There are some things in life you can't change. You're born, you live and you die. And then there are some things that you have to try your damndest to change, and you'll know that no matter what the cost, even if you happen to die along the way...it was worth it.
Tonight is special. It's my last night in the hellhole known as Basin City. Tomorrow I'll be winging my way to a new posting in New York City. A paradise compared to this place. One more night...
The rain continued to piss down without a single lull. The narrow ledge under which the two cops stood afforded little protection from the harshness of the element. They were both soaked to the bone and becoming increasingly irritable.
Tara Maclay tugged up the collar of her coat in a vain attempt to try and keep at least a little of the water from snaking down her neck. It hardly helped, she kept pacing as she was unable to stand still and continued to grow wetter with each step. Her features were difficult to make out in the darkness but her jaw was strong; skin pale and unblemished; lips rich, red and full and eyes burning with sapphire coloured intensity. Her dirty blond hair hung in wet strands down over her shoulders. She had turned the collar of her long, leather coat up but it did little to keep the rain from running down the back of her neck.
Her partner Seamus O'Hara lent against the graffiti covered wall behind him. He was a big, fat useless piece of shit who hadn't moved a muscle for the past half an hour except to feverishly light cigarettes. His arms were folded tightly across his chest, a look of utter resentment frozen on his already crabby features. It was clear that he did not want to be there. It was Tara's last night, so she couldn't care less what O'Hara did.
Even so, it had been a bad night...and it was shaping up to get even worse...
"The informant was bogus, if there was any crack being shipped out of here tonight we would've seen something. We've been sulking around here for two hours in this fuckin' rain and I'm as dry as a nun's cunt," O'Hara rasped in the whiny voice he used when he really wanted something.
"Well they probably heard you fart and knew we were sniffing around," Tara growled, "Something definitely doesn't smell right tonight."
"You watch your trap Maclay!" O'Hara snapped, his patience wearing thin, "Let's knock off and head over to Kitty's...have you seen that new girl?"
Tara couldn't be bothered with his shit tonight, she barely acknowledged his question with a slight shrug. She continued pacing the same route she had for the last two hours...to the dumpster and back. All manner of rubbish and filth gave way beneath her feet, Basin City was a city of endless filth. Tara took one last drag on her cigarette and cast it to the ground.
O'Hara didn't seem to care that Tara refused to be drawn into his conversation and continued talking all the same, "She's a real piece o' meat that one, I'd crawl over glass to fuck her...bet you would too."
O'Hara looked sideways at Tara to see if he had provoked a reaction. Tara just fumbled in her pocket for another cigarette and it was not until O'Hara thought he had been completely ignored that she replied.
"I wouldn't crawl over glass for my own mother...god rest her soul," Tara spoke in a monotone, her voice reflected her mood, as her face was momentarily illuminated by the glow of her lighter, "And I most certainly don't have to crawl over glass to get laid."
O'Hara snorted disdainfully, "Fuckin' dykes get all the pussy."
"It's cos I know how to treat a woman right," You ugly sack of shit
Tara gave O'Hara a piercing glance from the corner of her eye. He wouldn't know how to treat a woman right if someone gave him a dummies handbook. She had never liked the rotund cop in fact she despised him. As far as partners went, he was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. There was nothing to be done about it. Corrupt, rotten to the core cops were the norm in Sin City...Tara was one of the rare exceptions.
"You're on a fast track to an early grave, Maclay," her first partner had told her, first day on the job.
"Don't really want to hang around in this city anyway," was Tara's all too honest reply.
Tara believed there wasn't one bright spark of hope in all of Basin City. It was depressing to say the least, to live in a town where even the victims were lowlife scum not worth saving. It was a rotten, shitty existence, sentenced to hell on earth.
A small shape moved in the darkness across the road and both cops glanced over. Tara peered through the gloom and tried to make it out. It was only when the shape moved closer that she saw it was a kid. A real small kid shrouded in an oversized rain jacket.
Tara loved kids. Somewhat of a contradiction for the tough as nails cop who appeared not to give a damn about anything. There was something about their innocence that meant there was hope for the future of Basin City. There was still room for improvement, for them to learn and grow into something other than a dirty, rotten crook or a whore. Whereas the criminals Tara usually dealt with were fit for nothing except a long stint in jail. With kids...there was hope.
As such, Tara volunteered to speak to schools whenever someone was needed for an educational talk. Tara hated the thought of someone like O'Hara lecturing kids on morality and how to be a good citizen...what a crock.
The kid turned its head slightly and Tara saw a flash of white skin and red hair. A shiver ran down Tara's spine. She recognised the kid instantly.
In all her school visits, one kid stood out. Bright where the others were stupid, and interested where the others were bored. Red-haired, little Willow Rosenberg. She was a skinny kid with nothing much to her except a whole lot of light shinning right out of her little face. That was one kid Tara wouldn't forget for the rest of her life. The only question was, what the hell was she doing out all alone on a night like this?
Tara's foot twitched in preparation for a step forward. As she was about to move across the road to catch-up with the kid a black Merc glided passed the two detectives skulking in the shadows and drew to a smooth halt just beside young Willow. The next thing she noticed was the license plate, Tara stopped in her tracks.
That name sent a shiver down her spine as she read the plate. Everyone who lived in Basin City knew that name and to ignore it was folly. Madame Talbot ran the most exclusive brothel in town but the establishment was so much more than that. Not only was it a den of vice, filth and immorality, half of the town's drug deals; murders and embezzlement could be traced to that place. Through its doors passed the city's most influential, most crooked and vilest inhabitants. Madame Talbot magnified her customers' traits tenfold. Everything about her was artificial, from her bronze hair to her huge lips. Everyone knew that dame was a real piece of work.
The car door swung open just ahead of Willow and out stepped exactly who Tara expected. The young man that emerged tossed his shoulder length hair with a practised arrogance. He turned his head slightly and Tara saw his profile, delicate, pointed features that belonged on someone much younger and far less of a monster.
Tommy Talbot, a sweet sounding name...for a devil child.
A second man stepped from the drivers' door and moved around the car to open up an umbrella over Tommy's head, partially obscuring him from Tara's view. Tara growled low in her throat. Just as everyone knew what kind of woman his mother was...they also knew what kind of man Tommy was...or rather wasn't. Tommy liked them young and pretty, the younger the better. He used them like toys and disposed of the evidence with little remorse. Tara had been aching for years to be able to pin something on him...but the evidence was never there.
The thought of red-haired, little Willow Rosenberg in the hands of that child-molesting monster is making my blood boil. She's just eleven...a cute as a button kid with this stringy red hair and huge green eyes that seem to fill her whole face. Willow is a good kid. There is no way that she deserves anything that monster will do to her, she's never done a thing in her life. It's always the innocent ones that get hurt...and I hate it when that happens. I didn't care that he was the son of that bitch and that the other cops left him alone because of it. If he was going to hurt Willow in any way, I was going to make him unrecognisable even to his own mother.
O'Hara was not completely stupid. He saw everything from the black Merc, Tommy Talbot stepping out and the determined set of his partners jaw. He knew that this was just the kind of shit she would get herself involved in and damn the consequences. O'Hara had a feeling this botch was going to get him killed.
"So, do you want to knock off or what?" O'Hara interrupted Tara's concentration on the scene unfolding before her, "Kitty's will be just warming up, first one's on me, anything you want."
Tara ignored him a though he were a fire hydrant squatting on the pavement. Instead her eyes were riveted on the car, its occupants and the little girl across the street. She could not hear what they were saying but Tara could more or less guess the sickeningly sweet honey dripping from Talbot's lips as he tried to entice Willow into the car. Whatever he said had obviously not won her over as she attempted to make a sudden dash for freedom. Talbot immediately reacted, reaching out to grab the scruff of her coat. He hauled the helpless girl back to him even as she continued to lash out with her hands and feet.
It was the last straw for Tara, she reached within her coat and withdrew badge in order to display it clearly at the band of her pants. Both her pistols pressed into the middle of her back in their special, customised holsters with their handles facing downwards for quick draw. Their lack of visibility gave her the advantage of appearing unprepared and slow to react. She heard O'Hara whine desperately behind her and she suppressed the urge to turn around and shoot him in the kneecap.
"Tara, it's none of our business, let's get out of here!" he hissed, drawing further back into the shadows.
He's a fucking moron and I won't do him the courtesy of replying to the garbage that's spewing out of his mouth. I don't know if anyone else in this town cares, but this is my job...and what's more, it's right!
Tara stepped out into the streetlight, her coat billowing around her as she strode purposefully across the street. Her boots slammed into each puddle with all the ferocity of her walk. Even as rain streamed down her face, Tara meticulously surveyed the scene in front of her. Talbot was on the far side of the car, partially illuminated in the glare of its headlamps. He had Willow by her elbow, refusing to let her go as he continued to speak to her.
Good girl, just keep him talking and we'll have this sorted out in no time...
Talbot was undoubtedly carrying a pistol beneath the expensive leather coat he wore. Talbot's henchman was just behind him, still trying to shelter his boss with the umbrella. There was no doubt a hefty weapon was packed inside the holster beneath his coat as well. The Merc's windows were tinted and Tara could see nothing except her own reflection; a cloaked angel of death striding towards the car. There would be at least another one of them still inside, although she knew she ought to expect two. Tara pictured them now, clad in Black Armani and feeling for their own pistols as they watched her approach. She didn't like the odds. For a moment Tara wished she could count on O'Hara to back her up but the fat son of a bitch was probably long gone.
The umbrella holder spun around when he saw Tara, his face morphing into a threatening growl that clearly said to come closer meant risking death. It was an expression that Tara gave exactly the same consideration she'd just given O'Hara...almost none. Talbot had seen her as well but he didn't relinquish his grip on little Willow in the slightest. Tara bristled at the brazenness of it all. They knew full well they were the law.
"Move along bitch, nothing to see here," the henchman growled.
Tara came to a halt just a few metres away from him. She kept one eye on both the car doors. With a casual flick, she pushed back her coat and rested her hand on the band of her pants, revealing her badge to all assembled. Both the henchman and Talbot smirked.
"Surely you don't want to go around flashing a little piece of metal like that," Talbot laughed, hauling Willow around in front of him, "What...you want money? A bribe? Bit short of cash to supply your drug habit?"
Tara searched out Willow's face. The little girl was terrified, her green eyes staring wide and pleading silently for Tara to help her. It was then that Tara noticed the little stuffed animal she clutched in her free hand. Where had she been going at this time of night with just the toy to keep her company?
"Cut the bullshit Tommy, it's not going to work with me," Tara replied calmly.
Willow tried to run towards Tara but Talbot switched his grip from her elbow to her hair. He jerked her backwards and she cried out in pain and fright.
"I don't believe it, a wannabe hero cop. Who might I have the privilege of addressing?" Talbot drawled mockingly.
"Maclay," Tara replied gruffly, her patience was wearing thin, they were just stalling for time by keeping her talking, "Let the girl go little man and I might consider letting you go with your balls intact."
The umbrella-carrying henchman shifted, purposely revealing the holster beneath his arm. Tara merely smiled lazily. Her casual air did not betray the state of tense alertness she was actually feeling. She watched the car for any sign of movement. There it was, the passenger door closest to her opened with a barely audible click. The sound almost drowned out in the rain but Tara both saw and heard it. She'd had enough of pussy footing around. They expected her to run away with her tail between her legs...what they were going to get was judgement!
In one fluid movement Tara reached both hands up into her coat and slid the twin Beretta's from their holsters, metal and leather were as smooth as silk. Both guns were out from beneath her coat and dealing out their deadly payloads in a mere split second. Arm as steady as steel, Tara fired into the narrow crack created as the passenger door opened. As soon as she had started to go for her weapons, the driver had urgently fumbled for his own pistol. He was levelling it in her direction when her bullet slammed into his forehead. The umbrella clattered to the sidewalk. Tara then brought both guns to bear directly on Talbot as the passenger door opened and a suited body slid partially out onto the pavement, a gun landed in the gutter. She was pleased to see that Talbot's face had gone a sickly white.
"I think you'll be driving yourself home tonight Tommy...minus your entertainment!' Tara hissed, she was all too acutely aware of the fact that she was soaked to the bone and freezing, it time to get this over and done with, "Now hand her over before you get one too!"
"All this for a fucking kid?" Talbot demanded in a shrill voice as he glanced down at his dead driver.
Rather than release Willow, he picked her up with one hand. He now held the kid as a shield in front of him, betting on the fact that Tara cared too much about her to shoot him and risk hitting her. Tara's jaw tightened, the son of a bitch was going to do this the hard way. Even now she could see his free hand twitching slightly. Tara guessed his pistol was tucked in the band of his pants. She grew even angrier if that was possible, he was deliberately putting Willow in the firing line and in terrible danger of being hit in a resulting cascade of gunfire.
I could tell he was gonna be stupid about it, psychos always go that little bit too far...they never know when to call it quits. And this guy is used to getting his own way.
"I'm prepared to go even further," Tara replied, not phased in the slightest by the bodies lying in the rain, and trying not to be phased by little Willow being used as a human shield, "Are you?"
Talbot answered Tara by reaching for his gun. In his haste he wasn't nearly smooth enough and brought his gun hand out too far from his body. In a heartbeat Tara fired a single shot with precision. The bullet took his hand off at the wrist and hand and gun fell to the pavement. Talbot stared at his bloody stump for a few seconds before his mind connected with what his eyes were seeing. He finally screamed in pain and dropped Willow, the kid falling hard on the pavement. To her credit she didn't fall apart into a blubbering mess. She scrambled to her feet and ran to Tara's side, deciding that the safest place for her to be was holding Tara's coat.
"Willow, run over to that stoop there," Tara indicated it with a nod of her head, "and crouch down behind the pillar, don't move for anything! Not until I say so," she pulled her cell phone awkwardly from her pocket and handed it to the kid, "You know how to dial 111?"
Willow nodded eagerly and took the phone. Tara watched her from the corner of her eye until she was safely hidden. A few seconds later, a white face peered out from behind the pillar as Willow looked anxiously to Tara.
"Willow! What did I say?" Tara growled firmly, this was no playground.
The red hair disappeared back behind the pillar and Tara was able to concentrate all her attention on Talbot without worrying about the kid. In the few seconds that her attention had been diverted, Talbot had struggled back to his feet and had pried his weapon from his fallen hand. He stood trembling with his wounded stump tucked beneath his arm. Tara felt the strange urge to laugh at such a macabre sight. A split second later and the bloodied weapon fired in her direction. Talbot's aim was poor and the bullet merely grazed her shoulder. Tara grunted slightly, feeling it's sting but she responded brutally by hitting both his kneecaps with a single shot from each weapon. Talbot screamed and collapsed to the ground as though he were a puppet whose strings had been cut. The gun fell from his hand and he lay bleeding in the rain.
"You bitch, you fucking bitch!" he screamed, spittle foaming at the corners of his mouth full of gritted teeth. .
Tara calmly walked over to his side and with a firm nudge of her toe, sent the gun into the gutter where it was instantly swallowed up by the storm water. Against her better judgement, she was far from finished with Talbot. She holstered one of her Berettas and kept one at hand. Kneeling down in the street, Tara reached out and picked him up by the scruff of his neck. He had lost a lot of blood and his face was a ghastly white. Tara was hoping he bled to death in the rain.
"I'm the fucking bitch?" she asked with a raised eyebrow, "What about you, you sick bastard. How many girls has it been now? Twenty...more? All under the age of twelve for gods sake!"
She slammed him over the head with the butt of her gun and blood ran from the wound.
He coughed, the burning ferocity in his eyes not diminished by his wounds, "More than you'll ever know Maclay...and none that you'll be able to link back to me! Does that make you feel good you piece of shit cop?"
Tara placed the cool barrel of her weapon against his temple with every intention of blowing his brains out. The angel had had enough...and he had it coming to him.
Someone else fired, not Tara and it was not Talbot they hit. Tara felt an aching cold radiate out from her lower back, down through her legs and up through her chest. She glanced down and saw a hole in her leather coat.
Tara wasn't about to give up that easily. She rolled to one side off Talbot and twisted, bringing her Beretta up to fire at the rotten snake that had shot her in the back. Bang! Another bullet slammed into her left shoulder and sent her sprawling back against the pavement. Through the rain she saw a figure with a smoking gun still pointed at her. It began to walk forward.
Tara let out a hoarse laugh when she saw who it was...that fat son of bitch, O'Hara. He'd finally chosen to do something that took a little bit of guts and he'd chosen to shoot his own partner in the back. As far as Tara was concerned, you couldn't sink any lower.
"Drop the Beretta Maclay," O'Hara barked, trying to make his whiny voice sound commanding.
"I've got a better idea," Tara said as she began to lift her gun, even though she knew she'd never be fast enough.
Bang! Bang! Tara saw O'Hara's gun kick twice in rapid succession and felt searing pain in her right shoulder and chest. Again she was knocked flat and this time could not rise again. As she lay flat on her back she finally let go of the gun. Somewhere a little girl was screaming. O'Hara advanced, keeping his gun trained on her even though she was well and truly down. Tara lay absolutely still, staring up at the raindrops illuminated in the streetlight as they fell down to earth.
"Should've taken up my offer of a drink...but you had to be the hero," O'Hara was basking in his power over her.
Somewhere in the distance sirens blared. They were coming closer. Tara knew Willow had called and they were on their way. Tara coughed violently and felt a trickle of warm blood flow from her mouth. The rain quickly washed it away.
"You can't win against them you know, I've always known but you were always too pigheaded to accept it," he continued, "There was no way I was gonna let you get me killed Maclay, now friggin' way."
"There's always a day of judgement," Tara whispered as the sirens grew even louder.
Good kid...nothing can happen to her now, she'll be fine and with any luck I'll be dead. Wish like hell I could've taken both these bastards with me...O'Hara and Talbot...
Tara was freezing; her eyelids grew heavy. Before they finally closed shut she saw a little face hovering over her. Little Willow Rosenberg. Tara tried to smile.
You'll be fine kid...
It was just my luck that I didn't die, although with four slugs in me I wasn't in good shape and damn near did. The doctors slaved over my bullet-riddled body for twelve hours and even got my heart ticking again after I flat lined. So I'm awake and lying in this hospital bed, knowing full well that they didn't go all out to save me out of the good of their hearts. She had them do it.
Glory Talbot stood at the end of the bed, her eyes fixed on the half-dead cop lying beneath the pristine white sheets offered at the private hospital she'd paid for. She wanted Tara to know exactly who was behind her top of the line treatment and care. She talked and Tara did her best to let the machines monitoring her condition down out her brazen drawl.
"If you're wondering why I'm taking such good care of someone who almost killed my little boy then I'm going to tell you..." she was at the end of the bed, both hands placed on the railing as she lent forward like some immaculately attired buzzard hovering a carcass.
She must think I'm a moron. Of course I know...I have to be punished for what I did, death's not enough...
"I'm going to make you suffer Tara...suffer so much you'll wish you were never born. Pity you don't have any family, or I'd make them suffer as well...but not to worry," she finished brightly, obviously looking forward to Tara's punishment, "I'll just extract more from your little hide."
"Your little boy's a monster," Tara whispered weakly, she badly needed a sip of water, "I'm only sorry I didn't kill him. I'll get both of you one day..."
Glory laughed, "Not where you're going you won't."
I really don't give a fuck you trashy bitch...Willow is safe and that's all that matters
Tara had another visitor. She woke one morning to see the pale little face of twelve year old Willow staring at her from the side of the bed. The wounded cop managed a small smile as the kid reached out and took her hand.
"I don't know how I can thank you for saving my life," Willow whispered, her small voice choking with tears.
"What on earth were you doing out that late by yourself?" Tara asked quietly.
Willow ducked her head as though she thought Tara were blaming her for what had happened, "My stepfather kicked me out...I didn't do anything honest. I was sleeping on the sofa, that's where I always sleep, and he came in to say I was taking up too much space and had to get out. I only had time to grab Miss Kitty," Willow held up the stuffed toy which Tara could now see was a cat.
There was nothing to Willow. How anyone could think she took up too much space was beyond Tara. A strong gust of wind would blow the kid away.
"It's not your fault Willow, grown up stuff like that...it's never your fault...you just promise me you won't let stuff like that get you down," Tara tried her hardest to rise an inch from her pillows so she could see Willow more clearly but even that simple task proved impossible.
"I'm won't," Willow replied with a hint of pride in her voice, her chin lifted a little higher, "I'm going to law school, I'm going to spend my life putting bad guys in jail."
Tara laughed but it came out more like a croak, "That's not what lawyers do Willow...but it would be good to have a few like you."
A nurse entered the room and interrupted their conversation in a brusque voice, "Visiting hours are over kid.
Willow looked longingly at Tara one last time, "Are they gonna give you a medal now? For saving me?"
Tara smiled weakly and turned to look out the window, "No Willow sweetie, they're not gonna give me a medal."
Tara sat stoically in the dock, as she had done for the duration of her trial. They had already found her guilty and were no passing judgment on her. She smiled as she remembered just how right she had been. No one could escape judgment.
The trial is a farce. They all knew I was well within my rights to kill those two crooks...lowlife scum like that are a dime a dozen. I will admit that beating Talbot within an inch of his life was a tad heavy-handed but I don't give a fuck. I'll gladly do time for the pleasure of teaching that piece of shit a well-deserved lesson.
So I sit in the dock and wait for the judge to reign fire and brimstone down upon me. I look at her from the corner of my eye, she's giving off such conservative vibes it's making my skin crawl. However, my sentence didn't worry me in the slightest. The only concern I have is for Willow, who is going to look out for her now?
I knew what the papers said about me. I scan the crowd in the gallery, dozens of them packed in to see the psycho cop. They're a pack of sheep here to get their thrills. I search for Willow's pale little face, just to be able to see her one last time and check that she's alright. Of course she isn't here and nor should she be here. She's tucked away with some nice foster family...safe. Willow is safe and that's all that matters.
The judge coughed slightly before she spoke to make sure she had Tara's full attention,
"Tara Maclay, the jury having found you guilty of the aforementioned crimes, I hereby sentence you to twenty years hard labour..."