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What I Saw Before It Was Too Late

Normally clear eyes sting then blur.

Pedestrians scamper dodging siren echoes

smashing off buildings. Radio waves disappear,

my head flutters with life’s thoughts:

the dog needs her teeth pulled, my

wife is mad at me, the kids

start school soon, my cover car

is miles away…Calm down, you’ve

got a matter of minutes to save her.

She’s trapped in a burning vehicle

and I’m queasy. I’m there, she is not.

Tiny hair stand up on the back

of my neck. Is someone in

the shadows? What the…boom! It’s

over for me. A second Boom!

It’s over for him. Two

dead bodies, no answers, no purpose.

Day I Die.

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Day I Die

The bullet grazed my temple searing the fine hair while leaving a thin blood trail trickling down my cheek. Instinctively I dove for cover behind a vehicle and reached for my handgun. What the hell just happened? I scanned the alley for the shooter and checked the wound. The ambient light from the street corner pole revealed fresh blood, my blood, and I decided at that very moment today was not the day I die. There was no image of my wife or kids flashing in my mind. I didn’t say a prayer or give up. Nope, all I saw was a poorly lit alley and all I wanted to do was kill the son of a bitch who’d just ambushed me. My heartbeat pounded in my chest and I exhaled after realizing I’d been holding my breath.


“Come on out ‘piggy!'” yelled the suspect. He fired off more rounds wildly in my direction. It was a catastrophic mistake for him. Now, based on his voice and the muzzle flash, I knew almost precisely where he was hiding. The only problem was I didn’t have a clear shot. I reached for my radio microphone to request cover units. My dive had crushed it, but the emergency button was lit indicating it still had power. I pressed it with my non-gun hand. My exact location was relayed to dispatch. Gotta love GPS, I thought.


“Listen buddy, the troops are coming! Give up and save yourself,” I answered back figuring there was no chance in hell this deranged lunatic would likely follow my lawful order. And, I felt secure in my hiding spot since I wasn’t getting hit by his sporadic gunfire.


“Fuck em’ all! I’ll get as many of you pricks as I can before I let you end it all for me!” Again he fired off more rounds at me. I cringed and fired back when my brain registered his statement. It’s a damn suicide by cop, and I have no way to warn my backup. I was instantly deflated because a lost soul was going to die.


“You don’t need to do this, put down the gun and we’ll work this out.” I felt a strong sense of trying to help him even though he was trying to kill me. Sounds weird, but it’s what we do. Plus, he had me pinned down and desperation forced me to try to negotiate. I was also trying to buy some time, albeit it I chose to try to rationalize with a man I knew clearly was not thinking straight. He responded with a flurry of bullets. Guess he’s not looking for help, he’s looking for death.


I peered under the vehicle I was hiding behind and could see he was basically trapped at the end of the alley. Solid structures surrounded him, except he could get free if he came right by me, and that wasn’t happening. This was going down in the industrial area of town, which meant my cover cars, even full lights and sirens would be a bit before they made it. As I contemplated my next move I felt a sharp burning pain in my shoulder as one of his careless rounds hit me. I yelled out in pain and rolled over on my back. Are you kidding me, a damn ricochet! The pain was unbearable, like a thousand needles gouging at an open wound, but I had to continue. I inched closer behind a wheel and squeezed the trigger slowly and methodically while aiming at the area his muzzle flashes were coming from. The sound was deafening while dust and debris flew into my eyes. Where the hell is my backup?


I combat reloaded my firearm with my last magazine and tried to listen. My ears ringed making it difficult to hear. The wound in my shoulder throbbed and I could see it was bleeding badly. I strained to hear something as I considered, only briefly, that I might not survive this ordeal. I counted rounds that I’d shot in my head and realized I was almost out. I glanced at my patrol vehicle. It was out in the open. If I made a move for it, the suspect would have a clear shot at me.


In a sadistic voice the suspect said, “Is that all you got? Boy, I served in the U. S. A. Marines!” He fired a couple of rounds, “you ain’t shit!” I rolled my eyes and was pissed because obviously I hadn’t hit him with my bullets and it seemed like all I was doing was making him more mad. Compounding the issue was he’d just said he was a marine. I’d read how these guys suffer from PTSD and no one in the government wants to acknowledge or talk about it. These guys feel helpless, many times they are, and now one of them wants me and all my friends dead. A sick mind is caustic.


“Of all the luck,” I huffed under my breath. I gotta do something, I thought.


I pleaded, “Man, you don’t need to do this! We’ll get you help, just throw down the gun and come out with your hands up.” I felt awkward trying to reason with him, but I didn’t see another option. My training and overwhelming need to help people kicked in. I struggled with what I should do next. Then I wondered how I was going to pull it off. And then I heard it. Police sirens. About damn time, I thought as my eyes lit up.


“You don’t know shit! Sounds like my welcoming party is almost here! I’ll see you assholes in hell!” He fired a whole magazine toward me. Bullets slammed into the car that I was using as cover and the bricks to my right causing them to explode. I tried to return fire but felt helpless. Then the shooting stopped. I assumed he was reloading. In the eerie silence, two police cruisers skidded to a halt behind me and positioned their cars to block the alley.


“Suicide by cop! My radio’s busted, I need medics!” I yelled at the two guys jumping out from their patrol cars. It’s a situation in which shooting and killing someone is justified, but I thought if it were me, I would want to know the situation as well. “One shooter, far end on the left, heavily armed,” I wanted to say more, but the suspect began shooting at the two officers, pelting their cars with rounds. They had to return fire in an effort to stop the threat and find better cover. I looked at my arm and could see the bleeding had clotted and it had gone numb.


With the shooter concentrated on them, I finally had an opening. I tried to push myself up to get to my patrol car, but my wounded arm buckled. With my gun still aimed down the alley, I managed to sort of roll over and get up. I wrangled my keys from my duty pants and was able to get the car trunk open. I could see my less than lethal shotgun, but bypassed it for an assault rifle. We were taking rounds and I was injured. I grabbed and slung the shotgun, maybe, just maybe, I thought, this guy can be saved.


More police cars flooded the area. The suspect continued firing from behind a dumpster. He was shooting at me and the other two officers in what seemed like a never-ending supply of bullets. The SWAT team was summoned, but the fact the guy was shooting randomly, at cops, I figured he wouldn’t last another couple of minutes. We stopped to reload and I froze because I could see the man walking out from behind the dumpster. He’d stopped shooting and I noticed he was wearing a ballistic vest. Then I saw the handgun in his right hand. He ripped off the ballistic vest revealing military fatigues. We made eye contact. I thought I’d see fear and sadness, or maybe confusion in his eyes. I was wrong. All I could see was utter rage. He winked at me and raised his gun. I could see an officer to my left who was having trouble with his gun and the suspect had him dead to rights. In a split second the suspect was going to kill him. Then suddenly, without thought just a reaction, boom! It was all over in an instant. I shot him and shook my head. I collapsed and lay on the street looking straight up at the stars. Slowly the sirens and barking dogs and spinning helicopter blades faded away. Then it was over.

The End


C.L.Swinney 🙂