Karma Cops

The five surly policemen were practiced at being intimidating. They walked like lions, padding through the plains, unafraid of any beasts around them. Their scarlet, scratched and dented body armour curled around their shoulders and limbs protectively, like mollusk shells. Each of them clutched a standard operational sledgehammer in their hands. The blocky hammer heads were spotless and gleaming silver, disguising their frequency of use. They were lovingly cleaned and buffed to shine at the end of each official visit, clearly a ritual of pride, the intimate care bestowed on a craftsman’s tool of choice. The officers’ eyes seemed like the only human reference points, but even they were unmoved, unemotional and unrepentant.

The team walked into the apartment as if they owned it, circling about the walls, oozing in casually – edging from shelf to shelf, picking up pictures of family and ornaments to inspect irreverently. The flat was nestled inside the hot belly of a tall tower complex called City Heights in the poorest district of Yorktown. It was apparent they must have looked up the address specifically to track down that one door in three thousand.

The tallest cop, with the words Capt Sergio on his helmet broke rank from the group. As they circled the room he walked straight toward Jensen Turner, maintaining unblinking eye contact. He had a dirty stubble, and a piercing, dark stare. Jensen noticed his teeth were ragged and upkept, like the mouth of an old monster.

“Jensen Turner, is it?” His voice was gruff.

“Yes, Sir… Am I in trouble?”

Jensen adjusted his tortioseshell spectacles as a matter of habit, taking in the policeman’s wide, imposing stature.

The officer showed no kind of change in his facial expression at the question, as if leaving it open and hanging in the air between them like a taught wire.

“You were seen, out there, thirty minutes ago.”

“Yes, I’ve just come back from the supermarket. I was low on groceries.”

“We know… We traced your number plate from the shop’s CCTV. Let me be clear, this is the bit where I talk… Shuuu.” His gloved finger was over his lips mockingly.

Jensen closed his mouth but his composure was steady, he was, to the captain’s distain, not shaking, trying to wriggle out of the way, or panicking, like they always did. Jensen, the captain concluded, must be a troublemaker, must need to better understand fear and pain, to put him back in line, to make him understand his place.

“You’re aware, I am sure, of Instant Karma Law, which came into effect last year. It applies to everyone.”

“…Everyone…” Jensen replied, deadpan.

For Jensen daring to speak, the captain tilted his head abruptly, as if to issue a visual warning for insolence.

Jensen did not back away when Captain Sergio invaded his personal space, glaring into his eyes like a predator assessing which limb to bite off of prey.

“You made a big mistake,” he continued in that low voice, deliberately slow in delivery, trying to build and prolong a tension. “You parked your vehicle in a mobility bay, and according to the police database, you have no disability permit…That is a crime. You may now respond.”

This time, it was Jensen’s turn to take it in his stride, not blurting or bumbling a hasty apology or plea. He scratched his cheek and walked over to the circular dining table in the middle of the room as if disinterested, before turning around to forge his reply.

“I have a bad knee. I filed for disability but they did not permit me a badge, said without a medical certificate I was not eligible. I couldn’t afford a meeting with the doctor, too expensive, but as you can see, I have a limp. So, I am, in truth, disabled.”

“No certificate, no disability. Simple. No badge, no rights to park in that parking bay. That’s the law.”

“An eye for an eye? Is that really why you are here? How do you manage that, to make it appropriate, to make that fair? There are five of you officers here. This is a minor offense. I have heard of your team and others, you pursue people who do not deserve punishment, like it’s… A policy of brutality, to keep everyone on the tightest leash.”

The officer’s face finally broke from an emotionless blank canvas to a wry smile.

“Sit on the floor. Lay your legs down on the carpet flat, and then roll up your trousers above the knees.”

He raised up the sledgehammer gently, so it was rested over his shoulder, for convenience. The threat was palpable.

“What do you intend to do?” asked Jensen as he sat on the floor. Of course, he knew the answer.

“I intend to reverse your crime, and implement Instant Karma Law. Most of all, and I mean this literally, I want to make an impression on you. Now raise your trouser legs above the knees so I have a clear aim at them. If I miss, you might never be able to have children. You understand? Don’t make me miss.”

“I am already a father…” replied Jensen quietly, still resisting silence. “I was… I mean,” he added.

That’s when one of other men seemed to squint in recognition at a picture he had pulled from a shelf.

Sergio swaggered as if building some energy in his hips to deliver the blows hard.

The other officers had turned toward the scene as spectators, like slaughterhouse workers, checking out the bloodletting of yet another small animal, matter-of-factly.

“One thing,” said Jensen holding up a finger in the air to pause the moment, “You know, I got my limp from an officer in the first place. Yes, I was running in a walk only zone, trying to catch a train and well, the officer saw me, stopped me and… You know the rest. It was painful, very painful but he did not have a sledgehammer, he just had a hand hammer. Otherwise, I’d have no use in the leg at all… That’s the last time I took a train, ha. Tell me, captain, if Instant Karma Law applies to everyone, then that means it applies to you guys too, yes?”

The captain was now leaking anger. Such a rude, confident interruption. Sergio was going to put his back into this work now, he’d smash the knees to a pulp and kick the mangled stumps, make an example of this disrespectful citizen. Nobody talked back like that, especially in front of his team.

“Get ready,” he said, “I’m going to crush your kneecaps now. I don’t care about your screams, remember me saying that, in the moments that will follow.”

As he flexed his grip and prepared to raise the handle of the large hammer, the doors to the joining two bedrooms burst open with such force, a vase bounced across the carpet, and a chair toppled over. Through them barged several large men, faces covered by balaclavas, each brandishing a shotgun. They wasted no time pointing with intent at their targets, ensuring each of the officers was confronted with the end of a barrel.

“Put your hammers down and hands in the air,” yelled one of them. They meant business, hardmen from the city ghettos, used to violence, with a natural hatred for lawmen.

One of the cops decided to fight, but hesitated just a little too long, so the gunshot that followed tore through his exposed neck and left his blood plastered explosively over the adjacent wall. Someone screamed in the corridor outside and ran, a snoopy neighbour no doubt, retreating to their own apartment. The remaining four police were stunned and overpowered in seconds. To them, this was an unimaginable scenario. No one had ever had the audacity to resist to this extent – for one, it meant the death penalty, not a gas chambre or a noose either, it would mean being tortured to death in public and being dissected and displayed at the gates of the local police station.

Resistance was so rare, that the situation felt unreal, even dream-like, to the officers.

The captain shook his head, not willing to acknowledge he had been disarmed so easily and with spite grunted, “You’re all dead men. Who the hell are you fools?”

Jensen stood up calmly.

“Just people, normal everyday people, that’s us… All these men, me included, have lost family because of the Instant Karma Law. We knew if I parked in that bay you’d follow me home, to do what you do. Your behaviour, it is as predictable as it is unjust… So, keeping with predictability, let’s do this by the book, your book, Instant Karma Law.”

Jensen scooped up the sledgehammer gently from where Sergio had dropped it, cradling it in his arms. The handle was black graphite and had the words ‘police hammer – crush crime,’ emblazoned on the long grip.

“Sit down on the floor. Remove your leg armour and expose your knees,” instructed Jensen, without a shred of doubt or hesitancy in his voice. This had been a long time coming.

And there it was. That cold, hard face of oppression began to crack. First it was a long gulp, a dry throat, then the lips began to quiver. Captain Sergio was realising, this was going to happen, it was a certainty. Instant Karma Law was justice delivered quickly, it mirrored the crime, it would not wait for forms to be filled, deliberations or arguments to mature, it was instant, it was pain, it was truth in blood.

The next few moments of preparation drew out in sickeningly slow seconds. The armour unclamping, the sound of a wince. There was that heavy knowledge in the room, that begging for mercy would be futile. It was like the weight of the air had doubled since their arrival and that weight had not changed, despite the shift in power.

Jensen crouched closer to Sergio’s ear. “My wife’s name was Jill. My daughter’s name was Mia. You need to hear those names. They died for daring to speak. Just for daring to speak…”

Jensen stood tall again, and let himself indulge a feeling momentarily, catching the eyes of the remaining cops, now on their knees and panting with fear.

“You all need to hear those names… Jill and Mia!”

He lifted the sledgehammer back, its weight hard to stabilise, so it dangled midair over his head, and with gritted teeth and rage in his eyes, channelled all his need for justice into a downward stroke. He too, would not care about the screams that followed.

The End

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