He Walks The Blue Line
Thomas Calabrese … It was late afternoon in Oceanside, California and twenty women were doing a yoga demonstration under a clear blue sky on the beach next to the pier as a large banner flew next to them; Peace and Tranquility through Yoga. They were going through a series of poses while chanting in unison as they transitioned from the twisting triangle to the balancing stick.
A group of curious onlookers were standing nearby; one man was wearing a wide brimmed straw hat and large sunglasses that completely shielded his face from identification. He had a large beach towel hanging over his right forearm and hand and the only thing visible beneath it was the end of a muzzle. The man accurately shot five women with frozen darts filled with a highly potent steroid/hallucinogen that melted and quickly dispersed into the bloodstream when they entered the victim. The man disappeared into the crowd.
Oceanside Police Inspector Henry “Hank” Hanrahan was on his lunch break at Joe’s Crab Shack and was nibbling on a double order of the “Steampot for Two” when he heard a call over his police radio, “We have a disturbance at Trudy’s on the pier. Nearest unit, please respond.”
Inspector Hanrahan picked up his radio, between large bites of steak and shrimp, “This is Inspector 329, I’m in the area, I’ll take it.”
The dispatcher quickly answered, “Inspector 329, do not respond, repeat do not respond, we have a patrol car in route.”
“I’m on my lunch, it’s no trouble, I’m ambidextrous, I can eat and drive at the same time,” Hank responded and grabbed the big bucket of food off the table and called out to the manager, “Hey Jimbo, I got a call, put my lunch on my tab.”
A very large man adeptly leaped over the counter and stopped Hank before he could exit the building, “Every time you come in, you get a police call, and leave without paying. It’s not that I don’t trust you, but at the end of the shift, I have to balance the receipts, which means I have to take money out of my own pocket. So far this month, you owe me seven hundred and eleven dollars and fourteen cents with this last meal.”
Hank stopped dead in his track, “I apologize, Jimbo, I get so wound up in the protection of Oceanside citizens that I sometimes forget to show the proper courtesy for my fellow man in my everyday interactions. I’m glad you brought this to my attention because my behavior is totally inexcusable, especially for a law enforcement official,” Hank pulled out his wallet and emptied out his cash, then pulled out a credit card. Here’s three hundred dollars for your trouble and put the entire bill on the credit card. You might as well take my watch and ring too,” then picked up a glass pitcher that was filled with ice water and poured it over his head. Hank wiped the water out of his eyes, “that will remind me to be more aware in the future.”
He ran outside, did an acrobatic front flip over the hood of his police vehicle and got in it, then raced from the harbor to the pier while finishing his lunch at the same time. When Hank got there, he saw the five women that had been shot by the darts experiencing serious effects in the midst of a brawl with a group of bikers. Hank drove right through the middle of the fight to disperse the combatants then raced down the pier with his vehicle and skidded to a stop, only inches from crashing into the building.
Hank flashed his badge as he entered the restaurant and approached the hostess “Got a problem?”
A little old lady walked forward, “I gave the waitress a one hundred dollar bill and she only gave me change for a ten dollar bill.”
“Really,” Hank answered.
“I can prove it, “The little old lady whined, “I need that money for medication, I have chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”
“I’m sorry about your physical malady, ma’am, but I’m not a physician, I’m a peace officer and I’m all about proof and evidence. What do you have?”
“My grandson sent me a one hundred dollar bill and wrote, Happy Birthday, Grammy in the right corner,” The old lady mumbled, “That’s the bill that I gave the waitress.”
Hank turned to the manager, “Check your cash drawer and see if there’s a hundred dollar bill with those words on it.”
When the manager returned, he looked embarrassed, “I’m very sorry Ma’am, and held up the one hundred dollar bill, “I would like to give you a free meal for any inconvenience that we may have caused you.”
“Anything I want off the menu?” The elderly woman said as she turned her ahead away.
“Anything and that includes the desert,” The manager smiled.
When the manager held out the one hundred dollar bill, Hank snatched it away then grabbed the woman by the back of her blouse and dragged her outside. The others patrons screamed out in horror at this blatant exhibition of police brutality. In one section of the eatery was a sign; Safe Zone Section, and a group of young millennials pulled out their cellphones and began filming in unison as their comments, “Oh, the humanity!, Elder abuse!, Police Brutality!” could be heard.
Once outside, Hank pulled off the wig off the old lady and exposed a young man in his mid- twenties, “Louie the Louse,” When did you get back in town?”
“A couple weeks ago, I tried making a go of it in Los Angeles, too much smog and traffic. I had been working on my disguise and woman’s voice for a while, but I guess I’m never going to able to fool you, am I?”
“Sorry Louie, you’re good…but not good enough, I can’t let you do this kind of stuff on my watch,” Hank reminded Louie.
“Are you going to arrest me?” Louie asked.
“Too much paperwork, but you owe me two days of volunteer work at the animal shelter and two more at Brother Benno’s,” Hank gestured to the railing, “and a swim.”
“See you later, Hank” Louie jumped over the railing of the pier to the water below.
It was evening and Hank turned up and down the streets between the Oceanside Transit Terminal and Wisconsin Street while making numerous u-turns before pulling into a commercial garage. Once inside, Hank went over to a stairwell that had a keypad and punched in a code and opened the door, then walked up two floors. He took an elevator up three floors before walking down one flight and through a long hallway, out a window and across the roof. When Hank came to another locked door that had three surveillance cameras situated in various locations above it, he unlocked it and entered, “Mom, I’m home!”
Rosie Hanrahan was a retired Marine and was one of the first women to ever serve in combat and command a counter terrorism unit. Her husband, Henry Hanrahan Senior was also a Marine and passed away several years earlier. Rosie moved in with her son, afterwards.
“Chow’s on in thirty minutes! Wash your hands.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Hank called out.
Hank and his mother resided in a commercial warehouse that was equal parts living quarters and security bunker. On one wall were photographs of Marine Corps legends; Smedley Butler, Dan Daly and John Basilone as well as numerous combat photos. Another wall had criminal memorabilia, including most wanted posters. A large flag hung on a third wall.
Rosie Hanahan was in her early sixties and maintained a strict exercise regimen, a habit that she continued after her twenty five years in the military. She brought out a huge casserole dish and set it on the table. Hank and his mother respectfully saluted the flag before sitting down to eat.
“How was your day?” Rosie asked.
“Not bad,” Hank responded as he stared at his food.
“What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Hank said.
“I know that there is, if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s your constitutional right, but don’t B.S. me by saying nothing. It offends my intelligence.”
“I was oblivious today and being oblivious is one of the worse things that can happen to a law enforcement official so I’m wondering if I’m starting to lose my edge. It’s like a slippery slope in a thunderstorm and once you take that first step, it’s hard to get back on level and stable ground.”
“You were aware enough to know that you were oblivious, that shows some personal awareness.”
“Actually, somebody else brought it to my attention,” Hank shrugged.
“You were perceptive enough to listen, that’s important too.”
“Not that much,” Hank said.
“Remember what your dad used to say?” Rosie asked.
“You sure that this is my son,”
“He stopped saying that once I gave him the DNA report” Rosie said.
“Want to give me a hint?” Hank asked.
“A man…” Rosie began.
“A man walks into a bar with a duck on his head and the bartender said, “you can’t bring that in here and the duck replied, “Sorry about that, one drink and I’ll be on my way.”
“That joke hasn’t gotten any funnier with age,” Rosie replied, “He said, a man makes mistakes and a woman makes less of them. He didn’t actually say that last part, I just added that for accuracy, a good man admits his errors and a better man learns from them.”
“I do remember him saying that,” Hank replied, “especially after I fell in the mud pit when we ran the obstacle course together.”
“Well, it’s time to saddle up and suck it up, buttercup. You can’t hit a home run unless you’re willing to take the chance of striking out when you step up to the plate. Your greatest success is only one step beyond your worse failure and the bridge over troubled waters has a high toll. The thin blue line is the only barrier between the cavernous depths of anarchy and chaos and a law abiding society. Stand strong, stand fast.”
“Thanks ma’am, I always feel better when you talk in cliché and hyperbole,” Hank smiled.
“That’s what mothers are for,” Rosie picked up a knife off the table and threw it across the room and hit the center of the target, “you also can’t hit the bulls-eye if you don’t make the throw.”
Hank took a bit of his food, “This is really good, what is it?”
Rosie answered, “I got the recipe from one of my triathlon training partners, it is squid, tofu, mozzarella cheese, green peppers, avocado with the appropriate seasonings.”
“My compliments to the chef.”
Hank arrived at the Oceanside Police Headquarters to the jeers and teasing of his co-workers. Sergeant Clint Tucker called out, “There’s been some Jell-O pilferage at the senior center, why don’t you head over there and rough them up until you find the dastardly culprit.”
Everybody laughed in the room and Hank responded, “One more case that is beyond your capabilities, huh?”
Captain Delilah Samson yelled out from her office, “Hanrahan! In my office,now!”
Hank quickly complied and when he entered his commander’s office, the dark haired beauty was standing with her hands on her hips with an angry look on her face. She commenced to go into a tirade, “What the hell were you thinking! Dragging an old lady out of Trudy’s with a whole bunch of witnesses filming it, did you have a brain cramp? It is all over the internet, the mayor wants to fire you and dozens of senior groups are on their scooters, riding the vengeance trail. This is a category five crap storm and there’s not a roll of Charmin in sight!”
After making sure that everybody heard what she just said, Captain Samson closed the door to her office and kissed Hank passionately on the lips, “Show me what you got.”
Hank put a flash-drive in the computer, “This is the footage from my body camera. You know what they say on the dark web, a video is worth a thousand words.”
“I’ll get this out there and then we can watch your enemies downshift faster than a NASCAR driver going into a hairpin curve. You know I don’t like yelling at you, but I have to make them think that I’m on their side. I guess I don’t need to tell you that you’ve got a lot of enemies, not just on the streets, but in the shadow bureaucracy.”
“Don’t worry about it, as long as I got you, my mom and my code, what else do I really need? Hank pulled Delilah closer and kissed her again, “Hit me with your best shot, Wonder Woman.”
Captain Samson opened her door, winked and yelled for all to hear, “There’s a case for you on your desk. I’ll let you know about your suspension when Internal Affairs has completed their investigation. Now get out!” then slammed the door.
Alvin Trayborn was a gifted chemist, well-liked by his co- workers with a bright future at Wentec Pharmaceuticals. He had been working on a medication to help patients who were in lengthy comas regain their strength more quickly. He was on the verge of a major breakthrough when one Sunday morning, he decided to take a leisurely bike ride along the San Luis Rey trail. On any other day, Alvin would have worn his helmet, but he forgot his and did not want to go home to get it. He was only a mile from the beach when a dog ran in front of him causing Alvin to lose control and flip him over the handlebars. Alvin sustained a minor concussion but also incurred a minor bleed inside his skull that went undetected. Over the next three months, Alvin’s behavior became more irrational, antagonistic and paranoid and he was eventually terminated from his job after numerous altercations with his co-workers and supervisors. Alvin started believing that he was being stalked by an unseen enemy so he turned his kitchen into a makeshift lab and worked obsessively on the development of his drug medication, but instead of searching for a cure, he focused on developing a weapon.
Hank was sitting in the parking lot outside Stater Brothers on Mission Avenue when he glanced over and saw a car parked outside the Bank America building. The engine was running and the driver had his baseball cap pulled low on his forehead. He approached the car and punched the driver in the jaw and put him in the trunk.
A few moments later two armed men rushed out of the bank and jumped in the backseat, Hit It!” The driver raced away, fishtailing out of the parking lot and raced down Mission Avenue and skidded to a stop, directly in front of Oceanside Police Headquarters.
One of the men in the car yelled, “What the hell are we doing here?”
“I thought this was Chuckie Cheese, we better get a new GPS,” Hank pulled off the baseball cap, turned around and pointed his handgun at the two men. When a patrol officer approached, Hank handed him the keys, “One’s in back.”
When the patrol officer opened the trunk, the driver was handcuffed and his mouth was duct taped shut.
Over the next few weeks, Alvin Trayborn attacked the bingo game at the El Corazon Senior Center, the parent’s teachers’ conference at Ivy Ranch School and the Boy Scouts Awards dinner at the Veterans’ Building on Mission Avenue. After each attack, the attendees began fighting.
Hank focused his attention on his assigned case, but couldn’t find any connections between the victims and or any motive for them to behave so irrationally and out of character. It frustrated him immensely because once Hank was assigned a case, he never let go of it until it was solved and this case had him stumped.
Hank was playing with his rescued Pitbull, Al and noticed that his dog was scratching himself so he went into the garage and removed a flea collar from a box and just as he got ready to put it around Al’s massive neck, a light went off in Hank’s brain.
Oceanside was conducting its annual Harbor Days celebration and the area was filled with men, women and children enjoying the activities as Hank and Delilah made their way through the crowds.
“What’s going on?” Delilah asked.
“A lot obviously…look around,” Hank replied as he scanned the area.
Delilah gently slapped the back of Hank’s head.
“What was that for?” Hank protested.
“Reality check, what’s going on?” Delilah reiterated, “We’re not here for the festivities, spill it.”
“What makes you think that?” Hank replied coyly.
“Because your head is on swivel and your laser focus is activated.”
Hank pointed to the Veterans’ booth where a group of advocates were providing assistance to former military service personnel. From out of the crowd, Alvin Trayborn stepped forward and pointed his tranquilizer gun at the men and women standing around the booth. Just as he fired, Hank stepped into the line of fire and took several darts to the chest. Hank grimaced, but the drug had little effect on him other than to give him a queasy feeling.
“That can’t be! Why aren’t you reacting?” Alvin Trayborn protested.
“Because over the years I’ve learned how to control my violent tendencies,” Hank took the weapon from Alvin’s hand and when he tried to run away, Hank kicked his legs out from under him and Trayborn fell face forward and hit his head.
Three days later, Alvin Trayborn was lying in his hospital bed with his head bandaged as an Oceanside Police Officer stood guard at the door. Doctor Robert Mitchell approached as Captain Delilah Samson conversed with the officer.
“Excuse me, Doctor, “Captain Samson flashed her badge, “How’s Trayborn doing?”
Doctor Mitchell smiled, “He came through the surgery very well. If he had not fallen and sustained a concussion, we would not have performed a CAT scan on his brain and detected the brain tumor. He’s a very lucky individual and the prognosis of a complete recovery is very favorable.”
“One question, could the brain tumor have affected Trayborn’s behavior?” Delilah asked.
“Without a doubt,” Doctor Mitchell explained, “Considering its size and location there is a long list of possible behavioral changes; paranoia, hallucinations and aggressive behavior.”
When Captain Samson exited the hospital, she found Hank fighting with a large muscular gang member while three other men of similar size were lying on the pavement in various states of unconsciousness and injury. Hank stopped in mid swing and turned to Delilah, “How’s he doing?”
“Recovering nicely,” Delilah answered.
The gang member thought Hank was distracted and let go with a crashing right hand, but Hank adeptly ducked under it then used the massive man’s own momentum to flip him over his shoulder. When the gang member hit the asphalt he was knocked unconscious, right next to his friends.
“I can’t leave you alone for a minute,’ Delilah commented.
“We were just having a spirited discussion on the rules of etiquette while waiting for medical treatment,” Hank explained.
“I’m sure they got your subtle message now,” Delilah observed as she stepped over a puddle of blood.
“By the way, Mom invited you for dinner tonight,” Hank remembered.
“Is she still experimenting with new recipes?”
“Take my advice, don’t ask what it is until after you’ve tasted it,” Hank advised.
“How did you know that Trayborn had a medical problem?” Delilah asked.
“Just a hunch.”
Delilah kissed Hank, “You call it a hunch…I say its Hank’s Justice.”