And them South Side sisters sure look pretty
The cripple on the corner cries out "Nickels for your pity"
And them downtown boys they sure talk gritty
It's so hard to be a saint in the city.
When I was a little girl, my dad read me the story of Saint Elizabeth, who took bread to the poor and kept it secret from her husband. One day he caught her with her bundle and opened it, and as he did, she silently prayed to God to help her, and when he opened the bundle, it was full of roses.
That story pissed me off the first time Dad read it to me. Sure, she didn’t get caught, but why was I supposed to be happy about a woman not getting caught by her husband? What the hell kind of marriage has “not getting caught” as its endgame? “Why didn’t God give her a better husband?” I asked. “Or give all the bread to the poor?”
“Sometimes, that’s not how it works, Katie,” Dad said. “Sometimes being a saint means working with what you have.”
“But if you’re a saint, God is what you have,” I said. “That’s bullshit.”
“Hey!” said my mom from the armchair. “None of that talk.”
“Me?” I said. “He’s the one saying saints let the bad guys win.”
“Don’t talk back to your ma,” Dad said. “I speak from experience.”
I thought of that story again, however briefly, about 15 years later when I met Jason Hewlett.
I was still Patrol back then, with my beat mostly concentrated around Inwood, where I grew up. On a Saturday night in May, early enough in the year that nightfall still brought with it a little chill, my partner Darren and I got a domestic call from Nagle Avenue. We drove to the address, a three-decker brownstone. The call reported the noise from a second-floor apartment; we knocked on the door and a good-looking guy in his mid-thirties with dark, curly hair and a high forehead answered the door.
“I help you with something?” he said.
“Yeah, we got a domestic disturbance report at this address, mind if we come in?” I said.
The man swept his arm to the interior of the apartment. We walked in and it wasn’t until he was out of the doorway that I noticed the women on the couch. She had dark blonde hair, big brown eyes and soft, sensitive features, but there was a bit of guesswork involved in everything but the hair because almost all of her face was a mass of bruises and blood. Both her eyes were black.
I crossed the room to the woman, doing my best not to look horrified. “What’s your name, honey?” I asked her.
“Lucy Hewlett,” she said, like it was difficult for her to talk or, more accurately, like she didn’t feel like she had permission.
I pulled my cuffs off my belt. “Wait, what are you doing?” Lucy said, rising in the chair a little.
“We’re taking your boyfriend in, is what we’re doing,” I said, trying not to sound annoyed. When one thing makes me mad, everything else does too, which is kind of counterproductive when that includes the person you’re mad on behalf of.
“He’s my husband,” she said, “and I don’t want to press charges.”
“What the fuck?!” I said, sounding far shriller than I meant to.
“I thought she was pretty clear,” the husband said.
I whirled around. “My fat Irish ass. Her face looks like hamburger, shitbox. You’re coming with us.”
Darren put a hand on my shoulder. “Kinneavy,” he said. “We’re done here.”
Everything about this was making me want to put my hand through a wall but I knew I couldn’t make a scene when three out of four people in the room didn’t want the man taken in. I gave Lucy my card. “You can reach me there if you ever need me, okay?”
“Yeah, she won’t,” her husband said, getting closer to me. I smelled whiskey on his breath; not too much but unmistakable once you got close. “You have a great night, sweetie.”
I was too angry to speak to Darren the rest of my shift, and I was still thinking about the incident a couple days later at the precinct when a man in a suit with a detective’s shield on his belt walked into the bullpen. I was busy with paperwork so I didn’t look too closely at his face, but a minute later my CO came over to my desk and said “Kinneavy, Detective Hewlett needs you for a minute. It’s nothing bad.”
I looked up, confused at the name, and recognized the curly-haired man from the domestic call. He leaned over the desk and smiled at me. “Let’s step outside, huh?” he said.
I walked into the hall behind him, not sure what was coming but pretty sure I wasn’t going to like it. Hewlett leaned against the wall. “So, Kinneavy, right?” he said, his tone perfectly friendly.
“That’s what the badge says, Detective. If that’s wrong, I don’t feel like getting a new one.”
That made him laugh. “Jason, please. Not always easy being a girl cop, is it?”
“Okay. You’re one of those. I guess that answers my next question. And I mean, I don’t intend to, like, minimize the struggle or anything, but you know what might be harder than being a woman cop? Being a cop with a snitch jacket.”
I hadn’t been looking at him before now. “Excuse me?”
“You ever hear of Jerkoff Jimmy?” I shook my head. “Jimmy Vultaggio was a cop in the 18th who made a bust with the Drug Squad and later on, some of the money from the deal they busted up went missing. IAB comes around and Jimmy gives them the names of the cops who took it. When that gets out, no cop will ride with Jimmy, no dispatcher will grant his requests for backup. Cops start calling him Jerkoff Jimmy because if he wants to get anything done, he’ll have to do it all by himself. One night he chases some project yo down an alley and the guy decides no cop is gonna take him in and he blows Jerkoff Jimmy’s face off. Only his family shows up for the funeral. Even the pipe band boycotts it.” He stood up, away from the wall, and inched a little closer to me, his tone still completely genial. “Now, I want you to remember that story if you get the urge to share what you saw with anyone, or talk to my wife again, and when you do, I want you to think about whether a woman you don’t even know is worth becoming the nigger of this police department in every conceivable way, you fat cunt.” He flashed me another smile. “You can go back to your desk now.”
Later that week my best friend Jalisa passed the bar and, after imposing a legally binding moratorium on “bar” puns, we were celebrating with shots. Somewhere between her third and my fourth, the matter of Jason Hewlett came up. Jalisa looked the kind of angry she only looks when she’s half in the bag.
“That motherfucker,” she said, gripping her shot glass so tight I grabbed it from her for fear she’d break it. “Girl, you get another call about him, you perp-walk him like any other asshole. Hell, do it now.”
“J, did you hear what he said to me?” I sighed. “It scared me. And I feel like a piece of shit for being scared, because I need to do my job without being scared. But if I fuck this up, it won’t just ruin my life, he may kill her. I need to find a way to get him for something else, I just don’t know how. But a guy like this, there’s always something else.”
Jalisa sighed. “Man needs to burn for what he did. Not for anything else.”
“Maybe. But I need to get him away from her, above all else.”
Jalisa ordered two more shots. “Well, then, you put that brain to work, K,” she said. “I almost feel sorry for him.”
My next day off I was up at the crack of dawn with my mom’s old camera and I shadowed Jason Hewlett all day. He spent most of the day at his precinct in Brooklyn, but at 5 PM he left the office and, rather than drive back to Manhattan, he headed for Staten Island. I tailed him to Annadale, where he pulled up in front of a bungalow, straightened his tie and knocked on the door. A dark-haired woman answered the door; she had winged eyeliner and hips and an ass similar to mine but, they looked much better in her silk bathrobe than they did in my uniform, although the look in her and Hewlett’s eyes told me the bathrobe wasn’t going to be a factor for much longer. I snapped a picture of the two of them, one of her face and one of the car in the driveway’s plates.
My next day at the office, I went to see Donnie Klein, a friend of mine in Homicide who was a few years older than me. I explained the situation to him asked him if he could run the plates for me. Mid-afternoon, Donnie came to my desk. “So, I ran those plates, like you asked.”
“You’re a superhero.”
“Are there Jewish superheroes?”
“The Thing from the Fantastic Four is Jewish, you dork.”
“I’m a dork.”
“So who is she?”
“One Alexa Benedetto.”
“Shit, is she any relation to Stevie Benedetto? From the Cataldo crew?”
“Not related, per se. She’s his wife.”
My mouth hung open before I could stop myself. “Hewlett is fucking Stevie Benedetto’s wife.”
“So it would seem. Which would indicate that either he hasn’t read the details of what Stevie’s been accused of doing to people who piss him off, or he has so much faith in the justice system that he puts a lot of stock in all those not-guiltys.”
I looked down at my desk and noticed I had a voicemail. I entered my passcode and listened to it. It was Lucy Hewlett. “H-hi, Officer,” it said. “I want to apologize for my behavior the other night. I just… if I’d done anything it would have been worse. He drinks and it doesn’t seem like he’s had much and all of a sudden I realize he’s tanked and then things just start happening too quickly and…” Her voice broke. “I really can’t escalate things. I’m sorry.”
I looked up at Donnie. “He drinks. Of course. Motherfucker drinks. I know what to do. How are you at accents?”
I made a call to the Hewletts’ once I knew Jason wasn’t home. Lucy answered. “Lucy, I need you to trust me,” I said. “I have a plan, one that is going to go right but if it doesn’t, you’ll still be okay. Can you text me when Jason’s drunk? Not drinking, but drunk.”
“I… I think so. He’s not normally paying me much attention until a little bit later.”
“Thanks, Lucy. It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
Saturday night I sent Darren home early, told him I could take it from here. I stopped for coffee about a block from the Hewletts’. A few minutes later, Donnie pulled up next to me and we waited. Around 9, I got the text from Lucy. I turned to Donnie. “Ready?” He nodded.
Donnie pulled out his phone and dialed the landline number we’d found for the Hewletts. After a couple rings, I heard Jason’s voice. “Yeah.”
Donnie put on a pitch-perfect we-don’t-want-nobody-should-get-hurt-or-nothin’ goombah voice. “Yeah, is this Jason Hewlett?”
“Who’s this? This is Stevie Benedetto, you little prick. I think you know my wife.”
Even one car over I could hear the panic in Hewlett’s voice. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second, man, let’s talk about this…”
“Don’t fucking call me ‘man,’ you miserable little colostomy bag,” Donnie yelled. “We got jack with a side of shit to talk about unless you wanna tell me what brand of hammer best conforms to the shape of your nuts. I know where you live, shitlord, and I’m coming over there right now.” I could hear Hewlett sputtering as Donnie ended the call and I peeled out of the parking lot and headed for Nagle Avenue.
It only took me a couple minutes to reach the Hewletts’ block; as I did, I saw the door slam open and Jason Hewlett came sprinting across the lawn and to his car. I heard the engine turn over and, seconds later, the crunch of him rear-ending the Jetta in front of him. He managed to dig his way out and screeched down the road; I flicked my siren on and followed him. Once he noticed me, he made a sharp turn onto Ninth only to collide with another parked car. He backed away from it, hitting another car waiting at a light, and then sideswiped the car in front of it to run the light. I saw him turn his head to see if I was still following him, and then he slammed into a fire hydrant and the car finally came to a stop.
“I want my fuckin’ PBA rep,” was the first thing Hewlett said once he was in the back of the car.
“This isn’t the station, asshole,” I said. “What do you want me to, pick him up?”
“I’m gonna walk, you bitch. You know that, right?”
I pulled to the curb and turned around to face him. “Detective, this is my neighborhood and I know who lives here. That first car you rammed? That’s the assistant district attorney’s daughter’s car. So no, I don’t think you’re gonna walk on this.”
He stared at me, bleary-eyed. “The fuck do you want? Huh?”
“You really wanna know?”
“Yes, I really wanna know. I’m a cop. I can’t go to fuckin’ jail.”
“It’s out of my hands, Detective. I’m just a patrolman.”
“You can’t, like, put in a good word? Say I was cooperative?”
“I guess I could. That’s about all I can do. And if you want that, there are a couple conditions.”
“Oh Jesus, here we go.”
“You’re going to resign from the force regardless of the outcome. Your wife is going to file for divorce next week and you will do absolutely nothing to fight this. Understood?”
I saw him glaring at me in the mirror. “You did this.”
“I know you fuckin’ did.”
“Do you have proof? Because if not, I wouldn’t go around saying shit like that.” We pulled up in front of the station. “No one likes a snitch.”
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