Our next Homicide-Hussey episode deals with his transferring from the military to the "civilian" police force. I found this and the previous post (The Awakening) most enlightening, because a lot of the back story in a book I'm reworking deals with my hero's original training partner. Based on what Detective Hussey is sharing, the character I created didn't stretch the envelope too far.
My first field training officer was a salty old veteran named Mike Royko. Mike was a nasty, burned out, surly veteran cop who hated everybody and drank way too much, causing him to be regularly hung over and generally mean. Mike was a short, pear shaped sandy haired little guy. He was always red faced. His nose was a road map of blood vessels, burst by drink. He wore small, wire rimmed glasses, which he always peered over, as if looking down on everyone.
Mike was an extremely intelligent, well-educated man. He had a master's degree in education, and eventually left the department to pursue a teaching career. I saw Mike many years later and asked him how he liked teaching. He said, "It's just like being a cop, except they don't let you carry a gun...and it's a damn good thing".
I rode with Mike for my first week and it was certainly an experience. One day we were having lunch downtown at the old McCrory's dime store. An elderly gentleman approached our table holding a roadmap and said, "Sorry to bother you, officers."
Mike looked up and said, "Well don't."
One day while writing a report in the parking lot of the Grove Park shopping center, an elderly lady stopped and walked toward our patrol car. Mike was in the driver's seat and I was sitting on the passenger's side writing a report. The lady started to walk toward Mike's window. Mistake .... as he saw her coming, he rolled up the window. The lady changed directions and came over to my window.
"How can I help you, ma'am?" I asked. Mike rolled his eyes.
The lady was asking directions to one of the local churches. As I explained the route, I realized that the engine had begun to increase RPM's. The noise of the engine got louder and louder as Mike pressed harder and harder on the accelerator. The lady raised her voice, as did I. Soon this white-haired old lady and I were yelling at each other. I glanced over at Mike who was grinning fiendishly. All of a sudden the engine went back to idle and I was caught in mid yell. The lady jumped, startled by my loud voice.
"Thank you officers." She smiled, looking over at Mike suspiciously.
"Anytime," I said quietly.
One Thursday morning we had just called in service on the day watch when we received a call of a possible injured person at the Wabash shopping center. As we drove into the shopping center parking lot, I saw a beat up old blue pickup truck parked in front of the Publix supermarket. As we got closer, I could see something squirting from the driver's side window. The early morning glare of the sun kept the interior of the truck hidden until we were right on top of it. I found out too quickly the liquid was blood. A large pool of the red stuff had run down the truck's door and had begun to coagulate on the gray pavement of the parking lot. As any rookie would, I jumped out of the car and ran to the truck.
The old man inside still held the .38 caliber, four-inch revolver in his right hand. A small trickle of blood ran from a small hole in his right temple and dripped onto the gray security guard uniform. He gurgled and jerked unnaturally in the seat. "He's still breathing," I yelled to Mike, as he was coming around the other side of the truck. I ran to the patrol car and grabbed the mic. My voice several octaves above normal said, "Lakeland, send me rescue and an ambulance."
"Ten-four," the voice said.
Then Mike, in one of the only tender moments I had ever seen from him, placed a hand on my shoulder and took the microphone, saying in a soft voice, "Roll me a supervisor, a crime scene tech, and a homicide detective."
"Ten-twenty-six," the dispatcher said. "Already on the way."
After the paramedics examined the dead security guard, and agreed there was nothing they could do, crime scene tape was stretched around the truck in an effort to keep away curious onlookers. As eight o'clock came and went, more and more people began arriving. Some were the crime scene technicians and photographers. Some were the detectives and people from the medical examiner's office and some were just people coming to work.
One bank teller recognized the truck and wept. "Bill was such a fine old gentleman," she said. "We will really miss him."
As the day wore on, the temperature began rising. It was nearly 10:00 when all the investigators had finished their work. It was everybody's feeling that the wound was self-inflicted. An apparent suicide.
Flies were beginning to gather on the dried blood areas as Mike and I went through the old man's pockets looking for some identification. We found a driver's license with his picture. It matched the tag information. The ID was positive.
I signed the M.E. Report and the toe tag and released the body to the funeral home. The old man's body, now stiff with rigor mortis, was carefully removed and placed into a waiting hearse.
"Now we've got to take care of this vehicle," Mike said. At that instant, at the far west end of the crime scene tape, a very heavyset, sweaty woman in a pink muu-muu was yelling at us and motioning us in her direction.
"What can we do for you?" Mike asked.
"That's my husband's truck right there." She pointed at the blue Chevy pickup.
"Yeah, and we want it," a skinny, stringy-haired white male added.
"Shut up," the woman snapped at him.
"Look," Mike said, "I'd have to see some ID, but that's not the problem. I have to tell you some bad news. Your husband is dead, and that truck is kind of a mess."
"I know," she said, rather matter-of-factly.
Mike was looking hard at her now. "No I don't think you understand, you can't drive it. You will want to have it towed."
"Why? Did he do somethin' to the truck?" she asked.
"Well, not per se, but to put it bluntly, his brains are all over the inside," Mike said shortly.
"Oh that." She smiled. "No problem, I grew up on a farm."
Obviously, I thought.
Mike Royko was absolutely dumbfounded. He was speechless! The woman produced the title for the truck, which she owned jointly with the deceased. She also produced a driver's license, with a photo of her in younger, thinner days. Mike just motioned for me to check it. He had nothing else to say.
As Mike and I stood and watched, Mike's jaw dropped open. The woman waddled over and gingerly opened the driver's door of the truck. The blood had run down the door and dried below the window. On the seat inside was a small pyramid shaped pile of what had been the brain of Bill Pruitt. The colossal woman swept the gray matter (which isn't gray at all) aside with an old sheet, which she placed on the blood covered truck's seat. She smiled and waved as she slung her girth into the driver's seat and turned the key.
My partner watched, still in shock as the truck disappeared. He disgustedly turned back toward the patrol car, and got in. I was barely in the passenger's side when he sped off like a madman. We drove in silence for nearly an hour when Mike turned to me and for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, he spoke.
"Rookie, if I live to be nine hundred years old, God forbid. I will never, ever, ever see anything as fucking cold and nasty as that." Mike drove on in silence and he didn't speak to me or anyone else the rest of the shift.
Again, thanks to Detective Hussey. Enjoy your weekend. And wish me luck with the Ridge Area Arc Tea. I just realized these people are paying money to attend. I know it covers the food too, but I don't want anyone disappointed.