A cop and David attempt to stop a robbery gone wrong from happening.
| The television in the bar chatted at no one about turmoil. Death. Insanity in the world. It spoke of disasters and crimes unthinkable to a modern civilized society. The news casters spoke with such serious faces about all of the hatred and death when reading the news, but as soon as the cameras turned away from the headlines, as soon as they pulled back into the studio, they all sat around a table chatting and laughing, making jokes and insults to other network stations and political parties that they didn’t like. It always sounded like five-year-olds arguing on a playground to me. These days even more so.|
No one in the dimly lit bar was paying the television any attention. The bartender was wiping his bar down, ensuring each glass was properly cleaned and placed in its appropriate spot. In front of his large wooden bar was a brass railing, like the kind that used to exist in bars years ago. Handcrafted stools with hand sewn bright red leather ringed the counter top. There wasn’t anyone on the stools yet. There would be soon. In another couple of hours, this place would be packed.
The only other person in this bar besides the bartender and myself was a thin, youngish looking man with hard blue eyes that resembled pieces of flint. He sat in front of me, nursing a Shirley temple. “So, uh….how does this work then,” he asked looking down at me.
I lost a good portion of my art supplies a while back. Some jerk in a coffee shop threw out a bunch of my pencils and my art pad when I tried to give a drawing to a lady. This wasn’t the first time that happened to me. Replenishing art supplies gets expensive, so in front of me sat a spiral notebook and a number two pencil, the kind that you have to use in grade school. I didn’t like it. In fact, I hated it, but right then it was all I could afford.
“You listenin to me,” he snapped a finger in front of my face. I had been caught with my mind wandering again.
“Yeah, just tryin to figure out how to answer it,’ I rubbed my eyes as if rubbing sleep out of them.
“Well, just tell me. How does this work?” He turned around in his seat to examine the bar.
“It’s like this. I see a scene. A guy on the ground, looks like he was stabbed three times at least. He’s face down, looking away from me…”
“Who is it?” The cop snaps at me.
“I don’t know.” I reply with a shrug.
“You know how he’s gonna die, but you don’t know who it is,” his voice rose at the end. “Come on, you’re holding out on me. Who is it?”
“I have to see them to know who it is.” I said.
He turned back around to look at me. The look on his face told me he didn’t believe a word I just said. “What did you say your name was again?”
“David,” I mumbled back, looking at the bar.
“You ever see the inside of a jail cell, David?” An obvious threat if I ever heard one, and a weak one at that. Still, it annoyed me, crawled under my skin for a moment as I sat there looking up at the off-duty cop in his street clothes: a simple collared shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans.
“Is that all you know how to do, threaten people and hurt them officer Givens,” I snapped. “Or do you have any other talents? Racketeering? Assault and battery? Maybe a little light enforcement work on the side for the mo…”
His hand moved so fast I didn’t even see it. He slapped me open handed. Not hard enough to spin me around in my seat, but hard enough to startle me. I looked up at him, slack jawed. “That’s why no one likes cops…” I mumbled meekly.
“What do you know about me, huh,” He snarled. “I’m out here trying to help you do your damn job and you’re giving me shit! I should just leave you here, you know that?”
“Would make it easier,” I grumbled.
He blinked as if I slapped him back. “What?”
“I said it would be easier! You say you’re trying to watch my back and all that, but I know what you’re really up to. You’re trying to catch him. You’re going after that serial killer, and you think that my gift is your way to do it.” My heart was pounding. My fists were clenched. I consciously relaxed. I hate it when I get like this.
“Look. I’m sorry. Relax, alright.” The cop mumbled, turning his head to examine the bar as he spoke. “Everyone’s looking at us.”
There was only the bartender in the room still. He was now taking inventory of his bottles and booze for the nightly rush that would begin in a few hours.
Givens gave me a heavy sigh. “Why are you like this? Why don’t you tell anyone about this gift of yours?”
“People don’t like good news,” I looked down at my paper as I spoke, still seeing the as of yet undrawn image of the crime on the page.
“That’s crazy. People love good news,” the cop replied. The door had chimed, announcing the arrival of two women carrying aprons with name tags. Waitresses showing up for their shift. Neither one was the victim. “You tell them a good news story or a good event that’s happened and it brightens up their day.”
I shook my head. “No, they don’t. A person loves good news. People hate good news. When they hear good news, they have to do everything in their power to make it bad news. To twist it until it breaks, and then blame the other side for the tragedy of their own creation. People don’t want good news; they just want someone to blame.”
The cop blinked in disbelief. “You’re five years younger than I am, how the hell did you get so jaded?”
I waved an arm towards to the television set. There was a scene of a cruise ship on it. Apparently, some terrorist organization had attacked it, murdering fifteen people and injuring scores more. Both news anchors, a man and a woman, were having a near violent argument over who’s to blame. They both blamed the other political party of course. But the winner apparently was going to be the one who could assign the most blame to the news channel’s political opposition and their competition.
The television played out its self-imposed tragedy. A man walked in from the kitchen, wearing a dark blue uniform with a company logo printed on the side that appeared to be a lion or tiger of some kind. His hat was pulled down just a bit so I couldn’t see his face, but still I felt a pull towards him.
“That don’t prove any…” Givens began, still looking at the TV.
“Stop him!” I whispered, indicating the delivery guy. He had just handed the bartender a clip board with paperwork on it. The bartender glanced over the paperwork for a moment and already had pen to paper, ready to sign.
“Him,” Givens asked.
“Just delay him! Tell him he has a parking ticket! Tell him he won the lottery! Anything!” I looked down at my paper and began to draw furiously. It wasn’t going to be my best work. But God willing it was going to be clear at least.
“You sure it’s him,” he began.
“Just do it!” I snapped again.
“Okay, okay.” He replied as he stood up and slid the chair backwards. I could hear the chatter coming over from the bar. From what I could tell, he was accusing the delivery guy of hitting his car, who emphatically denied hitting anything of course.
The argument wasn’t going to last that long, so each line had to be drawn in haste. They bent in ways that I was uncomfortable with, but I could still tell what they meant and were supposed to be, so I kept drawing. Hopefully the guy could as well. The alleyway began to take shape. Trashcans formed around a back door. I shaded as quickly as I could, getting the concrete filled in.
Givens was shouting about insurance now. The bartender picked up a phone and began to push some buttons. Presumably to dial nine one one or call a bouncer to throw him out.
As the body began to take shape on the paper, a large man entered the bar from somewhere in the back. Some words were being tossed around at this point mostly by the big guy. Words like ‘police’ and ‘have you arrested’, even ‘trespassing’. There was more finger pointing, with more threatening gestures. The delivery man started to back away towards the door. I had to act fast.
I tore the sheet off the notebook and raced over to Givens. “Here!” I shouted at him, huffing. Every eye looked down at me first, then the paper.
“What the…” the bartender said, looking it over. “That looks like my alley.”
Givens eyes went wide. “Stop!” He shouted, pulling a handgun out. “Stop him, now!” He flew through the kitchen door, shoving it open hard enough that it slammed against the wall inside.
Stock boys and waitresses backed away from the ensuing madness as we all raced into the kitchen. Silver topped counters and coolers stood waiting for ingredients to be filled. A trail of empty boxes led to a set of double doors in the back where the delivery truck must have been parked. The delivery driver turned, anger and annoyance on his face.
“Look, for the last time, I didn’t hit your damn car!”
“I know that,” Givens said, reaching into his pocket and flashing a badge. “Stay in the kitchen please for your own safety.”
He kicked the double doors open and jumped outside, scanning left and right in the alley looking for an attacker. I couldn’t see what happened next. I heard a shout, a cry, then a gunshot. A few seconds later, the cop came back inside, taking gulps of air. “David,” he said looking up at me. “You just saved a life.”
“What happened,” I had never been around for the aftermath of one of my drawings before.
He looked over at me, then up at the delivery guy. “He saw someone suspicious hanging around the alley. He stopped me and told me about it. We argued and I was going to leave until he made that drawing.” He looked over at the delivery guy, who had gone ghost white. “Some punk kid was going to rob you with a knife on your way out.”
Mercifully I didn’t have to give but one statement when the rest of the police force showed up. There was some shouting, that I wasn’t a part of, but in the end, I got a simple pat on the back and that was that.
An hour had gone by while a couple of detectives shown up to talk to each other and mostly just look important while not doing much of anything. Everything was open and shut for them, there wasn’t much to do. A reporter came over to ask a couple questions, but Officer Givens came in handy for that, intercepted them and told them they weren’t releasing my name and I wasn’t giving a statement. Thank God.
“So, he tried to rob you,” I asked, sitting at a corner of the bar. Bartender, a guy named James offered me free drinks. So, I took advantage, and got all of the diet coke I could have ever wanted.
Givens sat across from me on the other side of the corner away from the door. Everyone appreciated us, but it was starting to feel close to time to go. He nibbled on a few peanuts while I nursed my third diet coke. I was going to have to pee like a race horse later. “No,” he chuckled. “But he did have that knife. As soon as he saw my weapon, he tried to attack me. We fought. I gave him a warning shot. He dropped the knife.”
“So, he’s going to jail.” I said.
It was his turn to look away. “Something like that, kid, yeah.”
I started to feel sick. He was lying and I knew it. He killed the guy with the knife. Did I honestly just save one life just so another could die? What kind of justice was in that? If he died than did that save countless others or only one other life? A thousand more questions filled my head, making it very heavy.
“He’s dead then,” I mumbled, looking down. And it’s all my fault, I thought but didn’t add.
“Look, he had a choice. Put the knife down and get arrested or get shot. He chose to attack me, he got shot. That delivery guy wasn’t going to get that choice. You saw it yourself.” There was a fire in his eyes.
“But,” I said looking up at the cop, “he died. And it was because of me.”
“No,” Givens grabbed my shoulder and forced me to look at him. “Let’s get one thing straight here. You saved a life today. A life of a man whose only crime was going to be doing his job. You’ve saved more than a dozen lives in this city by my count so far. You deserve a damn medal.”
I knew he was right, but it all felt so real when someone’s life had to be taken. I didn’t feel like a hero. I felt like an executioner. All I needed was a hangman’s noose. I gave a deep sigh. “I just wish that he didn’t have to die, regardless of his crime.”
Givens nodded. “Me too, kid.”