This is the third installment of a series.
Part 1: https://wanderingthroughthenight.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/what-would-you-do/
Part 2: https://wanderingthroughthenight.wordpress.com/2017/12/12/what-would-you-do-part-2/
It started like any other race riot, some cop or security guard killed a brown skinned boy who was just “minding his own business.” The media didn’t care to report on the fact that “minding his own business” involved armed robbery, assault and battery, and a litany of other felonies and misdemeanors.
Joe sat at his computer workstation in his apartment and listened as the local public broadcasting station updated the news on increasing numbers of demonstrations and violence across the state. He kept trying to work on some code, keep the supplemental income coming in so he could spoil Teddy a little bit, maybe get him enrolled in a junior small bore program or something if Ashley didn’t throw a complete fit. Joe clicked “save” on the module he was working on and called it for the evening, and pulled up the “public intelligence” resources he used to track the riots.
Joe’s cell phone rang. Ashley’s number. “Damn.” he breathed as he picked it up, and answered on the second ring.
“Talk to me.” Joe spoke.
“Teddy got into a fight at school today.” Ashley said, her voice clearly emotional. Joe wondered why he’d married such an emotional woman, but didn’t wonder why she divorced him.
“Is he ok?” Joe asked calmly.
“Yeah, just a black eye.” Ashley replied. “But the other kid said he’d take care of this later, with his big brothers and gang.”
Joe frowned. He knew there was some gang activity in Teddy’s school district, but Teddy was in grade school, not high school.
“Ok, what gang?” Joe asked, still calm.
“I don’t know, Teddy didn’t know either.” Ashley started whimpering.
“It’ll be ok.” Joe instructed, “Can you put Teddy on the phone?”
“Sure” Ashley yelled in the distance, and Joe heard the sound of his son’s running feet get louder.
“Hey dad.” Teddy spoke.
“Hey sport.” Joe replied. “This kid you got into a fight with, does he always wear some sort of sports team jersey? Or some specific colors like red, blue, or yellow?”
“Yeah, he’s always wearing Pittsburg Steelers jacket.” Teddy answered “Black and yellow.”
“Ok, and does his name sound hispanic like Rodriguez or Ramos?” Joe continued.
“Yeah, Jimenez” Teddy answered.
“Thanks kiddo, you can put your mom back on.” Joe said.
“Kay, bye” and Teddy passed the phone to his mother.
“Ashley, do you still have that shotgun of mine that you got in the divorce?” Joe asked.
“I think so.” Ashley responded, I think I put it in the closet since you said you wanted Teddy to have it when he grew up.
“Well, I want you to get it now, and I’ll be over in a bit with some ammo for it.” Joe explained. “You probably won’t need it, but better safe than sorry, right?”
“Joe you know I hate guns.” Ashley’s voice took on a harder edge.
“I know, but you love Teddy more than you hate guns.” Joe pointed out as calm as he could manage. “And I know you’ll do anything to protect him.”
Ashley paused, “I’ll see you when you get here.”
“Call everybody, it’s time the gringos got woke up to the plight of the working migrant.” Jorge said on the cellular phone to his cousin, a sophomore at one of the local state colleges. She was politically active, the most “woke” person he knew. And she was dumb enough to think that she was doing a good thing by arranging for protesters to come into the white middle class neighborhoods to shake people out of their comfort zone.
Jorge pressed the red circle to disconnect the call and nodded to the rest of the room. The thugs started laughing.
“Yo, we can hit that house tonight.” Julio smiled as he thought about Teddy’s mom, a fine ass white bitch always strutting around in yoga pants. “His old man was some kind of Soldier or Marine or whatever, house has to have a couple guns we could sell.”
“A’ight” Jorge answered, “We wait until things get real hot downtown, make the five oh take longer to respond out in the burbs. That make you feel better lil man?”
“Yeah, that bastard deserves whats coming to him.” Francisco spat, eleven years old and already broken beyond repair. Francisco had been picking on some girls like he’d seen Jorge do, and Teddy had told him to stop. Francisco knew he needed to establish his rep as someone not to be screwed with.
Joe picked up four boxes of reduced recoil double ought buckshot from his storage locker, two boxes of twelve gauge and twenty gauge each. 40 rounds of ammunition was enough to make some noise, but not enough to look like a crazy gun nut in case something happened where the police got involved. The twelve gauge Mossberg 500 wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows either, as it was painted like a duck gun. Joe bought a hunting license every year, even when he wasn’t planning on hunting. So far the gun banners still allowed pump action shotguns for “sporting purposes” so it always paid to have a sporting purpose, even though Joe wasn’t a fan of wild duck, too gamey for his taste.
The drive to Ashley’s suburban McMansion was uneventful, all of the protests, looting, and rioting had gravitated toward the urban center of the city. Joe called Ashley two minutes out and as pulled into the driveway about 45 minutes before sundown she had the second garage stall open for him to pull into. As he opened the door he saw that Ashley wore the worried look of a mother who felt powerless.
“Hey pretty lady.” Joe said softly, popping the trunk on his beater compact sedan and pulling out the bag of ammo and shotgun in it’s marsh grass camo striped carrying case. He pulled three pocket size LED flashlights from the car kit in the trunk and put them in the bag with the ammo.
“Hey yourself big lug.” Ashley smiled as Joe moved with the brutal efficiency of someone used to hauling around firearms and ammunition. He may be an asshole but damned if he wasn’t the kind of guy you like to have around when things went bump in the night.
“I’m hoping that nothing happens, but I can stay here for a few days and make sure that the security is upgraded.” Joe spoke evenly. “Standard stuff, reinforced doors and windows, day/night cameras, and reinforce an internal room into a retreat area.”
“Ok, but we have to make it clear to Teddy that we aren’t getting back together.” Ashley said firmly.
“I’ll sleep on the couch.” Joe answered. “In case something does happen I can respond faster from there.”
Teddy was happy, despite the black eye, that his dad was going to stay the night. Dinner was vegetarian spaghetti and salad, and Joe was about to take the first bite of his second serving when he heard the chanting.
“No más explotación!
No más deportación!
Nuestro tiempo ahora!”
“Ashley, lets take Teddy upstairs now.” Joe said quietly as the chanting registered on her face. “Grab desert, Teddy can eat it in the bathtub.”
“Desert in the bathtub? Dad that’s silly!” Teddy laughed.
“Sometimes you just gotta be silly.” Joe grinned. Ashley grabbed the box of Tastykakes and took Teddy upstairs. Joe followed with his shotgun and boxes of shells after locking all the exterior doors and ensuring the dowels were dropped into the window tracks so they couldn’t be easily forced open.
Inside the upstairs master bedroom Ashley dug into the closet and pulled out the old Remington 870 20 gauge that she kept in the divorce. Joe saw Teddy eating a Tastykake in the cast iron claw foot tub that Ashley insisted on when they updated the bath, and now Joe was thankful for that purchase that he once called trivial.
“I don’t know how to use this.” Ashley said as she held the brown shotgun case in her hands.
“Just like in the movies, let me show you how it works.” Joe showed her the slide action, the safety, and had her dry fire a few times.
“You just load up the tube, and stay in the bathroom with Teddy.” Joe instructed. “When I leave this room, you lock it behind me and you just stay in place. Text me on your phone if you need me to bring anything, but I’m not coming back through that door without you asking me to. I’m going to go cut the power, so don’t be scared when it goes dark.”
Joe handed her two of the LED flashlights, one for her and one for Teddy.
“Ok.” Ashley answered. “I hear gunfire I’m calling nine one one.”
Joe left the master bedroom, locking each door behind him, and stuffed 20 shells into the cargo pockets of his khaki utility trousers ten on each side, five shots loaded into his Mossberg, and he racked the slide to put one in the chamber. He put the remaining 15 shells at the top of the stairs. He made his way to the garage and cut the master switch at the circuit breaker panel, and the entire house went dark. Joe made his way back inside, locking the door to the garage behind him, and set himself up at the bottom of the stairs in the dark.
The chanting grew louder. Hundreds of college students, service worker union members, and leftist citizens marched through the neighborhood. Joe sat there, his eyes adjusting to the dark, occasionally checking the time on his Seiko dive watch. The illumination on the hour hands had faded, but was still readable after all the years of faithful service.
The front door screen rattled, and Joe raised the shotgun to his shoulder and wasn’t surprised when a rock sailed through the stained glass picture, followed by an arm that snaked through to undo the dead bolt and lock.
Joe readied the flashlight with his support hand, letting the shotgun rest in the palm of his hand holding the flashlight aligned with the barrel, used his right thumb to take the Mossberg off “safe” and as the door swung open turned it on, his left thumb pressed the button on the side of the flashlight and all 200 lumens of brightness causing the gang bangers to stop in their tracks. The lead banger pulled up a silver semi auto pistol. Joe didn’t hesitate, and 8 rounds of double ought buckshot hit the gang banger right in the chest.
Joe’s left hand automatically jerked the slide back and forward, which caused the flashlight to wobble, but the remaining gang bangers were fleeing, the chanting crowd so loud that many didn’t hear the thunder of the 12 gauge. Joe pressed the button on the flashlight again and killed the light. The ringing in his ears hurt, and the smell of gunpowder lingered in his nose.
Joe pulled out his phone, and dialed nine one one.
“Nine One One, what is your emergency.” A woman asked.
“I’ve just shot an armed intruder.” Joe began, and he gave the address to the dispatcher, and his phone number so that first responders could call him out of the house if they wished. “I’m sorry I have to call my attorney now.”
Joe hung up on the dispatcher and called Victor. To his credit Victor answered on the third ring.
“This is Victor, how may I solve your problem today?” The jovial man with vaguely Slavic accent spoke.
“This is Joe, I just shot an intruder, I would like you to be my legal representation.” Joe spoke calmly and clearly.
“Ah yes, Joe, will not be a problem. Where are you now?” Victor inquired.
Joe gave the address, and Victor wrote it down. “Do not say anything to anyone, I will get there and help you prepare your statement.”
Joe hung up the phone, and texted Ashley the situation, told her to stay in the bathroom until the police came for her.
The cops arrived, and called Joe out via loudspeaker. Joe complied, leaving the shotgun on safe on the stairs. Victor arrived and made sure that Joe was not illegally questioned, and followed him to the police station where he assisted Joe in writing a sworn statement. Since this station was in a different part of town, all the faces were new to Joe.
A distinguished looking man with silver streaks in his hair came into the interview room where Joe and Victor sat, now silent with a completed sworn statement in front of them.
“Ok, off the record the guy you shot has a rap sheet. Petty theft, drug dealing, some violent altercations.” The man sat down. “But also off the record you just caused another Latino death while this community in the middle of the biggest race riot we’ve seen in decades.”
Victor spoke up. “And yet, nothing my client did is illegal, no matter how politically inconvenient it may be. And that could be considered on the record.”
The man smiled ruefully. “True, but we can hold your client for questioning, get the feds involved to see if it was a ‘hate crime’ and generally make your life miserable.”
Victor smiled like a shark. “Ah yes, as you talk this way I see dollar signs. Don’t worry good detective, the city never makes employees pay for their mistakes, the taxpayers always foot the bill.”
The detective frowned, suddenly angry. “Look you piece of shit, your client just brought a shit storm into my district, and I’ll be damned if some ambulance chaser lets him get off Scot free.”
Ivan put on a poker face. “Detective, let us assume that there is, in your school districts, the receipt of funds for decreasing the number of student to police interactions. There is no point in denying it, the almighty Google has several press releases with your boss expounding on the reduction of student to police interactions over the past few years.”
Ivan paused slightly to let that bit of information sit in the room like a turd in a punch bowl.
“Now, if it were to come to light that the deceased, who was carrying an illegal semi-automatic pistol in the conduct of attempted burglary, had many run ins with your police department before, which as your records seem to indicate is the case, then the question will come up as to why he was a free man, with an illegal gun in his hand, attempting to force his way into the residence of a single mother and her nine year old child?”
Victor paused again, letting the facts add up.
“Now I understand politics. But I also understand justice, my parents took me from my homeland to escape injustice. The words of our pledge end with the phrase ‘and liberty and justice for all.’ And while I may be a poor, ambulance chasing lawyer, I know the law and I know my client has done nothing wrong, and if you attempt to pervert justice for the sake of political convenience you should be ashamed to call yourself an American.”
The silence in the room seemed deafening.
“You see detective, I am passionate about justice, a true believer in civil rights and rule of law.” Victor smiled. “I will not rest until my client is a free man with no charges, and because I have the cheapest rates of any ambulance chaser in the city, he can afford me, and my passion, to assist him as the law demands.”
The detective smiled. “Well screw me, that’s the best defense I’ve ever heard in these four walls.” He paused. “Look, we can legally hold him 24 hours for questioning, and we will, but it will be in this room. The boss is going to spin the illegal pistol aspect and call for another round of buy backs and hope we can distract the media from the ethnicity of the deceased.”
Victor smiled, “I recommend that my client take your excellent offer. Without any further complications, I will escort his family to his apartment while their home is still an active investigation scene.”
The detective nodded, and Victor followed the detective out of the room. Joe waited 20 more hours until his 24 hour holding time was up, before walking out of the station as a free man. Ashley and Teddy picked him up in her Jeep SUV, a stereotypical “Suzy Soccermom” ride but one that Joe made sure had 4 wheel drive.
“Hey you big lug.” She smiled, still shaken up.
“Hey pretty lady.” He answered back, tired. “Hey kiddo, wanna get a burger?”