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10

This was either a joke or I’d finally snapped. Mr Action-hero, sitting here plain and bright as day–and–he’s my lawyer?

“What the fuck is going on” I stage whispered not sure if I could trust anything that was happening. The room had to be bugged, or video recorded or something–maybe there were a bunch of people standing behind the glass just waiting to rush in and laugh at me. Of course this guy wasn’t a killer– things like that don’t just happen after all–people don’t just murder cops and then walk into a police station unmolested.

“What, you don’t want a lawyer? Way I hear it you’re a bad man. Like Ali in his prime, no?” he laughed and pushed his briefcase aside so he could lean closer to me his arms reaching across the table. “Seems you’ve been out doing the dirt.  Killed some welfare trash on a bus and then–” his mouth formed an O of mock surprise as he pantomimed consulting a paper “–why it says here you killed an officer of the law!”

I shook my head and screwed my eyes tightly shut “N-no! We both know it was you that killed those people! Why? What the hell is going on here?!?”  it took all I had to keep from screaming in his face. I wasn’t cut out for this insanity. Whatever was going on in his world I wanted no part of. Then it clicked “A-are you going to. . . kill me?”

“What? Heaven forfend! I’m your lawyer, Mr Shannon! And clearly you need help.” He nodded his head and put on a concerned look “maybe more than the kind of help I can provide.Maybe–” He paused and looked off  “maybe you need a doctor?”  He laughed at that and leaned across the table to whisper conspiratorially “do you think if I leave and come back in a lab coat they’ll think I’m a doctor, too?”

“So what’s to stop me from telling them the truth? I mean what if I called the guard back right now and told them you’re the real killer?” A small spark started building in me when the look on his face fell away, leaving him looking almost lost.

He leaned back in his chair raising his arms behind his head and staring at the ceiling for a moment, considering the possibility. After a moment or two he leapt to his feet and spun toward the door to knock loudly against the small safety window. “Let’s find out, shall we?!” he smiled gleefully and called out “Guard! Guard! Someone come quick!”

A guard appeared at the window and motioned Mr Action-hero to stand back. The guard entered the room, his hand hovering over a can of pepper spray “What’s going on?” he asked, looking between me and the fake lawyer.

“Ask him.” Mr Action-hero pointed at me “Go ahead, Mr Shannon. Tell the guard what you just told me. Please.” He smiled at me encouragingly.

I hesitated a second, prepared for just about anything, including getting pepper sprayed. “He–“I stopped to clear my throat “He’s the man you’re looking for.” I said nodding my head toward Mr Action-hero.

The guards hand dropped from its position over the can of pepper spray and he straightened slightly “What? Looking for who?”

“The man that killed the other police officer.” I said and looked again at Mr Action-hero.

He chimed in to add “Oh, don’t forget about the two on the bus.” he smiled at the guard and looked expectantly at me.

“N-no, of course. Them too; he killed those people.” I confirmed.

“Seriously?” The guard turned and looked at Mr Action-hero “It’s crazy out there tonight, bro, and you gotta waste my time with this shit?”  The guard shook his head “Don’t call me again until you’re ready to leave.” With that, the guard stepped through the door and muttered “asshole” as he once more locked us inside the room.

Well of course. This is some prank show, obviously. That’s how a guard would react in this situation, right? Then in a couple more minutes someone–maybe one of my co-workers–is going to pop through the door with the camera crew and tell me I’d been had.

Mr Action-hero resumed his seat and held his arms out wide “Well? How’d that work out for you?” he let out a small sigh “let me clue you in, ‘kay? The police have found their suspect.” he said and extended his index finger toward me “they’re not looking for anyone else. In fact, they don’t want to hear it, because as far as their concerned you’re guilty; hell you’re halfway to being shanked in the showers even as we speak. The only real question is are they going to have another inmate do it, or are they just going to piss all over you then stab you a few times themselves and tell the medico’s you were attacked in the shower?” He tapped a finger against his chin as if contemplating what the outcome would be. “No, my friend you are well and truly fucked. The system has someone to blame and the case is closed.:

“So what, is this just how you get your kicks then?” I leaned forward, the anger rising in me when I realized he was probably right. The police didn’t want to spend more time looking for the truth, they just wanted a scapegoat and they’d stuck the horns on my head. “What do you want from me? If you’re not here to kill me you–what–came to perform your own brand of psychological torture on me? You like pulling the wings off flies, too?” For some reason my little diatribe seemed to stop him cold. I waited for him to spew more of his weird attempt-to-be-comedic bullshit at me.

“Actually, I’m here to help you.” He said, sitting forward once more, looking serious “See, for some reason I can’t stop thinking about you. I know you from somewhere or for some reason, but I can’t recall exactly what.” His brow furrowed as he stared at my face looking for a hint of recognition from me “the question I have now, is how exactly am I going to help you get out of here?”

I understood now that old saw about drowning men and their need to clutch at straws to save themselves.” I’m guessing you’re not really a lawyer, right? “I asked trying to find anything in this situation that made sense “All right. Let’s say I believe you–believe any of this–why do you want to help me? Because we were playground buddies in second grade?”

He held out his arms again and shrugged. “Call it my good deed for the day. Maybe I just feel sad for you–for what’s about to happen– and I need to save somebody.” He sat back in his chair and regarded me for a second before cracking a smile “No, just kidding. That’s what I’d say that if I had a conscience, but no, seriously; I know you from somewhere and if I don’t figure it out, I’ll just drive myself crazy thinking about it.”

He stood up and walked around the small room. “So what do you say? You want to be killed by the system or take your chances with me?”

I watched him pace back and forth a bit before answering. “I’ll take my chances with the system.”

He stopped pacing and stared. “Okay. Don’t say I didn’t try.” At that he knocked on the door and scooped up his briefcase and waited.

“Wait–I mean” I tried to think of a reason to put my trust in this lunatic “I don’t even know your name.”

He looked out the window; the guard was taking his time after the little stunt he’d pulled. “Ted–Johnston? I think.” he shrugged “I don’t remember what they told me.”

They? Who the hell are they? I thought but didn’t ask. “No, I–uh, I mean, your real name?”

He scratched his head and looked at me as if I’d asked him to name the capitals of all fifty states. “Drill.”

Drill? Like drill sergeant?”

“No. Drill, like I put holes in people.” his head snapped around as the guards face appeared at the window again.

I could hear the guard fumbling the keys in the lock and wanted to ask more questions now, but my time was up.

Drill turned and looked at me as the guard finally got the door open “Well, Mr Shannon, I wish you the best of luck and I hope you find an attorney more suited to meet your specific needs.” He turned and I saw him make a little motion to the guard, indicating to the man that I was crazy. The guard rolled his eyes a bit and nodded, smirking slightly.

Drill turned to look back at me as he stepped through the door “You take care now.”  he gave made a gun out of his finger and thumb and mimicked shooting at me as the guard closed the door behind him.

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9

The sun hadn’t fully cleared the horizon and already my phone was ringing. I expected a full ass-reaming for killing the cop, but I thought they would at least have the decency to wait until a civilized hour. I picked up the phone and listened for the noises that indicated the line was being rendered secure.

“Your buddy is about to be in a world of hurt.” She began without prelude once the phone had connected.

“My buddy? What are you talking about? You do realize I’m not even on the clock yet?”

“Word came in from one of our civilian listening posts; the police got approval for a no-knock on the residence of one Thomas A. Shannon, 27, resident of . . .”

I cut her off before she could fill my ears with a bunch of useless information “For what? Did we finally find something on him?”

“According to the affidavit he’s being arrested for three murders he’s believed to have committed. Two of which occurred on a bus and one involving a police officer . . . Stop me when this starts to sound familiar to you.”

“He’s being arrested for what I did? Sweet. Well that works out nicely for you guys doesn’t it? Deniability?” I chuckled.

“It makes no difference to us. We don’t need deniability in the piddly little things you do; we’re the government. We kill people by the city full. I was doing this for you since you seemed to have an interest in him.”

“All right. Is there any chance you can spring him for me?” I asked as I reached for my notepad and began scribbling down a few of the things I had recalled the night before.

“A chance? Sure. No chance is a chance, right?”

I would have sworn at that moment she was making a joke. Can you hear someone smile? She was practically giggling.

“Fine. Where is he?” my pen hovered above the paper waiting for her response.

She hesitated “You can’t go get him. We can’t authorize that.”

“Why? I thought you didn’t need deniability for the piddly little things I did?” Maybe you can’t hear someone smile but I’d bet a gold dollar I could hear her sweat.

“It’s one thing to do what you’ve been doing, but walking into a police station and going Chuck Norris on them is something completely different.  Besides, they’d kill you before you got anywhere near him.”

“All the more reason for you to spring him. Can’t you rendition him or something? Work your government black-ops hoodoo?” Time to turn up the pressure “Oh, and thanks for the reassuring comments on my skill-set. Do you want me to take that as a challenge? Because I will . . .”

“Let me see what we can do. Wait one.”

The line disconnected and I sat there smiling. Nothing like threatening to expose a supremely illegal operation by getting yourself killed in a big bad public way to get the wheels set in motion.

—-

The phone rang again a short time later and I picked up waiting patiently for the clicks and buzzing to end to ensure the line was secure, but there was none of that this time.

“Is this Mr Johnson?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“Uh, yes?”  I couldn’t recall if I had been given a cover name, but only two people had this phone number so if someone called it had to be intended for me.

“Mr Johnson, my name is Lena Griffin, from Legal Aid?” she said waiting for me to acknowledge her.

“Okay?”

“Yes, well. We were contacted by the police earlier; they have a Mr Thomas Shannon in custody and your name came up as being available to represent him. Is that a possibility?”

“Of course! Where is Mr Shannon being held?”  I smiled into the phone and hurriedly wrote down the address. “Of course, of course. Happy to help. Let Mr Shannon know I’m on my way!”

I hung up the phone and began looking for some clothes that would tell people I was a lawyer who represented the indigent and disenfranchised.  I didn’t have anything that you could call a disguise and I was worried I’d be too recognizable. I looked at myself in the mirror and smiled.

No way would a man who just killed a cop wander into a police station like he just belonged there. Why, that’d be insane!

I smoothed my hair back and checked my reflection in the mirror once more. I gave myself a winning smile then toned it down a bit. I was a lawyer that represented the poor, not a rich criminal defense lawyer. Best to not look too happy.

—-

I paused in front of the doors to the police station to adjust my tie and straighten the reading glasses I’d picked up at the drugstore on my way downtown. I was doing a pretty decent wannabe-scumbag lawyer impression and I thought I might be able to get away with this as long as no one gave me an overlong glance.

I dialed back my ebullience another notch and cleared my throat. Looking in the glass a final time I admonished myself once more to be serious and dour-looking.

A police officer opened the door for me as I entered the foyer and nodded at me as I thanked him. Not even a second glance.  Approaching the desk I reminded myself not to smile at the receptionist there.

“Hello, my name is . . .” the tiny smile I had cooked up died on my lips. I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be called. I mumbled an approximation of a name and pretended to be looking for something in a pocket “I’m here to see my client, Thomas Shannon. I believe you’re holding him here?”

The receptionist nodded and typed something into a computer. “You’re Johnson, from Legal Aid?”

I smiled “Johnson! That’s me!”

The receptionist gave me an odd look and nodded. “You can wait over there,” she said gesturing to a row of plastic bench seats “an officer will be along in a bit to escort you back to the consultation area.”

I smiled and took a seat opening the empty brief case I’d brought. “Should have put a legal pad in here or something” I muttered under my breath. I looked around trying not to be too obvious about it and was sufficiently assured that I was safe. It was just as I thought; the police didn’t look twice at me. A false sense of security overrode their good sense, safe as they were in their den.

I wasn’t sure if the police station would have metal detectors so I’d left my sidearm at the apartment. I brought a plethora of weapons with me, only one–pepper spray–was immediately recognizable as such. I also carried a tactical pen; a hollow steel tube pointed at one end and currently holding a cheap disposable ink pen. The other weapon I carried wouldn’t even make a TSA agent blink: a set of keys on a solid steel ring with a foot and half length of 550 cord knotted up and worn as a lanyard. I’d added a couple of innocuous looking key fob type things for extra weight. Wearing the lanyard around my neck made me look even more like a low-rent lawyer just out of law school.

I waited for what felt like a day before a dumpy looking police sergeant approached me and crooked one finger at me and grunted “Follow me,” turning away before I had a chance to acknowledge him.

I was escorted down a long hallway to a small, but well lit room with several chairs and cheap industrial carpeting to set off the pale yellow cinder block walls. I set the empty briefcase on the table and nodded politely to the guard who grimaced at me and shut the door.

A few moments later the door opened and the sergeant reappeared shoving his charge through the door. I stood and turned with my hand out to greet my friend.

“Hello, Mr Shannon! I’m your attorney, Jon Thompson!” The guard gave me a look and then pulled the door closed behind him. Shannon stood there, wide eyed before I ushered him to a seat.

I smiled as I took the seat opposite him “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”

8

The morning headlines were not encouraging. According to witnesses present at the Occupy rally grounds, two attendees had gotten into some kind of squabble over drugs before one of them pulled out a pistol and shot the other in the head and chest. I had been wanting to go to the rally and check it out, but seeing this kind of violence among the most liberal set made me rethink that idea.

I was still in bed and it was approaching 7:00 AM; I had to get up soon and get ready for work. My employers had extended me a couple of emergency leave days courtesy of calls from the police to explain why I hadn’t been at work. Part of me wished that the police would come knocking again so I could skip work. I rolled out of bed and stood in front of the wall mount air conditioner for a minute enjoying the tiny bit of cool air the unit was managing to put out.

I grabbed the slacks I had worn the previous day, examining them for obvious stains. I slipped the pants on and began looking for a clean shirt. The light in my closet was obscured by a proliferation of clothes nearly negating the output of the little fluorescent light bulb. I was bent down to get the clothes up off the floor when a sound like a gunshot came from the living room. I looked through the bedroom door and saw a powerful flashlight sweeping around the living room area; my action-hero stalker friend must have finally come to call.

I jumped into the closet behind a stack of blankets and clothes meant for the wash. I hurriedly pulled some of the clothes over me and tried to still my breathing which was coming now in harsh ragged gasps.  I tried to lie still beneath the blankets, but my hands were shaking and I felt the overwhelming urge to use the bathroom right this minute.

I heard several voices coming from the living room and dining room area of my little house calling out “CLEAR!” followed by the muted tones of conversation that I couldn’t make out. I saw what I had to assume was a man –judging by size alone– enter my bedroom, covered head to foot in black including the helmet on his head with a long black gun pointed at my bed. The gun swept a half arc around my bedroom before settling on the closet area where I was hidden. The black clad figure waved his hand and another similarly dressed individual entered my bedroom; no words were exchanged between the two figures, just a couple of quick hand gestures. The first one to enter the bedroom turned back to my bed, grabbing the mattress and box spring lifting with one hand as the other managed the rifle he had slung across one shoulder.

Again the two figures exchanged a silent glance and nodded to each other before turning back to my hiding spot. This time the two, looking for all the world like executioners, reached forward and switched on small flashlights attached to their guns.  Even through the thin blanket I had over my head the light from the two flashlights was intense almost blinding me as they swept over the pile of clothes covering my body.

The figures glanced toward each other, the more recent arrival dropped to one knee and thrust his rifle forward into the closet.

“Got him! Bedroom!” the crouching man yelled as his friend leaped into the closet tearing away the thin subterfuge that had kept me hidden. The men began yelling commands as they pulled me out of the closet and yanked my arms behind my back. “Keep your hands where I can see them!!!Are there any weapons in the house?! Why were you hiding in the closet?! Do you have any weapons on you?! GET YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM, MOTHERFUCKER!”

I tried to answer their questions but one of them had his knee on my neck so that I could barely breathe, much less talk. My bedroom was now filled with people pointing guns at me, most of them yelling commands or questions at me so that it was like a stereo with an echo. I tried to turn my head so I could see who they were. There were no badges or identification I could see: only men dressed in black with guns.

“Thomas Shannon?” one of the figures asked, kneeling down to look me in the eyes “Are you Thomas Shannon?”

I grunted an affirmative response and was yanked to my knees by unseen hands.  “Who are you people? What the . . . “

“You are under arrest for the murders of DeMarcus Johnson, Ty’rel Sanford and Officer Dave Minges.” Said the masked man.

I stared at the man, mouth agape. “Murder?!? What? How?” I had plenty of questions now that I could talk, but the invaders weren’t answering. Instead I was given a Miranda warning as I was hauled out of my house to an awaiting black truck that looked like it was part armored car part sci-fi movie escape vehicle. I could see most of the people in my neighborhood–those that didn’t have jobs anyway–had come out to watch the spectacle as I was unceremoniously tossed into the back of the truck.

One of the masked men waiting in the back of the truck pulled me upright and spun me around. I felt the restraints being removed from my hands as my new masked acquaintance spun me around yet again exchanging my old restraints for a set of handcuffs.

“Arms up” he said and yanked on the handcuffs when I didn’t immediately raise my arms.

A heavy vest of some kind was placed over my head and secured with Velcro around my torso.  The man forced me into a sitting position and then attached a label to the front of the vest I was wearing that now said prisoner on it. He sat down across from me and picked up a rifle like the others had held.

“Cop killer. Wouldn’ta guessed it.” He said before bringing up the end of his rifle and driving it into my face; before I lost consciousness I heard him yell “Stop resisting!” My world became a blur of nausea inducing blackness until we reached the police station.

—-

7

Trying to run back to my apartment, soaked through every bit of clothing I had on was making me laugh. I couldn’t get on a bus anywhere near D.C. since I’m pretty sure my face is plastered all over and the fact that I was soaking wet would only add to the looks I would get. I knew I was going to catch seven kinds of hell on my next check in for killing the cop, but that was part of the job. The trip though town after climbing out of the sludgy, oily waters of the Potomac had cleared my head. I had an idea now about my mystery friend.

I kept my head down throughout most of my walk, not because I was afraid of being spotted, but trying to still the fleeting images that kept popping up in my mind. I was on autopilot as I walked, but realized I was nearing my aerie when I began to hear the low sounds coming from the Occupiers–the new generation of wannabe- hippies looking for something to be outraged over instead of looking for a job–and could see the faint lights of their camp that had been left on to keep the monsters away.I smiled as I thought ‘all this monster wants to do is get some clean clothes and a shower’.

The building where my aerie was looked rundown, verging on abandoned. If you managed to get past the locked doors of the entry way–which you wouldn’t without a tactical battering ram attached to a vehicle–you’d be confronted by a nearly hidden entry consisting of a vault door opened by a numerically keyed lock that only I and my employers could access. I had been assured that the frame around the vault door was sufficiently reinforced so that short of high explosives it wasn’t going to be a weak point for anyone trying to get into the building.

I keyed in the code to the vault door and waited a couple of seconds for the locks to disengage and pop the door open. I heard the hum of electric motors and stood back as the door opened just enough for me to squeeze through. When I was being recruited for this job I was given the opportunity to explore several places I could use as a hide and this building was perfect; a developer had purchased this and several other buildings just after the September 11th attacks and converted the place into a fortress. If the developer had been a little more farsighted he probably wouldn’t have lost the building when the subprime mortgage bubble popped and caught a bunch of high fliers like him out.

I liked the old converted office building above all the others I saw even though it only had two livable spaces; one near the fifth floor and one in the basement. The aerie had been hardened by layer upon layer of steel girders and cross-bracing meant to make the building impervious to –I supposed–an airplane smacking into it. I’m sure it was ‘a great loft space, with tons of storage room and a fantastic view into downtown’; there was probably more to it, but real-estate had never been something I’d bothered to examine too closely.

There were two methods of getting up to the aerie, a long spindly steel staircase and a freight elevator. Normally I’d run the stairs, but my swim had left me feeling a little tired so I settled for a slow ride up in the elevator. I opened the protective gate at the top and looked around for signs that any of my gear had been disturbed. Just because your average robber couldn’t get into this place didn’t mean the people I worked for wouldn’t come snooping around.

I looked around for a few minutes before I was satisfied everything was as I’d left it and then stripped out of my damp clothes. I heard a thunk as my jeans hit the floor and realized I still had the cops gun tucked into the front pocket; I made a note to get rid of it in the morning.

The windows here on the top floor of the aerie provided me an almost 360 degree view. I moved over to the 85mm Zeiss spotting scope and looked out toward the river. Even with the powerful optics I couldn’t really see much activity except for several helicopters buzzing around the area where I had ditched the police car, betrayed at this distance only by their searchlights.

Satisfied that the local LEO’s weren’t going to be knocking on–or down–my door at any minute I walked to the other side of the aerie and picked up my custom built Savage BA 110 in its Accuracy International stock and looked down into the Occupiers camp. I rested my finger lightly alongside the trigger, careful not to accidentally apply the three pounds of pressure necessary to fire a round  and took aim at a head sporting blonde dreadlocks sitting around what I guessed had to be a drum-circle.

“Fucking hippies” I could hear the sneer in my voice and I laughed. I didn’t care about them or their political beliefs, but saying things like that certainly made me look like the kind of guy my employers so desperately wanted me to be. I scanned around the camp looking for more possibles. I put the rifle down long enough to grab paper and pen and scribble down some notes. I took a seat behind the big Savage as I put a handloaded .338 Lapua Magnum round into the chamber and slid the bolt home.

I kept scanning faces, but wasn’t seeing the desired combatants. Maybe come morning they would be there–it was possible they didn’t sleep in the camps overnight; even with the powerful nightvision scope it was sometimes hard to pick out other ethnicities in low light conditions.  I flipped through the notepad   sitting on my leg until I got to the sketch I had made of the Occupiers camp, looking between it and my scope to see if any changes had been made since this morning.

The tripod my rifle sat on swung freely as I slowly scoped the ground before me. I let the gun rest a second as I had glassed one of my checkpoints, a sort of refreshment stand kind of thing that gave out water in bottles or refilled containers for the throngs of people in the space below me.  A few new tents had appeared that weren’t in my sketch, but that wasn’t what caught my eye. Several people were milling around the refreshment stand; the leader of the small group was making excited gestures and likely zealously yelling at the people around him.

Perfect.

I slid the aerie’s window fully open and adjusted the tripod, moving the gun back and away from the window so the pressure of the round coming out of the muzzle wouldn’t shatter the glass. I looked through the scope again and pressed the button for the camera-like device sitting atop my scope to take a picture for confirmation. I made a note in my officially unofficial notepad: M/20’s/Black and a note for one of the people he was talking to M//20’s/Hispanic?

I shrugged it off. I’d have to wait til the sun was up to try and confirm that one. This would be easier if they’d just put some of their undercover’s back into the group and start marking them with the infrared dye again. I shook the thought away and got back on the gun.

The preacher was still there railing at his impromptu congregation; a multitude of heads nodded in agreement every time he pointed in the direction of the White House. I waited until the preacher finished his diatribe–it was the polite thing to do– and then squeezed the trigger.

“So long, brotha.”

I put an X on the note I had written next to his description. I’d turn that one in tomorrow along with the photo. I shut the window and took the rifle off its tripod before I closed the blinds. Time now to get some sleep. I yawned and stretched out on a pallet next to my rifle. ‘Maybe I should take up swimming’ I thought, drifting into sleep.

6

This was the most involvement I’d ever had with the police and it was wearing on me. But like any system you learn shortcuts; you get used to working with people and rules you don’t really understand. I’d been interrogated for four hours after the action-hero showed up on my street in what was practically the middle of the night.

At least the police station was air conditioned.

In my life I’d seen enough TV to get the idea that the police who were questioning me thought I knew this guy. The interrogation had started off simply enough with them asking me to come in and make a statement. Then it was ‘good cop, bad cop’, and now they were trying a subtle form of torture.

I’d been given a bottle of water. Then another. And another. Soon I’d drank several bottles and was in desperate need of a urinal. I’d even settle for a tree in a secluded spot out back. All the bottles save for the last one had been cleared away as I finished them. The bottle I had left would not be enough to hold the flood I felt building up in my bladder.

I could understand they needed to investigate and confirm that I wasn’t involved with this psycho. I got it, really, but was it necessary to treat me like this? I’m a citizen; a taxpayer even! I’ve never been in trouble in my life and now I’m being treated like a criminal!

My whole body felt like it was buzzing with the need now. I got up and knocked on the mirrored glass, then moved to stand in front of the door. I glanced down at my watch. Thirty seconds passed; I put my hand on the door handle and tried to turn it. It wouldn’t budge. If the door was locked though, didn’t that mean I was under arrest? I glanced around looking for a call button or anything that might get their attention.

Other than the table and chairs, the room was just as empty as it had been the last eighteen times I’d looked at it. This time I banged on the door, adding a kick I hoped would get someone’s attention. Another minute had passed with no response. I decided to wait a little bit longer and then I was going to use the water bottle to relieve myself.

I turned away from the door resolved to fill up the bottle  and more when the door finally opened.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, but we’re kind of busy tonight” This was another detective, one I hadn’t seen yet.

I pressed forward before he could close the door only to have him step in front of me. “I need the bathroom. Badly.” I was trying to remain polite, but the need to relieve myself was now overwhelming.

The detective closed the door with a smile and took a seat, gesturing for me to sit as well.

“I said I need to use your restroom. . .”

“Sure, sure. Just give me a minute and we’ll get you to the bathroom. Have a seat please.”  he said indicating the vacant seat across the table.

“Am I under arrest?” I asked. It came out sharp since I  was putting all my mental effort into not wetting myself.

“No, you’re not under arrest. We just . . . ”

I put my hand on the door handle and tried to turn it again. Still locked. “Please open the door. I’m happy to answer any of your questions, but I have to use the bathroom first.”

The detective turned in his seat making no attempt to stand. “Sir, please. If you’d just cooperate with us. . .”

It was like talking to a wall. I scoffed and turned my back to the detective. As I unzipped my fly and let loose,I said over my shoulder to the still seated detective “I’d like to see a lawyer please.”

—-

I was surprised to find out that sometimes the system works very quickly indeed. At least I’d like to think that it does. More likely the lawyer I’d asked for was already on premises looking after another client.

After a brief meeting with her–even though the police assured me I was not being arrested–I was finally released. All I wanted to do now was go back to my little shitbox of a house and sleep for ten hours or so.

I knew I’d have to call off work for another day and for some reason the thought made me smile. “Work can suck a whole bowl of dicks.” I muttered to myself in the back of the unmarked police cruiser that was taking me home.

“What’s that?” The detective, yet another new face, one that hadn’t been part of my interrogation asked over his shoulder.

“I said work can suck a whole bowl of dicks.”

The detective smiled and nodded “That’s for sure. Amen, brother.” he chuckled a bit and continued to stare straight ahead. “So I missed it. What brought you down to the station tonight?”

“Some psycho killed a policeman at the end of my street. I came in because I’d seen him earlier.”

“No shit?” I saw the detectives eyebrows raised inquiringly in the rear view mirror. “He a neighbor of yours?”

I shook my head “Before today I’d never seen him in my life.”

“So you saw him twice today?  Was he just hanging around your neighborhood–like a street person? Or what?”

“I saw him this morning–yesterday morning, now–on the bus to work.”

“No shit? And he killed a cop the same night on your street, huh?”

“Yes sir. In front of about a hundred people and a few other police officers.”

The detective chortled this time “What, police officer’s aren’t people?” He turned his head slightly toward me and flashed a smile my way. “So what did he do when you first saw him?”

“This morning?” I asked and the detective nodded.

“He was killing people on the bus.” I said and stared out the window as the detective went silent.

5

“What you got for me?” I asked my contact. “Oh, and by the way, I saw your man on the bus.” I smiled and waited for her reaction. I should’ve known better though; these people never had any sort of reaction. Short of shooting one of them in the head I don’t think I would’ve ever even seen them blink.

She produced a long sheet of paper with names and addresses. “These two here at the top of the men you killed. Unfortunately, not everyone stuck around to answer questions and give statements to the local LEO’ s.”she placed an X next to the pictures of the men that I killed. “The ones that did stick around, the LEO’s got names and addresses and, you are welcome, I looked them all up for you and got photo IDs to go along with the names.” her face remained emotionally neutral as she held the paper out to me.

“Good. Good” I scanned down the list and found the face I was looking for and circled his face “do we know anything about this cat?” The picture on his driver’s license didn’t look that much different from the man I’d seen but still something about him had me ill at ease.

She took the paper back from me and typed in the name into her computer. “Let’s see, government employee, went to a state school for four years, received a ticket this morning” she scanned the information looking for relevant details “No. Nothing really. Why, what’s up?”

“I don’t know. Something about him just seems off.” I took the paper from her once more and stared at the image. “You think they’ll care if I go and pay him a visit?”

She typed a bit more into her computer and stared at the results. “As long as you don’t do anything to him it should be fine.” She made eye contact with me for a brief second “do you think you can do that?”

“No promises.” I said as I folded up the paper and stuffed it in my pocket.

– – – –

When I arrived the neighborhood was mostly dark. There were lights coming from a few houses, but they didn’t have the look of electricity that were also used to seeing. I asked for a car and was given an unmarked Chevrolet Impala, which practically screamed police.I pulled up to a house a few doors down from my target  trying to look inconspicuous and doing a piss-poor job of it.

I had been parked for about 10 seconds before I saw the first face appear at a window observing the new arrival in his lovely nondescript vehicle. I was going to have to talk to these people about camouflage in an urban environment. I realize that working for the government there were only so many options available but, come on, they may as well have given me a black SUV and a dark suit to go with it.

There was nothing happening in my target house. I exited the vehicle closing the door softly and crossed the street to walk by the house. Under normal circumstances with the lights on people probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to seeing an unknown individual walk by; now though, I felt as though I were being videotaped with every step I took.

I was cursing my luck that the lights were out, but there was nothing to be done for it now. I walked by the house and looked directly into the window, and was greeted only by darkness and my own reflection. I had no intention of returning to the car so I simply kept on walking thinking to myself fuck them for sending me out in such an obvious car. I realized this would look even more suspicious to the people and watch me exit the car and walk down the street. I didn’t care.

I was going to hoof it back across the river and try to make it to my apartment before dawn. I made it to the end of the block and as I tried to cross the street was cut off by a police car. I hadn’t brought any weapons with me as I was trying to do as requested and not touch my target and more to the point I didn’t have my ID on me either. I knew what was coming.

The officer that stepped out of the car looked almost like a caricature of a policeman with a thick mustache and eyes that were used to being hidden behind the protection of reflective sunglasses. As he got out he even pulled out his baton and gave it a twirl.

“Hey partner,” he began full of swagger and knowing that he had the situation well in hand. “What brings you out on a night like this?”  he said not realizing he was already a dead man.

“Just taking a walk, officer.” I tried to appear as normal as possible and not at all threatening, but that just didn’t really work for me.

The officer nodded his head and smiled “In this weather? Well, to each their own I suppose. Me, if I weren’t working I think I’d be home having a beer right about now.” he said trying to appear congenial.

It’s not that I had anything against the police but I couldn’t afford to be arrested. And I refuse to be held in a tank with common criminals. More to the point my employers wouldn’t appreciate my absence. Given the job that I had been hired for it wasn’t exactly as if I could call them for help. And I surely couldn’t explain to the officer that I was working for the government, because in fact the people that paid me did so from an account labeled  infrastructure repair.

“You have any ID on you partner?” He asked his good nature melting away into the humid night air, all business now.

“Nope. Like I said I just thought I’d take a walk. I live close by and my power’s out too.” I smiled as he shone his flashlight in my face.

“Well, you see the problem is we got people on the street that reported a prowler. Said they saw a guy looks like you, get out of a car and walk away.” He smiled again  “See how that might look suspicious to some people?”

“Yes sir. I can see how that would look suspicious. Like I said though – –”

“Out for a walk” he nodded turning his head slightly to speak into the microphone on his shoulder. He spoke a gibberish phrase into the microphone and kept his head tilted waiting for a response. The response came and the officer excused himself for a moment and got back into his car admonishing me to wait right there.

I stood and watched as he typed something on his computer. In a matter of seconds a sketch appeared that could have been me, but could’ve been 100,000 other people as well. Unfortunately for the police officer I knew the sketch was me.

I heard him call something into his microphone and shortly after he was done he flipped on the rooftop lights of his patrol car. I took a casual look around and noticed the people had begun to gather on their lawns to watch what was happening. Now that the lights had come on on the patrol car, more faces began appearing in windows and even more people began turning out to watch the show.

I couldn’t see an easy way out of this. I took a deep breath and exhaled. This time I thought of a rooftop in Al Anbar province. I remembered waiting on that roof for what seemed like years for my target to appear. The stench coming up from the streets below was so thick you could choke on it–and the flies. Flies were everywhere; you’d be covered with them as soon as you stopped moving. I remembered how people suddenly disappeared from the streets and the realization that my hide had been exposed. That time I had to run. This time would be different.

The officer exited the patrol car, this time with his gun drawn. He began to bark orders at me; the friendly policeman façade now entirely gone.I raised my hands above my head in an effort to look like I was complying with his orders. Somewhere in the distance I could hear sirens approaching. I hoped to do this one-on-one, but that was beginning to look unlikely.

It took a second longer but the officer also heard the sirens. With his gun still extended toward me his head turned just slightly to the left to see the direction from which the other vehicles came. It wasn’t much of an opening but I took it.

I clamped my hand over the slide of the 9 mm semi-auto pistol he was carrying, stepping into him and delivering a blow to his nose with my head. He didn’t release the gun, but instead went for something on his belt – – all the while yelling for backup into his radio – – and brought up a canister of pepper spray. I caught his wrist with my free hand and turned the canister toward him. I was fighting now stuck between two options of being shot or being pepper sprayed, neither of which sounded appealing to me.

Our legs were so entangled that neither one of us could go for the easy shot to the nuts without risking pulling the other down on top of him. The officer was strong and even though I was holding him in a deadlock physically I didn’t think I could do it for much longer. I ran through the options in my head. I didn’t like what I came up with but it seemed to be the only thing that would work so I leaned forward and bit his nose off.

I spat the piece of cartilage out on the ground, but even this didn’t have the effect I’d hoped. Instead of releasing the grip on his weapon the officer now became enraged and pushed me backwards; his strength growing with the rage and pain. I risked a look to the left and saw the police cars moving toward us at a high rate of speed.

That wasn’t my only problem. Many people from the neighborhood, were now questioning whether or not they should rush to the officers aid. “Fuck this.” I said and gathered all my strength for one push to shove the officer backward into his car. That was a winner. The officer’s skull collided with the edge of his patrol car and for a brief second I felt his strength wane. It was good enough for me.

The officer let go of the pepper spray to reach up and grab for my neck. I stepped back bringing his gun hand with me and over the door frame of the patrol car; it only took a slight pressure to snap the elbow. I felt his grip on the gun loosen just enough that I could pry it away from him.

With the gun in hand I dispatched the mustachioed policeman and jumped into the still running police car. His comrades had just arrived in time to see me kill their colleague. They leapt forth out of their cars, guns drawn and they too began barking orders at me. A step on the accelerator and the car jumped forward as I began moving back down the street the way I had come. I saw him again, my friend from the bus. I didn’t have time for any witty lines, so I gave him my best winning smile and pointed my finger-gun at him giving him a wink as my thumb-hammer came down.

The patrol car roared as I accelerated away from the scene. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t a stunt driver, so my best bet was simply to make it to the Potomac River. I swung the car in that direction making contact with several other vehicles as I came around the corner, the rear of the car fishtailing wildly. I got the cruiser headed true once more and literally mashed the pedal into the floor.

In my head I summoned up a map of the area choosing a spot I thought I could use to lose my pursuers. I had a good lead on the cars behind me already, but I expected they’d be calling in air support any moment now, if they hadn’t already.

I made a turn onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway dodging through a few vehicles thankful there wasn’t much traffic here. I consulted the map in my head once more and hoped I was right about my position. The police cars following me were no more than 500 meters behind me meaning this was going to be close anyway it got cut.

I saw the sign I was looking for just ahead: Francis Scott Key Bridge. There was a bend in the road approaching and I marked my spot. Easing off the accelerator just a bit, I turned the wheel and let the car bounce across the median into oncoming traffic and aimed for a spot just before the small retaining wall on the other side of the road.

The short jolt down the embankment past the retaining wall caused the patrol cars airbag to deploy pushing me back in my seat as the car came to a rest. Fighting to get the partially deflated airbag out of my way, I threw open the door and bolted the remaining distance for the cool waters of the Potomac.

I swam for the bottom hoping that as the police arrived they wouldn’t be able to spot me in the water. At only a few feet down I was able to pull myself along slowly and smoothly. With only a few seconds of air left in my lungs I pulled myself as far as I could before turning over and allowing my body to float to the surface.

I had managed to pull myself further along than I’d hoped; the Key Bridge was now less than 100 feet away. I risked raising my head slightly out of the water and could see police cars with lights ablaze parked atop the embankment shinning flashlights all around the car and into the water near where I had been.

With my ears above water I could now hear the distant sounds of a helicopter approaching the scene. I lay my head back in the water for a moment allowing the gentle current to tug me along. Once under the Key Bridge I rolled over and began to swim hard for Roosevelt Island and freedom.

4

“Can you tell us anything else about him?” asked the bored looking detective.

“N-no. Not really, I mean. I was kind of out it” I smiled sheepishly “I was trying to catch a couple of winks–until the one guy hit me.” I wanted to feel bad for the dead man, but other than revulsion at the memory of the corpse I was feeling a little numb just now.

“Right, so what I’ve got is white male, mid to late 20’s, about six feet tall, average weight” the detective sighed “and you can’t remember eye color, hair color? Did he have tattoos? Or a scar maybe?”

“No sir. Like I said, I was. . .”

“You were trying to sleep. Right.” The detective shook his head as he continued to stare down at the note pad in his hand. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small case “tell you what, you remember anything else–and I mean anything— you call me at this number”.

The detective handed me a card with a phone number he had circled on it, which was his personal cell phone number apparently.  I took the card and clipped it inside the little metal clipboard I carried. The truth was every detail of the murderer —hero?– was still engraved firmly in my memory. It’s not often you see a man straight out of an action movie, actually do things from an action movie.

I wasn’t sure why I was reluctant to give them details. Maybe it was because I felt indebted to him in some way. I think I was on the verge of developing a man-crush on him. I tried my best to shake it off and get my head back focused.

I still had to go to work.

Of all the things I had dealt with so far this morning work was the one I had trouble contemplating. For the third time that day, I froze. It wasn’t even ten a.m. yet and I’d encountered more foreignness in one day than I would have if I’d been dropped off in a Marrakesh market.

What was happening to me? What the hell was happening to this world?

I’d always counted myself an atheist, but today I felt the hand of some greater force stirring, moving the landscape, the fabric of my reality to please him or herself.

I needed a drink.

—-

I never realized there was a ‘get out of work free’ card mostly because you have to be witness to a double homicide to get one. I poured myself a tumbler full of whiskey and thanked the universe for that small favor.

I sat in my little tinderbox of a house in complete silence. The idea of playing a video game where you killed people seemed almost abhorrent to me. Almost. I smiled as I closed my eyes and replayed the scene that had taken place on the bus that morning. I’m sure my memory wasn’t entirely reliable, and now, aided by alcohol, I was watching my own personal John Woo film complete with doves.

I clicked on the TV and sat back with my feet propped up on a small table covered with work that I’d brought home over the past few months.  I switched aimlessly through channel after channel looking for anything to take me away from all my troubles.

It was approaching noon and I was pretty well sloshed when I heard the commotion outside. My neighbors had apparently taken the day off as well and came home to celebrate, their loud music battering the thin walls of my house once more.

Under normal circumstances I’d be pissed–and do nothing about it. Today was different though; I was drunk. I was easing myself into a blackout drunk and the thumping bass coming from the neighbors  stereo was actually seemed pleasant, providing a comfortable rhythm that was lulling me to sleep.

The music stopped and I jerked awake at the sudden silence. I poured myself another tumbler of the honey colored liquid and took a sip. It took a few minutes for me to notice, but the neighbors music wasn’t the only thing that had gone away. My TV was off as was the air conditioning that had been slavishly pumping out cool air trying to bring the interior temperature of my house down to the low 80’s.

I steadied myself and walked to the window that overlooked the neighbor’s yard. As I looked out the window I could see my neighbors standing around looking out at the other houses. Power outages, while not exactly new, were a little unusual here in the suburbs. I went to my bedroom and found my laptop computer and opened it thinking to look up the local news stations webpage.

Unfortunately with the power off, and in my drunken state, I didn’t remember that there would be no Internet.I strolled outside glass of whiskey in hand as I wandered over to the neighbors to discuss our predicament.

“Hey Juan,” I began, slurring my words drunkenly “what the hell is happening? You do this?” I smiled at him and waved my glass sloshing whiskey around as I did.

Juan and his wife, and several of their friends stood out back on his patio beers in hand not looking particularly concerned about the power outage. “No man, but hey who needs lights?” He smiled and beckoned his wife over with a fresh beer which he offered to me. “Just cause we ain’t got no electricity don’t mean we can’t have ourselves a party!”

I took the beer gratefully and popped the tab swilling it down and chasing it with whiskey. I realized I had the procedure backwards and laughed as I took another drink of whiskey and this time chased it down with the beer. Juan and his friends didn’t seem to care.I was glad that nobody had noticed my party foul, but I still wanted information. Call it the curse of the modern age, but I just can’t stand around not knowing what’s going on in my world.

Juan’s wife who I think was called Teresa, sent one of her children off to find a chair for the new guest which I collapsed into gratefully as my legs just didn’t seem to have the impetus to keep me upright much longer.

“So hey man,” Juan began “what you doing home from work so early in the day?”

I started to think of a response, but I just wasn’t sure how to put into words what it happened to me that day. “The government, decided they can help anybody anymore.” I laughed “so they sent me home.”

Juan stared at me all traces of humor draining from his face. “No shit? I knew shit was getting bad, but man…”

I started to correct him. I didn’t want him wandering around thinking that the government was in total collapse but somehow the alcohol prevented me from expressing those thoughts.

“Oh yeah buddy” I gave him a wink this time. “The shit has officially hit the fan!”

Of course the truth of the matter was that my official shit had hit the fan. But I was drunk and I just didn’t give a fuck.

Juan called his wife over and put his arm around her. “You hear what he said honey?” He said pulling her close “said the government got no money.”

The woman I thought was called Teresa, looked at me and smiled. “He’s just drunk. If I listened to everything a drunk man said I would be married to your brother!”

We all shared a laugh at that, but the truth was those words were closer to the real truth than any of us knew.