Oh, where do I begin.
Dallas. Where I began. Where I grew up, where I went to school. Where I was a kid when the principal came on and told us President Kennedy had been killed downtown. Where I returned after college, where I went to work, where the company I worked for went bust and all our 727s were locked up by federal marshals on the tarmac, and where desperate for work I went to work for a police department while my wife went back to school for her MD.
Last Thursday’s news was like a gut punch, and there I was on my Mac typing a story about cops. I guess my perspective is different now, but the news hit me hard.
So, here’s the first tentative stabbing at a new story. Sorry, but hope it all leads someplace worth your time.
For we are Ancients of the earth,
And in the morning of the times.
So sleeping, so aroused from sleep
Through sunny decades new and strange,
Or gay quinquenniads, would we reap
The flower and quintessence of change.
Tennyson The Day Dream
…Black and Blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and Down
And in the end it’s only round and round and round
Haven’t you heard it’s a battle of words
the poster bearer cried
Listen son, said the man with the gun
There’s room for you inside…
Pink Floyd Us and Them
She was a moron. I was sure of it.
How the woman had made it through academy I had no idea, but after two nights on the street with her I was sure she was going to be nothing more or less than a danger to everyone she came in contact with. It wasn’t, as far as I could tell, that she was simply stupid. No, with each passing hour I spent with her it became clear she reveled in asininity, because after each and every one of her stomach turning comments she laughed – and more obscenely in direct proportion to the inappropriateness of the most recent comment. Maybe ‘chortled’ is the best, most appropriate word to describe her inappropriate outbursts, because the word ‘laugh’ really doesn’t convey the sheer embarrassment I felt for her. Too, she made these rough snorting noises when she chortled, and her eyes squinted – causing her eyes to water – and her cheeks turned red too, leaving the impression of having seen a pig screaming at a passing feed truck.
Her name was Amy, Amy Goodman, and she’d been out of academy for two months; the word on her was that she was brilliant at classwork and horrible at anything that had to do with people. The mock person-to-person encounters she’d been through in academy, the ones where cadets get to intervene during a staged domestic fight? She drew down on the woman in her first encounter, called the aggrieved housewife an entitled slut and pushed the gal down to the floor before ‘cuffing her. Instructors had been quite impressed with that little performance, before reminding her that we live in a litigious society and that her actions would cost the city a million and change, plus assorted court costs. She’d alienated every one of her classmates during the course of academy, and the academy staff almost felt sorry for her. Almost. I think she managed to piss off every one of them, too. That was the rumor anyway, and I could believe it.
She’d almost washed out, too. Runs through Glen Canyon almost got her, and she’d just managed to do the required ten pull-ups to pass the graduating physical exam, then fallen to the side of the court and flashed hash all over the gym floor. Following the standard rotation she went from academy to work a week in the county jail, then been sent to day shift for her first two month rotation with an FTO, or Field Training Officer.
And I knew her FTO, too. If not quite a real friend, Ben Royal and I were close in the way cops that have worked together for almost twenty years usually are, and we had been training rookies long enough to know all the signs of a real, classic loo-loo. Goodman was one of those. She was huge, bigger than life, and certainly a lot bigger than myself. Six feet tall, probably a hundred and eighty pounds when I first met her, she was gangly, all arms and legs, though her feet were tiny, like a size six, and I only mention this as I wondered how the hell she could run on feet that small.
Not very well, as it turned out.
On a foot patrol down the pedestrian walk along Fisherman’s Wharf, Ben spotted a purse-snatcher about the same time Amy did, and they both took off after the kid, weaving through people and bicycles as they gained on the suspect. But Ben noticed she had both hands on her “Sam Browne” belt, and after a few hundred yards her hands slipped and her pants flew down around her ankles – and down she went, tumbling down the sidewalk in a blur. Ben caught the kid about the time Amy managed to get herself up and put back together, and she found the owner of the purse and got all the information for the report – right out of the department’s Procedures Manual – but she’d been embarrassed by the whole thing, enough to talk about quitting.
And I guess that’s the rub a lot of people had with her. It was like she just didn’t fit in, like she’d grown up on the outside and had always been looking in through the out door. She was a big girl, too, which had probably kept her socially isolated as a kid, though in truth it was really difficult to tell what was under her uniform and vest. And another truth: women were still the odd man out, if you know what I mean, in a department that was still very male oriented.
Because of quotas, because the department didn’t have enough women in uniform on the street, and so the feeling was, as was perhaps true for most of the women on the force, she’d been carried along despite some glaring issues. Once upon a time, or so the saying went, a girl like Amy would have never made it into academy, let alone pass, but a lot of us who’d been around for a while had seen the handwriting on the walls. Times had changed, or so we’d heard, and we had to change along with the times – or get steamrollered. So resentments blossomed, and this is the real hard part of the equation, all us old timers had to change in such a way we didn’t get other officers – let alone innocent civilians – killed. So affirmative action had forced real change on departments everywhere, and I had to get Goodman through the next part of the ritual. I had to get her through – or wash her out, and it would all be very impersonal – one way or another.
The first time I saw her – in uniform, in the briefing room – she looked like just about every other cop in the room. Uniform starched with razor like creases on her trousers, brass shined and blazing away, and the only thing even marginally out of place was her longish blond hair and square jaw, and when I walked into the briefing room her eyes locked onto mine quicker than a heat seeking missile’s. Yet I didn’t see anxiety there, or fear. In it’s place was an easy-going curiosity lurking in those cool, greenish-blue orbs, and I could see she’d held the seat next to her’s open – for me.
After I was seated next to her the shift sergeant came in and began our briefing – going over the most troubling episodes and calls from the evening shift, and any glowing hotspots we might get called back to. All pretty mundane stuff, I guess you’d say, and when it was over I let Goodman get her briefcase put back together before I let her lead us out to our squad car. She had picked up a lot over the last two months, the rough edges weren’t as sharp, anyway, but she was still a character.
My usual beat is ‘Snob Knob’ – the area north of Golden Gate park and west of the bridge. Lot of money in the neighborhood and all in all about as far from South San Francisco as you can get. Still, we get some world class domestic disturbances on deep nights, not to mention big-time burglaries, so it’s a good training ground for rookies. A little more action than ‘days’ – but not quite up to the bruising pace on evenings, so it was her place in a planned progression. She’d worked downtown on days, and would go south for evenings – assuming she made it out of deep nights in one piece – before being cut loose to ride solo for a few years.
And she seemed in good spirits that night, our third night together. She ran through the car’s inventory of flares and cones softly singing some old ‘Sinatra’ type song, and the thing is…Amy could sing. I don’t mean like sounding good in the shower. I mean like Ginger Rogers or Judy Garland. I mean…what the hell was she doing out here with a gun and a badge? Why the hell wasn’t she cutting record deals down in Hollywood?
“What is that?” I asked, knowing the tune but not able to place it.
“What’s that song?”
“Glenn Miller, Moonlight Serenade,” she said, looking at me like I was the moron.
“Oh,” I said, knowingly. Then, “You have a nice voice. Soothing.”
She looked at me again and smiled, but I felt like I had just uttered the singularly most inappropriate words in the department’s history.
“You think so?” she said, letting me, gently, off the hook.
“Yeah, like Ella Fitzgerald. Smooth as good whiskey.”
“You like jazz?” she asked.
“It’s against the law to live in The City and not like jazz,” I tossed back.
“I never heard that one in academy.”
“Dereliction of duty,” I muttered as the shift sergeant walked by.
“Y’all gonna hit the street sometime tonight?” he said as he got in his Explorer and checked in service. Nonplussed, I tossed her the keys and told her she was driving tonight, then got in and buckled up for the ride.
We were just heading out Geary when we got our first call: a family disturbance. She was writing the address down on her notepad when she started in on Luck Be A Lady, another Sinatra classic, and I had to shake my head again…
“Man, what are you doing out here? You should be down in LA cutting records.”
“Stop it, would you? My neighbors say I sound like two cats screeching in the alley.”
“They need a hearing check. By the way, what day of the week is it?”
“Okay, family disturbance on a Thursday night. Does that ring any bells to you?”
“What usually happens on Fridays?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Payday,” I said. “Now, what are most family disturbances about?”
“Anal sex?” Snort snort, chortle chortle…
I groaned. “Okay, other than that, what else comes to mind?”
“Good, right you are. Now, if payday is tomorrow odds are we’ve had a pretty good fight about money tonight. And fights about money tend to be bad…”
“2141,” dispatch said over the radio.
“2141, go ahead.”
“2141, signal 4 at your 38f. Neighbors advise multiple gunshots that location.
“2141 code three,” I advised as Goodman hit the lights and siren.
“See,” she said. “Told you it was anal sex.”
I groaned again as I looked over at her, because there was simply no way to reconcile this girl. Sinatra one minute, off color jokes about anal sex the next. Singing like a bird one moment then completely off key the next, like maybe she was a canary in the coal mine…
Okay, so let’s end this fragment here. If things come together maybe I’ll finish Sunday/Monday – one week out.
Erica threw a blood clot Saturday night, so we’re doing the whole blood thinner thing this week, then back to Denver next week for more appointments. Have laptop will travel.
Thanks for dropping by. Aa