Why I Ride With the Po-Lice

One of the great things about being a mystery writer is you can call up the police and tell them you're writing a book and need information. If you live in a fairly small town, they'll say something like "Well, some on down, little lady! Wanna go on a stakeout?"

No joke. This happened. But that's another story.

One of the great things about being a therapist and a writer is that once you're friends with the police, they'll call you to go ride with one of their squad whose having a "few problems." That way, you can chat informally about whatever's on their mind AND ride along.

I always chose to ride on third shift, preferably in the worst part of town. When you live in a fairly small town, you've gotta do what you can to see anything "good" and even then you can spend an entire night riding along and listening to someone's life story and never even stop a speeder.

But not this night.

I remember first that it was raining. Big drops rolled down the side windows as I stared through them into the fractured light of the passing signs and cars. The patrol car was warm and smelled of old vinyl and stale coffee.

The radio chattered in the background and I waited for the driver to say something beyond our basic introduction. Usually I tell the officer who's setting me up with his troubled buddy not to say I'm a psychotherapist, just to say I'm a writer. If the situation warrants, I'll be the one to say what my "other" job is.

Cops never follow instructions.

"So, Sammy says you're a shrink,"

Oh, great. I cringe and stare through the windshield, trying to make myself smaller and less like whatever this cop's vision is of a "shrink."

"Something like that," I say.

I hardly have the words out when he says, "Just tell me one damned thing- It's been seven years since I got divorced and I still have feelings for her. Now why the hell is that?"

It was going to be a long night.

I looked over at him. He was a skinny beanpole of a man with a bald eraser head, fringed in short, black stubble. He looked like a pencil with a dirty eraser, but when he turned and caught me staring, his eyes were dark pools of hurt and well, I'm a sucker for big, dark eyes.

And I can't stand to know someone's hurting when maybe I could help. So, we talked. And talked. We drove around and around while he told me all about it and I listened.

See, basically people know what they think, how they feel and what they want to do about a situation. They just want someone else to really listen and then maybe validate what they're experiencing. If they really wanted advice, they'd ask Dear Abby.

I am really glad he's not totally depressed because when the call came in to respond to a break in and domestic dispute, I wanted to know I was traveling with someone capable of taking care of the situation without the need of an out of shape, clogging, soccer mom.

This was not my first ride along. I knew the drill. Stay in the car. They respond. You watch from a safe and boring distance. We rounded the corner onto a darkened, tree-lined street and Sam cut his headlights and eased up to the curb in front of the house.

At the same time another patrol car, coming from the opposite direction pulls up to the curb in front of us, its lights out. A small, red-headed, Opie Taylor look-alike emerges from this car and stands waiting for Sam.

Sam turns to me, hands me a Mag light. "Don't turn this on no matter what," he says.

"Then what's it for?"

Sam give me a pitying look. "In case you need it."

Took me five whole minutes to figure out a heavy metal flashlight is an excellent defense weapon.

Then Sam's opening his door, clambering out of the car and turning to poke his head back in and look at me. "Well?" he says. "Are you coming or not?"

I'm tempted to look behind me for the other person in the car, the one who is probably an in-shape, po-lice officer and not me.

"Sure," I say. I try to toss it off like, "Sure, I'd love to pet your alligator," but Sam's already disappearing into the darkness in front of the cars with Opie by his side.

I haul ass after them and almost fall over the split rail fence they have easily vaulted while I must struggle to keep ahold on my Mag light, not rip my soccer mom dress pants and climb in 1 1/2" heels.

It is dark as shit in this middle of nowhere, low-rent district but I do not turn on my light. Besides, I can see now. As I approach the house, the front door flies open and light spills out into the yard as one very large, very agitated woman fills the doorway and screams at me, "Oh, dear Lord Jesus, help me! He's gonna kill 'em! He's gonna kill 'em!"

Do you know it does not occur to me to go back to the car and press the little red button Sam carefully showed me as he instructed me to "Push this if I'm ever in trouble." No. I am somebody's mother. It never enters my mind not to barge right on in past the lady with flashlight in hand and a momma hard-on that rivals anything any man can bring on, even in his most excited state.

I cross the threshold and hear a voice say the same words I use every day, in the same tone, as he addressed the same situation I face all the time with two boys...

"Get off of him! Get off of him right now!"

The woman behind me shrieks as I hear bodies crash out into the tiny home's single hallway. A gigantic man, mostly naked, appears to be walking with Sam attached to him. I jump into the kitchen/dining area alcove, gripping my Mag light, ready to strike as soon as I can get a good shot in.

Fortunately Sam has complete control of the situation. I don't know where Opie is but Sam has this behemoth pinned against the living room wall and is cuffing him. Both men are streaked with blood and I can't tell whose blood it is. There is too much.

"Ma'am," Sam says, looking straight at me. "Would you mind helping me with something?"

Oh, goody! My turn!


Sam nods toward the kitchen. "There's a bottle of Tilex next to the sink. Would you mind spraying me down with it?"

Okay. Sam obviously needs me. He is wearing a black uniform and it looks damned good on him too, I might add. That is why he needs this motherly advice. I say, "But Sam, bleach isn't good on black polyester."

"Yes, ma'am," Sam says patiently. "But I'm cut and I don't have a first aid kit right here with me."

Again, this is not soccer mom S.O.P.

"That's going to really sting," I caution, but something in the way Sam looks at me makes me go ahead and pick up the bottle anyway. I spray him and he actually thanks me.

When we pull into the underground garage leading to the jail, Sam pulls his suspect out of the backseat and says to me, "Excuse me, Ma'am. I'm going to take him into the bathroom over there and clean these cuts off with a little antiseptic before we go in."

"Now, Sam," I say, attempting to take the first aid kit from his hands. "There is nothing here I haven't seen before and I do know how to clean a cut, so I'll do it."

The two men stare at me like I've lost my mind until finally the big man says, "I don't want no damned shit on my cut!"

I act like he's a big baby and do it anyway. Sam makes me wear Latex gloves.

When we go inside, Sam takes the guy in to see the magistrates. They look like the Pointer Sisters, only they're having way more fun than a concert. One flirts with Sam. One offers Sam some of the goodies on a side table because it's someone's birthday. And the third one types up the complaint or whatever it is called when your estranged, crack-head husband breaks into your house, violating the restraining order and commences to beat the hell out of you.

Sam has me sit just outside the small office on a long wooden bench that has a ballet bar attached about two feet above it. He handcuffs his quarry to the ballet bar. While we wait, another cop brings in two transvestite, Asian waiters, who promptly begin telling me all about how they are not guilty. I have no idea what they are not guilty of, but I do know they are committing fashion faux pas all over the place and should be issued a citation for failure to yield the right of way to pancake foundation and too much rouge.

Finally Sam comes out of the Magistrate's office and begins filling out paperwork at a stand across the room from his arrestee. He motions me over and explains the paperwork to me. He is in the middle of this when he apparently hears something that garners his attention.

Spinning around, Sam crosses the room to the spot where his guy is sitting. The man has his shoe off. Sam calls me over. He stoops down and picks something up, then turns back to the guy sitting with his shoe in his hand.

"Would this be a piece of glass from the window of the glass door you did not crash through when you did not break into your ex-wife's house?" he asks.

Sam doesn't wait for the man to answer him, just turns to me and says, "See this?"

I nod.

"Ma'am," Sam says solemnly, "this here would be a clue."

It was all I could do to keep a straight face and nod.

"I see," I say.

I have never turned down an opportunity to ride with the police. Where else could I receive such a rich education?


Tracy said...

No Offense to the police, but my Ex was a Captain and he and his friends weren't all that. They command respect,they certainly don't earn it. Could it be that they see negative everyday? Criminal and Crime can make for a dull and cold person. That's just my opinion, but Im a SAHM and like HAPPY! :)

randomblogger said...


peter said...

This is one of the best single posts I have read in all of NaBloPoMo (and i've probably read upwards of 5k of them so far). I'm looking forward to reading more of you as the event continues!

Nancy said...

Thanks, Peter! I'll have to dredge up some more adventures to tell you about!