A Short Story by Foster Johnson
I stood in front of the mirror. My brand new uniform: creases pressed neat. cuffs with just the right amount of starch. Some people often salute the occasion of a new job with a nod to the reflection. Maybe a wink, or an actual salute off the eyebrow, as is the case for most who wear a uniform of authority.
Today, my enthusiasm was less than bubbling. I had a new uniform. A uniform of less authority. I had a new belt. It was bedecked with a holster. But the holstered weapon was a Taser not my customary nine millimeter Smith and Wesson automatic. But I wasn’t a cop today. On this first day of this new job, I was simply a security guard.
I was a cop.
I was a cop until exactly ninety days ago. And in those last ninety days, to say I was a cop on active duty, would be a lie. Instead I was a cop walking a fine line with one end of that line held by my former employer and the other held in the hands of a union advocate who’s daily calendar was mainly slotted with solid hours of alcohol induced unavailability.
I was a good cop.
I was a good cop in the city of Oklahoma City, for more than a decade. I wanted to be a cop when I was a child. And when I graduated from high school I went to big kid’s school to become a cop. In the decade that consumed the last part of my youth, I walked a beat, patrolled urban streets and manned community outreach departments from all areas around the largest city in the State of Oklahoma.
Although I made the usual rookie mistakes and a decent fool of myself in those early years, I never risked anyone’s life. I never took safety for granted. I never found myself in any situation where courage would have to be controlled before it could render one as reckless. I never fired my weapon in the “line of duty.”
I never fired my weapon until ninety one days ago.
I was patrolling a rural area of town late at night, Northeast of downtown, out by the horse racing track. I had no expectations of anything more than possibly warning a drunk driver or breaking up a fight outside of the gambling casino at that track. Another routine evening of driving and watching and fighting boredom.
On a street named Martin Luther King Boulevard, In a small family owned liquor store named Remington Liquors the expression on the counter clerk’s face caught my eye. Something ticked in my neck even as I cruised past at forty-eight miles an hour. It probably takes a decade before you can trust these types of triggers or signs, but this one was pretty obvious. It wasn’t something that I saw. It was more like seeing that something was not right. Something was very wrong.
I turned the Dodge Charger patrol car around in the street and slowly pulled into two long worn away parking space stripes on the North side of the store’s front. Away from the street light. Away from the store’s window.
When I entered the door I made straight for the counter, unlatched my holster snap and tried to close the door behind me, however it swung open again. The clerk was an elderly woman. I’d say about 63, and five foot six. She stared at the wall of cooler doors and although the evening was not hot, a small bead of sweat swelled up on her cheek.
“Evening, Ma’am”, I said.
She paused for a moment and appeared to consider whether she should respond or not, then hoarsely replied.
“Can I help you?”
“Pack of Dentyne please.”
At this point I had carefully surveyed the entire store by glancing into a parabolic mirror attached at the top of the wall and at the ceiling above the clerk’s head. There was a blond teenage girl. She was 15 or 16 years old. Exactly five foot eight inches tall, but she was leaning backwards as if she wanted to lay onto a rack of small potato chips and Frito bags, which somehow withstood her weight and did not collapse or fall backwards. I noticed that the hair at her temples was pulling hard against the skin at the edge of her face.
She was Caucasian or a “white girl” as folks around these parts would describe her. Behind the rack of chips, in the next aisle over was a man, a young man 17 or 18 of African descent or a “black guy” as folks around these parts would describe him. I mention this, because I did not grow up “around these parts”. And although I have spent the last ten years of my career as a police officer in this semi South, I started life in Chicago. To this day I am still surprised at the emphasis and embedded expectation of race as anything more than a forensic classification.
This man had a full handful of this girls hair in his left hand. He was pulling hard on this hair and he was yanking the girl hard enough so she stood on tip toe in an effort to release the tension.
“Don’t nobody move!” the young man shouted.
Then he repeated it, louder.
He positioned himself around to the end of the rack, revealing a twelve-pack of beer protruding from the top of his jacket. His free right hand rummaged beneath this package and sought deep within his hooded sweatshirt underneath the outer jacket. With the same hand that held the handful of blonde white girl’s hair, he quickly pulled a ragged black ski mask down across his face.
At that exact point I realized, I did not take in the structure of this kid’s face. I would not be able to identify him should he escape this event.
I shouted, “Everybody stay cool. Don’t move. You!” I was shouting directly at the young man. “Freeze, just don’t move. Don’t do anything stupid.”
There was a short pause of absolute stillness.
I spoke calmly and much quieter, “let go of her hair, and show me your hands. Raise ’em above your head.”
The young man pulled the ski mask down a bit to position the mouth hole over his own gasping mouth. When he did this he accidentally pulled the right eye hole away from his right eye. Confused he covered both eyes with his free hand and tried to make the mask right. I pulled my nine millimeter and aimed it towards his face.
Once again, absolute stillness.
Quite calmly and with careful deliberation he pulled the girls head in front of his own face, and deftly positioned himself and the girl at the end of the aisle. By kicking her in the ankles with his feet between her own, he forced her towards the front of the store, shuffling slowly towards the front door with interlocked legs, her body completely shielding his own thin frame.
I repeated the command, “freeze!”
He said nothing. The girl’s face twisted into an anguished silent scream. Her skin flushed with blood. In their determined progress, their feet became entangled and she stepped on his toes and tripped hard falling to the floor. Thin strands of hair ripped from her scalp and snapped upwards from where she fell. The young man stared at the tiny drops of blood. His eyes darted from the roots of her hair, to her position on the floor to the hole in the end of my nine millimeter. He never looked at my eyes.
The clerk collapsed as if she died. All was still for at least a full second. The young man took a huge breath of air through his nostrils. He kept his mouth shut and his cheeks suddenly expanded with air from his lungs. He dove towards the front door in attempt to roll out of the building. Instead he jammed his body into the door frame. He was wedged with his rear end hanging out onto the stoop naked. He had worn the waist of his pants below his butt cheeks and the slack had tangled his thighs . The elastic waistband of his underwear pants had hooked on a piece of the security door frame.
I found it difficult to halt the oncoming surge of a huge explosive episode of laughter. As my eyelids flexed in anticipation, the young man met my eye’s with his own and I knew that he knew that I was about to start laughing. Both sets of our eyes widened as he reached beneath the waist of his hoody and pulled a cocked revolver full of rounds. The make was Ruger. A chromed forty five caliber. The barrel came on target; the small black hole made a perfect round shape as it was pointed perfectly at my face.
I fired two rounds. One entered his throat and exploded into the door frame as it exited the back of his neck. The second one pierced his cheek and never exited his skull. His eyes still wide open shifted slowly to stare at a position on the floor in front of my feet.
Ninety-two days ago. I was a cop with a perfect safety record and a promising career. After the shooting at Remington Liquor, things changed rather quickly. Today I am a security guard. I don’t carry a gun. I carry a Taser.
The campus of Metropolitan Technical College is where I patrol. During the day from six am until four pm I drive a Dodge Charger similar to my old patrol car, but without the full package. I drive from one corner of the twenty acre campus to the other corner. I am responsible for the order and lack of graffiti for twenty three buildings. And although my car doesn’t have a two way radio, since there is effectively no one to dispatch me or report my location to, I do have a fancy cell phone. It is so fancy that I need to pull to the curb to use it.
My days go about the same. I Spend two or three hours in the parking lot at the north east corner of the college then spend two or three hours at the south west corner of the campus. Then lunch. For variety I spend two or three hours at the south east corner of the campus and I like to finish my day beneath an excellent shade tree near a massive industrial sized dumpster that probably never has anything organic in it and therefore does not foul the fresh air.
Tree and dumpster rise like monuments at the north west corner of the campus, slightly elevated on a hill overlooking the far end of one of the larger parking lots. It is situated next to a calm artificial duck pond, with an eternal artificial fountain, real Koi and real ducks. Or as they call them around here, carp and geese.
I often think about that evening at Remington Liquors. As a matter of fact I think about it every day. When you pull the sun visor down in my new Dodge Charger, there is a well preserved article clipped neatly from the Daily Oklahoman. The headline starts with, “The Incident at Remington” and the details read like a detective’s notebook.
The Real Incident at Remington Liquors
What the article doesn’t say, and the reason why I kept it is to remind me what really was recorded in other reports not the one in the Daily Oklahoman. The clerk at the counter never saw the young man raise the gun, due to a “mini-stroke” she suffered when the whole thing went down. The young girl involved has an unknown association with the dead young African American male. She claims that Mr. Antawain (pronounced Aunt-To-Wayne) Fillipinko never had possession of a gun, never owned any other guns and indeed was afraid of guns. She also claims to have blacked out when her head hit the marble floor of the liquor store. So a Hollywood style implication is supplied as to whether I planted the chrome forty-five caliber handgun on his person after I shot him. The issue of anyone else seeing that the dead African American youth pointed a gun at me could not be verified by the other victim, or I should say unclear as to their relationship “associate”.
It took a few months, to stop thinking about the aftermath of the shooting. Or at least to stop letting it crush my spirit before my spirit could stand up and face another day. I still think about that actual shooting. I see it happen almost every twenty or thirty minutes of everyday.
It doesn’t help that nothing ever goes down on this beat. No one every breaks a rule. Honestly, I am not sure if I am ready to react to something like that. I honestly don’t know how I could react.
Sometimes when one encounters a private lack of confidence one is reminded that they have no one to talk to. Having never lacked for the company of friends and even girlfriends and two ex-wives in my short stint as swinging bachelor prone guy, I realized that since the shooting and since the exposure in the press, whether real or imagined, I had shunned male friendship and couldn’t even come to grips with having an honest relationship with a lover. At the time it seemed like, at least “…in that department you are less lucky than the decedent,” I told myself as I glanced into my own eyes in the rear view mirror.
The Love Story
The first result of the preliminary investigation was the who and what of the participants of the event at Remington Liquors. It turns out that the sixteen year old girl is carrying the baby of the shoplifting youth. And even after being used as a human shield, she and the family of the deceased, (aka Antawain Keeshawn Fillipinko) and the girl have been influenced by a local attorney, that there is a large settlement at the end of the rainbow. To be obtained by making the shooting unjustified and suing the city and later myself in civil court.
So, apparently love does have some reward. Perhaps it was time to reinvest some more energy into finding some of my own.
So it was with strange anticipation and an unusual physical feeling of hollowness when I pulled into my usual parking space with the front of the car facing out over the parking lot. I checked my rear view mirror to check the distance from my bumper to the coming shadow from my favorite shade tree. There in my mirror on a small flat space of grass, right next to the dumpster were the lifeless bodies of two domestic dogs as evidenced by their tags and collars. For more than a few moments I was frozen. I sat and stared at the two corpses in my rear view mirror. A huge feeling of despair began to grow from deep within my abdomen. To alleviate the discomfort I started the car and turned it in the direction of the dogs. They lay about twenty-five feet from my bumper.
I turned off the engine. I sat there motionless for at least a full minute. Then I suddenly was overcome with a growing rage. “My god,” I said to myself. “I have seen some pretty horrendous cruelty to animals on early attempts to be one of the good ol’ southern boys and go hunting. I have seen people run into animals in cars and trucks and simply drive off allowing them to die by the roadside or at least until I could call Animal Control and let them handle the “putting them out of their misery” part of their job.
I even arrested a teen age boy for killing a cat with a lawn mower here in the great state of Oklahoma, but I have never seen the likes of this. A person capable of killing two dogs and then hurling their bodies in the vicinity of a dumpster to let students and teachers deal with it.
I instinctively reached for my two-way radio. I forgot I did not have one on this new beat. I started to punch up the administrator’s office on my mobile. Then I stopped. What would I say? Who would be available to prosecute the removal of the bodies? Who will know how to initiate the taking of evidence to find and later punish the perpetrator? There was no one to call. If I took responsibility I would end up digging the hole or driving two dead dogs into the city and passing them over to Animal Control. What kind of story would that make for my old division? That kind of weird tale would get around.
“That guy who shot that black kid just showed up here with two dead dogs.”
I closed my phone. I got back into my car. I could not take care of this myself. I decided to take my patrol to another corner of the campus. The day was coming to an end. I was sure that maintenance would drive up in their golf cart and handle the problem. I was not having dead dog fluids leaking into my new Dodge Charger. You’d never get that smell out.
I drove away. Even if I could figure out who to call, I would not know what to say. So quiet these days. Not knowing how to word something or even to ask some higher up what to do. “The quieter I am,” I thought to myself, “the safer this new beat will be.” I drove off campus instead and rolled back to my apartment a few miles away. It’s better to keep your mouth shut. Learn how to keep quiet and blend into the background. If I hadn’t shot my mouth off so much during the investigation of that shooting, I’d probably be in a better place.
Around that time I had often thought about how often I had been in trouble in that first job, because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Or because I thought something was so oddly funny that I couldn’t keep it to myself. If not for a moment exactly like that I would have gotten my badge back.
At the end of one of an unceasing series of interviews, and after being worked over more than usual about the details of the shooting, I was outside the precinct’s back swinging doors. There I came upon an officer name Marky Walters, who wore his southern pride on his sleeve and his confederate flag on a faded bumper sticker on his weekend recreational truck. Marky was the silent type and he stood there half looking at me and seemingly admiring the hand wax job of a black Continental Town Car with downtown metro plates. I had figured that my tormentors from Internal Affairs had arrived in this present chariot. Marky wasn’t telling. I said something real stupid, just to break the silence, something I would never ordinarily even think up. I even questioned whether to sacrifice my own self respect to pretend to appear to be just another good ol’ Southern boy. But, since it was Marky and he was standing there so quiet, I figured he’d get a kick out of it.
I leaned over and said, “What kind of parent with a last name of Fillipinko names their kid Antawain Keeshawn anyway?”
You could tell that Marky Walters wanted to laugh and he grinned hard into his hand, then suddenly turned sharply to face the footsteps coming towards us. It was Inspector Dave Farley of Scotts-Irish decent and lead Inspector Cleveland Jones who carried a fair amount of African descent with his stature. Or as Marky would say, “a very powerful black guy”.
Just my luck. Marky Walters was not on a smoke break. Marky saluted Inspector Jones, went around to the other side of the car, opened, held and closed the door for the Chief Inspector, climbed into the driver’s seat and drove my two tormentors downtown towards the halls of justice.
I had a wall between the kitchen nook and the front door of my apartment where I had large corkboard. It was floor to ceiling and about six feet wide. On this corkboard were the notices, news articles, pieces of evidence, shooting diagrams and a little taped off section called “The Gun” that linearly took that investigation and the shooting itself step by step from the beginning until the current day as posted closest to the outside door of the apartment. On my way to work, that day, I paused to look at the exhibit I had sectioned off called…
Now given my report the attorney that represented the Fillipinkos might seem to be coming from left field. However he had an interesting piece of evidence to back up a totally ridiculous theory that supports the idea that I had planted the 45 caliber Ruger hand gun on the young man.
Three months prior to the shooting, this gun was entered into evidence at a local police department down the road in Norman, where the kid lived and his 16 year old fiancée and their extended family now live. By having this gun entered into evidence the logic would infer that only a police officer would be able to obtain possession of the gun. It was inferred that I was that police officer and since I was from Chicago it was highly likely that, as is customary for Northern type cops, as a rule I would not be caught out at night without a “throw away” gun.
In my defense it was (later in those ninety days) determined that the gun in question was turned over in a small town near Norman to a district office in a program called “Guns for Cash”, where citizens were asked if they would like to take a cash amount for any unnecessary hand guns, rifles, shotguns or automatic weapons lying around the house or barn. No questions asked, by the way. The guns were supposed to be melted down and used to cast a statute of the “Fallen Officer”. The ceremony to pour the molten metal into the cast was cut short, due to the fact that the hot liquid metal that arrived was only about half of what was needed. What eventually was discovered by a local news station caused quite a ruckus in that small town near Norman.
The town bureaucrat in charge of this program actually collected the guns and had them transported to a local foundry, which just happened to be owned by the brother of his wife. That particular foundry added another round of products to its usual line of statuary, tool blades and fittings. The temporary summer sale to move this new round of products consisted of quickly refurbished hand guns, rifles, shotguns and automatic weapons. Thusly, “Guns for Cash”, again. To this days, there stands a steel statue of the bottom half of what was to be a representation of a police officer in the line of fire. It stands near the rear entrance of City Hall in fine form from the toes up to just above the belt where it stops smooth as an end table.
When all was said and done, linking the gun to me, was not so easy to do. However the damage to my reputation as a crooked Chicago cop had already taken seed.
That day, I knew it was against the rules. I knew actually that is was against the law. But the site of the dead dogs had such an effect on my gut that instinct prevailed, and I removed my nine millimeter from its case on the top shelf of my bedroom closet, unlocked the trigger block and removed it. I then deposited the gun into a ankle holster which I shoved tightly into the seat adjustment mechanism beneath the driver’s seat of my Charger.
If a campus administrator found that gun or saw it. I would be fired. A gun on an Educational facility in Oklahoma, hell, it would be a felony. If someone was crazy enough to break into my car and steal it, and use it, well, I didn’t want to think about the consequences of that. Suffice it to say I probably would never work in law enforcement or “security.” After a trial I would be a ward of law enforcement and proctored by security.
I wasn’t sure why I felt safer with a gun under my seat. However, visions of camouflaged, drunk or meth smoking hunters emerging from the nearby woods with animal carcasses tossed over their shoulders was not so vague an image in my mind those days.
I headed for the dumpster and the shade tree that overlooked the scene of the crime. When I arrived I was relieved to see that the dog corpses had obviously been removed. Yet instead of feeling at ease. My eyes suddenly began to tear up and I had to slow and pull over to the curb and resist the urge to cry uncontrollably. I am not some sap eyed P.E.T.A. advocate, or an avid contributor to the coffers of the Humane Society. If too many animals exist because of the stupid selfishness of human owners, than by all means exterminate them so they do not suffer hunger and illness, however, the idea of a human killing two dogs and tossing their bodies not even into a dumpster but just barely next to it, repulsed me. It not only saddened me to tears, it physically churned my stomach and the visual memory of both dogs lying dead, the flies that must have flown from their eyes and mouth, the foul odor of death creeping first along the grass then picked up and floating on the air, all of it made me stop and get out of my car for fear of tossing up my breakfast onto the interior of my new Dodge. With more odors on my mind then I needed to think about that day, the remainder of it, became a dark, quiet and typical “bad day.”
The next morning I rolled out of bed, having had enough of bad sentiments, bad memories and bad replays of how I should have done this or that differently! I decided that I couldn’t change the path by suffering it over and over like some cold case homicide detective. I can’t bring back that kid by suffering for him any more than I can bring back those two dogs.
I vowed to start fresh, make the best of this new day. Visit and bring crackers for both geese and carp. Patrol, comfort and aid the inquisitive and lost. Make the domain of Metropolitan Tech safe and protected. En route to my first corner of the campus I slammed on the brakes, there jay walking quite nonchalant were the two dogs I had seen earlier. Both dogs quite alive, quite surprised at the sound of my breaks.
The smaller of the two showed no fear of the careening car, and actually barked at my bumper. The larger dog who appeared to be a combination of Mastiff and some other large canine breed, quickly skittered out of the way of my bumper and almost sheep-like faced into the directions of the woods and trotted off.
The smaller dog actually chased my rear bumper after I pulled around him before growing weary of the game. He promptly paused quite unaware of his location in the middle of the street and casually trotted off in the direction of the Mastiff.
In the following week I found myself cruising the roadways and the streets of the campus grounds in search of the two dogs. I finally found the courage to call Animal Control to report them, since they did have collars and tags, but obviously were not returning to someone’s home each evening. It was obvious they lived on campus. I later discovered that similar to my own behavior these two dogs had four specific plots of grass in each quadrant of the campus all located conveniently by dumpsters, where they napped for hours, motionless like two dead dogs. After gorging on throw away food from the excess that On Campus Food Services routinely dumped at set intervals every-day.
For many months, I tried, to no avail to make friends with these two dogs. They recognized me and obviously knew I meant them no harm. However, since I was not a necessary supplier of food for them they were less interested in me than the maintenance men that delivered such a huge quantity of what-ever they wanted.
I also had a sneaking suspicion that they somehow knew that I was the human who reported them to the Animal Control officer who after numerous attempts just stopped trying to catch them and eventually stopped returning my calls.
I accepted their existence and kept an eye out for them, but eventually lost my initial interest and connection to them due to familiarity and perhaps due to their lack of interest or real need of my dietary assistance. So, Some ninety days after the original ninety days. I was offered my job back. Chief Inspector Cleveland Jones decided that I had suffered sufficiently for my off color remark about the victim’s name. Or perhaps my advocate sobered up long enough to fight my case and get me rightfully re-instated albeit many weeks after I had been cleared of all impropriety.
I offered my two week’s notice to Metropolitan Tech and proceeded to the north west corner of Campus, to enjoy the shade of my favorite tree. As I turned a corner, I heard the screech of large truck brakes and the horrible yelp of an injured dog. I floored the accelerator and fishtailed to the scene of the accident. A Sanitation truck was backing away from the large dumpster completely oblivious to the writhing terrier that had been crushed beneath the trucks massive rear wheels. The truck accelerated and for a moment I couldn’t decide to chase them or attend to the injured dog.
I could always locate the driver next week. The dog on the other hand was more than a mess of crushed muscle and bone from the lower portion of his back to the end of his tail. He was not however, ready to give up on life.
The creature was in obvious and horrible pain. I waited some minutes kneeling at his side, staring into his eyes, willing him to just go ahead and die. After five minutes of this dog’s labored breathing, his choking on what little blood he had left in throat, I could stand it no more. I unclasped the strap that held my Taser in place and stepped back and fired it into the tissue as close to his heart as possible.
The device caused the muscles to spasm, but it had the intended effect. The animal’s breathing faded and his eyes stared at my feet but appeared as if focused on nothing. His nametag vibrated on his last breath. His name was Ricky.
I stared at the face, the collar, the nametag quietly for a moment. Then suddenly I heard the sound of padded feet, and felt a heavy weight come crushing down from the back of my neck. I was knocked hard to the ground but I could not turn my head to see what was happening. A large paw crashed hard on my cheek and I knew then that the Mastiff had the base of my skull and my neck clamped firmly in the back teeth of his jaws.
I lost the feeling in my left arm after going cold and tingly. All the while this was happening the sun was beating down brightly and the Dodge Charger was idling steadily. The door ajar warning beeped out intermittently. I rolled underneath the dog and tried to locate the Taser. The device was nowhere to be found. With the little strength I had left in my right hand and arm I wrenched the forearm from the Mastiff away from his body as hard as I could. It forced him to release my neck and roll off of me to gain a better attack position. When he did this I lunged backwards and clawed and pulled my torso up and into the driver’s seat. The Mastiff attacked immediately and pulled me by my left thigh back onto the asphalt where I landed with one hand still grasping the steering wheel.
I suddenly remembered my nine millimeter. I yanked it from its holster and fired two shots. The first shot tore through the Mastiff’s shoulder and was accompanied by the same cruel and helpless yelp that dogs make. The second shot struck him in the forehead and ricocheted off the bone, with only a small mark of blood where it hit. Although it didn’t enter the skull it killed the Mastiff instantly.
By this time, two professors were en route on foot with cell phones at ready calling 911.
I slumped forward and my now paralyzed left arm twisted around so the end of the gun contacted the dog’s nameplate, flipping it towards me and glinting in the sunlight. I read the dog’s name to myself. First I dropped the illegal nine millimeter gun between my knees. I turned to look up at the two professors talking urgently on their cell phone.
What kind of owner names a dog that size, Dick?”
© 2015 House of Stanton and its licensors. All rights reserved.
Writer: Foster Johnson.
Editor: PB Rippey (Ricky and Dick)
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