Backstory – Part 2

Sunlight dappled across the deck and their friends conversation was the perfect backdrop for John to cup his wife’s neck and sneak a kiss; she was warm and smelled wonderful.  With some amount of regret John then pushed his chair back, stood up and said good-bye.  The barbeque had been a last minute get-together and even though he had to go to work John was happy to have least been able to make an appearance.

By the time he made it to the parking lot John had already switched gears – he had his game face on.

An hour later, when his partner hit the lights and siren and pushed their police car to the limit, John spoke into the radio when assigned a priority one domestic call in an area not unlike where he lived.

“Ten four, we’re only a few blocks out.”


Gunpowder.  Strong and fresh.

Other than the cries of a young child there was silence.  There was no time to wait.

John signalled to his partner and the two men buttonhooked through the open doorway.


Blood and brain matter were speckled across the wall.  The smell of copper hung on everything, heavy and wet.  The crying child was sitting on the floor next to the body of a woman, a widening pool of blood engulfing them both.

Sweeping his arms with the arc of his gun and trying to take in everything at once, John’s gaze stutter-stepped on a man sitting on the couch. He was very much alive, the proof of which was the chattering of metal on teeth as the muzzle of a gun the man had stuffed into his mouth trembled with the decision on whether or not he should pull the trigger.  The man’s eyes were huge and tears slipped down his cheeks.  He shook his head slowly from side to side, a faint keening from his chest making the hairs on the back of John’s neck stiffen.


Police! Drop the gun!

For several moments John hung in the tenuous balance between saviour and enforcer. Having never trained as a negotiator John suspected he was about to get a crash course on the subject.

Drop the gun!

All he got in response was a cement stare.  The man had quieted and was watching him. It was unnerving.  Seeing the man had no intention of putting the gun down, John switched his approach without even realizing it.

Let us get to your baby, make sure she’s okay.

The man looked at John, looked to the body on the floor, and then back to John.  The man’s lips pulled back in a grimace but the muzzle stayed rooted firmly in his mouth. Slowly, he nodded.

Thank you, we just want to make sure she’s okay.  Please, put the gun down.

Under John’s watch his partner made a wide berth around the man and towards the toddler. The child’s face screwed up into a scream, her chubby cheeks red with the stress of sitting beside her dead mother.  John’s partner used one hand to scoop her up into the crook of his elbow, and then he shielded her with his body as he retreated back out of the room.

She’s okay, she’s going to be fine.  But I really need you to put the gun down, okay?

Time slowed.  John gave himself over to the line of tension between himself and the gunman, telling the man he was there for him, feeling like a broken record for the number of times he told the man to put the gun down.  What did real negotiators say?  Did they have a cheater book of subjects to broach when faced with a person seemingly intent on blowing their brains out?  John saw the man’s thumb in the trigger guard and wondered how sensitive the trigger was.  And just above that, the man’s eyes pleaded with him to make everything go back to the way it was.  Sorry man, it’s much too late for that, is what John thought.

It’s okay, everything is going to work out, is what he said.

Moments ticked by.  A touch on John’s arm let him know he had other officers there to help, but his attention was on the man in front of him.

The man finally wrenched the gun from his mouth, badly cutting his lip.  Not once did he point it at John or the other officers; John would have shot him if he had.  The man wailed; he was sorry, so sorry, he hadn’t meant to kill her, he had only meant to scare her, he couldn’t live without her, now he should do everyone a favour and kill himself.

It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean to, just put the gun down, please.

Finally, the man did.  The gun made a hollow sound on the coffee table and the man fell back into the couch cushions, his entire body spent with the reek of defeat.

John couldn’t hear what else the man was saying over the rushing sound of his own heartbeat but he murmured words of reassurance to give himself the second he needed to snatch the gun up and place him into handcuffs.  Later, John’s arms would ache from holding his own gun up, but for now, John had the strength of a bull and he half-walked, half-carried the despondant man past the body of his wife.


Outside, John helped place the man on an ambulance gurney.  A short distance away his partner was checking on the little girl but John could not bring himself to look at her, to make her loss more real.  It was sad enough without actually seeing the little girl’s blond curls and seeing the shadow of her mother. John watched other officers escort the man away and then his thoughts turned to his own wife and the friends still at the barbeque.  He knew they wouldn’t believe him if were he to call and tell them what had happened in the last hour and a half, and he was sure they wouldn’t really comprehend how much this call changed everything.

How he would never be able to rid himself of the sight of the man calling his dead wife’s name even as her blood congealed on the carpet at his feet, her hair in a halo around her destroyed face.  The little girl sitting in the pool of blood, her diaper soaked through, a handful of her mothers shirt in her tiny fist as she screamed her fear into the air.

How reality seemed to slip for a moment – he had cherished the softness of his wife’s hair against the back of his hand when he leaned in for a kiss, not knowing that an hour later he would be negotiating with another husband who had shot his own wife in the face.

John took a moment and took several deep breaths to keep from becoming overwhelmed. Then he walked over to where his partner was waiting at their police car and the two of them leaned back against the trunk.

Neither of them said a word.

They didn’t have to.

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