Bart Jones sat crumpled behind Chief Cooper’s desk. Sobbing, he covered his face with his hands. Grimly studying their young colleague were Cooper and Sergeant Bridges. Cooper, a craggy-faced veteran with years on the job, jotted notes on a legal pad. Finally, he spoke.
“Bart, pull yourself together.” The crying only intensified, and Jones placed his head down on folded arms. “Look, you’re not the first cop that had to take down a doper. You were trying to save Bridges’ life, right?”
Jones lifted his head, blew his nose, and finally found the strength to talk. “I don’t know, Chief.”
“Fuck you don’t know! Of course that’s what you thought!”
“Coop! Calm down! Can’t you see he’s upset? You can’t be yelling.”
Cooper continued more quietly. “We’ve known the brat was a doper for years, right?”
“And we heard that he just fucking shot someone, right?”
“We’ve got the dispatcher tapes proving that. And you got the shotgun out because you knew PJ had a gun, right?” Cooper spoke in a voice of pure logic.
“Sarge said ‘Get the shotgun,’ but, yeah, PJ probably had a gun.”
“Not ‘probably.’ In your mind, he had a fucking gun on him, didn’t he?”
“Right. In my mind, he had a fucking gun. But …”
“But what?” Bridges interjected. “Coop is exactly right.”
“But, you frisked him, Sarge. He was clean.”
Cooper sighed, frustrated. He had a difficult student. “You didn’t know, positively, 100 percent, did you?”
“I saw …”
“You saw PJ turning …. in an aggressive manner … and you fired in self defense … and the defense of your partner. That’s what happened, isn’t it?”
For a while, Jones said nothing. He could not stand the accusatory stares, his fellow cops waiting for him to say what they felt were the right words. Finally, he whispered, “My heart was beating so fucking fast.”
Cooper picked up the thread. “Right. You’ve got this adrenalin surge. Man, we’ve all been there. It’s natural, the body’s response to extreme danger. It’s how our species survives.”
Jones looked at Cooper with gratitude. “Heart pounding, yeah. Of course. And then .. and then a flash of fear. I could almost see PJ coming around with a gun.”
Cooper scribbled again and, after a minute, said “Okay, you’re going to sign a statement, then you’re on paid leave for two weeks. You’ll go home and tell that pretty wife what happened, but tell her exactly the way it reads in your statement, and then don’t talk to anyone. Anybody asks, they have to talk to me. Now, let me get this to the typist.” He left his office.
Bridges gazed for a few seconds at Jones, who still swiped with a tissue at tears that streaked his face. “I know this is hard, Bart, but you thought you were saving my life. Thank you.”
Jones took a deep breath and nodded. “Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought. Thanks to you, Sarge, helping me figure this out.”
“We wear the badge, we’re brothers, you know that.”