Jack opened his eyes. He scanned his surrounds while he tried to gather his bearings. Where am I…? What day is it? He rolled onto his side and squinted at the bright red square numbers of his bedside clock glowing against the blackened night. ‘Seven Pee Em,’ he grunted to himself. He flopped onto his back with his right arm lying across forehead as he stared up at the ceiling.
Although the room was darkened, the open blinds in his second story bedroom allowed the soft lighting from the street and buildings below to radiate upwards, softly illuminating his bedroom ceiling and giving off a calm comforting ambiance about the room.
His afternoon siesta was the first time in months Jack had slept restfully, and it felt great. No sudden waking from powerfully vivid nightmares. No consuming three quarters of a bottle of bourbon in the hope it would have a sedative affect. No lying awake for hours, tossing and turning, watching hour by hour tick by as the thoughts of this sadistic killer bounced around inside his head.
The decision to call it quits just after Matt’s demonstration and head home for some long, overdue sleep had well and truly paid off. Jack had just woken from six of the most restful hours sleep he had had in a very long time, and he was not expected back at work until 8am tomorrow. He had young Matt to thank for that.
Staring peacefully at the ceiling and feeling relaxed, the rest of his body started to awaken. His hunger pangs started to remind him that he hadn’t eaten anything substantial since dinner last night, and that was only a greasy pizza. Time to eat.
Jack wiped his hand across the stream-covered bathroom mirror. He glanced at the freshly showered image in the smeared reflection. He grinned when he remembered how his ex-wife used to complain about how wiping the mirror with his hand smeared hand marks on the mirror, and when it dried, it created more house work for her. It was her pet hate. Well, that and standing too close to the mirror when he flossed.
He grinned to himself as he wiped the rest of the mirror clean with his hand in a belated act of defiance. Well this ain’t her bathroom.
But it could have been; it should’ve been. Up until seven years ago Jack was married to Caitlyn, his wife of twenty-eight years. They were the perfect couple; inseparable and incomplete without the other, or at least that’s what Jack always believed.
They have two boys, Daniel and Max and life was great. Unfortunately the life of a career cop, particularly one working in Homicide, was not without its challenges. Jack learned the hard way that dedication came at a cost.
At some point in time everything that was important to Jack simply evaporated.
Although living with his wife and two sons, Jack had effectively become estranged from his family through his dedication to his work. Years of always being too busy and missing family Christmas mornings, the feeble apologies for the forgotten anniversaries and birthdays, and missing both his boys’ graduations because of a case he worked on had finally taken its toll on his family.
It wasn’t until Caitlyn packed up their two sons and moved upstate seven years ago that reality hit home for Jack. When it came to catching crooks and solving major crimes he was a front runner in his field, but as for being a supportive and loving husband and father, he trailed a very long last.
Sadly for Jack his memories of the good times with his boys were extremely limited. He couldn't remember sharing any of their accomplishments. He had no idea who his boys’ school friends were. He never had the time to teach his boys to fish, or throw a ball, or ride a bike. He never took them to a ball game, all because he was always “too busy” with his work.
Jack hadn’t been a part of their lives since they moved, but seven years on, and despite being divorced for five years, Jack still carried a picture of Caitlyn and the boys in his wallet. Max and Dan were now a lot older than the treasured photograph depicted, but that was just how he remembered them; his little boys.
Caitlyn remained the love of his life and his boys were still the best thing that ever happened to him; he just never took the time to appreciate them while he could.
After wiping the corner of his mouth with his serviette, Jack emptied the remainder of his glass of red wine to wash down the last mouthful of his dinner. He replaced his glass and sat back in his chair at his usual ‘table for one’, patting his satiated stomach.
He casually glanced around the restaurant, watching the customers seated around him, as they too chose to eat at his favorite diner. Singles, couples, small families, large families, the restaurant had them all tonight.
Like most cops, Jack was a people watcher, a studier of other people’s mannerisms. Whenever opportunity allowed he would often sit and watch the actions and reactions of people in their everyday lives. Sometimes it brought him amusement, sometimes it helped develop his understanding of human psychology and the human psyche.
As he glanced around the restaurant he hadn’t realized until now just how acoustically challenged it was in there. Maybe it was because he was well rested compared to other visits. Maybe it was unusually louder than normal this evening, but whatever the reason, tonight the restaurant’s acoustics were not complimentary.
The repeated sound of cutlery clanging on porcelain, and the muffled, indiscernible conversation merging into a continuous humming sound was, for some reason, annoying Jack. It grated on his nerves and he could feel the tension starting to build behind his eyes. It was time to get the check and head over to Rosie’s for a few well-earned night caps.
Rosie’s seemed unusually quiet when Jack arrived. At quick glance there were only ten to fifteen patrons in the entire bar, well below the 100 or so twenty-somethings that regularly frequented the premises.
He noticed that with the exception of two males seated at the bar, most of the other patrons gathered at his end of the room. It was so quiet in fact that only Rosie and two other girls were serving the drinks. The four other girls must’ve been sent home.
Jack sat in his customary seat at the end of the bar, farthest from the door, back to the wall, facing the door to the street. His first four drinks of the night were all shots. As quick as Rosie poured them Jack raised the shot glass, and with a flick of his head, he emptied the glass and returned it to the bar.
Because it was quiet Rosie spent most of her time leaning on the bar chatting with Jack and keeping his glass filled.
Jack noticed Rosie paying particular attention to the two males with shaved heads seated up the opposite end of the bar to Jack. They were there when Jack arrived, and he quickly identified them as being ex-cons.
The Nazi swastika tattoos on their necks and face, as well as those integrated among the excessive splattering of tattoos that covered visible skin on their arms and hands, suggested they could possibly belong to a white supremacy group.
But more importantly, when both men sneered at him when he walked into the bar, Jack noticed they each had a single tear drop on the cheek under their right eye. That teardrop tattoo was a traditional prison tattoo that indicated the death of someone while the wearer was in prison. It can be worn as a ‘badge of honor’ to show all that they had taken someone’s life, or that they had lost someone they cared about while in jail. Either way Jack knew these guys spelled trouble.
Rosie glanced over her shoulder to the two men.
Jack lifted his chin to the men. ‘They giving you trouble?’
Rosie looked back to Jack. 'No they’re fine…at the moment. They’re just pigs…. I think they’re the reason we’re quiet tonight though.’
‘Whenever any females come in, or even a couple, you know male and female together, they make lewd comments, disgusting comments to the women. They’re pretty intimidating…and the customers just decide to leave.’
‘Do you want me to talk to them?’
‘No.’ Rosie placed her hand on Jack’s forearm and firmly shook her head. ‘No. I’m managing it at the moment.’ She indicated the weight of patrons down Jack’s end of the bar. ‘I've been subtly directing any female patrons to this end of the room, away from them.’
'I’ll just call a black and white to get rid of ‘em,’ Jack said.
‘No Jack.’ Rosie was stern. ‘You don’t understand. I can’t have cops running in and out of my bar. It ruins business. People will label my bar as a trouble spot and go elsewhere.’
Jack could see Rosie was concerned but there was something about the way this petite beauty kept composed and in charge that impressed him, if not even excited him a little.
He watched Rosie while she leaned her elbows on the bar looking over her shoulder to monitor the two offensive male patrons. As she turned back to face Jack she caught him staring at her.
‘What?’ She said with a suspicious grin, her eyebrows raised in curiosity.
‘How come you never married, Rosie?’ Jack asked, as his alcohol fueled inhibitions started to relax. ‘You’re a beautiful woman. Intelligent and obviously very successful…what’s the story?’ He emptied a shot.
Rosie lifted the bottle and refilled his glass. She replaced the bottle and looked Jack straight in the eyes. In her sexiest voice she said, ‘Coz you haven’t asked me yet, Jack.’ She flashed him a cute little wink.
Jack grinned as he raised his glass to Rosie, then emptied it.
He enjoyed his one-on-one time with Rosie. It was the most relaxed he had felt with her in a long time. Problem was, he was the only one doing the drinking. Occasionally Rosie was called to serve if the other girls were busy, but for the most, Rosie spent her time leaning on the bar next to him, chatting freely.
Throughout the night Jack kept an eye on the two ex-cons at the opposite end of the bar. He noted at times they were looking at him. Their actions suggested they were talking about him. Jack’s radar honed in on the bad vibes emanating from these two.
Later in the evening both men stood from their stools. One of them rummaged through his pocket and dumped some crumpled up bills onto the bar before they made their way towards the exit door. Without being too obvious Jack monitored them as he sipped his drink.
He noted that both men were over six feet tall, probably six-two, and solidly built. The muscle definition of their exposed shoulders and arms suggested they both worked out in a gym, probably when they were inside. Their heads were shaven and all visible skin was used as a canvas for tattoos of all sizes.
Jack noticed that one of the males had the words “skin head” tattooed across his forehead in lower case, just above his eye brows in quarter inch letters. This reassured his concerns that they were probably white supremacists.
The two men paused at the door, and after a brief discussion, they both turned and walked towards Jack. He knew they weren't coming over to check the football scores and with the wall behind him, he had only one way out – forwards.
He avoided making eye contact with them as they approached. Instead, he opted to look straight down the bar at Rosie as he casually moved any glass objects - ash trays, glasses, bottles etc., — to his right and out of their reach.
Standing an imposing six feet eight inches, and around two hundred and sixty pounds, Jack was more than capable of handling himself in any physical confrontation, of which he’d had many.
He was an old school copper with a short temper and he hated crooks, especially when those who tried to take him on.
Back in the day, when it came to crooks, he’d rather a fight than a feed, but now he was nudging into his early fifties, he tended to choose his battles more carefully, unless they came to him. And these two were coming to him.
The two men approached Jack and leaned onto the corner of the bar next to Jack. They stood and glared at Jack without saying a word. They were intimidating to say the least.
Jack’s experience with the criminal element had taught him that silence was a good thing in situations such as these. It gave him the chance to see what their agenda was, if they spoke first. He could assess their aggression or intentions by what they said and how they said it.
He didn’t have to wait long to find out their intentions.
The man closest to Jack, the one with the “skin head” tattoo on his forehead, spoke first. ‘We were leaving coz we can’t stand to drink in the same bar as fuckin’ animals – you know pigs and dogs…and you’re fuckin’ both.’
It was now clear to Jack. They were cop haters out for trouble. ‘OK… enjoy your night then.’ Jack avoided direct eye contact, but his peripheral vision worked overtime.
'Then we thought…why the fuck should we leave,’ the first man said.
‘We were here first…’ the second man chimed in.
‘So YOU can fuck off…ya Pig dog.’ The first man punctuated his comments by slamming his palm onto the bar. A loud slap sound bounced around the unusually quiet bar.
Rosie monitored what was happening from where she stood at the middle of the bar. When she heard the commotion and language, she yelled out to the aggressors.
‘Hey guys…That’s enough gentleman…come on…time to go…or I’ll have to call 9-1-1.’
The second of the trouble makers took a step towards Rosie and jabbed a threatening finger at her. His face distorted as he aggressively yelled back at Rosie. ‘You shut your fuckin’ mouth bitch, or after we’ve fixed this cunt up, I’ll jump this fuckin’ bar and ass fuck you - make you squeal like a pig.’
Jack was incensed by the comments directed towards Rosie. He yelled at the aggressor in Rosie’s defense. ‘Hey arsehole…’ He moved to stand up from his seat. His problem was, he let his emotions cloud his judgement and rational thinking. And in turn, he momentarily exposed himself. He lowered his defenses. Before he could move from his seat the closet aggressor, who stood over the seated Jack at the time, struck Jack with a powerful single downward punch to Jack’s left cheek area.
The force of the blow snapped Jack’s head to his right and knocked his body in the same direction, to a position where he leaned on the bar. His head rested on his right forearm. The blow was forceful and momentarily stunned Jack. But he had taken better punches than that over his time and still kept going. In fact, the blow was more of a wake up call for him to switch his survival mode back on. All they did was poke the bear.
Jack remained leaning on his right arm. The punch stung, but he was fine. He was waiting to see his attacker’s next move.
‘Get up ya fuckin’ pussy. I’ve only just begun with you…’ the first aggressor said. He wrongly assumed Jack was beaten.
‘I don’t want any trouble guys,’ Jack said, to lull them into a false sense of security and make them think he was a soft target.
‘Well you got it, Pig,’ the closest aggressor said. ‘We haven’t even started with you yet.’ The man took a step closer to Jack and forcefully shoved Jack’s shoulder.
That was Jack’s cue. By leaning into Jack, his attacker was exposed. Jack used his powerful legs to drive himself up from his seat. At the same time his large sledge hammer fist delivered a fast and powerful upper cut punch, catching the ex-con under the point of his chin. The man didn’t see it coming and was out on his feet.
An ear piercing crack rang out through the bar. The aggressor’s head snapped back and his eyes rolled in his head. The man dropped back like a felled tree. His limp body bounced on impact with the floor and sent a muffled thud across the room.
Jack turned to the second aggressor. Before the man could move he snapped out his large hand with the speed of a striking rattlesnake, grabbing the man tightly around his throat. His large fingers wrapped around the man’s trachea and squeezed hard. Jack could feel the cartilaginous tube collapsing under the force of his hand.
Gagging and gasping, the attacker tried to release Jack’s vice-like grip. He used both hands to try and prise free Jack’s iron grip, as he feebly tried to draw breath.
While still firmly holding the throat, Jack jabbed out a short, punch to the man’s nose. The punch stunned the second aggressor. The blood splatter suggested a break. Jack then forcefully pushed the attacker backwards, to move the man’s center of gravity off balance. This caused the man to stumble backwards and career into one of the elevated bar tables bolted to the floor in the middle of the bar. The force of the impact caused the attacker to bend backwards over the table, opening up the vulnerability to the rest of his body.
Jack grabbed hold of the man’s shoulders then drove his right knee forcefully up into the man’s unprotected groin area. The strike folded the ex-con at the waist and caused the man to spew his bourbon and cokes all over the carpet in a gush of black liquid.
Jack touched his fingers to the left side of face. When he removed his fingers they were bloodied from his wound. This only served to anger him further. He glanced at Rosie who stood motionless behind the bar. Both her hands covered her mouth and her eyes were wide with fear.
Visions of what this man said he would do to Rosie flooded back. Jack gritted his teeth. He glared at the man bent forward in obvious pain. Jack grabbed the back of the man’s head then drove his knee up into the man’s face, smashing it into the man’s nose and mouth area. As he did so he screamed to channel his energy and strength into the strike, similar to the shout, or “Kiai” used by exponents of Karate.
Blood instantly splattered outwards from the force of this final blow. The second aggressor was out cold. His limp body collapsed straight down to the floor. It lay lifeless among his own blood and vomit.
Jack was fuming. His white-knuckled fists were by his side. His eyes were wide in rage. He breathed heavily while he glanced down at his fallen attackers.
‘Jack…Jack. You alright…?’ Rosie’s voice was full of concern.
Jack turned to Rosie. He lifted a reassuring hand to her. ’I’m OK…’ His eyes dropped to the attacker lying at his feet.
He moved over to check the first attacker was still breathing. He sneered down with contempt at the man lying comatose on his back. Jack scoffed to himself when he noted the crook’s swollen misaligned jaw. He would be eating through a straw for a while.
As he moved to check the second attacker, four uniform police burst into the bar in response to Rosie’s earlier 9-1-1 call. The officers ran directly towards Jack, who at that stage was standing over the second attacker. They must’ve recognized the towering frame of Jack Head still standing, and not an attacker because their run slowed to a gradual walk and then stopped.
‘You OK Jobs…?’ The first officer asked as he looked at the two unconscious thugs.
Jack slumped back on to a bar stool, holding a hand to his cheek. ‘Yeah, good,’ Jack said.
‘Doesn’t look like it was a fair fight Jobs,’ the senior officer commented. ‘Two of them onto one of you,’ he continued.
‘Nothin’ I couldn’t handle,’ Jack grunted. His tone was curt. He continued to cup his cheek.
’I meant for them Jobs,’ the cop said with a cheeky smirk. ‘Only two of them trying to take you on…Not a fair fight — for them…’ he clarified, grinning at his own humor. ‘Do we need a bus, or will they live?’
’They’ll live, but they’ve got a few broken bones… Just get ’em the fuck out of here. I’m sick of looking at ‘em,’ Jack snapped to the officers.
The impromptu altercation had frightened away the small number of customers who had earlier occupied the bar. The atmosphere had remained quite tense for some time after the fight, so Rosie decided to close the bar a little earlier.
Jack sat on an unfamiliar bar stool in the middle of the bar, leaning his back on the bar while Rosie attended to his facial injury.
‘I think you’re going to need stitches Jack.’ She dabbed the wound with a water soaked cloth.
Jack pulled his head away sharply, flinching from the pain as Rosie touched his cheek. ‘I’ll be fine,’ Jack replied.
Rosie stared at Jack. ‘I think you could even have a fractured cheek bone Jack.’
‘So now you’re a Doctor...’
‘Look, why don’t I fix you a drink, Jack. I know I could use one.’
After a few short minutes Rosie returned with a large glass of bourbon for Jack and some ice wrapped in a cloth. Jack accepted the bourbon. He raised the glass, as if it was a shot and after a brief pause, he emptied the entire glass in one gulp.
Rosie gently placed the ice pack against Jack’s cheek. It caused him to again flinch away. This time she followed his head keeping the ice pack against his cheek.
‘Come on Jobs, it’ll do you good. You need to get the swelling down,’ she said.
Jack stopped resisting.
As she held the ice pack to his head Rosie glanced at Jack’s clothing. His shirt and jeans were splattered in blood. Her eyes moved to the carpet where the man earlier laid and it too was soaked in his blood and vomit.
‘We gotta get you outta these bloody clothes Jack. If you take them off I’ll wash them for you, otherwise you’ll never get this blood out.’
Jack’s eyes dropped to his blood soaked clothing. He slowly shook his head. ‘Can’t even have a quiet drink anymore.’
Rosie assisted Jack upstairs to her apartment located above the bar, and into her bathroom. Jack assessed his injury in the bathroom mirror. Rosie returned a few moments later with a large plastic garbage bag, a towel and a robe.
Like a parent attending to her injured child, she instructed Jack to remove his soiled clothes and place them into the bag then have a shower to clean up. The robe was for him to wear after his shower, until his clothes were washed.
While Jack was showering Rosie returned to the bar and cleaned up the blood stains and vomit from the furniture and carpet.
Once she had finished cleaning the bar Rosie returned upstairs and placed Jack’s clothing into her washing machine.
Jack was still in the shower when she returned upstairs. Rosie frowned her concern. Given the length of time he had spent in the shower, there was always a concern of concussion.
Rosie knocked on the bathroom door. ‘Are you OK Jack?’ she yelled through the closed door. When there was no response she knocked again. Still no response. Rosie slowly opened the door and peeped inside. The shower was still running. The thick steam inside resembled a Turkish bath house.
‘Jack…?’ Rosie was tentative. She edged towards the shower curtain. Still no response. She carefully peeled open the shower curtain and peeped inside.
Jack stood with his back to her. He leaned on the wall directly under the shower rose. His arms were on the wall above his head. His head was tilted forward directing the hot water straight down onto the back of his neck.
Rosie quietly exhaled. He was safe. Her eyes slowly moved down his muscular body to his tight white ass. She smiled her approval before slowly returning the shower curtain and quietly exiting the bathroom.
She decided not to say anything to him and let him absorb the therapeutic benefits of the hot water on his neck.