Melbourne, Australia: A birthday in the twilight zone.
A colleague on the job in China.
Melbourne, Australia circa 1990's: A Convict's Tale.
Something strange happened to me once, on a birthday… many years ago…
Such a special day. A birthday. The day of birth, celebrated by loved ones as a mark of transition in life. Its all about kicking back, relaxing, enjoying the special moment with friends and family.
Not for me. Not that year. Sometimes I do what I want to do, the rest of the time I do what I have to do. No complaints, just reality.
Its like that, and sometimes that’s just the way it is… putting yourself through university isn't always an exercise in intellectualism. Especially when you're using the money to travel instead of study... lol
Melbourne - 1990's.
I check my watch. Its 5.30 am. The air is frigid. Mist rises and falls with each breath I take, flaring up under the iridescent glare of florescent globes. The cold cuts through my uniform, chilling me to the core. My fingerless gloves do little to protect me from the frost that is numbing my hands into submission. I have the winter blues. My belt adds 25 kilos to my frame, the bulk is in the extendable metal baton sheathed in a leather case, the 2 way radio and the cuffs that are clipped to my back. The metal of the baton is super-chilled, so with each step, the handle sends icy shocks through me as it makes contact with my side. I’m miserable, but I keep moving. I have a job to do and I need to stay alert. I’m moonlighting as a security guard, pulling the end of a graveyard shift.
Twighlight. The guards here call it ‘junkie hour’. The danger zone where the desperate pull desperate moves to avoid the curse of the cold turkey. I fight the cold to stay alert. I'm on the lookout for fiends that go 'cluck' in the night.
I make my way across an underground car park of a large shopping centre, approaching a fire exit door. I am bored, watching seconds tick into hours in rhythm with my footsteps. I approach quietly, always so quietly, walking slowly across the concrete floor. Eventually, the stalk walk becomes habit. The entire car park is empty, except for a few cars stranded here overnight. Thats not unusual - some people make other plans, others get intoxicated, some just lose their cars. I take care not to let my footfalls echo across this vacant space - just in case. Despite my excessive caution, I am greeted by the same mundane surroundings I checked half an hour before. In a few hours, this car park will come to life with shoppers and I will be on my way home for some much needed sleep. That’s not now though, now I’m just a cog in a machine of repetitious nocturnal patrols that never end. Time is crawling. I wish I had a life remote - I'd press fast forward and get to the main event. I draw nearer to the door…
Then I freeze. The door is ajar. Just a fraction of an inch betrays the breach.
Adrenaline hits me like a freight train. I quickly withdraw, my back to the concrete wall adjacent to the door. This has never happened to me before. I'm so green at this. I key my radio with jittery fingers, the volume turned down to its lowest setting. The operator responds:
Me: “Patrol 4 to Base, uh uh... priority, over”
Base: “Base to Patrol 4, go ahead, over”
Me: “Base, I have a breach. Uuummm.... Carpark... Its level 1, the fire door, over”
Base: “Patrol 4, stay stationary, watch the door, we are sending backup now, over”
Damn straight I'll stay stationary. Getting wasted for minimum wage is not my gameplan.
Me: “Patrol 4, received, make it quick, out”.
Backup is on the way. I just need to wait this out. Just as those thoughts clear my head, I look up in time to see the fire door swing open, moving in an outward arc. Shit, backup’s too late. My mind scrambles and I realise I’m caught out in the open and in a second, I’ll be facing whoever is coming through that door. When they turn to close the door, I will be seen! I tense up... What if there is more than one? What if they’re armed? I make a quick decision that I can’t afford to take any chances. Its them or me. I decide to use the doorway to level the odds - if its closed, it is a barrier. Even if its only half closed, it will be narrow enough to keep contact ‘one on one'...
I’m already reacting.
I bolt towards the door and ram it with my shoulder as it opens. The steel lined door rockets inwards with great speed: “CRACK” It hits the person on the other side with full force, making a sickening sound as the panel connects. I jump out of the way of the ricocheting door, letting it pass me by. I’m looking into the doorway of the fire escape now.
In the shadows lies a lone figure, sprawled on the floor and clutching his head. Scattered around him are electrical items, still in boxes. He’s alone, male, 30’s, slight build, no weapons. I breathe a sigh of relief. Its not the incredible hulk image I had in my head a moment before. Wasting no time, I flip him face down onto his stomach and pin him. I grab his arm and leverage his outstretched elbow against my raised knee. He tenses as I apply the pressure. I only have to hold him for a few minutes. His arm is covered in track marks. Junkie hour.
I’m in control now. He starts to cry. I feel sorry for him, but I can't let him go. Its too risky.
I decide to key the radio again - time seems to be taking forever, and I am feeling very alone…
Me: “Patrol 4 to base, emergency, over”
Base: “Base to Patrol 4, go ahead, over”
Me: “Base, the car? I’m in the fire escape. I have someone caught, over”
Base: “Base, received, back up has been dispatched. ETA 2 minutes, over”
Me: “Hurry up! Out”.
I fumble for the cuffs with my free hand. They fall off my belt, clanging as they make contact with the concrete floor. Amateur move. The guy beneath me twitches and strains against me. It’s a telltale sign. He’s got a past, I know it now, he knows that metallic sound. He is getting desperate and he wants out.
He begins to struggle, trying to take advantage of my distraction. I leave the cuffs and drop the radio’s transmitter to the floor to put more pressure on his elbow. He grunts and freezes. He can’t get out of the lock… and to my surprise, he begins to scream. There are no words, no anger, no pain… just noise. My mind races… why is he screaming? He shouldn’t be screaming…
I see a shadow fill the fire escape, a darkness descending from my rear. He is not alone… I feel the air move. My mind registers the displacement, cold air rushing past my neck, making way for something big, moving fast. Instinctively, I release the elbow lock and try to raise my hands to shield the back of my head, moving my head downwards, but I run out of time. The blow connects and I feel a shockwave pass through my skull. My brain shifts. There is no pain, just darkness.
I’m falling. I’m gone.
I am awakened by a blinding light. Where am I? Confusion and nausea wash over me in waves. Ugh… I have a splitting headache. Images are scrambled. Then, gradually, the light dissipates. Slowly, the images descramble and I see a uniformed figure above me, torch in hand. Backup has arrived. The figure comes into view and he helps me sit up, propping me against the concrete wall. He is laughing… I look at him, confused. Very funny. Asshole.
I ask him: “Whats so funny?”.
He can’t talk, he is too busy laughing, but he points to the doorway, where I see a large square object lying on the floor.
I repeat: “What is it? Whats so funny, asshole?” I'm really not happy now.
Finally, he gets a breath back and replies: “ You just made history. The only guy on this detail to get taken out with a baby bath. Congratulations… Way to clean up, officer!”.
Worst birthday - ever :o)