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Brother of a Cop
We have him surrounded outside of his old rundown apartment. His eyes are in shock as he gazed, with a gun in one hand, at the four police cars while he was shouting, with full on rage, that he is going to shoot all of us. I was the one who has to give the signal to release the dogs. I could hear the loudspeaker right next to my ear as I heard the chief say in a calm voice to the man “you have ten seconds to drop the gun and lay on the ground, or we are going to have to use force.” We could see on the man’s face that he did not run this far just to give up now. The chief gave me a look to let me know that it was time to give the signal. I shout “Release!” and the dogs were let go and they charged the man with snarls and growls that you could hear past the cruiser’s sirens. They pulled the man to the ground as he was trying to pull the grasp of the dog’s jaws off his arm and leg. As I stare at the sight, my mind could not help but go back to my childhood and how this man changed my life completely.
I grew up in a very friendly middle class suburb with my mom and dad who both worked in the city about two miles away. Every house had a fence of shrubs surrounding them and all the houses had a similar and simplistic look. The neighborhood was always full of kids playing, whether it was the girls playing hopscotch or the boys going over to the pond down the street to catch all the frogs they could find and come back home to their mothers who would give them disgusted looks at their handy work on their mud covered clothes.
But there was one boy, who just happened to be my neighbor, named Charlie. My parents were very close friends with his family, and I remember being only five years old when I went to visit him at the city hospital after he was born. My parents told me that when I first saw him I kept jumping up and down shouting with joy “you got me a baby brother!” It took me a while to realize that he was not really ours, but growing up I treated him like my little brother.
Charlie was the youngest of all the boys in the neighborhood so a lot of the time he felt left out when all of the boys would get together to play. When we would play hockey in the middle of the street, no one would want to pick him for their team because he was not as fast or strong as the older boys. So every time I was captain, I would pick him first which would light up a smile across his face.
When everyone went for a bike ride around the block, Charlie would always be at least twenty yards behind us because he was still getting used to having his training wheels off. I would mention to the other guys “Let’s wait up for him,” but every time we did they would whine and say “snails are moving faster than us right now” which would make Charlie feel guilty and embarrassed. So most of the time I would just wait for him myself and ride at his speed. He loved to race on the bikes even though he was not fast yet, and we would end up racing from the light post on one side of the street to the rusty old fire hydrant a few houses down. I would end up slowing down on purpose at the very end to let him pass by and win. He would throw his arms up in the air when he passed the hydrant as he would shout “victory!” with the face of a champion. I would say “ah man, you beat me again” to let the moment feel more real for him. He would look at me worried that he had hurt my feelings and say, “Don’t worry you are like amazing at everything. At running , frog catching, swimming, burping,…” he would come up with so many things to try and make me feel happy about myself. Charlie just loved to be the person to give the gift of a smile to someone’s face.
Every time I get my allowance for taking out the garbage, Charlie and I would go to the candy store a few streets down. Whenever we went somewhere, I would be in protective older brother mode when we walked passed people, and I would make him walk on the inside of the sidewalk so he would not walk too close the cars. I could tell he enjoyed playing the role of my little brother. As we walked back to our houses from the store almost done devouring our candy, I would notice Charlie looking up at the sky.
“What are you looking at?” I would ask.
“The clouds, they look like animals” he said while still looking at the sky amazed.
“Charlie I think you’re crazy I don’t see anything.”
“Hey! I’m not crazy; I just have better eyes than you. See that cloud is a turtle, and that one is a lion, and over there is a dragon” He kept saying with great enthusiasm.
I kept staring up searching for the animals he can clearly see but no luck all I could see were the same boring clouds I see every day.
The week before Charlie’s seventh birthday was when everything changed. It was an early summer Saturday morning when I was doing my chores of cleaning the dishes. My parents went out for the day for a business meeting. I looked out the window above the sink where I could see Charlie outside in his front yard playing with his action figures while his older sister was talking on the phone in the house. She was his babysitter while his parents were going to a town fundraiser.
Then all of a sudden I saw this small dark blue van drive past slowly by my house then come to a short stop in front of Charlie’s house. A tall man with a gray jacket and light, slightly ripped blue jeans came out of the van and very quickly walked over to Charlie. I saw him trying to start a conversation with Charlie, but I could tell Charlie did not recognize this man so he slowly started walking to his house probably to tell his sister they had company. Then the man ran up to Charlie and pulled out a knife from his left pocket and with his other hand, grabbed and lifted him up with his free hand and carried him to the van in a frantic state. Charlie was kicking and scratching the man and was screaming out of fear. I dropped the dish and yellow sponge on the floor as I started running to the door. As I threw the screen door open, I jumped down the porch steps and over the shrub fence as the man shoved Charlie in the van. As the man was about to get into the driver’s seat he saw me running towards him. The man looked at me with a laughing smile, which would burn in the back of my mind for the rest of my life. He hopped in the driver’s seat and began to start the engine. I had just reached the back bumper of the van when the exhaust fumes burst out of the tailpipe, which put me in a fog of confusion and distorted my vision for a few seconds. But that was enough time for the van to already be a couple of yards away from me. I started running at full speed, faster than I ever knew I could run, bare foot on the rough hard asphalt. But it was not enough to catch up with the van. By the time I reached the corner at the end of the street he was already gone.
As I awoke from my flashback the man dropped the gun and laid quietly on the ground. I called the dogs to retreat back. Two other officers and I went over and handcuffed him and walked him over to the cruiser. He calmly sat down and kept taking slow and easy breaths. I started driving him down to the station when he finally looked up and said “What am I in for this time?” in calm and collected voice.
“the kidnapping and murders of three boys: John Dartly whom you murdered one year ago, David Withers; eight years ago, and Charlie O’Conner….sixteen years ago.” we are supposed to keep our voices with a firm authority but saying that last name made my voice began to crack into a rage. I looked through the rear view mirror and saw his face, who appeared to be in a good mood after hearing his list of killings. Then he gave me that same smile that I have spent so many years trying to forget.
The week before he was arrested, the three bodies were found deep within the woods over in the next county. That evidence was finally enough to put that demon behind bars and soon he will be in the chair that will bring him to the place where he belongs.
Now we were finally able to give Charlie the proper funeral. I looked around and saw his family who I had not seen in years, who I could tell felt closure with finding out what had really happened to their only son.
When everyone left, I decided to stay after and I sat next to his gravestone with tears starting to build up beneath my eyes. I thought since I have cried so many times years ago over this that I would have no more tears left to cry. But I was wrong and I threw my head back wishing the warm heat of the sun’s rays would dry my eyes. Then I looked at the clouds, I could hear Charlie’s voice “look that cloud is a turtle can’t you see it? It’s right above you!”
“yes I can see it, I can see it now” I said out loud in a whisper.