Saturday, February 9, 2013

"We All Wanna Die Like Movie Stars You Said As You Jumped From The Height Of Our Cutting Room Floor"


“I came down to wish you an unhappy birthday,
Someone call an ambulance,
There’s going to be an accident.” – Placebo


A knock on the door, hurried and unrelenting, calls my attention to the window nearby. I peer through it straight to the intruders on the other side. It’s the police. My heart sinks and I bite my lip in consideration. Should I answer it? Have they come to take me away for some crime uncommitted? Have I done something that warrants capturing and custody? I don’t believe that I have but ever the cautious one, I submit to the possibility that I am guilty and should therefore be reserved. But against my better judgment, I saunter up to the door and open it hastily.

Good evening, I’m Detective Marshall and this is Detective Sullivan, a tall rather stocky man with a mustache announces. They each hold up the badges that they had been prominently displaying from the start. I look from one to the other and nod politely. Detective Marshall cuts to the chase immediately. Did you hear about the crime that occurred down the street, he inquires of me, angling his head toward the neighbors. I had not heard of anything amiss and I tell him so. Your neighbor was murdered, the man identified as Detective Sullivan relates to me. It happened on Sunday, he explains. It was a brutal, undignified murder, Detective Marshall chimes in.

I cringe my eyebrows in disgust and confusion. I’m not sure what to think or what to say. Ah which neighbor, I eventually ask with evident bewilderment in my voice. Marvin, Marvin Black, Detective Marshall responds. Detective Sullivan points down the street four houses to confirm the identity of the murdered neighbor. I knew of him but I didn’t know him well. I nod again. And then a thought occurs to me, really it’s more of a sneaking suspicion than a thought, but I don’t let on. I don’t think I want to tell them what they might need to know about this murder. I was always taught to stay out of the affairs of others.

Did you know him well, your neighbor, Detective Sullivan questions me. I pause without speaking, forcing him to repeat the question. He does. Did I know him well, I repeat, trailing off as my eyes un-focus and my mind takes over. They both nod absently at me. It prompts me to shrug ambiguously in return. They insist upon an actual answer, verbal and responsive. I didn’t know him well, I concede. That is largely correct.


But I should really go back now and talk about the knock that I received on my door less than a week ago. It was Sunday in fact. New England was beating the Texans and I was in a foul mood because of it. I loathe the Patriots with the same passion, vigor and disgust that I loathe tomatoes and blue-bellied lizards. And much like tomatoes and blue-bellied lizards, the thought of the Patriots garnering any kind of success or acclaim in the National Football League makes me nauseas, like I might vomit in protest.

Anyway, of course I digress. So it was Sunday afternoon and I was watching that horrid game, and as I write and recall this now I am somewhat gratified because the Patriots lost to the Ravens the following Sunday and will therefore not be in the Superbowl. But at the time it was going from bad to worse. Arian Foster had less than a hundred yards rushing and it was the third quarter, by all accounts a loser for Houston.

I was scowling and watching Brady luck out again when I spotted out of the corner of my eye, a glimpse in a mirror perhaps, two thug-like creatures walking down my driveway on a straight shot for my front door. I knew they didn’t belong there and I alerted my companions to them immediately. At this juncture I will note that my companions in this regard are about as useless as I would be in a fight to the death. Nevertheless, we watched as these two thugs twisted around the driveway and approached the front door. They knocked.

Reluctantly, I stood up, paused the game and answered the door. One stood close by and the other one stood a few paces back. To this day I can’t really describe them with any sort of great detail -- big, hefty, white, neck tattoos, ponytails -- but they looked like your average, run of the mill thugs. They could have been brothers because they had the same physical attributes, but I got the impression they were more thugs in law. In essence, they were the type of guys that would remorselessly steal your wallet and your weed and stab you in the gut and leave you to bleed out and die in a dark alleyway.

Is Marvin here, Thug 1 questions almost immediately upon my opening of the door. I smile, mostly because I expected them to be trying to sell me magazine subscriptions for ‘Cracked’ or indulgences from a local church or something equally ridiculous. Nah, I reply as I shake my head. They pause and stare at each other, slightly bewildered. Now I’m not sure why but I decide at this point to help them out; maybe I felt sorry for the thugs, I’m not sure what I was thinking. Maybe I thought they would remember it later if and when I crossed them in dark alleyway.

Is his last name Black, I question curiously. The thugs stare at one another and then back at me. We don’t know, Thug 1 responds. I nod. Well there’s a Marvin that lives about four houses down the street that way, I relate to them. His name is Marvin Black, I clarify. Really, Thug 1 states, lighting up suddenly and staring after my pointing finger. I can tell both thugs are excited by my revelation. Yeah, I confirm. Which house, Thug 1 persists.

I step my left foot out the front door and point down the street. Not that house, or the next house, or the next house, but the house after that, I explain. So not one, or two or three, but four, I add helpfully. The thugs nod at me. Thanks, we appreciate it, Thug 1 says. You bet, I reply.

They start walking away and I shut the door and lock it tight. I don’t think much of the exchange at the time but we all watch and make sure that the thugs leave our driveway before resuming the game. We discuss how strange the interaction was. I learn that apparently people in the past, thugs mostly, have used that type of charade in order to gain valuable knowledge for the purposes of future house burglaries. We start to become concerned that we might be targets of a burglary. But then we forget about the encounter entirely as we watch the rest of the game and get on with our lives.


Well did you know him, Detective Sullivan questions me again. I look up to meet his eyes. Not really, I finally answer. You sure about that, Detective Marshall interrogates suspiciously. I shrug diffidently. It seems like you may have something you want to tell us, Detective Sullivan guesses. Well we knew of him, I finally concede. We’ve both lived on this street for years, I inform them. Go on, Detective Sullivan encourages. When my sister and I were younger, we sold school sports coupon books and candy bars to him, I continue. But I didn’t really know him that well at all, I add. I hadn’t spoken to the guy in years, I finish.

So you hadn’t spoken to him in awhile, Detective Sullivan tries to clarify. Nah, I respond. I heard he got arrested for meth possession and kidnapping some girl awhile back but he’s been pretty quiet since he got out of jail, I inform them. He kidnapped someone, Detective Sullivan asks curiously. Yeah but that was a few years ago, I reply. I haven’t really heard much about him at all lately, I admit.

It’s true he did dig himself quite a hole. I think the year was 2005. I wasn’t home at the time but my parents and sisters were. Apparently there were cops and swat teams on the street at 6am. My parents awoke to a man on a megaphone shouting, “Marvin Black, Come out of the house with your hands up!” I guess he didn’t come out fast enough because the police shot him with a beanbag pellet gun contraption. Then they pounced on him, slapped the handcuffs on, and no one in the neighborhood heard from him for a good six months. Word around the street was that he was serving a slight prison sentence for those transgressions.

The story of those transgressions, at least the one that I heard was that his son’s ex-girlfriend came over one night and found a meth lab in the house. Of course after that, they couldn’t let her go because she stupidly threatened to go to the cops. So they held her against her will. I don’t know how the police got involved but Marvin and his son ended up going to jail for various crimes related to that incident and drug trafficking.

You paused before, are you sure you don’t know anything about this homicide that might help us, Detective Sullivan interrogates me once more. I bite my lip and consider the inquiry. I wonder if I told them about the thugs whether I would be opening myself up to criminal charges. I didn’t know those thugs were going to kill Marvin Black. In fact I don’t know if those thugs did kill him. It’s possible it was just a huge coincidence. Of course I don’t really believe in coincidences.

Well, Detective Sullivan presses me. I rub my forehead and grimace. Well there were these two guys that came by the other day asking for a dude named Marvin, I finally admit. Both Detective Sullivan and Detective Marshall start furiously writing notes in their little booklets. I tell them about the two thugs and how they asked for Marvin and how I told them where he lived. I didn’t know they were going to kill him, I swear to both detectives as I beg for lenience.

Slow down, did you happen to catch their names, Detective Sullivan asks. I shake my head. I was just trying to help out, I rationalize coolly. Would you be able to recognize them in a lineup, Detective Sullivan questions. I think about the inquiry for a second. I start to become heavily concerned about the implications. If those two thugs did in fact murder Marvin Black, and I was able to pick them out of a lineup, I might be putting myself, and my family in grave danger by cooperating with the police. After all, people have been killed for a lot less.

I’m not sure, I reply ambiguously. It was a long time ago, I add. Will you come down to the station and look at some mug shots, Detective Marshall asks hopefully. I tell them I can’t because I am really busy and I didn’t see either of the thugs in question that well. Besides it may be all a misunderstanding and I really don’t want to get two thugs angry with me. The detectives try to stress how important it is for me to come with them, but I’m not at all interested in leading by example.

You are a material witness now, Detective Sullivan relays to me seriously. I am familiar enough with that principle to understand what he is trying to imply here. He’s starting the process of threatening me. Right now, it’s a subtle threat but it will develop and evolve into something much worse if we continue down this same path. I don’t like where this is going.

Not necessarily, I respond aptly. I’m only a witness if the two thugs in question were actually responsible for the murder. But just as easily, they might have been casing this neighborhood, looking for a nice place to burglarize, I posit reasonably. In that case, considering that you are investigating a homicide and not a robbery, I am not a material witness, I conclude rationally.

But neither one of these detectives seems very convinced by my alternate explanation. They are dead-set on taking me in. Even so, we still need you to look at some mug shots and perhaps work with a sketch artist, Detective Sullivan states. But I’m busy, I protest. They both look at each other and then shake their heads. This is your civic duty, Detective Sullivan responds. But, I begin to complain. Let’s go, they both command in unison.

Detective Sullivan grabs my arm and pulls me from the doorframe. The elements of certain crimes rush through my head and I start to wonder if the facts of this incident might amount to kidnapping or false imprisonment or something equally vicious. Come on, don’t do this, we can work this out, I slur, trying desperately to rationalize with them as Detective Sullivan tightens his fingers around my left arm, cutting off circulation and demonstrating his seriousness in this endeavor. This is an outrage, I yell as they drag me down the steps that lead to the driveway where their car is parked. Shut up, they both bark at the same time.

This is a miscarriage of justice. I need to make some noise. This is the time to shout, scream at the top of my lungs about the horrid legal abuses that are transpiring at this very moment in time. I want to disturb neighbors, cause nuisance complaints to be filed, and instigate even more resentment toward the police department in general. Essentially, I want to make their lives just as miserable as they are currently making mine. Then I will shut up.

Let me go, this is a travesty of justice, I declare loudly, trying to free myself from his grip once again. Shut up, Detective Sullivan grinds out, barely opening his mouth to issue the order. But I will not be deterred at all in my newfound mission. I am going to sue for false imprisonment, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, I yell, angling my voice toward the sky so that neighbors everywhere will be effectively disturbed. This is police brutality and abuse of discretion and as citizens of Los Angeles we should not stand for it, I proclaim passionately.

Don’t fall victim to the silly whims of the authorities, I urge my confused neighbors. This is not the time to be complacent, this is the time to stand up against oppression, I shout, adding that apathy in this regard will mark the end of a free society as we know it. You are killing this country, I assert loudly as the sound of doors opening and curious whispers alight in the air. But nobody intervenes on my behalf. People obviously don’t care that their rights are being trampled on while they sit by in their stupid hillside homes with their fancy porches and swimming pools. When they do start to care it will probably be too late.

Oh shut up, Detective Marshall hisses in my ear, adding that I am neither emotional nor distressed. It’s funny how he believes that I lack evidence for only one of the four torts that I threatened to sue for. They each must know that I have a solid case for false imprisonment, assault and battery. They have to also realize that my complaint will unquestionably survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. I start to imagine all the money that could be involved in the type of lawsuit that I am envisioning. If I drew up a civil complaint and named the Los Angeles Police Department and each of them individually as defendants, I could be awarded thousands of dollars by the court. And if I threw in a 42 USC §1983 claim in addition to my other claims, it could in fact be millions. I’ll have to figure out a way to obtain federal jurisdiction but I’ll worry about that later.

You’re going to be sorry, I warn Detective Sullivan plainly, recovering some of my composure now that I have a fantastic lawsuit brewing in the back of my mind. It will be good practice for improving my legal skills as well. Of course the notoriety I could gain from the suit itself may open up employment opportunities, not to mention possible television spots and movie deals. On the other hand, the opposite could easily be true.

Get in the car, Detective Sullivan instructs harshly as he pushes me into the backseat. I note that it’s a black Crown Victoria but not a police-issued black and white. I grind my teeth and flex my jaw as he slams the door shut in my face and engages the locks. I pick up where I left off by yelling out more threats of civil claims and shouting about how the government is always overstepping its bounds. This kind of an atrocity is conscience shocking, I declare wildly. The Nine would absolutely hang you for this, I yell as the two detectives get in the front of the car and start up the engine.

Detective Marshall turns around from the front passenger seat and claims that I am only making things worse for myself but I disagree. Voices exist so that we can be heard. After all, a voice is not an essential component of human life. Our bodies do not perish when we lose our voices. Therefore they exist not for the persistence of our species but only to communicate our thoughts and ideas. Case in point, I am using my voice now not to ensure my survival by any means but to inspire others to step up and do the right thing for all of us. This society must band together as one democratic unit for the sole purpose of eradicating authority as we have come to know it. We do not need the government telling us what we can and cannot do. We only get one life and in order to truly live it to the fullest, we must get rid of the ones who exist only to restrict us. I am a theoretical anarchist. Of course I realize that descending into chaos is neither prudent nor promising, but it’d be nice to have the freedom to do some of the things that the government has capriciously and arbitrarily labeled illegal, without the fear of being jailed or fined excessively.

This is a ridiculous abuse of authority, you know that right, I ask them both rather rhetorically because I do not expect either one of them to acknowledge my point or admit their failings in this regard. Detective Sullivan scoffs amusedly and Detective Marshall chuckles. I crinkle my eyebrows and look from one to the other. Why are they suddenly so light-hearted? A moment ago they were stressing the importance of my civic duty and telling me that I had to come down to the police station, look at mug shots and do the right thing.

As we drive down the windy street of my childhood home, Detective Sullivan suddenly says something that circumstantially makes my blood run cold. Hey Pauley, you think I’m a thug, he questions smoothly. Nah Richie, you ain’t a thug, you think I’m a thug, Detective Marshall returns. Nah, Detective Sullivan says as he shakes his head. Obviously she doesn’t know what thugs look like anymore than she knows what cops look like, the one called Detective Sullivan remarks coolly as he flies through the red light and heads straight for the interstate.

The one calling himself Detective Sullivan, the one driving this Crown Victoria, reaches up and unbuttons his collar to reveal a large tattoo on the back of his neck. The air rushes from my lungs and I feel instantly nauseous. I shake my head solemnly. I look over at the one calling himself Detective Marshall, the one sitting shotgun. He runs his hand through his hair and I realize much to my chagrin that his hair is much longer and less cropped than it appeared earlier.

I sigh miserably and close my eyes. This is a most unfortunate turn of events. Remorsefully, I open my eyes and look out the window with utter despondency as I internally beat my head against a wall. I’m wholly and completely without a doubt fucked. 


“I came down to crash and burn your beggars’ banquet,
Someone call an ambulance,
There’s going to be an accident.” –Placebo

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