I had kind of heard a rumor about a friend of mine last night, then today it was confirmed in the papers, ours and Albuquerque's.
Chris was a cop, and apparently a pretty good liar. I've known him for about 13 years, when I started here as a cop he was a cop in the next town over. We used to pass an hour or so of night shift parked on the line where our towns met, just shooting the shit, sometimes we'd catch a meal break together.
Chris had won the Silver Star, the third highest Army citation for heroism, during the Gulf War, was an officer in the Army Reserve, was one of the very few cops I had met who had been in an officer involved shooting, and always came off as someone who knew his shit, someone you would want covering your back if things went bad.
Not long before I left the police department here, he transferred over...problems with the new chief over there. He wasn't the only one, a couple more made the same move around the same time for the same stated reason.
Chris was aways the guy who you expected to climb the ranks. A stickler for policy to the point of being annoying, he was still the guy to seek out for a midnight legal opinion or help throwing a criminal complaint together at the end of shift. I think everyone expected him to be chief someday, and not how some become chief, climbing over the friends they've stabbed in the back on the way up, but by consistently doing the right thing.
The last couple of years Chris had been doing a very good job at the high school as a school resource officer. The kids (mine included) really liked and looked up to him, as did the staff.
Chris got arrested the other day. Seems he wasn't an officer in the reserves, probably never had been. He forged military orders claiming that he needed time off for mandatory training and collected city paychecks for that time off. He's charged with felony fraud and forgery, and more charges are likely.
He was four years away from retirement from the police department. He'll likely spend that four years in prison.
I say we were friends, we never hung out off duty, he wasn't someone I'd call to help me move just because he had a pickup. But Richard was.
Richard was a friend of mine in Oklahoma. He was my supervisor until I caught up with him in rank. We worked together, we did security work off duty together, we painted houses together in our off time, we went to Christmas parties at each other's houses. We were in a couple hairy pursuits together, we responded to several bad calls together, including one where a mutual friend died of a heart attack.
We were pretty inseparable for a couple of years, until I got promoted to the same rank and had my own shift. But even then we stayed close, until politics got in the way. The city was trying to push out the old chief. Richard was backing him, I backed the new guy. Even then it was a friendly rivalry, just like it had been when I backed a young Arkansas Democrat against his Republican incumbent for president. It was just one of those things we'd argue about and then go get breakfast.
Then Richard fell off of a ladder while doing an exterior painting job. No one was there with him at the time, and he crawled into the house with two shattered ankles to call for help.
By that time the new chief was in place and I had been given the choice job of commander of detectives for picking the right horse.
Not long after that, before he was even off of medical leave, Richard left his wife for a young clerk who worked in one of the convenience stores we frequented. That's when my new boss, the guy who I thought was going to be an improvement over the old guard, came to me and ordered me to prepare a case against Richard under a 100 year old adultery law that hadn't been prosecuted in decades.
I balked, he threatened. I called the DA, he assured me that there was no way in hell that he would pursue the case and advised me to just prepare it and bring it to him and he would refuse it. I felt filthy while doing it, but I did it, and it went down just like the DA promised, no charges.
That's when I knew I had to get out of that department, and it was the final shove that pushed me to New Mexico. But by then Richard and I didn't talk anymore.
A few years after moving here I heard that he had gotten another job in police work in another Oklahoma town. Then I heard that he had been arrested for burglarizing businesses while on night patrol.
Luis did the same thing. Luis was one of my supervisors when I first started in the department here. He was lazy, but a nice guy. Sometimes he'd bring his banjo in and play for us to pass time on a slow Sunday. One weekend I went to the lake on my days off and came back to find that Luis had been arrested and that I had been promoted. Weird feeling, that.
Luis had come under suspicion of burglary and our own detectives had set him up with a sting operation and had caught him with stolen property in the trunk of his police car. Embarrassing yes, but at least our guys had done the catching. It's always worse if someone else has to do it for you.
There was the guy that I went to the academy with in Oklahoma...two of them actually...both went to jail for fraud or burglary. The guy who was sheriff in my own home county back there, a guy who I had ridden the school bus with when we were children, who just got sentenced for that most cliche of rural cop stereotypes, shaking down out of state motorists for cash.
Then there was Billy. Billy was a retired captain from San Antonio PD who started working in the same neighboring town as Chris while I was still a police officer here. As with Chris, I would often meet Billy at the town line and shoot the shit with him. Coming, as he had, from a big city, he had great stories and seemed to really have his shit tight, procedurally and tactically.
A couple of years later and Billy had transferred over to a neighboring county's sheriff's office to be closer to the house he had bought. He was mostly working around a very small mountain town with another acquaintance of mine, Bob, who had transferred over there from our own sheriff's office. Bob was a native New Yorker who had fallen in love with the west and all of it's trappings and had moved out here to be a real western lawman.
One night Billy and Bob were sent on a call of a domestic disturbance just outside of that tiny mountain town. Bob went to the back of the house while Billy approached the front. Inside, the resident, a convicted felon and member of a white supremacist prison gang, was shoving his dead girlfriend into a closet. He had shot her just before the deputies had arrived. He exited the back door, leaving his young daughter cowering near the closet that held her murdered mother, and encountered Bob near the back door. For a split second, Bob was engaged in what he may have fantasized about before coming west, a showdown with an armed desperado. Then he was dead, shot once in the forehead.
Hearing the shot, Billy ran around the house, the bad guy coming around in the other direction. Billy found his friend and partner dead and went back around to the front where he came face to face with the suspect. Both raised their pistols and fired, but Billy didn't miss, and Bob's killer fell wounded. Billy then did what we were all trained to do after wounding someone, he secured the bad guy's gun, and handcuffed him. Even if the suspect appears dead that's what you do because you never know.
Billy called for help, then went inside, and found the little girl and the dead woman. He then walked back out into the front yard, in front of God and his patrol car's video camera, and put one more bullet in the wounded, cuffed suspect.
Billy half-heartedly tried to portray the shooting as justified, but ballistics and video nailed him. He was ultimately convicted of manslaughter, a lesser charge than murder, because of lack of premeditation. The prison gang who's member he killed put a hit out on Billy before he had even entered the system and many of them are now doing extended sentences for that conspiracy.
As far as I know, Billy is still ok and still doing his time, but when he gets out there will be another sentence hanging over him, some piece of shit with something to prove will always be out there ready to take a shot at him or his family.
There is no way to justify what Billy did that night eight years ago, cops cannot appoint themselves to the position of judge, jury and executioner. Our society does not and cannot work that way. All of us who do that job at some point have our gun pointed at someone, knowing that the world would be a much better place if we could just stop this fucker from taking one more breath. The majority of us take our own deep breath, send our finger on that long trip from trigger to safety, put our gun in our holster, and reach for our cuffs.
I also know that Billy's betrayal of society's trust lasted all of a second, just long enough to pull the trigger. Actually, one third of a second; not days, months, or, as in the case of Chris, years.
In a way, to me at least, his betrayal is the least offensive.
Well I finally got some time off. Not in a good way. Tuesday morning started with the weather shitty and getting worse by the minute. High winds, sleet, and the roads were starting to ice up on the way to work.
Danny and I went to Hell*Mart and replaced the missing cafe phone and looked at the new movies and video games, stopped at Scronic for breakfast, then headed for work. Here and there we could see where a tree had been removed from the road, the bark and twigs still on the road, the fresh cut logs of the trunk and bigger branches dragged off to the side of the road, the roof of the Shell station piled up in the empty lot next door. I occurred to me then to wonder how my fence was holding. I think this is foreshadowing.
About 9 am the power went out. To be expected when the wind blows even a little bit up here. We live in a pine forest, pine trees not only have shallow root systems, but many of them also have been afflicted by bark beetles, which have left thousands of dead and weakened trees standing around just waiting for a reason to fall over on something, and Tuesday they did, in droves, knocking out power all over town.
I was sitting at the counter drinking the last of the coffee and thinking about putting on a pan of water for cowboy coffee when a police car pulled up out front. The officer got out and came to the front door.
'Shit, what now?' I was thinking as I unlocked the door. "Can I help you?" is what I said.
He told me that my neighbors had called them since they couldn't get through to me at the cafe, and that my fence had blown down and my dogs were running loose. I am a convicted misdemeanant due to two of those assholes (the well-behaved ones at that) and now they and the two younger ones, the ones with no social (or survival) skills are running around the neighborhood? Shit.
So, I drive the fifteen miles home, the wind trying to push me off the ice-slick highway. My cell phone rings...a 336 number, must be one of my neighbors.
It's Sonja, she lives just up the road from me.
"...yeah, I heard. What are they doing?"
She assured me that they weren't going too far, it was trash day and everyone had put their carts out earlier in the morning and the dogs were feasting on spilled and blowing trash. She also let me know that my fence was in the road.
A little bit about the fence. It is a six foot high wooden privacy fence that I had built last year after years of leaving the dogs in during the day, or on runners, and after one miserably failed attempt at constructing a chain link fence, which the dogs stared at for three minutes before pushing under it and running down to the creek, ignoring my pleas to cease and desist.
They returned from that escape at sundown, covered in mud and happy as hell, in spite of several porcupine quills. Assholes.
I like my wooden fence a lot. It covers a pretty good sized chunk of my property and looks nice, which is to say that it looks better than my backyard. Having several fair sized dogs, my backyard alternates between dust bowl and mud pit, depending on the weather. In a fit of optimism I put a nice little bench and a chiminea back there when the fence was first built. For a couple of nights I sat out there, watching my little fire, drinking some beers, and imagining the stone walk I would build up to the back corner of the yard where I would build a small deck to surround the hot tub I would have installed there. Right about then I would catch a wiff of something foul as one of the dogs finished taking a dump. So, the barren wasteland that is my backyard is forever to be the realm of the dogs.
I would have liked to build the fence all the way around the house. Then I could have built towers on the corners, and I would have then spent my dotage dressing up in a cavalry uniform and singing "She wore a yellow fucking ribbon" at the top of my lungs while rattling a sabre at my neighbors.
As soon as I pulled into the drive, three of the four escapees bounded around the corner, Po shouting at the top of his lungs, "DAD, DAD, DAD...DADADADAD...DAD...DAD!" Tori and Sadie just smiled.
"Where's Heidi?" I asked.
"DAD!" Po answered. He's not real bright, that one. Tori and Sadie just smiled.
I got them inside with Chloe the Chiweenie, and went back out to look for Heidi.
Yeah, that's right, five dogs. Five.
Now, a little bit about that. Let's start with the oldest, Heidi, a golden retriever. She was Z's, just a puppy when we started dating. The first time Z brought her over, Danny, who was five, got out his plastic doctor bag and gave the puppy a check up.
When Z moved out, Heidi stayed with us until she had a place where she could keep a large dog. Heidi promptly ran away. This happened a couple more times and Z brought her back to the house, and that's where Heidi's stayed.
Heidi is now 11, her face white, her sight is getting poor and she has arthritis, but she loves nothing more than being out in the woods, and will still chase anything that runs from her. She cannot pass water without getting in it. She is the sweetest tempered dog I have ever known. She sleeps on a cusion next to my bed. She snores. Loudly.
Tori is Heidi's daughter from her only litter. Heidi met Barks when we moved into the house we now live in. Barks was the neighbors' dog, a handsome Black Lab. They were a great match, they took walks down to the creek together, and he would not eat or drink until she had finished. He was an awesome dog and we were happy when she got pregnant by him. But before the puppies were born, Barks was hit by a car and killed. Heidi was miserable for days.
So, Tori must be about eight now. She's got her parents' temperament, and is very fat. When she goes to sleep the Chiweenie curls up on her back and sleeps there. When she was born we kept her because Z wanted to have one of Heidi's and Barks's pups. She is supposed to be my younger daughter's dog.
So is Chloe. Chloe was born to Pepper, Z's wiener dog, and Chopper, a Chihuahua that also belonged to the same neighbors as Barks. Again, Z wanted to keep a puppy, and again it was supposed to be Em's dog.
Em claims this is not the case, and says that she gave Chloe to Danny. Danny ignores this information. Whoever's dog she is, I know that I am the one who picks up after her, feeds, and waters her.
Like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, she bolts at any opportunity, but immediately announces her freedom by barking her head off as she runs the neighborhood, often going through or under other people's fences so that she can let their dogs know how cool she is.
Sadie is a beautiful Border Collie and again she is Em's dog. Em actually claims this one though. She bought Sadie after wearing me down for about a month about how she was good kid and how she got good grades and how she never got in trouble like her siblings...on and on and on. Same tactics that she's using now to wear me down about her going to Austin.
Sadie is supposed to be intelligent, but I have seen no proof of this. She is very sweet though, is interested in cats, but scared shitless of them at the same time since getting mauled when she put her nose up to a pregnant cat's ass last year.
Then there is Po, of all the dogs he is truly mine in that I made a conscious (and sober) decision to take him as a pup this past spring from my mom and dad's place, which is apparently the dumping ground for unwanted dogs in McIntosh County, Oklahoma. Po's already pregnant mom being the latest of no telling how many dogs that have been dumped nearby and then found their way to my folks' place.
Po is a mut, very long legged and skinny, but with the head and markings of a Rottweiler. He actually is smart, having figured out doors and their operation from an early age. He just has no common sense.
Where was I? Oh, yeah...where was Heidi?
After getting the rest of the neighborhood terrorists locked up I went in search of Heidi, calling and whistling...nothing. By then the storm was getting worse, any attempt to face west being dissuaded by sleed driven by winds which were measured at the airport at 77 mph.
My house is on the east end of a bottleneck which opens into the valley holding our subdivision. I'm not sure, but I think the sleet stinging my face was doing eighty.
Well, this is already turning into a two-night-movie-event-on-CBS, so I'll cut it short. The rest of the story isn't really that interesting anyway.
Heidi showed up about a half hour later, covered in freezing mud, and was so shocked to see me standing there that she barked at me. She almost never barks.
Busted, dad's not supposed to be home right now.
The next day I borrowed a pickup and got the lumber and hardware that I needed to fix the fence. Thursday and Friday were mostly taken up with removing the old concrete footings. There were three that had to come out and I got the first two on Thursday in a little over four hours, chipping away with a pick and a large breaker bar, the third took over three hours. Then I set the new posts, mixing and pouring fresh concrete footings.
Saturday morning I could barely move, I felt like I had been beaten with a rod, my hands were deformed claws, but I did get to sleep in, so that was nice. Of course, the wind was back up that day and maneuvering the fence panels into place and keeping them there single handed was...dumb. Kind of like trying to push a sail in a wind tunnel.
But I got it. It's not perfect, there are some sections that need more work to be a little more cosmetically correct, but as Emily helpfully pointed out, "Who cares? We can't see that side anyway."
She's right but I'll still fix it.
Oh, it took all of one day for Sadie and Po to figure out that they could easily dig out where the once-packed dirt was now loose. Sunday night I came home to find Sadie outside the fence, and Po missing. He hadn't turned up the next morning, but Em found a note stuck to the door from one of the sheriff's deputies letting us know that he had picked Po up and taken him to the pound.
So, I went to bail Po out and on the way home he hyperventilated and threw up in my front seat. Twice.
Still would rather be somewhere else. Somewhere warm...with tequila.
Older daughter's roommate is moving out.
Younger daughter has at least accepted the fact that she's not going to Austin. I knew that I was ok when she brought me half of a candy cane (one of the big, soft ones, sorta like the wedding mints, my favorite) and when I smiled at her she shoved me.
Still avoiding my email in box, but feeling some relief at having passed on the bad news.
Using a fresh coffee cup for every cup I drink...just because.
The phone is missing. Really. No one knows where it is. Ok, this is sort of a problem, but it's a problem that can wait for a bit, and the quiet is nice.
Still in need of a massage...or muscle relaxer...or a trip to Vegas...or New Orleans...or New York...or Uruguay. Yeah, Uruguay, no one would find me there. No one would even look for me there.
I did shave this morning, I usually have a beard in some stage of growth, only trimming it down to stubble, but today I am smooth. I look and feel 10 months younger.
And, the walk in? This morning it was running 10 degrees. Did I mention that it's supposed to be fridge, not a freezer? Do you know what happens to produce when it freezes? So, yeah, that sucks.
That's how I feel. I don't want to be here today, I don't want to do this today. Problem is, I don't want to do it tomorrow either. Tuesday's not looking too good either.
Older daughter is having roommate problems that are going to end in me having to help her get another place to stay after just giving her the money to move into the place she's in now.
Younger daughter is giving me the cold shoulder because I won't let her go to Austin for the New Year to see a boy she met over Thanksgiving. It's not even that I don't trust her judgment (ok, I sorta don't), but that is the busiest week of the year for us and I need her here.
Just had to write an email to two very good friends who helped me finance the purchase of the cafe to tell them that, sorry, but I won't be paying them back as scheduled.
My dishwasher is late.
The phone keeps ringing, and it's not anyone I'd like to talk to.
The muscles running from the base of my skull to my shoulder feel like a radio tower guy line.
And no, M, there is no dallying. Haven't dallied in a couple of years now.