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The four of us hit the gym like we always did after a stressful day and were met by a round of applause from the other cops who were there working out. The gym itself was a main floor space with various fitness equipment, a service desk and some rooms off the far wall for different classes. It smelled like sweat and dirty socks. I loved it.
On the wall facing the treadmills was a row of TV screens, usually showing repeats of different sports. But not tonight. The TV screens were tuned to the five oâ€™clock news, and all the guys there were watching the four of us standing outside the West Street headquarters.
A reporter introduced the story. "Breaking another link in one of LAâ€™s biggest drug chains, Croatian expat Pavao Tomic was taken down in what can only be described as a successful drug heist by police."
I waved them off, heading straight for the treadmills. I didnâ€™t need to watch it.
Iâ€™d been there.
"Detective Elliott, it must be a relief after weeks of hard work to finally have this notorious drug supplier in custody."
"Yes, it is," I heard myself answer diplomatically on-screen. "The streets of LA are safer. The people of LA are better off with Tomic behind bars."
What I couldnâ€™t say on air was that the slimeball deserved everything he got. With no regard for human life, types like Pavao Tomic were best left to rot in jail.
Instead, all suited up out in front of HQ, the television version of me went on to say it wasnâ€™t just me who did all the work, like the press insinuated, but a team effort.
I didnâ€™t outrank the other three men on my team. I didnâ€™t do anything they didnâ€™t do, but that wasnâ€™t how the media portrayed it. To them, I was the leader of the media-dubbed â€˜Fab Fourâ€™â€”one of four detectives in the Narcotics Division who had broken crime rings right across the city. My partner, Detective Mitch Seaton, and detective partners Kurt Webber and Tony Milic made up the rest of the team who had seen a record number of criminals behind bars.
"Yeah," Mitch snorted from the treadmill beside me. "The one-man show here did it all on his own."
I rolled my eyes before looking over at the other guys. "Any time either of you three idiots want to speak up when the cameras start rolling, be my guest."
Kurt laughed. "No freakinâ€™ way! Iâ€™d rather your ugly mug be all over the news than mine."
"The general public would too," Mitch joked. He reached over and tapped the side of my face. "This pretty-boy makes all us cops look good."
Tony laughed at me, and the three of them started talking crap just like the media did. But they gave up trying to goad me when they realised I wasnâ€™t going to bite. I tuned them out and tuned into the rhythm of my feet hitting the treadmill instead.
Theyâ€™d settled in to running it out on the treadmills with me when Kurt told us he couldnâ€™t stay long because he had dinner plans with his girlfriend, Rachel. "Workout first, then we hit the bar, just for a few. Itâ€™s been a helluva week."
And so it had.
Weâ€™d spent months watching Tomic, waiting for the intel to pay off, nabbing him red-handed in a multi-million-dollar drug bust. It had paid off today. No one injured, no casualties, several million dollarsâ€™ worth of cocaine, ice and meth off the streets and one more link in the crime chain behind bars.
So we did what we always did. The four of us hit the gym, then we hit the bar. They didnâ€™t drink much, and I drank even less, but weâ€™d blow off steam in the gym then unwind in the bar, talking crap and having a laugh. It was a copsâ€™ gym and a copsâ€™ bar. Iâ€™d been a cop for ten of my twenty-eight years. Police work was all I knew.
The guys I worked with were like my family, like brothers. I knew almost everything about them, as they did with me.
Almost everything. There was one part of my life they knew nothing about.
When the other guys commented on me being the blond-haired, blue-eyed playboy of the police force, the one all the ladies wanted, I was reminded of exactly what it was they didnâ€™t know about me.
Because it wasnâ€™t the ladies I wanted at all.
That was what they didnâ€™t know about me. That was what I kept secret. Hidden. Private. Would the guys I worked with treat me differently if they knew I was gay? Maybe...probably...
I wasnâ€™t ashamed. I wasnâ€™t scared. I didnâ€™t flaunt being gay because I didnâ€™t want it to precede me. I wanted to be known for being a good cop, not a gay cop. But above all, I kept my sexuality to myself because it was no one elseâ€™s goddamn business.
After twenty minutes on the treadmill, I jumped off, ready for my bag workout. Boxing was my thing. The gym had a sparring roomâ€”no ring, just mats and pads. It was mostly just a form of fitness, and a little self-defence. The other guys on my team didnâ€™t bother with it. Theyâ€™d watch me spar sometimes, and theyâ€™d tease and taunt me, but not one of them had the balls to spar with me.