Chapter 6: Christmas for Cowboys
in the saddle we spend Christmas Day,
"Don't think I don't know what was going on there," the cop spoke to Spike in the rear view mirror. "You're lucky it happens to be Christmas Eve. I got better things to do then mettle around in Syndicate bullshit," he huffed. He didn't know why he felt the need to rationalize his lack of action out loud, and to a perp no less. But he had just knowingly let what was probably a high falutin member of one of the most powerful crime groups in history stroll merrily on his way. Maybe he just wanted the punk behind him to know he didn't fool anyone. He just happened to get lucky.
But the punk didn't seem much to care. He was just staring out the window, clutching his bleeding arm. Something about him struck the officer as different. He had arrested these sorts before and they were usually very tight lipped. But there was usually a defiant dignity to their silence. This kid just looked so... hurt. Like he just didn't have the energy to speak if he wanted to. And it wasn't just the arm.
"You uh... want to get that checked out?" he asked the kid impulsively. He was bleeding an awful lot and he had just gotten the upholstery steamed.
Only the kid's sleepy eyes shifted in the rear view mirror. "I'm fine," he sighed.
"You sure?" the cop was suddenly feeling paternal towards him and he didn't have the foggiest clue as to why. Maybe because something about the way he carried himself, and the way he just obviously took the fall for someone he must not have cared for much, reminded the old man of himself in younger days.
"No," Spike croaked. "But I can't afford it."
The cop just nodded as his car glided silently in the snowy streets. There was something about snow that seemed to make things quieter somehow, and kind of eerie. Like the world was being played in slow motion. They pulled into the station and he began the laborious task of booking his youthful ward. "Hey. Man or Afro-man," the cop snapped from over his computer. "You exist? I don't got a thing on you."
"I'm sitting here, aren't I?" Spike sighed.
"Not on paper, you ain't."
"No, I wouldn't be on paper," he said flatly, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world.
"No... I suppose you wouldn't," the cop grumbled. He made a little whistling sound as his fingers danced routinely over the keys. The constant tapping reminded Spike of Ed, which made him smile a bit. "So what's your real name, kid?"
"That's it? It's not short for something?"
"What, you mean like... Spiketto?"
The cop thumped the keyboard in frustration. "I dunno, kid. Is Spike your real name or what?"
"It's the name that was given to me," he said in an even tone. "Sorry I can't be more cooperative here but I haven't been living the kind of lifestyle that would make this run smoothly."
The remark was inherently sarcastic but it was spoken in a totally sincere way. He seemed genuinely sorry to be a bother. "My name's Statler," the cop introduced himself. It only seemed fair that Spike at least know his name. Statler liked to think of himself as a fair guy, at least when he was able. He was not oblivious to the fact that fairness and law enforcement were often a conflict of interest. "So what was that all about, anyway?" he asked as he was waiting for some paperwork to clear.
Statler had been continually glancing at his watch. Spike was obviously making him run late for something. "I thought you knew," he said.
"I have an idea," Statler shrugged, tapping his knuckles impatiently on the table. "And believe me. I know appearances don't count for shit in this town. But you just don't look like your typical Syndicate scum."
Oh yeah?" Spike smirked slightly. "And what kind of scum do I look like?"
"I dunno. The kind that was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the kind who has a long, sad history of doing so."
"That's a pretty fair assumption to make," Spike agreed, laying down on the bench with a little wince. He had his hands, still cuffed, lifted over his head and dangling off the end of the bench, seemingly oblivious to the dark spot steadily spreading across the shoulder of his suit.
Statler's phone rang and Spike watched as several different expressions jumped around his face. He seemed to finally settle on mild amusement as he hung up the phone. "Hot damn, kid. It really is your lucky day," he said as he began feverishly typing on the computer. "You know who that was?"
"Jesus?" Spike asked, really only half kidding.
Statler smirked. "Might as well be, as far as you're concerned. That was the Black Dog himself."
Spike groaned and put his hands over his face. He wondered briefly how Jet found out about his predicament and then decided it didn't matter. "Is he here?"
"No, he's actually in Ganymede. Seemed royally pissed at you too. But he still managed to drop all charges."
"Is that legal?"
"No. But the old man has managed to rack up quite a few favors. And those are as good as legal. He personally assured me you are only a threat to your own dumb ass. That was a quote."
"I figured. And you believe him?"
"Can I ask why?"
"Cause Jet Black says so, and he don't vouch for just anybody."
Spike just blinked at the ceiling for a bit. To be perfectly honest, the Syndicate seemed to run more fairly than the ISSP. If you screwed up you were lynched, no matter who vouched for you. Cops seemed naturally more inclined to play favorites. "Just as every cop is a criminal," Spike sighed, though he had no idea why he had just chosen to say that out loud.
"And all the sinners saints," Statler finished. Spike looked at him with a surprised expression. Statler just shrugged as he unlocked Spike's cuffs. "Hey," he said. "Even the devil deserves a little sympathy on Christmas."
Spike smiled, begrudgingly let the receptionist apply some gauze to his shoulder, and ambled lazily out of the precinct. Common sense told him to return to the Bebop but everything else told him to go back to the address. He wasn't entirely convinced the message was a fake and there was also a tiny, nagging voice inside him that wondered if maybe Julia had led him to Vicious on purpose. It was a faint voice, and it sounded like Jet. He tried his best to ignore it. You know. Like he ignored Jet. But it was still there, and it needed to be appeased. He had to find out what was waiting for him at that bar.
Spike paused with his hand on the doorknob again, waiting for someone to jump out at him, shoot at him, inform him he had just won the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes... something. But nothing happened. So he opened the door.
"Spike!" Julia cried and threw her arms around him passionately. "Let's move to the country and have a dozen babies!"
OK, that didn't happen. Nothing happened. There was hardly anyone in the bar, just a few depressed patrons and an equally depressed looking barkeep. It would have been nice if that happened, Spike thought. Though Julia would not want to move to the country or have a dozen babies. She'd want a bungalow on an island somewhere and drinks with cute names and little umbrellas. But not even that was going to happen. The only thing he could be sure was going to happen was he was going to get very, very, very drunk.
He hopped dejectedly on the barstool and ordered a couple Three Wise Men, just to be festive. He looked down and noticed the coaster in front of him did not match the place he was sitting in. It was from Sullivan's. Holy crap. Sullivan's.
He went to Sullivan's about every other day back when he was a kid. With the boys. But that was a good 15 miles away. He wondered what it was doing here. He sighed a bit as another memory sprung to mind. He fought it admirably, but it still reared its head. It was a nice memory but a sad time to think of it. It actually happened a few years ago on Christmas Eve. The one he spent with... well... he knew who he spent it with.