I woke up on the day someone murdered me with a sense of darkness hanging over me. There was a lump in my stomach from stress I could not pinpoint. My chest felt heavy with each breath. Thinking back on it, it was almost like my soul was getting ready to escape.
Walking out to the family room I found my kids enjoying an after-school snack while playing games on their iPads. Technically, the iPads were purchased for my wife and I to use. However, I could not tell you the last time I was the one to use mine.
“Good morning daddy,” my daughter says jumping up to give me a hug. At seven years old she still finds the humor in saying good morning even if it was three in the afternoon. Working night-shift as a police officer means our family routine was anything but routine. Twelve-hour shifts along with weekends make our home life even less routine. “Did you have good dreams?”
“Yes hun I did.” I reply giving her a peck on the cheek.
“What did you dream about?”
“Oh, I don’t fully remember. We were riding some rides; I think I was dreaming about our upcoming trip to Disney.” As the words came out the lump in my stomach grew heavier.
After setting her down I turn towards my son. “Hey Asher.”
I wave my hand between his face and the screen. “Hey Asher.”
“Oh… hey Dad. Didn’t know you were awake.” He holds up a hand in a fist. At eight he feels he is too much of a big boy for hugs. Fist bumps are his sign of affection, unless he has an ouch, or tired then hugs are okay again.
My wife comes out of the kitchen. “We didn’t wake you, did we?”
“No woke up on my own.” She closes the distance between us and wraps her arms around me.
“The kids were a little wild after school. I was afraid they might have been too loud for you.”
“Never heard a thing.”
She kisses me and then turns heading back towards the kitchen. I follow her as the kids have already re-engaged with their games. In the kitchen, I reached for a shaker cup in the drying rack by the sink. Angie, my wife, hands me a tub of pre-workout powder. Never got into the coffee habit. My wake-up juice is fueled from caffeine in fitness supplements.
Tropical fruit punch is the flavor of the day. Angie uses supplements also and is very picky on the flavors. I tend not to care what the flavor is. So each time she hands me a tub it is like a game of roulette. There are three or four containers in the cabinet making each day a surprise.
“Are you going downstairs to workout before we eat?”
“Yeah, not feeling super motivated today. Might just spend some time on the treadmill and maybe hit the rowing machine.”
She looked at me with concern on her face. “You feeling okay? There has been a flu going around the kid’s school. If you are getting sick take it easy.”
Shaking up the water and powder in my shaker cup. “No not getting sick. Just feel off. Can’t put my finger on it.”
“Something bothering you?”
I paused for a moment before answering. “No, not that I am aware of.”
“Well maybe working up a good sweat will do you some good.”
There is an energy in the air at a police department during shift change. Walking in the door you can feel the buzz of people getting ready for the unknown of working the streets in a patrol car. Likewise, the people about to leave work want to extol tales of their shift on patrol.
“Hey Derek,” my partner Tim slaps me on the back walking past me into the briefing room. “Who is driving tonight you or me?”
“I don’t care. I drove last night so you can tonight I guess.”
We used to be solo officer patrol cars. But in the wake of the spike of police assassinations after the Ferguson shooting our chief has us paired up. Tim and I knew each other in college. We had a few classes together and were both in the student Criminal Justice club. We were not good friends at the time, but the familiarity helped us bond when we teamed up.
The pre-shift briefing was uneventful. Day shift had dealt with a heroin overdoes a man was passed out in the bathroom of a gas station. The first officers on the scene provided the drug Narcan, and the victim woke up okay. It turned out the man had two kids waiting in the car for him. He did not want to shoot up in front of them so he decided to stop at the gas station to get his fix.
Meth had hit us hard a few years ago. But the heroin outbreak is overwhelming. It is not just the stereotypical drug user as well. Business owners and housewives are just as likely to use as some person on the street.
Otherwise, the only real announcement for our briefing was an alert about a gang member getting parole from prison. He had been a suspect in a double murder. The only solid evidence our detectives could get on the guy was for minor drug and weapons charges. At the time he went to prison he made it known when he got out he was going to go “pig hunting”, meaning he was going to try to kill some cops.
Once the briefing was over Tim and I walked out to the parking lot to our regular car, squad 27. We each have our own unique badge number however with two people in a car the dispatchers rather use the vehicle number for identification. As I pull out of the parking lot, Tim used the computer to alert dispatch we were ready to take calls for service.
Two hours into the shift we got a call. The screen on the laptop blinked, and the speaker made a chiming alert tone. In the modern age less and less goes over the radio. Dispatchers can talk to a person on the phone and type messages to officers via computer at the same time. In the past, they had to get a snippet of info off the phone, talk to the cops on the radio, then go back to the phone for follow up information.
Tim read the text of the call to me. “Start heading to the six hundred block of Mission street. Got a person who might be suicidal. Dispatch is on the line with an ex-girlfriend. Said she broke up with him today after she caught him cheating. She left his apartment and soon after he texted her saying he could not live with what he did.”
I can hear Tim typing on the keyboard. The laptop chimes again. “Okay, I asked if dispatch could find out about if this dude had guns. Ex-girlfriend did not know. He hunts but keeps all his hunting rifles out at his parents’ cabin where the family hunts. She never saw a gun in the house.”
Looking away from the road to my partner. “I think we should assume he keeps a gun at home.”
“Yeah just because she never saw it does not mean he did not keep one in a box on the shelf in the closet.”
I look back at the roadway as Tim starts to read a new message that came in on the laptop. “Okay sounds like this guy is still texting the female. Saying how his death will be her fault. Sounds like he made some kind of post on Facebook about what she did and how it ‘killed’ him.”
“Sounds less like a cry for help and more like a desire to publicly humiliate her.”
Tim looks up from the screen. “Sorry buddy don’t follow you on that. Humiliate her how?”
“After a public Facebook post like that, if he ends up dead close friends will insist the family check his message history. A day or two after this his private messages will become public in their social circle.”
“You think so?”
“Think about some recent news stories.” I turn the steering wheel and we are on the street just a few blocks for this guys apartment. “High school kids committing suicide and leaving info to suggest they were cyberbullied. Family digs into it and sure enough the cools kids had been being bullies. In a few, there have been major civil lawsuits.”
Pointing out the window Tim says. “Okay partner game time. That red brick fourplex is the place.”
After parking down the street from the location Tim and I walk slowly towards the building. It is a two-story building with four townhouse style apartments. Two face the road and two face the rear, with a single driveway along the side of the building leading back to a detached garage with four single stall doors. We were looking for unit D which Tim assumed correctly to be in the rear on the far side from the driveway.
We stood on the porch for a moment listening. Some music was playing, but it seemed to be coming for the neighboring unit. Each of us was on either side of the door. Simple police tactic to prevent being hit in case someone comes charging or shooting out the door upon knocking.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the doorbell tone inside after watching Tim press the button. All too often in rental properties they seem to be broken or disabled.
“Who is it!”
“Police sir, please open up so we can talk for a few seconds.” Tim has a loud voice but used a conversational tone. People tend to comply better if you are not barking commands at them.
“Go away! I have not done anything wrong.”
“We know sir. Not asking to come inside just want to stand at the door here and have a very brief chat.”
A click echoes into the porch. The deadbolt being unlocked from inside. Tim nods at me and winks nonverbally saying we are on the right track.
The door opens just a little more than a crack. Something metallic inside reflects the porch light. I only fully realize what the reflection is off when I am looking down the barrel of a metallic finished pistol. My hand moves to my Glock and I can feel my thumb pressing the release to unlatch the holster. Action is always faster than reaction. I know I am too late to save my life. His finger moves as I sucked in my last breath.
Time slowed down. I was afraid of death yet know there is no stopping it now. Oh god please don’t let this guy kill Tim and make it so my partner will not have to kill this guy too…
As my brain processed my final thought, I saw a flash as the gun goes off. There was a pressure I felt on my forehead, then everything went black.