Give'em Something to Look At by It's Not a Tuba
I remember it like it was yesterday. There are seven of us police recruits, all women. We're standing around a matted room listening to a veteran police sergeant, this tall amazon of women, give us tips on self-defense and hand-to-hand combat. It's only our third class and we've been practicing just some basic moves that most of us learned either in military training or on our own, I mean, come on we want to be policewomen, we probably already have some idea about how to fight.
When the sergeant says, "Look, next week, we're going to practice the real dirty tricks, and you ladies need to know one thing, it's a man's world. Most of the criminals you will deal with will be men. They will be bigger and stronger, will have the advantage of reach, and for many of them, they'll just be nastier than you. Here's the trick. This is all you have to do to get the drop on them. Give them something to look at."
Then right there she slowly pulls her blue police instructor t-shirt out of her gray academy sweats and folds the bottom portion up just a little, exposing her midriff.
Saying we were all shocked would be an understatement. She wasn't a bad-looking woman, not at all, just tall and fit, and no-nonsense. Your average athletic woman. She wasn't muscle-bound, just very fit, very strong. You didn't get the impression that she ever did anything fun or **** at all. But there she stood with about three inches of her flat, toned tummy exposed. I remember thinking she looked better than I did!
"The average criminal mind will completely shut down," she continued as she pushed down the top of her sweat pants a bit so her navel peaked out of the top, a cute little t-shaped innie. "They won"t know what to do at first, and you've got the first shot. If there is one of them, break his balls. Two of them, break one set of balls and smash the other's throat. Three of them, use their numbers against them and take them down one at a time."
As she spoke, I felt a twinge of jealousy. She then reached back and fixed her hair. I wasn't sure why she did that. She just pulled her hair out of the band that gathered her ponytail, gathered her hair again in her hand, and bound it again with the same band.
"The best part," she continued, "is that if you give them something to look at, they'll be focused on that thing for the entire fight, just like you all are focused on my stomach."
Busted! She was right. I remember looking around and seeing six other guilty faces. We had all been staring at her navel. When she fixed her ponytail, that t-shirt rode up, and her pants slipped down a bit. More of her stomach was exposed, and our eyes focused on her exposed flesh like moths on a flame.
"The worst part," she said as she stood there hands on her hips, "is that whatever you give them to look at, will become a target in a fight. Count on it. If you're fighting more than two, the last one will try to punch, strike, or just touch whatever you given him to focus on. If it�s your stomach,� she smacked her bare stomach with the flat of her hand, �you�ll be punched in the stomach. But, at least you�ll know what to expect. You can prepare for the strike�
I remember thinking something between, she�s either crazy or brilliant, I wasn�t sure which. I do remember I never forgot what she said. We practiced it a little bit during that class, most of the women practicing taking punches in the stomach. I could never really see the utility, since we�d all be wearing uniforms once we graduated. But I never forgot the lesson.
Twenty-four weeks at the police academy went by and I never practiced her little trick once after that class. Didn�t make sense when I only practiced hand to hand with other women, and I wasn�t about to strip tease for practice with the men. After graduation, I spent way too much time working to be taken seriously. That required me to be tough, detail oriented, and generally better than the men I served with. I got along all right with a few rough patches. I actually did well. Made detective in six years. Got to work on a task force with the FBI, and DEA two years later. Eight years on the force, and I never once even thought of showing a little skin to get the drop on a criminal.
When it did happen, it happened completely by accident.
Like I said, after eight years I was assigned to a task force to fight organized crime in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The idea was to not let the gangs have a safe haven in the suburbs, and to pull resources between the feds, three states, and local police. This was a good step for my career.
I had been on the task force for about three months when I was assigned to this large reconnaissance operation with about thirty other officers from across all the different agencies. Some underworld conference was about to happen, and the taskforce was trying to narrow down the location so we could concentrate our resources. I was partnered with this big lug from the FBI named Alec to watch an empty store being used as a kind of club house for some Italian mob types. We had some electronic support, and there was some traffic into and out of the store. Alec and I were supposed to be the human eyeballs to confirm what the electronic surveillance picked up. There were long boring stretches punctuated by boring stints of activity.
Alec was nice enough; good looking, big, but kind of oafish. He had played football in high school. Your first impression was that he wasn�t too bright, but he had been an honors poli-sci major in college, and was on the task force because he had a real knack for recognizing organizational relationships. Married, my dumb luck, with a 2 year old and another one on the way. These are the things you learn when you are sitting in a car for hours on end watching mobsters enter and exit a blank store front.
Sometime around the fourth day Alec wondered why the mobsters that went in and out of the store never ate lunch at the Italian restaurant across the street. I can answered back flippantly, �Maybe the food stinks?� But he had a point. Folks came in and two or three times a day during our shift, but no one ever stopped across the street for lunch.
�We should check it out,� I found myself saying. Alec nodded and called it in to our electronics surveillance team.
Thing is, we shouldn�t have gone to check anything out. We were part of a surveillance package. We weren�t supposed to be doing undercover work. We hadn�t really planned things through. But at the time, we thought we were doing the right thing.
It was about lunch time, so we thought it would be natural that folks would be looking for a place to eat. We walked in and the place was empty, dead. Just a bartender, a thin old man wiping glasses with a rag. He looked at us as if we were crazy.
�You open?� Alec asked.
�Sure,� the bartender replied, �what can I get you?�
Alec ordered spaghetti and I ordered a chef salad. We sat down near the big picture window to keep an eye on the store front across the street. Both of us felt that something was very wrong, but we didn�t think we could just leave without calling suspicion to ourselves. As the bartender came back with our food, he seemed really nervous. I couldn�t take it anymore. It felt like we were blowing the whole operation. As he put my salad on the table, I turned to tell him to pack our lunches up to go. I must have bobbled his arm, because he split Alec�s spaghetti all over me.
Well not all over me, just over the right side of my sweater. I stood up. The sweater wasn�t really new, but it was a nice cr�me color and it was cashmere. It went with so many things in my wardrobe. I was a bit upset.
�Alec, we should go.� He agreed. The bartender looked honestly mortified.
�No, no, I�ll give you some club soda. Go wash it off in the rest room.�
The bartender rushed behind the bar and filled a tall glass with club soda. I rushed to the ladies room to see if I could repair the damage.
In the ladies room I took off the sweater and started washing the stains out with the club soda. It was doing an OK job, but the sweater would be ruined unless I got to a dry cleaners pronto, and that just wasn�t going to happen. I caught a look at myself in the mirror. I looked visibly upset. Another thing ruined because of my career as a cop! The missed dates, the missed connections, the ruined clothes, all because I was married to my career.
I stood up and looked at myself closely in the mirror. My sweater was off, but I wasn�t in my bra. I usually wear a half tee underneath my sweaters, to give me a layered put together look; casual yet sophisticated. This half tee was a burgundy mock turtleneck with no sleeves. It stopped right about my mid rib cage. Taken with my dark silver gray jeans it almost looked like an outfit by itself.
I stood straighter. I�m not big, just 5�6�. But I�m fit, and I�m strong. I�ve taken down perps twice my size. I keep in shape by running. I�ve done triathlons. In the mirror, my waist didn�t show a trace of fat. I patted my bare stomach right over my I shaped navel. My stomach had no real definition but was supple flat and strong. Blond hair, gray eyes, maybe the reason I didn�t have a boyfriend is because I�ve given too much to this job!
My existential meltdown was interrupted by commotion coming from the dining room; tables scrapping against the floor, raised voices, my blood ran cold. I peaked my head out the bathroom door to see Alec standing surrounded by what looked like five or seven guys. I could hear him saying, �I�ll leave as soon as my friend gets out of the bathroom.�
One of the toughs, shoved my purse and jacket into his hands, �We�ll ****** your friend out when she gets done, but you�re going to beat it NOW!�
Oh damn. My gun and badge were in my purse.
Alec, looked genuinely confused. He didn�t want to leave, but he didn�t want to expose our operation any more than we already had. He turned to go when the same tough mumbled, �Yeah, we�ll ****** her real good.�
Alec turned and punched the guy in his mouth. A guy behind Alec slammed him across the neck with what looked like a blackjack. Someone else shouted No!
I sprang into action. I didn�t have much at my disposal, just a dirty cashmere sweater and a mean look in my eye. I grabbed a small olive oil bottle being used as a candle holder on the table nearest the bathroom and threw it football style at the guy who hit Alec. I moved to the next table, picked up another candle holder and threw it at the tough guy closest to me. Both hit their heads, I didn�t wait to assess the damage. At a third table I picked up another candle holder and held it in my hand like a mini bat. I stepped past a guy holding his head and kicked the next man in his balls. As he bent over, I hit the guy behind him in the nose with the candle holder. Blood spurted out of the bridge of his nose, and his hands went to his face. Now there was only three guys between me and Alec; one was holding his nose (the one Alec punched), one was holding his forehead (the first one I hit with the candle holder), and one was staring at me with his mouth agape.
It took me a heartbeat to realize why he was staring, I had given him something to look at! He was staring at my bare midriff, exposed from the middle of my rib cage to about a half inch below my navel. I didn�t wait for him to compliment me, I threw my candle holder and hit him right between the eyes.
The guy who Alec had punched seemed to be still seeing cross eyed, he wasn�t looking at my stomach. He took a wild haymaker swing at my head. I ducked and stepped back. These men were all bigger than me, I wasn�t going to survive by blocking their punches. I stepped sideways, winding up for a kick to his knees, when a hand grabbed me by my left elbow and roughly spun me around. I didn�t even see his face, I just felt his big fist thwack me in the middle of my stomach, above my navel, but below my solar plexus.
I wasn�t ready for that. The air gushed out of my body. I didn�t fall over, whoever he was he held me by my arm with one hand and kept his fist in my stomach with the other. He pushed me back with that fist. My **** knocked over a barstool and my back hit the lower panel of the bar. He took his fist out of my stomach and grabbed my neck with the intent of bending me back over the bar.
Here�s the thing, he knocked the wind out of me, but I�d been hit worse. I wasn�t out of this fight. I sensed his plan was to bend my back over the bar and stretch me out to make my belly more vulnerable. I would be completely in his power if my feet left the floor, so I stomped on his instep, brought my hands up to his hands wrapped around my neck and wrenched his thumbs back. He let go, howling. I hopped off the bar and jabbed a finger into his eye.
A quick assessment, my back was to Alec. I think there were three behind me, one he had punched, one who was hit be a bottle I had thrown, and one who was hit by a bottle I had swung. I could see three in front of me, one suffering from an eye gouge, one curled up into a ball holding his balls, and one who I had hit in the head with the second bottle. His eyes weren�t crossed. He was alternating looking at my face and at my exposed abdomen. I didn�t given him a chance to solve his little internal crisis. I aimed a side kick at his knees and ended out hitting his shin. As he double over in pain, I aimed a kick at his nuts and hit is stomach. Well nothing�s perfect.
Before I could turn around to face the others, two arms looped under my arm pits and around my shoulders, clamping me into a full nelson. His hands clamped behind my neck pushing my head down. He lifted me off the floor and roughly swung me around. I could see the feet of one of his buddies. I knew what was coming next and barely had time to clench and flex my stomach.
I saw the fist before I heard the sound. A big hairy fist that smacked me right in the center of my stomach, again above the belly button but below the solar plexus. The punch was very solid; it pushed back the guy who was holding me. I watched the knuckles dig into my flesh. I felt the air partially leave my lungs, but I wasn�t debilitated. The punches hurt, but as long as they stayed away from my solar plexus I was still in the fight.
This guy didn�t hold his punch in like the last one. He wound up again and punched me in the same spot. I didn�t have much of an air reserve but I was able to clench and flex my stomach. Again I watched his fist dig into my flesh. He released and punched me again, a little lower, almost on my navel, pushing up like an upper cut. I was out of air by now, and didn�t clench in time, so I coughed a bit.
They weren�t looking at my face so they probably thought that the cough meant that I was beaten. I heard a couple of them laugh a bit. The guy in front of me was definitely laughing and rubbing his fist. I heard him say he wanted to have some fun. The guy holding me let my feet touch the ground. Mister puncher told him to pick me back up, ��stretch her out, this ought to be good.�
The guy holding must have been getting tired because he lifted my arms higher but my feet stayed on the ground. As I stretched a bit, I could see my stomach move away from the waist band of my jeans. My jeans slid down a bit more, not quite to my hip bones. I must have been giving them quite a show!
Mr. Puncher was enjoying himself. He took his time and repositioned his body to my right side. I felt his left hand on my back, pushing my body away from the guy holding me, but stretching my stomach even further.
�You�re going to love this sweetheart�� He made a big show of hovering one big meaty finger over my navel, then he clenched his fist and pulled back for a punch.
Problem for him, is that I had more than enough time to recover my wind. My feet were on the ground and I stomped down on Mr. Puncher�s instep with my right foot. His fist hit me but there was no power. I used my left heel to kick backward into the knee of the guy holding me. He howled and his hands came unclenched. I used the back of my head to hit him in his nose. I�m pretty sure I missed, but he loosened up enough for me to stomp down with both feet on his left foot. He let me go then.
I looked up and saw Alec had just punch the lights out of one guy, and the way was clear between both of us and the door. Discretion being the better part of bravery, we both ran out the door. Luckily we had been smart enough to park around the corner. Alec had my purse. We had gotten away scot-free.
Well not really. Electronic surveillance had picked up chatter about our little escapade. Turned out we had spooked the mobsters with that little fight and they abandoned that location as a meeting place. For a couple of days Alec and I were in the dog house. We found out later that them leaving the store was a huge windfall. They had spent time and energy hardening the location; they had a electronics proof meeting space under the street connecting the store to the restaurant. That�s why we never saw them going to the restaurant for lunch! When they left the store, they had to rely on less secure meeting locations more vulnerable to surveillance. We learned tons about their plans and organization.
Then Alec let it slip that I had fought most of the men half naked. Now guys on the task force were calling me super cop and Angie Dickinson. Who the hell is Angie Dickinson? At first it pissed me off. After a while I realized they were actually saying they were impressed.
While showing my skin may have given me an edge in that fight, I am only saving that for an emergency. Heck, after we drove away, I asked Alec to stop by a Marshall's so I could get on a full shirt.