World of Xetrov

By bobgibbins All Rights Reserved ©

Drama / Other

John's first rally - Four years earlier

John’s first rally – 4 years earlier

Consumed with restless energy, John daydreams of a better place and at night he acts on it. He grabs dishes in exasperation.

“Another meeting tonight?” inquires Jessica.

“Yes,” rinsing a plate, “We have to keep changing locations. People have reported suspicious vehicles roaming around.”

“John, enough of this,” demands Jessica with her infliction rising.

Shutting the water off, “Jess, we are making progress, we have a journalist and a Homeland Security Officer on board. We’re finding out more and more details.”

“And then what?”

“Rise up and put the right people in office. There is an election coming up in a few months. We need to expose this corrupt government before it’s too late.” After drying off his hands he clutches his jacket.

Staring blankly at him, “I want to go with you.”

“Jess, you know it is too dangerous.” Leans over and gives her a kiss before sliding his jacket on, “You taste like pizza sauce.”

She flashes a generic smirk.

Sensing her disheartenment, he whispers in her ear, “I need to do this. Someday it will be better. I can still remember the days when we first met. It will be like that again.”

She disbelieves his apocryphal adage. “Be safe.”

Opening the door he turns at her with a smirk in lieu of goodbye then off he goes.

A mist soaks his clothes as he walks down a dark alley. His shoulders graze a church fence. Off in the distance, he sees a dimly lit building. He looks both ways before crossing the street. Hazy rain obscures a sport utility vehicle gleaming in a dingy neighborhood.

For an iota of time he feels a stab of fear and hurriedly crosses the street. He eagerly pulls open the main door to the building. There are only a few murmurs among the scattered groups.

After a few firm handshakes, smiles, and eye contact, he asks, “Hey, who owns the black S.U.V.?
“I don’t know, I’ll ask around.”

“Hey guys,” says John calmly entering the open room. He pulls off his jacket and throws it on a chair. Staring around blankly, his mind drifts to the black S.U.V.

“Hey John, I gave a quick ask around, no one has a black S.U.V.”

Looking directly at him, “Thanks.” With his arms folded tightly over his chest and heart he eases to the window and peaks through the blinds. No one is outside.

“What are you thinking, John?”

“I saw an S.U.V.” Shaking his head, he strolls back to his chair. “Where is that guy that works for Homeland Security?”

The man extends his arm and summons another guy, his attire is orderly; clothed in pressed pants and a buttoned-to-the-neck collared shirt.

John quickly stares, “Are you the guy?”

“Yeah.”

“How do I get outta this place?” Asks John gesturing towards another part of the room.

“The front door.”

“Don’t be a wise guy,” began John. “How do I leave Xetrov with the ability to come back into the country?”

“You can leave at anytime, however coming back is different. Once you leave, there is no coming back.”

“You find that silly?” John sits down at a table in the back of the room.

“Xetrov does not want outsiders to tarnish their country. They believe whatever a person desires can be fulfilled here.”

John stifles a laugh, “They don’t want anybody to see how the other half lives, come back and tell someone. That may cause others to question the government.”

The Homeland Security Officer only stares blankly pondering John’s doctrine on the tyranny of Xetrov. The man’s visceral condemnation displays confusion.

John continues impatiently stammering, “What if after ten years I want to settle down near my family in Xetrov?”

“Once you leave, there is no coming back.”

“None, zilch!”

There is silence again as John’s eyes wander the room while the officer thinks momentarily.

“There is one way.”

John’s head spins around, “Tell me!”

Four years later.

Mike is standing in the back of the room when a man approaches him, “Mike can I ask you a question?”

With certainty Mike smiles back, “Of course.”

“Whatever happened to John?”

With a slight smirk, Mike treads the waters of his memory, “Nobody knows. After the raid he disappeared, whether he is still alive, well, nobody knows.”

“How did it all go down?”

“It was a raid, the cops came in and busted it up. A few, like maybe five of us, escaped. The majority were not so lucky.” Mike tries to divert the man’s attention. “That was four years ago and every four years an election occurs. That’s why this year is that much more important. We are much larger than what we were four years ago. We might have the power to put one of ours into office.”

Mike looks up at the stage and sees a man step up on it. Slowly, Mike turns “This is our guy.” He begins walking towards him.

They exchange pleasantries and Mike straddles the pulpit, “Guys if I could have your attention...”

The docile crowd focuses on Mike.

“Tonight’s guest is a gentleman from the Doctor’s Association. He has deep roots in our cause and he is here to give us some new information regarding future plans about reproduction.”

The crowd looks around in silence as Mike heedlessly evaporates out of view.

Pausing to collect his thoughts, the doctor continues, “Some of you might have heard. After this election there is a big chance that the government is going to put into effect a reproductive allocation.” The crowd mutters, but the doctor speaks over them, “And that is exactly what they are going to call it: ‘Reproduction Allocation’.”

The doctor codifies members of the audience as they decipher the situation among themselves.

“In short,” continues the doctor, “We as humans will only be able to have two children. After the second child is born, there will be mandatory sterilization for the parents. As some of you may know, in China” the doctors begins to unfold a paper and reads ”Population and Family Planning Law of the People’s Republic of China states in Chapter 3, article 18, the State maintains its current policy for reproduction, encouraging and advocating one child per couple. Where the requirements specified by laws and regulations are met, plans for a second child, if requested, may be made. Specific measures in this regard shall be formulated by the people’s congress or its standing committee under the Central Government.” He folds the paper back into place. “Here in Xetrov they like that idea and the government is making motions to put that into law within the year.”

The crowd is tingled and boisterous, one man shouts, “What if you divorce and remarry?”

“The cut off is two offspring per person. If you remarry a woman who has no kids of her own you’re fine, but if you already have two, as a couple, you can’t have children. Your children are to be shared,” says the doctor sensing the restlessness of the crowd, “The government feels this is a benefit, one being the divorce rate for people with children will drop. People are not going to break up if they know they will be unable to procreate with another person and start a new life.” His clean and frank oration legitimizes his words.

The angry mob swells. “That’s ridiculous!” Yells one member.

“This too,” expresses the doctor, “will control overpopulation. We all know what happens when there are too many people and limited resources.”

In the distance Mike walks the length of the hall when a man interrupts him.

“Hey Mike, can I talk to you about something?

“Yeah sure,” Mike stares down at the shorter man.

“I heard that Sgt. Smith is winning the polls for town manager.”

“That’s what the papers say,” responds Mike posturing for a conversation.

“Well, do you think it is true?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“Now, Smith” the man gesticulates with his hands, “He’s the guy that busted the crew four years ago, right?”

“That’s true, but some of us got away. Some didn’t.” Mike’s face is immobile as he reminisces.

The man breaks his daydream, “I have a way for him to not get elected.”

Chuckling, Mike says, “Don’t vote for him?”

The man smiles, “No, the cops have service work done to their cars at the garage I work at. I could take care of something if you know what I mean. Fix it so it doesn’t work later.”

Smiling, “Chris, I like your thinking.” Mike’s mind drifts to a place four years ago, “Let me think about your proposal.”

“Yeah, no problem let me know. I can take care of it.”

They separate and Mike continues along his path to the back of the hall while the crowd interrogates the doctor. He reexamines the crowd before opening a side door and sliding into a different room and then picks up a phone.

William examines his father’s chart in the hospital room, grows bored and fidgets before wandering aimlessly in the hallway.

A nurse walks by and William eagerly broaches her.

“Excuse me nurse.”

Stopping to answer, “Yes.”

“My father is staying down the hall, his name is-“

“I know who you are,” she says coldly.

“You do?” His eyes darken with surprise tightening into a defensive posture.

“You come here every night. Eventually we begin to know our patients’ relatives.”

Relieved, “Wow, did my imagination take over there.” He gestures and ponders his next inquiry. “The drug Simvastatin, what are the side effects and benefits?”

The nurse walks him over to the counter. “We have a bunch of brochures on all our medications.” She reaches behind the desk and grabs a piece of paper. “I don’t think your father is on this.”

“Oh no, it’s for a friend.” He says peering his eyes over the counter.

“Friend?” Hands him the pamphlet. “Isn’t your friend a little young to have cholesterol problems?”

“What?” His confused eyes shift to the piece of paper.

“Cholesterol” she reiterates. “A more popular version of that drug is Lipitor. They are both medication for high cholesterol.”

His eyes fog into a blank stare of disbelief while he clutches the brochure.

His suppressed vision emits denial. Sipping the stale coffee he watches Tanya preoccupy herself behind the counter. Both appear content with the silence but each tick of the clock adds to his restlessness. Eventually he seizes the opportunity to speak with her.

“I don’t know how you guys stay in business. There is nobody here.”

Tanya’s head pops up from behind the register. Reassessing the vacant, “Volume.”

“Is that right? This volume you speak of, when does it occur?” As she nears a flash of emotion washes over them and their eyes lock.

“The mornings are madness, I hear.”

“Why don’t you work days? You probably would make more money.”

She stops wiping down the counter and looks over at him. “I have trouble sleeping and I’m a night person, plus my husband works third shift.”

Grinning, “Nobody’s a night person, the world is not meant for creatures of the night. You work third shift because your husband wants you to.”

Pausing, her green eyes shift in discomfort, “That’s not true.”

“Did he not suggest you work third shift?”

“He thought it would be a good idea, but that is not the reason. I like third shift.” There is a respite and downward infliction when continuing, “even if it gives me circles under my eyes.” She restarts her cleaning.

“I think you look great.” He hoped to evoke an emotion from her.

Tingling with pleasure from his compliment, she stops cleaning and lets it ferment, “What did you say?” Recalling such a compliment is taxing foreign feeling; one of joy, confusion, and confidence. Such an oddity requires confirmation.

“I said you look great.” His soft smile cheers her tired body and abject soul.

Debuting a beam of glory and pleasure, “Thank you.” But is curt, “remember, I’m married.”

Four years earlier.

“John!”

“Yeah?” He looks over at his phone-holding co-worker.

“Boss is on the phone.”

Reluctantly he holds the phone inches from his ear in preparation, “Yes.”

“You are out of stock on corn flakes, why?” Her words are fast and choppy.

“The manufacturer is having production problems,” says John calm and collected.

“What do you mean?”
“The company who manufactures corn flakes is having problems with producing the product.”

“What kind of problems?”

“I did not check why they are having problems. The principal issue is that a problem occurred, not why.”

“Did you expedite the truck?”

“No.”

“Why not, John? You need to expedite trucks in a time like this.”

Her words baffle him, furthering him to say, “If I expedite this truck it will arrive sooner, but still be empty. Whether the truck arrives tomorrow or next week, it is still going to be empty. The problem is not tardiness, it’s production.”

“John,” she begins, “You need to spend more time understanding the detail of the reporting and need to be proactive on upcoming issues. You need to understand that it is not your responsibility to decide whether the reporting is necessary.”

“I understand completely what reports I am relaying to you and I have not lied to you-

“That’s not the point, I want answers.”

“I gave you answers.”

“Yes you did, but not the right answers.”

His eyes roll and he acquiesces, “Okay.”

“Make sure you expedite that truck.”

“Okay,” he closes his eyes in disbelief and frustration.

He hears her, three cubicles over, hang up her phone.

His co-worker behind him turns his way, “She’s fired up today.”

“Today?”

“Well, you are out of corn flakes.”

The humility of John to accept his answer when he could have responded with incredulity is evident. Atrophy all around; the stalwart with his frivolous adages creates an atmosphere of abhorrence and uncertainty. The boss has an endless endeavor to find animadversion to point her tyrant digit at.

John’s phone rings, “Hello. This is John.”

“John, it’s –“

So it goes, “I know I can hear the echo from two cubicles over.”

His boss pauses to take a sip of her water. John hears the fluid slide down her throat. He blinks to conceptualize her daily regiment of pills: Multivitamin, No Doz and Zoloft for her constant mood swings; imagining the rollercoaster of a brain she must have.

“Do you want to call me back after you’re done drinking your water?” John finds it impossible not to laugh.

Through her mentally maladjusted skull she can’t sense his sarcasm, “No, I want you to call me when you find out how soon that truck can arrive.”

“Arrive with or without the corn flakes?” Again his wit passes the imbecile.

“Just expedite it!” A loud pop disconnects the call.

The neighboring employee shakes his head and whispers, “Don’t rock the boat.”

John’s eyes stare at the monthly calendar hanging on his cubicle wall. Bathing in amazement of the concept of a free calendar from a vendor can do. Nothing more than a piece of paper that displays numbers; conversely a calculator does not bring that kind of joy but a calendar does. It exhibits hope no matter how outrageous and unbelievable the hope is. It shows it. The pasty yellow walls blur his vision of happiness. Perhaps thinking of a date in the future will cheer up his miserable early morning.

“Jessica,” says John leaning back in his chair in the kitchen. “Have you given any thought to what we talked about last night?”

She seems pre-occupied with her magazine and takes a moments to react. “I don’t know, John.”

“That was your answer last night.” His workday frustration spills over. “I mean today.”

“You asked if I wanted to leave. I’m not so sure I can do that.”

“That’s where you lose me. You said it would be great to just pack a van and go. Where is that passion and drive?”

“It’s there.” Her eyes dim as she buries her golden hair behind her ears. “I’m hesitant, because once I leave, there is no returning.”

“We are leaving together. There’s nothing to keep us here!”

“John, I happen to like my family. They mean a lot to me.” Her posture promptly changes from slouched to upright.

“That much? You only talk to your father when you need money and your mother has her own life. Jess, you’re a grown woman, take the risk.”

Insulted, “Risk? Like every time you leave to go to one of your meetings. I don’t know if you are coming back. The way you talk about your job, why don’t you quit and take the risk.”

He does not abide, “In due time, two months.”

“Why two months?”

“That is when the lease runs out.”

Confused. “Why not break the lease?”

“Because you can’t leave Xetrov with prior debt. The lease we signed requires us to pay our rent for one straight year.” Shaking his head, “It’s amazing my place and length of residence is dictated by a contract. It never takes into effect that something might occur.” Sitting at the table, he ponders a moment. “But that’s Xetrov, where every decision in your life is made for you. It leaves you with only your brain, and for some, that’s gone.”

Jessica stares at him over the edge of her magazine. A blank look clings to his face from within the darkness of the kitchen.

Life pours back into him as his eyes land on her, “We need to leave, not for anything but for ourselves. Cut the cord and go.”

Four years later.

“What’s tonight’s meeting about?” says one man.

Mike turns to face him but his eyes shift to the street behind him. A dark blue sedan slows down and creeps by. A spotlight is mounted beside the driver’s side window.

Silence hovers over them as a third man turns around. “Cops don’t patrol this area unless they have a reason.”

Mike smiles awkwardly at that man.

“What?”

“That’s it exactly,” begins Mike as his eyes following the car, “What John said to me the night it all went down.”

Intrigued, “How did anybody get away?”

Mike ignores him to watch the car drive off, “Tonight’s meeting is about time. We have less than two months before the next election and we need to crack down and place some people in office.” When the car is out of sight, they open the door to enter.

Unfazed by the brush of potential law enforcement awaiting, Mike immediately parts the crowd approaching the podium. The crowd hushes to serenity anticipating Mike’s oration.

“As some of you have or have not seen, Sgt. Smith is paving the way for our president. The media has painted this man as a hero.”

A serpent of chatter ascends from in the crowd.

“Smith has only been a sergeant for four years. His biggest takedown was practically a mistake. He is nothing but an over-zealous pig who, four years ago, took down an operation that had a number of guys involved. Because he was team leader, he got the credit, yet everybody on his squad was equally responsible.” Mike pauses recognizing the whispers.

“Smith would like nothing more than to break up organizations like ours. Let it be known that if he goes into office, the government will have more and more control. Being a former cop, Smith will put into place seatbelt laws, making it mandatory to wear one. You will be fined if you are not wearing a seatbelt. It has been heard that he wants to ban smoking in cars with kids in it.”

Some people chuckle sardonically.

“His reason behind it” continues Mike, “The child does not have to pay for the choice of the adult. Give the child the choice to be around smokers. This man is proposing laws that allows choice, but takes it away.”

The dark blue sedan outside slows down alongside another parked car. Arnie’s face appears from behind the sliding glass window. His eyes scan the other car landing on the back license plate. Hurriedly he speaks into his patrol car microphone and rattling the numbers.

White noise echoes over the two way radio.

Finally, “Yes, affirmative, that is our man.”

Arnie clicks back, “Ten four”. Without hesitation, his driver’s side window slides up while driving away. He reaches the end of the block; “This is One L Nineteen at the corner of Church and Main with a possible section 2383 in progress. Suspect 10-15-8-14 in the area, requesting backup.”

Silence. Arnie eagerly waits to hear from the radio idling inconspicuously.

“Ten four, One L Nineteen. Forty eleven in pursuit, I’m approximately three miles away.”

Only the sound of Arnie’s anxiety-attack ridden heart and the scratching of his nervous xerostomia can be heard, “Pursue in stealth forty eleven.”

“Ten four.”

The cloudy sky shields the glowing nightscape, preventing any chance of finding a suspect without flashlight assistance. Arnie intends to use the art of surprise.

Suddenly, a speck of light dances the apex of the palings in the distance. Arnie repositions himself in his seat and positively identifies the second car turning the corner as his reinforcement.

Arnie drives left and pulls up beside a sidewalk on the opposite side of the church. The other car slides beside it with the passenger window down.

“What do we got?” He yells to Arnie.

The window slides down, “I saw two men enter on the other side. They may be together or he’s inside. Pull to the side and we will survey the area.

The other car speeds ahead and brakes at the curb. The car lights shut off and Arnie repeats.

“Base to one L nineteen.”
Arnie grabs the microphone, “One L nineteen.”

“Suspect ten fifteen eight fourteen not inside. Abort mission.”

Arnie’s eyes shift forward and he watches his backup reacting to the radio, “Do we know for sure, have we ID’d?”

The anticipation is painful, drooping his mouth open causing a blank stare.

“Ten four, suspect has been positively ID’d at alternate location.”

Arnie’s eyes darken and dip in despair. Reluctantly he speaks back, “What is said location?”

“I was wrong about you,” says William to Tanya.

Swinging her towel in a circle around her wrist she looks at him strangely. “About what?” Her soft voice echoes about the empty café.

“I thought when I said I wasn’t from around here, that you’d be interested.”

“I am, but I figured you would eventually tell me where you’re from.”

Laughing, “Is that right?’

The towel continues to spin easing her, “Well, tell me your story.”

Squinting in astonishment, “You don’t know?” His acute uneasiness grips the coffee cup in front of him.

“Should I?”

“I thought your husband might have told you.”

“No, why would he?”

William’s believes her to be genuine and not partaking in mutual gullibility, “I’m from Canada.” He watches for her reaction. Nothing.

“Did you live here before?”

“Yes. I left, but came back because my father is dying.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We are all going to die, at least he knows when.”

“Maybe not, he could be on enough medication that he doesn’t know.”

William continues staring struggling to codify her. Sometimes she mesmerizes him, but wonders if it blissful ignorance unworthy of diatribes and harkening herself.

“I’m sorry. Did that come out wrong?” Her head contorts.

“No.” His respond lacks emotion and infliction.

Jen, the head waitress, opens the door from the back, “Tanya.”

Both William’s and Tanya’s eyes shift to Jen.

“Yes?”

“Arnie’s on the phone.”

William’s face slides into despondency, hers brightens.

He readies to leave.

“Well, I’ve got to go,” removing his wallet.

Rushing to the phone, “Goodnight,” she pushes in the door to the back room.

William stands and tosses money on the counter. Clanging of change resonates as Jen picks up his mug and plate.

“Have a good night,” he says looking up to find her staring back.

His words have no chance to permeate.

“I know who you are,” she says.

The opacity drains from his face as freezes watching her remove a business card from her pocket.

“Call this number, ten p.m. tomorrow. You will know what to do from there.”

Dismissively, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Trust me,” insisting.

William turns finding her face-to-face reading for a verbal provocation.

With a business card in hand, “Just call the number at ten.”

Silence hangs in the air between them. Disbelieving butterflies flutter in his stomach tickling his throat to speak. “Give me the card.”

Four years earlier.

John studies the menu as he prepares for dinner. “This place always has good tenderloin. Why not go for it again?”

“Not your usual turkey club?” Asks Jessica laying her menu down. Her eyes wander the cozy restaurant, admiring the fireplace, exposed beams and mountain keepsakes that create a feeling of warmth and safety. “I’ve always liked this place, it seems so free from government control.” Her eyes circle back to a frosty John. “What?”

“Leave with me. The other side feels like this place, but all the time.”

“John, not now. Let’s just order dinner and forget everything else. Enjoy dinner and this place.”

The waitress shows up and begins to take their order. After John gives his, he stares at the checkered tablecloth and candlelit table. Jessica finishes, gazing back to him and they collectively shun each other.

Later that night John and Jessica return to their motel. Silence lurks between them as they apathetically empty their clothes from bags. John sits on the edge of the couch and unlaces his shoes.

He attempts eye contact and she feels the prelude to a confrontation, “What?”

“A month and a half.”

“You’re giving me a deadline, Mr. Anti-government-and-establishment. Man-of-no-rules is asking me to decide in a month and a half.”

“No,” he waits for her exasperation to cease, “I’m leaving in six weeks.”

“You’re leaving me?”

“Jess, I’m leaving Xetrov and I want you to go with me.”

“What? We are doing fine here. You can switch jobs. Why now?” Shaking her head, “I’m not ready!”

“Something tells me you never will be.”

“Something? Does this something have a name, it is those damn meetings you go to that I’m not allowed to go to?”

“Do you think I make this stuff up? We talk about ways to beat the system, to get our rights back. As the election grows closer and closer it looks like nothing is going to change.”

“Then what? Run from the problem?”

“Don’t counsel me. This is not some inner meaning of life coming out. It is simple; the politicians we believe can make a change are going to lose the election. We lost, plain and simple. I can’t take four more years of this. I want to improve our life, I believe this is the best for us.”

“Us, what about what I want? I do not have the passion to rise up.”

He went right back at her, “You want choice right? The government is slowly taking over all that. First they monitor what we listen to by stamping those explicit lyrics on music, the TV and movie ratings system. Not all see it, but the government controls what we see and watch.” Veins protrude through his face and neck.

“The other side is better? How’s that go?” Pausing for effect, “That grass is not always greener on the other side.”

John lowers his voice and kicks off his shoes, “There is no grass here, only dirt.”

“It is not that easy, I have to think about this.”

“This place we have for the weekend, Sunday we have to drive back to that government-infested city we live in. Up here we are still in Xetrov but it is not that bad.” He leans back into the couch, “But it’s coming. I read the paper during breakfast today. They are installing cameras on the streetlights here. Also I noticed the CCTV on the corners of the condos across the street from the restaurant.”

She watches from a distance of safety while he pleads his case.

“Pretty soon the government is going to know where I’m staying, what road I took to get there and where I’m eating. If I pay by credit card, they will know what food I’ve consumed. That much monitoring is not warranted, even you can agree with that.” He is spent and frustrated with the conversation. Exhaling loudly, he pulls his legs up and rests them on the couch.

Nothing is said. John keeps his eyes closed and his head back while Jessica tries to avoid catechisms and confrontation.

“We’re forming an exit plan at next week’s meeting” says John quietly.

Jessica closes her eyes in distress.

Four years later.

Mike drives the back roads of the city keenly aware of any suspicious cars. The area is residential with plenty of triple-decker, three-family tenement houses around every corner and stop sign. After a few quick turns, Mike pulls his car to the curb and exits the vehicle. With heightened perception he is oblivious of the surveillance team camped out two blocks away in the school parking lot.

Noise from a random vehicle echoes over the darkness of the night. He focuses his attention on his immediate surroundings. The familiar church comes into view, he becomes more cautious.

Down the street, still within sight, Arnie speaks quietly into his microphone, “Suspect not with him.”

“Stay with him.”

“Ten four.”

Mike opens the church doors and steps inside, a feeling of protection washes over him as he walks to the back room. An empty table with a phone awaits him as he glances at his watch.

A second man enters the room, “Hey, did you see?”

“What?” Asks Mike, “I just got here!”

“Chris. He was picked up down the street.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Cops pulled him over for a forged inspection sticker,” startled he looks behind him as another person enters.

“You guys talking about Chris?”

“Yeah,” began Mike, “Fake inspection sticker at night? How did they know?”
“I saw them putting the cuffs on him and putting him in the back of the cruiser.”

“You can get arrested for forging an inspection sticker?” Asks Mike rhetorically, “Strange, last night we were talking and both felt like an undercover cop was in the neighborhood.”

“Sometimes those intuitions are real,” says one of the men.

“Okay,” began Mike as they walk to the other side of the room. “We need to go over an escape plan. In case the cops storm in like before.”

“Before? Like with John?”

“Yeah, except he didn’t get away” says one of the men.

“Allegedly,” says the other.

“Alright guys,” says Mike opening up a desk drawer. “These are the church floor plans and exits.”

Meanwhile, Arnie awaits direction, “What’s the situation?” He asks into the radio.

“We have one in custody and are booking him,” responds another cop.

Arnie barks, “Suspect 10-15-8-4 in surveillance?”

“Negative.”

Arnie stares through the tinted side windows of the undercover car. His mind briefly races to form a strategy before turning to his partner. “He’s not showing up tonight.”

“We don’t know that. They have one in custody right now, it could be him.”

Arnie is statuesque. “It’s not.”

A message comes over the radio, “Suspect not in custody, repeat, current man is not ten fifteen eight four.”

Arnie is unsurprised, “We had this guy in sight yesterday, now where is he?” In a haste he drives off.

Mike becomes cautious inside the church. Only a few other people have shown up. At his recommendation some have followed the constantly repeated rule of ‘staying away when blue flashing lights are in the area’.

“As you can see,” begins Mike, “This alleyway leads to a drainage area that descends downhill.” His finger slides to the left of the map, “If you can get to the bottom of the hill you should be safe.”

“What do you mean, safe?”

Mike has a prepared answer, “That leads to the main street, where you can easily blend in with the residents.”

“Is that what you did?”

Mike is silent.

After four years people are still suspicious about that old incident. He stares blankly at the man and frustratingly asserts, “Something like that.”

The man persists, “How did John get caught?”

“He made a dumb mistake,” Mike wants to end the talk about John and their checkered past together. Time to focus on the present and the potential cops storming the church gates. Instead the group looks at him awaiting the story.

One man asks, “What mistake?”

Pausing. “He went back for his girlfriend.”

Across town, Jen sees Arnie pull his cruiser up to the handicap parking spot outside the diner. Two patrons eating inside notice him and give each other a disgusted look.

The car door swings open. Arnie steps out with his weapons and badge spreading discomfort to everyone around him.

“Jen, can we have our check?” asks one of the men.

“Way ahead of you.” She extends the bill.

“Thanks.”

The diner door swings open with a jingle and in walks Arnie. The room quiets except for the squeaky sound of shiny leather and plastic. He arrives at the front of the counter; prompting the two men slip behind him and exit.

“Hi Arnie,” says Jen looking through the double doors for Tanya.

Tanya comes out of the restroom and smiles when she sees Arnie, “Hi. What a surprise.”

“I was in the neighborhood and I figured I would stop by to say hello.”

They smile at each other and embrace.

She noticeably squints in distress, “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Embarrassed, “My headaches are back.”

“Have you taken your medicine yet?”

“No, it hasn’t been long enough.”

“There is no need to be in pain, it’s okay to take it a little early.”

“Okay, I will.” She assumingly smiles.

He smiles back before leaning forward, “Hey, can I talk to you about something?”

Outside across the street, William stands frozen in terror. His mind swirls thinking how silly it is for a grown man to be pacing in darkness, hiding from a cop and his wife? For a split second, he thinks of leaving and going back to the hospital to see his father again. “Two minutes” saying to himself. I will give him two minutes then I’m gone. He looks left and sees a large black vehicle parked on the side of a building two blocks away. He wonders what exactly is happening; a cop inside, a suspicious vehicle two blocks away, and Jen gave him a business card.

As his thoughts summarize, Arnie walks out and speaks into his two-way radio. Suddenly, his head turns to the suspicious vehicle.

William leans back reassessing the situation as Arnie drives off down the street followed by the black vehicle. A fraction of stillness lies in the darkened streets as William proceeds to the diner.

Tanya is washing down a table when he enters. Ignoring the bell, she continues wiping down the table.

Only when he seats himself does she sees him.

“Hi,” sluggishly.

“How are you?”

“Not bad,” wiping her forehead with her open hand, “Except for a headache.”

“Again? This happened a few days ago.”

“Yeah, I haven’t taken my medicine yet. It says every six to eight hours but it has only been five. I don’t want to exceed the daily dosage.”

He pauses to frame his comment properly; “I talked to the nurse about those headaches. She gave me something that will help you.

“The pills I take work.”

“Yes, I asked the nurse about those pills and she says these work better and you don’t have to take them daily. Only when pain occurs.” Pulling out a sealed bottle from his pocket, “Here, put these in your pocket.”

“I can’t accept medicine from you,” she whispers.

“Tanya, it’s sealed and has the nurse and hospital’s name on it. It’s not from a random dealer.”

Reluctantly, she slides the bottle into her pocket. “I don’t know if I can take these.”

“Is it you won’t take them or you can’t take them? If the answer is can’t, I will bring them back, but if the answer is won’t, that’s different. I would hate to believe you didn’t try something at least once.”

Her eyes lay on the floor absorbing his comment, “Okay, I will in a little bit.”

“Now, I’ve been honest with you. Your turn.”

“What?” She looks confused, “I didn’t lie. I will take them.”

“No, I mean something else is bothering you.”

Raising her eyes. “My husband was in here a little while ago.”

“Yeah.”

“He asked me if a suspicious guy has been coming in here every night for over a week.”

His face flushes and drains of color.

“What was strange is that he said that this person would claim to have a sick father.” The mood descends to uneasy stillness as her eyes lock on his.

“And,” awaiting more, “what did you say?”

“I said I haven’t met such a man.”

Smiling, “Thank you.”

He fails to notice her unemotional stone face and laser eyes, “William?”

“Yes.”

“What did you do?”
The smile vanishes and he says nervously, “Can we discuss this over coffee?”

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