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The Distraction

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He cut the lights on the unmarked cruiser, placed it in park, examining the landscape, the house was vacant. The case he’d been working the last four days was ready to close and make the arrest. The car engine ceased, he unbuckled his seat belt and was waiting on back up to arrive in case things got ugly. A moment to himself gave time for reflection, a few tears streamed down his smooth face. His father was gone, and he could longer suppress the feeling, for a moment work couldn’t tuck away the painful memories.

It was an October night in the Carolinas, the leaves were finally changing colors ending their life cycle. Ben knew other officers would arrive any second and needed to get it together, there was a job to finish. He wiped his tears and saw in the mirror his back up arriving, the cruiser headlights were off.

Detective Ben Lewis opened his door and stood up to greet his new friend. Ben was a handsome man, very tall, skinny, with straight brown hair, at 29 you would think he belongs in a college library, not working murder cases. Other officers would always joke with him about needing to study for a test, or where’s his book bag. He would always smile, stoically, and continue with business.

Officer Marcel Timmons a tall, middle aged black man stepped out his marked patrol vehicle to greet Ben. “What’s the word Detective?’ as he peered towards the house. If this is the house with the tip, I’m ready to close this baby up?” he exclaimed.

Ben walked towards the house, replaying the case in his head. A man, known as Fredo by associates had an altercation with his girlfriend that resulted in a strangulation. The suspect hasn’t been seen since the body was found. Earlier today neighbors provided tips about strange movement, a figure describing the suspect was seen near the property. After an investigation of evidence and interviews with relatives, friends, and neighbors he determined Fredo was his man.

“Marcel, you take the back, I’ll take the front” pointing towards the corner of the weathered baby blue house.

“Gotcha Sir.”  Marcel replied as he disappeared in the darkness, he began the approach. Ben, emotionless thinking of all scenarios as he crept towards the first step. The shadow from the moon shows a dark figure standing six or seven feet from the porch window. Ben blinks and it’s gone into the shadows.

For a split-second, chills overcame Ben’s body, this is dangerous he thought, wondering how his young bride and sister could process another tragedy. With a quick snap back to reality, his shoe hit the first step slicing a crack through the air. There was no element of surprise for the officers anymore.

Right hand on his Glock nine-millimeter he turned the knob on the weathered wooden door. It wasn’t his first time clearing a room, four years in the Air Force Security had him better trained than most small-town officers. He reached for his black steel flashlight placing it over his Glock, cracked the front door just enough to see inside, left corner to right, the proper way to clear a room. He knew Marcel would be closing in from the back porch and that he wasn’t alone.

The left side of the room was full of holes in the dry wall turning a sectioned house into an open concept. A quick examination showed recent activity, a fresh bag of chips laid next to rotten tile. Ben thought to himself, control your breathing, remember your training.

Sweat was permeating his weapon “You in yet?” Ben shouted.

“The doors stuck, I’m gonna kick it in” Marcel stressed. Taking a step back, aiming for just under the knob.

Ben pronounced, “Mayville police, show yourself.” Hoping the man would appear.

Just as his shoulder began rolling to the right side of the room the door came to a sudden stop. It wasn’t a wall, a hand shot out of nowhere for Ben’s weapon. It was Fredo. A loud Indian roar ensued, Ben’s flashlight was instantly twisted to the right, gleaming off a six-inch blade in the suspect’s hand. The detective stepped back with his left foot, a swipe to neck with the intention to kill missed wide right. Ben’s training kicked in attacking the outside right leg. A kick toward the knee bent it inwards, a loud scream filled the room, Ben grabbed the suspects outside elbow, pushing it towards the dirty wooden floor with a swift karate move to subdue the suspect.

Officer Timmons sprints towards the front to assist with the arrest “Ben you, ok?

“Jump on this bastard” Ben strains. The subdued man drops the knife, Ben uses his right leg to slide it across the room, keeping his body weight on the suspect. Marcel reaches for handcuffs from his leather holster and placed them on the attacker’s wrist.

Marcel asks the suspect “What the hell is wrong with you? Why attack man?” using his knee to apply pressure to the suspect’s spine. The skinny white man no taller than 5 ‘9 stares with a saddened face. A silent pause fills the room, they try to lift the suspect to his feet. His legs where limp noodle until both shoes hit the floor, he stood up straight. Starring Ben dead in his hazel eyes, “You should have killed me, I wanted to die.” Ben thought of the moral conflict the man must be facing. How could you kill someone you love he wondered? With a sternest of faces “Ben looked deep into his eyes “I’m not a killer.”

Exiting the house, a contingent of four police cruisers were racing down Hallow Street to meet the duo for assistance. Marcel looked at his comrade “Better late than never, Huh? Ben replied with a grin “This is a big deal in Mayville, first murder all year.”

The combination of lights blinded the men, so they could not see who was on the scene. A tall olive-skinned man with gray hair and a brown suit stepped out the vehicle.  He was huge, could be mistaken for a retired linebacker. It was Chief Danny Robinson.

“Take the suspect off Detective Lewis and Officer Timmons’s hands please” he directed at two of his men.  

“Thanks Chief, we came as soon as the neighbors called about the commotion. Ben stated”

“But next time call me before you do something reckless.” Chief Robinson chided. “Something bad could have happened.”

Ben sternly replied, “But Sir we got the tip, we had to act, he could have changed locations.”

“I had his back sir” Marcel affirmed.

“Next time let us know. Ok? Chief Robinson smiled.

Ben and Marcel gave an affirmation nod. Turning to walk away Chief Robinson stopped in his tracks and turned to face Ben. “Can I get a second detective?”

“Yes sir” 

 An earnest look took over Chiefs face, “I know the last few days you’ve had a lot on your plate. I just wanted to make sure everything’s ok?”

“Of course, Sir, death is a part of life, I’m at peace.” 

Chief Robinson reached out to place his hand on Ben’s shoulder “It’s not healthy putting everything in to work, you got to let it out. The funerals tomorrow take a few days to process everything, ok?” 

Ben reluctantly agreed “Yes Sir, I appreciate that.”

He knew Chief was right, his father meant the world to him and to lose him to cancer placed a void in his heart, even if he didn’t want to admit it.

He quickly gathered his things and began the power walk to his car knowing the local reporters would arrive any minute. He despised the media. It wasn’t the people that made his skin crawl, it was the chaos and coverage brought with it. 

Soon the scene would be filled with local news vans mounted with huge antennas on the roof to broadcast live from the scene. The camera man would be toeing the yellow tape filming every move the officers make. Questions would bombard every official on site, the reporter wanting to know who was arrested, what happened, and could they speak with the arresting officer. It was their job, he understood but wanted no part of it, his father always preached about doing the right thing Just Because. Ben stayed true to this sentiment his whole life. Integrity is a man’s duty no matter who watching. A reporter interviewing him was not in his job description but taking a killer off the streets fit the bill.

He got inside his unmarked Crown Victoria, it was new, the city was just awarded a state grant for police vehicles in the spring. Funding at small departments is hard to come by.  He pulled onto Hallow Street and took a right. In his rear-view mirror he could see the old News 13 van making a left at the light. A sigh of relief, I just missed them he thought turning off his police radio. He was finally free from work, at least for a few days.

Taking in the scenes of Mayville it reminded himself how much he and his wife loved small town living. Hardly a southern boy, his wife wanted to move back to her hometown after they married. It was a nice town, only about 20 miles outside of Myrtle Beach, so there were always things to do on the weekends. The low crime made Ben bored at times, but he knew it was the perfect place to start a family. It was one of those southern towns where kids would leave their bicycle at the park if their mom came to get them at dark, knowing it would still be there in the morning.

Main street was a small, with the business district being no more than a quarter mile long. Businesses were lined on both sides of the streets hoisting American flags proudly through the town. Johnson’s Grill sat on the corner of main. During the day you could catch the smell of their traditional pink hotdogs flowing through the air attracting anyone who was looking for a good meal. Many people argued it was the best dogs east of I95.

Everyone knew each other, on Sundays most people in town would gather at the First Baptist Church just off Laurel Street for worship. A nice southern dinner of fried chicken and collards would usually be on the menu for the potluck post church. On the few Sundays the fellowship hall was closed congregation would go eat at the local restaurant Altman’s for fish and grits.

Rolling through the empty streets of the town gave Ben a chance to relax. There was not a car in sight, allowing his mind to wonder. He thought about the good times when his dad was still marginally healthy.  Back when things weren’t so complicated.