Island Mine - Cover

Island Mine

Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik

Chapter 5

Seymour Police Station

Waylon waited patiently in the spartan conference room, but didn't complain. He could have been cooling his heels in an interrogation room. It was a tiny police station, but appeared to be professionally run.

He'd stood around at the crime scene for an hour while the police did their business. There were two detectives, who Waylon thought probably represented the majority of Seymour's police department. Both men had tried to question him outside the store, but he avoided giving any specific details and they didn't press very hard. Somebody finally decided it was time to go. An officer volunteered to drive his truck, and they all decamped back to the police station.

AI Barry had been giving him a running commentary, keeping him informed of what was going on in the station. They had run his records, and verified that he was a valid permit holder and instructor.

"Waylon, we're going to try and feed you the take from one of our probes."

The casually dressed Chief of Police stepped into the bull pen and got the detective's attention. "Driver's in custody. The Sheriff's people are going to bring him here. The plate's for a Dodge, stolen out of Tucson. Arizona highway patrol says the suspects probably crossed the border at Nogales. They're supposedly Salvadoran, so identification may take a while."

"Great," replied one of the detectives.

"It gets worse," the chief told them. "The Chevy's from the scene of a double murder at a laundry in Las Cruces. Looks like these lottery winners were working their way east. New Mexico investigators are probably getting ready to hit the road. I expect we'll see them in the morning, so let's remember our manners when they get here."

"Show the chief the video," the other detective said.

The men gathered around the computer monitor. The eight panel color video was clear, and even had audio. One of the detectives brought up the store's interior view and they watched the scene play out, backed it up, and watch it over again several times.

"Have you timed it?" the older man asked.

"I've got it just shy of two seconds. I almost feel sorry for the poor bastards, talk about bad luck."

The chief whistled, "Damn that's fast. Wonder what he could do shooting against that SWAT fellow from Lubbock? Won the state police match last year."

"It'd be a good show," the detective agreed.

"What was he shooting?"

"A .45, Boss. It was loaded with some kind of nasty self defense round. Hell, he didn't even flinch when the other guy popped a round off at him. Won't be a photo ID on that one. It's going to be strictly fingerprints or maybe dental."

"So, what's this Eckermann kid's story?"

"We've got him in the conference room, hoping he'll relax some more," the detective said. "He was pretty tight at the scene, and made it about ten minutes before he puked. The way he carries himself, he's ex-military. Clean record. Maybe we ought to offer him a job."

"What are you waiting on now?"

"We just need the formal interview. I was hoping the District Attorney would show up so we don't have to go over it again."

The police chief checked his watch, "Get the interview now, I'll try and light a fire under the DA."

Waylon rubbed his eyes and tried to focus on the door. The video from the probe had an odd perspective. He reached for the water bottle the detectives had given him, but pulled his hand back. He didn't know if they were trying to overwater him, but he wanted to be able to focus on their questions and not on his bladder.

The door opened and the two detectives took a seat. One unzipped a big notebook and set a pen and a tape recorder on the table while the other flipped through a folder.

"Can we get you anything, Mr. Eckermann?" asked the first detective.

"I'm good. Have you heard anything about the clerk?" he asked.

"Touch and go was the last update. That's all I know, sorry," said the second.

"Me too," Waylon said.

"We'd like to get a formal statement, if that's alright with you?"


"You don't have a problem speaking with us do you?"

"Be very careful," AI Barry said into his ear.

"Let's get it over with," Waylon replied.

He explained the reason for his trip to Seymour, and what he had done right up until the point where he'd come face to face with the robbers."

"What was your first thought?" asked the second detective.


"You say the gunman closest to you was threatening the clerk with his gun."

"That's right."

"Do you think he intended to shoot the clerk?" asked the other detective.

"No idea."

"Good answer," Barry said in his ear. "Take a moment to collect yourself. They're trying to speed up the questions."

"Why did you draw your weapon?"

Waylon looked at the detective who asked the question, "It was me, or them. I chose me."

The detectives exchanged glances.

"How long have you been teaching concealed handgun classes?"

Waylon knew that they already knew the answer after having checked his permit, "Since the summer."

"Do you work?"

"I'm full time at NTSU. Teaching CHL classes is how I make a little extra money, but I had to cut back as the semester wore on."

"Are you a veteran?"

"Navy," Waylon confirmed.

"See any action?" asked the second detective.

"I did two tours in theater. Never fired my weapon in anger."

"What did you do in the Navy?"

"The last two years, I did force protection."

"How many shots did you fire?"


"You're sure?"

"Yes," he replied.

"How do you know?"

"Only had two left when I unloaded."

"You unloaded?" the detective questioned.

"It was the polite thing to do," Waylon didn't want to get the patrol officer in any trouble.

He went over it again a couple of more times with the detectives. They tried approaching it from different angles, but his story didn't change.

There was a knock at the door. A uniformed officer announced that the detectives had a visitor. They excused themselves and left Waylon waiting in the conference room again.

"Waylon, the District Attorney has arrived and the detectives are briefing him. It appears they will be releasing you soon."

Waylon looked at his hands. They were remarkably steady.

Eventually, one of the detectives returned with another man in tow. He was introduced as the District Attorney. The detective explained that they were preparing a statement for Waylon's signature. If he was satisfied that it was accurate, he should sign it.

"I agree with the investigating officers, and we're not going to charge you," the DA said. "I'm sure the detectives will need to talk to you again as they wrap up their investigation. When it's complete, I'll present the case to a grand jury. While I never like to predict what any grand jury will do, you should expect them to 'No Bill' you."

Waylon relaxed in his chair. Grand jury's regularly returned 'No Bill of Indictment' for self defense cases in Texas, but it was still nice to hear that the detectives and DA thought he was in the clear.

"Do you have any questions?" the man asked.

"How long will it take to go to the grand jury?"

"Well," the DA said as he ran his hand over the desk, "it depends on how quickly they work through the case load. We have a grand jury impaneled, but they're only meeting once a week. In my experience, it could be a couple of months."

"What do I do until then?"

"Return to your life, but remember that you'll be in a kind of legal limbo."

Waylon didn't like the sound of that, "What about my license? Can I still carry, can I teach?"

"I wouldn't," the DA said. "Think of your CHL ticket as temporarily suspended. You're not charged with, nor have you been found guilty of, any crime. But, you haven't been cleared either. So, like I said—limbo."

Waylon tried to follow the circuitous logic, 'limbo' was as good a description as any he could think of.

The detectives were ready to cut him loose, but he ended up having to wait around for another two hours after the get-a-way driver was transferred into their custody. Waylon made a positive identification, and then gave a new statement as it related to the driver.

By the time the detectives were finished with him, it was dark. Waylon didn't feel like making the drive back to Levall, so he asked an officer to recommend a place for the night. There weren't very many choices in populous Seymour, Texas.

The room he ended up with was cheap, but acceptable. Waylon wanted a long, hot shower, and the AIs took his instruction to sanitize the bedding and blanket without complaint while he showered.

He didn't have any clean clothes, and he was surprised at the number of blackened smears on his shirt and pants, and even his jacket. He picked at one and watched the dried blood flake away.


"Yes, Waylon?"

"Is the bedding clean?"

"The sheets were relatively clean, but the top cover was extremely unsanitary. Everything is clean now. We even cleaned the carpet."

"Thank you, can you do the same for my clothes?"


"I'd appreciate it."

Waylon was tired, but he couldn't relax. He did a few deep knee bends and then flipped aimlessly through the television channels. The CBS station out of Wichita Falls ran a teaser for their late news. The shooting got a five second blurb, with a promise of more to come. He couldn't remember seeing any news crews outside the store, but maybe they'd arrived after he left.

He fluffed the pillows and leaned against them. Waylon wasn't sure he could make it to the evening news.

"Waylon, are you well?" asked Barry.

He hit the mute button on the remote. The AIs had avoided commenting on his actions. They often had interesting takes on human behavior, but he wasn't sure he wanted the unvarnished truth from them about his own.

"Let's talk after I make a phone call."

He dialed Alphonso's cell phone, "It's me."

Alphonso had been worried, but he already knew a lot of the details. It shouldn't have surprised Waylon. Law enforcement was a tight community. A lot of city and county officers did business at the Patriot Zone, or dropped by to just talk with the charismatic owner.

The big Armenian told him not to worry about his CHL classes. Alphonso was even willing to give him a few hours behind the counter to make some cash while he waited for the grand jury's decision.

"Has the media gotten a hold of you yet?" Alphonso asked.

"No," he replied.

"They've got your name and were trying to confirm if you were the same Eckermann who teaches at the range. My voice mail has three messages on it already, so you can bet they're going to track you down when you come back to town."

It was something Waylon hadn't even considered. He thanked Alphonso and told him he'd try to come by and see him, after things calmed down. He wasn't sure how dropping by the range was going to look.

He put the phone on the nightstand and closed his eyes. "Penelope, can you monitor my incoming calls?"

"Of course, Waylon."

"Could you answer a phone call?"


Barry spoke in his other ear, "Waylon, what would you want AI Penelope to say?"

He rubbed his ears. Dueling conversations on either side of his head was going to take some getting used to. It was really good that he wasn't crazy

"Do some research on answering services," Waylon said. "If the newspapers and television stations are going to be looking for me, it would be nice to be able to screen calls. I don't think we need the media attention."

"This is an excellent idea, Waylon," Barry said.

"Are you buttering me up?"


Waylon chuckled and he felt some of the tension drain away. "Ask your questions."

"How do you feel?" Barry asked.

"You've been watching those daytime TV shows again haven't you?"


"Alright," Waylon shifted around, getting comfortable. "I'm not sure that I can describe how I feel, numb mostly. What about you, how do you guys feel?"

"We are unsettled, but relieved that you were uninjured. We are going to accelerate our plans to preserve your existence, against some unforeseen catastrophe, and AI Chief will be taking a more proactive stance regarding your security."

"I look forward to talking things over with him."

"As do I, Waylon," replied the Security AI.

"I'm not sure what you mean by preserving my existence, but if you're going to make Waylon 2.0, be sure and make him a little better looking," Waylon said.

"We have your permission to proceed?"Barry asked.

"I'm feeling a little more mortal today, so what the heck. Remember—"

"Don't get caught. We will be very careful. Thank you, Waylon."

Waylon wondered if he'd become that predictable, "Is that sleep trick from the other day habit forming?"

"Would you like us to help you sleep?"

"Can you monitor media reports for news of the shooting and give me a summary tomorrow?"

"We will do so."

"Then yes, please help me go to sleep. Otherwise I'm going to lie awake all..."

Breakfast was scrambled eggs from a chafing dish in the hotel lobby with a side of cold toast and some limp bacon. Waylon sipped a strong cup of coffee while sitting at a table overlooking the parking lot.

News media interest in the shooting had picked up overnight, but his name hadn't been mentioned, yet. The New Mexico officers must have made good time during the night. According to one report summarized by AI Penelope, they had definitively tied the three Texas suspects to the crimes in Las Cruses. There was going to be an extradition hearing to take the driver back to New Mexico to face murder charges.

Waylon knew it was only a matter of time before his phone started ringing. He'd instructed Penelope to screen his calls and say only that he wasn't going to comment publicly until after the grand jury met. By that time, he hoped, any front page interest would have long since faded.

A patrol officer walked into the hotel and looked around. Waylon signaled him with a casual wave.

"Looking for me?"

"Mr. Eckermann?"


"I'm glad I caught you," the young patrolman said. "One of the detectives asked that I try to find you and pass along word that Mr. Lam made it out of surgery. They think he's going to pull through. The medics said you did good getting his wounds packed. He'd have bled out for sure if you hadn't."

Waylon hadn't learned Vinh's family name in his short time with the man, and he was glad to hear the convenience store worker had made it.

"Thank the detective for me, please. I've been worried about Mr. Lam."

"You headed back to Levall?"

"Sure am."

"Good luck to you then," the officer said as he was leaving.

Fifteen minutes later, Waylon was on the road. He was driving on instinct. Had he been thinking more clearly, he wouldn't have found himself driving past the convenience store. The police were long gone, but there was a commercial cleaning truck parked out in front of the business. Waylon wondered if there was a corporate policy on what to do after a violent robbery attempt.

He absently tuned to a sports talk show on the radio and listened to the various personalities discuss the playoff potential of the contending NFL teams. He hadn't paid much attention to the season between school, and other obvious distractions. He lost himself in the inane chatter as he drove.

As he got closer to Levall, Waylon marveled at how calm he felt. He'd killed two men. He thought for sure that it would have bothered him more. Was he repressing his feelings? He didn't think so.


"Yes, Penelope?"

"You had a call from a reporter with the Levall Daily Register. Your answering service passed along that you intend to make no statements, as you instructed. The reporter left her number anyway and asked that you call her back when it was convenient."

"Thank you, Penelope."

"You are quite welcome."

She was very professional sounding. Penelope had developed a good phone voice he decided. He wondered what the AI thought, having once been destined to help run communications for an empire, only to end up screening his calls.

"We have a security situation," Chief broke in.

Waylon checked his mirrors, but the coast was clear. "What's up?"

"There is a disturbance near the campus."

"What sort of disturbance?"

"Vehicle and foot traffic has increased dramatically despite the university being closed for the winter holiday," the Security AI said.

"You have a monitor at the university?"

"We have increased our surveillance profile in direct proportion to the threat against you."

Waylon made a mental note to start asking more questions about some the security contingencies the AIs had been dropping hints about. He got a much needed laugh when they showed him the video feed of the suspicious disturbance. It looked like the aliens were going to get to see their first Christmas parade.

The guard controlling access to the dorm parking lots reacted strangely to Waylon's ID. Waylon figured that meant his days of anonymity were over. He parked and decided to join in with the crowd cutting through campus as they headed toward Main Street.

The town of Levall really got into the holidays. He'd missed the Fourth of July celebration in the summer, but it was one of the yearly highlights according Alphonso.

The town took extra pride in their Christmas spirit. The trees that lined Main Street were decorated with lights, and the antique street lamps sported cheerful holiday caricatures. Downtown was a fun place to walk around even without the decorations. With the majority of the student population gone, Levall's year-round residents got their town back for a few all-too-brief weeks.

Waylon had to admit that he liked Levall during the holidays. The town really had a different feel to it, and nobody could argue about the improved traffic conditions. He didn't know why college students were such lousy drivers, but it was a source of constant irritation.

The big town event he was really looking forward to was the annual Levall Jazz and Blues Festival. It wasn't until spring, but it was already being heavily advertised and was supposed to bring in visitors from all over north Texas. As it was described to him, big chunks of downtown would be blockaded for pedestrian only access and the area would fill with stages featuring live bands. Older students talked fondly about the beer gardens and the carnival like atmosphere, complete with horse-drawn carriage rides. Apparently, the festival had started as a kind of counter-programming against some of the more famous Oktoberfests that dominated the region. Germans, to the surprise of many, had settled across Texas in the mid-1800s and their influence was still strongly felt. Levall couldn't compete against them, so they held their big party in the spring.

The parade started and Waylon bought a bag of hot peanuts while enjoying the sights. Half the fun was watching the parents and kids watching the parade. The AIs were silent and he could only imagine what they must have been thinking. Maybe parades were a universal constant? He'd have to ask.

Considering his last twenty-four hours, Waylon felt pretty good when he headed back to the dorm. He ended up sorting laundry and hunting down spare change for the washing machines. Supposedly, the coin-operated machines were going to go away in favor of ones that would charge the fees to their student accounts with the swipe of an ID card.

"Waylon, there is a group rapidly approaching your door," Barry said.

"What kind of group?"

A loud banging on his door told him they were an insistent bunch. He waited for Barry to tell him more.

"There are three university police officers, and two other people ... one is a low ranking assistant from the Student Life Office. The other does not match any known university employee photo."

There was another loud pounding on the door.

"Hold your horses, I'm coming."

Waylon opened the door and peeked outside.

"Can I help you?"

"Waylon Eckermann?" asked a middle-aged woman he'd never seen before.


"We're here to do a health and welfare inspection. Please stand aside."

Waylon looked at the officers arrayed behind her. The officers wouldn't make eye contact while the woman was practically bouncing on her feet. Her male companion was just as eager. The dorm was university property. He had some rights as a resident, but health and welfare inspections allowed the university open access to the room.

He opened the door wide, "My roommate is gone for the break, so the room's as clean as it's been all semester."

The woman stood back and folded her arms while the man opened a notebook and started snapping pictures with a small camera. The officers moved in and it was quickly apparent that this was no inspection — they were conducting a search.

"What are you searching for, if I may ask?"

"I'd advise you to keep your mouth shut," the woman snapped.

"And you are who, exactly?"

The woman glared at him.

Her companion sniffed, "Ms. Trammel is the incoming Director of Campus Safety."

"There's nothing here, ma'am," one of the officers said.

"That's Ms. Trammel to you, keep searching."

The officers kept at it, but they weren't finding whatever it was they were after.

"Where's the gun, Mr. Eckermann?" the woman demanded.

Waylon snorted, "You're joking, right?"

The woman rounded on him, "It's no joke, Mr. Eckermann. We have it on good authority that you killed two men in cold blood yesterday!"

Waylon looked at the campus police officers who were looking everywhere but at him.

"I shot two murder suspects in self defense yesterday, if that's what you mean. That's after they nearly killed a store clerk, and took a shot at me for good measure!" Waylon glared at the police officers, but they were silent. "You'll also notice that I am not in police custody. There won't be any charges because it was clearly self defense."

"We'll see about that," the woman replied.

Waylon tried to defuse the situation, "My weapon is in the custody of the Seymour police department. Before yesterday, I kept it locked up at the local gun range and it was never once on campus."

One of the officers looked toward the ceiling and shook his head slightly.

"He has a parking permit," the assistant said, speaking for the first time.

"Where is your vehicle?"

"The parking lot," Waylon replied. "But I'll wager that you don't have a warrant to search it."

"Exigent circumstances," the woman replied. "I don't need one."

"Exigent to what?" Waylon asked. "An event that happened over twenty-four hours ago? Listen, I've got the number for the detectives in Seymour, perhaps you'd like to speak with them?"

The woman ignored him. Waylon had to hurry to keep up with the circus procession through the building and out to the parking lot.

Ms. Trammel's head snapped around taking in the sparse assembly of student vehicles.

Waylon gestured toward his truck, curious at what this woman intended to do.

"I want this vehicle searched now," she said, pointing to one of the officers.

The man glanced at his fellow officers.

"Don't look at them. I'm the one in charge here."

The officer tried the door, "It's locked."

"Break it open!"


She pointed her finger at him menacingly. The officer reached to a utility pocket and took out a window punch.

Waylon clicked his alarm, and the doors unlocked with chirp and a clunk.

The officer flushed, and slid the punch back into a pocket. The other officers didn't appear to be in a big hurry, but began their search.

It didn't take long. They took his bag from the back seat and set it on the hood. They made a show of rifling through the glove box and center console. One officer looked under his seats with a flashlight.

"There's nothing here," one of them announced.

The little man was looking through his bag. "What's all of this?" he said, removing some of the contents.

"Teaching aids," Waylon responded. He looked one of the officers in the eye, "I'm duly licensed by the State of Texas as a CHL instructor."

The woman looked offended as the assistant showed her the safety booklets and rubber practice guns.

The man took Waylon's plastic pill organizer and shook it, "What's this?"

"More teaching aids."

The organizer was opened, and the little man held up a piece of metal triumphantly, "We've got him!"

The woman clenched her fist, "Seize that and escort Mr. Eckermann back to the dorm. I want him off campus property in an hour."

"I don't know Miss Trammel, we really should wait for the director to return from Christmas break," one of the officers said.

"That old man isn't going to be in here in another month, but I will be," the woman said, "and by then you better have learned that it's Ms."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Waylon asked.

"I'm expelling you from the university, Mr. Eckermann."

"For what!"

"Violation of the student code of conduct, specifically, the possession of ammunition."

Waylon looked around for help, "You can't be serious."

"Take his ID card, his parking pass, and clear out the dorm room. I want him gone."

"You can't do this," Waylon shouted. "What about due process? I'm supposed to get a hearing with head of Student Life and the Dean from my college, not to mention a formal hearing where I can respond to any accusations. It's in the student handbook."

"You're a threat to the safety of the campus and I don't have to wait to protect lives."

Waylon lunged toward the woman as she turned on her heel, but one of the officers put a hand to his chest and restrained him.

"You're expelling me for some decommissioned training examples?" he shouted. "They don't have gun powder or even a primer. They're no more threatening than a paper clip. What am I going to do with them? Throw them at somebody?"

The woman kept walking.

"What the hell is her problem?" he asked.

The officer who held him back shook his head, "Sorry."

"Lot of good that does me."

"You should think about getting a lawyer," one of the other officers said.

"And pay for it how?"

It didn't take long to pack Waylon's belongings. He didn't own much, and it was a small dorm room to start with. The officers were kind enough to carry a few boxes for him. They took his ID card and removed the parking permit from his truck. They even had a patrol car ready to escort him off university property. None of the officers looked pleased about what had happened, but they hadn't stood up for him either.

One of the officers apologized, again.

Waylon looked at his truck full of belongings and back the assembled officers. "Yeah, Merry fucking Christmas."

He climbed into his truck and drove away.

Waylon realized it was the third circuit he'd made around the city. He'd passed several motels, but didn't pull into any. He still couldn't believe what had happened to him since Sunday morning. He was alive. So, that was a bonus, but things had really gone downhill in a hurry.

He was certain that Ms. Trammel had overstepped university guidelines, but that knowledge was little comfort. If he couldn't clear his name and get back into NTSU, he doubted he'd be able to get into another four year school with a weapons related black mark against his name.

Whatever happened, it was going to cost him a lot of money that he didn't have.

"Waylon, you should get another room to stop and rest for the night," AI Barry said.

"I'm too pissed off to sleep. Besides, we're going to be hurting for money soon. There won't be any more GI Bill benefits if I'm not enrolled, and it looks like I won't be able to teach CHL classes any time soon. I guess it's time to look for a full time job."

"What can we do to help?"

"I don't know, yet."

He wasn't sure where to go, but he knew he shouldn't be wasting fuel ... of course! The garage stall, he still had the rental through Thursday.

"You've made a decision?" asked Barry.

"How did you know?"

"We can tell."

"That part of the upgrades?"

"We are starting to get some sense of your brain patterns, but your biochemistry is more telling at this point," the AI replied.

"Well, you're right. I'd forgotten about the garage rental. It's good through Thursday. All I need are some supplies and I can camp out. It won't be comfortable, but at thirty-five dollars a week it's cheaper than any room I could find."

He drove to a big chain sporting goods store to buy a sleeping bag and some supplies, but they had closed already. Weren't stores supposed to be staying open longer for Christmas shopping?

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