29 October 2004

This is how screwed up the world is: Osama bin Laden is parroting Fahrenheit 9/11 talking points:

It never occured to us that the commander in chief of the country (Bush) would leave 50,000 citizens in the two towers to face those horrors alone ... because he thought listening to a child discussing her goats was more important."

What's the Arabic for "chutzpah"?

Ofc. Krupke at 5:47 PM
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28 October 2004

"Death is...whimsical...today."
-Gary Oldman, The Professional

In today's lesson from the streets of Southern City, a light tragedy in three acts, that transpired over a recent midnight shift:

ACT I began at about 0200 hrs, when Sgt. Rudy and I got a call for a traffic accident on the interstate onramp. We raced to the scene, and found that three cruisers from the Neighboring Jurisdiction Police Department were already there, having stumbled on the wreck just before we got the call. There was a smallish SUV lying on its right side in the middle of the winding onramp, its headlights gleaming back down at us, the radio still obliviously tumpeting out the local alterna-rock station.

Two civilians stood near the concrete median, an ashen young man who stared at me with a shaken expression as I approached, and a slim young woman who was leaning against the guardrail, her hand covering her downturned face.

"There's your driver," one of the NJPD cops told me with a grin, indicating the woman and adding, "I have a talent for stating the obvious."

After asking the guy if he was okay (he had actually been in another vehicle, and stopped ahead when he saw the wreck), I turned to the woman. "Ma'am, are you all right?"

As my flashlight washed over her, she pulled her hand away and looked up at me with a bemused expression. Her face was a mask of blood. It cut in streams down from a nasty slice up near her hairline, spattering her clothes with dark splotches that hadn't been visible in the shadows. Her hand was smeared red. It struck me at that second exactly what the NJPD guy had meant.

"Never mind," I told her. "EMS is on the way."

She had been leaving the local Devil's Island watering hole (where, she admitted to me in a dazed voice, she had downed a couple of whisky drinks), and was going up to the interstate, when she took the curve too fast, tried to correct in order to avoid sliding off the embankment, and bounced off the divider, rolling the car over. She hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, and had ricocheted like a pinball around the passenger compartment, finally coming to rest on top of the shattered glass of the passenger window as the car lay on its side, leaking a sizable pool of blood on the asphalt. Scattered around the chassis was the detritus of a 23-year-old woman's life: a lot of mix CDs, a university ID, a large amount of small bills (she was a waitress, drinking a little of her tip money after a hard night), a bonus card from some discount mall-rat jewelry store promising a free silver earring with X number of purchases, with a couple of stamps on it. All of it was covered over with blood (in particular the cash, which we inventoried carefully. At some point I remember making a lame wisecrack about "blood money"). I picked through it all, looking for her driver's license. She finally knelt down next to me and pointed it out. I had missed it the first time, because it was completely covered with a bright layer of red. She giggled a little dizzily over that.

One of the accident specialists from our traffic division showed up to work the wreck, which made me very glad. I hate the traffic accident forms, which resemble nothing so much as the Rosetta stone reproduced on carbon paper. The girl went to the hospital, the tow truck flipped the car over and shoveled the broken glass and blood into a bucket. The traffic guy headed to the hospital to give her her paperwork and tickets (I don't know if he actually charged her with DUI, but I suspect he did not). I checked my uniform carefully for blood contamination, and got back on the street. I don't know whether she was okay at the hospital or not.

ACT II came at about 0800, right at the end of the shift. We received a call from Swampgas Acres, a secluded and half-developed stretch of large houses near the Devil's Island golf complex. Two construction workers had gone into the woods near the creek to look for a fishing spot for their lunch hour, and found a dead man in a pickup truck, parked in a small clearing right against the creek bank.

We were on the overlap with the next shift, so they dispatched someone else, but I was right nearby at the time, so I headed over and was the first car on the scene. The two workers flagged me down and directed me to the spot, which was along a dirt path off of the cul-de-sac at the tip of the development. I headed back into the bushes on foot, and came up on a pickup truck, the engine still running, a rubber hose going from the exhaust pipe into the window. The glass was all covered in moisture, but through them I could see a middle-aged man slumped over. Even if the construction guys hadn't verified his state before I arrived, I knew he was dead. He didn't look "natural", or "sleeping", or any of that - he looked like a wax sculpture, the odd dull sheen of the freshly dead covering him.

I won't go into too much detail here, but suffice it to say that this guy took a great deal of care and thought in his setup; it was the most professionally done suicide I have yet encountered. We called EMS (a formality), the Crime Scene unit, and the duty lieutenant (because no crime scene is complete without someone to get in the way). A homicide detective came out, dressed in his not-bad-for-a-cop's salary suit and tasseled loafers, stepping gingerly around the mud and foliage surrounding the truck, his hands covered in latex gloves, holding a notebook and pen, poking here and there and making notes. It looked like a scene out of Law & Order: Reiteration, slated for NBC next fall. Instead of his loved ones gathered around, this guy went to the next world attended by crackling radios, polyester uniforms, and complete strangers making bad jokes and wondering when they could go home.

I check Swampgas Acres all the time; it's one of my frequent haunts. I always use that cul-de-sac as a turnaround, but until that morning, I had never known that little spot in the trees was back there. This guy had breathed his last not thirty yards from where I conduct my routine patrols. I don't know how long he took; if I'd gone back there on one of my checks, I might have found him while he was still alive. Maybe I could have stopped him. I'll never know.

I go back there every time now. Live and learn.

I was still working the crime scene. escorting people back and forth from the interstate (Devil's Island is terra incognita for about 90% of the SCPD), when I got diverted to go to ACT III, which began roughly an hour after I was supposed to be home. It was a guy that Sgt. Rudy and I had dealt with before, who I'll call "Mickey" (not that every name I use here isn't phony). Mickey is a very big guy, a glad-handing Scots-Irish sort who looks like a street fighter and used to run a restaurant. He also has major medical and psychological problems. The first time I met Mickey, Sgt. Rudy and I were dispatched to escort EMS, who were there to bring him to the hospital. Mickey is delusional, and has a violent temper that can click on without warning. He's usually outgoing, but there is always an undercurrent of menace that lies under his grin, like he's constantly calculating how heavy an object it would take to crush your skull.

Mickey was moving out of the house he shared with his soon-to-be ex-wife, and his lawyer had advised he should have police on scene, to avoid any problems. So Sgt. Rudy and I stood in the foyer, listening to Mickey and his wife politely bicker over this picture, or that TV set, etc., trying to stay attuned to minor shifts in their conversation that might signal something bad about to happen.

The strange irony in all this is that, after we had put him in the ambulance without incident in our first meeting, Mickey's family told us that his doctors had told them that they expected Mickey to stroke out and die within the next few days. I never heard anything more after that, and had basically gone the next couple of months assuming Mickey had gone on. I thought he was dead right up to the very second I saw his giant frame absurdly folded into his tiny import car that morning. He mentioned that he'd had a rough time in the hospital, but didn't elaborate. "I'm feelin' great, though," he told me. "I've lost a little weight since the last time you saw me."

He mentioned that he was soon moving to Neighboring Jurisdiction, and added with a wink and a broad grin that he "would be their problem now."

One story I don't know the ending of, another I know only the ending of, and one I thought I knew the ending of, but didn't. Some the night takes, some it doesn't.

Fuck if I can explain it. I just work here.