Monday, May 26, 2014

The Blue Reaper (Chapter Three)

Chapter Three. . .

The next day was the last of the week and Gabe thought the weekend could not arrive faster.  He was teased and labeled the “Angel of Death” among his squadmates.  Although it was harmless jocularity aimed at his recent encounters, Gabe felt there may have been some semblance of truth in the unwanted moniker.  He tried to shake it off but death did seem to follow.
            Gabe took advantage of the quiet evening and sat talking with his squadmate about anything outside of death, dying or anything of a depressing nature.  They had found their favorite hiding place within their shared beat, underneath a giant mossy oak tree in a vacant lot.  The lot was behind a commercial zone off the main thoroughfare, so they could easily respond to calls for service when needed.
            As the squadmate spoke happily of his girlfriend and their plans to marry soon, the alert tone brought them back to the reality of police work.  An armed robbery had been reported on the other side of the district.  A desperate man in a ski mask had held up a clerk at a convenient store and made off with the contents of the cash register.  Other members of the squad responded to the scene to work the call but Gabe and the squadmate felt compelled to at least help out.  The responding officers got on scene and quickly relayed the suspect’s description and added that he fled in a vehicle parked down the street.  Gabe kept his eyes open for the vehicle as he responded knowing the excitement of a car chase would replace the lingering haunt of death.
            As the call was worked, Gabe looked around the outlying areas for the suspect and his vehicle.  He was about to give up the futile attempt at finding a needle in a haystack when somebody keyed up on the radio after spotting the fleeing vehicle.  Gabe was close by and turned to cut off the suspect.  Before he could get there, the suspect crashed and was seen fleeing on foot into a neighborhood.  K-9 units and a helicopter were dispatched to the area to help search for the armed robber.  Gabe and his squadmate took up perimeter posts on the south boundary of the perimeter.  He listened intently as the dog tracked the suspect through backyards and over fences.  Given the path the dog was following, the suspect was heading in the opposite way of where Gabe and the squadmate were set up.
            Tempted to leave his post and adjust to where the track was heading, Gabe sat tight knowing the glory would not be his on this night.  He yelled down the fifty yards to the squadmate’s post inquiring where he wanted to eat dinner after the call was finished.  Before the squadmate answered, the sound of a fence clinking and the crash of a falling person was heard somewhere off in the darkness.  It came from behind the houses between Gabe’s and the squadmate’s perimeter position.  Gabe and the squadmate took cover behind their respective patrol cars and instantly withdrew their weapons.
            They waited for the suspect immergence, but nothing happened.  In an attempt to remain silent so as to not make the suspect aware of their presence, they nodded and threw hand signs back at each other as they formulated a plan to approach the area where the sound originated.  After a few moments, they crept out from behind cover with their guns drawn and held up at the ready.  They bravely walked toward danger in search of an armed suspect.
            They stealthily approached the back yard of a house where all the lights were off, an ideal hiding spot for a criminal.  The cops inched their way slowly so as to sneak up on the unsuspecting felon and surprise him into submission to avoid a violent confrontation.  As they neared the corner, they checked each other with a knowing look and in unison broke the corner of the house with guns up and their flashlights coming to life illuminating the back yard. 

            To their dismay, the noisy culprit was a scavenging raccoon digging for its evening meal in the homeowners garbage can and not the armed robber.  They shooed the animal away and relaxed finding the humor in the situation.  They scanned the back yard for any signs of the real perpetrator but did not find any.  As they walked back to the front of the house, they continued the debate on where dinner was going to be. 
            As they walked into the front yard, the orange glow of the street light shone bright in their eyes and cast shadows behind them.  Gabe looked down to maintain his “night eyes” as he continued back to the perimeter post.  As he looked up, a shadowy figure moved within several feet to his right catching him off guard.  The glint of metal reflected from the street light flashed across Gabe’s face as he realized he was in a standoff with the armed suspect.  His gun was still out and he had the suspect dead to right, but he saw him raise up the gun in slow motion and felt there was nothing he could do to stop it.

            “No, no, no…” he begged the suspect.  Not because he didn’t want to get shot, but because he was being forced to shoot the suspect.  He’d seen enough death and didn’t want to be the cause.
Flashes of fire and bright lights bounced back and forth by the yard’s edge.  After the brief fire fight, Gabe felt distant and withdrawn from the scene but reality came crashing down as his ears were ringing and his nostrils stung of warm gun powder.  He was still standing but the suspect fell.  He watched in awesome terror as the suspect writhed in pain from the searing hot lead that pierced his body.  He checked himself, finding everything intact and knew he was the victor and had survived.  But, another life was taken.

            He rushed to the suspect’s side to assess the lethality of his rounds.  He cursed the man for making him shoot and berated him for the selfish actions.  He noticed the rounds were low and the man was gut shot and took one in the shoulder.  It hurt like hell, he was sure, but this was survivable and only if he acted quickly.
            Gabe yelled back for help from his squadmate as he frantically secured the suspect and started to treat his wounds.  He focused on applying pressure to the man’s stomach as he howled in pain and hadn’t notice his cries for help went unanswered.  Gabe looked up and yelled over at the squadmate for his help again but stopped in horror.
            The squadmate was lying on the cold wet ground of the front yard holding his neck that was bleeding profusely.  Gabe instantly left the suspect and ran to his partner’s side.  He looked down in pure helplessness as his friend was fighting for his life.  A round fired from the suspect, intended for Gabe, struck the squadmate who had been standing behind and hit him in the neck.  He tried to talk but only strained gurgles of blood and saliva came out.  Gabe hysterically screamed on the radio for help and held his hands against the gushing tidal wave of blood pouring from his friend’s neck.  He was powerless as he watched the light fade.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Blue Reaper (Chapter Two)

Chapter Two. . .

A few days passed, but the image of the tormented man seemed to be stuck in Gabe’s mind.  It was part of the job he told himself and kept the odd feeling at bay by pressing on with protecting his corner of the city.
            He was trolling through the drug riddled parts of his beat looking for the next dealer to chase when the call of a death investigation took him to a middle income neighborhood that was spared from the drug war.  A husband had come home from an errand to find his elderly wife not breathing and cold to the touch. 
            As he pulled up, he noticed the house was simple and neat.  It was a one story mason brick home pale green with green shutters and white trim.  A holdover look from the late sixties when the neighborhood was established and undoubtedly the elderly couple were the original owners who chose to stay in the home over the years.  It was where they raised their three children and hosted myriad of visits by grandchildren and even great grandchildren.  Gabe parked in the driveway and walked up to the front door.  He was met with a warm looking man dressed in a brown sweater and slacks, his hair was grayed and thin, skin wrinkled from a lifetime of wear and his eyes were red from tears.

            The husband invited the young officer in as any other welcomed guest and showed him the way to his bride of sixty three years lying peacefully in their bed.  Gabe instantly felt intrusive and wanted to leave but the man called the police for help and that’s what he was going to do.  She would not be brought back to life but in death she would be treated with dignity and respect.
            Gabe listened to the man speak about his wife with beaming pride and it was clear she was the only thing in his life that mattered. Recently, she had been having shortness of breath and was seeing a doctor on a regular basis.  The doctor’s prognosis had been heartbreaking as he explained her time was nearing the end and no amount of medicine would change that.  They had accepted the fact that her time on the earth was dwindling and this was her final sunset.  But that didn’t make it any easier for the husband to bear.

            After Gabe finished examining the body for signs of trauma or foul play and looking around the home for any suspiciousness, he found himself studying the wall of pictures that the elderly couple had collected and proudly displayed over the years.  The frames were an indication of the years past as the older styles molded into the newer ones and the clarity and quality of the pictures improved as the years went on.  A lifetime of memories stared back at Gabe as the husband sat patiently awaiting for the young cop to finish his investigation.
            “Cherish the memories officer; they will pass by in a flash.” 

            Gabe turned and looked at the old man and smiled.  He felt sorry for the man as he would have to see his wife buried and placed in the ground before him. 
            “I’ll try sir.” 

            Gabe explained that they were waiting on the funeral home to come take his wife’s body to the morgue.  Once that was completed, they would be finished.
            “Can I call anyone for you sir?”  Gabe figured that with all of the family he proudly displayed on the wall, surely he would want someone to comfort him in this difficult time.

            “I’ll be fine officer.  I’ll let them know soon enough.” 
            “As you wish sir.”

            The funeral home arrived and with the solemn protocol rolled a gurney with a felt blanket draped over it inside the modest home and removed the deceased wife with gentle care.  Gabe felt compelled to stay with the man but he knew duty would soon come calling and he would have to leave.  Gabe followed the funeral home workers outside with the wife to ensure she was placed into the hearse with the dignity and respect she deserved.
            The sun had not only set for the wife but for the rest of the city as night shrouded the sky.  As he watched the hearse pull away a cool breeze rolled in from the east gently kissing the cheek of Gabriel Farmer.  He decided the drug peddlers down in the ghetto would have to wait and he would remain with the old man until dispatch called him away.  

            As he turned to go back in the house, the sharp crack of a gunshot echoed from inside the house.  Gabe’s heart stopped and he instantly froze into place.  He didn’t go for his weapon or try to find cover, for he realized he was not the intended target of the gunfire.  His brain kick started his body and he broke into a full sprint inside the house in search of the old man.  He desperately looked in the living room where he was sitting during the investigation but the chair was empty.  He moved around to the kitchen calling out his name, but there was only silence.
            He ran down the hallway toward the elderly couple’s bedroom and the distinct smell of gun powder hung in the air.  He slowed his pace and stopped in the doorway before entering the bedroom.  At what he saw inside his shoulders sunk and he bowed his head in helpless defeat.

            The man was sitting in the bed he shared with his wife for half a century.  He held a picture taken on their wedding day in one hand and a .38 revolver laid loosely in the other.  The blood was still streaming from his temple, but the light inside was gone.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Blue Reaper

This is the first of four chapters from a short story. . .
Death is everywhere.  The inevitable ending will undoubtedly come, sometimes unannounced and sometimes expected, sometimes tragic and sometimes just.  But as life begins, it will one day end.
            Officer Gabriel Farmer worked his beat like any other day.  He worked the afternoon shift which was busy in the northwest section of town.  He worked the gambit, from domestic disturbances, drunk and disorderly subjects, drug complaints, burglaries and the occasional street violence that seemed to plague the city.
He had just left the jail after catching a wanted person right out of the gate.  The forgetful drug addict had failed to recognize Farmer from his arrest the week prior and tried to lie about his name again.  He realized the cop wasn’t buying the alias and upon finally seeing through the foggy haze of the narcotic high, the foolish man remembered the young cop’s face and tried to run.  Farmer was ready and pounced on the pathetic criminal before taking him to jail.  He never understood the stronghold that drugs had on people and to what lengths they would go to just to chase the next high.
After leaving the jail, he drove back inside the boundaries of his beat and passed by a city bus stop where a man sat alone.  The man perked up as the marked patrol car passed by and watched Gabe intently.  He was disheveled in appearance and Farmer guessed the man was homeless.  His tousled hair and odd mannerisms, as he observed during that short window, led to the assumption he had the additional burden of a mental illness.  Gabe peered out of the windshield and locked eyes with the man.  He saw a darkness surrounding the man that engulfed his being.  His soul was tormented by some unknown evil lurking like a leviathan waiting in the depths of hell.  It was distracting to the point Gabe veered slightly off the road as he passed the bus stop.  He snapped out of the mini trance and headed to the next call.
He wondered about the demons that men possess inside and tried to shake the eerie connection he felt with the man at the bus stop. 
As dinner time neared, Gabe checked in with a squadmate to swap stories collected from earlier in the shift.  Suddenly, an alert tone beeped over the radio calling for the nearest units to respond to a car crash with serious injuries just down the street.  Gabe answered the call and sped down the road with his lights flashing and sirens blaring.  As he prepped mentally for the call ahead, a cold chill shuddered down his spine as he realized he was responding to the area of the bus stop where he saw the tormented man.  The dispatched updated the notes of the call; it was a vehicle versus a pedestrian crash.  An unsettling feeling began to grow in the pit of his stomach.
As he broke the crest of the hill, he saw a charter bus pulled off to the side of the road, its hazard lights were flashing and a uniformed driver waved frantically at the oncoming patrol car.  A small white sedan was stopped at an odd angle just a few yards past the bus still sitting in the inside lane.  It’s driver’s side door was slightly cracked open.  Gabe parked in the middle of the road short of the scene and left his emergency lights on to warn approaching traffic.  He jumped out of the patrol car and ran up to the scene.  He ignored the bus and the small white sedan, for what he saw was a bloody heap of human bones and skin painfully distorted to the realm of utmost horror.  He ran to the man’s side and locked eyes with the tormented man he saw at the bus stop earlier that day.  He knelt down to his side.  
He was still alive, barely.  His eyes were wide with unanticipated fear and looking around for answers that would never come.  His face was cut deep across his forehead and both cheeks, gashed down to the bone and seeping blood.  His body was inhumanly contorted as his left leg and ankle somehow came to rest across his right shoulder and his foot was twisted around pointing outward.  His insides were pulverized into pieces by the small white sedan that hit him at forty miles an hour and rolled over his limp body sending him tumbling down the asphalt in excruciating pain.  The man gasped for air and tried to grab for his leg and move it back to where God had intended it be, but lacked the strength and ability to make that happen.  As he desperately searched for answers with his eyes, he finally looked over at the young cop who was knelt down by his side. 
An overwhelming sense of helplessness washed over Gabriel Farmer as to what he could do for this tormented man.  He was trained as a first responder but that would not be enough to help this man.  A team of surgeons dressed and ready wouldn’t make a difference.  The man’s searching eyes locked onto Gabe’s as if to say “help me”.  He looked over the man’s body and felt there was only one way to truly help.   He grabbed his hand as it searched for the misplaced leg and he held it tight in his own.  The sound of sirens from additional units grew louder as they approached the scene.  He leaned over to the man, who stopped his futile struggle to listen to Gabe.
“Let go, brother.  Just let go.”  Gabe said in a soothing and comforting tone unfitting for the middle of a highway amongst the chaos of a horrendous traffic crash.  Gabe repeated the soft command and felt the grip of the tormented man loosen in his own.  Taking the cops advice, he stopped fighting and let the light fade from his eyes. 
No matter how small of a chance the man had for survival, he would never walk, never hold anything in his hands, make love, hug a friend or even control his bodily functions.  The torment and anguish would be over and he could rest in peace.