A day in the life

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A day in the life

Post by TacAir » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:23 am

I first put this out in 11/2018

Been a while since I posted a short story. This is posted for comment and feedback. All rights reserved.

What say you?

A day in the life

The day had started not unlike too many others.

A call at 4:00AM about another shooting in the South Addition got me out of bed and on the job. No breakfast was the result of a call that bled into yet another meeting with the Chief. Lunch was a half-sandwich someone left on the coffee bar.
Now heading home, I could hope for a decent dinner. Faced with the prospect of becoming another "fat-assed cop", I'd decided I would skip eating 'bad food' and limit my coffee intake out of concern for an ulcer. Mother had said there would days like this. She merely neglected to mention that they would come in strings of 100….

"Hotel Four Three, Dispatch" The radio call was for me and I knew this meant I could kiss dinner goodbye.

"Dispatch, go for Hotel fourty three".

"Lieutenant, there is an…event at Greenwood Park, South playground. It meets your listed criteria."

Oh, crap, another one, was my first thought. If dispatch was using 'listed criteria' it had to be something potentially political or very newsworthy.

"Hotel fourtythree copies. Mark me back in service and in route."

"Dispatch copies."

I suppose I was fortunate, the park was almost on the way home and if I could sort this out… "Who are you kidding, Greg? Dinner is out the window and you have no idea what this is all about." Talking to myself never seem to help.

That ulcer was becoming a distinct possibility.

Arriving at the park, I sat in my vehicle and took the time to observe the situation. The responding officer was over by the playground, surrounded by several women and a few kiddos. Given the arm waving, the last thing I wanted to do was walk into that hornet's nest.

Even as this was going on, an ambulance shot past me, heading toward to the local hospital. Not a good sign. The rest of this end of the park was empty except for someone sitting on a bench, about 30meters from the crowd around the RO.

I knew from past experience, some of the crowd would contradict anything the officer might say, and no doubt, an argument would ensure. No, it was almost always better to see if a lone individual could shed any light before I waded into the larger mess. At least I would be getting a single story. This normally helped to get a grip on things by providing a kind of baseline to expand upon.

As I approached the individual on the bench, it turned out to be a middle-aged man. He looked relaxed, with one arm over the back of the bench, quietly observing the hullaballoo in front of him. The gentleman scanned the areas several times, as I approached. Given the problems at the park, that seemed very prudent.

Stopping at the end of the bench, I began with, "Pardon me…" but before I could finish, the sitting man hold up a hand.

"Swear to God, you say Citizen and I will not speak to you. Got it?"

Only then did he look directly at me.

Touchy bastard. Then again, he didn't know me from Adam, so..

"Pardon me. Sir. I was wondering if you saw what lead up to…" I hoked my thumb over my shoulder toward the crowd.

"And you are?"

No frown, no smile. An honest question, asked civilly, something I rarely got these days.

Pulling back my jacket displayed the badge on my belt. I added, "Lieutenant Greg Ng, Homicide."

"So, the rummy died then?"

That caught me by surprise; dispatch hadn't mentioned a shooting or stabbing.

"You have me there, Sir. Could you elaborate?"

I make a point of always asking open-ended questions. I often got more information that way.

"Very well. Have a seat Ell Tee, this may take a few minutes. By the way, I'm Pete Norman."

"Glad to meet you. Mr. Norman. Thank you for your time, in advance"
The grumble from my stomach made a lie of that statement. After I sat, Pete looked around again, as if gathering his thoughts. Turning slightly on the bench, he looked right at me before starting.

"As I'm sure you know, there is an active infestation of vagrants living in and around that corpse of trees."

He used his thumb to point to the side, toward a well now encampment. Rather than say anything and possibly derail what he might share, I just nodded.

"One of the…residents wandered out of the tree line, heading to the facility."

He'd pointed to the field bathrooms and drinking fountains. This place had been a constant source of complaints for drug usage, vandalism and men exposing themselves to the kiddos using the playground. Of course, the Mayor stanchly fought shutting in the facility, claiming the people living in the camp needed the water…. I nodded again

"After about 15 minutes, he headed back to the Pits. The guy had a distinct list, so I have to assume some kind of drug use that he didn't want the others in the camp to know about." He shook his head. "Not sharing can cause one to wake up dead. Junkies are a vicious lot."

Again, I only shook my head in agreement. I'd worked several homicides out of that camp over just the last year. Pete knew what he was talking about.

"On his way back, he stopped, staring at the kids playing on the equipment. Their minders were all busy chatting with each other…I don't suppose they even noticed the rummy standing there." After a lengthy pause, he continued.

"The guy ran over, grabbed a little girl and took off running."

That hit me like a punch in the gut. I must have grunted.

"Yeah. Me too. The rummy had a good lead, but the little girl's screams got a couple of the minders up and chasing the guy."

Pete had stopped talking again. Before I could feed him a prompt, he started talking once more.

"He didn't get very far."

"The kiddos mother caught him?"

I had visions of some little girl's mother, savaged by a drug-crazed molester, dying in the back of an ambulance…

"No. He almost ran into Staff Sargent Doxley. She pried the kid away from him and was heading to what I assume was the mother. That's when the rummy attacked Marlene." Pete paused again.

"Marlene is a former Marine. After the mother had control of her child, Mars proceeded to shred the SOB. About that time, the cop and the ambulance crew showed up. They took the rummy away, but ignored both the little girl and Marlene."

Now he frowned. "That fat-assed, donut swilling pig you employ put Marlene in handcuffs and the medics ignored her. The little girl got a cursory look before they loaded the…victim into the ambulance and took off." The sarcasm was thick enough to cut.

"I see. You know this Doxley how?"

I was skating on thin ice here. But, I had to know the relationship, if possible. It could color everything that Pete would have said.

"I met Marlene on my last tour in El Anbar Province. She'd been assigned to work with a medical team – providing a 'female presence'. Otherwise, none of the women in the village would even talk with the medics, let alone receive any help." He spat to the side. "It turned out to be mostly a useless political gesture, one that was very hard on Marlene. The fact is – it was only to provide a few positive sound bites for a lame duck Administration." After a short pause, he added, "I don't blame her for bailing."

"If I may ask, Mr. Norman, how were you involved in her work?"

This netted me a look one might give a drunken idiot who'd blurted out something stupid at a party…

"I was part of a Special Forces team assigned to train the locals. My boss, thank the Lord, thought providing security to the medical team was more important."

"I see. You didn't intervene here because?"

After an extended bout of silence, he spoke softly. "Do people often ask about your ancestry? Perhaps, making statements about your mother? I didn't intervene because Marlene was on the guy before I could even get started. It was over in less time that it took me to tell you what happened. Now, I suppose you'll ensure she gets jailed for attacking one of the Mayor's pet vagrants?"

His clenched hands were a warning to me to tread carefully. Damn carefully.

"Actually Mr. Norman, I'm going to go over and have her released. You have given me everything I need to do just that."

His reply caught me completely off guard.

"That's it?"

"Well, and ensure we have everyone's name and such. Why? It's all cop stuff after that."
At this, he started laughing. I wasn't sure if I should be offended or insulted.

"I fail to see the humor here, Mr. Norman."

"I'm surprised, despite your Pollyanna views, you've managed to make it to Lieutenant. I don't think you fully appreciate the portent of this situation. Not at all."

"Well then, given your years of police work, why don't you give me a clue?"

"Hit a nerve, did I?" He laughed, "I've never worked as a cop, but I do have four tours in active combat zones, first as a Platoon commander, then as a Team Leader. By choice – I gave up a desk slot in the JAG office for the last tour. You have no clue just how vicious the media can be to a Team out in the field, Lieutenant, not a clue."

Pointing to the crowd still surrounding the hapless RO, he continued.

"At least two of those women are, right this second, talking to someone on their cell phones. Another is texting her fingers off. Do you see?"

His pause after the question allowed me to shrug. So what if some women were chatting with friends?

After shaking his head, Pete said "Still clueless. I'll stop here and tell you to call your media people and ask for additional officers before the television people show up. Because once they are on scene, you will have lost all hope of controlling this. Remember – you are the senior person on scene. All of the fallout will land on your head, if the police bureaucracy works at all like the Army."

I couldn't argue with the last part, so I requested additional officers and a press team as soon as possible. I also asked for an update on the man removed earlier. That done, I turned back to the man still sitting quietly on the other end of the bench.

"Okay. Now, you were saying?"

He shook his head. "Up to now, the press has been more than friendly to the Mayor, and by default, to the police department. Maybe, too friendly." Raising his hand, he started ticking off several items. "First. If this gets into the social media loop, it will never stop. Think about it. The vagrant came from an encampment that taxpayers have complained about for over a year. To no effect. Now a little girl is kidnapped, in broad daylight, possibly molested, and is saved only because a woman happened to be in the area that had the training to make a difference. "

After a short pause he asked, "Even you can see how badly this can go for your department, yes?"

Reluctantly, I had to agree. While he did have a good point, the idea of some kind of media storm seemed remote. "What else?" There must be more, this guy had clearly been down this road before.

"Well, there are certain so-called activists that will damn you for not protecting that poor rummy. You know exactly what I'm talking about here. Then there is the other side of this, the **** storm sure to come over children not safe in your parks. Add in the long-running battle of the homeless camps, not just here, but across the city…"

I held up my hand. "Got it. Still not my worry, we have people that deal with this…err, stuff all of the time."

Pete sat completely still for over a minute. I knew I wouldn't like what was sure to come next. I wasn't disappointed.

"You know, Ell Tee, some folks might call you stupid. You're far from it. Clueless, yes, stupid, you are not. I suspect this is because you live in a silo. Talk with cops about cop stuff, aren't a member of too many civic outfits. I know for a fact you are rarely invited to 'polite' parties, you're a cop after all…"

He paused, obviously looking for a reply. I hated to admit it, but he was dead on target.

"Guilty as charged." I couldn't say much else. I just can't argue with someone that's right on the money.

"Don't feel bad, I'm in the same boat. Once a lot of folks find out I'm former SOF… Baby killers don't go to parties either. This is the root of your problem, and I suspect most of the city admin types as well."

"Problem?" This one was going to be a doozy.

"Yes, problem. You have no clue about the amount and depth of not just anger, but actual rage building in the community. I'm talking hot, boiling; show up at city hall with torches and pitchforks, rage. When it finally erupts, you'll have to deal with the fallout."

That was just too over the top. "Come now. You really believe this?"

"I do. This is pretty deep. Tell you what, you need to eat dinner. We can discuss this over some chow. But before we do that, cut Mars loose. I think her take will be even more…instructive."

It had taken two full hours to extract myself completely from the mess in the park, but I finally succeeded. I called home to explain to Ada about the situation and told her I had yet another meeting. When I arrived at the taco joint, Pete and Marlene were already seated.

Marlene had obviously showered. She was wearing slacks and a light jacket. I knew without asking her, she was heeled. Perfectly fine with me. Both had a glass of tea they'd been working on.

I opened with, "Sorry for being so long, I appreciate your offer for this…" What was this? A meeting? A briefing? "For a chance to talk in private."

Sitting in a far corner of the fining area, we were in all but fact, completely alone. The place was nearly empty at this hour and it would be some time before the after movie crowd showed up.

Pete simply replied, "No sweat, Mr. Ng. I really think everyone will come out ahead, if you are able to clue in your co-workers." He pointed to the kitchen. "I hope you don't mind, we've already ordered for us. I put in an order for the special for you. I think you'll find it tasty."

I nodded. I also needed to clear the air. Looking directly at Marlene, I said "Miz Doxley, I can't really apologize for the treatment you received earlier. The officer was following published SOP. I will ask for your indulgence, and hopefully, understanding of the situation…"

I sat back and waited for the explosion.

After take a long pull on her ice tea, she calmly replied, "A cop's gotta do what a cop's gotta do. Nothing on you, I get it." This said while she was talking to the wall behind me didn't help.

Pete and I chatted a bit, about the weather and other polite stuff before the food showed up. We all ate diner in complete silence. As hungry as I was, it was a nice gesture and showed an understanding most didn't have about this kind of working life.

After the waiter refilled all the glasses, and left - I ventured to say "Miz Doxley, would you care to tell me your side…of this afternoon's events?. Strictly off the record, of course. I'll have to admit, Pete here got my attention this afternoon at the park."

After a long stare at both of us and another long pull on her tea, she began. "Look, Ng. Just so you know - the only reason I'm here is because Major Norman begged me to come and talk to you." Another long pause, then she said, "Just don't push your luck. Okay?"

I could only nod.

"I live across the street from the park I got the place for a song because the rental agent said things had gotten so bad in the area, that they were afraid the owners would have to go the Section eight route. If that happened, the other tenants would leave. So, I got a deal."

After short pause, she started up again. "I'm lucky. I have a home based business. I rented the place because it is across the street from the park. I run, to help to relieve…stress. I run a lot. First time I went running, some jerk came after me."

She held up a hand to stop my obvious question. "I stomped him, but good. Couple of more tried. One had a knife. Those, I just broke up. Word got around pretty quick. Leave the broad alone, you'll live longer. You know?"

Again, I could only nod. I knew the park had some problems, but not this bad.

"I noticed some of the women in the neighborhood started taking their kids over to the playground. Sometimes, a man accompanied them. Boyfriend or husband, don't know. When the guy failed to show on a regular basis, I started running about that time." A very long silence this time. "Turns out, it was a good thing. Any questions?"

I was nearly dumbstruck.

"No. Thank you for sharing this."

She stood and looked at Pete. "Gotta jet, my man. I still owe ya one."

With nothing more than that, she was gone. It was only after her exit I realized just how much tension had been in the air. I looked over at Pete.

"Major Norman?"

"Yeah. I made Captain and word got around I had a JD behind my name. Command strongly suggested that I take a slot over in the JAG office. For the most part, I provided advice and worked as Defense Council for my time there. Got tired of the full-time political games and weaseled my way back onto a Team. That's how I wound up in the sandbox working with Mars. I bailed the same time she did. The whole effort is a waste, and I was tired of wasting my life for something worthless."

I had to let that sink in for a bit. I'd long thought I was rarely surprised, but this whole thig had been nothing but.. Before I could say anything, Pete spoke up again.

"Just for the record. I've passed the bar here, and in Washington State, Georgia and North Carolina. I'm working on Alaska. Also, so you are aware, I'm the attorney of record for Mars and a few others I know."

I nodded. "Why the meet up? I got about that much from her statement. Other than the rental issues and her stress, it was almost word for word."

"Did you read the other statements?"

"To be honest, no. I'm so busy.." His hand slash cut me off mind-sentence.

"Busy is only an excuse for…sloppy - in my book. You got nothing from her here?"

"Not really. Yeah, the park is a mess…" This netted another hand slash.

"Damn, you are a slow learner. I'm now wondering if I should waste any more time on you…"

"What the hell is it you think I missed?" This guy was getting under my skin, but good.

"The area around the park has been bad for so long, even the rental units sit empty. The homeless camp is just the latest manifestation of the deterioration. Yet, the police seem to do nothing. Bad enough that owners will offer bargain rents to keep their units filled rather than go after the welfare voucher types. I know you are clueless to the desperation of the area homeowners. Property values are in the toilet, they can’t sell right now even if they had to sell."

"Things have been bad before, they'll get better…
"No. They will not get better unless someone makes them better. I said rage is building, and more and more each day. The coming outburst is inevitable. If you are lucky, it may only be a recalled election for the mayor and city alderman. It could be worse. This isn't an isolated incident. This is going on all over the city. You of all people should know that."

"How much worse?"

"Someone sets the camp on fire. And if they are the least bit clever, it will look like one of the meth labs got out of control. Or, someone could just start shooting the bums. You, me, the media have dehumanized those sods to the point where this has become a real possibility." He stopped.

"After that come the riots. Half of the city is a pile of dry firewood, just waiting for a spark. This incident in the park could well be that spark…"

It hit me all at once. I had been in denial for so long… "Sweet Jesus."

"Don't blame Him, this is entirely of your own making."

"What can I do?"

"It isn't hopeless, not yet. You had better start getting into someone's face, of it will soon be hopeless."

I had no clue. "What about you?"

Grim faced, Pete said, "Me? I got a rental to start with and carry all the insurance I can. I've only been here a little over a year. It goes up and I will walk away and start over someplace else. You can't have been this blind. What's the turnover rate in your department? 20 per cent. More?"

"I can’t talk about that. I can say it has gotten worse since…"

"Since the new Mayor took over?"

I could only nod. This had been the topic of many a heated arguments with the Chief. Every time he pulled one of my guys out and put them back to patrol, they quit and moved away. He also refused to see even that…

At this, Pete stood. "Good evening and good luck."

'Where are you going?" I don't know why I asked, but I did anyway…
"Back to my apartment. After talking with you, I'm going to load everything I own in the van and head for Spokane. No way am I staying here. I'll be advising my clients to do the same."

That was a month ago. As I sit here listening to my radio, the fire department just made a third alarm call for the fire in the trees at Greenwood park.

I got Ada and kids completely packed and on the way over to her folks yesterday. Tonight, I drive out to Spokane. There's a guy I need to look up…
**** **** ****

This was put up on another site Nov, 2018.
It seemed IMO - the logical progression of things as they were back then.

I almost got it. Almost.
TacAir - I'd rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist
**All my books ** some with a different view of the "PAW". Check 'em out.
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Re: A day in the life

Post by 91Eunozs » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:59 pm

Wow...great read! And prescient...

Timely for these times for sure.

—Break, break —

Caught a couple minor typos:

Hoked his thumb over his shoulder” vs hooked

“...infestation of vagrants around that corpse of trees” vs copse...unless you were foreshadowing? :awesome:

Thought there was one more but now I can’t find it. Edit: Found it! “ Talking to myself never seem to help.” vs. seemed

Also found another... Sergeant Vs “Staff Sargent Doxley.”

Also, need a space between the 30 and meters vs 30meters ..same with the second time he says “hotel forty three“ vs. fortythree

And your call of course, but think you can lose the comma in this sentence: “The gentleman scanned the areas several times, as I approached.”

Again, GREAT read...thanks for sharing...
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Re: A day in the life

Post by TacAir » Mon Jun 29, 2020 11:43 pm

Was thibnking I could work this into a series, but given recent events; it all OBE,.

I still have another dozen to work up.

Thx for the comments.
TacAir - I'd rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist
**All my books ** some with a different view of the "PAW". Check 'em out.
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Re: A day in the life

Post by Lettuce Pray » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:50 am

Really nicely done. I could see that being the first chapter in a novel instead of a short story. Just saying...

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Re: A day in the life

Post by TacAir » Thu Jul 02, 2020 9:09 am

Thank you for the kind words.

Most likely a novella - say, 50K words or so

I've got several novels in work now, - this has been added to the on deck list.

I did get get another one pushed out Daddy's Girl.
TacAir - I'd rather be a disappointed pessimist than a horrified optimist
**All my books ** some with a different view of the "PAW". Check 'em out.
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