“What color are you supposed to be brother, black or blue? You’re going to have to pick!”
He’d lost count of the times he’d hit the large bag that hung from the rafters. His hands were beginning to feel the results of the constant pounding. No matter how many times and how hard he hit the bag it didn’t erase the words of the random stranger who’d passed him and Deacon in the park earlier that day. Things were a mess in the neighborhood he still called home and now he was expected to do the impossible. He was expected to fix it.
Hondo Harrelson had grown up in one of the rougher parts of Los Angeles and he didn’t need anyone telling him that the odds had been stacked against him and everyone else in the neighborhood for that matter. But he’d done well and so had most of the people in his family. There were good people in his community most of them had gotten a raw deal from life but they were doing what they needed to do and they were hard working law abiding citizens who cared about the same things that everyone else cared about; family, survival and justice.
Hondo pushed the stranger’s words aside as he sent his fist flying against the weathered leather bag again. Why did he have to choose and why did it always have to come down to color, color of his skin and now the color of his uniform? The only thing that should matter is that they took care of each other and treated each other with compassion and respect. Those idyllic thoughts were kept to himself. He knew better than to express such lofty notions out loud. Humanity had proven time and time and again that color was all that mattered. The increasing deaths of young black men seemed to cement that fact in the hearts and minds of even the most liberal of thinkers.
“…You’re going to have to pick…you’re going to have to pick…you’re going to have to pick…”
Hondo wasn’t sure he could pick…not now… not ever.
2 Days Earlier – Evening –
It was an impossible situation bullets were flying everywhere from every direction and everyone was a target. Violence had been a problem since the shooting of a young African American man two weeks prior. The city was on edge and tonight was the worst it had been with the streets riddled with outbreaks of looting, and fighting. The team was now responding to a call of shots fired on a street four blocks from where Hondo grew up.
If anyone thought that things couldn’t get worse, they did. Buck Spivey, a man Hondo loved and admired and a man who’d been a mentor since the academy had shot a teenager during the hail of bullets that seemed to be targeted at him. It was an accident, a terrible, terrible accident. Hondo heard the despair in his commanding officer’s voice and he saw the fear and sorrow in his eyes but it wouldn’t change anything, seventeen year old, Raymont Harris’ blood still stained the cold ground where his body had fallen and Buck Spivey’s head had been served up on a platter just in time for the six o’clock news.
As Hondo carried the body of young Raymont to their truck he found it hard to remain optimistic about the state of affairs of his city and it was even harder to find someone to blame for the bleak circumstances that threatened to swallow them all whole. He wondered whose choices had sent this young boy’s life into a downward spiral. He didn’t have the answers all he had was the blood of an innocent seventeen year-old boy on his hands.
1 Day Earlier – Morning –
Hondo opened his eyes. Sleep hadn’t come easy for him and he was exhausted. Glancing to his left he was sure he’d kept her awake. He wanted to make up for last night – for not being able to ease her nerves…too wrapped up in his own misery to be of any comfort to her. Then turning his back he sat up and inched himself to the edge of the bed running his hands over his head then resting them on his neck squeezing and kneading the tight muscles.
“Rough night, huh?” Came a voice behind him.
“Yeah, rough night.” His voice was scratchy with fatigue. “I’m sorry I kept you awake.”
“Don’t be. I knew I wouldn’t get much sleep after last night.”
He felt the bed move as she got to her knees and moved closer. Her hands replaced his pushing them gently away working the muscles in his neck then his shoulders. He closed his eyes as the pressure from her hands brought some relief. He wanted more but it was getting late and this morning’s press conference demanded their punctuality. As if reading his mind she stopped abruptly, then placed a quick kiss behind his right ear.
“I’ll go first.”
He watched her slide off the bed and walk toward the bathroom. He regretted last night’s missed opportunities. The time they shared together was precious and often interrupted by their work. It would be so much easier if he didn’t feel the way he felt about her…but he did. He hadn’t told her yet…hadn’t uttered the words, ‘I love you,’ but he loved her nonetheless and he wanted more than the stolen glances, and the nights spent together in her bed.
No one knew how the two spent their evenings and it had to stay that way. There was too much to lose for both of them. Hondo hated secrets, he hated mandates and procedures that dictated who he could associate with and who he could spend his time with and …who he could love. She wanted to hear the words, she’d told him as much still he withheld them. He wasn’t sure why.
One-Hour Later – LAPD Headquarters – Main Division –
The room was packed with high-ranking city officials, representatives from every branch of law enforcement and members of the press salivating and panting like a pack of hungry wolves waiting for sound bites and photo-ops. Hondo and the others on his team stood next to the podium. Hondo wanted to glance at Jessica for some clue as to what was about to happen but he kept his eyes trained ahead. He hated these press conferences being forced to take part and being used as both the pawn and the prize. Their leader, Buck Spivey was noticeably missing as everyone listened intently to the Police Commissioner’s well-crafted speech designed to depict a no-nonsense man of action. Judging by the reaction of the crowd and with the surprise announcement of Spivey’s dismissal and Hondo’s promotion…it had worked.
Under any other circumstances, Hondo would be out celebrating over beer and burgers at Kelly’s but these were extraordinary times and as much as moving up in the ranks had been a part of his long range goals, this was not what he had in mind. Buck had been fired, no internal investigation no one not even the union had stood by him and defended him. Hondo had gone by to see his friend and caught him as he was in the locker room gathering his belongings. He wanted him to know…he needed him to know that he believed in him even after all that had happened. Hondo saw the resignation in the older man’s eyes as Buck wished him well and said goodbye.
Hondo’s hadn’t been the only promotion that day. Jessica had been named as the head of a special task force against crime; another move by the mayor to show the citizens of Los Angeles that they were committed to keeping them safe. This was big for her and even though he saw the strain on her face he was happy that she too was realizing some of her life’s dreams. Since they’d been seeing each other he had made a point of staying clear of her office. Appearances were everything and it was hard pretending that there wasn’t something between them. Standing in front of her desk his mind wandered back a few months before when his resolve hadn’t been as strong…the desk, the couch both held fond memories. He also noticed that the picture frame that had been damaged that day was still sitting on her desk.
“You’re under my direct command…”
Hondo sent his tired fist into the bag again and again. He knew he should stop or his body would have the last word in the morning but he continued the assault.
“No relationships allowed.”
He didn’t expect it to be that easy to just walk away from him, from what they had. A lot had been sacrificed and a lot had been at stake, so when she seemed so willing to throw it all away he was left speechless. As much as he had hated the secrets and the lies, he’d grown comfortable in them and with her. Now what, he thought as he honored her request for her key back. The large bag hanging from the ceiling was his only comfort now. It had heard his thoughts and groans and had not judged him. It accepted the pounding without making its own demands in return.
It all came back to choices and now with all that had happened Hondo, a product of the very community that he was now challenged to fix felt conflicted. He was a part of the landscape and no matter how hard he tried to be the best cop and the best leader he could not pretend that he wasn’t. Those faces that seemed to judge him with their stares, like the stranger in the park were expecting him to make a choice of where his loyalties would lie. He was at a crossroads of wrong and right…of black and blue. Both sides were family and both were making demands of him spoken and unspoken. Neither side knowing what they were really asking of him…he didn’t know either. Those words continued to ring in his ears, over and over as he finished up his workout and he was still dismayed by them, still confused as to how to respond.
“What color are you supposed to be brother, black or blue? You’re going to have to pick!”
Funny thing about choices, they were often made in haste without planning or forethought and without weighing the consequences to all involved. It’s often impossible to see all sides because the person making the decision has such a narrow vantage point. But choices in and of themselves are selfish and demanding and insist on having their say.
Even after an hour of mercilessly pounding on the bag Hondo still didn’t have the answers and he wasn’t sure if he ever would but for now what he did know was that he had one agenda and one agenda only and that was to serve, protect and unite the citizens of his city because they were family…his family.
“Life is the sum of all your choices.” – Albert Camus
(Photo credit: CBS)
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