A Short Story by William R Bell
You probably do not know him, and if you did, you probably wouldn’t like him. That is, unless you were a Detroit cop, and weren’t above the rank of sergeant.
Joseph Compo never quite understood why he became a cop, especially in Detroit. When he got home from the service, he was treated like crap because a bunch of hippies protested the war in Vietnam. He felt that they would have kept their dope infested yaps shut if we didn’t have the draft. In his opinion, Joseph Compo thought they were all a bunch of cowards who didn’t fit in anywhere except in their communal free sex society they had built for themselves or in Joe’s words they were a bunch of cowards who liked to cause trouble, and obviously didn’t love their country.
Joe often asked himself why he became a cop. Did he enjoy being hated? It wasn’t just the hippies that hated his service to the country; it was everyone hating him for being a cop. It was a time of protest and anti-government/police groups popped up everywhere. To top it off, when Joe hit the streets after graduating from the academy, the 1967 Detroit riots broke out, and when Joe got broken in…the hard way.
Through the years Joe came to love the job. He went through some terrifying moments and was considered by most, a fair cop. He had a lot of good times though, and enjoyed the company of his brother officers. In fact he had no civilian friends to speak of. He recalled during one of his mandatory meetings with the Chief of Police, the chief told him that he was a great street cop, but a piss poor employee. That’s about right, Joe thought.
Joe did have some non-police friends though. He was close to a lot of firemen. One in particular, called Big Jim. During the riots, among his many duties, he was assigned to protect firemen while they fought to save many basements. Fires burnt everywhere, and Joe, wanting to help, would drag hose for the fire fighters. He watched and saw many acts of bravery for his four days assigned to fire fighter protection.
While dragging hose for Big Jim, Joe fell through the floor of a building. Still hanging on to the hose, Joe thought he would soon be a goner. Big Jim had seen him drop, and with his massive strength, pulled Joe up and out of the fires below. Joe popped out of that hole like a cork out of a Champagne bottle, and was pulled to safety by Big Jim. Joe had suffered a little smoke inhalation, but other than that he was fine and he had a new best friend.
Joe had a few close calls other than falling through a floor during the riots, but he managed to get through it without getting killed, or for that matter killing anyone. He had seen enough death in Vietnam, but he would soon find out that he hadn’t seen anything yet. During his twenty years on the streets, Detroit had become the murder capital of the world.
Of course tonight, none of that mattered anymore. Joe was pulling the pin. He was retiring and moving to a quieter place. He actually had no idea where he was going, only that he was out of there. He had all his belongings in a storage building, finalized the lease on his apartment and was living in a motel. His car was all packed with what belongings he would need for travel to his destination, whereever that may be.
Roll call was boring as usual. There wasn’t much going on in the city, which suited Joe just fine. He was looking forward to an uneventful last night on the job. There were so many new guys on the midnight shift that Joe hardly knew any of them.
He scanned the room, looking for familiar faces. He quickly noticed Grape Ape. Everyone got nicknames after they’d been on the job a few years, or were assigned to a special group. Grape Ape got his for two reasons. First, was that he was a huge man. At six-seven, he towered over the rest of the shift by a minimum of four inches. Secondly, he was black. He was so black that his skin had a purple sheen to it. Because of this he was dubbed Grape Ape. The Grape Ape was a no nonsense cop with a strict sense of right, wrong, good, and bad. He was truly color blind when it came to race, and he was the backup you wanted…especially in the projects.
Joseph Compo got his nickname during a foot pursuit after a twenty mile, high speed chase. The driver had lost control on a curve after exiting I-94 into a rural area. He rolled the car a few times but came out uninjured and running like a jack rabbit across a field. Compo was the first on the scene and gave chase. He was quite the track star in college and was up to the challenge. As Compo was gaining on the suspect, he saw a splash. The idiot hadn’t seen a 20 foot irrigation ditch and was now swimming across.
As Compo saw him climbing out the other side, he approached at full speed, and using his ability in broad jumping, decided to jump the ditch. He had a peculiar style when he did the broad jump. His feet would continue running while he was in the air. As it happened, his trajectory was rather low and his spinning feet brushed the top of the water, making it look like he was running across the water, rather than jumping. His nickname became JC, but not for John Compo. He was Jesus Christ who walks on water.
Joe Continued to watch the ranks as the sergeant called roll. He saw Sapper, Tinker, High Pockets, Bozo, and Hillbilly. They had a few officers nicknamed Hillbilly, all from the south. This particular Hillbilly was from the hills of Tennessee. Joe had worked with these men a lot during his career. They all worked narcotics and pattern crime together and they all got into enough trouble to be transferred to the midnight shift. As for the rest of the shift, Joe barely knew their faces, let along their names. Joe was assigned a one man unit, for which he was grateful. He planned on doing little this shift.
In the Tenth Precinct, there were no one man cars in days past. Preceding the ’67 riots, during the riots and years after it was a hotbed of crime and danger for officers. In recent years it calmed significantly. Mainly because half of the precinct was still burnt out from the riots and never restored.
Joe’s mind wandered as the sergeant read off the latest crime reports for number Ten Precinct. A combination of Grape Ape punching him in the back and the smells that seeped into the roll call room from the jail brought Joe out of his mind wandering. The jail below them gave off an odor of vomit, body odor, and human feces. The jab in the back caused Joe to turn and see Grape Ape. “Hey Grape, what’s up buddy?”
“I could say the same. Why the body armor? You never wear that unless we are going to kick some doors.” Grape Ape said.
Joe thought for a moment and said, “Last day on the job. I thought I would be careful.”
“Yeah,” Grape said, “a lot of guys buy it on their last day. Don’t worry though, I got your back.”
“A guy couldn’t ask for better back up than you, Grape. Why don’t we head out to the brown round after roll call?”
“Sounds good JC, see you there.”
The brown round they referred was a nick name they had given the local donut shop. Brown was for coffee and round for donuts. Living up to the reputation given by the public, they headed for the donut shop directly after roll call.
As Joe headed for his vehicle, an unmarked unit, he breathed in the city smells. Diesel fuel and urine were the two major contributors with a hint of meth lab and for some reason coal dust. Joe would be glad to get somewhere the air was pure.
Two things guided Joe into his last night on the job. First, he was not going to take any crap from anyone. Second, he was going to stay alive. He didn’t want to admit that he was fearful tonight, more so than ever before. The thought that Grape had his back did lessen his fear, but did not alleviate it entirely.
After he checked out his vehicle and sat inside, he took out some silver tape, and taped over his badge number. It did not alter the look of the badge, but did hide his badge number. He did the same with his hat, which he had no intention of wearing anyway. He then took a piece of white adhesive tape and put it over his name plate atop his badge. He had written a series of random letters on it which did not spell any name, but at first glance would look appropriate. Now he was ready for his last night on the job.
Joe shot down all the way to Michigan Avenue from the station. He turned left, passing the Checker Bar B Q, another cop and lawbreaker hangout, and continued down to the donut shop. As he pulled into the parking lot, he saw that Grape, who was also a one man unit, was sitting at the counter sipping on a cup of coffee.
Joe walked in and sat next to Grape. “You gonna miss me, big boy?”
“Fuck no, white boy.” Grape responded. “Glad to get rid of your punk ass. Maybe they’ll hire a good cop to replace you. You know a real nice black kid.”
“Nope, they got too many of you black guys already. Maybe they’ll hire another female, possibly Asian.” Joe said.
“Now you’re talking JC. I want her for my partner, too. She’d probably be better backup than you anyway. Damn, I have to shit.” Grape Ape jumped up and went to the bathroom.
The waitress still hadn’t come out of the back yet, but Joe was a patient man. He heard tires skid as a car pulled into the lot fast and hit the brakes hard, skidding to a stop. Without turning around, Joe watched in the mirror as a young white kid stumbled out of the car. He had long scraggly hair and was trying to grow a beard. He was skinny as a rail and looked very disheveled. When he entered the door, he threw it open with force and stomped up to the register. He was wearing a dirty t-shirt and blue work pants with black work boots. From the looks of his hands, full of grease, he might have been a mechanic. He was also drunk.
When he reached the register he hollered. “Jenny, you fucking bitch, get the fuck out here.”
Jenny did not reply instantly, so the young man yelled again. “You fucking cunt, I said get out here.”
Getting tired of the loudmouth, Joe turned and said, “Why don’t you quiet down a little?”
“It’s none of your business how I talk to my woman. Butt out.”
“I don’t care how you talk to your woman; I want you to quit yelling. You are disturbing my coffee break.” Joe said, calmly.
“You fuckers are always on coffee breaks. Just mind your own business pig…”
He might have been going to say more, but Joe was up and back handing him across the room. The young man slammed against the door jam and slid to the floor. The back of his head was bleeding slightly, and he was struggling to get up.
“I wouldn’t get up just yet.” Joe said, “I’m still pissed and will knock your punk ass down again.”
“I’m gonna have your badge mother fucker,” the young man said as he jumped to his feet, only to be met by Joe grabbing his throat and choking him out with one hand. Normally Joe would have eased him to the floor, but because he was an asshole, he just let him drop. This time he smashed his nose on the tiled floor and cut his forehead slightly.
Joe heard something move behind him and turned to see the waitress standing by the register with a grin on her face. She looked at Joe and said, “He is really going to be mad at me for this.”
“I don’t think so, Jennifer,” Joe said, looking at her name tag, “this is between me and him. You were never mentioned. Would you pour me a cup of black coffee and then go to the back again? He doesn’t need to see you when he comes around. He should only be out for a few more minutes.”
Joe slid the young man under one of the stools and handcuffed him around the post. Joe pulled the punks wallet out and retrieved his driver’s license. He sat down and started drinking his coffee. Looking at the license, Joe noted that the kid’s name was Charles Morris.
Grape Ape was out of the bathroom now and walked back to sit next to Joe. “Who’s your friend?” he asked.
“This here is Charles Morris. He is currently taking a nap.”
Charles Morris was out longer than expected. When he started coming around, he noticed he was handcuffed to the stool. “What the fuck?” he said. He did not yell this time and wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular.
Joe looked down at him and said, “Charlie, you fucked with the wrong cop tonight. Here’s the deal. You are under arrest for suspicion of DUI and resisting arrest. When I am done with my break I am hauling your ass off to jail.”
“DUI? Crap, I can’t handle another DUI. I will lose my license for good this time. Can’t we work a deal? Come on man, help a guy out. This will fuck me big time.”
Grape Ape looked around Joe and down at Charlie. Charlie’s eyes widened and Grape gave him his most intimidating look.
Charlie said nothing.
Grape said, “Why don’t you give the little asshole a break man?”
“Because he’s white, that’s why. You Honkey fucks all stick together anyway.”
Joe looked down at the young man and said, “What do you think, Charlie?”
“I think you should let me go.” He said.
“Okay, here’s the deal. Give me your car keys and get the fuck out of here. Do not come back for your car tonight. In the morning, go the police headquarters downtown and ask the desk sergeant for your keys back.”
Joe un-cuffed Charles Morris, took his car keys and watched as he quickly left the donut shop.
“What you going to do with his keys?” Grape asked.
“Pitch them out my window later tonight.” Joe answered.
Arlan’s Parking Lot
After coffee, Joe began his tour by checking a few doors and keeping to the alleyways. He called the dispatcher earlier and asked to be left alone on his last night of duty. The dispatcher reluctantly agreed to leave him alone.
Joe decided that his last night, no matter what happened, he was not going to get into trouble. He took out a piece of white surgical tape and printed Doe on it. He placed it over his name tag. He then took a piece of black electrical tape and placed it over his badge number. He was in an unmarked car so he didn’t have to worry about his car number. Not that he was planning anything outlandish, but he wasn’t taking any shit or getting himself killed tonight.
For the first few hours, the midnight shift was slow. There was a high speed chase that came though his beat, but he stayed out of it. Joe backed up a couple of marked cars with traffic stops, but otherwise stayed out of the mix in the city. For some reason and it was killing him, Joe was scared. All he could think about were all the stories of officer’s deaths on their last night of duty. Many movies depicted the same thing and it was working on his psyche.
Since the dispatcher had promised no calls tonight, Joe decided to go for a ride. He drove south to Michigan Avenue and headed west. He had the driver’s window down and listened to the sound of the City. Speeding cars, diesel trucks, horns honking, people screaming, brakes squealing, and an occasional gunshot rounded out the sounds of the city. There was an odor of diesel fuel and urine that was always there. Joe remembered when he was a child, he had identified the smells as busses and popcorn. For some reason Joe thought the smell of urine was popcorn.
Joe didn’t realize it but he had driven several miles and was just about to enter Dearborn City limits. “No big deal,” Joe thought to himself. He made a quick left and headed to Arlan’s Department Store. It was just inside Dearborn and he used to come here a lot to shoot rats. The loading docks were infested with literally thousands of rats. Both Dearborn and Detroit officers would often come here to shoot rats until the neighbors called in shots fired. They would all quit and one car would report that everything was okay, and the shooting was done for the night.
Joe pulled into the parking lot and headed for the loading docks. As he passed the tunnels, heading for the docks he saw a marked Dearborn car with two occupants sitting quietly near the loading docks.
Joe tapped his siren to let them know that he was an officer. He pulled alongside the car on the passenger side and rolled down his window. The passenger rolled down his widow and looked toward Joe.
Joe spoke first, saying, “Are we shooting tonight?”
“Yep,” the passenger said, “we were just about to start. Do you want to join in?”
Joe said, “That’s why I’m here.”
The passenger strained his eyes, looking Joe over carefully. “I know you. You are Joe Compo. We met last year, down on Dix Avenue. You chased a stolen into Dearborn and we backed you up.”
Joe laughed, “Yeah, I was getting my ass kicked when you rolled up. That was one big motherfucker, wasn’t it? You are the infamous Billy Bell.”
“The one and only,” Billy said.
“How did it go with our internal affairs guys? I never heard the outcome.”
“They grilled me about the fact that asshole ended up in intensive care for a few months, but when I told them how he had a death grip on my balls and I hit him until he let go, they seemed satisfied. Oh, this is my partner, Doug Pond.”
Joe started laughing. “God they put you two together. They must be nuts. We know all about Corporal Pond, the snake charmer. You guys started the riot here last summer, with that fucking snake in the purse trick.”
All three of them laughed as they recounted the story, and they continued with other stories until Doug said, “What are you killing rats with these days?”
With a wide, toothy grin, Joe reached into his briefcase and pulled out a .22 cal Browning Buckmark Camper. The weapon was a .22LR with threaded barrel. Attached to the barrel was a Mk14 suppressor. “You guys are going to love this,” Joe said, continuing to grin like a kid in a candy shop.
“I’m impressed,” Billy said, “how quiet is it?”
“It is as quiet as a pellet gun. There won’t be any shots fired calls. Why don’t we all use this? We can shoot longer if we do.”
It was agreed and the two police cars moved slowly to the last bay doors in a row of 17. There was a long ramp lowering into the dock where several dumpsters were set. They were all filled with trash of all kinds and a haven for the local rat population.
There was an art form to rat shooting. First you position the patrol cars at the top of the ramp, idling quietly. The shooter or shooters would exit the car and get ready for targets to appear. The engines to the cars would be revved loudly and after a few seconds, when the rats would scurry into the darkness, headlights and spot lights would be turned on, exposing the little critters. There would be only a few seconds of target acquisition as the rats would scamper quickly to the dark. The lights would be turned off and cars quieted to an idle again for usually not more than five to ten minutes. The whole scenario would be repeated again. Rats are very prolific, but not too smart. They loved their garbage and would immediately return to the dumpsters when it got dark and quiet.
Taking turns with the suppressed .22, the three officers shot off 200 rounds of .22 long rifle ammo and a total of 20 rats were sent to rat heaven.
One Last Traffic Stop
For the first time since the start of shift, Joe hadn’t been plagued with the overwhelming thoughts of his own demise, but now he was back on patrol and these terrifying thoughts were creeping into his mind.
Joe was traveling in the curb lane of Michigan Avenue at a pace slower than the posted speed limit. He had his curbside spot light shining on the doors of the closed businesses, but he wasn’t even looking at the doors and could have easily missed a break in. His mind was elsewhere, reliving all the movies, TV programs and actual events that included cops being killed on their last night of duty. He just couldn’t shake it and he was angry at himself.
Joe thought that the bars must be letting out, as the traffic increased significantly. He decided to get off the main drag and move to the side streets to avoid the drunks. Before he could negotiate a turn off Michigan Avenue, an old ‘69, red Camaro crossed the double yellow ten cars behind Joe and continued until he passed several cars. Joe did not want to get involved with a drunk, but this guy, if drunk, was probably going to get into an accident. I’m still a cop, Joe thought as he turned on his hidden blues and started after the red Camaro.
Right off Joe thought he might be in for a chase, but the Camaro pulled to the curb as soon as he noticed the blue lights. Joe parked his car slightly left of the Camaro to block traffic while he was at the driver’s door of the Camaro. Joe, as a precaution, unsnapped his holster as he slowly approached the vehicle. He had positioned his spot light at the rear view mirror of the Camaro and shined his hand held flashlight at the side view mirror. He could see no one but the driver in the car and quickly moved his flashlight into the eyes of the driver. He could smell no alcohol and the driver’s eyes seemed fine. “License, registration, and proof of insurance please.” Joe snapped.
The driver already had his information in his hand and said, “I am so sorry, Officer. I’ll admit that I am a lousy driver when I am in a hurry.”
Joe was scanning his information and eyeing the driver at the same time. “Why are you in such a hurry?” he asked.
“I don’t have a good reason; I just wanted to get home. Can’t you please give me a break Officer Doe?”
Joe smiled, knowing his fake name was working. “Is there any specific reason I should give you a break?” Joe politely asked.
“Just that I have maxed out on my points and will probably lose my license if I get another ticket. Like I said I am a bad driver and would rather have you punch me in the mouth than give me a ticket that will cause me to lose my license.”
Without hesitation, Joe switched his flashlight and the driver’s information to his right hand and shot a devastating left hook into the driver’s mouth and nose. He could feel the teeth loosening and the cartilage breaking in his nose. The driver’s head snapped back and blood shot out of his nose and dripped from a large cut on his lip. Joe tossed the driver’s information in his lap and said, “Have a nice day.”
It was hard to understand, but Joe thought he heard the man thank him as he tended to his wounds.
Joe felt good again, if only for a few minutes. He laughed out loud and couldn’t wait until he relayed this story to his brother officers. He quickly exited Michigan Avenue and headed for the side streets to avoid any further contact with the public for a while.
Joe was working toward his goal of “Taking no shit, and not getting dead.”
With shooting rats and punching a guy in the mouth, Joe figured he should have relieved all the stress that was building within him. He tried breathing exercises as he drove, and even tried some isometric exercises. Nothing worked. He was keyed up and needed to do something to relieve the tension.
Rigorous exercise and more shooting came to mind. The exercise would tire him out and the focus he needed to shoot might help him quiet the heebie-jeebies. He knew what to do, and wheeled his patrol car around and back onto Michigan Avenue.
He headed back to Dearborn. When he got to Michigan and Miller, within the Dearborn limits, he turned north and headed for the Ford Rouge Plant. Before he hit Rotunda, he dropped off onto Southern and pulled into a junkyard. He was quite familiar with this place as he had once observed two Dearborn cops ripping doors off their hinges and shooting at targets of no monetary value. He watched these two maniacs closely, paying particular attention to the method they used. He had known that these two were relieving stress and working up a sweat doing it.
Running the door ripping tutorial through his mind, he circled through the heaps that were not within the fence, making them next in line for the crusher, and therefore not of any value.
It didn’t take Joe long to find an old ‘49 Plymouth coupe that still had one of its two doors. He backed his unit away from it and scanned the area. He could see no one, so he exited the car and walked over to the Plymouth.
His mind went back to the day he watched the Dearborn coppers do their thing. He grabbed the door and pulled it open all the way, and then threw all of his weight into it, pushing it beyond its intended distance. He continued until he over extended the door and bent the outer shell of the door itself. Then he went back and forth with the door, while jerking it up and down.
Joe heard a snap and looked to check the hinges. One of the hinges did its work, and snapped partially off. Joe rocked the door up and down violently until the bottom hinge snapped completely off. Joe was perspiring profusely and stopped only momentarily to bend down and grab the bottom of the door, near the hinges. He ripped the door upward viciously and screamed aloud as he thrust upward with all the force he could muster up. The upper door hinge snapped and the door flew up in the air. Joe had to jump back to avoid the door as it crashed to the ground where he had been standing. At the same moment, Joe was lit up with spot lights. Startled, he started to reach for his gun, but the sound of a siren being tapped as identification, he turned toward the lights.
The lights were turned off and he saw a Dearborn marked patrol unit idling a short way from him. The loud speaker sounded. “Whatcha’ doin’ Joe?”
Busted by Doug and Billy, Joe thought, recognizing the southern drawl of Doug Pond.
The Call – Should I Go?
Joe moved his unit deftly and slowly though the strictly east-west, north-south side streets of western Detroit. He was more that slightly familiar with the neighborhood, having patrolled it for his last five years on the job. The Sixth Precinct was his stomping ground and was one of the safest since the riots of ’67 had gutted it. He pushed two window controls and rolled down both front seat windows as he slowly cruised the side streets. There was no traffic, probably because most normal people were sound asleep.
In the spacious safety of the residential area, Joe began to get a stomach-churning feeling. He felt his days were numbered, and his number was at hand. He tried to make sense of this terror within him, and couldn’t. Yes, he was afraid of bees, but he feared no man, and never before had he feared death. There were ways of dying he probably feared, such as torture or even drowning, but death itself never bothered him because he knew how to protect himself.
“What the fuck is wrong with me?” Joe barked out loud. “Fuck it; I’m going back out on the streets, and damn the motherfucker who tries to off me.”
Joe turned right on Kilbourne Avenue and was crossing Dickerson, about a block from Coplin Avenue. He decided to turn his car around and head out to Gratiot and was going to drive into the Tenth Precinct where all the action was. “Fuck it, if I go out, it is going to be in a fucking blaze of glory.” Joe had his back up and was heading into the shit, until his radio barked. “Any car in the area, at 15922 Coplin, a 911 hang up, respond to unknown trouble.”
Joe’s ass slammed shut as the fear raced through him. He was less than a block from Coplin. He wanted to turn off. No one would know. “Fuck,” he said aloud. He thought to himself as he turned onto Coplin and headed north toward 15922, I don’t want to be known as a coward on my last night of duty.
Joe drove to within three houses of the address. He picked up his Kel light and stepped out of the car. He made sure it was locked so no brother officer would steal it for a joke, and walked toward the houses. He kept to the bushes and house fronts as he headed for the address. He keyed his radio and said, “Car 610 on Coplin. Will advise.”
Joe continued until he could see the address he wanted. It was a story and a half bungalow. All the lights were on outside and on the lower level. The front door was standing open, with only a screen door closed. He heard no noise as he approached. There were two cars in the driveway.
As a way to waste time and gather more intelligence, Joe ran the plates on both cars for registrations. They came back to the same name, but different addresses. Shit, family trouble and the asshole is still here, Joe thought.
A full five minutes that seemed like an hour had passed and no backup had arrived, or for that matter, said they were coming. Joe had to make a decision, so he crept up on the porch and listened at the screen door.
He could hear moaning off to the left of the front door. Joe peeked inside the home. The front door opened into a living room. There was an arch to the left that appeared to be a dining area. Beyond that, where Joe surmised the kitchen was, was where the moaning was coming from.
I am a cop and it’s time to shit or get off the pot. Joe opened the screen door as quietly as he could and stepped inside the living room. He unsnapped his holster and had his right hand on the butt of his Glock and his flashlight in his left as he scanned the room. Noting no threat, he did a quick peek around the archway into what was the dining room. Still nothing to note, but the moaning continued in the next room.
Inch by inch, Joe made his way to the entry to the kitchen. Once again he used the quick peek, in and out. He spotted only two people on the floor, and the moaning continued. He now stepped into the door way. There was a teenage girl in a night gown, holding her mother in her arms. The mother was quiet and the teenager was moaning. The girl did not notice Joe, even as he moved closer.
Joe could see that the woman had two gunshot wounds. One was to the face, and the other high in the chest. He could see by her chest movements that she was breathing. He reached down and gently touched the teenager. The girl looked up at him but said nothing.
“Honey, can you tell me what happened here?”
“My mother’s been shot.”
“Who did it?”
“My father.” She said, “He came into our house and shot my mother.”
“I will get help for your mother, can you tell me where your father is?”
“He is upstairs.”
“What’s he doing upstairs?”
Looking up and deep into Joe’s eyes, she said, “He’s waiting for you.”
The Fear Returns
Joe radioed for an ambulance and reported the gunshot wounds and that the suspect was still in the house, but he did it automatically. It was like an out of body experience. His training and experience came to the surface, allowing him to go through the process, but he was shaking inside like a wet dog in a snow storm.
Joe was shaken back to reality when the girl said, “Is my mother going to die?”
“I don’t know, but she is still alive and there is a chance she will make it. The ambulance should be here shortly.”
Joe smiled kindly at her and patted her head softly. Then he asked, “What is your father’s name?”
“John,” she said.
“Did he say anything to you?”
“No, I heard gun shots and got up to see what was going on. I saw my mother running from her bedroom and down stairs. I followed her down the stairs. She yelled at me to leave because my father was going to kill us. She collapsed in the kitchen and I stayed with her.”
“You are a very brave young lady, and your loyalty to your mother is to be commended. No one is going to hurt you anymore.”
Joe heard the front screen door being ripped open and two young rookie officers came charging in. Joe grabbed one of them and said. “Stay with her until the ambulance gets here,” pointing to the gunshot victim. He directed his attention to the second officer and ordered him to go outside and cover the rear of the house. There was no way he was going to try and clear the upstairs with rookie officers.
He heard the sounds of sirens off in the distance. He got on his radio and asked the dispatcher to tell responding units not to use their sirens. He didn’t want to agitate John any more than necessary. Joe walked over to the bottom of the stairs that led to the upper level of the home. He concealed himself around the corner and yelled, “John, this is Officer Joe Compo. No one wants to hurt you. Would you please come down here so we can work this out without anyone else getting hurt?”
There was no answer, just an eerie quiet. Joe knew that he needed to end this as quickly as possible. He didn’t want to put the EMT’s or other responders in any more danger. He also didn’t want a lengthy standoff, which would occur if the wrong boss showed up. He peeked around the corner, looked up the stairs and started to move, when a hand grasped his shoulder. Joe jumped a little and looked around to see Grape Ape.
“Grape, I’m glad you’re here. I really didn’t want to do this myself.”
“You know I’d never let my favorite white boy down.” Grape said, laughing and inching to the edge of the stairway.
Using a technique that the FBI had suggested, Joe started up the stairs backward with Grape following forward and to his left. The feds thought this way all directions could be covered. Joe always thought it was stupid, but when training kicks in, even if it’s stupid, you do what you learned.
As they ascended the stairs slowly, both officers kept vigil. They looked for anything out of the ordinary. They also listened to the deafness in the house. Only the creaking of the stairs could be heard. Joe decided to try and make contact with John again. “John, this is Officer Compo. We do not want to hurt you, and frankly we don’t want to get hurt. At least talk to me, please?”
They heard nothing in return. A few more steps and Joe repeated his request. “John, please talk to us…”
Out of the corner of Joe’s eye he saw rapid movement. He wheeled, and snapped off a shot with his .357 Smith & Wesson model 66, stainless steel revolver. Grape Ape jerked violently to see where Joe had shot, and rammed into Joe. The two of them came crashing down the stairs, ass over elbows, landing in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.
“Nice one, Joe.” Grape said. “Who did you shoot?”
“Don’t have a clue. I guess we had better get back up there and see.”
“Fuck you, Joe,” Grape said. I am not going up the stairs again if we have to do the stupid fucking FBI bullshit.”
Joe smiled and said, “Agreed. Let’s just head up there, I’ll go first. You can cover my ass.”
“Don’t I always?”
Up We Go Again
Joe started up the stairs again, this time leading the way and staying as low as he could, without falling on his face. The ascent was much quicker and he knew he had his backup right behind him. As his head peered over the landing, he looked in the direction of his shot. He could see blood splatter on the walls with reddish blond hair bits and pieces of bone embedded in the wall. What the fuck? He thought, I hope that was the bad guy. Joe had forgotten to ask if anyone else was in the house. His heart sunk and he began to imagine all sorts of scenarios, none of which would keep him out of prison.
Joe continued to look and then let out a sigh of relief. He turned back and looked at Grape, who was watching with great anticipation. “Cat.” Joe said, and Grape tried to stifle a laugh.
Regaining his composure, Joe said aloud, “John, That was a mistake and I am sorry. Please come out and talk with us. I promise nothing will happen to you. Your wife is going to live and your daughter is just fine. Come on man, give us a break and come out.”
“That mother fucker ain’t coming out, white boy. We gonna have to go pull him out. Are you ready for this shit?” Grape said.
“Let’s do it, my black brother. Let’s get this shit over with so I can get the fuck out of Detroit.”
“Aw man, you’re going to leave me, aren’t you?”
Joe smiled and looked deep into his friends eyes, “Faster than you can say chitlins mother fucker.”
By this time they stood on the landing. There were two bedrooms and a bathroom that could be seen. It took them about three seconds to clear the bathroom and they headed for the 1st bedroom. The door was open partially and the lights were out. They approached and stood on either side of the door. They made hand signals that indicated Joe would go to the left and Grape to the right. It seemed like a good idea to both of them. They turned on their flashlights and pushed their revolvers out in front of them. They busted into the room on Grape’s signal.
The room was empty. Joe snapped on the light switch and they cleared the closet. “One more to go, Grape.”
“Yup,” Grape said, and the two of them reentered the landing area and headed for the last bedroom. This door was closed. They both stood on either side of it. They made signals for the same entry. Joe reached for the door and turned the handle slowly. LOCKED!
This meant only one thing. John was in there, and as the teenager had said, he was waiting for Joe. FUCK, Joe thought as he looked to Grape for an idea. Grape motioned for them to move back away from the door. The eased back into the landing area by the stairs and Grape whispered to Joe.
“Okay, here’s what we do. This is your last day, so you kick the door and step back. I will blow by you and make the entry. You can back me up then.”
“No way, shithead,” Joe snapped, “Here’s what we do. Yes, I will kick the door. We go in together. You go high right and I will go low left. We see him and we blow his shit away.”
“Like the cat?” Grape smiled.
“Fuck you, Grape. Let’s get this shit done.”
Joe was charged up now. He turned and bolted for the door. Grape was right on his tail as he smashed his whole body into the door, ripping it from the door frame and crashing to the floor. Unfortunately, both he and Grape smashed into each other. Grape fell off to the right, and Joe, being much smaller than Grape, flew to the left over six feet and onto the bed. He was also on top of John, who laid their dead, with a bullet hole in his right temple.
Grape was up and turning on the lights, and looking down at Joe. Joe just laid on top of the dead man. Grape could hear Joe say, “Thank you, John.”