Another Christmas Party

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I had been working undercover for the State Police for over 2 years. By this time I had built a strong reputation within the unit. My team stayed busy and we busted a lot of crack dealers. We conducted our own Search Warrant executions, sometimes breaking down three doors a day. We were making a difference on the streets.We were a rough bunch and got away with shit.
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The Michigan State Police Christmas party was just around the corner. The First Lieutenant called me into his office.“
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“Rat you going to the Christmas party””?
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“Hell yea LT- I wouldn’t think of missing it – we get free booze right”?
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””“Rat do me this one favor. Don’t fuck with the my boss, the Director of the State Police”.”
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“”Lieutenant don’t worry – I’’ll be cool”.”
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The evening finally arrives and most of the team went to the party. We were a strange looking bunch of hair balls all wearing dark suits. Just imagine ZZ Top walking into a Republican convention.

I drank too much but was trying to be on my best behavior. That was about to change.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and the Director of the State Police was right there, offering his hand. He asked if I was Rat and I hesitantly said yes. “”I’ve been hearing good things about your team. How is everything going”?

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“”Great Boss just great except for this one case. You see I’ve got this Crackhead informant that I have been using for years. Her name is Jenny. Jenny has been a street prostitute for as long as I’ve know her. Well Jenny got pregnant and delivered a crack addicted and deformed baby the other day. The team has been trying to raise some extra cash to help out”.”

The Big Boss asks, “”What is wrong with the baby”?”

“”Well you see boss this baby was born without any eyelids”, I said.”

““That’s terrible, were they able to do anything to fix it”?”

“”Actually they were able to do reconstructive surgery on the baby. Luckily it was a boy child and they just used the foreskin from his penis to make two eyelids”.”

At this moment two things happened at the same time. The Director of the State Police reached into his wallet and pulled out a crisp one hundred dollar bill and the Lieutenant must have been watching because he walked up to the both of us.

The Big boss asked, “”Will the baby be alright”?”

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I pause for effect and answer….

“”The Doctor thinks he’ll be fine. He may be be a little Cock Eyed”.”

The Director of the State Police stood there with his hundred dollar bill extended and finally burst out laughing. He knew he had been had by the Rat.

The Lieutenant just shook his head.

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© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

Promises – Promises

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Lester was a seasoned Deputy and I was the greenest of rookies working my first overtime shift. We had been forced to work a double shift. Our regular afternoon shift now included an extra midnight shift. Sixteen straight hours of working uniformed street patrol dealing with whatever the radio dished out or we could stir up. After we geared up Lester settled into the passenger seat. ““Don’t get us into any trouble and try not to wake me up”,” he mumbled as we left the parking lot.

20 minutes later the radio called our number and by then Lester was snoring so loudly I had to wake him up. “”Adam 11 copy man with a gun””.

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The dispatcher’s narrative unfolded, “At the corner of Ecorse and Harris – behind the Marathon gas station the caller can see two men. One appears to be holding a shiny handgun”.”

That got Lester’s attention as there had been a series of armed robberies at this very location.

I made the scene in minutes coming in lights out and silent. We bailout into the darkness and round the end of the long brick wall. Then and there we came face to face with the described individuals.

For the first time in my life I stood shoulder to shoulder with my partner, gun in hand, offering up violence against others. It would not be my last. I was changed by it. Welcome to the Rodeo.

“”Get your hands up before we shoot your ass””, was the order of my hillbilly partner.

In the moment I realized Lester and I were more deadly together than if we were alone but not for the reason you might suspect. I was more willing to kill to protect my partner than I would have been if I were alone and Lester was the same. He was there to protect me, the rookie. I was there to protect Lester. In these intense moments an alliance is forged that lasts a lifetime. From this springs the foundation of our Bond, our Brotherhood, our Love and Devotion.

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Today I cannot remember if the subjects were armed with a chrome plated .45 or a can of Colt .45 malt liquor. I can only remember how I felt and what I was willing to do to protect my partner in that dark alley. I was a rookie destined to become an adrenaline junkie in search of more moments like these.

Lester and I would spend our careers working out of the same Station. Slowly I moved from rookie – to respected partner – to friend – to Brother. It happened one alley at a time.

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We attended many choir practices together. In Cop World choir practice is a shift ending get together, often held in some dark and secluded parking lot, which involved Budweiser 40 ouncers and fifths of El Toro tequila, a lot of drinking, laughing and bragging. It was during one of these choir practices that I made the Promise to Lester.

We were sitting on the tailgate of his old Ford truck, feet dangling below us, cold beers between our legs. We had outlasted the rest and were alone.

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““Michael I want to ask something of you but I gotta explain some things first”. Lester told me the most personal and gut wrenching story of a car crash and the aftermath of his cousin being in a permanent vegetative state or brain dead. He was lingering in his Limbo between life and death and it looked like he might be there awhile.

His big chest heaved slightly as he said, “”Michael, there are a shitload of things worst than being dead. I don’t want to end up that way – shitting my own bed. Promise me that if I ever end up like that you’ll take me out”.”

Me, ““OK””.

““You mean it”?”

“”You’ve got my Word on it”.”

Nothing more was said as we finished our beers…

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NOTE: I can tell this now because Lester released me from my Promise.

As the years stacked up Lester would occasionally ask, “”You remember right”?” I always nodded and told him I had it covered. More time passes and he would ask and I would say the same thing.

That was until this one night when the conspiracy came to an end. We were sitting in the parking lot of Station #2 after work. Lester looks at me and asks, ““So Rat, how are you gonna do it”?”

“”Lester I’m gonna smother you with your own pillow”.”

“”OH Lord NO! I don’t want to be smothered. You gotta shoot me”.”

““Lester I’m gonna try and get away with murdering you so shooting you is absolutely out of the question”.”

Lester starts huffing and puffing and says, “”All promises are OFF”!”

He must have meant it because he went right in the station house and started telling everybody not to leave him alone in a hospital room with me.

I guess he fears suffocation more than shitting his own bed.

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© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

Death Investigations

It was one of the few perfect summer mornings in Michigan filled with blue skies and cool breezes. I had signed up to work overtime to fill a short shift or I would have taken better advantage of the good weather.

By 8 am I had my cruiser loaded and called in service.

“Baker 12 prepare to copy a death investigation – Fire Department on scene”.

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The Dispatched call sent me to the Ford boulevard High Rise. This group of apartments stood 8 stories tall and was mostly filled with senior citizens.

Here I’ll have to give a short Cop Lesson. As Deputy Sheriffs we were sent to all unattended deaths to conduct a preliminary investigation into the circumstances of the death. If it was suspicious at all we called in the Detectives and maintained scene security until relieved. Sometimes the deaths weren’t suspicious. These would include terminally ill patients that had been sent home to die. In these cases the Deputy would contact the patient’s physician and ascertain if the death was in fact expected. If the physician indicated yes then the Deputy would conduct a cursory examination of the body and surroundings for anything suspicious in nature. If the death was expected and nothing was suspicious a report was written and the case closed.

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Back to this perfect morning.

I pulled into the front of the building and parked near the front doors. I notice the Fire department rescue truck leaving the lot.

I took the elevator to the fifth floor and knocked on the door. I was greeted by a young attractive woman who introduced herself saying “I’m the Granddaughter”.  She had obviously been crying and still clutched a crumpled up snot rag in one fist. I introduced myself and told her I needed to conduct an investigation. She invited me in and offered a cup of coffee, which I declined. We sat on the edge of the couch as I pulled out my clipboard and necessary reports. I began the interview of the Granddaughter.

I had a habit that when I spoke to family about the recently deceased I never spoke in a past tense. I found their minds often hadn’t had time to process the fact that their loved one was gone.

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“How old is Grandma?”

“She is 83 years old”.

I went on to discover her doctor’s name and that she had been ill with cancer for years. After a few minutes I told the granddaughter, “I’ll have to examine your grandma now”. She pointed me towards a bedroom door.

I opened the door and observed a frail bony figure under a white sheet as she laid on her back in bed. The sheet was pulled up just under her chin. I could see the top of the her head which was covered in long hair nearly as white as the sheet. I walked around the bed checking for anything suspicious – nothing.

Now had come time to examine the body. I grabbed the sheet and pulled it from the body of my victim…

This frail woman with shocking white hair sat up in the bed and began screaming in my face. All I could do was stumble backwards repeating over and over, “What the hell is going on”.

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A cascading comedy of errors was the cause of my confusion. The granddaughter had awoken and thought that her grandmother wasn’t breathing. She called 911 resulting in the fire department being called as a rescue run. The fire department made the scene before me and checked the victim and found her only to be sleeping. They were leaving as I arrived and assumed I was there on other business. The granddaughter assumed I was a “Master EMT” and that was why I needed to examine her grandmother again.

I explained that I was trying to conduct a death investigation but grandma wasn’t cooperating.

I wandered back to my patrol car shaking my head. I picked up the mike and advised dispatch that the call was unfounded.

Dead air followed for a few seconds. Remember that I was sent on a death investigation and an Unfounded Status didn’t make any sense to the dispatcher.

“Baker 12 repeat”.

“I said the case was unfounded – no report”.

“How so Baker 12”?

“Well I’m no doctor but when that woman sat up in bed and screamed in my face I was pretty sure she wasn’t dead”.

My buddy Lester, a big hard hitting hillbilly Cop, requested a sub-channel on the police radio with me. He started laughing and calling me Deputy Lazarus and telling dispatch that they should send me to all the natural deaths as I could raise the dead.

Sometimes funny shit happens…

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© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

Lost Brothers

Richard J. Scuba God Roost, Jr

Seventeen Years and One Day ago

During my career I lost more Brothers than I am prepared to count. I lived my life surrounded by strong men who did courageous and dangerous things. This is the story of one of them.

Richard Roost was know as the SCUBA God and he was the owner of the local dive shop. He was there from the beginning of my dive training. Richard was knowledgeable and committed to the Sheriff’s Underwater Search and Rescue Team (USRT).

Richard wasn’t an employee of the department but rather donated his time as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff. He taught me to be a better diver and I would advance to Divemaster under his direction.

Richard was a man’s man. He traveled to many exotic places and was always surrounded by beautiful women. Many wanted to be him. He had a quiet absurdness and I always enjoyed his company. During dive team call-outs he was a calming influence. He worked to keep me safe and shared his strength and confidence with me in my most stressful moments.

We had been through the Shit together.

On July 8th 1998 Richard was diving alone on the wreck of the Andrea Doria at a depth of 240 feet when he went missing. No one is sure what happened but days later his body would be discovered in the Cabin Class lounge wedged under a table.

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Just before the trip Richard said, “When I dive the Doria my life will be complete.”

Richard dove from the Seeker but it was fast becoming known by another name, the Morgue boat.  Sixteen divers had lost their lives while diving the Andrea Doria and some while diving from the same boat.

I stood Honor Guard over my Brother’s body in the old Church his family had attended since the days of his Grandfather. Colored light and dusty smells mixed next to his heavy oak casket. Richard was buried in his family’s plot in a small cemetery in Hillsdale County. I stood at rigid attention as they lowered my Brother into the ground.  My jaw clenched, fighting back the hot stinging tears. I grabbed a fistful of dirt and threw it in the hole as I said my goodbyes and made my promises.

I salute and walked away into the grayness.

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© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

25 years ago today…

July 4th 1991

I was working 8 pm to 4 am and got saddled with a late arrest. It was a muggy Michigan morning and I didn’t get home until 6 am.  I tossed and turned through hours of attempted sleep. I finally dozed off into one of those fitful sweaty wrestling matches with the pillow.

Sometime after noon my pager started its dance on the bedside table. I grabbed it and saw the code for a Underwater Search and Rescue Team (USRT) call out. I dialed dispatch for the details.

Two boys, both non-swimmers, were missing and presumed drowned near the Ford lake picnic area. I lit a cigarette and got dressed. I was out the door and in my POV (Personally Owned Vehicle) and northbound before I needed to flick the ashes. I always kept my dive gear in my vehicle and organized for a quick response. The location was less than 20 minutes under normal driving times. I made it in 10.

Two things will get a Cop driving balls to the wall. The first is a 10-13 or Officer needs emergency assistance and the other is a child in danger or not breathing. It is all about measuring and balancing the potential risk against the potential benefit.

When I arrive things are chaotic. There were hundreds of people, including a number of Township Officials, near the shore. As I start to drag my gear down to the water’s edge I see a Deputy with the family at a nearby picnic table. This was an image I had witnessed dozens of times but it always stung my eyes to look. I tried not to make eye contact and to go unnoticed.

I get a quick one minute briefing from the Sergeant as I‘m huffing down another cigarette and gearing up. He tells me that a witness saw the boys struggling at the surface of the water and then they submerged.

I told the Sergeant to take the witness to the exact location they were when the boys went under. I hoped to triangulate a better last known position than we presently had.

“How long have they been under Sarge”? – “About 40 minutes” was his answer.

In cold water drowning there is a real possibility of reviving a drowning victim within the golden first hour. Because of this I decided to dive solo and not tethered to shore. I was in my Viking dry suit and in the water in two minutes.

I was working on hunches, luck and hope. I imagined being the boys as I entered the water. I walked deeper and deeper and the lake bottom began to drop quickly. I arrive at the marl bottom 20 feet later on my knees. A thick cloud of mud rose up and swirled around me. I turned to my left and there was the first boy. I grabbed him and pressurized my Buoyancy Vest, bringing us both to the surface and within yards of the shore. Deputies jumped into the water and took the boy from me. As I was turning to go back for the other boy I see Tim, a fellow USRT Team Member, and he’s already suited up. Tim and I swim back to where I had found the first boy. We submerged and within minutes found the second. We swam him to the surface and the waiting hands of the ambulance crew.

Both boys were being worked on by the ambulance and fire department crews. CPR was in progress right behind me but I was numb to it. I sat on the muddy bank with my fins still in the water wondering if this was another nightmare. I was asleep in my bed just 45 minutes ago. AMBU Bags and excited orders filled the air. I saw the Deputy walking the family farther away from the scene. It all seemed so familiar, dreamlike. Please let this be just another nightmare – Please let me wake up in my bed…

A couple of minutes later the Sergeant came by to check on me. I had him open the rear facing seal on my dry suit. “Sarge how long were they in the water”?

“Less than an hour”.

I tried my best but Kassim Ballard, age eleven, and Anthony Wilkes, age twelve, died that day.

A few days later I got dressed in my best Class A uniform, checked out a marked unit and drove down to the boys funeral in Detroit, all on my own time.

As I approached and signed the book the crowd parted. No one extended a hand. No one asked who I was. I signed my name to the book and added “USRT team member”.

I heard someone say to the family, “You ought to sue that mother fucker”.

I turned and left.

 

© 2015 – 2016, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

A shared nightmare

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This happened a year after the Tomb of the unknown child and The Christmas party.

Again, I was working a second job for cash. During the fall I worked for a family business that operated a haunted barn and offered hayrides. Most often there were no problems and my job was to keep the cash box from being robbed. I was their hired gun.

It was a cold and foggy evening so I went into the small ticket booth to warm myself in front of the propane heater. The customers had slowed to a trickle. In the ticket booth was a young woman I had known for years. She was barely out of her teens and was considering her college choices. Everyone who worked there knew me as Deputy Mike and that I was a Cop.

The woman began to ask questions about being a Police Officer. She went on to explain that she was considering a career in law enforcement and wanted my input.

My first reaction was to think she was a bad fit for Law Enforcement. Too tender, too much white meat. I felt she would be crushed by the requirements of the job. I wanted to find an easy way to dissuade her from this idea.

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She then asked, “Deputy Mike what’s the worst thing that ever happened to you”?

Perfect, she gave me this opportunity to tell the story of the death of the marionette puppet on the side of the road. During my career I was with more than a dozen people who were suddenly and unexpectedly ripped from life. One minute to be alive and the next fighting for their last breath.  Some went easy and others fought all the way. Often I could do nothing more than say, “There, there it will be alright”. I was honored to be with them as their lives ended.

Some left a deeper scar than others. This was one of my worst.

Again I drifted into the fog of telling but this time I told only of the emotion of the moment. The pain, the blame, the memories. I told her how Police work is a 100% win proposition and when we fail we blame ourselves.  “If I had only driven faster to get there, If I hadn’t been fucking off in first aide class, If I had just pressed harder on her chest, breathed more into her lungs…”

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I told her after the child died in my hands I went home and pulled my sleeping daughter from her bed – made popcorn – put My Little Pony in the VCR – held her and quietly wept.

I didn’t know what else to do…

I told it as softly as I could but I wanted her to know the emotional consequences of her potential choice.

When I returned to the present she was sobbing. She looked at me and said…

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“You don’t know do you? I was the screaming woman in the car”.

I didn’t know. When the Trooper released me from the scene (which was just around the corner from the haunted barn) the woman in the car was still screaming. I supplemented his report but never asked any questions about the case. It turns out the family crossed the street right in front of the screaming woman and she was not at fault.

By the strangest of coincidences I had told the story of my nightmare to the screaming woman.

She didn’t become a Cop.

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NOTE:  My intent is to someday turn this blog into a book. I would appreciate your comments or thoughts. Consider clicking the Facebook share button (bottom of each story) if you liked something I wrote.

Thanks for stopping by…

© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.