Freedom of Choice

By Carlos Goodyear All Rights Reserved ©

Scifi / Drama

Chapter 3

Edited transcription of recorded interaction between subject: Frank Holland and part-time undercover operative: Anthony Carol. Material deemed non-relevant to this investigation has been excised, and the conversation itself has been condensed to improve clarity and each separate line of text denotes an individual person talking in turn.

FBI File archive: AB-77480-84403

Level 2 and above access only.

Over here! There's an empty seat at the bar!

Morning, Frank.

And a good morning to you too, Tony. Gimme a second . . . Yo! How about another Scotch on the rocks over here? A double! And a bottle of Corona. Make sure it's cold this time!

What's the deal? Since when did you start hitting the hard stuff again, and so early, too?

Since last night.

Does the wife know you fell off the wagon?

There are lots of things I don't tell, Carmen.

I know that tone . . . you in trouble, sergeant?

Retired . . . I haven't been a police officer for five years since the city downsized me. Neither have you, Tony. I'm just another lowly Mall cop working part time to pay the bills.

Mall cop? What ya talkin' about, Frank? Weren't you working that sweet gig doing security at the Hilton down the street?

Just quit over the phone before they could fire me. Couldn't handle that shit anymore.

You think they're hiring?

Knock yourself out. I already emailed my old boss at the Crystals at City Center Mall to see if he'd take me back. I'd recommend you to the Hilton but those blow-hards probably don't want anything to do with me no more.

Oh oh, you didn't rough someone up did ya'?

Me? I'm a gray haired near senior citizen with arthritis. Besides, I don't carry a real badge or piece anymore. I turned 'em in when I left the force. The Hilton's lawyer even ordered me to leave my Billy club at home.

Frank? It's me you're talking to, remember? I've known you far too long to swallow that bullshit!

Fine. I didn't give up the pepper spray and taser. Told Captain Foster I'd lost them somewhere before I got the boot. They were confiscated when I was arrested.

Shit . . . don't tell me you used that police grade toxic waste on someone! Was it a hotel guest?

Yeah, two of 'em. And I lit both of them up with the taser for good measure.

Two? Are you off your damned rocker?!

I had no freakin' choice, Tony! It was them or me . . . or me versus one of 'em . . . or me versus one of them at a time. It was kinda confusing towards the end, ya' know?

I don't know. How about you tell me what went down before all that Scotch kicks in.

There's no way you're gonna believe me, no one has so far.

Try me. Start from the beginning.

I was born in a small town in the Midwest forty-nine years ago . . .

Not that far back, jackass!

Oh, you mean like yesterday?

That will work.

Okay, Tony. It went down like this . . . Mr. Xavier, that's the hotel's day manager, called me yesterday afternoon around three. Said he was in a bind. He needed someone to cover the four to midnight evening shift 'cause the regular guy called in sick. And he was willing to pay overtime even though I'd only worked twenty hours this week.

Sounds great so far, I wouldn't pass up some easy money like that.

Me neither. It's a boring ass job most of the time. Not much happens at an upscale joint like the Hilton. Spend most of my time drinking coffee and stealing donuts from the free continental breakfast room.

I noticed. What ya gonna name the baby?

That's bull! I'm just big boned!

Keep talkin' before labor pains kick in.

Like I was saying . . . the Hilton is nothing like those rent-by-the-hour roach motels outside town. It's a war zone out there most weekends. Carmen freaks out every time they call me in for a few hours work. Until today, escorting a taxi full of drunken rowdy college kids to their rooms is the worst I've ever had to do.

That's it? You used all those non-lethal weapons because they caught you ripping off free food?

Not even close . . . hey you! How about another shot? And fill it up to the freakin' line this time!

Get back to what happened before you fall off that stool.

So ... I threw on a fresh uniform and clocked in a few minutes before four to start my rounds. Nothing really unusual going on. The large dining hall on the main floor was off limits since around one pm with some kind of fancy stockholders meeting. The only time they opened the doors was to wheel in another cart of food. The Hilton doesn't allow a lot of serious booze to be served until six, so it was unlikely anyone in there would cause me any grief.

Closed doors?

They had their own security people. They didn't need or want me.

Didn't need you emptying the buffet table more likely!

You jealous?

Nope, I like getting into my pants without a shoehorn.

Funny . . . then I went over to the smaller dining hall. The hotel staff was moving tables, chairs, and floral displays around for a wedding. The catering company wasn't scheduled to show up for a couple hours, so I took the service elevator downstairs to see what was going on.

Isn't that where they keep the kitchen?

And ... ?

And nothing, Frank. I'm just seeing a pattern developing. Keep going.

I spent some time walking around the food prep area, laundry, and storage rooms asking if anyone had seen anything odd. Finding nothing, I picked up a couple things and headed back to the the elevator.

A couple things? Like what, a cup of coffee and a doughnut?

Hell no! A thermos full of black coffee, two apple turnovers, and three doubled-dipped chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles. The Hilton has fifteen floors, it takes two or three hours to give all those corridors and staircases a good look see. I could starve!

And that's where you used the taser and pepper spray?

Nah, the place was dead quiet. Nothing but normal people checking in and out; couldn't even find a single door anyone left unlocked. Except for a bunch of teenagers playing video games too loud on the fourth floor, the only place really jumping was the penthouse honeymoon suite. Maids where running in and out gettin' it ready for the newlyweds.

Gimme a second, Frank. Hey, Donnie! Over here! Gimme a Michelob lite!

What up with that, Tony? I'm gonna piss out more alcohol than three bottles of that crap.

Carol won't let me have anything stronger until I get a full time job.

How's she gonna know? I've never seen her walk in here.

BECAUSE SOMEONE IN THIS BAR IS A SNITCH!!!

Damn! Give me a warning before you shout like that! I'm jumpy enough as it is!

Sorry. Go on. Tell me what happened after you left the honeymoon suite.

Not much, really. I finished checking out the staff to see if anyone didn't belong there, and used my passkey card to get on the roof to enjoy the view and have a smoke. You know, killing time shit. The roof is about the only place left ya can light a cigarette or two in the hotel without gettin' nagged to death by a busybody. I went back to the main floor when I finished the coffee and it started to get too hot up there.

That's when it happened?

Nope, the shit storm was barely a blip on the radar when the elevator doors opened and I found a near riot going on in the lobby. As usual, the idiots scheduling things forgot to put some time between one event ending and the next starting. The stockholder meeting was done, about fifty of 'em where trying to stampede out the lobby doors just as the newlyweds to be and their guests were trying to rush in. Total cluster fuck.

You try to straighten out the mess?

Not my job. Unless one of the guests knifes or shots another, I don't go anywhere near them. And that just like the boss wants it. I let the floor staff take change. Took 'em almost ten minutes to figure out opening a side exit would be a good idea. Hard to believe we go through the same rigmarole at least once a week. Good help is so hard to find these day.

Did the wedding go off okay?

Eventually. They really should have rented the larger dining hall or invited fewer people. By the time the priest started reciting the Do-you-take-this jazz the joint was standing room only. No one seemed to mind, there was enough free booze and food to handle the Super Bowl. That Russian couple sure can drink! Hurts my liver just thinkin' about it.

Try any?

You have to ask? The imported Rostov-on-Don number six Baltika beer was awesome! Seven percent alcohol can knock you on your ass real quick, but I can't say the same for almost everything else they were serving. Most Russian cookin' makes me gag. The wedding cake was really good, though.

How the heck can you remember, let alone pronounce that beer's name? I'm getting tongue-tied just thinking about it.

I did most of my four years in Germany. The army tried its best to teach me some Russian and German lingoes as part of my military police training. Besides, there were signs and banners hanging everywhere. The beer company was sponsoring the whole wedding.

Sounds kind of expensive, why would they?

The Beauty n' the Beast getting married both won gold medals for Russia in the Summer Olympics in Europe. They're gonna televise the wedding ceremony next week as part of the Baltika's post Olympics advertising campaign for the American market. Although, after what happened this morning, I'm betting they probably won't now.

Lucky . . . the best Carol and I could afford was one of those quickie walk-in joints on the strip. It took under half an hour, and seventy-five bucks, for the justice of the peace to get us hitched. Hey? Why did you call 'em that?

Beauty and the Beast?

Yeah, that.

You've seen my wife's mutant pet rat, haven't you?

The little female Taco Bell Chihuahua?

That's the one. Hate the stupid thing, and the feeling is mutual. Carmen's sister gave it to her as a birthday gift six months ago and it still tries to bite me every chance it gets.

What's up with that? You step on it or something?

Not yet, and it's not for lack of trying. But let's say I wanted to mate it with your dog.

Frank? Are you drunk already? My German Sheppard weighs over eighty pounds. He'd rip your bitch in two. Beside, Chew-It-Up is more likely to eat your mutt than mate with it.

Now you know why I called 'em that.

Hot . . . damn! That bad? Really?

Funniest lookin' couple I've seen in years. She's a gymnast; around five foot nothing and maybe ninety pounds. Looks almost too young for the marriage to legit. He's a weightlifter; maybe twice her age. Crazy ass tattoos all over the place. I'd say close to six foot four and three hundred something pounds of solid muscle. If he ever rolls over in his sleep she's a goner.

Tell me you took some wedding pictures! I gotta see this!

They're somewhere in my phone. I'll email 'em to you later.

I see, that's how it went down. You used the bug juice and zapper to protect them. Man o' man, hero of the freakin' hour! Am I right?

Not even close. They're the ones I took down.

You went DEFCON 1 on the newlyweds? On their wedding night? For real?

No joke.

Now I know you're insane, Frank.

That's what they said at the station house when they took me in.

Okay, okay . . . back up.

You remember Luis and Tina don't 'ya?

Of course, I partnered with both of them at one time or another before I got canned.

They booked me in around five this morning; handcuffs, Miranda, squad car, and an interrogation room in less than twenty minutes. A sight to behold, Tony! You were never that good as a cop. They even got Captain Foster out of bed and down to the station to chew me out before the ambulance got those two to the hospital. Felt like old times and . . .

Stop talkin'! I don't care about that shit! How can you justify what you did?!

Oh . . . that's what you meant. Let me get another shot first.

You've already had enough. Story first, booze second.

Fine . . . I stuck around the party until Xavier gave me the stink eye. That's when I decided to make myself scarce. I went outside to see what the crowd on the front sidewalk was up to. Since they were mostly just standing around with cameras doing a whole lot of nothing, I was kinda taken by surprise when this bald middle-aged guy in an expensive suit grabs me by the shoulders like we're long time buddies.

Did you know him?

Never set eyes on him before. He introduces himself as Dmitri Khuzin with a Russian accent thick enough to spread on a bagel. He hands me a Baltika business card and tells me he's the Russian company rep who organized the wedding.

What he want . . . political asylum?

No, but I must admit that's what I thought in the beginning. Turns out he needs me and he's willing to pay big, really, really big, if I'd help him out.

Frank, this is Las Vegas. What you just said covers a lot of territory.

Get your mind out of the gutter! He just wanted to hire me!

I repeat . . . what you just said covers a lot of territory!

Stop laughing! This is damned serious!

Okay, what did the Ruskie in the fancy suit want?

Somehow the local paparazzi got wind of the wedding, and Dmitri's boss was worried they'd try something stupid inside the hotel. He'd pay me whatever it took, cash in advance, to guard the penthouse until the happily married couple left at sunrise for their trip back to Mother Russia.

Again? Twice in one day? Why doesn't shit like this ever happen to me?!

Karma, bro.

Fuck Karma! You've got to be paying someone!

Not a dime, just my reward for living a virtuous life.

You forget who you're talking to again, Frank?

I'll make you happy. How about my debatably virtuous life?

Much better . . . and what did that Xavier guy think about you moonlighting in his hotel?

No skin off his nose. The whole penthouse floor was rented out to Dmitri's boss. No matter how smashed the newlyweds were they'd be out of reach of the cameras. As long as I didn't punch out before midnight, I could go up there and jump out a window for all he cared.

And that's when you got 'em both?

It all went down around four, maybe four fifteen. I was dozin' on a chair next to the elevator when the doorway outside the honeymoon suite lit up like a disco ball had clicked on.

Paparazzi?

I wouldn't put it past any of those assholes. Cameras are so tiny nowadays they could've bugged the joint without anyone noticing. Not that I had more than twenty seconds to wonder where they'd hidden all the damned strobe lights. Until the light-show started everything had been quiet except for a few bumps, thumps, and moans even the heavy duty soundproofing couldn't stop. Now they were screaming in there like the room was on fire!

A booby trap! Just like the serial arsonist slash terrorist did to that motel last month in Denver. That's be my best guess.

Mine too. So I grab my passkey card, and a fire extinguisher from the wall locker, just about the time the light show switches off. No luck. The door wouldn't open more than an inch because the security latch was on. I tried to get their attention, but they kept jabbering something in Russian so fast I couldn't understand more than a word or two. It was time for cop rules number one and two.

Don't be a hero, and don't become a victim. Neither goes home to their families.

You got that right. I drop the extinguisher and bolt towards the elevator. With one hand I'm banging on the down button while the other thumbs 911. I'd have tried for the stairs if they weren't so far down the opposite end of the hallway. I didn't wanna get anywhere near that door again if something even bigger blew.

What happened next?

Can I have that shot now?

Not till you're done. I'll even pay for it.

That's mighty nice of you, Tony.

The cheap stuff.

Figures . . . so there I am, mashin' the button and trying to get the emergency operator on the line when suddenly the door pops open and, screaming like a little girl, he flies out of the room and crashes buck naked into the wall. Made a god-awful dent in the wood paneling and took out two paintings in the process.

Was he injured?

No, just stunned. Wasn't a scratch on him I could see; and I could see everything. It must have taken a quart of black, red, blue, and yellow ink to tattoo every square inch of his body.

Even . . . down there?

Especially down there.

Aw, damn! My balls just crawled back inside just thinking about all those needles!

How do you think I felt from twenty feet away? It looked like a slightly bent Barber's pole. I haven't felt so . . . inadequate . . . since I was in grade school waiting for puberty to hit.

Did you help him?

Sure I did. I just ran to get within reach of a muscle-bound hard-on waving wall-crushing nut-case screaming the same nutty shit over and over again! Makes perfect sense to me . . . moron! I've seen enough perps trippin' on Angel dust to know what would happen next. Cop rule number three was in full effect.

Don't be an idiot.

Bingo! This guy has more muscles in his right arm than I have in my whole body. There was only one way I was gettin' out in one piece. That's . . . when I drop the phone and pull out everything.

The pepper spray and taser?

What in hell did you think I'm gonna pull out?! If you want some porn, leave me alone and go download something off the fuckin' Internet!

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

Think harder!

What was he screaming anyway?

It translates into something like, "It won't go down!" You want three guesses about what he was referring to?

Not really. I haven't drunk anywhere near enough to miss that. What he do next?

Still screaming in that creepy high pitched voice, he jumps back to his feet like nothing happened and spots me lookin' at him from the other end of the hallway. With both arms stretched straight out, he takes off like one of those 28 Days Later zombies in my direction.

Crap!

I almost did. He couldn't have been more than five feet away when I got him in the face with the spray and ducked to the side. I used so much even my eyes and nose began to water like a fire hose. They'll be airing out that floor for a week!

Did it stop him?

Yes and no . . . he kept going and crashed into the elevator doors. That's what stopped him. Another big ass dent I'm pretty sure I'm gonna get blamed for. One of his arms nearly broke my jaw when he tripped. See the bruise here?

It's a beauty. You're also gonna have a shiner by tomorrow.

Felt like I'd been whacked with a baseball bat. And that was an accident. Imagine if he slugged me for real, he'd would've taken my head clean off! When he starts to get back up again, I click off the safety and shot the taser into the back of his neck. I was taking no chances. I held the trigger until the battery went flat. And before you ask . . . that . . . finally went flat too.

Don't give me that look. I wasn't gonna ask.

I believe you, Tony. Fuck that. I really don't.

So it's over?

Nah, round two starts up as I'm checkin' my teeth to see if they're all there.

The girl?

Yeah, it was her alright. Bent over and walking bowled legged like she'd just had sex with a Kentucky Derby winner and prized stud, she staggers out of the room naked as a jaybird and starts screaming. Another weird freaky voice jabbering in high speed Russian; what are the odds? I'm thinking whatever went off in that room must have been something like nerve gas. And I'm sure about it after what happens next.

She attacked you?

Not me, him. Still clutching her crotch with one hand like her guts where gonna spill out, she holds onto a wall with the other and stumbles along in his direction screaming her lungs raw.

And what are you doing?

What I'm doing you ask? I'm readin' a newspaper. What the flying fuck do you think I'm doing?! I'm holding my breath and pounding on the elevator button again wondering how much time I got left to live. If a bomb filled with Sarin, or something even nastier, went off in that room I'm a dead man walkin' already. Still, I've got to try. I mean, it was only around a minute since that door opened; I might have a chance. Right?

Nerve gas? Probably not, sure took a long time for the elevator to get there.

The Hilton is a busy place. Room service, maids, janitorial staff, and early morning checkouts keep the elevators humming long before sunrise. Sometimes it's faster to take the stairs. I usually wait. The arthritis in my right knee kills me after three or four floors. The left isn't much better.

Which got there first, the elevator or the Russian chick?

She did. Howling "Moe! Moe! Moe!" each time she pulls, she reaches down with both hands and tries to yank his junk out by the roots. It's a crying shame I didn't have a chance to use my phone. Imagine the hits I'd get on You Tube with a few minutes of classy video like that.

How about givin' me a break, Frank?! First it was my balls, now my dick wants to crawl inside!

Isn't a rent-a-cop's career grand?

I'm afraid to ask, what does 'Moe' mean?

That's easy. I learned that word my first week in Russian language class. It means . . . mine. What she was doing to that poor guy was only a little worse than what my first wife did to me in divorce court.

And you just stand there watching the show?

Wrong again. I hosed her down with all the pepper spray I have left. When that wasn't enough to stop her, I shot my last taser into her butt. She lands on top of tall-dark-n'-extremely dangerous just as the elevator doors slide open and I accidentally kick my phone inside. Since I'm still breathin' when I get to the lobby, my yelling for someone to call a HAZMAT team seems rather anticlimactic. Don't ya' think?

So that's what all that noise was this morning. I must have heard a dozen sirens going down my street.

You know how it is. Homeland security takes every opportunity to play with their toys. Before I could convince the night manager I wasn't trying to pull his leg, a SWAT team decked out in enough hardware to invade Iran drags me outside and throws me, quite literally, into a squad car. I was handcuffed to a table and staring up into Captain Foster's smiling face within minutes of getting to the precinct. You know that last part is a lie, right?

Don't remind me. That pompous ass-wipe is patient zero when it comes to a hostile workplace environment. I look forward to never seeing him again in this lifetime. Somethin' does seem kinda odd though.

What ya yammering about, Tony?

How fast they got there. You'd almost think they knew somethin' was coming.

Something else that's not my problem. I'm still trying to figure out how long I'd be in jail if all the criminal charges Captain Foster threw at me stuck. I lost count somewhere around twenty-six.

That's right. Why are you out here instead of lockup? You should be trying to hire a lawyer who works cheap right about now.

Technology and irresponsible teenagers to the rescue! In all the confusion everyone forgot about the hotel's surveillance system. While I spent most of the morning gettin' blasted in the face with Foster's bad breath, some snot-nosed kid working for minimum wage in the security room dubbed the video feed and downloaded the best parts to the Web. Most of 'em got pulled in minutes, but a million copies are still floating around out there. I'm a freakin' star!

Only in your own tiny little mind, Rambo! I'd rather watch funny talkin' raven videos.

I thought Captain Foster was gonna blow a blood vessel when the DA barged into the interrogation room and ordered him to cut me loose.

Are you going to sue for false arrest? There might be some money in that.

Not a chance. District Attorney Wolfson said I'd be buried under the jail if I didn't go outside and tell the press it was nothing but publicity stunt gone bad. And he's the only guy I've ever seen make Captain Foster sweat . . . capisce?

What you gonna do now?

I'm going to finish my next drink, which you still have to buy, and go home to sleep for a week. I really hope to wake and find all this craziness was nothing but a weird shitty nightmare. And I dare Carmen and the kids to ever say my job's the lamest ever.

I know the feeling . . . Feds at six o'clock!

Ah, hell! What now? Think I can make it out the back?

Too late, they spotted you. Here they come!

Officer Frank Holland?

Don't let the uniform fool you. It's just Frank Holland. What can I do for you?

I'm agent Nesmitt. This is agent Williams. There are some people from the FBI and State Department downtown who want to talk to you. They'd like to hear your version on what happened at the Hilton this morning. It shouldn't take more than a couple hours.

What if I don't wanna go?

Don't make this harder than it has to . . .

Frank! Look at the television!

DONNIE!! Turn up the volume!

CNN BREAKING NEWS!!! Panic is Pamplona, Spain! This exclusive video just in from one of our overseas satellite affiliates. During the height of a late afternoon soccer match in Estadio El Sadar stadium, and before the stunned eyes of nineteen thousand screaming spectators, a glowing ball of gas rose through the grass pitch and engulfed four members of the world-renowned Osasuna team.

Reports are sketchy at this time, but the affected players have been taken to the hospital claiming their minds had been switched. The military has ordered a full quarantine of the stadium and surrounding town. Further developments will be aired as they arrive. In further breaking news, the Kardashians arrived in Bermuda this morning . . ."

Shut that shit off! You guys still wanna talk to me?

What difference at this point does it make, Mr. Holland?

I thought so. Donnie, bring these guys a drink. The good stuff, Tony is paying.

Ah . . . Geez!

Tony?

What ya pointing at, Frank?

The microphone they hid under your shirt fell into your lap when you sat down.

SHIT!!


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