

``Kiss my ass.''

``You shit-faced, dumbass —''

I said, ``C'mon guys, let's just start another game.''

``No. I'm not playing anymore if he cheats. He didn't fucking call that.''

Belfonte racked the balls. ``We lost, Bill. Get over it.''

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