the Innocent Man Chapter 1

the Innocent Man Chapter 1

The innocent man never sees the trouble coming.

A woman approaches him from between parked cars, steps right in front of him.

He’s headed for work, second shift at Boeing. Just stopping at Wawa for coffee, a doughnut and the newspaper. Rugged-looking man, lean, fifty-five. Military-style crewcut.

“Hi,” she begins. She’s wearing a low-cut dress, push-up bra, cheap blonde wig. Twenty-four, twenty-five.

He eyeballs the woman, stops.

“Can I help you?” he says.

“Sure can,” she continues. “I’m a damsel in distress.” Forces a smile, allows her lips to linger for a moment, suggestively. “I believe we have a date today.”

“Got me mixed up with someone else,” he says, starts to walk away.

“Wait,” she says, points to a black Toyota Camry. “Your car, right?

“Yeah,” he says, nods. “So?”

“Then I don’t have you mixed up. You’re Sir Lancelot, and we have a date today … The three of us.” She points toward a white Dodge minivan parked a few cars away. “You, me, and Nicole. Remember? My thirteen-year-old daughter?”

He looks toward the minivan. Sees a female with long blonde pigtails sitting in the front seat. Peering out the window, waving at him.

He looks away from the van. Turns back to the woman, shrugs his shoulders.

“No idea what you’re talking about.”

“I braided her hair just the way you wanted it.”

“Look, lady. No idea what you’re talking about.”

He backs up a step, loops around her. Starts walking behind a row of parked cars, moving toward the entrance.

She turns her head away from him, nods.

Three men move quickly, catch up with the innocent man. One on each side of him, the third man behind. They grab him by the wrists and elbows.

“What the fuck!” the man yells. Glances over his shoulder, one way, then the other. Sees his assailants. “Get your fucking hands off!” Tries to pull free. Manages to get loose from one man’s grip, but not the other.

That man swings him around forcefully, smashing the innocent man’s face against the trunk of a parked car.

The blow knocks the innocent man onto the ground.

Blood’s flowing from a gash over his right eyebrow, more blood oozing from a split lower lip.

 

A steady flow of traffic is moving along on the main drag, Baltimore Pike, in the lane closest to the entrance to the parking lot. In the far lane, another black Toyota Camry is waiting to make a left turn into the parking lot. Turn signal blinking, cars backed up behind it.

The driver, a middle-aged man, sees the commotion taking place in the parking lot.

Instead of turning into the lot, the Toyota speeds off.

 

All three assailants are rolling the innocent man over, face down onto the blacktop. Handcuffing him. Rolling him back over, propping him into a sitting position against a parked car.

The woman sticks a badge in the innocent man’s face.

“I’m a cop,” she says. “Put two and two together. You’re under arrest, pervert.”

Two of the assailants jerk the man upright, into a standing position.

“For what?” the innocent man demands.

“Criminal solicitation,” the woman begins, “statutory sexual assault, statutory involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, corruption of a minor, criminal use of a communication device … and shit … might as well add resisting arrest.”

“I don’t understand.”

“See if you can understand this,” the woman says, proceeds to read him his Miranda Rights, one by one … “Do you understand your rights?”

“I understand my rights,” the innocent man says. “But I don’t understand what the fuck you’re talking about. I’m a law-abiding citizen. Done nuthin wrong. What’s your probable cause?”

She looks at him without answering.

“Don’t have any!” he shouts in her face. “Do you?”

“Sir,” she says, “every perp I ever busted says the same thing. I’m conditioned to denial. In one ear, out the other … If you didn’t do anything wrong, why’d you resist arrest?”

“Resist arrest?” He laughs. “Lady, look at this logically. You approached me, I didn’t approach you. You said you were a damsel in distress. You called me Sir Lancelot. You said we had a date. You mentioned your thirteen-year-old daughter. You did everything, I didn’t do shit.”

The woman turns her back on him, takes a few steps. Pulls out a cellphone, makes a call.

 

The blonde in pigtails is standing outside the minivan, leaning against the passenger’s door. She’s not thirteen. At least twice that age. A gun’s holstered on her belt.

 

The innocent man turns his attention to his assailants.

“I felt someone grab me,” he pleads his case. “Turned around, saw you guys. No uniforms. Thought I was getting jumped. No way I know you’re cops.”

They remain stone-faced.

The innocent man turns back to the woman. She’s off the phone.

“Thought someone was jumping me,” he says to her. “Survival instincts kicked in. Self-defense. Look at my face. Look what they did to me.”

She steps closer … Face to face … Nose to nose.

“Tell it to the judge,” she says.

“You got the wrong man, sweetheart” he says. “And I’ll prove it.”

“Hope you’re not in a hurry, pervert. We’re gonna lock you up and throw away the key.”

 

Estimated publication date: December 1st