Published 28 Dec 09
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© 2009 Dec 28 Chuck Klein

Note: This article is fiction, based on the author's observations and experiences,

and is included in his book: THE BADGE, Stories and Tales from both Sides of the Law


The first shot tore through his upper leg exiting just below the hip. The second and third shot hit. . . .

He lay on the extra firm, queen-size mattress under a sheet and light wool blanket, listening to the sounds of the city. The bike ride helped, but he still felt itchy. It was almost midnight, and all he’d done for the past hour was stare at the dancing lights on the ceiling. Somewhere close by emergency vehicles’ sirens wailed and yelped. They passed his apartment causing the beacons— the blue flashing beacons—to play tag with the other lights that bounced off his ceiling, walls and mirrors. The tough ex-cop/private detective/motorcycle rider closed his eyes and fought the 20-some-odd-year old nightmare.

THE BEST OF CHUCK KLEINKeying the mic and activating the roof lights all with one movement, Sgt. Rackman calmly gave his car number, “Four-five-seven.”

“Four-five-seven,” the dispatcher echoed.

“Possible DUI, farm-to-market, four-three-two, four miles west of eight-twenty-one. Older model Ford sedan, blue in color, bears Texas Tom-Adam-Sam-nine-nine-eight.”

“Eight-three-eight, car eight-three-eight.”


“Eight-three-eight, are you clear on four-five-seven’s location. Possible DUI?”

“Affirmative. I’m south bound eight-twenty. Be about 15.”

A jack rabbit, highlighted by the headlights of both vehicles, scampered across the highway as the patrol car’s spotlight lit up the interior of the loser-mobile. The blue flashing lights were swallowed up by the pitch black of the West Texas prairie. In the dusty Ford he could see three subjects—two males and a female. The driver slowed and put two wheels on the gravel shoulder kicking up a cloud of dust. Nobody was making any frantic moves like they were trying to hide contraband or weapons. It looked like a routine stop.

Just before exiting his car the radio broke squelch, “Four-five-seven, no wants NCIC, Texas Tom-Adam-Sam-nine-nine-eight.”

“Four-five-seven okay. Two-seven.”

“Two-seven, four-five-seven. KQA-two-three-oh. Oh-one-forty-four hours.”

At the open window, the experienced officer noted the distinct odor of alcoholic beverage on the driver’s breath and a half-empty whiskey bottle on the back seat. The occupants, dirty and scruffy looking, all appeared to be in their thirties. The female, in a tube top and seated in the shotgun seat, seemed spaced out. The small framed back-seat passenger watched with intense eyes.

“I’m stopping you, sir, because you drove off the road in two places back there. Can I see your operator’s license, please,” Sander commanded in a firm but polite tone.

The man with a two day’s growth of beard said his name was Tom Hickey. After a few minutes of fumbling in his wallet and scattering the contents of the glove box all over the front seat, he claimed he couldn’t find his license or registration. “You're going to have to step out of the car, sir,” Sander said, opening the driver’s door while trying to watch everybody’s hands at once.

He led the man, who was about his size, to the rear of the cruiser and well out of view of the passengers. Sander ran the driver through a series of divided-skills evaluations and horizontal gaze nystagmus for documentation purposes in case of a contested court hearing. Sander had an uneasy feeling. This man was more than just drunk. He could have stalled until his back-up arrived, but he felt if he could just put the cuffs on him, he and the others would be easier to control. “I'm going to have to arrest you for driving under the influence.”

“Aw, c’mon man. I can handle it. You've seen worse. C’mon let me go,” Hickey whined.

THE BADGEWith a sigh of capitulation, the arrestee turned to place his hands on the trunk of the cruiser as the deputy tucked his flashlight under his arm. Then sort of as an afterthought the rotted tooth, whiskey-breathed bully turned back. “Aw man, officer,” he said looking at Sander's name tag. “Officer Rackman, how ‘bout…”

Before he even finished the sentence, sans any warning, and before Sander could react, the brawny man was on him. The flashlight fell as he raised his hands to ward off the attack. The assault was so sudden and from such close proximity he didn't have time to move out of the way. Juiced up on drugs and booze, some men can act faster than a cat in heat.

Squeezed into a bear hug Sander knew instantly he was in trouble. Rocking, twisting, kicking, they fell into the ditch next to the roadway, with Sander on the bottom. He immediately felt sharp pain in his rib cage area. They rolled long-ways in the culvert, but Sander was quickly able to pin the man with his left arm while he reached for his portable radio, hoping it would reach from this remote and desolate location.

“Four-five-seven! Ten-seventy-eight [officer needs assistance]! Four-five-seven,” he barked loudly into the mike, trying not to sound panicked.

The dispatcher, in an even and professional voice immediately responded, “Four-five-seven, 10-20 … Car four-five-seven … Eight-three-eight.”

“Eight-three-eight, enroute.”

“Okay, eight-three-eight. Four-five-seven.”

When he received no response, the seasoned dispatcher continued the monotone monologue with run-together words and sentences that only cops can decipher. “Attention all cars all departments unit four-five-seven requesting a ten-seventy-eight last twenty is farm-to-market four-three-two four miles west of state route eight-twenty-one involves Ford sedan blue in color bearing Texas Tom-Adam-Sam-nine-nine-eight Four-Five-Seven.”

Sander heard only the heavy breathing and grunts of the man named Hickey.

All across the county, every officer with a radio, on-duty or off, began speeding toward the dreaded officer-needs-assistance call. None acknowledged the call or asked permission, fearing that their transmission might override additional information from 457. One patrolman, in the middle of writing a ticket, suddenly and without a word, let the astonished motorist go before racing, code three, to help his brother officer.

Hickey responded with what could only be described as super-human strength. Sander, all 210 lbs. of him, was suddenly thrown across the ditch. Dazed and still trying to get his feet under him, he saw in the strobe light syncopation of the blue flashing emergency lights the foul smelling brute pouncing and screaming, “I'm going to kill you, you dirty bastard!”

Sander had begun to perspire. He hadn't faced his demon in a long time. Maybe he could put it behind him if he looked at it in an objective way. Fat chance. The emotions were and probably would always be too strong. He should have, no, no he wasn't going to play the shoulda-woulda-coulda game tonight. It was pointless. Tonight he’d be human, a fallible human being who’s not perfect. Tonight he would try to forgive himself. Because if he didn't, how could he expect anyone else to.

As the assailant pounded with his fists, Sander hammered his face with the radio until it shattered. The two men fought for survival in a blackened, muddy ditch lit by only the intermittent flashes of the blue lights. They rolled in the damp mud as Hickey clamped a headlock on the officer with one arm while his free hand ripped Sander's hair. Sander broke the hold when he grabbed Hickey's crotch, squeezing with all his might while biting the heathen's forearm. The taste of blood and sweat fed his animal instincts, intensifying his need to survive.

Suddenly free of each other, Hickey struggled to get up, spewing death threats, while Sander scratched at his holster. To Sander the surrealism of the pseudo time deception phenomenon, tachyinterval, only made the onset of panic more pronounced. He was amazed at how much information his mind could process at a time like this. “Why was it taking so long for his gun to come into battery? Why was his arm taking so long to block the foot that was coming at his head? Where was his back-up? Did the ten-seventy-eight call get out? Where were the other occupants of the car?”

The kick, only partially blocked, knocked his service revolver out of his hand and somewhere behind him. The force of Hickey's full leg kick temporarily caused the man to lose his momentum—time for Sander to scramble for the gun. Frantically probing the weeds and debris, he found the weapon and rolled on his side at the instant Hickey leapt on him raining blows to his face. He knew he had to shoot this crazed superman before he lost consciousness but this scumbag, like he read Sander's mind, grabbed the 357 with both hands and turned it toward Sander's face. The two adversaries, now literally nose to nose fought for control. Sander, aware that his finger was exerting pressure on the trigger, maneuvered his left hand to clamp the cylinder and prevent it from being fired. Hickey twisted the magnum into Sander's chest and, still eyeball to eyeball spat, “I'm gonna kill you!” Summoning all his dwindling strength, Sander forced his knees up and with a mighty thrust catapulted gun and man over his head.

Exhausted, arms trembling, Sander clawed at his pants leg and the .38 snubnose back-up gun strapped to an ankle holster. Eyes riveted on Hickey, highlighted by the eerie glow of the cruiser's taillights, he watched in horror as the big brute leveled the magnum at him. Struggling to bring the small stainless steel revolver into battery Sander heard himself crying, “No! No! No!”

At less than six feet apart and, almost simultaneously, the two weapons spit fire at each other blinding the shooters in brilliant flashes of white hot death. Hickey's first shot tore through Sander's upper leg exiting just below the hip. His second and third shot hit the dirt to the left of the deputy's head. Sander, eyes locked on a center chest button, emptied his five-shot Chief's Special. Hickey stood stock still.

Completely baffled, Sander thought, “I couldn't have missed him!” The wide-eyed man, the one with the 357, then jumped out of the ditch and ran across the road and into the darkness.

Injured, exhausted and with an empty gun Sander fought to control the onset of panic. He searched the roadside fearing he’d catch a glimpse of Hickey returning as he fished for his pocket knife.

Now large numbers of blue flashing lights uniformly lit the area as the back-ups started to arrive. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is more comforting, even to a cop, than the presence of a fresh, clean and bright-eyed uniformed officer when you're down, out and in need of help.

Fellow knights in blue with brightly colored arm patches, shiny badges and lots of guns covered the scene. These calm and organized keepers of the peace applied first-aid to Sander, took care of securing the other occupants of the sedan and ordered the ambulance. With flashlights and riot guns at the ready they fanned out and searched for Hickey.

Of Sander's five shots, four struck the intended target. Two of the 150-grain semi-jacketed hollow points had ripped the man's heart apart. His body, pumped up on adrenaline and high on alcohol and drugs, had powered him for more than a hundred yards into the prairie. He never even knew he was dead.

Sander was drenched in perspiration, his heart beat hard and fast. The dancing lights on his ceiling were gone. He touched the scars on his leg to reassure himself that they were in fact long healed. In the bathroom, he rinsed his mouth with Scope to take away the taste of blood and sweat.

Maybe it wasn't textbook, but he survived. There weren't even insinuations of brutality, though Hickey's buddies, local MC gang members and wannabes, spread the word—or maybe it was just rumor—that Rackman was to be shot on sight.

He hadn't gone through the whole scenario in a long time—it seemed easier like maybe his mind was also healing. The face that grimaced back at him from the mirror told him that the guilt that had been eating at him all these years was gone. Tonight, for the first time, he faced the fact that, although he had killed a man, his action was excusable and justifiable. Tonight he could forgive himself and, tonight, for the first time, he was certain God had forgiven him.

Chuck Klein is a former police officer, licensed private investigator and author of many police and firearm related books, columns and articles.