8FOLD/ACRA: Joly City # 16, The Sensational Character-Find of 2007, Part Five of Six: ... The Fourth Estate!
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 6 21:11:03 PDT 2008
Carlos Canton-- City Councilman!
Paisley Parker-- Lady Newshawk!
Ray Cradle once warned Martin Rock to beware of people with
-- and young Derek Mason will soon find out why as he faces the
unbridled might of...
...THE FOURTH ESTATE!
EIGHTFOLD COMICS GROUP PROUDLY PRESENTS THE
////////////// 2006 & 2007 RACCIE WINNER FOR
//// ////// /// ////// FAVOURITE ACRA SERIES
// //// // // /// //
////// ////// ///// //
# 16 EARLY AUGUST 2008
////// /// ////// \ // THE SENSATIONAL
/// /// // \// CHARACTER-FIND
////// /// // // OF 2007 PART 5
BY TOM RUSSELL //
The church basement looks comparatively bare, its four occupants
dwarfed by a legion of metal folding chairs and mammoth white table
cloths-- and food, more than enough food for four people, fatty greasy
Polish food in metal trays on a table, paper plates and disposable
plastic utensils at either end: beef and pork, chicken and dumplings,
larded meatballs and kielbasa, cabbage and pierogi, and some kind of
dessert that Derek cannot readily identify. Derek's not big on Polish
food himself (it always made him sick), and his father was never
partial to it either; the catering company that usually handles
business for the church is Polish.
So he doesn't take a whole lot, and the same goes for Dani and
Pam. (Father Riddle goes back for seconds and seconds on top of
Derek approaches Dani and Pam hesitantly; the way that they're
staring at him, it's almost like he's not welcome at his own father's
luncheon. He sits down.
"So," he clears his throat and looks to Dani, "what's up with our
"John Rokesmith?" says Roy Riddle, approaching the table.
"He's talking about Martin," says Dani. "Though I appreciate the
reference. This guy called Thereman," the name has three syllables,
"pulled a job at the arts center last night. Someone spotted him at
JCU today, it got passed along to me, and so I passed it along to
"Thereman, like the instrument theremin, but with an 'a'?" says
"Some kind of music thing, I'm not sure," says Dani. Then, perhaps
finding her own demeanor too amenable, Dani resumes a guise of
coldness. It doesn't last long; as is too often the case, she finds
herself weakening when she should steady her resolve. (She envies
"Derek," she says gently, "I'm not sure if you know what a
dangerous person Erika Fumetti is."
"Martin already said he's going to talk with me about it," he says
"Okay," says Dani. "Just... just listen to whatever he has to say,
okay? She's a very sick woman."
Father Riddle pipes up in his high sweet voice: "Maybe this is a
conversation that we should leave to Derek and Martin."
Pam stabs the air with her fork and an attached meatball. "Well,
whatever he says to you, you just better keep her away from me.
Because if she comes anywhere near me again, I'm going to yank out her
insides. I'm going to kill her."
Derek peers at his eyebrows, waiting for the conversation to run
its course. But Roy, silly stupid Roy, is, as usual, unable to let
"You had better not," he admonishes Pam.
"She deserves it," says Pam.
"It's not your place to decide that."
"If you knew what she did, you wouldn't say that."
"I don't care what she did," says Roy. "She's still a human being,
just like you or I, with the same divine spark..."
"Don't give me that," says Pam. "Some things you do can't ever be
undone or made up for. Some people are just bad."
"And murder doesn't bring you down to that level?"
"I was talking metaphorically," says Pam. "I didn't mean it and
you know it. All I'm saying is just keep her away from me. Because I
hate that woman."
And it seems like that'll be the end of it, like it's all about to
come to an end, and Derek is almost glad. But no; Roy is Roy.
"You should never hate anyone," he says, and he seems to take more
offense at this than at her previous threat to murder Erika. "Humans
weren't meant to hate. They were made to love. To love one another,
to love everybody... even people who make us mad..."
"Like the man who killed my father?" says Pam. "Or this kid that
killed Derek's?" (The words hurt Derek a little and they come as a bit
of a shock; that's Pam all over, though, rose-and-briars.) "What,
we're supposed to go out and give them a big hug and big wet sloppy
"Maybe you need to get your head out of your ass, preacher-man.
The real world doesn't work like that. People ain't always nice to
each other. And you can talk about love, but some people don't
deserve to be loved, by man or God alike, and that's their own damn
fault, thank you very much."
She takes her plate and swiftly heads for the exit. They just sit
there and listen as her heels slowly clack into the distance; Martin,
now in his civvies, passes her on the stairs and, once he's reached
the basement, inquires as to what happened.
"Doesn't matter," says Derek. He leaves his plate at the table and
heads into the Knight's Den, slamming the trap door shut behind him.
Martin turns his attention to Roy and Dani. "Is everything okay?"
"I'm afraid I exacerbated the situation," says Roy.
"Really?" says Martin. "I thought priests didn't do that kind of
thing. Sin of the flesh and all that."
Roy rolls his eyes.
"I'd like to talk to Martin alone a bit," says Dani.
"I'll go find Pamela," says Roy. "See if I can patch things up,
apologize for upsetting her."
"That's not a good idea," says Martin and Dani at the same time.
"You're probably right," says Roy as he stands up from his chair.
"It'll probably just keep exacerbating things."
"I understand you need to do it, Roy-- you're only human. But in
Roy leaves without further comment.
"Fumetti?" intuits Martin.
"Hmm-mm," says Dani. "Did you know...?"
"Of course not," says Martin. "I mean, I knew his friend's name
was Erika, and I heard the physical description-- I just didn't put
two and two together. I'm going to talk about it with him now
though. If I can figure out how to go about it."
"There's something else," says Dani.
"Pam said... she said that Erika was the second."
"That this was the second time... it... happened to you."
"Oh," says Martin. He covers his mouth with his fist. "Yes,
"I don't like talking about it. Or thinking about it. It was a
long time ago."
"But you told Pam," says Dani. "And you told her who you were,
"You already know why I didn't tell you."
"Because you were the mask with no name."
"I wasn't going to put you into that position."
"But you could have told me this," says Dani. "You should have.
Now I know why you didn't want to press charges."
"Probably another mistake on my part," says Martin. "I hope... I
just hope she hasn't done anything to Derek."
"If I had known, Martin... I never would have said the things I
said to you that day."
"It's fine. It's under the bridge."
"But then you wouldn't have--" She stops herself, but it's too
late; both of them know what she was gong to say-- that if it had not
been for their argument after he refused to press charges against
Erika for rape, then he wouldn't have taken up with Pam in the first
place. He would be Dani's, and Dani's alone.
He doesn't say anything. He should. He should talk to her about
this, about the two of them and Pam, about how unhappy Dani really is
with the current situation, about trusting her more.
But he doesn't. Instead, he gives her a quick hug and a kiss
before heading towards the Knight's Den. Oddly enough, the
conversation that awaits him-- the one he had been dreading since he
spotted and recognized Erika in the church-- appears at this juncture
to be the easier of the two.
He closes the trap door behind him. Derek's already waiting for
"So, what was that?" says Derek.
"Oh," says Martin. "Him. Music-based guy. If you can call it
"Like a theremin, right? I was right."
"Yeah. There was a big orchestra show at the arts center, lot of
out-of-town people. Guy stole all the instruments and vamoosed. No
money or anything-- but those instruments are expensive."
"I know; I was in band in middle school. Played the tuba."
"Yeesh." Martin takes a deep breath, steadying himself. "So...
um... about this thing with..."
"So, are you going to tell me what happened? Did you catch the
"Yeah, police've got him now, all the instruments were returned.
Yo-Yo recognized him at JCU, and so..."
"Yo-Yo? Like Yo-Yo Ma?"
"Hmm-mm. Has a mean right hook. Guess you could call it a team-
up, I dunno."
"Well, now I want to hear about this," says Derek. "You better
start over from the beginning."
Erika calls Derek that night to let him know she's taking his
"You're going to see a doctor?"
"No; I'm putting myself in a hospital. I think..." She hesitates.
"I think everyone would be safer that way."
"I'll come and visit you," promises Derek.
Dani's apartment. Martin stops by before going on his patrol.
"How'd it go?" she asks.
"Never actually got around to it," he says.
She sighs, exasperated.
"But, you know, I was thinking. I already told him to stay away
from her, that she's not safe. Maybe that's enough...?"
"I know you don't want to talk about this with him. But you should
try to find out if... if anything happened to him."
"He'd probably tell me," says Martin.
"Did you ever tell anyone about the first time? Besides Pam?"
"Once," says Martin. "An old girlfriend. She's passed on now.
"How long was it until you told her?"
"I told her right away," says Martin.
"I mean, how long after it happened?"
"I dunno. Ten years. Twelve. Can we not talk about this?"
"Why didn't you tell anyone before that?" says Dani. "Your mother
"My mother was dead. My father..." Air pushes through his pursed
lips. "He wouldn't have believed me. Or if he did, he'd... I dunno,
he'd probably call me a fag or something and beat the shit out of me."
"I have a hard time believing that."
"You didn't know my father," says Martin.
"What about the first Green Knight?"
"What about him, Dani?"
"If you'd rather we didn't talk about this..."
"I already said I didn't want to talk about it," snips Martin.
"But you went ahead and pressed on anyway."
"Okay," says Dani. "Just calm down, okay?"
"What do you mean, calm down? I am calm."
"Well, you seem to be getting a bit agitated--"
"-- and I know this is difficult for you, so I'll just... I'll drop
"Okay," says Martin. He starts to the kitchen to make himself a
sandwich. Half-way through, plate and bag of bread in hand, he turns
around and marches back into the living room.
"You know," he says, "I'm a grown man, Dani. I put this shit
behind me a long time ago, okay? So let's just drop it."
"Okay, fine," says Dani. "We're dropping it, we won't talk about it
"But just answer one question for me."
"Why didn't you tell anyone, Martin? Not everyone is like your
father. So what were you afraid of?"
Martin throws his plate. "I wasn't afraid of anything! I'm just a
private person! And the last thing I need is you hugging and crying
on me about it!"
"Pick up your plate," she says.
A bit sheepishly, Martin walks over to the plate. Good thing it's
plastic; it's in one piece.
"Martin, I don't want you to get mad at me..."
"I thought we were dropping this."
"We are. But let me say this."
"You and Derek are certainly different people, and I think in many
ways he's a bit more open than you are. But I still think he's...
he's a bit private too, if you like. And if...
"Well, you're not like your father, true, and if he had something
to tell you, you wouldn't act the way you think your father would, and
I think Derek knows that. At the same time, this is something that he
might be private about. For whatever reason. Maybe he just thinks
that men aren't supposed to talk about this kind of thing."
"Maybe... maybe this is a case where it might be best for you to
show him by example."
Martin's head jerks like a hawk's, sudden and short.
"Maybe you might have to show him that it's okay for men to... to
talk about things."
Church basement. The next evening.
"So, chief," says Derek as he enters. "What's on the agenda
today? Why aren't we in the Den?"
"Projectile accuracy," says Martin, pointing to a table full of
shurikens, knives, gas pellets, vegetables, Frisbees, bowling balls,
bowling pins, tennis rackets, tennis balls, table tennis balls,
badminton birdies, horseshoes, darts, bowler hats, baseball caps,
playing cards, brassieres, clothes hangers, shot glasses, silverware,
tampons, nickels, rubber bands and lemon meringue pies. "With some
juggling thrown in for good measure. Need room to throw." He points
at a large wrestling mat that hangs at the other end of the church
basement. "Roy's keeping an eye out. But before we get started... I,
uh, I need to talk to you..."
"She called me last night," says Derek. "Um, Erika."
Martin doesn't say anything.
Derek presses on. "She's committing herself to a hospital. To get
Martin just nods.
There is a long silence between them. It is obvious to both of
them that neither has any desire to continue this conversation. But
both men likewise have something else they want to say, and both know
Martin doesn't know if he really needs to out-and-out tell Derek
what Erika had done, but he knows he should at least broach the
topic. That he should make sure that nothing happened to Derek and,
yes, that he should show him, as Dani had prodded, that it's okay for
men to talk about things.
He looks at Derek and sees a tightening of his protégé's muscles, a
narrowing tautness in his eyes: signs of discomfort. But it's not
because Derek has any secret trauma to confide in his mentor, or any
desire to ask for help. It's not that Derek has something that he
wants to say but can't quite build up the courage or the will power to
Rather, a tremendous amount of will is required to keep four simple
words imbedded deep in his belly: Erika never killed anyone.
He wants Martin to talk, he wants Martin to tell him what he
already knows Erika has done, and what's more he wants Martin to hate
her, to really hate her and to show it the same way Pam did. That
way, he can say those four little words he's keeping buried inside his
belly, four little words that he knows will never amount to anything
Let's just let it go, he tells himself as Martin begins the
lesson. The conversation's over, and even if it wasn't, it's better
just to let it go.
But it won't unclench; it sinks deeper inside of him, like a seed
pushed into cool wet earth. Much as he tries, he can't quite get it
to let go.
Third County House Hospital, visiting hours.
Derek smiles at Erika. She looks so different in the plain white-
blue gown. Her face looks different too. Her eyes are tired and
heavy. Her hair drapes flatly from the top of her head, lacking the
bounce and sheen he had always seen there before. She looks so sad.
A smile seems to do her some good.
"How're you doing?" he asks.
"Do you like it here?"
"Not really," says Erika. "It's kinda depressing."
"But you're getting help?"
"Well, it's going to take a while," she says. "Probably a long,
long time. And I'm not looking forward to that, but, you know, one
step at a time, I guess."
"Listen-- I don't really want to talk about it, Derek. You're safe
from me now and that's what matters."
Derek feels something twitch inside him.
"Um," says Erika. "How about you? Anything new and exciting?
"No," says Derek. "I got a job though. Working at Proctor."
"Just... just doing lawn stuff, mowing the lawn, raking leaves,
trimming hedges. Fun stuff like that."
"Sounds like a lot of work."
"Well, it is, but I'm not doing it all. There's a whole bunch of
guys doing it. They're an okay bunch, I guess. I don't know. Some
of them kinda bug me. But I guess... I guess that's work, you know?"
"I guess," says Erika. "I didn't really work much myself. Um.
Listen. Um. You know I have money, right?"
"Do you want it?" says Erika. She suddenly laughs, apparently
finding the question very funny. "I mean, I can give you some money."
"No, that's okay."
"No, I mean it," says Erika. "You can... you can take care of my
school. That'll be your job, and I'll make sure you get a paycheck
every week and..."
"I said no."
"Oh," says Erika, taken aback. "I'm sorry. I..."
"Don't be mad at me."
"I'm not mad," says Derek. "What is this 'don't be mad at you'
stuff? I'm not mad."
"Right. Well, if you ever change your mind..."
Derek inhales sharply. Erika flinches.
"What?" says Derek.
"Nothing. You just..."
"What is it?"
"You just remind me a bit of my father." Erika stares at a corner
of the table, and though their meeting lasts another five minutes, her
eyes hardly ever leave that spot.
Cooper Dilge is, without a doubt, the most vulgar person Derek's
ever met. Derek, of course, realizes that he himself is no saint, and
that he has, from time to time, resorted to using a few choice phrases
that, if his mother was still alive, would result in a mouthful of
soap; furthermore, Derek has, given a particular sort of company,
spoken about members of the opposite sex in terms that, if his mother
was still alive, would result in at least a stern lecture if not out-
and-out disownment; all that being said, and even taking into account
the fact that Derek spent two years in the company and employ of drug
dealers, who were themselves no strangers to soap digestion, lectures,
and broken-hearted mothers, Cooper Dilge remains, far-and-above, the
taker of the cake.
And so, spending eight hours a day in the company of Cooper Dilge
is by far Derek's least favourite part of the job. He is almost
thankful-- though also understandably trepidacious-- when J. Donald
Proctor, the founder's son and heir apparent, hails him from the other
side of the field.
"I'll finish the story when you get back," says Cooper, a bit
irritated. He had been telling Derek an anecdote involving someone's
sister. Derek would like to assume it wasn't Cooper's own sister, but
since he had tuned him out sometime after the phrase "Skanky
Brewster", close to the story's beginning, Derek could not be sure.
Derek sets down his hedge-clippers gently and heads over to
Proctor. There's a man standing next to him-- late thirties, nice
suit, bad moustache-- and Derek can tell by the way the stranger's
looking at him that he is the reason Derek was called over.
"Derek," says J. Donald-- it's the first time he's ever used
Derek's name, and it doesn't seem to fit-- "this is Carlos Canton."
"From the City Council," says Canton, offering his hand.
Derek shakes it perfunctorily.
"I'd like to talk to you a moment, young man," says Canton. He
turns to J. Donald. "If I can borrow him?"
J. Donald shrugs as if it is a foregone conclusion and heads back
into the office. Canton puts his arm on Derek. This guy is way too
"He's a nice guy," says Canton apropos of J. Donald. "His father's
probably going to step down at the end of the year, did you know
Derek shakes his head.
"Well, that's just between you and me, you understand," says
Canton. "But the company will be in good hands. Good things coming.
Good things for Jolt City. Proctor's going to be a big part of that."
Derek finds this hard to believe. They make unicycles, for God's
"Unicycles," says Canton, as if reading his mind. "John's been
making unicycles for years, dabbling a bit in some high-tech R&D on
contract for Cradle. Not much money in it. Nice man, but small
potatoes. This time last year, everyone figured it'd be the same this
time this year, but here we are, and they're buying property, and
they're on the cusp of something great, all because that man in green
decided to sit his ass on a unicycle. Bingo. That's dollars. That's
money in the bank. And what's good for Proctor is going to be good
for all of us, Derek.
"Things are changing in Jolt City. You'll see. This time next
year, things are going to be different. And it's time for a change,
it really is." He bites one of his knuckles and stops walking. "I'm
sorry about your father," he muffles into his fist.
"You knew him?"
"No," says Canton. "But now I know you, don't I?"
"I don't know what you want from me..."
"Well, like I said, I think it's time for some changes in Jolt
City. Look. Look at what happened to you, to your family. To all
those other families. Yeah, sure, they caught the bastard. But
wouldn't it have been better if they caught him before he killed your
father? Or the family before that?"
"I really don't want to continue this conversation," says Derek.
"Now hold on," says Canton, keeping a tight grip on Derek's
shoulder. "Just hear me out here. Look. Jolt City is not as safe as
it used to be. Sure, we got the man in green. And, when he's not in
the hospital, the speedster. That's great. But those are just two
people. What we need-- what will really make a difference, what will
really save lives-- is to get more police.
"We get more police, we can lower crime. That's fact. That's
logic. That's simple fact, right there. More police, less crime.
More police, less criminals. They get caught sooner. More out there
looking for them. More police, better training, nothing like Ellis
Banks or Nathan Willis ever happens again."
"Okay, I buy that, I agree," says Derek. "You still haven't said
what this has to do with me."
"The thing is, I agree, you agree, a lot of people agree-- but
there's a lot of people who don't. Some people need some convincing
and some people...
"Well, let's just say that some people, such as the mayor, and some
other members of the city council, they, for whatever reason, don't
want things to change. They want to keep the police under-funded and
under-staffed. I dunno. I guess they just figure that that man in
green is going to solve all their problems. But he ain't, is he?"
"Now, I've tried like heck, but I can't push this through in the
council. It's a stalemate. But I'm not the only one who's concerned
about this. There's some ordinary-- or, should I say, extraordinary--
citizens who got a petition started, passed it around, and when all is
said and done, there's going to be a proposal on the ballot setting
mandatory staffing levels for the police department."
"Well, you got my vote."
"I'm sure I do," says Canton. "But this proposal-- it might pass,
it might not. Bernie Bates is a powerful man. He's been mayor since,
what?, eight-two, eighty-three? He's against it, and he has a lot of
weight he can throw against it. And I don't want that to happen, and
I don't think you want that to happen. But if we don't do something
about it, that's... what's gonna happen. So, what do we do?
"To be frank? Everyone wants to be safe, everyone wants to feel
safe, but they're only going to vote for that safety if they know they
aren't safe. People need a tragedy to catalyze them into action. And
they need a face to personalize that tragedy. They don't just need to
know that something terrible happened to someone, and now they're
dead. They need to see someone crying for that someone. Otherwise
it's meaningless. You got whole families that are shot up and dead,
yeah, that's terrible, but there's no one left-- no one close-- to do
interviews about it. You, on the other hand-- you lost your father.
"You're a real charmer, you know that?" snarls Derek.
"Hey, I'm just trying to level with you," says Canton. "If this is
something that we both want, you're in a pretty damn unique position
to do something about it. You talk to a newspaper, you go on TV, do a
few ads-- it's going to do a tremendous amount of good for this.
Hell, you might even get some money raised to pay off your house."
"I don't want any charity."
"Fine," says Canton. "Hey, you can use that. Tell them your
story-- do it with dignity, let the facts do the crying for you-- and
say that if you want to help me, then make sure you vote for Proposal
"Look, I'm not trying to push you. But this is something that you
can do, Derek, something that I can't do. You can get people to rally
around you, you can make this damn thing count for something-- or not,
it's up to you. But if you want to do it, I can get you the
reporters, I can get you the air-time. And I can do it fast, damn
fast." He snaps his fingers.
"Alright," says Derek. "I'll do it."
"Good man," says Canton. "I'll bring a reporter by for you
tomorrow and this weekend we'll do a few TV spots. If that's good for
"Things are changing in Jolt City," says Canton. "And you're going
to be a big part of that, Mr. Mason. Just you wait and see."
The reporter's name is Paisley Parker. She's twenty-two or twenty-
three; just a handful of years older than Derek. She smiles a lot
"Derek Mason, age eighteen, lifelong resident."
"Your father was murdered."
"Last I heard."
"Well, how does that make you feel?"
He shrugs. "Sad, I guess. I dunno."
"Where were you when you heard about it?"
"No. Atheist. I just help out."
"How'd you find out?"
"Um. Friend in the police department."
"What did they say?"
"That he was murdered."
"How did it make you feel when you heard it?"
"I don't know. I can't remember."
"How do you feel about Ellis Banks?"
"Don't like him."
"Are you angry at him?"
"No," he says immediately. "I don't get angry about stuff."
"Do you think he should get the death penalty?"
"Sure, I guess. I dunno."
"What do you think of the death penalty in general?"
"Never really thought about it."
"So, you're living in your father's house. All alone?"
"You-- can you afford it?"
"Are you going to sell it?"
"Probably have to. I'll try to keep it."
"Does it mean a lot to you?"
"I guess so."
Paisley crosses her arms, resting her notebook against one elbow.
"Look, Derek. This story, sure, it's about Proposal 2. But it's
really about you. You're the angle. It's your picture that's going
to go along with the story. It's human interest, so we need a human--
that's you-- and you need to be interesting."
"I'm sorry if my dead father isn't interesting enough for you,"
She concedes the point with an open palm. "I am sorry about your
loss. But let me explain how this works.
"People get the newspaper, first thing they do, they look at the
headlines. If the headline gets their attention-- they read the
"Is that the little headline below the headline?"
"Bingo, kid, you're a natural. That gets their attention, they
read the first paragraph. First paragraph tells you the whole story--
who what when and how. Everything but the why. If they want to know
the why, then they read the story. Otherwise, they don't.
"Now, human interest is different than news. Human interest
doesn't tell you the whole story in the first paragraph because human
interest isn't about facts. Human interest is about the feelings.
And if the first paragraph is, 'kid is sad about his dad, wishes there
were more police', no one's going to read it. Hell, they probably got
that information in the headline and the nutgraf.
"What they need-- what we need-- is a hook. And there might be a
couple of hooks here. You're about to lose your house, you found out
at church-- that's high drama right there, that's what we need. But
you need to give me more to go on. You were at church-- where at the
church, what were you doing?"
"I was in the manse, talking to Father Roy."
"A friend. I had a friend who-- who did some bad things, and I
wanted to help her, I guess, help her get away from that, and so I
asked him for some advice."
"What advice did he give you?"
"Does it matter?"
"He didn't-- he didn't really say anything, really. I mean, we
really just got started talking when Dani-- the cop-- she came in and
told me my father was murdered."
"Was she a friend of your father's?"
"No, I don't think they ever met. I, um, I did some work for her.
"Yeah, but you can't-- you can't say that, don't put that down,"
says Derek hurriedly. (This is why he tried to stick to the one word
"Okay," says Paisley, making a big show of crossing it out. "Um,
but I'm curious. You're kinda young, what kind of work were you doing
"Well, I, um, I used to... I used to be a dealer."
"Like a, a drug dealer?"
"Yeah, but I'm-- I'm not anymore. I got away from that. Wanted to
turn my life around. And, um, I guess-- well, I did. I mean, just
recently, just last fall. I had just started to get back on good
terms with my dad, you know, slowly earning his trust back and stuff
and, well-- now he's gone. He worried a lot about me." He looks up
"What was it like, being a dealer?"
"Money was nice," he says, and having said it, he feels incredible
naked and shivering. "But it was hard. I knew it was wrong when I
did it. I saw a lot of-- suffering. Addicts, kinda-- I dunno. After
a while, you stop thinking of them as people. You start to feel
contempt for them. If they die, they over-dose, you tell yourself it
don't matter. I don't-- I don't ever want to be like that again."
"Did you see anyone overdose?"
"No, but I'd hear about it. I remember this one girl-- she was
real pretty too, real nice to me. I mean, she was a junkie, but she
was smart. She could have been something maybe if we all weren't
jabbing a needle in her arm. Well, one day I sell her some stuff and
a couple of hours later I hear that she died, that it was a bad batch
of stuff. Sometimes we'd get a couple days in a row when it was bad
stuff, and I don't know what was more pathetic, that the junkies kept
coming around for it or that we kept selling it to them."
"Aw, man. That reporter was hot. Did you fuck her?"
"No, Cooper, I didn't."
"You should have fucked her."
"I would have fucked her till she cried from it."
"I'm sure you would have."
"My cock is huge."
"I'm glad for you."
"I would have knocked her up, I would have fucked her so hard that
the daughter would have been born horny. Like those bitches addicted
to crack who have babies addicted to crack. Slut would have been born
with her legs open, man. That's what I'm talking about."
Jolt City Chronicle, morning edition. Front page:
"I DON'T FEEL SAFE ANYMORE"
Son of Banks victim supports Proposal 2
BY PAISLEY PARKER
JOLT CITY-- Derek Mason is no stranger to death. For two harrowing
years, he served as a street dealer in the drug empire allegedly ran
by Samson Snapp.
He remembers one casualty of the trade in particular. "There was
this girl who was really smart, who could have made something of
herself if it wasn't for the needle jabbing into her arm. One day I
heard that she died from a bad batch."
Derek knew then that he had to get out of that life, and he did.
Slowly, he started piecing his life back together-- passing the GED
and getting a part-time job helping out at a church.
"When I was working the streets, things got bad between me and my
dad, got corroded. And we were just starting to fix that, he was
starting to trust me again, and..." He trailed off.
Moses Mason had been starting to trust Derek again when he was
brutally murdered on August 18th at the Percy Liquor Store shooting
that marked the end of the career of serial killer Ellis Banks. Derek
was at the church, talking to the priest about helping one of his
friends turn their own life around, when he got the devastating news.
"Everything just feels unfinished," Derek says now. "There was so
much I wanted to say to him. I wanted to make it up to him, be like
we used to be."
They used to be close. After Derek's mother died after a long
battle with ovarian cancer, Moses and Derek only had each other.
"We used to watch movies, do sports, stuff like that. He showed me
how to throw a knuckleball. And he was always real encouraging of
me. I used to do a lot of gizmo stuff, make my own radio receivers,
that kind of stuff."
But Derek won't be developing his technological talents anytime in
the near future. His father left very little money behind, and in
order to continue to make the mortgage payments on their house, Derek
has had to take a job in lawn maintenance with the Proctor Unicycle
Company. College is not an option in his foreseeable future.
"I've lived in this house since I was a kid." It's the only part
of his father he has left.
"It's a difficult situation," he admits. "Just when I thought I
was getting things turned around, they get turned around on me and now
Derek doesn't give a whole lot of thought to Ellis Banks, nor to
his former alleged employer Samson Snapp, who also faces the death
penalty in his trial for treason slated to begin next month. He
focuses his attention on his own uncertain future-- one he'll never
share with his father.
"I don't want anyone to go through this," he says. That's why he
is supporting Proposal 2, a ballot measure that, if passed, will up
the mandatory staffing levels for the police department.
"We get more police on the streets, then we'll get less crime,"
says Derek. "We need more police to protect us. It's getting to
where I don't feel safe anymore."
The measure, which is gaining in grassroots support, is facing
stiff opposition from many in City Hall. Mayor Bernard Bates and
several members of the City Council claim that the proposal would put
an undue strain on the budget without significantly lowering crime
Councilman Carlos Canton, a supporter of the measure, who proposed
a similar bill to the council last year after the park shooting only
to have it squashed by majority vote, dismisses these charges as
groundless. "What you've got here is a case of people valuing pennies
over lives. And I think that's unconscionable."
It's a sentiment shared by Derek Mason. "I really don't understand
how they can say it wouldn't help. It would help plenty. If
something like this had been there before, maybe my father would still
Proctor. Work. Same day.
"Oh, will you look at that," says Cooper Dilge. "She's a hottie."
"She's a little old for me," says Cooper. "But fuck it. I'd
totally bang her."
"I'll let her know," says Derek, dragging the hedge-clippers behind
him as he starts out to meet her.
"What is it? Is everything okay?"
"Yeah," says Dani. "Mostly. I saw the paper this morning."
"What about it?"
"Who told you about Proposal 2?"
"Well," says Dani. "It's not all it's cracked up to be."
"Who told you that?" demands Derek. "Bernie Bates?"
Dani shoots him a nasty little smirk. "Before you get too caught
up with this, let me point out a few things, okay?"
"I'm all ears."
Dani snaps her fingers and points at him. "Drop the attitude. I
don't need it. Here's what Proposal 2 actually does. First of all,
it ups the minimum number of officers on staff by forty."
"Excuse me if I don't exactly see the problem with that."
"It does not, however, put those forty on the streets. What it
does, is it eliminates all the civilian positions in the police
department-- licensing bureau, secretaries, receptionists,
photographers, dispatch-- and it replaces them with officers. Forty
new officers, at officers' salaries, with officers' benefits-- behind
desks. Not on the street."
"No, it's not. You look at the proposal, and you look at Canton's
old bill-- which is basically the proposal-- and that's what it
does." She reaches into her accordion folder and pulls out a copy of
Proposal 2 with the relevant passages highlighted.
"Even if that was true," says Derek, giving it a perfunctory
glance, "why would anyone what to do that?"
"It's a police bill, basically," says Dani. "Police department's
looking to get a bigger piece of the pie. Substantial raises all
around for the top brass, too. Their idea. This way they can do it,
call it public safety without having to do diddly-squat to make
anything safer. They were just... well, they were just waiting for
the right tragedy. Canton tried to introduce this in the council when
the park shooting happened. They voted it down because they knew it
was a bad bill. Now, they got it on the ballot-- and now they got a
poster child to rally behind."
Derek glares at her.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that," says Dani. "You didn't know.
How could you know, you're just a kid. And, look, I'm not telling you
what to do. Your life, your decision. But I think you should look
over the facts before you talk to any other reporters."
"So why does this matter to you so much that you got to come all
the way out here?" says Derek. "Hell, you'd probably stand to get a
raise if this passes."
"I would at that," says Dani. "It's not that I don't care about
the police department. I do. But I care about Jolt City more. And
this bill? This thing passes, it's going to cripple Jolt City.
Police eats up forty percent of the budget as is. This thing passes,
everything else is going to go to pot. Water. Libraries. Roads.
Building inspectors. Arts center. Animal control. Trash pick-up.
Snow plowing. Paramedics. Senior housing. And that's when the crime
rate's going to shoot up, no matter how many more officers are sitting
on their asses behind their desks."
Derek throws up his hands. "Okay, I get the point."
"And-- no offense, but don't you think, with what you've got coming
in your future, you should try to stay out of politics, try to keep a
"I'm sorry," says Derek. "My father was murdered. How
inconsiderate of me. Because, you know, that was totally my choice."
Derek folds up the copy of Proposal 2 into a tiny neat little
square and pockets it. He is about to start work with the hedge-
clippers again when Cooper Dilge opens his big fat stupid mouth.
"Hey, Derek, did you fuck that bitch in her shitter and make her
lick her poop off your dick? Or did you just jerk it off in her
Derek throws the open hedge-clippers at Cooper. The blades spin
around, slicing up his left leg before clanging to the ground.
"You fuck!" says Dilge. "You fucking fuck!" He pushes his way
past Derek and limps off towards the building.
What happens next is to be expected. J. Donald Proctor berates
Derek for a few minutes. Derek takes it, simmering. Proctor fires
The worst part about it? The worst part is he's not sorry. In
fact, he wishes he had aimed higher.
Knight's Den. That same evening. Savate.
Derek can tell that there's something on Martin's mind again,
something he wants to talk about-- probably another lecture like the
one Dani gave him. The entire session, Martin's been distracted:
Derek's been able to actually get in a few kicks.
"Getting slow in my old age," offers Martin as he wipes the sweat
from his chest. He tosses Derek a fresh towel. "Your fouetté is
getting a lot better, but I can still see your revers from a mile
away. Your chassé is... well, it's there."
"I still got you, though," says Derek, pulling his shirt back on.
"You did," says Martin, rubbing his side. "Must be getting slow in
my old age."
"You already said that."
"There's a lot of things I repeat myself on," says Martin. "I bet
you know this next one."
"Too much crochet?"
"Too much crochet," nods Martin.
"But I'm good with my crochet."
Martin crosses his arms.
Derek sighs. "But if I use it every time, the bad guys will figure
out what I'm going to do."
"Bingo. And that's why..."
"Why you're teaching me different styles."
"And I'm kind of missing the point of savate if I concentrate on
"You see?" smirks Martin. "You don't even need me to have this
conversation after our next savate session. You already know
everything I'm going to say."
"Well, the next time, it's going to be different," says Derek.
"We'll see about that." Martin just stands there; instead of
saying, well, that's it, you can go now, see you tomorrow, et cetera.
Derek's tired of waiting for Martin to start talking. "Well, is
that it for today, then?"
"Yeah," says Martin. "Uh. One thing, though?"
Derek accepts this with open palms.
"This job of yours, with Proctor. I'm glad you found it. And it
says a lot about you that you're trying to do something responsible
about your situation. And that's cool.
"But you know that when it's time for you to get a suit and do this
thing, you know, the nature of the job is you're on-call twenty-four
seven. And I don't know how that's going to fly with working a full-
time job, you know?"
"So, what, you're telling me to quit my job?"
"Well, not in so many words, not right this instant, but--
someday... it's going to be necessary."
"So, wait," says Derek. "Let's say I go to college in the spring
semester. Somehow, I get the money together and I get accepted, and I
go to college. I don't see it happening right now with my
"Well, we've been thinking about that, and..."
"Okay. Go ahead."
"So, I'm in class, and you're telling me, you bleep me or something
to work on some case, and I got to vamoose?"
"Well, that is the nature of the job," says Martin. "Now, I'm
pretty capable on my own, and so I'm going to try to be considerate of
that sort of thing--"
"Well, thank you very much."
"But if I need you, and I call you, I expect you to be there," says
Martin. "And the same goes vice-versa. Because we're partners in
"Really, we're partners? Because it doesn't feel like that. It
feels like you're the boss."
"Well, I'm teaching you things," says Martin. "And I'll still keep
teaching you things in the field. But I don't need you to be an
intern or a job shadow, I need a partner and I expect you to be able
to do that and, frankly, I'm certain that you're capable of doing
"Okay, I'm glad to hear that," says Derek. "I had it all wrong.
Because it feels to me like you were just telling me I had to quit my
job and I couldn't go to college."
"That's not what I said. I'm just saying that there's a certain
balance you have to strike between the personal life and the
"Well, uh, no offense, but it seems that you tipped the scales
yourself too much in the one direction, and it seems to me that that's
what you're advocating."
"Well, no," says Martin, feigning patience, "but I guess that's one
of those areas where you get to learn from my mistakes."
"Yeah, do as you say, not as you do."
"You got a... you got a problem or something, Derek?"
"Something you want to get off your chest?"
"No, I'm cool."
"Because it looks like you got a chip on your shoulder."
"All I know is that I've got a job, I'm making a little bit of
money-- just enough to keep hold of my father's, of my house. I have
a house and a job and responsibilities, and at the moment, I'm talking
to an unemployed homeless man squatting in a church basement, who
occasionally sleeps over with one of his two girlfriends. And this--
hobo-- is telling me to quit my job, and thus lose my house, which
would make me homeless and unemployed. But, you know, you don't want
me to follow your example. That makes sense. Makes a lot of sense."
"Derek-- like I said before. There's a balance. And I don't want
you to lose your house..."
"Well, thank you."
"And like I was saying before, we were talking about that. Dani
and me, Dani and Pam and me, and we had this idea..."
"I don't want any charity," says Derek.
"So you've said. Many times."
"And you tell me not to be too proud to take it. This isn't
pride. This is just me, okay? You tell me to strike a balance, find
my own way-- then let me find my own way and stop trying to make me
"I'm just giving you advice," says Martin. "You don't necessarily
have to take it, but I thought you wanted it. You wanted to be my
"Well, no offense, Martin, but who the hell else in Jolt City am I
going to be sidekick to?" says Derek. "It's not like I moved here and
sought you out."
"Look, this-- this is not going any place I think either of us want
to take it, okay?" says Martin. "Let's just calm down a second,
He takes a deep breath. Derek does the same.
"Martin, look, all I'm saying is, there are a lot of four-colours
out there in this world. Not all of them can be homeless, and not all
of them can be filthy stinking rich. So there are people who can
strike a balance between the paying job and the non-paying one, who
can have a regular love life, who can go to college. And maybe that's
me, maybe that's something I can do."
"I don't doubt it for a second," says Martin. "And that's not what
I was saying. It's just-- if you end up calling off work a lot, it
raises questions. I'm not saying I'm going to be calling you every
single hour of every single working day, but I can't predict when and
where I'm going to need you. You can try to balance the job, that's
fine-- I'm just saying, there's a possibility it could get
complicated. And it's just a whole lot better to quit a job before
that happens, rather than get fired. You get fired from a job, next
person that hires you starts asking you questions. And so you end up
carrying that weight with you, and that just makes it harder."
"Yeah," says Derek. "I know what you mean. I was thinking of
maybe quitting it anyway. I don't like the people I'm working with.
But I'm still going to find something, because I need to keep that
"I know you do," says Martin. "And this is what I wanted to ask
you about from the start. We don't want to be giving you charity.
Frankly, we can't even afford it because, as you've pointed out, I'm
still a homeless bum." There's not much irony in that statement;
there's something else there, something meaner. "But Dani's lease
will be up this month, and Pam's been on month-to-month since June.
Both of them are thinking about getting a new place, and we figured,
what with our...
"Uh, with our situation, the three of us, that it might be nice if
we all get one place. And Dani was-- I was thinking, you know, maybe,
would you want a roommate? Or two or three?
"I mean, I don't know if there's enough room for four people in
that house, but I'm pretty sure there's more room than you need for
just one. We'd pay you rent and a share of the utilities; you'd be
"It'd still be your house, you'd still be responsible for it, for
the taxes and utilities, the upkeep. It'd give you some income, help
you pay the mortgage and maybe a little extra, you know, so you can go
to college in the spring.
"And, you know, on the plus side-- it makes the whole secret
identity thing a little easier."
"I'm the landlord, you're my tenant, we have a reason to be seen
"And since you know Dani through your work with the police, anyone
looking will figure she's the reason why us three in particular."
"Well, I need to think about that, okay?" says Derek.
"Sure. Hey, look, Derek: I know you're going through a rough
spot. I know that. So if you ever want to talk about things-- if
you're ever feeling down or angry or anything..."
"I don't ever get angry," says Derek. "So don't worry about it."
"Well, I'm here anyway."
"See you tomorrow, okay? I got to get to bed early. Got to get to
work in the morning."
The next day, Derek tells Martin that he quit his job. "You were
right," he says; Martin seems pleased-- almost vindicated.
Derek never told Martin about what really happened, and as far as
Derek knew, Martin never found out.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2008 TOM RUSSELL.
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