Angel of Mercy: Chapter 17

Copyright Notice © 2016 Tim Knox

I’ve never liked being the center of attention.  Usually that isn’t a problem because very few people pay attention to me.  I don’t stand out in crowds.  I don’t draw attention to myself.  I’m a pretty nondescript guy; a low-key sort.  I’d rather fade into the background and watch the world go by than participate in its chaos.  Just let me blend into the woodwork and I’ll be fine.  No such luck today.  I was suddenly the most conspicuous guy on the planet.

The sharks were circling outside the jail when I was released from custody the next morning around nine.  Reporters waved microphones and recorders in my face and shouted questions at me.  Others with boom mics and shouldered video cameras purposely blocked the way and refused to move.  And of course there was the requisite army of paparazzi with fancy cameras and regular people (are they regular, really?) with cellphones, all snap, snap, snapping away.  And let us not forget the few dozen members of the Adrian Zoebel fan club who had nothing better to do than wait around in the hot sun to harass me.  They closed in on me when I emerged; like vultures that wanted to kill their prey rather than wait for it to die naturally so they could pick its bones clean.

“You’re famous,” Rueben Morales said with a grin as he and four uniformed officers cleared a path so we could get to his Crown Vic parked at the curb.  He opened the passenger door and put a hand on my back and gave me a pat.  “Get in the car, movie star.”

Photographers pressed against the car windows.  I covered my face with one hand and thought about flipping them off with the other, then thought better of it.  I knew it would be a gesture that would haunt me the rest of my life.  We’d love to give you the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, Mr. Cruze, but we can’t award the prize to anyone who flips off his brothers in the free press.

“Your car is at the impound lot,” he said, pulling slowly from the curb to give the crowd time to move aside.  He had a hell of a lot more patience than I did.  “It was towed last night.  Cronenburg wanted it off his lot.  Don’t worry; I’ll get it released for you, no charge.”

“Well, there’s a silver lining to every black cloud,” I said.  I turned to look at the procession behind us; news vans, cars, and motorcycles, the paparazzo’s vehicle of choice.  One idiot drove while another idiot sat on the back, snapping away.

“You’re very popular, my friend,” he said.  He leaned into the steering wheel and looked up through the windshield.  There were three news choppers hovering above us with cameras rolling.  “You’re going to have a tough time shaking this tail.”

I shielded my eyes to look up at the choppers.  “I don’t guess you could make them leave me alone, could you?”

“Would if I could, amigo,” he said.  “Now you know how it feels to be hounded.”

“I’ve never hounded anyone like this.”

“Oh, you’ve done your share of hounding,” he said, looking at me sideways.  “Your methods are just a little more subtle.”

I couldn’t argue the point.  I rubbed my eyes and slumped down in the seat to look out the window.  “What exactly are they accusing me of?”

“Let’s see, criminal trespass, felony stalking, threatening the lives of TV’s top reality star, and scaring some poor dead schmuck’s family half to death, resisting arrest, assaulting a security guard – should I go on?”

“I never assaulted a security guard,” I said.

“Pictures on the internet say otherwise,” he said.  We pulled up to the impound lot gate.  He flashed his badge to the attendant and scribbled his signature on the visitor’s log and parked us in front of the office.

He left the car running with the air on.  He turned sideways in the seat and said, “Do you wanna tell me what really happened?  I’ll pass it on to Stan Lynch at the DA’s office.  He should at least know your side of the story.”

“Let me fill you in later,” I said.  “I’ll grab a shower and meet you at The Nickel if I can shake this tail,” I glanced back toward the gate.  “I’ll need a good greasy cheeseburger before this day is through.”

“Fair enough,” he said.  “Just text me when you’re ready.”  He put a hand on my shoulder and gave it a shake.  “You know I’ll do everything I can for you, Matthew, but I’m afraid you’re in for a huge ration of shit.”

“Several huge rations of shit if I know Marc Cronenburg,” I said, looking through the sedan’s back window.  The sharks were lined up outside the fence waiting for my departure.  “Don’t guess there’s a rear exit to this place.”

“Afraid not,” he said, opening his door.  A wave of hot air rushed in.  “Oh, almost forgot.”  He reached over the seat and brought out my satchel.  “I thought you might need your man-purse.”

“It’s a satchel, damn it,” I said, opening the flap and rummaging through it quickly.  My notepad computer was there, as was my cellphone, wallet, keys, pads of paper and pens, but the one thing I hoped to find was gone.

“My video camera isn’t here.”

“They held it as evidence,” Rueben said.  “You’ll probably get it back after the trial, if they don’t sentence you to 10 years for killing your own career.”

“That’s not even funny,” I said.  There was more than a hint of panic in my voice.  I didn’t try to hide it.

He grinned at me and pulled his keys from the ignition.  “Come on, public enemy, let’s get your car.  I’ll try to hold them off long enough to give you a head start.”