Little light filtered into the alley from the neon signs on the street. Trash cans and stacked boxes, moldering into the cracked pavement littered the sides. A small streak of sickly pink light splashed against the back wall as a man in a dark shirt, the collar turned up, and a hat with the bill pulled down, leaned against it. A scraping sound made him lift his eyes slightly, as the man he came to meet shuffled toward him. He pushed off, the bottom of his left sneaker scuffing down the wall as he put his foot back on the ground. He met the man, skinny, save for his odd paunch, and balding. A few wisps of hair were haphazardly combed over the growing pale skin of his pate. He was sweating in a trench coat that looked too large for him, glancing nervously over his shoulder and back toward the alley entrance.
“You here for it?” asked the young man in the hat, causing the older man to jump and wring his hands nervously.
“Ye…Yeah.” he whispered.
The man in the hat reached into his shirt and produced a small padded envelope, the kind that was used to ship items through the mail. There was no writing on it save a small stylized “T” in the corner. “Relax, all you gotta do is take this package and head home. Once you’re there, don’t open it until you’re in a room with no phones, no electronics. Then open it and do what it says. You’re almost there.” He put a reassuring hand on the nervous man’s shoulder and felt his muscles were so tense they almost hummed. With the other he put the package into the man’s oversized coat pocket. With a smile and a soft pat on the shoulder, he began to walk past him and out of the alley. That’s when all hell broke loose.
Spotlights flooded the alley, turning night into midday. The man in the hat shielded his eyes trying to see what was going on. From behind he heard the nervous man whisper “I’m sorry, they threatened to put me away, said my family would be ruined!”
“THIS IS THE POLICE!” A booming voice echoed off the brick walls, making his insides feel like jello. “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST! PLACE YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD AND WALK SLOWLY OUT OF THE ALLEY!”
He ground his teeth, and spit to the side. “Do yourself a favor,” he whispered back to the nervous man. “Slip one of those out of the package and hide it on you. Then do what I said. It could mean your life if you don’t.” Then he put his hands on his head and began walking out of the alley, leaving the nervous little bald man alone.
“He said anything?” Detective Mason asked his partner. Detective Nelson was leaning against the two way mirror that looked in on the interrogation room. Mason handed him a cup of coffee and sipped some of his own. He grimaced. “Damn that’s awful! You drink this on purpose?’
Nelson took a long swallow and nodded. “Yup. But our felony friend in there hasn’t said a word. Ain’t asked for a lawyer, hasn’t professed his innocence, hasn’t confessed, hell he ain’t even asked to take a piss.” He took another pull on his coffee. “He’s been sittin’ there staring at his hands for hours.”
The man in the hat was indeed sitting still, his hands, chained to the desk, lay folded on the table, his face staring at them. If not for the occasional involuntary twitch one might think he was a shop window mannequin. His collar, now rumpled and twisted, had a small splash of dark maroon staining it. His right cheek was swollen, and sported a rough cut along the cheekbone that had begun to scab over. His glasses, one lens cracked, sat askew on his face, bent.
“Did you make sure to add resisting arrest to his charges?” Nelson asked Mason. “Yeah, tacked it on. All told he’s looking at possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy, and resisting arrest. He’d be looking at a lot of time but since it’s his first offense I’m sure some bleeding heart judge will give him a slap on the wrist. I got a pool going. I think he gets 30 days and a fine, what about you?”
Nelson leaned back from the mirror and gave a nasty grin. “If it were up to me, the little asshole wouldn’t see daylight again until his grandkids had grandkids!” He tossed his now empty coffee cup at a trash can near a desk and missed but left it sitting there. It wasn’t his job to pick it up, leave that to the janitor. “What about our informant? He solid to testify?”
Mason nodded. “Yeah, he’s good. Nervous little puke though. I’d rather have run him through the ringer right next to our silent friend in there, but since he nabbed us a bigger fish, I guess the bait goes free this time. I just wish this guy would crack, give us his supplier, or at least the next guy up the chain!”
Nelson chuckled. “We can certainly still try, we’ve got him for a few more hours before they drag his ass to processing and lock up until his trial. If he happens to resist arrest again, who could blame us for having to defend ourselves?”
Mason shook his head grinning. “Buddy, you are some kind of evil genius you know that?’ Both men entered the room, but the man in the hat never looked up. Nelson locked the door behind him and Mason closed the blinds on the one way mirror. One of them was missing and the one below it was cracked and drooping but everyone knew what it meant. “Buzz off!”
“So, we’ve got a little time before they haul you off to your brand new six by six hole, so why don’t we play nice hmm?” Mason asked in a friendly tone. “See we figure you ain’t the brains of this outfit, it wasn’t your idea to peddle this garbage to people. It wasn’t your idea to give this stuff to kids and trash their brains. We figure there’s gotta be someone else pulling the strings. Now, if you happened to know who that was, and it just so happened we heard the name, it’s possible we could tell the DA you cooperated. Then all this could go away! You’d go from being a perp to a cooperating witness.” Mason had taken the chair at the other end of the table, and put his feet up. The man in the hat didn’t move.
“Listen you little pissant!” Nelson yelled. “As it stands we got you dead to rights! You’re looking at years behind bars! Your family ruined! Cough it up while my partner here is still willing to be a nice guy!” The man in the hat said nothing. Nelson roared and slapped the man’s hat off, causing his glasses to drop onto the table in front of him, his brown blonde hair spilled over his face, and his hat bounced off the back wall and settled to the floor. The ragged NY logo facing back into the room. Still the man did not move. Nelson cuffed him upside the head, rocking the man sideways. A brief flare of hatred rose in the man’s eyes, but was quickly subdued and his focus was once again on his hands.
Mason laced his fingers behind his head. “You’ll have to forgive my partner, see a family member of his was ruined by the crap you peddle so he takes it pretty personal. Now there’s no point in keeping quiet here. We took your DNA and fingerprints, and like every kid since the late twenty teens, you’re in the database. We know who you are, where you’re from, your family background, hell I could go pull your third grade test scores if I wanted to. But listen John, you mind if I call you John? Listen John, I don’t want you. You’re small time. I want the big man in the shadows producing and spreading this poison to our fair citizens. Now, why not just help us out? You could walk outta here a free man! You know what, I’ll even buy you a new pair of glasses, how’s that sound?” Mason thought he actually came across magnanimous, though he was hoping he hadn’t overdone it and sounded pretentious. Still John said nothing.
A fist in his left temple threw him to the floor where the chains that held his wrists to the center of the table jerked him to a stop just a foot before his face met the cracked and filthy concrete. His head lolled for a second before John began trying to shake the cobwebs out. He staggered and tried to get to his feet as a knock sounded at the one way mirror.
“Just a sec friend.” Mason said as he stepped out. Just outside the door, Mason came face to face with the lieutenant. She was red faced and gritting her teeth. Her pants suit, pristinely pressed and straight did not flatter her, but she wasn’t there to flatter anyone, she was there to kick ass and take names. Mason pulled the door closed.
“What the hell was that!” She hissed. “Are you trying to hand this piece of trash a get out of jail free brutality card?”
“Don’t you dare call me that! I might’ve let you get away with that when we were married, but not now, and damn sure not at work!”
“Ok sorry lieutenant! Listen we’ve already got him charged for resisting arrest, he just tried to jump my partner in there, he hadda defend himself!”
“You and I both know that’s bullshit detective, but you damn sure better be able to make that story stick!” She began tapping one of her stilettos on the floor, looking over her glasses at him.
“No worries, lieutenant.” Mason said with a shushing motion of his hands. “It’d be the word of an obvious criminal against two of the force’s finest. No judge would bat an eye, especially with the stuff we caught him with.”
“Good.” She replied curtly. “Now get him to county. He disgusts me.” With that she spun and stalked away, Mason watching her backside as she left.
“Why did I ever let that one get away?” He thought to himself. Then he remembered. She was a raging bitch most of the time. Mason walked back into the room, closing the door behind him.
“Well John, looks like it’s too late. No deal for you.” Nelson was dragging him up off the floor and depositing him back into the chair. Blood had begun to trickle around his wrists where the handcuffs had cut him. “Seems the lieutenant has had enough of your games and is just gonna bust you for the whole thing. Too bad, you missed out.” Mason glanced down and saw the blood around his wrists.
“Hey Nelson, it looks like our prisoner here was trying to get his cuffs off! See!” He gestured towards John’s wrists.
“Well whaddya know!” Nelson replied. Stepping beside John. “Well we can’t have that now can we?” In an eye blink he grabbed John by the back of the head and smashed his face into the metal table he was chained to.
The last thing that went through his mind before losing consciousness was that his glasses had broken, and for some reason he couldn’t see out of his left eye. Then the world went black.
Tom was trembling as he locked the front door of his apartment. The sting the police had forced him into had unnerved him, but the calm and nonchalance that John had shown as he left the alley had more to do with it. If asked why, he’d never have been able to answer why he’d slipped one of the things from the pouch out and dropped it into his pocket. As frightened as he was he didn’t even remember doing it! But here he was, door double bolted, every light in the place on. He’d put his phone and laptop in the hall closet with their batteries pulled, and threw a blanket over his smart TV, even though he’d pulled the plug. He was sweating so much it was running into his eyes.
“What am I doing?” He whimpered to himself, his own voice making him jump. Hesitantly he made his way to his office. It was a small room with a fireplace and normally his desktop computer. However as soon as he’d gotten home he’d unplugged it and moved it to his bedroom, and then, just in case, plugged it back in.
“Crazy cops might be watching, seeing if I’m up to something! If I act suspicious, like I suddenly have no electronics on, they might come nosing around again!” He’d turned it on and navigated to one of the state approved news websites, and opened the video report link. He let it run with the speakers at a normal volume.
Now, he held the thing that was in the pouch to his chest, looking nervously around as he pulled his office door closed. He didn’t care turn a light on, so instead he’d lit a few of his late wife’s candles, the scented kind that always made him sneeze but his daughter still loved. They were arranged on the hearth so he knelt before them, and brought what was in his hands into the light. What he saw stopped his heart cold. Then set it beating a thousand beats a minute!
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light….”