An average and chubby real estate agent in Highland Park embarks on his own hardcore mission for justice, when his teenage daughter is run down by a pusher from an unscrupulous drug cartel.
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In the early 1900s, Henry Ford chose Highland Park, a city in Wayne County in the state of Michigan, as the site for his first great automobile factory and attracted tens of thousands of immigrants, especially Italians, for cheap labor. Today, Highland Park is a small city surrounded by the Detroit metropolitan area.
For Salvatore Maldini, an average man, a real estate agent, selling houses in this neighborhood was a war of attrition. Selling houses wasn’t his dream, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t the best job he could have, but it was okay. In a world of danger and insanity, a neighborhood that was immersed in crime and drugs, okay was actually close to perfect.
It was no coincidence that his name impacted his job, and he hated that. His father, Franco Maldini, was one of the most respected detectives of the Detroit Police Department, a regular street hero who busted open many big cases in his years, but all that progress and flourish against the stiff winds of crime only knocked him down in the end. He still had memories, like they were fresh, of touring the police station with his father and the late nights he’d work at home on the Schillaci case that ultimately got him killed.
Crime in Highland Park wasn’t as grim and gritty as many people thought. Crime was a polished car worth the cost of a small home; it was gold rings and Italian leather and custom ordered silk dresses. It was an old school kind of crime that didn’t show itself in the light that often. It hid its blood stains by mixing them with wine. The crime that could live right next door in a good and decent neighborhood, and knowing that made Salvatore’s job even harder.
The one saving grace from his daily grind was his family. He’d managed to avoid most of the trail his father’s legacy had left behind him, avoiding the danger of police work in favor of the safety of a civilian life, with his greatest act of protection being to earn and provide for his wife, Contessa, and their precious teenage daughter, Viola. But even doing your best to avoid the hell in the streets isn’t enough sometimes.
One day, returning from work in the pouring rain, and one step closer to closing on the sale of a house, Salvatore arrived on Pilgrim Street and saw a terrible scene. A biker had been hit by a fleeing car. He wanted to avoid the accident but couldn’t. The whole road was blocked off by the police and the ambulance. When he looked out his window past the flashing lights to the body of the poor victim, his breathing started to stall. Then his whole body began to shiver.
It was the same bike he had bought earlier that year, the same curly hair under the helmet that he watched grow every day, and when they finally picked her up on to the stretcher, it was the same face of the daughter he loved. His Viola, wrecked on the side of the road by some unseen maniac.
He followed the ambulance to the hospital. She was in critical condition. His wife came from the call, sobbing and panicked. Viola had to be put in a coma and operated on. Her life was barely stable, and the criminal was unseen, like they’d never been there at all.
All of Salvatore’s calls for action and insistence over days turning to weeks were answered with the same disappointing desk-job etiquette of the police force he’d come to despise from watching his own father work around it until his life ended:
“We are sorry, but there is nothing we can do.”
Cops exist for a reason. They exist to help people and pursue the cause of justice. They find criminals and make them pay for what they did against the average people and victims born of their actions. Whether it was justified or an act of desperation, their actions fell to the higher hands of police, judge and jury. No matter what wrong was committed, the police had the duty to return an equitable degree of justice against it. His father was the same way, working so hard for justice that he’d died.
The laziness he was faced with boiled his blood. If they wouldn’t do it, he would instead. He sold one last house and decided that, if the police wouldn’t serve justice, if they wouldn’t live up to the legacy his father died to create for them, then he would do it. He signed up for the Detroit Police Academy with fire in his eyes and fury in his chest.
It took a week. That was all he was given. Once the physical exam results came back, he was shown the door. He was not ready to be an officer. He was average at best as a real estate agent. An adulthood of desk jobs and bare minimum effort had slacked his body to the point where he couldn’t move the way they wanted, to do what was needed. His number wasn’t called, and when confronted by the very officers he was desperate to outdo, he was dejected.
“Don't quit your day job, Salvatore. You can’t be like your dad was. That goal is too high, even for some of the guys who passed.”
It didn’t make him angry. Trying and failing didn’t aggravate him. Being rejected didn’t anger him either. What kept his anger hot was the lack of concern that was being given to his daughter’s life. Her surgeries were successful, and she was awake but still so hurt that she couldn’t be the same girl she had been before. She lived, but there had been no justice. She was just a statistic, a number, a failed roll call just like he was at the academy. Justice had failed him. That’s what made him angry.
His father had a saying he used to explain why some criminals did what they did. It was offered to Salvatore when he was just a little boy, but it remained true all through his life.
“Angry men take action.” He felt that anger, the need to do something; whether it was right or not didn’t matter.
He’d watched his father on the job enough to know how to act like a police officer, even if he couldn’t move like one or be like one. And he also knew, through the life he lived watching his father and seeing the repercussions of his actions take form, that letting his family know what he was doing would only put them in any danger he attracted.
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