“It’s all right Uncle Carmichael. You know all the little circles have to be colored in with a #2 or some paper pusher down the line is going to go bonkers. I’m fine now that I know Aunt Rachel’s hip isn’t broken. I like to have died ten times over when I saw her fall. It was like Grammy all over again.”
“I’ll be right outside here if you need me Prissy Britches.”
Uncle Carmichael left the room but on his way out he let those interviewing me know that he wasn’t going to be real tolerant of anything out of the ordinary. As the door closed I saw Cliff skulking out there as well. And even after my uncle had left the room was far from empty. In addition to several different investigators from different agencies there were a bunch of lawyers too from all of the interested parties … the county, the state, the insurance people, the hospital, Aunt Rachel’s lawyer, and some I don’t have the foggiest idea who they were.
“Your uncle is very protective. Why would that be? Hmmmm?”
“That’s what a real man does. When my parents died I never had to wonder who was going to take care of me. So … you want me to tell you what happened one more time? Think you can remember the correct sequence of events this time?”
She didn’t like my snark but I hadn’t enjoyed hers either. She opened her mouth but someone else in the room asked politely to start at the beginning for their benefit. And that’s what I did.
Aunt Rachel was chuckling when we made our way inside the butcher shop. She wasn’t very fast so I stood there with the door open to help her over the threshold. When the door closed behind us I noticed the place was awful quiet despite all the cars in the parking lot. Then my eyes found the people sitting on the floor and another visual sweep showed a guy heading our way with a pistol aimed right at us.
It is strange; my memories at that point are like a movie with most of the sound turned off. Everyone keeps asking if I was thinking of Tamika and those other girls and I can say honestly that I wasn’t really thinking at all for a while. The barrel of the gun seemed like the only thing I should be focusing on so that’s what I did, even after he pushed me down. At least until …
“Until?” they prompted as I faded off from telling the tale.
I sighed. “I realized he was shouting at Aunt Rachel, telling her to get on the ground only she’s got real bad arthritis and moves slow even on her good days. Making her get on the ground wasn’t going to be easy for her. Then he kicked her cane away and swept her legs out from her making her fall. I mean it was free fall. She didn’t stumble, she was airborne for a moment before coming down. I was scared to death she had broken her hip and when I tried to crawl to her he stomped my hand. It didn’t hurt at that point but it shocked the rest of my senses back online. I heard him screaming curses at everyone, shouting that the money better get in the bag or the old … er … lady would be the first one to take the hit. Then Aunt Rachel moaned and he kicked her and was bringing the gun down to point at her and I don’t know … I just knew he was going to kill her like he said and I grabbed a can of Chunky’s Campbell soup that was on the shelf I had fallen by and came at him.”
The female federal agent gave a derisive snort and asked, “Did you think you were being brave?”
I shrugged realizing she was someone that was going to push me regardless of how it made her look. “Brave had nothing to do with it. He was going to kill my aunt. Could you sit there and do nothing for an old lady that had done nothing but love you your whole life?”
“That’s irrelevant Miss Baumann.”
“No, it isn’t. See if you could sit there and let something like that happen then there is no way to explain to you what I was feeling. I didn’t aim. I didn’t think about hurting him or revenge or anything close to that. All I was thinking was that I had to stop him. That’s all. He was going to kill her and I had to stop him.”
“Like those girls that wanted to kill you needed to be stopped?”
“Huh? What happened then and what happened today have nothing to do with one another. Besides Tamika and her crew only wanted to teach me a lesson for something they thought I had done … which if you read the report everyone agrees that I didn’t do. The girls’ emotions got out of hand and they didn’t stop or couldn’t ‘cause they were so jacked up and in the moment. I don’t think that Tamika really thought I’d die. Get maimed and scarred up yeah, but not get dead. If they had meant to kill me outright they would have caught me outside school where they could hide the evidence or whatever. A couple of the girls admitted they’d talked about doing it that way then decided they wanted to make a statement instead to prove how right they were.”
“Hmmmm all you want but trying to make me look like Tamika won’t wash. I hit that guy once and only once. I just wanted to stop him from killing Aunt Rachel. My one hit made him stop so I stopped.”
“Your ‘one hit’ shattered the boy’s face and put him in ICU.”
“He’s not a boy, he is a couple of years older than me. He’s also bigger than me and Aunt Rachel put together even if he does look young and skinny in those pictures you showed me. He’s older than that now. Plus he had the gun to make him even more powerful.”
“I didn’t aim. I don’t think I could have hit him if I was aiming. He had stomped my hand – I’m a righty – and I suck doing much of anything with my left hand. I just swung my arm and the can connected with his cheek. When he fell back I dropped the can and rushed to Aunt Rachel who was going into shock. Next thing I can honestly say happened was when this woman started patting my shoulder and asking how old Aunt Rachel was because the 9-1-1 operator was asking.”
They went back over what happened again and again trying to lead me one place or the other, asking for details I didn’t know and refused to guess about. At three hours I was ready to cry again but didn’t this time. At the four hour mark some really important looking guy from the back of the room got a call startling everyone because all cell phones were supposed to have been confiscated at the door. We all looked at him when he snapped at the federal investigators, “Enough.”
The female fed of the dynamic duo tried to run her mouth but the important guy put a sheaf of papers in her hand and said something like it couldn’t be contained and had already started to go viral. She got a poisonous look on her face as she read over what he had handed to her. When she flipped a page a couple of the lawyers saw what they were and started squawking and asking if they were being played and that they weren’t going to risk their necks and reputation “this time”, that it wasn’t worth the damage. Then one of the lawyers started barking at the feds and asking them if they’d been in on it from the beginning. I thought for sure there was going to be a brawl with the female fed being the one to throw the first punch at the important guy for “setting her up after all she’d done for him.” Or that’s what I heard anyway.
The male fed – the supposed good cop of the duo – pushed his way over to me and suggested, “Why don’t you take this opportunity and leave?”
Being much less of a fool the second time of experiencing a full blown crap storm I stalled and said, “And walk through them? Uh uh. They look out for blood and I don’t want to set anyone off. Plus, don’t I need to sign something? I had to sign a gazillion papers last time the feds got involved. Y’all have like a fetish for that sort of thing.”
At that moment Aunt Rachel’s lawyers showed up and said calmly, “I’m sure it was a momentary oversight Winifred.” He turned to the rest of the room and called, “Which of you need signatures from this young lady? The investigators seem to have completed the deposition and are releasing her.”
He hid it fast but I realized that the “good cop” was just as big a crap head as his female partner and his goal had been to get me in trouble. Dirty rotten jerk. I also soon found myself bracketed by Uncle Carmichael and Cliff. I felt like an abridged copy of a few Mother Goose poems being smooshed by a couple of copies of “War and Peace.” I didn’t even have my hips anymore to bang them with to get some space.
Another hour and the sun long set and my hand – badly bruised but not broken – was throbbing again after the little bit of pain med I had been given wore off. Also, both of my thumbs were black from putting my thumbprint by my signature to prove that the chicken scratch was actually mine.
“Is that all of them?” Uncle Carmichael asked the assembled crowd of suits.
It was and I was finally able to leave their “custody.”