Eleven pm- December 27, 2002. The lights atop my cruiser bounced reflectively off the surrounding snow berms as my cruiser came to a stop in front of an adddress on Ewell Court. A woman, in pajama bottoms and a tank top, stood barefoot in the slushy snow at the end of the driveway flagging me down.
"He's inside!" she yelled as I stepped from my cruiser and instinctively checked everything on my belt. Baton- check. Pepper Spray- check. Radio- check. Handcuffs-check. Spare Cuffs- check. Gloves- check. Gun- check.
I opened the back door of my cruiser and invited the woman to climb inside out of the snow. She apologized for being barefoot, but said that he came home drunk and started punching her and calling her a "slut," so she called 911 on her cell phone and just ran outside. Then she added, almost as an after thought, "My kids are still in there."
"Is he their Father?"
"No! Hell, no!"
"What exactly is your relationship with him?"
"We've been living together for a couple of weeks."
"What's his name?"
"Everybody calls him Benny."
"Does Benny have a last name?
"Are you okay? Do you need medical attention?"
"Oh, nah, nothing like that."
I handed her a statement form and asked her to start writing everything down while I attempted to interview the man.
I walked across the front yard, wondering what was taking the second car so long to get there and knocked on the door. No answer.
"Sir, I'm going to have to kick in the door if you don't open up for me. I need to talk with you."
Feeling dark, and grumbling angrily under my breath, I took a step backward and brought my boot down hard where the lock meets the jam. It splintered, and a second kick aimed at the same spot resulted in the door flying open. From behind me I heard the woman yell, "What the f*@# are you doing?"
I walked inside, and found the man, dressed like he had just come from the clubs, hurriedly walking down a hallway toward a rear door.
"Sir, stop. I need to talk with you."
He increased his pace, shuffling drunkenly toward the back door. In a flash of inspiration, I pretended to speak loudly into my radio, "Jason, get ready by the back door with the dog! He's coming out that way."
He stopped with one hand on the doorknob, wheels turning in the fuzziness of a beer addled mind. I called out to him in the stearnest voice I could muster, "You can deal with me or the dog, sir." It was a lie- bald faced- but I didn't care.
It worked. Believing the false impression I had given of multiple officers on scene and a dog taboot he was meek as a lamb. He obeyed all my commands, and soon I had him handcuffed and sitting Indian style on the floor of the living room. I stood over him with legs spread taking down the man's information on a pad of paper.
The kids, two little girls and an older boy, maybe 12, filed out from a back bedroom and plopped down on the couch. The girls expressions were blank, but the boy wore a look of keen enjoyment on his face. It reminded me of a picture I had once seen of a hunting dog grinning and wagging his tail high atop the back of a dead brown bear in Russia. The bear in cuffs. The boy grinning atop the couch. It was very similar.
That's when I took in the scene. A Christmas tree, which looked suspiciously like one that had gone missing from the front of the newly landscaped bank on Main Street, stood in a corner. There were a few paltry Christmas ornaments, but for the most part it was decorated with empty beer cans, (I'm not making that up.) and an inverted bottle of corona served as the tree-topper.
"D'ya get anything good for Christmas?" I asked the boy trying to make this surreal scene a little more normal. He shrugged. "Not really." "How 'bout you guys?" I asked the girls. They also shrugged and refused comment.
Later, as I drove the man down to the correctional facility I asked him how his Christmas was, and he said "Man, just shut the f@#* up! I'm serious! Just shut the f@#* up!"
Merry Christmas, St. Albans!