It was a day after my life was set ablaze. I couldn’t go to work and I couldn’t give anyone some superior customer service like how I’ve promised. I felt as though I was a failure to everyone and I couldn’t let this feeling linger over me. One day removed from the incident, and my body felt shaky. Even though I wasn’t an amputee, I felt like I was missing some limbs or organs after the destruction of the Freevale Urban Credit Union. I stayed inside and I went back to analyze the footage. This was a train wreck that I needed to watch over and over. As I was minding my own business, Mirembe walked in as she wore her nightgown.
“Kato, why are you still watching the security footage?” She asked.
I didn’t even look at her. “I want to know everything about this degenerate.” My monotone voice came back. “If I see him, then I won’t hesitate to make his life a living hell so much, he’ll be begging to go to jail.”
“Darling, I know the credit union means a lot, but you can’t just be a vigilante to get revenge on this person.” She told me.
It was then that I looked at her. She saw some bags under my eyes and they weren’t blinking at her. “Oh, I can’t?” I answered her. “I won’t let this miscarriage of justice happen to us. What he did was like child murder to me and I want him to pay.” I got up and decided to leave the house. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get updates from the Freevale Police.” I dressed myself up and left the house. There was so much going on in my mind like the ways I wanted to torture the person who ruined my business.
I had numerous fantasies where I would drive up to find the same car with the confirmed license plate and run his automobile down. I would T-bone my car into his and crush him to death in one particular fantasy. Seeing a barrage of broken glass, dented metal, and his shattered bones caused me to smile as I ended his life. It would be me paying him in kind for committing post-partum abortion to my brainchild. The next deadly daydream I had involved him being cornered in an alley. I saw his faceless frame hyperventilate. There I was armed with a shotgun pointed right at his chest and I fired several rounds to make his body burst open with lead. He was nothing but a mangled corpse in this imaginary alley while I laughed at his demise. The last one that came to mind was him asleep in his own house while I would set his entire house ablaze and bomb it to smithereens. That would be poetic justice if I were to do that.
Okay, Kato. Keep yourself in check. There’s no way I would be able to commit something gruesome like those fantasies because I know I would get twenty-five to life if I pulled that off. It was a problem for me. I didn’t want to hurt anyone if they were nice to me or at the very worst neutral to me. I could never commit to doing something so malicious despite my bullied past. That’s the problem with people who’ve been bullied and dealt with double standards. People like us internalize everything and can only fantasize about all the harm they want to inflict upon everyone in the world that’s hurt them even though we restrain ourselves. I wish I never had that flaw, but people should be glad I never acted on those impulses. Although, with this situation, I’m severely tempted.
I finally got to the police station and I went inside. There was someone at the concierge waiting while there was an array of people walking and running around behind her.
“Yes, how may I help you?” She asked. “The name’s Kato Umony, and I came here to get an update on the situation on my business being destroyed.” I answered.
“Which business was that again?” She put her fingers on a keyboard connected to her office computer.
“Freevale Urban Credit Union. It’s my bank that was destroyed a couple of nights ago.” I informed her. She began typing in the information and she found the case that I reported yesterday.
“Alright. Come this way.” She let me into the station and escorted me to the officers who were on the particular case.
“What are the updates on the case involving my bank?” I immediately questioned the officers who were assigned to deal with this crime.
“We didn’t expect you to be here so soon.” One of the officers told me. “We’re still trying to get more information for this case.”
“Well, what new information do you have then?” I felt like I was in the driver’s seat as I made sure these cops were doing their jobs in trying to find the perpetrator who just ruined my life.
“The only information we got was the kinds of explosives that were used.” There was a sealed bag of evidence that contained shrapnel from the explosion. There were black spray-painted shards in this clear plastic bag. I counted six different-sized pieces inside. “You see, these were homemade bombs used with plastic casings. We also found traces of ammonium nitrate and some other chemicals around the shells.”
“Good, but did you find any suspects though?” I continued throwing questions like free T-shirts to an audience. I tapped my foot on the ground and crossed my arms while waiting for a straight answer.
“We don’t have any potential suspects yet and we haven’t found the car that was in the security videos or any other traffic cameras.” The explained. Their explanations weren’t good enough for me.
I just left in a huff while muttering “Thank you very little” as I rushed out of the office and eventually out of the police station. I was about to head back to my car when I saw four people wearing black hoodies and matching white masks with flame decals on their foreheads. They all stared at me and they were right in front of my car. What was going on over here? That masked quartet began approaching me and the one up front grabbed a knife from his pocket and waved it at me. Why were those guys trying to attack me? I wasn’t going to let this fly. I was going to stand my ground since they were coming after me. They also had such audacity in trying to stalk me right across from the police station. What was their endgame and why would they want to attack me of all people in Freevale? I wasn’t going to run away despite how unnerving the situation was. My brow began to sweat. Without any warning, the one in front stopped walking and began to speed over towards me. The other three followed and began matching the pace of what I assumed was their leader. The knife-wielding one was about to shank me, but I dodged his attack and grabbed his arm. I twisted it in a way to make him drop the blade and I reversed his attack and sent him to the ground. Even though I was able to take one down, I still had to deal with three more people trying to hurt me. Then, the remaining masked attackers drew their own knives and I knew I was in trouble. One of them was able to land a slice on my arm which caused a bloody streak. There was another one that attacked which I tried avoiding. I barely missed that one, but I retaliated by punching him in the throat. He gagged and choked when my fist landed on his larynx. The last one lunged at me and was about to stab me. I grabbed his arm and turned him around to where he stabbed another one of his comrades using his own force to deflect that attack. The one that was stabbed instead was hit in the chest as blood started to leak out from his ribs. For some reason, I started to grin as I watched him suffer while taking some friendly fire. I grabbed the knife that was dropped from the first attacker and I flashed it at the others. They didn’t even budge despite being outnumbered. This was self-defense. Maybe I should slaughter them with their own knife. No, I couldn’t stab them. My left arm still flared up from the agony as part of me was sliced open. I lunged, but I missed one of the masked men. That one fought back and I did my best to block every attack with this knife. Granted, I was more used to hand-to-hand combat instead of weapons. Truth be told, I thought I wouldn’t last as long. I began having some memories of when I was a teenager taking some classes outside of school.
“But how can I destroy everyone who hurt me?” My younger self pondered back then.
I talked with my sensei who lead a judo class at that time. He was my height, but he was on the thinner side. “The point isn’t to use brute strength. It’s to defend yourself from harm.”
“Yeah, but I want to make sure that everyone who has hurt me gets to suffer though.” I retorted. As a teenager, I wanted to upstage every bully who dared to take advantage of me.
“Kato, if that’s the reason why you wanted to take my judo classes, then I suggest you leave and you won’t get a refund from me. Is that clear?” He scolded me. I just nodded. “Very good. Now let’s continue with some reversals and holds.” I would practice after school twice a week where I learned to fight for the right reasons. Sure, I had no plans of getting into a ring or cage, but I felt that it was important to know how to defend one’s self from harm in worst-case scenario situations if I were ever unarmed. Although there were times when I could imagine myself as more aggressive against those who wanted me to fail.
I just didn’t expect that I would be led to deal with a dangerous situation such as this one. Even my enemies back then had the decency not to bring knives to school or to work. I still had the knife in my hand while I continued fighting. I dived away from other bladed swipes where I was able to make a cut on one of their legs. Part of me wanted to avoid aiming for above the waist since I could be culpable for murder. After that attack, I got jumped by one of the masked men from behind and I was stabbed in the back part of my left shoulder. Now that side of my body felt as if it was on fire once that sharp piece of metal was lodged in my flesh. I turned around and I flailed while attacking. I was able to land a few more hits, but the attackers all closed in upon me. It was arduous taking on four men at once. One of them slipped a cloth over my mouth. I gagged once I got a whiff of that and my vision faded to black. The dreams came again.
I saw myself being interrogated by…myself?
There was me in a suit and tie while that other me wore a black tank top and blue MMA trunks that were filled with several random endorsements. Both of us were in a small black room with one light shining over me. I’m sure if that light was off, all you could see would be my eyes and teeth and I could say the same for this other me in this dream.
“You know why I brought you here, right?” The casually dressed me began the interrogation.
“I don’t know. All I remember is getting ganged up on by four masked men right outside the police station.” I then sighed. “I figured they’d get the best of me soon enough.”
“Exactly. You were in an unfair fight with four armed men too cowardly to show their faces.” The other me said. “You know, there’s a bunch of other groups just like them that get away with this kind of crap or worse.” He certainly wasn’t lying about that fact before going to the next question. “Why didn’t you kill at least one of them? You’d be in the right.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” I argued. “I was right in front of the police station and if one of them died, I’d be the one to get charged with murder. You know that self-defense is a privilege, right?”
“So what, Kato? I’d be happy to go to jail if it meant I could body all of them.” He waved his arm around as he pretended to carve up those masked criminals like turkeys. “It’s a shame that you’re inconsistent with your killer instinct.”
“That’s not true. All I wanted was to own my own business to help others.” I replied.
“Did you open the Freevale Urban Credit Union to help people with their cheddar, or did you do it as a big middle finger to everyone that messed with you in the past?” The other me in this dream questioned my motives. “Go on and be honest.” He had his hand by one of his ears. “I’m ready whenever you’re ready to answer.”
I looked down at the bottomless floor. “You’re right about both of those things.” I then began to look at the other person dressed like he was going to a cage fight. “I did start out in opening this business to spite my enemies even though they don’t know that I started the Freevale Urban Credit Union. However, once I opened the bank and saw customers in the area opening their accounts and asking me questions about my business, my stance had changed.” Then, I saw the other me tremble a bit. “All these people aren’t rich and they want to make better futures for their families. They may not be business savvy, but they had enough sense knowing that the money they would put into my bank would be reinvested into the community and not some huge conglomerate. That money can go back to schools, shelters, and under-served regions in the city.” My voice began to rise. “Once they bared their souls and put their hard-earned money into what I built, I realized that I was actually doing some good in this world AND NOBODY IS GOING TO TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME!” I yelled.
“But don’t you still want to beat the crap out of those bullies or anyone that’s hurt you?” The other me asked while his voice shook.
“I’m not going to lie, I have a ton of internalized anger in me and I’ve wanted to do things to all of them,” I commented. “Sure, I have a ways to go in terms of dealing with it, but channeling it into helping others gave me a reason to live.”
The other me began to fade away into the pitch-black atmosphere.
After that, I woke up from this chemical-induced slumber. My vision was blurry, but I began to see where I was. I was in some kind of warehouse. Certainly one I’ve never been to before.
“Kato Umony, you’re finally awake.”
I didn’t recognize that voice. I tried getting up, but I realized that I was hooked up to a chair with no upholstery. I saw those four masked men in the background, but there was one masked person with a light ray design who was in front of me.
“How do you feel?”
“I don’t know. I’m certainly alright for someone who was stabbed, kidnapped, and tied to a chair.” I sarcastically answered this lead masked devil’s question. “Why did you abduct me of all people?”
The lead masked devil just guffawed. “Isn’t it obvious? Someone like you shouldn’t be running a bank in town. We can’t have that happening.”
“Well, I hope you like a recession because the town will lose financial capital and…” Then the realization hit me like a lightning bolt when he said that. It wasn’t just the obvious dog whistle rhetoric, but what he just did was self-incrimination. “So you’re the one who burned down the Freevale Urban Credit Union!” I yelled.
“Come on, I never said I did anything like that–”
“Except you just did!” My eyes began to see red and I suddenly got an adrenaline rush from hearing this subtle confession. Even though I was drugged earlier and knocked out, there was nobody going to keep Kato Umony down. I started trying to break free from my restraints. There was a loose opening, and I broke it open. I jumped out of that chair and I threw a diving punch at the masked men. It hit his face and part of his mask cracked. I couldn’t get a full view of his face, but I could tell that he was shades lighter than me and some parts of a blonde beard were in view. He punched me right back, and he bruised me. Even though I was wounded, I barely felt anything. I wanted nothing more than to ruin him. He ruined my business, so I was in no mood to turn the other cheek. Besides, this was self-defense going on. I tried aiming my fists toward his face because I wanted to know what my enemy looked like. There were a few more cracks on the mask and my fists began to bleed with all the lacerations they took from touching those fractures and shards protecting his face. This guy pulled out a baton and clubbed me straight away to peel me off of beating him up some more. It then extended about a foot and he twirled it a bit.
“You got to love stealing some police equipment. Maybe I should’ve applied to be a cop.” The masked man thought out loud. “Then, I can get away with assault and murder while the public worships me.”
“Thanks for sounding exactly like some dictator thug, you neanderthal.” I growled while I recovered from that club shot.
“What did you just call me?” He raised his voice and charged at me with his extended billy club. He thrashed me a few times before I grabbed the end of the weapon. My opponent proceeded to punch me to throw me off my game, but I ducked. When he wasn’t looking, I took the club away from him. After dodging his fist, I gave him a taste of the stolen club and smacked him in the face multiple times to the point where his mask cracked all the way off. The elastic band behind the mask just fell off and I saw the bruised face of who was the culprit who burned down the Freevale Urban Credit Union. This man had to have been at least ten years older than me, had green eyes, long blonde hair, and a matching beard that was up to his chin. He looked kind of like a middle-aged Viking in a hoodie to me.
“Now that I know what you look like, you might as well tell me who you are…” I pointed the club at his exposed face. “…before I do a police brutality demonstration on you just like how you would do if you had a badge.” Part of me felt empowered saying that as sadistic as I sounded. Perhaps that MMA junkie version of me in that dream came out of me at that moment.
“Stanley Rhodes.” He then snapped his fingers and the other four masks came for reinforcements. “That will be the last time you hear my name.” Oh great, now he really sounds like some more brutal version of a drug dealer. Probably one that used to be a high school teacher, I’d say. The five of them rushed toward me, and I had to figure out a way that I could subdue them all. I almost had one of those moments where the angel and devil would be on my shoulders. Part of me wanted to give out one big swoop to crack all of their heads open like fresh eggs. The other part wanted me to play some offensive defense in order to take them all on. My hand got twitchy as I thought about the ways that I could hurt them with this weapon, but I had limited time. The attackers drew their knives at me as they got closer. I decided to duck underneath them as they jumped towards me and they all fell down. Some of them fell on their own knives. They must certainly resemble masked pincushions if they ever get up. I then decided to act on impulse and I began whacking their skulls with that extendable baton. Hearing their cries and wincing caused me to smile a bit as I made sure they all suffered for their crimes against my business and I. “Do you feel turned on by beating us up?” Stanley asked as I kept inflicting pain. He then turned around and tackled me to the ground. Maybe that wasn’t the best thing. Two of his cronies joined in and stomped on my body. I eventually lost the grip of that stolen police baton and one of the masked men grabbed it and started beating me down with it.
Well, I shouldn’t have given in to my internalized sadism in order to hurt everyone in this abandoned warehouse. I tried rolling away, but I was blocked off by these goons trying to hurt me even more. There wasn’t a way that I could make a clean escape from these three. When one of them tried to stomp on me again, I grabbed one of their legs and twisted around to trip him down while I tried getting up from being their personal floor mat. It was just Stanley and one other henchman across from me. The other one charged at me with the baton. I dodged some attacks while punching and kicking him in the gut before knocking him down. Then, I went straight for that Stanley demon in front of me. I jumped on him, but he reversed my move while he sent me down and wrapped his hands around my neck.
“You’re nothing but a loser, Kato,” Stanley said as he did his best to choke me out. “You failed your community and you fail as a businessman. I wouldn’t have to kill you if you were just some worker at one of the bigger banks. Only some people get to ascend the social ladder, and people like me have to make sure weak animals like you don’t get to be atop the food chain.” I couldn’t even respond since I was losing air. My vision started to get blurry as his visage slowly doubled in my eyes. “Just give up, and I wouldn’t have to kill you. Leave the financial industry to the big boys. You won’t be a loser to anyone especially your fair trade-loving trollop of a wife. I’ll take her off your hands for you.”
Stanley, now you went too far.
I reached my hands out and began choking him. He started to gag and he didn’t see me retaliate. I hope you like the feeling of my hands around your throat as you desperately gasp for air. His grip was loosening around my throat and I could feel myself slowly become free. I flipped over and put him on the ground while my grip constricted his neck as if my hands were an anaconda squeezing the essence out of him. I wanted to make him suffer not just for all the sins he’s committed, but for even thinking of insulting Mirembe. Nobody dares to insult anyone in my family. The extra air that went to my lungs allowed me to feel stronger. Before I could do anything else to Stanley, I was whacked upside the head and I lost my grip. I forgot that there were others around in this huge fight. It was one of the other masked men holding a gun. Shoot, I was too oblivious to my environment where I got pistol-whipped. He held the gun towards me and fired. I tried backing away, but I was shot in the left shoulder. I grunted after getting hit, but I evaded more shots until I charged and took out his shooting arm to make sure he wouldn’t fill me with lead. This was purely insane and this fighting environment was all too new to me. However, I remembered a proverb that my family told me since I was a child. I was told that familiarity can be a sea that slaughters fishermen. It was a pop-up quiz for survival as I had no time to prepare for any test unless one counted my judo background. Even then, our sparring matches weren’t deadly.
I had to think on my feet in order to deal with these armed marauders. I decided to get the gun out of the man’s hand and I picked it up from the floor. Just like that, the goon had his hands up. “Listen up! You all better turn yourself in or I’m going to blow all of your heads off.” I warned everyone in the warehouse.
“Watch out everyone, looks like we got ourselves a genuine tough guy.” Stanley laughed while he held onto his throat as he got up. “How ironic that a bank owner…excuse me, the former bank owner is starting to talk like a bank robber.”
I pointed the pistol at him. “Shut up, Stanley! I’m not playing around with you.”
He just shrugged. “That’s fine. Two can play that game.” He pulled out a gun from his pocket and fired. I shot out at the same time out of instinct. I managed to get him in the kneecap while he got my arm. I still held onto the gun and I fired at the hand that held his gun which forced him to drop it. Before I could continue, I heard sirens parked right outside this building.
Suddenly, the cops showed up as they busted open the doors. “Freeze! Freevale Police! Come out with your hands up.” I did my best to follow orders, but I couldn’t say the same as Stanley began shooting at the cops. The rest of his masked henchmen rushed at the cops with knives and they began to attack them. I did my best to get out of the crossfire since I wasn’t going to be a combatant in this situation. Stanley managed to shoot a policeman in the head. Looks like he wanted to be a part of a certain statistic, and I’ll leave it at that. The police looked shaky out there as if they didn’t want to riddle them with bullet holes. One tried to fire at his legs, but he jumped out of the way. The other ones on Stanley’s team managed to become incapacitated as they were hit by the fire the police returned to them as they aimed for their non-vital regions. The rest of the team began to apprehend them immediately. However, Stanley began firing back and the officer did his best to dodge bullets. I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I felt as though I had to do something. Granted, I wasn’t some skilled marksmen or martial arts world champion. I was an entrepreneur first and I was forced to become a fighter today. Stanley was about to fire another shot.
“Don’t worry, at least you’ll have a nice televised funeral.” Stanley falsely consoled the cop that he tried to murder.
I rushed despite my body feeling sore from fighting five guys today. I jumped up and tackled Stanley to the ground which caused the bullet to be diverted and went to the ceiling of this abandoned warehouse. He was still struggling and I tried to make the job easier for the policemen involved. Stanley kept fighting back and I had to defend myself. Then, I punched him in the face before he returned the favor. I hit him again, but I then put him in an armbar to restrain him unless he wants to get a broken arm in the process.
“Mr. Umony, you can let him go now.” The officer told me. I broke the armbar and got up.
“Yes, sir.” I robotically replied. Good on the officers for not thinking I was suspicious or thinking that I was a villain. I like it when they know who the real criminals were. I had every right to defend myself and I just saved an officer’s life. That’s just one way where I can help the community and I’m glad he wasn’t some corrupt person. The officer got a hold of Stanley and put him in cuffs.
“Stanley Rhodes, you’re under arrest for arson, vandalism, and now for attempted murder.” The officer informed Stanley as he gave of his Miranda Rights before carting him off to be put in jail. That same officer shook my hand. “Hey, Mr. Umony. Thanks for saving me out there.”
“No problem, sir. So how did you find Stanley and all of those neander-thugs around?” I asked him.
“We tracked multiple street cameras and we found the car with the matching license plate.” The policeman told me. “It leads over to this warehouse. We didn’t expect to find you here, too.”
“Same here after they chloroformed me after beating me up. You can add assault and kidnapping to the list of charges.” I informed him.
“Very good, and thanks for telling us. We’ll give you a ride back to the station since you’re still parked in the lot across from it.” The officer said. Well, better late than never. I’m just relieved that they found those devils that ruined my business. We all went back to the station even though I was really sore from all the fighting I did. At least I got to ride in the front seat with the officer I talked to. Those masks better be facing justice and people can hear my cry to make sure none of this ever happens again.
We got to the station and they put those criminals in the local holding tank while I was in the lobby. What I noticed right away was Mirembe sitting there. She saw me, ran up, and hugged me. I groaned a bit when I was in her embrace. “Honey, where have you been and what happened to you?”
I smiled a bit despite the cuts and bruises on my face. “Hey, Mirembe. Bad news is that I was caught in a bad situation where five goons were pulverizing me. Don’t worry, I fought back.” I raised my fist and clenched it before putting it down. “Good news is that I found the people who burned my baby down and they’re arrested as we speak.”
“Thank God, you’re alright, Kato.” Mirembe gushed. “We’ll make sure you’re all better.” “Thank you, Mirembe.” I replied. We went to the hospital to take care of my wounds. Luckily I didn’t suffer anything too major, but a day at the hospital should be enough to get me fully recovered, I guess. It would eventually be some kind of legal business going on, but I know that we had a slam dunk case.
Two weeks later…
“I sentence Stanley Rhodes to thirty years in prison for arson, attempted murder, kidnapping, property damage, assault, and vandalism.” The judge sentenced the mastermind. His five cronies got similar punishments for what they did. It was a relief knowing that justice was served. Deal with it, Stanley. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you. I could also make a joke about soap or salads, but that would be too crass for me to make it. Okay, I kind of did, but at least I wasn’t explicit with the setup or punchlines.
Afterward, we were rewarded the exact monetary amount used to cover all the damages. We could really start over. Once we were all ready for the Freevale Urban Credit Union to be rebuilt, we had a big celebration as all my first customers came back. There was a huge line leading into my business. I guess they must have told their friends and family everything about my bank.
“We’re now re-opened! Welcome back to the Freevale Urban Credit Union, everyone!” I dramatically called everyone. I cut the ribbon to let people into this revived business. No one was going to take my baby down. Certainly not without a fight. I literally bled for this bank to come back to life, and no one was going to ever take my business away from me.
“How do you feel that this bank is back in business?” Mirembe wondered.
“It’s the second-best thing to ever happen in my life.” I quickly answered. “You know what the first thing is, right?”
“Let me guess. Marrying me?” Mirembe giggled.
“You really are a psychic.” I laughed before the two of us kissed. “Now let’s help out our customers, I mean our friends.” We went inside and got many people set up with new accounts, fixed their existing ones, and even asked them for ideas involving new products. There would be no one attacking the Freevale Urban Credit Union as long as I lived.