Underdog by Anthony Neil Smith

Punk Noir Magazine

If Samson had to do it all again, he’d kill the cunt with the phone. 

Kill the cunt with her own phone. 

Apple or Samsung? No idea. He was surprised he had no idea. He knew every other detail about his case. 

Which one would hurt worse slammed into her nose? 

Then he calmed down. No, he didn’t want to kill the cunt. In fact, God bless her.

Thanks to her, he lost his job and his best friend

 

Now, around two in the morning, Samson was watching a different woman on his security monitor piss all over her boss’ desk. He’d watched her climb up there, peel down her yoga pants, squat and let her rip. She must’ve been loading up on light beer and skinny margaritas it because it took forever to empty her bladder. Then she climbed off, pants still down, and hovered her ass over the man’s office chair. 

Aw, man, what she did next…

This was at a big box home improvement store, where she was one of the managers. Courtney. She went out a few times with the boss, Devin, just friends. Casual easy thing, the song says. 

Now she’s moved on to someone else, and he’s jealous, trying to make her quit out of spite. Nothing she does is right, he says. Her evaluations suck, he says. He blasts her for the smallest things – a minute or two late back from lunch, or getting her in trouble with customers. The last straw, Courtney getting ready to clock out after staying an extra hour, only to find out Devin’s left her a lot more that must be done tonight. Next day, he claimed none of it was important. 

Prick. 

Courtney’s coworkers kept their mouths shut. No support at all. They sure as fuck didn’t want Devin’s bullshit splashing on them.

How did Samson know all this? 

Courtney told him. He saw her on the monitors swiping in, weird time of night. Went to check it out. She was a little drunk. 

No, give her credit. She was excessively drunk and pissed and flirty. 

She broke down under his flashlight glare and told Samson what she wanted to do.

He let her. No strings attached. She was cute and all – thirty-three, spiky bottle blonde, ten pounds over her perfect weight – but stupid as fuck. Not his type. No one’s been his type for a long time now.

The next day, when his brother would threaten to fire himfor letting her do it, Samson would shrug. “Guess I was walking the aisles. Missed the whole show.”

He’d even cheered her on. Go Courtney! Look at her squatting on the chair. Thankfully, from this angle, he didn’t see the big greasy shit. From her breath earlier, Samson would guess she’d eaten something smothered in hot sauce.

When she was done, she pulled her yoga pants up, and Samson cringed. No toilet paper? Just a filthy greasy ass fouling up her pants, her car seat. He wondered if she would even make it home, driving this fucked-up. Park across three spots, hop the curb. Wobble inside, wobble to her couch, and pass the fuck out, snoring in her own filth.

But hey, she got her revenge, didn’t she? 

Courtney let herself out and he was alone again. 

Yeah, this was Samson’s life now. Fucking awful. 

All because of that cunt with the phone.

 

Even if the woman hadn’t whipped out her phone, the bar’s exterior security camera showed the same thing. 

Just slower. 

And silent. 

It was the woman’s phone video and audio that showed the ferocity, the cursing, and Athena’s screams.

Goddamn, those were the worst. Samson still heard them in his sleep. 

The cunt or her boyfriend should’ve stopped Samson at the first sign of trouble. A whole pack of dude-bros should’ve held him back, beat him unconscious, rather than let his drunk ass keep pummeling his best friend. 

Everyone in the bar crowded around the back doors, trying to see.

The cunt with the phone had the best view. She said, “Oh my God!” and “Poor girl!” and “Jesus! Stop him! Call the police!” and “Holy shit, please! I can’t watch. I can’t watch!”

None of them ran outside to help Athena. 

Pussies. Fuckers. 

Samson knew why they hung back, though.

They saw the gun on his hip. They knew he was Minneapolis PD. 

That crowd would have let him kill Athena before getting involved. They knew what happened when you got in a cop’s way, especially in Minneapolis. 

Samson was blind drunk. 

It was all there in color, full stereo sound, almost studio quality picture the phones have these days. Samson, out back of the bar walking his K-9 partner Athena, getting pissed at her when she wouldn’t come back right away after taking a dump, then a full minute of him kicking the living shit out of the dog while he twisted her leash too tight. She squealed, she begged, she whined.

Blind drunk.

More cops arrived. Of course, him being one of their own, special treatment, right?  They begged Samson to calm down, told him to let go of the leash. He told them he’d shove the leash up their asses.

Fuck.

They tased him. His own dudes! They tased Samson, and then he somehow got a couple black eyes and bleeding lips before they got him to lockup. 

They had no choice. 

He was seething. He shouted for Athena, who’d already been taken away by another K-9 officer. He cursed the mothers and sisters and wives of the deputies arresting him. Going to fuck every one of them.

Spent most of the night in “the chair,” like a fucking straightjacket, and sobered up enough to be released by noon, apologizing to friends, fellow cops, his bosses.

By three in the afternoon, he’d lost his job. Another handler would retrain and take care of Athena. Samson was banned from seeing her.

Everyone in the Twin Cities had seen the video. Over and over.

Liberal media all up in his business, digging for every wrong he’d ever done on the job. Let us count the ways:

Perps he and Athena had busted said Samson used racial slurs and excessive force.

Bullshit.

Colleagues say he’d come on shift hungover, joked inappropriately with women officers and staff, told filthy jokes to the men.

Like they didn’t come in hungover or coked up. Assholes. 

And come on – jokes are jokes, man.

Family – the brothers and sisters they could find willing to talk – said they’d never trusted him. Black sheep of the clan.

Of course not. Nine brothers and sisters. They all relished a chance to crap on each other.

His wife: “No comment.” But she left him two months later, sole custody of their daughter.

No comment indeed.

He’d voted for Trump twice.

He spoke his mind. 

Samson Trygg’s name was shit. 

If not for the mercy of his oldest brother, he might have never gotten another job. 

Security guard service, graveyard shift.

Where didn’t matter. They all felt the same. Home improvement, mall, sporting goods, industrial sites. Always a small office, bad coffee unless he brought his own, monitors to watch, reports to fill out, a few walks around the warehouse/store/factory. Never anything more dangerous than kids looking to break shit. Homeless trying to get out of the cold. Employees wanting to steal office supplies or piss on their boss’ desk. Yawn. If there were any real thieves, they never got in, not on Samson’s watch.

He popped a couple Oxys.

No more booze, easier than he thought. He attended the meetings, met with a counselor, all thinking it might help him get his job back. Or another cop job – deputy, highway patrol, small town stop sign monitor. 

Never going to happen. 

Persona non grata.  

Shamed by the internet. Canceled. Game over. 

Four more hours til sun up.

Wished he could see Devin’s face the next morning.

 

After work, Samson parked along a street in Chaska. The houses here were not your cookie cutter McMansions. The yards were larger, some funkier homes spaced out. There was no real “plan” that went into this area. Samson sat on a meandering road in a small town right outside the metro. Too far to be a suburb. What’s the word now, exburb? 

Behind the car, three lots down, was an ugly house. The cop who lived there didn’t think it was ugly. He took care of it, made little improvements. Widened the driveway so he could have more room to play basketball. Fenced part of the yard so Athena could enjoy the sun.

Yeah, Athena. Yeah, a Minneapolis cop’s house, way out in the exburbs. Most Minneapolis cops lived outside of the city. Something something family. Something something I’m not a racist, but…

Samson couldn’t afford to not live in Minneapolis. Anymore, anyway. After he lost his fucking mind, he moved out of the house in Hopkins, another small suburb, let his wife have it. Obviously. His kid needs a home. Now he lived in Elliot Park, near downtown. A shitty duplex, only one bedroom, one bath. His ex wouldn’t let him take Naomi there. Yet. The hell of it was that even there, he was probably going to get priced out soon. Young whites moving in, gentrifying. After this, he might end up in a cardboard box.

Never some place like Chaska.

Lots of trees. A big canopy on this side of the road, shadowing Samson’s truck. He had the windows down. Something about getting off work so early, hot, man. Wasn’t so much sweaty hot as fever hot. Every morning. He needed an ice-cold Pepsi. He needed to sit in front of the window unit in his apartment, drift to sleep in his recliner, chilled to the bone. 

All worth it, though. In the rearview, here they came. Here she came. Athena, happy and healthy. A pep in her step. Samson was glad to see. 

Holding her leash, a guy in baggy athletic shorts and Crocs, a Hard Rock Café – Orlando t-shirt, long faded. Short and curly red hair. 

Asshole.

He should be thanking this man, though. Didn’t know him when he was on the K-9 squad, but he volunteered soon after and was partnered with Athena. Name was Luke Pozdey, only a couple years on the force. From what Samson could tell, he treated her well. Never caught him saying a cross word to her. Walked her early in the morning and last thing at night. Real good.

They were coming closer. Samson slunk down in the seat, just enough he could still see over the edge of the window. 

If Pozdey caught him, Samson would be in big trouble. 

Maybe not “big” big trouble. He’d get a stern talking to, a fine he’d never pay, and maybe a piece of paper ordering him one last time to stay the fuck away from her.

Heard a cop friend once say, as Samson was talking about missing Athena, Why? You want to finish the job? His buddies sputtered laughing. Ha ha ha.

They didn’t get it. 

Like they’d never got pissed with their own partners. Like they’d never thrown punches. But anyone else tries it, motherfucker, it’s on. 

Before Athena, Samson’s human partner kicked him in the nuts. Also made him pay for every meal they ever had together. Slept in Samson’s guest room in Hopkins when his motherkicked him out of the house for smacking her around. 

Samson was pretty sure his partner fucked his wife while he was sleeping. 

He shouldn’t have gotten married. Not yet. Not to her. 

Pozdey was close now. “Good girl, good girl.”

Samson tightened in his seat. Saw the top of her, tail wagging, head held high.

He’d been doing this for weeks now, amazed she hadn’t picked up his scent. Did she know he was there? How could she not?   

And Pozdey, fuck. For a cop, his observational skills sure suck. This was the same truck Samson was driving the night he lost his fucking mind. Didn’t he know? Hadn’t they told him?

Metallic Red Dodge Ram Extended Cab, 1999. Forever filthy. Bad muffler. Ugly ass black steel rims. The bed is probably full of garbage bags full of beer cans he says he’s going to recycle, but he hasn’t for years now. Smells like stale beer. 

So far, not a second glance. Samson always parked in different places along the route. Different blocks, different angles. Still, that shouldn’t throw off one of Minneapolis’ finest…or her stupid ass handler. 

Again, Samson wasn’t playing fair. Anyone good enough to take on Athena after…

He sniffed. Really wanted that Pepsi soon. 

Pulled his cap low on his face now that the sun was higher. 

What he’d give to get out, call her over. Hold her close. 

She’d forgiven him. He knew she had. Without a doubt. 

Because he’d also waited once until Pozdey’s wife let Athena out in the yard for awhile. Samson had some of her favorite treats, peanut butter flavored. He walked beside the house, slowly, carefully, to the fence and waited for his good girlto notice. He knelt down. It was afternoon, and he hoped the neighbors wouldn’t rat him out. 

Athena did smell him. She trotted over. Stood back from the fence. Tilted her head to the side. 

“Hey, girl. Hey. Remember me? Come here, girl. Athena, come.”

Tilted her head the other way. 

Please don’t bark. Please don’t bark. 

He held a treat between slats on the fence.

Athena, still cautious, worked her way over. Head bowed. She sniffed the treat. Took it. Sniffed Samson’s fingers. Wagged her tail. Made a sad sound. 

He sat by the fence for several more minutes. “You doing okay? You like your new dad? Your new house? I’m sorry, girl. I’m so sorry. You know that, right?”

He held his fingertips through the slats and Athena brushed along them, back and forth. He gave her another treat. He cried, tried to keep it down. Gave him hiccups. 

Another few minutes, Pozdey’s wife called, “Athena? Where are you? C’mere girl!”

Athena didn’t seem like she wanted to leave. Such a trusting soul. It was all he wanted to know – has she forgiven me? 

Even if the rest of the world never will, I’m good. 

He’d been able to feed her more treats, spend a little more time with her. He could tell by her whimpers that she wanted him to stay. She wanted to jump on his lap. She wanted to hunt for bad guys with him. He stayed a little longer each time. 

The next time he showed up, there was a sign in the yard – Iron Alarm Security. In smaller type – “You home. Your fortress. Your peace of mind.”

Wonder what had tipped them off? 

Iron Alarm was owned by an ex-cop. Some serious shit to try evading.

That was the end of the backyard visits. 

He took what he could get. Morning walk, evening walk. Sometimes he had a chance to see her in action. Brought back memories. 

Anyway, if he didn’t have a life to live, a paycheck to earn, and groceries to buy…

Maybe he should give all that up. Sleep in the woods nearby Pozdey’s house. Always be Athena’s guardian angel. 

But he wasn’t there yet. 

Close, but not yet.

He cranked up and headed off. Passed them on their way home. Athena happy, proud. Pozdey so dumb, he shot Samson a wave like he was just another local. Mornin’.

Samson sniffed again, blinked sleep from his eyes. 

Sure, sleep. 

Not tears, goddamn it.  

Anthony Neil Smith is the author of numerous crime novels, including the Billy Lafitte series (including YELLOW MEDICINE and HOGDOGGIN’), award-winning ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, plus CASTLE DANGER: WOMAN ON ICE, WORM, SLOW BEAR, XXX SHAMUS, and more.

He is an English Professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. 

He likes cheap red wine and Mexican food. 

His dog is named Herman, and he is a good boy. (RIP Herman, 2009-2021)