Peril in the Pines Ch. 04byHansTrimble©
BACK TO WORK WITH INTERRUPTIONS
I sort of woke up when Jan was getting ready for work, then dozed until 9:30, when I sat up in bed, ready for action. I grabbed the bedside phone and called the Sheriff. "How'd you sleep?" he asked.
"Soundly, with no bad dreams or anything. I guess my mind was busy processing everything that I'd learned from leading that raid, and when things are quiet I'd like to talk it over with you. I think I've got a few insights that I didn't have before. What's happening?"
"Pretty quiet. Domestic dispute that Gus and Terry are handling. Dog bite that Doug went out to. Two fender benders. Other than that, just burning up a lot of the taxpayers' gas and tires."
"Well, I'll be in soon. Could you have somebody pick me up around 10:30?"
"Sure. This afternoon you've got an appointment with our tailor to get measured for uniforms. What collar device do you want, maple leaf?"
"I'd be embarrassed to show my face above major's leaves. How about backing down to lieutenant's bars?"
"Captain it is. See you in an hour."
I had taken a shower the night before, but I took a short one just to leave me feeling fresh and alert. After I got dressed I had some toast and coffee, and was just washing my plate and cup when Tim drove into the driveway. We exchanged greetings and I got into the shotgun seat and clicked myself into the harness. Our patrol cars have four point harnesses for the front seats to protect our deputies in high speed chases and the like. It's not unusual for county patrol cars to crash into things because the distances are great and quick response to an emergency is important. A lot of patrol cars, especially in big cities, spend most of their useful lives rolling at forty miles an hour or less. Ours, like the state troopers' cars, are doing about seventy on most calls, and nobody has ever repealed the old rule that speed kills. Gunshots aren't the only things that make this a dangerous occupation.
I was starting to tell Tim about my plan to ride along with every deputy for a few days when the radio crackled and Becky's voice said, "Woman in advanced labor at 603 Vincent Terrace. Who can take it?"
Tim didn't hesitate. "I'm two blocks away, Becky. On the way. We'll see how good a midwife the chief is."
"Let me know how it goes, Tim."
In two minutes we pulled up at the house, where a very pregnant young woman was standing on the front porch, clinging to the railing. I jumped out before the wheels stopped turning and ran up to her. "Can you walk to the car, ma'am?"
"If you'll help me." I took her left arm, but just then she shuddered and groaned. Tim sprinted up and took her right arm. "I don't think I can make it," she said. "Baby's gonna come right now." I reached over and opened the front door. Good thing she hadn't locked it. Tim turned her and I caught her arm again as we walked her into the house.
Tim asked, "Is there a bed with a clean sheet?"
The woman had her teeth clenched but she jerked her chin toward a door and we went into what looked like a guest room. Tim yanked the covers back and we helped her onto the bed. I had seen what looked like a linen closet in the hallway so I ran to it and grabbed a stack of clean towels. I was laying one down between her legs when she gave out a screech and her whole body went rigid, every muscle like a piece of rebar. Suddenly I could see the baby's head, and with another strong contraction the head was all the way out and the rest was coming. Tim said, "Let me get it," and he spread a towel across his hands and supported the head in one hand and the shoulders in the other. And then it was all the way out, legs wriggling and a surprisingly large penis waving proudly. I unfolded a beach towel that was soft velour on the colored side, and held it across my arms. Tim set the baby on it, and wrapped the rest of the velour towel around the little fellow. "Ma'am, you have a beautiful little boy here. He looks just perfect. The cord is still attached so this is sort of clumsy, but you can take him and hold him up against you so he gets to know his mommy."
Tim's earpiece was dislodged and hanging on his chest, so I could hear Becky's voice saying, "Ambulance is on the way. Hold on for five minutes and they'll be there to take over. What is it, boy or girl?"
"Boy, medium size, crying a little and wiggling his arms and legs. You can tell the guys that the chief did just great. Maybe the two of can take this up as a side job, and we'll charge a lot less than Doc Barnes."
Becky came back with, "Good job, both of you! And Jack, welcome to the life of a patrol officer."
Tim wiped his hands dry and got his notebook out to get the particulars for his report. The young mother looked up at us and smiled. "Thank you both. You were wonderful."
I stepped back and inhaled deeply, wondering if I could have been holding my breath all that time. "You're welcome. We're here to protect and serve."
I heard the front door open, and then the ambulance crew was in the small room with us. Tim and the ambulance driver noted down the mother's, father's, and baby's names and the time of birth, and we got out of their way and left. I was wearing a yellow shirt, and on the front porch Tim said, "You've got blood smeared on your shirt."
"I'll leave it. It's like a merit badge for my first childbirth. I'm proud of it"
Tim and I came through the back door from the parking lot and Becky called out, "The obstetric unit is here!"
The Sheriff waved us into his office. "Nice job. Have you done it before, Tim?"
"No, but of course I had the training at the academy. I was afraid my mind would be blank but it all came back to me about the time the head started to show. The chief caught on real quick and we did it all together, just as smooth as if we'd done it before."
I was still excited, my words tumbling over each other. "I never imagined it could happen that fast. From the time the head started out, it was over in a minute. It was all new to me, but the next time I'll be a little more confident. I had two good teachers, Tim and the mother."
"Well, sit down and catch your breath. Every day is different, but nothing builds our image better than delivering a baby. The mother is so afraid for her child that she doesn't even think about herself or the pain that she's in. Becky called the newspaper and they'll do a cute piece for the front page of tomorrow's paper. If we can get one more of these before my annual budget inquisition, we'll sail through and get everything I ask for. And Jack, this is only your second full day on the job. First it's a gang of thugs, then a hit man, and now a baby. You really hit the ground running!"
"That's the best way. It was exciting. I feel as if we participated in a miracle.
"I wanted to run something by you, Sheriff, and it affects you, Tim, so stay for a minute. What I'd like to do is spend a few days riding along with each deputy, to get a feel for the kinds of calls we respond to and get to know the deputies. I thought I'd start with Tim so I can learn the roads and the shortcuts from the local expert, in between childbirths. How does that strike you, Sheriff?"
"Sounds like a good idea to me. You two seem to be a pretty good team already, so it's a good way to start. Any thoughts, Tim?"
"Just fine with me. I'll look forward to it."
"Okay, Tim. You can get back to whatever you were going to do before playing doctor."
After Tim left the Sheriff opened his desk drawer and pulled out my key ring. "You'll need this. You left your keys in the Jeep, which isn't surprising.
"Troopers laid a trap for the bad guys who were cleaning up the rest of the bricks, just as you predicted they would. Sergeant Duffy congratulates you on your insight. They captured five men including two who were wounded, plus a nice truck and all the rest of the bricks. Their lab is working on a few bricks right now to see what they're made of and what's inside. But we still don't know who runs the operation or what it's all about. If we don't find out how this all started, like with a high dollar theft or whatever, we can't prevent it from happening again.
"Of the three men who died yesterday, two have been identified. The troopers caught the two hitchhikers. So now we have seven prisoners and all of them are identified. The hit man you shot out in our parking lot here has not been identified, and hasn't regained consciousness yet. State CID is working to make sense of how all the known men fit together, to figure out how they were recruited and where, and they hope to learn more from interviews. You get enough guys who each let out a little bit of the truth, and then you fit it together like a puzzle. So that's in the works. The troopers want to talk with you when it's convenient. It'll give you a chance to get to know some of them.
"Becky will explain about the tailor and the uniforms.
"Now about the academy. A new class is starting the end of next month. You can attend the classroom lessons, which are usually in the mornings, and any of the afternoon practical exercises that you're interested in. They'll cover some interesting stuff about new devices to make our lives easier, and of course new regulations to make our lives miserable. Do all the driving exercises because we have some real problems here when things get exciting, especially in the winter. And these Fords don't handle like Humvees.
"Okay, that's all that I had for you. Now, what did you want to tell me?"
"First, about the deputies you sent out with me. I know you probably picked the best guys for the assignment, and there may be some others who aren't as good, but I was pleased to see how well they take direction, and how brave they are. Those guys would charge into a lion's den with a pocketknife. And they aren't afraid of hard work, either. If a guy with a shovel got ahead of the guys hauling and loading, he'd drop the shovel and go help haul and load, and vice versa. They're really good men. And they've obviously been trained well at the academy and here on the job, so I expect to see that they're good at what they do. What they don't know how to do yet is to anticipate and plan, so that's something that I plan to teach them as we go along. To say, 'Now plan for what you know will happen, and what might happen, and what has never happened but could,' is just words. I'll go over what happened out in the woods so they can see how to apply all this to real life events.
"If we do this with every big deal that we go through, eventually it'll become how they think about their jobs. A real danger is that spending so much time driving around in the beautiful countryside can dull their sense of urgency. The notion that they can wait to see what happens and then deal with it is a brave, macho attitude, but everybody can respond better and faster if the thing that happens has already been anticipated and planned for. I know how to do it, I've taught other people how to do it, and I've seen what it did for us in combat by reducing casualties. Look, Sheriff, I want you to know that I like these guys and I don't want them to get hurt, any more than you do.
"And then there's leadership. I've already found out that Vince is the obvious choice for a working leader, your senior deputy. He'll work every day as a patrol officer, but he's already recognized by the group as a leader, and if he says to jump, they just ask how high. Since he'll still be a full-time patrol officer he won't need any special approval by the board. Acting as the senior deputy will simply be one of his assigned tasks and his ability to do it will be good for a few points in his performance review so he'll get some extra pay for doing it."
I paused for breath and watched the Sheriff's face for a sign of how all this struck him. "I agree with everything you've said. When I was a Marine I felt the same way you do about anticipating and planning, but those weren't popular buzzwords then. Those guys were actually proud of being reactive instead of proactive. So what you're saying is that our deputies are like old style Marines. Which isn't all that bad, except that you wind up playing by the other fella's rules. If you plan the encounter you can be the one setting the rules to your own advantage."
"What you're telling me is that there's very little difference between how the guys approached your war and my war. When I got to Afghanistan I was put in a company run by a captain who hated the place, liked to stay in his nice safe office in a big building, and as long as the patrols went out on schedule he didn't think any command decisions were called for at all. He was just putting in time, counting the days till he'd go back to the states. The guys who were going out on patrol just did things any old way, figuring nobody would notice except the enemy and they were just ignorant camel drivers. That scared the shit out of me. The guys had an attitude just like the captain's and a lot of them had already made up their minds that they were destined to die in that Godforsaken wilderness so what difference did it make what they did. I could see that the enemy were smart, well organized fighters who were rigging every encounter to favor their chances of winning. I talked to the Captain and tried to tell him that the actions of the enemy were predictable and could be defeated by planning. He laughed at me.
"About half of the guys had deployed with the company, so half of my squad was due to go home together. Of the rest of us, I was the one who could read maps the best, so I was made squad leader. That's when things changed. I did things my way. We got a bunch of fresh replacements, scared to death, and they'd grasp onto anything I told them that sounded safer than just driving around waiting to be killed. So I charted out the six tactics that the enemy liked best, and three plans to defeat each one of them. I got everybody out to the range for weapons practice once a week. I inspected the squad just before we went out every day. I stashed extra ammo in the Humvee. I had every man learn all about manning the machine gun and driving the Humvee. And I led them in prayer going out and coming back.
"We took fewer hits on our Humvee. It got so we'd see the enemy listening to the sound of an approaching Humvee and when they saw it was us, they'd head the other way. None of my guys got seriously hurt. The captain went home, and our new CO did his homework in a hurry and called me in to ask me how come we were so lucky. So I told him it was simple, the better we anticipated and planned, the luckier we were. Next month he promoted me from corporal right up to staff sergeant, and before I rotated back he promoted me again, to sergeant first class. He had me run classes at night for the whole company. I found I was dog tired from working such long hours, but the sleep that I did get was peaceful.
"The crazy part was those medals you asked me about. They came so long after the fact that I was already back in the states. Even my purple heart. So the medals meant nothing to me, but anticipating and planning brought me home safe."
The Sheriff shook his head. "Funny how these things happen. Now look, I know this county better than anybody else who lives here. You keep learning about it and the calls that we have to respond to, and we'll spend some time going over it all, reviewing what you've learned. Let's see if you can do here what you did there, with your six favorite problems and plans A, B, and C for every one. I'll help you with all of it, and our objective will be to keep our county peaceful and our deputies safe.
"Here's a suggestion to think about. Put other things into your training program, too. Body building, weight control, special driving tricks, using everyday objects as weapons, unarmed combat, shooting with your 'other' hand, stuff like that. You could pick a different subject to be the training topic for each month."
"Hey, I've come to the right place! Back in the beginning I thought you might be a little skeptical about these things, and you're way out there ahead of me.
"What provision do we have for working out? Does the county have a gym? Is there some special place where we can go?"
"See Becky about that. Lefty's Gym is across town, run by a retired deputy, Lefty Crowley. All of us get to use it for free. If you want to lift, go there with another deputy so you can spot for each other in the weight room."
"Enough talk. Go on over to the tailor so you can get some uniforms. Oh, by the way, I did notice that blood smear that you're wearing so proudly. I know you've been waiting for me to say something. Maybe you'd be better off to frame that shirt than to wash it."
GUESS WHAT I DID TODAY
Jan was in the kitchen when I got home, and she looked up as I walked in. "Hi, Honey, what'd you do today?"
"I helped deliver a baby!"
"Deliver, you mean like childbirth?"
"Yes! A lady was in labor and the baby couldn't wait to get to the hospital. So we put her on a bed and the baby came right out. We wrapped him up in a soft towel and let her hold him. Then the ambulance crew came and took over. Tim was with me and he knew what to do, but really the lady did all the hard work."
"Oh, I wish I could have been there to see it. Boy or girl?"
"Boy. Definitely a boy. In fact if he doesn't change, he'll grow up to be the most popular boy in town."
"Well, just sit down and relax. I'll get you a nice cold beer, how's that sound? You get measured for your uniforms?"
"Yeah. They'll be shipped straight to the tailor so he can alter them to fit me. He said there's something about the width of my shoulders in proportion to something else. Whatever it is, I'll have my regular duty clothes next Tuesday, and my dress uniform a week later. Tomorrow I have to go get two pairs of boots and one pair of dress shoes. I have to go to two different stores for them. Then I'm supposed to go to Morrison's for underwear, socks, and T shirts. My holster and all that stuff will be delivered straight to the office. My service belts will go there, too. My new dress belt will be at the tailor shop when I go to get the dress uniform."
"What a lot of clothes. They dress you from head to foot, don't they?"
"I was surprised, too, at how much stuff there is, but it makes sense. Some of our deputies come from poor families, and we can't have them looking shabby compared to the others. So it's a good policy. I've really been pleased with the way the county takes care of us. All the best in uniforms and equipment, vehicles, training, you name it. But then they expect us to deliver. Some counties just turn everything more complicated than a speeding ticket over to the state troopers. Here, the attitude is just the opposite. Any crime in the county is our case until it can be proven that we're not equipped to handle it or that it falls into somebody else's authority, like a the Indian police or the FBI. Mind you, I didn't say unless, I said until. So we go right after it hot and heavy and if we turn it over, the Sheriff expects us to give them a case file they can work with. This is a very professional outfit."
"I'm glad. I knew you'd want to be part of something you can be proud of. When do you start classes at the academy?"
"Late next month. Becky said I'll have the schedule of classes on my desk Monday morning."
"Your desk? You've got a desk?"
"No, not yet. The carpenters who do building repairs and remodeling for the county will be in there working this weekend to convert a storage room to my office, and when I get in on Monday morning it'll all be there waiting for me."
"Oh, I wanted to show you this article in the morning paper. You know where Greenwood is?"
"Yeah, about forty miles south of here, in the mountains. What about it?"