My career in law enforcement started in the prison system working as a corrections officer in a maximum security facility. The aged institution was a series of old, weathered and worn brick buildings that were probably ten years past the demolition stage. Ironically, that description fit many of the prison’s residents—old, weathered, and long past their prime.

As a new employee, and someone who didn’t know what to expect, once I was permitted inside the endless fencing and razor wire, well, I was a bit apprehensive to say the least.

During our orientation period (the prison system is a revolving door of both inmates and employees—neither seem to want to stay for very long), we were told the prison housed many hard-core inmates, even brutal murderers who’d never again set foot in society.

It didn’t take long to discover how many of the prison inmates survive in such a harsh environment. To do so, many of them “obtain” things from the outside. However, getting their hands on contraband is not the easiest of tasks. Therefore, using tactics similar to those used by feral animals, they stalk their prey, focusing on weak-minded, soft-touch officers. Then, when the moment is right, they cull the timid from the herd before moving in for the kill.

The difference between this type of prisoner and a lion is that the lion hunts for food, while the desperate inmate hunts for favors, liquor, drugs, cellphones, women, and possibly freedom. His prey—new, unsuspecting prison guards who could be manipulated and conned into granting those wishes.

Thankfully, I’m not weak or meek, nor am I an easy mark, so I never once fell for any of their clever con games. However, there’s another type of prisoner that did seem to get to me at times—old-timers with sad stories who seemed to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. They could have been anybody’s grandfather, even mine. And such was the case of …

The Wheel: Page Two of My Spiral Notebooks

Tired eyes.

Skin, wrinkled like grooves etched in wet sand.

Working man’s hands.

Nails bitten to the quick.

“They tore down the mill,” I said.

Anxious eyes.

“The one near my place?” he said.

I nodded.

“I used to gig frogs at the base of that old wheel.”

“Caught some nice ones there.”

I offered another nod.

“What’re they gonna do there?”

“Convenience store’s what I heard.”

A gaze into the distance.

Staring into his past.

A deep breath.

A sigh.

A tired voice,

Nearly a whisper.

“The wheel was turnin’ that night, you know.”

I’d heard the story a hundred times before.

“I heard the water running over it when I crossed the road.”

Trembling hand through white hair.

The other, clutching fence wire.

Knuckles, white and taut.

“She screamed, but I still heard the water pouring off the wheel.

And the metal squeakin’ and creakin’.

It was loud. So loud.”

His eyes meet mine.

“Still hear it, you know. Every night, in my head.”

“I know you do.”

I know this because I hear his screams.

The ones that wake him late at night.

“I went over to her trailer to see about all the racket.”

Hand gripping hand.

Wringing and twisting.

Beads of sweat spattered across his forehead.

“She was my little girl, you know.”

Deep breath.

“I opened the door.”

Eyes growing wide.

He was there, again.

In his mind.

“He … He was sittin’ on top of her …”

Voice quivering.

“She was naked. Lips bleeding. Down there, too …”

Old eyes filled with water.

Spilling down his sun-leathered cheeks.

“I tried to pull him off.”

Voice cracks.

“Too big. Too strong.”

Anger crept in.

Teeth clenched tightly.

“I went back across the road to my house.”

Looking at, but through me.

Seeing it all again.

“To get my shotgun.

I didn’t want her to marry him. Never did like the guy.

A drunk and a bum.

Never worked a day in his life.

Beat her all the time.

Bruises and black eyes.

I seen ‘em.”

More hand-wringing.

“Loaded three rounds of double-aught buckshot, I did.

Get off my little girl!

Mind your own business, old man, he says to me.”

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

“Well, that bastard’’ll never touch my precious angel again.

No, sir.

Never again.”

Police.

Arrest.

Jail.

Court.

Murder.

Went home to get gun.

Premeditated.

Life sentence.

No parole.

A beat of silence passed.

“So they tore it down, huh?”

“Yep.”

A sigh.

“A convenience store, huh?”

I nodded.

“I’ll always hear that water runnin’.

And the metal screechin’ and squealin’.”

Wiped away a final tear.

“I know you will.”

“I’d do it again tomorrow, you know.”

I nodded.

Another beat.

Announcement from speaker.

“Count time in five minutes.”

“All inmates report to their cells.”

Voices approach.

Chatter of dozens.

Feet shuffling on concrete.

“I wish she’d found somebody like you.

Maybe we could’ve gone frog-giggin’ together, you and me.

Before they tore it down.

Or fishin’.

Crappie there are as big as your two hands held side-by-side.

They’s some good eat’n.”

Gnarled fingers through the wire.

Reaching for me,

For a simple touch.

Human to human.

Liver spotted hand.

“I’da liked that. I really would have.”

“Me, too …

Me, too.”

* The Old Man and the Wheel is a true story that crosses my mind from time to time. Today is one of those times.

Dead Guy

Busy night.

Long night.

Tired.

Robbery.

Domestic.

Juveniles.

Drunk driver.

Break time.

Coffee.

Need coffee.

Window down.

Night air.

Cool.

Damp.

Traffic light.

Winking red.

Right turn.

Skinny dog in alley,

Limping.

Bakery.

Dumpster.

Scraps.

Wino, in doorway.

A smile.

No teeth.

A nod.

A car.

Two teens.

Nervous glance.

Speed limit.

Exactly.

Mirror.

Tail lights.

Brake lights,

Signal light.

Left turn.

Gone.

Steam from storm drain.

Wispy tendrils.

Melt into black sky.

Radio crackle.

“Fight-in-progress.”

“Tip-Top Bar and Lounge.”

“Weapons involved.”

“Knives.”

“10-4. Enroute.”

Blue lights.

Siren.

Gravel crunches.

Siren stops.

“Hurry, Officer!”

Crowd circled.

Two men.

Metal flashes.

Step.

Grab.

Wrist turn-out.

Take-down.

Knife in hand.

Suspect on floor.

Handcuffed.

Blood.

Everywhere.

Mine.

Hospital.

Stitches.

Gun hand.

Again.

Should’ve been a writer.

It’s safer.

Much safer.


My spiral notebooks, short bits of text, are written accounts detailing a long and interesting career. They’re memories. Some good. Some funny. Some sad. And some, for peace of mind, should be forgotten. They are what they are and it is my hope that they now serve to provide you with access to a world that’s not often made available to the public.

Stacks of old spiral notebooks tell the story of my career in law enforcement. Most of the pages contain brief notations—mileage, oil changes, weather, dates and times, arrests, names of witnesses and suspects, crime scene information, prisoners transported, and strangely enough, ideas for stories. You see, I’ve always wanted to write.

This story is true. It happened.

Sure, there were plenty of happy times during my twenty-plus years of wearing a gun and badge, but I often choose to write about the more solemn tales for a reason. I offer them to you, not to talk about the things we did that were right or wrong, but to show a side to police work that’s not normally seen by the general public.

Believe me, the job is not all cops and robbers. Sometimes it’s about the things that tug at your heart, pulling and grasping at whatever keeps a person’s sanity and emotions in check.

Today I’ve flipped through the pages to an event that’s forever etched in my mind. I’ve always referred to it as The Fire.

Saturday June 9, 1984

Working graveyard shift alone.

11:45 – Relieve 4-12 shift. No serious incidents reported. Slow night.

12:00 – Begin patrol. Mileage 43888.

12:14 – Loud music complaint. Subjects complied.

12:47 – Assist state police with vehicle search and arrest on interstate. Meth.

1:18 – Bar fight. Break it up. Arrest two males. Disorderly conduct and drunk in public. Process.

1:59 – Vehicle stop. Expired plates. Stolen car. Murder suspect from Florida. Arrest and process.

3:20 – Assist jail officers with disturbance.

4:14 – Meet troopers for breakfast.

4:27 – Accident on interstate. Assist troopers. Leave before meal arrives.

4:33 – Arrive at scene.

Vehicle on fire in median.

Fully engulfed.

People trapped.

Screaming.

Hair burning.

Faces contort.

Too hot to approach.

Helpless.

Man pushing.

Against door.

Intense heat.

Hopeless.

Fire extinguishers.

Glass, exploding.

Tires melt.

Flat.

Paint bubbling.

Bare metal.

Man climbs from window.

Burning.

Collapses.

Trooper pulls him to safety.

Dead.

Woman stops screaming.

Dead.

Little girl, in back.

“Mommy!”

Heat, unbearable.

Run to car.

Shield face.

Hair burns away,

On arms.

Eyebrows singe.

Pull child,

Through open window.

Arms burn.

Broken glass.

Tiny child.

Hair gone.

Badly burned.

“Mommy!”

So fragile.

Blistered.

Hold her.

In my arms.

Cling tightly.

Rag doll.

Mommy…

Weak.

Tears.

Mine?

“Mom…”

Silence.

 

 

Factory.
Massive, abandoned.
Machinery. Metal, dinosaurs.
Tangled debris. Ceiling, leaking.
Dark.

Footsteps.
Flashlights. Shadows.
Graffiti. Glass, broken.
Odors, chemicals. Water, drips.
Echoes.

Hallway.
Leather, squeaking.
Keys. Rattling, jingling.
Vest, hot. Nerves, raw.
Anxious.

There,
Hanging, swinging.
Body. Blue, bloated.
Rafter, rope, loops, neck.
Dead.

Shoes.
Deep blue.
Color of depression.
Kids. Choking game, again.
Funeral.

 

“10-4, it’s a structure.

Fully involved.

A real hot one, too.

Send fire units to my location.”

Standby.

“Someone’s coming toward me.”

Please, you’ve got to help him.

“Help who, ma’am?”

The old man.

He’s in there.

I tried.

But it was too hot.

He’s trapped.

Screams.

A bedroom.

“His room?”

Yes.

Please hurry.

Heat and flames.

A fireplace,

times ten-thousand.

Smoke.

Thick.

Heavy.

Choking.

Eyes,

Burning.

Get low!

Crawl.

Glass.

Smoldering carpet.

Hot embers.

A doorway.

So hot.

Can’t breathe.

A little further.

Ashes.

Heat.

Too intense.

TV.

Melted.

Smoke boiling and billowing.

Can’t see.

Hands burning.

Wheelchair.

Caught,

on bed frame.

A crutch.

Out of reach.

A foot.

A leg.

Trapped!

Pull and tug.

Pull,

Harder!

Fire.

Crackling.

Popping.

Something falls.

Crash!

Hallway.

Dragging.

Straining.

Pulling.

Muscles,

Screaming.

Can’t see.

Sweating.

Burning.

Heart,

pounding.

No air.

Pulling.

Dizzy.

Can’t breathe.

No strength.

Can’t breath.

Almost there.

Can’t…breathe…

Moonlight.

A touch.

Strong hands.

Gloved hands.

Pulling.

Dragging.

Helping.

Cool night air.

Deep breaths.

Firefighters.

Oxygen.

“Yes, I’m okay.”

A few burns.

Not too bad.

Yes,

the coroner’s on the way

“I tried,

I really did.

But he was already gone.”

Please don't shoot my daddy

“Help me!

Please, help me.”

“He’s got my kids…And…Oh, God…He’s got a gun!

Hel…” BOOM!

Silence.

“All units. Hostage situation.

212 Shady Lane.

Weapons involved.

Shots fired.”

Three cars.

High speed parade.

Blue lights.

Sirens.

Sun, dipping behind trees.

Sharp, hairpin curves.

Shadows stretched across cracked pavement.

There, that’s the driveway.

Tractor-shaped mailbox

Atop dented and crooked metal pole.

Long path.

Two dirt ruts splitting a sea of gangly weeds and wildflowers.

Single file.

Lights off.

Sirens off.

Stop.

Engines off.

Weapons drawn.

Breezes pushing and pulling dry, brittle grasses.

Me to the right.

One to the left.

One in the middle.

Far away thunder.

Trees sway, gently.

Leaves flutter, dance, and turn belly up.

Raindrops tip-tapping on tin roof.

First one, then another and another.

Tap, tap, tap.

Glass shatters.

Crack!

A scream.

“No!”

Front porch.

Door opens.

Three pistols aim.

Boy runs out.

Twelve-years-old?

Crying.

“He’s got my sister…and my Mama!”

“And he’s got a gun.”

Shivering.

Tears.

SWAT?

Call for backup?

Dogs?

BOOM!

Screaming.

Lot’s of screaming.

Wood splintering.

Thuds and thumps.

Struggle. Fighting.

BOOM!

No time.

Prepare to enter.

Child in car.

“Please don’t shoot my Daddy…”

There, coming outside.

Man, wild-eyed.

No shirt.

Faded jeans.

Barefoot.

Shotgun.

Three voices.

In unison.

“Put down the gun! Put it down, now!”

Shotgun waving.

Finger in trigger guard.

Three pistols pointed.

Squeezing.

Shotgun to chin.

Take chance.

Sneaking to side.

“I’ll kill myself!”

Closer.

One pleading. Begging. “Put down the gun.”

“I’m not going to jail!”

Woman crying. “Please, no…”

Sobbing.

Children, crying.

“No, Daddy. Please, no.”

Closer.

“Nothing to live for.”

Still closer.

“I want to die.”

Shotgun swaying.

Hands tremble.

“Go away.”

In doorway.

Woman and young girl.

“I’m taking them with me.”

Now!

Tackle.

Fighting.

Struggle for weapon.

Strong.

Really strong.

Alcohol.

Eyes, glassy.

Pupils, tiny.

Cursing.

Spitting.

Biting.

So strong.

Shirt torn.

Elbow bleeding.

Hand bitten, bleeding.

Handcuffs click.

Growl—raspy, vicious, feral.

Thrashing.

Screaming.

Jail.

Methamphetamine.

Suicide.

Mother, drug addiction.

Child Protective Services.

Children—foster homes.

Family…destroyed.

Meth…

Hold on Frank

 

Door askew

One rusted hinge.

Wedge of sunlight

Peeking through.

Beretta in hand.

“I heard a shot.”

“Is he in there?”

“Stay back, please.”

Standing to side.

Breathing heavy.

I said,

“Frank?”

No answer.

Sweat trickles.

Heart pounds.

“Frank, you okay?”

Silence.

Flies buzz.

Darting in and out.

Deep breath.

Quick peek.

Maglight low.

Head high.

Minimum target.

Blood spatter.

Lots of it.

Frank on floor, sitting.

Shotgun in lap, upright.

“Frank, you okay?”

Useless words.

“Is Daddy all right?”

“Go back in the house.

I’ll be there in a minute.”

Hand over mouth, sobbing. “Okay.”

Squeeze through door.

Holster weapon.

Not needed.

Face, gone.

Friends since high school.

Twenty years, or more.

“Why, Frank?

Great kids.

Great wife.

Nice house.

Good job.

Wonderful life.”

Silence.

Radio crackles.

“Send M.E. and rescue.”

“No particular order.”

Doesn’t matter.

Suddenly…

Chest moves.

A wet breath, from somewhere.

Finger twitches, slightly.

“Frank?”

Another jerky, unbelievable breath.

“Hold on, Frank.”

“Help’s on the way.”

Frantically grab radio.

“Tell rescue to hurry!”

“Victim is alive.”

“Repeat. Victim is alive.”

Sit on floor.

Holding Frank’s hand.

Sirens getting closer.

“Hey, Frank. Remember when we…”

Silence and tears

“Help me, please!”

“Yes, he has a gun. My shotgun…”

“Please, he’s all I have.”

“He’s seventeen.”

“Yes, it’s loaded.”

“Please, do something!”

“In the living room, sitting on the floor.”

“The far wall, next to the sofa.”

“Wait here. We’ll work it out.”

“Please…”

“He’s all I have…”

A turn of the knob.

Gentle push against wood.

Hinges groan.

Warm air brushes my cheek.

Quiet.

Soft mechanical hum…refrigerator.

“Mark?”

Nothing.

A step inside.

“Mark?”

Soft sobbing.

Agony.

Turn the corner.

“Mark, it’s me.”

“Leave me alone.”

“Let’s talk for a minute.”

“Go away.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Maybe I do.”

Another step.

Shotgun barrel beneath quivering chin.

Back against wall.

Shells scattered on floor.

Tears.

Another step.

Eyes turn toward me.

I sit beside him.

Backs against the wall.

Waiting, in silence.

Finger trembling against steel.

“Want to talk about it?”

Silence and tears.

Finally…

“You know how he is.”

“Yes…I do.”

“He was my boss for a long time.”

“How’d you stand it?”

“I couldn’t, at first.”

“But I understood it was hard for him, too.”

“When your mom died.”

“But I miss her.”

“He misses her, too, Mark.”

“You need each other.”

“He hates me.”

“No, he misses his wife.”

“I want her to come home.”

“Mark, I’m really nervous about that gun.”

Silence and tears.

I hold out my hand.

A slow surrender.

A hug.

A long hug.

Emotions spill.

Sky opens.

A flood.

An earthquake.

Torrential rains.

Heartbreak.

Loneliness.

Fear.

Sadness.

A long, gut-wrenching hug.

Storm slowly subsides.

“You ready?”

A nod.

A walk outside.

Father and son together.

Silence and tears.

A family again.

For two short weeks.

No chance to talk.

Not that time.

A father’s silence and tears.

“He was a good son.”

“He missed his mom.”

“I tried, I really did.”

“I know you did.”

“I was a good father.”

“Yes you were.”

“The best.”

A faraway look.

I sit beside him.

Backs against the wall.

Waiting.

Silence and tears.

“Want to talk about it?”

“Not really.”

“You know, I’m really nervous about that gun.”

Silence and tears.

A soft mechanical hum…refrigerator.

“I’m here for you, you know.”

“And I’ve got all day.”

“A lifetime, actually.”

“Whatever it takes.”

“Whatever you need.”

Silence and tears.”

Two weeks…

Four weeks…

Then…

Never-ending silence.

No more tears…

A soft mechanical hum…refrigerator.

*This piece is re-posted at the request of a reader. I hope it helps.

File:London Polizei-Einsatz.gif

“Man with a gun.”

“He has hostages.”

“A female and three children.”

“Shots fired.”

“10-4. I’m en route.”

Farmhouse

Yelling

Cursing

Glass breaking

Thumps

Bangs

A scream

Kids crying

One peeking outside

A teenager

BOOM!

Shotgun blast

Window up

Teen pulled to safety

Hide

Sirens

Far away

Backup coming

A look inside

Woman and two small children

Huddled together

Beside bed

BOOM!

Hole in door

Man at window

Tall

Muscular

Wild-eyed

No shirt

Sweating

Nervous

Sees police car

BOOM!

Out on porch

Shotgun

Barefoot

Dirty jeans

Yelling

Cursing

“Go away”

“I’ll kill them!”

“All of them”

Doesn’t see me

Eight feet away

Around corner

Aims at police car

Boom!

Run

Tackle

Secure gun

Handcuff

Children crying

Woman crying

“Daddy!”

“Please don’t take him away!”

“He’s my husband”

“I love him”

“He’ll be okay”

“Just too much alcohol”

“That’s all”

“Please, let him go”

“He wouldn’t hurt us”

Hair tangled

“I promise”

Lip bleeding

“He would never hurt us”

“Please…”

Bruised cheek

More tears

“He means well”

“A lot on his mind”

“It was my fault”

Bruises on arms

“Please…”

“We need him”

 *Farmhouse photo by Sunday Kaminski

Dead bodies and pink deputies

“Hurry, an SUV just jumped the guardrail.”

“Yes, it went airborne. Must’ve flown twenty- or thirty-feet straight up.”

“Uh huh. Hit a tree and then fell down into the ravine.”

“Must’ve been doing ninety or better when it hit the barrier.”

“One of the men is in the top of the tree—”

“No, he’s not moving—”

“That’s right…and I can another one on the riverbank.”

“The car was packed.”

I’d say at least five people were inside.”

“Upside down, now.”

“No, no one is moving.”

“It doesn’t look good.”

“Please hurry.”

A beep, then radio noises in the background.

One-sided conversation.

Then…

“Okay, I’m sending an officer right now.”

Long, slow day.

Four hours, two tickets.

Hot sun.

Hazy.

Cloudless.

Bored.

Radio crackles.

“10-4, running radar, but I’m close. I’ll take the call.”

“Rescue is en route?”

“I’m on the way.”

Tires spin.

Gravel tossed.

Rubber grips pavement.

A squeal.

Engine roars.

Lights flickering and flashing.

Siren screaming.

Scenery a blur.

Traffic backing up.

Pass on shoulder.

People out.

Some looking, some running.

Broken guardrail.

Smashed concrete.

“Stand back!”

A peek over.

Tree top.

Broken branches.

Clothing and papers.

And a body.

“Send me some help!”

One-hundred feet below.

Crumpled metal.

Twisted steel.

And more mangled humans.

More sirens.

Climb down.

Three deputies.

Steep.

Rocky.

Snakes.

Insects.

Thick brush.

Briars and thorns.

Slip.

Slide.

Push through greenery.

Two steps forward.

One back.

Wading against the tide.

Wreckage.

Overturned.

Top flattened.

Glass broken.

One under…dead.

Two to the right…dead.

One inside…dead

Broken and motionless limbs.

All dead.

Souls departed.

The climb out.

Passing rescue workers.

Straight up.

More pushing.

More brambles.

More cuts.

More brush.

A look around.

A very close look around.

All around…

An ocean of…poison ivy.

Neck deep poison ivy.

As far as the eye could see…

POISON IVY!

Three officers.

Three highly allergic officers.

Three bottles of Calamine lotion.

Seven long days…

Itching.

Scratching.

Calamine-painted pink deputies.

From head to toe.

And everywhere in between.

Everywhere…