"After Six Years in Fermont" by Can Chess, September 2012
Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.
AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.
Summary: The phone rings early in the morning and you hear the voice of your friend on the other end. "Oh my gosh," you think, "Dinner!" Your friend asks where you were last night.
After Six Years in Fermont
Tom Brown was talking with his ex-colleague Chris Hemsworth about recent developments in his life.
"I still don't understand why it happened to you though … I mean …", Chris leaned back noticing that Tom had bags under his eyes and was still irritable and pale. "Why didn't the Fate pick someone else? Someone … someone less worthy if you know what I mean …"
"Thanks Chris …", Tom snorted in his nervous laughter, shaking all over.
They watched young waitress serve some beer-bellied truck drivers.
"So …", Chris played with his pen, "… won't you describe to me how it was?"
"In detail?" Tom was surprised someone found time for his personal problems.
"Yes, please. You today … somebody else tomorrow, eh?"
They laughed silently. They were working for over five years together.
"The same story I am telling you now is the one I presented to the police." Chris stirred in his seat, wondering whether there was a reason that Tom would hide something.
"All right." Chris slurped his juice. "I am all ears." He giggled and Tom cleared his throat as if about to give speech or something.
"When I reached the police station that night … mind you, I was still in duress …"
"I can imagine …"
"I was told by Constable Kristen Connolly that I must first go to the pre-evaluation session, prior to giving a statement or reporting a crime."
"My God! I can't believe it."
They listened to some faint background music. Two identical twins unloaded themselves from a bus across the street.
"Why would they do that?"
"That pungent … female constable …", Tom looked around wondering if someone would be eavesdropping on him, "… told me they have lots of false statements from either intoxicated or addicted individuals. This way they were certain that I was … well … 'normal' sort of to say …"
"Jesus! What is this world coming to? Couldn't they instantly recognize such social problems?" Chris sighed, wondering why Tom's wife left him a year ago. "And then?"
"And then … like I said, I was still under the stress, … I was lead to a sort of a lecturing room … you know those chairs that have foldable tables?"
"And I was seated on one, told to wait."
"Were there any cameras monitoring you?"
"Probably. At that time I was at the brink of a nervous breakdown."
"I can imagine … being so close to death-like situation …" Chris slurped some more of his juice, noticing Tom looked worried again. "And?"
"And then this police sergeant … I believe his name was Dahi Khalfan, or something like that …"
"Probably Indian name."
"That's right. He looked like one." He shuddered like after crying. "Anyway ... he started to lecture me! I was ... I was in shock! Instead of offering me a glass of water, a blanket or ... or … anything … this guy started to give me a lesson!"
Chris made no comment and simply nodded, checking on time in secret.
"I can still remember his words. 'A robbery is a theft that involves threats or violence using a weapon or another object.'" Tom pursed his lips. "The motive is to take merchandise or money from a business. What 'business'? I was an individual, not some … business?" Tom sipped his drink and lowered his head. "'This is both a personal crime and a property crime'."
"That's what he told you?"
"Yes. But, wait! It's not all. There's more!" Tom noticed that Chris winked at him in a friendly way. He smiled back. "'Robbery consists of the following elements: 1. Taking. The property taken in a robbery must be taken illegally by the robber."
"Lord Almighty! Even children would know to define this!"
"Yes! Can you believe that!?"
"All right. Go on …" Chris checked on his cell phone message.
"2. Carry away. Once the element of taking has been satisfied, the robber must then have carried away the property." Tom mocked a laughter. "3. Personal property. The object of the robbery must be personal property as opposed to real estate or things attached to the land."
"My God! …" Chris answered, typing a message on his cell phone.
"4. Another. The property taken must belong to another, not to the accused. 5. The intent to deprive permanently. Robbery is a crime of specific intent and requires that the prosecution establish …"
"I think he used that term. That's right! In court, that … the defendant …, how did he say that … that the defendant … at the time of taking the property … by force … or threat of force from the victim … or the victim's presence …", Tom laughed nervously again, "… did, in fact, intend to … what term did he use … wait!" Tom lifted his finger up, preventing Chris to help him out. Waitress came and asked whether everything was all right. "Ah! To 'deprive' the victim of the use and … and … enjoyment of that property … permanently."
"Permanently?" Tom nodded and then got the joke.
They laughed, waitress wishing them Hell since they ignored her presence.
"Oh, wait! There was number 6 as well! … Err … Ah! 6. The use of force, fear, or threat of force. This element of the crime requires that … that the force or threat of force …", Tom lifted up his head as if reading from the ceiling, "… was directed against the physical safety of the victim rather than … rather than his or her … ah! Listen to this term Rather than his or her 'social well-being'."
"Social well-being! Jesus!" Chris waved towards the waitress. "How about continuing at the bar downtown?"
"You mean beer and …", Tom winked with his eyebrows, grinning.
"You got it, buddy!"
"I have nothing against it!"
Chris paid and they drove off to their downtown spot.
Tom looked more relaxed now as if he was confessing his sins to Chris.
"Go on …" Tom grinned widely, mentally prepared for getting drunk.
"Then the police lieutenant Bradley Whitford introduced himself and brought me to his office."
"Was he … rough or ignorant or … discriminatory in any way?"
"Oh, no. Just professionally disinterested since I did not have any body wounds nor had any broken bones on my body." He sighed, noticing that the bar tending lady had big tits. "Anyway … I started explaining to him what happened that night." He took a swing directly from the beer bottle. "I've gotten about five $20 bills from the local ATM machine and have now decided I needed a few things from the grocery store." He checked on Chris who was now sitting in semi darkness, enjoying his pint of light. "I eventually got what I needed, paid the cashier and, because my hands were full of groceries, I was still carrying my change in my hand when I walked outside into the parking lot."
"Yeah. That could have been a problem. I mean … darkness … you had cash …"
"But … the parking lot was well lit!"
"Still …" Chris cleared his throat, noticing two girls that were sitting alone, chuckling as if they were tipsy.
"It's only a few dollars …"
"I can surmise too, but …"
"But there's no one there anyway. At least I couldn't SEE anyone." He sipped some more and noticed where Chris was staring. He winked to him and they both laughed. "I mean … put yourself in my position … you'll wait until you reach your car and put your groceries on the car's roof to discreetly put your change in your wallet, right?"
"Well …", Chris didn't want to negate and simply twisted his lip into a semi-smile. "I guess …"
"And then you notice that young man standing next to the coke machine, but … but I paid him no mind. I mean … it happens every day, eh?"
"Oh, definitely …" Chris noticed that one of the girls had a cowboy hat on. Probably boots as well, only they could not bee seen.
"As I was putting my recent purchases on the car's roof and then began reaching for my wallet, this guy comes up to me asking if I had a dollar for the coke machine. I was a bit startled, let me tell you that."
"It WAS night after all."
"That's right! And, well …. he seemed to have walked up on me all at once, if you know what I mean … and I mumbled that I don't really have anything." Tom chuckled, his stare hazy as he looked at the small candle on the table.
"What did he say?"
"He said … 'Oh, c'mon' … straight away, as if he's heard that a thousand times before, and then … 'I can see you have somethin' there to give me'. At that point I realized I was almost all alone on that parking lot!"
"And then? …" Chris was disappointed that those two girls were leaving the bar.
"Then he said … 'Tell you what', as he pulled out what appeared to be a knife, 'just give me what you've got in that wallet and we'll call it even . . .' Imagine that! 'Even'!? Even WHAT!?" Tom finished his beer and asked the waiter to open to him another bottle.
"So … what did you do then?"
"What can you do? I mean … it's a blade alright, there's no doubt about that …", Tom thanked the waiter and immediately took another swig from it, "… nor any doubt as you look into his dead, almost soulless eyes and smell the unmistakable reek of liquor that seems to be coming from his entire body that he may well … try to use it! You know … I mean …", he sipped again as the music changed. What choice do you have, right? Do you have any choice now but to give him the money? I mean …" He shook his head.
They watched a large man entered with what looked like a prostitute on high heels.
"And after that? How did you feel?"
"You may feel stupid, even ridiculous after the attack, you know. My mind was in a turmoil, let me tell you that! 'What was I thinking? How could I have been that blind, walking around and flashing my money like that?' You know … all such things running through my mind … but …", he sipped some more and almost finished another bottle, "… that doesn't help the fact that I was now out almost $100. 'And hey', I began thinking to myself, 'what if he'd turned violent, for God knows what reason?' Imagine that, eh? After all, it's possible."
"Oh, definitely." Chris turned around, checking a red haired that was with some student-type of a nerd. She noticed him and he winked at her.
"I mean …", Tom was oblivious where Chris was looking, "… any time a weapon is brandished …", he finished his second bottle and almost burped, but nothing came out making him feel like a blown frog, "… there's always a possibility of someone getting seriously hurt."
"That's right." Chris finally turned back, licking his lips as if it was him that just kissed that red-haired chic.
"He also stole my Rolex Submariner watch."
"Did you report that to the police as well?"
"No … I mean … at that moment I was still under the shock of losing my life over some miserable hundred … you know what I mean?"
"Yup." Chris took a gulp, some foam messing his upper lips. Tom laughed at that.
"Then this lieutenant Whitford wished me to REMEMBER how the guy look like! I mean … who would REMEMBER under the threat of your dear life such details?"
"But you said that the parking lot was lit well."
"Oh, yes. Like a football arena, no doubt. But at that very moment, you know ..."
"Yup. It usually comes later on …"
"So why did he insist from me to describe the attacker right away?"
"Perhaps your memory was still fresh?"
Tom waved with his hand and stared sideways, his hazy look making him yawn.
"He just went on talking like a robot. Did I note behavioral characteristics … How did this person act? Worried, mad, confused, drunk? What was his speech like? Did he have an accent? An accent? Give me a break, 'officer'!" He sipped again, feeling tired. "Did he or others slip into a second language? What 'others'? There was just this one guy … and in a public space! I almost called him names and asked him how they earn godarn salaries!?" He leaned back, trying to relax.
"And then he asked about the height." Tom finally burped and they both laughed. Some guys with moustaches looked at them. "He wanted me to estimate that guy's height … to compare the robber with a …", he yawned, excusing himself, "… with a fixed structure of comparable size to the robber in the area, or …", someone shouted and almost a fight broke, but after the waiter reacted, they calmed down like cauldrons, "... to mark the door frame with various heights … I mean … what 'door'? There's no flunking 'door' at the parking lot for Lord's sake!" He felt like spitting but restrained. Another waiter checked them out as he was passing by.
"Then this police lieutenant wished from me to give him an accurate descriptions of the weapon Jesus! He wanted me to remember whether I noticed if this criminal touched anything …"
"What do you mean?"
"You know … like door handles, front part of my car, keys perhaps, etc."
"How the hell should I know? I wasn't haunting HIM, it was vice versa! And … shouldn't THEY be the one to use fingerprints and other gimmicks at the scene of the crime?" He shook his head, holding onto his third bottle.
"Did he tell you anything else?"
"Oh, yes. Listen to this." He sipped heftily, ordering another bottle. "He said … 'The real reason you're complying with the robber … other than self-preservation against a gun or knife … is that such a manner will allow you to pay attention to every detail of the robber and his methods, enabling you to be a strong witness for the police.' Christ! Sounds like a prearranged scenario, doesn't it? For a moment I even thought someone paid this poor sucker to rob me just in order for the police to have something to DO."
"Yup. That lecturing part sounds weird as well …"
"You bet!" Tom thanked the waiter and then immediately filled his throat with the liquid.
"What did you do then? Did you help any further?"
"Oh, no. Like my deceased granddad used to say: 'Let the police pursue the thief. Don't be a hero unless you have to be, especially if he's armed with a gun'."
"That's a good one!" They touched their glasses as if toasting and Chris emptied his pint, ordering another one.
"Again …", they noticed that those two girls returned with some burly types that were either already intoxicated or drugged. Bartender immediately dispersed his biggest waiter to serve them. "Very few people are faster than bullets." He sipped, ignoring Chris' nudging to check them out. "That's why even the police go after such people fully armed, in large numbers, and …", he threw one disinterested stare in their general direction, already feeling sleepy, "… set up … dragnets."
After a couple of months Tom met another of his friends, Joe Malusco. Spontaneously they ended up in a café, Tom repeating the same story and adding a bit more.
"Yes, that's right. They wanted me to go BACK to have some more lecture! Can you believe that!"
"And what was this 'lecture' about?" Joe waved to some guy, smiling.
"As I entered that same police station, that sergeant …"
"Dahi … Khalfan?"
"Christ you're good with names!"
"Part of my job as a human resource specialist …" Joe chuckled and Tom grinned.
"Anyway … he introduced me to this lady … police officer … perhaps she was sergeant herself … 'Mother Superior'."
Joe almost spilled the contents of his mouth on the table, wiping it with a paper napkin.
"Dear me! Was that her name, or ..."
"Oh, no." Tom giggled, realizing Joe almost blotched himself with a coffee. "Her full name was ..", he scratched his shaved skin, looking sideways, "… ah! Anna … Hutchison. That's right. I remember her tag."
"But they call her 'Mother Superior'?"
"Seems like …"
They chuckled and Tom continued.
"She told me she was about to offer me 'free of charge' a suggestion how to avoid such situations in the future. Imagine that!"
"Yes. Sounds a bit unfair …"
"She went on … 'No one can always prepare for every eventuality, and you may still find yourself the sudden victim of a robbery attempt'." He pursed his lips, mocking her words. Joe giggled politely. "Err … 'During an armed robbery, it's most prudent to adopt the following tactics … do precisely as you are told, and no more."
"Fair enough. Straightforward."
"How on earth do they know that the robber won't be some 'addict insane', ha?" Joe made no comment, just shrugged with one shoulder, noticing a traffic jam outside.
"And then … 'avoid eye contact with the robber'. This, I must admit, did not know."
"That's how you managed to notice those 'hollow eyes' …"
"That's right." Tom sipped his coffee, remembering Chris from that night. "And then … 'speak only when spoken to'."
"I believe this one is automatic since most of us are under the duress."
"I agree." Tom rubbed his nose. " And … ha! Listen to this one. 'Tell the robber exactly what you are doing.'"
"Oh … that's to keep the guy calm."
"But … still … never mind." Tom drank water.
"Did she suggest anything else?"
"Oh, yes. Like ... 'make no sudden movements … don't activate alarms unless it is safe to do so' … what alarms? I was in the middle of a parking lot!" He coughed dry, excusing himself. "Then … 'try to remain calm and control your emotions' and … 'remember as many details as possible about the bandit and the incident'."
"Yeah … they should have instructed you this BEFORE they let it happen."
"That's my point too, buddy!"
Joe smiled, stirring his coffee.
"What about your job? Are you still at the same place?"
"Hey! You're the expert on this …", Tom suddenly sounded excited and Joe laughed, trying to calm him down. "I got a court summon regarding unemployment. What should I expect?"
"First of all … tell me what exactly happened?"
"I filed for unemployment a few months ago. I wrote online that I was 'laid off' which due to my idiotic thinking was what happened to me. I had never been fired before. What was said to me when I was 'let go' during my last week or two of my probation period of 90 days was exactly this … 'you have not done anything wrong at all, but we need to find someone with more experience due to our moving and expanding'."
"And you believe that your appearance on the court in order to testify against your assailant would be one of the reasons perhaps?"
"Yeees … it could be. I remember a colleague of mine telling me that our company cared about a good reputation and that anything that had to deal with the courts of law …"
"Even if it wasn't you who were the guilty guy?"
"Yes! Even then. That any appearance of me as a potential employee would …"
"Would make them look 'bad' in some way, correct?"
"That's right! I mean …", he thanked the waitress for bringing him cream, "I was pissed, because I was hired with the knowledge of lack of previous experience, but still let go for the same reason. Again, I need to stress, I was told I did NOTHING wrong ... word for word." Joe made a couple of nods like a doctor. "I got a call for my unemployment interview, and the girl said that my previous employer said that I was 'let go', not 'laid off'. I apologized and said I did not know the difference, since there was no 'let go' option on the application, and I told the girl at EDD exactly what was said to me."
They watched as the traffic police tried to untie the congested city traffic outside.
"From there …", it sounded like a gun shot and everyone either stared outside or crouched by instinct, "… she …", police officer immediately brought the nervous driver on the ground, requesting assistance over the radio. In a nick of time more officers were sprawling all over the place. Apparently guy shot only the 'warning shot' in the air.
"You were telling me? …"
"Ah. Yes. She decided whatever she decided about my ability to receive it. I was blatantly honest and even a little bit naïve …", he giggled, still monitoring the unusual event outside, "… and I figured that I wasn't going to get it because I did it wrong. I was awarded unemployment, and have only collected 3 payments."
"Yes. That's usual."
"On my summons, it said that my employer was attesting because I 'showed little to no effort to learn the way the office worked'."
"And you have what … over ten years of office work experience? My God."
"Exactly! And while this was not said to me when I was let go, it simply wasn't true at all. I worked my butt off even in that … that pathetic place that promised me better conditions than my previous employer." He finished his coffee and almost pushed away his cup. Joe blinked.
"On my summons it said that I was being tried for 'willfully giving false information or withholding information to claim UI benefits'."
"Yes. It could be."
"But … this is not true! I mean …" Tom widened his eyes, looking around the table as if searching for something. "What should I expect in court? Would that be considered fraud? Should I be … nervous, even though I didn't do anything wrong?"
Joe grinned and tapped his hand.
"I wouldn't worry much. Your employer is now claiming you were fired for cause because they don't want to have to pay you to be on unemployment."
"What?" Tom was almost aghast now, not believing his ears."
"Yes. It's plausible unfortunately." They watched some Asian young students enter the café as they were some local war heroes. "Four years ago, this wouldn't have happened. But there are just SO many people on unemployment right now and there is so much fraud that unemployment is jumping on every case they can in the hopes they can knock people out of collecting." Someone tried to curb down inappropriate behavior of those students but they offered back some words on their native language and simply seated themselves.
"But Tom …", Tom eyed him quickly. "I wouldn't be nervous if I was you. It sounds as though you have acted with good faith."
"I sure was …", he sighed and stared hazily sideways, feeling sleepy again. "Your explanation is reasonable and has the ring of truth. The worst that can happen is that you will lose unemployment and have to pay back the three payments you received … but I would be very surprised if this happened."
"Me too." He looked at Joe and then chuckled. Joe joined him and then they laughed a bit.