Midwatch

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Chapter 22: In a Split-Second

IN A SPLIT-SECOND

There’s the alcove. A lot of Central cops park in here if they need to do something and they don’t want anyone to bother them. You can see anyone coming before they get close enough to do any damage. It’s a good place to talk.

“All right, there it is. Back the car in and keep the engine running. Keep your head on a swivel in case anyone tries to sneak up on us.”

“Got it.”

Yeah, you’re about to get it, Mister Harper! Maybe more than you bargained for!

“Now, listen very carefully: you and I are going to talk about this. And when we’re done, we’re both going to swear on a stack of bibles that this conversation never took place. You got it?”

“Roger that.”

“Let’s hope so. You’re the only one I’ve ever told this to who wasn’t a lawyer or a rep. And right now, I think you’re the only one I could ever tell this to. This thing destroyed my life. It’s not easy for me to talk about it.”

“I got your back, Dani. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. All right. So here it is: It was a traffic ticket! That’s all it was: a fucking scratcher! That’s what started the whole goddamned thing. I was working Ninety-Three Woodlawn. Graveyard shift. I was working with a guy named Rich Bassett. It had been raining like hell all night, and it was freezing. And I mean freezing! Between the rain and the cold, the shift was fucking dead. Nothing was happening. We had two calls for the whole damned night, and they took about five minutes. The log was practically empty. It was a miserable night all around. It was all we could do just to stay awake. I mean, we were dying. You’ve worked the Graveyard shift, so you know what that’s like.”

“Yeah, I’ve had nights like that.”

“So Rich and I are going nuts because we’ve got nothing to do. There were no calls, no one on the street, nothing. The time was dragging along so slowly, I thought the shift would never end.”

“I know what that’s like. Not since I started working with you, of course.”

Hey, look at that! He actually got me to smile! You’re a class act, Harper. You really are.

“I would hope so! Anyway, between the rain, the cold, and the heater in the car running full blast, both of us were falling asleep. It was bad.”

“Yeah, I’ve been there a few times.”

“Haven’t we all? So anyway, it’s about an hour and a half, maybe an hour and forty-five minutes before the shift ends. The rain had just stopped a few minutes before then. I was nodding off for the five hundredth time when we heard over the radio that Whaley and Cisneros were on a traffic stop less than three blocks away, so we figured we’d go back them on it. You know, anything just to pass the time, get another line on the log. So we headed over there.”

“It wasn’t a backup request, right? They said something about that on the news; that they didn’t request a backup.”

“No, there was no reason for backup. No, it was just a simple, everyday traffic stop. The guy blew a red light, or so I was told later on. That was it. Scratch out a ticket, a line on the log, end of story.”

“But it didn’t work out that way.”

“Unfortunately, no. So my first thought was, it was probably a deuce.”

“Drunken driver.”

“Exactly. I mean, who the hell else would be driving around at that hour in the freezing rain?”

“The news said Reid wasn’t drunk. That he hadn’t been drinking at all.”

“Yeah, that was probably true. I only saw him for a few seconds, but he didn’t strike me as being drunk. Quite the opposite, in fact. He struck me as being an asshole, but a completely sober asshole. So when we got to the location, we saw that they had pulled the guy over into a gas station. It was a fucked-up place for a traffic stop. They let the guy pull over right alongside the goddamned gas pumps in the middle of the station. That was really stupid. I mean, what if the guy jumps out of the car and starts shooting? Do you really want to trade shots with a guy standing right next to a fucking gas pump?”

“Hell, no!”

“Exactly. See? You know better than they did! It was fucked-up from the word ‘go.’ So we pulled into the gas station behind Whaley and Cisneros. Right away, I saw the guy was already out of his car and standing between the open door and the driver’s seat. There was no one else in the car. Cisneros was way over to the right, and Whaley is standing right in front of the guy. He’s right in the guy’s face. I mean like nose-to-nose in his face. And they’re both yelling their heads off.”

“Bad tactics?”

“Insanely bad tactics. And insanely bad judgment, too. This whole thing was a mess from the very beginning, and something told me it was going to go to shit really fast.”

“You’re spider senses were tingling, huh?”

“Big time. Right away, I could tell that this Reid guy was a total asshole and that he was going to cause problems. Even before I got out of the car, I could hear this asshole screaming at the top of his lungs at Whaley. Not just yelling. He was screaming! He was practically shrieking! Now, think about that for a minute, OK? We’re about thirty feet away, we’ve got the windows rolled up and the heater running full blast, the engine’s running, and I can hear this asshole loud and clear, like he was standing right next to me! His hands are flying around, he’s so angry. His face is red, and he’s poking his finger at Whaley’s chest and screaming his goddamned head off!”

“Sounds like he was looking to get his ass kicked.”

“That’s what I thought. So right away, I thought to myself, ’Oh, hell! This could go to shit really fast!’ I just couldn’t understand why the guy was so out of control. Even now, I don’t know what set him off. I’ve seen the damned video a thousand times, and this Reid guy was just totally fucking nuts from the get-go. It looked like he started screaming before he got out of the car, but there was no sound on the video, so I can’t be sure.”

“Do you think Whaley said something to set him off?”

“You know, I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Whaley could be a real prick sometimes. That’s why I didn’t like working with him. But I don’t see how he could’ve done anything. They couldn’t have been out of the car for more than a couple of seconds before we got there.”

“Yeah, it was fast.”

“Whatever it was, the guy just lost it! I mean, he was fucking gone! So right away, I called for an additional unit. Not a backup. Just an additional unit.”

“That’s what I’d have done.”

“Exactly. I mean, there were four of us and one of him, and he looked kind of like a fat nerd, to be honest. Not someone who goes off on a bunch of cops. But he’s being a fucking nutcase! I figured, maybe two more cops and he’d get the message: stop being an asshole! It’s just a fucking ticket!”

“I’m amazed he went off on you with four cops there!”

“You and me both! So I’m standing off to the left. The gas pumps are between me and Reid and his car. He’s about four or five feet away from me. Reid is yelling at Whaley, Whaley’s yelling at Reid, Reid’s poking his finger at Whaley, Whaley’s got his face in Reid’s face, Reid’s glasses are sliding down his nose; the whole thing was for shit. That’s when Gaines and Franklin showed up. It was like, I don’t know, three or four seconds after I put out the call. So they pulled up alongside of the gas station, right behind where I was standing. Their car was still in the street. I saw Reid and Whaley look over at their car when it pulled up, so the asshole had to know that he now had six cops surrounding him!”

“And it didn’t make any difference?”

“Nope. You saw the video. He just started screaming at Whaley again. Gaines came over and asked me what’s up, and I said it’s a scratcher, maybe a deuce, but whatever it is, we’ve got a serious asshole on our hands. He asked me if the guy was drunk or psycho. I said I think he’s fucking crazy. I heard Franklin get out, but I didn’t see where he went. You can’t see Ron on the video very much. I’m not sure exactly where he was when it went to shit.”

“From what I saw, I think he was at the far end of Whaley’s and Cisneros’ car.”

“I guess so. I wasn’t paying attention to him. So anyway, two more cops at the scene didn’t manage to calm this idiot down one bit. I really thought he was about to take a swing at Whaley. I was pissed because Whaley was standing so close to the guy. I thought to myself: ‘He’s going to fucking deck you, you idiot! Step away!’ But Whaley didn’t move.”

“If he had, that shit probably never would’ve happened.”

“Tell me about it! So I figured that I’d better get myself into a better position in case the asshole did take a swing at him, which I really thought was going to happen any second, now.”

“Where was Cisneros when all this was happening? He was Whaley’s partner. He should’ve been right there, but he wasn’t too clear on the video, either.”

“Oh, I saw him real good! He was about six feet from the passenger side of Reid’s car, at about two o’clock from me. Now, you tell me: why the fuck was he standing there? The place was all lit up. You could see there was no one else in the car, so there was no point in him being there. And from where he was, he couldn’t have done shit to help his partner if the asshole decided to go for it.”

“That’s pretty fucked up.”

“Yeah! I saw Gaines move off a bit to my right. I think he was getting into position, too. Bassett was still standing by Whaley’s car. I knew that I was the closest one to Whaley and Reid, so if Reid took a swing at him, I was going to be the first one in the fight. So I figured that the best place for me was slightly ahead of where they were standing – Whaley and Reid.”

“You tried to get in Reid’s blind spot.”

“Exactly. But I didn’t want the gas pumps between me and them. There wasn’t enough space between them for me to get through, so I had to move around them. Now, you saw the video. The gas pumps had these two big pillars beside them, holding up the overhang.”

“The brick pillars?”

“Right. I was going to go around them. Just past the pillar, I’d be in Reid’s blind spot. The pillar was good cover. He wouldn’t see me coming, and I could get to him before he turned. If he reached for something inside of the car, we’d just yank him out and slam him against the gas pumps.”

“So you had a plan.”

“Yeah, for all the good it did me.”

“Yeah, but you were thinking. You were doing the right thing.”

“I was trying to do the right thing. So I knew I needed to clear the gas pumps. I took two steps forward to get past the pillar. That’s all it was: two fucking steps! Whaley and Reid were both screaming at each other. I couldn’t make out what they were saying because they were both yelling over each other. So as soon as I made it past the pillar that was blocking me – and I mean as soon as I got past it – boom! Gunshot! God, it was loud! Just like that! Two steps and fucking boom!

“You saw the shot?”

“No. Well, not exactly. I heard it. I felt the shock. The shockwave from the muzzle blast. It all happened at the split-second when I cleared that pillar. I mean the fucking instant! I heard the shot and I felt the shock, and I think heard the glass from the car door window shatter. I saw the glass go flying. I looked over, and I could see Whaley holding his gun. He wasn’t moving. It was like he was absolutely still. He had it close in, like in a covering position. The muzzle looked like it was pressed against Reid’s chest, like a contact shot. I think it was a contact shot.”

“Jesus!”

“The bullet must’ve gone right through him and shattered the car door window. The open door was right behind him. It was like the whole window just exploded. The glass flew all over the place. I saw the glass go flying. And I saw blood. I didn’t really see the bullet come out, but I saw the hole in his back. His shirt had this hole and a patch of blood. It was big. I saw it almost immediately. Thinking about it now…Jesus! That bullet must have blown a big-assed hole in him!”

“What was Whaley carrying?”

“He had a .40 Smith and Wesson. A real cannon.”

“That must have been one hell of a contact shot!”

“You have no idea! It just wrecked him! He didn’t go down right away. He staggered for about half a second, fell back against the car door, and then just dropped like a bag of cement. The way he fell…it was…I don’t know. He was destroyed! Completely! Just…gone! He fell right at Whaley’s feet. Whaley was still standing there, like he was frozen. And Reid just…the way he dropped, I knew he was killed instantly. I just knew it.”

“He didn’t say anything?”

“No. No one said anything. Reid didn’t make a sound. I think that’s kind of what was so strange. The two of them were yelling at the top of their lungs and then boom! And then the yelling stopped. Everything stopped. Like someone just flipped a switch and turned it all off.”

“So what did you do?”

“Are you kidding me? I freaked out, that’s what I did!”

“Well, yeah! But besides that.”

OK, Harper, you got me to laugh. You were right: I really needed to do this. God, I owe you big time! You’ll never know how much.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what to do! It all happened so fast! It couldn’t have taken me more than a split-second to clear that pillar, and in that split-second, something happened and boom! Whaley blew the guy away! All I could think was, ‘Holy shit! What the fuck just happened? What did I miss? What could have happened that fast?’ I was completely stunned!”

’“I guess I’d be stunned, too.”

“Over a fucking scratcher! I mean, I was pretty sure this asshole was going to end up going to jail with a nightstick up his ass, but a shooting? I did not see that coming!”

“And he didn’t have a weapon?”

“No, and nothing about him led me to believe that he might’ve had one. That never entered my mind. He was nerdy-looking guy in a t-shirt and khakis. I didn’t see any outline in his shirt, his waistband, or his pockets. And he was waving his hands all over the place and he was poking Whaley’s chest with his finger. He didn’t act like a guy with a weapon. He certainly didn’t look like the hardcore type. He looked like a dork. And in all of a split-second, he’s fucking dead!”

“I guess you really were freaking out.”

“You’d better believe it! But I had to keep my head in the game. So after a couple of seconds, I don’t know, something like that…so now we’ve got an officer-involved shooting and the guy’s dead. Believe me, we didn’t need the paramedics to tell us that. That hole in his back was right about where his heart would be, and I’m pretty sure the shot blew it to shit.”

“I know. A contact shot is devastating. The gasses from the gunshot get in the wound and just blow the shit out of you.”

“They sure blew the shit out of him! In just a few seconds, you had this river of blood running out of him. Both sides of his chest. Gaines ran over to cuff him, and when he saw the hole in his back, he shook his head and said ‘Don’t even bother with the cuffs.’ So Gaines puts the call out: backup, EMS, a supervisor.”

“It sounds like only you and Gaines had your heads in the game.”

“Yeah, I think so, too. Gaines was a good guy. Hard charger, really good cop. He always had his shit together.”

“So what happened next?”

“I went over to Whaley and asked him if he was OK. He didn’t answer. He’d taken a few steps back, but he was still standing pretty much where he’d been when he fired.”

“He didn’t seem to move in the video.”

“I know. I asked him again if he was OK. He said he was, but I knew he wasn’t. I could tell. He was massively freaked out. He had this look on his face; it was like he was in shock. He was still holding his gun. I had to tell him to ease down and holster it. Hell, he still had his finger on the fucking trigger.”

“Yeah, I saw you helping him holster it. The first time I saw it, I thought to myself: ‘At least she knows what the fuck to do.’ See? You impressed me even before I ever met you.”

“Thanks. I guess I was afraid he might accidentally crank off another round. So I got him to put his gun away, and then I asked him the sixty-four thousand dollar question…”

“What the fuck just happened?”

“Bingo! He hesitated for a second, and then he said the asshole tried to take his gun, so he shot him. So I thought to myself, OK, that makes sense. That’s a legitimate shooting. A guy tries to take your gun; you know he’s trying to kill you. So you blast him.”

“You’re damned right you do.”

“Exactly. So then I helped Gaines put up the tape and start the crime scene log. I marked the empty shell casing where it hit the ground. I told Cisneros and Franklin to go see if there were any witnesses. Then we waited for everyone else to get there. I think the first unit got there in about a minute. Pretty soon, every cop in the division was there. Nothing draws a crowd of cops like an officer-involved shooting.”

“Yeah, I believe it.”

“Have you ever seen one?”

“An officer-involved shooting? No. Not yet, anyway.”

“Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to belittle what you went through in Iraq. But a police shooting is…it’s different.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

Sometimes when I talk to Harper about the shit that goes on out here, I feel like I’m insulting him. He’s been in a real war. He’s probably shot more people than he can remember. But I’ve known cops who fought in wars and got into shootings out here, and they all say there’s a world of difference.

“OK, so now the real circus begins. The scene’s in complete chaos. There are at least ten cops walking around, not knowing what they should be doing. The guy in the booth? The gas station attendant? I didn’t even think about him until Franklin brought him over. He was a young guy, like maybe, nineteen or twenty. He looked like was in shock.”

“I’ll bet! Did he see what happened? The news said he didn’t.”
“He said he was in the bathroom and didn’t see a thing.”

“Did you believe him?”

“I don’t know. At that point, I didn’t care. He saw the body and the blood, and I think he shit himself right there.”

“He probably never saw a dead body before then.”

“Yeah, well, he sure saw one that night. Anyway, it didn’t matter. He was a witness either way, so we had to take him back to the station. So I put him in our car. The first supervisor on the scene was Sergeant Radaway. He’s a good sergeant. Good cop. Cisneros told him what happened, and Radaway takes Whaley, secures his weapon, and puts him in his car. You know how it works: they have to isolate you so that you can’t cook up a story with the other officers.”

“Yeah, they went over it in the academy. Does it work?”

“I guess it works sometimes, but not always. Certainly not this time. They put Rich Bassett and me in the same room and kept us there until the shooting team was ready to interview us. Most of the time, there was no one in the room with us. People came in and brought us coffee, but that was about it. I think it was the same with everyone else, but I’m not sure. I didn’t see them again until after the interviews.”

“Did you talk about the shooting?”

“Not really. It was pretty much ‘Hey, did you see what happened?’ ‘No, did you?’ That was about it.”

“Did anyone actually see it?”

“I didn’t talk to everyone, but I don’t remember anyone saying that they saw it go down. Well, anyone but Whaley.”

“So you didn’t talk to any of the other guys before the sergeant arrived?”

“Nope. I didn’t have time. Once I got my ass back in the game, I just focused on what needed to be done. By the time we finished putting up the tape and logging the first officers on the log, the sergeants were already at the scene. I don’t remember how many. All of them, I think.”

“Did Sergeant Radaway ask you about it?”

“No, but I’m sure he wanted to. Usually what happens is that the first sergeant at the scene asks who fired. Since Whaley was the only one who fired, the Sarge wasn’t too interested in the rest of us. And they’re not supposed to ask you what you saw. They usually do, but they’re not supposed to.”

“How long did they keep you before the shooting team talked to you?”

“About two hours. That was actually a lot faster than I thought it would take. Since it happened in the middle of the night, they have to call them in and get everything set up. And different detectives handle things differently. Some go right to the scene, others go to the station and do all of the preliminary shit before they go look at the scene.”

“What’s it like? A shooting interview, I mean.”

“Well, let’s do a little bit of training first. If you get into a shooting, you know that you can refuse to make any statements for seventy-two hours, right?”

“Yeah, they call it ‘invoking.’”

“That’s right. You’re invoking your rights under the regulations. That’s so that if you’re really shaken up by it, you don’t say anything that you might later regret. They’re not supposed to interview you when you’re all emotionally worked-up.”

“They told us about that.”

“Don’t think that it’s a sign of weakness if you invoke. It’s not. Some PBA reps actually encourage officers to invoke to protect their rights. They know you might think you’re fine, but actually, you’re not. Believe me, you don’t want to be making official statements when you can’t think straight. So you remember that, in case you ever get into a shooting. If you have even the slightest doubt, you don’t think about it. You invoke. No one can hold it against you. The shooting team might try to get you to change your mind, but they’re not really allowed to do that. Once you invoke, that’s it. See you in seventy-two hours. Always remember that. I hope to God you never have to do it, but remember it just in case.”

“I will. Thanks.”

“Just looking out for you, Harper. So what’s a shooting interview like? To be honest, it’s pretty fucking weird. For starters, they make you feel like a goddamned suspect, even if they don’t mean to. I guess most of them don’t mean to do that, but you definitely get the impression that they’re not on your side. At least, that’s been my experience. They ask you a ton of questions that actually matter, and then they ask you about five tons of questions that don’t mean a damned thing. At least, they do when you’re the shooter. It’s not as thorough when you’re just there – you know, when you’re just a bystander. But they still ask you a shitload of questions.”

“Why do they ask questions that don’t matter?”

“God only knows. When I got into my first shooting, one of the detectives asked me what kind of shoes I was wearing. I’m not making that up! He asked about my goddamned shoes!”

“No way! You’re making that up!”

“Swear to God! He asked if I was wearing shoes or boots. The he asked me what brand they were. The only thing he didn’t ask was what size they were. Hey, it’s not as if I stomped on the guy! Oh, and then they also asked me what radio frequency we were using. I don’t mean the division. I mean he wanted to know the fucking megahertz of the frequency or whatever!”

“That’s crazy! Who the hell knows that shit?”

“That’s what I thought. But they asked. For some reason, it was important to them. Now in this case, it wasn’t that bad. I was just a bystander. I didn’t fire my weapon. Hell, I didn’t even have my weapon out of the holster, so the questions were pretty short and sweet. At the time, I thought that was a good thing.”

“How so?”

“Because it made me think that the whole thing was pretty cut-and-dry. It was like they didn’t need my statement. They’d already decided that it was a clean shoot. I thought that was a good thing. I knew that I didn’t say anything and they didn’t ask me anything that would’ve led anyone to believe that I was trying to cover anything up. I told them the truth – which wasn’t much, to be sure – and later on, when I saw that video…I just figured that it would put me in the clear, in spite of how it actually went down.”

“What did they ask you?”

“Pretty much what you’d expect. First, they asked me what happened just prior to the shooting. Then they asked me if I saw the actual shooting. I said no, it happened a split-second before I cleared the pillar. I heard it, but I didn’t see it. Then they asked me how many shots were fired. I said one shot. Then they asked me if I was sure that no one else fired. I said there was just one shot, so obviously, no one else fired. They asked me if Reid had a weapon. I said not as far as I knew. I didn’t see one before or after the shooting. Then they asked me if Whaley had made any statements to me about it. I told them yes, I’d asked him what happened, and he said the asshole went for his gun, so he fired.”

“Did they believe you?”

“Sure. At that point, they had no reason to think otherwise. And besides, I just repeated what Whaley told me. I didn’t say he went for Whaley’s gun. I said that’s what Whaley told me.”

“If you didn’t see it, then you didn’t see it.”

“That’s exactly how I saw it. So then they asked me the big one: did I see Reid go for Whaley’s gun? I said no, I didn’t see it. I did see the guy lean into Whaley at least once, but that was it. Whaley kind of pushed out his chest and moved the guy back. They were practically nose-to-nose, so it didn’t take much to lean into him. So that’s what I told them. And I told them that when that happened, Whaley didn’t have his gun drawn. I saw that much. His gun was still holstered.”

“So basically, that was all you had to offer?”

“That’s it. So then came the kicker: they asked me if it could have happened the way Whaley described it to me. And I wanted to be careful, here. You always have to watch your ass in these interviews. So the first thing I said was that Whaley didn’t describe anything. He just said that the asshole went for his gun, so he fired. He didn’t go into any details. So then they asked me if the guy could have gone for Whaley’s gun, and Whaley drew and fired, all in the time that it took for me to clear that pillar.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I told them the truth. I said yes, as far as I knew, it could’ve happened that way. How long does it take for some asshole to reach for your gun? Besides, Whaley’s left-handed. That means anyone who’s right-handed and standing in front of him just has to reach straight out and grab his gun. It’s right there. So yeah, in that split-second, Reid could’ve reached for Whaley’s gun, and Whaley could’ve drawn and fired in self-defense. That’s what I told them. That’s all I told them! I didn’t say that’s what I saw, because I didn’t see anything until after the shot. I told them I didn’t even see the shot fired! Beyond that, I didn’t elaborate, and they didn’t ask me anything more about it.”

“That was it?”

“That was it. Short and sweet. They didn’t even take me back to the scene.”

“Did they ask you what kind of shoe you were wearing?”

“No, smartass! This time, they didn’t.”

“So what kind of shoe were you wearing, Officer Lynott?”

“You know, I could punch you in the balls from here!”

“And I’m sure it would hurt. So when did you find out what really happened?”

“Not the next day, but the day after that. Well, the night after. They kept us at the station until about noon. By then, I was wiped out. I was ready to keel over.”

“It was probably the stress. You didn’t see it coming.”

“Probably. I was off the day after that for a single, and I knew we weren’t coming in to work that night because of the shooting. So I downed a lot of coffee and pushed myself to stay awake and drive home. I just wanted to get home and go to sleep. Looking back, I’m amazed I made it home in one piece.”

“I know what that feels like. It’s combat stress fatigue. There were times in Iraq where I was too tired to take my gear off.”

“That was me. When I got home, I went straight to bed. It was all I could do to take off my clothes. I think I slept for at least fifteen hours straight. Maybe more than that.”

“And when you got up?”

“When I woke up, I felt like shit. I was so damned tired, and I felt like I was catching a cold. I was really thrashed. I didn’t even get dressed for the rest of the day. I just kind of knocked around in my underwear. It was raining again, so I had no desire to go outside. I didn’t even go get the mail. I was a mess.”

“I think you were entitled.”

“You think so?”

“I’m sure of it. You were entitled. Take my word for it.”

“So where the hell were you when I needed you?”

“I was still in the academy.”

“A lot of good you were!”

“Hey, I’m sorry. If I’d have known…”

“You know what? I’ll bet you would’ve.”

“Damn right! So you zoned out in your underwear for a half a day. Then what?”

“You had to highlight the underwear part?”

“Well, you said it, so…”

It never occurred to me that Harper might ever wonder what I look like without my clothes. Judging by that look on his face, at least he approves. Good. It’s nice to know he thinks I’m at least somewhat attractive.

“So then I didn’t do anything on my day off. It was raining, so I didn’t go anywhere. I was too damned tired. I didn’t watch the news or read the paper. I pretty much did laundry and nodded off a few times, and that was it.”

“So when did you hear about it? The video, I mean.”

“The first I heard of it was when I went to work on the following night. You have to understand, I was oblivious to it until I got to the station. As I was pulling up to the station, I saw the media circus outside. There were at least half a dozen news vans out front, and they had their floodlights on and people were running around. A lot of people. I’d never seen so many news people in front of a police station before. Police headquarters? Sure. But not a police station. It took me by complete surprise. I knew something big had to have happened, but I didn’t think it had anything to do with that shooting.”

“What did you think it was?”

“I told you: I didn’t have a clue. I thought maybe some kid got kidnapped. Something like that.”

“Did they stop you on the way in?”

“No, they didn’t pay any attention to me. Nobody did. Now, when I got into the station, it was major chaos! There were people everywhere. You know, official people. The brass. There were a shitload of detectives that I didn’t recognize, and I saw some members of the command staff that I did recognize. I’d never seen that much brass at a police station. I figured, ‘Oh, shit! Something major must have happened!’ But I still didn’t think it had anything to do with that shooting. I was completely clueless.”

“So how did you find out?”

“A friend of mine named Rhonda Brignell was in the locker room and she told me. She said the brass and Internal Affairs had been there all day long, and that it was a major cluster fuck. She said the shooting was a bad shoot from the word ‘go,’ and everyone was out for blood. I was thunderstruck!”

“She told you about the video?”

“Oh, yeah! She said there was a video from the security camera at the gas station, and it showed that Whaley just up and fucking executed the guy! Shot him for no reason! I just couldn’t believe it! Whaley had a temper, but I couldn’t see him shooting someone just because they pissed him off! I thought it had to be a mistake. But Rhonda said she saw the video on TV and it was clear: that’s exactly what he did. She said it was all over the news; every fucking channel. And she said you could see me plain as day on the video. That’s when I started to freak out.”

“Had they been looking for you by then?”

“You know something? That’s the part I still don’t understand. They weren’t. They weren’t looking for me at all. No one tried to contact me. They knew I was there when it happened, so it wasn’t a secret. And they knew where I was the whole time. They knew I was at home. When it turned into a big fucking deal, you think they would’ve called me. But they didn’t. I guess they figured they’d talk to me when I showed up for work.”

“So now you were freaking out?”

“Yeah, but I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I didn’t shoot the guy. And since they didn’t try to contact me, I thought that meant it was no big deal – for me, anyway. I told myself I didn’t have anything to worry about. I knew that wasn’t always the case, but in this case, that’s what I really thought. I mean, I knew I hadn’t told them anything that wasn’t true. And if there was a video of the thing, then I knew it would show that I was telling the truth. So I figured they’d just interview me again and that would be the end of it, at least as far as I was concerned. Boy, was I ever wrong.”

“So what did you do?”

“Nothing, really. What could I do? I just put on my uniform and got ready for work. Nobody seemed to be looking for me, and they must have known I was there because my shift started in a few minutes. I kept telling myself it was no big deal.”

“Did you believe it?”

“The truth? I’m not sure. I think I was starting to get scared. The fact that they didn’t call me in right away? That really started to gnaw at me.”

“I don’t blame you.”

“Anyway, Captain Llewellyn and Sergeant Radaway stopped me at the door of the roll call room. They said don’t go in there. The way they said it; that kind of worried me. They said they needed to talk to me right away and I couldn’t go into the roll call room. Of course, now I knew what it was about. But I also knew that something was wrong. I got the sense that they didn’t want to tell me anything. It was almost like they wanted to keep me in the dark about it.”

“Your spider senses were tingling again?”

“Big time!”

“I’ll bet. I’d have been in condition red.”

“Oh, I was getting there! There was just this terrible feeling about the whole thing. The captain took me to his office, and he looked really nervous. I’d never seen him like that before. He was a good guy, Captain Llewellyn. But he looked really shaken. I’m no expert on the brass, but I know it takes a lot to shake one of them. And Sergeant Radaway was acting like he wanted to hide me somewhere, fast! I knew this was definitely not good.”

“That’s putting it mildly.”

“So they took me into the captain’s conference room and there’s about five or six guys from Internal Affairs, and one of them was a lieutenant. I never heard of a lieutenant conducting an IAD interview before. At least, not a preliminary one. That seemed really strange. So they tell me to sit down, and then they said that they needed to interview me about a ‘serious incident’ that took place two nights ago. Yeah, I could tell it was serious! I could see one of them was holding a Miranda card, so I knew he was about to read me my rights.”

“Holy shit!”

“Yeah, that was all I needed to see! So before he could start, the first thing out of my mouth was ‘I want my goddamn PBA rep!’ Actually, I was wondering if maybe I should ask for a lawyer? Fortunately, I didn’t have to. The PBA was already out in front of the whole thing. It turned out there were about half a dozen PBA reps in the station already, and a couple of them came into the room and told the IAD guys to stop.”

“I’ll bet they didn’t like that.”

“Oh, you’d better believe it! They got into a big pissing contest right in front of me. But IAD can’t intimidate the PBA reps because they don’t work for the department. They’re free to tell the department to fuck off. One of the reps asked the lieutenant point-blank: ‘Is she under arrest? Is she a criminal suspect?’ That’s when I really started to freak! I mean, I actually started shaking! The lieutenant bitched and stalled for a minute and then said ‘No, she’s not under arrest. She’s not a suspect…yet.’ Then the IAD guys backed off.”

“What did the PBA reps do?”

“Well, the IAD guys wouldn’t let me leave the room, so they all went over to one end of the room and the reps took me over to a corner on the other side and told me what’s up. They said this was a criminal investigation, and that it was probably going to be a murder case. They told me that they were already bringing in lawyers for a consultation, and that I should follow their lead during the interview until the lawyers got there. That’s when I knew this was no ordinary IAD investigation, and that I needed to watch my back big time.”

“God, I can imagine what was going through your mind!”

“No, you can’t. I don’t mean that the wrong way. But you can’t…”

“No, it’s OK. I know what you mean.”

I’m beginning to think you did, Harper. I think I’m going to owe you a major apology when this is done. And a shitload of thanks.

“Did they let your reps sit in on the interview?”

“Yeah, but they didn’t want to. They had to. That’s the rule. That’s why the one guy asked if I was under arrest? That’s the only time they can keep your rep out, but then they have to let you have a lawyer if they’re going to arrest you. Since it was a disciplinary investigation at that point, they had to let me have my rep. They weren’t happy about it, though.”

“Did they actually try to make you go in without a rep?”

“Oh, yeah! That’s not unusual. Some of them do that all the time; even for the chickenshit stuff. Remember that, in case you ever find yourself in the bucket.”

“I will. But you told them to go to hell, right?”

“Absolutely. And you need to remember that. If you’re ever in the crosshairs, don’t say shit without a rep. Not ever! They can’t make you. It’s against the rules.”

“I know. They told us in the academy.”

“Yeah, but some IAD guys will try to make you feel ashamed of it. They’ll give you the old, ‘Why not talk to us without a rep if you’ve got nothing to hide, Officer?’ bullshit. Don’t let them.”

“Got it. So what did they want with you? They must’ve seen the video. They knew you didn’t do anything.”

“Yeah, and that’s the really nasty part of it. I mean, they had my statement from the shooting team. They knew damned well that I told them that I didn’t see the shooting, and that I didn’t see Reid go for Whaley’s gun. They asked me if it could’ve happened. I said yes, it could’ve happened, but I never said it did happen. I didn’t have anything to add, and they knew it. That was the extent of my involvement in the whole fucking thing. I was there when it happened – period! And you’ve seen the damned video. Did you see anything on it that contradicts what I just said?”

“Nope. It went down exactly like you said.”

“And from where I was standing when the shot went off, did it look like I could see what happened?”

“No. The pillar was in your way. That was obvious.”

“Exactly! And they knew it! So what the hell did they think I was going to say now? Did they think I was going to say something that implicated me in some sort of cover-up? Hell, no! But they kept hammering away at me. They said, ’Well, Officer Lynott, in that short span of time, you must have seen what happened! You couldn’t have missed it!’ Bullshit! I told them the same damned story that I told the shooting team two nights earlier. And even though I hadn’t seen the video, I told them that any video of the thing would corroborate what I said.”

“Did they show you the video?”

“No! And I asked to see it right then and there!”

“What did they say?”

“They said I didn’t need to see it.”

“That sounds pretty lame.”

“It was. I really wanted to see the thing.”

“When did you see it?”

“Later that night. After they finished interviewing me, the captain told me to take a TO and go home. That was fine with me. I sure as hell didn’t want to be there under those circumstances, so I went home and turned on the news, and there it was. It was like four in the morning, and they must have played it five times in the space of an hour. God, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! It was like I was watching it happen to someone else! I could see myself on the video, but I couldn’t believe it was me. I couldn’t believe any of it, but there it was.”

“How come they wouldn’t show you the video?”

“They didn’t say. I guess they wanted to see if I would change my story; you know, say something that contradicts the video. How could I do that? I told everyone: ‘I didn’t see the shot fired! I didn’t see shit!’ Now where the fuck is the ambiguity in that?”

“Nowhere.”

“Thank you!”

“So what did they do next?”

“The next day, I got a call from my PBA rep to come down to their office. When I got there, there was my rep with two PBA lawyers. They said IAD had a few more questions for me. We went into the conference room and two detectives from IAD were waiting. First, they read me my Miranda rights. Then they started in with the questions. They asked me whether I talked to Whaley or anyone else there to cook up a story to justify a bad shooting. I told them, ‘Hell, no! Ask Whaley! Ask Rich Bassett! Ask anyone!’ Other than asking Whaley what happened and was he OK, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. Then they tried to make a really big deal out of that.”

“Out of what?”

“Out of my talking to Whaley. They were asking, ‘Why did you ask Officer Whaley what happened? Were you trying to get your stories straight?’ I was like, ‘No, you fucking idiot! A guy just got shot four feet in front of me, right out of the blue! I wanted to know what the hell happened! I wanted to know if Whaley was OK!’ There’s nothing nefarious about it.”

“Of course not. Anyone would’ve asked the same thing.”

“Anyone with a brain! But they tried to turn it into a major fucking conspiracy to cover up a bad shooting. I mean, I hadn’t seen or heard from anyone else after it happened. I had no idea what Whaley or Cisneros or anybody told them about it. And I didn’t care, either. I figured they’d all tell the truth.”

“They say Whaley might have had some kind of history with the guy. Was that true?”

“I heard that, too. I don’t know. I still don’t know. Even with the way they were yelling, I didn’t get the feeling that they knew each other. I wasn’t even thinking about that. There was so much bullshit surrounding the whole thing; I’m still not sure what was true.”

“Why were they so intent on hanging something on you?”

“Politics: plain and simple. The more people they can hang it on, the less they can dump it on the department. At that point, they wanted to hang something on everyone who was there. Believe me, any cop whose name ended up on that crime scene log went through some serious shit because of it. Some worse than others, though.”

“How come?”

“Because as soon as the video hit the news, people were screaming about police brutality and the ‘Blue Wall of Silence.’ They were sure that there was some kind of official cover-up going on. It was like they finally had proof that cops were executing citizens on a daily basis, and covering it up. I guess the fact that Whaley wasn’t arrested as soon as he shot Reid made a lot of people think that there was some kind of official cover-up. There wasn’t, but some people like to believe shit like that.”

“So they were after everybody?”

“Well, yes and no. I think you’d have to say that as soon as that security video became public, Whaley was fucked. I mean, you’ve seen it. Whaley just whips out his gun and blasts Reid. Just like that. I mean, yeah, just before Whaley drew his gun, the guy leaned forward into him. He was right up against him. It was certainly a stupid thing for him to do, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it’s a good way to get punched.”

“Exactly. So maybe Whaley really thought that the guy was trying to take his gun? I don’t know. Maybe he saw it that way? But you can see that the Reid’s hand never moved anywhere near his gun. It would’ve been pretty hard to convince anyone that leaning into him like that was a blatant attempt to grab his gun. Even if he completely misread the situation, I don’t see how you could’ve chalked it up to an accident.”

“No way. Whatever you call it, it wasn’t an accident. The video’s clear on that.”

“It was a bad shoot that went way beyond being out of policy. It was criminal, plain and simple. So it wasn’t as if they had to build a case against him. They charged him with murder, but he was going down for manslaughter, at least. God! One stupid fucking decision and your whole life’s over! But he had no one to blame but himself, and he deserved whatever was coming to him. It’s hard to say that about a fellow cop, but it’s the truth. But as for the rest of us? People were screaming about a cover-up, and there wasn’t one, but they said there was. And the department just caved in to the pressure. It was all politics, pure and simple. There was no cover-up, but people said there was and so they decided to invent one and say that it was us doing the covering-up. They threw us to the wolves just to save their own asses.”

“That’s fucked up.”

“Tell me about it. That’s official damage control for you. But you know what the worst part of it is? It was totally unnecessary! All the department had to say is, ‘Look, we’re investigating what happened. Officer Whaley told us one thing, and now the video tells us a different thing, and we’re proceeding accordingly. There’s no cover-up. If a crime was committed, we’ll do what we have to do.’ Period. End of story. But a lot of assholes just latched onto it right away. They were determined to make it into some kind of department-wide thing. You know, ‘the cops are killing us all and covering it up’ kind of thing.”

“Yeah, I was halfway through the academy, and it just took over the whole place. That’s pretty much all they talked about until I graduated. So what happened after that?”

“Well, you pretty much know what happened. Whaley was bought and paid for. He pled guilty to manslaughter. Five to fifteen. He’s going to do at least five years. Cisneros got fired for lying, even though he never actually said he saw the guy go for Whaley’s gun. He said it looked like Reid tried to take Whaley’s gun. Not that it mattered, one way or the other. Two down, four to go.”

“They were doing some real headhunting, huh?”

“God, it was a free-for-all! Our lawyers told us not to talk to anyone about it under any circumstances. Not even our families. They said that anyone we talked to about it would end up with a subpoena. So basically, we were totally incommunicado. I mean totally. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything, because it would inevitably come up. I had to become a hermit.”

“Jesus, I didn’t know it was that bad.”

“How could you? You can’t imagine how scary it got. Hell, for three months, I had to inform my lawyer about every goddamned conversation I had with anyone. I was afraid to answer my phone. I got plenty of hate calls, and I think every reporter in the state called me at least once.”

“How the hell did they get your number?”

“Who knows? I was afraid to go look in the mailbox. I didn’t know what was coming next. You should’ve seen the shit I was getting. Death threats, hate mail, the works.”

“They had your address, too?”

“They had everything. The media had our names and pictures within about four days.”

“Yeah, I saw your picture on TV a few times. That’s how I knew who you were when I saw you in the station.”

“All of our personal information was all over the internet. I had to get rid of everything: credit cards, my e-mail account, everything. There were people hanging around my apartment building. I’m sure they were looking for me.”

“Jesus! That is seriously fucked up!”

“It scared the shit out of me. I was afraid like I’ve never been afraid in my life. And since we were relieved of duty, we couldn’t carry our guns. A few times, I said fuck it, I’m not taking any chances. I’m carrying a gun. I wore my vest everywhere. We were told by the PBA that the threats were serious. The department arranged for the police where I live to have patrol cars going by my apartment, but I didn’t know whose side they were on. It was a horrible fucking time, and I couldn’t even talk to anyone about it.”

“I think I would’ve gone insane.”

“I nearly did. I had reporters camped outside of my apartment for a while. My landlord nearly kicked me out. I had to park my car three blocks from home so it wouldn’t get vandalized. People were trying to take my picture everywhere I went. They stuck microphones in my face and shouted thirty questions at once. It got pretty scary. I never knew who might be waiting for me when I got home.”

“Did anyone ever try anything?”

“Not really. Sometimes people recognized me and said some shit, but that was about it. A couple of people threw things at me, though. That was no fun.”

“How long were you relieved of duty?”

“Almost ten months.”

“How the hell did you survive?”

“My mom paid my bills, thank God. It wasn’t like anyone was going to hire me. Finally, a friend got me a waitress job that lasted about thirty seconds. Too many people recognized me.”

“That must’ve been hell.”

“You have no idea.”

Jesus, I have to admit: I really feel a lot better for getting this shit off of my chest. God, why didn’t I do this earlier? Thank you, Harper. Thank you for being a fucking pigheaded, stubborn Marine who wouldn’t let it go. I owe you. I owe you more than you’ll ever know. You were right: I definitely needed to talk about this. It wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.

“Harper, I owe you an apology. You were right. I definitely needed to get this shit out. I’m sorry I was such a bitch about it.”

“Don’t apologize. You were right: I had no idea how bad it was for you. And no one ever laid out what really happened until now. Knowing the truth, I’d like to fucking punch someone for what they did to you!”

“Well, don’t. That’ll definitely get you fired. I owe you for this. Big time.”

“You don’t owe me a damned thing. I’m your partner. I’ve got your back. I’ve always got your back.”

Yes, you do. More than anyone ever has. And I’m never, ever going to forget it. Not in this or any universe known to man or God. Count on it.

“And I’ve got yours. But hey! If anyone ever asks if we talked about this…”

“No, sir! She never said a word about it, and I never asked, sir!”

“On a stack of bibles.”

“As tall as the Empire State Building.”

“Bingo! Oh, and one last thing: something I want you to remember for the rest of your career. It’ll help you from making a really stupid mistake, sometime.”

“What’s that?”

“Always remember that even a training officer can learn something from her boot. Thanks for making me do this. I feel a hell of a lot better.”

“You’re welcome. And of course, I always knew that. I mean, who couldn’t learn something from me? I’m a walking, talking Prophet’s Wall!”

“Is this you being cocky?”

“Oh, you haven’t even seen me when I get cocky!”

“So you’re saying I’ve still got that to look forward to?”

“I’m afraid so. See? I got you to smile!”

Yeah, you did! You’re very good at that, Mister Harper!

“You’re crazy, do you know that?”

“Of course I know it. I had a good teacher.”

“Shall we go to work, now?”

“Let’s do it!”

“All right! Let’s do it! Oh, and if someone gets in your face and pisses you off…”

“I promise not to shoot him and say he went for my gun.”

“You got it. Make us available.”

You know, it’s all I can do to keep myself from reaching across the car and kissing him right now. I really wish I could. It’s the least I could do, considering what he just did for me. That’s definitely a first for me. A weird first. I guess everything is weird in Central Division. There’s just no other explanation for it.

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