Gritty “Police Academy”


This week I got to be part of “Fan Friction” show at MI’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. The show is made up of several writers and comedians, all charged with writing a fan fiction essay about a popular show, movie, etc., and inject themselves into the story. It was a lot of fun as we heard retellings of “Downton Abbey,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Castle.”

When I got asked to participate, my first instinct was to write a story about me getting called onstage to play “Dead Flowers” with the Rolling Stones (not once, but TWICE, since I was so good at it), but then I settled on this gritty re-boot of the 80’s franchise.

A few other notes you probably don’t care about: I tried my best to write this in the style of Frank Miller. “Sin City” and “The Dark Knight Returns” especially. A first-person narrative with a couple delusional interludes thrown in the mix. That’s a fancy way of apologizing for any weird tense changes I missed.


Nothing celebratory about this Fiesta Inn, but we’d waved goodbye to parties a long time ago. Had it really been under a week since our force turned against us, naming us as cop killers? It felt like years, but not forever. I knew who I was. I knew what I was.

I was a cop. Sgt. Phillip Mottaz. He was Sgt. Carey Mahoney. We’d been on the run for 75 hours. They may have given us a degree from the Police Academy, but on the run was where we graduated.

“What kind of name is Mottaz anyway?” Mahoney tried to take his mind off the phone that wasn’t ringing, but his eyes couldn’t let go.

“Swiss. It’s really kinda French, German. Basically a mutt.” We were expecting information. A miracle. Something that would give us a chance to survive. You get labeled a dirty cop, you earn a different kind of gold watch. A gold necklace watch, made of twine and sometimes hemp, around your neck. Ring, damn you.

“What kind of name is Carey?”

The phone erupts. Salvation. Mahoney grabs it.

“Hello… Yes… Both of us. Tonight…”

I strain to hear the other side of the conversation, but it doesn’t sound like a person is speaking. Maybe a fuzzy guitar mixed with a car backing up.

“It was Jones. He’s still alive” Of course. Larvell Jones had been kidnapped by our as-yet unseen enemy. It was our fault. We got too careless, goofing around. All those pranks and jokes and quips seemed so amateur and unfunny now. Jones knew we were innocent. If we could get to him, then maybe….

Mahoney scribbles a note. I should’ve known. A trap.  But what choice do we have? Mahoney grabs his car keys. We’re coming for you, Jones.

We’ve dodged so many close calls since we got our new nickname. “The Tackleberry Killers.” None of it seemed possible, least of all that Tackleberry could’ve been killed with his own .44 Magnum. As Mahoney speeds to our open graves, I know he’s thinking the same thing: Tackleberry was killed by someone he trusted.

An alley, like any other in this city. I try to be casual. I’m trying not to be excited, but terror has a lot in common with arousal. And as I felt the wall, searching for an unmarked door, I was fully terrorized.

My hand finds a handle. The door opens to a black hole.

“Ladies first,” says Mahoney with a gesture to me. Then he steps in himself. He’s a true leader. A hero. Harris, you’d be so proud.

The door slams behind us and we’re swallowed by darkness. I can hear Mahoney’s breath, cold and quickening. We’ve been here so many times, revisited this scenario. We both know what comes next. “We’re waiting!” he calls out.

The lights snap on, illuminating a disco ball. Jazzy dance music plays, the kind heterosexuals imagine gay men would dance to. I let it go for a bar before I pop the speaker. The Blue Oyster Bar. Some things never change, they just keep doing the same dumb stuff over and over.

Mahoney scoffs something like “Classic,” but the ringing in my ear sings another song. We’re not alone.

From the bathroom. “Don’t move, dirtbags!” Hooks. Nobody ever thought she could do this job, but she does what she needs to get results.

So do I. We trade shots. She misses. I put one in her shoulder. Mahoney zip ties her writs as she keeps screaming “Dirtbag” and worse. But mostly “Dirtbag.”

Footsteps on the stairs. We duck behind a metal table, just before an Amazonian tears our world apart with a shotgun. Mahoney counts the bullets as they dent the table like aluminum foil.

I picture Callahan on the other side, ready to kills us. Her police jetski uniform barely containing her enormous rack.  I picture her in my bed. Then in Mahoney’s bed. Then in Tackleberry’s bed. We all know her body better than she does. She’s not as tall as she seems.

Instinct takes over. I slide across the floor, blast out the back heel of her left boot. Without the support, gravity kicks in, and her breasts topple her to the ground. Another zip tie for Mahoney.

Then the room disappears, as does all reason.  I’m being pulled into the hallway faster than God. I loose my weapon. Wouldn’t do me any good.

I’m thrown into the Blue Oyster Bar dressing room. A monster of a man growls.  This would be a lousy place to die. Not that I have much choice.

I’m facing Hightower. Alone. I dodge the first punch, but the next one turns my ribs into apple pie. I lose count of how many land, but I keep him away from my face.

He puts my head into the wall. He’s saying something, but I’m wearing plaster and giant hand earmuffs. ‘Just stay alive,’ I order myself. ‘Mahoney can find Jones without me. Keep Hightower occupied.’ I kick and scrape. My eyes roll. Death opens her arms. See you there, Harris.

The release comes, I can feel it now. Then a real release. I land on my knees, my lungs fill with air. Next to me, Hightower. Out cold. Next to him, Mahoney, with a two-by-four in one hand and a frightened smile on his face.

“I had it under control.” I count my teeth. Mostly there. Mahoney nods to a staircase. This is going to be a grand death.

My knee gives out on the fourth step. Mahoney’s on the sixth. “I’m getting too old for this shit,” groans my partner. We have a small conversation, agreeing that, indeed, we were too old for this shit. The type of shit we’ve had to deal with should definitely have been left for younger men. But we were young men last week. Now we’re soldiers. The thought of Jones acts as a knee brace.

We reach the top and peep through a door made of wooden Swiss cheese. We see what we hoped we wouldn’t see, but what we expected to see, since we were smart cops. Jones: Bound. Gagged. Beaten. Sagging.

“It’s suicide if we don’t go in at the exact same time,” remarks Mahoney. I agree, then watch Mahoney charge in, alone, like a damn John Wayne. A suicide mission. A decoy. Look at him, Harris.

He’s attacked by a tall man, and I jump on his back. But he throws me off. I hit the ground. I’m being kicked. Thud, thud, thud. I see Mahoney jump the attacker, then things black out. Then I’m at home, with my wife and son. It’s Christmas morning. Then it’s the homecoming dance my senior year. Why did I start smoking? I’m in no shape to fight back. You let down Mahoney. He deserves a better partner than you, Mottaz. This is the end for you, old man.

“Old. Man.” It hits me.

He’s hitting me. The old man himself. My right arm finally responds and catches something. A leg. With what little force God has left for me, I push back.

Someone we thought was feeble hits the ground. Someone we thought of as our grandpa scratches at my eye.

“I’m very, very pissed off at you boys.” Lassard. I introduce my knuckles to his dentures and he’s done.

It all made complete sense, if madness is your language, and we were fluent. Why didn’t I see it earlier? Too busy getting shot at, I suppose.  Lassard’s number one goal was to have good cops. Mahoney didn’t fit the mold. Most heroes don’t.

Tackleberry DID fit the mold, which made him Mahoney’s exact opposite. Pinned him perfectly. Harris may have screamed at us the most, but that was because he thought we could improve. Lassard thought we were a lost cause. Maybe he’s right.

Lassard cackles. “Jones will never talk.” We tear off the gag and see what he means. Jones’ speech was composed entirely of sound effects, undecipherable outside of their incredible accuracy. Lassard drove him mad and we were screwed.

Mahoney finally cracks. His eyes almost crying. Some men do that, I’m told. He knows we’ll never be vindicated. We’ll always be labeled as cop killers. Lassard will win.

I know what I need to do. I’m calm. I grab Lassard by the collar and drag him to the window. If I’m gonna be named a cop killer, I might as well earn it. And I’ll do it for justice.

Two seconds later Lassard’s brains make a street burrito, and Mahoney cuffs me, promises to visit me once in a while. I tell him to take care of that little girl of his and then confess to working alone, but not to killing Tackleberry. I gotta hang onto something.

My cell has one photo. A class picture. The “Crazy One.” Feels like forever ago.  Jones is in therapy. If he comes out of it – or if they decipher what the hell those sounds mean now – I could get paroled in 25 or 30. The doctors give him a 10% chance of recovery.

I’ll take those odds.


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