POLICE STORY

by Christian Lesemann


I was alone with a murderer.

The darkness consumed me as I chased my suspect down the alley. He was stumbling into boxes and through the slime of the alley. Terrified, and furious at what he'd done, I ran blindly, my breath pounding incessantly in my ears. Sirens rose in the distance and I knew help was out there, somewhere.

I kicked through the garbage in the alley, my pant legs tearing as I caught edges of crates and boxes. I was sweating, tired, and of course I also had a privileged duty to protect society from animals like him.

Ahead, he stumbled and hit the side of the alley wall. There was a crash as he went tumbling through a door. I had to go in after him. If I lost him, what would I tell my partner's widow and their children? I'm sorry, I let the bastard get away. I reached down inside myself for courage and resolve.

I drew my sidearm. The darkness in the portal stood like a carnivorous, hungry maw. I only had my mini-maglite on my belt, where it would stay. My suspect didn't have a flashlight, and there was no damn way I was going to give him a bullseye to shoot at. He wouldn't give me one.

My heart pounded against my chest as I took a breath of reassurance and toed the door open. The thunk of my foot hitting the steel traveled through the darkness. At this moment my ears seemed capable of picking up every nuance of sound but the only thing that confronted me was silence, a long, drawn-out eerie silence. I stepped inside, my heart pounding faster and faster, my breathing shallow. I had to calm down and relax. If I didn't I wouldn't able to shoot straight, think clearly, and most important of all...get my man. And that is every Mountie's sworn duty -- to get his man.

I moved through the hallway quickly, but cautiously. All the doors I tried were locked. Finally the hallway led me to a flight of moonlit stairs on which I could see the impression of fresh footsteps left in the dust. I moved up to the landing, careful to cover my back. I could feel the hairs on my neck stick up like little radar antennae and they pointed me in the direction of the suspect, so I followed their lead. I had to follow their lead.

I came to another hallway. It smelled terrible. I couldn't pinpoint the smell, but it was the smell of decay. Something had died up here, literally, and before I could figure out what it was, out of the darkness came a cry, a crash, and the sound of splintering wood.

Cautiously I approached the corner and peered around it. My suspect was kicking at a door that appeared not to have been used in decades. Dust roiled off the doorway each time he struck it, and without warning, it gave way and fell into the room. My suspect dashed inside.

* * *

My partner Craig was my bestfriend, my confidante. He and I had been partners since we had joined with the force, eight years ago, and we'd been through everything together. I'd cry now at his loss, but there was still something in the back of my head that wanted me to believe he would survive. Then again, there's another thing that tells me he's dead. It's my gutt. There's no way someone could've survived his injuries.

* * *

Running up to the door I peered inside. As I expected, it was pitch dark and a new shot of adrenaline hit my system; a new dose of fear pumped me up. The smell emanating from the room caught me off guard as I paused and thought about going in but didn't because I knew the little bugger was waiting for me. "I'm a Police Officer! I know you're in there!" I shout at the suspect. "Come out now, or I'm coming in after you!"

Silence. "Don't make me come in there after you!" I shout. More silence. Damn, now I have to go inside. I pull my mini-maglite from my belt and slowly, silently get down on my hands and knees and prepare to crawl along the floor. Just my luck, the smell seems to be coming worse from the floor. It reminded me of a slaughterhouse in the summer.

* * *

Like every good landed Irishman, my dad was a cop and he died doing his duty. Much like I might tonight. I felt no selfish pride in my altruistic actions because I knew my kids would never know me...only faded memories, if I died here, like this. What good would I be to them dead? Sure, my wife would be able to take care of them. But they'd receive my posthumous commendation, my "early" retirement gift, and I'd be stuck in the paper somewhere between "Dear Abbey" and "Ann Landers". I wanted to be remembered for more than fertilizing the garden and blind stupidity. And that's what I was being...stupid. However, I had a good reason for being this stupid: Craig.

* * *

While I crawled along the hard wood floor as silently as I could, the hairs on the back of my neck kept me on track. The closer I got to the center of the room, the more the smell grew worse. It was pitch dark and I had to feel my way slowly along. I didn't have the luxury of knowing where I was going, as my suspect probably did. I found a corner and then felt linoleum. This was probably the kitchen to my left. I was trying to make a mental picture of the apartment in my head, and now I fit the kitchen in to the plan.

* * *

Craig and I had attended a disturbance call to a convenience store about incorrect change. It was a shitass dumb occurrence but one that we had been assigned. When we arrived, the teller and the complainant were bickering and arguing like two school children and we'd just gotten them calmed down and talking in coherent sentences when the door to the Qwiki-mart burst opened and in ran these two idiots, looking like Bonnie and Clyde, and they didn't appear too happy to see us.

* * *

I heard a click in the darkness. Dry fire. Then I heard someone curse. I saw the flash of the gun, and the report pierced my ears. I sucked in my breath, closed my eyes in terror and waited for the piercing pain that would signify my end.

* * *

Bonnie and Clyde drew out some nice looking shotguns and told everyone in the Qwiki-mart to put their hands up, us included. They had the drop on us, so we complied and they cleaned the store out in about forty seconds or so. Craig and I stood there for a moment, looking at the other two and then we realized we'd better do something as we watched Bonnie and Clyde running to their car. We both drew our sidearms and ran out, screaming for them to stop.

* * *

If I had heard the shot, that meant I wasn't hit. That's at least what they told us in the Academy. I was alive! I had to focus on my suspect and my antennae were focused ahead of me, about ten feet away. I only had one shot at this, and if I couldn't find him with my first shot, I was dead. I readied my mini-maglite and prepared to twist it on as I reflexively gripped my sidearm and slowly rose to one knee.

* * *

We ran out of the Qwiki-mart to the sound of screeching tires and Craig screaming at me to jump in the cruiser. We raced off after them, lights and siren wailing, and I called in some back-up. After a minute into the chase the suspects realized they couldn't shake us and ditched their car. Craig drove the cruiser in front of them and we jumped out, pointing our guns and ordering to see their hands. They were caught out in the open, with no one around to take hostage, so both of them started shooting at us.

* * *

This was my chance. I felt I had him localized and I turned on my flashlight. The light came on and illuminated the far wall. My suspect wasn't there. I looked to my left and saw him tackle me around the waist. My shoulder slammed into the wall, and he and I tumbled to the ground.

* * *

Craig took cover and crouched around to the front of the cruiser and shot Bonnie almost immediately. She dropped and when Clyde brought his shotgun up to use with his handgun, I felt like I had just lost all my money in Double Jeopardy. Before he could unload directly into both of us, I dove over the hood of the cruiser and landed in a neat pile while his weapons barked. I looked down to see that my radio have saved my life. It was frazzled, broken, and beyond repair, however this was probably the one time in my life that a piece of electronics worked for me.

* * *

I felt a punch land on my thigh and give me a charlie horse. I dropped him with two punches, then jumped on top of him and tried to entangle his arms while I hit him in the groin, and the face, and clawed his eyes. We disentangled and after he threw me over on my back, he rolled to one knee to strike me. I felt the room start to spin, and ironically I regained consciousness when my head hit the ground. At the point when he started boot kicking me, I hoped my kevlar vest was protecting my ribs because he was really lacing into me.

* * *

There was a moment in which I felt limitless possibilities that my guardian angels were looking over me. Then something landed on top of me as I came to my knees; I pushing the thing away and saw it was Craig but I didn't even have time to react as another shotgun blast took out the windshield of the cruiser, the deadly pellets whizzing past my ear. To distract Clyde, I returned fire in order to drag my partner to safety. Craig was bleeding out of his face, neck, and arms. The side of his head had been peeled away by the shotgun blast and I felt sick as blood ran freely from the wound.

I dragged him to the driver's side of the car, and remembering my radio was destroyed, I managed to use the car radio to call in an ambulance as I watched Clyde take off. I left my partner to their care and ran after his murderer.

* * *

Managing to hug his left ankle, I swept his stable foot out from under him. He came crashing down onto the floor and my addled brain fought harder to focus. I had to get him under control, or he would kill me. Sick to my stomach and exhausted, I jumped on top of him.

Not thinking I could go on anymore, we started to wrestle on the dusty floor. We both gained momentary advantages, landed punches, and had several more miss. Every fighter has a good plan going into a fight, and every fighter has that plan destroyed when he gets hit. Unluckily, I was that fighter. He was going berserk; I was taking a pounding and I didn't know what to do to get him under control.

* * *

My foot chase with Clyde lasted about six or seven city blocks, which equaled about a quarter mile of full out running. Now, I'm hardly the best runner in the world, but Clyde made me look like Ben Johnston and I quickly closed the gap between us before Clyde ran down the cold, dark, slimy alley.

* * *

Getting behind him I wrapped my arms around his waist while he tried to elbow me and throw me over his shoulder, but I had him firmly in a bear hug. I pressed all my weight on him and his legs buckled. The fight was over when his face smashed into the hard floor. He went limp in my grasp and my weakened arms handcuffed him.

* * *

I was in my first fight when I was twelve. It was a hockey fight. Some idiot had driven me hard into the boards and I turned around and "accidentally" speared him. He went down and then one of their goons cross-checked me from behind. I got up and I hit him in the face with my glove and we dropped our gloves and went for a little dance. I wasn't a very good skater, and one of the smallest on the team, so I'd say I got a royal ass whipping. But I can still remember whaling into him, then sitting in the penalty box for five minutes wondering what the point of what we'd just done was.

* * *

Sitting back on my haunches, I sighed and looked down at him with lassitude. I could barely feel myself, and my lungs heaved for oxygen. I was sweating profusely and I wiped some of it off my brow and then realized, with elation, that I had won this round. Serves him right, I thought as my body started to recharge. He had only been fighting for his freedom.

I had been fighting for my life.


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Police Story, 7 September 1997