Another Day in Paradise, Steamy Night

Inspired by actual events.

Calm Before The Storm

To say that it was humid in Paradise, GA would be an injustice to adjectives, for humidity, in this southern coastal Georgia city, was not just a barometric description or interpretation of the weather, it was a living, breathing wraith that seemed to have the ability to steal mortal souls. It was a heavy burden wrapped around one’s neck like a fateful albatross waiting to pull you down into the miry marsh that marked the seaside borders of this bustling burg. In the summer months, the humidity made you work for each labored breath; it made you appreciate a cool breeze coming off the glades and rivers or a glass of sweet tea a little more than normal. It was just such a night saturated with this oppressive humidity that Daniel Davids was working the graveyard shift for the local police department.

Daniel was not a fresh-out-of-the-academy rookie, but he was still new enough to the law enforcement ranks to pull permanent night shift, while the senior guys had the joy of knowing what the sun looked like and what a normal life could be. And even though Paradise kept the night shift on their toes with various calls, crimes, and the cocaine corridor running like a syringe through the carotid artery of the city, there were still precious few slow nights that meandered on like the black rivers in the area until that glowing stranger began to warm the horizon signaling the shift was almost done and that you would be going home in one piece.

Daniel was right in the middle of one of these nights, snugged deep into one of the several “hidey holes” he had learned from his field training officer when he was a rookie. He was backed a mile down a small dirt access road. The path ran parallel to a water retainage canal that the storm runoff fed from several strip malls from the main highway. Daniel was starting to make a name for himself as a rising star within the department due to several narcotic related traffic stops he had lucked into and his willingness to do the tasks the other officers wanted to shrug off. He was smart and a go getter with ample ambition and a taste for advancement. He had seen just enough of the thin blue line to know that he would never be anything but a cop and now he was trying to figure the best path for his career. He knew that there was a position coming open in the undercover narcotics unit and with his young age he felt it would be a good time to get this experience before he had a wife and family to consider. He also knew that with the rough crowd he ran with in his youth that he could blend in without a hitch. All these possible paths and the blurring machinations of his mind were interrupted by a static explosion erupting from his patrol car radio! Daniel jumped so hard from the assault on the peace and quiet of this steamy night that he hit the top of his head on the roof of his patrol car.

The Call Comes In

“Radio to 745” the radio blared with the strained voice of a dispatcher that Daniel recognized as the communications supervisor at the 911 call center. As Daniel reached for the radio mic his stomach began to sink and his mouth instantly became dry, he had never heard anything but calm monotone from this dispatcher and from her terse tone he knew this was not going to be a routine call.

“745 go ahead radio”, Daniel forced out of his ever constricting throat.

“We’ve got a 10-10 at the Best Western parking lot, a…a….a 10-10 with weapons involving three white males and a white female… of the white males has been stabbed ….we have EMS en route and they are staging two blocks up until the scene is secure.”

All Daniel could think is, “Who has a knife fight in a motel parking lot on a Wednesday night in Paradise?” He could feel the blood begin to pound in his ears as the adrenaline caused from a hot call began to course through his veins. He grabbed the radio and squeaked “745 to Radio, I’m en route!” Daniel punched all the buttons on is console and his lightbar and headlights cut through the night like a scalpel as he threw his car in gear and hit the accelerator like he was stomping out a fire.

Even with the hours and hours of training he had endured about stress related symptoms and after reading all the books that address the effects of high stress on performance, Daniel failed to notice he was rocketing towards the highest level of stress where only your midbrain functions and fine motor skills go out the window. He was racing with disaster and didn’t see it. He didn’t realize he was experiencing the most acute of tunnel vision like he was a horse with blinders barreling towards the danger. He hadn’t noticed his panicked breaths and white knuckles gripping the steering so hard it was causing the vinyl to squeak. The next thing he heard was the gravel toned bark of his Sergeant, “Pappy” on the car to car channel only he and the other officers could hear.

“Dannyboy, you take three deeps breaths and get your head in the game most ricky tick!”, Pappy’s voice cut right to the center of Daniel’s brain.

Pappy had mentored scores of green kids and he could hear the paralyzing stress welling up in Daniel’s voice. Daniel was scared of very few things, but at the top of that list was Pappy’s wrath.

“Dannyboy, you better sound off like you got a pair that you acknowledge or you’ll stand tall before me at shift inspection!”

Daniel could hear the anger creeping into his supervisor’s voice. Instantly, Daniel began slowing his breathing, loosening his grip, and coming back from a panicked animal to a composed officer. Daniel reached for the car to car mic and calmly responded, ”Pappy, I got my mind right”.

“That’s my boy”, Barreled Pappy with a hint of amusement sneaking through his gruff growl, “You do not approach without back-up. That’s an order!”

Daniel’s mind began to race how was he going to muster the strength to stop short and wait for the cavalry? What if people were bleeding out? What if innocent bystanders were caught up in the fray? He was hitting the side streets and avoiding traffic lights and busy intersections just by sheer autopilot. As he neared the scene, Daniel instinctively turned off his siren and killed his bluelights. There was no need to telegraph his arrival just in case this was a fake call to set up an officer ambush.

Daniel radioed to dispatch, “745 to radio, I’m nearing the Best Western and staging two blocks out unitl additional units arrive.” It literally hurt his heart to have to utter those words and he had to force every muscle in his body to slow the cruiser down and wait for other units. Every alpha male gene in his body was screaming to get to the call but he knew safety had to remain the priority so that he did not end up a liability by being injured rather than an asset charging the situation. Just then, Daniel heard John Fuller radio that he was approaching from about three blocks east of the hotel. Daniel pulled back out and continued to the fight. Daniel was approaching from the west side of the hotel and the way the parking lot was set up, the two officers should arrive at the scene on either side of the vast, well light parking lot of the hotel.

Into the Fray

As Daniel raced into the west end of the parking lot, he saw the bouncing headlights of his partner coming into the other entrance. Pinned between the glare of the sets of headlights, was a skinny white female wearing a jean jacket and a black leather mini-skirt who was standing over a guy that Daniel did not recognize who was in the process of throwing up all over the parking lot on the side closest to John Fuller. Daniel misjudged his speed and as he tried to stop and put his cruiser in park, he heard the shameful sound of his transmission trying to engage into park with loud clicking noises. Daniel was exiting the car as it jerked to a stop and he was swearing at himself hoping that Pappy was still not near enough to hear his car transmission rat him out for committing a rookie sin. Every cop knows that if you take care of your gear, it will take care of you when you need it most.

The Best Western was built in the old 80’s style of a two story rectangle with rooms facing outside on both of the long sides and with the lobby at the front on the building with an overhang to protect motorists who were checking in. Daniel looked towards the lobby and he saw a dirty blond man lying face down in a dirty puddle of water left over from the nightly flash rains during this time of year. Walking away from the prone man and towards Daniel was a person who at first was hidden by the shadows. Daniel could tell he was slumped over slightly and that his right arm was across his midsection which was shirtless. As the figure lumbered into the light, Daniel began to make out his features and recognize him as a small time wanna-be-thug and part time snitch, Joey Ramos. Ramos was a greasy looking, acne infested walking infestation of filth and degradation. Ramos was a full blown junkie that would hit anything from ganja to heroin and everything in between. He was a teenage carbon copy of “Ratso Rizzo” from the movie “Midnight Cowboy”. He had yellowing, decayed front teeth that protruded so much that the other officers and thugs on the street called him “The Rat King” behind his back. His pants and hair was so oily that shined and glistened in the harsh parking lot street lights. Ramos’ eyes where huge and bulging and his skin looked extremely stretched and bone white, obviously in an extreme state of shock. Ramos immediately recognized Daniel.

“Mr. Officer Davids, what is this, what is this?”, he squealed as he pointed to his stomach with his left hand.

As Daniel looked down, his mind was unable to register what his eyes were seeing. Daniel glared at Ramos and became more and more confused. He was looking at where Ramos was pointing and he saw a grey, shiny sausage stuck to Ramos’ belly. Daniel kept thinking over and over, “Why does he have an Italian sausage stuck to his stomach?” His mind would not let him realize the twisted realization that it was Ramos’ intestines protruding from a severe laceration. Slowly Daniel’s mind began to rectify the dilemma his eyes were seeing and as it did his stomach lurched into his throat. Daniel had to wrestle his growing urge to puke and run at the same time. “Where is all the blood?”, Daniel’s sensibilities screamed. The cut was so precise so perfect and Ramos was in such a state of full blown shock that there was almost no blood just a few drops on Ramos’ greasy tattered pants. Daniel thought that if he survived the wound he most surely would die from infection from the filth that followed Ramos like a lonely dog. The mind does amazing summations of situations when put in a flight-or-fight situation and his crazy musings were gaining speed.

Daniel came crashing back to reality and he began to scream for Ramos to lie down so he could assess the situation. Ramos just kept shuffling screaming, “What is this? What is this?” towards Daniel with that crazed gaze cemented into his face. Daniel kept trying to explain that he thought it was Ramos’ intestines, but Ramos was not processing the information through the fog of the shock. Daniel rushed him and forced him down and onto his back. During the scuffle, Ramos began to lose consciousness and as he finally succumbed to unconsciousness, his wound opened up like Niagara gushing a warm, crimson flow onto Daniels uniform and onto the littered parking lot. Daniel had not time to worry about anything but stopping the unending red tide pooling around his feet. Daniel took both of his hands and shoved as hard as he could on the exposed intestine. Daniel could hear a slick, unsettling “popping” noise as the intestine disappeared beneath the surface of the skin.

Daniel maintained pressure and screamed for Fuller to radio dispatch that it was clear for the medics to roll in, as they had staged two blocks out until the area could be secured. Daniel felt relief slowly easing the tension in his neck and shoulders as he heard the sirens from the ambulance start their eerie wail. Tires could be heard screeching from every direction, the Calvary had arrived. It seemed as if the whole shift had arrived and although it seemed an eternity since Daniel had arrived on scene, barely four minutes had ticked by.

Daniel watched as Pappy’s cruiser lurched to a halt and the hulk of a man began to unfold himself from beneath the steering wheel of the Dodge Charger. The man seemed to keep growing as he emerged from the door. Pappy began directing officers and was ordering that Criminal Investigations Division be notified to be en route. He looked towards Daniel and his inquisitive stare became a glare of such pure fury that it burned Daniel’s eyes to look at him and he had to look down at the still passed out Ramos. Pappy lunged towards Daniel with his nostrils flared and his eyes glowing red.

“Why in the name of all that is holy are you touching that piece of garbage with bare hands?” bellowed Pappy. “You want to go home and give your mom and sister Hep C because of your stupidity, this rat slime is more important that your family? You’re going to put in 20 years and then find out you got AIDS because you’re a stupid kid hero trying to save a nobody junkie who would cut you for a dime bag! We give you gloves for a reason moron.”

Pappy was so furious his words were being spit out like venom and Daniel thought for a second that he was going to backhand him off of Ramos. Pappy was screaming so close to Daniel’s face that the heat of his breath was burning his eyes. Pappy was shaking with anger. He slowly turned and strode off like a thunderstorm of rage. Daniel’s mind was reeling. He knew the importance of glove because of blood borne pathogen, heck it was a required yearly class for the whole department. He just reacted to the situation before rational thought had a chance to catch up. He was starting to become physically ill as he watched his hands covered in the coagulating pool of blood around the wound. The blood felt so poisonous he thought he could feel it burning his skin and all he wanted was to be away from this blood and to bathe in hand sanitizer. As if reading his mind, a paramedic approached and pushed Daniel’s hands away as he took over to apply pressure and prep Ramos for transport.

The Aftermath

Daniel sprinted for his patrol car and vomited behind it with such violent retched that something tore in his throat. It wasn’t because of the blood or the smell, it was the realization that he had made a mistake that could possibly follow him the rest of his life. He grabbed the bottle of sanitizer and emptied all the contents on his hands, uniform, and boots. He doubted if he would ever feel truly clean again. As EMS was loading Ramos into the back of the ambulance, he came to and reached in the direction of Daniel. Daniel approached and could see the tears rolling down Ramos’ face and see the realization of how close he came to death etched into the terrified eyes of the junkie.

“Mr. Officer Davids, no one else who have done that for me.”, Muttered Ramos. “I know I aint nuthin’ but a burnt out crack head junkie, but you saved me anyway. Thanks Mr. Officer.”

Once the detectives arrived, they began to sort out the preamble to the stabbing. Apparently the girl and the guy she was standing over as he puked, were only kids. The girl was only 14 and the guy, her boyfriend, was 15. They had snuck out to meet each other and were heading to the hotel to see if they could con the night shift clerk out of a room. Ramos and his running buddy, Steve Polk, approached the couple to try to scare them out of some money for some crack. Steve Polk was the face down unconscious person Daniel saw in the muddy puddle when he first approached the scene. As Ramos approached the couple with his tough guy bravado routine, Steve grabbed the girl. They underestimated how soft the 15 year old kid would be. He was raised in state homes and foster families and had learned the art of taking and giving a beating. He struck Polk right on the chin with a haymaker and laid him out cold in the puddle. Ramos rushed him and the kid flicked out the box cutter he had in his jacket sleeve and laid Ramos’ stomach open like he was gutting a boar hog. They kid and his girl tried to run away, but that is when Daniel and Fuller showed up. The scene was cleaned up, the reports were filed and the detectives decided to cut the kid and his girl loose based on he was acting in self-defense and the fact that he was just a juvenile.

Later at the Waffle House the entire shift had gathered for their nightly 3am feeding ritual. They were all laughing and taunting Daniel about being a hero when Pappy strolled through the front door.

“Dannyboy, outside most ricky tick!” Pappy hissed to the general direction of Daniel, not even giving him the courtesy of eye contact.

Daniel scrambled and fumbled out of the corner both and into the parking lot to faith the judgment and righteous sentence of his mentor. Pappy had walked over to his own patrol car and was casually leaning on the front push bumper as he was lighting one of the Marlboro Reds he was so fond of. David approached trying to interpret the large man’s body language but having no such luck. Pappy just sat there for several moments obviously enjoying his vice.

“Dannyboy, I know that I was screaming and hollering like a madman back on that scene.” Pappy began. “I just want you to know that although I was furious at the moment, I know why you did what you did.” Pappy paused to draw in on his cigarette. “You are like me and all of our brothers; you are a sheepdog who lives to protect the sheep, even the filthy, unpleasant ones. We are rough men at the ready and put in the same place I would have probably done the same thing. I’m proud of your son”, Pappy said as he dropped his gaze. Showing appreciation and emotion was not in his toolbox. “But I swear if you put your bare hands in the blood of a cesspool junkie like that again, I’m going to beat you like a red headed step son! You copy?”, Pappy voice cutting right to the soul of Daniel.

“I got my mind right, Pappy. I got my mind right”, Daniel answered pride swelling in his heart that he and Pappy were brothers-in-arms and that Pappy admitted that he would have done the same thing. Daniel and Pappy reflected on the night in silence as Pappy finished his cigarette and then they sauntered back into the restaurant and tried to outdo each other on double ham and cheese omelets. Yes, it was just another day in Paradise….

Dedicated to the Brothers and Sisters I have waded through hell with.

Fiction | Short Stories

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