Writer & Illustrator

A Good Citizen

· Read in about 6 min · (1147 Words)

“Keep talking creep.” Dredd waved the Lawgiver in the not-quite-a-perp’s face. 

“And in thh…thh…the third grade, I stole Betty Marshall’s p…p…p…pogs,” Geff Klemp said, his voice shaky as a slum-block escalator. 

The rest of the bar pretend to nurse their drinks, to go about their business—just as Dredd had ordered. As expected, most weren’t. Instead they peered over untouched glasses, and out of the corners of eyes. No citizen wanted to face a Judge’s wroth. But to watch another poor schmuck feel the stiff finger of the law pressing down on them, hell, that was some of the finest entertainment the Big Meg offered. Dredd was no Psi-Judge, but he swore at that moment he could read their minds: the entire bar wanted him to shoot the perp. Then they’d have a real good story to tell around the watercooler come Monday.

Tough for them. Dredd had no intention of shooting Geff Klemp. The perp he wanted, Doctor Draz Muldoon, had ran into this bar, the Echo Chamber, a seedy ground floor dive on the corner of Henry Cavill block. Dredd had chased after. Being a Friday night at the start of a three-day weekend, half the inhabitants of Henry Cav’ packed the establishment. It was coded for 50 occupants. When Dredd entered, he estimated quadruple that number were there drinking, illegally dancing, and probably worse. If wasn’t so focused on stopping Dr. Muldoon, Dredd would have issued a fine to the proprietor.

But he was focused on Muldoon. The man had already killed half a blocks worth innocents. He had to be stopped. Under normal circumstances, Dredd would have fired a few rounds into the ceiling of The Echo Chamber and searched the barfly one by one until he found Muldoon.

One big problem though: Draz Muldoon—that creepy off-world doc—was a shapeshifter.

No way to know which one of these creeps was him. Not by visual scan at least. No. He’d have to flush Muldoon the old-fashioned way: psychologically. 

Dredd had radioed Central, ordering remote locking of the Echo Chamber’ back doors. If Muldoon wanted to escape, it would have to be through the main entrance, a door Dredd was keeping in the corner of his eye. 

Dredd pressed the muzzle of the Lawgiver so close, he burst a bead of sweat falling down his patsy’s face. “Not enough. Keep talking Klemp!” 

Dredd had Geff Klemp at random. He was in his 50’s. A pudgy man, not quite a fatso, but getting there. Despite the adequate air conditioning, the man had dinner plate sized pit stains before Dredd even entered the Echo Chamber. Made him look guilty, which suited Dredd’s purposes just swell.  

In his four years on the streets, Dredd noticed that most citz, given the chance—and if they knew there was no risk of being fingered for the crime—loved to watch someone else get collared. Sick human nature Dredd supposed. Like watching a mag-lev wreck happen and not being able to turn away. 

It was this quirk of human psychology Dredd counted on. The reasonably law-abiding patrons of the Echo Chamber would sit and watch as Dredd grilled this hapless man. Doctor Draz Muldoon, that slippery little shape shifting creep, would make for the door. Or at least that was the plan.

“When, I was eleven…” the Geff Klemp continued. “I stayed in the IMAX to watch the movie twice in a row. Didn’t mean no harm. I just love Sir Attenborough’s voice.”

“And then what? Or do I have to throw you in the cubes for a while before you remember?” Dredd growled. He regretted selecting this man. Pluck a random citizen off the streets, and look—like, really look—and you’re bound to turn up something, iso-cube worthy. At best, what this bozo had confessed to would be a 35 credit fine. 

“And then when I was 17, Bucky Simpson and I, well we needed money. And so there was this liquor store. It was Bucky’s idea. I wouldn’t have known where to get a pistol I swear. Christ, I knew you would find me, eventually.” 

Dredd peered at the man. Hidden from view by his helmet, an eyebrow raised. This man, Geff Klemp, who until this point had done little worse than jaw-walk, was confessing to larceny. Perhaps aggravated assault. Maybe even murder… Dredd stopped.

In the corner of his eye, something shifted. 

A woman, mid-twenties, with preposterously oversized lips (the kind you see in Mega-City Two), a tube top, and miniskirt was making her way towards the bar’s exit. 

Forgetting Geff Klemp and his confession, Dredd swung to face the exit, Lawgiver covering the escaping woman. 

“Freeze creep!”

The woman paused, hesitated. But not in fear. Not like you’d expect a cit to react. 

Dredd pulled the trigger.

The Standard Execution round echoed through the Echo Chamber’s four walls. Glass shattered as patrons dropped their drinks in surprise. More than one person screamed.

The escaping “woman” slumped to the ground, a red smear appearing on her chest. The surrounding crowd parted. A moment later, her bimbo looks were gone. Even from across the bar, there was no mistaking the purple-skinned body of Dr. Draz Muldoon.

Dredd activated his comm: “Central, this is Dredd. Call of the H-Wagons. Muldoon is neutralized.” 

He began walking toward the corpse when a hand hesitantly tapped him on the arm.

“J… J… Judge. Am I free to go?” Geff Klemp asked.

Dredd looked over the man he’d used to flush out Muldoon. An otherwise upstanding citizen. A so-called “functional member” of society. Sure he confessed to a crime, but a crime so old—pre-judge system certainly—was it worth bringing him in? Besides, hadn’t he helped Dredd catch Muldoon? The only reason the poor bastard had told Dredd anything was because Dredd had picked him at random.

In the old days, pre-war, pre-President Booth, there was a concept of “Probable Cause.” If you didn’t have a reason to search someone, any evidence you found was inadmissible in the court of law. 

The concept of “Probably Cause” never sat well with Dredd. The guilty were guilty, plane and simple. Still, the man had helped Dredd, however unwittingly. 

Dredd sniffed. There was a sudden scent to the room.

He looked down at the Geff Klemp. There was a large (and growing stain) on the mans khaki pants, a puddle under his loafers. 

Dredd shook his head in disgust. “You just earned yourself a date with the Iso Cubes.”

The Klemp began to cry. 

“I hope those are tears of joy citizen.” Dread said as he slapped the cuffs on the man. “Because knocking of a liquor store is a minimum 5 years.”

No, Dredd did not believe in Probable Cause, but he believed they should grant good citizens a certain amount of clemency. 

“But I’m only booking you for public urination. 3 months in the cubes.”

“Th…thhh…thanks Judge. Truly. Thank you.”