Sunday, April 10, 2016

Small town Law Enforcement

"Really," I say, trying to fit as much disbelief and sarcasm as is possible into those two syllables.

"Yes, sir."

I stare at the 16-year-old boy for a good while, before allowing my eyebrow to lift.

"You're visiting your girlfriend whose last name you can't quite recall at this time, whose first name is either 'Stacey' or 'Shelly' depending on when you're asked; and you're not sure what her address is, but it's -- and let me quote this:  'On a street'."

Long pause.

"Umm ... yeah?"

"Ah.  And as far as romantic gifts go, your lady is perfectly happy with a gym-bag packed with," I pull each object out one at a time, "A ski mask, a pair of leather work gloves, and -- goodness -- a crowbar."

The kid is looking at everything except me.

"We all need to be honest here, so let me be the first:  You, sir, are a thief.  Ah!  Let me finish.  The fact that you do not have a criminal history attached to your name merely tells me that you are a here-unto-for lucky thief.  You're not here to visit your girlfriend, because any girl young enough to be dating you will be at tonight's Homecoming football game.  Where -- coincidentally enough -- much of the rest of the town is located.  Which leads us to yourself, wandering the empty streets all by your ownsome with naught but a bag of burglars tools to keep you company."

I can hear him swallow, so I take a step forward, crowding his personal space.

"So, there's two ways this is going to settle out.  The first is that I take you, and your stuff, back to the office, I call the football stadium and when a member of West Podunk High School faculty shows up, I tell them what I think is going on, give them you and your bag of goodies, and wave bye-bye."

I don't think he likes that idea.

"The second way is that I hand you this receipt for your bag of burglars tools, you take your self back to the stadium and I don't see hide nor hair of you outside of that stadium for the rest of the evening.  Tomorrow, you bring that receipt and a parent to the office, and I give you back your crowbar, your gloves and your ski-mask."

I'm guessing from the nodding that the second choice is a bit more palatable.

"Five blocks that way.  You can't miss the lights.  Scram."


Hopefully, he's taken enough of a scare to persuade him that the critter life isn't for him.  Yeah, and as long as I'm hoping, can I get a long-legged lingerie model with a bag of grapes?  I file the fink card -- excuse me "Field Interview Card" in the Bloody Idiots file in my briefcase and clear the call.

It's one of those lovely fall Panhandle evenings, so about ten minutes later I park the Super Scooter at the end of Second Street, get out, and start checking doors on what passes as the Main Business District of Bugscuffle, Texas.

Three doors later, I smile slightly as a roar echoes lightly around the front porch.  A moment later, the sounds of musical instruments played maybe with a little more enthusiasm than skill follow.  Sounds like the Bugscuffle Fighting Rednecks are doing well this evening.

I push gently on the door I'm facing -- and it swings open.



"Car 12, County."

"Go ahead, 12."

"I've an open door at 1201 Second Street.  Public service the Williams and see if they can put an eyeball on Dot."

There's more than a touch of amusement in Dispatches voice as she replies, "10-4, 12.  You want me to roll you some back-up?"


"Negative, County," I say, as I step into the front hall of the Conroe and Conroe Funeral Home, "I'll be on the portable."

A dollar will get you a doughnut that I'm going to find the same thing I've found the last umpteen Open Door calls we've gotten here, but I'm well aware that Murphy hates my guts -- personally.  So my P7 is hidden behind my leg, finger indexed along the frame as I shine my Surefire through the business office, the guest rooms, multiple viewing rooms, the Icky Room (brrr), casket storage, finally to be slipped back into the holster as I find the small, slim figure sitting all alone in the chapel.

Dot Williams is dressed in her standard uniform of hot pink sneakers, blue jeans and Hello Kitty sweatshirt, one foot swinging idly as she gravely regards the awful plastic gold-painted, flower-adorned abstract sculpture stuck to the wall behind the altar.   In honour of the evenings football game, a red-and-black football is painted on one cheek, and red and silver ribbons have been threaded into her ever-present pony-tail.

Eleven-something years ago, a college kid with a one-ton Western Hauler pick-up truck and a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.22 packed the Chevy S-10 driven by the hugely-pregnant Mrs. Williams into a little bitty mangled ball and bounced it across Main Street.  The Bugscuffle Volunteer Fire Department earned their Christmas hams that evening in as deft a display of the Fine Art of Power Extrication as any department – paid or no – could hope for.  Couple of hours after the Jaws of Life were cleaned and stored, Dorothy Elise Williams was born.

I scrape my boot heels on the carpet as I walk around the end of the pew, careful not to startle the little girl – although, truth be known, I have no idea if Dot has ever been startled in her life.  Or if it's even possible to startle her – then I sit gently on the bench just within arms reach and ponder the sculpture.

Yeah.  It's bloody awful.

I reach into my vest and pull out a pack of chewing gum, unwrap a stick and chew for a bit, before taking a second stick out of the pack and – careful not to look at Dot – casually lay it on the bench midway between us.  A couple of breaths later, equally casually, and without taking her eyes off the plastic abomination on the wall, Dot reaches out and takes the sweet, unwrapping it with ferocious concentration and putting it into her mouth one quarter piece at a time before meticulously folding the foil wrapper into little squares and laying it on the bench mid-way between us; where, after a couple of breaths, I gently pick it up and stick it in an inner pocket of my denim vest.

Dot is ... odd.

Probably not very long after I sit down, but considerably longer than I would like (I'm sitting in a funeral home, after dark -- I've seen this movie) Dot slides a battered something or other that was probably once a stuffed giraffe ... I think ... along the pew towards me, maintaining a firm grip on one of it's appendages with her left hand.

Careful not to touch the little girl, I grab ahold of a fuzzy limb, and then carefully stand up.  A beat later, Dot stands up, and we start walking towards the exit.

Dot doesn't like to be touched, matter-of-fact the only sound I've ever heard the wee sprite make is an ear-splitting shriek whenever someone who isn't her family touches her.  Learning that lesson left my ears ringing for days; however, as various and sundry gods are my witnesses, I swear that if this little girl turns and waves at the altar, I'm carrying her out the door at a dead sprint -- probably emptying my magazine over my shoulder as we go -- banshee wails and damage complaints aside.  Like I said:  I've seen this movie.

Fortunately anything Dot might have been communing with seems to lack an appreciation for social graces -- or simply wishes to spare my over-active imagination -- and there is no waving.

When we step out onto the front porch, an elderly man who has been leaning against the guard-rail, clears his throat.  Not really necessary, but polite all the same.

"Bert," I say to the owner of Conroe and Conroe Funeral Home, "Thought you'd be at the game instead of listening to the scanner."

He grins, "I was.  Sitting next to the Sheriff on the fifty-yard line when I heard the call over his radio."


"I doubt that anything is missing or damaged ..."  He raises a hand, cutting me off.

"Of course not.  Dot would never be that crass."  He gives a formal, Southern nod off to my left, and I realize that I'm the only one holding on to the stuffed wossname.  Bloody hell.

"Miss Dot.  How are you this evening?"

Dot, who is intently examining a mimosa branch at the end of the porch, ignores him.  He smiles, then moves to shut and lock the door.

"Dorothy Elise Williams!"  On the street, a Suburban has pulled to a stop, catty-wampus, before disgorging Mr and Mrs Williams, the latter of whom is heading for her youngest at full speed.  "What have I told you about wandering off, young lady!"

"'Dog, Bert, I'm so sorry,"  Cody Williams has taken off his Stetson, and is wringing the brim.  I'm a little shocked.  "We were talking to the new pastor, and just took our eyes off of her for a second ..."

I wave the stuffed whatsit at him, "Cody.  Put your hat back on.  You look weird without it.  No blood, no foul."

Albert Conroe smiles at him genially, "We've had this talk before, Cody.  It's quiet, she likes it, and she's a very courteous guest.  I don't have an issue."

At the end of the porch, Mrs Williams has taken her daughter's chin and gently turned her for eye-contact.  There's finger-shaking going on, and then Dot reaches out and very gently pats her mother on the cheek, before turning her attention back to the branch.  I hand Cody the stuffed thingie, "Take your family back to the game."

Bert and I stand on the porch as the Williams climb into the Suburban and take off.

Bert chuckles gently, "Small towns."




HeroHog said...

Anyone else get a cold, sad shiver run up their spine?

Rey Brandt said...

Thought it was just me.

Anonymous said...

Nope. I think someone left the blog's A/C turned on.


Duke of URL VFM#391 said...

Lovely story!

Richard Tengdin said...

Dust... It has to be dust.

Rev. Paul said...

Everything that they all said. I'm so glad we're getting out of this medium-city-with-big-aspirations and moving to a smaller version up the road.

Cath said...

You, sir, are wasted in law enforcement. Please take up writing full time, and put me down for what ever gets an ISBN number!

Well Seasoned Fool said...

As a father of someone much like Dot I commend your professionalism.

Roger said...

Your kindness and human consideration of others shines clearly.
Our world is a better place because of men (or women) like you.

phlegmfatale said...

Well done.

Brighid said...

You have beautifully captured a small town. I know, I live in one. Thank You.

Old NFO said...

Wow, just... WOW! I don't know that I could have done that.

Kevin said...

Book, Mr. Dog.

Write the damned book. You're every bit the artist with words that LBJohnson is.

Unknown said...

Dear Corporal (iirc) Lawdog,

That started out laugh till you cry funny, and finished very beautiful. Very well done, sir.

Oh, and the story writing was pretty good too.

Thank you for your humanity and wisdom.

-Marc in Canada
Father of a son on the autism spectrum.

Farmmom said...

Darn it got dusty in here in a hurry. Like I've always said, you are an amazing human being. Thank you dear

Steve said...

This is a very good picture of small town policing. It took me a while to adapt when I left a major city department (2100 officers) to work for a very small town (15 officers including the chief) but I don't think I could go back to a big city again.

And yes, calling the coach will really work, even for the kids who are not on a sports team.

Anonymous said...

Keeper of the peace, indeed. My late uncle, Pancho, had a few such stories from the tiny villages he patrolled. One involved a hungry family & a wild boar peccary.

It is really hard to act as you in this jungle!

Good work, tho.

Ulises from CA

Kyle Norris said...

Teared up. I can see my son in Dot. Thank you for being an example.

Aesop said...

That, sir, was priceless, and I would pay cash money either to see that vignette committed to film for posterity, or the rights to do same.

GaryM said...

Very good story Dog. In a big city they probably would have called out the SWAT team when the open door was found. Oh, canines too, can't leave them out of the fun!

I grew up in New York City and moved to the Midwest 50 years ago. Now live outside a small town 50 miles West of St. Louis. You couldn't pay me enough to go back.

Jennifer said...

Beautiful story. Thank you

Clayton Wrobel said...

Awful dusty here, too. Touching. I'd pay for that book, sir.

Wolfman said...

Having grown up in a small town in a rural county, I question, to a degree, how true this is to small town life in my experience. You are a finer resource to your community than many of the ones I've seen. Well done, Sir!

emtgene said...

Well done, Officer Dog. 44 years of policing and counting. Can't beat small town policing.

Heath J said...

Great piece, Dog.

You're like the Texan James Herriot. Just hits that pulse of a place, Wonderful stuff.

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

Dog, I agree with Kevin. Get with Peter and NFO and PLEASE write the darn book(s).you have skill, and soul. Please share it. More law stories, and African tales. Two old expats like you and Peter could tell stories to rival Capstick.

ben hunter said...

LD, you don't post all that often, which makes what you do post like getting a letter that wasn't advertising or bills, back before email and such. In this one though..? Different names, another place. I KNOW these people. They live in my home town. Not necessarily the people next door, mind you, but neighbours. I've been passing it around with this: "Sometimes all we seem to hear and see is the shit; way too much about how fucked up people can be, and what we're supposed to be panicking about this week. When all we see is what the media tell us, it's hard to remember that some of us know different. This story is a reminder. Feel free to share it around. LD won't mind...
-(Might want to grab a drink first, though, it's a long one. And don't be surprised to find yourself nodding in agreement about a third of the way through, getting a little uncomfortable by halfway, then looking for the kleenex and/or grinning like mad at the end.)" Thank you. (Yes, I put your blog address with it)

Rick Street said...

+1 Farmmom

Flynn Leek said...

You know, I keep getting this lovely mental image of Tommy Lee Jones delivering LD's lines... That politely sarcastic bit of snark that LD is known for just fits him so well.

I would of course pay good money to hear either one of them say "Don't try to out-weird me kid, I get stranger things than you free with my breakfast cereal."

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a small town in Michigan with cops like you. Thanks to them and a father who knew every one of them personally, I've never been in jail, never been in trouble. I have, however, had a couple of bruises on the back of my legs from the well-deserved application of a nightstick.

You mentioned a P7. What model?

B5K said...

In a big city they probably would have called out the SWAT team when the open door was found. Oh, canines too, can't leave them out of the fun!

You realize that's not how that works, right?

Jack Spadoni said...

Lawdog......You're a good man. Now excuse me, I have something in my eye.

BGMiller said...

Lot of folks have commented as well or better than I could about the real theme of the second act of this tale so I'll let their words carry that load.

Given that this makes the second or third (or more) of your stories that I recall your response to a possible supernatural encounter involving proper trigger discipline and sight picture I have to suspect you were a larger influence on Mr. Corriea's books than we have been led to believe.

Toastrider said...

Mr. Lawdog, I have a question for you.

Is it illegal to sell oregano to someone, misrepresenting it as marijuana?

Here's why I ask:

Some friends of mine were discussing this, and I admit to curiosity if it is, in fact, illegal.

Ken said...

What the others said. Deeper than Patrick McManus (whom I like), funnier and more soul than Larry McMurtry.

Anonymous said...

I spent nine years as a reserve officer in a small town in Oklahoma. This story is reminiscent of more than a few encounters stored in my old memory banks. Some bring laughter, some sadness, and a couple, if they catch me off guard, tears. That said I wouldn't trade a one of those memories for a million bucks.
Thanks for the memories LawDog!

Flynn Leek said...

AFAIK, yes it is illegal, and in some places, just as illegal as buying or selling the actual product. Further, the seller may well get dinged with fraud charges.

Another fun one: Despite their legal status, it is perfectly acceptable to report stolen drugs. Mind, there is no way in heck the police are going to hand the drugs back to the original owner. Also, prostitutes can press charges and even sue for nonpayment.

richard mcenroe said...

"Given that this makes the second or third (or more) of your stories that I recall your response to a possible supernatural encounter involving proper trigger discipline and sight picture I have to suspect you were a larger influence on Mr. Corriea's books than we have been led to believe."

If you're in that deep a hole, it may not help but it probably couldn't hurt...

drjim said...

Stunningly good!

Like Rev Paul, my wife and I will soon be leaving this cesspool of an urban area for parts far more rural.

Heather Rauschenberger said...

I grew up in a small Michigan town, and Mom was an accountant and tax preparer (retired last year). Trust me when I say I NEVER did anything wrong, never set a toe out of line. When your Mom does the tax returns for most of the LEO in four counties, you behave yourself. Add in that my Granddad was a preacher up North ... yeah. No WAY could I get away with anything. The officers alone ... even a fix-it ticket. "Hey, Moms, did I tell you about the ticket your daughter got the other day?" I would have never heard the end of it. Add Granddad, as in, "Your grandfather would be so disappointed in you," and I didn't have a chance to misbehave. What a great time I had growing up, though.

Anonymous said...

Toastrider: I'll bet it varies by state, but here in NC if you sell a substance AS an illegal pharmaceutical, you'll get prosecuted as if it WAS that pharmaceutical. The idea was IIRC to deal with folks caught selling heavily cut stuff and objecting in court that they should be only prosecuted for the amount of pure, not the amount of pure+cut.

Shell said...

You are a good man, 'Dog. God Bless you. I would that there were many more of you in the field.

Anonymous said...

So did he show up with a parent?

Jedi Master Ivyan said...

LD, I know you're a busy fella. But, you might want to check out a little cartoon called "Phineas and Ferb". I realized the other day that it resembled your upbringing, right down to the red-haired mother and slightly oblivious father.