Friday, August 2, 2013

Guys Named Jack by Mark LaFlamme

Jack Gordon


We rode together in the back seat of a cruiser. Julie still looked dazed, staring at the cage that separated the back of the car from the front. I was worried about her. But when I picked up her hand with my own, she gave it a squeeze and looked at me. She smiled weakly.

The two officers in the front seat said nothing on the short drive to the Privilege Police Station. When we got there, Julie and I were split up. She was taken into one small room, I was taken into another.

I hated letting her hand go more than anything else.

When I got into the room, I was invited to sit in a plastic chair behind a scarred table. I expected the officer would leave me alone and then a pair of detectives in suits would come in to grill me. Instead, the officer shut the door and took the chair on the other side of the table.

He was a young guy, tall and athletic. He had bushy red hair and a thick mustache. Lip lettuce, we called that kind of facial hair. He reminded me of one of the cops from those old police shows they run late at night. Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue. All the cop shows seemed to have “blue” in them and cops with bushy mustaches.

The officer told me I wasn’t under arrest. Was free to go at any time, in fact. It sounded like a trick. I just nodded and waited for what was next.

“The sergeant will call your parents,” he said. “Will they come?”

I thought it was an odd question. Then it occurred to me that not every teenager – and maybe in Privilege in particular – has a mother and a father who will drop everything when their kid gets into trouble.

“They’ll be here,” I told him. “My dad, for sure.”

The cop nodded. He flipped out a notebook in a black leather case and told me his name was Officer Tony Dutil. He dug a pen out of the pocket of his shirt and held it over the notebook, as though he were waiting for it to start writing on its own. Then he seemed to become aware that he was doing it and put the pen aside.

“We have two witnesses,” he said, “that say you got into an altercation with three men. Okay? They said in a matter of two minutes or less, those three men were all on the ground, unconscious and bleeding.”

Officer Dutil looked at me. I didn’t know if I was supposed to say something. Was this time to “lawyer up” or whatever the term was?

Dutil didn’t wait long for me to answer. He picked up the notebook and flipped back a page.

“One of the witnesses, an older woman who saw it all from her apartment window, said – and I quote – ‘the young man put a whole lot of karate-type moves on them. Just like in the movies.’ That’s what she said. Word for word. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said. “I guess.”

He put the notebook down. He leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath, letting it out with theatrical gusto. He looked at me. Leaned in and placed his hands flat on the table.

“Back at the scene, you admitted there was some type of altercation between you and these three men. That’s right, isn’t it?”

I nodded. Started to say something, just nodded again.

“Okay,” he said. “That’s good. I’m not saying you did anything wrong. I just want to understand how it went down. Okay?”


“Good. That’s good.”

He picked up the pen and scribbled something in the notebook. Without looking at me, he began asking more questions.

“Do you know the men you fought with, Jack?”

“No,” I said. “Uh uh.”

“You just met them on the street then?”

“Yes. After we left the movie theater.”

Officer Dutil nodded and scribbled.

“Why did you fight them, Jack? Did they threaten you or anything like that?”

I told him that, yes, the men had threatened us. Pushed us. I started to tell him about the punk who slapped Julie’s butt and then snapped my mouth shut.

Dutil looked at me with eyebrows raised. “Something more?”

“No,” I said. “They shoved us. One of them said they wanted to borrow my lady. Something like that.”

“They wanted to borrow your lady? You mean your friend, Julie?”

“That’s what I assumed, yeah.”

Dutil frowned. And scribbled.

“Jack,” he said. “Do you take karate lessons?”

“No. I don’t.”

“Jujitsu? Kung fu? Anything like that?”

“Nope. Nothing.”

He stared at me, nodding. He made a steeple out of his hands and tapped his fingers together like an evil genius in a cartoon.

“Well,” he said. “If you aren’t some martial arts pro or anything awesome like that, how the hell did you manage to get the best of three hood rats who have been knocking around kids like you since they were in juvenile hall? Can you tell me that, Jack?”

In my head, I heard: Dragon. Horse. Snake. But it wasn’t the same as before. They were just words now – memories of a moment that had felt almost spiritual but which now was beginning to fade like a dream in the light of day.

“I don’t know,” I said. And though it was the truth, I still felt like the dipshit in all those cop shows, babbling when I should just shut up. “I have no idea. I was kind of on autopilot, I think. I was worried that they were going to hurt Julie. I mean, I was really worried about that. I just… I just reacted. That’s all.”

Dutil was looking at me. It wasn’t completely a cop stare. I could tell he was trying to pin down whether I was lying or not. And if I was lying, why?

But there was something more in his gaze, something that was more human that cop. He was fascinated. He was looking at some scrawny punk who had beat the crap out of three street toughs and who was now sitting here without a scratch.

“So, you’re like the Hulk,” he said. “Get you mad and all bets are off. Is that it?”

“No,” I said quickly. “Not at all. I’ve never even been in a fight before today.”

I had a feeling the matter of Kenny Smotherman probably wasn’t relevant.

Dutil shook his head, blew out a breath, picked up his pen and notebook again.

“Did you have any weapons with you, Jack?”

“No,” I said. “They did, though. One of them had a knife.”

“We know. Were you in Privilege to buy drugs?”

“Absolutely not. We went to the movies. I still have the stub.”

“Right. You went to see…”

“The Kate Hudson movie,” I finished for him.

His eyebrows went up again.

“That’s kind of a chick flick, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” I said. “And I was with a chick.”

Dutil smirked. It looked like he didn’t want to but couldn’t help himself. He started to ask another question but was interrupted by a knock at the door. A moment later, the door swung open and a cop with a bulldog face stepped in. The sergeant from back at the parking garage. Directly behind him was my father.

I thought: Oh boy.

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Genre – YA / Thriller

Rating – PG

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