A View to a Kill.(PART TWO): Slipping Into Darkness.By: Brett Redmayne-Titley
With one more gargantuan push I heave my ballerina-like hulk through the clustered thicket of towering bamboo, and over a flimsy webbed-wire fence that was more than doing its job well. Spilling ass over tea kettle into the Jan’s backyard I clamor up, dust myself off, helping her over the offending fence. We creep into her house through the aluminum and glass sliding back door. Running to the front windows Jan draws the drapes. We peer out.
The waning afternoon sun is already casting shadows. Suddenly, a huge all-black military vehicle, giant tires, machine-gun and gunner on the roof, infests our entire view. It thunders to a stop no more than fifteen yards in front of us.
The turret gunner twirled, fixing a target on the front door of the hide-out. Six more tactical police, head to toe in olive drab, jumped out of the rear of the vehicle and sprang into action. Surrounding the house on two sides, weapons ready of course, disappeared around both sides into the backyard, out of sight.
Thanks to Jan our new vantage was close, less than one-hundred-and-twenty-five-feet away. We could look through the windows, one house down and across the street from the crime scene almost in front of us. That was plenty close. For now.
Boredom, improvisation and a freezing winter night would combine to produce several much better views.
Military equipment and manpower was adding up quickly by the minute. Two more all black giant MRAP’s, these without turrets, rumbled up stopped for a moment then moved on past the first one which had moved into the driveway. The turret gunner, ever vigilant, rotated about fixing on new targets: the doorway, windows, left then right, garage, palm tree, potted plant.
Three more all-black suburbans now parked down Del Rio. Their white shirted occupants sporting brass shields on their breasts, stood in brown slacks talking adamantly. Everyone else up and down the street was locked and loaded and pointing their weapons in the direction of Evan Kwik.
Whoa! A group of eight crept past our window barely twenty feet away, moving towards the residence in commando-like fashion. The militia moved individually or in groups looking down their gun barrels through high-powered scopes. Like an action movie they scattered into smaller groups, using hand signals, providing cover for each as they moved, two by two, into the unknown backyard.
With the cops busy we decided to see how long property rights would last, so we emerged onto the small concrete porch in front of the front screen door. From here we could see the battlements. Looking left-to-right at Del Rio Street, one fact was obvious.
Evan Kwik was not shooting his way out of this one.
Aside from approximately twenty other officious cops, the fortifications on only this first street totaled serious fire power. The one MRAP, with machine gun, sitting in the Kwik driveway, gunner on top. Next, a second MRAP, twenty feet further down the hill not quite in front of us, and a third MRAP further up Del Rio sitting in the middle of the street. The turret gunner continued looking around for some kind of target. The county-wide effort was taking no chances, however.
Additionally, one-hundred-feet further, was the first barricade of two cruisers and four black on black cops with shotguns, willing and able. Just in case the kid blasted his way through this first cordon of MRAPs and the machine gunner, all those hidden cops and this first barricade, there was yet another force ready some two-hundred-feet further down the street. This blockade was the same, two cop cars, lights flashing, four cops splayed across the cars. Ready to kill.
Brief calls with friends confirmed that, around the corner on Puebla St., it was similarly escape proof. The other two streets of Del Riego and Clark were shut off to all traffic, as was the major four-lane wide Leucadia Boulevard. By my count of Del Rio Street alone, including the cops that disappeared, total manpower on just Del Rio street was forty- three. Weaponry exceeding manpower.
Then the kill team arrived.
Lying in the inescapable pitch dark reality of a night mare unfolding, surely Evan Kwik had thoughts of the divine. Would forgiveness be possible? He had to be sorry. Was it time to get clean? That sick feeling that would not go way. A new sick feeling. Doom. A complete dead end. So out of control. If only? The dark…. the warm quiet. Soothing? If ever a moment of reflection was due Evan Kwik surely met his time for it. Did he cry? Did he pray?
Indeed, ignorance is bliss. In the dark, temporarily comforting. Within the depth of a dark spacial moment, Evan Kwik, in the warm comfort of his mother’s attic, may have found a moment for optimism. Eyes closed, sparks of light, of clarity, honesty? Just maybe…? A chance? Wishful thinking. Promises sworn, yet to be unkept? Hopeful words to God. Prayers?
If his fate was in the hands of the lord tonight he might have a chance. God would, as usual, be conspicuously absent tonight.
So, ominously the all-black, eighteen ton, MRAP came crashing through the front yard fence.
The snapping of lumber being crushed to splinters by a military vehicle half the size of the house got our attention too. Rushing to the window, one of the MRAPs had been placed in our way. We had been bad.
“Call the networks. Tell ’em we’re across the street,” I said to my wife barely an hour before, my voice full of adrenaline. “It’s a fucking war zone. No one can see this, see what’s going on. Give them all our numbers. This is crazy. What… the.. FUCK!!”
Known for hyperbole, this time I was not exaggerating.
Because we were the first on the scene, having had the audacity to sneak past the first barricade ( Don, Jan’s husband, had fortunately remained at home) before the complete perimeter lock down, and because all of our other neighbors were apparently at work and away from their homes, we were the only three people they could see, observe, document, comment, on this. All of… This.
Mainstream media, all four local TV stations and their Southern California affiliates were, sadly for them, outside-looking-in on this one. Too late for them. Now no one was getting in. At the farthest end of Del Rio the frustrated crew of one TV station used the boom on their truck to hoist their camera some forty feet in the air, hoping for a shot. From five hundred feet away they couldn’t see much. Leucadia, an old neighborhood known for large trees, was hindering their story. So were the cops.
The news helicopters were already grounded. Not restricted, grounded. FAA was clearly involved. One sinister exception remained. With San Diego being the world’s leading producer, a single drone circled slowly, silently, very far out at a high altitude. What it was seeing, the cops were not showing.
So, the networks were most glad to return our call.
A quick check revealed the Kwik house was still standing sans the front yard fence.
Sipping Cokes, Jan brought out cookies while we comfortably chatted, reclining deeply in chairs in their living room. Then, of course, the phone rang.
My hosts, a bit less impassioned, nay, animated, than their guest offered the press metered observations, while looking through the window, in a nice noncontroversial manner. They are pleasant people. They are certainly good press. My phone had been ringing, too. But, I’m in no mood for the state of the Press I’m in.
My phone would soon stop ringing once and for all.
“This looks just like a newsreel from Iraq,” I answered, incorrectly, to the news anchor on the phone. He had mistakenly asked me ,“what can you see?”
Strangely, the baritone news anchor voice was struck without a follow up question, so I felt obligated to fill his “dead air.”
” This is what Americans have been fearing. And it’s happening right before my eyes here in my neighborhood.”, I said in my least PC manner.” All this for a scared kid on heroine. That’s not my America.”
That was all the news they wanted to her from me that day. My phone did not ring again.
But Don and Jan had fun providing continuing commentary, then we would listen in on the flat screen to hear the playback. That was about the time we heard the MRAP move intoplace, blocking our view.
It was now getting dark, around 4:45 PM, and the lights of all the vehicles began to methodically glow brighter. As the force of black on black with black cops melted away into the dark depths of evening, Del Rio Street became awash in blue, red, amber, green and white spots, beams, and swirls. Rifle pointing cops periodically materialized in front of us, suddenly skittering past the window to slip out of sight, still surprising us after all we had seen. Floodlights had been erected and the Kwik house was as bright as day, as was the yard, front and back. Just beyond the edge of this blinding brilliance; black. A black full to the brim with… black.
Against that black, slowly, ever so slowly, a single red light also grew brighter, piercing, in silence. Round and round, some two miles out at high altitude, a blinking, manacing red eye against the last rays of day light. The drone.
In the preceding three hours I had established the best spots to see but avoid detection. The closest spot, no more than one hundred feet from crime scene front door, was along the south fence, between two nice big bushes. The view came at substantial risk. On the other side of the fence ten feet away, a black and white with three-to-five cops at all times, their weapons drawn. With their focus on Evan Kwik, and thanks to the to dense bushes, the cops had no idea of my vantage point. Over the evening it was almost to laugh at how close I was, which they never suspected.
Next was the closest window of the back bedroom (their son’s room). Later this would be blocked by an MRAP, but for now it was as good as the south fence. But you couldn’t hear anything.
The third was from behind Don’s truck parked in their driveway along the north fence. Keeping low, there was a good view to be had while poking your head around the rear of the truck. All the while cops, very much ready the to kill Evan Kwik, were moving about in the dark a few anxious yards away.
Don and Jan were taking a break and listening to themselves on the various channels. We laugh that I am not in rotation, when some new news comes on.
“Police have just announced, they will be clearing the neighborhood”. We looked at each other.
Further developments revealed that the black hooded military were going door-to-door and removing the residents from all five blocks. One phone call to my wife revealed more bad news. The cops and a new MRAP were already there around the corner, and were heading our way.
And they were taking prisoners.
Well, I didn’t evade a score of cops, duel with a bushel of bamboo, and a much too officious wire fence to give in the same cops I was now eagerly observing. America’s new social condition was unfolding in scripted Hollywood fashion right before my eyes. This was real. One could not dismiss this as fiction. This is America. Present tense. This will be the future.
I was going nowhere. It was time for a plan.
Jan and Don could not have been better hosts. As we watched while leaning against the bedroom window, Jan replenished the plate with some Christmas cookies. And of course, what was a siege without a nice cup of hot tea. Two sugars.
Providing me a huge dose of CYA was even better.
We agreed that when the cops got here Don and Jan would tell the cops no one was home but them citizens and, if asked, I left hours ago. The backyard was my only option for cover and some nicely established foliage seemed promising. What would the evening be without dense foliage? If I could hide until the cops were gone I could see in detail why I fear my country.
And…. I could get shot.
There was no lack of bravado, i.e. testosterone, all around. This theater of the absurd meant business and was not interested in rules. We had been threatened back into the house numerous times, but thanks to the ebb and flow of the cops, no one cop counted our accumulated violations. So, we continued to push our luck.
The strange MRAP-like vehicle on the front lawn had not moved for hours. Neither had its crew of six sitting in the back bathed in a strange green LED glow. With both rear doors open we could occasionally see them moving, but not their faces. Red lazer beams fired once, then again. Lazer scopes on their rifles. Despite the mayhem all around, they stayed put. Restless.
Acting invisible we ventured ever closer to the edge of the street to get an unobstructed view. In full olive drab body armor, one of the contents of the strange MRAP started to climb-down from the back. He squeaked, rattled, and clinked his way towards us, apparently bullet proof. Stopping a few feet from us he held his helmet under his arm exposing a close cropped mustache, hair high and tight, and a face deeply carved in seriousness.
“Y’all need to move inside. This scene is dangerous”, he said from beneath a narrow nose and narrowed brow.
“I’m actually more concerned about you officer,” I offered back. “And your friends everywhere,” I added, pointing in pretty much any direction. I’ve dealt with cops-a-plenty. Kissing ass is of little use. Standing your ground can get you hurt. What did Tom Paine say?
But I had a story to cover. So gone, or in jail, was certainly a far worse view of the scene. So back we went to our windows.
Jan had just walked back from a quick peek while we stood out of sight in the kitchen, when we heard the familiar rumble of an MRAP. It was getting damn close. It was backing into the driveway. The ominous sound of the two huge steel rear doors clanging open and then banging to a stop gave a shock to the nervous system. We looked at each other intently. In silence.
They were here.
Three sharp, very loud, bangs at the front door sounded like someone had kicked it in. “San Diego County police. Open the door.” All doubts erased, I was out the back door into the yard. Don closed the door behind me, returning to answer the door with Jan.
Dashing for cover, there was no time to factor in aesthetics in my choice of foliage. The big yellow flowers were a nice touch however, as I dove, literally, under the biggest bush I could find. Pushing myself tight up against the cinder block wall, I thought invisible thoughts. Trying to keep my breath silent, I listened.
Jan and Don were talking to someone in loud voices, but it was too muffled to hear clearly. Next, I heard the security chain on the back door being moved into the place, followed by the slamming of the front door. Now, the metal doors clanged shut, the engine fired-up, and the black MRAP and the remaining witnesses rumbled away.
I was alone. It was quiet. A strange stillness.
Not for long.