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Stories Untold

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Holdaway never told Freddy about Joe Whitmore.

Joe’d been sent to infiltrate a gang the brass figured was responsible for at least a dozen murders over a couple of years. He lasted less than two days. When one of his new buddies took a crowbar to the kneecaps of a fourteen-year-old boy, Joe lost his shit. Puked up his lunch, bolted for freedom, told the commissioner he couldn’t do it after all.

Fucked up things for a lot of other people, too, doing that. The gang figured out he’d been a cop, and it put them on their guard. By the time the whole thing went down, a year and a half later, four more guys were dead—three of them cops—and nine more dropped in the final shootout, some of them badges, too. Undercover work wasn’t for the weak of stomach. If you weren’t willing to get your hands dirty, you shouldn’t stick them in the sewer.

Holdaway never told Freddy about Artie Baker, either.

Artie went under with the coke dealers, assholes bringing it up from Mexico and pushing it into every corner of the city. Most of the time they cut it with other shit, too, and while corn starch and chalk weren’t so bad, the rat poison was.

But it brought in good money, lots of it. And Venuto, the guy in charge, wasn’t shy about throwing it around, either. Hookers, booze, drugs for his own men—not the adulterated shit; clean stuff, top cut—he gave stereos and diamonds and cars to the guys he liked best. Some of the people who knew Artie said Venuto must have figured out what he was and set out to bribe him, but others said Venuto just liked Artie best. Artie was good at his job—good at being a coke dealer. Too good. He forgot which side he was really on.

Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just chose the other side.

Holdaway wouldn’t have told Freddy about Greg Dietrich if you paid him.

Nobody knew what happened there, not the details. Greg was investigating a sex-trafficking ring, scum shipping girls in from other parts of the world and keeping them in cages like dogs. Maybe they were too suspicious, or maybe he slipped up and made a mistake. Maybe his heart got the better of him, like Joe’s, and he tried to help one of the girls.

No way of knowing, really, because by the time they found him there was nothing left that could tell them. They’d pulled out his fingernails, his toenails, his teeth. His tongue. Cut off his ears and his nose, broken half his bones with what the coroner figured was a combination of baseball bats and crowbars. Burned his hair off his head. Then, when it was done, they’d thrown his body from a car into a storm drain and peeled off.

It was years ago, anyway. Ancient history. No point talking about it now.

Holdaway never told Freddy those stories, but Freddy knew them anyway. They didn’t choose guys for undercover work who couldn’t keep their ears open.

Freddy thought about Joe while he showered, while he ate dinner, while he lay in bed waiting for sleep to come. In those moments, he imagined watching somebody take a crowbar to the knees of a fourteen-year-old boy—imagined the crowbar in his own hands. Made himself feel it, the weight of the thing, the wet crunch as it swung home. Made himself picture doing that to people he knew: his neighbor, his nephew, his ex-wife. Imagined them screaming, crying, begging him to stop.

When he found himself puking in the bathroom, he knew he was making progress, because he’d made it real enough in his mind. When he stopped puking, he knew he was ready.

Freddy thought about Artie while he read through the dossiers on Joe Cabot and his people. And then he read the obits for his fellow cops, went and visited their widows and their fatherless kids. Somebody else died while he was prepping—not in the line of duty, just a heart attack—but when he stood in the cemetery he pretended it was a fucking turncoat like Artie who put that guy in the ground.

It didn’t take much imagination to think about putting a bullet in Artie’s head if he ever got the chance. He knew he was ready.

Freddy thought about Greg while he practiced Holdaway’s damned commode story, pacing his living room and the rooftop, running through the words over and over and over again. Changing his tone of voice, the pace of his delivery, his word choice, his body language. Building Mr. Orange. Telling himself that nobody was going to figure out he was a cop, because he wasn’t a cop, he wasn’t Freddy Newandyke, he was Mr. Orange, and Mr. Orange was one of them.

Looking his reflection in the eye, telling himself he wasn’t gonna get hurt, because they didn’t know shit.

When he walked out the door, he knew he was ready.

And then, after it all went to hell, when he was on the ground from the bullet that fucking bitch put in him—

no, that woman, that poor, scared woman, you were hijacking her car, what was she supposed to do

When he was staring down the barrel of his gun at the muzzle of Joe’s own, knowing it was his fucking fault that all these people were dead—

fuck that, these guys are fucking criminals, Joe Cabot hired that madman Blonde and all those dead people are his fault, not yours

When Mr. White crawled over and dragged his head into his lap, giving what little comfort he could—

Larry, he told you his name was Larry

When he was dying and the only thing he could do was make it end faster and fuck it why not Larry deserved to know the truth—

—then Freddy knew that it didn’t matter whether Holdaway told him those stories or not, whether he went to all that work or not, whether he was ready or not, because he still found his own way to fuck it up.

Holdaway never told anybody about Freddy Newandyke.

Went along on a jewelry heist, because the force was hoping to catch Joe Cabot. It turned into a total clusterfuck, and when the dust settled every last fucking thief was dead, and Joe Cabot to boot.

Along with Freddy. Holdaway sent him into that bloodbath, and Freddy never came out, and Holdaway would never know why. But he knew one thing:

Freddy did his job.