Man With a Badge
Friday, just after noon the back door opened, steadily the delivery trucker trooped in with a hand truck filled with items needed for the store. After an hour of cross checking, he trundled out and drove away. Arianna floated around the crates, examining the contents and neatly putting things away when the front door opened, the soft bell jingling. She popped her head out from behind the wall with a smile, that quickly faded at the sight of the tall, stocky man in a black suit. “I’m sorry, we’re currently closed now, you’re welcome to come back after three during our normal hours.”
“Of course you are, Miss Fulferna. I won’t take much of your time.” He reached into his jacket and pulled out a billfold. As it fell open, she saw the telltale blue lettering characteristic of an FBI badge. “I am Special Agent Andover of the FBI, and I need to speak with you and ask you some questions. Can we sit for a moment?”
Arianna wrinkled her nose slightly. “Alright, I suppose I can answer questions, but only for a moment or two,” she murmured then gestured to a stool. “Have a seat.”
The man smiled at her, “Thank you.” He moved and sat where she had indicated. When she had done likewise, he began, “Miss Fulferna… would you prefer that I call you that? Or is Arianna more comfortable?”
Arianna tilted her head, then in a frozen voice, “Let’s start with Miss Fulferna, only friends call me Arianna, and you haven’t reached friend status. You look more like you’re interested in interrogating me. So ask your questions.”
His tight smile assured her that her words had made the desired impact. “Very well then, Miss Fulferna. I am part of a task force that the FBI has put together to track down and apprehend… individuals who take the law into their own hands. I’m sure you can agree that in civilized society, if everybody simply enforced their own flavor of justice, chaos would ensue. That is why we have laws, and courts, and police, of which the FBI are part.” He looked at her as he tried to build some common ground, gauging her demeanor.
She tapped her lower lip for a moment, “I completely understand and agree.” She beamed at him, “Are you coming to me for help with that caped crusader running around Gotham? The one who keeps beating up insane people?”
He looked at her for a moment, “You mean, the Bat… man. No, his case is being worked on by another agent. I am interested in another group. And incidentally, they all tend to frequent your shop.” As she opened her mouth to retort, he raised his hands. “Now, Miss Fulferna. We’ve been watching your shop for a very long time. We’re well aware that you have nothing to do with their activities. In fact, I’m personally more than a little curious how you manage to have them in your shop so often without the…” he coughed slightly, “trouble, their sort tend to bring ’round.”
Arianna smirked slightly, “Trade secret. You’re interested in the people that come to my shop, but you haven’t explained why.” Her head tilted and her eyes sparkled almost malevolently, “Nor have you shown me an arrest warrant, or even authorization to be hunting them, outside your shiny badge, which I’m sure I could get a very nice one, exactly like it.”
He shrugs, and pulls out an large, manila envelope taking a stack of papers out of it and sets them in front of her. He did indeed have signed arrest warrants for each of her regulars executed by a Federal Judge in DC’s district court. “Miss Fulferna, I’m not playing around here. I’m absolutely serious. This is not a game. Or one of those cutesy cop shows you may have seen on TV. Many of the people that frequent your shop are extremely dangerous. We are trying to protect both innocents that may get caught in the crossfire as well as uphold the laws of this fine land.”
Arianna glanced at each of the arrest warrants. “These are very lovely, but I’m not sure exactly what you expect me to do. Each of these are for things that happened in other states, or in some cases.” She paused and tapped the arrest warrant for Wade, “Other countries. I also don’t see a point to this since you allow people like the caped crusader in Gotham, the children of the brotherhood in New York, and people like Erik run around without worry while people, who actually try to help the common man are the ones in trouble.”
A flash of irritation crossed his face, but he banished it as quick as it had come. “Ma’am, I’m just a guy trying to uphold the law. I’m asking for your help to apprehend these individuals because, quite frankly, they are all dangerous individuals. It is not that we haven’t tried. Our attempts have met with… significantly less success than we’d like. But they trust you. Will you help your government to apprehend these individuals or not?”
Arianna pursed her lips for a moment, then sighed apparently sadly, but a glint of impishness remained in her eyes. “You’re right, they do trust me. I’m sorry Special Agent but I can’t help you. Why, if I was to help you, then I would be no better than them and you’d arrest me next. I mean after all, they are so dangerous that going against them would make me a vigilante too.” She beamed at him. “I’m sure you understand. I mean after all, you did come into my shop.”
Rick Andover stared in shock at the slip of a woman, hardly believing that she was attempting to defy him. Didn’t she understand he was just trying to do his job and deal with a threat that didn’t seem to care about the world around them? Couldn’t she see he just wanted to do the job he had been assigned? And to sit there and tell him that she couldn’t help him because he’d arrest her? What did she take him for? He’d come in good faith. He slowly stood, then took the arrest warrants from her hand, folded them back up and put them and the envelope in his coat pocket once more.
“Very well… Miss Fulferna.” He turned as if to leave, then whirled around and backhanded her cheek, sending her flying into a table and toppling it. “You’re no better than they are. Think you can do whatever you please?” He reached down and lifted the stool he had been sitting on. “Stop me from doing my job, will you?” He hurled it, intentionally sending it over a foot above her, but it crashed into the wall, breaking one of the shelves that her books were on and scattered them all over the floor.
“You listen, and you listen good. Your friends are going to get you seriously hurt one day. And when that day comes, you remember. You were given an opportunity to stop it before it happened.” He stormed out of the room to the back, reaching over and flinging an industrial coffee machine on to the floor as he did, denting it. The plug ripped out of the wall as it bounced, but not before lighting danced around the switches, the circuit board giving out. Special Agent Andover left the way he’d came and drove away in the black van, leaving Arianna on the floor with a large bruise forming, some cuts and scrapes from the cheap table where it had broken and a massive headache forming.
Arianna dragged herself to her feet, spitting the blood from her split lip. She huffed at the mess and started cleaning up as the flowers in the window sill bloomed. A few seconds later she was wrapped in leaves and parked in a chair. “What happened?” Pamela asked, peering at the cuts and bruises. Her hands moved and she flipped open a cell phone, sending out a rush text to the rest of her regulars about an emergency at the cafe. Everyone except Roland, who both didn’t know what a cell phone was, and wouldn’t be able to figure out how to use it even if he had one.
“FBI suit came in, did this. Guess he didn’t think about the closed circuit cameras.” Arianna murmured, wincing briefly in pain. “I need to get this mess cleaned up.”
A heavy hand rested on her shoulder, preventing her from rising. “Sit. We’ve got this.” Logan rumbled softly. Her normal group of regulars puttered around, cleaning up the mess, then Seline fixed Arianna a cup of tea while they had hissed conversations about how to avenge the damage done to her. Matt had his assistant take multiple pictures of her face and the mess made of her cafe, plus had him go pull and make a copy of the closed circuit camera data.
Frank and Wade pulled one of the overstuffed chairs around the back of the counter and had her sit in it. Wade went in the back with Seline and began working the small kitchen while the rest of them got ready to handle the customers that would come in that night. Pamela manned the register, while Sam, Dean, John, and Frank waited tables. Matt stayed behind the counter with Arianna keeping her company and monitoring her as best he could.
The rest of the night passed quickly, her regulars and even her irregulars stopped in to give her a cheery thumbs up before leaving, despite not ordering anything before the night was through her tip jar was overflowing with money. The weekend saw a repeat of Friday night with an overwhelming outpouring of support. Pamela and Logan stayed nearby, even sleeping in the cafe, in case he came back, giving her a warm comforting feeling.
Sunday night, after Arianna had gone upstairs to her single bedroom loft apartment over the cafe, Pamela and Logan unlocked the front door to let the regulars back in. Even Roland showed up, which was somewhat surprising, as he often went months at a time without being seen, traipsing off to who-knows-where to do… whatever his ilk did. The group lounged about in the overstuffed chairs and conversed in quiet tones so as not to disturb their hostess’ slumber.
Matt laid a folder on the table. “Had a friend. This is his location at the hotel. His superior, everything. Your call, sunshine.” He grinned at Logan.
Logan looked evenly at Frank, then at Wade, then back to Matt as he laid his hand on the folder and pulled it across the table toward himself. He scanned the rest of the faces there. “We’ll handle this. I think we can convince our friend here that he’s in over his head.”
John looked at Logan. “Go. We’ll keep an eye on her.” Nodding, Logan got up and both Frank and Wade stood with him. He handed the folder to Frank and walked toward the door. The pair followed him.
The FBI didn’t pay very well, nor did it typically put its agents into five-star hotels. The Best Western on Airport Commerce Drive in Austin, TX was not the Ritz, but it was a bed, and that was enough for now. Special Agent Andover unbuckled his shoulder holster and tossed it on the bed, a long day of surveillance and trying to find another way to get at his targets. For people who said they were mostly trying to help people, they had a penchant for bending the law whenever it suited them. “The ones we’re fighting won’t play by the rules. So we have to do the same,” they said. But his job was to uphold the law. Except the law wasn’t capable of catching people that who had friends in low places, the so-called heroes of the common people.
Rick sighed. He would have to resort to other methods to get these warrants filled. Rubbing his temple, he sighed. It would wait until tomorrow. As many tomorrows as it took. A simple dinner of Chinese take-out had sufficed for the evening, and Rick sat on the edge of the bed, staring blankly at the television as it sat, turned off. He thought about watching something, but couldn’t decide what he wanted to watch, so he stared, willing his mind to relax. And relax it did, when the door to his room thudded with a heavy knock.
He stood, walking tiredly to the door, and peered out. Not seeing anyone, he cracked it open, the chain still on it. A heavy hand slammed the door open and as he reached for the gun at the small of his back, the loud cocking of a shotgun stopped him. The large man holding it, pointed it at his head and shook his head, “Let’s not.” Slowly, Rick took his hand out from behind his back and back where the man could see it.
Standing next to him was another man, dressed simply in a wife-beater and cargo jeans. He slowly moved in front of Rick and brought his hand up by his chest. Closing his fist, three long metal blades extended out from between his knuckles and pressed gently up underneath his chin. Frank and Logan. He didn’t have to go to them, they had come to him. And he was woefully unready for it. But even that didn’t prepare him for the third individual. Rounding the corner into his room was a man dressed completely in red and black Lycra, twin katanas strapped to his back. Wade, he thought. This must be Wade. The figure stopped, looking back and forth between Frank and Logan, then at Rick. He could almost see Wade’s smile through the mask.
Wade kicked the door shut with his foot, not looking away from the FBI agent and said cheerily as it slammed closed, “Evening, Ricky-boy. You want to tell us just what exactly you’ve got against coffee, motherfucker?”
~~ Fin ~~
- Joann and Josh Walles