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MIRACLE ON 8TH AVENUE
By DAVID MALONE
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 David Malone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMAY 16, 1981
Throughout my police career I had often heard those words, and within thirty minutes I would learn their true meaning.
I lugged my briefcase toward my personal car, sloshing across the sector parking lot, while rain pelted the ground from the night sky overhead. Before I could toss the briefcase into the trunk, I heard part of a call rasping from my portable radio. The dispatcher was telling two units something about a man armed with a shotgun. I was minutes from being off-duty.
My many years as a street cop and as a patrol sergeant had convinced me that a cop really has what I call the sense of the streets—a feeling about people—about situations. Something told me that the call was bad, and I thought my officers might need me.
I buttoned my raincoat, headed back to my unit, and got in. I turned up the volume on the Motorola, picked up the microphone, and asked the dispatcher to give me the location that the two units were enroute to. Copying the eastside address, I put the car into gear and headed toward the call.
Lightning shattered the blackness when I turned up Burton Avenue, where I saw two squad cars parked ahead of me. I pulled in behind a unit, and as I got out I put my hat on to keep my head dry. I could see officers Morrison and Williams in their raincoats standing outside a white-framed residence. The night air hung heavy and chill in the rain. I approached the two officers. "What do you have here Jane?" I asked.
"Sergeant, we were dispatched to a domestic disturbance on Baylor. While we were enroute there, the dispatcher advised us to go instead to this address. The dispatcher said someone had been shot here," Williams said calmly.
"We knocked on the door several times, but no one answered," said Morrison.
"We're waiting on the complainant," Williams added.
I knocked on the door with my flashlight, but there was no sound but the rain. "I guess we'll just wait on the complainant," I said.
A woman drove up and parked at the street. She got out and walked briskly through the rain toward us. When she approached me, her eyes were heavy with worry, and she strained to speak at first. She then spoke hurriedly, water beading on her forehead. "My husband called me and told me he had shot himself and that there was blood all over the room. He's inside," she said, handing me the key to the front door.
"Please go inside and help him. He's been talking crazy, saying that bugs were crawling all over him. Please help him," she pleaded. "His name is Steve."
Using the wall as cover, I unlocked the door, which opened about two inches and stopped. The door was barricaded by a chair lodged under the doorknob. A wave of apprehension rippled in my stomach. "Steve, come to the door! This is the police!" I yelled several times. There was no response.
"I'll have to kick the door open," I told the woman. She nodded affirmatively.
I kicked the front door open. I entered the doorway with my revolver drawn, with Williams and Morrison coming in behind me. I kept hollering "Police!" and "Steve!," as the three of us cautiously entered the living room. The area was a total shambles, with all the furniture on its side or upside down, broken glass everywhere. The house had been the scene of extreme violence.
We searched the kitchen, then proceeded to inch our ways down the hallway with revolvers drawn, while I kept calling out. Jane shined her flashlight around the corner of an open doorway just as someone answered my calls. "Get out of my house!" the voice yelled.
"Do you have a gun?" I hollered back.
"No!" the voice retorted.
Jane, shining her light into the bedroom, suddenly appeared startled and turned quickly back to me. "Yes, he does have a gun. I saw a gun raising up," she added.
"Let's get out of here." I ordered the officers outside. The three of us retreated to the front porch. I pulled out my portable radio. "We have a barricaded person here! Start the tactical squad to our location!" I told the dispatcher.
I positioned myself to the left of the open front door, so that I could see the subject enter the living room, should he decide to attempt to come out of the bedroom to shoot one of us.
My magnum revolver pointed to the entrance of the living room from the hallway. I had Jane position herself to the right of the front door.
The tactical squad began to mobilize on channel four.
Minutes passed. My revolver felt heavy in my hand, and my hand was no longer steady. I feared that the man might try shoot one of us before the tactical squad could get here.
Suddenly, the man appeared in the living room doorway with a shotgun in his hands, the barrel pointing at the ceiling. The man turned his head toward me and glared.
"Drop the shotgun!" I yelled at the man.
"Get out of my house!" he yelled back.
We were on the front porch—out of the house. Should we retreat further? I never had time to ask myself that question.
My hammer was cocked. In one motion the man leveled the double-barreled shotgun at my face, and I pulled the trigger at the instant I saw both barrels staring at me. My shot knocked the man to the floor, and he collapsed behind an overturned couch that was between us.
As Williams and Morrison ran into the house, for just a moment I remained standing in the front doorway, not really believing what had just happened. Fentress removed the cocked shotgun from the fallen man and placed it out of his reach. Two ambulance attendants, who had been parked at the street, heard the shot and ran into the house to treat the man. I had shot him in the lower abdomen. I called the dispatcher. "Baker 210—I've been involved in a shooting! Start crime scene, homicide, and a captain! Cancel the tactical squad!"
Within minutes, the ambulance departed, siren blaring, as it sped down Trentman toward the county hospital. The woman's words to her husband when they put him into the ambulance echoed in my mind. "Steve, I love you," she had told him. The rain still came down.
As I watched a crime scene officer measure the house and flash his camera, I knew the night would be long. My stomach knotted with the thought of having shot a man. There had been so many times before, when I had almost pulled the trigger. But before, there had always been another way out.
Hours and hours of overtime.
First, there was the report filed in the captain's office. Then I had a 5:00 A.M. interview in internal affairs. Then there was a later interview by homicide investigators, a sworn statement, and fatigue. About 8:00 A.M. I turned in my paperwork and went home. Almost seven hours of overtime after a ten-hour shift. Numbed by all that had happened, I made my way home. There was more to it than being involved in a shooting. It involved something much deeper. I would think about it when I got home. It hurt.
The rain continued.
Once at home I slept many hours. When I awakened, the memory of the shooting knotted my stomach. The irony of what had happened became clear. The year was 1981, and for several years my life had been a living hell, since the year I fell victim to severe depression—a chemical imbalance, the psychiatrist had said. And now I had shot someone facing his own hell. Even if the man lived he would be disabled.
Many years have passed since I shot a man that rainy night in 1981. The shooting was only an isolated event in my life. I am compelled to tell the story so that others might have hope.
This is a book of hope in the midst of hopelessness.
Chapter TwoFALL, 1956
THE EVENING FADED INTO THE low cloud bands that draped west Ft. Worth, drawing dusk from the east. I assembled the pieces of my refracting telescope and thought that the telescope was the best thing that had happened to me in my eight years. An autumn wind rustled and fell stubborn leaves from my old pecan tree and whisked them across the roof of my house. I buttoned my coat, turned away from the chill wind and listened. In the west I could hear the drone of a B-36 bomber ascending from Carswell Air Force base.
I sat on an old redwood table and waited for darkness. Astronomy fascinated me, and I was the only kid I knew of with a book on the subject. I knew that someday a spacecraft of some type would break this planet's bonds to visit other realms.
An hour passed, and dusk became night. Jupiter brightened.
I mounted the telescope to its wooden tripod and tightened the lock. Positioning the scope toward the east, I adjusted the peep scope, aligning it, so that Jupiter edged toward the intersection of the crosshairs. I peered into the main scope, focusing it until the images of the huge planet and four of its moons became clear. Re-adjusting the scope several times to compensate for Earth's rotation, I tired of Jupiter and tried the scope on the quarter-moon below Orion. I began to think of my mother, Dorothy, and the baby she was supposed to have just any time.
Dorothy Malone, my mother and not the actress, was gifted with a beauty which exceeded my own bias. Soft-spoken, but proud, she carried herself well. The symmetry of her face was accentuated by flowing brown hair, only slightly streaked with gray. She had a clear complexion that made her look younger than she was. A sensitive, caring mother, I remember her sitting in the kitchen one afternoon, crying because I had almost been hit by a car. "You could have been hurt," she had said with the tears inching down from her eyes.
My mother was all a kid could ask for.
"David, you had better come inside now. It's getting chilly out there, and you don't need to miss any school because you're sick," said Mom, who had opened the window and beckoned.
"O.K., Mom," I answered, and quickly disassembled the telescope, carefully placing the parts in a wooden box. I folded up the collapsing tripod and carried everything inside.
My bedroom closet was a shambles, but I got the box and tripod into it somehow. I put on some flannel pajamas and slipped into bed, where I lay thinking of planets like Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto—planets I couldn't see through my telescope. I could hear music coming from the phonograph in the living room.
Mom entered the room, cut off the light, and sat on the side of the bed, grasping my cold hand.
"You know, pretty soon you're going to have another baby brother or sister—probably in three or four weeks," she said.
"I know. What if it's a boy? What will you name him?" Secretly, I wanted it to be a boy. It didn't matter that I already had one brother. I just didn't care for girls much at this point in my life.
"Your father and I decided that if the baby is a boy, we'll name him Timothy."
"What if it's a girl. Mom?"
"I'm sure you would love her just as much."
"I hope the new baby doesn't cry as much as Andy did."
"David, that's just part of being a baby. Babies cry."
Mom put her hand below her stomach. "I felt the baby kick," she said.
"When the baby comes, would you let me feed it with the bottle?"
"Of course you can; now say your prayer."
I recited it quickly. "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take, Amen."
Mom bent over and kissed me lightly on the forehead.
"I love you, David."
"I love you too. Mom."
"Now go to sleep, so you'll be rested for school in the morning." She stood up and left the room. A few seconds later Dad called good-night from the living room, where he sat smoking his pipe and reading.
Drifting toward welcome sleep, I envisioned the myriads of stars and galaxies spread across the universe. I attempted to comprehend their distances in light years, which I had read about in the book, but it was difficult to do. It seemed inconceivable to me that a faint star's light represented a time in the distant past—that the star might have died long ago.
My thoughts drifted further, toward other things. I thought of seeing classmates in the morning. Then, I thought of my new neighbor, Beverly, who had moved in across the street, two houses down. Ordinarily, I didn't play with girls, but I was going to make Beverly an exception, because she liked some of the same things I did. I thought of other things, too. I thought and thought, until waves of sleep stilled my mind.
The year I lived in, 1956, was in the center of some of America's most nostalgic years. Dwight Eisenhower was president and Vietnam was only thought of in geographical ways, if ever. The traumatic, turbulent sixties were still many years away. Patriotism was at a high point in American life. It was a good time to be alive, in my brick home in suburbia. It was a good time to be a kid, too.
The clattering alarm awakened me in the morning. The bedroom was cold, except for the area around a small gas heater on the wooden bedroom floor. (I had never heard of central heat back then.)
"Wake up, sleepyhead," called Mom from the kitchen, where she hurriedly prepared breakfast. I budged slowly, sliding my icy feet into a pair of slippers, but then I scurried to the breakfast table, where my two-year-old brother, Andy, was mumbling something about wanting his eggs right now.
"Keep quiet, Andy," I ordered, wiping sleep from my eyes, as I sat at the table across from my brother.
My father, Jeune Darwin Malone, entered the dining room wearing a white shirt and tie, taking his place at the end of the table. He folded the morning paper, which he placed beside his plate. (Yes, Jeune is an uncommon first name for a man; my father had his share of fights over the name when growing up in Kentucky.)
Dad looked older than his years, wrinkles lining his eyes behind his black-framed glasses. His black hair was combed straight back, neatly, as always; his posture was erect. My father's general demeanor reflected all his years in the military, which culminated with his service in World War Two. After the war he separated from the U.S. Air Force as a major. His command experience had been invaluable to him in landing a responsible supervisory position at General Dynamics, a large defense contractor in west Ft. Worth.
I feared and respected my father, and had often received the sting of his belt. I always deserved the beltings, but I wished my father had been easier to talk to back then.
Mom carried a bowl of scrambled eggs and bacon to the table, taking her place opposite Dad. Dad looked at me to say grace, so I said grace.
"Thank you, David. That was nice," praised Mom.
Andy beat his fork on the tray repeatedly.
"Mom, would you please give Andy some eggs, so I won't have to listen to that noise?" I requested.
Mom dished out some eggs onto Andy's plate, then glanced at me. "Don't you get your report card Friday?"
"I hope it's as good as the last one."
"It will be," I said.
Dad turned toward my mother. "You know, things don't look good in Asia. I think we may be at war with Red China by next year."
Mom listened, but I knew she didn't care much about world politics.
"The Communists are going to keep us from doing anything about Red China until war is inevitable."
I saw my father was starting to get upset as the talk progressed. I began to tune him out and got seconds on the eggs.
"Russia will probably laugh at us ..."
Thinking of last night's sights through the telescope, I grabbed two more pieces of bacon.
Dad's lecture ceased, and he looked at Mom, who was holding her hand over her eyes, her head lowered toward the table.
"Are you all right?" Dad asked.
"I think so. For a moment though, I felt real faint."
"Do you want me to stay home from work this morning?"
"No, I'll be all right. Yes, I'm O.K. now."
"You're sure?" "Yes, go on to work."
Dad stood up and looked at his watch. "Well, I've got to get going." He walked over and kissed Mom, patted little Andy on the head, and told me good-bye, as he put on his blue suit coat.
I followed my father to the front door, watching him through the screen, as he backed the black sedan out of the driveway. Then, I returned to the dining room and helped Mom clear the table. I showered and put on the neatly-pressed shirt and trousers which Mom, as always, had ironed the day before. Gathering my textbooks, pencils, and lunchbox, I kissed her and trudged out the door for Burton Hill Elementary.
Tagging behind two school chums, on my way home, I reflected on the events of a long school day, as one of the older youths sneered at the patrol boy motioning us across Burton Hill Road. I parted company with the pair and rounded the corner of Aton, where I noticed a couple of large sedans parked in front of the house. Uncle Neil and Aunt Sue greeted me at the front door. My cousin, Neil Snebold, Jr., was also there. I was filled with excitement that Neil Jr. had come to see me from Wichita Falls, and we would be able to play together.
My grandparents were there too, and my grandfather Snebold stood up to greet me. "Hello, David."
"Hi, Dado," I said, as I began to look for my mother.
Excerpted from MIRACLE ON 8TH AVENUE by DAVID MALONE Copyright © 2012 by David Malone. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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