“Yeah, China Joe.”

I thought it was an echo at first, then realized that someone had eased in the door behind me. Something called Alex. Six feet of bone, muscle and trouble. China Joe’s right hand man. He imitated a smile at the Chief who sank a bit lower in his chair.

“China Joe wants you should tell him why you got smart cops going around and putting the arm on people and letting them shoot up good liquor. He’s mostly angry about the hooch. He says that he had enough guff and after this you should—”

“I am putting you under Robot Arrest, pursuant to article 46, paragraph 19 of the revised statutes …”

Ned had done it before we realized he had even moved. Right in front of our eyes he was arresting Alex and signing our death warrants.

Alex was not slow. As he turned to see who had grabbed him, he had already dragged out this cannon. He got one shot in, square against Ned’s chest, before the robot plucked the gun away and slipped on the cuffs. While we all gaped like dead fish, Ned recited the charge in what I swear was a satisfied tone.

“The prisoner is Peter Rakjomskj, alias Alex the Axe, wanted in Canal City for armed robbery and attempted murder. Also wanted by local police of Detroit, New York and Manchester on charges of …”

Get it off me!” Alex howled. We might have too, and everything might have still been straightened out if Benny Bug hadn’t heard the shot. He popped his head in the front door just long enough to roll his eyes over our little scene.

“Alex … they’re puttin’ the arm on Alex!”

Then he was gone and when I hit the door he was nowhere in sight. China Joe’s boys always went around in pairs. And in ten minutes he would know all about it.

“Book him,” I told Ned. “It wouldn’t make any difference if we let him go now. The world has already come to an end.”

Fats came in then, mumbling to himself. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder when he saw me.

“What’s up? I see little Benny Bug come out of here like the place was on fire and almost get killed driving away?”

Then Fats saw Alex with the bracelets on and turned sober in one second. He just took a moment to gape, then his mind was made up. Without a trace of a stagger he walked over to the Chief and threw his badge on the desk in front of him.

“I am an old man and I drink too much to be a cop. Therefore I am resigning from the force. Because if that is whom I think it is over there with the cuffs on, I will not live to be a day older as long as I am around here.”

“Rat.” The Chief growled in pain through his clenched teeth. “Deserting the sinking ship. Rat.”

“Squeak,” Fats said and left.

The Chief was beyond caring at this point… chevronRight icon