Six months later I didn’t think life could possibly be better. Lucy was pregnant again and Melody was crawling. She went to Max about ninety percent of the time. She loved climbing onto his soft furry body for a nap or just to run her hands through his fur while she giggled madly. If I picked her up and carried her to the other side of the room she’d crawl right back to Max as soon as she was able. Yes, life was great—never better.
I was in the office finishing a grant application when Sandra walked in to ask if I could spare a few minutes to speak with two deputy sheriffs. Truthfully, I was ready for a break so I stood and stretched before welcoming the deputies. They turned down my offer of coffee, but did ask me to close the office door. I thought that was a bit odd, but a few seconds later we were seated at my table. “How can I help you, deputies?”
“Um…Chief, we have a problem that we need to talk about.”
“Is this some kind of legal problem,” I asked, continuing once they had nodded. “Are you guys in trouble?”
“No, sir; it’s not that kind of problem.”
I could easily see their reluctance to speak, yet they had come to me with what had to be a major concern. I can add two plus two as well as anyone, so…. “You have a legal problem, but instead of taking it to the Sheriff you came here. Know what that tells me? The Sheriff is the problem and you need someone you can trust to help you with it. Let’s hear it. Nothing will go out of this room without your permission.”
Oh, boy—did they have a problem! I phoned Julia Adams while they waited and I put her on speaker. “Julia, I have another big one for you. I have two Bascomb County deputy sheriffs here in the office with me and they’ve told me some really interesting things about the sheriff.” I waited for a few seconds while she spoke in reply. “There are two big issues that they tell me have the deputies and the clerical employees up in arms.
"First, he has on-duty deputies working on his election campaign—stuffing envelopes and attaching address labels, making phone calls to constituents and transporting election materials from the his office at the jail to his campaign headquarters. It gets better. He is forcing every deputy to contribute $300 to his campaign. That one has them furious. He’s told them at daily inspection that he’ll fire any deputy who refuses.”
I waited a few minutes until she set up a meeting with a group of deputies. I told her I had the perfect place—one where we could have total privacy. I made arrangements to meet at the old quarry, the one where we apprehended Haynes and company almost a year ago.
I put a trusted team of officers at the gate to screen everyone for the meeting which I held in the warehouse where Jeremy Haynes had hidden until Daryl had baited him into coming out. I had Dan Powell with me to keep track of any equipment or manpower we might need as Julia opened the meeting. There were thirty-four off-duty deputies present and all agreed to cooperate fully. Each was scheduled to give a deposition—we used a room at City Hall for that—and to wear a wire although modern technology had made the wire part obsolete. Each was given a wafer thin transmitter that would record any demands from the Sheriff, sending the conversation to a relay that was hidden in one of the deputy’s personal cars.
Two weeks later Julia had a mountain of evidence and, to my surprise there had been no leaks even though almost half of the deputies and many of the clerical staff were involved. Julia phoned me less than two months after our initial meeting to tell me that a warrant had been issued for the Sheriff to be served by State Police tomorrow morning at 09:00. I congratulated her on another coup, laughed with her for a few minutes and returned to my work.
I hadn’t said anything to Lucy out of the same concerns I’d had about the Haynes matter, but that night I told her all about it, knowing that the state police would act before I went to work the following morning. Lucy and I had an OB/GYN appointment at 8:45 for a sonogram that would tell our baby’s sex. We were both excited, so much so that we celebrated for hours that night after dinner. Melody was on solid food and she slept through the night with Max as her guardian. We could leave the doors open, knowing that Max would ignore us and that Melody would sleep through a thunderstorm.
Lucy came into my arms as soon as we walked up the stairs. Her head was buried into my shoulder as we entered our room where she began to strip every piece of clothing from my body. I would have gladly reciprocated if she would have allowed me. Instead, she did a slow sensuous striptease and it would have been funny if I wasn’t totally in love with her. Instead, I picked her up and carried her to the shower. I held her tightly in my arms until the water had warmed.
We had decided no sex in the shower as soon as we knew she was pregnant. We took no chances with Lucy’s or Melody’s health. We found out that Melody could climb out of her crib when the side was down and crawl one day when Max brought her to us in bed by carrying her, his teeth securely holding her sleeper while Melody laughed like crazy. I went out that very morning to buy a safety barricade that I put at the top of the stairs. That and Max should keep her safe. Mostly, we were counting on Max.
The arrest of Sheriff Steven Johnson made the front pages of every newspaper in Tennessee and most of the TV stations’ news, too. I saw the story on the six o’clock news that evening and sat down with the newspaper for the in-depth story the following morning after inspection. It told about a thorough investigation by State Attorney Julia Adams and the State Police. Several deputies were identified as having participated in the investigation—recording conversations with the Sheriff and even paying him with “marked money.” Johnson was charged with several election law felonies, but they were nothing compared with the allegations of soliciting and accepting bribes from his employees. If convicted—and the chances looked promising—Johnson was looking at a long time in one of the state’s penal institutions. After reading the story I set the newspaper aside and returned to my work. This was the week we were due at the County Firing Range and I was looking forward to hearing from the range personnel about the arrest. Nothing was said or written about my limited role and that was just fine with me.
There was a lot of talk between the firing range staff about how it was time Johnson had been held accountable for his actions. They even asked for my opinion, but I remained mum until I asked which one of the captains would take over once Johnson was fired. “None of them,” was the manager’s reply. “They were all in cahoots with the sheriff. They all thought that what he was doing was right…and, mostly because they were going to profit when he was reelected.” I shook my head in disbelief. Thankfully, it wasn’t my problem. I didn’t have anything to do with county politics and that was the way I wanted it.
Over the past year our shooting had improved incredibly. A good part of that was due to the retirement of the older officers and the interest of my new minority personnel. There was soon a healthy and positive competition between the experienced training officers and their charges. The contests were close with one exception. Aimee Johnstone’s trainer was an excellent shot, but he wasn’t even close to being in Aimee’s class. He took the ribbing from his peers with a smile, telling them that he taught her everything she knew. That only made them laugh all the harder while Aimee merely smiled. Smart woman—she knew when to keep her mouth shut.
I drove home that evening in great spirits—spirits made even higher when I stopped off at one of the new community substations. The buildings had been erected and the interiors painted and finished, but the grounds still needed a lot of work. Even though the parking facilities were still not paved I had opened the substations, meeting with community leaders about setting up neighborhood watches. Two auto dealerships donated vehicles that were custom painted, saying—POLICE, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH—on the doors and trunks with smaller print—DONATED BY ABLE MOTORS or DONATED BY CULLEN FORD. We had big ceremonies at each dealership with photos for the press and TV interviews, all designed to show the generosity of the dealers toward the community.
Believe it or not, neighborhood watch programs involve a great deal of training—driving, observing, using the radio, keeping clear detailed notes for the records, etc. The value of the program was shown very early on when a watch team in training came upon a burglary in progress. When the sergeant who was driving bemoaned losing the suspects, the passenger-trainees just laughed. “Doesn’t make a bit of difference, Sergeant. We know who they are and where they’re going. One word to their mama and they’ll be toast.” It turned out they were right. The watch team was in the kitchen drinking coffee with the mother when the kids strolled in. Their grins disappeared when Mama picked up a wooden spoon that they apparently knew too well. Mama and the boys went to the substation the following morning to surrender and confess. Both received 100 hours of community service and a severe warning from the city magistrate.
Peace and quiet never seem to last when you’re a cop. There’s always something—domestic violence, arson, armed robbery, or perhaps the worst situation of all—an influx of gang activity. This was another example of how the neighborhood watch helped us. Three mothers in a predominantly black neighborhood approached Pastor Anthony Michaels after services at the AME Church. Anthony phoned me and I met with the women at the substation the following evening with Anthony, Daryl, and Aimee Johnstone.
“Tell us about your concerns, ladies.”
“We’ve had several new families move in down the street. Well…they call themselves families, but mostly they’re males in their late teens and twenties. There are some women, but not many and they’re all young, too. Yesterday, my eighth grader son told me they were trying to get him to smoke pot and that they called themselves, ‘Bloods.’”
I gave Daryl a look—the same one he gave me. “We will need to know exactly where they are living and approximately how many there are. We assume that they have weapons—typically AK-47’s and 9mm pistols so we don’t want anyone to get too close or be too obvious. We have a lot of planning to do.”
“What will you do, Chief? What can you do?”
“I can’t say now, but I promise you that strong action will be taken. I assume that they’re renting the house.”
“Yes, sir; the two houses at the end of the block on Freemont have always been rented, just like a lot of the houses in our neighborhood. Most folks are like us—hard working, God fearing families. We don’t want no gangs here making our streets dangerous.”
“Ma’am, we agree with you completely and we want to thank all of you for bringing this to our attention. What happens in many communities is that these gangs get a foothold and recruit dozens of members before the police even know they’re there. Then getting them under control is really difficult. They always bring drugs, sex, violence, and death with them. We want them out as much as you do. No, we want them out even more than you do.” We ended the meeting then, shaking hands with everyone, and walked out to the cars. There were two basketball games under the lights on the new courts. The kids waved to us even though we were in uniform and we waved back. That was the kind of relationship we wanted to have with all of our citizens. I made arrangements to meet with Daryl tomorrow morning. I phoned Martin Albright on the way home and he agreed to come to headquarters around 10:30.
Lucy was up waiting for me when Max and I walked in the door. “Good meeting,” she asked.
“Yes and no,” was my reply. “There was good communication all around, but we apparently have a bit of a problem.” I continued a moment later after Lucy had shot me a questioning look. “Bloods—one of the scourges of our country; they’re no better than rats, spreading disease wherever they go.”
“What are you going to do?”
“First step is to meet with Martin tomorrow to see if there’s anything in our city laws that we can use to get rid of them. We may get some grief from the ACLU or some other liberal groups, but the safety of our people comes first, besides I’m pretty sure we can document them in some illegal acts that will enable us to get rid of them.”
“You’re not going to get shot again, are you?”
“I’ll do my best not to,” I said with a chuckle, hoping that Lucy believed what I was saying more than I did.
I had a plan, but I needed some help implementing it. First thing next morning I phoned my friend Paul McCormick at the Memphis P.D.to ask if I could borrow a specific piece of equipment. He agreed willingly so I sent two officers to pick it up. Four hours later they had returned. “Damn, Chief—that thing looks like a piece of shit, but it drives like it’s brand new.”
“Yeah, that’s because it is. I plan to have one of the neighbors of the Bloods park it in front of his house. Daryl and I will be inside and we’ll be able to pick up a lot of audio and video that will make the case against them. Knowing how they operate I doubt it will take us even a week.”
The following afternoon at 5:30 Cole Jenkins drove what appeared to be a dilapidated van up the street, parking it right in front of his house only twenty-five feet from the gang’s house. There was what appeared to be an old air conditioning unit on the roof that was actually a casing for high intensity directional microphones as well as telephoto and infra-red camera lenses. Inside the van looked nothing like the outside. This was high tech to the Nth degree. The audio panel could be adjusted to pick up and record the faintest sounds or it could screen them out to record a single voice in a crowd of twenty. Video had black and white, color, infra-red, and even ultraviolet capabilities and every combination thereof.
Daryl and I were prepared for a long period of surveillance. We had large comfortable seating at the panel and the glass into the working area of the van was completely blacked out. Once we had the cameras and microphones adjusted there was no reason to turn any instrument lights on after dark.
We had a big cooler with sandwiches and water and a gallon jug with a funnel. Your imagination should tell you why we had that. I estimated that we could get out of the van daily at around 3:00 a.m. for a shower and shave at home before returning. We would take turns so the surveillance wouldn’t be compromised.
These gangs are nothing if not blatant in their actions. They spoke openly about their intentions to penetrate the high school, both for drug sales and to recruit new members. They talked for more than an hour about driving there tomorrow afternoon. The four of them would stay on the sidewalk just off school grounds to avoid problems with the police.
“Yeah, right, Daryl; they’ll probably be successful if they actually make it to the high school.”
“What do you want to do?” He laughed as I outlined my plans. I knew that I could count on Dan Powell to coordinate it perfectly. I phoned him at the station, telling him who to contact to get the vehicles we would need. They were both close friends of my father-in-law and I knew they would gladly cooperate. Both had children in the high school.
I called Dan again when I saw the old tan Chevy sedan back out of the driveway. Inside were four of the thirteen gang members we had identified. The car drove the half mile to the first intersection where it turned left toward the high school campus. A large concrete truck pulled out from the curb, following closely behind them. It stayed there, actually tailgating, until a big moving van backed out of a driveway less than fifty feet in front of the sedan. The driver pulled forward almost to the truck, anticipating that it would soon turn and drive forward.
The problem was—it didn’t. It stayed where it was, blocking the way forward while private vehicles blocked off the sides of the roads and the concrete truck pulled up until it had struck the rear bumper of the car. Only then did the dozen cops jump out from behind the parked cars armed with shotguns and equipped with riot gear—helmets, full face visors and bullet-resistant vests and leg pads. They swarmed to the car, pulling the four from the seats and bending them over the hood and trunk where they were searched and handcuffed. Three handguns and forty-three glassine envelopes with either capsules or white powder sealed inside. They were taken to headquarters where they were processed and jailed. Their pleas to use the phone fell on deaf ears.
Once I knew that the drugs had been seized and the guns determined to have been stolen I knew we would have probable cause to arrest the remaining gang members. Phone calls were made to all of the neighbors at 10:30 that evening and they were evacuated either through doors or windows facing away from the gang house and escorted by police officers to school buses that were waiting to take them to motels for the evening. Everyone within three lots of the gang was removed to ensure their safety. It was almost midnight when Daryl and I climbed out the van’s rear door. It felt good to stretch our legs after all those hours listening to the vile Bloods wonder aloud about their comrades.
I set up the arrest for 3:00 in the morning. Research has shown that 3:00 is the hour when people are most deeply asleep. I had thirty officers to deal with the nine Bloods remaining in the house. A dozen officers with high powered flashlights were sent to the rear of the house. There were plenty of large trees there to shelter them. Another six went to each side. The six of us remaining stayed in the front where we were behind four patrol cars. I had told Max to stay at the surveillance van where I thought he would be relatively safe, but available if needed.
Once I was sure that we were ready I called out on a squad car’s megaphone: “YOU IN THE HOUSE. THIS IS THE CITY POLICE! COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS UP. WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED. COME OUT IMMEDIATELY…HANDS UP AND EMPTY!” All of the headlights and all of the flashlights went on then, bathing the house in bright blinding light.
I really will have to come up with something better to say because, like Haynes and his cadre, the Bloods responded almost immediately by shooting. Automatic rifle fire poured through the windows front and back. We stayed behind the cars while they wasted ammunition. Only when they started to hit the vehicles did we fire back. Shotguns make a booming sound in contrast to the rapid tinny sound of an AK-47. We used a combination of slugs and buckshot for almost ten minutes before I called to cease fire.
The night was silent then even though I called out several times. There was only one way to be sure. I called Max and I pulled four leather “booties” from my jacket pocket. These went onto his paws to protect them from the broken glass. Together, we snuck in the few shadows toward the house. The screen door had been destroyed and the wooden door behind it was nothing more than splinters as Max and I crept forward. Turning left brought us to the parlor where we found two dead Bloods on the floor, their weapons close by. I checked for a pulse, but found none in either.
There were three in the next room and Max found that one of them was alive. Using my radio I told the EMT’s to be ready, but not to enter until I had cleared the house. He was one of three I found alive, but those in the house were either dead or severely injured and incapable of resisting. The crime scene technicians found six AK-47’s and five 9mm semi-automatic pistols. On the floors they found 837 brass casings—proof that they had fired on us. Our vehicles had been struck more than four hundred times. My officers suffered four wounds—two had been struck in the arm by bullets, but not seriously; one had a sprained ankle from tripping over a root in the woods behind the house; and one had tripped and fallen into the branches of a pine tree resulting in several nasty scratches on his shoulders, neck, and head.
Inside the house and in their other vehicle we found several kilos of cocaine, hundreds of various opiod capsules, and seventy-eight pounds of marijuana. We also found enough ammunition to supply the entire department for a month at the firing range.
We were exhausted when we walked into the station house at 10:00 that morning. Ten minutes later, after completing some reports, I left for the day, much looking forward to seeing my wife and daughter. Lucy stripped my clothes off and led me into the shower where she washed my filthy and tired body then she dried me and put me to bed. After a long loving kiss she walked out and closed the door. I was asleep seconds later.
I slept well, but only for a few hours. I had scheduled a press conference for 3:00 in the afternoon and I had to prepare for it. A quick shave and shower refreshed me and Lucy had a soda and sandwich ready for me as soon as I walked downstairs in my crisp ironed uniform. I kissed Lucy then thanked Ingrid for her efforts and sat down to eat. I pretty much told Lucy about the operation and how I was so disappointed in the results. Yes, we had confiscated more than $50,000 worth of drugs and had eliminated a gang presence in our community, but we had also killed six human beings. Criminals they were, but they were also sons and grandsons and brothers. Innocent people were impacted and hurt—emotionally, if not physically.
I walked into Police Headquarters with Max to find that Sgt. Ed Sulkowitz had taken the initiative to set up the conference room for the press conference. Daryl had beaten me to the station by less than ten minutes. He, Dan, and I reviewed the operation and the photos that the crime scene technicians from the county had taken. They were black and white for the most part because they were taken at night when black and white photos are much clearer. Only in the house were they in color. Several of the most critical were those that showed most of the broken glass on the front porch and on the ground on the other sides of the house. That showed clearly that they had shot first. We also had an audio tape and we could hear the rapid fire of the AK’s for several minutes before the first thunderous boom of the twelve gauge shotguns responded.
We strode into the room to find newspaper and TV reporters waiting there for us. I gave a brief—very brief—statement about gathering intelligence about drug sales and arresting the four en route to the high school before attempting to arrest those in the house. I described the audio tapes and played snippets that we felt were significant before answering questions.
“Chief Cahill, how did you gather those conversations? Weren’t they inside the house?”
“We had a set of hidden microphones nearby. I won’t tell you where, but I will tell you that everything we recorded could be easily heard from outside the house. Many of the conversations occurred on the front porch where any passerby could hear what was being said. They weren’t exactly hiding their intentions.”
“Chief, would you say that this was one of your most successful operations?”
“No…I wouldn’t. I never feel that a raid or other operation that results in the death of even one person to be successful. We arrested four gang members who were on their way to the high school to sell drugs without a shot fired and without even a single injury. That was a success. I tried to get the remaining gang members to surrender, but instead they started shooting. More than 800 shell casings were retrieved from the house and you heard that we waited for several minutes before returning fire. I know that I shot my shotgun exactly six times and I doubt that any of the men shot much more. Of course, we practice regularly at the county range while I doubt that gang members ever practice.”
“Chief Cahill, is this the end of gang activity in your city?”
“I hope so, but one never knows. I don’t pretend that I can read the future. Bascomb’s Landing is a wonderful small city and we encourage people of all races and religions to live here, but we have no tolerance of gangs or any of their activities.”
There were a few more questions, but they were more about our procedures than anything directly involved in the raid on the gang’s house. Later in the day we did hear from the man who owned the house, complaining about the damage that had been done. “Okay, so sue the Bloods. They started the shooting. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before renting to a gang.” I stood to indicate that our meeting was over and he reluctantly left the building as I eagerly returned to my wife and daughter, even though I thought that Melody was happier to see Max than she was me. Lucy welcomed me by taking me upstairs for what started out to be a quickie, but wound up taking almost an hour. We never worried about our daughter knowing that Max was there and would protect her. We walked back down hand in hand, stopping ever few steps to hold and kiss each other and express our love.
I almost laughed when we walked into the living room. There in the middle of the room lay Max with Melody lying on his chest sound asleep. Max raised his huge head, but lay back down until I leaned over and picked Melody up to my shoulder. She started to cry until she realized it was me and then her arms went around my neck as I kissed her cheek. I didn’t think that life could possibly be better than this.
The next six months were routine—read “boring.” Other than the occasional drunk at a bar and one or two automobile accidents a month there was nothing much happening. That changed in a flash when Steven Johnson, the County Sheriff, pleaded guilty to slightly reduced charges. He was sentenced to eighteen months in a minimum security prison which meant that he could be released in just over a year.
I was at work on a Tuesday morning looking forward to the birth of my second daughter in another two weeks when Sandra walked in with a mug of black coffee for me. “I must have told you two hundred times that you didn’t have to get me coffee.”
She gave me a smirk and turned away to answer the phone. She was back a few minutes later and she seemed nervous. “Um…Matt, that was Sinclair Kerwin. He and Miles Smart are coming in to see you at two this afternoon.”
“Okay, maybe now you can tell me who the hell these people are to get you so nervous.”
“Sinclair Kerwin is the County Executive and Miles Smart is the Chairman of the County Commissioners. Why would they want to talk with you?”
“Sandra, I haven’t a clue, but I guess we’ll find out this afternoon, won’t we? Now, for the two hundred and first time—you don’t have to bring me coffee, but thank you.” With that I waved my hand as a signal for her to go, but I was asking myself the same questions. I spent the rest of the morning reviewing evaluations from the training officers. All of them were positive, but three of the ten indicated the need for additional on-the-job training. They proved the accuracy of the trainers’ work because the lieutenants had made the same recommendations. Still, I was extremely pleased with our first class of minority officers. In another two months we were going to start another class. I knew we would need another five officers because of four retirements and one transfer to the state police.
Lucy and Melody came in with lunch for Daryl and me. The adults ate while Melody played with Max, the ferocious police dog. She was able to pull herself up onto his back and hold on while he walked slowly around the room. Daryl and I thought it was hilarious, but, as a mother, Lucy was upset until she saw how safe Melody actually was. We finished by 1:30 and I just had enough time to hit the men’s room and speak with the detectives before my appointment.
I walked to the office door to meet my guests as I always did with non-police department visitors. We introduced ourselves and I led the two county officials to my conference table where we took seats after I had offered and they had turned down coffee or water. Sinclair Kerwin was a relatively tall thin man with thinning hair and a pinched face. Miles Smart was shorter and heavier, bald with a fringe of brown hair and a chubby pleasant face.
This was their meeting so I asked how I could help them then sat back and listened. There are some in the south who believe that it is rude to just jump into business, instead spending twenty minutes or more in what they consider “polite social conversation.” Maybe it’s because my uncle is an attorney who considers time to be money, but I hate this custom and I made my feelings known after five minutes of banter.
“Gentlemen, I agreed to meet with you even though I have an extremely busy afternoon so I’d appreciate if we could get down to business.”
Smart smiled as he said, “I heard that you were an extremely direct person, Chief Cahill. I’m glad to see that my information was correct. It confirms our decision. I’m sure you know about our sheriff.”
“I do. Several of your deputies came to me with their concerns first and I arranged for them to meet with a State Attorney who initiated the investigation.”
“He was formally terminated at our last meeting of the County Commissioners so we’re looking for a new sheriff.” Maybe I was being unusually dense, but I still wasn’t sure what they wanted until he continued. “We’d like to offer the position to you. We think that everyone in the county knows what you’ve done here in Bascomb’s Landing. Things aren’t as bad in the Sheriff’s Office, but they could be a lot better. Normally, we would consider one of the ranking officers, but they were all in sympathy with Johnson. We’ve had more than enough of that kind of thinking.
“We know what you’re earning now and we’ll pay you more than $40,000 more to start with the same benefits and five weeks of vacation instead of the four you currently have. We would appoint you in an emergency meeting this week and you’d be all set until next November’s election, but we’re sure you’ll be reelected.”
“Since you know so much about me I’m sure you know three important things. First, I’ve only been here as chief of police for about fourteen months. Second, my wife is the chairperson of the City Council so I work for her and I don’t want her to be offended by my leaving. Third, and probably the most important, is that I’m no politician. I wouldn’t have the first idea how to run for office.”
“We assume you are a registered Republican.” I nodded in reply. “Then you’ll have no difficulty being reelected. More than seventy percent of county voters are Republicans and most vote a straight party ticket. Of the eleven commissioners we have only one Democrat, but that works out well. She keeps us on our toes and makes sure we’re honest. Other than your regular duties you would be expected to attend our monthly meetings unless your duties require you to work or you’re on vacation. You’ll get a new vehicle every year for your personal use and—yes—we can have it customized for your dog the way your current vehicle is.”
“This is a tempting offer, gentlemen, but I would need to discuss it with my wife before giving you an answer. I’d also like to know a little more about your facilities and personnel before giving you a final answer.” I stood then to signal that the meeting was over. We shook hands and they walked out the door. Sandra was curious, but I wouldn’t say anything about our discussion.
I left the office at five and was home ten minutes later. I wasn’t surprised to see Jonathan’s car in the driveway. He and Marylou visited often, especially now that Lucy was expecting again. However, I was surprised at the greeting I got when I walked into the family room. “Well, did you take the job,” Lucy asked as she rushed to kiss me.
I just stood silently until Jonathan said, “Oh no…don’t tell us that you turned it down.”
“You know what this is? It’s a conspiracy. Why am I always the last one to know what’s going on?”
“I only found out this morning, Matt. Miles Smart told me that they were coming down to interview you. No, that’s wrong. He said they wanted to offer the job to you. It’s quite a compliment.”
“Maybe, Jonathan, but I’ve only been here about fourteen months. I don’t think it would be right to take another job so soon and I’m sure you all realize that I’m not a politician. I know nothing about running for office.”
Jonathan, Marylou, and Lucy just looked at me for a few seconds before breaking out in raucous laughter. Lucy stepped forward to hug and kiss me as she told me, “Matt, you worry too much. I think that Daryl can take over as Chief and just leave any campaigning to us. Did you realize that Johnson ran unopposed the last four times? You’re even more likely to be unopposed, especially with Daddy’s support.”
“Well…you and I can talk about it later.” And we did—after dinner with the in-laws, after time to play with my daughter and “her” beast, and after making incredible love with my even more incredible wife.
We were in bed with Lucy’s head on my chest when I asked her about the offer. “It’s a great opportunity and I think that most of us in the city would be disappointed if you didn’t take it, especially since there is such a capable person to replace you. I want you to take the job, if you want it, that is.”
“I’ll take a personal day next week to go up there and check everything out. I’d like to see their budget and how they’re staffed. I think I’ll tour the jail, too.” Lucy must have approved because she moved up to kiss me before lying down and snuggling into my body, her growing belly pressing into my groin.
I called for an appointment to visit the Sheriff’s office, conveniently placed adjacent to the County Jail, which was also under the Sheriff’s control. Max and I walked in and were immediately greeted by one of the sergeants. “Welcome, Chief Cahill. I’m Sgt. Mike Burns and I’ll gladly serve as your tour guide this morning. Please feel free to ask me anything, Chief.”
“Thanks for the greeting, but please call me Matt. How many deputies do you have and how are they scheduled?”
“We have thirty-six men on patrol every shift. They work twelve hour shifts four days a week and then they have three days off so they change the start day of their next shift. There are always eight detectives on duty every shift and we have two teams of crime scene investigators on each shift. The medical examiner also reports to the sheriff. In the jail we have fifty guards/deputies every shift with about three hundred prisoners. All told there are four hundred and twenty-six deputies, including the headquarters personnel. There are twelve sergeants and two remaining lieutenants. We have seven secretaries and a dozen account clerks who work day shift five days a week. That’s what they told me in Payroll this morning.”
“Know anything about the budget?”
“Not a thing, Chief…er, I mean, Matt. Why don’t we start in the business office where they have all of that information?” He led us down the hallway and we turned into a large open-space office with eight women working. There were signs on each desk—Purchasing and Accounts Payable, Benefits, Payroll, Budget, and Maintenance. There were two offices at the rear of the large room where the directors of maintenance and the business office were stationed. I spent about fifteen minutes speaking with the directors and another fifteen with the clerks. They seemed to enjoy their work and they told me how they had developed a backup system so each knew another job so they could cover in time of vacation or illness. The business office was impressive.
From there we walked upstairs to the second floor where the detectives, CSI’s, and ranking officers—captains and lieutenants—had their offices. I noticed that most of these offices were empty. When I asked, Sgt. Burns was very forthcoming with his answer. “I assume you know that most of the top officers were big supporters of the sheriff. Not only supporters, but they also aided and abetted if you catch my drift. They were given the option of resigning or being charged so we’re short seven of the top officers—one colonel, three captains, and three lieutenants. That leaves us a bit shorthanded at the moment, but—on the positive side you’ll get the chance to pick much of your own team.”
“I guess there’s no secret why I’m here, then.”
“No, and most of us are hoping that you’ll take the job. We all know what you did in Bascomb’s Landing. Is it true that you’re married to Miss Lucille?”
“Yeah, it is so I guess I have a little pull, but that doesn’t mean shit when you’re on the job.” He smiled and nodded his head in agreement. We spent almost three hours reviewing the law enforcement part of the office before we walked to the cafeteria for lunch. I noticed that nobody complained about Max accompanying me.
The kitchen was shared between the Sheriff’s Office and the Jail so that was an area of concern until Burns explained the safeguards that were in place. After lunch we moved to the Jail, leaving our weapons in a locker before stepping inside. I may have left my pistol in the locker, but I still had my most important weapon at my side.
I made a point of speaking with a number of the guards, but also with several inmates. For the most part they felt they were fairly treated, but not surprisingly they all felt the food could be better. I had an answer to that, don’t commit crimes if you want good food, but I remained silent. We returned to the headquarters and I went to meet with the woman who would be my secretary. For this meeting I told Sgt. Burns to return to his duties. I wanted this conversation to be confidential.
“I’m Matt Cahill,” I began by introducing myself.
“I’m the Sheriff’s confidential secretary, but I’ll tell you whatever you want to know provided you don’t go anywhere with the information.” I nodded my agreement and she led me into the office before closing the door. “I’m Janet Stoddard, but please call me Janet.”
“Okay, Janet, let me begin by telling you my impressions of your former boss. I thought he was a decent lawman, but from what I could see he seemed to be too involved with the politics of the job.”
“You’re absolutely right. He spent more time politicking than he did on his real job. In that regard he let the ranking officers handle all of the supervisory and investigative responsibilities. I think that’s how he got himself into trouble although many of the senior officers also got caught up in the politics. That’s why most of them are no longer here. None of them had the backbone to stand up to the sheriff and tell him that what he was doing was wrong.”
“Well, that’s just about the direct opposite of me. I know nothing about running for office and that’s the way I plan to keep it. I’ll leave the politics to my wife and her father. Tell me about the remaining lieutenants and sergeants. Are they good, bad, in the middle?” That’s how we spent the next hour—in honest discourse about the personnel. I felt much better about the position when I walked back to my car for the short trip home.
I was barely in the door when Lucy gave me a huge hug and my darling Melody crawled over to Max. I picked her up to hug and kiss her. She giggled, but she got really excited when I carefully placed her onto Max’s back. We’d done this many times so Max remained perfectly still until Melody had a good grip on his fur then he walked slowly toward the fireplace where he laid down as Melody moved forward to hug and kiss him. A minute later she was sound asleep, sprawled over Max’s huge body. He looked up at us then placed his head down onto the fireplace rug to rest.
Lucy and I retired to the couch where I described my day, the people I met, and those I didn’t. Overall, my reaction was very positive. I phoned County Executive Sinclair Kerwin to tell him I would accept the position of acting sheriff, but first we both knew I would have to meet with and be approved by the county commissioners, which I knew would be a formality after my meeting with Miles Smart and him last week.
That meeting came on the following Tuesday evening and it went just as I had anticipated. I knew that the previous sheriff had earned $120,000 annually and I was willing to accept the same salary. However, Miles Smart opened the salary deliberations at $135,000 and rose almost immediately to $140,000 when I sat staring and silent. I finally agreed to accept $145,000. Amazing what five minutes of silent staring could accomplish.
Lucy and I had invited Daryl and Jasmine to dinner the previous Saturday evening. I wanted Daryl to hear all the straight info from my lips rather than through the grapevine. We had another issue to talk about—their upcoming wedding in two weeks. As close as Daryl and I were I had never met his family. Lucy and I found out why that evening. “It’s simple, Matt—my parents are racists. They’re as bad as the Klan, but in reverse. They have no use for white people.”
“Well, that should make for an interesting time between the rehearsal dinner at my in-laws’ home and the wedding and reception the next day. How many of the guests are white?”
“More than half. You know that Jasmine’s dad was killed in that hurricane, but she still has relatives on his side of the family. Between them and my friends here and fellow cops and marshals, I think the total will be about fifty-five out of the ninety-four guests. Jasmine has tried to mix the groups as much as possible, but my family members will be together which might be just as well. All of the bitching will be isolated to two tables.”
I nodded my agreement before interrupting. “I went to visit the county sheriff’s facilities on Tuesday. It’s impressive and I’m going to take the job. I learned a good negotiating tactic when I met with the commissioners—sit still and give a stony stare. I got an extra twenty-five out of them. I wanted you to know that I’ve recommended you as my replacement.”
“Do you really think that they’d appoint me—a black man?”
Lucy and Jasmine just looked at each other and laughed. “Daryl, my father and I have already contacted all of the council to tell them that we want you. I didn’t phone Jasmine because she can’t vote and I didn’t want her to have to keep a secret from you. The vote will be unanimous. You’ll see.” Then Lucy moved forward to hug Daryl, narrowly beating me. There was more laughter once the awkward round of hugs was completed.
“Say, Matt…do you think that staring thing will work for me?” I looked at Lucy and then at Jasmine just before they broke out in hysterical laughter.
“Maybe next time, Daryl,” Lucy told him just as we laughed again.
The City Council accepted my resignation and approved Daryl’s appointment at their next meeting, just four days before the wedding. Several city police officers were present and all applauded Daryl’s approval. I shook his hand and hugged him just seconds before the other officers came to congratulate both of us. The rest of the meeting was just as boring as most, but Lucy moved it along at a brisk pace.
We walked into headquarters together the following morning, receiving congratulations from the Sergeants at the desk and an ovation from the shift officers before inspection which was by now more of a formality than a requirement. I left at two that afternoon so I could accompany Lucy for what we hoped would be her final OB/GYN appointment before giving birth. This time we knew it would be another C-section so she wouldn’t have to endure any of the pain she’d felt when Melody was born.
Marylou was at our house when Max and I walked in. Melody was in her lap and she cooed and clapped her hands as soon as she saw Max. He ran to her and she laughed again when he licked her hands and face. Even Marylou laughed then she petted Max for several minutes while I gathered Lucy from the bedroom. We kissed everyone good-bye and I told Max to stay and protect as I walked Lucy out the door to my SUV.
After examining Lucy and checking the baby’s pulse Dr. Murphy gave us the schedule for the birth. “I have you scheduled at the hospital on Friday the 24th. I’ll want you to get there early—by 7:00 a.m. so you can be prepped for surgery. Of course, I never know what my schedule will be like, but as of today yours is the only birth scheduled for that day.” She reviewed the procedures for the prior day, giving Lucy a sheet of detailed instructions. We were back at home early enough for me to check in at headquarters. No news was definitely good news.
We met at the AME Church with Pastor Michaels at 5:00 on Friday afternoon. He and I hugged as had become our custom then he introduced Lucy and me to Daryl’s parents and sisters who had arrived about ten minutes before us. Lucy and I were friendly and outgoing, but our reception was cool at best until Mrs. Evans asked Lucy about her pregnancy.
“Just another week, thank God. This pregnancy has been difficult.” That led to about ten minutes of back and forth about the difficulties of being a woman. While they were talking Daryl’s dad asked how I knew his son.
“Daryl and I met at UNC when we were studying criminology. I was about a year and a half ahead of him, but we were in some of the same classes together. That’s where I learned that we shared time in the Navy as MP’s. After that we were Marshals together and worked in cooperation on a number of cases. When I got the job here as chief the first person I thought of to be my second in command was Daryl. His fiancée is Lucy’s best friend. They met at Lucy’s parents’ house where we’re going for dinner tonight.”
“So you’re chief of police.”
“I am now, but I was recently appointed as acting county sheriff and Daryl is the next chief. He deserves it. Nobody works harder or has the confidence of the community more than Daryl.” Our conversation ended then as Daryl and Jasmine walked in with her mother, brother, and sister. Pastor Michaels took control once the introductions were done. He showed Daryl and me where to stand and then he showed the two ushers where to place the various guests once they had come up the aisle. Finally, he dealt with Jasmine and her uncle—her father’s brother—who would have the honor of walking her up the aisle. After the run-through we drove to what I jokingly referred to as Casa Bascomb with Anthony Michaels and his wife accompanying us.
Dinner went surprisingly well, beginning with drinks on the patio, reminding me of the first time Daryl and Jasmine met. Jonathan and Marylou met us at the door for the introductions. Mr. Evans was clearly impressed to learn that he and his family were being hosted by one of the wealthiest families in the state. Probably more important was the way that the Bascomb’s greeted their black guests—the same way that they greeted their daughter and son-in-law.
Ingrid and Martha, the other member of Lucy’s staff, had come to help with dinner and serving. I wasn’t at all surprised at the meal—a buffet featuring huge slabs of prime rib cut and served by Ingrid, grilled brisket—one of my favorites—Southern fried chicken, and grilled shrimp en brochette—another favorite. I added a baked potato and ear of fresh corn to my plate. Mr. Evans was just ahead of me on line and, judging by the big pile of food on his plate, he obviously approved. Turning to me he said, “This is some spread.”
“Yeah, Jonathan and Marylou host a big party like this almost every Sunday afternoon. This is where Daryl and Jasmine first met.”
“How do you know the Pastor?”
“I enlisted his help in integrating the police force more than a year ago then Daryl, Lucy, and I conducted tutoring classes in the church hall to prepare the candidates for the competitive exam. We had ten in the first class and they all passed both parts. They all have jobs on the force now. One of them is Anthony’s niece. We didn’t do quite as well with the second class, but we still added another six minorities which was a big step forward.”
“No, we had two Hispanics in the first class and another in the second. Like many communities in the country, we have a growing Hispanic population so having some Spanish speaking officers is a big help. I speak some Spanish as does Daryl, but neither of us is fluent.”
We had left the buffet and were walking slowly toward the tables. “I have to tell you that this is nothing like what I expected.”
“I hope that’s a positive. I was surprised my first time here, too. I brought my dog. He’s a huge German Shepherd and Marylou was totally negative until Lucy told her how Max—that’s my dog—had helped take down two armed robbers in the diner where Lucy was working. Well, she was mostly pretending and doing PR work for her family, but she was there and she was in as much danger as everyone else. Now she loves Max as much as Lucy does. Of course, her granddaughter has a lot to do with that.” He laughed and we separated. I had just sat down when Marylou walked in with Max and Melody who was laughing as she rode once again on Max’s back to Lucy’s side.
I gave Melody some tiny pieces of brisket and prime rib and even a piece of the grilled shrimp which, to my surprise, she ate eagerly. The mood at the table was festive with my in-laws and Anthony Michaels and his wife in addition to Jasmine’s mother and uncle. Of course, all of the women wanted to hold Melody and they did, but not without her guardian very close by. The party broke up around nine and we all headed home with Daryl’s family driving to their motel about twenty miles away—the same motel that I couldn’t reach in the horrific storm my first night in Bascomb’s Landing.
The wedding was just as perfect as the rehearsal and dinner with clear sunny weather and a light breeze. It was standing room only in the tiny AME church as Jasmine joined Daryl in front of Pastor Michaels. Jasmine was a beautiful bride, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my very pregnant wife. She caught me looking at her several times during the short ceremony, smiling broadly in response and mouthing, “I love you,” before returning her attention to the ceremony. I produced the rings on time and was the first to applaud when they were announced as husband and wife.
The reception at Desmond’s was grand. It was a gift from Jonathan and Marylou and typically, they spared no expense. The cocktail hour was fantastic with loads of hors d’oeuvres—extra large cold boiled shrimp, lobster salad, caviar and cheese on tiny triangles of rye bread, and a huge platter of fresh fruits and vegetables with ranch dipping sauce. There were prime liquors, not that Daryl or I or any of the other city police officers imbibed. We were always on call on weekends so we were always careful about drinking.
That was just as well because there was a big fight at another function down the hall. I blew my dog whistle, summoning Max into the catering hall as eight of us strode into the other room. Once Max made his appearance at my side the fight suddenly dissolved. I told everyone there who we were and why we were there. “I’m going to be really pissed off if we have to return and some of you will spend the rest of the weekend in one of our cells. Just try me. I dare you.” Some stupid drunk pushed his luck until Max put him on the seat of his pants and kept him there by standing over him with fangs bared and a menacing growl coming from his throat. By then two uniformed officers had arrived and they wasted no time in arresting him and moving him to headquarters to sleep it off. Max joined us at the reception where he was almost as big a hit as he was at home.
Five years later I was seated at the desk in the library on a Saturday afternoon when Lucy walked in. “Where are the girls,” I asked. Lucy and I now had three. They were a handful at times, but I loved them like you wouldn’t believe.
“They’re in Melody’s room taking a nap.”
“I guess that tells me where Max is.” Lucy laughed as she told me that they were all sleeping on Max. That came as no surprise. I joined her as I rolled the chair back and swung my legs over Kurt’s prone form. He looked up as I pulled Lucy into my lap for a long tender kiss. She reached down to run her fingers through Max’s son’s fur.
Max was the offspring of four generations of AKC national champions. I had placed several ads in the Memphis newspapers and In the AKC journal seeking a bitch to breed with him. Normally, a lot of money changes hands, but that didn’t interest me at all. What I wanted was at least one of the male puppies—two if there were six or more. I faxed Max’s papers and photos to three candidates, rejecting two because they didn’t quite measure up. Max successfully impregnated on the first try and the result was seven pups. Once they were weaned I took the two biggest—one for me and one for Daryl.
I named mine Kurt; his was named Wolfgang—Wolf, for short. We trained both dogs together and we had help from Max whose presence ensured that both pups paid attention. One growl from him kept them on task. Now Max was retired from daily police work although I did use him twice when I had a need for two dogs while tracking felons in the thick woods at the north end of the county.
I had just been reelected a second time and I’d done no campaigning, exactly as I had promised. I let my actions speak for me. Crime was down more than sixteen percent and I’d taken a hard line on drug peddlers, but stressed the need for treatment over prison for drug users. I had joined Rotary at the suggestion of my father-in-law and I had spoken several times about our efforts to stem the flow of drugs into the county and our anti-gang efforts which had proved to be extremely successful. Just as important, I cooperated eagerly with local law enforcement, something that had never happened in the past.
Now I sat with Lucy on my lap assured of another four-year term as sheriff. She had just broken our kiss when she asked me, “I wonder if you have any idea how rich you are. Do you?”
“I know exactly how rich I am. I have a wonderful loving wife, three beautiful young daughters, and two furry beasts to protect us. I have in-laws who seem to love me as much as I love them and we live in a community where people live and work together in harmony and I have a successful career doing what I love every day. That’s rich enough for me. Can it possibly be any better?”
“Probably not,” Lucy answered, “but the improbable just happened. Daddy phoned to invite us to dinner. He’s going to retire within the next month. That means that I’ll take over running the company. Daddy has always told me that he was going to give it to me.”
“That’s nice, but how much time will that take? Will you have to travel? What about the girls? Who will take care of them?” I was about to continue when Lucy silenced me with another kiss.
“I’m now vice president of the company and I barely work twenty hours a week. I won’t have to work more than another ten to fifteen hours. I might have to travel once a month, but it will always be two days or less and I’ll use the company jet. Mother will gladly sit with the girls—Daddy, too, and don’t forget that Melody is in school now and Julie is in pre-school.”
“So, how rich are you now? How much is the company worth, anyway?”
“Well, Daddy recently told me he had an offer of a hundred and twenty million so I’m sure it’s worth more than that, but that’s only a small part of my wealth.”
“Yeah, it seems that I have a wonderful supportive and loving husband who doesn’t give a damn how much money I have, three beautiful daughters and a couple of furry beasts that protect me wherever we go. I’m the top official in the city where we live and I have a lot of faithful friends. Mostly, though, I have an incredible man who loves me as much as I love him and in about seven and a half months I’m going to prove it again when I give him another child for us to love.”
I did a double-take at that. It was the first time I’d heard that and I was just as thrilled as I had been the first time. Now it was my turn to stop her with a kiss. It was an especially long and hot one in which we swapped a lot of spit. My foot moved Kurt aside as I stood and carried my bride upstairs to our bed. Past experience told me we’d have just enough time to make incredible love before the girls awoke. I had everything I could have prayed for in my life. We had our health and more than our share of love. We had great friends in Daryl and Jasmine and their two children. It doesn’t get any better than that. Could I possibly be any richer than I was? Maybe, but I just couldn’t see how.
I suppose there’s a moral to this story. Sometimes you have to get lost before you can find yourself. That’s what happened to me and am I ever glad it did!