My name is Markey Dobbs. The day before yesterday was my birthday, I turned twenty-one. That’s the day I graduated from the police academy. Stayer County Sheriff’s Department hired me that day. I reported on duty with one other recruit -Thorne Whittaker. It was still dark when I arrived at the Sheriff’s station. Standing on the sidewalk was Thorne.
“Who do you think you’re going to ride with?” Thorne asked.
“I’d say my training officer,” I said.
“Duh, let’s report in. We don’t want to be late on our first day. That’s not how you want to be introduced.”
We stopped at the front desk.
“Good morning, sir. We were told to report to Lieutenant Bailis,” Thorne said.
The officer looked emotionally ragged. His eyes were dead from any emotion. I guess that happens when you see too much of everything.
“Welcome aboard. Go through that door and take a seat. The Watch Commander will be back in ten minutes, he’s expecting you. My name is Jeff Radford.” he said, offering his hand. “The ‘El tee’ will issue your keys and lockers. He’s conducting roll-call for early day-watch. He’ll give you your patrol assignments and you’ll meet your training officer during the briefing.”
“Thank you,” I felt the tingling of anticipation.
We stepped into a small office and sat down. Five minutes later, Lieutenant Bailis walked into the room.
“Carl Bailis,” he said, shaking our hands. “I’ll issue your keys and show you where to put your stuff. He pointed to a rack of uniforms. Now go and get squared away. Roll-Call is in twenty minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” we said in unison.
Thorne and I turned and hustled down the hall, trying to find the locker room.
Walking past the desk, we could see a man who looked 60 ish. His uniform bore sergeant stripes. On his left sleeve, he had seven hash marks, each denoting three years. His long sleeves turned back like an old timer and his blue eyes pierced to my heart. A toothpick jutted out of the corner of his mouth.
“Locker room is the third door on your left. My name is Wilkie. I’m your patrol supervisor. We’ll chat later. Welcome aboard. I’ll see you in roll-call,” he said, walking past us.
“Holy Shit! Do you know who that was!” Thorne said.
“Sergeant Wilkie Reynolds. He’s a legend. My dad told me he’s a ‘Cop’s cop.’ I don’t think there’s anything he hasn’t done in the Sheriff’s Department. My dad told me the Attorney General has awarded him two medals of valor,” I said.
“I doubt we’ll see much of him if we’re chasing radio calls,” Thorne said.
“Hey man, we got to start at the bottom. Just like everyone else here did,” I said, trying to sound confident.
“Let’s get a move on, I don’t want to be late.”
We found our lockers, put on our uniform, and reported to the roll-call room. The only two seats that were open were in the front rows. The veteran officers sat in the back row. I knew they were establishing a pecking order we ;were on the lowest rung.
“El tee” Bailis and Sergeant Wilkie pushed through the door carrying clipboards and a mound of paperwork. Wilkie scanned the room, counting heads.
“He’s in the head. Praying to the porcelain god,” a voice from the back chuckled.
“He must have eaten some of your wife’s cooking,” a voice cracked from the back.
“Okay, we’ll be down a man. Which one of you is Dobbs?”
I raised my hand.
“You ride with me today. We’re Sam-7. Whittaker, you’re assigned to A-22, Goldin raise your hand so your trainee can find you,” Wilkie said.
One of the old heads in the back raised his hand, another pitched a paper airplane, made from an old hot-sheet sailing to the desk.
“If I can have the attention of the Wright Brothers, we can start this briefing,” Lieutenant Baillis said. “We’ve got two, fresh off the academy, warm bodies. Treat them well, if they pass probation, you’ll be able to take some much-needed time off.”
The briefing lasted forty-five minutes.
“The kit-room is behind the desk. Check out a car, grab an M-4, and a shotgun. Get regular and less-than-lethal ammo for each. Get a camera; make sure you’ve got film and a fresh battery. Do you have a flashlight with good batteries?” Wilkie asked.
“Yes, sir. My flashlight’s in my car. I didn’t think I’d need it on day shift,” I pensively offered.
“If you don’t have it, as sure as I’m here talking to you, we’re going to need to check an attic or a basement for some nut-job with a gun. We’ll pick it up when we drive out of the station,” Wilkie said, “And happy birthday.”
I finally grabbed all the gear and dropped it in the cruiser. Wilkie walked out, carrying a cup of coffee. A set of car keys hung from the chrome buckle of his gun belt.
“How did you know it was my birthday?” Dobbs asked.
“You may have not have heard what happened twenty-one years ago. The night you were borne, your dad had been drinking heavy. He drove into a ditch about three miles out of town. Before we could load your family into my car, your mother’s water broke, and she started went into labor. The ambulance was on-the-way, but you didn’t want to wait. I delivered you. Six pounds three ounces.”
“I guess that makes you some kind of uncle?”
“An uncle is your father’s brother; I think your dad might have something to say about that.”
“I was the detective that sent him away to prison,” Wilkie said. “One thing about police work. If you look for it, you’ll see it.”
“Everything has irony. For instance—I put your father in prison. Now, I’m training his son to be a cop—that’s irony for you. You just have to watch it, and you’ll see it.”
I was familiarizing myself with the reports. “These differ from the ones we used at the academy. I have a question, what’s SPIT?”
“That’s mostly for suicides—knuckleheads who are successful at jumping off buildings and splat on the sidewalk. It stands for: Sudden, Pavement, Impact, Trauma. We added that box for jumpers—it helps the bean counters keep score so they can apply for federal funding—it’s not the fall that’ll kills you. It’s that sudden stop.”