The Weight

Mom:

I know you couldn’t wait any longer to be with Dad, but don’t fret—I’ll be with you both soon enough.

I’ve got a few things to take care of first.

Yeah, I know … I always did.

And you know … I always will.

Whatever it was the cops had snatched me up for, they had to believe I was good for it. But not all that good. Otherwise, why go tag-team on me?

One of the cops on the second shift was an older guy. He looked the way some people say all cops used to: tall, big hands, straw-colored hair. Back then, they’d say, cops would catch a kid doing something wrong, they’d kick him in the ass, send him home, and go back to walking their beat. They never paid for a meal, but nobody thought that was graft. Some might even take money from bookies or whorehouses. But never from a dope dealer.

Maybe cops were really like that once. I don’t know; I wasn’t around then. I only know how they are now.

I’ll say this for the older cop: He dressed like a guy who lived on his paycheck. And he wasn’t there to dance. He walked in with his partner, sat down, and threw his Sunday punch: “This one just doesn’t look like your line of work, Sugar.”

That told me he was sharp enough to do more than just check me for priors. Not by calling me “Sugar.” The first pair, they’d called me that, too. Sliding it out of their mouths like they knew something dirty about me. This cop, he just said it like it was my name.

The first two cops, I think all they did was scan my record for a “Registered Sex Offender” ticket. When they didn’t see one, they were out of gas; it’s the only card they know how to play.

The older cop shook his head, like he was confused about what they’d arrested me for.

“I got to say, I don’t like you for this one at all.”

“Then what am I here for?” I asked him.

He made his eyes go sad, showing he was disappointed in me. It was a good trick. A guy who’s been around as long as him, he probably knew a lot of them.

We’d already been sitting in the interrogation room for a couple of hours when he did that. Maybe it was part of his act, I don’t know. But it was as clear as if somebody wrote the rules on the wall for us all to see: As long as I didn’t say the magic words, we were going to play it like men. No disrespect, not in either direction.

Those magic words could only come out of my mouth. Door Number One: “I want a lawyer.” Door Number Two: “Yeah, you got me.”

I tell them I want a lawyer, they’d give me a look like I’d just screwed myself, cuff me back up, and have one of the bluecoats walk me into a holding cell.

But if I started talking, they’d hold off until they squeezed as much juice out of the lemon as they could. Say I told them I wanted a deal. They’d tell me that I could get damn near whatever I wanted … depending on what I had to trade.

The way they were working me, walking so soft, that was just to stop me from asking for a lawyer. Good cops—I don’t mean like they were good guys, just good at their job—they think the same way we do. They know if you get all impatient you can mess everything up.

So they stayed decent and respectful,