Read an Excerpt
OFFICERS WEEP (Chapter 1)
700 Block, First Street. Parking violation. Car blocking driveway. Citation issued. City Tow notified.
5700 Block, Central Boulevard. Public disturbance. Rowdy juveniles on interurban bus. Suspects flee before officers arrive.
400 Block, Sycamore Circle. Barking dog complaint. Attempts to shush dog unsuccessful. Citation left in owner’s mailbox. Animal Control notified.
1300 Block, Harvest Avenue. Suspicious odor. Homeowner returning from extended trip reports a bad odor—a gas leak or “the smell of death.” Officers investigate. Odor ascertained to be emanating from a neighbor’s mimosa tree in unseasonal bloom. “The smell of life,” officer [Shield #647] ponders aloud. Officers nod. Homeowner rolls eyes, nods politely.
3900 Block, Fairview Avenue. Shady Glen Retirement Apartments. Loud noise complaint. “What kind of noise?” officers ask. Complainant simply says it was “a loud report.” “A gunshot?” officers query. “A scream? Explosion? What?” Complainant becomes adamant, shakes walnut cane in fisted hand: “It was a loud report!” Officers mutter, reach for batons, then relent. Officers report report.
700 Block, Sixth Street. Public disturbance. Kleen-Azza-Whistle Cleaners. Two women in fistfight over snakeskin vest. Each declares ownership of claim ticket found on floor by officers. In an inspired Solomonic moment, officer [Shield #647] waves pair of tailor’s shears and proposes cutting vest in half. Approaching the contested garment, he slips its coveted skins between the forged blades. And thus is the true mother revealed!
3600 Block, Sunnyside Drive. Vandalism. Handball courts in Phoenix Park defaced. Spray-paint graffiti depicts intimate congress between a male and a female, a panoramic mural of heterosexual coupling that spans the entire length of the courts’ front wall, its every detail rendered with a high degree of clinical accuracy. Officers gape. Minutes pass in slack-jawed silence, until officer [Shield #647] ascertains incipient boner. Officer horrified, desperately reroutes train of thought, briskly repositions his baton. Second officer [Shield #325] takes down Scene Report, feigns unawareness of her partner’s tumescent plight, ponders the small blessings of womanhood. Vandalism reported to Parks & Rec Maintenance.
900 Block, Maple Road. Canine litter violation. Homeowner complains of dog feces on front lawn. Officers investigate, ascertain droppings are fresh, reconnoiter on foot. They walk abreast, eyes asquint and arms akimbo, their hands at rest among the ordnance of their utility belts: radio receiver, pepper spray, ammo pouch, handcuffs, keys and whistles, and change for the meter. Officers jingle like Santas. Their shoulders and hips move with the easy dip and roll of Classic Cop Swagger. “That business back there,” she says, “with the snakeskin vest?” He grunts in acknowledgment, scanning the scene for untoward canine activity. “I—I liked that.” Her voice is hoarse, throaty, tentative, as he’s never heard before. He nods, purses lips, nods some more. She nervously fingers butt of her service revolver. He briskly repositions his baton. A high color passes from one steely countenance to the other. Officers blush. Mid-swagger, elbows graze. And within that scant touch, the zap of a thousand stun guns. Up ahead, another steaming pile, whereupon poop trail turns cold. Officers terminate search, notify Animal Control.
9200 Block, Bonny Road. Vehicular burglary. Items stolen from pickup truck: a pair of work boots, a hard hat, and safety goggles, and—per victim’s description—a cherry-red enameled Thaesselhaeffer Sidewinder chain saw, with an 8.5 horsepower, 2-stroke motor in a titanium alloy housing, 4-speed trigger clutch with auto-reverse, and the words DADDY’S SWEET BITCH stenciled in flaming orange-yellow letters along the length of its 34-inch saw bar. Victim weeps. Officers take Scene Report, refer victim to Crisis Center.
5600 Block, Fairvale Avenue. Traffic stop. Illegal U-turn. Officer [Shield #325] approaches vehicle. Her stride longer than her legs can accommodate, she leans too much into each step, coming down hard on her heels, as if trudging through sand. As she returns to Patrol Unit, a lock of her hair—thin and drab, a lusterless, mousy brown—slips down and swings timidly across her left eye, across the left lens of her mirrored wraparounds. Officer tucks errant lock behind ear, secures it in place with a readjustment of duty cap. Her gestures are brisk and emphatic, as if she were quelling a desire to linger in the touch of her own hair. Officer [Shield #647] observes entire intimate sequence from his position behind wheel of Patrol Unit. Officer enthralled. Officer ascertains the potential encroachment of love, maybe, into his cautious and lonely life. Officer swallows hard.
700 Block, Willow Court. Dogs running loose. Pack of strays reported scavenging in neighborhood, turning over garbage cans and compost boxes. Worried homeowner reports cat missing, chats up officers, queries if they like cats. “Yes, ma’am,” officer [Shield #325] replies. “They are especially flavorful batter-fried.” Officers crack up. Levity unappreciated. Officers notify Animal Control, hightail it out of there.
2200 Block, Cherry Orchard Way. Burglary. Three half-gallon cans of chain saw fuel stolen from open garage.
7800 Block, Frontage Boulevard at Highway 99. Vehicle accident and traffic obstruction. Semitrailer hydroplanes, overturns, spills cargo of southwestern housewares down Frontage Road West off-ramp. Officers redirect traffic and clear debris: shattered steer skulls; fleshy cactus chunks; the dung-colored shards of indeterminate earthenware; the mangled scrap of copper-plate Kokopellis and dream shamans; and actual, honest-to-God tumbleweeds rolling along the blacktop. “Tumbleweeds!” officer [Shield #325] exclaims. “Yee-haw!” Roundup commences, and her face gleams with exertion and sheer joy. Her stern little mouth elongates into goofy smile, teeth glinting like beach glass in the sun. As they divert traffic, officer ascertains being observed keenly. The watchful and intimate scrutiny makes her feel, for the first time in a long while, yearned for, desired. Officer [Shield #325] gets all goose-bumpy and flustered, and likes it. DPW Units arrive in their orange trucks, unload sundry orange accoutrements, erect signage: CAUTION, SLOW, OBSTRUCTION. Officers secure scene until State Patrol arrives, with their state jurisdiction and their shiny boots and their funny hats.
200 Block, Windjammer Court. Tall Ships Estates. Criminal trespass. One-armed solicitor selling magazine subscriptions in gated community. Forty-six-year-old suspect is embarrassed, despondent, angry, blames his bad luck on television, on fast food, on “the fucking Internet.” Officers suggest cutting fast food some slack, then issue warning, escort suspect to main gate, buy subscriptions to Firearms Fancier and Enforcement Weekly.
2200 Block, Orange Grove Road. Criminal trespass and vandalism. Winicki’s World of Burlwood. Merchant returns from lunch to find furnishings—burlwood dining tables and wardrobes and credenzas, burlwood salad bowls and CD racks, burlwood tie caddies and napkin rings and cheese boards—ravaged. Officers assess scene, do math: Burlwood + Chain Saw = Woodcraft Apocalypse.
800 Block, Clearvale Street. Possible illegal entry. Complainant “senses a presence” upon returning home from yoga class. Officers investigate, ascertain opportunity to practice Cop Swagger, to kick things up a bit. Officer [Shield #325] pulls shoulders back, adds inch to height. Officer [Shield #647] sucks gut in, pulls oblique muscle. Search of premises yields nothing. “That’s okay,” complainant says. “It’s gone now.” Officers mutter, blame yoga.
300 Block, Galleon Court. Tall Ships Estates. Criminal trespass and public disturbance. One-armed magazine salesman kicking doors and threatening residents. Scuffle ensues. Officers sit on suspect, call for backup, ponder a cop koan: How do you cuff a one-armed man?
2600 Block, Bloom Road. Public disturbance. Two men in shouting match at Eugene’s Tamale Temple. Customer complains of insect in refried beans. Employee claims it’s parsley. Officers investigate. Dead spider ascertained in frijoles. “Well, it’s not an insect,” officer [Shield #325] declares. “Spiders are arachnids, you know.” “They’re also high in protein,” officer [Shield #647] adds. Customer not amused. Argument escalates. Scuffle ensues. Officers take thirty-two-year-old male customer into custody, and—compliments of a grateful and politic Eugene—two Cha Cha Chicken Chimichangas and a Mucho Macho Nacho Plate to go.
6700 Block, Coast Highway. Officers go to beach. They park Patrol Unit at overlook, dig into chimichangas, chew thoughtfully, ponder view. The sky above is heavy and gray, a slab of concrete. The ocean chops fretfully beneath it, muddy green, frothy as old soup. Officer [Shield #647] loves how the two of them can be quiet together. There is some small talk: the upcoming POA ballots; Tasers, yea or nay; the K-9 Unit’s dogfighting scandal. But mostly there is only the tick of the cooling engine, the distant whump of surf against shore, the radio crackling like a comfy fire. Officers sigh. Officer [Shield #647] gestures with chimichanga at vista before them. “There’s a saying,” he says. “How’s it go—
“Blue skies all day, officers gay.
If skies gray and clouds creep, officers weep.”
Officer [Shield #325] chews, nods, furrows her brow. “It’s an old saying,” he adds. “You know. Happy gay. Not gay gay.” She laughs. He laughs, too. Relief fills Patrol Unit. A weight is lifted, a door eases open and swings wide. His right hand slips from steering wheel and alights, trembling, upon her left knee. Her breath catches, then begins again—steady, resolute. Officers swallow, park chimichangas carefully on dash. Officers turn one to the other. Suspect in backseat asks if they’re done with those chimis, complains he’s hungry, too, you know, complains that somebody in Patrol Unit didn’t get to eat his combo plate and can they guess who? Officers terminate break, split Mucho Macho Nachos three ways, transport suspect to Division for booking.
400 Block, Glenhaven Road. Criminal trespass and vandalism at construction site. Four pallets of eight-foot framing two-by-fours chain-sawed into a grand assortment of useless two- and four-foot one-by-fours. Officers walk scene, sniff air. Sawdust, gas fumes, chain oil. It is a pungent mix, complex and heady. Officers inhale deeply, go all woozy.
2600 Block, Frontage Boulevard at Highway 99. Injury accident. Soil subduction collapses shoulder of 44th Street on-ramp. Three vehicles roll down embankment. Officers notify EMT and DOT Units, assist injured, secure scene. State Patrol pulls up, kills engine, emerges from Patrol Unit like starlet at movie premiere. State Patrol is starch-crisp and preternaturally perspiration-free. State Patrol thanks officers for their assistance, flashes horsey smile, tips dopey hat. Officers sit slouched on Patrol Unit, watch State Patrol strut about. “Prince of Freeways,” officer [Shield #647] mutters. “Lord of Turnpikes,” he says. Partner suggests that a more collegial relationship with State Patrol is called for. “King of the Road,” he continues. “Ayatollah of the Asphalt.” Officers giggle, get all silly, love that they can be silly. DPW Units swing by, offer wide range of orange gear and signage: SLOW, CAUTION, choice of SOIL SUBDUCTION or SUBDUCTED SHOULDER.
2200 Block, Felicity Court. Domestic disturbance. Man with golf club pounds on washing machine in garage. Woman in lawn chair applauds his every blow, whistles, barks like dog. Dogs next door whipped into frenzy by noise, bark like woman in lawn chair. Soapy water jets in jugular arcs from innards of crippled washer, streams down driveway, gurgles into gutter. Officers linger in Patrol Unit, assess scene, swiftly reach unspoken agreement, gun engine, hightail it out of there.
1000 Block, Clearview Terrace. Traffic obstruction. Sinkhole reported in street, measuring twenty-five feet across by four feet deep. Officers peer down hole, whistle. DPW Units flush restraint down crapper, go whole hog in establishing perimeter—orange barricades and flashers, orange arrowboards and signage, orange-garbed personnel braiding Reflect-O-Tape throughout scene like carnival light strings. Sinkhole perimeter is now a secure and festive perimeter. Officers clash with tableau, sent off to disperse rubberneckers: “Move along, folks, nothing to see here, move along.”
2200 Block, Oak Street. Public intoxication and urination. Outside Ye Olde Liquor Shoppe. Sixty-four-year-old man taken into custody. During transport to Division, officer [Shield #325] confesses: “I’ve always wanted to say that. You know: ‘Move along, nothing to see here.’”
5500 Block, Pleasant Avenue. Vandalism. Eighteen mailboxes destroyed along roadside, lopped neatly off their posts in a bout of mailbox baseball, but with chain saw instead of baseball bat. “Mailbox lumberjack,” officer [Shield #325] muses aloud. Shot at whimsy misses mark. “Har-dee-har,” complainant says. “Ha-fucking-ha.” Officer [Shield #647] wonders aloud if somebody maybe put their crabby pants on today. Officer [Shield #325] adds if maybe they OD’d on their potty-mouth pills, too. Argument escalates. Scuffle ensues. Fifty-five-year-old male complainant taken into custody.
2200 Block, Felicity Court. Domestic disturbance. Woman wielding shovel hacks at wide-screen television set in driveway. Under canopy of tree in front yard, shirtless man sits on case of beer, pounding brewskies, watching woman, offering profane commentary. Above him, slung into limbs and branches, wet laundry drips heavily—hanged men left in the rain. Dogs next door yowl and bay. Officers cruise by, tap brakes, assess scene, nod assent, hightail it out of there.
2500 Block, Fairmount Street. Criminal trespass and vandalism. Spivak’s House of Wicker. Wicker chewed and chopped chain-saw-style. Officers move silently into gray wicker haze, powdered with wicker dust, in awe of the sheer totality of wicker havoc.
1900 Block, Cypress Avenue. Illegal assembly. Demonstrators blocking access to public health clinic, refuse order to disperse. All available units dispatched for crowd control. Officers gathered at staging area, briefed on use-of-force policy, on arrest and intake procedures, then sicced on crowd. Officers stoked, fired up, ready to rhumba. Hand-to-hand maneuvers seemingly long forgotten—armlocks and choke holds, the supple choreography of baton work—all return facilely to muscle memory. Crowd control progresses smoothly. Officer [Shield #325] musses hair clobbering balky demonstrator. A scrawny little hank slips loose, nestles against her right cheek, framing the side of her face like an open parenthesis. A semaphore of possibility, officer [Shield #647] muses, spotting her while clobbering his balky demonstrator. Amid the tussle and heat of arrest and intake, she looks up, seeks him out, finds him. She smiles, waves shyly. From across the tactical field, he smiles, waves back, sticks out tongue. She is suddenly overcome, startled at how the sight of him affects her. It is not just love, or desire, but something profoundly less complex, as unadorned and simple as the Vehicle Code. Officer laughs, cries. Tearful and giddy, she whales on her demonstrator with what she realizes is joy in her heart. Demonstrators cuffed, processed, loaded onto County Transport Units. Assembly dispersed. Scene secured. Officers spent, pink and damp in the afterglow of crowd control. Cop Camaraderie ensues. Shirttails tucked, batons wiped down, cigarettes shared. Backs and butts slapped all around.
6700 Block, Coast Highway. Officers go to beach, park at overlook. Officers pooped, reposed. They do not speak. They sip double lattes, ponder view. A gash in the bruise-colored sky bleeds yellow. Sunshine leaks into the ocean, stains its surface with shimmering light. He looks over at her, notices a discoloration, a swelling on her left cheekbone. His hand reaches out, his fingers touch the wound, touch her. “You’re hurt,” he says. She smiles, whispers: “You should see the other guy.” They park their double lattes on dash, slip off their sunglasses, avert their eyes. They screw their faces against the jagged harshness of an unpolarized world, slip sunglasses back on. His hands reach for hers, their fingers clasp and enmesh, roil and swarm at the fourth finger of her left hand. Officers tug and pull, remove and park ring on dash. He reaches for her. She leans toward him; it is like falling. Officers fall. Afterward, they linger over their coffee. Wedding ring on dash glints in the shifting light, harmless as a bottle cap or a shiny old button, something a bird might snatch up. Officers watch a ball of sunlight flare up at earth’s edge like a direct hit. Officers assess scene, ascertain world to be beautiful.
2200 Block, Felicity Court. Domestic disturbance. Officers pull up, kill engine. They dawdle in Patrol Unit, fiddling with the mirrors and the radio, double-checking the parking brake. Officers sigh heavily, climb out, and assess scene. Garage door closed. Curtains in windows of home drawn. Officers walk up driveway, pick their way through the detritus of television set and washing machine. They knock on door, ring bell. No answer. Neighborhood quiet. Dogs next door quiet. Birds quiet. Everything, in fact, is quiet. The quiet of earplugs, of morgue duty, and of corridors at 3:00 a.m. The quiet before an alarm clock goes off. Officers backtrack down driveway, approach west side of house, move toward a gate in the fence that leads to backyard. They move gingerly across a saturated lawn, squishy beneath their feet. Soapy water oozes into the tracks they leave. Up ahead, against an exterior wall of house, a pile of freshly cut wood comes into view—one-by-four posts and whitewashed flatboards painted with black block letters. “LIFE” one of them reads. “MURDUR” reads another. Chain-sawed picket signs. Officers’ napes prickle, butts clench in autonomic response. They thumb the release tabs on their holsters, move toward gate. They lift latch, ease gate open. Above them, the sky clears and the sun breaks. The shadow of a distant airplane skims over them, glides across the lawn, disappears. Officers enter backyard. The back fence sags forward. Trellises and plant stakes list at crazy angles. A brick barbecue sits crumpled atop its sunken hearth slab. The deck along the west side of the house is a corrugation of collapsed planking. It is as if the earth here simply gave up, shrugged, and dropped six feet. Officers move along periphery of sinkhole toward the sliding patio doors that open onto deck. Their panes are shattered. The ground glitters with pebbles of safety glass. From within, cool air drifts out. And then they are hit, bowled over by a surge of vapors foul and thick—the redolence of mimosa clawing at their eyes and throats like some monstrous blossoming from somewhere inside the house. And then the noises. First, a loud muffled report—the only way to describe it. Then, rising from the basement—or from someplace deeper still—the robust glissandos of a chain saw, its motor throttling up and down, laboring mightily. And within this an indeterminate overtone—the cadence of voices, urgent and shrill. Shouting, or laughing. Or screaming. Officers unholster service revolvers, position themselves at either side of patio entry. They slip off their sunglasses, take this moment to let their eyes adjust to the dark inside. They look at each other. His eyes are dark brown, like coffee or good soil. Hers are gray, flat as lead except for the glint of a pearly chip in one iris. They do not speak. They love that they don’t have to say anything. Instead they reach down, check ammo pouches for extra clips, wipe palms on duty trousers. Eyes adjusted, they draw and shoulder their weapons. They brace their wrists, release their safeties, silently count three, and take a breath. Whereupon officers cross threshold, enter home.
OFFICERS WEEP Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Orozco.