You Have the Right to Remain Silent…

The Cast: Erich (holder of the bag), Myself (unwilling), Police Officer (curious), Richard (indifferent).

“What’s in the bag?” The police officer asked so calm and casual that I knew we were in for it.

“What’s in the bag?” I’m sure you’ve heard that line on television or in movies so many times that to say that it’s cliché would be cliché. Yet, there we were. Well, more specifically, there was Erich, holding said bag. We were dead.

If you’re new to this blog, great. Welcome. Glad to have you. If you’re not, well then, you already know that I used to be a teenage superheroor tired very hard to, anyway. Anyway, as per the usual Friday night efforts that myself and my two buddies would engage in to help cut back on local crime were engaged in, wait… I think I got myself lost. Let’s start again.

Friday night. Check.

Myself, Erich, Richard. Check.

Desperate to be superheroes. Check.

Not doing so great. Nope. I hadn’t got there yet.

If you’re new to this blog, great. Welcome. Glad to have you. If you’re not, well then, you already know that I used to be a teenage superhero—or tired very hard to, anyway. Anyway, as per the usual Friday night efforts that myself and my two buddies would engage in an effort to cut back on local crime, we—once again—found ourselves without crime to cut back on. The night was dead. (that’s a little foreshadowing for you—I think)

We were new at the whole hero shtick. I think it was maybe a year into the “Maybe we should actually do some sorta’ training, or something?” phase of everything. Costumes were more on paper than in cloth. Except for me. I had a full ninja-yoroi (ninja costume). See, back in the ‘80s, ninja anything was cool. Ninja in a movie = movie instantly better. Ninja soft drink = Soft drink will kill you (and you won’t even know it). Ninja + Turtles = Instant hit (for-ev-er). Yeah, ninja.

My brother, for reasons I have never asked about, really got into the whole ninja thing. He was buying books, gear, throwing stars, nunchucks, the costume… You name it. Then, he was done with it. And, when your older brother is done with something, sometimes he hands it over to you. And he did. “You want my ninja costume?” Rawlin so calmly asked one day. Of course, I said, “YES!” with my eyes bugging out of my skull. Why would I turn that thing down? Because I was in a fever state. That’s the only reason.

Okay, so, I had in my possession a full ninja-yoroi. I also had two friends that were willing to be wanna-be superheroes, like me. How could any of this, when combined together, go wrong? Easy.

As I have already mentioned, Friday nights were standard patrol nights. They were easier to get permission to have sleep-overs at a friend’s house. It was the end of the school week, so staying up late had fewer consequences. Stuff like that. Well, when you’re new to crime-fighting, have little training, get bored easily, and run out of ideas, what do you do? Go to the local 24/7 gas station: Top Stop.

It was a Top Stop, but we called it Top Spot. I don’t know why. Funny thing, where I live now, there is a real Top Spot. And, for some odd reason, I would call it Top Stop—for years. I almost never have to make corrections anymore (for either location). Anywho… This particular Friday night had Richard, myself, and Erich bored pretty quickly. We had been wandering around without a crime to stop. Nothing so much as a jay-walker. There weren’t even any cars dragging the main street. The town was dead. What to do? “Anyone wanna get some snacks?”

I don’t recall who asked. What I do recall is that we all did want to. Except me. At least, not right away. I was in ninja attire. That probably wouldn’t go over well in the store. Also, the three of us had an assorted collection of knives, ropes, staffs, and such. That also wouldn’t go over well. We would require a dropping off of stuff, and me, a change of clothes.

When these points were brought to the attention of the group, a new plan was hatched. “Why don’t we just put our stuff in the duffle bag?” I think it was Erich that had the bag. He had been using it as a sort of backpack/carry case.

“Because I’m in a ninja outfit?” Came my rebuttal.

“Then you should be fine. Nobody will see you.” Was Richard’s response. This had both Erich and Richard in stitches. This did not make me happy. The more it was discussed, the more sense it made to just pack it all in the bag, have me take off my mask, all three of us go inside to get what we want, then, after we were done, we could get back to patrol without any wasted time.

I did not like this plan at all. I was not ready to reveal to the world that I had ninja gear. Besides, who goes into a gas station convenience store at eleven o’clock on a Friday night in a ninja outfit? Nobody. The way the other two saw the situation, I had two choices: I could either go inside with them or I could wait outside in a shadow for an undetermined amount of time. “Fine. I’ll go inside. But, let’s make it quick, okay?”

“Deal.” And, in we went.

You would think that three teens with a duffle bag walking through a convenience store, late at night, might draw some attention from the clerk. It didn’t. You might also think that if one of those teens was walking about in essentially black pajamas, that that person might draw attention. I didn’t. You would think that if a police officer walked in through the doors, that that would draw attention. It did.

Great. The police.

The officer didn’t do anything, at first. He just walked in to get a fountain drink, or whatever his intention had been, until he saw Erich. Yup, Erich. You might think that the kid in the ninja suit would garner more attention. Nope. Maybe the suit really did work…?

“What’s in the bag?” And then he stood there, tall, imposing, hands on his gunbelt, waiting for an answer.

Now, I’m never going to pretend to know all the laws. I’m also never going to pretend to know all of which laws are there to assist me in situations where this happens. What I did think I knew was… Well, it wasn’t much.

“Let’s see what you have.” Was the officer’s next line.

Okay, so, both my parents were police officers. At that time, they were not. So, once again, I will not pretend to know everything about law. However, at that time, at that all-knowledgable-fourteen-year-old time, I knew one thing. And I used it to protect myself and my friends from some possible jail time. Now, you may be asking yourself why should that be a concern for me? Well, because I never really gave you the details of what was in that bag and the possibilities of the outcomes terrified me.

It wasn’t drugs.

In that bag was a home-made grappling hook, some rope, a few knives, a handful of throwing stars, a set of nunchucks, a home-made kama (I’ll have to explain that one later, suffice it to say it was a combat style knife blade extending sideways out of a length of pine dowel), some fireworks, the parts of my ninja outfit that I wasn’t wearing, tiger claws (the ninja climbing ones), caltrops (another home-made device), the P.A.W.s (which upon retrospect, resembled pipebombs), a tonfa I had made in woodshop, I think a boomerang-like thing (of rememberable design and origin), and duct tape. We were in for it. I knew it. Except, in my adolescent mind, I had that officer outwitted. I had the law on my side.

“Do you have a warrant?” I demanded as I charged up to that officer, my right arm extended with finger pointing all accusatorily. Yeah, he was in for it now. Except he wasn’t.

The officer regarded me with as much indifference as one of those African plains’ animals you see on nature shows when a fly lands on their backs. That policeman barely turned his head to see where the noise had come from before turning back to Erich and the bag. How could this be? He needs a warrant? Right? Right?!?!

Naw. He don’t.

So now, I’m ready to run. Richard had joined this merry band by now, and while we had all come in for something, I was ready for either Erich, Richard, or even myself, to yell out, “RUN!!!” and then bolt out the door with the other two in tow. We had an escape route nearby. I was certain we could have gotten away without an issue. And don’t you even begin to bring up the logic regarding the security cameras that had been filming us and could have been used to track us down. Or the fact that the town was so small the officer probably already knew who the three of us were. Or that the three of us would have probably tripped over each other in a desperate attempt to get out the doors, in the first place. No, don’t you even go there. No, sir.

Erich slid the bag from his back around to his stomach. It was still slung over his shoulder. “RUN!!!” His hand moved to the zipper. “RUN!!!” He looked the officer right in the eyes. “RUN!!!” And then, right before he unzipped the bag… “RUN!!!” He said, “Sure.”

With the bag open, all the above-mentioned wares were now on full display. The metal implements were even glinting in the dull light provided by the humming halogen tubes overhead. “We’re dead.”

The officer reached in. “We’re dead.” Rummaged around. “We are so dead.” Pulled his hand out. “Oh, man! We are so soo dead!” Then he said, “Thank you,” and walked away to get his drink.

We collected our things, paid for them, then left. But, before we reached the door, the officer called out to us, “Stay out of trouble. Okay?”

“Sure thing, officer.” And that was that.

Looking back, I suppose that the policeman may have suspected we had created a series of five-finger discounts for any number of items, and was checking the validity of that thought. He may also have seen us as the pathetic teens we were and figured we were too stupid to do anything serious with what we had. Regardless, nothing ever came from that moment. We even just ended up separating and going to our respective houses for the remainder of the night.

All in all, it was quite pathetic—if you think about it.

And I have.

A lot.

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