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He’s here.

Arrived on the train.

On the rails running through my mind.

Can’t stop it.

I’ve tried.

 

The rumbling.

Huffing.

Puffing.

Steam and smoke.

Wish it would stop.

 

Heart pounding.

Can’t breathe.

He’s here.

Again.

Heart, thumping.

 

The incessant scratching,

Clawing,

Digging.

At the inside of my skull.

He wants out.

 

I can’t let him.

I won’t!

Eyes open.

Can’t sleep.

Leave me alone.

 

Please!

Darkness.

Moonlight.

Tick-tocking clock.

Night sounds.

 

Refrigerator whirs.

Air conditioner hums.

Tick, tick, tick.

Heart, racing.

Thumping.

Owl hoots.

Cricket chirps.

Tick, tick, tick.

Thump, thump, thump.

Then …

 

Silence.

Steamy, wispy tendrils

Steam, rising upward,

Like gnarled fingers

From a tomb.

 

A scream!

From inside?

Him, or me?

He’s there.

Here.

 

In front of me.

Behind.

Over there.

No, over there.

Laughing.

 

Maniacal laughing.

Mocking me.

Taunting me.

Killing me,

From within.

 

Bullets.

Blood.

Twitching.

Quivering.

A wounded animal.

 

A dying animal.

Flowers.

Roses.

Prayers.

Damp soil.

 

A grave.

Open.

For him, or me?

Tears.

Sorrow.

 

But …

He shot first.

I did what I had to do.

People say

You’re a monster.

 

Evil, they say.

You didn’t have to do it.

Easy for them to say.

Because

They weren’t there.

 

Me?

I just wanted to live.

Wife.

Children

For them.

Anxiety.

Fear.

Depression.

Can’t sleep.

He’s coming.

 

The train is on its way.

Always on its way.

Why every night?

Every day?

I only killed him once.

 

Why does he kill me every day?


* If you are in a crisis please seek help. You cannot do this alone. Call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, talk to your doctor, or call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). Whatever you do, please talk to somebody.

If you plan to attend the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy, please do drop in on U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Mike Roche’s presentation on PTSD. It’s an eye-opener.

Have fun, stay safe, and remember our veterans, the men and women who make the sacrifices that make it possible for us to enjoy this and all holidays. And please, especially remember the vets, police officers, and other victims of horrifying life-altering events who’re suffering from PTSD. Those sudden backyard booms and bangs of home fireworks are instant triggers for many, me included. What’s fun for some is devastating for others.

So, without further ado … The Oak Ridge Boys and Colors.

“Now I’ve seen people treat her like she was some old rag, clueless to the human sacrifice.

But you’ll always find a mother, a widow, a child, a sister or a brother with a carefully folded teardrop in their eyes.”

He’s here,

Again.

Scratching.

Clawing.

Digging,

At the inside of my skull.

Eyes wide open, now.

Leave me alone,

Please!

Fingernails raking against bone,

And thoughts and emotions.

Chipping away,

Until they’re no more.

My memories, feelings,

And the ability to care.

All gone.

Dark.

Moon.

A sliver of creamy light,

Smeared across a plank floor.

Clock tick-tocking, incessantly.

Tick, tick, tick.

Night sounds.

Refrigerator whirs.

Air conditioner hums.

Tick, tick, tick.

Owl hoots.

Cricket chirps.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then quiet.

Deafening and relentless,

Horrifying silence.

So still.

Dead air.

A scream!

From inside?

Him, or me?

He’s there.

In front of me.

Behind me.

Over there.

No, over there.

Laughing.

That maniacal laughter.

Bullets.

Blood.

Bullets.

Twitching.

Quivering.

Like a dying animal.

Flowers.

Roses.

Prayers.

Damp soil,

Freshly turned.

Tears.

Sadness.

It’s okay,

You did your job.

Easy for them to say.

He shot first,

They add.

Seriously, it’s okay.

But it’s not.

Never is.

Anxiety.

Fear.

Depression.

Insomnia.

Can’t sleep.

He’s here.

Again.

Why every night?

I only killed him once,

But I die every single day.

So no, it’s not okay.

Seriously, it’s not …

It’s not okay, and it won’t be until there’s a means to release the demon.

*     *     *

* If you are in a crisis please seek help. You cannot do this alone. Call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, talk to your doctor, or call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

He’s here,

Again.

The monster inside my head.

Scratching.

Clawing.

Digging,

At my skull.

Eyes wide open.

Leave me alone,

Please!

Dark.

Moonlight.

Clock,

Tick, tick, ticking.

Night sounds.

Refrigerator whirs.

Air conditioner hums.

Tick, tick, tick.

Owl hoots.

Cricket chirps.

Tick, tick, tick.

Then quiet.

So quiet.

A scream!

From inside?

Him, or me?

He’s there.

In front of me.

Behind me.

Over there.

No, over there.

Laughing.

Maniacal and hysterical.

Bullets.

Blood.

Bullets.

Twitching.

Quivering.

Like an animal,

Dying.

Flowers.

Roses.

Prayers.

Damp soil.

Tears.

Sadness.

But,

You did your job.

Sure,

Easy for them to say.

He shot first.

So …

Anxiety.

Fear.

Depression.

Insomnia.

Can’t sleep.

He’s here.

Again.

The monster in my mind.

Scratching.

Clawing.

Digging,

At my skull.

Eyes wide open.

Why every night?

I only killed him once.

After the shooting


* If you are in a crisis please seek help. You cannot do this alone. Call 911, go to your nearest emergency room, talk to your doctor, or call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK).

Officer Idu Thebestican feels as if he faces a no-win situation each day he puts on his uniform, and he stopped by today to tell why he feels that way. Here’s what the officer had to say …

Today I found a lost grandmother. She has Alzheimer’s and wandered off into a wooded area near a rocky and steep ravine. I sat with her and held her hand until her family arrived to take her home. You didn’t see that.

I got pretty banged up while breaking up a nasty fight between two large men. They were angry over a ref’s call at a kid’s soccer game. You didn’t see that.

A convenience store was robbed by two masked men carrying handguns. I caught one of the robbers after a five-block foot pursuit. He fired a shot at me but missed. Luckily I was able to wrestle the gun from his hand. You didn’t see that.

You didn’t see that!

Two cars crashed head-on, killing everyone inside. I helped remove the bodies, including one of a tiny baby. You didn’t see that.

A bloody face and a broken arm on an eight-year-old girl. Her intoxicated father did that to her and I was there in time to stop him from killing his daughter. I took the punches that were intended for her. You didn’t see that.

I was stabbed and cut in the side by a woman trying to stop me from arresting the husband who’d just beaten her until she was black and blue. It took 30 stitches to close the wound. You didn’t see that.

A drunk man was trapped in a burning house. I ran in and pulled him out. Burned my hands and face a bit, but the man survived. You didn’t see that.

I changed a flat tire for two elderly woman who were on their way to Florida. You didn’t see that.

I worked three straight shifts without sleep or meals while trying to catch a guy who’d raped and murdered a teenager. You didn’t see that.

I bought a meal for a homeless man, and then joined him for lunch. He’d served in the military and suffers from severe PTSD. You didn’t see that.

I stopped to throw a few footballs with some young boys. You didn’t see that.

#HeStoleMyPopTart

(click the link above to see Officer Norman at work play)

I adopted a needy family at Christmas time and bought them gifts, and my wife and I delivered a holiday meal to them. You didn’t see that.

But you chose to see me when I responded to 911 call in your neighborhood, with all of your friends standing around, and you closed in on my personal space with your face just inches from mine to shout, “Murderer!” even though I’ve never killed anyone.

You threw rocks at me while I patrolled your street, trying to keep you safe from robbers, burglars, and killers.

You spit on me while I was arresting a guy in your neighborhood. It didn’t matter to you that he’d just committed an armed robbery of an old lady and that he’d roughed her up a bit in the process. To you, though, I was the bad guy. “F*** You! All cops are murderers!” you screamed at me while impressionable little children looked on. Those kids had no way of knowing that I’d never pulled my gun from its holster other than to clean it or qualify at the range.

A police officer a thousand miles away did something to dishonor HIS badge, yet you blame me. Why? I didn’t come to arrest you when I caught your friend climbing in that lady’s bedroom window. I don’t run out to punch a random doctor in the face simply because a physician somewhere in Maine botches a surgery on a cop I don’t know personally. It’s not supposed to work that way in a civilized society. Besides you’ll never catch me defending a cop who knowingly breaks the law.

From A Cop’s Perspective: What You Didn’t See

Here’s what it’s like from my point of view.

When I’m off duty and our kids are on the field playing sports, or we’re both sitting side-by-side at a community picnic and it’s as if we’re best buddies. But the moment I put on the uniform I’m suddenly the enemy. Your enemy. And it’s for no reason—your transformation—other than my clothing and something I didn’t do, that your hatred for me begins to fester and boil over.

Believe me, I don’t change. But you do.

And I see it.

 

I’m the old guy at the end of the street. The Grumpy Gus who doesn’t want kids in his yard. In fact, I don’t want to hear their squeals and the squalls or their giggles and games. I don’t want to see their toy cars and trucks, their skateboards, basketballs, and pigtails and buzzcuts. None of it. I do not want them in my yard. Nor do I want them in my driveway scrawling cutesy multi-colored chalk pictures across the concrete. I don’t even want them playing in front of my house.

The neighbors talk. They don’t like me because I don’t step outside to chat when they pass by while walking their four-legged pee and crap machines who leave little “bundles of joy” on my property, offensive “stuff” I have to scoop up. I know they leave it on purpose.

The people who live on my street, the adults, think I’m odd. Crazy, some say. They point and they whisper when they see me rolling my garbage cans to the curb each Tuesday evening.

The children won’t stop coming into my yard. They enjoy taunting me. They’re bullies, but in miniature size. They toss my landscaping rocks out into the street and they uproot the accent lighting around my trees and shrubs. They write on my sidewalk and they spray-paint the sides of my car. They’ve scratched both car doors, using a nail or something of the sort, and they steal mail from the mailbox and then scatter it along the street.

I used to like kids. Really, I did. All ages and sizes too. I adored their precious little smiles and their innocent questions and nonstop chatter. I enjoyed watching them play. They made me smile. The sounds of their giggles and squalls and squeals were like music to my ears.

My house, in fact, was once the hub of activity for the neighborhood kids. They came to play with my two children, Seth and Sarah. They’re both grown now, though, with kids of their own, and they moved away many years ago. Long before my current neighbors moved in. I’m the last of the original homeowners in my development.

My new neighbors are strangers. They don’t know a single thing about me. They didn’t know me back when I was still in uniform patrolling the interstate highways and county roads. They didn’t know me on the day when I was stabbed three times—one wound to the head, one in the hand, and the other in my right shoulder. They weren’t around when the house on Maple was fully engulfed in flames and I went in and pulled out the old man trapped inside. Sure, I lost some hair and earned a couple of nasty burns, but the gentleman survived and he stops by to see me once in a while.

My neighbors … well, they don’t know about the incident that started the “kids in the yard” thing.

It was a Wednesday night. My report indicated the the weather was clear, but no moonlight. Road conditions were also clear, and dry. No obstructions. Nothing, including skid marks. There were none.

When I arrived, a citizen was standing by. She’d called it in. Had to drive to a nearby country store to use the payphone hanging on the wall outside, next to the Coke machine. I’d passed by it a million times while on patrol.

The car was upside down, fully engulfed in flames.

The driver was obviously deceased. The woman on the passenger side … her head was missing. I later found it lying in the ditch, staring at me after I pulled a stand of weeds to the side to better see the object hidden at their base.

Three children occupied the backseat. We didn’t know this until after the firefighters extinguished the blaze.

I only knew about one of the rear seat occupants—a little girl. The medical examiner later told me she was seven-years-old. Hers was the only face I could see through the boiling black smoke and yellow-orange fire with heat was so intense it burned my eyebrows and the hair on my arms before I ever reached the car.

Fifteen feet. That’s as close as I could get without being severely burned.

But she was screaming. “Help me, please!”

Her sweet face was knotted in agony. Her eyes … I’ve read it in books before, “Her eyes pleaded with him,” but I never truly grasped what those authors had in mind when they penned the words … until I stood helpless before a girl whose tiny doe eyes pleaded with me to rescue her from the hell she was experiencing.

Tires deflated and dissolved. Paint bubbled like hot tar. The asphalt beneath the burning car melted like butter dancing and sizzling in a hot skillet. Glass shattered. Flames crackled and buzzed and things inside the car popped and fizzed and banged and settled. Car seats burned like fireplace logs. In the middle of of all of this sat the little girl, clawing at the scorching-hot metal car door.

I pushed through the heat and smoke and I tried to grab the child. I tried to open the door but  it was like grabbing molten lava. I reached for her and she for me. But …

She screamed and she screamed and she screamed.

And then she stopped.

Those cries for help still haunt me.

So does the fact that I failed to save her.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. I love them. I really do.

I just can’t take the sounds they make or seeing their happy faces.

They remind me that I failed that little seven-year-old child.

That sweet little face.

I see it every time one of those kids comes into my yard, or when they play in the street in front of my house.

That sweet little face.

So that’s why I’m the old guy at the end of the street.

Because it hurts.

*This tale is based on a ton of fact, but presented in a fictional sort of way. Yes, it’s most definitely true, but it’s about a lot of people, not just Grumpy Gus.

Gus, by the way, is very close to me. Extremely close …

Ever wonder what it’s like to kill someone? Well, I don’t have that worry. Been there, done that. And I’ve lived with the dead guy’s soul scrabbling around inside my head ever since. Once you’ve pulled the trigger sending the bullets on their way, that’s it. You can’t call them back.

Several years ago I responded to a silent bank alarm—a 10-90 as it was called in our department. The day started with me sitting in my office reading the offense reports from the previous night. Nothing special—a few drunks, some minor drug activity, a couple of break-ins, and the usual domestic he said-she saids.

Victim #1

Then it happened. A young man—22 years old—walked into a bank, pointed a gun at the teller and took all the money he could carry in his white, wrinkled, plastic grocery bag. He scared the poor teller to tears. Victim number one.

The robber fled the scene and wrecked his car trying to escape. Five of us cornered the guy in a drainage ditch beside his car. He decided to shoot it out with us. Big mistake.

Three officers had taken cover on the the top of a highway exit ramp, just out of the robber’s line of sight. I was closest to the gunman—twenty-five yards away to his left. Another officer, a fresh-out-of-the-academy rookie, was near me, to my right. My only cover was a small maple tree. A very small maple tree. At the time it seemed like a toothpick with a few leaves. I felt that he could easily see me, like I had no cover at all.

The robber had crouched down near the rear bumper of his car. I watched him load his weapon, an old revolver. I yelled, begging him to drop the gun and come to us with his hands up. He ignored my commands and fired a shot toward my fellow officers on the hilltop.

Someone flipped the “Slow-Motion Switch”

The sound of his gunshot activated my brain’s slow-motion function. Time nearly stopped. It was surreal, like I actually had time to look around before reacting to the gunshot. I saw my partners yelling, their mouths opening and closing slowly. Lazy puffs of blue-black smoke drifted upward from their gun barrels. I saw a dog barking to my right—its head lifting with each yap, and droplets of spittle dotted the air around its face.

I turned back to the robber, took aim, and fired a single shot through the rear, side glass of the car and into the side of his head, the only part of the body I could see at the time. He fell over on his right side. I thought it was all over. Instead, the guy popped back up, smiling. I couldn’t believe it.

A shot to the head from my SIG Sauer and he acted as if it were no more than a slight irritation, if that. In fact, he stood and began firing again. I answered each of his rounds with three of my own, all three directly into his chest. He fell each time a shot hit him, but each time he stayed down only for a second.

car.jpg

Bullet hole in the rear glass from my shot. The large hole in the side of the car is from a slug fired from an officer’s shotgun.

He popped up once more to fire another round, and that’s when my fifth bullet hit him, again in the chest. He stayed down this time. I called to everyone on my portable radio, letting them know it was over. Then, suddenly, the robber jumped up and ran toward the officers on the hill. Unbelievable.

I ran after him. He stumbled. And I and a sheriff’s deputy tackled him. We rolled him over to handcuff him and saw that he still clutched his weapon in his right hand and was squeezing the trigger repeatedly. To this day, I can still hear the click, click, click of the hammer each time it fell.

The gun was empty. He was out of ammunition.

robber.jpg

Paramedics with wounded bank robber.

The bank robber died a few moments later. I’d killed him.

I didn’t know it—not a clue—but that’s precisely the moment my life ended, too. Well, the life I’d always known. The one where I was always happy. Never a worry. Happy…yeah, right. It wouldn’t be long before I’d forget that word existed. Not long at all.

The second my last bullet entered the robber’s body, his soul was already trying to make its way into my head, wanting to worm and writhe inside my thoughts and emotions.

You see, in those days there was no such thing as counseling and de-briefing. No post-shooting administrative leave. No desk duty. I was left to fend for myself. Tough cops were supposed to handle whatever came their way. And I was a tough-as-nails cop, or so I thought.

My chief actually told me that a real cop would just suck it up. In fact, he sent me to the morgue to photograph the body and to remove my handcuffs from the dead man’s wrists. I was stunned. After one of the most gut-wrenching and traumatic events of my life, I wasn’t even given the rest of the day off.

I’ll never forget the moment I pushed open the door to the morgue and saw the robber’s body lying there. No sheet. Just flesh on cool stainless steel. My eyes were immediately drawn to the tiny bullet wound on the side of his face. A line of rusty-brown blood had dried there, looking like a parched Arizona creek bed. I walked slowly toward the corpse and reached for the dead man’s wrists to unlock the handcuffs.

Just before my fingers touched the metal I saw that more blood had collected and dried in many of the nooks and crannies of the steel restraints. I had to take a moment to collect myself before I was actually able to touch them. And I tried really hard to not touch his skin. Really hard. But I couldn’t avoid it. It was cold and firm, like old jello that had sat in the refrigerator far too long.  I never used those handcuffs again.

Yes, a robber died that morning—a bad guy—and his soul left for wherever it is that troubled souls go. But a part of my emotions were tethered to him, and it was several years before they returned.

Two days after the shooting, my partner and I met with the medical examiner (this was the same medical examiner’s office where Patricia Cornwell based her Kay Scarpetta series).  Even though I’d watched each of my bullets travel through the air until they hit the robber’s flesh (those who shoot a lot have this ability), it still hit like a ton of bricks when she told me that all five of the rounds in the man’s body were fired by me. The famous pathologist spared no details. She described the damage caused by each bullet, and she told me which rounds were the life-stopping rounds. I could, and did, recall firing each one. Still can, just like it was yesterday.

In the beginning, the dead guy visited me only during my sleep. Soon, though, he grew restless and figured if he couldn’t sleep then neither would I. He began stopping by to see me while I was at work, and eventually he came to me during my off time. He walked beside me while I mowed the grass, and accompanied me to the store. His voice pierced my ears like shrill sirens. His spirit raked its jagged nails across the back of my neck just to let me know it was in the backseat as I drove my unmarked police car.

There was no downward spiral. No, for me it wasn’t that slow and easy. This was a free-fall straight to hell. Fortunately, just before I hit bottom I sought help on my own.

It took a few years to climb out of that dark pit, but I made it back and I actually think I’m a stronger person because of the experience. If nothing else, I have a real-life horror story to share.

Sixty-eight rounds of ammunition were fired during this shootout. The robber was hit five times, all five rounds were fired by me.  One police car was destroyed by gunfire. Luckily, no police officers were injured during the actual firefight. However, within a year after the shootout, one officer suffered a heart attack and died. He was 44. Two officers quit, and two retired (both are now dead). I, too, left law enforcement behind within a year after the shooting. Not one of us had received any de-briefing or counseling.

I’d say all total, there were six victims that day.

me-at-car.jpg

Police car destroyed by gunfire. That’s me with the cop/pornstar mustache. This photo was taken by a newspaper photographer just minutes after the robber had succumbed to his wounds.


Interesting to note – When I transitioned from a sheriff’s office to a city police agency, the new department issued Ruger 9mms. The one I received sounded and handled as if it would fly into a million pieces at any second. No one seemed to have any idea how to repair it and the department refused to issue another. So, my concerned, wonderful wife gifted the SIG P228 to me as a Christmas present. It was only a few months later when this shootout occurred. I believe the combination of the SIG and my training and fairly decent marksmanship were the factors that saved my life and the life of others. Thanks, Denene, and a big thanks to a fine weapon—SIG Sauer.