Chapter 12

“Precious Medals”

The Next Morning

City Hall of Los Angeles

Stack shifted his weight on the crutches to sell his fictional injuries to the cheering people of Los Angeles. He caught the eyes of the Chief, who was midway through a fabricated speech about honor and duty in the face of ‘domestic terrorism.’ Jessup must be crawling in his skin right now, Stack laughed to himself.

“And it was thanks to the fast thinking and ingenuity of Detective Bob Stack, that all ten of the attacker’s plans were thwarted with just precision. He sent a message to terrorists, domestic and abroad, that we will not stand idly by, regardless of whose favor the odds are in, and let them take our rights and lives away.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and darted another painfully awkward look toward Stack. The crowd roared with approval of the speech—a speech that Chief wrote in the car ride over as if it were a Mad-Lib children’s activity book. “We lost seven of our finest officers that day, but they did not get eight. In the war on terror, every inch is a mile—and Detective Stack,” he paused for the audience uproar. “And Detective Stack moved that mountain a mile.”

Stack laughed into his clenched fist as Chief continued to get more lost and his metaphors began mixing in a dizzying array of bad symbolism. He waved to the crowd and recollected the conversation they shared two days before that moment.

He remembered finally getting out of holding and reporting for duty in the Chief’s office—Ransic posted at the door cleaning whatever two thousand calorie abomination he had for lunch out of his teeth. Stack brushed past and slammed the heavy door behind him. “Chief,” he said flippantly.

“Stack,” he growled with disapproval.

“You wanted to see me?”

The Chief took a badge and a revolver from the top drawer of the desk and set them on the thick oak desktop, the badge rocking back and forth across the surface. “I believe these are yours.”

Stack raised an eyebrow but made no eye contact, “thank you, sir. Will that be all?”

“No. Please, have a seat so we can discuss some things.”

“All things being equal, I’d prefer to stand, sir. Though I’m sure you’ve heard, I have been in a holding cell for three days,” he finished, again not making eye contact with his superior officer.

“Oh cut the crap, Stack. There are no cameras in here. You chose to stay in holding for three days.”

Stack looked directly toward the lens of at least one camera he knew was in the bookshelf. “Sir, I’m quite sure I have no idea what you’re talking about. My understanding is it took three days to corroborate, I wish a had a better word than this, but the heroics of my actions when the SWAT team did not, for whatever reason, gain entry and attempt to save those officers we lost in the conflict.”

The Chief’s eyes widened at the brazen disregard on display before him.

The detective brought his eyes down, finally making contact. “In further, I hope the knowledge that I brought those murderers the justice they deserved, even when exercising the use of non-standard tactics, brings some comfort to the spouses and families of those brave men and women that lost their lives.”

Chief stood up and walked over to his detective. He spoke in hushed and threatening tones, “look. I’ll play ball with you on this, Stack, but we need something from you in return.”

“The knowledge that I have served my state and my country are all the gratifi—”

“I can’t award you the Medal of Valor without a promotion. We lost Mulkey and Schiefer, and if anyone else was awarded that promotion there would be a public outcry.”

Stack tilted his head, actually confused by the new information. “You want to make me Detective Lieutenant?”

“No, I really don’t.”

“It would be an honor. I humbly accept the responsibilities being asked of me by my country.”

“Oh, for the love of god,” the Chief mumbled under his breath, clearly fed up with the Boy Scout routine on display before him. “You know I’m still a Police, right? I actually care about this badge and what it stands for—regardless of whatever mockery you’re attempting to make of it right now.”

It was Stack standing in the office and reciting rhetoric, but it was Eliot Ness who turned to his officer and spit fire. “This badge means more to me than you could possibly know. You need to understand, I didn’t ask armed assailants to burst into your poorly defended Police Department to try and destroy everything we’ve built here together. I’m glad they’re dead. I’m glad that Alex Heton was here on suspicion of murder charges, because without his help, you would be hanging by your dick right now. So how about showing just a little respect for the only guy standing between you and the front door, sir.

The Chief took a seat behind his desk and bellowed in silence for a few moments, reflecting on everything Stack had just said. He reached once again in the top drawer and pulled out another police shield, this one an entirely different metal. This one was a Detective Lieutenant badge. 

Stack grabbed it and slid it into his pocket; he couldn’t contain the momentary smile that crept across his face.

“You know what has to happen, right?”

Detective Lieutenant Stack laughed back at the Chief, “I knew what had to happen when I walked in here. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

“Will you do it?”

He looked out the window at the cars rushing around on the busy streets of Los Angeles. “It’s all we got.”

Stack snapped back to attention, still standing on the stage in front of the Los Angeles City Hall building and accepting the reward for his bravery. The Chief walked over, pinned the Medal of Valor to his uniform, and went back to the podium as the roar of applause overtook the stage. “Before we conclude, I know that the Detective Lieutenant has prepared some words of his own to say on this historical day for the Los Angeles police force. Bob?”

He walked up to the microphone, his throat drying instantly and his hands beginning to shake. Stack flipped through his note cards nervously, but knew in moments he would set them aside and never once refer back to them. It wasn’t within his ability to stay on script. “I am still piecing together the part I played in stopping the attackers that attempted a takeover of the West Bureau Hollywood Precinct.” He swallowed hard and looked out across the sea of flashbulbs going off in his face. “The last few days have been the most trying of my life as I waited for clearance of any wrong-doing in the attack. I humbly thank all of the people of Los Angeles for the honor of earning a medal in defense of the citizens that live here. I know it would mean more if my seven colleagues that perished in the attack could be standing by my side, but I know they would want to get back to work because that’s just the kind of men and women they were. They were heroes all, and I stand graciously in the shadow of their selfless sacrifice. I beg of the media to ignore my actions as best they can, and focus on the courageous men and women that lost their lives defending this great city.”

Stack wiped a real tear away from his eye and took a quick sip of water as the press snapped shot after shot of the ‘Hero of Hollywood.’

Almost got through it, he thought to himself. Just a little further.

“The injuries I sustained in the attack were not only physical, though those have played a role in my decision, but there has also been a significant amount of mental trauma inflicted during the tense standoff. I have not slept through the night since the ordeal and at current I believe I am unable to fulfill my duties on the Los Angeles Police Force.”

Gasps echoed around the group of parasites holding tape recorders. Stack looked around and thought that they must all be thinking about local Emmy’s for whatever poorly cross-faded bit of garbage they would edit together from childhood photos and third grade music teacher interviews.

“With a heavy heart,” he looked over at the Chief trying desperately not to smile, “I announce my indefinite hiatus from the service. I stand tall knowing that my final act as a Police was an honorable one. I ask for your privacy as I return to my home and try to battle back from this unprecedented attack on our state and our country. Thank you.”

He stepped down from the podium and the roar of questions that were hollered up to the stage was deafening. Perhaps they had missed the part about respecting privacy, Stack thought to himself. He turned to the Chief and shook his hand for real. “You know, I’m going to miss this,” he projected over the cacophony around them.

“You did the right thing, Stack.”

Was Jessup being nice to him now that he held up his end of the bargain? “I sure hope so, Chief.”

The portly Chief of Police leaned in closer, putting his mouth as close to Stack’s ear as close as he could. “I think we both know you have other things on your mind, Eliot.” He gave Stack a wink, turned both of them toward the crowd, and raised his hand in a celebratory show.

The applause washed over Stack as he stood dumbfounded that the Chief just referred to him by his real name.