I'm Jack Callahan, Badge number 1066, one of what some people call Endicott City's Finest, which is a steal from New York City's colorful name for their cops.
Well, I'm not among the finest of the finest. If I was, I wouldn't be temporarily demoted down to a basic blues-wearing beat-riding patrol officer. Which is my sly offhand way of saying that I got busted from detective two months ago, and that I can apply to be reinstated in four more. It'll probably go though. Hopefully! That's the temporary part.
It's not the first time I got busted down, and if I didn't have a few good friends on the force, it would and probably should have happened before.
See, I'm not a very good cop. A really good cop learns to develop a thick skin and a callous attitude toward all of the nasty stuff that he sees almost every day. I've been at it 18 years, and I've tried to go that way, but somehow it just doesn't take. My late partner Jake used to call it. He'd sit in the cruiser and watch me and say, "Uh-oh, Jack's gettin' a mood on him." And he'd be right. I would be losing my cynical guard and getting pissed about something. Good cops don't do that.
Jake said there were a couple of kinds of Jack Callahan moods. One comes on slow over time because of something like, say, some lightweight brown-noser who's been fast- tracked past real down and dirty police work — street work. Then I see him getting promoted over better men and women who've paid their dues. And now he's in authority and he's gonna be putting people on the street and they'll be in harm's way because he doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
Jake would steer me away from guys like that, because at some point I would probably tell the asshole what I thought of him. A smart cop would be buttering that guy's ass.
Geeze, I miss Jake Rizzo. We were partners for 13 years, and then one night he went down flat on his face, dead of a massive stroke. And for God's sake, don't laugh; he was running to the cruiser in the rain from a doughnut run. A Goddamned fatal cop cliché!
I don't have a regular partner right now, since no one expects me to be in the cruiser longer than those four months. So I give rookies on-the-job street training. I kind of volunteered myself to do that. Whenever I was without a partner for one reason or another, I'd do that over the years. For some reason, my boss, Captain Mary Lee Breyers thinks that passing on my experience may make them better officers, and maybe help keep them alive.
But it's another kind of mood that really gets me in trouble. Nothing slow about it. Like now. I'm definitely in a mood.
= = = = =
I was at the end of my shift when I got tapped to go to a crime scene, a mugging and sexual assault, and help out. So I dropped off my latest trainee and headed over. I'm not allowed to work rookies off the clock.
Now, get this: The victim was a 77-year old woman. Tiny, frail, stooped over, walks with a cane. So the perp pushed her into a wooded area and dragged her behind some thick bushes, grabbed her purse and yanked rings off her fingers. Then he pushed her down to her knees and made her fellate him. Suck him off! And then he raped her!
A seventy-seven fucking year-old woman! Someone's great grandmother! Jesus, you damn well know I was in a mood! If I'd have caught that fucker ... well, I wouldn't be one of Endicott City's almost Finest any more. It wouldn't have been police brutality; it'd have been police mayhem.
But the guy got away. Don't they always? Well not always, but too damned often!
The assault call should rate an ambulance, but there were none available for at least an hour or more. Budget cuts!
So I got volunteered to drive her to Endicott General Emergency for treatment. Well, like I said, if I had the choice, I'd rather have gone storming through the neighborhood looking for the rapist. And I already told you what would happen if I had caught the sick bastard. Maybe I would only have hurt him. Maybe a little of Jake might of rubbed off on me.
A 77 year old woman! The poor thing!
But luckily for me, that wasn't my job. What I could do was talk to her and get her to talk to me. That took some time and patience. I was trying to get her mind off the painful and suffering thoughts, even for a few minutes. I managed to get her to stop crying so helplessly. I got the names of her family and called them in so someone could contact them.
And then I gently bundled her in the front seat of the cruiser and drove her to Endicott General Emergency for treatment, talking to her all the way, trying to get her mind off what had happened. I got her to talk a little about her family and her grandkids, anything to get her away from her terrorized mindset. I got a call from dispatch on the way over that her son was on the way. They got her in a wheelchair at the emergency entrance. I wished her luck and she thanked me for my kindness. As if I had done anything.
But the mood was still on me. Things like that happening! People like that rapist free on the streets. I was in no big hurry to go home to an empty house, feeling like I did. Like most cops, I have to be careful of the booze, and there was bottle of bourbon there, calling to me.
Instead, I tried to lighten up and kill time, so I was just hanging around the ER/clinic, trying to flirt with the nurses. They tolerated me. For some reason they thought I was one of the good guys. Not that a one of them would give damaged goods like me a tumble. Busted former detectives don't trump hot young interns.
Busted marriage, dead-end career, busted nose and damned few prospects summed me up. A near has-been at 43 with two years to go before a damned lonely retirement. That summary alone was worth a fucking perpetual mood.
I was telling them some almost lies about my exploits when a woman came in with her two young kids. Her name, I overheard, was Marcie Smithers; theirs were Amy 5 and Zach, 8. I'm naturally nosy. I overhear a lot.
She had been down a couple of days before, donating blood and they had just now called her back about an important matter. They took her into the carrel right next to me and I shamelessly eavesdropped through the partition. Hey, what can I say, detectives are born snoops. And I'm occasionally a detective, remember?
One of the candy stripers was diverting the kids so Ms. Smithers could talk in private.
Well, at least except for my big ears. I was just being my nosy self, the old fly-on-the- wall. Old detective habits. Learn to listen. Pay attention.
Her donation had tested positive for an STD. The interviewers quickly assured her that it was one of the more easily treatable ones.
They told her she needed to go for treatment. But first, she needed to list all of her sex partners. According to her angry voice, that list would begin and end with Dan Smithers, her apparently cheating spouse. I heard that loud and clear through the partition! Mrs.
Smithers was hot!
You're busted, guy, I thought. I immediately believed her, just from her voice and the tone of anger. No particular reason, seeing how so often people lie. Just gut instinct. It's also right 75-80% of the time.
Marcie said she couldn't afford any treatment. Her husband did day labor off and on and they have no insurance. There used to be a free clinic where you could go for things like that. But it ran out of money last year and closed. Budget cuts!
I knew the interviewer wasn't allowed to tell her that if she just walked in and asked for treatment, they were required by law to treat her, even if she couldn't pay or had no insurance. They would just write it off as uncollectible.
I knew some of the nurses here were pretty decent kids. It was very likely that one of them would take her aside and tell her that. And I figured if the nurses didn't tip it to her, I would. Hell why not? Not like it was a big deal. Just part of the game.
"I don't know what to do," I heard her say. "I'm terrified of going home and having to tell all this to Dan."
One of the nurses who was also listening nudged my arm. She whispered that Marcie had been in a couple of times for what they were pretty sure was physical abuse. I peeked around the partition at the woman, or what I could see of the woman. I could see her back, her neck and shoulders and some of one arm. If you looked hard you could see the telltale fading marks: finger marks and bruises.
I couldn't see her face.
My chatty nurse buddy whispered that they had called in charges against hubby Dan twice, but that Marcie had eventually refused to press charges. She explained the injuries by saying she was just clumsy.
Jesus, I was so sick of hearing poor abused women say that crap. I understood why; they felt trapped and defenseless and all that. And they were right. There was no place to go.
Our social services network was inadequate on its best days. Right now, what with budget cuts, it was getting worse.
Since Marcie had said she was afraid to go home, one of the nurses asked her if she'd feel safer if a nice big handsome cop took her and the kids home.
I looked around, figuring some other cop must have come in. Then I realized that was her joking and trying to yank my chain. I saw the other nurses and the candy-striper grinning. Nice? Big? Handsome?
Jack Callahan may be a lot of things, but nice? I'm no midget, but I'm a little undersized for your average cop. I'm a twice-busted nose and few scars away from getting back to plain.
.... There is more of this story ...