I arrived for my meeting with Zac Hunter fifteen minutes early, only to find that he was already there. The bar was gloomy and sparsely populated, and he’d snagged himself a spot in a corner, alongside the jukebox, his back to the wall, a clear line of sight to both the front and rear exits. As I approached, I could tell that he was in good shape – his shoulders were broad, and his black t-shirt was stretched tight over a muscular chest. A pitcher of beer and two glasses sat on the table in front of him. One of the glasses was half full, the other was empty.
“Hey,” he said, as I pulled up a chair, his eyes flicking briefly over my left shoulder before settling on my face. “Drink?”
“Sure,” I nodded, as he reached for the empty glass and filled it to the brim. Truth be told, I didn’t usually partake this early in the day, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.
“Thanks for meeting with me,” I began, looking to put him at ease with some of my patented small talk.
“What do you want to know?” he responded, his expression stoic. So much for the small talk.
“How about we start at the beginning – with your childhood?”
He stretched his large frame back in the chair, the pose designed to look relaxed, although I sensed he was ready for anything the world might throw at him. Talk about a coiled spring.
“My childhood, huh? Not much to tell. I was raised by my mother. She went when I was seventeen. Cancer. I never knew my father. He checked out at a diner when two kids decided to rob the joint. Gunshot wound to the chest.”
“That must have been hard for you? Losing both parents at a young age?”
Hunter shrugged. “You play the hand you’re dealt.”
“And were your father’s murderers ever caught?”
“And that’s what prompted you to become a cop?”
“I signed up as soon as I could. Served my time on the streets. Aced the detective’s exam. Went to work. L.A.’s a dirty town. Someone’s gotta clean it up.”
“And you were making a good job of it. You had one of the best arrest records in the city…”
“I did what I could.”
“Until you got fired?”
His eyes bored into me with a ferocious intensity, and for a moment I felt like one of the many criminals he’d apprehended over the years.
“Yeah, I got shitcanned. I beat up on one scumbag too many. The review board called it use of excessive force right before they showed me the door.”
“So what are your thoughts on suspects’ rights?”
“Define suspects,” he growled, reaching for his beer, then continuing before I had a chance to answer. “See, when you’re a cop, there’s two kinds of suspects – there’s those that you think might be guilty, so you investigate them – you look for evidence to prove or disprove your theory.”
“And the second kind?”
“The second kind were born guilty. Every second they walk free they’re a danger to society. You do whatever it takes to bring them down.”
“Whatever it takes? That kind of outlook must have caused you to cross swords with Internal Affairs once in a while?”
“Look buddy, I never punched out anyone who didn’t deserve it,” he said, the muscles bunching in his forearms. “Sure, I’ve side stepped a few laws in my time, but always for the greater good. Lives were at stake. When the accused is a drug pushing, smut peddling, child murdering, homicidal maniac, his rights don’t count for a whole lot of much in my book. What about the victim’s rights? Somewhere along the way society seems to have forgotten them.”
“So where do you go from here? Now that police work’s been taken away from you?”
“Badge or no badge, I can still make a difference. There are plenty of scumbags to go around.”
“So you’re a licensed P.I. now?”
“In a manner of speaking…”
“What does that mean?”
“Call me a concerned citizen with a gun. If someone’s been the victim of a crime and they come to me for help, then I’ll see what I can do. I don’t need a licence for that…I’ve had my fill of rules and regulations already…”
With that, Hunter drained his glass in one long pull then rose from the table.
“I gotta get going. Been good talking to you.”
“Maybe we can hook up again some time?” I suggested, as his long strides ate up the distance to the door. “I’d love to hear more about your ‘freelance’ work?”
“Maybe,” he called over his shoulder. “But next time, you’re buying.”