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Authors: Charlie Newton

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Start Shooting

BOOK: Start Shooting
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Also by Charlie Newton

Calumet City

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

While there may be similarities, the words, deeds, beliefs, and/or opinions of all characters herein are fictional and have no connection whatsoever to the actual person whose name they may share or upon whom they may be based, nor does the actual person adopt, express, or acknowledge agreement with any words, deeds, beliefs, and/or opinions of said fictional characters herein
.

Copyright © 2012 by Charlie Newton

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

www.doubleday.com

DOUBLEDAY
and the portrayal of an anchor with a dolphin are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Lyrics from “Mornin’ Ain’t Comin’ ” by Kenny Herbert

(
www.kennyherbertmusic.co.uk
).

Grateful acknowledgment is made to New Directions Publishing Corp. and Georges Borchardt, Inc. on behalf of the Estate of Tennessee Williams for permission to reprint excerpts from
A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams, copyright © 1947 by The University of the South. All rights reserved.

Jacket design by Emily Mahon
Jacket photograph © Grove Pashley / Photographer’s Choice / Getty Images

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Newton, Charlie.
Start shooting : a novel / Charlie Newton. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
1. Police—Fiction. 2. Corruption—Fiction. 3. Crime—Fiction. 4. Race relations—Fiction. 5. Brothers—Fiction. 6. Chicago (Ill.)—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3614.E73S73 2011
813’.6—dc22
2011002844

eISBN: 978-0-385-53470-3

v3.1

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Bobby and Arleen’s novel is about hopes and dreams, the bet-it-all contracts that either propel you through the fire or burn you to death. If not for the backstage, to-the-bone candor of several remarkable individuals, the pages that follow couldn’t go where they go.

ON BEING AN ACTRESS
Anne Johns and Kaaren Ochoa

ON BEING THE POLICE
Denny “Ten-Inch” Banahan, Bobby Vargas, Jason Cowin, Bob Anderson, and Patti Black

THE THEATER
Kevin Nance

THE EDITORS (HARD, SOULLESS MEN WHO TORTURED INSECTS AS CHILDREN)
Easy Ed Stackler and Don McQuinn

THE READERS (COUSINS OF THE HARD, SOULLESS MEN WHO TORTURED INSECTS AS CHILDREN)
F1 & F2: Sharon & Doug Bennett, Brian Rodgers, Big Jean Viallet, Catriona Kennedy, and Billy Thompson

AND MY PAL
Bill Owens

CHICAGO

The girl was thirteen and Irish, and fashioned out of sunlight so bright she made you believe in angels. The box was older, made from the same steel that armored battleships. It held momentous sins; the dark, grisly legacy of a terrified empire in ruin.

Seven thousand miles and thirty-seven years separated their burials, the box in a reinforced granite cave on the east end of Hokkaido Island, Japan; the girl in a velveteen-lined coffin at 111th and Central.

Give a Nobel laureate this year’s NASA budget and every witch in New England and there’s no way he could marry the two. Maybe the tarot readers in Chinatown saw Pandora coming—God knows they love that mystical shit more than money—but I didn’t. I didn’t see the murders of my friends. I didn’t see the stacks of life-out blood money. I didn’t see people I loved forcing me into a box so dark your soul melts.

Nineteen years I’ve been a ghetto cop and thought I’d worked every heartbreaking, horror combination possible. But I hadn’t. I wasn’t
marginally
prepared for how bad six days could get. And neither was anyone else.

SIX DAYS AGO
OFFICER BOBBY VARGAS
FRIDAY
, 10:00
AM

Black, white, brown, or yellow, on Chicago’s South Side, your neighborhood is your surname. Put on a gun belt, a suit, or a nun’s habit, and all you did was accessorize.

For those of you exiting the ’L near Eighteenth and Laflin in the Four Corners, the etiquette is: grab a length of rebar, scratch a cross in the concrete, set both feet solid in the quadrant that best fits your skin tone, lean back, and start shooting. Welcome to Chicago, the “2016 Olympic City.” We’re glad you’re here.

How
Olympic
? We have the best hot dogs, best pizza, worst baseball team, six months of weather that would give pause to a statue, and a river we dye green on St. Patrick’s Day because we can. If the IOC could possibly require more, page two is fourteen miles of sandy beaches, blues bars that actually play the blues, icebergs in the winter, four racetracks, and street gangs with twenty thousand members. Think of Chicago as Club Med, but with issues. Wear clean underwear and socks in case there’s an accident, and you’re good to go.

On a good day.

Which, unfortunately, today isn’t. Chicago isn’t California-broke/bankrupt, but we’re guaranteed citywide layoffs, school closings, and half-staff hospitals if we don’t win the 2016 Olympic rebid now that Rio folded. Because our civic karma is a bit spotty, we’re submitting our rebid during a Latino gang war on the West Side that won’t stop making headlines, telling the IOC they’d be lots happier in Tokyo.

A Chicago defeat is worse than bad, but I/we have larger problems. Outsiders have come to the Four Corners. Outsiders who don’t understand that some history will kill you dead if you don’t leave it alone. These people weren’t here twenty-nine years ago. I was.

Right over there, winter of 1982.

Above the unpatched asphalt and broken glass, in those four-story brick tenements.

It was cold and dead silent then; it’s a hundred and six now. Frayed curtains flutter through windows propped open with No. 10 cans. Sharp voices bark from inside, blending with radios singing songs and making promises in three languages. Beneath the windows, lowriders and highriders idle their Chevys and pickups at their respective curbs, eyeing each other for insults they work overtime trying to see. Their neighborhood runs on friction, blame, violence, and reprisal.

America, the great melting pot? That’s where Mayor Daley said we were headed when I grew up here, before the ’68 and ’72 riots changed everything. The truth is, that version of America is dead. We’re the Balkans now, waving foreign flags from an idyllic old country that wasn’t there when we left.

I lived two blocks from here when the riots went off, around the corner behind St. Dominick’s. Grew up singing in the kitchen with my mom; wore what no longer fit my brother, Ruben; snuck Pall Malls from my father’s pack before lung cancer and his two years in Korea finally killed him; and combed my hair as
American
as I knew how. We had a flag on our stoop every day it wasn’t raining and I put it out there. My dad and I would stand at the flag, shoulder to waist, and salute it. I miss him and the country he died for, every morning when his picture watches me buckle on the body armor and 9-millimeter.

When I was a toddler, the Four Corners was home to “Ricans”—any shade of brown was considered Puerto Rican, like we’d all gotten off the same boat in Humboldt Park. Back then three other groups made up the neighborhood: shanty Irish, the I-talians who never made it to Taylor Street, and a sprinkling of Lithuanians from what they called Jewtown. The blacks were expanding toward us from the north and west but weren’t here yet. Residents of the Four Corners didn’t live on an island, more of a refugee camp with bad history and worse on the way. Not to say that blacks caused what happened. Everybody caused it.

To the south, the Chicago River kept us away from the bungalows of Mayor Daley’s working-class, but way better-off, Bridgeport. If you were Irish and beholden to the Daley Machine but hadn’t achieved
working class
yet, then you lived farther south, beyond the parking lots and souvenir sellers of Comiskey Park, in violent, insular Canaryville. If you were Irish and
aspired
to be beholden to the Daley Machine but were too poor or not tough enough for Canaryville, you lived
across the river
with us “Ricans” in the Four Corners; you listened to the White Sox on a neighbor’s radio, drank Hamm’s Beer on your stoop, and nights someone in your family mopped blood in the stockyards until it closed for good in ’71.

To our east, fourteen elevated lanes of Dan Ryan Expressway and a hundred years of urban legend separated us from the First Ward. Within its boundaries the patronage jobs were doled out, as were the graft and violence necessary to run a major American city. The river ran through the First Ward’s heart, ferrying goods to and from what was once the third-largest port in the world. Planes from the world’s busiest airport flew over the First Ward. All the money coming into or out of Chicago made a stop in the First Ward. Big-boss aldermen brokered the city’s future, beginning with Kenna and Bathhouse John, and ending with Toddy Pete Steffen who’s still a kingmaker. One block farther east of Toddy Pete’s dominion was Chinatown, but when I was a kid that trek meant braving the First Ward so Chinatown might as well have been fifty miles by camel.

BOOK: Start Shooting
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