Tommy spat on the whetstone and worked the edge of his knife in a smooth circular motion. He sat on the top step of his front porch in silence as he listened to Angelo and old Byron. Byron sat on the bottom steps, his head hung low between the knees of his lanky legs. Angelo was standing on the lawn, repeatedly throwing a knife in the dirt and then retrieving it, while cursing and gesticulating wildly.
“Why they do that…why they let that animal out?” Old Byron asked of no one, slowly swaying his head side to side.
“This is what he needs,” Angelo waved his long blade in the air, “right Tommy?”
Tommy did not respond or lift his head. He continued to sharpen his knife. A police car slowed to a stop in front of the house.
“Hey Riley, up for some mumbley peg?” Angelo greeted the officer with a cheerful familiarity.
“Nah, those days are gone, Ange,” Riley replied, “I ain’t allowed to hang with you dagos no more. “Especially with those new tattoos, ‘Watchmen,’ what the hell is that, some kind of gang or something?”
Riley extended a greeting to Tommy and Byron. Old Byron nodded his head, Tommy lifted his to reveal his steel eyes, his face was expressionless “They just found William Hall,” Riley continued, “He was in Emmet Alley, with a shiv in his neck, have you guys heard anything?”
“Violent neighborhood ain’t it Riley?” Angelo smirked and fondled his knife for Riley to see.
Riley turned to Byron, “Sorry to talk about this Byron.”
Byron sat silently, covering his face with his large black hands. Billy Hall had attacked, raped, and beaten Byron’s granddaughter five years ago. He was let out of prison on parole 2 days prior to this meeting. Annie was six years old at the time; she survived the attack but to this day had not recovered from the physical and mental trauma, nor had her family.
Riley turned to Tommy, “Do you know anything about this Tommy?”
Tommy calmly placed his knife and whetstone down and stared at the fleshy face of the policeman. A vivid image flashed through Tommy’s mind of Billy Hall being grabbed from behind by his hair, a shiv thrust deep into the side of his neck, his face being beaten against the brick wall, the shiv held tightly to complete its internal justice, the lifeless body let to fall to the ground. “Let me ask you something Riley, why did you become a cop?”
“You know me Tommy, I always wanted to help people,” Riley said.
“Who you helping now?” Tommy asked.
Riley shrugged, returned to his car and drove off. Angelo sat down next to old Byron and placed his arm around the old man’s shoulders. “It’s over now Byron,” Angelo said, “Your family is our family.”
Back at the precinct station Riley sat at his desk deep in thought. He reached in his bottom drawer and pulled out an old American-Italian dictionary. Scrolling down, next to the word watchman, he found the translation: vigilante.