This is the second in emerging mystery writer Karyne Corum’s series on learning what it’s like to be a cop…from the inside. If you thought her first post presented certain challenges, this one sounds positively death defying.
All in good fun, of course. If, that is, you’re a fan of suspense.
A writer, a pharmacist and a secretary go into a bar one night…
Sounds like a good joke eh? Well, it turned out not to be. In fact, what we thought would be the punchline to our run of investigating, a crime scene investigation, turned out to be something more like a real punch.
In this case, the scene was staged, but by now none of us needed prompting to play it for real. We were broken up into our regular groups, in which we’d all formed commonality alliances. Once again, the secretary, the pharmacist and me (the woman now known as the “writer”) geared up with our dense plastic mock weapons, hand-cuffs and flashlights.
If I had thought the last class, with a tension fraught building search and two felony car stops complete with a blazing gun battle were heart pounding, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
We rolled up to the building prepared for anything. We were used to the trickery and fast tracking plays that the Captain loved to throw at us. Sensory overload, he told us, was something only a cop can understand, but for these few brief hours, he would make it a part of our world, too.
We hustled out of the squad car and got a quick briefing from the officer on the scene. The building was, for our purpose that night, a nightclub, and there had been shots fired. Our job was to go in, secure the scene, check for survivors and get the evidence. I had been elected by my teammates to the position of Sergeant. I didn’t mind the job, I knew I could be mouthy when I had to be and leading others isn’t a task for those who are timid or afraid of taking flak when something goes wrong. I could handle it. Or I thought I could.
The building was dark except for the distant flicker of lights from somewhere deep within. Pulsing from inside came the steady, filling-rattling beat of some dark toned acid rock that growled a welcome as we stepped inside, weapons clenched in rapidly sweating hands. Despite knowing that this was only a simulation, we all felt the moment as keenly as if it were real. From somewhere within the depths of the building came the sharp crackling pops of a weapon fired and instinctively I raised my weapon in front of me. I edged carefully down the hallway, giving commands in a harsh urgent tone to my squad, trying not to sound as rattled as I felt.
Then they came, out of the darkness.
The wounded, shuffling like zombies, blood oozing from a variety of injuries. It was truly like something out of a horror movie and I remembered what the Captain had told us earlier: no matter how bad off the injured might appear, your first job, your most important job, is to secure the scene and get the shooter(s). Every time you hear a shot fired, it could be one more person dead. As hard as it might seem, you have to leave the wounded to fend for themselves till the threat has been locked down. It was, he assured us, one of the hardest things a police officer would ever have to do, especially when the wounded might be children, as in the case of Columbine.
I stared as one man weaved unevenly up to me, his entire stomach a mass of blood, his expression one of dazed pain. I felt a tremendous amount of sympathy in that single second for a cop who would have to leave this man to possibly bleed out and die because the most pressing issue at that moment was the person responsible for the injury.
I urged them to get behind us even as my heart tried to knock an opening through my chest.
I was scared and I am not ashamed to admit it. Part of my fear was just of the unknown, what (or who) might lie ahead? Would I get shot before I’d had a chance to go another twenty feet? Also, a part of me was just plain nervous. You can’t help but feel that you want to do well, not look like a fool, and even kick some serious butt.
The layout of the building was in something of a t-shape with the shorter part being furthest away from the doors. Once we had cleared the wounded, we crept forward, the pharmacist on my right, the secretary just behind. We came to the end of the hallway and on our right and left were doors to the men’s and women’s rooms. My whole stomach lurched at the thought that we had to search those bathrooms even with the wide open meeting room still ahead of us, swathed in total darkness.
Dim shapes appeared, and I had to strain to make out if they were armed or not.
Karyne Corum is the married mother of one preschooler. She lives in Central New Jersey, and has been telling stories since she was a little girl–only now they get her into a lot more trouble. Fortunately, she can write her way out of most of it. Her many jobs prior to accepting the inevitable include actor, security guard, executive assistant and massage therapist. She is currently at work on her first full length novel, which keeps her up at night almost as much as her four-year old son does.