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A Fork In the Road

The Photograph

By Kenny PennPublished 2 months ago 5 min read
Photo by Ahmet Kurt on Unsplash +

$5k. Tonight. If you don’t answer the call, this gets posted to social media.

Jack reads the note for the fourth time, glances at the damning photo of his partner, and reads the note again. The detective in him wants to have it analyzed by MPD’s forensic team. Chances are slim, but maybe they’d find a fingerprint belonging to the perp who’d written this, or find the font came from an old typewriter or something.

If he turns the note in, though, it’ll look bad on Willy. Don’t kid yourself, man, he thinks. It IS bad. Willy could end up in Miami Correctional if this comes out. God dammit, Willy! What the hell were you thinking?

Jaw clenched, he glares at the Polaroid, wishing he’d never opened the inter-office envelope with his partner's name written on it in the first place. Jack had thought it contained the DNA report they'd been waiting for. That certainly would have been better than what he’d found after he’d dumped the envelope’s contents on his desk.

“Hey, partner,” Willy says, sitting across from Jack at the desk they shared. “What you got there?”

Jack’s first instinct is to deny he has anything, tear up the photograph into little pieces and put it through the shredder for good measure. Then his nostrils flare and he flings the photo like a Frisbee at Willy, snarling.

“Care to try explaining yourself, here, man?”

Frowning, Willy bends to pick up the photo from where it’s landed on the floor. If Jack hadn’t been paying attention, he could have easily missed the slight widening of Willy’s eyes when he turns it over, an almost imperceptible stiffening of the shoulders, there and gone in a flash.

“What is this?” Willy asks.

“Don’t act like you don’t know, man!” Jack snaps, face reddening. “I’m not a fucking rookie. We’ve been partners for what, ten years? We both know that’s you planting a switchblade on -”

Willy leaps to his feet, making a cutting motion across his throat in a desperate attempt to cut Jack off. “Shh!” After taking a quick glance around, he pulls his chair to Jack’s side and leans in close. “Not so loud, bro! Are you trying to get me fired?” Jack’s eyes are frosty, like twin glaciers. Willy holds up a placating hand. “Ok, ok, yes. I planted the knife on that asshole, what of it?”

“WHAT-” Jack starts, then lowers his voice with supreme effort. “What do you mean, ‘what of it?’ You fucking shot him, Willy! That man died because of you!”

“That scumbag you mean,” Willy corrects, shaking his head. “Wanted for three counts of armed robbery and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.”

Now Jack was shaking his head, eyes widening. “That’s not how it works, Willy, and you know it! We catch the bad guys, give the suits the evidence we’ve got and let them take care of the rest. We aren’t executioners, man!”

Willy takes a deep breath, runs a hand through his hair and lets it out in a rush. “Look,” he says, mouth tight, “I thought he was gone from the house, same as you. When I walked into the bedroom he yelled and threw up his hands. I thought I saw a gun, so I shot him. It was his fault!”

“Why the hell didn’t you just report that?” Jack says, bewildered. “That happens all the time! You get a slap on the wrist, a fucking paid vacation with some therapy thrown in. Why set up the scene?”

“Because internal affairs has already been up my ass about that Valdez case, bro, I told you that! They think I was too rough, beat him up too badly. One more incident and I could get a permanent vacation. I got a family, Jack, people depending on me. I couldn’t let those douchebags fuck up my life!”

Jack looks at the picture again. In it, Willy is bent over their perp’s - victim’s, his mind insists - corpse, switchblade held clearly in his hand. Uneven, blurred brown edges border his partner’s profile, which at first Jack mistook for a trick of the light or a problem with the photo, but now he realizes what they are.

“Someone was in the bedroom closet when you were -” Jack rubs a knuckle across his lips, “covering your ass. They saw you. What if they have other pictures, or what if they decide to turn you in?”

Willy leans back in his chair, licking his lips and staring at the ceiling. After a moment, he gives a slight nod and leans forward again. “I - we - can take care of it, together.”

Jack’s eyes narrow. “What do you mean?”

“I go drop off the money. You stake out the spot he sends me to. When he goes to get the drop, we take him out.”

Jack stares at his long time partner, temporarily rendered speechless. Who has he been working with all these years? Sharing his life, family, hundreds of cold coffees and countless hours together with?

“Murder,” he says, voice coming out in a hoarse whisper. “You’re asking me to help you murder someone.”

Willy shrugs, and Jack sees a light in his partner’s eyes he’s never seen before today. A cold, uncaring flicker that makes him want to puke. The look of a man who’s lost his moral compass. “The scum’s trying to blackmail me anyway. Better off dead than alive to fuck me. Come on partner, help me out here.”

Face pale, stomach cold. Jack stands and pulls his service pistol. “William Thompson, I’m placing you under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder.” His voice chokes with raw emotion as his former partner’s face falls, a look that screams betrayal. How is he going to face Willy’s wife? His children? “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say . . .”


A/N: This story was originally submitted to a short story competition at The prompts were Buddy Cop genre, an Executioner, and a Photograph. How did I do? Comments welcome!

thrillerShort Story

About the Creator

Kenny Penn

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.

For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (3)

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  • L.C. Schäferabout a month ago

    Ooooh I'm glad you shopped him!

  • Oh wow, I didn't expect at all that Jack would arrest Willy for this!! I thought he'd team up with him or worst case scenario, try to talk him out of it. Gosh, that was some serious freaking hugeeeee plot twist!

  • Jay Kantor2 months ago

    Hi-K ~ Deny~Deny, I'm innocent. The Other Dude Did It: The O.D.D. Theme that has occurred since childhood; Mom, it wasn't me. You have such a storytelling style, Ken. 'j'in.l.a.

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