On The ShoulderbyAdrian Leverkuhn©
Officer Tim Henderson sat astride the Harley Davidson FXRP with his radar "gun" in his left hand, looking down the rolling tree-lined roadway toward the line of traffic headed his way. He was sitting on the shoulder of a busy two lane suburban road, in the shade, trying to stay cool in the mid-afternoon heat of a late July day. He had been there for perhaps five minutes, and like a fisherman, he would remain in this spot for only a few minutes more if he didn't spot a speeding motorist soon.
Henderson was stoic man, regarded by some colleagues as snobby or stuck-up, but he walked around seething inside, often on the verge of boiling over. There were few minutes of the day that memories of Vietnam didn't intrude into his thoughts, pushing aside other concerns as casually as a hurricane pushes aside all that lies in it's path. Though the war had ended for Henderson almost fifteen years before, there were days when he felt like he was still over there, in the highlands, sweating and enduring the bites of insects quietly, not able to make a sound lest he give away the position of his squad. On hot, humid days he was at his most vulnerable to slipping off onto patrol outside Hue, chasing Charlie into ambush after ambush that would claim the lives of so many of his friends, and that would destroy his life forever.
As his mind drifted off to the jungles of the Central Highlands, he saw the red warning light on his radar flash, then beep as he eyed a sleek black car headed his way at what he guessed was at least 65 mph. He triggered the radar and the digital readout indicated 68mph. He tossed the radar into the motorcycle's left saddlebag, and fingered the ignition. The Harley stuttered and rumbled to life, and as the black car flashed by he switched on lights and siren and pulled out onto the roadway, leaving a hail of dust and gravel in his wake.
He was soon closing on the black car - he thought it was an '81 Camaro - and he could see long blond hair streaming out the open T-tops as he got closer. The girl driving had obviously gotten religion real fast, Henderson thought, as she was now meticulously signaling that she was pulling over onto the roadways right hand shoulder. As the Camaro slowed, he checked out on traffic with central dispatch.
"241, go ahead."
"241, at 7700 Green Valley on hotel-oscar-tom (pause) charlie-hotel-ida-charlie" he said into the mic, giving out the alpha on the Camaro's licence plate, which was HOT CHIC. He put the mic into its holder as he came to a stop, and he angled the motorcycle toward the roadway to provide cover if the driver came out shooting. That was the ritual; every one was a hostile until proven otherwise, and that was often only a conditional proof, a brief truce in the us vs them mentality that governed Henderson's survival instincts. That was the lesson from Vietnam that had been driven with total finality into his heart and mind. Trust no one. Police Academy had only reinforced that view. Trust No One.
The sidestand down, he dismounted the Harley and walked slowly toward the Camaro. His eyes first took in the trunk - shut and latched - then he looked at the driver's door mirror. Often, any motion that indicated hostile aggression was first noticed by looking there, but all he saw was red. Red t-shirt. Then cleavage. Red t-shit, very low cut, revealing the cleavage of monstrously huge breasts. It would have been hard for a rookie to notice anything else by that point, but not for Tim Henderson. Stoic survivor, emotionally dead Tim Henderson.
As Henderson gained the open window of the car, he looked down to see a girl maybe twenty years old, and by anyone's standards seriously cute; she was looking up at him with amazing angelic eyes. Deep blue . . . like an ocean's blue. She looked up at Henderson with all of the contrition a seriously gorgeous twenty year old half way to rich American girl could muster on such short notice. God, he thought, she's even going to bat her eyelashes.
"'Afternoon, Miss. I'm Officer Tim Henderson. You were observed traveling at 68 in a 30 miles per hour zone. I'll need to see your operators license, registration, and proof of financial responsibility."
"Was I really going 68?" the girl said.
"Yes Mam, like you were headed to a house fire."
"Well, Tim," the girl cooed, "I am on fire . . ." She raised the hem of her skirt up, revealing garters holding up her white stockings, and the cleanly shaven, glistening lips of her outer vagina. "You think you're man enough to put out the fire?"
"Just the license and registration and insurance, Mam."
The girl went into a huff as she dug into her purse. She opened her wallet and pulled out the documents, then - almost - threw them at Henderson.
"Mam, I'll be issuing you a citation. Please remain in your vehicle; I'll be right back."
Henderson called in the girl's data to dispatch; as he wrote out the ticket dispatch returned his request.
"241, 29 alpha." That was the code to make sure the suspect was not able to hear the radio.
"241, go ahead."
"241, subject Simms with that d.o.b. has to outstanding misdemeanor warrants for Signal 64a, and three for failure to appear."
"241, confirm warrants."
So, Henderson thought, two hits for soliciting prostitution, three for not paying traffic tickets.
"241, warrants confirmed."
"241, advise tow 126 and will need a unit for 95." Henderson thus asked for a wrecker to tow the car from the street to the impound yard and a squad car to transport the girl to the County Jail. He walked back up to the car.
"Mam, would you please step out of the car." This wasn't a question. The girl seemed to know the game was up, but thought she'd give it one more try.
"Officer, please don't write me ticket. I'll do anything you want, just please, my insurance rates will go crazy if you do."
"Mam, please step on out . . ."
"Look man, you want a blow job? You wanna go somewhere and fuck . . ."
"No, thanks, Mam. I'm trying to quit. Please step out of the car now . . .."
After the young woman had been placed under arrest and transported, and her vehicle had been towed from the roadway, Henderson moved on to another high accident zone. He stopped in the shade of a huge leafy pecan tree and went through the calibration sequence for his radar, and turned to look down the roadway, and almost instantly saw a large beige sedan coming toward his shady spot at a high rate of speed. He was hot and sweat was running down his neck, collecting inwhat felt like warm pools in the small of his back, dammed from running lower by the constriction of his Sam Browne belt that held up his pistol, handcuffs, and hand radio. In a split second he had to decide whether to observe the speeding car on radar or cool off in the shade. He made a quick visual guesstimate of the vehicle's speed of 60 and accelerating, and as it was a 40 mph zone, he aimed the radar at the vehicle. Henderson watched as the beige cars speed dropped frantically when he activated the radar, and smiled as the driver slowed from 64 mph to 40 in a couple of hundred feet. As the beige car drew near, Henderson pointed at the driver and motioned him to pull over onto the roads shoulder. Henderson watched momentarily until he saw the white male driver pull over onto the side of the road, then he dismounted the Harley and approached the car.
As Henderson approached the car, scanning for anything suspicious, he noticed the man was about 50 years old, balding, overweight, and he appeared impatient. He appeared to be reaching for his wallet in his back left pocket.
"SIR, please keep your hands where I can see them!"
The man looked annoyed until he saw Henderson's pistol half-way out of it's holster, then his attitude changed. "What the hell are you doing! I haven't done anything!"
"Place your hands where I can see them, sir!" Henderson watched as the man placed his hands on the car's steering wheel, then he finished walking up to the driver's window. "Sir, my name is Officer Henderson; you were observed traveling at a speed of 64 in a . . ."
"The hell I was! Now wait just a goddamn . . . "
"Sir, I'll need to see your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance."
"This is bullshit! I wasn't speeding! I will not show you any goddamn thing!" The man was red-faced, sputtering little globs of spit out the window as he yelled at Henderson.
"Very well, sir. In that case, I will be placing you under arrest and transporting you to the county jail. Would you please step out of the car."
"This is crap. Alright, let me get my license out . . . what else did you want?"
"Your vehicle's registration and proof of insurance, sir." The man fished out his wallet and handed Henderson his license, then reached for the car's glove box to look for the documents. Henderson's right hand remained firmly affixed to his pistol, and he leaned over to keep the man fully in view. The man rummaged through the compartment, and could not find either his registration or insurance papers, and finally gave up looking.
"Look, Officer, I know I have 'em somewhere. Can you give me a break here?"
Henderson looked down at the license in his hand. "Alright Mr Larkin, I'll be writing you citations for these three violations; you'll need to produce proof of registration and insurance to the court clerks office, and those charges may be dropped at that time. Please stay in your vehicle, sir, and I'll be right back."
Henderson walked back to the motorcycle and called into dispatch, he requested they check Mr Larkin's driving record and look for outstanding warrants. He started writing the tickets a dispatch searched for the information.
"241, go ahead."
"241, subject Larkin negative 29, but 27 shows multiple moving violations and two DUIs, and drivers license is currently under suspension for failing to provide proof of insurance and refusing to take a field sobriety test."
"Ah, 10/4, confirm suspension and advise wrecker and transport."
"241, I have an NCIC hit; subject Larkin has two felony warrants out of Kentucky, ah, wait one . . ." Henderson had his hand on his pistol at this point; felony warrants changed the circumstances of this stop immediately. Already at least two units were speeding to his location to provide back-up; this was automatic. When a unit had a felony stop in progress, the assumption was the officer would need immediate back-up until proven otherwise. The fact that Larkin had an NCIC, or National Criminal Information Center hit, slang for a warrant, indicated that Larkin might not be a small time "hook", or criminal in cop-talk. "O.K., 241, NCIC advises subject may be armed and dangerous . . ."
Henderson wasn't really listening at that point . . . he had dropped his ticket book and drawn his holstered pistol. He stepped around until he had a clear field of fire, then simply stood there ready to react to any movement in the car until back-up units arrived on scene. Within about a minute he heard sirens in the distance, and moments later patrol cars appeared coming from both directions. The unit coming from behind pulled up behind Henderson, the unit ahead pulled over about 50 yards ahead and the officer in that car exited carrying his Remington 870 pump shotgun.
"Mr Larkin," Henderson called out loudly, "place your hands on your head." When Henderson saw the man's hands, he continued, "alright, sir, lean forward and keep your hands where I can see them." When the man had complied, Henderson moved closer toward the car. The officer with him moved toward the passenger door of the beige car; both officer's handguns were aimed squarely at Larkin's head.
"Alright, Mr Larkin, very slowly I want you to move both hands slowly outside the window, make sure I can see them both at all times, and I want you to hold your hands out where I can see them. Do not make any sudden moves." Henderson watched Larkin with all his concentration focused on the man's head and eyes, which he could see through the side view mirrors. Larkin looked trapped and panicked, a good sign. Too relaxed would mean Larkin was a cool customer who had a plan, and too panicked might indicate Larkin was about to flee.
Henderson moved closer, then holstered his weapon when the officer on the passenger's door side was in position; he then handcuffed Larkin, and opened the car door. Larkin was then taken to one of the patrol cars and quickly transported from the scene. Henderson remained and filled out paperwork for the wrecker driver, and completed writing Mr Larkin's traffic tickets.
Bad day for Mr Larkin, Henderson thought. Probably be an even worse night.
Tim Henderson finished his day's activities investigating a somewhat routine major accident, where a speeding teenaged girl had lost control of her car on a sharp curve and lost control. The girl's car had spun off the roadway and the drivers door had slammed into a large, thick-trunked tree. The girl was badly cut by flying glass and had sustained significant injuries when she had been flung into the cars steering wheel, but she would live. Henderson was on the scene gathering and photographing evidence for almost two hours, then he returned to the station to finish the accident report. He also filled in supplemental reports for the two arrests he had made that afternoon. After the reports had been approved by the shift sergeant, he changed and made his way to the little gray Ford Mustang he called his own, and drove off toward his favorite dive, the Lord Fukaduk.
Many of Henderson's friends and fellow-officers gathered at the Fukaduk after work, even on their days off, and today was no exception. Henderson sat down at a table with what seemed like half the officers from his shift, and soon, without bothering or needing to ask, an ice-cold long-neck Budweiser was slapped down in front of him on the glossy-varnished initial-carved wooden table-top by a raucus middle-aged smokey-voiced blond named Thelma. He listened to conversations and joined in anecdotally when he felt like it, but the Fukaduk was his place to go to just let the steam boil-off. Henderson was almost perpetually in need of boiling off something.
After a couple of hours and more than a couple of beers, Henderson hoisted his frame from the table and walked out to his Ford and made his way home. He parked his car, then made his way to the stairs that led to his apartment. As he entered, he relished the air conditioning that washed over his body. He went to the fridge and popped the top off another Budweiser and tossed it down in one long pull.
He struggled, as he did every night, taking the cumbersome over-the-calf riding boots off, then he cleaned and polished them until they shined. He tossed his soiled underclothes and uniform in a hamper and hopped in his apartment's little fake-tiled shower after be brushed his teeth. He stood under the hot water for a few minutes, felt the tension ease as the water ran down his neck, then he shut off the water, dried himself off, then shuffled over to his little double bed.
He laid down on the sagging bed in the small bedroom, opened up a drawer in his knotty-pine bedside table, took out a couple of men's magazines and a jar of Vaseline. He smeared the grease over his water-logged penis while he looked at pictures of barely interesting girls; when he was hard enough he jacked off, then wiped off the mess after he had finished. He drifted in and out of Vietnamese landscapes as sleep hunted for him in the undergrowth of his dreams, then he turned out the single little amber glowing lamp by his bed and was soon sleep.
At 7:45 the next morning, Henderson was on the shoulder adjacent to Central High School, getting ready to work the morning school zone traffic. Central had the only active summer session in the school district, and as a result the reduced speed limit for school zones was still in effect. Most of the kids here were reckless, bad drivers, so he was often here in the morning. He sat astride the Harley, the heat off the twin cylinders causing his inner thighs to run with sweat. He calibrated his radar and watched traffic; it was unusually light this morning, with only a few cars passing in front of the old three-story high red-brick building.
Off in the distance he saw a maroon Oldsmobile coupe headed toward his position; it was speeding and moving erratically from lane to lane. Henderson's first impression was that the vehicle was being operated by someone very drunk; he made a quick radar observation of 47 mph in the 20 mph school zone. He tossed the radar into the lefthand saddlebag and clasped the lid shut, and started the Harley. As the car passed he flipped on his lights and siren and pulled out onto the roadway. He quickly came up to the rear of the maroon car; he watched carefully as it signaled and pulled over onto the roadway's shoulder.
Henderson checked out with dispatch on traffic, then walked up to the car.As he approached the car he heard a woman and a child crying. Nearing the driver's side window, he looked into the car and saw a young boy - maybe six years old - sitting on the floorboard in front of the passengers seat. The driver of the car was - maybe - thirty, and her pale red hair was an unkempt mess. As he looked in the car further, he saw the left side of her face was tear streaked, and appeared swollen and puffy. Then he saw the right side of her face.
Her right eye was swollen shut, and was surrounded by an angry deep purple welt. A pathetic streak of dried blood had frozen under her right nostril, and her right cheek was brilliant crimson. The woman was crying almost hysterically, and Henderson immediately thought this was the aftermath of a family disturbance.
"Mam, I'm Officer Henderson. Are you all right?"
"No, not really!" the woman responded, trying to laugh through her tears and pain.
Henderson looked at the young boy; his face was bruised, too. "Mam, can you tell me what's happened to you?"
"My husband . . ." she began, but lost her way to the cresting pain that caught her unawares.
"Can I see your driver's license please?" As the woman dug through her pocket book, Henderson got on his hand unit and started talking to dispatch. "241, signal 38, signal four involved, need an ambulance at my location. Standby for 20."
"10/4 241 at 0755 hours."
The woman handed Henderson her license. "Is this address correct, Mrs Taylor?"
"Is your husband still there?"
"I think so; he was drunk, he threatened to kill us . . ." she said through deep, racking sobs.
"Is he armed, Mam?"
"Yes, he's out of his mind, he lost his job again . . ."
"Pardon me, Mam . . . Ah, 241, victim is Taylor, Jennifer Ann, female, white, 8/18/54, address 2120 Quail Run Court. Advises her husband at that location assaulted her and her child, who is with me at my location, and that the husband is armed and intoxicated, despondent and out of control."
"241 received at 0801 hours. 3114, respond to 38a at 2120 Quail Run Court."
"3114 code 5."
"3116 code 5"
"3110 code 5"
"Units enroute at 0801 hours.
Henderson went to the passenger door and opened it, helped the young boy out. He had trouble standing on his own; Henderson took off his wind-breaker and rolled it up, then helped the boy lay down with his head on his jacket. He went to help the woman out of the car, and had her sit by her son and comfort him. He talked to Mrs Taylor about what had happened, and got as much information as he could about her husband and the layout of the house.
Soon the ambulance was on scene, and the paramedics went to work on the woman and her son. One of the paramedics came to him after a moment and asked what had happened, and Henderson filled him in. "Well shit, Tim," the medic said, "the kids got a depressed skull fracture . . . musta been hit with a board. Woman's probably got a fractured mandible and orbit, couple of loose teeth. We're gonna transport 'em both."