I have no idea where I am or where I’ll be going, so running seems like a bad idea. I’m not too terribly far from Nelson Boulevard, but I honestly don’t know Nelson all that well so I might get lost even if I get back there. And I can’t very well start asking people for directions with this blood on me or they’ll just call the cops and I’ll be right back in this position.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.
I dig my thumb into my thigh, fighting for a moment of clarity. Only fragments come, but they’re enough to get me started.
Okay, time for Plan B.
I drop the phone back into the bag and fish out my utility knife. Cutting the cable ties nearly gives me a panic attack, but I have to do it if I don’t want the cops far enough up my ass to tickle my tonsils. I stuff the knife and the busted ties back in the bag and fish her gun out. I set it next to her and then zip my bag up and stuff it into a garbage can just as the lights give way to a Crown Vic rolling slowly across the mouth of the alley.
I take a deep breath and start to panic.
“Here! Here! Help!”
For once in my life, I’m happy my voice will never be James Earl Jones low. I’m hitting some pretty high notes here.
The Crown Vic comes to an immediate stop and the cop riding shotgun hops right out. My fake panic stops melding with my real panic and starts being completely overwhelmed by it.
I could get arrested. I’m going to get brought in for questioning. They’re gonna check the alley and find my bag and God only knows what’ll happen then.
Shotgun cop must see part of Easley sticking out from behind the garage because he pulls his gun out. My hands spring right up and his gun twitches upward for a second before I realize he’s not aiming it at me. The driver is out of the car now too and is following his partner down the alley, gun drawn. The first guy pulls up short of me once he sees Easley sprawled across the ground, his eyes keep flickering between her and me. Thankfully his gun stays pointed at the ground. His partner, who I’m now noticing is the elder of the two, holsters his gun once he reaches the scene.
Elder Cop puts a hand on Junior Cop’s shoulder and whispers something to him. Junior gets right to work rolling Easley over and cuffing her. Elder sets his sights on me.
“Are you hurt?”
It’s hard to focus on anything. Is his expression concerned or suspicious? If they bring me in will I have to sit in the back with Easley?
He speaks more slowly. His voice is surprisingly calm. “Are you hurt?”
My voice is not. “No.”
“Whose blood is that?”
I look down at my shirt and assume there’s more of it on my face. I don’t look like I just butchered someone, but I might’ve just killed a chicken and only cleaned the feathers off.
“Um. Hers. I, uh, broke her nose. I think.” I shake my head, trying to clear it. The good news here is I’m gonna be able to sell the shell-shocked victim spiel. The bad news is, of course, that it’s mostly true. My ability to think clearly and coherently hit its peak when I came up with my little plan of escape, and that plan involved getting myself pistol whipped so it wasn’t exactly a shining moment of intellect. It’s all been downhill since then.
He holds a hand out. “My name’s officer Mitchell Abrams. And from the look of her, I’d say the nose is pretty broken. Tough thing to have to do, defending yourself like that.”
I stare at him for a second, wondering if anyone could sincerely be this much of a “good cop” and if so, is his partner equally “bad cop”?
I take his hand, but I don’t think my grip’s particularly impressive today. “I—I don’t…”
He blinks and makes an odd face.
“Shit, yeah—‘how did you guys find me?’—right?”
I really hope I’m not that transparent about everything.
“We got a couple calls, saying a woman was holding someone at gunpoint on Nelson. We had a couple cars in the neighborhood with all this Easley bullshit going on, so we wondered if it wasn’t her. You got all kinds of lucky, kid.”
Certainly seems that way.
“Listen, my partner’s called in another unit to come and pick you up so we can drive you to the station separate from that woman. Nothing serious, we just need a statement. We’ll get you checked by an EMT too. Is that alright?”
My head feels swimmy when I nod. When Junior Cop gets back, it’s his turn to tap and whisper. Abrams turns back to me and this time I’m sure he’s at least a little suspicious. He’s looking past me to where Easley was lying.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name…”
“Wesley, my partner found blood over there by where our car is now. On the sidewalk. Is that related to this?”
My head’s spinning and I’m feeling a little sick, but I still know a cop question when I hear it.
“Yeah. It’s hers.”
“Is that where you hit her?”
I nod. Just tell the truth. Most of the truth is completely reasonable here.
“I’m sorry, I’m confused. If you hit her over there, how did she get over here?”
The little warning bells chime in my head: cop question, cop question! I wish I could do my breathing exercises without him noticing. Calm myself down, stop being so paranoid. No reason for him to suspect me of anything. I’m the victim.
“I…I panicked…” I look up at him, needing him to believe me. I’m not sure if this is part of the lie or if I’m really this strung out, but I’m in dire need of some good faith here.
Tell as much of the truth as you can.
“She fell and I wasn’t trying to hit her, but we just got tangled up and, and I panicked. I was alone…somewhere…with an unconscious woman, covered in blood, with a gun nearby, and what the fuck would someone think if they found me like that? I just…I just needed some time to think…to figure out what I was supposed to do…” I send out all the pathetic desperation I can and just pray it sticks.
Abrams doesn’t spend long considering me. I must look like I’m about to collapse because I see a disgusting amount of pity in his eyes. I wanna hit him so he’ll stop looking at me like that. Yeah, I didn’t really factor in my seething hatred of being looked down on when coming up with this plan.
“It’s okay. Don’t worry about it, you held up pretty well.”
He smiles a small smile, rewarding the brave little soldier for his courage, and even though I really am tweaking out about this and am somehow getting exactly what I want, I still have to fight off an intense urge to ruin it all. He may mean well and he may be one of the truly good guys, but I cannot stand being condescended to and I don’t fucking need anyone’s pity.
My face is ticking spastically and I can’t figure out what to do with my hands.
What do people do with their hands after knocking an escaped criminal out and then getting picked up by the cops with blood all over them?
My insides are swinging from hot to cold sporadically, and now I can’t contain either my anger or my panic. Instead of saying or doing anything (which is likely to get me in even more trouble), I look at my feet and nod.
It’s literally the first smart thing I’ve done since I left the house this morning.
Things go a little sideways once we get back to the station; apparently someone felt it necessary to look into my record before cutting me loose. I’m still a couple months away from having a certain…youthful indiscretion…expunged from my record. Something about underage drinking and public urination, I don’t really remember the details. What I do remember is Alan busting his balls convincing the cops to go easy on me. If I get into any more trouble with the law before my previous trouble blows over, Alan’s gonna have an aneurysm.
And the fact that I’m behaving so the stick up an authority figure’s ass doesn’t get worked around a bit more makes me feel a little ill.
I swear to God if I call this cop “sir” at any point, I will bash my own head against the wall.
“So, apparently the media’s gathered outside—probably looking for an interview with the man who helped apprehend Violet Easley.”
I appreciate Abrams not calling me a kid, but I also feel less like I “helped apprehend Violet Easley” and more like I “single-handedly foiled her escape”. That I stumbled ass over elbows onto her is of no consequence.
“We can arrange for you to be picked up around back, more privately.” He’s sporting a pretty impressive sour puss as he says the next bit. “We generally advise against it quite strongly, but you’re also welcome to leave out the front, if you’d prefer.”
Now that things have settled down a bit and I’m not worried about being charged with criminal costuming, I kinda think I’d like a little recognition. I don’t actually wanna talk to any of those people, but it might be cool to push my way through the crowd, waving off all questions. Movies always make it look so impressive.
“The front door should be okay. I’m not looking for an interview or anything, but getting my picture in the paper would be pretty solid.”
Abrams smiles. Oh, the rambunctiousness of youth. “They can use your yearbook photos for this too, if you’d rather.”
“Well, I haven’t actually taken a yearbook photo since I got into high school. I keep forgetting where they’re taking the pictures and getting lost. By the time I get my bearings, they’re gone.” I shrug.
I do not call Susan for a ride. Doesn’t matter that I’m there because I did something good (hugely stupid, but good), I really don’t want her to have to take off early from work to pick me up at the police station. Especially since I still need to pick up my bag before it gets taken to the curb and that’s not the kinda favor I really wanna ask her for.
So when I shoulder my way through the crowd of reporters, my destination is Anna’s red Ford Focus, not Susan’s green Prius.
I see Anna’s face through the window and can’t really decipher her expression. I see confusion and nerves, but there’s more there I’m not getting. She pulls away from the curb the second my door’s closed.
“I know you gave me a quick rundown over the phone, but let’s try it again.”
With no cops listening in this time, I give her the uncensored story and when I finish she punches me in the arm. Pretty hard, actually.
“You stupid asshole!”
A laugh horns in on her scolding like she might be a little pleased that I did something good, even if it was stupid and dangerous. Or it could just be wishful thinking, but I’m gonna stick with it anyway.
I grin. Anna swats at me again, still smiling.
“Don’t you look at me like that. Just because I can’t keep a straight face doesn’t mean I’m amused by your antics.”
“Well then, I might as well earn all your ire at once. You know how I told you I had to ditch my bag? Well…I kinda need to get it back…it’s full of fairly important things…like the costume of a fairly well known vigilante with my fingerprints all over it…”
Her eyes flit over to me and with as straight a face as she can manage, she says, “You’re only saying that ‘cuz you think you’re too adorable to earn much ire from me.”
I give her my best pathetic puppy face. “Well?”
She smacks me again.
“I’ll take you, but there will be ire. A great deal of it. Heaps, even.”