Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter Three

Chapter Three Night Shift

(As I am finding out, there were "embedded" commands laced within the text and they are causing havoc when I imported this old document into "new wine casks". Please just ignore the :interesting paragraph format.)

He let the truck idle for a few moments before backing out onto the street. Bev
waved to him from the front door as she was closing it. He turned on the stereo and
inserted a tape, “Switched on Bach”; one of his favorites. The thirteen mile trip to the
station wasn't long enough to enjoy the whole tape so he sat quietly in the parking lot
while putting on his tie until the last notes were manufactured from the synthesizer. As
he walked past the helicopter pad toward the back entrance, strapping on his Sam Brown
in between steps, the breeze out of the South made the bright orange wind sock stand out
against the half clouded sky. The moon was nearly full and he figured the calls
would keep him busy all night. The bars would be doing business hand over fist; too
much fist and not enough units on hand. The new command station, a multi-million
dollar white elephant, had been staffed with officers from all over the city. It had
caused the night shift coverage at Station 5 to be cut almost in half. Sinclair wondered if
the city budget would ever recover and would the Academy ever be opened again to
train new officers. The future of the department looked pretty bleak. He was glad that
he had only six more years to get his retirement. He would still be relatively young at
the age of 42 and it would be nice to sleep nights like normal people. He could learn
another trade, locksmithing perhaps, and still be picking up the city check.

Walking in the door, he was handed a subpoena by the desk officer. As he signed
for it he grumbled, “Just great”, sarcastically. Municipal court subpoenas ruined a lot of
Friday mornings. He jotted the date in his pocket calendar as he left the office. The
black board in the hall to the officer's locker room was one of the few places left in the
whole station, make that the whole department, where humor was still allowed or
tolerated. It was away from the public view and was considered the sacred instrument of
the trodden masses. This time it read, “Keep on writing those traffic tickets. Your
transfer papers to the new command station are the reward for all you loyal idiots!”.
It was signed “JP”. Jerry was the local shop steward for the Patrolmen’s Union. He
had an opinion on just about anything and he loved the administration almost as much as
Sinclair. There was a ping pong game in the locker room, just behind the lavatory area
where he had gone to relieve himself. He heard the mild profanity echo off the gray tile
walls when one of the teams had lost a point. They were talking about how three more
officers had gotten their transfer papers and rumor had it that five more would follow.
He pulled the chrome handle of the urinal and a burst of water bubbled down.

“Flush twice to reach the chief’s office!”, one of the voices from the back yelled
out. Muffled laughter followed by some more profanity regarding the mayor.

It was time for roll call. He went by and checked out a radio and shop key. He
signed for both and filled out a daily work sheet. Sgt. R.C."Bob" Linden, the station
sergeant, walked through the double swinging doors. The end of the Laker game had
been keenly observed by most of the officers as roll call time approached. It had gotten
down to the final 15 seconds of the game as Bob reached over and flicked off the tube.
A look of disbelief and a mumble of discontent rumbled out of the front row as he

slapped the clip board down on the rostrum. Sinclair had ridden partners with Bob years
before when they were both learning the streets. They had become great friends on and
off duty, more like brothers. They had lots of things in common, but Bob was not a
sports fan. He enjoyed gardening, motor cycles and working to restore a turn of the
century Victorian style house that he had up in the hill country. He was perverted in his
own way; he enjoyed turning the television off as soon as it was time for roll call,
especially if there was a game on. Football, basketball, baseball; it didn’t much matter.
He would glance up at the wall clock and as it reached precisely 23:00 hours a grin would
come over him and "click" it was off. Bob was not a favorite to win supervisor of the

“There’s an opening for an officer in Planning and Research; Saturday and
Sunday off with day shift hours. Anyone interested can get a copy of this”. He thumbed past a page and read on, “Starting with the first shift Monday the Department will go back to wearing the authorized Summer uniform; ties will not be worn". He signed his initials to the page and continued to review the stack of papers on the clip board. “Funeral for Mrs. Florence ‘Flo’ Stevenson, clerk typist II, will be held... never mind; it was yesterday”. Bob glanced over the roll call list and began the nightly ritual of assigning beats to each officer.

“Tanner, Four Frank Eleven”, looking up to see where Tanner was as he assigned
him a geographical area to patrol while pausing to find out which shop Tanner had
checked out to drive.

“Six Six Nine Three, Sir; when it gets in”

“Parsons, Four Frank Twenty One” The pattern continued around the room.

“X Six Seven Nine Four, Sergeant”, with a heavy emphasis on the X. JP
was always trying to make an issue, even when there wasn’t one.

“Thank you JP”, a wrinkled smile came upon Bob’s face as he intentionally
avoided looking at him. It was the kind of smile that if translated would come out as,
“Gee, Thanks you idiot, but don’t all the cars have an “X” before the numbers?” Bob
shook his leg and the front row cleared out.

“Sergeant Who?”, a voice came from the back of the room accompanied with
some muffled laughter. It was ignored, mostly.

“Macdougal, Five Frank Fifteen”, and so it went.. Roll call at Station 5 was
more relaxed than anywhere else in the city. Most of the officers had a good sense of
humor as did the supervisors. Inspections were held on the appropriate days, even if the
officers were borrowing hats and night sticks in the hall just prior to the entrance of the
lieutenant. It was all part of the big game.

“Dosilmeyer, Five Frank Twenty Five, you have a subpoena”.

“Seven Five Three One, Sir, and I have it already”. Sinclair looked at his old
partner and acknowledged the rank of sergeant. It was hard to believe that only ten
years ago they had done so much together as officers and friends. It had been months
since they had gotten together for dinner with their wives.

“Williams, Five Frank Thirty One"; he paused for a moment to add up the fact
that there were not enough officers to put any two man units out on the street. “That’s all
I have. Be careful.” Each night those words would officially close roll call, as if by
instructing the officers to be careful the Department had told them something important.
They could as easily have said, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

It was time to get out of the station and get to work. He checked the frequency
setting on his handy-talkie and adjusted the volume knob. He walked out while
monitoring the calls the Early Side was running; it was already busy. He grabbed his
fully charged flashlight and brief case from behind the seat of the pick up, then felt the
night air of Spring and reached back in and pulled out his light weight jacket. It was
still too early in the year for just shirt sleeves. He walked over to his shop and checked
off the form in his hand; “Flares, fire extinguisher, body blanket, first aid box, jumper
cables, Key map, and print kit. Check, all there”, as he inspected under the back seat
cushions for weapons and contraband. “Gas tank, full; windshield wipers work,
overhead lights and spot light, check. No new dents.”

He turned on the computer and initialized it. He had used the first letter of his
kids names as a password for the purpose of logging on. The amber message board
lighted up, “Have a good day. Your unit number is 5F25”. A few bleeps and the
second daily message appeared, “Please use the name check function for a detailed
history check of suspects.” Last of all came the line function screen indicating that he
was logged onto the system; but not yet available to run calls, that to be done by advising
the dispatcher that he was, “signed on”.

“Five Frank Twenty Five, S. O. one man”, he was now officially available for calls.

“Five Frank Twenty Five that’s clear. Sir, in your beat, a disturbance in the
parking lot 8600 Hammerly. Any unit clear to check by with a one man unit on a
disturbance 8600 Hammerly acknowledge?”. There would be no answer; but she was
required to ask anyway.

“Five Frank Twenty Five clear, enroute.” Sinclair buckled himself in and pushed
down harder on the accelerator as he headed in the direction of the call. He was familiar
with the bar at that location and the superlative citizens that normally found their way to
its oyster shell parking lot. One or two of them bathed twice a week; one was the
barmaid and the other was the owner. Back when Sinclair had rookies to train, there had
been one of them that wanted to be a policeman in the worst way. Whatever the Senior

Officer would suggest, well that was fine with him too. Sinclair had offered an
invitation to the young officer to meet at this bar on their off night, to bring his wife and
that they would have a swell time. The Rookie, looking the place over cast an eyebrow
in disbelief, but quickly threw in his acceptance. “Yea, my wife and I come here all the
time”, Sinclair played it for a few more minutes. “They have dart board contests every
Tuesday night.”

“Sounds like it might be fun”, as the Rookie did a double take and swallowed
hard. Sinclair let out a laugh and let him know that he’d been pulling his leg. A look
of relief appeared on the Rookies face. Later on, as it turned out, that particular officer
got washed out of the training program. Other officers found that he was just as easily
fooled by the criminals.

“Five Frank Twenty Five arrived.”, as he pulled into the mostly vacant lot. Over
to the side of the building and leaning half over was the shadow of a figure throwing up
in the bushes. “What a wonderful way to spend the evening.” Sinclair walked up to
the front door and surveyed the place as a precaution. There was no visible disturbance;
three guys and a girl at one table looked up but mostly ignored the uniform. The bar
maid gestured to the old man sitting with his back to Sinclair.

“Its him, Officer.” The only movement noticeable was the tremble of the old
man’s hand as he put out his cigarette in the ashtray. “He keeps coming behind the
counter after me.” Sinclair looked at the old man and then back at the barmaid. She had
on a black biker type of T-shirt that was torn under the arm pits, blue jeans that had been
washed at the factory and maybe one time since then. She was twenty maybe twenty
five years old but she looked much older. Alcohol and drug abuse had taken a toll on her
youth. There were yellow and gray bruises on her arms from where her "old man" had
beaten her up and her teeth..., enough said. “Why on earth would anybody want to go
behind the bar after her?”, maybe she had a 1 % tattoo, she would have fit right in with
that club.

“Okay; why don't you move it on down the road before I have to take you in?”, as
he placed a hand on the old man's back. The touch caused no discernible reaction. If
there was going to be trouble it would be now. The first move was up to the old man.
“Time to leave.”, as he turned to the bar maid, “Is he paid up?” The old man sat for a
moment and looked into his beer; Sinclair’s hand still firmly on the back of his

“Yea, just you get him out’a here. All he wants to do is start trouble.”
She stood behind the register, tapping her fingers impatiently on the edge of the
warped Formica counter top. A strip of molded aluminum had been hastily nailed to
the counter’s edge to cover the plywood border. There were brown burn marks the
length of the badly warped top where cigarettes had been left to die. It’s what they call
“character” in cheap novels.

As the old man started to gather himself it became clear that there would not be

any trouble. Sinclair guided him to the door and watched him walk across the street to
his apartment complex. The apartments matched the quality of the bar stride for stride.

“Five Frank Twenty Five in service, settled.” The night hours passed quickly
with plenty of calls to keep him busy. At oh four hundred hours hours, just when things
were beginning to taper off he got another disturbance. Sinclair drove to the
townhouse complex and was met in the parking lot by a young man wearing
only blue jean cut offs, no shirt or shoes. “I want her out of my house!”

“Back up a second and tell me what makes people do this at four in the morning.
Who is it that you want out and why?” This was another case for “Judge Five Frank
Twenty Five”.

“It’s my girl friend, she hasn’t paid a dime toward the rent. She keeps sending
all her money to her husband.”

“Sounds good to me.”, the slightly sarcastic tone missed the mark.

“She moved in with me about a year now. We had a kid last month and ever
since she’s been hell to live with. I just want her out if she’s not gonna’ help pay the

“So you’ve been living in sin now for about a year, why is it that this can’t wait
‘till the sun comes up? Did she come at you with a knife or something?”

“No, just that when me and my buddy got home about twenty minutes ago; we
were at his place workin' on a couple of six packs, there she was in my bed with some
dude she met at the bar I ain’t gonna pay the rent for that slut!”

“You say she’s been living here for about a year? Sounds like you need a lawyer
more than you need a cop. Why don’t you sleep in your car tonight or get a room at the
motel. Nothing I can do, except laugh at you for putting yourself in a real spot. Oh, I
wouldn’t go around braggin’ that she was married; adultery is still a violation of the law.
She might get to keep all your stuff while you go to prison.”

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“Not a lick,” Sinclair never did get out of the car while the conversation
continued. He looked into the young man’s face and wondered if this all sounded as silly
to him. “Unless you have something else”, placing the car in gear, “I’ll be on my way.”
He picked up the mike, “Five Frank Twenty Five in. Clear this as information only.”
Sinclair drove away, watching the rear view mirror as the young man got into his own
car and drove off in the other direction. It seemed that almost every Friday night had at
least one, sometimes two “divorce court” calls. Sinclair made his way to the “hole”

where he aimed the car at the traffic light, just in case he observed a flagrant red light
violation. What he really wanted was to close his eyes for a few minutes and relax. He
watched for a while and didn’t need a computer to tell him that there were only a few
people left out and about. The thoughts of the last call passed in review as he shook his
head. “What would Bev say if he were to invite that fine young couple, make that trio,
over to the house for dinner?” Wouldn’t that be a sight, his posture sliding down into the
seat and trying to find a comfortable position. The center console unit of the car had a
large metal rack that held the radio, computer, and all the emergency light switches. He
had invested in some Velcro which he used instead of the standard radio hook. The mike
lay in the center, on top of the dash which gave him a little more leg room. He turned
on the “good time radio” and closed his eyes. He wasn’t sleeping, just a step above it

“Five Frank Twenty Five”.

“Go ahead”, not using his call sign and thinking to himself, “Thrilled to be here
serving the city”, and glad that the radio could not read his mind and display it on the
dispatchers screen.

“Five Frank Twenty Five, in ten’s beat, a local alarm 7800 Long Point, no other

“Clear”, in a less than thankful tone. He eased back to an upright posture and
headed down the street.

“Need a case number for a burglary”, as he looked at the smashed in glass
window front of the building. It was a small business and he could see that the suspects
were not inside. “Go ahead and get me an owner enroute too.” He started to fill in the
blanks of the report form.

“Five Frank Twenty Five, owner’s ETA is 15 minutes”

“Clear”, He walked through the store noticed that the beer cooler appeared to be
the only place the suspects had attacked. He listed four 12 packs of beer as having been
stolen and listed the window as damaged. When the owner arrived he completed the
report and was back in service just in time to head for the donut shop over on Bingle.
The sky was still dark but he could just make out a twinge of color to the east. Day shift
would be coming on soon and he could get two or three hours of serious sleep in before
the big softball game against Spring.

“Five Frank Twenty Five.” He looked into the piece of plastic as if it were a
camera. He wondered if it could send a picture across the air ways, and he paused to
keep from saying something he might regret later.

“Five Frank Twenty Five. . . Go ahead.”

“Five Frank Twenty Five, a report of a disturbance 1600 Pech, unknown name
of apartments, near apartment number 80 “J” John.”

“Enroute", writing only the apartment number down since he was familiar with
the location. Once he had even made a report about a “Killer Dr. Pepper” machine that;
according to the sole surviving witness, had jumped out and landed on top of his friend as
they were walking by. It had nothing to do with the fact that they had been trying to
break into the machine. Sinclair had stood at a safe distance while the sworn statement
was given down at Central Juvenile where they dropped off the “witness”. He pulled
into the drive and cut his lights. The parking lot was mostly empty, save for a broken
down rust and blue Buick, and it had only two tires and one of them was flat. The rest
of the parking area was full of pot holes, broken glass from assorted wine and beer
bottles and some auto glass from where thieves had left their calling cards. There were
patches of oil and transmission fluid lined up like ghosts of the cars that once had been.
In the ditch was an over turned shopping cart, temporarily on loan from the local Kroger
store, a torn up tennis shoe and a hastily discarded used diaper. This was a real show
place of human progress. The wax leaf legustram was quietly surviving; not well in the
hard packed sandy brown soil that glistened from the reflected sodium flood lights
mounted on the roof. The plants fit in somehow, as they were not proud examples of
their respective species either.

Sinclair stepped out and grabbed his long black flashlight which had been
strategically wedged into the corner of the dash where the windshield meets the edge
molding. It had rubbed the corner of the vehicle safety inspection sticker off from the
constant wear. As he shut the door of the police car and began to walk towards the
courtyard area, two crisp blasts followed by two more from a large caliber pistol rang out
and echoed off the walls of the complex, masking the point of origin. He felt all of his
survival instincts race into high gear as he crouched down by the fender of his patrol car.

“Five Frank Two Five”, as he slowed his words, not wishing to have to repeat
anything, “I need a back up my location, shots fired from an unknown location here.
Have units approach with caution”.

“Five Frank Twenty Five clear; any unit clear to back up Five Frank Twenty Five
at 1600 Pech near apartment, “J”, John? Shots fired that location, approach with

There was not a soul in the courtyard, nothing was moving but at the same time
he was sure that somewhere close by. . .Ka blammm! This time he was closer and was
able to guess that it had come from one of two apartments just around the corner. He
peered past the edge but could not see any movement at first. Then he caught just a
glimpse of drapery moving across the way in the window of the first floor corner
apartment. He studied it, his life depended on how well he could read such
movements. It was not the shooter; only one of the residents trying to point out the
shooter’s location. The pointing finger faded into the shadows and disappeared entirely

as Sinclair moved towards the suspect’s apartment. He noticed the steel work of the
spiral stairs, the rust and broken concrete steps that led to the two up stair apartments.
The nearer of the two showed no signs of having been lived in, at least not recently so he
moved toward the other. Sinclair quietly and methodically ascended each step, not
wishing to disturb or alert anyone to his presence. A ballet dancer could have done no
better as his large frame glided along. He had his pistol firmly gripped and ready as he
strained to be an inch or two beyond his own body. He could hear the approaching back
up units in the distance. They were at Mach 2 now, red lights and sirens, like warheads
all aimed at the same target. It was only slightly comforting to him at the moment. He
was reminded of the first burglary of a warehouse that he made; the draining of his
internal battery by the emptiness of the building and the high degree of danger. A
moment was an hour and a minute could last for all eternity. The door to the apartment
was warped and the wood veneer was peeling. He was close enough to the door now that
he could hear mumbles of Spanish from within. At his feet were several empty casings
from what appeared to be a .45 caliber pistol. He wanted to wait as long as possible to
allow time for the back up units to arrive. “The only fools who crashed doors on their
own were in the movies or were dead.”, he remembered what he had been taught so many
years ago. He could feel the slab of concrete vibrate under his feet; there was someone
about to come out the door. There would be no time to wait. Sinclair stood next to the
wall and watched as a large framed man staggered out with the pistol in his hand. He
was so drunk that he didn’t see Sinclair reaching to gain control of the gun.