It’s a dark room. So dark. And silent. Ceiling lights flicker overhead. And that’s when he sees them.
Bodies. Lying side by side along a wall. Lifeless.
Not a single one moves. Propped against the wall, their heads sagging, their eyes shut.
And then he sees a familiar face. Dried skin. Unmoving. The resemblance was striking … is striking … It was … it is …
It is him.
Jerry sat bolt upright in his bed, panting. The clock glowed red in the darkness of his room. 02:39AM. Somewhere in the distance a dog howled. It was just a dream.
He shut his eyes and sank back into his bed. Not that silly dream again, not now. Please, not now.
It was roughly another thirty minutes before he finally settled in to anything close to a nice sleep.
Russell Road in Towne
Evenings on the Russell thoroughfare were usually calm despite the bustle of shop owners closing for the day. It was not unusual for one or two persons to be running across the road at that time, since most children still played around. But a police chase was out of the ordinary. A young man in jeans and a hoodie ran across the road with a burly policeman hot on his tail, drawing beeps from vehicles that stopped abruptly on both lanes.
The policeman keyed his radio. “Jenson, you got my back?”
The radio squawked. “What’s your ten-twenty?”
“We’re uh…” he paused to take a breath. “He’s heading up the Ramp.” His sides ached. He knew he should’ve taken those morning jogs more seriously.
“That’ll put you guys on Carlyle. He’s headed for the old ghetto. I’ll cut him off.”
“I still think we need more back-up!”
“No! We’ve got this, Clint! Don’t lose him.”
You’re one to talk, he mused. Ahead, the teenager slipped into an alley behind a building, setting a couple of other kids running off. If Clint knew that place well enough, it was surely a dead-end. He halted for a moment, but the kid did not come out. He either thought he’d found a good hiding spot, or was planning to spring him. I’m getting too old for this. Clint placed a hand over his gun.
“Alright! Show’s over, kid!” Clint called out as he approached. Suddenly overcome by a foul odour, he covered his nose and mouth. The alley was strewn with newsprint, mostly littered around the dumpster along the wall on the right. Cigarette smoke still hung in the air. His shadow extended before him into the alley, urged on by the rays of the setting sun. It was all quiet. Too quiet.
Clint sauntered in, wary of the shadows. “Okay,” he muttered in a nasal voice, his hand still covering his nose and mouth. “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.” The fire escapes ran up high to the roofs of the adjoining buildings. He could have climbed up there. But he’d have to have been extremely fast to…
Something scurried behind him. In a flash, Clint turned with his gun raised before a fist hit him flush in the face. He landed with a grunt on the ground, his gun sliding away. A cold blade pressed gently on his neck. “Don’t move!” the kid rasped.
Now crouched and on his knees, Clint’s pulse thumped in his ears. “It’s OK! Don’t do anything hasty!” It was all rushing from his mouth. Where are ya, Jenson? He tried to reach for his radio, but the move would have been too obvious. His best play was to be calm.
“Don’t make me kill ya!” the kid said with a slight whimper in his voice.
Clint’s experience in the force was enough to tell him that the kid was visibly scared. He had not killed anyone before, and he clearly wasn’t about to start now. Still, riling him up would be dangerous, tense as he already was. “That was a mean swing. But it’s OK, we don’t have to—“
“No! It’s NOT OK!” That blade was pressing a little bit too hard now. “I’m not a criminal. I-it was an accident!”
C’mon, Jenson… “Hey,” Clint tried to be calm, but kneeling and crouching on the hard ground was becoming more uncomfortable. And that horrible smell from the dumpster … ugh. “It’s up to the courts to decide now, kid. But what we saw you doing was illegal.”
“I was just selling the stuff. It’s…you’ve got nothing on me, man—“
“Newsflash, son: Dope is illegal! Selling it is a crime. And so is evading arrest.”
“I don’t even do the drugs, man. This is the only way I get any dough.”
This kid wouldn’t stab a stop sign! He was concentrating more on talking than on threatening Clint. This was to Clint’s advantage. “And this is what, your way of pulling your weight, proving you’re a man now? What do you think your parents feel about you hanging with that crowd? Or paying your bail?”
A pause. “They’re dead. I got no one.”
Clint was stuck there. Well, you’re not the first one. “I’m sorry, kid. Really. But … how’d you end up with these guys? You’re not like all the others. You seem like a smart kid.”
“This was supposed to be my last run. I wasn’t gonna do this no more. Now that he’s let me go.” He suddenly gasped. “I know why you guys are after me. He sent you, didn’t he? The Big Guy?”
Clint was going to say something but he was suddenly interrupted by a buzz followed by a gut-wrenching scream. The blade dropped to the ground and the kid fell to the pavement, yelping. Clint scampered toward his gun and turned. There behind the screaming kid stood Jerry Jenson, all six-feet and over 250 pounds of him.
“Now he shows up!” Clint said.
“It burns!” the kid wailed, grabbing for his back. “It HURTS, maaan!”
Jenson replaced the stun gun in its holster as he stooped. “Kid, by order of the Towne Police Department, you’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent—“ the kid was still screaming “—and anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.”
“Seriously?!” Clint squinted at him.
“You also have the right to legal counsel during questioning, but in the event that you are unable to afford one, an attorney will be provided for you by the—“
“So that’s it?” Clint asked, getting to his feet. “You show up late, and now you’re just gonna ignore me now?” The kid was still writhing in pain. Some citizens peered through the windows overhead. “And what did you do to this kid?!”
Jenson was busy placing the kid’s hands in cuffs. “What’s it look like I did?”
“You tazed him?” The kid still lay on the ground, and Jenson was still avoiding his eyes. “Why’s he screaming like that?”
Jenson inhaled. “Junkies have high pain thresholds. Had to up the voltage a bit. My bad.” He reached into the kid’s pocket and pulled out a big white ball of dope wrapped in a bag. “Are you kidding me? You didn’t even think of ditching this along the way?”
“I’m not going to jail!” the kid cried. “I’m not a criminal!”
Jenson pulled him to his feet. “Yeah, and I’m the queen of England. Hey, if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”
Clint arched a brow. “That’s a little cliché, don’t you think?”
“Let’s go.” And Jenson single-handedly bundled the struggling kid to the squad car. The rage that fueled that man…
“So no apology?” Clint asked as Jenson thrust the kid into the backseat and slammed the door. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
The crowd that gathered watched as they pulled away from the scene.
“I hate cops!” the kid mumbled in the backseat.
Clint turned in his seat. “Oh really?” But the kid just stared at him with cold eyes. Clint ignored him and turned when the kid continued.
“You’re phonies! Hypos! Cons…”
“Hippos?” Jenson arched a brow.
“Hypocrites…” Clint explained.
“…they call you the law but you’re all as rotten as the rest of us!”
Jenson had had it. “Will you SHUT IT back there?!”
“Easy, Jerry,” Clint gave him a look.
“This kid will drive me nuts!”
“You can’t take me back to the Big Guy,” the kid screamed. “I’m not going back…”
“Yeah, the Big Guy,” Clint turned to Jenson. “He keeps saying that.”
“You think I’m a felon,” the kid’s rant continued. “At least I’m trying to change! While you, cops, break the very laws you—“
“I’m gonna hit that kid!” Jenson said, fuming by the wheel.
“Easy, Jerry! Hey, kid, who’s the Big Guy?”
“The Big Guy?” Jenson turned. “He say that?”
“Weren’t you listening?”
“All I heard was blah-blah-blah-hippos-blah-blah-annoying junk-blah blah…”
“Yeah, I get it. Blah. Duh.”
“That’s what their Inner Circle calls Moore. The Big Guy.”
“I wasn’t really gonna skip town,” the kid cried. “I wasn’t gonna. I’m solid.”
Clint cocked his head. “But I thought you told me that this was your last run…”
“He thinks we work for Moore,” Jenson surmised. “He’s covering his tracks.”
“It’s OK, kid. We’re the good guys.”
“Yeah, and I’m the Easter Bunny,” the kid muttered.
Clint gave him a look. “What’s your name, kid?”
The kid paused. “Jamie.”
“Well, Jamie,” Jenson said. “Whether you like it or not, you’re going to jail. And you’re gonna regret it, too. Momma’s gonna have to pay for bail. Oh no, wait I forgot … she’s dead. Boo-hoo, get used to it.”
The car was silent for a moment. Clint squinted at him. “You didn’t have to do that, Jenson. That was just mean.”
Under his breath, Jenson muttered, “Story of my life.”
Jamie Gustav refused to say anymore about ‘the Big Guy’ even at the precinct. Fair enough, their stream of ‘info gathering’ had ended three arrests ago. The more recent ones kept spilling out the same things. Jamie was booked and placed in a cell until trial. Tired and already working after-hours, they spent the rest of the evening watching the news in the pub across the street, over doughnuts and coffee.
“Chief will not be pleased,” Clint Barker said, referring to the chief of police. “Soon as he gets back, he’s gonna whip our behinds.”
Jerry Jenson shrugged. “Won’t be the first time he’s been peeved. I really think we’re on to something here, Clint.”
“No, you’re on to something. I’m just the mascot. Going after them drug pushers was a wild goose chase from the very beginning, and you know it.”
Jenson’s cell beeped. He stared at the screen and shut it. He lowered his voice. “Look, Clint, I need you to trust me on this one. Kraven Moore’s guilty. Once we get all the evidence we need to bury him—“
“What more do we need? And what makes you think we’ll make it out alive? Wake up and smell the Starbucks, man. Haven’t you been listening to the witnesses we’ve been gathering?”
“I don’t know about this. Moore’s syndicate may have more influence than we can even imagine. We may be getting in too deep.”
“We expected this right from the ‘git-go’, Clint. This was what we signed up for.”
“Haven’t you noticed that we’re the only ones following this case? Hey, you may be reckless all you want, good luck. I got a family to pro…” His voice trailed off. His face registered his shock at his mistake. “…tect…”
Jerry took a sip from his coffee. Yes, he had no family. Not anymore, at least. The only family he had had died two years earlier. But he was not going to think about it now. He would not hold it against Clint for bringing this up again, however unintentional his bringing it up had been, in context.
“Bro, I’m sorry. That came out wrong.”
Jerry held up a hand. “It’s all good. You don’t have to keep apologizing every time you talk about it…”
“No, I mean it. I was … that was insensitive and uncalled for—“
“Hey! Let it go.” Clint still winced. “Really.”
They ate in silence, watching the news. This was the part Jenson dreaded, the awkward-silence bit. No one wanted to say the wrong thing at that moment. Perhaps it was best to keep quiet then. Besides, some said it was alright for friends to have occasional quiet moments. But they could not remain silent. Jenson never liked awkward pauses. Time for a save, Jerry.
He sighed. “You know … sometimes I wonder why our founding fathers just called this town … ‘Towne’?” Jenson said, trying to lighten the mood. “I mean, couldn’t they come up with a better name? A real name?”
Clint chuckled, still wary. “Towne, huh?” The TNN news correspondent on TV was now introducing the weather segment.
“Yeah? I mean, they might as well have called the country ‘The Country’? Or they could just call us … what, ‘Metropolis’?” Now Clint laughed. “Like they just wanted to get on with the story they wanted to tell.”
Jerry’s cell beeped again. This time he simply clicked it off.
Just then the door chimed as the big Edgar ‘Eddie’ Maxwell bounced in. “Hey, Jerry! Clint, my man!”
“Here comes the bulldozer,” Jerry muttered in a sing-song voice. He never liked Eddie’s knack for long pointless conversations. They pumped knuckles with Eddie, just before he grabbed Jerry’s last doughnut. “And now he’s got my dinner.”
Eddie grinned and held the remaining crescent up in thanks. “I hear you guys pulled another one in today.”
Jerry sighed. Yeah, like I need an announcement anytime you hear something new. He avoided Clint’s side-glance. “You never miss a thing, Eddie.” He took a sip from his cup of coffee.
“I’m not trying to be nosey or anything, but the rest of the guys have been talking,” Eddie said, leaning closer. “You two should be careful out there.”
Clint jumped on that one. “Wait, what’re the guys saying?” But Eddie was already walking towards the counter.
“Just be careful,” he called back.
Jenson knew Eddie had a point. He really had reason to be careful. Kraven Moore’s monopoly on the market for narcotics gave him a lot of influence, especially in the criminal underworld. And out in the open, he was the wealthy philanthropist donating to charities, dedicating monuments, and kissing babies. But in the intelligence community where it mattered, everyone knew he was the drug baron of Towne. Many said that he held his customers by a form of mind control. Jenson just assumed it was the drug dependence of his customers that kept them beholden to him. With Kraven, no one knew where the facts ended and where rumors began. But the only thing Jenson was sure of was that Kraven was a criminal, the type of person that must be brought to justice.
He knew he was being reckless here. But he had to do this. He stared up and caught Clint staring at him. He sighed. “Go ahead. You can’t keep tip-toeing around me.”
Clint kept his voice low. “Is this about Marty?” Yup, he was going to bring that up sooner or later. “You can’t keep beating yourself up because of that.”
“I’ve gotta redeem myself, Clint.” That was the most he had said about his situation to anyone. Clint paused as he held his gaze.
“You’ve done enough already.” Jerry’s phone beeped again. “And don’t cut that call. Could be a good girl, you never know.”
Jerry didn’t bat an eye as he punched the ‘Silence’ button. “It is. And I know. And I’m not looking for a girl now.” He ran a hand through his hair. “It’s my sister.”
Clint’s eyes widened. “Gigi? The amazing sister you never stop talking about?”
He held up his cup, but the coffee was finished. “Yeah, well she’s in Towne for the weekend. Wants us to meet up tonight. For dinner.”
“You need a dinner to talk with your sister?”
“That’s her idea, apparently. And I don’t ‘need’ to talk with her.”
Clint gave him that look again. “You haven’t talked with her in a long time, have you?” Jenson only shrugged. “C’mon, this is your sister we’re talking about, Jerry. I’ve never met her before, but if all the stories you keep telling me from when you were young are something, then this is what you need.”
“Look, we’ve both had a long week. I have no idea what you’re going through like you do. But a return to normalcy is what you need right now.” He held up a hand to shut Jerry up. Like that would work.
“There is no normalcy to return to.”
“Hey, just trust me on this one,” Clint said with a smile. “Go, meet your sister tonight. Call her. You need this more than you know.”
“Clint, I … I’m not the guy she thinks I am. Not anymore.”
“Jerry, you’re a cop. You’re a decent man. Haven’t seen you with a bottle in months now. You always wanna do what’s right. You’re a father … trying to honor the memory of his daughter. Don’t you want Gigi to see the man you’ve become?”
That’s what I’m afraid of.
Jerry knew Clint was right.
But the truth was he also knew the man that he had become, and he was not proud of it.
After his wife had died during labour, Marty had been the only ray of comfort in his life. Growing up without a mother had not been easy for her, Jerry knew, but he had not been the best of fathers either. He had focused on his job in the force, and spent much time away from Marty and her teenage angst. Way too much time, he realized in hindsight. But then, he felt he had pushed her out into the big bad world outside. Clueless, he had misinterpreted her preference for dark clothes, tattoos and cutting and stuff, as simple adolescent rebellion. Later perusal of her diary opened up her world of gloom and pain to Jerry. How had all of this happened without him seeing? She had been hanging out with druggies, and had done some experimentation herself. He would never forget the day her fifteen year old body was found in a gutter, the result of an overdose.
Drowning in depression, Jerry had sunk into his old habits of drinking and smoking. As much as he denied it to his colleagues, he had also gotten into the drug scene. He had felt like a mess. He did things he tried really hard to forget. It had taken months for him to return to the man he was today. But some of the pain still haunted him.
He had never really gotten over the drugs, but he still never got relieved of depression. In his frequent low times, he got high and drowned himself in a bottle. But that usually left him feeling high and dry, the ecstasy gone. Alone, feeling like a ‘hypo’, as Jamie called it. He fought and fought to come out of this, but he always returned to the lows.
Maybe that was why he wanted to deal with Kraven Moore. If he was really the drug baron everyone talked about, then he was Jerry’s enemy. Everything he was fighting against was embodied by that man. Kraven.
What would Gigi think of the man you’ve become? He thought as he drove through the streets, headed home.
And in all that time, Gigi had never stopped trying to reach him. While he avoided her deliberately, her messages of encouragement never ceased on voicemail, texts, even on Facebook. Gigi…how do you do that?
He was now at an intersection. He could either continue home on the right lane or turn left down to Quigley’s, where Gigi said she would be waiting.
They were not related by blood, actually. They had both grown up at the Irene Williams Home for Orphans. But with no other family, Gigi had become the closest thing to a sister he could ever have. She was so nice to all that everyone liked her. She was always there to defend Jerry— who was older— whenever he was bullied. And, oh, he was bullied more often than not as a kid. Not every young boy with a pot belly survived the jokes from the bullies back then. Maybe that was why he had always wanted to be a cop in the first place, to deal with the bullies of the world.
But now, he was simply an organ in the system, living in reaction to whatever happened around him. He was neither deep nor superficial, keeping others at arm’s length. Sometimes, some would consider him mean. But none of them really cared what was going on with him.
What would Gigi think of the man I’ve become?
He was just a man fighting for his peace. Fighting to live.
He parked outside the Quigley’s Diner. Better get this over with. He stepped out of his car, locked it, and made his way to the door. Ok, how do I say it? I’m sorry for not picking your call? Yeah, that’ll do. If she won’t accept it, I’ll just shrug…I’ll just…
An old man in rags held up a can by the door. A sign by his feet read ‘FEED THE HUNGRY KIDS’. Jerry rolled his eyes as he approached him. “Oi there, guv. Drop a li’l coin for the young-uns tonight, eh mate?”
“Out of the way, gramps,” Jerry pushed past him, leaving the man stunned.
Now, you don’t have to be like that. While Jerry was not used to giving to causes, he most definitely didn’t like people shoving cans in his face; especially those with bogus British accents. He knew the man meant well, and did not deserve to be treated badly. Why do I do these things?
But he was not prepared for the sight that met him as soon as he entered the diner.
All around there were tables with people seated. But Gigi’s was not hard to miss. Her table had a very prominent cake in the centre, and was decorated with red ribbons. And there she sat, her eyes twinkling as she flashed that impossible smile at him.
“Happy birthday, bro!” she exulted. Everyone turned to see who it was, and as one the diner applauded the man whose birthday Gigi was celebrating. Me?
Jerry’s mouth was suddenly dry. It’s my birthday…my… He had stopped celebrating anything ever since Marty died. There just never seemed to be a point to celebrate. But here he was, having forgotten that this was his birthday. Gigi would not let the day pass. Gigi, how do you do all this?
The fact that someone still cared about him to celebrate his birthday, to remember this … when he had even forgotten it, made his eyes water. He blinked the tears away. He was a cop, after all. In his mind, at least.
Gigi stood and hurried over to him, her silky black hair flowing down to her neck. Beautiful as ever. He embraced his sister, but he could not speak. What could he say?
“Thanks for coming, bro,” she whispered in his ear. That did it. The sobs came.
Thank me? Thank YOU!!! But nothing came out of his mouth.
How could he thank Gigi for this? He did not deserve this, after shutting her out for so long.
Somehow, he knew Clint had been right. This had been what he needed.
In one small way, he felt like he was home.
Later that night, a couple of police officers stumbled out of a pub. It had been another Friday night rave. Who cared that they would be driving drunk? They were the law; deal with it! As they entered their cars, one of them stopped.
“Hey, guys, come check this out!” He pointed his flashlight up the side wall of the pub. It was not unusual for them to see graffiti on walls in Towne, but this was different.
For a moment the policemen were silent. It couldn’t be…
“This fits his M.O.,” another cop commented.
“Anyone see this when they were coming in?”
“Nuh-uh. This one’s fresh.”
“We’d better call it in.”
“You sure? Could just be some kids messing around.
“Too risky. Killers of his type don’t tolerate copycats.”
Up on the wall was a big T with one word written underneath.
“Better spread the word. This is gonna be a long night.”
He keyed his radio. “Dispatch, we have a scribbled threat on Twenty-Fourth and Downey, Uptown Pub, west wall. Fits the M.O. of the vigilante.“
He was interrupted by another transmission. “We got the same thing over here on Yak Avenue. Big T with the word ‘TONIGHT’ scribbled under.” The cops exchanged glances.
The dispatcher’s voice came over the radio. “Dispatch to Unit on Yak. Are you certain?”
A third report came over the radio. The dispatcher asked for clarification. An awkward pause followed.
One of the cops blinked. “What’s going on?”
The dispatcher came back on. “All units be at alert. Code Red. We are at full-scale security tonight. A possible attack is imminent. I repeat, the Taser might strike tonight.”
And somewhere in Towne, the one they called the Taser was smiling. The message was out.
TO BE CONTINUED…in THE TRAP
Tune in for the continuing drama of TASER.
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