"The armored cars of dreams
"The armored cars of dreams
Ted is in a wheelchair on a rockery. He's sliding down, trying to slow his perilous-looking descent by gripping the tryes with his bare hands. He's dangerously close to the edge, which is about two feet above the footpath. The soil is sliding and crumbling beneath the wheels. It's raining.
"Get over here a wee minute, will you, Deano?"
I climb onto the rockery and step over small plants and soil to where he is struggling with the chair.
I try to push the chair back up the slope and back to safety, but he tilts his bald head and yells:
"What are you doing, man? I'm going down!"
"What?" I say, stepping back and looking at the drop. "You're crazy."
"Give me a hand," he says. "That's it."
The chair edges towards the edge. It's lurching dramatically, and Ted's so huge that I think he might hurt himself.
"Maybe there's another way," I suggest, looking around.
"We're nearly there."
As he teeters on one wheel, he pulls a small phone-like device from his pocket.
"There we go," he says, happily.
He points the device and car headlights shine in the distance. Next, the engine starts. Then it's rolling toward us across the empty concrete walkway.
Via remote control, he brings the car - a sleek, black, sports car - as close to us as he can, which means parking it temporarily on the road that leads to an airport carpark. He leaves the engine running.
"It'll be alright there," Ted says. He's hurrying now.
I take the weight of the chair, and him, but he's a big guy and this is not ... going ... to work ...
Suddenly, floodlights illuminate the rows and rows of cars in the carpark, including Ted's, which is illegally parked, standing idly in the entrance road.
A siren sounds in the complex. It's not the car, but an airport alarm.
"Come on!" Ted says, and he ditches the wheelchair. He jumps down to the path, letting the chair clatter, empty, to the ground.
The next thing I know, he's running towards his car, legs pumping hard, legs working just fine, and I stand there with my mouth open, looking from his flight to the chair and back at him before I start running too.
Although he's about 20 years older than me, I can't keep up. His black clothes are 'flashing' in the dark as the shiny material reflects the floodlights which are reflected in the puddles and on the starry-wet tarmac. I hear his big, smart shoes thumping the road. Clump-clump-clump-clump-clomp-clomp-clomp-clomp. I put on a burst of speed, but apparently so does he, because I still can't keep up. I feel very inexperienced at this kind of thing: evading capture. I don't normally do things that require running away when the lights come on.
I don't know what we're running from or what will happen if we're caught. I just run as hard as I can, as if my life depends on it, because that's what Ted is doing, and then I spot a man in a reflective jacket and flat hat ahead of us. He's crossing the car park at speed, pointing his torch at Ted and yelling:
I skid to a stop. It's a cop.
Ted, far ahead, and thus nearest to the officer, turns to me with a rictus of anxiety on his face. He waves his right hand at me, subtly but urgently, as if to say: "Go, ye' fool! Save yerself!"
I sprint left, away from the cop, away from the car park, away from the rockery.
The cessation of the siren suggests that the cops think the emergency is over now that Ted has been apprehended. I keep running through this midnight, corporate arena, wondering whether I'm being tracked via cameras and whether or not they'll be able to record my face at night. I intend to run and run until I'm home. When I get there, I'll think.
As I flee the scene, I pass a second car park, smaller than the first and comparatively empty, but also notable because there is a police van with lights glaring, screaming to a stop. Half a dozen cops pour out.
I keep running for a few seconds.
"They've not seen my face," I think. "They don't know who I am yet."
As two more cops appear to my right, however, I decide that this place must be swarming with them. And it's not worth getting shot in the back because I tried to help a guy play with a wheelchair.
As I stop and raise my hands, I wonder what crime I've committed exactly. I'm in more trouble than I've ever been in, but it seems like a waste of manpower and adrenalin.
"Okay," I say, breathing hard. "Okay."
The police officer nearest me is a woman. My hands are still high in the air when she tasers me.
The moment before she does it, I see the instructions on the gun. It says that police procedure is to use the taser twice. First, for a few seconds. Then, after a pause, a second blast is optional, depending on the circumstances.
The instructions explain, pictorially, that the pain caused by tasering is approximately equivalent to being roasted at gas mark 8 in any standard kitchen oven appliance. The image is zigzagging lines, denoting electricity, next to a 2D, whole, cooked chicken. The instructions also say that there is a slim chance of death, depending on what kind of coat the tasee is wearing and whether or not the zip is fastened.
I'm paralyzed with pain for a few seconds and then I'm finally able to drop to my knees, sort of gagging with the agony of it.
Then, she hits me with the second blast.
I'm in an office, sitting on an uncomfortable, wooden chair. I feel like this room served a purpose once, but now the tables, chairs, and photocopier are still and cold with a sense of abandonment. Everything is brown-tinted, like we're in a faded Polaroid.
Ted is in good spirits, as usual.
"What were you doing in that chair?" I say.
"John said I could have a wee go, like."
John has lost the use of his legs. Ted seems to have lost the use of his brain.
"Did you know that if you send a DS back to the factory, they don't recycle it?" he says, a propos of nothing. "It's cheaper to just throw it in the bin," he continues, "so that's what they do."
Except, he doesn’t say ‘do’, he says ‘dooo.’
I fail to see how what he’s saying connects to anything.
Case in point:
"You know, my dad's got cancer," he adds. He's heading through a door and gazing down the stairwell.
"No, I didn't," I say. "I'm sorry."
"Did you know my dad?" he asks, his voice echoing in the stairwell.
"No," I admit.
"Then why are you sorry?" he says. "I'm not." He smiles. "He's a bastard, my dad."
As Ted lingers on the stairs, the door closing slowly, I start to feel like I'm in a hospital bed and he's just been to visit me. It's like he's saying goodbye.
As he starts down the stairs, three female police officers walk in, followed by half a dozen male officers.
"What do I do?" I hiss to Ted.
He looks confused.
"I've never been in this situation before," I explain. "What do I say? Do I delete your number from my phone?"
"They'll find it anyway," he says. "Just tell them my name. Tell them everything."
He descends out of sight and the door swings shut.
The cops don't appear to have seen him at all.
The cops are all taking off wet jackets. One woman looks particularly miserable as she approaches me with her clipboard. She gathers up pens, a voice recorder, and some other administrative objects from a nearby desk.
She has short, straight, black hair, dank from the rain, and she's chewing like she's chewing some gum, but I don't think it's gum. She's just chewing with her mouth empty.
She sighs when she looks at me.
She says something about how they all have to work overtime now, because I've been a bad boy, and if I just tell them what they want to know, they can all get home to their beds.
I don't hear the words, only the tone of her voice, and despite my earlier fear, I find myself feeling very calm and very angry at the same time.
"That's not going to work," I say. I'm trying to helpful and save myself from some bullshit.
"What's not going to work?" she asks, popping an imaginary bubble. She's half-sitting on and half-leaning against ... nothing ... her legs crossed, clipboard on her grey-trousered knees.
"This 'bossy-bored-and-busy approach,'" I explain.
I can't believe I'm about to get locked up for helping a guy play with a wheelchair or for parking a remote control car in an airport carpark. And, having heard the woman's tone, I feel all information about Ted and his whereabouts sinking deep down within me, like it's disappearing into the quicksand of my unwillingness to share, and the more this woman questions me the less she'll find.
"If I seem bossy," she says smartly, "it's because I am a boss." She points to the stripes on her shoulder.
I think that means that she's a sergeant.
She points to bracelets on my wrist and says, laughing explosively: "I've got three more stripes than you!"
None of the other police officers react to her attempt at humour. They look bored and busy.
"Right," she says briskly.
I am calm, but hyper-alert, as if I might want to store this memory under: "This is where it went bad."
I see a flash of red from a bracelet like mine on her wrist.
Her hair falls in her face, still soaked from the rain.
She has black lips.
She leans forward.
I decide to tell her nothing.
"Tell me everything," she says.