Chapter 1.9: Close Call

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As the sirens got louder, I kept my eyes on the gangers.  I strongly suspected the leader had a pistol on him, and the louder the sirens got, the more nervous he seemed to get.

“If you’re packing heat, leave it where it is.  I won’t be nice this time if you pull a gun after I beat you once.”

He deflated.  The others who were watching me talk to him sagged a bit too, morale broken.

“Where in the hell you learn to fight like that?” Said one of the others.

“Eh, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies mostly.” I replied.  Frank laughed in my head.  It was partially the truth, though the thug asking the question obviously didn’t believe me.  The movie answer was probably better than saying that an alien life form inside me made me a martial arts master.  Cops probably wouldn’t care much for either explanation, if they asked.

Here I was, thinking that I’d be able to finally put a bit of normal back into my life, and these punks go ruining it for me.  I scowled and smacked the bat against one of my palms.  Several of the gangers inched away from me, as they lay on the ground.

“Sorry fellas, you messed up some plans I had, so I’m a bit irritated at you, but I’m not about to lay into you again if you stay down until the cops arrive and take you into custody.”

It was almost funny watching them struggle with the thought that what I did to them, what they thought was some sort of epic effort of mine, was merely an irritation.  I considered using that train of thought to psychologically beat the lesson in harder, but decided not to.  They should all remember this for the rest of their lives, it might even get some of them off the streets and trying to make something of themselves.

The first officer arrived, radio in hand as he quickly got out of his car, while speaking into his radio. “I see at least a dozen down, one up.  One up with a club, a bat, watching the rest.  All who are down are in Roman colors.  The one up matches description from dispatch.”

I glanced at the officer as he walked up to the curb and made a closer count, looking at each downed ganger with a bit more care.  Normal build, maybe a bit lanky, less than six feet tall, mid to late 20’s but with a thousand yard stare.  Sometimes hard to tell a cop without military experience from a cop with military experience, but in this case, I was almost certain this fellow had seen some time in Iraq or Afghanistan.  If he worked in this part of town regularly, the gangers probably gave him some respect.  Looking at their reactions when they started hearing his voice and when he came into view, I knew I was right.  This might not work out too badly after all.

“Thank you for arriving so quickly, officer.  I don’t think anyone needs immediate medical attention, but a couple have broken bones, and there is one gunshot wound.  Have ambulances been called?”

He responded after glancing at me again, but didn’t take his eyes off the gangers longer than it took to look at me briefly. “Yeah, ambulances and lots more officers on the way.  Some kids called the station and sent us a link to the videos they took of your fight.  Said they sent it to local paper and TV stations as well.  The only comment I’ve gotten from the guys at the precinct who watched the video was ‘Holy Shit’ so I’d appreciate it if you would be patient while we get this straightened out.  I’d also appreciate it if you stay where you are at.”

By his look at me, the ‘stay where you are at’ wasn’t an option, so I replied “Sure thing officer.”  My mind started racing.  Millions of dollars in the backpack.  A pistol used in a multiple killing in the holster under my left arm.  Why in the FUCK didn’t I get rid of that pistol?  Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

As more officers and ambulances arrived, so did the area residents in growing numbers.  Quite a few of them talking quietly amongst themselves.  The officers quickly got the gangers sorted out and the first officer on the scene pulled me to the side.  I saw a couple more officers watching.

“I got a chance to watch that video and I see why the first reaction was ‘Holy Shit’.  At the same time, I also saw some things that I want to talk to you about.  First thing I want is for you to slowly and carefully show me your fake gun.  You will do so by keeping both of your hands in view of the two officers over there that I asked to watch me conduct this interview.  Open your jacket, with both hands, and I will reach in under your left arm and see what you have there.”

My mind was racing.  Not sure where the officer was going with this.  Then it hit me.  The officer was so happy the Romans got taken down that he was trying to make sure nobody arrested me, though they were surely planning on questioning me.  If I had a concealed weapon permit, I could just tell him that.  I didn’t though, so he was going to have to try to work it so that I didn’t need a concealed weapons permit.

I slowly moved my hands to the front of my jacket and held the jacket open so the officer could look at the pistol in the holster.  He reached in, pulled the pistol out a bit (but not far enough to be visible outside my jacket), and then put it back into place.

“In the wrong situation, carrying even a fake gun like that one can be a very bad idea.  I would strongly consider getting a concealed carry permit even if you are only going to carry a fake pistol.  Especially one as real looking as that one.  Either that, or don’t carry anything concealed.”  He smiled a bit as I shrugged the jacket back into place and smoothed the front of it, buttoning it up a bit so it wouldn’t blow open.  After I had myself sorted out, he stepped back. “What’s your name, by the way?”

“Bob, officer.”  I thought about my new ID.  “Short for Robert Hawk”

The officer spoke to me in a very low voice – not a whisper, but close.  “OK, Bob, I’m Officer Jones.  The last thing we need to do before we get your statement and let you go for now is to have Rover check you out.”  He pointed to a german shepherd wearing a doggie flak jacket.  “I’m really hoping Rover over there doesn’t like your backpack too much, or you for that matter.  If you think that he will like you too much, let me know now, before we get there, and we’ll talk about it a bit before we go talk to Rover.”

“Nothing on me or in my pack that a drug or explosives dog will find interesting, officer.”

“Glad to hear that.  Makes things a whole lot less complex.”

The police dog sniffed me and my pack when I set it on the ground for him, then sat next to its handler and ignored me.  I was a bit concerned about the dog twigging onto the “juice” but apparently hyper oxygenated artificial adrenaline wasn’t chemically close to anything Rover was trained to care about.  Yet another good thing, but I was still as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Too many cops.  Too much time spent running from them.  Too much weirdness in my life and not enough answers.  Everyone was paying attention to me.

Quite a little crowd had formed, and there was a news camera there as well, interviewing one of the kids who had taken video of the fight.  The child was demonstrating fighting moves while being interviewed.  Adults around him were laughing and being amused at his antics.  Then he saw me, and ducked the police tape.  He adroitly dodged the grasping hands of several adults, running up to me and stopping.  “Thank you for kicking their asses!”

I asked Officer Jones if we could stop for a second and he nodded, so I stopped to talk.  “You’re welcome, I think.  Why are you so happy that I hurt them?  Did they hurt you?  If so, you need to tell the officers what they did to you so they can make them stay in jail longer.”

“Wasn’t me they hurt.  They hurt my sister.  Real bad.  She won’t talk about it.  Says they might do it again.”

I winced, imagining the most likely scenarios. “Some people don’t like talking about things like that, but for these Romans to go to jail and stay there, they need to.  Your sister won’t be forced to talk about it if she doesn’t want to, but I bet Officer Jones would be happy to get your name and phone number so he or one of the other officers can come talk to her, or maybe get her some other help if she needs it.”

Officer Jones nodded.  “He’s right.  We won’t make her talk if she doesn’t want to, but if she does, it might help us a whole lot.  Can you help us get in touch with her, and tell everyone else you know that got hurt by the Romans to come talk to us too?”

The kid looked up at Officer Jones and back to me.  I nodded.  “He’s right.” I said.

“OK, I’ll do that.  That’s not why I came though, I have a gift for you, to thank you!”

“Really?  I didn’t do that for a reward you know.  I did it because they were going to hurt me if I didn’t.”  I was having a difficult time imagining what the child might be ready to give me.  I was hoping it wasn’t something with real value.  This wasn’t a good neighborhood for him to be brandishing something worth money, even if the Romans were gone for the time being.  I certainly wasn’t going to take a reward with any sort of monetary value from the kid.

“I know.  It’s not money or anything, I can’t afford that.  I got you something good though!”

Now I was curious. “What did you get me?” I asked with a little smile.

The kid handed me a folded sheet of paper.  “I got you set up with a really cool username and password on TheTube and TheMail!”

I opened up the folded sheet and looked.  In a fairly neat hand was:

“TheTube username = BadAssOldMan

TheTube password = Ichiban1

TheMail username =

TheMail password = Ichiban1

Thank You!  You were awesome!


I laughed out loud, abruptly.  The kid looked startled for just a brief second, then grinned.  “Thank you, young man, this is a great gift, I really appreciate it.” I reached out and ruffled his hair.  He brushed my hand off quickly and neatened his hair again, reflexively. I suspected he got a lot of that treatment from an older brother or parent if he was always that much of an imp. “Now give Officer Jones your phone number so he can call you later, then go talk to your sister and your friends and neighbors and let them know that the officers need help to keep the Romans locked up.”

Officer Jones got the kid’s name and number, and then shooed him back into the crowd over by the news media, who had, of course, been videoing the whole thing.  The boom mike meant they probably heard it all too.  The kid’s sister was probably going to be upset if they went live with what he had said about her.

The reporter started trying to ask me questions in a loud voice as she saw me looking at the camera, and I asked Officer Jones if I could tell them I would talk to them after I got finished answering questions.  He nodded and said “Sure.  Don’t let them drag you into an interview though, we need to get your statement.  Normally I’d say no, but you’re a bit of a celebrity around here right now.”

I agreed with him, and turned to the reporter and took a couple of steps closer so we could talk.  “Ma’am, I will be happy to talk to you a bit later, if you make me a promise.  It is a very simple request.”

The reporter looked at me funny, then she said “What promise.”

“If you review your tapes and recordings, you might find something about that young man’s family mentioned.  I’ll talk to you after this if you agree that everything that was said about his family in that conversation between Jacob, myself, and Officer Jones gets deleted.  The kid didn’t know he was being recorded.  Anything else you picked up is fair game.”  I paused. “I’ll count on these folks around us who heard this to keep you and your station honest about it after I leave town.”  Several of them nodded.  One of them was actually recording it with a smart phone.

She looked at her video man and he nodded and said.  “Yeah, there was some private stuff in the feed that we picked up.  Nothing critical to this story though.  Nothing really surprising either.”

“OK Mike, I’ll take your word that we won’t be passing up a chance at another good story to get this interview.”  Then she turned to me.  “I promise that the private stuff about the kid’s family won’t be broadcast.  I’ll even promise that it won’t be subtitled or referenced in any way.  It will be purged.”

“I’ll talk to you after the police are done talking to me then.  Probably in front of the local precinct, or maybe in a restaurant near there?  I imagine I’ll be hungry after I’m done talking with the officers.”

“Sounds good then.  We’ll get to editing then, and meet you after.  There’s a little sidewalk café near the precinct that Officer Jones works out of.  We’ll meet you outside the precinct and I’ll spring for a meal for you before the interview.”  She held out her hand.  “Names Jessica, Jessica Rhiner”

“Good to meet you Jessica, my name is Robert Hawk, we’ll talk in a little while.”  I turned and walked back to Officer Jones.

“Thank you,” Officer Jones said.  “That might make it a bit easier to get Jacob’s sister to testify.”

“Probably save Jacob from a sisterly thumping too.”

We both grinned as we walked back to Officer Jones’ cruiser.

Captain Bocker was not a very happy person when he learned that Officer Jones had taken me by my hotel room before bringing me to the Precinct.

“Are we charging him for anything, Captain?”

“No.  No we aren’t.  That doesn’t mean we go around breaking rules like that.  Nor do we go around asking off duty buddies to watch a hotel room for a couple of hours to make sure nobody gets in without a warrant.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about Captain, we both know none of our detectives would ever try to get evidence without a warrant, especially evidence against a man who wasn’t even being charged.”

They stared at each other.  I pretended not to hear or see them.  Frank was helping me improve my hearing again, and was also able to filter out the mirror effects and show me the shadow image of the two men talking in the room on the other side of the mirrored glass.  It was actually rather surprising that he could hear that well.  I thought that questioning rooms were insulated well enough that even Frank wouldn’t be able to hear much.  I couldn’t ask him though, since there was still a person in the room waiting for the interrogator to return, and I hadn’t been allowed to carry any electronics in.

Bocker turned to the third man in the room, the one who had actually been asking me questions.  “Is there anything else you need to ask this fellow about before we let him go?”

“Nope.  Nothing that we have any right to be asking him if we aren’t pressing charges any way.  I’ve got lots of questions I’d like to ask him though.  The shit he pulled in that fight was straight out of movies.  Nobody’s that good in real life, in a real fight.”

“Video says that at least one person is, I suppose.” Said Officer Jones as he looked at me through the glass.  “Still, you got a point.”

“Point or not, the video showed him acting in clear self-defense after being completely surrounded by Romans, then attacked by their leader.” This from the interrogator.

“He didn’t even give anyone life threatening injuries, and provided first aid to the one he shot in the leg.  Judging from that video, he could probably have killed them faster than he disabled them, if he had wanted to.”

“Doesn’t this guy scare you two just a little?” said the Captain.  “Doesn’t it worry you that someone this dangerous, an unknown, a drifter with a shady past, is in our town?”

“After seeing how he handled himself in that video?  No, not really.  You have two hundred people walking in and out of this building every day with firearms.  Put any officer in that same situation this guy was in, and they would be dead or brutally beaten right now.  There would probably be a few dead or badly hurt Romans too, but this guy did it without killing anyone.”  Officer Jones paused.  “The fact that it seems likely that he could have easily killed them but didn’t makes me less suspicious of him, not more.  This guy’s just one of those oddball super-accurate people you hear about every now and then, like Topperwein with rifles or Hussey with a slingshot.”

“Yeah, except he’s never done anything like it before.  Someone that good at fighting.  With a life as hard as he’s had.  Why didn’t he go pro?  He could easily competitively fight, even at his age, based on what we saw.  Hell, even if he couldn’t fight by boxing rules, he could probably credibly fight anyone in the MMA even though he’s more than thirty-five pounds below the cap for flyweight.”  This from the interrogator, who sighed, then continued.  “I’m with you about how he makes me nervous, Captain, but I don’t see any reason to hold him either.”

“Maybe he just never thought about it, maybe he doesn’t like fighting?” Officer Jones again.  Then he continued.  “Is he going to be charged, or are we going to let him go, Captain?”

Captain Bosko gave Jones a sharp look.  Just enough to make the point that he was in charge.  Jones raised up his hands a bit, showing that he understood the point being made.  Then the Captain turned to look at me and stared for a couple of seconds.  “We let him go.  He scares the shit out of me.  He’s a loose cannon.”  Then he turned and walked towards the exit.  “But we let him go and I hope we don’t regret it.”

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  1. Patrick Reitz (@dreamfarer)

    One thing I’m enjoying about this story is that people are (generally) behaving as reasonable, sane, adults. The cops here are a good example of that.

    Also, Bob going fairly rapidly into a transhuman state is kind of nifty, especially since he’s got very plausible reasons for fighting to limit how far it goes.

    • farmerbob1

      That’s one of the things I have been trying to do, is keep the characters interesting but have them react reasonably. Sometimes that’s hard. I had to rewrite Officer Jones’ sections several times before I got the combat veteran / wants to keep the streets safe / willing to game the system for a “good guy” mix right.

      Bob and Frank have mostly ironed things out about the body by this point, but Frank’s going to keep throwing curveballs every now and then, when he thinks he can get away with it, or when he thinks it will be funny (after he understands humor well enough to try playing with it)

  2. underwhelmingforce

    Really liking this so far, but one note: so far, every social situation has been resolved by altruism- ergo the farmer, the cop, the kidnapped girl, all willing to help. Try having him figure his own way out sometimes.

    • farmerbob1

      It’s hard to answer that, but I’ll say it’s intentional, and it does change. Some of the chapters I write in book three are going to take Bob to some very dark places.

  3. murray

    Couple more here: 1) I considered using that (to) train of thought to beat…
    2) I think it’s a flak jacket, not flack.

  4. mutecebu

    I definitely like this. Things are going really well for our hero, though, and people are really sticking their neck out for him.

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