Easing the Journey

“CD to all units. We’ve got a call of a stabbing at 1234 Somewhere St. Neighbors have found a man stabbed inside the house. A suspect is in the front yard still armed with a knife.”

My partner hit the lights and rocketed our police car towards the call, as did units from all over the district. I didn’t bother telling dispatch to put us on the call as her updates were rapid machine-gun fire. She would know we were going.

We were still a few blocks away when other units arrived at the scene and gave chase on foot after the running suspect. I braced one foot against the sidewall and the other against the door as my partner tried to beat the devil by slaloming through stopped traffic. In a series of quick broadcasts, officers had the suspect at gunpoint and were yelling for the suspect to drop the knife. 

The following few silent moments were an eternity. The kind of silent moments were everything hangs in a balance, waiting to be tipped either way. The kind of silent moments where, as a responding officer or a dispatcher not able to see what’s happening, your mind turns to the worst possible scenario. Was the suspect going to charge the officers and force them to shoot? Or would the suspect drop the knife and surrender? As we pulled into the block the next broadcast let us know the scale had tipped in favour of the suspect’s life. 

“One in custody,” an officer’s voice came over the air.

My partner didn’t miss a beat. He cranked the steering wheel, sending our car into a tight, tire-squealing turn towards the house where the call had originated from.

When we pulled up we saw a neighbor standing on the grass between two homes. His face was ashen and he looked to be in shock when he raised his arm and pointed at the house closest to us. It’s the little things you notice at times like these and the man’s half un-tucked shirt and disheveled hair were a clear indication that all was not right. He was a man I took to always be presentable and in control, and for him to have run his hands through his hair forcing it into little spikes that stuck up all over his head was a bad sign. 

My partner ran to contain the front door as I ran to the man and peppered him with questions. How many suspects? He didn’t know. How many victims? Just one. Where? Inside, the bedroom. Is he alive? I don’t know, he said, tears starting to form in the corners of his eyes. I touched his arm, told him we would do everything to help his friend, and left him standing there, alone. 

I came up behind my partner and placed my hand on his shoulder. His body was tense, as tight as a spring and when he glanced at me I knew he saw the same readiness. We were joined by a third officer; my partner and I nodded at the new comer, a Sergeant, and he nodded back. A moment later our plan was set and the three of us made entry into the home.

The only sounds were a soft squeak from my shoe on the linoleum and the slow inhale/exhale as we three became one, moving together through the eerily silent house. Pointing directions, not a word uttered, we crossed the floor in a line, then button-hooked through a doorway and crept down a hallway. Each room was quiet. Too quiet. Only a few scattered papers in the immaculate home gave a hint to what had happened.

Then, in a glimpse, we found him. 

He wasn’t gone, not yet. His neck was warm when I pressed my fingers up under the angle of his jaw, the faint gurgling from his blood-filled mouth as his body went through the motions of trying to gasp for just one more breath. 

He was dying. A person doesn’t turn that particular shade of gray unless their soul is in the process of going on to some other place. But in those final moments, as I rolled him onto his side and cleared his airway, I took his hand and talked fiercely into his ear, hoping beyond hope that a part of him could hear me and know he wasn’t alone as he made the journey.

“It’s the police. We’re here. You’re safe now, I’m not going to leave you.”

The Sergeant motioned for me to stay with him and I nodded, training my gun on the now empty doorway as he and my partner continued to clear the house. 

I let go of the man’s hand and felt my way back up to his neck. This time, only silence. My chest hitched, I swallowed, took a deep breath. Taking his hand again in mine, I straightened my back and leaned further over his inert form to keep watch. 

Minutes went by. From below, the sounds of breaking wood as my partner and the Sergeant kicked in a locked door. Then quiet. Nothing, until a thumbs-up hand appeared in the doorway. My partner, letting me know the house was clear and that he was back. I must have looked a bit like a wild thing, because his look of concern was palatable.

“He’s gone,” I said, patting the man’s chest.

“It’s okay, we did everything we could. Let the the paramedics and Fire do their thing,” he said, coming to my side and ushering me out of the room.

We stepped out of the way as medical personnel filled the tiny room. I had to turn away, unable to watch as the man’s limp form was slung onto the floor, as tubes and needles were inserted, as machines were hooked up.

That’s when I turned off the emotions. I still had a job to do. Needed to make a crime scene sketch, seal off the house, write my evidence. It wasn’t until later, back at the station, that I noticed a small smear of blood on my sleeve.  My partner saw me sitting there, staring at it.

“It sucks, doesn’t it?” he said.

“Yeah, it does.”

“He was going to die.  There wasn’t anything we could have done.  You know that, don’t you?” he asked.

I nodded.

“We did okay, Sandra,” he said, “Sometimes that has to be enough.”

I nodded again, knowing he was right.

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