The Right To Remain Silent

The street kid on a BMX bicycle nearly runs me down. His face contorted with what looks like either anger or fear. He’s hauling ass away from the Egyptian Theater’s backdoor. Two cops stand there staring after him. A trail of unwashed stench hangs in the air as he passes.

I step over the slimy patch of sidewalk behind the souvenir shop off Hollywood Boulevard. The first time I walked this route I’d thought someone had pissed on the wall. But came to realize it’s something much deeper in the building leaking out through a crack in its foundation. There’s a dark green fungus quality to it – like a million microbes are alive and I’m stepping over some ancient mildewed civilization.

The taller cop gestures towards me as I approach and I stop, shifting the bag of groceries from one hand to the other.

“You live round here?” he asks.

“Live?” I say and stare at his badge: a gold crest with an image of City Hall and underneath it, “Founded in 1781.” I’m trying to remember what year California became a state when the other cop taps my elbow.

“Hey, he’s talkin to you,” he says.

“And I fuckin answered,” I respond.

“I.D.” says the taller one, pulling out a black leather notebook from his back pocket.

“You guys bored?” I ask and dig in my bag for my wallet.

“Man was shot here last night,” says the other cop.

“Dude, it’s three in the afternoon, that was last night. What the hell you bugging me for?” I shift the groceries back to the other hand and step into a small strip of shade a palm tree is affording across the sidewalk.

“We’re canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses,” the taller cop says. He’s got my driver’s license in his hand, and he’s writing in his notebook with a pen. I look at the other cop, whose wearing mirror shades like he’s a southern sheriff in a movie.

“Where were you last night?” he says and removes the shades revealing a hard expression of hatred.

“I wasn’t standing here,” I say.

“See or hear anything?”

“Define anything,” I respond.

“Anything unusual,” says the other cop.

“Let’s me see, my neighbors were fucking real loud. But that’s not unusual. They do it all the time and she’s a screamer. The homeboys across the street had a party and their music was really loud, but you guys came by at least three times and told them to turn it down. There’s a crackhead living behind my building’s dumpster. He’s got a mattress and a beat up TV spliced into the streetlight’s power lines. I could hear the news, something about stem cell research being halted, and then David Letterman…”

“Shut the fuck up!” yells the other cop, his hands clenched into fists.

The taller cop hands me my license and closes his notebook. Two kids walk by and the other cop glares at them. They stop talking and cross the street. I stare at the taller cop until he nods his head, which I take to mean I can leave.

I heard the gunshots last night. I heard the squealing of tires, people shouting and a woman scream. But what the fuck, I’m no suspect and resent the hell out of being treated like one. Besides, I heard, I didn’t see shit. We’re standing more than a block away from my apartment. If the cop had actually looked at my address he’d a known. So what kind of witness would I make? Fucking cops.

“Hey!” yells the other cop. I turn around and he does that weird thing – pointing two fingers at his eyes and then one at me – which might look cool in the movies, but causes me to laugh.

“Whatever man,” I say and walk into the bright sunshine towards home.

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