DER PROCESS Continued…
Jesus! It was nearly midnight. Who the fuck could it be? Oh God! Was it the cops?
Joe liked to smoke more than a little dope every day or so; sometimes he shared some of his weed with close friends – sometimes, for a modest donation, he even shared with close friends he’d never actually met. He had a newly purchased stash of several ounces of weed cleverly concealed in his bedroom beneath the false bottom of a blue plastic trash basket he’d found on a pro-pot site on the ‘Net.
Or could it be about those Bad Religion CD’s he’d sort of forgotten to pay for at Best Buy two weeks ago? He’d been stupid, and store security had caught up with him in the parking lot, but he had lied his way out of it by tearfully convincing the earnest store guards he had a serious medical problem that made it hard for him to “mentally focus”. To buttress his case, he’d shown them an empty prescription bottle, which fortuitously was in his coat pocket, swearing it was his “memory medication”. After telling them could no longer afford the pills since he’d lost his health insurance, they decided not to call the police. The bottle had actually once been filled with Adapalene, an acne treatment; but the part about losing his insurance had been sorta, maybe true. The bank had never provided him insurance. Maybe now they’d figured out the truth, or found about the other half a dozen times he’d shoplifted music. He tried to remember where the stolen CDs were but came up empty.
Jesus Christ, if he was busted he’d lose his job in the bank. It was a pissy, part time job with no benefits and he hated it. At least it wasn’t hard. He needed the money, as little as it was. He’d been telling himself for nearly two years he’d quit as soon as he got something major published (once he finished the first of those major somethings, of course).
The pounding started again, more intense and alarming, piercing his mental digressions like a sharpened bayone blade. Joe jumped up, dropped the bag of chips. A dozen of the yellow chips escaped, tumbling out the crinkled plastic bag, then skittered off the couch and landedon the dirty tile floor. Joe tip-toed Indian style to the door on bare feet.
“Who is it?” he asked, not liking the way his voice trembled; he tried the question again in what he hoped was a deeper voice.
“FBI!” The voice was deep and no nonsense brisk. “Open the door now, Mr. Kay. Don’t make us break it down.”
Joe froze again. The FBI! This was bad – oh so very bad – this was nightmare bad. They wouldn’t be at his door over a few ounces of weed or stolen punk music CDs, not the FBI. What did they think he had done? The FBI! Jesus!
“Do you have a warrant?” Kay’s last girlfriend had been a twenty something, redheaded first year law student. Her main attraction for Joe had been her freckled, eye widening tits. Her mouth, however, had been a nonstop turnoff: she was always chattering on and on and on about her classes, her law school friends and totalling boring, obscure legal crap. He was pretty sure she’d said the cops couldn’t just come into your home – something about it being like a castle – without having a warrant. He wasn’t sure, though; he had done his best to tune her out except when he was trying to get her to fuck him.
“Joseph, stand away from the door. Now!.” This new authoritarian command hit Joe like a high school bully’s sucker punch. Kay quickly danced away from the entrance, crushing half a footful of Tostitos in the process. Just as he finished retreating his cheap apartment door exploded off its hinges with a loud, wicked ripping sound, then clattered off the tile floor and broke into three jagged, unequal pieces. Before he could mover – or even think – four alarmingly large men in suits were suddenly inside his apartment and rushing toward him.
“Whaaa – ?” Before Kay could finish his question, the first two menquickly grabbed him by his arms, twisted his wrists together behind his back, then snapped a pair of handcuffs on him. Despite the cuffs, the two agents continued gripping his elbows tight enough to caused pain and freeze him in place.
“Check out the rest of this place,” said the man, who had to be at least six two, with the voice he recognized, “but do it quick.” The fourth guy, shorter and darker than his three companions, the one who didn’t have his hands on Joe, he looked to be the youngest, nodded and quickly disappeared down the short hall to Kay’s bedroom and tiny bathroom.
Realizing he was trembling and that he had an urgent need to piss, Joe looked at the FBI agent who was obviously in charge. “What’s going on!” The cuffs were too tight; he grimaced at the pain. “Why are you here? What am I charged with?” The agent in charge peered down at Joe butdid not answer his questions.
None of the three agents spoke; the one in control started tapping his foot. The short FBI guy finally returned a few minutes later from Joe’s bedroom. “Found some pot in one of those ridiculous fake bottomed trash things the sell online; do these potheads really think we don’t know this shit ? You want me to bag the pot for evidence?”
The boss asked if their was anything else. “Well,” the shorter agent replied, “the place was a real mess – moldy food under the sheets. Weird little Star Trek figurines in the tub. But I didn’t find any videos, newsletters, books, or any shit like they said might be here.”
“No computer or anything – CD’s, thumb drives, things like that?” The tall agent asked, but from his tone he knew the answer. Those idiots, he thought to himself. “No laptop, smartphone? Telegraph. Smoke signals?”
Franz shook his head. “Nothing like that, Chief,” he said smiling.
“Maybe he knew we were coming…” the man holding onto Joe’s left arm said. “He could’ve ditched it, or given it to one of his people …”
“… Then he stayed here, Willem, calmly eating peanut butter and pickles, getting high? Wasn’t worried he’d be busted – ddn’t leave cause he wanted to fix us supper?” the boss snorted. “Our boy here is either part of a really, really deep sleeper cell, or just another SSR bull chase by our cowboy comrades… “Franz, flush the pot, get him a coat and we’re out of here.”
The subordinate turned back toward the hall. Half a minute later Joe heard the disheartening sound of his stash’s bitter death by drowning. While the toilet continued to run the agent returned. “You got a coat?” Forgetting for an instane he was cuffed, Joe tried to raise his left hand to point toward his small living room closet. The cuffs cut painfully into his wrists. Grimacing, and not trusting his voice, he silently nodded in the closet’s direction.The agent glanced up. “Got it,” he said as he strode to and opened the door. After a brief pause filled the rustle of clothing and the hollow clink of colliding wire hangers, he pulled out Kay’s worn woolen coat, walked back to Joe and draped it over Kay’s shoulders. “Not much of a coat, but good enough to get him down to the Ponderosa.”
“What law have I broken? Tell me!” Joe tried to step toward the head agent; but the two agents holding him instantly jerked him back. He was shaking now, tears in his eyes. The twin FBI men gripped his arms tighter. “Please! I have a right to know!”
After a brief silence, the agent in charge responded. “Mr. Kay, I cannot tell you. We only know someone somewhere on high wants you taken into custody pursuant to one or more of the Special Security Regulations. That’s why we are here…”
Joe tried to say something but the agent raised his hand.
“The contents of all those SSRs, there are several hundred of them we’re told…
Franz interjected: “DHS churns them out like cheap biscuits…”
“… are strictly classified. Frankly, we aren’t allowed to know what most of them provide, what is allowed or prohibited.” He just barely smiled. “In fact, the very existence of the SSRs themselves is classified, too; so I really shouldn’t have told you anything.” He turned to the agent on Kay’s right elbow, “put him in the car, Manly. I want to be home by supper – my girl’s got a recital at eight. Peg gives me shit if I’m not there.”
“Where are you taking me?” Joe demanded while trying to find a sitting position in the car’s backseat which eased the pain in his back and wrists. “What’s going to happen to me?
“Can’t tell you. We just pass you off to Homeland Security; they decide what to do with you then.”
“That’s For sure,” the driver muttered.
Kay digested this news. “They’ll take me in front of a judge then? Tomorrow? To let me make bond?” The head agent turned away, paused, then said, “Not exactly, son, but their officers will explain everything when you get there.”
“But I need to make bond! He was agitated and his handcuffs softly rattled behind him. “I need to call someone – my family, or maybe a friend, to get the money for a bond.” Joe shook his head, “everybody gets to make bond.
The head agent turned toward the backseat and stared silently at Kay for a moment. “Normally you’d be correct, Mr. Kay. But things aren’t quite the same in an SSR arrest. For one thing, no arrest warrant is required and an arrestee may be held without bond for not more than ninety days unless a DHS senior officer sooner certifies the need for continuing detention. We do not have to Mirandize an arrestee if we have any articulable suspicion a terrorist act may be imminent, or possibly immenient.” After giving an instruction to the agent driving, he continued, “the thing is, the fact of your arrest is now deemed an SSR classified event. If we were to let you call anyone and you blurted out that you were under arrest, you and I would both be facing twenty years.”
“I want a lawyer!. I want a lawyer!You gotta give me a lawyer!” Joe didn’t even notice he was sobbing. He was having trouble breathing and began gasping for air. Had they poisoned him or something? Fear and panic sliced through him like midnight lightning and thunder. “I know its the law – I at least get a lawyer no matter what!” The cuff’s metallic chatter was constant now. He shuddered and dropped his head, then mumbled, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this is happening to me…”
“You don’t get a lawyer,” Franz, the burly agent to his right said, in a surprisingly soft voice. “See, Mr. Kay, you aren’t charged with a criminal violation so the Sixth Amendment doesn’t apply. This is a national security proceeding, that’s just a totally different thing. Technically its just what we call a special national security preliminary inquiry, or SNSSPI – “Snesspee”. The theory is you are assisting your government in a matter of national security.”
The agent, perhaps wondering if he had said too much, looked at his superior in the front seat, who nodded and picked up the narrative: “If they decide to try you before a security tribunal in a year or so you probably get a lawyer – if you still want to contest the charges; but not until then. Of course if they decide not to give you a hearing, they’ll either let you go free…”
“Fat chance of that,” interrupted Willem, the agent to Joe’s left.
…or,” the leader patiently continued, “ they may hold you indefinitely if a field director deems it necessary in an affidavit.” He turned toward the driver. “Step it up, Manly. The sooner with get this sad bastard to those sick DHS cowboys downtown the better.”
“What?” Kay asked, not understanding, “I’m not entitled to a trial, with a jury, then?” The chief agent did not speak or even turn around, but he did nod his head. The agent to the right of Joe stared silently straight ahead.
“Jesus! They can just lock me up and throw away the key, is that really right?” When the agents continued to ignore him, Joe began to sob again. “Oh my God – oh my God. What have I done?” Yellowish snot began to seep out of his right nostril and trickle down into his mouth. With his hands cuffed he was powerless to do anything about it.
“Oh shit,” the other backseat agent swore, “he’s pissing himself!” Joe hung his head, hunched his shoulders forward and stared down in mortification at the dark stain spreading out from the crotch of his pants. The FBI agents flanking him both rushed to quickly move away from him as far as possible. The ended up mashed against the rear doors.
The rest of the drive passed in silence, except for the occasional rattle of Joe’s handcuffs, and his moans and sniffling. Finally the FBI sedan slowed, then turned left onto a service road, then right into a dimly lit, nearly empty parking adjacent to a nondescript dirty white three story building. At the end of the building they slowed, then turned left and crept along the short wall until they came to a wide, low ceilinged entrance into the building’s dark interior.
The car stopped about thirty feet from the entrance, its high beam headlights angled toward the opening and illuminating a patch of mottled concrete beyond. After a tense wait, three men emerged from the gloom of the parking garage (if that’s what it was). Unlike the FBI agents, they were dressed casually in khaki pants and, despite the chill weather, white, pullover short sleeve shirts with some kind of round badge over each officer’s heart.
No, no,” Joe blubbered, “they can’t do this to me.” He began rocking back and forth. “They can’t, they can’t, they can’t, they can’t;” he was whispering now, “they can’t, they can’t…”
“Yes, they can,” Franz said quietly without looking at him, putting his hand on Kay’s should and forcing him to stop rocking.
“What?” Joe was staring at the approaching men, each of whom he now noticed were blond, carried an oversized pistol and wore shiny black boots.
“I’m sorry,” Franz said, ” but the thing is, they can hold you for as long as they want wherever they want,” the agent tuned his head toward Kay. When Joe turned to face Franz, agent smiled. “It’s shit, Joe, absolute shit – its wrong, damn wrong, and most of us know its wrong – but they can do it to you.” The FBI agent shook his head. “I wish we could help you. I wish I could. But we can’t. Nothing. we can’t do nothing.”
Willem, the agent on the other side of Kay joined in: ” And there’s nothing special about you – its not like you’re Osama’s favorite nephew – they do it to a lot of guys. Hundreds, maybe, more every year, all across the country. Women, too. I’ve even heard they’ve detained a few kids under fifteen.”
Franz spoke again, with more passion: “They can keep you till their damn war officially ends, if it ever does – maybe longer if a security tribunal says so.” The Homeland security officers were now only a dozen yards from the FBI sedan.”The war. It’s an excuse for everything. To make anyone just disappear – “
“Franz, that’s enough,” his superior ordered.
What war?” Kay involuntarily drew back into the seat. The handcuffs bit painfully into his wrists.”There’s no more war, didn’t the troops just come home from Afghanistan?” He looked at Franz. “Are we at war with some other country now?”
The apparent leader of the Homeland Security detail motioned for Franz to open the driver’s side rear door.
The agent ignored the peremptory signal. “Not that war, you idiot, our holy war on terror.”
Joe leaned toward agent Franz. “Listen,” he pleaded, almost in a whisper and getting his body and face as close as possible to the FBI agent. “Listen, please, can you at least call my mom, let her know I’m not dead, OK? That’s all. Don’t tell her what’happened to me if you can’t, don’t say who you are – just tell her son’s alive. Cab’t you at least do that? Please,” he was whispering now, his face on Franz’ shoulder.He reeked of urine. Franz was disgusted by the river of snot rolling down Joe’s face. “Oh, God, please …” Kay was sobbing and violently rocking his body again. He realized his snot was smeared along the FBI agent’s suit just below the right shoulder. “I’m sorry, sorry, sorry…” By this point the boss had turned around again and was staring at Joe.
Franz froze for instant, then gently pushed Joe away from him and back toward the center of the backseat. Joe felt his stomach heave and thought he was about to be sick. He wondered what Tostitos vomit would look and taste like. But he couldn’t throw up. It would make them mad and they wouldn’t call his mother.
Joe scooted forward on the car seat, looked imploringly at the FBI agent in front of him. “She’s sick. She has some sort of thing with her heart. She’s always worried about. You can call her – from a pay phone, maybe, nobody will know…” None of the four FBI agents said a word. None looked at Joe.
The lead Homeland security officer was at the door. Without saying anything, he reached down and jerked the door open. “Give use our faggot little traitor, Franz.” When the FBI agent didn’t move, the officer shook his head and grinned, his eyes staring at Joe. “Jesus, you fibi’s are such fucking bleeding hearts. Come on, Franzi baby, quit horsing around and give me this asshole. We haven’t water boarded anybody all week.” He laughed then turned to share his mirth with his colleagues.
“This guy’s a mouse,” Franz said, scorn in his voice, “what did he supposedly do, anyway?”
“You don’t have clearance, Franzie. you know that..”
“Get out of the car, Franz; you, too, Willem,” the head FBI agent ordered in a tired, even voice without turning around or glancing at the men outside the car. “You know the drill – he’s their baby now.”
The sound of both rear doors opening destroyed the last tiny shred of hope Joe Kay still had. He went quietly.He did not resist when Franz pulled him to his feet or when two of the DHS officers began pulling him toward the building.
The security officers handled Kay much harsher than the FBI agents had. After the FBI sedan drove swiftly out of the parking lot, the officers cursed him, and pushed him forward repeatedly until he fell to his knees. In the near darkness a hundred feet or so into the garage, one of the officers, the fattest one, jerked Joe up off the ground until their faces were so close Joe could smell the man’s alcohol laced, sour breath. “Hope you like cages, asshole. You’ll likely be in one next to all of your Jeeehad brothers.”
The lead officer turned back and glared at Joe. “Of course we got a few questions to ask you first about your friends and your plans to attack ; if you don’t pass our little test we may have to send you to Egypt 0r Pakistan for a little remedial education.” With no warning, the officer holding Joe punched him hard in the gut then threw him down onto the concrete face first. Joe saw stars, then tasted blood – and one loose tooth -in his mouth. He realized he had unknowingly defecated in his pants.
The men laughed, then all three began kicking him with their shiny black boots. Joe waited to die. He wanted to die. That wish was the last thing Joseph Kay remembered from his first day as a registered SSR 75-18(a)(4)(C) detainee. There would be many more days for him to remember – it was was going to be very, very long and brutal war.
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