Jimmy stood in the middle of Kearny Street and watched the first police car screech around the turn out of a corner of his eye. He stared at the man behind Donna, the man who held a pistol to his friend’s head. A grim smile crossed his face in the light of the street lamp. If I get a chance, you’ll never know what it you.”Here I am, punk.”
“You got a lot of mouth for an old man.” The pistol was steady.
The kid’s pretty cool. “What do you want?”
“I want the NADIA, and a car. I know you’re in this mix somewhere. Get ‘em, I leave, the women live.”
The police car pulled up sideways across the street. Another one blocked the other end. They shared the duty of splattering the area with red and blue lights. Four officers approached up the lane, pistols ready in two-handed grips. Two covered Donna and the man behind her, while the other two approached Jimmy. One of these was a stocky white-haired man with a captain’s bars on his shoulders. When he spoke, his voice was calm and even. “I’m Officer Grimes, Front Royal Police. Show your hands, get ‘em in the air.”
Jimmy raised his hands slowly, palms out. But he remained standing, facing the shadow hunched down behind Donna. The grin never left Jimmy’s face. If he could unnerve this crud, it would give him an edge. And Jimmy needed every edge he could get. He kept grinning in Donna’s direction as he spoke to the police officer. “Officer Grimes, my name is James DeBartolo, and I’m a US marshal. My badge is in my pocket, and my weapon is on the sidewalk behind me.”
“Get on your knees, Mr. DeBartolo. Right where you’re at.” Jimmy sank down, one leg at a time. The grin turned into a grimace as the pavement bit into his knees. “Make it quick, Grimes, the ground’s pretty hard, here, and I ain’t got as much paddin’ as I used to.”
Two more police cars showed up at each end of the street, and the uniformed officers advanced, bolstered in their courage by their numbers. Spotlights trained on Jimmy, and on the storefront, illuminating the whole front office area. Grimes and his deputy stopped twenty feet away, in a position where they could watch both sides of the street. He stood, hips square and feet apart. “Suppose you show me that badge now, Mr. DeBartolo?”
“Okay, I’m gonna reach into my jacket pocket.” Jimmy drew out his wallet and flipped it open, revealing his marshal’s badge. “Badge six-four-five-eight. Call the DC office, ask for—”
“We’ll check it out on our own, thanks.” Grimes spoke into the microphone on his shoulder. An agonizing minute later, Jimmy’s knees felt like they’d been applied to a bench grinder. Grimes spoke to him again. “All right, Mr. DeBartolo, you can stand up.” He turned to his junior partner. “Matt, cover the store front, make sure that boy don’t move. Tell Kenny and Dwayne to cover the back door, and get State to send down a hostage team.”
Jimmy struggled to his feet and hobbled over to stand in front of Grimes. “Officer Grimes, I know this is your town and all, but I’m afraid I gotta pull rank on you here.”
Grimes’ eyebrows rose in surprise. “Pull rank? I’d think you’d rather be kickin’ back with a beer or two and tellin’ war stories to the grandkids.”
“You seen some combat, have you, Grimes?”
“Three tours in the ‘Nam, 82nd Airborne.”
“Then you know what I mean when I say this is classified. It has to stay that way.”
“What are you saying?”
“I gotta do this negotiatin’. No one else can hear what’s up, especially newspaper and TV folks. That includes you. Understand?” Jimmy looked at the empty window frame, at Donna, still standing, the pistol pointing at her wounded head. She looked as if she might fall over from fear and fatigue any second.
The man behind her shouted, “We were talking, old man. You know what I want.”
Jimmy yelled back over his shoulder, “Lemme clear things up out here first, and I’ll be right with you.”
“We’ll be waiting, then.” He began to drag Donna back into the rear office area.
Jimmy held a hand up. “No, wait! I need to make sure we can get you what you’re askin’ for. Stay right there, and we can talk.”
“You didn’t say the magic word, geezer. Later.” Donna disappeared back around the corner and into the conference room, towed by her bulky shadow.
* * * *
The Story Behind The Picture
Stop 6 brings us back to the Downtown area of Front Royal, Virginia.
I arrived in town just after 5:00 PM on a November night. Light was fading fast when I found a parking space, and I had just enough presence of mind to note two landmarks: The laundromat just across the street from where I parked, and the sign for Jackon Sreet. Good enough, right? I mean, it was just a small town, after all. Not like I could get turned around.
I grabbed my phone, put my hood up against the rain, and took off at a run, snapping every shot that looked cool, and I can ell you, Front Royal is a very cool little town. The folks who live there obviously take pride in where they live, as you can see by how clean the streets are, how well kept-up the businesses, and how friendly the citizens are.
Nobody seemed to mind the out-of-town lunatic dashing up and down streets taking pictures (I almost took a shot of the bank, but then I thought better of it. I didn't need an extended stay in town for suspicion, if ya know what ah mean). I think I even muttered, "Oh, my God, this is where it happened!" more than once as I snapped shot after shot until well after dark, when I found a nice cafe to grab some dinner.
I figured I'd go back and move the car closer, so I wouldn't have so far to walk. There was only one problem.
I now had no idea where exactly I'd parked. I had a general idea (You know, "laundromat" and "Jackson Street"), but how exactly to get there was the issue. On top of that, everyone with half a brain was NOT out walking in the rain after dark, so asking for directions wasn't as easy as, say, parking the car.
It took another half hour of wandering aimlessly up and down every street I came across until I found Jackson Street, and then I thought I was on the wrong end of town, so I turned the wrong way, and had to double back after I came to the edge of town and found nothing I recognized.
It was after I came all the way back up Jackson Street when I finally found the rental car (while clicking the remote control door lock every few steps and watching for the flash of the lights).
Half a block from the cafe I'd spotted.
Didn't have to waste the gas after all.
Next week, we'll have some more fun. Meantime, read. Review. Repeat.
God bless you, guys.