Shift Change: The First Fifteen Minutes

1140 Hours – February 17, 2013

“Slow night?”

“Pretty much,” Collins said, as he leaned to the passenger seat to retrieve his hat and what was probably once a full thermos of coffee. “Same old crap over on Elm Street—”

“They at it, again?” said Officer Martin. “What’s that, the third time this week?”

“Fourth, actually. He finally put her in the hospital this time, though. Broken arm, probably a fractured cheek, and a concussion.”

“Let me guess. He didn’t mean it, and she said it was an accident,” said Martin as he poked his hands between the rear seat and seat back. A quick look under the seat and he was done. No hidden contraband left behind by any of the thugs arrested on the previous shift.

“Everything okay?”

“Clean, as always,” Martin said, moving to the driver’s seat to begin the routine—checking the lights, radio, siren, shotgun, and a quick calibration of the radar unit.

“The usuals were out and about in “The Bottom.” Lots of traffic down there too. I stopped a few cars as they were leaving.”


“No, if they were holding I didn’t see it,” said Collins. He stood beside the patrol car holding his hat and a half-empty gear bag in his right hand, waiting patiently for Martin to finish the mandatory pre-shift vehicle and equipment inspection. “There was a new guy hanging out with the crowd on Reynolds Street. Never seen him before. Tall, really dark skin, hair’s in long braids, and a gold star on one of his front teeth. I stopped and talked to him. Most of the guys scattered, but he never flinched. Smart mouth on him too. Had an accent that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Sounded a little like that old guy who works at the motor pool. He’s Haitian, right? Anyway, the new guy said he was Popcorn’s cousin from New York. Claimed his name was Reggie Jackson. He also claimed he lost his ID last week.”

“Think he’s the guy bringing the stuff in?”

“Could be.”

“I’ll head down there in a few minutes to keep the pressure on. Maybe I’ll get lucky.”

“Maybe so,” Collins said. “Well, if you’re all set, I’m going inside to finish writing up my reports and go over a few notes. I’ve got court in the morning. You?”

“No, but I do have to be at the range at ten for qualifying.”

“Man, is it that time of the year already?”

“Yep. They haven’t let you know when you’ve got to shoot?” Martin asked.

“Not yet, but I’m sure it’ll be on one of my days off, as always.”

“The brass don’t know any other way.”

“I guess not,” Collins said, giving his old friend a pat on the arm, a habit he’d never been able to break. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow night. Stay safe out there.”


0001 Hours – February 18, 2013

“All south-side units. Shots fired corner of Reynolds and Parker. One suspect down, possibly wounded. Caller reports several men in the street fighting. She believes there are numerous guns involved. I heard four shots fired while the caller was on the line. Rescue has been dispatched.”

“10-4,” said Officer Martin. “I’m en route. Have the ambulance hold back a few blocks until we have a chance to see what we’ve got.”

“10-4, 1234.”

0002 Hours – February 18, 2013

“All south-side units. I’ve got a second shots-fired call at 219 Jackson. Caller is advising that it’s her husband and he’s standing in the front yard, totally nude except for a pair of sweat socks, firing his shotgun at passing cars. She states the husband has been off his meds for two days.”

“10-4,” said Martin. “See if someone from Precinct four can take that one until we clear from The Bottom.”

“1234 to 1245, 1263. You close?”

“10-4, 1234. 30 seconds out. I hear gunfire already. I think we’re going to need some assistance with this one.”

0348 Hours – February 18, 2013

“Thanks for coming back to help out.”

“No problem. You’d have done the same,” said Collins. “Besides, I hate paperwork. And, ten minutes earlier and it could’ve been me instead of you taking those rounds.” Collins reached over to pat Martin’s arm. “The doc says you should be fine in a few weeks, though. Maybe even back to work in a couple of months. Depends on the rehab.”

“Well, this is one way to avoid going to the range on my day off.”

Collins’ lips split in a slight smile. “I think I’d rather spend a few hours at the range than five minutes in this place.”

“Honestly, me too,” said Martin. “Me, too.”

1400 Hours – February 22, 2013

Officer Collins sat in the second row, holding his hat in his trembling hands. He was listening, but not hearing the words the chaplain spoke to a standing-room-only congregation. Officers had come from as far away as California to pay their respects.

Collins used his sleeve to wipe a lone tear from his right cheek.

Ten minutes earlier and it could’ve been him.


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