Split-tail Heart

SPLIT-TAIL HEART

 

 

The bony fist was hard, scarred, knuckly, tattooed, and accelerating toward Officer Kelly Scott’s pretty face. She didn’t see it coming, concentrating instead on trying to keep a grip on a skinny elbow without applying too much pressure. She intended to bend the arm around behind the struggling man’s back, then handcuff him without having to hurt him. The suspect was an old alcoholic street-person who had been arrested many times in the past. He had tried to walk out of a convenience store with a bottle of cheap wine, and had fought with the manager. The police were called and arrived in time to see the man standing in the parking lot, screaming foul epithets at the front of the store and a few curious bystanders. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Officer Kelly Scott tried to calm the man using verbal skills, or verbal judo, as she had been taught, but he would have none of it. After he turned from her and kicked the door of the police cruiser, she decided to take him into custody. She struggled with him now, saying in an officious tone as she did, “Sir, sir, stop resisting…stop resisting!”

 

The man’s fist was only two inches from Officer Scott’s nose when it smacked into the open palm of Scott’s partner, Officer Mel Dawson. Dawson’s long fingers wrapped around the bony fist, held it a moment, then began to tighten and twist at the same time. The suspect felt the instant crushing pain, squealed as he went up onto his toes, and then fell to the pavement with a thud as Dawson swept his legs out from under him. Before he could react further, Scott rolled him onto his belly and cuffed his hands behind his back. She blew her blond hair from her brow, and said in a tight voice, “Why did you try to hit me? Why?”

“I wasn’t doin’ nothin’,” cried the man as spit covered his chin, “You dyke bitches hurt me…you hurt me…”

Officer Mel Dawson hitched her uniform pants, bent her long legs, and squatted beside the man. She leaned close to his left ear, and said easily, “Now is the time for you to remain silent, Stainer, keep it shut, understand? If you say anything like that again, or if you start running your mouth on the way to jail, I will pull you out of the back of my car and beat you till you piss your pants, got it? I will beat you until you call for the mother you never had, you worthless, bubbling piece of shit.” She stared at him, her gaze level and cold, and added softly, “Nod your head if you understand.”

He nodded.

 

Almost one hour later, after their suspect had been booked into jail, Scott and Dawson were back on patrol. Dinnertime traffic was beginning to thin slightly, and the radio was fairly quiet. Scott drove the police cruiser, while Dawson rode shotgun. They had been partnered for two days, and Scott had been pleased and surprised when Dawson let her drive. Kelly Scott was not quite one year out of the academy, still a rookie in many ways. Mel Dawson was a veteran with over ten years on the road, almost all of it in a patrol car. Dawson had a reputation for being a no-nonsense professional, respected by the others on her shift for the way she handled herself. While she drove, Scott glanced at her partner, and thought about her. Dawson was tall, with an athletic build and straight dark brown hair worn short. It wasn’t “butch” short, reflected Scott, but sort of…utilitarian? The short hair framed a strong face, with big brown eyes, a long nose, and a wide mouth. If Dawson wore makeup, Scott couldn’t see it. She had long arms, big hands, and tanned skin. Dawson wore her tailored uniform well; neat, military, and groomed. Her leather gun-belt, equipment, and weapon were used but well-cared for. She carried herself with a loose confidence, a physical presence that seemed relaxed, but with a discernable readiness underneath. Kelly Scott had heard the other rookie officers talk about Dawson, had heard the muttered jibes, the stupid, sophomoric remarks about her personal proclivities. The things they said intrigued Scott, rather than put her off, and she was secretly very pleased to be teamed with the veteran.

 

Mel Dawson stared out the side window of the cruiser, and thought about her new partner, Kelly Scott. She knew already what Lou would say about the sweet little rookie girl cop, could hear it. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E, Lou would say, “That is trouble up walking around on great legs, oh yeah.” Unconsciously, Dawson nodded. Lou would be right, of course. Officer Kelly Scott was a little bit of primo baby cop, nice tight nubile body, good legs, small breasts. Probably played volleyball or soccer in high school, not quite the cheerleader type, with stylish corn-silk blond hair, pretty little prom queen face, small hands, big green eyes. Open and friendly, but not bubbly, thank God. Dawson sighed. She’d been told a bit about Scott by the sergeant when he gave her the news of their partnering-up. Scott did well in the academy, had no complaints against her during her probation period, good ratings by her Field Training Officers. Had the right look for the new world of police work, the right personality. Never late, looked sharp, did her job, Scott was destined to become “one of the good ones”. Dawson had the feeling the sergeant was selling Scott a bit too hard, but let it pass. She took the last shot of advice from the sarge, also without commenting. “You already know what they’ll be saying, Dawson,” said the sergeant as he shuffled some papers in his hands, not looking at her, “About you and another female riding together, I mean. It’s just the guys, you know? Cops. Let it slide, let it roll off, ignore it, okay? Anyway, she’s got a boyfriend who works for the Sheriff’s Office, met him in the academy I’m told, so what can they say, right? Work with her, let her learn from you. I think it will be a good match. Okay?” Dawson hung on to the door handle of the cruiser as Scott took a turn a little too fast. “Go easy, Kelly, it’s gonna be a long shift,” she said in a friendly tone. The younger officer nodded, and chewed her lip. Dawson heard the sergeant’s words again, and thought, Whatever. She thought of Lou, and sighed.     

 

Their next call sent them into a residential district, and the dispatcher had their complete attention long before they arrived at the small, neatly-kept home. A child was missing, a four year old girl. When they pulled into the drive they saw several neighbors on the street, teenagers on bicycles, old people standing in doorways, staring. The sergeant was on the radio, admonishing Dawson and Scott to determine what they had, what they needed, pronto. Both parents, a couple in their late twenties, were emotional. The husband worked hard to put on a brave face, but the wife was in tears. Dawson took the wife into the kitchen, and motioned for Kelly to stay with the husband. After a few minutes they joined again in the living room.

“Okay,”Dawson said to Kelly, “Give the dispatcher the full description of Lauren, and go outside and tell the neighbors to begin looking around their own homes. We know Lauren was here, at the house, one hour ago, playing with her friend, Sissy. Sissy is home, does not know where Lauren went. We don’t have any reports of a stranger in the neighborhood, no suspicious vehicles, nothin’. Obviously this is not a divorce-custody thing, there was no argument or punishment scenario between Lauren and her parents. So let’s get some more units rolling this way, and begin.” Scott walked out of the house, speaking into her radio.

Turning to the parents, Dawson asked, “You searched the yard, all around the house, inside the house?” The man and woman looked at each other, and nodded. The sound of a helicopter could be heard overhead. “That’s ours,” said Dawson, “We’ll get a good search goin’, okay?” The young mother burst into tears. “Show me Lauren’s bedroom,” Dawson said to the dad. It was a small room, filled with hopes and dreams. Mickey, Winnie, Barney, and a myriad of other friendly faces stared at the big angular cop as she looked in the closet and under the bed. “You told me you were in the driveway working on your car,” Dawson said to the husband, “What was your wife doing?”

“Cooking,” answered the man as he ran his fingers through his hair. “She was cooking dinner. This is crazy…this is…what could have happened? We were all right here.”

The young wife walked in then, and her husband hugged her. “We looked everywhere, Officer,” said the wife, “It’s impossible she could have just disappeared like this. Sissy left, Lauren was watching TV, I was doing the laundry and trying to cook dinner…all normal. Nobody climbed into a window and took her or anything…right?”

Scott came in, and said, “Neighbors are looking around. I checked the shrubbery around the house. Nearest water, besides swimming pools, is a canal about three blocks away. I also checked the car in the driveway, including the trunk. She’s not there.”

“Lauren can swim good,” said the dad.

 

Without saying anything, Dawson walked out of the bedroom, across the living room, and headed for the kitchen. After a moment the others heard her call, “Hey…check this out.” Both parents, and Officer Scott hurried toward the kitchen. Dawson stood at a door at the far end of the kitchen, staring into the small utility room. The room was almost totally filled with a side-by-side washer and dryer, and in front of the dryer was a laundry basket filled with sheets.Dawsonlooked at the parents, gave a shrug, and pulled aside one of the sheets. It was still warm from the dryer, and nestled snugly in it and the rest of the fresh laundry was a little girl, sound asleep.

Lauren,oh my God,” cried the mom as she rushed to the doorway, brushing past Dawson, reaching out for the child.

The dad gave a funny, choking laugh, ran his hands through his hair, and turned this way and that in the kitchen, repeating, “I’ll be darned, I’ll be darned.”

Dawson looked at Scott, and pointed at her radio. Scott walked out of the house, calling off the troops.

 

A few minutes later, as they drove through the early evening, Scott asked Dawson, “So…how did you know?”

Dawson shrugged, hesitated, and replied, “Didn’t, really. You know we always begin any search inside the home first. She said something about the laundry, and…I don’t know…it triggered something in me.” She shook her head, “Ah, who knows? When I was a kid I used to love it when my mom did the sheets and towels, fresh, warm…comforting, you know?”

“You’re amazing,” said Scott as she drove.

“We got lucky,” said Dawson.

“I got lucky, when I was teamed with you,” answered Scott without turning her head.

Dawson said nothing, and thought about Lou.

 

*                                            *                                          *

 

The next afternoon,Dawson waited for Kelly Scott near their assigned patrol unit. Briefing was over, they had already loaded their gear, and it was time to get ten-eight. Kelly had been stopped by another cop, a young guy, close-cropped hair, lots of muscle and teeth, who had called out to her in the parking lot.Dawson knew the guy. He had only a few years on the job, was already on SWAT, a self-described “ass-kicker and name-taker”, a testosterone-driven hot-dog. She watched as the young guy and her partner had an animated conversation, with lots of smiles, gestures, and posturing. She thought Kelly could tone it down a bit as she watched the young woman arch her back, and was suddenly surprised at how the whole scene bothered her. Finally Kelly squeezed the guy’s forearm, and hurried to the car.

 

“Sorry ‘bout that, Mel,” said Scott as she buckled in behind the wheel, “Friggin’ guys on this department just don’t want to believe I’ve already got a boyfriend.” She backed out of the space, drove across the lot, told the dispatcher on her radio they were in service, and hit the street. She grinned at Dawson, and added, “But then again, some of these guys are definite hunks…”

“If you say so, Kelly,” said Mel.

Something in the tone of her partner’s voice made Scott pause. Then she asked, “What do you mean? Don’t you think some of them are attractive?”

“Doesn’t matter,” replied Dawson, looking out the side window at a man slumped on a nearby bus bench, “They might be the biggest studs anywhere, and they might actually be nice people too. But you don’t play where you work.” She decided the guy on the bench did not need to be checked out. They drove in silence for a few minutes, the radio chatter their background music.

“You don’t play where you work, Kelly,” she said again, “Hell, this is old news, an old truth, known to women in police work for years now.”

“What about you?” asked Kelly. She kept her eyes on the road, but she held her breath waiting for her partner’s answer.

“Do I play where I work?” respondedDawson.

“Yes.”

“I have, yes,” said Dawson, aware her young partner really wanted to know. They turned a corner at a large intersection, merged with traffic, and headed downtown. She shrugged, “When I first came on the job, I had a couple of flings. Nothin’ serious. Those sort of hot and crazy things, mindlessly physical, where you can’t think of anything but getting it, you know?”

Kelly nodded, her mouth suddenly dry.

“But stupid,” said Dawson, “And since there are absolutely no secrets on any police department anywhere, eventually hurtful, diminishing, and costly.”

“Costly?”

“Reputation. Standing among your peers. We are somehow reduced to a smallness when our bedroom business is known. It becomes part of your resume’, like the number of felony arrests you made last quarter, the number of citizen commendations you got, who you slept with…”

“But we’re young, and physical,” said Kelly, “And we’re out doing sometimes dangerous work, intense work, and hell…even cops need to be held once in a while.” She snorted, “It’s not like it’s friggin’ love, you know? It’s just a release, a physical touch, it’s…it’s…just sex…”

Dawson thought of Lou.

 

She was Louise, actually. Louise, who had a small picture framing business in one of the malls south of town, Louise who had not one damn thing to do with police work or cops. Louise who was slight and awkward, with slender hands, a long neck, and fine auburn hair she wore in a long ponytail. Louise who closed her eyes and tilted her face back when she kissed, but kept them open when she held you, searching your face, watching to see your eyes change. Louise who had almost no breasts, but perfect nipples, long arms, long slender legs, and fine skin. Louise who was so shy the first time she felt like a fluttery bird to Dawson, all the shades drawn to make the bedroom dark and private. Louise, who had been hers’ for seven years.

 

“Ten-four, enroute,” said Kelly into the radio with a rising voice as she made a sweeping u-turn and hit the accelerator.

Dawson had heard the call as it came, of course, and it shut her thoughts down. Robbery in progress, shots fired, one suspect still on the scene.

The scene was a convenience store located in the fringe area between a bad neighborhood and a really bad neighborhood. They slid into the parking lot to see a robbery squad unmarked car parked in the shadows of a huge tree at the edge of the lot, the passenger and driver’s doors open. As Dawson jumped out of the squad car she realized they were the first back-ups to arrive. Her gun was in her hand as she saw one plainclothes cop sitting on the sidewalk right in front of the glass doors of the store. His right side was crimson wet with blood. He sat with his left arm behind him to hold himself up, his right hand pressed against his hip. A few feet away lay what she figured to be his gun, a black automatic pistol, and just beyond that, a police radio.

“He’s hurt,” shouted Kelly Scott, “Oh my God…he’s hurt…” She came from around the front of their unit, her eyes wide. She looked down to pull her gun from its holster.

“Stop, Kelly!” yelled Dawson. She swept her right arm toward the right, “Move across the lot to the right side of the doors, I saw movement near the front counter!” She pressed the mic on her radio, and transmitted, “Officer down! Officer down! We need backups and EMS!” She saw Scott moving toward the right side of the glass doors, up against the wall of the building, while she ran in a crouch straight to the sidewalk and front wall of the store, left of the wounded cop.

 

Dawsonsaw the plainclothes cop’s grimace as he turned his ashen face toward her. “Been shot,” he said in a weirdly conversational voice, “I got the suspect, too, but he’s still armed, I think. See him by the counter? See him sitting there?”

“I see him,” replied Dawson. A young black guy knelt a few feet inside the glass doors, staring at her. He wore jeans and a gray t-shirt with a Jimi Hendrix likeness on the front. It was red with blood.

“Don’t know where my partner is,” continued the robbery cop, “He took off around back chasing the other suspect…”

“Where’s the clerk?” askedDawson, “Do we have a hostage deal here?”

The wounded cop shook his head. “She ran out,” he said, “Ran out right through all the shooting. Don’t know where she…went.”

Dawsoncould hear the sirens filling the air as other units raced toward them.

“What do we do, Mel?” called Kelly from her standing position on the other side of the glass doors, “What do we do?”

“Can you move, Nathan?” asked Dawson. She remembered him from his days in patrol. “I know you’ve been hit, but can you move? You’re sitting where he can still get a shot at you…”

“I know,” answered the other cop through gritted teeth, “But every time I try to move I feel like I’m gonna pass out, and…and that sonofabitch raises his gun at me…”

Dawson knew the cavalry was seconds away. Even if they held what they had it might turn out okay. But then the young black guy took that decision from her.

“He’s getting up!” shouted Kelly Scott, “He’s…he’s…gonna shoot!”

 

Dawson saw it unfolding, knew with a searing clarity what would happen in the next seconds if she didn’t act. Maybe the wounded young black guy thought he could shoot his way past them and escape. Maybe he figured he was already shot, was going to do life in prison for shooting a cop even if he lived, and didn’t care, or maybe it was suicide by cop. Didn’t matter. She lunged forward, still in a crouch, so her body was between the robbery cop and the young suspect. The glass doors separated them by four or five feet. She sensed her partner staring at her and shouting something, but remained focused on the black hand with the gun as it came up from the suspect’s side, came up steady, the black hole at the end of the barrel pointed into her eyes. Her own gun was up, up and bucking in her right fist. There was a roaring to her right, and she knew Kelly was shooting too. The image of the suspect crystallized, spider-webbed, then shattered as the glass doors disintegrated from the bullets punching through. The glass fell like a curtain of ice, exposing the young black suspect clearly as it did. He leaned forward, as if walking through hail, his body jerking, his left arm across his chest. His right arm was extended outward with the gun, and it jerked too, butDawsoncould not tell if he fired it within the splintering cacophonous seconds. Glass, concrete, potato chips, blood, soda, beer, and candy became instant shrapnel as the front of the store exploded. She felt the wounded cop’s forehead resting against her back as she watched the suspect, a troubled, faraway look on his face, sink slowly to his knees before toppling onto his left side in the carpet of broken glass. The gun slipped out of his quivering fingers, and he was still.

 

Dawson glanced to her right at Kelly, who leaned out from the edge of the wall in a two-handed firing position. The slide was back on her partner’s automatic pistol, indicating the weapon had expended all the rounds in the magazine. Kelly, her face bright red, her lips compressed into a sneer, her eyes wide and staring at her target, continued to squeeze the gun’s trigger. The tendons on her hands were stretched, and the gun wobbled and jumped as she grunted over and over again.

“Kelly!” shouted Dawson, “Officer Scott! Cease fire, stop!” She saw her partner turn and look at her, and added, “It’s okay, Kelly, it’s all done now…” She made her own weapon safe, and carefully slid it back into its holster on her belt. She knew she had fired three times. She noticed her hand trembled. “It’s all done now.”

 

A screeching, lurching, chaotic few minutes ensued as patrol units, robbery squad cars, supervisors, and the Emergency Medical trucks slammed into the small parking lot and street beyond.Dawson was surprised to see it was still the late afternoon, the sun was still out, the traffic beginning to build toward rush hour. People gawked in their cars, or jammed the sidewalks craning their necks to get a view. The wounded cop was swarmed by EMT’s, who cut his clothes away from his wound, which was in the fleshy area of his right hip, bandaged him, and hung an IV in one arm. Traffic on the street was halted as the big EMS truck sighed out of the lot enroute to the hospital. The wounded cop’s partner was located behind the store, bruised and scraped, the second suspect laying in the dirt and trash beside him, in handcuffs. A sergeant asked Dawson if she was all right, and she nodded. He pointed to the corner of the store, where Kelly Scott stood at the end of the sidewalk, retching into the dirt of a small alley.Dawson went to her.

“Hey, partner,” she said to the younger woman, “You did good. You did good. You okay now? It’s the nerves, that’s all, like an overdose of adrenalin.” She patted Kelly on the back, then used her fingers to brush the blond hair away from her forehead. “You’re okay now.”

Kelly nodded, and wiped her mouth with the back of her arm. “He wouldn’t fall down,” she said, “I couldn’t hear my gun shooting, but I knew I was shooting, and he wouldn’t fall down…he just stood there with his stupid gun…”

Dawson glanced at the front of the store. The glass doors were shattered, of course, and the metal frames were torn and holed. The front counter had several holes in it, and even the cash register looked like it had been hit. “But he did go down, Kelly,” she said quietly, “We got him, and it looks like Nathan is gonna be okay.”

Kelly shook herself, rubbed her face with the palms of her hands, managed a small smile, and said, “We got him.”

 

*                                                *                                           *

 

Dawson stood in the busy hubbub of the Emergency Room and watched Nathan’s wife, a chubby woman with a pretty face and puffy, styled hair, lean over and kiss her husband on his nose. Dawson and Scott had been on their way to the station to meet with the Detectives who would be handling the homicide investigation of the suspect, but were told by a supervisor to swing by the ER on their way in. When they got there they found the media troops were out in force, and had to shoulder their way inside, where they were greeted by many cops, on and off-duty. Most just wanted to be close to them a moment, to grin and say “Good job”. One of the older patrol veterans punched Dawson lightly on the arm and growled, “Did ya have to shoot the shit out of all that beer, and the chips and all?” A Captain walked by as they stood there, and said over his shoulder, “Twenty shell casings scattered in and around those glass doors, and the suspect was hit only five times?” Dawson said nothing, but the old cop next to her sniffed and said sotto voce’, “As if that prick ever fired his gun anywhere but on the qualifying range.”

Dawson wanted to get out of there. The reason they were told to stop by was because Nathan had already told his wife that Dawson had shielded him with her own body, and the woman wanted to thank her. It was an awkward moment for Dawson, who patted Nathan’s wife on the back as she cried and squeezed her in a sincere hug. She introduced Kelly Scott as her partner, making sure everyone knew Scott had been part of the outcome also. For her part, Kelly Scott seemed to like the attention, smiling bravely and nodding.Dawson was not surprised to see most of the guys lingered longer with Kelly, made good eye contact, held her hand, touched her cheeks as they congratulated and commiserated. They were always a bit stand-offish around Dawson, so she was used to it.

 

She watched again as Nathan’s wife stood over him before they wheeled him into surgery, and was swept with images of Lou. She would lean over the bed when she came in from night shift, and kiss Lou on the nose just like that. She would kiss her on the nose, and squeeze her hand, and Lou’s eyelids would flutter, and she’d smile and stretch. What had happened, she asked herself for the one thousandth time, Where did I go wrong? What could I have done to be a better partner to Lou, a better lover? She thought they were life partners, her and Lou. She’d always be there, they’d always be there. They had even talked about a formal commitment, like marriage. Some couples in their circle had done it, and it was becoming not only fashionable, but acceptable. Not that any formality mattered to her…it was for Lou. She remembered the first time Lou spoke about children. It was during a lovely rainy night, late, they had the French doors open, and a cool, wet breeze stole into their bedroom. They could adopt. Go to China, or Central America. Bring home a child. Be parents. Or they could have a surrogate mom give birth, or Lou could get pregnant by some donor, or some method with doctors. Again, it didn’t matter to Dawson. Kids were not really something she had ever imagined as part of her life, but for Lou, okay. She’d be a parent, she’d be Lou’s partner, and they’d raise their child, or children.

 

Not long after that, she remembered with an ache, Lou began to change. Dawson couldn’t place her finger on it exactly, but Lou began to distance herself, becoming quiet, sitting alone for hours, deep in thought. Dawson tried to fix it physically, becoming even more attentive than she ever was, keeping the small parts of romance, honing the love-making so Lou would know she was the only one, would know she was loved. But that bitter morning finally came, when Lou told her she “Wasn’t being true to herself”, and thus, she was “Being dishonest with you.” Lou loved her, she explained, but knew in her heart of hearts that no matter how perfect their relationship, she would be incomplete. Lou had to marry a man, become a wife, have babies by him, and live that life. Dawson had been speechless, as if a huge vacuum had instantly sucked the air out of her entire being. It was impossible, she responded when she could finally breathe. They were a couple because Lou was what she was, she explained, They were what they were. They were friends, they were partners, they were lovers for God’s sake…because that’s what they were. Lou had simply shaken her head, and it was the first time since she had been a child that Dawson wept while someone held her.

 

She still had not recovered from the initial shock when Lou hit her with the next incomprehensible revelation. There already was a man. No, Dawson had never met him, and no, he did not know anything about Dawson or the life, the bed, she shared with Lou. But there was a man. He had a print shop near Lou’s store, and he wanted Lou. So far they had only had lunches together, but Lou knew…it was all laid out in her vision…he was her future. He would be her husband, they would have children. She would be a wife and a mom. She would never forget Dawson, Lou explained, and Dawson should realize these plans in no way diminished what they had been, what they had. Dawson fought it, of course, fought it with words mostly. At her lowest point she told Lou it was okay. She loved Lou and it was okay if Lou desired this other, impossible life. Fine. She, Dawson, would still be there for Lou, would still be her lover even as Lou shared her bed with her husband. Lou could be the man’s wife, and Dawson would be her secret lover. Lou had wept then.

Dawson went away for a few days when it was time for Lou to move out.

 

*                                        *                                          *

 

By midnight on the night of the shooting, the bar was filling up. It was a “cop” bar only in the sense that cops from the area frequented it because it was just outside the city limits and stayed open late. But it welcomed a mixed bag of patrons, mostly working class people from the neighborhood. The cops kept to themselves while there, and the “civilians” left them alone. Some dayshift officers were there, a few detectives and other special unit types, and the afternoon shift had been arriving in one’s and two’s for a while. The shoot-out…the wounding of a fellow officer and the killing of an armed suspect…was on everyone’s lips, of course. Nathan would live, and he would recover from his wound, but no one knew if he would be able to return to the job.

 

Mel Dawson’s first scotch-on-the-rocks sat on the bar in front of her. She had taken one sip, but didn’t really want it. Someone had bought it for her, the bartender said as he put it down. She had shrugged. Several guys had hit her on the arm, or the back, and grinned and said, “Righteous”, or “Nice job”, or “You done good”. She had simply nodded in response, wondering why she had even come there in the first place. Actually, she admitted she was there because Kelly Scott had asked her to come. The rookie was riding the wave of attention garnered from the shooting, and wanted Dawson to share in it. But Dawson was only pretending to join in. She was deeply unsettled, her emotions all over the place. She knew she had participated in something rare and validating in a cop’s world. She had taken action to save a fellow officer from harm, and she had helped blow away a bad guy. What could be better? But she felt enveloped in sadness. A young man had died. For what, the forty-one dollars in the store’s cash register? A good cop would never be the same, and might have to retire because of his wound. And she had taken a life.

 

“Hey!” yelled a voice, and Dawson turned to see a huddle of young cops a few feet from the bar raising their beer bottles and glasses toward Kelly Scott, who sat on a barstool grinning. The young macho cop Kelly had spoken with at the beginning of the fateful shift did the talking. “I heard that they weren’t so much worried about ol’ Nathan’s gunshot wound as they were about him going into shock when he turned and saw his backup unit was two split-tails!” Everyone laughed or hooted, including Kelly, who then answered, “Oh yeah? Results count, don’t they?” The big cop nodded, still grinning, and said, “Yeah baby…you and Dawson shot the shit out of that sonofabitch…and you can come rescue my ass anytime!” There was more laughter.Dawson turned back to her drink.

A few minutes later Kelly stood close at Dawson’s left elbow, and said into her ear, “You’ll be surprised to learn several of these studs have offered to take me home and comfort me.”Dawson turned and looked at her. Kelly went on with a mischievous grin “I think they just want to take me to bed, what do you think, Mel?”

“Ya think?”

“Two of them offered to make a sandwich with me in the middle, said it would really take my mind off things.”

“I’ll bet,” said Dawson. She wanted to go home.

“You know what, though, Mel?” said Kelly, “I do feel, um, emotional, or vulnerable, or something. Like I really wouldn’t mind being held…”

“What about your boyfriend that works for the Sheriff’s Office?”

“You wanna hear something stupid, Mel?” asked Kelly, “I went home after we did the statements and everything in the Detective Division, and met with him. He had already heard about the…shooting, and he acted all weirded out about it, like I’ve done something he’s never done as a cop. Then I told him the Detective Division Lieutenant stopped me in the hospital parking lot and offered me a Detective’s slot. Said it was true I haven’t been on the job very long, but he thinks I really showed something today, and a couple of guys told him I might make a good Robbery Detective. Somehow that made it even worse with my boyfriend. He acted like he didn’t even want to be around me, all cold and everything. He left before I even came over here.”

“Ah, the weight of those testicles, huh?” respondedDawson. She had already heard about the Robbery Lieutenant offering Kelly a job. She knew why he really wanted to help her get a gold shield, but she didn’t feel like trying to explain things to Kelly right then.

Kelly frowned.

They stayed quiet a moment, shoulder to shoulder.

Kelly moved her face closer to Dawson’s, and said quietly, “Mel, I, uh…I want to ask you something.”

Dawson waited.

“I’ve had a few drinks, and I’ve had a hell of a day, and I do want to be held.” She took a breath. “I want you to hold me, Mel.” She put her right hand on Dawson’s left forearm, and squeezed tightly as she hurried on, her warm fragrant breath on Dawson’s neck and ear.  “I know I’m being crazy forward, and over-the-top bold, but I want you. I want you to take me home, hold me, and make love to me like a woman does to a woman. I’ve never been with another girl before, but I’m uh…I’m curious, and I want to know what’s it like, and I know it will be good and I saw the way you moved today and I’ve watched your eyes and you’ve got those great hands, and you’re strong and smart, and you see things, and you…know.” Her eyes were big, and her tongue came out to trace her lips, “Take me home, Mel, take my clothes off, and take me. Take me to bed, Mel, show me, teach me how to please you…”

 

And now the thunderous applause from the crowd, thought Dawson. Ladies, here we have an honest-to-God primo piece of fluff, a USDA prime piece of femme female with her motor running, and she’s CURIOUS! She wants it, she wants to know what its like…wants to learn how she can please ME. This is one tasty treat, ladies, a silky blonde, all the long legs and arms, perfect breasts, impatient nipples, flawless skin, all the goodies. And SWEET? Do you think she’ll taste sweet? Yeah baby. Do you think she’ll arch her back and grab the sheets and breathe deep while she says my name over and over again? Do you think she’ll do anything I want her to in bed, and look up at me with those big eyes while she’s doing it? Oh, yeah. This is a gift, ladies, a rare and precious thing standing close and warm, smelling fresh, smiling, waiting. Right here, right now. Mine for the taking.

“Go home, Kelly,” replied Dawson, “We both know you’ve never had any problem finding someone to hold you, and tonight won’t be any different, if that’s what you really want.” She said it gently. She took Kelly’s right hand, brought it to her face, and softly kissed the fingers. Then she lay it flat on the bar, made her left hand into a fist, and tapped it against Kelly’s pretty chin. “Thank you for the extraordinary suggestion,” she went on, “You are beautiful, and I do find you exciting and attractive. But you’re my partner on the job for now, at least until you get your gold shield and move up to Robbery. And that’s how I want to know you, Kelly, no more…no less.”

Kelly Scott’s eyes filled with tears, but none fell down her reddening cheeks. “But I…” she tried, “But I…”

Dawson stood. The bar and crowd sounds around her were diminished as she studied the other woman’s face for a long moment. “Good night, kid,” she said softly.

She drove home slowly, and thought of Lou.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Economy of Words

Although there is some dispute over whether it is authentic Hemingway, the six word short story attributed to him is extremely powerful, revealing, and rich in reflection.

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never used.”

For sale: An acceptance of the unacceptable.  A divestment, a getting rid of, a wrenching separation. Throwing them away so diminishes their value it cannot be considered. Selling them clings to that value and passes it on. The exchange of money for what the shoes represent is a sad propriety. When added to the other four words it allows us to glance into the room prepared…we see the freshly painted walls, the crib…all the accouterments of anticipation.

Baby shoes: Baby as continuation, generation, procreation. Life. Hopes, dreams, flying machines. Potential  Shoes as an immediately recognized sign of the human. A protective vehicle designed to comfort and propel. Baby shoes encapsulates the new life, all the myriad possibilities. Car-mirror shoes, Winnie-the-Pooh shoes, light-up shoes, sneakers, cleats, deck, hiking, sandal, prom, heels, military, work, patent leather…each a familiar journey marker.

Never used: Never as not now, not ever. No moment. A hard cessation combined with used…worn, walked in, danced in, competed in, fought in, worked in, loved in, promised in…lived in. The ultimate denial of what could have been.

Six words. Limitless images and emotion in the human experience.

 

 

 

Message In A Bottle

I write, therefore I am. Or I am if someone reads what I have written. Each added reader of my written words triggers an exponential explosion of images, ideas, emotion, understanding…sharing. My words take form, life, energy. I become, if only for a moment. It is only for a moment because within a few lines my words and the thoughts they generate become more important, substantive, and enduring than me. I’ll take that moment, then gladly step aside and let my words drift off to be collected and examined by some fellow traveler.

To have my words drift off, never to be captured or examined, would cause the cessation of my am.

When the first pair of human eyes captured the words in Sting’s drifting message in a bottle, he lived again among his fellow travelers. He stood on his island that no longer was, and said, “I am.”