Friday, July 21, 2017
I wasn’t supposed to be working the night shift, but Sergeant Castle was on vacation and there was an opening for a patrol sergeant that I had been tapped to fill. It had been hot and muggy all day long, in the nineties with about one-hundred percent humidity, and the possibility of a thunderstorm or tornado to liven things up. Instead of laying around at home in the air conditioning, or maybe down at the dock where I could drink beer and float on an inner tube, I was driving around in a TRV with the windows rolled down because the AC had crapped out. I sure hoped Castle was enjoying his stay, wherever he was. Maybe he could visit Hawaii and the volcano gods could make one explode.
“Dispatch to One-Six-Three.”
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, go ahead.”
“Dispatch to One-Six-Three, respond to civil disturbance, 378 Deckard Street. Be advised uniformed units are on site and on the way to assist. Supervisor is requested.”
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, say type of disturbance.”
“Dispatch to One-Six-Three, no details available.”
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, heading out, ETA five minutes or less.”
I had been running radar on South Matucket when the call came in, so I was only a few miles away from Deckard. I couldn’t help but wonder what the hell was wrong on D-Street. Deckard was almost exclusively African-American and was definitely what you could call the low-rent district. At one time that description had applied to Bleecker Street but in the last few years that area had been getting spruced up. Property values were rising and some of the tenements had been either torn down or were being rebuilt. Gentrification, they called it. Those businesses which had been there all along, like Foster’s Bar-B-Q, now found themselves with new customers. I had gone to school with the owners of Foster’s and they told me they had been able to raise their prices. They told me that when I complained about the price of the last order of chicken and ribs I had bought. Progress, I was told.
D-Street, on the other hand, was where everybody priced out of Bleecker ended up going, along with any individuals who didn’t appreciate the increased police presence in the now-nicer areas of Bleecker. The Three-Hundred block of Deckard was also the home turf of the D-Street Treys, the local gang. They weren’t quite as murderous as the Crips and Bloods in Los Angeles, but they ran drugs and hookers and protection rackets in the poor neighborhoods. Whatever was going on at 378 Deckard was smack in the middle of Trey territory, and for some reason that address was very familiar.
There was a large and surly-looking crowd standing on the street, most of whom were carrying beer bottles. The address was for a shotgun shack in the middle of a row of shotgun shacks. A shotgun shack is a single-family home, long and narrow, with all the rooms in a row, so-named because you could fire a shotgun in through the front door and have the blast go straight through to the back door. They were usually rather decrepit, but this one was neat and clean, and the yard was well-taken care of. A short fence went around the yard. Paul Six-One was parked in front of it and I could hear sirens as other units approached. I got out and locked my vehicle. There were a lot of angry faces around me, and some nasty words, but nobody was getting violent. Yet.
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, hold off on any more units. Keep them back three blocks, minimum.” Time for some conflict de-escalation!
I looked around and realized where I was and whose house this was. The home belonged to Mrs. Hallie Johnson, ‘Nanny’ Hallie, grandmother of Montrose Johnson, number one in the pecking order of the D-Street Treys. Nanny was standing on her porch, looking in through the front door, and looking angry. Around me people were pressing in and yelling at me about police brutality and their rights and working themselves into a frenzy.
I had first met Nanny about five years ago, when I was still working the night shift, and I was handed an arrest warrant for Montrose and sent there to grab him. According to the paperwork on Montrose he was bigger than my brother Jack and had a record as long as my arm. The beef that day had been that he had put another gang member through the front window of the Piggly Wiggly when said gang member tried to knife him. I sympathized with Montrose on that, but the store manager wasn’t as understanding. He had video and swore out a complaint…
Friday, June 22, 2012
I drove to the address on the paperwork, 378 Deckard, and was surprised when I got there. It was a small oasis of tranquility and cleanliness in a desert of hopelessness. I parked and went through the gate to the front door and knocked. A tiny black woman who must have been older than God came to the door. She opened the door and said, “Hello.”
“Hello. I’m Officer Reaper with the Matucket Police Department. I’m looking for Montrose Johnson and this is the address I have for him. Does he live here?”
“No, not really. Montrose is my grandson. He uses my address for some things. I’ve asked him not to, but sometimes that boy forgets.” I nodded in understanding. It was quite common for criminals to use addresses of their relatives; like now, we often ended up spinning our wheels looking for them. “What’s he done, officer?”
“I just have some witness papers for him. I need to take him down to the station, so we can sort it out. Would you know where I can find him?” I asked.
“Why don’t you come in and maybe I can find out,” she answered.
That would be a major improvement over my other option, which was to kick in the door and execute a hostile search. “Yes, ma’am, thank you.” I held the door for her and followed her inside.
The house was an official shotgun shack, with a living room or parlor, then a kitchen, and then a bedroom at the rear, with a door leading to the back yard. A steep staircase in the living room led to what was probably a small bedroom or attic upstairs. Mrs. Johnson led me into the kitchen and sat me down at a small table. “Would you like some coffee, Officer Reaper?”
“Yes, ma’am, thank you.”
Well damn if she didn’t pour me a cup of coffee and set it and some cream and sugar on the table. “I also have some fresh pound cake, if you’d like.”
I smiled at her. “Only if you sit and join me, Mrs. Johnson.”
She poured herself some coffee and cut a couple of pieces off the end of a fresh-baked pound cake and set them on plates. “I made this this morning,” she told me. “I hope you like it.”
“Ma’am, I’m a police officer. We live on coffee and pastries. I think it’s in the manual somewhere!”
“So, why do you need to see Montrose again?” Mrs. Johnson wanted more information, but I stuck with the witness paperwork story, that Montrose had seen a window break at the Piggly Wiggly and we had a few questions for him. She wouldn’t be happy to have me slap the cuffs on him in her living room.
After five minutes, the telephone rang, a wall-mounted type in the kitchen. She answered it and said, “Montrose, I’m so glad you called. Officer Reaper would like to talk to you.” She turned to me and said, “It’s Montrose.” She turned back to the phone and said, “Where are you, Montrose?..Alright, I’ll put him on.” She held the phone out to me and said, “Montrose would like to speak with you.”
Montrose probably knew I was in the neighborhood before his grandmother did. I took the phone from her and said, “Hello, Mister Johnson? My name is Senior Patrolman Reaper and I’d like to speak to you about the broken window you saw at the Piggly Wiggly.”
“Is that the story you spun for Nanny?” Montrose had a very deep voice.
“Yes, it is. Now, if you tell me where you are, I can come to you, if that would be more convenient,” I told him.
“So you don’t hook me up in front of my Nanny, you mean.”
“She’s been very kind and polite, Mister Johnson.”
“So why you there, cop?”
“Just looking for you and having coffee and pound cake.” I turned to her and said, “That really is good pound cake.”
“I’ll get you the recipe,” she said, smiling.
“Thank you.” To Montrose I said, “Now, if you could give me your friend’s address, I’ll run this paperwork over to you, so we can take care of this.”
To my utter amazement, he agreed, and gave me an address for an even worse part of town. I stayed long enough to finish my coffee and pocket the recipe that Nanny had written out for me. I thanked her and drove over to the ‘clubhouse’ where Montrose was supposed to be waiting for me. On the way I called into Dispatch and informed them I was heading to a new address to pick up Montrose Johnson.
The address was a real shithole, but out in front were three late model Cadillacs and Lincolns. Also, out in front were a pair of the biggest and blackest bad-asses I had ever seen. They were blocking the walkway to the house. I parked and walked up to them. “You here for Montrose,” one of them asked.
“Yes, I am,” I replied.
They stepped out of the way. “Crazy fucking cracker! He’s inside, waiting for you. Did you really have coffee and cake with his grandmother?” he said.
“She’s a very nice lady.”
“You one crazy motherfucker,” said the second.
Inside was a group of even bigger and blacker bad-asses. One of them matched the mug shot of Montrose Johnson. He looked at me and said, “You are either the dumbest or the smartest white boy I have ever seen. Nanny called me after you left and told me to do what you say, ‘cause you are a nice young man, unlike the last assholes that came by.”
“She was very nice to me. We had coffee and pound cake.”
He nodded. “That pound cake is some kind of special.” Montrose shook his head, and looked around, and said, “Now this is some new shit. You know I can’t bust this guy with my Grandmother knowing him. You a smart bastard. So, what we got?”
“Piggly Wiggly wants you picked up for property destruction. Evidently you threw someone through a plate glass window? “
“What about the other guy? He was trying to knife me!”
I shrugged “No mention of him. He left the scene. But they got you on video.”
“Shit. Lemme call my lawyer”.
“Ok. But I still have to take you in for processing. You can have him meet you there.”
“You gonna link me up here?” he asked.
“You gonna behave?”
He laughed. “You got my Grandmama on your side. I don’t and she going to give me hell.”
“I am really liking this lady. Come on, we’ll do it in the car. You behave, and you can get arraigned tonight and get out of there at a reasonable time. You don’t behave, we’ll end up having words and then drive all over the county until it’s too late to be arraigned and you’ll have to spend the weekend in jail. Let’s go with that first choice, Montrose.”
And so I collected Montrose Johnson. By the time we got to the station, his lawyer was already waiting for us. He stuck with his client all through the booking and arraignment, and then handed over a bag of cash for bail. His boys were waiting out front for him when he was done and whisked him away.
A week later, Sergeant Castle grabbed me as I was leaving roll call and handed me a batch of warrants. “You had so much fun last week, I immediately thought of you tonight.”
“You’ll love it! It will be easy! Here, go and collect!”
I looked at the stack. There were eight warrants for various members of the D-Street Treys. Three were for assault with a deadly weapon (two knives, one baseball bat), two for narcotic sales, two for burglary, and one for pandering. I yelled out, “Sarge, I hate you!” Castle just smiled. Shit!
Only one thing to do! I grabbed my phone and called Nanny Johnson. “Mrs. Johnson, I need a little help. Do you think you could call Montrose and have him call me?”
“Of course, Officer Reaper. He said you were very helpful last week.”
“I try, ma’am.” I gave her my phone number and asked her to have him call me.
Twenty minutes later, my phone rang. “Looking for Reaper,” the husky voice said.
“That you, Montrose?”
“It’s me. What you want?”
“Montrose, I don’t want to bother you, but I have some paper, not for you, but for some people you might know. I want you to reach out and let them know I have it, and if I can get them into the system, I will make sure they don’t get hurt coming in. “
“Are you shitting me?”
“Montrose, I am just trying to do this with the least amount of grief I can.”
“Shit! You know if night court is open tonight?”
“Yeah, it is. Judge Fallucci is on tonight”.
“Ok. Who all you got paper for?”
I read the eight warrants that I had, after which he laughed. “I think you are bullshitting me, white boy. You going to break up my card game!”
“I’m sorry, man. I just got this paper.”
“Shit! Come over and I will see if I can get everyone there. No promises. Bring a van”.
Rather than my regular TRV, a Tactical Response Vehicle which was just a Chevy Tahoe painted black, I grabbed a transport bus, a van set up for transporting prisoners. I drove over to the clubhouse and parked. There were two different large African-American gentlemen waiting at the entrance, but they simply stepped aside and let me go inside.
Montrose was sitting playing poker with his friends. He looked up and said, “You as crazy now as you was before.”
“My mother would agree with you, Montrose.” I grabbed a bar stool and sat down on it.
He laughed at that. “I put out the word and got most of the guys here.”
“Most? Not all?”
He shrugged. “Little Willy’s in Florida. Sorry.”
“Florida? Running shit up from Miami?” I asked.
He gave me a disgusted look. “Taking his baby mama and his kids to Orlando!”
I shrugged and pulled out the warrants. I went through the stack and figured out who was who in the room. One interesting individual was over by the bar, Washington Halliwell, Esquire, their lawyer. “Okay fellows, last hand. Shut it down and let’s go. If you want to do this and get through night court, this is your last chance tonight.”
They threw their hands in and stood up after pocketing their winnings. We went outside, where I cuffed them in front of their bodies and put them inside the van. In this I was assisted by Halliwell, who I loaded into the van first, and who watched as I had them buckle their seatbelts. Then I loaded the lawyer in the front seat of the van next to me and we drove to the station. At that point I unloaded my catch and processed them into the system.
Friday, July 21, 2017
I used this system quite a bit over the next few years. Most of the time it worked. If I showed a little respect they didn’t get cranky. It didn’t always work, of course. Every once in a while, somebody would decide they didn’t want to go to jail, or that the crime for which I was dragging them in was serious enough that they weren’t going to be let out on bail. I had a simple response for that. I warned the D-Street Treys that any disrespect to the MPD would be returned, and then came down on them like a ton of bricks! I would get Sergeant Washington to orchestrate a full-blown TRT takedown, with flash-bangs flashing and banging and door-kickers kicking doors.
For some reason, though, it looked like the system had broken down. I ignored the jeers and catcalls from the crowd and walked up to the porch. Nanny was still standing there, an angry look on her face as she looked through her front door. “Mrs. Johnson? I’m Sergeant Reaper. We’ve met before. What’s going on?”
Mrs. Johnson turned to face me, an angry look on her face. “Did you send that hooligan to my home?”
“What hooligan is that, Mrs. Johnson?”
“Your police officer! He came here asking about Montrose, and when I said he wasn’t here, he kicked in my door! He just kicked it in and barged in! Montrose isn’t here! Get that hooligan out of my house!’
Well, that was clear enough! This wasn’t good! “One-Six-Three to Dispatch, on scene and supervising. Who has Paul Six-One today?”
A few seconds later Dispatch came back, “Dispatch to One-Six-Three, Paul Six-One was assigned to Two-Two-Four, Patrolman Hanover.”
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, I am on scene at 378 Deckard. I see Paul Six-One but not Officer Hanover. Try to reach him and order him out front immediately.”
“Dispatch to One-Six-Three, copy order to Patrolman Hanover to return to his vehicle.”
I was getting a very bad feeling about what was going on. Travis Hanover was one of the newest recruits to the MPD, but he hadn’t actually been recruited. He was originally from some small department over by Savannah and had moved to the area when his wife got a job out at the Pilot truck stop by the Alabama line. He had been hired about ten weeks ago, so he was still on his probationary period. If he made it through that, he would be on an accelerated track to make Senior Patrolman.
I had been one of his training officers, assigned to ride with him for the first six weeks of his probationary time. That was a bit unusual, but not that unusual. The regular recruits would get six weeks of riding around with a training officer to teach and evaluate them. In some cases, though, a recruit was checked out by a TRT officer, when the recruit seemed to have the smart and aggressive nature we often looked for. I had been through that during my probationary period, when I had ridden around with Hank Jenkins. We looked for people who had some balls and some smarts, and the judgement to know which to use and when. Hanover had been very aggressive, perhaps too much so, but hadn’t done anything to warrant concern.
About thirty seconds later, Travis came out of the house looking around angrily. He was carrying his weapon and he gave Mrs. Johnson a nasty look before coming over to me. “What’s wrong, Sergeant? I was searching the house for Montrose Johnson!”
“Holster your weapon, Officer Hanover!”
“Holster your weapon immediately!”
“I won’t tell you again! Holster your weapon immediately!” I ordered.
Travis holstered his weapon reluctantly and I breathed a hair easier. I lowered my voice and asked, “What in God’s name are you doing? Did you really kick in this woman’s door? What other damage have you done?”
I’ll give it to Hanover, he had an answer for every question. He had an arrest warrant for Montrose Johnson and he had the legal address Montrose used. The problem was that Nanny Johnson’s grandson wasn’t at the home he used as his legal residence. He never was. He showed up about once a week to slip her a few bucks and eat a home-cooked meal.
I finally had enough. “The reason you couldn’t find Montrose Johnson here is that he doesn’t live here! That’s his grandmother’s house! This is his legal residence, not his actual residence! If you want to find Montrose Johnson, just look around the crowd!”
Hanover stared at me, and then his head whipped around to the large crowd yelling at us. I looked around, too, and spotted one of the Treys. I motioned him over and asked him if Montrose was around. He gave me a mean look but stepped back into the crowd. Thirty seconds later Montrose bulled his way forward. When I had first met him, he had been the number two and chief enforcer for the Treys, but since then their leader, Gordon Winslow, had been put in Reidsville on an armed robbery charge. Once there he had managed to get into a beef with a Royal Klansman, a member of a white supremacist prison gang, and had gotten shivved for his trouble.
Montrose did not look happy. “Reaper, what the hell did you do to Nanny’s house?”
Travis Hanover looked angrily and put his hand on his weapon. “Montrose Johnson, you are under arrest!”
I sighed. “Patrolman Hanover, shut up!”
“That’s an order!” I turned back to Montrose. “Montrose, cool down!”
“Reaper, this ain’t right, and you know it!”
“Cool down and tell everybody else to cool down. Please!”
“Please! I don’t need the grief and you don’t either!”
Montrose gave me a hard look but stepped back and said something I couldn’t hear to a couple of his guys. They spread out through the crowd, and he turned back to me. “What about this asshole and the other cops?”
“One-Six-Three to Dispatch, have everybody pull back another block and don’t send anybody else over here.”
“Dispatch to One-Six-Three, copy pulling back units.”
I turned to Travis. “Let me see your paper!”
Travis wasn’t happy and handed over his warrants. I glanced through them and saw he had four arrest warrants for various Treys. Tremendous! This asshole had decided to single-handedly bust down four doors belonging to the Treys and bring them in all by himself. He was lucky his balls were still attached. I put them in a pocket and said, “Get back in your car and go back to the station and report to the Watch Commander.” I looked again at the warrants. The only thing he had on Montrose was a failure-to-appear, which had resulted in a bench warrant. For that I was staring at a riot!
“You can’t do that!”
“I just did. Now, get out of here!” I commed Dispatch. “One-Six-Three to Dispatch, I am sending Paul Six-One and Patrolman Hanover back to the station. Put me through to the Watch Commander.” I watched as Hanover moved through the crowd to his cruiser. As he pulled away a shower of beer bottles followed him. Great!
Once I got the Watch Commander I simply told him to sit on Hanover until I got back. He was on the rubber gun squad until further notice. After that I turned back to Montrose.
“That’s it? You send him back!”
“Montrose, I don’t tell you how to do your business. Don’t be telling me how to do mine.”
“This ain’t right, Reaper!”
“Montrose, I am just trying to keep this from getting any worse! I don’t need it and you don’t need it. It’s bad for business, for both of us!”
“You ain’t taking me in on this!”
I just crossed my arms and didn’t respond. Mrs. Johnson came over and said, “What you going to do about my door?”
I looked at her grandson and sighed. “What do I know about doors?” I asked with a shrug. “You know how to fix a door?”
“You shitting me, right?”
“Montrose, watch your language. I can still wash your mouth out with soap,” said Mrs. Johnson.
Montrose rolled his eyes. “No, I don’t know nobody who can fix a door. Dumb cracker,” he muttered.
At that, one of the Treys came closer and whispered something to Montrose, who pushed him away with a nod. We got up on the porch and looked at the front door. The door had been kicked in and the frame was cracked. Montrose followed his grandmother inside and came back a couple of minutes later. “This is it,” he reported. “Your asshole went through everything but didn’t bust nothing.”
“Montrose!” warned Nanny.
Great! An arrest warrant did not give you a right to kick down doors or search a home! It gave you the right to arrest somebody, but only if you could grab them up. If they were hiding in a house, you did not have a right to enter the premises unless you knew for a fact that they were inside, like you saw them go in. A failure-to-appear meant that Montrose had missed a court date and pissed off a judge. This was about the lowest level of beef imaginable, and we now had a riot brewing over it. Just tremendous!
A tall and skinny man was pushed through the crowd into the yard. He looked nervous but came forward. One of the Treys was standing behind him, blocking his escape. “Who are you?” asked Montrose.
“This is Old Man Lincoln,” said the Trey.
“I wasn’t asking you.”
“I’m George Lincoln, and I ain’t no old man,” the tall and skinny man said. “Your boy here wanted somebody who knew about doors.”
“You know about doors, Mister Lincoln?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I do construction for Hannigan. Carpentry and finish work.” Hannigan Contracting was the outfit that bought the remains of the Holden Group after it went under.
I motioned him forward. “You know how to fix this door?”
Lincoln stepped up onto the porch and checked it out before shaking his head. “Door’s busted and it needs some new framing. You’ll need a new door.”
“I can’t afford no new door!” protested Montrose’s grandmother.
“Mister Lincoln, can you put on a replacement door? Tomorrow?” Mrs. Johnson kept protesting, but Lincoln said he could install a new door. “If you pick one up tomorrow, can you give me the bill?” I handed him a business card.
“Make it a nice door,” said Montrose.
“Make it a normal door,” I replied. “I’m not paying for a two-thousand-dollar brass-and-glass wonderdoor!”
Lincoln rolled his eyes. “I can go over to Lowes in the morning and pick up a nice steel and fiberglass door.”
“I don’t want no white door!” said Mrs. Johnson. “I want a green door! My house is green!”
“And a can of green paint and a brush,” I added.
“Who’s going to paint my door?”
“Montrose,” I answered.
“Me? I ain’t painting no damn door!” he protested.
“Montrose, the only reason we are in this mess is that you’ve been naughty, and we needed to come and visit. You can paint the door,” I told him.
“Montrose!” warned his grandmother.
“And if I don’t?” he pushed.
“Then I am going to go up and down the block knocking on every door in the neighborhood and I will tell every Nanny, Momma, and Auntie that you’re grounded, and their little boys aren’t going to be allowed to come out and play with you!”
“Montrose, let’s get everybody off the streets and handle this. We still have to deal with these,” I said, tapping my pocket of warrants.
“Are you for real?”
“We’re going to have to do this, Montrose. I’m sorry about your grandmother’s house, and we are going to get it fixed, but you and your friends need to come down to the station.”
“Where your boy is waiting for us?” he asked.
“Forget him. I’ll be with you. I haven’t lied to you before, Montrose. I don’t plan to start.”
He shrugged and gave in. I called Dispatch and reported the situation was over, but they had to send a transport van. Everybody else was sent back on patrol.
Things began quieting down, though everybody stayed out on the street. One of the problems with a riot in a neighborhood like D-Street was simply that there was nothing else to do. Nobody could afford cable, it was too hot to sit inside, and this was the only thing that passed for excitement. Mrs. Johnson had Montrose bring out some chairs and we all sat down waiting for the transport van.
Five minutes later the van showed up, and I damn near died laughing when I saw who was driving. Jenny Nguyen stepped down from the driver’s seat and looked around for me. Jenny was a very serious Senior Patrolman who was considering applying for TRT. She was also very small. I couldn’t remember what the height and weight requirements were for being a peace officer in Georgia, but Jenny must have been thinking tall and heavy thoughts when she applied. I waved to her and she came over. “What’s up, Sarge?”
“That’s who you have taking us in?” exclaimed Montrose.
Jenny looked at him dismissively and turned back to me. “We need to collect a few souls and take them in. I’ll follow you in,” I told her.
“Not a problem, Sarge.”
I handed her the four warrants and she glanced at them. “Where are our contestants? Miles Turner, come on down!” she called out.
The D-Street Treys were laughing their asses off at this. A mountain of a man pushed through the crowd and looked down at Jenny. “You’re who they sent to take me in?”
Jenny didn’t bat an eye. She just looked up at him and said, “I have three brothers who are all bigger than you, and they get so embarrassed when I make them cry.”
Miles looked over at me and Montrose. “Is she for real?”
“Miles, go with the lady. I hate to see grown men cry,” I told him.
“Miles, go with the lady cop,” ordered Montrose. Montrose then turned to me and asked, “Can she really take him?”
“Montrose, I wouldn’t want her on my case, and I can take any one of you guys without working up a sweat. She’s right. It really would be embarrassing if she makes you cry.”
“Now I’ve heard of everything!”
Jenny collected her warrants and led them to the transport van, while I escorted Montrose over. Montrose ordered one of his people to have their lawyer meet them at the station. Then Jenny took off. Her spot at the curb was immediately taken up by a news van from Channel Nine. Somebody had finally woken up to the fact that Matucket was having a riot and nobody had bothered to tell the news people.
Before I could escape and follow Jenny, I had a microphone shoved in my face. “Sergeant Reaper, what caused the riot?”
I just looked at the reporter and said, “Riot? What riot? These folks are having a block party!” I just shook my head and got into my TRV and left.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
I was not happy about being back at the station Saturday morning. I had finished my shift at 0200 and not gotten home until 0300. It seemed like I had barely gotten to sleep when the alarm went off and I had to dress to go in. I was supposed to be off, but obviously that had changed. I had heard from Lieutenant Roscoe before I had gone off shift that I needed to be there early. I was betting that the Watch Commander had called Roscoe and given him a heads-up. Technically Lieutenant Roscoe wasn’t my boss, but he was Travis Hanover’s. Since I was TRT, I reported to Lieutenant Jenkins. From there we went up to Captain Bullfinch and then to Chief Crowley.
I learned all four of them were waiting in Crowley’s office when I arrived. Travis was in the waiting room when I got there, looking mulish, but I was just too tired to care. He said, “You’re late. We had to wait for you.”
I knocked on the door and pushed it open when Crowley called for us. “Good, Grim, come in and ask Patrolman Hanover to come in with you.”
I greeted the others. The Chief was in his chair behind his desk. The others had moved chairs in front of the desk, with space in front for me and Hanover to stand. We didn’t get chairs. I came to a position of parade rest and kept my mouth shut. Crowley started with, “I’m glad you gentlemen could join us today. I was called last night and informed that we had a riot on Deckard. I came in and discovered that, no, we didn’t have a riot, we had a block party. Channel Nine couldn’t figure it out either, so they reported both. They seemed very disappointed that they didn’t have any bloody bodies in the streets and no burning police cars. Now, would either of you care to enlighten me as to what the hell was going on on D-Street last night?”
I motioned for Hanover to respond. When he didn’t say anything immediately, I said, “Officer Hanover was the first on the scene. It would be best if he explained what happened first, and then I can finish up.” Then I resumed parade rest. I wondered if Travis had filled out a report for his night’s activities. I know I had, which is one reason I got home late.
Travis gave a bare bones recital of the evening’s festivities. He had received warrants for four persons of interest and gone to Deckard to bring them in. He was forced to enter the residence of one Montrose Johnson when the individual inside said he wasn’t there and refused to allow him entry. He had made entry anyway and was searching for Mister Johnson when I arrived. I had then improperly sent him away before he could take the individuals into custody. I was then invited to tell my side of the story.
It became very clear very early that nobody was buying Travis’ version. Bullfinch did most of the questioning, and most of those questions were to Travis. I mostly just stood there with my mouth shut. I had learned a long, long time ago that the more you talked the more trouble you got into. I think I learned it from my mother.
Bullfinch started with, “Let me make sure I understand this. You volunteered to go round up four of the D-Street Treys all on your own without any backup. Then you go over to the leader of the Treys’ grandmother’s place to grab him. And then you kick in her front door and ransack her house looking for him, on a failure-to-appear beef, all the while waving your weapon around, in the middle of a riot? Do I have that right?”
“Captain, it wasn’t like that…”
“DO I HAVE THAT RIGHT?” Bullfinch roared. He turned to me and asked, “You have anything more to add?”
“You’re doing fine on your own, Captain.”
Jenkins and Roscoe winced at that, and Bullfinch gave me the stink-eye. “Don’t get smart with me, Sergeant Reaper.”
“No, sir. Sorry, sir.”
Bullfinch rolled his eyes and gave us both a disgusted look and turned to Crowley. Crowley looked at Travis and said, “Probationary Patrolman Hanover, you are dismissed. Go home. You are to report back here at 0800 Monday morning.”
“That will be all, Officer Hanover. Dismissed.”
Travis turned and left the room. Lieutenant Roscoe stood and made sure he had left, then closed the door and dragged another chair over. He pointed me towards it and I sat down with the others. Then he asked, “Just how bad was it, Grim?”
I sighed and shrugged. “It wasn’t good. He hadn’t harmed anybody yet, and it was still early enough that I could turn things around. I think if he had actually touched somebody we’d have had some real problems.”
“Like if he had gone over to their clubhouse and barged in, he’d probably be missing his balls by now. And we’d have had a riot anyways,” I answered.
“Christ!” he muttered. “What’s the problem? Too aggressive?”
I nodded. “In a nutshell. I’ve been wondering about that, but I wasn’t sure until last night. He’s got more balls than brains and doesn’t seem to think there’s a difference. Hey, I’m as tough as the next guy, but before I’d go into their clubhouse uninvited I’d need a direct order and a tank!”
“Yet you’ve been in there,” commented Crowley.
“Yeah, after I called ahead and said please. Listen, it’s not just the aggression, it’s the lack of thinking. It’s the lack of respect and understanding. If he had just asked, somebody could have told him that Johnson didn’t live there. None of these jokers actually live at the addresses they give. And all this over an FTA bench warrant? Montrose was going to be out that night! So, he kicks in the door of a little old lady and waves his gun around, and I have to go in and pick up the pieces. By the way, this is going to cost us.”
“Because I had to agree to replace Mrs. Johnson’s door in order to keep the lid on last night. As soon as I am done here, I am going over there to pay for the door and get a receipt. I will be turning that in.”
“It was a legitimate warrant,” commented Roscoe.
“In another five minutes it would have been a legitimate riot on primetime national news. We went through that a dozen years ago, remember?” I replied. “How long before he does something that we can’t fix?”
“Get a receipt,” Crowley said with a sigh.
The brass talked it over for a bit, but it was very clear that Travis Hanover was not going to survive his probationary period. That was never pleasant; the MPD had invested thousands of dollars in payroll and training by this point. Still, it needed to be done before something even worse happened and we were stuck with him. I took off after a bit, saying I was heading over to D-Street to make nice with Mrs. Johnson, and hopefully get some coffee and pound cake out of it. I would pass along the fact that Officer Hanover was moving on.
What a pain in the balls!
Friday, September 1, 2017
“Gentlemen, I have had it. I hereby resign my position as a member of the human race. There is no possible way I share any genetic material with what I had to put up with today.” So saying, I settled myself onto a barstool in the center of the bar at the Cherokee Grill.
Around me my fellow police officers laughed. Mack Waterhouse, the owner of the bar and a former MPD lieutenant, came over and smiled. “Feel free to tell your friendly bartender what your problem is, Grim. Just make sure you buy a beer while doing so.”
I snorted a laugh and pointed at a tap. To my right, Creighton Matthews was working on a beer and grinning at me. “What are you doing here? You haven’t been in for a bit. Kelly let you off the leash?”
I shrugged and smiled. “Basically. She’s taking the kids over to her parents for the weekend. She texted me that she was having pizza with them and I was on my own for a few hours. When I get home, she plans on giving me a long list of chores to do without the kids underfoot.”
“Or are you planning to spend the holiday weekend playing hide the salami with your wife?”
“Creighton, please! I’m married! I don’t have sex anymore.”
He laughed. “What about those two kids of yours?”
“They don’t have sex, either.”
He laughed at that. Mack put a glass of beer in front of me and slapped down a menu, but before I could look at it, Roy Winston sat down on my left. He was a patrol sergeant and asked, “Were you in that mess over at Wally World today?”
“That would be the primary reason I no longer consider myself a part of the human race. I can not be a member of a species that is dumb enough to create people like I had to deal with today!”
“Walmart, home of the trashiest of white trash. You may consider me a racist, but I’m with Grim on this one,” said Creighton. Creighton was one of my oldest friends on the MPD and was decidedly of the African-American persuasion. “Say what you want about the D-Street Treys, but at least they don’t hang out at Walmart!”
It was widely acknowledged by every member of the Matucket Police Department that the national headquarters of White Trash, Incorporated was the Matucket Walmart. There wasn’t a one of us who didn’t have a horrendous story about some nonsense over there. Mine was from back when I was just a Patrolman. I was working the graveyard shift and got called over at two in the morning; two young men were in the process of destroying the store and otherwise disturbing the peace and tranquility of Matucket, Georgia. I rolled in and went inside, where I was directed to the sports section. The criminals were a pair of high-school age twins who’d had a couple of beers too many at a party and were playing hoops, in the process knocking over a pyramid of basketballs. Dozens of basketballs were rolling all over the place.
Fortunately, they were happy drunks, so they didn’t give me any grief when I walked up to them and said it was time to leave. That was when my nightmare of white trash came in. They just looked over my shoulder and started staring. I turned my head to see what was happening, and I had to stare also! Coming up the aisle was the ugliest human I had ever seen. She was seventy if she was a day, at least four hundred pounds, had even less hair than I did, and was wearing a see-through spangled top, a thong, and red flip-flops. She stopped in front of us and asked, “Where’s the beer and condoms?” The boys and I just stared and shook our heads, and she kept moving.
I said, “Guys, let’s get out of here before it gets weirder.”
Only it did get weirder! As I walked the kids towards the door, another seventy-year-old came in, this one a man as skinny as the woman was fat, wearing nothing but a Speedo and flip-flops. He yelled out, “Margie, hurry up! I’ll get the KY. We’re going to be late for the party!” and hustled past us.
One of the boys said he needed eye bleach, while the other said he needed more beer, a lot more beer! I agreed with both of them. I checked their IDs and when they came back with no outstanding wants or warrants, I decided not to haul them in and had them call home for a lift. When their father showed up ten minutes later, not looking happy about being woken up to retrieve his offspring from the police in the middle of the night from the front of the Walmart, I just said, “Don’t be too hard on them. They’ve been traumatized enough for the night.” I left as the boys started telling their father what they had seen, all the while swearing oaths they were never going back again!
Enough reminiscing. Mack and Roy laughed loudly. Roy asked, “So what happened over there today? I heard we had half the force out there.”
“Just about.” To Mack I said, “How about a cheese steak, no onions or peppers.”
Mack jotted something on a slip and handed it to waitress. “You were saying?” he said to me.
“I think I spent the entire shift there. I got over there about ten this morning on a shoplifting beef, me and Corey Weston. He’s got a transport van. So, the store manager tells us that he thinks there is a group layering clothes in the dressing rooms and Corey and I wait for them to leave and nab them as they are leaving.” Layering involved taking a bunch of clothes into a dressing room and putting them all on, ‘layering’ multiple t-shirts and jackets and coats, and then running out. “So, we are loading them into the van to transport them to the station, and we’re at the north entrance. I’m just standing there, and a Jeep pulls up to the south entrance. She just parks it there and runs in. All of a sudden, the Jeep pulls away, all on its own! Nobody’s at the wheel! It’s driving crazy, too, left, right, speeding up and braking. It’s weaving all over the place! People are jumping out of the way and this thing starts playing bumper cars! It’s hitting cars and minivans left and right and even sideswipes the transport van! It does a complete circle and then drives into the outside lawn and garden section. Corey and I are just watching this whole thing and diving out of the way ourselves. Then, just as this is over, the woman comes out of the Walmart and starts screaming in Spanish that her car has been stolen!”
The others were all laughing at this. “It gets better. I leave Corey at the van, because he needs to watch the prisoners and call in for a new van, since his was fucked. I run down to the Jeep and it’s buried in the fencing around the flower section. The engine is still racing, but it’s stuck, and I can’t see a driver. I yank the door open and there’s a kid sitting there on the seat! He goes, ‘Hola! Buenos dias!’ I’ve got a six-year-old kid playing bumper cars in the Walmart parking lot! He can’t even see over the dashboard!” I mimed moving a steering wheel above my head. “He’s got one foot on the gas pedal and one on the brakes.” As the others kept laughing, I added foot movements to my imitation.
“What, he get out of the car seat?” asked Roy.
“Bingo! I reach in and grab the keys and shut it down, and in the back seat are a couple of baby girls in car seats. They’ve slept through the whole thing. There was an empty car seat in the front passenger seat. Mom left her sunglasses in the store and parked and ran back inside after parking at the entrance. Dale Earnhardt Junior Junior figured out how to climb out of his car seat and managed to put the Jeep in gear.”
“Mom comes racing up and yanks him out of the Jeep and starts chewing his ass in Spanish, he starts crying, and that wakes up the girls in the back seat. Meanwhile all the drivers of the cars he hit come running up demanding that I have to do something! I had to call a bunch of guys over to do accident reports. Then, since it’s Walmart, half the people don’t have insurance, and at least two are driving around on suspended licenses, so they end up being taken to jail, too. Of course, I’m the only cop there who speaks Spanish, which is all the kid’s mother speaks. I swear, I spent half the day in the Walmart parking lot!”
Creighton laughed and said, “You’ve got me beat. The worst I ever had was a six-car pileup on 389 in a snowstorm.”
I looked over at Roy. He said, “Okay, I have a good one, but I was just a witness. This happened a few years ago. My nephew is in the Scouts, and my brother-in-law is one of the Scout leaders. My son, Roy Junior, was also in the Scouts and I had to go with them on a camping trip. So, he’s driving his wife’s minivan with me in the passenger seat and a bunch of boys in the back, and we’re following a couple of pickups with their gear in them.”
I nodded in understanding, and Roy continued. “Anyway, the camping trip is in Alabama, and we’re driving there late Friday night and 20 is being rebuilt. There’s a section where about ten miles has barriers up and no shoulders. We’re moving along, and it’s pretty congested, and it’s dark, and for some reason the right lane is moving a lot faster than the left lane. Bill, my brother-in-law, moves over into the right lane and a mile later we discover the reason for the difference. Some asshole is driving twenty-five miles an hour in the left lane, the fast lane! Bill goes, ‘this guy’s just an accident waiting to happen,’ and damn if that doesn’t happen! Just as we are passing this idiot on the right, some other idiot comes blasting up the road on the left, must have been doing sixty or seventy, easy. He slams right into the back of idiot number one and lifts the rear end up off the road and to the right, and punches in my brother-in-law’s minivan! Then they go off to the left through a gap in the barriers into the median.”
Roy sipped at his beer and said, “There is no place to stop, barriers all around, no way to pull over. The guys in the back aren’t even shook up, so Bill pulls off at the next exit, which is the middle of nowhere. No cell coverage. We check and his van’s got a huge dent in the door, but is okay. We get back on the road and keep going, we’ll call when we get to the campsite. He calls in to the Alabama State Police, but the guy who handled it is out for the weekend and they tell us to call back. So, we call back every day, but he’s gone, and the other guys don’t want to hear about it. That’s when it gets crazy.”
“Crazy, how?” asks Mack.
“We head back to Matucket Sunday night. Monday, he calls his insurance agent, who tells him he has to get a police report. That’s what I told him, so it wasn’t a surprise. He calls Monday morning and gets in touch with the Alabama State Trooper. He calls me up five minutes later and he is scared! The trooper demands he return to Alabama immediately! After my brother-in-law explained what had happened, the trooper tells him he has just confessed to leaving the scene of a crime and failing to render aid, and that the only reason he would have done this was because he was probably driving drunk! Bill is an accountant and doesn’t drink. He’s a Mormon! He’s probably the most honest guy I’ve ever met! The trooper is ordering him to return and turn himself in; it will save them the trouble of extraditing him! Then he tells him that he is also guilty of interstate flight to escape prosecution, and the FBI is going to be called. Bill is just freaking out! He’s telling me that his name and extradition are not words he ever expected to hear in the same sentence.”
The rest of us are just staring in disbelief. The trooper must have had a real bug up his ass. Roy kept going. “So, I tell him to call his lawyer, but his lawyer only does real estate, so he gives him the name of a criminal lawyer. It turns out the criminal lawyer is available, because his last client was a serial killer and just got life without parole. Meanwhile, my sister is going ballistic about the damage to her new minivan and has him sleeping on the couch for a few days.”
I laughed at that. “Oh, shit!”
“Yeah, really. For the next few days his new lawyer would call him and let him know what was going on. I mean, one night he calls me and says, ‘I’ve got good news! I can’t be extradited! The Alabama State Patrol won’t be coming for me after all!’”
Mack said, “Something sounds fishy about all this. No way does this rack up felony charges!”
Roy nodded. “No, it doesn’t. After another week, the whole thing collapses. The serial-killer lawyer calls him and says he heard from some sergeant in the Patrol that the whole thing is being dropped. It turns out that the trooper was pissed because he never knew there was a third vehicle and had to rewrite all his reports and was busting my brother-in-law’s balls! His sergeant was on vacation for a week and when he came back he told the trooper to knock it off. They sent an accident report a couple of days later.”
Roy laughed. “The best part happened a couple of months later. I got a call from a private detective in Alabama wanting me to testify for the driver of the first car in Alabama.”
Creighton looked confused. “You mean the car that hit the first guy from behind?”
“No, the first car, the one that was piddling along, the one that got hit! He was suing the guy that plowed into him from behind! I told him to kiss it off. I would get up on the stand and tell the jury his client caused the accident.” Roy was smiling and shaking his head at it.
Mack smiled. “Boys, I have one that will beat anything you have. You ever heard about the Headless Horseman?”
We all shook our heads. Mack refilled our beers and my dinner showed up, but eventually he said, “Okay, this happened about thirty years or so ago. I was a brand-new sergeant and had taken a couple of courses in accident reconstruction, so that’s how I got involved. I was actually about the last guy to show up.”
We all nodded in understanding. Accident reconstruction was about figuring out what happened in a complicated accident, where multiple cars were involved, or the participants were no longer around to answer any questions.
Mack kept talking. “So, it’s the middle of summer, one in the morning or so, and it’s dark. No moon, cloudy, no stars. This is out on Two-Two just south of the county line. At the time there used to be this dive on the other side of the line in Haralson County that didn’t pay a lot of attention to age limits. So, this bunch of kids went up there and got a load on and then got in their car and came home. Well, four of them, two couples, got in the car. A fifth guy had driven a cycle and he followed them. All of this we figured out the next day after we talked to the four people in the car and everybody else.”
“Everybody else?” asked Roy.
“All the others in the accident. Follow me on this. The car with the four drunks is heading south on Two-Two with the guy on the bike right behind them. About a mile this side of the line, they come up behind some guy turning off the road, and he’s only doing about five miles an hour and hasn’t pulled over. The drunks slam on the brakes just as the guy turning turns right and goes up a side road. Meanwhile the guy on the motorcycle slams into the back of the drunk’s car. He goes up and over the handlebars and keeps going, flipping right over the car! He does a complete loop-de-loop and lands on his back out in front of the car.” Mack was using his hands to describe how the guy in the bike went up and over the car. “Meanwhile, the other car just toodles on its way, never stops, never knows the carnage it just unleashed.”
“There’s more?” I asked. So far this wasn’t too impressive.
“We are just getting started, youngster.” I laughed at that. “So, the two couples get out of the car and run forward to help their buddy. He’s not great, but he’ll live. Real organ donor, though. No helmet. They decide to get the vehicles off the road, so they move the motorcycle out of the way and then back the car up and park it on the side. Then these geniuses decide to send the guys down the road, one in each direction, to wave down some help, while the girls stay with their friend. One small problem, though. They were all in black, like some kind of goths or punks or something. All black, head to toe! The two guys head out, one north and one south, dressed in black, no flashlights, no flares, no moon or stars, total darkness. The two girls and the biker in the middle of the road, are the same, no lights, no flares, they don’t even have the car running for headlights.”
He paused and shook his head. “So, you guessed it, along comes a pickup truck moving north on Two-Two moving like the hammers of hell, never sees the guy in black waving his arms, and doesn’t see the girls or the biker until the last moment. Doesn’t matter. He slams on his brakes but it’s too late. The girls scream and jump out of the way, and the guy on the bike sits upright, just in time to kiss the grill of the F-150 at about forty miles an hour!”
Creighton and I cringed at that, and I began to get a feeling for the name of the story. Mack said, “Now, if he had just stayed down it’s possible he might have lived, the truck might have driven over him without touching him. Instead, he sat up and, POW, he gets smacked by the truck. You tell stories about finding a face-shaped hole in a grill filled with blood, teeth, and hair, but this was real! The truck actually decapitated this poor bastard! His head was stuck in the grill and his body was left on the road! The driver takes one look and totally freaks out and pukes all over the head!”
“Jesus!” I said.
“Wait! It gets worse! Another car comes along, this time from the north, sees the mess, swerves to avoid the truck with the head in the grill, hits the two girls, and then runs over the Headless Horseman. The girls end up with a few broken bones, but by this time the body in the road is getting really beat up. He’s been driven over by two cars and is missing a head and is bleeding out and squishing out everywhere. Just grotesque!”
“Is that when you got involved?” I asked.
“Oh, no. We still haven’t finished. See, the first guy to show up is a guy named Skinny Mike. Skinny Mike has only just finished his probationary period, and he is a serious guy. I mean this guy wanted to be a cop from the moment he was born, like when he was born he popped out with a uniform and badge and arrested his father for knocking up his mother! When he was a kid playing Cops and Robbers, he would want his mom to take the robbers to jail. Later, when he was a teenager he became an Eagle Scout and then joined the service patrol and became a junior auxiliary. The day he graduated high school he applied to be an admin and did that while getting a degree in criminal justice from M-Triple-C. Nice kid, very smart, very dedicated. As soon as he got that he went through the academy and came on board. You know what that’s like, Grim.”
I nodded. I had been an admin before going through the academy and getting on the force.
“So, the first officer on the scene happens to be this young guy about a week past his probation, and he learns about it because he has a scanner in his personal car and he’s off duty. He is driving in the area and just heads over. He’s in his own car and it’s a damn good thing he was, too, since that meant he had his seat belt on. He is driving up Two-Two and is going too fast when he comes across this mess. He’s going too fast, so he slams on the brakes and locks them up and tries to get to the side. Instead he ends up in a complete three-sixty and then the car rolls over twice. Thank God he was wearing his seat belt. If he had been in a cruiser and unbuckled, he’d have bounced around like in a pinball machine. Instead he was mostly shook up.”
“So, this guy is okay?”
Mack rolled his eyes and grinned. “Yes and no. When he rolled his car, want to guess what he rolled over?”
Roy and I both said, “Oh, no!”
“Yep! He rolls right over the Headless Horseman and the corpse starts coming apart. In particular, one of the legs comes off and gets caught on the catalytic converter underneath the car. After the car comes to a stop and Skinny Mike manages to climb out of his car, he finds a leg sticking out from underneath. He is just totally freaking out, batshit crazy! He thinks he’s killed somebody! When the next guy shows up, he has to take Skinny Mike’s piece from him and lock it up. He thinks he’s going to eat his gun!”
“Oh, shit!” I said, with Creighton and Roy chiming in a moment later.
“Some of this we don’t figure out for hours. Everybody has to be interviewed, including the two girls who ended up in the emergency room. When the sun comes up we have to have people out walking the road, several hundred yards, looking for body parts and stuff, and taking pictures of skid marks and everything. We don’t even issue a preliminary report for at least a couple of days. Meanwhile, we’ve got Skinny Mike down at the hospital on a psych watch. He thinks he killed this guy. It took us days to calm him down and get him to accept he didn’t kill anybody, but he is still messed up by it. You know what that’s like, Grim.”
I nodded at drank some beer. “PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. You bet. Rolling around on a body and thinking you did it? That can definitely be the type of trauma that can cause PTSD. What about after? He stay on the force?”
“Could he?” asked Roy.
“It hasn’t stopped me,” I replied.
Roy gave me a guilty look and said “Sorry.”
“PTSD is treatable, Roy. I’m proof of that. It doesn’t have a cure, not exactly, but you can learn how to deal with it.”
“Skinny Mike learned how to deal with it, and it’s a good thing he did so. He’s had a good career, too, but to this day he can’t go out to an accident scene without getting the shakes afterward”, said Mack.
“He’s still in?” asked Creighton.
Mack smiled. “Skinny Mike was the nickname of Mike Crowley. You might know him by the name of…”
“Chief Crowley?” said Creighton.
“Bingo!” Mike looked at me. “Now you know why he gave you so much support when you had your problems with the Medal. He’s been there, too.”
“Oh my God!” I replied.
We chatted a bit more, and then my phone dinged I had a text. I glanced at it and smiled. ‘911 can’t find swimsuits might skinnydip’. I pocketed my phone and finished my beer. “My wife just found her list of chores for me. Gentlemen, it’s been real, and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. Time to go!” The others laughed at me, and I headed home. Kelly and swimsuits sounded a lot more interesting than swapping stories at the Cherokee Grill.
“So, is this week starting out any better than last week, Sarge?”
I glanced over at my training partner. Jamie Potter was about halfway through her degree in criminal justice and would soon be promoted to Senior Patrolman. She was still relatively junior and young for the job; she was also ambitious and was planning for her future. One of my jobs was to see if that future was realistic.
I rolled my eyes in response, and she giggled. “Police officers do not giggle”, I told her. “Police officers maintain a calm and sober demeanor at all times, and act as a calming influence on those they work with.”
“Yeah, right. So, how about I just don’t giggle, and simply laugh my ass off at you”, she replied.
“Only if you want to be on the graveyard shift the rest of your very short life.”
“Okay, I’ll behave. By the way, what are we doing for lunch? Want to stop by the Piggly Wiggly and pick something up?”
I turned my head to look at her and fix her with my best and most menacing glare, but Jamie kept her eyes on the road ahead, even though she was clenching her jaws to keep from laughing. I just shook my head and sighed. “Sure, maybe we can get in a gun battle back by the deli. Christ on a crutch!”
To be fair, I couldn’t blame her for laughing. It wasn’t my fault, but I was currently the butt of half the jokes in the department. Last week had been a week from hell. My regular schedule had been working the day shift, Sunday to Wednesday. During the course of the week, I had two drunks puke on me, and a third had peed on me as I had helped Creighton Matthews load him in his cruiser. Some idiot from Florida decided to liven up his day by slamming into my TRV, a Chevy Tahoe painted black and called a Tactical Response Vehicle; he swore his Subaru had a faulty transmission, I figured he was so stupid he couldn’t tell his gas pedal from his brake. I had three heroin overdoses who died on me. I spent all day Wednesday in the Matucket County Courthouse waiting to testify in a domestic abuse case, only to have it be delayed a day, so I had to sit around all day Thursday, my day off; at the end of which, the defendant pleaded out, so I didn’t have to testify anyway. It was just a shitty week to be a police officer.
The stupidest thing to happen, though, was on my day off, Saturday. Kelly decided we needed to go down to the Pig to go shopping, and that I was required to corral the kids. I wasn’t quite sure why she couldn’t go shopping by herself and leave the kids at home with me. When I asked her, she told me I’d just drink beer and take a nap, and Riley and Seamus would burn the house down around my ears. I thought that was a bit much. Riley was six-and-half and loved her Daddy. It was Seamus, in the middle of the Terrible Twos, we had to watch out for!
So, off we went to the Piggly Wiggly in Kelly’s Toyota Sienna. She still had her beloved Miata, still in mint condition, which she used to go to Matucket State or on the rare occasions we got to go out without the kids. I mostly drove a beater Camry with the trunk loaded with my SWAT gear. We left mid-morning, and my major assignment was to keep Riley from loading up the cart with junk food and put stuff back that she and Seamus tried to sneak past Kelly. It was approaching lunchtime when things went sideways.
We were at the checkout counter, with Riley helping Kelly put groceries on the belt when I looked out through the plate glass windows and saw a pair of Matucket Police Department cruisers speed through the parking lot, lights flashing. They slammed on the brakes and parked near the entrance, and then ran inside. Kelly was alerted by the lights and watched with me, nervously saying, “Grim?”
I picked Seamus out of his seat in the cart and handed him to his mother. “You and the kids get down on the floor.”
“Do as I say.” I reached back to my right hip, where I had my off-duty weapon, a Glock 27 in an inside-the-waistband holster. I pulled my shirttail up so I could access it.
Each cruiser had a single officer assigned, and I recognized Joe Hunnicutt and Terry Smith as they ran inside. Joe was a white Patrolman and Terry was an African-American Senior Patrolman. Terry saw me and ran over, followed by Joe. “Where’s he at, Sarge?”
“Where’s who at?”
Joe added, “We have a report of an active shooter!”
My eyes popped open at that, and Kelly dropped to the floor, pulling Riley down with her. I immediately pulled my weapon. An active shooter was one of the supreme nightmares of any police officer. Somebody was in a public area actively firing a weapon at people, and there was no time to plan a response. The first responders had to immediately go in, regardless of their preparedness. An active shooter in a grocery store was a worst-case scenario.
My head was on a swivel, trying to scan where the shooter was. “Active shooter protocol”, I ordered. “Taking command! Get them out of here!” The first step was to get all the potential targets, the other shoppers, out of the store. Joe would handle that. Terry and I would search for the shooter. “I haven’t heard any shots”, I said.
Shoppers were staring in disbelief through all this. Some began running out the doors, but other people were coming in. From the other end of the line of cash registers, a woman began screaming, “SHOOT HIM! SHOOT HIM!” Terry and I began looking around wildly. We still hadn’t seen anybody with a gun and weren’t hearing any shooting. “SHOOT HIM!”
Joe was closest to her. “WHO? WHERE?”
“THERE! THERE! SHOOT HIM! SHOOT HIM!” She was pointing down to our end of the registers.
Terry and I were still trying to find the shooter when she pointed directly at me and told Joe, “YOU’RE STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM! HE’S POINTING A GUN!”
“Him? The bald guy in the striped shirt?” asked Joe, looking at me. I was wearing faded jeans and a striped rugby shirt.
“YES! SHOOT HIM!”
“Oh, sweet suffering Jesus!” exclaimed Terry.
The three of us slowly holstered our weapons, our hands shaking from the adrenaline. “Jesus, lady, that’s Sergeant Reaper. He runs our SWAT team, for Christ’s sake!” Joe told her.
I hadn’t even noticed it, but by that point another cruiser and a TRV had pulled in, lights flashing. We had a complete and total clusterfuck in the making. I looked over at Terry and told him to call it in and cancel the alert. I helped Kelly up off the floor and just shook my head at her in disbelief. I think I’d just been scared out of a year of my life. This was serious shit! Cops have been killed by stupid crap like this!
The two new officers on the scene, both Senior Patrolmen, ran up to us, only to find everything was a false alarm. Meanwhile Joe was quizzing the lady who called it in. She claimed to have seen my holstered weapon as we went through the store, probably when I was bending over to put something back from where the kids picked it up. She had then followed me around while phoning in the alert, claiming I was acting dangerously. She was quite indignant that I was legally allowed to possess a weapon, let alone carry it around in public.
It only got better from there. Terry announced the alert was cancelled, and that Sergeant Castle, the Senior Watch Commander, was coming in. He lived just around the corner and even though it was his day off, he wanted to see the action himself. Joe went outside and began waving people back into the store.
The lady who called it in began to get an earful from some of the people who had run away and were now filtering back in. More than a few told her, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off and die. Riley looked up at me at one point and said, “They’re saying naughty words to her.”
I looked down at my eldest and nodded. “That’s because she’s stupid.”
“Grim!” protested Kelly.
“You want to know the frightening thing?” I asked Kelly. “She’s old enough that she’s probably mated and bred.”
We were stuck at the store another half hour until Castle let us all go home. The idiot woman was taken down to the station for a formal interview with detectives. It was doubtful any charges would be pressed, but we could surely make her life miserable in the meantime. I had to go in and file a report of my own, which totally blew any chance of watching college football that afternoon. It even made the news that night.
Needless to say, by the time I got to the station Monday morning, every peace officer west of Atlanta had heard the story of the TRT commander who was the subject of an active shooter drill. There were more than a few Wanted posters around the station with my name and picture on them. I was going to be hearing about this forever!
Late afternoon I got a text message telling me to call home. Since it didn’t specify an emergency, I waited until Jamie finished writing up a speeder to call. When I called, I was greeted with a familiar high-pitched voice. “Fortress of Solitude, SuperRiley speaking!”
I glanced over at Jamie and rolled my eyes. “It’s the Fortress of Solitude and I’m on the phone with SuperRiley.”
Jamie knew Kelly and the kids and laughed. “More like Lex Luthor, or Lexi Luthor in her case.”
Turning back to the phone, I said, “Okay, SuperRiley, let me talk to SuperMom.”
Riley giggled, and a minute later Kelly was on the phone. “Grim?”
“Don’t ask me where that comes from. She’s too smart for her own good.”
“You need to call Jack. He sent me a text saying he thinks he got you in trouble and needs to talk to you”, she told me.
“Jack got me in trouble? What in the world did he do now? He’s in California!”
“Not really sure. He didn’t give me much information, just a message that you have to contact him as soon as possible.”
“Well, it’s going to be a bit of a stretch if he wants me to fix his tickets. Text him back that I’ll call when I get back to the station.”
“Maybe he heard about you shooting up the Piggly Wiggly”, she laughed.
“Don’t start on me, lady!”
“See you later. I love you.”
“Kiss the kids until I get home.”
I waited until I got back to the station before calling Jack. The shift ended at 1800, and I managed to call by 1830. That meant it was 1530 in California. Jack was the starting middle linebacker for the Oakland Raiders. It was a Monday, so that meant they had probably spent the day unwinding from their loss to the Redskins and their trip back from Washington, with maybe reviewing some game video tossed in. “Hey, Grim, glad you called. Have the reporters found you yet?”
That was certainly a strange question! There had been a couple of message pad slips in my In-Box from people I didn’t know and area codes I didn’t recognize, but I had just tossed them on my desk. “Reporters? Why in the world would reporters be calling me? What’d you do now?”
Jack actually breathed a sigh of relief at that. “Listen, I think I screwed up and got you involved.”
“I repeat, what’d you do now? You finally admitted online that I was always a better linebacker than you were, and now they’re tracking me down to hire me?”
“No, this is real, not fantasy. Listen, you know about the kneeling and all? It’s that.”
I wondered what that was going on. Everyone in America knew about athletes kneeling during the anthem. It had started a year ago, when Colin Kaepernick began sitting, and then kneeling, during the playing of the National Anthem during football games. He had begun doing it to protest the killing of unarmed African-American men by white police officers. It had slowly been building since then and went nuts a week ago. President Trump went to Alabama to give a speech for a Republican Senatorial candidate and decided to go off topic. He spoke at length about the protests, claiming the protesters were disrespecting the flag and the military, and calling on team owners to fire them.
The result was predictable. Over two-thirds of pro football players were African-American. Almost every football player in the country joined in the protest on Sunday, and they were joined by their coaches, managers, and team owners. Jack was one of the few players who had not knelt or linked arms and had instead stood silently and placed his hand over his heart.
Like a lot of Americans, I had decidedly mixed feelings about the protest. I understood the black athletes protesting police violence against African-Americans. When it came down to it, it was how I got my job on the MPD, when the department had a shakeup after a white cop killed an unarmed black kid on Bleecker Street. I also thought that President Trump had gone off the rails again and was stirring up trouble he didn’t need. We had enough problems in the country without him adding more. I wasn’t real thrilled with the protests during The Star-Spangled Banner. I was a veteran, and I had buried guys under our flag.
We had watched the game, and the cameras had focused on Jack standing with his hand over his heart. I even commented on it to Kelly, who asked if he was in trouble with his teammates for not protesting with them. I just shook my head; I had no idea.
“Yeah, I know about the protests. Why?” I answered.
“Did you see the latest tweets?”
“Jack, I don’t tweet or twitter or whatever. I don’t even have a Facebook account.” The last thing I needed was for people to see photos of me linked to my family and as a police officer. There were too many crazies out there. Kelly had an active Facebook page, and would occasionally tweet, but she knew to make sure I was not in uniform in the pictures she posted. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Trump, the numbnuts! The man can’t leave well enough alone!”
“Okay. This morning he tweeted, ‘At least one Raider respects the military and the nation. Fire the kneelers! Fire them!’”
“Yeah, so?” I pressed.
“So, I tweeted back to him that he was an asshole and a jerk and I was standing in respect for you as a soldier and a cop.” That sort of came rushing out.
I just smiled to myself. Jack wasn’t as conservative as I was. I could easily see him calling Trump an asshole. “You tweeted that Trump was an asshole?”
“Well, I said he was an a-hole, you know, A Dash Hole.”
No, Trump was not going to let this slide. It just wasn’t in the man. “Let me guess, you think reporters are going to ask me what I think.”
“Probably. A few have asked me your name and how to reach you. I didn’t say, but it wouldn’t be hard to find out”, he answered.
“Okay, sounds like fun. Do me a favor and send Kelly copies of the tweets. She can show them to me tonight. Didn’t anybody ever teach you not to poke the animals in the zoo with a stick through the bars?”
“Yeah, yeah. Mom already called me to yell at me.”
I had to laugh at that. Mom probably saw it on her phone and called Jack from the middle of the emergency room! “How are the kids?”
We talked about our families for a few minutes, and I promised to let him know if I heard from anybody. Then I said, “Listen, Jack, about the kneeling. Do what you want to do. I know you respect me. If you want to kneel with your teammates or link arms or whatever, it won’t bother me.”
“I’m serious. I appreciate it, but don’t disrespect your teammates, either. And by the way, for the money you are making, don’t you think you could win a game or two once in a while”, I finished.
“Fuck you, too, bro!”
We hung up after that. I glanced at the message slips and found they were from reporters. I crumpled them up and tossed them in the trash.
At home, Kelly and I fed the kids and put them to bed. Then she opened her laptop and showed me the tweets and some of the responses. Trump had tweeted, ‘At least one Raider respects the military and the nation. Fire the kneelers! Fire them!’, to which Jack had responded, ‘DJT is an a-hole and a jerk. My brother was a soldier & is a cop and I would never disrespect him. I stand for him, not Trump.’
I just looked at my wife and smiled at her. “He’s not exactly subtle, is he?”
“Jack? More like a rock to the head!”
“I am guessing this isn’t going to just blow over.”
“Grim, he just called the President of the United States an asshole and a jerk. What do you think?”
I laughed at that. “I think he’s going to be ordering the dissolution of the National Football League tomorrow.”
“That might be the start”, she agreed.
My phone rang at that moment. I wasn’t too terribly worried at that point. Only family and friends had the number, and they knew better than to give it out. I glanced at the caller ID and it was my parents’ house. I hit the button and said, “Hi, Mom.”
My father responded, “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Hi, Dad. What’s up?”
“Have you talked to your brother today?”
“I assume you mean the one tweeting about the President and not the one in Philadelphia who’s a lawyer.”
“Don’t laugh. Jack might need Bobbie Joe before this is over.”
I laughed at that. “Yeah, I called him earlier. He texted Kelly to have me call him. What’s up? I expected Mom to be the one calling me about this.”
It was my father’s turn to laugh. “She’s on her cell phone yelling at him right now.”
“Good for her.”
“Yeah, well, it’s started. Jack said we would probably have reporters after us, and it’s started. You’re on the national news again.”
“What?” This sounded ridiculous.
“This just broke…I guess that’s what they say…anyway, President Trump just tweeted back that you were a bad soldier and a bad cop if you let Jack behave like this. MSNBC just dug you out of their archives. They have footage from when you received the Medal and from when 60 Minutes did that piece on you.”
I groaned at that. “I guess I know what I’m watching tonight.”
“Your mother is telling Jack to behave himself and not to tweet anybody about anything. I’m supposed to say the same to you.”
I laughed at that. Dad agreed to be the official family spokesperson again, if necessary, and we hung up. I grabbed the remote and flipped the television on. I scrolled through the guide until I found MSNBC. Some guy named Chris Hayes was displaying the latest tweet from the President - ‘If Reaper’s brother really was a soldier, he would never accept such disrespect for a President. Poor soldier, poor cop!’ A panel of commentators was lined up waiting to opine on this. I flipped to CNN and found Anderson Cooper doing the same thing.
I turned to Kelly and just shook my head. “Un-fucking-believable!”
“You really should have hit your brother harder back when you were kids”, she replied.
Kelly and I watched the news Monday night for about an hour, but it was getting repetitious and we turned it off. By then Kelly was beginning to get some emails and tweets from people she was friends with, mostly asking what was going on. Most seemed confused, but several were rather vile. A few people wanted me to immediately fly to California and butcher my brother on the fifty-yard line, followed by ritually committing suicide. We went to bed, where Kelly tried to take my mind off politics, and mostly succeeded.
The next morning, I didn’t give the issue any thought. Who has time for politics when you have to get a six-year-old to school, bundle a toddler off to day care, and get to work. My seniority in the department was such that I mostly worked day shift, and could help Kelly, but even with both of us, it was still hectic. I got to the station about 0730.
I was greeted with a stack of messages on my desk, all pleasantly organized. All but one were from various reporters asking, begging, pleading, and demanding interviews about the President’s tweets. The only message that I really cared about was the one on top, telling me to report to Chief Crowley as soon as I showed up. Sighing, I stood up and went up the stairs to his office.
Chief Crowley had been Detective Crowley back when I first met him while in high school and had been Captain Crowley when I met him again after getting out of the Army. To a certain extent he was what many considered my ‘rabbi’, a superior officer who watched over the careers of those beneath him. My other rabbi was Lieutenant Jenkins, who had been my boss in TRT, the Tactical Response Team, and was now the Patrol Commander. Personally, I never put a lot of faith in being anybody’s favorite. It seemed to me that the best way to become a favorite was by doing a good job.
I waved at a few of the ladies in the office area when I got upstairs. My illustrious police career had started there as an administrative assistant before going to the academy. Being an admin was a lot like being a slave, in that everybody was your boss, but at least they were a lot politer about it. I stopped at the desk of Caroline Upgrove, who was the Office Manager and the real boss, notwithstanding the various captains, lieutenants, and sergeants around the place. “Hey, Caroline, I hear the Chief wants me.”
She gave me a wicked smile. “I certainly think we can say that!”
I grimaced at her. “Trust me, whatever happened, it wasn’t my fault!”
She laughed and picked up the phone, hitting a button. “Boss, the Grim Reaper is here.”
“Send him in.” I heard that both from the handset and through the door down the hallway.
I just rolled my eyes and headed to his office. His door was open, so I simply knocked and entered. “Morning, Chief.”
“Morning, Grim. Close the door and take a seat.” He hit a button on the phone and said, “No interruptions, thanks.” He looked over at me and said, “So, you’re famous again.”
“Chief, I need this like I need a hole in my head. This wasn’t my idea.”
“Well, I have reporters demanding you give interviews, so maybe you should tell me what’s going on. All I know is that the President has told people you’re a bad soldier and a lousy cop.”
I sighed and nodded, and then gave him the breakdown of what was going on with Jack and the tweets. He just listened, then asked, “Are you sending out any tweets in response?”
“Chief, I don’t even have a Twitter account. Facebook either, for that matter. I like to get my friends the old-fashioned way, by giving them tickets and arresting them.”
Crowley laughed at that. “You might have to get Twitter and Facebook accounts before this is over, just to respond.”
I simply shook my head. That was not in my plans. “Chief, you know those classes we take in conflict de-escalation? Maybe I shouldn’t respond.”
He shrugged. “Yeah, maybe, maybe not. I think your brother Jack landed you in it this time. From what I see on the news, Donald Trump is not somebody who ever took that class. More the opposite, if you ask me.”
“I don’t know. My Dad told me that Mom is putting a contract out on my brother if he keeps tweeting, but Jack didn’t take the class either.”
“You going to do any of those interviews the reporters are asking for?”
“Not if I can help it, and not in uniform, that is for damn sure.” He nodded at that. No way did the Chief of Police want one of his officers getting into a pissing match with the President of the United States while in uniform! “You?”
“Maybe. I’ve got people asking about your record, and whether you’re a bad cop or not. Some of that is public records.” He shrugged again. “Listen, that’s my problem, not yours. Get out of here and get to work.”
I nodded and stood up. In the open doorway I said, “Just tell them the truth, Chief. You know, about how, when I’m not fighting crime and battling evil, I fly around with a red cape and have a twelve-inch johnson.”
Chief Crowley laughed at that, but the real problem was Caroline, who was out of sight in the office area, but within earshot. “Twelve inches? Really, Grim? I’ll have to ask Kelly about that the next time I see her!”
I turned beet red and took off, escaping the laughter.
I spent the rest of the shift studiously avoiding the news. By mid-afternoon that became more difficult. Jamie and I had to return to the station to bring in a drunk who had driven off the road into Lindsey’s Creek. Since he managed to do this by ‘borrowing’ his mother’s car while his was in the shop from a previous accident and with a suspended license, we figured it would be at least a day or two before the justice system cut him loose again. We were heading back out to the cruiser when Jim Nichols asked me, “Hey, Grim, can Trump really take your Medal away?”
I gave Jim a funny look, as a few people turned towards us. “What are you talking about?”
“President Trump ordered your medals revoked.”
“What?” What in the world was going on now?
A couple of other officers came over and agreed with Jim and pulled out their phones to show me. A succession of tweets filled the little screens. It took a few minutes to scroll through them, but like Chief Crowley and I had been discussing earlier, neither the President nor my brother Jack was letting it drop.
The last tweet I had known about was from the day before, with the President calling me a ‘Poor soldier, poor cop.’ This morning he doubled down, stating, ‘Soldier Reaper should be ashamed of his brother. Soldier Reaper is no hero.’ I muttered a quiet curse at the ridiculousness of this but kept reading. Next up was Jack, sending out a tweet saying, ‘My brother Graham W. Reaper was a great soldier. President Obama presented him with the MOH. DJT needs to learn what a hero really is!’ That was when things really began to go off the rails. The next tweet from the President, just a few minutes before Jamie and I came back into the station, stated, ‘On the advice of my generals & advisers, I am directing a review of all Obama-era military awards. No unworthy medals!’
“Oh, shit!” I muttered. I looked at the people standing around us. “Doesn’t this guy have anything better to do?” Looking over the stream of tweets the guy had issued that day was exhausting. He was bitching about the NFL protests, North Korea’s torture of an American prisoner, a Republican primary in Alabama, the United Nations, Puerto Rico - and me! “It’s like we’re back in the fifth grade and he’s double-dog-daring me to do something stupid!”
“So? Can he take away your medals?” asked Jamie.
I shrugged, but then shook my head in the negative. “That’s pretty unlikely.”
“But he can do it?” asked Jim.
“No, not really. I mean, yes, medals and awards can be revoked, but he can’t just order them taken away. Once they’ve been awarded, especially if you’re not a soldier any longer, it is almost impossible to revoke a medal. The only times I’ve even heard of it happening have been in the context of an active duty soldier being court-martialed, for murder or something. Then it’s simply like the cherry on top of the sundae, just one more little thing when they throw the book at you. For the Medal, that would take an Act of Congress”, I said. While I wasn’t an expert on military law or medals, I had been around the block a few times with mine. You learn things about that stuff.
Sergeant Castle came over and said, “This doesn’t affect anybody but Sergeant Reaper, so everybody needs to knock off the gossip and mind their own business. Sergeant Reaper will handle his own problems. Now get back to work and go bring in some bad guys!”
The group began to disperse, but Castle put a hand on my shoulder and put things in their proper perspective. “Don’t sweat this, Grim. You’re still an asshole, but you’re our asshole!”
I laughed at that. “Thanks, Sarge, really feeling warm and fuzzy now. Just feeling the love! You learn this technique in Watch Commander School?”
“It’s the first lesson! Seriously, don’t sweat it, Grim. This is just bullshit, and you know it.”
“Yeah, I know it. Now I simply need to fly out to California and beat the crap out of my brother for getting me into this mess.”