Wild Places

I am a fortunate man.

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For most of my days I had Uncle Frank as a role model. He was one of those rare men that lead by example, not words. Uncle Frank died about a month ago.

Unk, as I called him, was a strong man with thick hairy forearms and a shining face always wearing a real smile. He was a man who cared for many and many cared for him. He touched lives quietly and without ego. I Loved him more than any man I have ever known.

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Unk walked the walk. He gave when he had nothing left to give. He taught me how to be strong without raising my fists. He showed me that Words and Actions matter and that we should all try to be better People. He did this without thumping his Bible or preaching, without Hate or Bigotry. He taught me the Art of Kindness and how to be kind to those that cannot return it. I witnessed what he gained in the giving, the gift of the gift.

Unk showed me a Path into the Wild Places where I remain today, healed and better because of my connection to the Earth. Grounded to safe places, my untamed Sanctuaries.

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I’ve decided that the second half of this book, or whatever it will become, will be about what I learned in the Wild Places and how I was healed there. I can only hope it helps someone, anyone, to a better Path. I’ll still write the blood and guts Cop shit but my story is more than that. I AM a Better Me because of Unk and Wild Places.

I just returned from a long road trip to visit these camps and dug through the ashes I left there years ago. I wanted to remember how and what changed me.

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To Perch:

As the edges of gray find me I roll out of my sleeping bag barefooted on the damp red sand, wiggly toed and alive. I had finished another glorious night sleeping in the open, no roof of tin or tent to block my wide eyed view into the center of the Milky Way. The evening before I had laid out my coffee pot and stove to be next to me and ready to be lit. Within minutes I had my hands wrapped around a warm mug of cowboy coffee, black and strong. I clutch it closer to my chest to draw in all the heat it could give up. The purple light pushed against the absolute blackness as Night begins to give to Day.

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In the red rocks above my camp I notice an unkindness of Ravens, maybe a half-dozen in number. They have staked out their perches of high rock. What do they watch for, what do they wait for? I begin to wonder and decide to solve the riddle through experimentation.

I climb atop the nearest big rock wanting to witness what they would witness. A Raven hopped away with a cantankerous caw expressing his displeasure with my trespass.

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I Perch, my feet shoulder wide as I squat on my heels. Long shafts of yellow sunlight pushes across the landscape, behind the Joshua tree and into the narrow canyon. My back against the cool red sandstone, my face to the West.

For some dark shadows are reminders of places of ambush, of danger and death, of threat and trouble.

I began to see not the advancing light but instead the vanquished shadows. I watch as they were beaten back and away from me, in retreat they crawled into smaller pools. I celebrate the death of the gloom with a caw into the morning sky and a thump of my chest with a fist.

The Ravens take flight and circle over me.

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I watch as the Raven soars with his lifelong mate, locked in their sky dance. Just the two of them, flirtatious and weightless, teasing and tempting while renewing their affection. Inky black against blue sky. A natural commitment grows between them.

I witness Love.

I am thankful for the lessons of Unk and the Raven

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

Trooper Manuel H. Fields – End of Watch August 27, 1994

Trooper Manuel H. Fields | Michigan State Police, Michigan
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I was loaned out to the Michigan State Police to work undercover narcotics for three years. For most of that time Manny worked out of the same office but on a different Team. I was on the Crack Attack Team (CAT) and Manny was part of a team involved in long term investigations. His team went after the big fish and mine snagged the corner dealers.
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We often worked together if either team needed surveillance or raid entry help. We had been through many operations together, Manny and I. There was this one time when my team had made a controlled purchase of an ounce of cocaine and needed some help with the Search Warrant raid. The location was a long row of tenement housing on a large root farm. Some Hispanic non-English speaking Perps sold the dope to one of our paid informants.
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COP INFO: A Controlled Purchase works like this. You meet with and strip search the Informant. Next you supply the informant with prerecorded cash funds. Then you drive the Informant to the target location and watch as he enters. You have to maintain surveillance continually while the informant is “Up and In” the target location. When the Informant returns he hands you the dope. You then drive the Informant from the area and strip search him again. Through this process you can write an affidavit for a Search Warrant and testify before a Judge that money went in the target location and dope came out. This will get you a Search Warrant to enter the Target location. Glamorous ain’t it. Lesson over, back to the past.
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Manny’s self chosen undercover name was CB or Chocolate Bunny. I bump CB on the side channel of the Police radio to see if his team was available to help out on the raid. They were so we schedule a meet up not far from the farm. I do the pre-raid briefing and make the entry assignments and place CB right in line with me. We all loaded up, armed to the teeth, as Manny climbs into the Chevrolet Astro van with me. There are six of us and we all wear black raid entry gear. Shamu has the ram, Pepper is on shotgun and riding shotgun, Flash has the entry shield. We are shoulder to shoulder as the tension settles in and the jokes begin. The driver says, “One mile out.” I suddenly realize that the suspects might not understand our raid entry orders and ask, “Any of you fuckers speak Spanish?” Manny says “I got this.”
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I asked him if he was sure because I’d never heard him speak any Spanish in the years I’d known him. Manny nodded his head, “Rat, I got this.” So we roll up and bail out into the darkness. Shamu destroys the door with the ram and steps aside. The team enters and I see about half a dozen subjects in the first room. Manny yells out, “No Fumar Gracias Por Favor Triple Sec La Pinata.”
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Well like I said I don’t speak Spanish but I was pretty sure that wasn’t “Get down before we shoot your ass.” I look over at Manny and he is laughing his head off. I look at the Perps and repeat, “No Fumar Gracias Por Favor Triple Sec La Pinata.”
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They seem confused.
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Skip forward in time to…
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The Last Goodbye
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Manny was rotating back to road patrol and his years of undercover assignment was coming to an end. He would leave behind the deals and doors and Trojan Horse operations and would return to a life of uniformed patrol, traffic accidents and taking any complaint the radio dished out. He was in the office cleaning out his desk when I last saw him. Lucky for me I took the time to have a long conversation with CB. We laughed and remembered some of the best. There were several Remember when moments between us. We spoke openly and with Truth. Manny told me what it meant to him to be a Michigan State Trooper. I told him I already knew that.
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My team was on the way out the door and I had to go. If I would have only known that was the last time I would see Manny. I hugged him goodbye and told him I loved him.
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Manny got killed not long after that night. He made a traffic stop on I-94 and was dealing with that when some 70 year old woman crossed the fog line and struck him. He died instantly next to his patrol car and she drove home. She would later claim that she thought she had struck a deer. Bitch shouldn’t have been driving.
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The funeral and aftermath
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I don’t go to Cop funerals unless I have to. I have been to three, all brothers. Manny’s funeral was an intense journey for me. All of the team members were in attendance at his grave side as the bagpiper played Amazing Grace. Tears streamed down my face as I stood at rigid attention. On a nearby hill a single figure stepped forward and played Taps. I can remember it all. Ancient rituals and the path to Valhalla fill my mind.
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On the way home most of my team stopped into a roadside bar and grill which was filled with trucker types. It was one of those worn red paint joints with a huge wooden bar fumed with the aroma of beer. It was a good place for greasy burgers and cold beer.
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An ugly darkness had overtaken us. Our emotions were raw and our nerves exposed. As I look back I think it was because we had all been through so much with CB and for him to get killed in such an unfair way, we had nobody to hate, he was only 34 years old for fuck’s sake. We drank too much, we were rude and loud and we spoiled for a fight with anyone. Within hours we were all kicked out of the bar.
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Cops can be assholes like that.
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© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

Poster Boy

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Sometimes I’m asked what I miss about Law Enforcement.

I miss beating the dog shit out of a man that would beat his woman in front of his children. For much of my patrol time I averaged one domestic violence case a shift, most resulting in an arrest. Some involved a side trip to the ER to treat the bloodied, beaten recently arrested fuckwit. I always thought that if you wanted to fight the Police it should sting a little bit.

In the beginning of my career there were no Domestic Violence laws on the books. We could make an arrest only if we witnessed the assault or if the case could be classified as a felony.

I was taught how to provoke the perpetrator into taking a swing at the Police.

Another Christmas story…

Christmas was just around the corner and the streets were heating up. During the holiday more people would be at home getting drunk, depressed and despondent – soaked in cheap whiskey. Living in The land of Shadows.

As we gathered with our friends to watch this sunset I was most thankful to have discovered Carol. Happiness surrounds me.

I was riding solo patrol and was dispatched to a domestic violence call. The location was within a two story apartment complex built on the edge of a real ghetto. I had been to this apartment before on a similar call. This time a neighbor heard fighting inside the apartment and called 911.

When I arrive I could hear loud arguing coming from inside the apartment. I listened at the door for a moment. The Perp was accusing his woman of cheating on him. He was screaming how he was gonna kill somebody. When I’d heard enough I pounded on the door.

He answered all huffy, “What the fuck you want – nobody here called the Police” he said with a deep southern drawl. Before me was this white male, thin but muscled. He was wiry and wired for sound. He was trying to control his temper with little success as veins throbbed on his forehead mixed with beads of sweat.

“It don’t matter who called, I’m here now and I’m going to make sure everybody is all right.”

“The fuck you are, you ain’t coming in my house.”

I pushed him aside with one stiff arm and entered the apartment. That pissed him off more. I saw the woman sitting at the kitchen table with her head down and her hair covering most of her face.

An Update: Carol and I have traveled much together since we met last Spring. We have been to Ouray Colorado and the hot springs there twice, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Petrified Forest, Zion, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Canyon de Chelly, Pecos monument, Jemez mountains and many other beautiful places

“You alright Ma’am?”

“I’m fine Deputy – I don’t need any help.”

I questioned her and she denied any assault had taken place and said they were only arguing. The whole time I was trying to talk with her he was yelling, “Don’t say nothing.”

She looked up and her hair fell away from her face. He had hit her so hard the flesh under her eye was split. Tears and blood mixed on a face that was once young and beautiful but now filled with howling pain. I was stung by it, Anger and Rage rose up within me.

I turned on the hillbilly that would hit a woman like this as he was ordering me out of his apartment. I got in his face and leaned in. I poked him in the chest, hard, with my finger. I whispered into his ear, “You are one punk Mother Fucker. If you’re so tough why don’t you leap – Leap little Froggy.”

And he did, he swung on me. This guy was a fighter, a striker.

The night stand when we travel. Carol is good back-up. She protects and defends me . I love her more because of it.

Its always hard to tell who is going to be a good fighter and who would roll up into a ball when punched. This little son of a bitch was a scrapper. I punched him as hard as I could right between the eyes and he just smiled. The fight was on as he punched back, I tasted blood.

First we crashed into and broke the kitchen table. I keyed my prep and called for back-up. Next we spilled into the living room and both of us fell to the floor, taking the coffee table with us. We stood up and went over again this time taking out the Christmas tree as we landed on top of the gift wrapped packages.

I was able to get behind him and apply my best technique, the choke hold.

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COP INFO: As a rookie I had been trained by older Deputies how to apply this choke hold. The objective was to pinch down on both Carotid Arteries and deny blood flow to the brain. This choke hold would later be outlawed by policy. I guess too many Perps died in it’s application. It saved my bacon more than once.

My career was over before the days of the Tasers. We were more “Hands On” back then.

Back to this fight…

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Well dear Brothers – I’ve got this man by the neck and have clamped down with all my force. He starts bucking like a bronco. My knuckles are bloody, my muscles tense. I ride him like a pony and keep the pressure on his neck. Finally he starts to do the funky chicken, legs flailing and eyes bulging – Brain letting go. This was my favorite part, pushing his face into the stinking carpet as he lapsed into unconsciousness. I hear echoes of my Warrior past – Distant Drums – I smell Smoke and Fire.

I’m having a great time and was just about to release the choke hold when I saw something that I’d remembered for the rest of my life.

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There, hunkered up under the last standing table, was a small shaking tearful boy about 6 years old. He resembled a dog shitting peach pits, twisted up into a ball. I held eye contact with him as I choked his father into submission and busted up his Christmas.

I can’t explain it now but I felt bad, like it was somehow my fault.

He became the Poster Boy in my mind for all future Domestic Violence calls. Whenever I’d be pissed off about having to do yet another DV case I would think of him.

The child that lived in violence.

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© 2015 – 2017, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

The Italian Tourist

NOTE: I needed to tell the stories of PTSD and Medal of Valor before this one would make sense and you might better understand my actions.

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Sun Tzu – The Art of War

This happened so long ago that the Statue of Limitations has passed. Now I can tell of crossing paths with the Italian Tourist.

I had been living in Kodachrome State park for a season, the time had come to move on. I was moving to Otter Creek to be closer to the Pretender, the first women I chased and caught after the end of my marriage.  Later I may write of her – She was another intense experience and looked just like Lauren Becall.

It was during my time at Kodachrome that I slowly re-entered society, a better Michael. I was finding my happiness. I lived in an ancient motor home with my dogs. By day we built trails with pick and shovel. At night we visited with happy campers, travelers and people of different places. I grew stronger with all the physical work. I wrote in the mornings while drinking black coffee from a hand warming mug. I slept under stars so thick I couldn’t tell them from camp smoke. Red sands became bed – Black sky became covers – Night air became dreams.

Kodachrome is a magical place, a bowl basin awash in glorious desert colors. Shadows and rock are Witness to the passing Ages – I stood humbled by the Place – Grounded to the Earth – Right where I was supposed to be – Surrounded – Safe. Kodachrome and the people I met there were an important part of my Journey.

I loaded everything up, hooked the trailer to the motor home, and whistled up the dogs. The last thing I needed to do was ride into town to say my goodbyes to the locals and pick up a few road snacks. I mount my finely tuned German motorcycle and carved a way into town on a twisted purple road. I stood on my foot pegs and pumped my fist skyward in celebration of my Freedom. I felt unleashed, stronger.

I pulled up to the pumps and filled the tank on my motorcycle and decide to just leave it and run in the store for quick goodbyes and salty snacks. I dangle my helmet over the mirror, threw my jacket over the saddle, and walked into a crowded store.

I took up a position forth in the checkout line and found everything I needed right there. A commotion caught my attention, a ripple in the flow of the herd, something is wrong.

There he stood in all his glory – the Italian Tourist. The hairy legged, yellow plaid short wearing, five foot nothing – fat man that he was. He had hoisted a bag of Kingsford charcoal over his head while screaming, in broken English, at the cashier over the price. He was in a full rage, face red, veins throb, muscles tense, filled with anger – Ripe.

Mary, the sixteen year old cashier and daughter of the owner, cowered and burst out in tears. She leaned as far away from the threat as she could, her back against the calendar filled wall.

Shit was about to happen. Muscle memory and past training took over. Without thinking about it I advanced behind the Italian Tourist and caught his neck in the bend of my left arm. I pulled him off-balance and into my old favorite position. He was on his heels walking backwards more interested in his next breath than anything else. The charcoal drops to the ground. I throttled him more, making sure the fight was out of him, as we spill into the parking lot. His wife ran towards us from their rented motor home. I pushed him and he fell on his fat ass in a dusty pile.

“You better just Get!” I told him. I think he’d had enough of me and scurried away towards the wife and hopefully back to Italy, the land of cheap charcoal.

I really wasn’t too interested in having contact with the Police so I jump on my motorcycle and raced back to camp and was gone within the hour.

I never got to say my goodbyes.

© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

Medal of Valor

Mayflower Motel

Pittsfield Township

County of Washtenaw

Oct 8, 1994 1445 hrs

 

This happened when I was back in uniform and working road patrol on a day shift. I had made my bones and was the Junkyard Dog of the Department. I was difficult to manage, rough looking, not easy to pet but nobody stole your shit while I was on duty. I often led the shift in quality arrests and investigations and trained the best rookies and because of that I got away with more than most. My mustache was always outside of the department guidelines. My boots resembles suede and were beyond needing a coat of Kiwi.

I worked hard. I was at peak performance and running on all cylinders. I knew my place within the department and took full advantage of all the bullshit I could get away with.

I frequently drifted outside the bounds of my designated patrol area to back-up Ypsilanti City PD or Pittsfield Township PD or for any fucking reason I felt like. I got a lot of unfounded citizen complaints and I was the subject of more than one lawsuit against the Department.

Back to this snowy fall day. The Police radio was quiet and I was listening to the Michigan vs Michigan State football game on AM radio. My patrol unit was wired up with my personal Police Scanner, which I used to keep track of anything going on in adjoining jurisdictions.

The Pittsfield PD channel crackled to life “All units prepare to copy. A white male subject just entered the Mayflower Motel and has taken a hostage at knife point. The subject has barricaded himself with the hostage in the kitchen area”.

I think to myself, “Damn that sounds juicy”, and begin to work towards the motel and out of my patrol area. I didn’t advise Dispatch of my intent to assist Pittsfield.

I arrive in the parking lot and see several Pittsfield Township marked units scattered around the buildings.

The Mayflower motel and lounge was a low series of buildings which included a dozen motel rooms densely packed together. In the center of the parking lot was the kitchen, restaurant and lounge parts of the business. The motel was once at a  crossroads for many people traveling from Detroit to Chicago but had been bypassed by other roads. Wounded by progress, it had begun it’s death spiral serving the occasional customer as profits diminished and the buildings called out for repair. For years it had been used more by illicit daytime lovers than passing travelers. Red Brick dashed dusty dreams where Love was made and lost.

Mayflower Motel postcard, Michigan Avenue at Carpenter Road, Ypsilanti, Michigan.

“Dispatch be advised I’ll be out at the Mayflower assisting Pittsfield Township”.

As soon as I stepped out of the cruiser I was in the middle of an unexpected shit storm. I approached the door that opened to the restaurant. Just outside the door were two uniformed Township Officers with their guns at the low ready.

I called out to the one I knew the best. “Hey Jim, I’m a negotiator want me to take a crack at this guy”? Without hesitation Jim says “Go for it Rat, He’s got her in the kitchen”. I asked what he was armed with and was told a knife.

As Pittsfield Officers were trying to lock down the perimeter I stepped through the door and into the dining area. Directly across from me was an open door to the kitchen. Just inside that door and at the base of an open steel cabinet I could see the Victim, Marylou Marker. She was sitting on the floor with the Perp right behind her. He had a knife pressed to the center of her chest and was telling her if she moved again he’d stab her in the heart. The Perp was using her body as a shield and only exposed a small portion of his head, one eye – one ear, directly behind Marylou’s head.

I was 20 feet away and considered attempting the shot, to hit the Perp in the forehead the next time he stuck his head out. I was one of the better shooters on the Department but thought it way too risky.

The Perp saw me and called out, “I want to talk to you!” He recognized me as a County Sheriff and thought I outranked the others. “Keep your hands where I can see them”, he said. Perfect I thought, this is just what I want. I start to slowly walk towards the Perp’s position. When I got within 10 feet he began screaming for me to get back. I didn’t back up but I couldn’t close the distance any more. There I stood in the kitchen doorway.

Again I can remember the finest details of what happened next.

Marylou, the hostage, was the mother of the business owner and was well into her 60’s. She had her hands crossed over her heart as the knife pressed against the back of her top hand. Her eyes were filled with fear and terror, all white and red and wide open staring at me. I was sure this was the worst moment of her life. There were injuries to her chest and hands from the constant pressure of the knife tip. The front of her blouse was covered in blood.

The Perp had picked up the knife when he entered the kitchen and took Marylou hostage. It was one of those cheap steak knives, flexible, serrated and slightly rounded at the tip with a black wooden handle. It had been used a thousand times before. It was about to be used for the last time.

“I want a helicopter, the State Police and Channel 7 news here right now.” Perfect, I begin to negotiate. Negotiations are about venting steam and passing time. Out of the corner of my eye I can see a SWAT officer in the kitchen but blocked from view of the Perp or Victim. He was trying to line up a shot. I expect to see the Perp’s head explode any second, Be Cool I think to myself. Pans rattled on the rack, the Perp tensed and began shouting “Get Back – Get Back.” He pressed the knife tip into the back of her crossed hands a little deeper. More blood seeped. More damage done. Closer to the Line.

I stood my ground and asked his name.  He lied and said James. I told him I was working with the bosses to get the helicopter and the news crew but it would take a little time. Marylou continued to stare into my eyes. I had to ignore her as even acknowledging her could only increase her perceived value to him.

“James you gotta be careful with the knife” I said. He wasn’t and continued to get more and more agitated with Marylou because she was trying to push the knife tip from the back of her hands. I can see she is getting more small injuries to her hands as he presses the tip deeper and the blade bent.

I knew I wasn’t getting through to this guy. I couldn’t keep him focused. During my approximate (10) minutes of negotiations I offered to exchange myself for the hostage. He considered but refused. He positioned himself to better be shielded by Marylou’s body. She grows more panicked and desperately fearful. I put my hand behind my back and made a gun signal to the perimeter Cops. I was telling them to shoot this guy if they could. I was signalling that I didn’t think I could save Marylou with words. It would take something more.

The Perp screamed at Marylou “If you don’t quit moving I’m gonna stab you right through your fucking heart.”

Everything I’m about to tell you happened in fractions of seconds.

The Perp stabbed Marylou twice through her hands as they were crossed over her heart, he was trying his best to stab her heart. She push the knife away and he sliced her open. Blood spurted.

I draw my service weapon and closed the distance between us. He sees me, gun in hand, and drops completely behind Marylou. I dive on the pile and ended astride the Perp’s legs and Marylou is gone.

He comes up, knife in hand, and stabs at my heart. I raise my left hand partially deflecting the knife thrust and get stabbed in the back of my hand. The knife skims off and contacts my bulletproof vest and bends. If he had picked a better weapon to begin with I might not be here today.

I could have shot him. I should have shot him.

My 9mm Glock was in my right hand. I brought it with full force into his left temple. I felt bone break and he slouched. I gave him another, just like the first, for good measure. He was bloody and unconscious, the threat was over. Mission accomplished.

I was bloody. The room was bloody. Other Cops hog tie and cuff the Perp. The bosses descend. Ambulances are called and Marylou is transported to the hospital with treatable wounds (She would live longer but always filled with fear. She would never be the same).

I grabbed a couple of paper towels and try to stop the bleeding from the back of my hand.

I can remember thinking how surreal everything seemed and that I should savor the moment.  Time was frozen as I wandered into the front bar lounge. I walked behind the bar and fixed myself a rum and coke and sat in one of the red swivel chairs. Someone drug the Perp by his ankles into the room with me. He was face down bleeding into the beer stained carpet. I quietly hear his gurgled breathing as he tried to find new airways through his newly broken nose.

“Fuck you” I say in his direction.

My First Lieutenant makes the scene and comes into the lounge area where the Perp is still unconscious and bleeding out on the floor. I have a drink and the Lieutenant examines my wound and starts to order up an ambulance for me.

“Fuck that LT. I haven’t taken an ambulance ride in my whole career and I sure as shit ain’t gonna start over this. If you want to order up an ambulance for somebody dickhead over there could probably use one.” I thumb towards the Perp.

The LT rolls the Perp over, says “OH Shit”, grabs his prep and starts ordering an ambulance for the guy that really needed one.

I laugh and finish my drink. I left a five on the bar.

Good Times.

 

 

 

 

© 2015, Michael Fulcher. All rights reserved.

PTSD

This will be painful for me. I will pick scab, twist bone, open jars. I will allow you to look through my eyes, to feel what it’s like to be me.

I wake in the night eyes wide open.  The echoes of a scream bounce around the dark room.  The scream fades to nothingness.  My heart thumps the inside of my ribcage like a panic crazed rabbit trapped in wire.  I gasp in a full breath, which seems like my first.  Every muscle has fired.  What just happened?  I feel beaten, I remember (The Nightmares of Others).

I always sit with my back to the wall, aware, ready. I anticipate the worst and dread it’s arrival. An overwhelming sense of doom begins to build in the center of my chest. Dark shadows hide imagined threats to the farthest edges of my World. Tears press against the backsides of my eyeballs for no apparent reason. Something is about to happen, I can feel it on my skin and in the air I breathe. I hear hoof beats as I walk in the Valley of the Bones.

Some of us are Protectors. We appoint ourselves to watch over the Flock, the Herd, the Pack, the Tribe. We cannot do otherwise. I was raised to be a Protector being the oldest of four and by a father who believed in the old scripture, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” I took beatings early and sometimes for my younger brothers and sister. I became numb to pain.

Later, when the playground bullies would make themselves known, classmates came for me. I was bigger than almost everyone else, I still am. I became numb to the fist.

Today, if I witnessed someone committing violence on a weaker person, I would have to find a way to make it stop. I know this about me and I prepare for my future battles. I still train for the fight.

PART TWO:

Langford Spring

My mind responds to echoes of the Past and dances in that dust of long ago. I am reminded of things at strange times and in strange ways. It happened again just the other day.

I had nothing to do as I sat in the ruined foundation of another man’s dream. Here, on the edge of the frontier, Langford had built an imposing two story structure of boulder and mortar, chinked together to last the ages. He had fought rattlesnakes and Mexican bandits to hold onto this dream. In the end the  Restorative Hot Springs Bath could not stand against the ravages of the Rio Grande. Countless floods had their way with the old building leaving only four low stone foundation walls. The hot spring water still follows some old chase and then overflows and spills from the foundation into the river.

The Sky was steel grey and just a breath of wind as I dip myself into the waters up to my neck. This day would not rise above 70 degrees. The Rio Grande was as high as I’ve ever seen it and filled the banks between Texas and Mexico with small white caps. I lazed away a couple of hours soaking in the 104 degree spring and having pathetic conversations with transient tourists. I watched as they came, one after another, down the narrow path between the river and a cliff of stacked rock. They came huffing and puffing and I recognized most by their new hats.

One of the visitors stuck her foot in the pool for less than 3 minutes, withdrew her leather bound travel journal from her new backpack, and wrote of the experience for 6 minutes. Her red faced hubby squatted on a nearby rock, his mind lost in thoughts of work. I was glad not to be them – not to meet them.

I glimpse ancient pictographs painted against the cliff face and was reminded of another time monument which I can measure my Life against. What was important to Mr. Langford and these ancient people has no meaning today. A calm peace settles around me.

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I am having another perfect day when…

A young mother and her son Abe arrive and enter the pool. Abe is a rambunctious 2 ½ year old. He’s a tow head and has a round pot belly of a new born pup. His energy is boundless as he begins to climb on the stone wall that divides the raging Rio Grande from the calmer waters of the hot spring.

It begins…

I can see a possible future where Abe tumbles head first over the stone wall and into the swift water. The Mother is distracted and unaware of the danger. I have lived a life where dead children have been pulled from murky waters, the images are locked in my Mind, I am Witness. The memories begin the Dance, my mind and body react to the past. I am a time traveler but I can only go back into my own past – to live it again. Troubled I get up and leave the pool but I take up a position downstream (just in case). Thankfully a high clump of river reed blocks my vision of Mother and Son and river and rock.

My heart pounds – my mouth is as dry as cotton – my vision narrows – echoes ring in my ears – Adrenaline courses through me – I am entirely aware and on point – I am ready for anything. Its’ the old Fight or Flight reflex and I’m trained to Fight.

Outwardly nothing shows as the storm rages. Inwardly I begin to have the same old conversation with myself. “It’s nothing Rat – relax – be cool.”

When…

I hear the mother call out “ABE – ABE!”

I run to the water’s edge and begin to visualize how I will spot Abe in the river. He will be face down and head first in the current and nearer the Mexican side. I will have to swim hard to reach him. I can see all of this. Every nerve has fired – I know this feeling – Its all up to me.

When…

Abe comes running down the dirt path with his Mother right behind. She coos and chases him in a bent over goose fashion. They both scream with delight as they pass by me, standing and watching for ghosts at the river’s edge.

Fuck PTSD

 

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

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.