WRITER’S NOTE: Hi there! Emmanuel here! The nature of the plot of this story requires that you have read the previous episode. So, if you have not, please read the previous episode first. Just my advice. Here’s the link:
‘Reports within the county corroborate the existence of the anonymous vigilante known to law enforcement forces only as the ‘Taser’.
The vigilante has been known to go after criminals over the last decade. His ostensibly well-intentioned reason for not working along with the police or the Justice Department is reminiscent of the antiheroic comic book vigilantes of popular culture. The moniker attributed to this vigilante, analogizing him with the trademark stun gun used by the police, is based on rumors claiming that he terminates his victims by electrocution. While this method of crime-fighting is inhumane and outside the boundaries of the law, the Taser has thus been branded persona non grata with the public, and is declared wanted by the police.
No one knows when or where, or even why he might strike next…’
From the Towne Times
Quigley Diner in Towne.
Gigi’s surprise for his birthday was a breath of fresh air to Jerry’s otherwise gloomy weekend. He had not been expecting it, but in her characteristic manner she had set the stage, breaking the ice.
Strangely, dinner with his sister did not feel as awkward as he had expected. She did not beat him up, perhaps because she knew it was not what he needed at the moment. She just seemed glad to meet up with him again. When she mentioned his avoidance of her calls, and he had apologized, that had been the end of it.
It was then that Jerry realized how much he had missed his sister. No one else understood him as much as she did. She knew just the right questions to ask to make him speak. For any other person, that would be hard work because Jerry tended to prefer sarcasm to actually expressing his feelings.
He felt free to be himself here, not trying to impress her with stellar stories about his career as a cop. She asked about his wife, and Marty, and about life since then. It had brought a solemn mood to an otherwise happy reunion. It was not that it made him feel better, no. It was just that he had never known that he really needed someone to listen. Or that he really had a lot of stuff to say worth listening to, bottled up inside.
“So the whole ‘mean, big guy’ façade is your shield?” Gigi asked.
Jerry shrugged. “One could say that.”
“So … what do you think you’re protecting?”
He thought about that for a moment. “My sanity?” It was meant as a statement, but he was also asking himself. He shook his head as he chuckled. “I’m sorry, that makes me sound like a case.” He had not planned to say so much.
“No, no, Jerry. It’s alright. I’ll understand.”
“Really, the world is not as perfect as you’d want it to be. Sometimes you have to be tough to get some respect. You earn it. Pull your weight.”
“I see.” She sipped her juice. “But then, you know the other ‘tough’ guys are also trying to protect something.”
An image of the talkative Eddie actually taking a moment to think about something serious crossed his mind. He chuckled. “Nah…”
She shrugged. “I’m just saying. Everyone’s real on the inside. The stuff we see on the outside are just loads of layers to hide what’s going on inside. That’s the real person that feels love, joy … that’s got fears, that worries … the real you. When we expose that person, we feel vulnerable. We only do that to people we trust.”
She leaned toward him and whispered. “Everyone is struggling with something, Jerry. There’s stuff that bugs them, that makes them realize that they’re not so tough on the inside.”
Jerry thought of his addiction to drugs and alcohol. He always told himself it was just a low he sunk into when depressed, a secret burden he could deal with. He had chosen alcohol to keep him distracted from the cravings he felt for the dope anytime he was depressed. He took all that to keep him from dwelling on his regrets, from thinking of Marty and of his failure as a father. But in the end … it was all still there. He tried not to bat an eye as he stared back into his sister’s piercing eyes.
He shook his head. “Listen, Gigi, I’m a cop. It’s a crazy world out there. You have no idea the kinds of people I meet. Nutcases without a—“
“Actually, bro, I meet a very wide variety of people every day. I think I have a good idea the kinds of people you meet.”
“I’m sorry, I keep forgetting. You’re a prison therapist, right?”
Gigi cocked her head. “Something like that. I engage in … restorative techniques for the prisoners.”
Jerry remembered when Gigi used to bail him out whenever he was bullied. She had always had a way of commanding respect, even from the older bullies. It did not take a stretch to imagine her talking to huge, heavily-tattooed criminals and listening to them baring their minds during her therapeutic exercises. “Still, I doubt you’ve experienced what I have. It’s different on the frontlines. When you’re out after real dangerous criminals, all illusions of ideals are gone.”
Jerry was thinking about Kraven Moore. He believed that if he could legally prove him guilty, he could effectively make a difference. Get the Dope out of circulation. Deal with the problem. Redeem himself. He was out trying to do something. Yet everyone else on the force was certain he was getting into dangerous waters with this case.
“I may not know about the people you deal with,” Gigi said. “But I do know enough to be concerned.”
Jerry stared up at her. “I’ll be fine.”
“I mean it, bro. There’s more at work out there than meets even the keen investigative eye.”
He squinted. “You’re not talking about angels and demons and stuff, are ya?”
She paused to think about it. “There’s that too. But I’m talking about something much deeper.” She thought for a moment, making Jerry wonder what was on her mind. “Light and Darkness have always been at war.”
For some reason, Jerry’s mind went to the weird nightmares that had been plaguing him. The gloom and deadness he felt in his dreams never left him even after he awoke. Darkness. He avoided her gaze and shook his head.
“There’s a whole network of evil and darkness out there, Jerry. It’s what operates in the hearts of men. The Darkness. You can’t fight it on your own. Only the Light can.”
“Gigi, please, you know I respect you and all. But please, don’t bring God into this. I’ve tried it, been there, done that, yeah I even know the lingo. We grew up in the church, remember? But I’ve moved on since then.” He shook his head. “It didn’t work for me.”
“Jerry, this is not about going to some building or obeying some rules. It’s more than someone giving you a clean slate. It’s about God, the Writer and Maker of your life, giving you a totally new and different one.”
Images kept running through his mind. Thoughts he preferred to keep away. “Yeah, so I can totally mess it up again?”
Gigi stared at him, pursing her lips. Just when Jerry thought it would all end up in a stale staring contest, she said, “He’ll help you be what’s right. That’s the only way you can do what’s right.”
Jerry exhaled. “Well, He should just keep this wonderful plan coming.”
She placed her hands on his own, staring into his eyes. “I need you to listen to me here, Jerry. Are you listening?”
His gaze lifted from her hands to her face. “Sure.”
“Are you? Are you really listening?”
“Yeah, sure I am.” He was going to raise his voice, but it felt inappropriate.
She nodded, but she looked really serious. “Remember how in the movies, when a character’s dying, they usually call out ‘Whatever you do, don’t look into the light’.” He smiled at the reference. “You will see the Light one day, Jerry. Whatever you do, you must look into the it. Sure, it’ll draw you in. And probably end your life. But that’s the only way you’ll ever truly live.”
Jerry slightly arched a brow. While that did not make much sense to him, Gigi had seemed extremely serious there. She was definitely not kidding.
“I’m not dying anytime soon, Gee,” he said slowly. “I’ll be fine.”
Gigi rubbed an eye. “I’m really glad we met today, Jerry. I’ve missed this.”
Jerry was stumped. How could he express his own gratitude? She had just celebrated his birthday for him. Could she know the great import of what she had done? “No thank you. I truly am grateful. I mean, I honestly was not expecting to come here today … mostly because, well, it’s been a long time since we met an’ all. I was expecting this to be awkward but you just … blew me away with this … birthday thing. I mean, even after I … after I didn’t take your calls and or answer your text messages and stuff. It’s been much more … it’s been much better than I expected it to be and …” He caught himself and shrugged. “Thanks.” She looked amused.
Man, he had missed this. What had he been afraid of for so long? There was no use trying to impress or be good in front of Gigi. She knew him all too well. It was as if this moment would not end.
And that’s when the report came in.
His radio was chirping so he placed it on the table. Some officers were reporting suspicious sightings The dispatcher came on air, “… A possible attack is imminent. I repeat, the Taser might strike tonight.”
The chills of his normal regular life came crashing back with those words.
Jerry gasped. Uh-oh. Not the elusive vigilante…the Taser?!
He had heard numerous tales and reports about the Taser. The self-appointed purveyor of justice on lawbreakers had just left his calling card again. The graffiti. There had been reports of his activity in the surrounding area, but there had been no casualties in Towne so far.
More reports corroborating the announcement came over the radio. This was going to be one long night. On nights like these, there was intense activity in Town. All patrols would be focused on the rooting out of this self-acclaimed vigilante, who was considered nothing but a criminal.
When he stared up at Gigi, she was smiling. “I’m sorry, sis. I … I really wanna stay—”
“I’ve had a really wonderful evening, I’ll admit…”
“I know…” The radio still chirped with more reports.
“But I’ve got to get back to work. There’s—“
“I understand, bro. Go.”
“I mean, thank you for—“
“Jeremiah Tyler Jenson! Go! Get back to work. Shoo.”
He stood and they embraced. “You’ll be alright, bro.” she said.
He certainly hoped so as he left.
As he drove past, Jerry noticed that the Uptown Pub had been lit up with spotlights and cordoned off. A crowd had been evacuated from the building and was now standing outside the area taped off. Some officers were taking pictures of the writing on the wall. That had been the Taser’s signature ID ever since he started his professed rain on crime. It was said that he had assaulted many criminals, but the rumors said he electrocuted his victims, earning his popular nickname as a not-very-accurate description of his methods. He operated outside the law, and was therefore a target thereof.
The dispatcher came over the radio. “Dispatch for Jenson?”
“Over,” he replied.
“You’re needed at the precinct. Chief’s office.”
Uh-oh. “Already on my way.”
Clint had warned about this. Funny how a great night could just be ruined by a meeting with the Chief. Gonna meet the principal…
Not surprisingly, the streets were more active this night with more police activity. Every street had the occasional flashing red and blue lights and wailing sirens.
The elderly police chief, Lenny Baynes, was speaking with a press crew in the parking lot when Jerry arrived. “The buildings have been evacuated, and citizens have been cordoned off from the perimeter.”
“Thank you sir,” the lady from TNN said. “But we have questions about the Taser himself.”
“Ah, well our investigations on this case have been as in-depth as possible, within available resources, ma’am.”
“Is it true that no one has seen the Taser’s face?”
“That is correct.”
“Not even sketch artist impressions?”
Baynes scratched the back of his neck. “The Taser is a very intelligent mastermind. He knows how to operate under the radar. No one, and absolutely no one, has come forward with an image or a description of an image that we can work with.”
“Not even the victims?” Baynes cocked his head. “Oh, I’m sorry, the victims aren’t … uh, alive. So, for all we know, we could pass the Taser every day and not know it?”
“For all I know, ma’am, even you might be the Taser.” That earned a chuckle. “But all security is on high alert tonight, and we can assure the wonderful citizens that they can be at peace. There has been no recorded death at the hands of the Taser in this town, thank God, but we are ready for the worst scenario.”
“What would constitute a worse scenario, Chief?”
Bayness chuckled. “Let’s hope we don’t see one.” He tipped his hat. “I would love to talk some more, ma’am. But duty calls. Just stay indoors tonight. Things could get really dangerous. Your faithful men in black and blue will cover the streets for ya.” And with that he walked away, waving off any further questions.
He motioned Jerry over. “Walk with me.” The latter prepared for the worst. He was not one to back down from a challenge. Baynes was a levelheaded man that could take a good explanation. But he did not say a word to him until they got to his office. On the way they passed a couple of staff in the reception and dispatch units, doing afterhours duty because of the imminent threat.
Soon, Chief slammed his door and motioned Jerry to take a seat. “Please.” He then sat in his high back chair. He placed a folder on the table and stared up at Jerry. He knew full well what that folder contained – all Jerry and Clint had gathered on Kraven and his criminal network— but then he had not been expecting less, had he? But was this really the best time for Chief to bring this up?
“What’re you doing, Jenson?” Baynes asked. He seemed really concerned, not angry.
Jerry stared at the folder, thrown off by this line of question. Sarcasm was always the easiest way out. “I’m currently sitting before you, sir.”
Chief did not bite. “Don’t push it. You’ve documented quite an extensive report of your crackdown on the drug dealers. You’re after something, Jenson. And you’re fueling it with all the energy you’ve got.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“No, it’s not a compliment. You’re on a rabbit trail, Jenson. And I don’t know if you’re gonna get out of this without acquiring some dirt. Or worse.”
Jenson leaned close to him. “Sir, I think we can get Kraven Moore. He’s the criminal mastermind in the under—“
“Do you know this for certain?”
“But I can prove it, legally. With documented evidence and witnesses.”
Baynes tapped the folder. “Your ragtag group of detainees?”
Jerry nodded. “Sir, Moore has a hold on our youth. He’s poisoning the lives and futures of young men and women, enslaving them through drug dependence. They’ll do whatever he tells them to. That’s why he’s so powerful, and the criminal element would still go on unchecked. If we keep ignoring this, sir, the risk is much too high. Lives are at stake.”
The chief stared hard at him and lowered his voice. “Is this because of your daughter, Jenson?” Jerry was stuck for a moment. He could not lose this case over emotional attachment, and Baynes was definitely playing that card. He simply shook his head slightly. “You do know that policy officially does not support your involvement in this investigation,” Baynes said.
“My daughter was not officially linked to Moore. This case has got nothing to do with her. “
“You would have a motive for retribution,” the chief said. “Revenge. Clouded judgment. But this is the police department, Jenson. We administer justice according to the law. I cannot allow you to go on with this, I’m sorry.”
Jerry sat back, considering a slightly different tack. “Sir, if it was your daughter, wouldn’t you do what I’m doing?” There, he had accidentally leaked his emotional attachment to the case. But was it not helping?
The chief leaned forward. “I’m gonna forgive you for that line, officer. Unlike you, I’m a good father. And my daughters have never been, nor will they ever be, junkies.” Jerry just stared at him, trying to contain the anger welling up within. “Jenson, I only want to help you here. We have no idea just how far Kraven’s influence goes. There are many on his payroll in Towne, people of great influence. Even if we got him to court … we could be goners before he even got to the stand. Or worse. Besides, Towne’s doing just fine as it is. We don’t need to ruin that balance because we wanna be heroes.”
Jerry was still reeling over the chief’s jab at his daughter. “I’m not afraid to die. That’s why we’re the police.”
“Oh, COME ON! We’ve got bigger problems to deal with than the drug issue. The Taser’s out there, and here we are arguing about going after some untouchable drug dealer?” He inhaled and paused. “Let’s not get over-excited. You’ve done an excellent job gathering data on Mr. Moore. This would surely help us in our investigation. You have earned it. As of this moment, you’ve been reassigned to be our representative on the county’s task force investigaing the Taser problem. Anything, just … stay away from Kraven Moore!” They stared at each other. “It’s a dead-end.”
Isn’t Chief overreacting to this? Something kept prodding Jerry’s mind, but he ignored it. Perhaps he was reckless, living on autopilot. Perhaps he really did not care if he died anymore, even if it was at the hands of people like Kraven or of those in their networks of influence. “I’m come too far, Chief.”
After a stale pause, Baynes stared at his desk and exhaled. “No use negotiating…”
That thought kept running through Jerry’s mind. This was not going to end well.
Baynes looked up at him. “You’re fired.”
And then it hit him like a freight train. It felt like all the air in the room was sucked out.
But he couldn’t really be fired. His voice came out choked. “I’m sorry?”
“This folder will never see the light of day. Every last one of your supposed ‘witnesses’ has been cleared and released—“
“What?!” Your life is over, Jerry. He’s with Kraven.
“You’ll get your payment for the month, but then that’s it. You’ll have to leave the force.”
Jerry Jenson’s world was crashing all around him in one fell swoop. Baynes had been working for Kraven all along! Could it be a dream he would wake up from? He was not even strong enough to bite his lip to confirm.
“You’re letting me go?” he whispered.
Baynes stood and walked over to a window. “Oh, and we don’t expect you to cause any trouble, Jenson. You’ve already got many strikes against you, as it is.”
“Let’s just say there’s more than one way to fly, isn’t there, Jeremiah Jenson?” He stared hard at him, his face expressionless.
The Dope. He still had enough stashed in his room, for the lows. He knows … dear God, he knows!
Jerry wished the ground could just open up and swallow him in that moment.
“Have a good evening, Mr. Jenson. Good luck with the rest of your life. Oh, and don’t bother clearing your office. Keep the uniform. Let it be a, uh … a souvenir. A goodbye gift from the Towne Police Department.”
Jerry pushed himself to his feet, on wobbly legs as it was. It felt hard to breathe, or to even say anything intelligible.
Kraven killed your daughter. Kraven took your job. Kraven ruined your life… Is ruining your life…
He walked over to the door and placed his hand on the handle. Baynes just watched him, unsmiling.
It’s been Kraven from the very beginning. The bane of your existence. The scourge. The evil.
“Dear God, my life is over…”
And he walked out the door, lacking even the strength to slam it in anger. He felt like a terrible failure. He really should have seen this coming.
Marty…the Dope…Kraven…Marty…my job…my life…Kraven…Marty….failure…I’m a…I’m…
I will get you, Kraven Moore.
He grabbed his phone, the only thing within his reach, and slammed it against a wall.
The only thing he could think of was the moment he saw Marty’s body in the gutter, eyes staring into the distance. Gone. Dead. That had been the moment his life was turned on its face, the moment he realized that nothing would ever be the same again. The moment he realized that he had failed as a father. It had taken much to bring him up to this point. But now, he had been slammed against rock bottom. And now, he did not know if he could rise any more.
He sank to the floor and cried.
TO BE CONTINUED … in THE ULTIMATUM
Tune in for the continuing drama of TASER, coming up shortly.
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