Jeremiah, known just as Jer for short took in the scene in an instant. He was a sheriff’s deputy, and a good one. He could write the story in a moment. He instantly also regretted not calling for backup before he got out of his patrol car and walked into this field. But he had recognized his friend Billy amongst the young men in the field, and he had been certain he could handle whatever Billy got into. Billy got into little trouble, not big.
Had been certain. Not now. The body lying on the ground didn’t look good. He thought he’d seen movement in the moment he had to take in the scene. He didn’t have his gun out. He didn’t see any guns on the young men there, but he was certain there was one under Billy’s jacket.
Before he could say anything, Billy spoke up. “It’s not what it looks like,” he said. “He’s a terrorist, … a Muslim terrorist. We caught him and he attacked us.” Jer considered the half a dozen young men and the slight figure on the ground. The scenario was unlikely.
“You’re going to have to come with me,” he said, looking at Billy, but taking in the group.
“Listen, Jer,” said Billy. “You don’t have to do this. You’re the first on the scene. Let the others go, then I’ll claim self defense. He is a terrorist. We heard him talking about Allah and all that and how bad things would happen to this country. He was going to blow things up!”
“Yeah,” said another of the young men. “We’re patriots! We’re defending our country!”
Jer could see Billy watching him, hoping he’d be distracted. But even though he’d managed to get himself into this bad situation—why hadn’t he called it in!—he knew how to handle himself.
“No, you’re not,” said Jer. “You’re breaking the law.”
“I can’t believe you’d get soft on these terrorists,” said Billy, looking shocked. “I always thought you were a patriotic American!”
Jer saw the slight movement of Billy’s right hand. Billy thought himself fast. He thought himself quite a marksman. But his expertise was largely in his own mind. Before his hand was halfway to the open flap of his jacket, Jer had his gun in his hand.
“Don’t go there!” he said firmly.
“You wouldn’t shoot your old friend Billy, would you?”
“Put your hands on your head, or you’ll find out,” said Jer. His look and tone took in all the young men. A couple of them moved as if to run. “Don’t even think about it! Get down on the ground!” he said firmly, and just loud enough to make everyone hear.
With everyone on the ground he made that call for backup.
As Billy was being placed in the back of one of the cruisers, he called Jer over. “You’ll see! He’s a terrorist.”
“No, Billy,” said Jer. “He’s just a student with some opinions you don’t like. He was walking home. He lives just a block from here. Luckily for you, he’s going to live.”
“But he hates America,” said Billy. “Some time soon he’ll blow up one of our schools, and then you’ll be sorry you stopped us! I’m a patriot!”
Jer just turned away. Someday he might just have to stop a terrorist. He figured it could happen. Or it might be one of his colleagues. But he was pretty sure it would be someone like him who did it, not someone like Billy.
Which of us is the real patriot? he thought.