- Oct 28, 2010
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Fifty more days of this dreary shit.
Fifty more days 'till I'm out of it.
Fifty more days, then I can play.
Fifty more days, wish they'd fly away!
Fifty more days 'till I'm out of it.
Fifty more days, then I can play.
Fifty more days, wish they'd fly away!
Just looked at the calendar... I have but fifty days until I have capped off thirty years of employment and can draw my pension checks in peace-- never to come out the front door again unless I damned well feel like it...
A sort of hapless, mortal version of Janus, I can tell you something about time: it crawls, except in retrospect. I started the Big Countdown at Day 100, and looking back it seems as if only a few days have passed since I hit that so-close-but-still-too-far benchmark... and yet, while looking forward, another fifty days seems as if it is eons away.
Yesterday I drove around on the airfield, revisiting areas where this, that, or the other thing took place in days of yore. I found the fire-break ditch where the biggest water moccasin I ever saw came up to investigate the presence of myself and another fella... and I laughed as I remembered how he didn't believe me when I told him what was slithering up behind him. I shrugged and told him that maybe he'd better have a look for himself-- which he did-- and was then treated to the sight of a man leaping into the air from a dead halt, and gaining enough altitude that he actually landed on the hood of a 1992 Ford Explorer. That was one hell of a jump, right there. I scarcely would have believed it possible, had he not done it before my startled eyes...
I went to another area that features yet another ditch-- this time, a drainage ditch-- and remember how I found an old mendicant wading through the water while pushing a stolen shopping cart along in front of him. When I stopped to ask him what he was up to, he pointed out an river otter that was up ahead of us, swimming around in the murky water of the ditch.
"Otters make mighty fine eatin'," he told me, and then he detailed his plan: he would get close to the otter, and then flip the cart over its head and force the whole mess under water. Then the otter would drown, and he would be roasting it over his hobo's campfire... or at least, this is how he envisioned his immediate future.
I should have stopped him right then and there, but I figured that there was no way that otter would let him get close enough to bother it, and that the whole thing was just a stupid joke. Meanwhile, I was having a nic-fit and needed a pack of smokes. So I drove down to the corner store, and got my smokes and when I headed back the way I came, found that old bum lying on the road-- nearly passed out from neurological shock and blood loss, with his arm laid open to the bone. Glancing into the ditch, I saw the inverted shopping cart; it was barely visible, with just its wheels sticking up out of the water... and that big, fat otter was still there too-- still just kind of paddling around in the water as if nothing had happened, absolutely undaunted by my presence or the flashing of the rotating beacon of my patrol car...
I began to apply pressure to the man's brachial artery in an attempt to stem the bleeding without using a tourniquet, and was hollering into my radio that I needed an ambulance, ASAP. The man came to while I was doing these things, and he told me that when he got close enough to the otter, the sleek little bastard had jumped into the cart of its own volition, and then onto the push bar-- and then it lit into him and turned his arm into sashimi with razor teeth.
Few people realize just how vicious otters really are. They are gigantic water weasels in reality, but everybody figures that nothing so playful and cute as an otter could ever rip 'em a new asshole. But they are wrong about that. Them little bastidges will tear a fella up, believe it.
After standing around and looking at the otter ditch on Thames Avenue, I also visited yet another ditch-- this time a ditch that an armed robber had jumped down and into as he ran away from me after crashing his stolen car while I was pursuing him. As it happened, he had pulled a stickup at the very store where I got my cigarettes on Otter Night, and I was lucky/unlucky enough to roll into the parking lot right then, seeking a cuppa joe and yet another pack of Marlboros... it was about one in the morning... and it was Spring Break '88 in Daytona Beach. There were drunk, horny college students everywhere on beachside, but the west side of town was really quiet... except for this dratted stickup artist I stumbled upon, that is...
Anyway: the robber spotted me out there, and came running out the door. I had cover and also had the drop on the guy and I hollered over to him to freeze, with the result being that he threw his revolver into the bushes. And so I didn't want to shoot him, for thinking that I'd be spit-grilled by a grand jury for wasting an unarmed man. We cops in Volusia County had been shooting a lot of people at the time, as we attempted to get the City of Daytona Beach to stop being the number one per capita on the FBI's UCR for rape, robbery, and murder... and a couple of my police brothers had already lost pretty much every penny they owned, via a grand jury's indictment and subsequent legal fees, for clipping somebody with a firearm... and it didn't matter that the shootings were "good" and legal shootings, and that all of those guys were acquitted, as they were now broke via lawyer's fees, and cashiered because the city or county attorneys figured them to be a "killer cop" and a fiscal liability. They were sent to flying a desk until they finally hung it up and got another job somewhere else... and that's the way the mop flops sometimes... police work sucks.
We did tame Daytona Beach in the interim... but who really wants to lose everything they own just so a bunch of citizens will finally feel safe in their homes once again? Ain't like anybody thanked us or any of that... instead, they tended to be horrified by some of our actions and were subsequently critical just because we beat somebody's head in for fighting with us after catching him red-handed in a forcible felony. With most of 'em never having fought a lick since grade school, they always expected us to take a guy down using no force at all-- as if that were even possible. You could expect the same guy who called you, all afraid and pleading for help, to testify against you to IAD or a grand jury if you had to fight some jackass criminal. Suddenly, these jerkoff victims who couldn't even take care of their own dirty work were self-defense experts who felt that you didn't really need to sap that guy out with a blackjack-- and they'd always cry about the blood they saw...
"Oh, it was horrible-- horrible! He wouldn't stop hitting that poor man who broke into my house until the man finally went down and stopped fighting back..."
So I didn't shoot the clown who was robbing ol' Charlie that night... and when I hesitated, the robber saw it and smiled.
He then flipped me the bird and shouted, "Fvck you, piggie!" then dove through the open passenger side window of his gigantic, barf-green 1972 Olds Delta 88. And even as he did this, the driver's side door opened, and yet another individual crawled out on his hands and knees shouting, "Please don't shoot me!" Confusion was.
The robber then put the car into gear, and went screeching off in a cloud of rubber smoke while the other idiot continued to beg for his life. Right then, the store keeper came out of the building behind him and brained him with a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple Wine and he went to the ground, knocked senseless.
Pretty neat! I couldn't help but chuckle for an instant. But then I jumped back into the unit I was driving that night-- a big-ass Dodge Ram SUV with mud tires, so unsuitable for high speed pursuit that it was ludicrous-- and went weaving down the road after the Delta 88.
That was pretty scary... because of those fat, heavily-treaded tires, the SUV was zig-zagging down the road as if driven by somebody who was incredibly drunk, and there were a couple of times when I thought I might lose it. Meanwhile, I was hollering for a backup on the radio and was dismayed to find that the nearest units were all far away, except for one cruiser that featured a tough little chick of a police officer named Deb W.
I was delighted when I saw that my man finally lost control of his vehicle, and crashed into a pine tree that was just big enough to stop him, but small enough that the stop wasn't sudden enough to pitch him through the windshield. And that's when he jumped out of his now-disabled car and ran down into the ditch.
Officer Deb W. came brodying around the corner of International Speedway Boulevard and Clyde Morris Boulevard, fishtailing like a stunt driver, and then that gutsy little babe headed him off in the ditch before I was able to un-ass from my oversized, clumsy unit. I also saw it when she intercepted and grabbed him, and he seized her by one arm and her ankle, to fling her through the air. Imagine, if you will, what it would like like if one were to use a starfish as a frisbee, and that's what Deb looked like as she went spinning off after he flung her. She smacked her head on yet another tree as part of her landing sequence, and was suddenly hors de combat sitting there looking silly beneath the tree, blood all over her face-- but waving to me to go after the skell, and that she would be okay.
Meanwhile, I was gaining on my subject. At that point, running along the top of the ditch, I was looking down on him and realizing that I was at least six feet higher up than he was. And once I drew abreast of him, I jumped so as to land on his shoulders with both knees. I wasn't exactly thinking in words at that moment, but I do remember the essential spirit of my attitude as I plummeted down towards him: I had a wide, evil grin on my face and was looking forward to seeing him driven into the muck, face first...
Yes, I was flyin' low and feelin' mean right then... but I had a big surprise coming: when my knees hit his shoulders, he didn't even falter or stumble in his steps, but instead just kept on running-- even though I was now riding him piggyback and hanging onto his head with both hands.
I was amazed! This maneuver should have driven him into the ground like a tent stake, but no: I might as well have been a butterfly, for all the effect it had on him. I remember that a mental image of a monkey hanging on for dear life atop the turret of a speeding military tank flashed through my mind for an instant there-- and then fear came upon me. There was the metallic taste of pure adrenaline in my mouth; the world exploded, then shrank down to where the only things I was truly aware of was him, and myself.
I should add that my precariously mounted position didn't last long, as my knees slipped off his shoulders almost immediately. However, he did finally go down, once my legs got tangled up with his, and I never did let go of his head.
I made literally hundreds of arrests in my day, and several of 'em featured a knock-down, drag-out fight somewhere along the way... but never quite like this!
I was very good at applying sleeper holds, and so I quickly shifted my grip to attempt to apply a figure-4 headlock on this dude... and then found that his neck was too big and my arms were too short to apply the sort of leverage I needed to knock his felonious ass out. Shifting the grip again, I ended up squeezing the outside of my wrist against his carotid artery via a side strangle, and then using my other hand to really put the pressure on... this is the sort of thing that typically sends an opponent off to sleepy-land in about thirty seconds, but no: this son of a bitch had neck muscles that belonged on a bull instead of a human being, and he wasn't even slowing down.
He crawled along with me atop him, trying to dislodge me by rolling over a couple of times, and then he actually clawed his way up the side of the ditch with me still trying to knock him out. But it was a muggy night and the grass was slick with dew, and the guy couldn't get much traction. I felt him attempting to rise to all fours-- a feat that I knew would end up with me being dislodged and probably stomped into a flapjack, and so I bit off a huge chunk of his ear to sort of distract him before he could accomplish any of those things.
He screamed, and while he did that I refocused in my attempts to strangle him. I had my wrist below my thumb dug right in there... and knowing it was now or never, I really squeezed HARD... as hard as I possibly could.
Man, it took everything I had just to keep all this going. You know, the world shrank down even further, until all I was aware of was his neck, my wrist, and my forehead pressed against the back of his neck... I couldn't let go of him, not even to draw my revolver or my knife, and so there we were... stalemate!
I began to see flashes of yellow light, and figured that I might be fixin' to pass out from the sheer effort of wrestling with this brute. And from what seemed like a million miles away, I heard a distant voice crying:
"LET GO OF HIM, YOU MORON! YOU'RE GONNA KILL HIM!"
More flashes of yellow light went off in my head, and the voice was saying:
"GODDAMN IT! LET GO OF HIM OR I'M GONNA SHOOT YA!"
I finally began to allow a more external sort of awareness come into being, and found that I was still atop my opponent, and that he was now lying limp, quite close to the top of the ditch. What a remarkable climb he had made under the circumstances! But he was stock-still, and there was another flash of light, and now I heard a man's voice quite clearly, at top volume and very close to my ear. He was shouting:
LET GO OF HIM! HE'S OUT! DO YOU WANT TO KILL HIM OR SOMETHING?
I finally released the pressure I had been applying against the back of his neck with my forehead, and I looked up just in time to catch a slap jack right in the forehead-- and another sudden flash of yellow light, the source of which (the slap jack) had finally been revealed-- which was followed by my first hazy sight of a Daytona PD sergeant named Richard Atkins, who subsequently came to be one of my very few heroes in this life I have lived.
Dazed from the blow, I tried to sit up on my knees, but didn't realize how steep the incline I was on happened to be, and ended up rolling backwards down into the ditch. Back into the mud went I, with a noisy, humiliating splat. Meanwhile, a half-dozen Daytona officers stood atop the banks of that ditch and laughed...
HAW HAW HAW!
I mean, those boys were having a real good time right then. Watching their patrol commander trying to beat me off the back of an armed robber with a slapjack had been the best entertainment they had had all night, and the finale-- me rolling back down into the goop nearly insensate-- had been the sort of crescendo they wouldn't have dared to even hope for. They were laughing their asses off up there!
At first I fumed, but then-- still sitting in the mud and lookin' pretty stoopid-- I finally realized what a ridiculous sight I must have made for, with my dirty uniform and my knobby, bruised head... and finally, I had to laugh myself.
I clambered back up and out of that ditch, totally covered with mud. Meanwhile, Sgt. Atkins was supervising the hookup of my armed robber, who was just then beginning to regain consciousness.
I looked around, still dazed, and saw that there were paramedics on site already. They were bandaging Deb's head; she had received a huge gash when she hit that tree the the man had flung her into, and she wasn't looking too happy right then. It also turned out that she had suffered a concussion, and so they carted her off to the hospital, which was more or less right across the street...
The medics examined my perpetrator, determined that the blood he puked up was from some ruptured capillaries in his throat and not the collapsed trachea that they were expecting to find. But then: ol' Robert does know how to strangle a man without damaging his windpipe. I was expert at applying sleeper holds, and despite the tremendous fight the robber had put up, I never did allow my grip to shift from a strangle to a choke.
I knew better than to choke the guy; right then, putting a choke on a guy was a good way to get your ass sued off. But even though the pressure I had exerted on that man's neck was confined to just the side of it, I had still managed to make him puke a little blood. Strange things happen if you scare me badly enough, and that guy scared the shit out of me...
The medics said he could go to be treated at the infirmary at the Volusia County Jail instead of being taken to the emergency room of Halifax Hospital... the entrance to which was, ironically, within view of where our epic battle had taken place.
Then the medics got around to looking at me. I had lumps all over my head from where Dick had been whacking me with his slap jack while trying to dislodge me and my death grip... he was concerned for a moment, but then one of the medics told him, "Ah, he's okay. No concussion. You must not have been hitting him too hard."
Dick's eyes met mine, and we both burst into laughter. I proffered a muddy hand for him to shake, and he eyed it with a bit of hesitation... then shrugged and gave it a good squeeze. And that was the beginning of what would turn out to be a very rewarding sort of friendship between we two.
This was unusual, I might add. The officers of the City of Daytona Beach and the deputies of the Volusia County Sheriff's Department weren't exactly the best of friends in those days. Those two agencies were the most powerful ones to be found in our county, and there was actually quite a bit of rivalry between us. This was yet another reason those coppers laughed so hard while I was sitting on my ass in the mud and looking like a fool. There was probably nothing they might have been more amused by than seeing me roll down into the goop after their patrol commander had beaten me silly with a slap jack, and those guys were really loving life right about then...
Meanwhile, the robber had come-to fully and he was really angry with himself. You know, I noticed that he was a really big guy during our encounter at the convenience store-- but didn't quite notice just how big he really was until I jumped him and tried to put that figure-4 on the tree trunk that served as his neck...
I will say this: he was the hardest fight I ever had in my life, and the only reason he didn't squash me like a marshmallow beneath his boots was because he couldn't get traction while slipping and sliding in the mud and on the dewy grass of the ditch. On dry pavement, he would have made mincemeat of me in record time, maybe even taking my weapon away from me and capping me with it. He was one scary, extremely crazy motherfvcker, folks... really and truly to be feared. I marvel that he never showed up in one of my many nightmares. Sometimes I think I was too scared to even dream of that guy!
You know, it took all of us to load him into the paddy wagon-- and that was with him being fully restrained by handcuffs, leg irons, and a belly chain. I sometimes think that this was one of the luckiest nights of my entire life...
They took the man to jail, and when the corrections officers removed the restraints they ended up in yet another epic battle with him versus about five or six of them. They finally stuffed him into a holding cell somehow, but he kept rushing the door and banging against it before they could get it fully closed and locked. Finally, however, three of the biggest officers hit that door like defensive linebackers sacking a quarterback, and that door slammed shut. My brother-in-law was one of those officers, and he told me that when they looked down they found about half of the guy's thumb had been crushed off after being in the wrong place right when they hit that door. Lawsuit city!
Meanwhile, however, a deputy had been to the convenience store where I first met this crazed behemoth I would be wrestling with, and had taken the witness statement of the robbery victim, as well as to take the other guy-- the one the Charlie the Clerk had clobbered with that bottle of cheap wine-- into custody. The deputy wanted me to come up there and help to sort things out when it came to this second man...
So I got up there, still covered with mud and with a skull that was now decorated with a bunch of painful red lumps, and had to deal with the latest round of laughter. After that, I interviewed the other guy and learned that he was the brother of my fleeing felon, the armed robber in the ditch...
It was coin flip time. I could have popped this fella for possession of stolen property and principle in the first degree for the armed robbery... but the fact was that he was only 19 years old, had a clean record, and admitted to me that while he did drive the stolen car to the store knowing that his brother was going to rob it, he had been begging his brother to abandon the plan all along. He also had a nasty black eye to show for his efforts-- an older injury that wasn't related to being hit over the head with a wine bottle. His brother had slugged him two days before, when he learned that the car they drove down in was actually stolen and began to complain about it. His brother didn't bother to tell him about that until they were already in Florida-- or so he claimed. But no matter: I believed him. That older brother of his-- he was enough to scare most anybody!
Man, I wanted to let that kid go. I had seen the pictures of his wife and their baby while rooting around in his wallet, and had learned that he was an apprentice machinist in Chicago, which is where the brothers came from. The reason he was hiding in the car when I first rolled up was that he didn't want anything to do with the robbery and was scared shitless, he said-- and for once in my life, I actually believed somebody who was trying to talk his way out of a couple of felony charges... this was a thing even more rare than chicken lips, I assure you.
I will admit to you guys: I can be a vicious, cold-hearted bastard when I want or need to be one... but I don't always want to be one, and actually, I tended to reserve my greatest ire for those who truly deserved it. But there was something so plaintive and innocent about this kid that I just didn't want to bust him. And so, astonishingly, my frozen heart-- which is half ice and half flint-- turned into something warm and liquid-like as I interviewed him. The other deputy wanted to puke for an instant, until it finally dawned on him that my rep was that I was one of the hardest, meanest bastards in the whole department. He decided then that if Robert wanted to go soft on a guy, then there must be a good reason. He finally split without fanfare, leaving me to conclude my interview of the former suspect, now turned witness.
So I did something that was very unusual for me to do: I called a judge from the 7th Circuit that I trusted, admired, and respected. His name was Uriel Blount, Jr., and this was the man who sentenced Aileen Wuornos to death row... along with about two dozen others I could name. They're all dead now, though.
I explained my predicament to him. How to let this guy go, even though I had PC for the felony, and by law, cannot exercise discretion and not make an arrest in the case of a felony. We could let guys go for any misdemeanor that didn't involve violence or a DUI... but a felony? You HAD to bust him or you could yourself be fired for failure to abide by state law, and you could also be charged for a felony obstruction of justice. Some times the police have no option other than to bust-- and that's just the way it really is out there.
Bunky-- which is the name that everybody who knew him personally called Judge Blount by-- was a brilliant jurist. He is the only judge in the history of the State of Florida who was never overturned by an appellate court ruling, and if anybody would know how to dodge this particular issue, it would be him. There's a reason that everybody he sent to death row ended up dead, while others who were sentenced by other judges during my era continue to languish in FSP on the strength of their appeals. But if Bunky sent you there, you were dead meat-- period.
Bunky wasn't upset that I was calling him at 3am. He was the sort of judge a cop could go to in the middle of the night for a warrant, with the only caveat being that the cop had better have his ducks in a row or it was no warrant and a tongue lashing to boot. But other than that, Bunky was the kind of judge who was more than willing to serve, even at godawful hours and never mind the holidays...
So I laid it all out for him. His first words to me after I explained what I was up to were, "Are you kidding me? You don't want to arrest this kid?"
"No sir, I do not. I believe his story. He's clean-- not even a sealed juvie record in Illinois-- and he says he was scared to death of his monster brother, who really was a super badass. Frankly, that brother of his was enough to scare me, even, and so I can see how this skinny kid brother of his might have been terrified."
Bunky let out with a low whistle. Back in those days, I was a somewhat feral sort of cop, who had seen two of his friends die by the guns of a couple of scumbag criminals, and it was a well-known fact that I had a serious and perpetual hard-on for offenders of a certain class... and yet there I was admitting that this guy I had just fought with had managed to scare the shit out of me. That was a very rare sort of admission for me to make. I was a crazy son of a bitch in my own right, and everybody knew it.
He thought about it for a moment, and then provided me with the prescription I would need to set the brother free. I will not here divulge by what means of legal finesse the plot was executed, as it is not my intention to impugn the reputation of the greatest jurist in the history of the State of Florida, and that part of the tale is a long and boring one... but I will say this much: when I fretted that the Assistant State Attorney might fry my balls for this caper, ol' Bunky told me, "Don't worry about that, New Breed. I will have his ass on the horn first thing in the morning and will explain what happened to him. You won't hear a thing about it."
And that's just what I heard about it, too: nothing.
All Florida did was put a hold on the guy I arrested in the ditch, as Illinois was eager to bitch slap him with a Violation of Probation. And in his case, VOP mean life in prison... he's still up there doing time somewhere, unto this very day, and only a lunatic would hope that he is ever released. But if they ever do let him go, he has a little appointment with a Florida circuit court, and we will extradite.
To end this sordid tale of mud, fear, and legal chicanery: during the interview of the robber's little brother I mentioned that I saw where our Bad Boy was fresh out of Joliet Penitentiary after serving nine years for attempted murder. I asked that kid, "So what happened with that? Who did he try to kill?"
"Oh, he sold some heroin to an undercover, and when the cop tried to arrest him, my brother threw the guy off a third-floor fire escape. That cop is now in a wheelchair for the rest of his life."
There but for the grace of my pagan god, Bondye, goeth I!
I also learned that my man had been popped for this at age sixteen. They sent him to juvie at first, but then he beat the crap out of a few staff members and so they sent him to the big-boy, Cook County slammer. He was sentenced as an adult after that and sent to Joliet... where he subsequently became captain of the prison weight lifting team!
So those are a couple of the many, many things I was thinking about as I revisited all my old haunts. I could tell several more... so many things happened over the years... all the jerks I arrested, the friends and enemies I made within the criminal justice system... and the women-- ah, yes.. the women. What would this world be like without them? It would suck ass, sez I.
I hear all the time about guitar players getting all these chicks... which is cool. But I also figure that any man worth his salt can pull any number of birds, if he's got some kind of schtick that will let them think of him as an iconic conquest of some sort-- another notch in their lipstick case, as Pat Benetar once put it. And so while I will spare the readers much by way of this sort of information here, I will go so far as to say this much: you really want some girls to play with? They are suckers for a police uniform, and they even brag to their friends that they did ya... and so those friends sometimes show up to see if they might not perform the same feat. We weren't just nailing donut dollies in the middle of the night, man. You'd be amazed at just who some of these women happened to be, and even more amazed at some of the things they wanted us to do to them during the tryst itself...
But that's not for this site, and maybe I won't ever bother to write all that much about it elsewhere, either. But I will say again: man, it was as if they came out of the woodwork at times... and some of them were real freaks.
But that's enough of that, and this post has already grown to be longer and clunkier than I really wanted it to be...
Still and all: that's how I met Dick Atkins, who came to be a good friend of mine... and as I said, one of my few heroes in the uncommonly eventful and muddy life I have lived. He finally retired from Daytona PD after over thirty years of service, then got himself a job with the Volusia County Sheriff's Department as a deputy sheriff-- and so we were finally reunited in the work place when he was assigned to the sheriff's airport police detail. And though I quit police work 22 years ago, Dick remained my friend through thick and thin. At age 65, he was the oldest active police officer in the state when he passed away, and everybody who knew him misses him a lot. The man had one hell of a sense of humor, and was a friend to anybody who truly needed one. I continue to mourn the loss of him, and will remember him with wistful fondness until it's my own time to go over the crossroads.
They just don't make guys like him any more. He was a true Southern Gentleman of the first and finest water, and just one hell of a magnificent human being. He could be tough as nails when he needed to be, but was gentle as a kitten most of the rest of the time. He had eyes that seldom stopped smiling. And so it is to Dick that this post is dedicated, as I doubt that I shall see the like of him ever again. He was one in a billion, I do believe...
Sergeant Richard L. Atkins
EOW: January 21, 2008
Obituary of Richard Lewis Atkins Jr.