The Cleaner

The snow fell slow as Jerry sat outside the restaurant. He was early, as always, so he waited in the warm car and read his most recent procurement from the library. The restaurant would close in forty-five minutes, which meant at least two chapters of reading. The gentle hum of the engine and the music from the radio was only loud enough to provide background noise, but the circumstances were perfect that he didn’t notice the car creep up behind him with its lights off.

When the alarm went off on his phone signaling Jerry to move up to the back door of the restaurant, he placed his bookmark, set the book on the seat next to him, and moved his car around the back of the restaurant so he could bring his cleaning supplies in with ease. He got out of his car, opened the hatchback, and pulled his mop bucket out, placing it next to the back door.

Jerry turned around to grab the bucket of cleaning supplies and found himself face to face with three men in ski masks. A stocky man at the front, a tall skinny guy, and a short one. It didn’t take him more than a second to realize why they were there. He took a step back without realizing it as the stocky one rushed forward, grabbed him while pressing something hard into his ribs.

“Open the door.” He said, his voice was deep and gravelly and his eyes seemed desperate as they peered into Jerry’s. It wasn’t a request.

“O-okay.” Jerry replied, fumbling for the keys that hung from his belt loop.

Jerry pulled the keys off and turned around, feeling the gaze of the men on his back as he slid the key into the lock. When he turned the key and pulled the door open, he felt a sharp pain on the back of his neck as his legs gave out and he fell into the snow. He lay there, half conscious and freezing, as the three men passed him entering the restaurant.

This can’t be happening to me. He thought.

The snow continued to fall as Jerry staggered to his feet in a daze, walked back to his car, and sat on the bumper. Part of him screamed to get in the car and leave, but his mind was just beginning to clear. He thought back to all the training he had gone through at the local martial arts center.

You have to be constantly aware of threats. His teacher’s voice rang in his ears.

Shaking his head as he mentally berated himself, he pulled the phone from his pocket and dialed 9-1-1. The operator answered quickly and he gave her the address as well as the descriptions of the men that were still inside. He was still on the phone when the men came barreling through the door.

“Run!” One of them said as sirens echoed from down the road.

“You stupid son-of-a-bitch.” The stocky one said as he drew his gun. “I’ll kill you for this.”

Without pausing to think it over, Jerry rushed forward, pushing the would-be killer’s arm up in the air as the shot rang out. With his shoulder in the man’s armpit, he pulled down hard and there was an audible pop as the robber’s shoulder dislocated next to his ear. The gun dropped from the man’s grip, and hit the ground with a metallic clatter, as he screamed in pain.

The other two rushed forward as Jerry released the first, pushing him into them with a spin. The taller one was already swinging, but the sudden presence of his friend stumbling forward meant that his blow landed firmly in the stocky one’s face. The first man fell to the ground with a groan as Jerry advanced on them.

Jerry watched as the short one stepped forward and the tall one tried to help his friend up. As the short one threw a right hook, Jerry diamond-stepped forward to the left, pushing the man’s arm out to his right. He lifted his knee hard into the man’s ribs throwing his arm under the man’s, grabbed his face, and with a sweep of the leg, threw him to the ground.

Jerry watched the tall one as he came forward. He swung at him again, but slipped on the ice on the ground as he moved and the punch connected just below his right eye. He raised his hands to guard his face from another blow but the next hit him in the stomach, and the man knocked him to the ground, continuing to throw punches the whole way.

Jerry took a brief glimpse through his arms and seeing that the man was going to come down with his weight, moved his head at the last second. The blow caught Jerry’s left ear but the man’s fist slammed hard into the pavement beneath him. The man screamed in pain as he pulled his hand back. Seeing the opening, Jerry extended his arm hitting the man under the chin, sending him backward onto his back.

Jerry quickly got to his feet, ready for more of a fight, but found that two were groaning, and the last lay on the ground unconscious. The police screamed into the parking lot a moment later.

“You’re really Jerry ‘The Cleaner’ French?” A deputy asked him later, once he had given his statement.

“Yeah.” Jerry replied as he scratched the back of his neck.

“I’ve seen you fight in the amateur circuit in Portland. I never realized you were an actual cleaner.” The deputy replied.

“Yup.” Jerry said, “Bills have to be paid, you know.”

“Can I have your autograph?” The deputy asked presenting a small notebook.

“Sure.” Jerry said with a smile as he took the notebook and scribbled his signature on the pad. It felt weird to him, giving out an autograph to a police officer after stopping a crime, but it felt good at the same time.

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