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The Impersonator

Everyone loves a man in uniform. Especially Brett Allen Andrews.

It was near midnight on Friday, July 14, and the blue and red lights chased each other across the intersection in a delirious rotation. The cause of the hustle was a blue SUV that lay on its side like a tin mailbox that had been kicked down the street and crushed. Next to it, a police cruiser and an ambulance splayed their spotlights on the scene.

Feeling an injection of purpose, Brett straightened his uniform. Starched black pants. Heavy black boots. A duty belt. A short-sleeve button-front shirt emblazoned with a round, four-inch patch that read "Paramedic: Denver Health." He quickened his step as he saw two paramedics lifting a woman into the ambulance. He saw another woman on a flat board, but determined that her injuries weren't serious. Deciding the situation was stable, he started back toward Sean's Mustang parked down the street. He felt proud to be associated with such an honorable profession. Emergency medical technicians are like soldiers whose sole mission is not to hurt but to help, and that's who Brett is: someone who helps.

But then a flashlight was shining in his face. And questions: What's your name? What shift do you work?Brett made it to Sean's car and told his buddy to get ready to hit the gas. "Go, go, go," he muttered urgently. "Go!" But Sean refused. Meanwhile, the paramedic supervisor came up to the car and continued his verbal barrage. Where's your ID badge? Normally, Brett was good at quick, on-the-fly responses. But all of his authority and confidence melted away as the flashlight beam pushed harder. Desperately, he reached for the official Denver Health Medical Center handheld radio sitting on Sean's dashboard. He turned it on, as if to prove his legitimacy. The supervisor was unconvinced.

"You know what --" Brett began to say, suddenly feeling stricken. His eyes darted between his best friend and the supervisor. There was no way out of this, except for one last option.

He ran.

As Brett's boots pounded against the asphalt, he could hear Sean's girlfriend grappling with the supervisor, who shouted angrily after him. He knew running wasn't really an option, just a hopeless alternative dressed up like a sound decision; another audacious, dunderhead mistake outfitted like a real choice. Still, Brett darted into the darkness, sirens tumbling through his skull -- once again a man of importance, a good guy in a uniform, running.


It was just another afternoon, flinging lunchmeat.

Brett Allen Andrews excavated exactly four withered meatballs from the warming container and balanced them carefully on the bread. Choices included white, wheat, Italian or honey oat. Would you like this toasted? Pickles, onions, lettuce? Any salt, pepper, vinegar, oil? Subway poster boy Jared Fogle might have trimmed the equivalent of a small heifer from his waistline by sucking down two subs a day, but the working-class clientele that made up the lunch rush at the 4696 South Broadway store wanted every black olive coming their way.

Brett had worked at Subway stores around Denver since he was twenty years old. By June, he was 22 -- which meant a lot of shifts wearing the black Subway hat, dark-green Subway polo shirt, black cargo pants and cellophane gloves that he removed each time he had to work the register. (Meatball Marinara six-incher: $2.99 plus tax.) At five feet, six inches, he didn't consider himself a tall man, but his build was muscular and scrappy. Combine this with the hair germinating on his chin and the tight angles of his face, and at first glance he appeared thuggish and stone-faced. An ass-kicker. But that impression disappeared at the sound of his voice -- high, with the slightest hint of effeminacy, and a curiously rural drawl despite his having been born and raised within the inner suburbs of Denver. He was often cracking jokes -- mostly good-natured, self-deprecating attempts at making friends and sparking conversation -- and his laugh was gleeful and nasal, like a chuckle with a souped-up Honda engine.

One of his co-workers, Megan Thull, lived with her parents only seven blocks away. At nineteen, she still carried the disaffected mannerisms of a bored teen who isn't going to feign enthusiasm for yet another Cold Cut Combo. She thought Brett was a really nice guy. In contrast to other, bitter fast-food workers, he was always in a good mood and polite. But then, it wasn't like the Subway gig was his whole life. It was just for extra spending cash, he'd told her. His main profession, as an EMT, was his life's true passion. She could tell; he talked about it all the time, and she'd seen him and his friend Sean in uniform. She'd also heard Brett brag about his father, Fred Andrews, a Vietnam-era Navy SEAL and retired Englewood police officer.

From the front window of this Englewood Subway, Brett could look across the street and see his dad's house around the corner. The small, two-bedroom cinder-block unit has bars on all the windows. An American flag hangs up front, and a carport juts off the back toward Broadway, one of the main drags he used to patrol. Inside, Fred Andrews sits in an old recliner, staring off into space, slowly tapping the heel of his right foot on the carpet. Organized on the ottoman in front of him for constant, easy access is the remote control and three cereal bowls. The first is filled with Lemonheads, the second with Jolly Ranchers, and the third with pistachios. If the phone rings, it will ring at least half a dozen times before he answers it by shouting unintelligibly into the receiver. Brett explained to Megan and other friends how his father's condition was the result of being shot twice in the line of duty as a cop, once in the leg and once in the lower back. It happened when Brett was in elementary school; his parents divorced soon after. The doctors said Brett's father was going to be paralyzed for the rest of his life, but he was a tough ol' sonofabitch and went into rehab and got back on his feet. Less than a year into his recovery, however, Fred Andrews suffered a minor stroke. This was followed by more heart attacks over the next decade. Each bout was a little more difficult to recuperate from, slurring his speech, his motor control, his memory.

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