Variations on a theme. Recollections into fiction.
Ever seen a police motorcycle rodeo? No? Well, go to Youtube and hit search. Watch a few. Try Texas or California. Kind of interesting, from a spectators point of view, anyway. Hard work. Nerve-wracking, too. Yes, yours truly used to do that shit, but today’s ‘images’ aren’t about rodeos and such. Picks up where we left off last week.
Images d’une brise décolorée en août.
I have been happy, tho’ but in a dream.
I have been happy—and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid colouring of life
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love—and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.
‘Still an hour to go ‘til shift change,’ he thought, just glimpsing his watch on the Harley’s vibrating handlebar. Eleven at night. 2300 hours, on a hot August night. Quiet so far, too; only a couple of accidents, minor injuries – no big deal. He needed to pull in somewhere, get a Coke and write-up the last accident, and that would probably take him to midnight – and then three days off – three days in a row!
He saw a Mustang up ahead. New. Dealer plates on the back. Black, red pin-stripes. Big pipes, deep, throaty rumble. One guy behind the wheel, having trouble keeping the car in his lane, slowing for a red light a few hundred feet ahead. Middle lane, six lane divided road, light traffic.
He pulls over to the right lane, watches the driver swerve a little, sharply this time, then the driver corrects and gets back in his lane. Keeping out of mirror angles, he pulls closer, maybe twenty feet behind the Ford and stops, waits for the light to turn green.
When it does, the driver in the Mustang pounds the throttle, then lets up as quickly, then accelerates smoothly away from the light, yet swerving through traffic erratically a moment later.
He picks up the mic and calls the tag into dispatch, then checks out on traffic – hitting the strobes, letting the siren wail for a few seconds – and the driver loses it completely, veers off the road, jumping a curb in the process, and he watches as sparks fly off the underbody. The Mustang careens through the parking lot, narrowly missing several parked cars on the way to a collision with a large, concrete and steel light tower.
Smoke pours out of the Mustang’s hood as he gets off the Harley and, with hand on pistol he walks up to the driver’s window.
The driver is leaning back in his seat, his trembling hands reaching for the steering wheel, and he hears hard, fast breathing, like the man is in distress…
Then he sees the blond hair, bobbing in the driver’s lap. She is in the short strokes now, and he backs off, waits for the performance to end – which isn’t too far in coming. The driver is pounding his head against the headrest, his hands are squeezing then releasing the steering wheel, then he is screaming, almost a Tarzan-like yell, a real, shattering Johnny Weissmuller yodel, and he laughs – then shines his Mag-Lite into the cabin. The driver, just coming back to earth, turns his head and looks at the motorcycle cop standing outside his window – and grins.
“Are we having fun tonight?” he asks the driver. The girl is sitting up now, clearly embarrassed, her face a pearlescent wreck.
The driver nods. “Yup.”
“You had anything to drink?”
“Not yet. But I intend to take care of that shortly.”
“Ma’am? You alright?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” she groans.
“No ma’am. I need a straight answer. Are you alright?”
“Look, this son-of-a-bitch just shot two gallons of splooge down my throat. How do you think I feel?”
“Pretty damn good!” the driver said, grinning deeply now.
“Ma’am, are you in this car against your will?”
“No, but I sure didn’t know this son-of-a-bitch had a foot long dong hiding down there.”
He looked down, saw radiator fluid running out from under the new Ford and sighed. “You’re going to need a wrecker to get out of here, sir,” he said to the driver.
“Better come out, take a look.”
The driver got out, opened the hood and a boiling wave of steam billowing up into the air, and the steam smelled like scorched ethylene glycol and burned rubber.
“Son-of-a-bitch!” he cried.
“That’s what I said,” the girl added, wiping stuff off her chin.
“This is gonna be the most expensive blowjob in history,” the driver sighed, then he looked at the motor-jock, ticket book in hand, and he cringed. “Man, don’t write me up. I work in the DAs office, and Henry will fuckin’ kill me for this.”
He sighed, shook his head. “Got your ID?”
“Yeah, yeah.” The driver went to the car, fished around in his jacket, pulled out his wallet and ID, handed it over.
He looked it over, then filled out a ticket, handed the lawyer his ticket book. “Go ahead and sign it. I’ll have to call in the morning, but if you’re legit I’ll cut you some slack, void it out.”
The driver seemed a little put out, but took the ticket book and signed on the dotted line, then handed it back.
“You need me to call you a wrecker?”
“Yeah, could you?”
“Sure. No sweat.” He walked back to the car, looked at the girl. She had finished cleaning up the mess on her face and neck; now she looked up at him sheepishly as he came to the window and leaned over.
“You sure you’re okay,” he asked.
“Yeah,” she said, gently now, “I’ll be okay.”
“Not the safest place to do this, you know?”
She nodded her head. “Would you like my telephone number,” she asked.
“I might, but my wife sure wouldn’t,” he said, smiling. “Can I call someone for you, or you want to stick it out with Tarzan?”
She handed him her business card, looked up at him. “Just in case,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am. You have a good night.”
It was the first day of the new school year, and everyone in both Patrol and Traffic were geared up to work school zones this morning. Indeed, for the next week anyone busting a school zone would get hammered. No leniency. No excuses. Just a massive fine. Fifteen over the limit and a trip downtown for Reckless Driving, per orders from both the Mayor’s and the DA’s office. Too many kids killed last year, so a big PR campaign was underway.
He was set up in a parking lot near an elementary school, the school located on a busy, six lane divided roadway, with volunteer school crossing guards at four of the major crosswalks leading to the school, and it didn’t take long.
A little red pickup zipping through traffic, a solid forty five in the twenty miles per hour zone, and the truck tripped his radar at 46. He tossed the radar in his saddlebag, pulled in behind the boy and flipped on his lights – the kid pulled over and looked at him nervously. He walked up, explained to the boy why he was being stopped, and asked his age.
He nodded his head, had dispatch call the kid’s parents, ask them to come to the scene, then he called for a Juvenile Division officer to come to the scene and get ready to take the kid into custody.
He heard: “Jimmy, don’t!” and turned, looked at the crosswalk – and he could see it unfolding before it happened. He started memorizing the scene, the placement of vehicles, the locations of people…
A hundred feet away. Cars stopped in the outside and inside lanes, the middle lane clear. Six kids in the crosswalk, following the crossing guard – one kid darting out ahead of the guard. His name, apparently, Jimmie. A red car in the middle lane, Toyota Corolla, four door, estimated speed fifty. Girl, blond hair, high school, not paying attention, doesn’t see the kid because of the other stopped cars – they’re blocking her view.
Hits the kid as he crosses into the middle lane, his angle of departure a little to the left, towards the inside lane, knocked about fifteen feet into the air, flies about seventy feet before landing on the inside lane. Body tumbles about fifty feet more then comes to a rest on the concrete median, and he’s marking the impact points in his mind’s eye when he realizes the red Toyota is out of control now, heading for him.
He jumps out of the way as the Toyota skids past, slams into his Harley before careening into the back of the stopped pickup truck. He pulls out his hand unit and calls dispatch:
“2141, 36B my location, pedestrian down, signal 60, secondary collision and impact with previously stopped vehicle. Need EMS, possibly a helicopter my location, and code 3 backup for traffic control.”
“2141 at 0755 hours.”
He runs to the kid in the street, feels for a pulse and feels nothing, then runs to the Toyota. There is gasoline all over the scene now and he calls dispatch again. “2141, get me an engine on scene, I’ve got gas all over the place, and three kids trapped inside their car.”
“Get back!” he yells at onlookers and passers-by – as he runs around to the passenger door, tries to pull it open. He cuts the seatbelt free of the girl sitting there and cradles her head as he pulls her free, and someone helps him carry her to the sidewalk. Black smoke starts coming up from inside the Toyota’s engine compartment and in an instant fire engulfs the little car. He jumps back, then runs to the pickup and sees the boy is now unconscious, slumped over the steering wheel. He opens the door, pulls him free and throws him over his shoulder, runs to the sidewalk and more people help him put the kid down.
Two men are spraying the Toyota with small fire extinguishers as he runs for the driver’s door. He reaches in through the flames and yanks the girl free; her clothes on fire now and people help him douse the flames, someone empties another fire extinguisher on the car and he sees a little kid in the back seat screaming – before the car disappears from view in howling flames and boiling black smoke.
Fire trucks in the distance. Sirens. He looks down, sees the scorched flesh on his hands and arms – but oddly, he can’t feel anything.
Patrol cars, paramedics and firemen are everywhere now, making an opening for two helicopters. Three kids are loaded and the helicopters rise into the morning air, head for Parkland.
The Watch Commander is walking the area, talking to the chief by radio, describing the scene, then walks over to him.
“You look like a fucking hot dog,” the lieutenant said, shaking his head, “like someone held you over the fire too long. Why aren’t you on the way to the hospital?”
“I’ve got to get my measurements, L-T.”
“Bullshit. We can do that.”
“No, sir. This is on-view, and I know where everything is,” he said, pointing to his head. “I know where the key points in the sequence are. I’ve got to get my points marked, my measurements down now. I can do everything later, but I’ve got to get those first.”
The lieutenant nodded his head, called a patrol officers to help, and he got to work.
He hated this stuff. With a passion.
Once a year, three days of recurrent motorcycle training. Running cones. Endless courses of cones. Tight circles, so tight his Harley’s floorboards were ground down to nothing now. U-turns, inside the space of a single parking place. High speed sprints, then locked up braking and a sharp, 90 degree turn to the right, followed by a quick left. All day long, over and over. Smoking clutches and scorched brake pads, frayed tempers, brittle by days end.
The course was set up at DFW airport this summer, on the vast concrete apron outside fire station number three, but this was the third day, so an end was in sight. But this was the joyride day, the real world practicum day. The tough day. The day you were scored – by how many times you put your foot down. With a new clutch assembly installed, and fresh rear brake pads too, his Hawg was ready for the grind, the mechanical grind, anyway, but he remembered this was the most emotionally, as well mechanically, stressful day of the class. It was supposed to be; it was designed to be. When you were a rookie motor-jock, this was the day many washed-out – and went back to patrol.
If any of them washed out today, they’d get one more chance, get to make one more run. Another failing score would see a quick return to patrol, and a measurable loss of face in the eyes of brother Traffic Division officers. Scoring was simple, too. Put your foot down at any time on the joyride – and lose a point. Five points and you were out, sent to the barn.
The group started out running, one at a time, down runway 13 left – at very high speed. An instructor rode alongside, kicking his bike’s left saddlebag – as hard as he could. Once at the end of the runway he entered a circle, rode around slowly, letting the adrenalin rush taper, fade away, and when all the other officers finished it was out onto Highway 114 and a quick ride down to Texas Stadium. Into the stadium parking lot, a meandering course to an open gate, then up the inclined ramps inside the stadium to the upper deck. Up steep steps to an opening a couple hundred feet above the 10 yard line, then down the steps, through the bleachers to the bottom row of seats and a hard left turn. Fight off the vertigo, make the turn – without putting a foot down – then run along the seats to the next set of steps, then another hard left and back up the steps. Without putting a foot down. Then around the deck – up, down, up, down.
He felt his clutch slipping more now, compensated with more rear brake, but he made it out without a point off. They rode into town, rode through downtown traffic – stopping at red lights – without putting a foot down when they stopped. Clutch simmering now, they rode out to Fair Park and rode the ramps up and down through the old Cotton Bowl, then ran over to Adair’s for hamburgers and Dr Pepper – foot down allowed here – then a long, high speed run on back country roads to DFW, where one last course through the cones was set up, waiting. One of the official Police Rodeo courses was set up, and here the scoring was adjusted a little. Time became a factor, with any time greater than one minute through the course disqualifying, while a foot down still garnered one point off.
With his clutch in terminal decline he entered the course, zipped through and went over to the fire station, parked his bike and hopped off, took off his helmet and sat on the grass under a shade tree. He wiped the sweat from his face, tried to ignore his shaking hands.
He caught his breath, watched the rest of the guys run through the course, heard a thunderstorm off in the distance and sighed. A motor-jock from Plano came over and sat by him, and they looked up at the clouds as another rumble echoed across the airport.
“Nothing like running home in the rain,” the guy from Plano said.
“Unless it’s hail. I really love riding in hail.”
They both wiped sweat from their heads, then one of the firemen came out. “We got some Cokes in here, on ice.”
That was all it took.
He got up, held his hand out and helped the other guy up, then they walked inside the bays to a big, galvanized tub full of ice, overflowing with red cans of Coke. He grabbed one, popped the top and downed it, then let out a huge, billowing belch.
“Goddamn, that feels so fucking good…” he sighed, and he saw one of the instructors walking his way and grabbed another Coke.
“Looks like you’re number two today. 47.3 seconds and no fouls. Not bad,” then he looked at the guy from Plano. “57.5 and three fouls. You pass, but that time sucks. You need work, amigo.”
“That’s what he told me last year,” the guy said, slamming down his third Coke as the instructor walked away. He ripped off a burp that lasted minutes.
The last jock was about to enter the course when he heard thunder, now very close, and they turned, saw a dark wall of cloud racing for the airport, then lightning arcing through the clouds overhead. A few sprinkles hit the pavement, and the instructors looked nervously at the clouds, then at the last guy weaving through the cones.
“Gonna be close,” he said, and the guy from Plano burped again, a long hissing burp easing past his nostrils, nodding his head all the while, then the last guy was through, parking by the station.
More thunder, this time right overhead, and a lightning strike over by 114.
“Alright, guys,” one of the instructors said. “Let’s take cover.”
The group went inside the bays, but all the huge overhead doors were open, the immense fire engines, in effect, aimed at the runways, while a table was set up with hot dogs and hamburgers, the firemen sharing their dinner with the cops.
He went over to one of the bays overlooking the runways on the east side of the airport, watched a little Learjet flare and land a few hundred yards away and he was glad he wasn’t flying this afternoon. He watched an American 727 struggle with a gust on the far side of the airport, then felt a sudden shift in the wind. He was about to turn away when he felt a ripple in the air, then he saw a huge, billowing fireball behind the cargo terminals…
“What the fuck,” Plano said.
He watched as the back third of an L-1011 tumbled through the grass just beyond the cargo ramp, smoke and bodies flying through the air, fires starting and instantly smothered by the heavy rain that had just started falling – and everyone was running for their bike, starting them as they strapped helmets on, then screaming across the cargo ramp to the grass. He threw the Harley’s kickstand down, ran into the grass, ran through a sea of smoldering bodies…
He was sitting right seat this morning, Deborah Desjardins doing all the driving now as she was well into her third week of training. It was warm out by eight that morning, and the air conditioner in the Dodge Diplomat was already having trouble keeping up, so running with the windows down seemed a better option, at least until afternoon came ‘round. Eighty days in a row with temps above 110 degrees, but she was getting used to it now, not complaining as often. Still, when you weren’t used to wearing a vest, a bullet-proof vest, in this heat, the misery index tended to shoot off the scale.
“Where to?” she asked after she’d double-checked the squad car’s inventory of flares and cones, and after he’d loaded his dive gear and reconstruction duffel in the trunk.
“Take 67 south to Camp Wisdom. Remember your briefing? There’s been a spike in burglaries in our district, and both DeSoto and Duncanville are reporting the same. Did you write down the suspect vehicle information?”
She looked at her notes, read through and he shook his head as he watched.
“Deb? You got to get this shit into memory. You can’t stop and consult your notepad out there…you’ve got to know what you’re looking for. Black Camaro or Firebird, damage on right rear quarter panel, some kind of decal on the back glass, maybe an STP decal. Sergeant read that out, not for your amusement but for you to have in mind while you patrol your district. Got it?”
“You memorized all that? This morning?”
“Yeah, you got to. I can remember shit like this from two weeks ago, some from months ago. And you’ve got to. We’re not cruising out here just for fun, we’re looking for specific targets. You see a black yada-yada-yada today, you turn on it and we scope it out. Got it?”
“Yup.” She left the station and made for the highway, and they drove out Highway 67. “Are they mainly hitting houses, or apartments?”
“Good question. The sergeant didn’t specifically tell us, did he? But he gave us street names both here and in Duncanville. All residential, single family homes.”
“Understood. I’ve got to memorize all these street names too. Right?”
“Yup. Pain in the ass, but when I was a rook I took a street map of my patrol beat into the house with me, and just started memorizing street names and block numbers. It’s tedious, but using a map is the only way to go. You’ve got to not only know the names, you’ve also got to know the quickest way from X to Y. Remember the Civil Service Exam? The most direct way is often neither the quickest way nor the safest. All these things come into play, but here’s a clue. This knowledge takes time to acquire and assimilate. You have time now, as a rookie, to start learning this stuff, but you really have to apply yourself. It ain’t easy, and it won’t come together without hard mental prep time.”
She nodded her head. “It’s funny, driving out here, how suddenly everyone starts to drive the speed limit.”
“Yup. People see the bubble gum lights on top of the car and they get religion – real quick. But there’s a lesson in this, too. Know what it is?”
“Something about showing the flag?”
“Maybe, but no, something a little less obvious. The guy driving a little too perfectly, too carefully, he’s usually hiding something. You look at his car carefully. Is it well kept? Are the tags current? The inspection sticker? Sometimes you’ve got to drive close, get a look, see if he looks like a scrote.”
“Yeah, derived from scrotum, I think, but someone who looks hinkey, suspicious. It’s a perception thing, too. You can look at someone out here, after a while, and you can almost read their arrest and conviction record before the printout is in your hand. Certain types of tattoos are a dead give away, but I can see it in the eyes now. More a smirk, you know? No respect for the law, or for the badge, and that usually comes after a little time in the big house.”
“The big house?”
“Oh. What do you think is the common denominator? I mean, behind criminal behavior?”
“Wow. Now there’s a question. Maybe a pointless one, but let’s see. If I were going to lay one thing out there, it’s that most street criminal think they’re real smart. That makes them lazy, and often careless. Another word that comes to mind is stupid.”
“Yeah, you watch a few when you arrest them. They do things they think are smart, but in the end those moves are self-defeating, not thought through real well. Stupid, in other words.”
“Then why do so many get away with stuff?”
“Well, I hate to say it, but luck plays a big role in that. Not to mention we’re stretched thin, especially at certain times of the day, and, believe it or not, cops aren’t immune from fucking up, too. The problem with being out here, exposed like we are, is that when we fuck up we, generally speaking, get fucked up. My biggest fear isn’t getting shot, it’s being run over on a traffic stop, or out on a highway, working a wreck.”
“The closest I’ve come to getting killed was working a wreck out on I-20. A couple of 18-wheelers got into it, jack-knifed across all lanes of traffic, and one of ‘em was a chemical tanker. I get there, park on the shoulder and start helping a patrolman get cones and flares set in the road. A sergeant was parked up beside the tanker truck, his strobes on, flares set back from the truck. I see a car barreling along, in the lane I was standing in, and I put out my hand – like, “STOP! Now!” – but the car doesn’t slow down, not one bit, and as I leap out of the way all I can see is a ‘little old lady’ – squinting under the steering wheel – as she roars by, doing at least seventy.”
“And she plows right into the tanker truck. Killed instantly, but so was the sergeant. I mean vaporized. The explosion knocked us off our feet, blew out windows in houses and businesses on both sides of the interstate, and the sergeant’s squad car was just a black, scorched pile of metal. That fast, you know? Probably thinking about his kids, but who knows? Maybe he coulda done X, Y, or Z if he had been paying closer attention, but he didn’t, and he was just dead. Smart guy, nice, dedicated. Great father, good husband, and he was a friend, too. And I watched him die. That’s part of the job too, one you need to get ready for. It’s not ‘if,’ Deborah, it’s when. It WILL happen to you, someday. You WILL see someone you know get seriously hurt, or killed. You WILL go to a lot of funerals, dead officer’s funerals, and it will fuck you up.”
“How many have you been to?”
“Three. In the last year. When there’s one anywhere within driving distance, the chief likes at least four motorjocks to show up.”
“When it happens to a friend? Man, that fucks with your head, big time.”
“How many? For you, I mean?”
“Too many, Deborah. One would be too many…but…too many. Uh…Camp Wisdom Road, one mile.”
“Turn left at the light, go down to Hampton and make a left.”
“K. Where we headed?”
“The country club.”
“Turn right on Red Bird, then right, the next right, into the lot.”
“The maroon Jaguar. Under the tree. Pull my side up to the driver’s door.”
He rolled down his window when the car stopped. “Hey, Dad, how’s it going?”
“Alright. Who’s this?”
“New rookie. Deborah Desjardins.”
“Pleased to meet you,” the old man said, eyeing the rookie closely. “Why don’t you talk this asshole into bringing you to dinner at my place this weekend. Sunday afternoon.”
“I, uh, well, I’ll try, sir.”
“Well, you’re invited, so come on over anyway.”
“Bad case this morning?” he asked his father.
“Old guy, in his 80s, replaced his mitral valve last year. Bacteria all over it, eating it up. Tried to fix it…I told him it was too risky, but he insisted.”
“Whoya playing with this morning?”
“Bill and Henry. They ask about you, you know? They’ll be there Sunday, so try to come, willya?”
“You too, young lady.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Seeya later, Dad.”
He rolled up his window as she pulled ahead, and he pointed at the road. “Right on Red Bird, then the next left. Lake Placid, I think, then let’s start cruising the alleys.”
“Right. Now what the fuck was that all about?”
“Inviting me to dinner?”
“Guess he liked you.”
“He’s not married to, like, your mom?”
“She passed a couple of years ago.”
“He’s lonely as hell, and he’s a world class flirt. I think you’d have a good time.”
“So, did you arrange this little meeting ahead of time?”
He turned and looked at her, grinned: “Who? Me?”
“Hell, I guess I should be flattered.”
“That you’d think of me that way. Someone your dad might like.”
“Look, kiddo, if I wasn’t married I’d be all over you.”
She blushed, turned away.
“Next alley, make a right.”
“Windows down, go real slow,” he whispered. “Slower…now…stop. Engine off.” He got out of the car and tip-toed along slowly, up to a six foot tall wood fence. He crouched low, walked up to the fence and pushed aside some shrubbery, peeked over the fence then motioned her to get out of the squad car and come over, but he was grinning like a fool. She walked over quietly and looked over the fence, then tried her best not to break out laughing.
A naked blond, by the swimming pool, with a German Shepherd between her legs, doing the deed…
She doubled over, stumbled back to the car and got in, watched as he came back and got in the car…
“Goddamn!” she said. “You knew she was going to be here? Doing that?”
“Most mornings, all summer long.”
“Shouldn’t we arrest her? You know, like animal cruelty? Something like that?”
“Did you see that dog’s face? Did he look like he was suffering to you?”
She started laughing again, this time harder.
“I mean, you’re going to testify in court? Testify about the look on the mutt’s face? Really? That fuckin’ dog is in Hogg Heaven. Animal cruelty?”
She was losing it now.
“Roll up your window, dammit! You don’t want to disturb them, do you?”
“Goddamn you,” she snorted. “You’re a sadistic sonofabitch, you know it?”
“What? Don’t it make horny?”
“Stop it!” she tried to say, but she was laughing harder now. “I’m about to piss my pants…”
He picked up the radio. “2141, go ahead.”
“2141, signal 53, Woodstock and Oak Forest. RP advises a black Camaro in the area just pulled into one of the houses on the cul-de-sac, unsure of the address.”
“41, code 5.”
“2110, show me code 5, and get another unit en route.”
“Units en route at 0935 hours.”
“Do you know how to get there?” he asked.
“Left to Reynoldston, then make a right. We’ll turn left on Polk.”
“Put your overheads on.”
“Slow for the intersection…look both ways…okay, bust it…!”
“Yeah, got it.”
“Traffic on Polk is gonna be shit,” he said as they approached the intersection. “Okay, nose out just a little, let people see the strobes…okay, you got it…go now…”
She turned left… “Should I keep the lights on?”
“Hell yes…right lane now…Oak Park ahead, right – at the school, then an immediate left…”
“Slow…down…you got to look ahead, but you have to scan the side streets, remember – look out for the little old lady with her air conditioning going full blast. She can’t see you or hear you…okay, here’s the school…”
“Yeah, got it.”
“Left now, lights off, and about two blocks…lot’s of kids…keep it down now.”
“Slower…there it is, about eleven o’clock, reddish brick house, hipped roof. Got it?”
“How the fuck do you see these things?”
“Pull over here,” he said as he picked up the radio. “2141, show us code 6 and we have the suspect vehicle in sight now. 2110, can you approach from Oak Trail?”
“2141 at 0939”
“2113, show us code 6 in the area at this time.”
He pulled binoculars from his duffel and looked at the black car. “2141, 27 on Arkansas 132 George Paul Sam.”
“Received at 0940.”
He looked at the house, saw movement inside a window then looked at the front door. “2141 going to TAC2,” he said, switching to the encrypted tactical channel. “2141 on 2, front door kicked in, male white suspect in the house.”
“2113, coming up behind you.”
“2110 on Oak Trail.”
“Okay, they’ve seen us…running for their car…switching to primary…2141, suspects are in their car, backing out the drive…coming right by me now…”
“Just cut through the fucking yard…!”
He reached down, turned on the lights and siren…and 2113 got in behind the Camaro. “Keep on ‘em, close it up, stay with them.”
2113 busted the intersection with their lights and sirens going, 50 yards behind the Camaro, and they heard the officers in that car take the lead, call the chase.
“That’s Tim,” she said.
“We were in academy together…”
“Okay…come on, keep it tight. If they wreck out, we’re the lead and we can’t lose ‘em…got it?”
“Ease up on the steering wheel, don’t choke it…take a deep breath, good, keep breathing…remember, scan ahead and the side streets, always ahead…”
“2113, we’re at Camp Wisdom and Polk, southbound.”
“2110, get an air unit headed this way, notify DeSoto and Duncanville we’ve got a chase headed their way.”
“2113, passing under I-20 now…”
Two more patrol cars joined the chase, fell in behind the shift sergeant, 2110, so there were now five patrol cars following the Camaro.
“Roads choke down out here, hilly, and the surface is rough – these shit cars can’t handle it.”
“Air 2 monitoring, think we have ‘em.”
“2113, passing Wheatland Road.”
He looked over, saw their speed was over 80. “You’re doing good, keep a few hundred feet behind now, at this speed if something happens you need a buffer.”
“2113, turning west on Danieldale.”
“Okay, get left and brake before you turn…that’s it…now accelerate through the turn…attagirl. That was smooth. Remember, smooth increases speed, jerky slows you down.”
“There are some choppy hills up ahead, lots of trees, reduced visibility. Got it…?”
“Yup, think so.”
He looked at her, hard: she was sweating and her lip was quivering but she was doing okay.
“Uh, 2110, we’re approaching Cockrell Hill Road. Is Duncanville aware of this pursuit?”
He saw a slow car ahead, yellow, and a sharp little hill – but the Camaro pushed it, started to – make the pass –
“Don’t do it…don’t do it…” he whispered, but 2113 started to pass the slow car too. He watched the Camaro duck back into their lane atop the hill – then 2113 went head-on into a pickup truck – at about 80 miles per hour.
“2141, 2113 is out of the chase, 36B about a quarter mile east of Cockrell Hill, we’re in the lead.”
“Okay, get around that shithead…”
“2110, someone behind me stop that yellow car.”
“DeSoto 211, we got em, sir.”
“Cite ‘em for failure to yield and hold ’em at your jail.”
“Got it, sir.”
“Uh, 2110, get EMS out here Code 3, looks like multiple 60s.”
“What?” Desjardins cried. “Dead?”
“Concentrate on your driving, Deb. You have one job now. Don’t lose these fuckin’ scrotes. Got that?”
She became feral, possessed, punched the accelerator – hard.
“2141, we’re going south on 67 now, uh…wait one…okay, 2141, the guy on the right is leaning out the window, he’s shooting at us…notify Cedar Hill we’re in their jurisdiction now for Sig 1A.”
“2110 to Air 2, you got a sharpshooter on board?”
“Air 2, negative.”
“2141, their engine is smoking…looks like they’ve thrown a rod, slowing fast now, they’re going for the frontage road…”
Smoke pouring out of the underside of the Camaro, the two men jumped from the car as it rolled to a stop…
“2141, out on two suspects running into the woods, 300 yards south of Wintergreen Road.”
Police cars from four jurisdictions slid to a stop, twenty patrolmen started running into hilly scrub west of the highway; Desjardins was following the driver of the Camaro with her gun drawn. He heard a pop-pop-pop, saw her stop, aim and fire two rounds – and he ran to her, then ran with her – to one suspect down on the ground, two bullet wounds in his chest.
“2141, Signal 33 shots fired, one suspect down, one suspect still at large.”
“Air 2, second suspect in custody.”
“2141 to 2110, my partner took out the driver, and he is Signal 60.”
“2110, notify CID and the watch commander.”
‘Still an hour to go ‘til I finish up with this mess,’ he thought, and he rubbed his eyes, looked at his watch. Seven thirty already, but the sun was nowhere near ready to go down. Two more hours, at least, ‘til he could wrap up his measurements and head home. Nineteen hours straight. Called back to work at midnight, on his only scheduled day off this week, five hours after going off duty. Now, nineteen hours on top of that. Two bad wrecks in the morning, and he had been heading in to work on those reports when this one came out. A school bus full of kids going to a church campout. Railroad track. Driver not paying attention. Speeding train. Thirty four killed, seventeen injured.
“You know, there’s not enough room in the soul for this much heartbreak.”
He turned, looked at a pastor and saw a kindly soul, at least that’s what he thought when he looked into the old man’s eyes.
“All of them. Every one of them.” The old man’s eyes were red, watery and red, and he could tell this soul had endured enough today.
“Why don’t you go home now, sir. You look…”
“The Lord will give me strength, son. Don’t worry about me.”
He turned, looked at the last two bodies being loaded in a medical examiner’s van, then looked down at the ground and rubbed his eyes again.
“What about you, son? How are you doing?”
“You know, I’ve been better.”
“You look tired. More than tired. Your soul looks – well, almost broken.”
He smiled. “Does it? I’m not surprised.”
“Oh? Why do you say that?”
“It’s been a bad month, sir.”
“My name is Ewan. Ewan Biltmore. Please, call me Ewan,” the old man said, handing him his card.
He took it, looked it over, then got out his. “Here’s my card, sir. You’ll need the information, this service number, for your insurance company and, I assume, legal counsel.”
The old man nodded his head, looked him in the eye. “Perhaps you can’t speak now, but please, call me when you have some time.”
The old man walked across the scorched grass of August’s in a fading breeze, over to an old station wagon and to the arms of his wife – and he watched them as they held on to one another, consoling one another in the face of this sudden eclipse. He turned, found the department photographer, confirmed all the angles he needed had been covered, then he walked the half mile down the rough gravel roadbed to the locomotive, up to the engineer.
“Sorry to keep you so long,” he said. The man was about fifty, his expression bleak, lifeless. “Could you tell me again exactly what you saw?”
“Like I told the detectives, I was approaching the crossing and I see the bus slowing, then the driver looks, and I could see his face.”
“He looks? What do you mean, he looks?”
“He looked right at me.”
“How far away were you when you saw him look at you?”
“Fifty yards. Maybe a little less.”
“Forty, on the nose. Those NTSB guys have the recorder now, but I swear I was right on forty.”
“I’m not questioning that, sir, just need to make sure I’ve got my notes squared away.”
“Where was the bus, I mean what part of the bus did the locomotive strike? Front, middle, rear? Just your opinion, okay?”
“You want my opinion?”
“That guy waited for the train, and the driver pulled out onto the tracks, then stopped.”
“I been sittin’ here thinkin’ about this for a few hours, playin’ this thing over and over in my head. I see that guy lookin’ at me, his face all blank like, then he pulls right up on the tracks…and stops, and he never stopped lookin’ at me…not once, the whole time.”
“You think he, what? He committed suicide?”
“Yessir, I sure do.”
“You tell this to anyone yet?”
“No, sir, I haven’t. No one asked me about my opinion ‘til you did.”
“What about the kids? Any of them in the back of the bus looking at you?”
“They all was, officer. All of ‘em, lookin’ and screamin’ – I can still see them…oh sweet Jesus!”
The engineer turned away, leaned over and held onto a handrail, vomited once, then wiped spittle on his arm. He turned back a moment later, looked at the motorcycle cop standing there, almost like a robot.
“One more question…Anything like this ever happened to you before?”
“Couple of suicides, yeah, but never anything like this.”
“Okay, Mr Simmons, I guess I’m done. Here’s my card. Anything else you want to tell me, give me a call. You have anyone you can talk to about this?”
The man shrugged, looked away. “Wouldn’t do no good. Wasn’t anything I could do, you know? I just ain’t ever gonna get those kids’ faces out of my mind.”
“I know. Still, sometimes talking about these things helps. Then again, sometimes nothing does.”
“What about you? You seen shit bad as this before?”
He looked away, thought of the Tri-Star tumbling through the thunderstorm three weeks before, the bodies in the grass, the smell of jet fuel and seared flesh still fresh in his mind, then he looked back at the engineer.
“You have a…no, sorry. Adios, Mr Simmons.”
“Yeah. You too.”
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