The guy I had in the interrogation room was stringy and hyper, probably on something. We’d picked him up for dealing near the scene of the young kid’s shooting on a tip of some dude Rourke knew from vice. According to Rourke’s dude, whose name I forget, the area was the guy’s regular hangout so he might have seen or heard something. We’d left the guy to stew in his own juices for a while and had told TV, real name Steve Austin, to have a chat with him. We called him TV because he was full of shit, he was the fakest real cop I’d ever met, probably changed his name to Steve Austin like the Six Million Dollar Man in the 70s TV show thinking he’d be cooler. The guy seemed eager to talk.
“I’m gonna come clean so you can give me immunity” he said.
“Who told you that?”
“That other cop was just here.”
“Who? TV? Don’t listen to him he doesn’t know shit.”
“But he said if I confessed about the dope I got immunity.”
“Naw, he’s just watched too many episodes of The Shield you know? There ain’t no immunity for you.”
“Then I ain’t saying shit!”
“OK, your call, but you don’t give me something I want, it’s your ass in the overnight tank with the rapers and child molesters. You give me something I can use I might put you in a holding cell all to yourself or even let you walk.”
“You’re playing me man.”
“Sure ain’t, but TV? He was playing you like a fucking banjo at a Monster Truck Jam. Why you think we call him TV? He thinks what he sees on the cop shows is actual police work. Real dumb muther fucker.”
The kid’s face screwed in concentration, weighing his options now, it looked like it hurt. Finally saying
I was smiling, “Yeah, you just can’t trust cops these days you know. So what’s it gonna be? Get your ass raped or cozy cell all to yourself?”
“C’mon man, why you gotta do me like that?”
“I ain’t doin’ you nothing. It’s all on you, friend. But you know, I don’t got all day so start talking.”
“I don’t know shit!”
“You gotta know something. I seen you around, I know you know people. Give me what I want, that’s all I’m asking. What were you gonna confess anyway?”
The kid’s silent now, staring at the metal table.
I counted twenty seconds then pushed my chair back loudly, got up and said, “OK kid, hope you got some vaseline on you, you’re gonna need it where you’re going.” Turning to the door, “Hey Charlie, I got one more for the rapers cell, make sure those guys put their dicks away, wouldn’t want the kid to get too frightened before we throw him in.”
The kid almost jumped out of his skin, “OK, OK, hold on man, hold on, I got somebody.”
“Too late kid, you had your chance, you blew it. Now you’re full of shit and are gonna give me anything to stay out of the ass-fucking. Let’s go.”
“No man, no. I swear, I know someone.”
“Is true man, is true, please, you gotta believe me!”
I paused at the door, making like I was thinking about it. Then turned and said “I tell you what. I’m gonna give you one last chance to save your ass, literally.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means I’m giving you one last chance to give me what I want or you’re fucked. Literally.”
“Stop saying that ‘literly’ shit man, you’re freaking me out!”
“Here’s the deal kid, give me someone that matters or you’re fucked… Literally.”
“Shit man.” Close to tears now. “Lee man, the boy Lee.”
“Lee? What the fuck? Lee what? What are you talking about?”
“That his name. Lee. He Chinese and shit.”
“Maybe you mean Korean?” I wasn’t an expert in etymology or anything like that, but I had read somewhere that Lee and Li were the same last name, one the Korean spelling the other the Chinese spelling; which was very surprising to ignorant fucks like me, all I knew what that Bruce Lee had been Chinese and that was supposed to be the Korean spelling. But the boy we found dead was Korean so it didn’t take a genius to guess who his friends might be.
“I don’t know, Chinese, Korean, some shit like that, with the eyes, you know.”
“OK, what about him? Why would I want this ‘Boy Lee’?”
“He in with the Russians man. He move product for ’em.”
“What do I care about Russians? And you’re sure about this? You’re not just handing me a load of bullshit to keep your pucker virginal are you?”
“Are you full of shit?!”
“No man, no. I swear, he move product, everyone know him. He’d know your boy that got shot, fo’ sure.”
“You better not be fucking with me.”
“I’m not man!”
“We’re can I find this Boy Lee then?”
“He hang out at this arcade, on 42nd Street? You know?”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Yeah, There’s some theater there, in front of some big paper building.”
“Paper building? The Times?”
“Yeah, that one.”
“What’s this kid look like?”
“I already tole you, Chinese and shit, and he into Kung fu and shit, I seen him mixing it up with his buddies on the street sometimes.”
I realized I wasn’t going to get too much of a description out of this genius.
“OK. I’m gonna check this boy Lee out. If he don’t pan out, I’m coming back and personally seeing to it that you get cornholed by those psycho muther fuckers in there, you hear me?”
“Yeah man, I hear ya.” All resignation now.
I left the room. The kid started panicking and shouted after me, “Hey, what about me? Do I walk?”
I came back and stuck my head in with an ‘are you shitting me?’ look on my face and said
“Didn’t I say I was gonna check this guy out first?”
“What am I suppose to do?”
“You wait in the holding cell.” The kid’s eyes grew wide and he was about to start bawling when I added “Not the one with the rapers… For now. ”
“We’re we going again?” Rourke asked.
We were in the car driving to the arcade on 42nd Street. “To find our tie to the Russians. According to our stellar witness in there.”
“Yeah, that guy is stellar all right.”
“You got something better to do?”
“Hell yeah, I could be drinking right now.”
“I’ll buy you a drink afterwards, how’s that?”
“Yeah, whatever. What makes you think this guy’s even real. And if he is, why would he talk to you?”
“Because of my winning personality. The fuck is wrong with you today? You’re all sour, well, more sour than usual. What’s going in?”
“C’mon.” It usually didn’t take much prompting for Rourke to vent.
“Ok, it’s the missus, alright, she’s been up my ass about the kid, the older one.”
“He in trouble again,?”
“Yeah. Fucker can’t say out of trouble. I swear he does it just to annoy the hell out of me.”
“Your probably not wrong there.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? What did I ever do to the little shit to treat me like this?”
“You’re his father Harry, that’s what you did to him. And what I mean is that he’s probably acting out against authority, you know, being a rebel and all that shit.”
“Fuck that new-age bullshit.”
“It ain’t new-age Harry, it’s old as dirt. You probably did it to your old man as well, didn’t you?”
“Are you kidding? My old man would have cut my nuts off if I’d got in trouble like that. No way. That’s the problem with kids these days, they don’t got no respect. When I was growing up…”
“Or parents are just different these days.” I had heard it all before and didn’t feel like sitting through one of Rourke’s rants about the good ol’ days. Anything that started off with ‘when I was growing up’ or ‘when I was young’ was bound to be an unproductive one-way ticket down memory lane with lots of bitching and sermoning of use to no one except the sermoner himself.
“Different is right, we’re a bunch of pussies, is what we are. Discipline is what these kids need, but you can’t touch them or they’ll take them away and ship you off to some mental hospital. Hell, my own wife would probably drop a dime on me if I so much as touched the little fucker. It’s the fucking new-age hippies, I’m telling you…”
“Again with the new-age shit? Give it a rest Harry, kids are kids man, they’ll always be kids, they’ll always be a pain in the ass. You gotta be patient, help them out, wait until they grow up and make you proud, show them the way and all that.”
Rourke was silent for a while. “Thank you Mr. child whisperer. How many kids you got? Oh that’s right, none!”
“That doesn’t mean I lack common sense. Like some people.”
“Why did you think I was talking about you just then?” I was smiling now.
“Fuck you twice!” Rourke’s mood lifting also.
We arrived at the place the genius had told me about. It was a typical arcade, full of coin-op machines, noise and teenagers. I went up to the bar, bartenders tended to know people, and asked for Lee, I figured the guy at the bar had no ties to any of these kids, no reason to not tell me and if this Lee kid was as well-known as Genius had said, the bartender was sure to know him. The guy behind the bar, older than any of the clientele, face full of piercings looked at me then said “over there”, pointing, “by the Centipede machine.”
“Thanks.” I turned to Rourke, “Hang back here a second Harry, get yourself a drink on me.”
“You say so.” Said Rourke.
I went over and stood beside Lee, watching his prowess at the game. The kid was good.
Without turning around, Lee said, “What can I do for you officer.”
Damn, this kid was sharp, didn’t even have to look at me and already made me, maybe he smelled me or something. Still, Rourke and I were probably the most overdressed adults in this place, and you had to be sharp if you wanted to sling for the Russians and stay alive. This kid seemed to be at the top of the food chain if everyone knew about him but he was still on the streets and alive so he must be pretty smart.
“So what’s your high score on this game?”
“This one? About five million.” He said dismissively.
I whistled. “That’s impressive.” and it was, the world record was seven million.
“So,” the kid said, “you looking for a date? Cause I don’t swing that way.” He smiled lopsidedly.
“Kinda. I’m looking for information on a Korean boy who got shot and I was told you were the man to talk to about that.”
“Boys? Naw, don’t know any boys. I can get you some nice Korean girls though.”
“Naw, Korean boys is my thing.”
“Sorry dude, don’t know no boys got shot.”
Of course it wouldn’t be as easy as asking, and threatening would get me nowhere with a kid like this, I needed a different tactic. I noticed some bruises on his forearms but there were no signs of needle marks so it wasn’t drugs. The kid was wearing shorts, I looked at his shins and saw a couple more bruises. I remembered that the genius who’d given us his name had mentioned that the kid practiced Kung Fu and shit I decided to take a stab at it.
“Where do you train?”
“What? For this?” he asked unbelievingly, “here man, where else?”
“Not this, Martial Arts, where do you train for Martial Arts?”
This time the kid did look at me. “How did you know?, who told you?” frowning.
“Nobody. I saw your bruises, didn’t see any needle marks so I just assumed it was some kind of martial arts. Either that or you get into fights a lot, but you sling for the Russians and they don’t abide that kind a shit, so I guessed right.”
“Not bad.” The game, abandoned now, had ended and the machine was asking for more quarters.
“It’s what I do. I’m a detective” I gave him my best smile.
He liked that one, you had to be cheeky with these cheeky bastards. He thought about it for a bit, then shrugged, couldn’t see what damage it would do to tell a cop where he trained. I would find out anyway if I really wanted to.
“Do Yang Riu, 34th and Beverly, in Brooklyn.”
“I don’t think I know that place. Let’s see, you’re Korean, you probably don’t do Chinese or Japanese stuff, so it’ll be Tae Kwan Do or Hapkido for you. Judging by the position of your bruises I’m guessing Hapkido. Am I right?”
“Guilty as charged officer.”
“What belt you got.”
“Right now? Red, man.”
“Nice, that’s a fun exam, you gotta do a lot of techniques against punches and kicks, different positions, though the ones sitting down can be a bitch.”
“You train?” the kid asked disbelieving.
“Sure do, every week. More if I can get the time.”
“Oh yeah?” the kid smiling like he was picturing me falling on my ass trying to do a basic kick.
“What belt you got?” he asked with a smirk.
“Second degree black.”
“No shit. Really tough exam.”
“Why don’t you come the dojo one day. I know a lot of brothers would love to kick some cop’s ass and not get in trouble.” he said smiling.
“And how ’bout you? Would you like to kick a cop’s ass without getting in trouble?”
“Are you kidding me? I’d love to! Who wouldn’t?”
“Alright, it’s a deal. When are you there?”
The kid laughing out loud like he couldn’t believe it. “Tuesday’s and Thursday nights seven thirty.”
“Alright, you’re on. I’ll see you there.” I started walking back to the bar to get Rourke.
“Sure thing officer, don’t forget your Dobok.”
“I won’t.” I said without turning, I guess the kid was testing my Korean, but Dobok was what we called the jacket you wore to train, I mean, pretty basic stuff, but if you didn’t know that then you sure didn’t train in Hapkido, so OK, as insulting as it was, I’ll give him that one.
Rourke was sitting on a stool, back against the bar watching the whole thing with an almost empty glass of beer in his hand. When I came over he asked “So what happened, he give up any Russians?”
“Nope, but I got a date for some ass-kicking.”
“I’ll explain on the way, let’s go.”
“Hey, I thought the drink was on you.”
“Right, I forgot.” I took out a five dollar bill and laid it on the bar.