The first few hours of the shift were filled with the usuals—he-said-she-said arguments, drunks up to their typical drunken stupidity, Toms peeping, and crooks doing crooked things. But now it’s four in the morning and things have become quiet. Too quiet.
So serene, actually, that fatigue slowly gains control of your eyelids. It’s a subtle move, like grasping the string on your grandmother’s window shades, slowly tugging them downward. The Sandman’s gentle action is so gracefully executed and so well-choreographed that even your advanced investigative skills are unable to detect the hostile takeover.
Thoughts of your family occupy your mind–little Susie and Jimmie and your loving wife of eighteen years, Mollie Jean—asleep in their warm beds, with images of them nestled between clean and fresh-smelling sheets with heads resting on downy pillows and with soft covers pulled to their chins. Claude, your faithful black lab, named, of course, after the the painter, Monet, snoozes on the oval braided rug near the front door so he can hear when your car pulls into the driveway.
Five minutes. That’s all you need. Then you’d be as fresh as a springtime daisy.
Guiding your black and white onto the side street between the U-Nailem Hardware Store and Harry’s Barber Shop, you next steer the car into a long and narrow alleyway, the one behind Bert’s Breads and Cakes, hoping to find a quiet and dimly-lit place to pull over. Five minutes. Just five measly minutes.
Shouldn’t have spent those three hours today playing with the kids when you could’ve been sleeping. Still, that’s the only time you get to see them awake. And, someone had to mow the lawn this afternoon, right? The grass was already knee-high to a baby giraffe.
Oh, yeah, tomorrow is the day you’re supposed to go to your third-grader’s class to tell them about police officers. How long could it take? One or two hours at the most, right? Well, there is the lunch afterward. Another hour. After all, you’d promised. Besides, it’s impossible to say no to those sweet brown eyes and minus-one-tooth smile.
Sleep. You need sleep.
Your headlights wash over the back of the alley as feral dogs and cats scramble out of the dumpster that sits behind the bakery like an old and tired dinosaur waiting for extinction. The knot of animals scatter loaves of two-day-old bread in their haste to escape the human intruder who dared meddle with their nocturnal feeding. A speckled mutt with three legs hobbled behind a rusty air conditioning unit, dragging a long, dirty bag filled with crumbled bagels.
You move on, shining your spotlight at the rear doors of a five and dime, an auto parts store, a pawn shop, and the real estate office you used when buying your house. Only twenty more years to financial freedom and six more before experiencing the joy of seeing the first AARP invitation-to-join letter in the mail.
Tendrils of steam rise slowly from storm drains—ghostly, sinewy figures melting into the black sky. Mannequins stare into infinity from tombs of storefront glass, waiting for daylight to take away the flashing neon lights that reflect from their plaster skin.
Four more hours and you’d be at home, in your own soft and warm bed.
Desperate to close your own eyes, just for a minute or two, you park at the rear of the next alley, below a grouping of the upstairs, low-rent apartments of the city’s less fortunate citizens. Your choice of nap space is alongside a stack of flattened cardboard boxes and crumpled bags filled with the evidence of someone’s life for the week—chicken bones, dirty, disposable diapers, wilted lettuce leaves, cigarette butts and ashes, and empty bottles of two-dollar wine.
Placing the strip of black electrical tape over the FM radio dial light, the one you keep stuck to the dashboard to block the glaring light, you turn up the volume on the police radio, just in case, and you close your tired eyes and then take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Ahhh … Just what the doctor ordered.
Suddenly, a voice spews from the speaker behind your head, “Shots fired! Respond to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Back up is en route.”
You quickly grab the radio mic and say …
“10-4. I’m 10-8.”
And so it goes. Night after night, after night, after night.
From zero to eighty, just like that …