David’s world moved into slow motion as the suspect fired his pistol.
If he had been asked, David would have sworn he had seen the bullet exit the chamber. That he had watched as it sailed serenely through the empty space between, and kill his partner Detective Robert Samuel. He would have told a judge and jury that the .45 millimeter round’s journey, which in reality took less than a fraction of a second, lasted ten minutes wherein he and everyone else were frozen witnesses to the event.
Detective David Crane returned fire. Applying four pounds of pressure to the trigger of his Beretta M9, the same sidearm he used in Fallujah, just two years ago, striking the suspect three times. Two quickly growing sections of red on his chest, and a small hole above the suspect’s right eyebrow.
If he had been asked, David would not have remembered squeezing the trigger three times. He would not have remembered that each squeeze was followed by precisely one quarter of a second, nor would he remember using those quarter seconds to adjust his aim to ensure the rounds would keep their pattern.
If he had been asked, David would not have said he remembered the look on the suspect’s face when the first round struck him in the heart, nor would he have said he felt vindicated in revenging the man he had known for three years. He did.
Detective Crane knelt down beside the corpse of his friend. One hand reached down and felt for a pulse he knew had ended before the body fully collapsed, his other hand still aiming down the hallway of the run-down colonial two story that had been sectioned off into a handful of apartments.
If he had been asked, David would have said the residents of this old building were terrified by their upstairs neighbor, the dead suspect laying a mere five feet away. He would say that they would have most likely scurried to the furthest corners of their respective apartments when the yelling started.
David's hand left the corpse’s neck and reached into his jacket, pulling out a radio. Bringing it up to his lips, he began to call for backup and for an ambulance.
If he had been asked, David would have sworn the door, three feet in front and on the right, had been kicked open. He would have sworn the second suspect already had a weapon raised. He would not remember the calm exhale as his arm rotated, aimed, and fired three more rounds. He would again, not remember waiting between squeezing the trigger, would not remember changing his orientation to keep the falling suspect in sight. If asked, he would remember the image of a weapon dissolving into that of a cell phone as the suspect fell. He would remember instead the tall young boy, the corpse, falling limply.
David froze. He stared at the body. His pistol still tracking down the hallway as if it were controlled by a separate mind, a separate will.
If he had been asked, First Lieutenant David Crane would have recalled the flashback of leading his Marine unit building to building. He would have explained how Iraqis’ had armed children. How a twelve-year-old open fired on his unit and killed a private under his command. He would speak about how after a second ambush killed two more men. He would remember seeing a third lean out a window, and would remember killing the boy who was aiming back at him. He would not remember feeling justified. He did.
David moved back to the front door and waited for the ambulance, and along with them , the small army of related first responders who would arrive at an officer had been killed.
If he had been asked, David would recall the sounds of the sirens approaching. The way the sounds seem to stretch and expand the closer they got. The first fleck of red and blue strobing lights through the cracks in the door frame, and moments later he would have described how the cacophony of sounds and dozens of strobe effects made the area appear to an impromptu music festival. He would have explained how he came out of the house with his badge in one hand and his pistol holstered. How he began to direct the patrolmen and armored backup teams towards the second floor. How the chaos of the organized force to clear the building, grabbed the new arrivals immediate attention. How he ordered the group who began to assemble around him towards the captain who was doing the same.
If he had been asked, David wouldn’t be able to articulate the exact reason why he felt the need to flee. He wouldn’t be able to put into words the rage. The need to be the first back into the building and execute everyone. The flashes of sand and desert that told him everyone in that building was responsible for another dead friend, another dead child.
If he had been asked, David would have explained how he had moved to the back of the gathering. How he had seen the other set of detectives, the ones who would need to debrief him as the shooter, as the survivor. He would not have been able to explain how he found himself driving the car, which he and Detective Samuel had arrived in a block up the road. He would not have remembered avoiding the medical personnel, or slipping behind a patrol car to evade the searching gaze of his superiors.
If he had been asked, Detective Crane would not understand why he had left the scene. He would not be able to explain why he drove home.
David walked into his small two-bedroom home, complete with manicured front lawn and one foot tall white picket fence. He moved through the living room and stopped.
If he had been asked, David would recall the spot of blood on the wall. He would remember in detail the night of July 4 th 2006. He would remember a hint of shock that it had only been four months since that night. He would describe how he fell asleep early, how he had only planned it to be a small catnap before Jennifer and he were to go watch the fireworks with the rest of the neighborhood. He would recall friendly artillery firing from miles behind him. Their explosive shells landing in clusters a few hundred yards in front of his unit. He would describe jumping out the sand-brown Barcalounger, television remote still in his hand, seeing the building explode in the near distance.
If he had been asked, David would describe the tingling sensation he felt as the hairs raised on the back of his neck. He would explain how a near sixth sense told him he was being watched. How the sand made his throat dry, and the constant vibrations played merry havoc with his equilibrium. He would describe the sound of the creeping steps approaching him from behind. He would remember spinning around and seeing a man with a Kalashnikov aimed at his chest. First Lieutenant Crane would describe how he threw the remote at the man, and her scream as the remote broke his nose. He then would recall how he ran at the man, grabbed the load of laundry from her hands and broke her wrist in order to force her to drop the assault rifle.
If he had been asked, First Lieutenant David Crane USMC, Retired, would recall watching Jennifer’s face materialize from the illusion of sand and sweat. The look of terror on her face, and the blood flowing from her nose.
If he had been asked, David would remember the look in her eyes two weeks later when she decided to leave him. It was a mixture of regret, sadness, shame, and terror. If he had been asked, David would only really remember the terror.
David sat down on his couch. He had not bothered to close the front door.
If he had been asked, David would remember his cell phone ringing. He would remember his home phone ringing, and the sound of a siren approaching. He would have been able to describe the bitter taste of oil on his tongue. He would have been able to describe the feeling of metal pressed between his teeth. The odd sensation his jaw reported as it was forced wider than it was used to.
If he had been asked, David would say he wondered what his life could have been. He would wonder where it went wrong. He would not remember saying he was sor ry. He would remember the four pounds of pressure exerted by his finger.