Aftermath Batchelor, LA
Detective Jenkins moaned as he stretched out the kinks in his stiff legs. His muscles felt like bricks every morning but it didn’t stop him from running. He put an old gray pair of sweatpants on, and donned the T-shirt from the night before, instinctively buckling on his badge and shoulder holster of thirty-one years. The sun seemed to rise sluggishly, weary of awakening for a new day. Jenkins smiled, checking his watch and adjusting his headband. Looking in the mirror, he rubbed his chin, rubbed at the five o’clock shadow that now grew wildly. The lines under his eyes were getting more prominent and his military style haircut was more silver than brown nowadays. In his younger days he was a handsome man. His once taunt cheeks were starting to droop. Even his blue eyes, once commanding, had dimmed and were showing signs of age. He was getting older in the face but his body endured.
His chest was still huge from his professional playing days and his biceps still stretched beneath his T-shirt. Stopping only to get his side arm, then to put a hunting knife in his sock, a necessity since a routine jog had once almost cost him his legs when a huge alligator thought he was an easy meal and then he was out the door. He looked up at the full moon partnering with the morning sun.
“You know you don’t have to run today,” a ghost in his head whispered, “your marriage down the crapper, mother is gone. You don’t have to impress anyone anymore.”
Jenkins tried to ignore the ghost’s hurtful venom as he tried to do many times before and grunted, “Well let’s get this over with.”
His route was like clockwork, every morning it would take him down town, through Main Street, across three blocks to the park, around the makeshift community Lake, and then down the railroad tracks and back to the suburb where he lived. His calves cramped up first, and then his chest filled with fire. Finally his back ached before he stopped for a break.
“Boy I’m out of shape.” He huffed, out of breath, hands massaging his legs.
His black 9 mm Glock side arm was sticking out from his shoulder holster as he rested his hands on his hips laboring for breath, sounding like a rusty pump. Then something caught his police trained eyes. A nude man was climbing out of the window of an apartment building nearby, bloodied and disheveled; he fell to the ground with a crunch and a grunt.
“Halt!” Jenkins yelled, still out of breath.
He identified himself as a police officer, and before Jenkins knew what was going on, his hands instinctively drew his gun. The man looked up at him in surprise. His eyes were wild and he was grunting like an animal. They locked eyes for a moment before the bloody man took off on all fours like an animal.
The man wove wildly through the front yard then abruptly slid to a stop startling Detective Jenkins. The blood covered stranger snapped his neck back to look at Jenkins, snarling and foaming at the mouth. Growling a guttural warning to Detective Jenkins who thought he saw razor sharp, curved fangs. The bloodied man sported fingernails like five, six-inch talons as if holding several stilettos. He twirled around and quickly closed the distance between them, and lunged at Jenkins.
“No, don’t shoot!” The ghost in Jenkins’ head shouted.
Jenkins aimed and fired two in his chest and one into his head. The bloody man fell on the grass, dying where he had fallen. Jenkins kneeled down, eyes widening in bewildered confusion. Upon closer inspection there were no fangs, no claws. The boy looked about eighteen or nineteen years old. As he stood up, his body began to shake and a cold sweat poured over him. A lump welled up in his throat. The boy almost looked like his own son. The color drained from his face. His dead son, the one he accidentally shot dead one night when he snuck in early from college to surprise his parents for their anniversary.
Louisiana P.D. said he had done everything by the book. His son had his hood up still, to shield himself from the cold and his iPod was blaring in his ears. His son was reaching for what he thought at the time was a gun. He identified himself as a police officer … He blamed the long hours of work and the medication that he took to sleep that night that had him in a fog.
“Dad,” he had muttered in surprise, the blood pooling in his throat,” why?” he had whispered, blood trickling out of the corners of his mouth as he began to collapse.
The memory of that day came flooding back so suddenly it drove him to his knees. He was only running and he had taken his gun out, he wondered why. He didn’t even have his cell phone on hand to call the department. He got close enough to assess the situation at hand, but not too close as to contaminate the scene as he planted his hunting knife in the dead boy’s hand. Then he jogged over to the nearest house and knocked frantically on the door.
“Oh, that’s pitiful!” The ghost of his son Philip spit, “just like your friends, refusing to blood test you…”
Ignoring his son’s hurtful jabs he ran towards the closest occupied house. His voice cracked, and he began crying, “Police, open up!”
He waited, impatiently wiping away his tears as the door opened, and an old woman looked out the crack.
“What’s going on?” Spoke a grumpy woman, groggy from being woken up. Still in her nightgown, she rubbed sleep from her eyes and tried to focus in on detective Jonathan Jenkins. She was staring at the gun and holster on the disheveled detective nervously, “What’s happening?”
“Ma’am I need you to call Captain Rogers,” handing the old woman a card.” Tell him there is a D.O.A. and an officer involved shooting in your neighborhood.”
Jenkins paced back and forth nervously as he waited for his back-up to arrive. He swore his heart was about to explode when he saw the lights and heard the sirens of his brethren approaching. One unmarked police car, two patrol cars, and a white coroner van stopped in the middle of the street. Capt. Thompson Rogers had gotten out of the unmarked car and slowly strolled to Jenkins’ side while slowly scrutinizing the scene.
There was clearly a mixture of condescending curiosity in his voice as he was asking, “What happened here?”
Before the divorce, eventual meltdown, and move to seclusion in Batchelor he worked with Captain Rogers, still a master sergeant in the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Department back in the day. Rogers had responded when Jenkins accidentally shot his son. He couldn’t help but wonder if it was happening all over again, a nightmare of split second poor decisions.
“I don’t know exactly”, Jenkins purposely looked down at the grass trying to avoid the Captain’s stare.
“It just happened so quickly.” Jenkins went on with his story, how the bloody man crawled out of a window, how he was running on all fours refusing to stop. He took a deep breath, “and his menacing claws, um, he started coming at me with a hunting knife.”
Captain Rogers quickly scanned the crime scene. A busted window from the inside out, nude stranger some of the blood crusting up all over his body obviously not his own. Next to the body lay a shiny hunting blade.
“Well the information that you have given seems to check out,” He rubbed Jenkins’ back to try and comfort him, “It will be alright.”
“You did everything by the book…” The ghost of his son sarcastically whispered.
The policeman doubling as paramedics futilely tried to revive the wounded stranger before giving up and calling over the coroner. Dr. Jacobs, the coroner, went through the motions, cause of death obvious three bullet wounds; two to the body one to the head. Then he examined the dead man closer as he stuck a patch thermometer on the chest, taken aback by the results.
“Detective Jenkins, come over here a second,” Dr. Jacobs motioned for Jenkins as he got up off the ground with a groan and dusted off the knees of his blue jumpsuit.
“What’s up?” Jenkins asked, his hands on his hips, avoiding looking at the dead man now lying beneath the blue sheet.
“How long ago did you say this happened?” Jacobs had the patch thermometer in his gloved hands.
“It’s been thirty minutes ago.” He estimated, the worry lines creasing his forehead.
“His temperature is one-hundred and three.” Dr. Jacobs said looking preoccupied, “obviously sick, but how sick I don’t yet know. I haven’t seen anything like this before.”
The doctor was rubbing his hands together; he didn’t know what to do. This was a small town and usually nothing like this ever happened. He wiped the cold sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. No need to get the CDC involved just yet, he thought, at least not until he was sure what kind of virus or bug it was.
“Is it contagious?” Jenkins asked, eyeing the corpse with repulsion and fear. It would be just his luck, he thought, a shitty end to his miserable existence.
He was no longer in control of the scene. Squad cars blocked the streets off in both directions and uniformed officers strategically roped off with official yellow police tape the yard leading to the house before the crime scene. The neighbors came out in droves, curious from the commotion, and stood in the streets barefoot and still in their robes, sipping their coffee and smoking cigarettes, whispering gossip to one another.
The veins on Jenkins neck throbbed as anger settled over him, he lifted his arms in a flapping motion, stepping up to the growing mob trying to disperse them.
Dr. Jacobs shook his head in silence. He did not want to worry about the safety of the growing audience around him. “Not sure till I get him back to the lab whether or not it’s contagious.”
Dr. Jacobs motioned at the body. His assistants diligently zipped the corpse up, hoisting it onto a gurney, and rolled it up to the waiting white van. Dr. Jacobs strolled over and put his hand on Jenkins’ arm.
“Don’t worry, my friend,” Dr. Jacobs tried to comfort him, “from the fever I estimate he was probably not in his right mind. There was nothing you could do.”
Jenkins wasn’t listening, staring at the ghost of his son, his mind off on a tangent of iPods and empty hunting knife sheaths. Two patrol cars went in opposite directions. Jenkins stood alone in the yard with his thoughts, his sweatpants becoming stiff with his drying sweat.