The big cop got out of his cruiser slowly and stood by the open door, one hand resting on the window frame as he surveyed the scene in front of him.
It was the scene of a drowning.
“Hey, Snyder,” called a plainclothes detective standing with spread legs near the edge of a sluggish and dirty canal. The water was almost black, gooey thick with mud and weeds, and dotted here and there with trash, including a couple of old tires and what looked like a rusty refrigerator. And the body, of course. The victim. “You still out pushin’ that black-and-white around with all the years you got on this frigging job? You’re gonna retire in a few years aren’t ya? Why don’t you take a desk job or somethin’…so you don’t have to come to these fucking toilet bowl scenes?”
Precisely, thought Snyder, but he just shrugged.
“Well,” continued the detective, “You still look good in uniform, I’ll say that for ya.” The detective moved his garish tie with one hand while he patted his own swelling gut, and grinned. He stopped grinning when he jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the body in the water. “And what are ya doin’ over here at this floater? It’s not even in your zone. Did you take a Missing Person report or something?”
“I came over to contaminate the scene, Dunphy,” replied Snyder.
“Whatever,” said the detective.
Snyder felt as if his feet were rooted to the wet grass. His chest tightened, his jaw clenched, and he looked at the body in the water. It appeared to be dressed in jeans, and a bit of white t-shirt was visible under the water. It floated bottom-side up as they do. He knew a body sinks to the bottom at first, then, as the natural decomposition begins, the body expands, and comes bobbing to the surface after about twelve hours.
Where was he twelve hours ago? Snyder asked himself. It’s been twice that long since I last saw him.
He watched for a moment as the other cops on the scene did their jobs. Yellow ‘Crime Scene’ tape was strung, photographs were taken, one detective measured the distance from the paved road to the edge of the water, and one walked slowly along the edge of the canal, searching. He saw Dunphy pull a telescoping rod from the trunk of an unmarked unit. Here we go, he thought.
He watched as the detective stood with his polished loafers at the very edge of the canal and leaned forward a bit as he lay the rod out toward the body. Using a small hook at the end of the rod, the detective snagged the back of the jeans, and pulled. Smoothly, the body slid backwards through the water. As it came against the canal edge pushing the curve of a small wave before it, the legs extended, and dirty white sneakers could be seen on the feet. The shoulders, and then the head, wafted to the surface briefly with the movement. It was a male, with medium length dark brown hair.
Snyder ran one hand through his own graying hair, which had been dark brown when Kyle was born. His fingers trembled, and he felt their skittish tattoo on his scalp. Kyle has shoes like that, he thought. His chest tightened even more, and his breathing became shallow. Kyle has jeans, Kyle has white t-shirts. Kyle hates me.
“Oh, sheeeit!” said one of the other cops as Dunphy, rubber gloves on his hands, grabbed the victims ankles and pulled hard enough for the body to slide half out of the water, up onto the dirt and wet stringy grass. The body made an obscene airy, bubbling sound, and the entire area was engulfed in that poison-sweet cloying smell of death.
Snyder was unaware of the smell. His entire being was focused on the body’s dark brown hair. The hair was not cut straight across, but tapered on the neck. Kyle’s hair was tapered too.
“You gonna wait for the Medical Examiner before you pull him all the way out, Dunphy?” asked another detective.
“We’ll be sitting here all frigging day waiting for that canoe-maker,” answered Dunphy, “I just want to get a look at the face, and the front of him.” He shrugged, “If there’s no trauma this piece-of-shit might just be an accidental drowning…”
Not the face. Not the face, thought Snyder. He had spoken to Kyle yesterday, quite by chance. He had gone into a convenience store for a soda, and Kyle was at the counter. He was a good- looking kid, almost as tall as his dad, but with the fine sculpted features of his mother. Kyle had been paying for a bag of chips and an energy drink. Snyder had grinned, and asked, “That your power lunch, Kyle?” Oh, hey, Dad, Kyle could have said. Yeah…you know me, always worrying about a balanced meal. How are you, Dad? What’s goin’ on? Everything okay at work? That new apartment working out? Mom was talking about you the other day. But he didn’t say those things. He had barely turned his head, smirked, and said tightly, “So what are you, Snyder, the nutrition police now? Gonna throw kids in the tank for not eating right?”
“How are you, Kyle?” Snyder had tried, “How’s your mom? What are you…”
“I’m just peachy, Snyder,” Kyle had responded as he pocketed his change and grabbed his chips and drink, “Mom is peachy, too. See ya.” He had brushed past, swung open the doors, and walked out. Snyder had stood there, a cold hand gripping his chest, so he didn’t see whether Kyle got into a car, or walked, or was with anyone else, or…anything. Kyle, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, was gone.
“Teenagers,” said the heavy-set woman behind the counter who had seen the exchange, “Mine are grown and out of the house now, thank God, but they were a real pain in the butt for a while.”
Kyle is sixteen, thought Snyder, And he’s not really a pain in the butt. He just hates me.
Snyder watched as Dunphy pulled the body further up onto the bank of the canal, then turned him over to lay face-up, staring at the bleak sky with slitted eyes.
Is it Kyle? Thought Snyder. Is it Kyle, is it Kyle? He leaned over the backs of the detectives, and forced his eyes onto the bloated, bluish-purple face, with its doughy mouth and hideous tongue. Kyle?
“Anybody know this guy?” asked Dunphy in a bored voice, “Recognize him from anywhere, any case we’re working? Is he a local, I can’t tell?” He looked over his shoulder, saw Snyder swaying behind him, and said, “You? Snyder? You run across this kid anywhere? Know who he is?” He stared at Snyder a moment, then added, “You okay, Snyder? You look like you’re gonna have the big one. Don’t even think about taking a dive at one of my fucking crime scenes, got it? You act like you’ve never seen floater before, and this one’s not even very ripe…”
Snyder just shook his head, put one hand up, palm out, and backed away. He made it to his patrol car on shaky legs, and drove off. Kyle hates me, he thought, But that wasn’t Kyle. He was washed in a wave of relief, then dread. It was someone’s son, though, he thought as he drove, Someone’s son. But not Kyle.
* * *
He had a favorite photograph of Kyle, taken when his son was six years old. It was framed, and sat on a small bookshelf in his new apartment. It was his favorite because it showed Kyle at a time when the boy thought his father was…good. His father was a police man, and went out at night with a gun, and fought the bad guys. His father laughed a lot with his mother, and they were always hugging and stuff. His father was very tall, and strong, and smart, and he knew things. The boy wanted to be like his father…strong, and smart, and good. The photograph showed young Kyle sitting on the hood of a police car, his dad’s hat covering most of his head, his dad’s official police flashlight in his small hands.
There had been no more children after Kyle. It had been a difficult pregnancy, and Trish said it had forever changed her to carry Kyle. But Snyder didn’t mind about more children, and apparently neither did Kyle. His parents doted on him, of course, and he received all of their attention as the only child. He had grown strong, and smart, a good student, liked by his teachers and his friends. A good son. Snyder took him hiking and fishing, and to outdoor sportsman shows. Trish took him to the library, and art fairs. They sat together at the dinner table when Snyder worked days or midnights, and when Snyder came home at the end of afternoon shift he always looked in on his son to give him a goodnight kiss. Life through those years, seemed simple to Snyder…simple because they seemed to be exactly what they were supposed to be. Snyder had a wife who seemed to like him most of the time, and he had a son who loved him, looked up to him, and thought he was…good.
Snyder remembered actually walking up to Trish and putting the back of his fingers on her forehead as she stood there in her pajamas and bare feet. He thought she might have a fever. “I need some time,” she had said, “I feel claustrophobic in our relationship, like my life is completely dominated by what you are and what you do. I need time and space to find out who I am, and Kyle needs to be away from your world so he can see that there is another world out there, a world beyond cops and robbers. Haven’t you noticed how he is turning away from you, from what you represent? Haven’t you noticed how closed he is to you, how resentful? I think if we do this now you might have a chance to save your relationship with him.” She had stepped back, looked into his eyes, and added, “Please don’t fight me on this, okay? I need this. We need this.”
He had been aware of what was going on with Kyle over the last year or so, of course. The teenage Kyle wanted to spend less and less time with his father. The teenage Kyle could barely answer his dad in a sullen, monosyllabic tone, and retreated to his room, cellphone, and the computer at every chance. The teenage Kyle seemed to look upon his dad with barely concealed disdain, and sat in cold silence when in the car with him. As it happened, Snyder had been working lots of “details” for extra pay during those years. Trish had wanted improvements to the house. She wanted a better car, and her degree at college. She wanted Kyle to have braces for his teeth. So Snyder worked long hours, and his son became a teenager who grew more distant with every conversation. Once, a few months before Trish’s announcement, Snyder had tried to engage Kyle in a conversation that might break through the wall. He had only begun when Kyle had interrupted him. “Look, Snyder,” the boy had said with balled fists. Snyder still wasn’t sure why he was no longer called ‘Dad’, but he let it go in the hope that at least Kyle called him something. “You don’t get it, okay? You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am or what I’m trying to be. My friends think you’re like part of some stupid Gestapo machine stomping around interfering with people’s lives and sticking your nose into things you’ll never comprehend. Mom is doing more and more things without you, and you act like you don’t even care. All you do is go off with your cop buddies to ‘fight crime’…and mom is going in another direction. She is your woman, but she’s not with you, Snyder. Me…I’m just playing the game here, okay? School sucks, my life sucks, everything sucks…so leave me alone. Don’t try to be my friend, or anything else.” My ‘woman’, he had thought. But why does everything suck, Kyle? Why does it suck? His son had turned his back and headed for his bedroom before Snyder could ask.
He had simply said, “Okay, Trish,” in response to his wife’s declaration. He had said “Okay, Trish,” because he quite simply had no other words. His brain, his heart, his very being, stood frozen and uncomprehending, lost, gone, struck dumb. She had, without any perceived warning, hit him with an impossible scenario: Life without Trish. Life without Kyle. He was immediately stupid, immediately outside of his own life. There were no hysterics, no scenes. They went through it with a sort of forced and delicate civility. He moved out. She would, she told him, give it some time. Then she would probably file. He had simply nodded, and said, “Okay, Trish.”
* * *
Two weeks after the body in the water, Snyder arrived on the scene that included two bodies in a car. The car, a small foreign sedan, red in color, had a comically compressed look as it rested against the side of a steel industrial dumpster. From the headlights to the rear door posts the car was folded like a cartoon accordion. Snyder could see the skid marks from the tires where the vehicle left the roadway, barreled across an empty parking lot, and impacted the dumpster head-on. Snyder parked his patrol unit off to the side of a nearby building, took a deep breath, got out, and walked toward the scene. Other cops were already there, and an ambulance. But the Emergency Medical Techs with the ambulance stood under tree across the street, smoking and joking. No need for their services, other than to transport the bodies of the deceased after the cops were done. No one paid Snyder any attention as he approached the car. Kyle didn’t have a car, he thought, certainly not a red car…unless Trish got him one without saying anything, but that couldn’t happen because Trish would be all over me to pay for it and the stupid insurance. He paused, hesitant to get too close. Friends. What about a friend of Kyle’s with a small red car. I don’t know any of Kyle’s friends, with cars or without. “Dammit,” he said.
The airbags had deployed at the time of impact, he saw. They apparently had functioned as designed, but the laws of physics…speed, weight, pounds of pressure at impact…had reduced them to flaccid bibs, impotent, useless. Snyder focused on the driver. He appeared to be young, lean, and black. He wore a hooded yellow sweatshirt, and his hands were actually behind his ears as he gripped the remains of the steering wheel. Kyle had black friends, he remembered, Kyle had black friends and had accused Snyder of being a racist because Snyder had asked him about them. Did they play ball? Were they in some of the same classes as Kyle? What did they do when they hung out together? The conversation had become vicious when Snyder mentioned off-handedly that he had arrested one of Kyle’s friends a couple of months before. The Dean of Boys had called after the kid was found with a small baggie of grass. Snyder took him to the Juvenile Intake Center, did the paperwork, and that had been it. He had only mentioned it to Kyle to…check. To see if Kyle knew if the kid had grass, to see if Kyle smoked. Kyle had gone off on him, of course. He was a racist, targeting black kids because they were black and the dumbass cops thought all black guys played basketball and smoked weed. Snyder had not said anything about basketball, nor did he try to explain to Kyle that he arrested everybody for everything, all the time. He was pretty sure he arrested more Caucasians than African Americans on a monthly basis, but didn’t even try to explain it to Kyle. Kyle had black friends.
He walked slowly over to the passenger side of the ruined car. The passenger was a white male. Shit, Kyle is a white male. He took a breath, shook his head, and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his fists. “Take it easy, Snyder,” he said quietly. He looked again. The white male sat back in the car’s seat, his head thrown back, neck stretched. The windshield was completely broken out, and shattered pieces littered the scene. They also littered what had been the face of the passenger. Snyder reconstructed the horrific split seconds in his mind…shoulders and upper torso punching through the airbag, arms flying up, face and head driving through the exploding windshield, then whipping back into the seat, shards and crumbs of glass dusted across the bloodied body. Bye-bye, just like that. The white male was dressed in a black long-sleeved t-shirt, and had brown hair. Black long sleeve t-shirt? Kyle has one. Brown hair? Yep. Snyder bent closer to study the face. Kyle?
Under the film of blood, the face seemed to have a pasty complexion. Snyder bent closer, and took a good, long look. He smelled what he took to be cologne, but did not recognize the scent. Kyle wore cologne. Snyder had made a joke about it one morning, when Kyle seemed to be awash in it. The joke did not go over well. Look at the face, Snyder, is it him? After careful study, Snyder determined that the dead man’s face at one time was composed of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Beyond that was impossible to imagine. The guy seemed to have a lot of pretty good teeth, though. Snyder pulled back, and as he did he saw the dead man’s right hand. The hand was at a right angle to the wrist, and across the knuckles were faded bluish letters: H-A-T-E. It was a jailhouse tattoo. Kyle hasn’t been to jail, and he has no tattoos. Snyder turned away, looked back, and sighed. “That’s not Kyle,” he said quietly. As he walked back to his squad car, he thought, It’s somebody’s son…but not mine.
* * *
“Kyle has a girlfriend,” said Trish with a small laugh, “Seems nice enough. Quiet.” Another laugh, “Britanny is her name. Full-bodied young woman, if you know what I mean…”
“That’s great,” said Snyder, with forced levity, “It’ll be good for him…let the games begin.” He really didn’t know what to say, or how to say it, when he spoke with Trish now. She had called him to talk about “things”. He wished they had met for coffee or something, rather than a stupid telephone call. He wanted to watch he eyes, look at her lips as she formed the words.
“I wanted to talk to you about a couple of things,” said Trish.
“Another one of Kyle’s friends was caught with a little grass. It wasn’t a cop, thank goodness, or the school, it was the kid’s dad. Imagine that evening around the ol’ dinner table.” She paused, and he imagined sitting at the dinner table with Trish and Kyle, and being a dad. “Do you think Kyle is doing it? Drugs? I mean probably grass…right?”
He didn’t know how to respond. After a pause, he tried, “Well, he’s a teenager, and he’s in that atmosphere with his…”
“Exactly,” interrupted Trish, “It’s not like he’s out there in the night like the Lone Ranger, getting high and doing crazy stuff. He’s with his friends, and it’s not uncommon now, the grass, I mean, not like he’s…”
“Have you spoken with him about it, Trish?”
“I’ve tried,” she took a deep breath, “But he acts like he doesn’t even want to be around me. I mean, like every one of our conversations is done on the fly…I’m talking, and he’s moving right on past me, either to his room, or out the door.”
“I’ll try to talk to him, Trish.” He said. When, he thought, When will I talk to Kyle?
“Okay.” Trish hesitated, then said in a soft voice, “I’m, uh, I’m seeing someone. I met him at work. He’s not a cop. He’s very laid-back, easy going…pleasant…”
All the things you’re not, Snyder, he thought. Then, even though he tried to stop it, came more. Seeing him. Seeing him. Seeing him naked? Seeing him aroused? Seeing him with his pleasant face between your thighs? Seeing him push his erect but laid-back self against your lips? Seeing him on top of you? The images came into his mind, and he held the phone away from his ear as he violently shook his head.
“I’m telling you about him so you won’t hear it from somebody, or see us somewhere, and get blindsided, okay?” she said. The tone of her voice said, It’s okay, right? You understand…right?
“Okay, Trish,” he said, and hung up the phone.
* * *
Snyder talked with Kyle, and the boys’ new friend, Britanny, the next day. He was on his way into the donut shop, they were on their way out. Kyle had stopped to hold the door for her, and Snyder saw how the girl smiled at his son. Kyle and Britanny held some kind of iced coffee drinks, with colored straws. Snyder always felt like a caricature going into a donut shop, like, of course I’m going into a donut shop. He locked eyes with his son, and for one agonizing moment he thought the boy was going to just brush past him again. But he stopped, and they stood there on the sidewalk. “You must be Kyle’s dad,” said the girl with a smile as she looked at Snyder’s name pin on his uniform shirt, “I’m Britanny.” She wore a polo shirt, sandals, and jeans with patches on the knees. She had long auburn hair, brushed out shiny and full. She did indeed have a very female body.
“It’s nice to meet you, Britanny,” said Snyder.
“Snyder,” said Kyle, his face tight, defensive.
You think I’m going to do or say something stupid now, don’t you Kyle, thought Snyder. “Kyle,” he said. They walked off arm-in-arm, and he watched them go.
* * *
Two nights after seeing Kyle at the donut shop, Snyder was dispatched to a “Suspicious Incident” call. A gas station manager found the outside bathroom door ajar, but could not get it open. He thought someone might be sleeping inside. Snyder parked his squad and got out, flashlight in hand.
“It’s the goddamned homeless jerks, and the druggies,” said the manager in way of greeting. He was a short chubby man in neat khakis. His thinning black hair was heavy with oil and brushed back over his round skull. “I chase ‘em away, does no good,” he went on with a shrug, “Always wanting a handout, always wanting to use the bathroom, always making a mess.” He walked beside Snyder as they approached the bathroom. “Don’t know how anybody could sleep in that bathroom,” he said, “Half the time there’s piss all over the floor.”
Snyder allowed the man a professional grunt of commiseration.
The door was open about one inch. It was a metal door, once painted white to match the side of the building. The wall was spotted and grimy now, so the door still matched. A spill of dirty yellow light sliced out from inside. Snyder rapped on the door with his flashlight. He pushed on the door, and said loudly, “Hey in there! Look alive! Wake up! The cops are here!” No sound came from inside. “Helloooo,” said Snyder, “Let’s go, sleepyhead…”
He listened. No sound.
“Shit,” grunted Snyder as he put his left shoulder against the door and leaned his weight against it. The door pushed against something inside that yielded and inch or so, then pushed back. Snyder leaned harder. This time the door opened enough for him to get his right eye past the frame. He could see legs, scuffed sneakers, ripped jeans. “Shit,” he said again.
“What?” asked the manager.
Again the voice inside Snyder’s head asked him, beseeched him. Is it him? Is it Kyle? He bit his lip, spread his feet apart, and leaned with all his weight against the door. It was a body on the floor, he knew. A dead body. And the weight of that body was holding the door shut. He grunted, heaved, and managed to push the door far enough for him to turn his shoulders and squeeze inside. He looked down on a young white guy with dark hair dressed in ripped jeans, scuffed sneakers, and a faded blue t-shirt. A young dark-haired white guy like Kyle, who often wore clothes that looked like that, but who rarely slept…or died…on a piss-covered gas station bathroom floor. The guy was dead, and Snyder could see exactly what had killed him. Around his left arm, just above the elbow, the guy had cinched a length of surgical tubing. The hypodermic needle remained stuck into the bluish-gray vein. The bent spoon and bottle-cap cooker lay in the piss beside him. He had shot whatever drug he had cooked down into his vein, put his head back, stretched open his mouth to show his broken and blackened teeth, and died. The guy had squeezed out one tear as he died, and the track of it left a faint trail on his left cheek. Snyder bent close, studied the face, and was hit with the combined smell of the urine on the floor and the mess in the guy’s jeans, and fought the urge to gag. That is not the face of Kyle, he told himself, It is the face of a sad and stupid death, a death of piss and tears and loose bowels and lost chances…but it is not Kyle.
The air he drew into his lungs when he forced his way out of the bathroom was sweet and clean. His head pounded, and his eyes watered. He ignored the barrage of questions coming at him from the gas station manager, and thought, It is someone’s son…but not my Kyle.
* * *
A few days after the call with the dead guy in the bathroom, Snyder was on patrol in a quiet residential neighborhood. It was a little past nine o’clock in the evening, the radio quiet, very little traffic. Snyder daydreamed as he drove, thinking about the early years with Trish, the early years with Kyle. He tried to remember the words to that old Jim Croce tune about time in a bottle. Brake lights caught his eye, and movement in the street a half block in front of him. The brake lights were on a small car, and they kept coming on, then shutting off, as if the driver was rolling forward, then stopping. As he got closer he saw the movement in the street was a person, a girl, beside the car. She seemed to be pulling away from the passenger. He sped up.
As he rolled up on the scene, Snyder could see three males in the car, a small silver Japanese sedan. All three males had ball caps on, and the passenger was half out of the side window, grabbing for a teenage girl, who was slapping at his hands. “No!” she cried out, “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!” Snyder heard only one word come from the inside of the car, “Bitch!”
He flipped on his red and blue lights, and hit one quick burst of the siren. He saw the driver look in the side mirror, the other two turn in their seats to stare at the police cruiser behind them. The girl stepped to the side of the street. Snyder expected the driver to take off, and had his thumb on the radio transmitter button clipped to his uniform shirt. But the driver stopped in the middle of the road, and waited. Snyder advised the dispatcher of his location, asked for a back-up unit, and got out of his car, flashlight in his left hand.
“Driver,” he said as he cautiously approached the left rear side of the small call, “Shut the engine off.” He kept an eye on the other two. “Good. Now get out your DL and registration.” He saw how all three occupants of the car, teenagers, now sat staring straight ahead, and he added, “Take the keys out of the ignition, and give them to me with your DL.” Again he thought they might rabbit, but after a moment’s hesitation, the driver complied. “Fine. Now, sit tight.” Snyder turned as another police cruiser pulled behind his, and he saw the driver, a fairly new cop named Munoz, walk up. “Wanna check ID’s on these guys, Munoz?” he directed, “I’m gonna talk to this young lady to see what I’ve got here.”
The young cop nodded and went to the car.
The young girl was Britanny, Kyle’s new friend. She wore black slacks, a blue polo shirt, and sandals. She had been crying.
“Do you remember me, Britanny?” asked Snyder.
“What’s happening here? Why are you out tonight? Are you with these guys?”
The girl began to cry again, softly, and shook her head. When she did not speak, but kept looking over at the guys in the car, Snyder had her follow him back to his cruiser, and let her sit in the front seat. When he got in behind the wheel, he asked again, “Britanny. What’s going on?”
The girl ran her fingers through her hair, bit her lip, then began.
Kyle had been to her house for a couple of hours after dinner, sitting with her while she did her homework, listening to music, and “just hanging around”. Just before nine her dad had come into the living room and said Kyle had to go home. It was a school night, and it was getting late. Kyle got right up, but it made her mad…her dad treating her like a little kid. Kyle had thanked her dad, she said, and shook his hand as he left. She was pretty sure her dad even liked Kyle, she said. After Kyle was gone she had yelled at her dad…about being treated like a kid…and her dad had said something about her acting like one, then turned and went into the kitchen. She had decided to “go for a walk” without telling him, and quietly left the house. She was upset, her mind was all over the place, and she just wanted to think. She had not even made it around the block when these guys in the small silver car drove past. They saw her, backed up, and drove beside her slowly while she walked and tried to ignore them. Then they began to get sort of not nice, and the one was grabbing at her. They wanted her to get into the car with them, and they were going to “make her very happy”. She had pulled away once, and then the passenger grabbed at her again and called her a bad name. Then she saw the flashing lights.
“What do you think they wanted you in the car for,Brittany?” asked Snyder quietly.
“Sex,” she answered just as quietly, “But I’m not…I mean…I, uh…”
“You are lovely,” said Snyder, “You are good, a good person, and not a person who is just going to jump into a car with three guys like that, right?”
“You are good. You are my son Kyle’s friend, and you have a dad who loves you.”
“I know,” she replied.
“Do you know these guys in the car?”
The boy in the passenger seat had an active failure-to-appear warrant for a minor drug violation. Munoz took him into custody. Snyder spent ten minutes with the other two in what might be considered an educational exercise. He made sure they understood how happy he’d be to see them again, then told them to leave. They drove off, nice and easy.
He knew what she’d want before they got there, and he nodded when she asked.
He pulled the cruiser quietly to the curb a half block from her house. She gave his right hand a quick squeeze as she got out, and he watched her all the way to her front door and inside.
* * *
“So you’re not really just a Gestapo cop, going around hassling people for no reason and busting kids for breaking bogus laws, huh, Dad?”
Snyder wasn’t sure what Kyle meant, but he saw the shy smile on his son’s face, and realized the boy was talking to him. Dad. He nodded. He had just put his gear into his assigned cruiser, out in the parking lot behind the station. He was beginning another shift, and Kyle had approached as he slid behind the wheel. Someone must have let him out the back door of the building.
“Britanny told me what you did,” said Kyle, “She said those guys were assholes…I mean, she didn’t call them that…she said she was sort of nervous, uh, scared. She said you came along just in time, and that you were real cool about dropping her off and all…”
“She’s a nice girl, Kyle,” he said. He shrugged, and added, “Maybe those clowns were just going to hassle her, or maybe it might have turned serious…don’t know. Sometime’s we are actually in the right place at the right time.”
“Yeah,” replied Kyle. He looked at his father, then looked away. He took a breath, and said, “She think’s you’re a good guy.”
Neither one knew what to say next.
After a moment, Snyder asked, “How’s your mom, Kyle?”
The boy grimaced, shook his head, and said, “I guess she’s okay, Dad. She’s got a new friend…she told me she already told you about him…”
“Yeah. She did.” Snyder didn’t know if this was the time he was supposed to go into a big speech about how Kyle should show respect to his mother’s new man, how Kyle should accept him because his mother wanted to be with him and blah, blah, blah. He left it.
“The guy’s a total dork,” said Kyle. “Not like you at all.”
I’ll take it, thought Snyder.
“I gotta go, Dad.”
“Thanks for what you did, with Britanny, I mean,” said his son. He turned away, then stopped, and added, “Maybe we should go have a burger or somethin’ once in a while, Dad. You could give me great advice which I’ll mostly ignore, and I’ll tell you about all the cool things I’m doing that you’re too old to do anymore.”
“Sounds great, son,” replied Snyder.
Sounds great, son.
* * *
One week later. One hour until end-of-shift. Bad coffee and stale donuts spread out on the hood of one of four patrol cruisers in a back alley. The dispatcher breaks into the flying bullshit with a call: A body of a man has been found near the train tracks on the west side of town. The train has stopped, but it is unknown at this time if the man was hit by the train.
“Oh, man,” said Munoz as he gulped the last of his coffee and got his car keys off his belt, “This I gotta see. Coming, Snyder?”
“Nope,” said Snyder.