The old, tarnished-red truck pulled to the side of the road as the patrol car’s flashing lights glinted off the rear-view mirror and into Ben’s eyes. He sighed, put the truck in park, and waited for the officer to come to his window. He checked his side mirror to see the officer get out of his car but instead saw a second patrol car pull up behind the first. He wasn’t in a hurry, but he hated wasting time. At least, when he wasn’t actively choosing to waste it. He waited for several minutes before the officer from the first vehicle opened his door and approached the window.
“License and registration,” the cop said.
Ben offered the documents. The officer took them and returned to his patrol car. Ben sighed and waited another five minutes as the officer took his time running the information through the system. The officer came back to the truck, but didn’t return Ben’s documents.
“Please step out of the vehicle, Mr. Mason,” the cop demanded.
“May ask what this is about, officer?” Ben asked.
“Please step out of the vehicle.” Ben noticed the other officer had stepped out of the second patrol car. She was short, but just as stone-faced as the clean-shaven, buzz-cut asking him to get out of his truck. He complied hoping it would speed up the process.
“Place your hands on the vehicle.”
Ben did as he was told. “I think I deserve to know what this is about, officer,” he said.
The officer remained silent as he patted Ben up and down. The female officer had made her way around them and began searching through the cab of the truck.
“Alright, come on-”
“Keep your hands on the vehicle, sir.” The first cop placed a hand on Ben’s back. The other officer, who’d paused at his movement, returned to searching the cab.
“You can’t just look through my stuff,” Ben said. He turned around and the officer backed away.
“Return your hands to the vehicle,” he said with one arm raised and the other resting on his holstered gun. Ben raised his hands to show he was no threat. The second officer had stopped looking through the cab and stood frozen. Her hands hovering near her pistol.
“Whoa,” he raised his hands further, “I just need to know what’s going on here.”
“Place your hands back on the vehicle,” the first officer shouted. When Ben did not comply immediately, he drew his weapon and the second officer did the same. Ben raised his hands further.
“Just calm down,” he said, “I haven’t done anything. You can’t just-”
“Place your hands on the vehicle,” the female officer yelled this time.
“I’m not under arrest. I wasn’t even speeding. You have to tell me what is going on.” He was beginning to get irritated, but the guns pointing at him kept him in check.
Neither office said anything. The one who had pulled him over kept glancing at the other. Ben thought maybe he was a newbie and was looking for direction. If that were the case, he would get answers from the second officer. He turned to face her and a gun went off. The force pushed Ben into the truck and he fell to one knee. He heard a whispered “fuck” come from the male officer and a louder “shit” come from the female’s direction.
Ben sighed. He heard the female officer’s voice call for an ambulance over her radio. Ben rose and looked at his shirt. The officers backed away, surprised and ready to take further action.
“You ruined my fucking shirt,” Ben growled. He examined the hole the bullet had made. The skin underneath was unblemished. No blood. A slight bruise barely visible. “Goddammit. Are you going to pay for that?” He looked up at the rookie officer and saw eyes wide with fear. The gun was still pointed at him, steam drizzling out of its barrel to disappear into the evening air.
Ben took one step forward, realizing the mistake only after the second bullet hit him. This time he stayed on his feet. He looked over at the shorter officer. Fear overcame her stony features. She fired again. He didn’t move. The younger officer was calling for backup when Ben pushed the female officer aside and climbed in his truck. He slammed the door and stomped on the gas pedal. He saw both officers scrambling for their cars in his rear-view mirror. He sped up and they disappeared from view.
It was dark when he’d gotten home. The two officers never caught up to him and he decided they must have gotten lost. The back roads were winding and had low visibility, but he knew they’d come for him. They still had his license. He started packing as soon as he walked through his door. He knew someone would be here shortly, and he didn’t want to stick around to find out why. There was something off about the lack of communication from the officers earlier. They either didn’t know why they were searching him, which means they were ordered to, or they were simply dumb-asses. Despite the evidence, he doubted it was the latter.
He’d closed his suitcase and ran down the stairs when headlights flashed across his front windows. Several of them. He put his bag down by the back door. If he ran now, they’d run him down in their vehicles. If he ran, they’d think he’d actually done something. He walked over and sat down in his recliner in the living room. He wasn’t going to open the door for them. They could only come in if he invited them, or if they had a warrant. He knew that much. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so only his invitation would get them through the door. He hoped.
The knock came. “Mr. Mason, open up, it’s the police.”
“What do you want?” he yelled from his recliner.
“We need to speak with you.”
“You can hear me from here, can’t you? What do you want?”
“Open the door Mr. Mason.”
“You’re not getting in here unless you have a warrant.”
“I do have a warrant Mr. Mason.”
“Bullshit. I haven’t done anything.”
“This warrant says otherwise.”
Ben didn’t respond. He waited until the words penetrated the wood of his front door.
“For assaulting a police officer and for resisting arrest.”
“I was never placed under arrest. And I acted in self-defense. Your officers shot me.”
The door burst inward and several officers walked in wearing bullet proof vests, helmets, and wielding shotguns. They veered off in different directions. Each one yelling “clear” as they swept through the house. Ben remained seated, drew in a deep breath, and let out a long sigh. They were testing his patience. It didn’t help when several of them trained their guns on him as he sat, no longer comfortable, in his recliner.
Once the armored men gave the all clear, a man in a simple suit walked in and went straight to him. “Mr. Mason, I presume.”
Ben looked him up and down. “No one else here.”
“So it seems,” the man said, then pulled a piece of paper from his suit and handed it to him.
Ben looked it over. “This doesn’t even have a judge’s signature,” he said and looked up at the man. The man nodded to someone behind Ben and before Ben could react, the solid metal of a baton smashed against his skull.
Ben woke to a single, florescent light dangling above him. His head hurt, and the bruises from the three bullets, however faint, ached. Otherwise, he was uninjured.
“Where am I?” he asked the empty room. He sat up on a table in the middle of a small room. A reflective glass window covered one wall.
“You are in a safe place,” a voice said over a speaker.
“Yeah, I bet,” he said under his breath. “My house was a safe place too, until those goons showed up with that bogus warrant. Who are you?”
“We’re the good guys Mr. Mason. We protect everyone.”
“You aren’t protecting me,” Ben said.
“But we are. We are protecting you and everyone else by having you here with us.”
“You’ll have to explain, cause I ain’t following.”
“We can’t have a bullet-proof man just wandering around Mr. Mason,” the speaker spit out, “How do you think the populous would react? They’d think you were inhuman.”
“I’m a man, just like everyone else.”
“But you’re not. You’re different.”
“I’m not that different. No one seemed to care before you loons showed up.”
“No one knew about your…. peculiarity. But now the news is out.”
Ben doubted there were any news stories out there about him. He was even certain the two cops, if they weren’t a part of this, were paid off to forget the whole thing. Money can reveal a man’s character more thoroughly than a nuzzle on his skull.
“Well I’m a citizen of the United States and you can’t keep me here. I would like to speak to a lawyer,” Ben said confidently, then added, “and I hope you have a large budget because you’ve got a lot to pay for.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Mason,” the speaker announced, “You are no longer a citizen. You are the property of the United States Government.”