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Conscience warns us as a friend before it punishes as a judge.

Stanislas I (Lexzczynski)

It had been a habit of mine to sit in on the Seventh Precinct roll call every afternoon. Sergeant Norman G. Kirby, a twenty-year veteran, burly at four feet across the shoulders and as mean as a hungry pit bull, delivered the street news of the day. The manner of his delivery alerted his rookies to increasing danger, raised the hair on their necks to stand straight for action. The older go-nowhere foot soldiers yawned. Nothing could grease their tired loins. At the end of the session Kirby growled my way, "Don't call begging us to cover your ass, Anderson."

After the blue coats were dismissed, I crossed Detroit's once distinguished Grand River Boulevard to enter the city's nefarious subculture. No longer considered a rookie on the vice squad, eighteen months under my belt, I took the Sergeant's briefing into the night as a talisman.

Problems cropped up when least expected.

My job at the time was to run down leads on the latest scam, drugs or otherwise, in the city. Meet and mingle with gang lord want-a-bes, petty criminals and the proverbial losers who were used and abused by everyone. The intention was to gain access to a larger, dirty organization that controlled the city. The job suited me well. I'd always been one to hang onto the fringe; never fit like a glove in any crowd.

I entered the nearest alley-called Jake's Breezeway by the cops who had picked up on my somewhat compulsive/obsessive habits. Logic and reason prompted my actions. Instead of circling the block where the suits parked department sedans, I opted for a jump-start into the dark, deceptive side of Mo-Town's corrosive sanctum.

No slow, subtle immersion into sights, smells and unearthly revelations of human depravity for me. I craved a quick jolt to get me situated for the night.

What the next eight or tens hours would wring out of me, I didn't know. But that first glimpse into the rat-infested alley set the stage for the bravado, the attitude I carried through the night. I sucked up the foul air and patted the thirty-eight tucked in the discrete curve of my back.

On rare nights, after ten hours of solid sleep, I waltzed on the broken concrete with light feet. More often I felt like a cock-roach under the heel of a Flamenco dancer.

The brief time with Kirby and his crew didn't harness my enthusiasm no matter how hard the sergeant's comments hit me. They triggered my bluster. Those sworn-to-duty guys and their gruff leader were not disjointed illusions. They were a team. If I landed face first in a cesspool of trouble, there'd be plenty of muscle and smoke to save my sorry, nonconforming ass.

My partner, third generation Detroit police officer Ceslaus (Chester) P. Janiak, drove our assigned car and picked me up as I exited the alley. He'd peel around the corner of Fisher and Rush, honk once and wave me forward. With the first cup of steaming caffeine in his hand, a splash or two would hit the window. He'd bleep a Western Polish expletive and give me the 'your fault' look.

As he grabbed a napkin out of the bag of greasy junk food stacked between the front seats to wipe the window, I'd snap my seat belt in place. The aroma that filled the car-coffee, burgers, fries, grease, cleared my head of the alley odors...that is, on a routine night.

"Have a burger," Chester said without fail. I'd shake off the offer, once again convinced my partner would need CPR before the night was over. Chester ate fast food at every meal. Single, no vanity about a waist line but still quick on his feet, he fostered a risk-free delusion that there were no consequences for nasty habits.

Opposites attract. Friends, food and the workplace.

Each night, Chester repeated the same phrase when he picked up speed and headed to our designated territory. "Have some. I bought enough to tide us over in case we don't get a real dinner break."

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