2109 words (8 minute read)

Chapter 3

The pace picked up after Mike rounded the corner, about two blocks away. Mike saw the man flick a cigar and start running into the street after Mike started catching up. That’s gotta be him. Oh shit, Doc was right! He was waiting for me to fall today! Mother fucker. Boots pounded the pavement as he worked to close the distance. It was the only sound he focused on. Running through a red light, a beaten up car came to a screeching halt it’s duct taped bumper just two inches away from Mike’s shins. It’s all or nothing. Jumping onto the hood of the car leaving another dent in the car’s history Mike committed to the chase. Ignoring the inevitable stream of vulgarities, he kept running. Gasping for air as his lungs burned Mike threw one foot in front of the other as he broke into a full sprint. Gotta quit smoking, I can’t keep this up.

His pace started to falter as his legs began to burn. Storefronts flashed in front of his eyes, their grey exteriors all beginning to blend together. For an old man this guy can keep a hell of a pace. I guess that says something about me. Mike could see him a half block up, his brown duster coat flapping in the wind like a superhero's cape. He held his hat from the wind and his checkered scarf was pulled up around his face.

The man bolted into an alley at frantic sprint. Mike, running like a freight train tried to round the corner slamming into the wall with his shoulder. The impact forcing breath out in a loud grunt. His momentum shattered, Mike turned down the alley to refocus.

“Hey!” Mike shouted. “Dude, I just wanna….” by now his lungs had given up and Mike put his hands on his knees to catch his breath. Looking down the alley, there was nobody in sight. Metal-Halide floodlights gave the alleyway an orange glow. Garage doors along the entire way were closed. Garbage dumpsters filled to the brim with trash bags and empty beer cases stacked near their sides. He couldn’t have made it to the other end in that time. He’s gotta be hiding.

Mike straightened himself, cracked his knuckles and stretched his arms to crack his back. Satisfied with the cracking noise and the release of tension, he readied himself for a back alley brawl. He took cautious steps down the alleyway, wary of anyone coming out of hiding. At each dumpster, Mike leaned back and kicked it before walking along it’s side. Hoping that the noise would give tell to a hiding coward. Hey, it works for the raccoon's that hide in mine. What if he’s got a gun?

His breath visible in the air and his lungs still a sore, the cold no longer bothered Mike. In the middle of the alley, Mike smiled to himself, and picked up an empty beer bottle. He smashed it open as he continued. Inch by inch, he eliminated places to hide. His fingers tingled with anticipation, blood coursed through his limbs as his muscles braced themselves for any surprise movements. With a running start, Mike kicked the last dumpster as hard as he could. Rusty wheels creaked in protest and a black garbage bag hung like a limp wrist for a second before dropping to the ground with a thud. No signs of movement. No creepy old cigar smoking man flushed out from the other side. Disappointed, Mike looked around the alley finding nothing, and allowed himself a chance to take a deep breath. He threw the broken bottle back into the dumpster and began walking back the way he entered just in case he missed something.

A red and blue flash of light caused Mike to stop in his tracks. The quick pierce of a siren echoed off the walls, the warning sound of any cop letting him know it’s time for one of the unpleasant conversations. He turned around with a dejected look on his face. He knew he fit all the profiles, a bandanna wearing, ripped up jeans and hands that smelled of spilled beer. My arrest record for obtrusive protests isn’t going to do me any favors either. He placed his hands up.

A barrel chested officer stepped out of the car. Does this guy spend every waking moment at the gym? Mike watched his partner, a shorter woman with her hair pulled back in a knot and a warm smile on her face hold out her hand for him to stand down as she stepped out.

“Easy there sir, everything okay here?” She asked.

Mike looked at both of them and relaxed his arms. “Yeah, everything is fine, what can I do for you?”

“Noise and vandal complaints. You mind stepping over here for some questions? Have you been drinking? Hands on the car please.” She said.

As Mike walked up to their car and put his hands on the hood, he caught a glimpse of the checkered scarf man across the street putting his cell phone back into his pocket. He was slammed down face first into the patrol car before a sound could slip out of his mouth. The metallic embrace of handcuffs and their ominous clicking as they tightened brought back memories. With a jerk back, he was thrust into the back of the car. Great way to start a night. I fucking swear that cops put these damn handcuffs in a freezer before throwing them on people. While the door slammed shut, he twisted his neck to try to get a better view of the man across the street. He stood between streetlights and had the audacity to tip his hat to Mike before walking away. That son of a bitch... I know where you work at least.

“Hey, why the hell are you guys arresting me?” Mike said as the pair of cops got into the car. They didn’t say anything and just started driving. “I mean, come on guys, at least give me a clue. Aren’t you supposed to read me my rights? I think I saw a guy recording everything on his cell phone. You’ll be on YouTube soon enough. Chicago's famous police brutality.”

“Just relax sir.” The man spoke, the tone of his voice displayed a small hint of nervousness. Mike caught a glimpse of the man's eyes in the mirror, full of sadness and sorrow.

“Everything will be okay Mike. Just enjoy the free ride. We’re taking you home, a concerned friend said you haven’t been taking your medicine.” she said before picking up the radio to inform dispatch that everything was okay and there was no one at the scene.

“Oooookaaaayy… yeah, this doesn’t jive with me. Obviously you know more about me than I do you. What is this? Some sort of shakedown or something? Guys, this really perpetuates the stereotype of corrupt cops. Did I interrupt your coffee break?” Mike looked through the metal grate at the laptop. A mugshot of him grinning from ear to ear with a black eye and a broken nose stared back along with his arrest record which went past the small coffee stained screen. Yup. I’m fucked. “Guys, listen, despite the arrests, they were all for minor incidents and protests.” He tried his best to sound appeasing.

“Like we said Mr. Auburn, we’re taking you home.” The male said. “Enjoy the silence for now, you’ve caused a lot of noise today.” He flashed his partner a look and she shook her head. That silent language two people have after working together for a long time was all the communication they needed for now.

Mike sat back and resigned himself to the car ride. He put his head on the window causing it to fog up as they drove. This is the longest and slowest way home possible. They came to a full stop at every red light even when making a right turn, which caused Mike's eyes to roll in frustration. He resisted the urge to be a backseat driver. Last time I had a tour of this type, it was for ‘Gerrymandering’ the homes of a few congressmen in protest over voter suppression. Heh, that was a good time. Allison was stunning that night all covered in red paint as we divided their houses to match their districts.

After a full tour of Chicago, they finally rolled their cruiser to the front of his apartment. A three level flat in a neighborhood where finding parking was impossible any time of the year. The female officer got out of the car and let Mike out, removing his restraints. By now every bone and muscle ached in his body, his wrists had nice red marks from the days activities.

“So, that’s it?” Mike asked.

“That depends. You don’t have much time left. Take this message for what its worth. Civility only goes so far. You seem to be one of those guys who needs it laid out in front of him.” She said as she got back in the car and signaled her partner.

“Wait!” Mike waved his hands in desperation as the peeled out and blasted through a stop sign. “Fuck!” That was the first time any living bloke ever gave a message. Bastards could’ve just taken me to him. They pulled off down the street, now driving with aggression. “See you on the thirtieth I guess.”

Mike reached in his pockets for his pack of smokes as he climbed the steps to his front door. The door dangled open, bouncing off a wall with the breeze with a broken handle. He stopped the rattling and held it open. Cigarette hanging from his lips, he stood in the door frame and stared at his violated home. Great. Just great. No matter where I move this happens every year. Why do I even bother?

The street light cast a small bluish beam of light inside. Mike flicked his lighter on revealing everything he already came to expect. A trashed apartment. Cheap floor lamps laid shattered in the middle of the floor. Old ratty couches upturned and homemade shelves thrown to the floor. Their contents strewn about like the splattered brains of a murder victim. Mike took careful steps trying to avoid any crunching noises of things that might be important. Picking up a lamp and turning it on caused a small shower of sparks. Lighter it is. They better not have broken my pool cue.

Entering his kitchen he saw the light from his fridge that lay sideways on the floor. It’s feeble light gave him enough to take in the scene that matched his living room. He pulled up a broken chair from the floor and wedged the fridge under the missing leg for place to sit down. He took a deep drag and let the taste of tobacco hang in his mouth as he looked around. Nothing was stolen from what he could tell. Just a message. He pulled off his bandanna and put his head in his hands letting the smoke and silence settle in. This day had sure as shit could’ve been better ,and at least nobody died. I don’t care what else happens, I want nothing more out of this night than the sweet warm embrace of sleep.

Getting up and lumbering through his kitchen, Mike no longer cared about the noise or where he stepped. A knife lay buried into the wall pinning a coat to it right in Mikes line of sight. Pulling it free, he ran his fingers over the coat feeling it’s texture. He brought it up to his face and inhaled deeply, pulling in the smell of polished leather and rotten chinese food. Doc’s tweed jacket he was wearing earlier.

Mike threw his fist through a wall and stumbled into his bedroom as the world became dizzy. November thirtieth is too far away. Sorry Doc, we do this as soon as I can move. I’m coming. I can’t lose another friend. Too exhausted to move. Just one hour. Not again. Loneliness and panic wretched in his chest as he fought back tears. He collapsed on his bed and curled up as the world faded away into another night of nightmares.

Next Chapter: Chapter 4