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Sergeant David Compton led the woman out of the front door of the Wal-Mart in handcuffs. She was a small blonde bearing the moniker Britney. Some would call her petite, except it appeared that it was a meth-enhanced petiteness made lurid by the tell-tale scabs of the chronic user. The woman’s wrists were so small Compton was worried that she would slip her handcuffs.
“Why did you have to handcuff me? I’m not a criminal. Do you think I’m going to beat you up?” the woman asked. She had attempted to shoplift seventeen DVDs from Wal-Mart and was caught by an alert loss-prevention clerk. He noticed that her coat was excessively bulky for the weather. When he stopped Britney, he found the DVDs hidden in aftermarket pockets that had been sewn into the lining of her coat.
Sergeant Dave Compton had heard the question over a thousand times in his long, illustrious career. Compton was in his fifties and was still a sergeant working the night shift. Some would consider this fact an indication of a failed career, but it was quite the opposite. Compton had succeeded in everything he had ever done. He worked night shift because he preferred it. It suited him perfectly. He could have retired years earlier but chose to stay. He could have been on day shift years earlier but still had not tired of the way his officers charged into the action with the unadulterated enthusiasm of youth.
Compton had decided he had the best job in the world. He was a first class, first line supervisor. He was a police sergeant and he was doing police work in the best place to do it — on the night shift.
This night had been a crazy-busy night. Every officer in the city of La Claire was tied up handling calls all over. La Claire was a city of 60,000 nestled between bluffs and the Mississippi halfway between La Crosse and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It was a busy place for a policeman to work but was still a nice city in which to raise a family. Compton would say, “La Claire is a perfect place to be a cop. It is big enough to have enough action to keep it interesting and yet small enough to allow the cops to keep on top of everything.”
Tonight was unique. Sergeant Dave Compton had been saddled with an Explorer Scout ride-along by La Claire’s Chief of Police, Chief Hale. Hale had cautioned Compton to “keep the little guy out of trouble.”
Compton then asked what he thought to be a reasonable question, “Respectfully, sir, if you want to keep him out of trouble, why are we putting the young man into a police car? I am a police officer and I am supposed to look for trouble. When I can’t find any, the dispatcher usually will rustle up some for me.” He had made this observation with a tone as serious as an Irish Tenor’s while singing “Danny Boy.”
“Knock off the sarcasm, Compton,” was Hale’s terse response.
The young explorer tripped behind Compton, swinging the meth-head’s purse, trying to be helpful. At this point in the explorer’s life, he was oblivious to the possibility that riding along with a police officer was anything but a wonderful adventure. Compton reached his squad car and scanned the lot, seeing that they appeared to be alone. He unlocked the squad and eased Britney into the back seat. Compton belted her in and shut the door.
“Opie, could you please set the purse in the trunk,” said Compton as he reached into the front of the squad, located the trunk release button and popped the trunk.
“Yes sir,” replied the explorer with a laugh. Opie was not his name, but Compton had taken to calling the youth “Opie” because his red hair, freckles, and easy smile conjured up thoughts of the character from Mayberry RFD. The young scout liked the name. He liked the fact that a legend on the La Claire Police Department would give him a nickname. For a youth who dreamed to be a police officer some day, it was more than he could have hoped for to be noticed by a legend.
Bryce Packwood had carefully concealed himself behind a white panel van which belonged to the night cleaning crew at Wal-Mart. He watched as his girlfriend, Britney, was being tucked into the squad car. Packwood sized up the sergeant who had Britney in tow. He looked formidable for his age. The senior sergeant looked like superman with salt and pepper hair and no cape. Bryce decided the only way to take this man was to ambush him. Packwood slipped the 38 caliber Smith and Wesson five shot revolver out of his waistband and gripped then re-gripped the weapon as he felt his heart pounding a jungle rhythm in his chest.
Bryce moved quickly and silently around the van. He closed the distance between himself and Compton. He moved closer because did not want to miss this cop. Packwood had made his decision to kill the cop. He also planned to kill the goofy looking kid. With this accomplished there would be no witnesses. He would kill them both and rescue Britney. The plan was flawed but so was the meth-addled brain that devised it.
Britney saw Bryce coming and was shocked by what he was about to do. The shock registered on her face, giving Compton a reason to wonder “why is her mouth hanging open?” Britney’s visible but silent terror was the only warning the sergeant would receive. Compton spun as Bryce began firing. The first slug ripped through Compton’s cheek. Sergeant Compton reacted instantaneously, moving laterally to avoid being hit again. The rounds kept coming. The next four slugs hit the scrambling sergeant in the chest and his right arm. The vest stopped two rounds right over his heart. He saw Bryce, a tall lanky man with scabs that matched Britney’s. The assailant was wild-eyed. In the world of meth-users, Bryce Packwood was “tweaking,” and that was not a good thing. It was a time meth-users showed erratic, unusual, and unreasonable behavior. Since Packwood’s girlfriend was being arrested for shoplifting, shooting at this police officer fit the category of unusual for everyone except tweaking meth-addicts. If an armed ambush was not frightening enough, Bryce had tattooed the horns of the devil into his forehead, which in Packwood’s view, enhanced his ambience.
Bryce, firing wildly on the run, managed to have incredible accuracy hitting Compton with all five shots.