- SJF – Chapter 1
- SJF – Chapter 2
- SJF – Chapter 3
- SJF – Chapter 4
- SJF – Chapter 5
- SJF – Chapter 6
- SJF – Chapter 7
- SJF – Chapter 8
- SJF – Chapter 9
- SJF – Chapter 10
- SJF – Chapter 11
- SJF – Chapter 12
- SJF – Chapter 13
- SJF – Chapter 14
- SJF – Chapter 15
- SJF – Chapter 16
- SJF – Chapter 17
- SJF – Chapter 18
- SJF – Chapter 19
- SJF – Chapter 20
- SJF – Chapter 21
- SJF – Chapter 22
- SJF – Chapter 23
- SJF – Chapter 24
- SJF – Chapter 25
By the time Darius arrived at the Twelfth Precinct with Maslon and the arresting officers, the others were already waiting. Maslon looked surprised to see Manny there, along with Dr. Sam, and both the lawyers—Ollie Porter and Ms. Oldham.
Manny flew into a rage, cutting loose with a string of profanity in both English and Spanish directed specifically at Maslon. “Chingada su madre, I was asleep, and my niece calls me hysterical!”
“Who’s your niece?” Maslon demanded.
“She’s the one you told to shut up at the cafeteria,” said Manny. “You ever disrespect her like that again you cabeza de mierda, and I’ll rip your head off! You hear me?”
Dr. Sam tried to calm Manny down, but it did no good. Manny was furious. And it wasn’t just that Maslon had disrespected Elladia. Manny was angry that Darius had been taken away by the police. And the sight of Darius—his face bruised and bloody—only made Manny more livid.
After the cops escorted Darius out of HQ—through the front entrance for everyone to see—they put him in the back of a police cruiser. Before bringing him to the precinct, they stopped in an alley and worked him over with Maslon watching in silence. Darius didn’t recognize any of the cops, but he knew what the beating was all about—it was payback for what had happened in No Man’s Land.
It had been one of the most terrifying moments of Darius’s life. Fists and feet slamming into him, knowing that nothing could stop the cops from beating on him. He was pretty sure they’d broken one of his ribs, and two of his teeth were loose. He knew they could kill him if they wanted to—just shoot him and then say he resisted arrest. It wasn’t like he hadn’t resisted arrest before.
Nobody at the precinct said a word about the bruises. There were more pressing matters to discuss.
“What the hell is going on here?” asked Dr. Sam.
“He tried to escape,” said Maslon.
“When?” demanded Manny.
“That’s a load of crap,” said Manny. “Darius was at Otto Rekker’s house with me and at least fifty other witnesses.”
“Is this true?” asked Ms. Oldham. She still had the same tired look she’d had less than three weeks earlier.
“I personally put through the authorization to allow him to leave HQ,” said Manny.
“And I signed off on it,” said Dr. Sam. “I thought it would be good for Darius to socialize with fellow employees outside of work.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Ms. Oldham asked. She directed her question at Maslon, not bothering to hide the growing annoyance in her voice.
Maslon handed a piece of paper to Oldham, who had no idea what she was looking at.
“He was cleared to go from HQ to the residence of Otto Rekker, and that’s it,” said Maslon. He pointed at Darius like he was something less than human. “Security reports that he went somewhere else first, and stopped some place he wasn’t authorized to stop.”
“Meaning what?” asked Ollie.
“Meaning he tried to escape,” said Maslon.
Manny fumed. He looked ready to kill Maslon. “Let’s see if I got this straight,” said Manny, his voice trembling with anger. “Darius left HQ, stopped somewhere on his way to Otto’s, and then returned to HQ—and you call that tryin’ to escape? He came back, pendejo!”
“If he wasn’t trying to escape, then what was he doing?” demanded Maslon.
“Well, if he was tryin’ to escape, he’d be a complete moron for comin’ back,” said Manny. “This is ridiculous. Two L4s signed off on Darius leavin’ HQ. He didn’t try to escape.”
“Darius, where did you go on your way to Otto’s house?” asked Dr. Sam.
On the long list of things Darius never talked about, going to the cemetery topped the list. The most personal and private thing he did was not the business of anyone else—especially Maslon. Maslon had no right to know that Darius had been to the cemetery, because, as far as Darius was concerned, that let Maslon know too much about him and his emotions. Still, Darius knew his freedom was on the line.
“I stopped at the cemetery,” said Darius.
“What cemetery?” asked Maslon, the tone in his voice condescending and accusatory.
“The cemetery. The one where my family is buried. It’s on the way to the Rekkers’ house.”
An awkward silence filled the room, and it wasn’t broken until Ms. Oldham scooted her chair back and stood up. “Don’t ever waste my time like this again,” she growled at Maslon. Then she turned to Darius and handed him one of her business cards. “If you want to file charges against the officers that did this to you, call me. I will personally see to it that at the very least they lose their jobs.”
Darius had yet to see this side of Ms. Oldham, and he liked it. As she left, Maslon stopped her. “I want him arrested. End of story.”
“Get a life,” said Ms. Oldham.
“You don’t understand. I don’t want this punk at Super Justice Force!” Maslon shouted. He had passed the point of losing his cool, which brought Darius nothing but pleasure.
“You don’t understand, Chuck,” said a voice new to the room. “It’s not your place to get rid of Darius.”
Zander Boeman stood in the doorway to the interrogation room, looking like he had just strolled in on his way back from a day of surfing. He wore baggy shorts with an ugly floral pattern, flip-flops, and a t-shirt that said, “Party Naked.”
“What’re you doing here?” growled Maslon.
“Your boss, Captain Freedom, sent me,” said Z-Boe. “He’s stuck in a meeting, but he says if Darius isn’t back within the hour, you’re fired.”
Maybe it was because Z-Boe wore flip-flops that were being held together by duct tape, or maybe it was because he hated Darius for some inexplicable reason, but either way, Maslon refused to admit defeat. He wanted Darius gone from SJF and sent to jail. That was it. End of story.
“You have no right to take him back,” said Maslon.
“You can talk to the big guy about that,” said Z-Boe. He stood aside while the others cleared the room, giving Darius a high-five when he passed. Z-Boe leaned in close to Maslon, so no one else could hear. “Forget Manny, or Jake Kirby, or anyone else. You mess with that kid again, and I’ll kill you. And I do mean kill—as in dead.”
“Don’t threaten me,” said Maslon.
“It’s not a threat, assface,” said Z-Boe. “And tell your friends who worked him over, I’ll be paying each of them a visit.”
By the time Darius got back to HQ it was almost nine at night. Maslon and the cops had taken him away just before four. When the cops escorted him out the building, very few people at SJF knew Darius Logan. By the time he had returned, his face bruised and swollen, the rumors had started to swirl.
There was some new guy; a Chancer—a really young black kid—and the police and Chuck Maslon had hauled him away in cuffs. Five hours later, he came back, looking like he’d been in a fight. A few hours after that he reported to work like nothing had happened.
For two days, there wasn’t much else people could talk about. Darius noticed people noticing him, pointing him out to others. For other Chancers who had been bullied by Maslon and his Long Arm loyalists, Darius became a symbol. For those who supported Maslon, Darius was an enigmatic force that had knocked their leader down a few pegs.
Maslon’s plan to get rid of Darius had backfired. And in the process, the Legend of Darius Logan had been born.