No Good Police Scandal Goes Unnamed
Green Shirleen lights a smoke and sucks the whole thing to the butt in one hit. Then she flips the top off her beer and downs it in a draft before releasing a magnificent cloud of exhaust that dissipates in the high-ceilinged bar and gathers in the corners.
She’s showing off. Green Shirleen has all sorts of amazing powers: she can fly and shoot red lasers from her eyes; she has super strength and a sturdy red hairdo, the strands of which are practically indestructible; she can see and hear things miles away and she has a neatness streak that borders on obsessive compulsive. She uses these powers as Greensboro’s masked superhero, fighting crime and tidying up in the city we all call home.
And since her super metabolism nearly neutralizes the intoxicating effects of alcohol, she can hold about a hundred beers. Sometimes she likes to drink away the afternoon. Sometimes I join her.
‘“Hit me again, pardner,’” she says to the barman, who hands her another bottle of brew with the cap still on. She likes to open them herself.
She flips the cap again with her thumb and deftly catches it in her other hand, squeezing it into a small pebble that she drops in the ashtray. She dumps the ashtray into a bag on her belt, pulls a wet tissue from another compartment and wipes it out. She steals another of my smokes and lights it with the lasers from her eyes.
‘“So watchu want to know, buddy-ro?’”
‘“I want to know what you know,’” I say.
‘“I don’t know nothin’ about nothin,’” she says. I think she’s lying.
‘“C’mon Shirl. You gotta know something.’”
‘“Hey man,’” she says, ‘“I don’t work for the police department. I don’t hang around over there. Most of them don’t even like me ‘— sometimes cops get kinda funny aabout the ‘vigilante’ thing.’” She makes finger quotes in the air with the cigarette dangling from her lips, which she’s colored with green lipstick.
‘“Well that’s just great,’” I say. ‘“I was counting on you to give me the lowdown. Nobody seems to know anything and the ones who do aren’t talking.’”
‘“I’ll tell you what I do know,’” she says. ‘“The News & Record kicked your butt last week on this one.’”
‘“We’re working on it,’” I snap. She laughs at me and snubs out her smoke.
‘“I’ll tell you what,’” she says. ‘“You guys want to own this story? Be the ones to give it a name. If you guys label it then you can kinda like’… brand it. You know what I mean?’” Shirleen had taken some marketing classes at GTCC.
‘“You mean like ‘Watergate?””
‘“Yeah, except give it a different twist, like ‘Wraygate’ or ‘Copgate.””
‘“Copgate? That is weak. Does it have to end in ‘gate?””
‘“I think it does, sugar.’”
‘“That’s BS,’” I say. ‘“How about ‘The Wray Affair?””
‘“That one sounds like a cheesy romance novel. A dirty one. How about ‘Greengate’ or ‘Chiefgate?””
‘“I don’t like the ‘gate’ thing. ‘Wray of Pigs?””
‘“Are you kidding me?’”
‘“Yeah, that’s no good.’”
She says to me: ‘“Let’s think about the things we do know. The chief was stripped of his power to hire and fire.’”
‘“He was locked out of his office on a Friday and resigned Monday morning.’”
‘“There’s some kind of black book floating around with some pictures of some brown fellas in it.’”
I paused. ‘“I don’t want to go there.’”
‘“Wise choice,’” she says. ‘“This city’s got a strange history with matters of race. And there may be bigger things going on. Elton Turnbull’s name keeps coming up. Remember when they busted that guy? And some of those ladies who used to shake it at that nice bar downtown.’”
Shirleen likes to shoot pool with the dancers at Twiggy’s when she’s got the time.
‘“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy,’” I say. ‘“You know, I used to expect this kind of crap when I lived in New Orleans, but I had always thought that Greensboro held itself to a higher standard. It always seemed that way anyway. And they’re not releasing much information at all, so who knows what the hell is going on.
‘“It’s hard to believe,’” I say, ‘“that this kind of thing is going on in the Gate City.’”
We sit silently and then look at each other. Shirleen smiles and snaps her fingers hard enough to raise a miniscule sonic boom.
‘“That’s the one brother,’” she says.
‘“Are you sure?’” I say. ‘“’Gate City Gate?””
‘“I think that’s the best you’re gonna do, buddy-ro,’” she says. She stands up from the barstool and smooths the stylish short cape on her square shoulders. She adjusts her green eyemask and squinches her red bouffant in place. It makes a tiny creak. ‘“I’m glad we had this little talk. And you rest assured I’m gonna find out what the deal is around here. And when I do I’m gonna whisper it in your ear.’” She tosses me a wink and makes for the door.
‘“Hey wait a minute,’” I say. ‘“You’re supposed to pay for these beers.’”
She makes a soft grimace and shakes her head slowly.
‘“Darlin’ don’t you know anything?’” she says. ‘“I’m a superhero. Superheroes don’t pay for their own beers. How would that look?’”
Before I can respond she’s out the door and up in the air with a whoosh.
To comment on this column, e-mail Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.