Captioned photo credit: The Untouchables (1987), screenplay by David Mamet
Story copyright © Larry Lambert, 2016-2020
This is a component of a fictional law-enforcement related story that I started in 2016 and it appeared on the blog back then. I’ve since spent some time fleshing it out into a novelette length in my spare time, but frankly, there hasn’t been much of that. It’s the journey of Police Sergeant Michael Francis Xavier Muldoon and his journey through the dystopian world of law enforcement, set sometime in the future.
I hope that you enjoy–
Vigilante Moon, continued
I supervise a foot beat because I’m inept at collecting. I’m simply not a very good earner, and neither are the guys and gals who work for me. The good earners gravitate to vice, narcotics, intelligence and traffic enforcement where the big money is raked in. The elite executive protection and Party Liaison squads who protect police commanders and Party officials and provide drivers and bodyguards to the great and near great don’t have to be good earners. They simply need to be brutal. In the past year we’ve seen slots in Party Liaison go to leading members of the Brotherhood of International Workers and the International Service Employees Union rather than to trained and vetted police officers. One sergeant’s billet in the Public Control Bureau went to a member of the National Transportation Worker’s Local 919 last month, but I think that he landed that because his father is an alderman in the Twenty-Fourth Ward.
I knew Halvard Drummond from when he worked as a shop steward at Reliable Trucking. He moved directly from an army officer’s slot to the shop steward job and now he continued his career path with the police department’s Civil Unrest Division. Such were the sacrifices required by the party.
I mentioned Drummond, because it finally clicked that he, Drummond, was the person who didn’t fit in, outside the window at the Indian Restaurant. He’d been dressed up to pass for a street vagrant, but it was Drummond. The only remaining question was why he was there.
“Dewey, I saw Howard Drummond outside just a minute ago.”
“Was he wearing his army captain’s uniform, his shop steward shirt or his police Gestapo outfit?”
“Neither. He was dressed up like a bum.”
Dewey said, “That’s odd, he’s the sort of guy who likes to let you know he’s there.”
I stepped out into the sunshine and looked around but I didn’t see Drummond. So, I walked out onto the street with my lunch wrapped in a tortilla forming a burrito, and ate as I watched. If you never wore a badge, you won’t know what I’m talking about. Civilians walk the streets or ride on trams and don’t pay attention to the people around them. All I’ve done is watch people and where a civilian wouldn’t see anything amiss, it stands out to a cop, particularly one who walks a beat. Drummond stood out as if he wore a neon sign.
Dewey followed me a moment later. “Do you think it was Drummond, or maybe a bum that looked like Drummond?”
I stared at Dewey.
“Okay, Michael Francis Xavier Muldoon, you’re never wrong about a thing like that.”
“That’s right, I’m not.”
I noticed another bum who looked out of place stood down the street, but it wasn’t Drummond. His eyes were fixed on the Third Interstate Bank building. I crossed the street and walked over to him, finishing my burrito with one last delicious mouthful, and gulping it down, said, “Step into my office.”
He looked up at me. Face well shaved, plump bordering on over-fed, dark eyes in a skull framed by a raggedy, hooded parka, gerry curls drifted out next to his face.
“Pull back the parka hood.” He complied and I saw hair styled with long, greasy ringlets.
Dewey followed me when I walked over. “What do you make of that?” He saw the same thing I did.
I pulled my electroshock blaster/stunner from its holder and twisted the charging handle. It gave off a low hum and vibrated as it powered up. You can say one thing for the Party. They like their troops to be well armed. In addition to a conventional pistol, I carried the blaster, two conventional hand grenades, two stingball grenades, and a short sword with a sharp blade on one side and an entry blade for chopping doors down on the other. Oh, yeah, and the 245 Gonzales sap.
“Break out identification,” I ordered.
“Don’t have any,” the wealthy-looking man, slumming in low street clothing replied.
No bum would ever say that because failure to identify always ended badly for them. I put his age at somewhere between thirty and thirty-five. His eyes darted to me, then to Dewey, then back to mine. “If he wasn’t there, I’d take you, flatfoot.”
Dewey still walked like a police sergeant, talked and behaved like a police sergeant and kept his lion-colored hair hair spiked in what had become the police fashion.
What to do?
I did what anybody on the beat should do. I fired a blaster round at him. Each blaster fired up to forty rounds called ‘bees’ that were about the size and shape of a large bumblebee. Each bee had a potent enough charge to put a horse or cow on the ground and into convulsions. They completely incapacitated a healthy human being. If the human being in question had health issues, it could be fatal.
It wasn’t fatal to the fake bum, because I only fired two bees, but it did put him into convulsions. I hadn’t deactivated the bees and they continued to send a gazillion volts through him. So he bucked and twitched, foamed at the mouth like a rabid dog and his bladder and intestines voided. Only then did I deactivate the bees.
Dewey walked back into his pawnshop once I handcuffed the bum. He watched from a distance because he’d done the same sort of thing himself countless times and knew that encapsulation was coming. When I keyed the microphone, it sent out a GPS signal with my precise coordinates. There are also GPS transponders that we’re supposed to wear, but none of those work.
I called for the Short Bus on the radio for a transport. The armored three-ton “Short Bus” (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) six-wheeled paddy wagon roared up while he was still twitching, though now handcuffed and searched.
Corporal Bruce (Blue Moon) Mooney worked for me and drove the armored car that was mine-proof, bullet-proof, grenade-proof, everything but idiot-proof.
“What ya got, Sarge?”
Mooney had a long, hang-dog, wrinkled face. He’d been on the job twenty longer than me and had a serious alcohol problem, which is why he drove the wagon. It was almost impossible to dent the Short Bus no matter what you hit, and he hit a lot of things when he was in his cups.
I handed Mooney what I found on the guy. “His name is Mark Fuller and he’s carrying army credentials, even though he’s out of uniform. He’s also got a small army issue handgun.”
Mooney bagged the ID and gun, then I handed him the magazine I’d taken from the pistol. “It’s one of those fancy pistols that only fires if the DNA of the trigger puller matches the chip in the weapon.”
“Exploding rounds.” Mooney marveled.
“That means he’s either a very good army imposter, a deserter or he’s a soldier here on the street out of uniform, wearing long, curly hair, with a yen to hurt a cop.”
“Did he try anything on you, Sarge?”
“He wanted to, but I blasted him for good measure before he got the chance.”
“The word is ‘proactive’, Corporal.”
I helped Mooney lift Soldier Mark Fuller into the coffin on the back of the wagon. They aren’t real coffins. They look like metal coffins and we use them to transport incapacitated prisoners. It’s officially called encapsulation. You dump the prisoner in the coffin and it’s moved into position on top of the wagon by means of a hydraulic hoist.
Before the coffin snapped shut, Drummond walked up to me, dressed in his bum clothing.
“The damned blasters are effective.” Drummond observed dispassionately, “But you’ll have hell to pay.” Then he looked up at me, because I’m taller than he is. “Yeah, they’re with me. They’re from the Federal Protective Police.”
The coffin lid snapped shut. Mooney toggled the hoist.
“Nobody told me about an operation in my district, Drummond. The rules call for me to be informed. If I’m not, I’m not responsible for any pre-emptive action I take.”
“The Protective Police can do more or less anything they want because they guard the Party’s elite.”
“He doesn’t have police identification. He has army identification, he’s out of uniform, and he may be a fancy fed, but he wasn’t blaster-proof was he?”
Drummond’s voice grew plaintive, “I said he was with me, Sergeant Muldoon.”
“How many times have you busted my chops, Drummond?”
The coffin clanked home on top of the wagon and the retaining latches engaged.
Drummond shrugged. “Fuck ‘em. Frankly, Muldoon I don’t care much about the guy. He treated me like a local.”
“You are a local,” I pointed out politely, “and so am I.”
“I was an army officer, a federal officer,” Drummond said somewhat wistfully.
“You’re a Party man. You do what the Party says, right?” Drummond looked at me hard and I saw for once that he wasn’t all together pleased with who he was. I filed it away and slapped the armored flanks of the wagon. Blue-black smoke belched from its smoke stacks as it powered up and lumbered from the curb into the street.
Lieutenant Rudolph Chang, even more of a lush than Corporal Mooney, served as the watch commander and my immediate boss for the South Side. Drummond called ahead so Chang was aware of something afoot, but neither he nor Drummond cracked the coffin with Soldier Mark Fuller, or whatever his real name was, still stuffed in it. In fact, Drummond was nowhere to be seen.
A couple of hours had passed since Mooney hoisted it onto the wagon. I didn’t like being called a flatfoot, so I let the situation mellow. I imagined that it was getting ripe in there – and hot. Oxygen ported into the coffins by way of ducting so unless he vomited and aspirated it, it was unlikely he’d die from asphyxiation while confined. But if he wasn’t dead, he’d be conscious and furious inside the coffin with his full trousers getting raunchier. The early coffins allowed prisoners to claw the lid from the inside, but these formed a tight seal and it was hell for people with the slightest hint of claustrophobia.
I met the lieutenant near the wagon. Mooney stood more or less to attention.
“Muldoon, what are you doing out there on my streets?” Chang asked. His Asiatic eyes were narrowed to even finer slits than they had been.
“Earning, Lieutenant Chang.”
A light went on in Chang’s more or less pickled mind and his eyes opened, hopeful. “What did you come up with, Muldoon?”
“Contraband alcoholic beverage, no tax stamps. A whole case of Tullimore Dew export grade.” Dewey gave me the case to bring in with me because he thought somebody was going to be upset about the electroshocked fed.
Chang pulled me aside by the arm, out of earshot from Corporal Mooney. “Where did you find it?”
“Not far from where I arrested this guy. I think maybe he’s an army deserter and had the stash.” Untaxed alcohol is a very serious crime as are all crimes where a Party stamp is required on goods.
“Someone is coming to collect the prisoner, but there is no need to indict a young soldier for that sort of indiscretion, is there?”
“For wanting a drink? Certainly not, Lieutenant Chang. Perhaps you could book the evidence, or destroy it. It’s not a task I want to delegate to Corporal Mooney because he’s a man given over to drink and might consume some of the contraband in the process of its destruction.”
“I agree to take charge of it. Where might it be?” Lieutenant Chang licked his lips involuntarily.
I handed the lieutenant the keys to my black Mariah, the armored cruiser that I drove – perquisite of a sergeant because of Party membership. “It’s in the back, under a blanket.”
Lieutenant Chang took the keys and that’s the last I saw of him on that shift. I found the keys to my car on his desk later that day.
“Drop the coffin, Mooney. Let’s see what we have inside.”
Mooney had the coffin half-way down when Captain Wilbur Drake walked up into the enclosed bay, called a sally port, that held the Short Bus. Two civilians in natty business suits followed him. One short, the other taller than I am.
Drake had an anger problem as severe as Chang’s drinking problem. He always traveled with a full head of steam.
“I think you pissed off Captain Drake.” Mooney said to me.
“You’ve got a remarkable grasp of the fucking obvious, Blue Moon,” Captain Drake told Corporal Mooney. Drake is known for his remarkably acute hearing. Some credit that and that alone to his rise in the ranks to Captain. Others attribute his rapid promotion to a wife that didn’t hesitate to pleasure superior officers who had the power to recommend for promotion.
Drake talked a good game when he chewed me out, but he used to work for Dewey when he’d started on the department and as a result, I know where the skeletons are buried. I always took the reprimands with due humility, but knew that he knew, that there were limits. For the most part, he’d yell at me in public to let everyone know I didn’t enjoy any special privileges.
“One of these days, I’m going to grab you by the stacking swivel and shake the stupid out of you, Muldoon.”
“I’m a poor excuse for a sergeant, Captain Drake.”
Drake ordered, “Drop the goddamned coffin and let’s have a look at this—pride of the Federal Government.”
Mooney lowered the coffin to the concrete deck and toggled the release button. Air hissed and the retaining latches snapped open.
Agent Fuller sat up, forming a ninety-degree angle with his waist as the pivot point. He sucked in a deep breath. My eyes began to water from the corrupt smell erupting from the coffin. Vomit, shit, piss and every other possible leakage from a human orifice each had their own peculiar offensive smell. When combined, the synergistic effect made me want to puke, but I didn’t.
“I’m gonna kill you cop!” Fuller croaked, looking up at me through puffy, red eyes.
The shorter of the two feds spoke up.
“Shut your cock holster, Fuller.”
Fuller closed his mouth as ordered.
I went away with the feds and Captain Drake while Mooney took a fire hose to Soldier Fuller, or whoever he really was, and the inside of the coffin. Thankfully, the interior of those coffins are designed to be washed and reused without much more than a fire hose blast.
The shorter Fed identified himself to me Erasimo Tambunga. Many of them take African-style names because it is the fashion and demonstrates their commitment to African heritage whether they are genuinely Africans, part African, or not. Soldier Fuller’s skin had a milk chocolate luster. Tambunga had skin black as anthracite, but it was a pigment enhancer that he’d taken. If you want to play to trends, you get a skin job.
“Fuller is a trench monkey, Sergeant Muldoon. I’m sorry if he caused you any trouble.” That sort of language coming from a fed constituted an ominous change in behavior. My guard snapped up though my face remained a mask of appreciation. “But he’s out there on the street on a special mission. Alderman Wlibur Quail is missing and we suspect foul play.”
“This is the first I’ve heard of that.”
Tambunga said, “I argued for letting the locals know but it’s a Party matter first when one of our leaders is unaccounted for.”
“Can I tell my men to be on the look-out, Agent Tambunga?”
“You can call me Erasimo, and yes I think that it’s time we put the word out that Alderman Quail may be the victim of foul play. As a police sergeant, you know that subversive elements remain in our model society no matter how well off the citizens are. There was even a serpent in Eden, Sergeant Muldoon.”
We created this worker’s paradise when we became Sheeople, and the greed of the common man overcame his willingness to work for the good of all. The myriad of labor unions and the Party itself formed a living, breathing thugocracy that existed to serve its own ends. We were divided and then we were conquered by our own.
Ehigie, called Eggy, ran Rubin’s Deli, the Rubin family having moved on two decades previously. He hailed from Nigeria and didn’t talk much about his life there. Eggy didn’t talk much about anything. People rarely came to the deli because he served Nigerian food and there were very few Nigerians in the city.
Dewey thought that the local politics were foolish. Eggy didn’t talk to Silky Jackson, who ran Girls-Girls-Girls because Silky was a high yellow negro and Eggy’s skin was so black that very little light reflected, at least that’s how Dewey saw it. It turned out that the strip bar that Silky built near his dining establishment had offended Eggy’s sense of modesty. People misunderstood race to mean agenda.
As I mentioned, Nelson Begay ran an Indian restaurant – Not a restaurant serving East Indian food. Nelson served southwestern cuisine because he came from Gallup, New Mexico, not from Bombay or Calcutta.
And me? When Tambunga told me about the Wilbur Quail abduction, I became as alert as a mouse at a cat show. When had Wilbur been abducted? Marie Watts almost raped me after work a week ago, probing about what I knew about what. Marie was the station clearing barrel, and a tool of upper management. The term clearing barrel refers to the red, sand filled barrels used to verify that small arms are unloaded before turn in. Police officers preparing to turn in weapons line up and dry fire their rifles into the barrel. Some called her the ‘department groundsheet’. The presence and agenda of Marie Watts made me wearily contemplate some idiotic or malicious decisions by higher-ups. She never appeared unbidden. But maybe, just maybe it had something to do with Alderman Quail.
Advanced as we had once become, we were hurtling backwards into a new dark age. I saw it every day, felt it with every sunset and retrospective glance at the day before. In the story of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the main character, Hank Morgan, a mechanic in an arms manufacturing plant woke up one day in King Arthur’s England. He did everything that he could to advance the backwardness of the peasants and royalty alike, but in the end it all came to naught, as the people were forgetful and more comfortable in their ignorance. All of the advancements he made to the civilization in which he found himself were wasted, and there’s the nugget of truth for today’s civilization. Perhaps it had something to do with the end of reading as a pastime. People preferred to be force-fed trivia through video screens and pads. Electronic games replaced learning by offering endless entertainment.
I might be a police sergeant supervising a street squad, but I could read contraband books the same as everyone else. In fact, other than the job and a wife who generally ignored me, the books were all that I had. They told an ancient story that repeated itself over and over again through the ages, and in a weird sense, told my story.
We put ourselves in the same place that the Roman Empire found itself. The people who built and forged the institutions that made the nation great had long been dead by the end. Men like Scipio couldn’t reach out and teach the later offspring about life and how to wage war. Adaptation to the police state and thugocracy that I myself perpetuated was easier than struggling to keep things strong. Values were replaced by emotion and unbounded greed. It had become greed, more than anything else that bound the society. Every institution in the country had become corrupt at the Party’s urging. We became slothful, and failed in our basic responsibility to the generations to follow. A nation built upon optimism and faith, which sloughs off its beliefs will descend into hedonism, decadence and fatalism. And some operative in police management sent Marie Watts, the clearing barrel, to me to seduce information out of me that I didn’t have. It’s simply how things were done now.
Of course, I knew who had Wilbur Quail on ice. Who else? John Dewey had authored a training course on planned political kidnapping, he had a secret room under the Third Interstate Bank and he sat on a pile of cash from the armored car heist. He had the motivation, the skill and the bankroll along with the natural vindictiveness that all police officers harbored toward the politicians who treated us like servants or pawns in their power struggles.
When the complete novelette, Vigilante Moon is available, there will be a notice on this blog.