This posting features Chapter 56 of my ongoing action novel, The Day of the Gun.
When the patrolmen finally lifted him to his feet, Steve Harris’s shoulder was howling in protest. His brow was drenched in sweat, his shirt was wet, and he wondered whether he would pass out. Pulling away from their grip as soon as the handcuffs fell from his wrists, he marched over to a bench in the lobby, sat, and leaned down with his head positioned between his legs.
The lead officer, a young fellow who could not have been over 25 years old, spoke into a radio clipped to the sleeve of his uniform. “Dispatch, Unit 7 on the scene. All secure. ”
“Secure,” Steve said with his head still placed below his knees. “It’s not secure. He got away!”
“Sir, I told you to calm down.” The Alabama patrolman had holstered his service revolver, but he was still waving his night stick in wide circles near Steve’s head.
The state police had stormed into the Econo Lodge lobby with sirens blaring, tires screeching, and guns drawn less than three minutes after the clerk, a long-time motel employee named Debbie, had dialed 911.
They gave him no time to explain, to put the situation into context. They shouted at once, each cop barking a different set of orders.
“Get down on the ground!”
“Drop the gun!”
“Keep your hands where I can see them!”
Steve knew the risks when young men wore a policeman’s badge. Each of them was pumped full of Adrenalin, desirous of his colleagues’ approval, anxious to show his mettle in the face of danger. It would not take much for an action to be misinterpreted and a hail of bullets to cut him down like a scythe raked through a wheat field.
With at least half a dozen guns trained on him, he carefully kneeled down and dropped both of his guns. A few seconds later, two burly cops slammed him to the ground and roughly forced his arms behind his back.
“Careful. You’ll rip the stitches,” he cautioned, to no avail.
“Who are you, sir?” they had demanded.
“I’m surprised you don’t know. My face has been plastered all over the news. Oh, wait…that was yesterday. ” American attention spans were short. Yesterday’s news often went the way of yesterday’s garbage.
“You look familiar,” Debbie said. They had not spoken while they waited for the police to arrive. She had been too frightened and he was feeling too much pain.
Debbie had been watching a soap opera when a news flash interrupted her show to report on a collision between two helicopters just across the Alabama border from Georgia. When Steve raced into the lobby demanding he call 911, she had not connected that incident with anything happening in her hometown.
The lead patrolman wandered into the parking lot as he spoke into his radio. Several times, he looked back at the lobby and gestured furiously. Finally, he nodded and charged back inside.
Steve peeked under his shirt at the place where his bullet wound had been stitched. Amazingly, the stitches held. Still, he was in intense pain. “I need to get to a hospital,” he said.
“Well, your story checks out. We’ll transport you to the Whitfield ER and you can meet with our chief. ”
Steve closed his eyes and nodded. The room was spinning.
Another officer approached with radio in hand. “Lieutenant, we just received a 911 call — very strange.”
The lieutenant appeared angry at the interruption. “Why bother me with this? Why was it strange?”
“A lady swears she was just carjacked by a naked man.”
“A naked man?” The officer’s eyes went wide.
“That’s what she said.”
Steve snapped to attention. “What?” Despite the pain, he gestured at the officer who had spoken. “That’s the man I was telling you about. That’s got to be Tremblor!”
The lieutenant looked at the floor as if contemplating his next course of action.
Despite his dizziness, Steve sat up and spoke. “Which way was she headed?”
The lieutenant held up one finger. “Hold on, sir. Just hold on. We’ll transport you to the hospital emergency room in a moment.” Calling his subordinates outside the hotel, the officer motioned wildly. The men sprang into action.
“Can you walk to my patrol car?” the lieutenant asked as he leaned inside.
“Yes. I can walk.” Steve got to his feet and limped outside. “But we need to apprehend Dave Tremblor as soon as possible.”
“Yes, sir. That’s the plan.”
Having heard Steve’s story, Debbie was no longer afraid. She waved goodbye. “I hope everything turns out okay.”