Reasonable Doubt

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           Reasonable Doubt

Helen Chapman

Chapter One

Derek Paul Braden and his girlfriend lay in bed asleep when he first heard pounding on both the front and back doors.   He rolled off the bed to retrieve his trousers as the door give way to the steel battering ram.  ‘Police! Warrant!’

The bedroom door burst open, slamming back into the wall and digging the knob deeply into the plaster. As Braden looked up as a laser pin-point appeared on his forehead. ‘Freeze!  Police!’

Before Braden had the chance to ask what they were doing there, or who they wanted, hands caught his shoulder and shoved him roughly to the floor.  A knee imbedded in the small of his back, pinning him to the carpet, his arms pulled brutally back and he felt cold steel  handcuffs encircle his wrists.

From his vantage point on the Berber, Braden could see nothing when the lights were finally switched on in the room, other than a dozen or so feet, all wearing highly polished boots.  He knew from the sounds and the laser points near his eyes that they were aiming weapons at him. He tried to raise up, looking for his girlfriend, but was shoved back.  

At last, Braden felt hands lifting him under his arms and thrust him face-first into the wall.  A foot kicked Braden’s feet apart, then another hand shoved his face tight to the wallpaper.  He felt someone feeling between his legs, as if he was hiding an Uzi or AK-47 in his naked groin.  He tried to protest, only to have his head shoved tighter against the wall.

The same person, whoever had just become so personally acquainted with his genitalia, took Braden by the shoulder and roughly spun him to face his attackers for the first time. 

Eight black-clad bodies, appearing to be male, but asexual in their full-face riot helmets,  jackets, Kevlar vests and fatigue-style trousers, were arranged in tableau around the room.  Six weapons trained at varying angles upon Braden, while two were aimed on Braden’s girlfriend, who cowered face-down on the bed, her hands also cuffed behind her.  Braden saw someone had at least had the decency to pull up the sheet to cover her naked body.  

At the signal from the man obviously in charge, all but one man lowered his weapon.  The leader said, ‘Where is he?’

Braden stared at the man opened mouth.  Coming to himself, he asked, ‘What the fuck are you doing here?  And where’s who?’  His defiance earned him a shove back into the wall with a black jacketed forearm.

The voice behind the helmet said, ‘You know exactly who I’m talking about, Braden. We’re looking for Nate Riordin. Don’t play dumb.’

Braden stared hard into the face mask, trying to figure out just what exactly this man wanted. ‘Well, I suppose, as it’s three o’clock in the morning, Nate’s home in bed.  Or in somebody’s bed. How the hell should I know?’

With his elbow still pressed into Braden’s shoulder, the leader turned his head slightly and said, ‘Get this man a pair of pants. I don’t want his bare ass sitting in one of my vehicles.’  One of the men moved to search a dresser drawer.

‘Loo, look here,’ the searcher said, holding up a pistol by the trigger guard.  

‘Well, Braden, you’re in deep shit now,’ the man holding him said.

‘For what? Exercising my Second Amendment rights?’ 

‘No. For having a concealed weapon.  I want a full search of the premises, men. Attic to cellar.’

‘Loo,’ one of the men holding the girlfriend at gunpoint called, ‘what about her?’

With a gesture, he called another man over to hold Braden, then walked to the bed. ‘What’s you name?’ he demanded of the woman cowering on the bed.

He was answered by a whimper from behind the sheet.

Grabbing the edge of the sheet, the man others called ‘Loo’ snatched the sheet away from her.  ‘I asked what your name is. Answer me.’  He wasn’t screaming, not yelling obscenities at her, just a firm, insistent tone demanding obedience.

‘Rosa Ramírez,’ she whispered.

‘What? I didn’t hear you.’

The woman took a deep breath. ‘Rosa Ramírez,’ she said a little louder.  ‘Where’s my sister?’

Rosa noticed that ‘Loo’s eyes seemed to  smiled at her behind his mask.  ‘She’s in the other bedroom. I’ve got men with her now.’

Braden called from across the room. ‘If you’re looking for Elian Gonzalez, he’s already back in Havana with his father.’  Braden’s head made a resounding thud as it slammed back into the wall again.

‘Loo’ turned to Braden once more. ‘Derek Paul Braden, you’re under arrest for possession of a concealed weapon, resisting arrest, and harboring an illegal alien.’

Braden sputtered. ‘I didn’t resist.  I never had the chance to resist. And Rosa’s not illegal. She was born in Brownsville, Texas.’

‘Loo’ turned back to the bed. ‘Honey, you got a Green Card?’

‘No,’ Rosa answered. ‘I never had one.’

‘See. She’s illegal. Bring her.  The sister too.’

‘But I was born in Texas,’ Rosa objected, grabbing futilely at the bed clothes.

‘Yeah,’ the man holding the gun on her said, ‘you and half the other Greasers in Texas.  That don’t mean shit, honey.’  He grabbed her by the arm, yanked her roughly to her feet, then lewdly slapping her bare behind. ‘Get something on, unless you want to ride downtown like that.’

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