Characters: OC, Dee, Ryo, Others.
Setting: After the manga.
Summary: Jimmy Dooley isn’t a bad man, but desperation can make anyone do things they know they shouldn’t.
Word Count: 3096
Written For: Theme Prompt: 036 – Caught Red-Handed at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own FAKE, or the characters. They belong to the wonderful Sanami Matoh.
Jimmy Dooley wasn’t a bad man, but he was a desperate one; he wouldn’t have ever considered doing anything like this otherwise. Aside from the occasional bit of shoplifting when he was in his early teens, because what kid didn’t do stuff like that, he’d never knowingly broken the law. Well, okay, there’d been that speeding ticket a few years back, but his wife had been in labor at the time and getting her to the hospital before the baby came had been his top priority. At the time he hadn’t been aware of how fast he’d been going and it had come as quite a shock when he’d received the fine in the post. He’d paid it of course, right away, hadn’t bothered even trying to contest it; if the camera said he’d been speeding then it must be true, and anyway, he was a law-abiding man and could afford the penalty. Things had been so different for him back then, with a new baby boy, and the future looking so full of promise.
Now he still had his family, and he loved his wife and son with every fibre of his being, but he no longer had a job because it turned out his business partner had been cooking the books, probably for years. One day Jimmy had shown up to work to find that his partner, a man who’d been like a brother to him, had skipped out sometime during the night, taking the petty cash and everything from the safe with him, and leaving Jimmy up to his eyeballs in debt.
He’d managed to pay off everything he’d owed, but he’d had to sell the restaurant, their house, the car, most of his wife’s jewellery, and anything else that might bring in a bit of cash in order to do so. They’d moved into a cramped, cheap apartment, had been surviving on what little was left of their savings for the last few months while Jimmy looked for work, but they were going to be evicted in a couple of weeks if he couldn’t come up with the money for next month’s rent, and even if he succeeded in scraping together enough to get the landlord off his back there wouldn’t be anything left over to buy food.
Jimmy would’ve taken any kind of work he could find, but these were hard times for a lot of folks and there were so many others applying for every job going, most of the time he might as well have saved himself the effort. The few times he had gotten called in for an interview he’d apparently not been what the potential employers were looking for. In short, by this point he was desperate enough to try anything, up to and including crime.
His first thought had been to hit a liquor store; places like that had to be raking in the cash, but it was just typical of his bad luck that the place he chose, usually run by a frail looking old man, had someone much bigger and fitter behind the counter tonight. The bar across the street with its red neon sign drew his attention though… Maybe it was worth a shot; what did he have to lose?
It was close to closing time; a few men, the worse for wear from the drinking they’d been doing, stumbled out onto the street, throwing good-natured insults back and forth as they headed off in different directions. At this time of night surely there couldn’t be too many customers left, and any still inside would likely be too drunk to put up more than token resistance. Besides, Jimmy had a gun. It wasn’t a real one, just an old movie prop his former business partner had picked up somewhere years ago and left behind when he’d absconded, but to Jimmy’s eyes it looked convincing enough.
Pushing the door open Jimmy stepped inside and quickly scanned the room; there was a guy behind the bar, busy wiping it down, a couple of others at a table, finishing their drinks, and one more sweeping the floor… Four against one, not the best odds but hopefully he had the element of surprise and the paying customers wouldn’t want to get involved. He hoped the bartender hadn’t emptied the register yet.
“Sorry,” the bartender said with an easy smile as Jimmy approached, clutching the replica gun in his pocket. “Ya missed last call; we’re just about to close up.”
Pulling the gun, Jimmy pointed it at the guy, hefting a nondescript sports bag onto the bar with his other hand. “I’m not here to drink. Just open the register and put all the money in there. Do as I say and no one has to get hurt,” he growled, trying to look menacing and belatedly wondering whether he should have worn some kind of mask so anyone seeing him wouldn’t be able to identify him later. Damn, maybe he should’ve thought this through more carefully, but it was way too late to chicken out now.
There wasn’t a trace of fear on the bartender’s face as he frowned at the gun, then at Jimmy, putting his rag down and slowly shaking his head. “Dude, did you ever pick the wrong bar to hold up.”
There was an ominous clicking sound from behind Jimmy, followed by two more, and something cold and hard pressed into the back of his skull. He froze, heart pounding against his ribs and his mouth going dry.
“Relax, guys,” the bartender said easily, whisking Jimmy’s gun from his suddenly nerveless fingers. “Gun’s a replica; he couldn’t shoot anybody with this even if he wanted to.” He tossed it casually into his right hand, and before Jimmy could blink, he found himself staring down the barrel of a shiny revolver that looked a whole lot bigger than he would’ve expected. “Mine’s real enough though.”
“Oh God!” Jimmy gasped, scarcely able to comprehend how swiftly the tables had been turned against him. “Please don’t kill me! I wouldn’t have hurt anyone, I just needed the money; I’ve got a wife and kid depending on me!” Were these people the mob? Had he just blundered into a den of organised crime? The bar had looked so normal from the outside, but he supposed the Mafia wouldn’t advertise their hangouts.
The gun at the back of his head went away and a voice spoke from behind him. “Nobody’s going to kill you.”
“Wound ya maybe,” the bartender said. “Ya did just try to rob us.” The revolver disappeared again. “Seriously, dude, what were ya thinkin’, tryin’ to hold up a bar full of cops?”
“It’s hardly full, Dee,” the man behind Jimmy said, amusement tingeing his words. “There’s only four of us. Five if you count Ted.”
“I don’t, he’s too busy bein’ passed out in the men’s room to be of any use to anyone, includin’ himself,” Dee said. “Too much celebratin’ as usual.”
“Cops?” Jimmy’s knees felt like water as relief that he wasn’t about to be executed and his body dumped into the river tied to a block of concrete warred with the knowledge that he was doomed anyway; the best he could hope for was jail, and where would that leave his wife and son? He barely felt it as he was pushed down into a chair that had been placed behind him. “You’re going to arrest me, aren’t you? I’m going to jail.”
“Depends.” The man from behind Jimmy moved around in front of him, looking down at him, a thoughtful expression on his face. Like the bartender he looked to be no more than a few years older than Jimmy, if that. He had the darkest eyes Jimmy had ever seen, so dark they were practically black, and they stared right into his soul as if seeking out all Jimmy’s secrets and carefully evaluating him. It made him feel oddly exposed. “You make a habit of committing armed robbery?” There was no anger in his tone, just curiosity.
“No, I swear to you, I’ve never done anything like this before, and I know it’s wrong, but I just really needed the money, otherwise we’re gonna be evicted and…” Without meaning to, the whole sorry story spilled out. He had to make these cops understand, make them see he wasn’t some kind of hardened criminal, just an ordinary guy at the end of his rope, trying to provide for his family in a world that had turned against him. Eventually he wound down. “I didn’t know what else to do.” He sounded as helpless as he felt.
“That’s quite a story; should be easy enough to check,” the dark-eyed man said calmly. “Full name and date of birth?”
“James Patrick Dooley.” Jimmy reeled off his birth date.
The bartender pulled a laptop from under the bar and started tapping at the keys. “Here we go… Yep, driver’s licence photo matches our would-be robber. Ex-restaurant owner, no criminal record listed, one fine for speedin’ three years back, paid up promptly.”
“Maybe he just hasn’t been caught,” someone else said from behind Jimmy, presumably one of the customers.
“Seriously?” The bartender laughed, shaking his head. “You’ve had a few too many if ya believe that. Nah, this guy’s no hardened criminal; doesn’t even qualify as an amateur.”
“I agree with Dee,” the dark-eyed man said before turning his attention back to Jimmy once more. “Strictly speaking we should arrest you; we caught you red-handed. But, since this is your first offence, the gun’s a fake, and nobody got hurt, we’re gonna let you off with a warning.”
“We are?” The bartender raised an eyebrow. “How d’you figure that? We’re cops and he’s--”
“He’s a guy with a wife and kid who need him. Besides, maybe it’s fate that he tried to rob this particular bar.”
The bartender hopped over the bar. “I know that look; what’re ya thinkin’?”
“Remember what we were all talking about the other day? I think Mr Dooley here might be just what we need.”
Dee slowly broke into a grin. “Y’know, now you mention it… You could be right.”
Sitting on his chair, Jimmy looked from the bartender to the other man and back again, feeling completely out of his depth. What were these guys talking about? What kind of cops were they? He stared up at them nervously as the dark-eyed man turned to face him again.
“You owned a restaurant.”
It was a statement rather than a question, but Jimmy answered anyway.
“Yes, before… well, you know.”
“Does that mean you can cook? Run a kitchen?”
“Yes, of course. My partner was the business brain; I took care of the restaurant side of things, spent all my time in the kitchen, supervising the food preparation.” Jimmy wondered where this line of questioning was going.
“Good, because I have a proposition for you. We’ve been thinking about opening up the kitchen here and providing meals. A lot of cops come in here tired and hungry at the end of their shifts and we’ve been doing sandwiches and snacks, but we’d like to offer something more substantial, especially with the weather getting colder. Nothing too fancy, soups and stews, meatloaf, maybe burgers; that’s not important right now, we can figure out a menu later. What d’you think?”
By now Jimmy was completely lost. “Um, sounds like a good idea?”
Dee the bartender snorted, shaking his head again. “Dumbass! He means, d’you want the job? It’ll be hard work, and all you’ll have in the way of assistants will be the bar staff and maybe my partner here if he’s not busy with other things.” Dee jerked his thumb towards the dark-eyed man. “He’s a pretty mean cook himself but the bar’s just a sideline for us; we’re still full-time cops so we can only be here when we’re not on duty. There’s a bunch of us invested in the place; we’ve got some regular staff but we all help out whenever we can.”
Jimmy began to wonder if this was all a dream because it sure didn’t see like it could be real. “I just tried to hold up your bar and now you’re offering me a job?” He couldn’t seem to get his head around it.
The dark-eyed man nodded. “The pay won’t be all that great, at least not at first, but there’s an apartment upstairs that nobody’s using right now; you and your family could live up there so you wouldn’t need to commute.”
“As long as you promise not to dip into the till or drink the bar dry when it’s closed and there’s nobody else around.” The grin said clearly that Dee was just joking and Jimmy swallowed the lump in his throat with difficulty.
“You’re really serious?”
“Of course we are. You’ve hit hard times and just need a hand getting back on your feet, while we happen to need a cook; it’s the perfect solution for all of us. Interested?”
“Yes! Yes, of course I am! Thank you, I swear won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t.” The dark-eyed man offered his hand. “Randy Maclean, my partner Dee Laytner, and our friends Drake Parker, JJ Adams…” He trailed off with a grin. “You’ll have to wait to meet Ted, he’s…”
“Passed out,” Dee said, smirking.
“I was going to say ‘indisposed’.”
“Same thing, just a more polite way of puttin’ it. Whelp, better close this place up for the night.” Dee turned away, calling to his friends. “Drake, JJ, can you guys see to Ted? Guess we shouldn’t leave him on the men’s room floor all night. It’s untidy and probably unhygienic, and you know how much Ryo hates leavin’ a mess just lyin’ around.”
“No problem!” JJ said, sounding ridiculously cheerful at such a late hour. “We’ll see he gets home. Come on, Drakey!”
As soon as the two cops had vanished through the door to the bathrooms, Dee turned to Jimmy, who was still sitting on the chair, feeling shell-shocked; Randy had gone back to sweeping the floor.
“Once we finish up here we’ll give ya a ride back to wherever you’re livin’, okay?”
Jimmy nodded. “Uh, okay, thanks.”
“You wanna drink? On the house. I know technically we’re closed but looks like you could use one.”
Mouth so dry it felt like the desert, Jimmy nodded again.
“Beer or something stronger?”
Dee fetched a bottle and handed it to Jimmy. “Relax; everything from earlier is already forgotten. Your wife asks what you were doin’ out so late, just tell her you were at a job interview. She never has to know the truth unless you decide you wanna tell her; she won’t hear it from us, you have my word. ‘Kay?”
“I don’t understand why you’re being so nice after… everything,” Jimmy admitted.
Lifting a chair from a nearby table, Dee swung it around and straddled it, folding his arms along the back.
“Ryo and me, we’ve had our share of tough times, but people helped us out when we needed it, even though they didn’t have to. We see… a lot of seriously messed up shit in out jobs, and most of the time there’s not much we can do except get the real criminals off the streets, but sometimes we have to arrest someone who doesn’t really deserve it, just ‘cause they did somethin’ they shouldn’t. Good people like you who got pushed to their limits and beyond because no one bothered tryin’ to help them. So this time we get to help, keep one decent guy out of jail. Nobody outside the five of us ever has to know why you came in here tonight. You ever break the law again we’ll haveta arrest ya, but I don’t believe ya will. Ryo’s a good judge of character; I’ve learned to trust his instincts.”
“Randy, my partner; guess you could say it’s kinda like his nickname.”
“Just so ya know, I’ll be keepin’ that fake gun of yours, put it somewhere safe. You could’ve easily gotten yourself killed wavin’ that about.”
“You’re welcome to it; I never want to see it again.” Jimmy shuddered and took another swig of his beer.
Drake and JJ came out of the back half-carrying a burly redheaded man between them and calling goodbye to their friends.
“You guys need a cab?” Ryo asked, passing by with a broom in one hand and a trash bag in the other, headed for the back of the bar.
“Already phoned for one,” JJ shouted back as the two men manoeuvred their friend out the door. “See you tomorrow!”
“Not if I see you first,” Dee joked.
“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Jimmy said, looking about himself as the lights started going out.”
“I’ve locked up the back and set the alarms.” Ryo joined them, pulling his jacket on. He smiled at Jimmy. “Ready to go home and give your wife the good news about your new job?”
“Yes, thank you.” Jimmy drained the last of his beer and hesitated, not sure what to do with the bottle.
“Leave it on the bar,” Ryo told him. “It can go in the recycling tomorrow. Come on; it’s getting late and your wife will probably be worried. Will you be okay where you are for a few more days? Dee and I are working over the weekend but we’ve got Wednesday and Thursday off next week so we can give you a hand moving then; it’ll give you a few days to get packed and decide what you want to bring with you.”
In a daze Jimmy allowed himself to be led out of the bar, waiting while it was locked up and then following the two cops to the police precinct on the next block where their car was parked; he hadn’t realised there was a cop shop so close, further proof if any were needed that he really wasn’t cut out for a life of crime.
His whole life had been turned upside down when his partner had absconded, leaving him trying to salvage something from the wreckage of his business. But now, miraculously, it was as though the world had righted itself again. Thanks to these two cops, for the first time in months Jimmy Dooley dared to hope that he and his family might have a future. He made a silent promise to himself that no matter what, he wouldn’t let his new employers down.