The Tree at World's End

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Officer First Class Peterson could not believe what had just happened.

Sergeant Frank Evans’ firing at an unarmed suspect in broad daylight and in a crowded place was bad enough, but missing his target completely and hitting another cop was going to cost him a lot more than his job. It was likely to end in some serious jail time.

He didn’t envy him one bit.

Not that Peterson cared or even liked Evans much, but he just felt what he would have for any fellow cop who had just made an unbelievably idiotic mistake.

The victim, a young woman from another precinct, was being tended by the only officer in the squad with a nursing background, at least until the paramedics arrived.

The sergeant was so badly shaken that he wasn’t making any sense. Even now he was leaning against the squad car, white as the snow around him, and repeating over and over, “…but I hit him. I know I did. I hit him fair and square…”

Poor bastard.

But Peterson couldn’t focus on him right now, he had to arrest the two vagrants and bring them in for questioning.

He kept his Glock 19 trained on the male suspect, safety off, his finger well clear of the trigger.

Jesus, just look at these two!

They appeared not to understand anything that was going on. It also didn’t help that they did not seem to know two words of English between them, nor that they looked like extras from a biblical set.

Being foreigners and not speaking the language was no excuse, of course. Who the hell doesn’t understand, “hands where I can see them”?

Maybe they’d been experimenting with something nasty and had fried their brains - they certainly looked like they were on something; eyes wide, pupils dilated to such an extent it made them look crazed.

He approached very cautiously, comforted by the knowledge that a number of other cops were doing the same.

The woman, being the closest, watched his approach with apprehension. The man was looking down at himself with a bemused half-smile. Definitely on something.

They still weren’t responding to any verbal commands so, after verifying that the other cops had them in their sights, he holstered his weapon and unclipped his cuffs.

He grabbed at the woman’s wrist, only he missed it. Muttering a self-conscious curse, he tried again.

This time he watched as his hand went right through the woman’s arm and into her body … and he nearly lost it.

“What the f…?” This interjection from another cop who was attempting to cuff the man.

Somehow knowing that it wasn’t just him made it slightly more bearable, but in that moment, Stephen Peterson’s sense of reality took one hell of a hit, one that he would never completely recover from.

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