So the uniforms brought this guy in, right. Krauss, the night shift traffic sergeant, handed him over to me and said,"He's charged with illegally discharging a firearm on his front porch. Turns out he's flagged for questioning by Homeland Security and the FBI. Personally, I think he's wacko.
"I'm not crazy," the guy said.
"Shut up," Krauss said, all 6'4" and 220 pounds of him hulking over the guy sitting across my desk. Then Krause looked at me and said, "I don't have time to deal with this. You process him and call the feds." Then he just walked away.
"What the hell is this?" I asked. "I'm homicide, Krauss."
"Captain says your cases are all close-and-shut. You're free do deal with overflow, and patrol needs extra help."
"That's bullshit. I got mistaken suicides on my hands. I been working on leads 24/7. That's the only reason I'm here, not to clean up this shit."
Krauss shrugged."Captain says leave him here with you because your 187s should be closed, so that's what I do. Here's the paperwork." He threw a manila folder on my desk and left the room.
"Thanks a lot," I shouted behind him. "What's the matter Krauss? You got too parking tickets to write? Get back in your golf cart."
He didn't bother coming back.
The guy across my desk had fallen asleep. His head was leaning back. A bead of drool slid out the right corner of his mouth. Grease stains covered his clothes. His hair looked like a dead porcupine, and he hadn't shaved for days. The stench of BO hovered around him. First thing I did was call Salt Lake Homeland Security Office and tell them to come collect their lunatic. Then I looked at the guy's papers.
Name was Lance Berkenkotter. Recently divorced. Worked at Hill Air Force Base as a mechanic. And he's a suspected terrorist? I asked myself. Couldn't be: this guy's the wrong colo. Then again, I was the wrong color to be a cop by Utah standards.
Looking at Berkenkotter's record made me think about my sister Diane. She'd died in Iraq when a roadside bomb exploded next to her Humvee. Her MOS was Medical Supply. She wasn't even working a high-risk position. I was the one who signed up for Infantry and served three tours. Should've been me. If I even suspected Berkenkotter really was a terrorist, I'd have pistol whipped him right there.
Hill Air Force Base employees had been flipping out and offing themselves for the past few months. My boss assigned me to investigate these supposed suicides. Most of the victims were mechanics at Hill, like this guy. I wondered if I'd called Homeland Security too fast. His MO looked like all the rest of the Hill crack-ups, which went like this:
1. Wife met another guy on base.
2. Wife took the husband for everything he was worth and left him.
3. Guy became paranoid, bordering on schizophrenic.
4. Guy got fired.
5. Guy shut himself in his house and boarded it up like he was afraid something would get in.
6. Guy killed himself, typically with a knife or gun.
I tried to tell Sharon Dixon, the lead homicide detective, about the pattern. When I did, her jaw got tight and her eyes slid left and right. She wouldn't look at me. One arm went over her stomach. She fondled the cross around her neck with the other hand; classic signs of someone hiding something. She knew I was good at reading non-verbals, so she tried to turn the conversation against me.
"That's not a pattern," she said. "The forensics reports confirm these deaths were suicides. I suggest you close these cases and move on."
I went to Captain Frank too. He wouldn't even look at the evidence. Instead, he told me to stop jumping rank and wasting time. "Close the cases," he told me. "Or this is going to come up in your review."
"Since when is being thorough outside the job description?" I asked. "These people are dead and their families need to know why."
"Your badge says Homicide," the Captain told me. "It's not your job to provide closure for families. Close the cases as suicides or face the consequences."
I didn't. Something wasn't right, no matter what my superiors said. Each time a mechanic died, I became more suspicious. I didn't have a wife or kids. Two of my siblings had died recently. All I had was work.
Coming out of my thoughts, I said, "Wake up Mr. Berkenkotter!"
The guy snorted and woke up. "Oh...oh...sorry," he said, looking around. His expression told me that he'd just remembered his predicament. "I'm not crazy," he said. He had a southern accent, probably from Tennessee. "I told the other cop what happened," he said. "But he didn't write it down. These things..." The guy was jittery with desperation. He was telling his truth.
"Calm down," I said. "Just tell me what happened from the start."
"Start? Start? This is way bigger than me, and it started way back. Maybe when I was a teenager, I don't know."
"Okay, then, why were you firing your shotgun on your front porch?"
The guy looked down. His right foot started tapping on the floor. He thought about lying to me, but he didn't. Instead, he shrugged and asked, "What would you do if all your friends had killed themselves because the weird shit that was trying to get them was now trying to get you?"
"Weird shit?" I asked.
"Things," he says. "Creatures from--I don't know--another world or something." The Crazy Guy Alarm in my head went off. Seeing my expression, the guy said, "You don't have to believe me. It doesn't matter now. The government is in on it, and they've got me flagged as a terrorist. All they have to do is call me an "Enemy Combatant," and then they can rendition, torture, and imprison me for the rest of my life--if they don't just bury me."
"You understand this really sounds nuts," I said (but the guy talked sane).
"You've read the papers about all those suicides happening, right?" He asked. I just stared at him, waiting for him to go on. He did: "I mean, your department has to have someone on those cases, right...To...what do you call it...rule out foul play?"
I neither affirmed, nor denied his question.
"Well I guaran-damn-tee I was just about to be the next victim on the list..."
Berkenkotter launched into this story about how his friend, John Drake--the last Air Force mechanic suicide--and John's wife Darcy told him that they'd seen weird creatures around their house. "Then John's wife left him for a fly boy and took him for everything he had, just like my wife did," Berkenkotter said. "One night, when we were drinking, John said he thought either the Mormons or the Air Force were in on it."
"In on what?" I asked. A bitter grin flashed across my lips, but Berkenkotter didn't notice it.
"They're trying to get us to kill ourselves. I don't know why, but the suicides have something to do with the fact that we are all mechanics, and we've been the best at what we do since we were kids. We all worked for airlines too."
I nodded and jotted these things down. "I'm taking this as your statement," I said.
"Whatever," the guy said. He spoke to me like he hadn't talked to anyone for weeks, like I was just the person to hear him because I was there. "Maybe John and the others would've been able to get over losing their wives, money, and jobs," he said. "But if they had to deal with those creatures pawing at their windows and rattling their doors all night, then I don't blame them for killing themselves. In fact, those guy probably thought they were going nuts."
"So what makes you different?" I asked. "Why did you shoot at these...things....on the porch instead of..." It was hard for me to say, even then. "Blow your head off." I had to push away visions of John Drake sitting in a pool of blood before moving on.
"My wife Jan," Berkenkotter said. "She couldn't lie to me like the other women did to their husbands. I mean, she lied with her mouth, but her eyes told me all I needed to know. She left me, but she still loved me. I figure the government or those creatures, maybe both, had threatened her or our daughter. Still, she couldn't tell me that she'd been with anyone else. She just took off."
"So you decided to fight these...creatures instead of taking the easy way out?" I could barely keep a straight face.
"Don't get me wrong. I had the gun in my mouth. I was ready to do it. Those things. They don't let you sleep, but they never bother to come in and kill you either. I think they heard me shouting that I wasn't going to kill myself. After that, they changed, got more aggressive, like they really wanted to bust into my house. I decided to fight back tonight. I caught the creatures at unawares outside, and I killed a couple of them."
"If that were the case, then there would be bodies of some kind."
"Well, that's the funny thing: A few seconds after I got done shooting them, the cop who brought me in came squealin' around the corner with sirens blaring."
I said, "Krauss didn't say anything about monster corpses."
Berkenkotter leaned across my desk and says, "The cop got out of the car with his weapon drawn. He pretended like he didn't see anything, but I know he saw. He was shaking and his eyes were wide. Then the bodies just disappeared while the cop, Krauss I guess his name was, cuffed me."
"That's convenient," I said. "Do you know why you're wanted by the FBI and Homeland Security?"
"No, no, no," he said. You didn't call them yet, did you? You have to believe me."
"I did call them, and they're on their way."
"Shit. I don't have much time then, and I don't think I'm gonna talk you into believing me."
I just stared at him.
"Listen, you can verify my story when I'm gone. Go back there. Those things bleed, and there ought'ta be stains on the concrete or the grass or something. They fade in and out of the air around the pine tree in the back of my yard, but they must have left some kind of signs. Look at the scratches on the doors and the boards over my windows."
I continued staring. Berkenkotter looked me in the eyes, and there was a manic sort of peace in his expression. "You killed me when you called the government," he said. "You know that."
"No I didn't," I said, getting up from my desk. I walked around the desk, grabbed his hands, and unlocked his handcuffs.
"Huh?" he asked me.
"There's something I haven't told anyone around here," I said. "Get up."
The guy got up and rubbed his wrists. He looked at me and nodded.
I said, "I remember John talking about you sometimes, before Darcy left him."
"You knew him?" Berkenkotter asked. I'm sure he was reading my clenched jaw, tight lips, and peaked eyebrows for what they were. Ninety percent of communication is non-verbal. Most people can't hide what they're feeling. Neither can I.
"Yeah," I said. "I knew him well."
I grabbed Berkenkotter by the elbow and escorted him to the stairs. "I can't help you much after you leave," I said, fishing my business card out of my shirt pocket. We avoided the cold gaze of the CCTV cameras along the way. None of the other detectives were at the station late, but I kept my voice down anyway. "The feds have warrants out on you, so be careful. Most criminals hang out in obvious places and make dumb mistakes like forgetting to use their blinker or stealing a Twinkie. Don't do that."
Berkenkotter nodded. I took out a pen and wrote down an email address on the back of my business card. "I encrypt my messages from this email address," I said, handing him the business card. "The password is Drake. Remember that. Go to hushmail.com and get an encrypt-able address too. Only use public computers when you contact me. Most libraries have PCs. Use them, but keep a low profile while you're in government buildings of any kind. Phones aren't safe. Don't use them."
"I don't know much about computers," Berkenkotter said.
"You better learn," I said. "I'm your only friend now."
"Friend?" he asked.
"John was my brother. His parents adopted me when I was five. I've been on the suicide cases for months now, but I never figured John would fall into that hole. You're right about the government. They're trying to stop me from investigating these cases. Something messed up is going on. I'm going to verify your story and wait for you to contact me. Do so ASAP." I reached for the Kel Tec PF-9 pistol in my ankle holster and handed it to him butt first.
"Is this the part where you shoot me and claim that I took your gun?" He asks.
"No," I say. "It's the part where you clock me with that gun and run out into the night with my extra ammunition." I handed him a couple clips from my belt.
"Hit you?" he asked. "I can't."
"Your escape becomes more plausible if I have injuries. Do it now!"
Maybe Berkenkotter had been waiting to lay a cop out all his life. Maybe he'd pictured those creatures. Either way, his hand came at me in an ark I could've easily dodged. He whacked me in the eye and I spun to the ground. Waking up, I heard his feet padding down the stairs. He reached the ground level and escaped into the night.
The Cop and all other materials on Tim's Blog are copyrighted by me, Tim Miller. Please contact me via email regarding publishing or redistribution of stories or blogs. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story can be read as a stand-alone narrative, but it's also a chapter in a blog novel. If you'd like to read the other stories in this growing book, please click on the links below.
Chapter One: The Mechanic
Chapter Two: The Walker
Chapter Three: The Mechanic 2
Chapter Four: The Walker 2
Chapter Five: The Hunter
Chapter Seven: The Hunted
Chapter Eight: The Escapee
Chapter Nine: The Mercedes Man
Chapter Ten: The Shooter
Chapter Eleven: The Monster
Chapter Twelve: The Yehasuri
Chapter Thirteen: The General
Chapter Fourteen: The Wendigo
Chapter Fifteen: The Librarian
Chapter Sixteen: The Suburbanites
Chapter Seventeen: The Paralibrarian
Chapter Nineteen: The Captive
Tags: cop hill air force base homicide mechanic hell homeland security fbi 187 crime criminal shotgun weapon fire handgun suicide murder creatures aliens beings police case nonverbal berkenkotter
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