The Life and Times of Roy Earle

Roy Earle was an asshole. It was a fact - plain, hard and simple, and everybody knew it. He lied, cheated, schemed, insulted, back-stabbed, abused and got drunk at every opportunity he could. He was a popular man in terms of acquaintances, but had no real friends. He'd grown up in an abusive household - a father with one foot out the door and the other in his son's ribs and a mother who barely even knew his name.

From the get-go, he'd been taught to fight dirty. He knew how to play poker by the time he was seven and how to cheat like an expert by the time he was nine. He roughed up younger kids for their pocket change and stole their packed lunches to fill his always empty stomach. He'd sneak into classrooms and rifle through the teacher's desks to find anything he could pawn.

By the time he was fifteen, he was well-known amongst the L.A. underground as a mole and thief. He'd do odd jobs for various gangs, help them break into a variety of stores and come away with fat wads of cash which he usually blew on booze and peanuts. He lived alone in a dingy apartment block that he could only just afford, with bullet holes in the walls and dried patches of vomit. He kept a pistol under his pillow, always loaded. He'd needed it more than once.

At seventeen, he was tall, gangly and his ribs stuck out far more than any teenage boys' should. But he had muscle in his arms and plenty of street savvy in his head, which was plenty enough to get him by. He'd slump against the walls of alleys with a Stanley knife in his jacket pocket, waiting for somebody who looked loaded and vulnerable.

On one such occasion, he'd picked out a prime target. A couple of boys, not much younger than Roy, with fresh faces and full pockets.

He'd been tailing them for a good ten minutes, listening in on their conversations - there was never a good chance to corner them without plenty of witnesses around. So far, all they'd been discussing was some girl called Sandy Branson, and how much they'd both love to bring her to the dance. Roy had to hold back a laugh - was this really all that was on their minds?

After fifteen minutes, the subject changed from girls to careers. The first boy, Abe, Roy thought his name was, gasbagged about his job at the service station, and how he wanted to go into car dealership when he was old enough (as if the world needed another seedy car dealer, Roy thought). He then asked the other how his job at the bookstore was going.

The other, Cole, the more baby-faced of the two, then seemed to puff out his chest.

"It's going well, Abe. But I won't be there for long." He stated proudly. "I'm going to be an officer of the law. I'm gonna stand up for this society, and make this town a better place."

Roy held back another laugh. Was this guy for real?

In the short space between the kid's haughty proclamation and his friend's incredibly ridiculous burst of applause, Roy saw an opening. The street was clear, and they were turning down a narrow shortcut between two buildings.

Speeding up, Roy closed the gap between them, and once they were far enough into the shortcut, pulled out his knife.

"Okay, boys, hands up."

The two span 'round on their heels, letting out little yelps when they saw his blade. The blood drained from Abe's face, and Cole's eyes were the size of dinner plates. Roy held out his hand.

"Money." He said shortly.

Abe nodded immediately, turning his pockets inside out and emptying the contents into Roy's hand, a few gum wrappers and bits of lint accompanying the coins and notes. Roy gave him a smirk, pocketing the money.

"Good. Now you." He jabbed his knife at Cole, money hand outstretched, only to find a very different face to the frightened, puppy-like one from before. His eyes were like steel, his mouth a thin, hard line and his fists clenched. He looked Roy right in the eye before saying -

"No."

Roy raised an eyebrow and he heard Abe make an odd whimpering noise.

"I beg your fucking pardon, asshole? I don't think you're in any position to be defying me - I could slit your throat right now."

Cole said nothing. He simply stared into Roy's eyes, unblinking, face never changing. Roy had to admit... it made him a little uncomfortable. Beside him, Abe was panicking.

They stood there, still as statues, for a good few seconds, like a Western standoff, before Abe made another strange sound and dug his hands into Cole's pockets for him, practically throwing the money at Roy.

"Here!" He cried, voice breaking in fear. "Just take it and go! You don't need to hurt us!"

Roy shoved the money in his pocket, never breaking eye contact with Cole or lowering his knife. Another few moments passed wherein they simply stared at each other, their expressions mirrored, before Roy smirked again.

"Nice doing business with you, fellas." He said simply before taking a few steps back and legging it back down the street and out of sight.

Once he was alone in an alley a good ten minutes away, he stopped to catch his breath, and felt his heart pounding in his chest. He hadn't ever been stood up to like that before. He'd had victims fight back, sure, but never just flat out refuse to hand over their money. And Roy felt that, even if Abe hadn't passed over Cole's money, he wouldn't have been able to hurt him.

His chest felt tight, and he hated it, so he quickly made his way home, downing half a bottle of whisky the moment he was in the door. He collapsed on his bed and stared at the mouldy ceiling, thinking about what had just happened - about Cole's face and that proud voice - and eventually fell into a fitful sleep.

When he turned eighteen, Roy decided to try and turn it around. He wasn't sure why he was, and he sure as Hell knew it wasn't going to be easy, given his reputation, but... he was going to try. He applied for a job at a drugstore close to his apartment and got it, surprisingly, as he'd helped rob the place only a few months prior.

He worked well for a solid year, and was eventually stable enough to move, and managed to score a place right by the movie theatre. Old ways not completely died out, he snuck into a different film every Saturday, as a kind of treat for going well that week.

At nineteen, he saw the advert for young men wanting to train for the L.A.P.D., and on a whim, signed himself up. He trained long, and he trained hard, but every day felt odd, and Roy knew why - he was expecting Cole. Two years, and still he dwelled on that boy almost every night.

And it was that he couldn't work out. Why this kid? There wasn't anything particularly special about him, was there? He was attractive, yes, but not in such a way that it would stop one in his tracks when traipsing down the street. He didn't have any particular air about him - not one of wisdom or shyness or confidence...

Except when he talked about joining the police force.

Roy pushed the confusing thoughts from his mind (or at least tried to) for the next several years, and achieved more than he'd ever have thought possible with a background such as his. He ploughed through case after case, desk after desk, partner after partner, before he and Archie (the only partner he'd been able to stand) were promoted to Vice, and he made senior detective.

He'd kept plenty of his underground contacts, of course, but now he was snitching for both sides. Using funds from the many bribes taken over the years, he bought himself his dream - a brand new, scorching red Cadillac Series 62 Convertible. The Captain, Cafarelli, even fitted it out with a radio and siren so he could flaunt it on the job.

It had all been going so well, so perfectly, his life was becoming so right... until the day Golden Boy turned up.

There was talk in his department of a kid who'd only been on patrol for a few hours before being promoted to Traffic, and everybody wanted to get a glimpse at him. Size him up; find out how much of a threat he was. Roy was interested, obviously, but even more so when he heard the name -

Cole Phelps.

Roy hadn't caught his victim's last name, but the name Cole wasn't incredibly common - there was some chance, right? He waltzed on in to the Traffic office, face showing confidence he didn't really have, and as the officers turned 'round to greet him... there he was. He'd barely changed at all. A little weather-beaten from the war, perhaps, but he still looked like he'd just finished college and he still had those huge, innocent eyes.

A few months passed, with the two running into each other occasionally, either around the station or when they were all out for drinks. He'd force himself upon Cole at times - take him and his stupid Polish partner out to the Blue Room, seek him out at his office, follow him around when he was driving around and pop up if he stopped to get gas or coffee.

He pulled strings left, right and centre to get Cole up to Vice. They worked well together (although Roy did have to get his car repaired once or twice a week), and managed to solve the case Cole had dubbed 'the Black Caesar' with much praise from the department.

That night, Roy found himself with Cole at the Blue Room, listening to Elsa Lichtman - the dumb whore - weave some of her vocal magic. Cole had been nursing his scotch all evening, and barely said a word the entire time. He kept his eyes trained on Elsa and the dancers swaying before her microphone, but just occasionally, his eyes would flit over to Roy.

On his third glass of whisky, Roy was toying with the thought of leaving, when Cole spoke.

"I remember you, you know, Roy." It was quiet, but Roy heard it clearly. He raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his drink.

"What do you mean, partner?"

"Nineteen thirty seven. You backed me and my friend up in an alley and took our money."

Silence between them for a few moments, only Elsa's soft words and the quiet murmurings of the other patrons reminding him they weren't alone.

"...And how d'you know that was me, huh? I'm sure you've been mugged plenty of times."

Cole's lips twitched the tiniest bit, almost indiscernible, and he gave Roy a quick, smooth look that melted him like a snowflake in the sunshine.

"You don't forget eyes like that, Roy."