Ricks & Hern | Nico Walker | Granta

Ricks & Hern

Nico Walker

Naturally, no partnership is perfect. Certain pieces will be at odds – you’ll have that. With these two, the oddities were a lot to do with generational frictions. Hern disliked hearing people younger than him cuss and he would dog curse Ricks on the infrequent occasions when Ricks ever did cuss, whereas, on the other hand, Hern was in the habit of using the N-word and Ricks had been taught to internalize his racism. But they made it work because they were the police and they had a job to do.

They’d been partners three weeks, the morning Hern told Ricks to pull onto the side street. There was a space in front of a fire hydrant next to an old church. Ricks parked the Charger and Hern got out and raided the clothes donation bin, returning with an outfit: an old, raw-wool pullover; a turquoise pair of lined parachute pants; and a black, oversized, trench coat.

‘If you’re ever going to be a proper narc, you’re gonna need some undercover experience, and I think you’re ready. I’ve got the go-ahead for you to infiltrate Lomax High. Put these on.’

‘Is this a prank, Sergeant? – a high school?’

‘This is no prank, Ricks. A lot of guys started their undercover careers this way. You know who Donnie Brasco is?’

‘It’s one of the DVDs in the Stress Room.’

‘Brasco was a real guy. He got his start undercover at a high school.’

‘Don’t kid me, Hern.’

‘Search Donnie Brasco if you don’t believe me.’

‘How do you spell his name?’

‘Like it sounds, Donnie with an i-e, not a y . . . Then space, Bra,’ Hern had anticipated Ricks might buck at the assignment, so he had edited the Wikipedia page for Donnie Brasco, ‘. . . s-c . . . o, that’s right . . . What does it say, Ricks?’

‘Uh . . . says, Donnie Brasco . . . a lot of stuff . . . hold on . . . conducted his first undercover sting operation assignment at . . . Lomax High School in the 1960s. Wow, I guess you were right.’

‘Apology accepted. Pop the trunk.’

Nico Walker

Nico Walker is the author of the novel Cherry. ‘Ricks & Hern’ is an excerpt from the forthcoming book The Dark Empath. He lives in New York City, with his wife.

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