What I'm reading: Wicked Prey, by John Sandford.
Last night, I had the pleasure of spending several hours picking Detective Hussey's brain for authenticity with the law enforcement aspects of two of my WIPs. He's an amazing font of information, and most generous with his time. (OK, I admit, we met at the Ale House, so there was more than Q&A going on.)
This week's chapter was long enough that I didn't want to put it all in one post, and I didn't want to make everyone wait a week between parts 1 and 2, so I decided to give him center stage a day early for part 1, and part 2 will be up tomorrow at his usually scheduled time.
Dead Turkeys Don't Fly
One Thanksgiving morning, I was working the day shift. When you work uniform, you miss a lot of holidays with the family, and even the days that are special to everyone else end up being just 'another day in paradise' for the cops. In Lakeland in those days, the Sergeant would usually let you go home for dinner, no matter where you lived and take a long lunch with your family, depending on the call load situation.
This particular Thanksgiving I was working for Sergeant Roy Raines. Roy or 'Doc' as he was commonly referred to was a prince of a guy. He was the SWAT Team Sergeant, and was chosen for the job I suspect, because of his cool disposition under pressure. Basically, Doc didn’t worry about anything; he was just a great guy to work for.
Well it was around dinnertime, and the officers were taking their turns at meal breaks. It had been pretty quiet. One guy was working a shooting suicide, which is very common during holiday periods. People find themselves alone and depressed at a time when everyone else is getting together with family and friends. Many times the isolation is unbearable and the guy decides to check out. Sometimes, the cop who gets that call is having some of the same feelings; he’s just gotten divorced, or he’s going through an internal investigation, and just working the call sends him into a greater state of depression.
Cops are also the world’s worst at dealing with stress. The usual remedy is alcohol. I’m speaking from experience when I say, being drunk only intensifies the problem. So it goes in the cop world. Holidays are happy times for some and not so for others. Sometimes the day starts out happy and then the two most volatile, dangerously explosive chemicals in the world are mixed. No, it's not nitro, or gasoline, or even petroleum and fertilizer. I’m talking about alcohol and testosterone. The deadliest chemical mix in the world.
Think about it. 99.9% of the calls are related to either drunks or man’s quest for sex. The latter includes all the 'This is my domain' shit that happens during the holidays, when relatives, who already know they can’t stand each other are thrown together to give it 'one more try'. 'This is my damn house, or 'You know your mother doesn’t like me', or 'Uncle Enis is a penis'. Then, just add some alcohol and 'Voila'—instant assholes. Which leads me to the case in point.
It was nearly my turn to go to dinner when I got the call. If you’re like most cops, you believe that there is a special guy up there, controlling your destiny. You’re going to get the worst call at the worst possible time.
"One-zero-six." The break in the silence startled me.
"Go ahead," I grumbled.
"Domestic disturbance at 102 Arrow Lake Mobile Home Park."
"Ten four," I sighed. The Arrow Lake Mobile Home Park was nothing more than an old campground, with no trees, and about 20 electric boxes, which seemed to be growing like little trees out of the un-mowed grass. There may have been some arrows, but there was no lake. Near the electric boxes, and placed extremely close together, were many small camper/trailers. Most had been manufactured in the 50’s and 60’s and should have been scrapped and burned long ago.
The slumlord owner would charge excessive amounts of 'rent' which was due promptly at 10:00 on Friday. A sign would be placed at the entrance, 'Pay if you want to stay.' If the rent was not paid by noon, the manager would break into the renter’s residence, seize all his worldly goods, and lock them in the office. If the person wanted his things back, he would owe the rent, on the average $100.00, a 'confiscation fee' of $25.00 and $10.00 a day storage fee.
By the time they were done, the poor guy who had three kids, and a minimum wage job, owed more than a month's salary. It was a vicious cycle. So instead of facing the problems and paying the bills, the guy says, "The hell with it" and buys a pint of liquor or a six pack. The next thing that happens is the police get called, as if the guy needed one more problem in his life.
As I got to the shit-hole trailer park and began looking for the trailer numbers (generally non-existent), I saw a small gathering of people near the south end of the so-called park. As I got closer, I realized that in the center of the small group of drunks were two mutt dogs.
Between the two snarling curs was a 15-pound Butterball turkey, nicely browned. It was obviously still too hot to eat, as the dogs would take a small bite and jump back. Near the turkey between the dogs and the trailer was a black broiler pan overturned and lying on its side.