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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Darkness of the Moon

September 10, 2009: Recently in our area, a cop was shot responding to a Domestic Violence call. A female officer responding with him witnessed his murder in the very short struggle, was fired upon, and in trading rounds, she took the life of the man who shot her friend and fellow officer before her very eyes.

Tomorrow we recognize the attacks of September 11, 2001. There were several police officers who also lost their lives. We honor them.

But have we ever considered what they've been through? Those who have the rare experience of taking another's life remain in their jobs, serving and protecting the public, carrying scars that can't be seen and most will never recognize. This story was published on my blog one year ago tonight, and I republish this story now, I don't know for how long, but here it is:
One of the things I like about fiction is that, through this medium, one has the ability to explore the question "What if?". It allows us to use our imaginations to explore real and unreal possibilities in a way that is, if done properly, "safe". I'm not speaking of immoral endeavors into erotica or even horror writing, but rather, exploring the human condition against many possible backdrops. So it was that when I entered college in 1992 with the intention of becoming a Police Officer in four years, I asked myself the ultimate question: what would happen if I had to make the judgment call and pull the trigger? How might that be set up?

Now, having been in law enforcement, having held a loaded weapon in my hand, having pointed it at several people in the course of even a very short career, I can say that what follows here is perhaps written in such a way so as to be perhaps naive with regard to SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures), yet I'm still posting it here in a form true to the use of my imagination at the time of its writing. I've often looked at it, thinking of editing, yet something stops me. Something about the woodenness of the narrative, the stilted sentences, abrupt transitions and obvious symbolism rings a little too true. And I fear that in much of that which I witnessed not even in that job, but throughout my life, has made this somewhat of a prophecy. So it is. I've posted old poetry here on this blog, and some semi-fiction, but this is the first time I've published here one of my actually fictional short stories. It begins with a dose of the questions coming from my real life...and just goes downhill from there. I was writing about the worst-case scenario, so be warned. (Be further advised that I did not write this story from a position of faith, for I don't think I had much at the time.)

And just to be certain that all readers understand that this is not my lived experience:



I became a Police Officer because I had a genuine desire to help people. I wanted to keep criminals off the street and protect the people I loved and cared about. Because of my empathy and love of people, my friends, family, and even fellow officers looked skeptical when they asked if I'd ever be able to shoot another human being. I always replied in the affirmative, but inside, I really wondered.

I wondered how I'd handle it if I did have to kill someone while on the job? I honestly wondered how I'd be able to deal with the remorse, the knowledge that I'd taken the life of another? I questioned how I'd b able to live with myself.

One of the first things I observed when came on the Job was the very reality that Cops walk in darkness. Sometimes they are guided by the light of the moon, and some have the additional glow from the stars of their ideals: their belief in justice and hope for the future. I was one of those, completely opposite from the veterans who walked in the shadows, relying only on their flashlights and instincts to navigate the darkness of the streets.

No one really walked in the sun. Light can never reach through the obscure gloom of the underworld of humanity.

In my work, on a daily basis, I saw people betrayed by themselves; conquered by their heritage, mistakes, choices, and utter hopelessness. I saw junkies lying in the street, blood puddled around their corpses, their needles still sticking out of lifeless arms, eyes blank and staring. I knew them not by who they were, but by what they were in the pit we refer to as "life". I watched them slowly descending the ladder into a Hell of their own creation, waiting for them to reach the missing rung, to go pitching headlong into that chasm which swallowed so many others. I also saw the violence and hatred of the streets, the hard-core criminals who knew not what life stood for, but rather, who saw it only as something to be tossed away, like an old used-up wad of toilet paper. I saw the fatal core of human nature.

I rarely had the opportunity to really help anyone.

And one by one, as I became accustomed to this path, the stars in the night sky faded, much like the lives of those I once had hopes of saving.


When my shift was over each night, I left my job on the street to go home to my family in a nice cozy house. I tucked my children into bed and read them fairy tales with happy endings to give them pleasant dreams. Then I went to work the next day, where fairy tales were bullshit, happy endings couldn't even be fabricated, and pleasant dreams didn't exist.


It was a routine traffic stop and we ran a registration check on the suspicious vehicle. Dispatch came back and informed us that the vehicle was stolen and the driver had a Federal warrant. She was sending backup.

We set up for a Felony stop, and Paul, my partner, grabbed the shotgun as I stood in between the squad and open door, crouching. Turning on the PA system, I ordered the driver and passenger to put their hands in the air. Suddenly they both leaped out of the vehicle and opened fire. I dropped to the ground as the rounds punched through the metal just over my head.

I heard Paul cry out, and shocked, watched him grab his shoulder, gritting his teeth against the pain.

The shooters drove away and I realized that the volley of ammo was over. Paul jumped into the squad, yelling at me to follow.

Without a word, I got behind the wheel and followed, screaming after the perps. Paul gave our location, block by block, the 12-gauge still leaning against his uninjured shoulder. I knew he needed medical assistance ASAP, but mentally, he also needed to go after the guys who shot him.

I threw caution to the wind. In that moment, I really became a Cop. Still new on the force, it was my first chase, my first Critical Incident. And the blood rushed through my veins, my heart pounded, and training took over my very will. I put the pedal to the metal and screeched after the criminals, vowing that justice would be done.

They took a corner too fast and sideswiped a couple of parked cars. They ran red lights and finally completely lost control and crashed into an old warehouse. Both immediately leapt from the vehicle as I came to a stop.

Leaving Paul with the squad and foolishly not bothering to wait for backup, I went after one of the suspects. I drew my weapon while at a dead run. It wasn't long before he came to a dead end. No entrance, all the doors were locked metal fire exits. The windows were too high to reach.
And there was no cover.

My gun raised, finger on the trigger, I ordered the suspect to drop his weapon.


The radio screeched in my ear, asking my location. I didn't take my eyes or my gun off the suspect. I couldn't respond to one or the other. Time was suspended. Sound was suspended. The only sound I heard was the beat of blood in my ears. I could feel the rapid rise and fall of my chest, and I watched as a bead of sweat slid down the suspect's cheek.

He raised his gun. I couldn't wait any more. Judgment Day.

I coolly looked down the barrel of his gun and still had time to meet his eyes. I saw only madness, a blankness that pervaded his very being. His only goal was to kill me, in that moment.
I had no choice. I fired three times in cold blood, and in my state of limbo, saw the shots punch through his chest, robbing him of his life.

Backup arrived, weapons drawn. I couldn't hear anything other than a ringing sound. I approached the body, not even recognizing it as human. He was only another dead felon gunned down in the shadows of the street. There was only one difference: I was the killer.

I waited for the remorse, the guilt. I waited for the lightening-strike of self-condemnation. But the voice of my conscience remained silent, the heart of compassion frozen in the stillness of death in my very soul.

I turned away from the scene, returning to the squad in a fog. I glanced upward into the nighttime sky, realizing that the moon under which I'd been walking was only the reflection of an ideal. And with that realization, the moon faded into the shadows among which I lived. With the absence of light, my eyes opened wide and I saw how blind I'd been to reality.

Walking in that pitch blackness of that "stormy" night, I placed my gun in my holster. Looking blindly into the shadows, instead I reached back to take out my flashlight so that I could see.



Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Oh, Adoro, what a thoughtful story. Taking out the flashlight to see is a great ending. I am not in law enforcement (although my son is in dispatch and worries about the police officers who have become his friends). I don't think I could do that. However, I was in the military for years, which also involves the taking of lives (although, thank God, I never had to do that). Years after leaving the US military, I met my Russian counterpart in the Soviet Union: same rank, same job, same age. We had been working closely together on a project AS FRIENDS when we discovered that we had been enemies. It is a very eerie feeling to know that we had been in a position that might have required us to kill each other -- and as a result of that realization, we became even better friends.

Adoro said...

Elizabeth~ I can't imagine what that must have been like...and what a Glory given to God that you both are now friends!

Have you written of this on your blog? Seems to me to be a tale that should be told. REally cool if it's possible to have her tell her story as well.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Adoro, I have not written about it on my blog; the occasion has not arisen. I could easily put it on Mahlou Musings, another of my blogs, since I did write about it in one of my published books and can just put it up as an excerpt from the book. I would love to have Anatolij (a guy, not a gal) tell his story, too, but he lives in Minsk, and Belarus and the USA are no longer friends. I recently contacted the US Embassy there about the safety of sending students on study abroad and was told that most of the US missions there are being shut down so there would be no way to send students or to come myself. I don't think it is widely understood that it looks like we are heading back into a Cold War with Russia and its closely allied former republics. (I don't have long-distance coordinates for Anatoly, but I could easily track him down if I were to go there. However, alas, world politics are taking a backward turn.)

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

OK. I went back to books where I had published this incident and a couple of others, and I posted them at Mahlou Musings (the site that I use for excerpts from my published writings): (You can also get to it from my Blest Atheist blogspot. Tolya is probably locked away from me for a while, at least until politics change again, but for that one brief shining moment, it was great to be able to love my enemy!

Adoro said...

Elizabeth ~ I LOVED what you wrote and passed on your blog to several people today. :-)

Seems to me you DO still love your enemy...only he isn't your enemy. And you're not his. Our governments are descending into war...not the people.