Copyright 2017, John Manimas Medeiros
It all revolves around the car.
My life revolves around the car. On my way to a code for a public disturbance, then upgraded to a riot, I got out of my car at the wrong corner, a block away, because of people running in the street. That was two months ago, when the girl was killed. A month ago Baxie was shot in the back at midnight, with his own gun. That was sure, but where the gun was no one knew. They had weapon, missing weapon, and motive. But no other evidence. Baxie (Corporal Richard Baxter) was known as a good cop, even a great cop, to the business community, but not among the blacks and Hispanics. He was rumored to be a little racist. Baxie rode car #4713.
At the riot incident two months ago, about 8:00 pm growing dark, I ran toward the commotion past the narrow alleyway between Cram's Hardware and Patty's Café. That alleyway curved to the left into a little cove with trash cans that was not visible from the street. I thought I heard someone calling for help, but in a whisper, which seemed strange.
I knew Baxie was coming, so I wanted to be there with him on time, not let him down. Car 4713 is a lucky number. 47 is prime, and famous, as is 13. Also first and last, 43 is prime, which is prime 23 plus 20. The middle 71 is a great prime. Lucky car. As I ran I slowed down, surprising myself as I passed by Spikey Dunklee, one of the town character drug heads -- African American. He used to have his hair in a firm Mohawk spike in startling colors changed weekly: pale blue, pink, lime, flame red. But now, with age, his head looked like a frayed black Christmas poinsettia. He was dancing, shuffling like an "old black Joe" and spouting the most outrageous political insults:
"Yess Massa, I love Shamerica Massa, I love the fwag and the gag and the shag of the grag. I pwedge awegence to the fwag of the Unisis Statis of Scamerica, and to the repulsives, for which it stands, one shun nashun, under god-damn, with shliberty and just piss, for all."
I wanted to stop and arrest him, but there could be somebody being beaten or even killed just a hundred yards ahead. An inexplicable magnetic force turned me back three steps to the whisper from the alley. I walked down slowly and drew my gun. As I peaked around the curve I heard pained groaning.
"no… help… stop …"
Baxie was raping a black teenager, her soft weeping face jammed against the clapboard wall, blank eyes aimed at me, but not seeing.
"Don't worry, I'll pay yah. Relax. I'll give you twenty-five dollars."
I was about to call his name when he drew back and shot her in the head.
I turned and ran, my mind swimming in crazy indecision and confusion. Did I hallucinate? What is the right thing to do? Too late to stop him. I saw him. I saw him commit murder. No one else was there. I was the only witness.
I ran to the tangled crowd. Mostly whites were swinging and shouting obscenities.
"Ungrateful shit! You don't belong here."
Later the explanation was that a black woman insulted a white man outside the supermarket. After it was all done we had a few cuts and bruises and one broken wrist, and the prosecutor did not want to charge anyone. But I had my secret. And Baxie had his. I carried that through while pretending to cope with routine work. That night I opened the trunk of Car 4713 and saw her. How could he do it? How would he do this and not get found out? She was reported as missing. Another runaway teen.
His secret came to closure a month later, when I knew he was going to a bar complaint at night. I was off but on duty in my head twenty-four seven trying to decide what to do about the fact that I was the sole witness to a murder committed by a police officer.
I followed him and performed behind the bar like a clumsy drunk, drew him away to a dark and isolated spot. The gun will never be found. It will sink deeper in the mud every day. That innocent girl died with one secret witness. Baxie had one secret witness to his murder too. He used to say "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" whenever the gossip was that he beat a suspect in custody.
The next day, I was on duty and pretended to be in mourning like all of us on the force. I stopped by the supermarket. Children were marching by singing.
"… this is the way … this is the way."
They carried papers with crayon drawings. I asked the adult woman guiding them who I recognized as a teacher, "Who are these kids?"
"It's the second and third grade at Lincoln School."
I counted them. Forty-three.
"Good morning to you. Good morning to you. We're all in our places with bright shiny faces. This is the way to start a good daaay. This is the way to start a good daaay."
No incidents that day. I went home and opened a novel, but couldn't read, couldn't sleep, couldn't eat. I wrote my own little novel. You are reading it, but only because I am dead. You would not have it. No one would have the truth until after I was dead. I made sure of that. Why do we read novels? Because we get tired of our lives and want to try someone else's. We want to imagine being someone else in a different world.
On that day after I killed Baxie and I watched the kids march by singing their happy song, the last boy trotted by full of energy, his shoulders rocking and feet skipping. He wore a kid-sized football shirt, white with lime-green sleeves and the number thirteen.
I worried. I worried and I pondered but I knew I would never confess. I made a commitment to never confess that I did an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Justice for all. Maybe that's why we read stories. Because a story can have justice. A story comes to an end. Life goes on.
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