DISCLAIMER: Adam-12 is the property of MarkVII/Universal and no copyright infringement is intended with the publication of this piece. Cover courtesy of MorgueFile. ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT OF THIS STORY IS THE SOLE PROPERTY OF BAMBOOZLEPIG AND MAY NOT BE USED WITHOUT PERMISSION. This story may contain graphic language/violence/adult situations, therefore reader discretion is advised. This story contains sensitive subject matter about suicide.
First our pleasures die—and then
Our hopes, and then our fears—and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust—and we die too.
-"Death" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Thin golden braids of sunlight shaft in through the closed wooden shutters at the window, sending tentative fingers across the darkened den, the air thick and stagnant, unmoved by the cooling chill of the air conditioner that blasts through the vents. The dark wood-paneled walls are covered with various memorabilia, from gilt-edged certificates of meritorious service to a couple of mounted fish to school pictures of two children, a boy and a girl. A small black and white tv set sits on a large wooden stand that also holds a record player, with colorful flags of record albums sticking out from the shelf below. A pair of matching bookcases line the nearby walls, a few dusty tomes tucked within, but most of the shelves are filled with different knickknacks and doodads, and a small cathedral-style radio stands atop one of the bookcases, its speakers peering out over the room like dark evil eyes. Silence reigns supreme, settling heavy on the ears, for the hysterically weeping wife has been taken to a neighbor's, and all that is heard in the room is the sharp steady tick of the sturdy grandfather clock in the corner and the low soothing hum of the air conditioner. It is a normal little den inside a normal little ranch house inside a normal little neighborhood…
Except for the dead man in the recliner, his skull excavated by a bullet.
The two policemen stare at the man in the chair before them, their eyes taking in the newspaper clippings that are spread across the floor at the man's feet, their noses twitching at the sharp peppery smell of cordite and the sweet copper of blood that tangs the air, along with the thicker odors of piss and shit, evacuated from the dead man's bladder and bowels with the entry of the bullet into his brain. The older man's grey-eyed gaze is shocked and horrified, while the younger man's green eyes take in the scene with avid, if morbid, curiosity…the newspapers on the floor that are flecked with blots of wet blood that still glisten in the fingers of sunlight, the gun that is dropped to the floor from the slackened hand that held it to the head of the man in the chair, situating the barrel beneath the chin and sending a well-placed bullet screaming through the skull, blowing out the top of the cranium in a spray of red and pinkish-grey and white and black that look like Rorschach blots across the dark paneled wood and white ceiling and green chair. The face is still largely intact, bright streamers of crimson crisscrossing down from the volcanoed skull, the mouth hanging slack, blood and white purge fluid bubbling past the lips, the blue eyes that were so full of life just a day ago now dulled by death, staring back at the two men with half-lidded creepiness, as if the dead man can see into the eyes of the two living men and read their souls within.
The kid shivers, chilled by the air conditioner, chilled even worse by the clouded gaze of the dead man whom he KNOWS sees straight into his soul and can tell that he is scared as hell, his brain churning and his stomach churning even harder, for this…
This is his first suicide, for he's only been on the job for four weeks now, and worse yet, this is his first officer-involved suicide, but he knows it won't be his last…if he stays on the job.
And he's not sure what to do, what to think, how to act…his childhood religion taught him that suicide is a mortal sin, a one-way ticket to Hell without even bothering to say hello to Purgatory, but he can find no comfort in that, for he abandoned his religion long ago when he realized that there were no such things as saints in the world, only sinners and more sinners, and people will act pious and proper on Sundays, just to get in good with God, while acting like total hypocritical assholes the other six days of the week. And he knows that the job of being a cop carries with it one of the highest rates of suicide in the nation, but he is young yet, still hopeful and bright and idealistic, for in his four weeks of official cop-dom, he hasn't truly experienced any of the god-awful sorrows, the heartbreaking tragedies, the horrific violence, the callous cruelty that is all part of the job, witnessing the things that will turn a man bitter, turn a man angry, turn a man against himself, desperate and despairing and hopelessly lost, until suicide seems the only way out of it all. He cannot fathom this death, cannot reconcile it all in his head, because yesterday this man in the recliner was alive and joking with his fellow officers, and today he lies dead, his head blown off by a bullet he put there himself, and how in the space of twenty-four hours can so much change in a man's life that he wants to just END it all and take himself out of the game forever? The violent incongruity of it all frightens him and he wonders fearfully…
Is this how he will end up someday?
Will there come a time in his life that he cannot face another day, dealing with the heartaches and the sorrows and the tragic hells that the job entails, and he winds up eating his piece or hanging himself or slitting his wrists or overdosing, just because his soul has been killed by life and so his body might as well be too?
He stares at the dead man, wondering what the last minutes for this man must have been like, the gun heavy and cold in shaking…or were they steady?...fingers, positioning the chilly barrel beneath the chin for the maximum impact of assured death, maybe saying a final prayer or goodbye as one last breath is taken before the index finger pulls the trigger, sending the bullet crashing through the skull, and for a moment…just for a moment…he looks at that dead man and…
He sees himself lying there.
Fear races up his throat then, curdling cold in his blood and constricting his breath, forcing it to escape from him in a slight nervous-puppy whine, and he fidgets restlessly, casting eyes at the clock and expecting to see that hours have passed since they entered this room, finding that only a couple of minutes have passed instead. The kid feels lost as hell, for he doesn't know what to do in this strange new world that changed the instant they walked through that door, and all he wants is for someone…his superior, another officer, ANYONE, damn it…to tell him what to do next. He looks to the man who is his training officer for guidance, but all that man can do is stare at the deceased himself, his grey eyes still trying to comprehend what he is seeing, for even as the experienced officer, even as a cop who has seen his fair share of suicides in his career, this is hard to take, hard to understand, hard to accept.
For the dead man is…was… a good friend.
They had grown up together in the same neighborhood, gone to the same school, fought over the same girls sometimes, and when the war came along, they both enlisted into the Marines together, managing by the luck of the draw to end up in the same platoon together, being sent overseas to fight the hell that was Guadalcanal, returning scarred and battle-weary and never speaking of their experiences over there. They were each others' best men at their weddings and they both went into the police academy to become cops, and while they were transferred from division to division, they both finally wound up at Central, where their friendship was cemented even further by the realities of the job. They were like brothers to one another, and the sense of loss is great, for the older man cannot understand why his best friend decided to kill himself, but then…then again, he looks at the newspaper clippings that are scattered on the floor at the dead man's feet and he understands at least a little bit, for the clippings tell the story of the accident five years ago, an accident that the dead man had never forgiven himself for. While responding hot to a call, running with lights and siren, he'd struck and killed a five-year-old boy that darted out in front of him, and even though he'd been cleared of any wrongdoing, for it was nothing more than a horrifically tragic accident, the parents of the child blamed him, but not as much as he blamed himself.
And today…today was the anniversary of that accident.
And blame and guilt is finally all absolved in the forgiveness of a bullet.
Except for the blame and the guilt of those left behind, and that…that the training officer is already feeling, blaming himself for not seeing the signs, even though there were no signs to see, and he thinks he should have done more to be a better friend to the dead man, even though no better friend could be had. He wants to weep, he wants to rage, he wants to do something…anything…to ease that terrible black numbness he feels at the center of his soul, for he feels the same way he did over in Guadalcanal when he shot and killed the enemy, but all he can do is…is…
Hate the man for killing himself, hate him for putting his family and his friends through this ordeal, just because he couldn't handle life. And right now, that hate is the only thing that makes sense to the training officer, the only emotion that is viable to feel.
Suddenly the body in the chair gives out a groan, settling further into the green plush cushion, drooping forward a bit as the muscles relax, and the rookie leaps a mile into the air, giving out a squeak of surprise like a startled little mouse, reminding the training officer of his presence, jolting the older man out of his mournful reverie and spurring him into action as he turns to the kid standing trembling next to him, the youngster's green eyes wide with fear and horror as he regards the corpse cautiously like a kid in a horror flick, his freckles standing out in bas-relief against his pale skin, and in that moment…
In that moment, the older man hates the younger man for so many things; for being young, for being a wet-behind-the-ears rookie, for being his responsibility, for being there, but most of all…
For being alive.
While the other man, the one in the chair, is dead.
It doesn't seem fair…but then life is never fair…and the training officer knows that if he doesn't get the kid out of there right this instant, he's going to do something he'll regret, like landing him on his green-rookie ass with a single punch to the kid's head, and so his jaw works, teeth that he didn't realize he was clenching coming unclenched as his tongue moves dryly across even drier lips, the words feeling foreign in his mouth as he hisses them out like a snake spitting venom. "Get out," he says softly, his voice rattling in his parched throat and it feels like this is the first time he's spoken in eons.
The kid gives him a startled look. "Sir?" he questions hesitantly, unsure of how to respond, for he is all things that gangling young rookies are…hasty, nervous, and clumsy at times, along with the occasional bout of stupidity thrown in…but always requiring guidance until they learn to trust their own instincts. His wide green eyes search the grey eyes of his superior in consternation, his boyish face drawing down in a frown of puzzlement at the older man's request.
"You heard me, I said get out," the older man menaces quietly, grey eyes narrowing as they flash dangerously in his long thin face, his darkened expression etched in granite.
The kid flaps his hands nervously, pink tongue darting out to lick his own lips, his eyes flickering uneasily as beads of sweat pop out on his forehead. "But sir, I don't think…" he begins fearfully, his voice a shaky quaver as he hunts for the words to say next in his rattled brain.
The kid's obstinate hesitancy to leave his superior officer sends the older man over the edge, and he reaches out with a quick snap of his hands, grasping tight to the kid's upper arms, his fingers digging in with a cast-iron grip that makes the youngster wince and try to twist away. "I SAID GET OUT, GODDAMNIT, DIDN'T YOU HEAR ME?" he roars in the young man's face, his breath flaring hot like an angry bull's, his grey eyes flaming like white-hot ashes in his pale face, and he shoves the kid hard at the door, making him stumble back.
The kid wavers a moment, torn between following orders and staying with his superior, but his eyes are no longer fearful, full of flickers of anger instead that make them glow like blazing green emeralds, and for a moment it looks like he might fight back, his chest puffing out with wounded dignity and stubborn-ass pride, but he turns away, stalking stiffly to the door, his rigid posture that of an angry and indignant alley cat, and without so much as a second glance, he shoves past the other officer who enters the room, a barrel-chested man with a heavy skull that sits atop a short neck, wavy dark hair brilliantined away from his craggy face.
The other officer's bright blue eyes flick from the training officer to the departing kid, and he sizes the situation up in an instant, taking the reins for a brief moment to allow the training officer to gather his wits. "Hey kid," he calls to the youngster in his gruff voice.
The youngster halts at the end of the hallway, back still stiffened, neck even stiffer as he refuses to turn around, his hands twitching at his sides. "Yes?" he asks, voice loaded with enough ice to freeze an Eskimo's nuts off, and even the training officer can feel the chill.
"Call for an ambulance," the new officer tells him.
"Yes sir," the kid precises out in clipped measured tones. He glances over his shoulder then, his green eyes hard, looking like chips of marble in his stony face. "Do you also want me to contact homicide?"
"Nah," says the other officer, shaking his head. "I'll do that."
"Very well then," the kid says, and both superior officers swear they can nearly hear him click the heels of his spit-shined black oxfords as he heads off to do the job asked of him, the front door slamming sharply in his wake, a final punctuation to his scene in the house.
"You shouldn't have yelled at him like that," the stocky barrel-chested officer chides gently, his craggy face lined with concern. "He's just a kid, after all, and this is his first officer-related suicide."
The training officer turns icy eyes on his friend, his thin face set into stone, his mouth settled into a thin, grim line. "And it won't be his last either, Mac, and he's got to learn to toughen up and deal with it, damn it," he bites out sharply, unforgivingly. "Death is part of the job out here, and sometimes the people we care about wind up dying and we can't do a goddamned fucking thing about it. The sooner that kid learns to accept that cold harsh truth, the better off he'll be, and if he can't hack it, then he needs to get his ass out of the job and find himself something else to do."
The other man studies him for a moment, bright blue eyes full of solemnity and sorrow and understanding. "Shouldn't you tell yourself that same thing?" he asks quietly.
The training officer doesn't respond, for he doesn't want his fellow officer to know how hard the death has hit him, how he cannot believe that it has happened to someone he knew and cared about, but most of all he doesn't want the other man to know how frightened he is himself, for like the rookie, when he stares at the man in the recliner, he is seeing the face of Death…
And it is his own.
"Memento mori," he whispers to himself…remember you must die.
In the black-and-white squad car outside, the rookie sits in the passenger seat, listening to the wail of the approaching ambulance that he just requested, teeth gritting hard in his jaw as he swallows the thick lump in his throat, his breath hiccupping as he tries to fight his emotions, blinking rapidly against the hot tears that well up in his eyes. His head drops to his chest, his bright badge and shiny shooting brass glinting in a blur as he closes his eyes and allows himself just one moment of sorrow…for the dead man inside, for the friends and family left behind, but mostly for himself…the sun setting his red-gold hair ablaze and warming his face as two tears trickle past his closed lids and drop silently onto the back of his large hand, splashing gently against his skin. He draws his breath in in a shuddering gasp that ricochets deeply around his ribcage, and then as the ambulance pulls up out front, he raises his palms and swipes at the tears, wiping them from his eyes as he sniffles a moment, composing himself…
Because he'll be damned if he'll let any of them see him cry.
Word spreads quickly throughout Central Division of Officer John Randolph's suicide, and many of his fellow officers come together that night at their usual hangout of Leroy's Bar to hold an impromptu wake in his honor as their breed is wont to do. The dimly lit bar is thick with cigarette smoke and testosterone and tall tales and raucous laughter as they prepare to send their brother in blue on his way to that big stationhouse in the sky, for the weeping and mourning and deep black sorrow will come tomorrow…tonight is for reminiscing and laughter, for that and the liquor will chase away that unspoken fear that all of them are feeling tonight over Randolph's suicide…there but for the grace of God go I.
The kid sits sullenly at the bar, nursing his whiskey, unwillingly dragged there by his fellow off-duty shiftmates and duly abandoned by them as they exchange favorite "Johnny" stories with one another. He has none to share himself, for he did not know Randolph, save for in passing, and he feels like an outcast among the seasoned officers, his newness still glinting off of him like a bright shiny penny. His shoulders hunched morosely, he sighs heavily, chin cupped in his hand as he stares forlornly at the cigarette he's smoking, the ember glowing red before his eyes, listening to the hoots and howls of laughter around him and feeling miserably sorry for himself. His heart is aching and desolately lonely, but he knows his current frame of mind is not one that should be inflicted on anyone else, especially not any of the lovely members of the opposite sex that he knows, at least not if he wants to get laid anytime in the near future. And besides, that would mean he'd have to rehash what he's seen this afternoon and he doesn't want to replay the bloody scene in his head, doesn't want to ponder why Randolph did it, doesn't want to be reminded of the training officer shouting at him to get out …but most of all he doesn't want to think of it period, for it sets him to wondering if he'll wind up going that same route some day, and he's too goddamned sober to handle those kinds of thoughts, because being his own driver tonight, he cannot allow himself the luxury of getting drunk to forget something, if only for a night.
The kid glances at the clock above the mirrored bar and decides he's been there long enough to 'pay his respects', for the crowd is rapidly descending into rampant drunkenness and he's seen enough of that shit while growing up with an alcoholic father, so he stubs out the cigarette in a nearby ashtray and downs the rest of his whiskey with a practiced flick of his wrist, the liquor burning a warm smooth path down his throat as he slides off of the bar stool. He debates a moment whether or not to thread his way through the crowd, then he decides against it, for he doesn't feel like shouldering his way through a mass of drunken strangers, so he makes his way to the side door that exits out into an alleyway, shoving it open and stepping outside, exchanging the dimly lit bar for an even dimmer night, one that is warm and soggy, laden with a light mist of rain that hangs heavily like fog around the light over the door and a nearby street light. The kid glares up at the grey-black sky with a grimacing scowl, for growing up in Seattle he had his fill of rain, and it was one of the main reasons why he moved to Los Angeles, escaping the rain just as much as he was escaping his own memories and pain and sorrow that Seattle meant to him.
His training officer is seated on the bottom of the steps, an amber bottle of beer clutched in his hand as an empty bottle sits toppled over near his feet, and he doesn't turn around…doesn't even move…at the sudden intrusion of the kid's presence. The kid hesitates, debating whether or not to return inside and try to make his way through the crowd to leave that way…a daunting task to consider…or try to step around his superior officer, an even more daunting task to consider. Then he decides to go ahead and leave the way he'd intended, superior officer obstacle be damned, so he squares his shoulders in courage and begins down the steps, his hand trailing on the iron railing, leaving smeared raindrops in his wake as he wordlessly manuevers around the other man, who does nothing to acknowledge that the kid is even there, treating him with the same cold indifference that he treated him with earlier as they finished out the rest of their watch in remote and impersonal silence. The kid returns the cold indifference as he starts down the alleyway, the soles of his Chelsea boots gritting against the wet cement, but then something…guilt, responsibility, concern,whatever you want to call it…settles heavy on his shoulders and he stops, turning around and facing the man. "You know you shouldn't be sitting out here in the rain like this," he admonishes gently. "It's not good for your health."
The man looks up then, his grey eyes glowering at the youngster, his usually kind and patrician face drawing down in a dark scowl. "What the hell do you care?" he accuses, the grey eyes bleary and bloodshot, and the smell of booze that perfumes his breath indicates that he's skirting the far edge of sobriety. "Isn't it bad enough that I have to babysit you eight hours a day, now I have to put up with you here?"
Stung, the younger man stares at him for a moment, a little shocked and a little disgusted to see the man who is his training officer drunk like this, but even more so he is tired and angry and bitter at the way he has been treated this afternoon, and knowing that rank hath no privileges in the dank alleyway behind a bar, he decides to show a little of his backbone, for despite being intimidated by the drill-sergeant attitude of the superior officer this first month of his rookie year, the kid is far from being the little meek mouse he has occasionally acted like, possessing a firebrand temper and a coolly snarky attitude of his own that he has kept under wraps, largely out of respect for the training officer's experience, not to mention the possibility he'd get his ass bounced from the department if he stood up for himself. But now this…this is different, he owes nobody nothing, not even respect, and so he juts his chin defiantly at the other man, his green eyes narrowing in his boyishly handsome face. "Yeah, you're right," he bites out bitterly, acid lashing his words. "Why the hell SHOULD I care? Drown in the rain if ya want, who gives a damn?" With that, he turns on his heel, his back proud and stiff as it was earlier this afternoon, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he starts off down the alleyway once more.
The training officer gives him a startled look, for the kid has never shown any kind of attitude, especially not one that has fire in it like those words just did, and so, alternately irritated at the kid's churlishness and intrigued by the fact that the kid basically just stood up to him and told him to go to hell, he calls to him, his voice sharp as he gets to his feet, holding onto the iron railing for support. "Hey, get back here, damn it!"
And that does it for the kid, who hears all the mockery and derision and eye-rolling condescension he's dealt with over the last four weeks all rolled into those four words, and he spins around, stalking back to the man in a red-haired whirl of fury, his green eyes ablaze with flickers of blue flamed anger that turn them the same color of a raging thundercloud, just before it drops a devastating tornado. "Why?" he demands sharply, jabbing a finger at the other man. "So you can use me as a whipping boy again?" He doesn't give the training officer a chance to speak as he continues his mini-tirade, finding strength in the words he unleashes. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened to John Randolph, really I am, but you had NO call to yell at me like you did, I'd done nothing wrong, and so I think you owe me an apology for the way you acted towards me!" The vehemence is harsh in his voice, the accusation ringing true.
Surprised at the kid's outburst, his face coloring pink with anger that this snippy young pup has had the brazen audacity to call him out on his shitty behavior of earlier, the other man drops the bottle of beer he's holding, the amber glass shattering into dark twinkling shards as the remaining beer froths out onto the cement, and he lurches towards the kid, his long lean frame towering over the youngster by at least a good two inches as he draws himself up to his full height, his fists tightening in rage. "You have no right to talk to me like that!" he snaps, storm warnings screaming shrill in his voice. "I'm your T.O. and your superior offi…"
"Not out here, you're not," the kid growls back, storm warnings of his own in his voice, unfazed and unintimidated by the threat of rank or bodily harm. "Out here you're just another drunk, drowning his sorrows in a bottle of booze…"
And with that, driven by booze, by anger, by his own repressed sorrow, the training officer draws his fist back swiftly, aiming to punch the insolent little snot that stands before him, but the kid anticipates the move, seeing it telegraphed in the smoldering grey eyes just seconds before he ducks, the fist swinging sharp over his head, and then he puts that rigorous self-defense training he endured at the Academy to good use, leaping forward to grab the man's arm while it's still on the downswing, using the weight of his body to throw the other man off-balance, shoving him hard into the brick wall of the bar, pinning him there as he twists the man's wrist behind him in a move that he has practiced so much, he could do it in his sleep. And then…
Then it is all over.
The fight suddenly gone out of him, the training officer crumples to his knees, sliding out of the kid's grasp as he hunches forward, his eyes closed tightly in his pale face, his dark brown hair plastered wetly to his skull as he shakes, trembling violently, and it only takes the kid a second to realize something…
The man is weeping.
He weeps for the loss of his friend, he weeps for the survivors left behind, the wife and son and daughter, who will have to face life without their father and husband. He weeps at the goddamned cruel injustice of it all, at the endless 'whys' that will come in the aftermath, at the questions that will never be answered, and at those that will. He weeps for the ghosts of the past and for the no-more future he will face without his friend, but most of all…
He weeps for himself, for his own mortality.
For never are we more reminded of that when we have lost a contemporary.
The kid hovers uneasily above him, his eyes flicking nervously around the alleyway, for he has been brought up to believe that men don't cry, and the sight of the man who is a commanding and stern drill-instructor of a man any other time, suddenly reduced to crying so openly in front of the youngster who is his rookie, it unsettles the kid, for he barely knows how to handle women when they weep, let alone another guy. He kneels uncertainly next to the man, putting a gentle hand on his back and patting him, and then he remembers the words his mother used to murmur to him when he was upset, so he repeats them softly to the weeping man…"Shh, there, there, it'll be all right."
And in that alleyway behind Leroy's Bar, the rain continues to come down, cleansing the broken-hearted soul of one man and bathing the newly broken in soul of the other, washing them both anew...
So that they both can begin to live again.
Ten years later the kid…now no longer a kid but an experienced police officer with ten years under his belt…and his partner stand in yet another den, staring down at yet another man who has killed himself, this time with a shot to the heart. It feels so much like déjà vu, with the newspaper clippings scattered about the floor at the dead man's feet, the body slumped over in the recliner, the air rife with cordite and blood and shit and piss, the ticking of the clock on the wall as it takes away the minutes and seconds and hours that are still left to the living, but no longer to the dead.
"Jesus," the other officer says, a tall slender man with a shock of dark brown hair and bright blue eyes that peer intently out of his movie-star handsome face. He is young, but he is not a rookie, having a couple of years in on the job under the tutelage of the man next to him, and so while this is not his first suicide, this IS his first officer-involved suicide. "I knew he took his washout from the force hard, but I didn't think he'd pull something like this."
"Yeah," the older man responds, nodding his head. While his face still retains that boyish handsomeness, the green eyes within it are harder now, more weary, and the once eager youthfulness and naïve idealism has been replaced by a world-weary jadedness, a cynicism that is clear in his sarcasm and generally pessimistic outlook on life. He has seen it all on the job, and truly not much shocks him any longer, but sorrow softens his eyes as he stares at the dead man in the chair, for he is looking at someone he once considered a hero, that he once looked up to and admired, and now that hero is tarnished, reduced to a corpse sitting bloody in a chair, dead from a gunshot he inflicted himself.
After all, no man fell harder from grace than Art McCall, who was a legend on the force for nearly dying as he saved his partner's life years ago, but he could not save his own life, did not want to save his own life after he attempted a return to the force he'd been gone from for so long and failed.
"He shouldn't have attempted a comeback, you know," the younger officer says. "He was pretty much a dinosaur, stuck in the old ways and unable to accept the new methods, after all."
"Don't call him that," the other man says in irritation, shooting his partner a dark look. "Art McCall wasn't a dinosaur, damn it, he was a genuine hero. He just couldn't adjust, that's all."
"You think that's why he did it?" the youngster asks softly. "He couldn't handle the washout?"
"Maybe," the other man grunts. He pauses a moment, thinking. "Probably."
"What do we do next?" the kid asks, giving his partner a worried look. "Protocol-wise, I mean. Do we handle it any differently than we do a regular suicide?"
"No," the other man replies tiredly. "We handle it just the same. We secure the scene, call the ambulance and the homicide dicks in, and then make our reports."
"That's it?" the kid asks in mild astonishment. "I mean, there isn't anything different we do when it's a police officer that's killed themselves?"
The older man looks at him, his green eyes piercing straight to the kid's soul. "He was still just a man when he put the gun to his chest and pulled the trigger, kid," he gruffs. "There's no extra pomp and circumstance in how we handle it."
"Oh," the kid says hesitantly, his eyes staring at the dead man in the chair, his expression unreadable. "I guess I'll go ahead and get the ambulance and homicide team notified, then." He turns on his heel then and leaves the room.
The older man lingers a moment, gazing in sorrow at the man he once admired, and with a heavy sigh, he plods across the carpet to leave the room, too, for there is work to be done, reports to be filled out and arrangements to be made, and besides…
He doesn't want to be reminded of his own mortality.
For it doesn't get any easier the second time around.
He sits alone on the alleyway steps behind Leroy's Bar, a beer in his hand, the rain misting down on him as he stares sightlessly at the brick wall across the way. He tries vainly to dredge up some sort of feeling over McCall's suicide…sorrow, anger, hatred…but all he can feel is a bone-crushing weariness that leaves him feeling numb.
The door behind him opens and his partner steps out, the sounds of Art McCall's raucous wake seeping out from the interior of the bar. "Whaddaya doin' out here?" he asks. "It's raining out, ya know." The other man's only response is a shrug, and so the kid lets the door slide shut behind him as he wordlessly settles in next to his partner, his own bottle of beer in his hand. "Don'tcha wanna enjoy the party?" he inquires after a moment, jerking his head in the direction of the bar. "Ed Wells is holding court."
The other man grimaces. "Ed Wells can hold court all he wants, I don't care." He takes a swig of his beer to punctuate his thoughts.
"You want me to drive you home?" the kid asks.
The green eyes glare askance at him. "Do I LOOK like I'm ready to go home?"
"No," the kid admits warily. "But you can't sit out here in the rain, it's not good for you."
"So's a lot of other things," he replies, but there is none of the usual snarkiness in his tone, only that blank weariness. "Shit," he sighs, running a hand through his damp red hair. "I'm gettin' too fucking old for this crap."
The kid grins, flashing bright white teeth. "Well, I'm not sayin' you're old, but what was it like to arrest…"
"So help me God, if you ask me what it was like to arrest Jesus Christ, I'm gonna kick your ass," the other man warns, shaking a finger at his companion.
The two fall into silence for a few moments, the kid picking at the label on his beer bottle while the other returns to staring at the brick wall, and then the kid coughs, clears his throat. "Who was the first officer suicide you handled?" he asks with nervous curiosity, running a hand through his dark hair, his wedding band flashing silver in the light over the bar door.
"Guy named John Randolph," the other replies. "I was only four weeks into my rookie year, riding with Val Moore as my T.O. when Randolph killed himself. It really shook Val up, he'd been good friends with Randolph, they'd grown up together and gone through the academy together. He took Randolph's death pretty hard." He remembers that night in the alleyway ten years ago, when Val tried to deck him and he saw his superior officer break down and cry, but he doesn't share it with the kid, for there are some things that should be kept to oneself.
"Can I ask you something?" the kid asks after a moment.
"Yeah, I guess," he shrugs, tipping his beer bottle up and finishing it off in a couple of swallows.
"When…" the kid begins, then hesitates, searching for the words, his eyes carefully avoiding those of his friend. "When you saw Art in that chair today, did you…"
"See myself in his place?" the man fills in again. "Yeah, I did, kid."
"So did I," the kid says softly, worriedly. "And it kind of bothered me."
"It's called memento mori," the other man says. "A reminder of your mortality."
"Would you actually consider doing something like that to yourself?" the kid blurts out, his face creasing downward in a frown. "Killing yourself, I mean?"
The man is silent, for he dares not tell the kid that yes, he has considered suicide, especially in the aftermath of seeing his partner get murdered three years ago on a burglary call. "I don't know," he says quietly, fingers picking at the label on his beer bottle. "I guess it all depends." He looks at the kid, his green eyes searching those of his friend. "Would you?"
"I dunno," the kid sighs, shrugging. "I guess it also depends." He finishes off his beer and stands up. "Hey, it's too goddamned damp out here to be philosophizing, I'm goin' back inside to see if Ed's tellin' any of his dirty jokes." He climbs the few steps to the bar door, looking back at the other man. "You comin'?"
He waves a hand. "Yeah, in a minute," he says, and Jim Reed shakes his head, re-entering the bar, leaving the other to sit out on his own. He picks again at the beer label, thinking of his former T.O., Val Moore, of his current partner, Jim Reed, of himself, and how they've all faced their own mortality. "Memento mori," he says softly to himself. "Remember you must die."
And in that alleyway behind Leroy's Bar, while Pete Malloy is reminded of his own mortality, the rain comes down and washes his weary soul anew, also reminding him that before you can die…
First you must begin to live.
And that is exactly what he plans to do.