Smoldering in Reeve by Kyle Policht

A veteran cop on the verge of retirement and his rookie partner stop a speeding pickup in the middle of the desert; by Kyle Policht.

It's a routine day out on the road. There weren't too many law breakers, so it was slow moving. My partner and I sit out in the middle of nowhere Reeve, Texas; a nearly barren strip of desert, no signs of civilization for miles. The only thing keeping us company are the vultures nipping at some carcass, and a barely working radio stuck on the classics. I turn it off after hearing "Free Bird" one too many times. At least the air-conditioner works.

My partner, John, is fighting the boredom by playing around with the shotgun, sticking it out the window, aiming it at the vultures, imitating gunfire, imagining black feathers exploding off the birds. John's new; fresh faced right out of the academy, joining the Reeve's County Sherriff's Office soon after.

"Could you knock it off and shut the window? It has to be a hundred degrees outside." I tell the youngster. He sighs, bringing it back, and placing the shotgun back in the holder, shutting the window.

"Sorry Sir," John says to me, looking back out at the feasting vultures.

I'm just an old veteran myself. Been on the force for some 25 years, but age is finally catching up to me, as well as girth. Some years back I took a bullet to the shoulder. It aches every now and then, but nothing too bad. I bring up my hand and rub it slightly. I'm retiring soon, so this is my last penance - training this young upstart. I just got to teach John to make the decisions that won't end up getting him, or anyone else, killed.

I've been with him for around two weeks now. So far so good. He's a good man; he just needs to learn a bit. I look into the rearview mirror. I notice a car approaching, ripping down the scorched asphalt. As it gets closer I can finally make it out. It's an old beat-up pickup racing down the 285 at 90mph. I hesitate though, for some reason seeing that truck fly past us gives me a bad feeling. John, however, didn't feel the same.

"Let's get after them!" he says.

I look at him with my eyes unfocused, grunt, flip on the lights, and burst out after the truck, tires spinning leaving drags on the road. The siren is loud on this model; I say that because once we catch up the truck ignores us. That makes my bad feeling even worse, turning a knot in my stomach. Nothing good ever happens when someone ignores the lights and the screamer so blatantly. After about half-a-mile of chasing they finally pull over on an empty stretch of road.

I cut the lights, and get my old body out the car. John follows, but keeps his hand hovering over the holster of his sidearm. We both make our way toward the truck, with me in front. Getting closer, I notice the truck bed cover, but ignore it for now. I approach the driver's side window. John hangs back and keeps an eye on them from behind.

The driver and his male passenger are as southern as you can get - each in white wife-beaters and trucker hats. Even us from the south would call these folks hicks. I tap on the window lightly, waiting for the thin man to roll down the window. Watching him, I can see that he's whispering something to his friend, seeing that only makes that bad feeling I have even worse. I tap on the glass once more, keeping an eye on their hands. This time he rolls it down.

"Can I have your license and registration?" I ask him. The man stumbles around for them, handing the cards to me. Lucas Willborn; 26 years old the card says. I look over at his twitchy friend, but decide not to request the same from him, don't look like he has any sort of identification. I meet the boy's eyes, and he whips his eyes away from mine. I give John a look, and I can hear the faint snap of him unclipping his holster.

"Why didn't you pull over when you saw us behind you?" I ask him after handing back the two cards. I stare at him, something that makes him uncomfortable.

"Sorry Sheriff. I just didn't notice," he lies to me. How the hell couldn't you notice bright lights and a loud siren blaring right behind you for that long? When I don't buy it, the man gets nervous, as does his friend.

"Do you know why we pulled you over?" I ask him. He gives his friend a quick glance before he answers.

"Because we were speeding..." he says. Good thing he's not trying to feign ignorance like so many others.

"Yes, you were going 90 in a 65 zone."

"Yeah... we were just... taking a joy ride. Havin' fun is all."

I don't believe him. They looked more like they were running away than taking a joy ride. He nods his head to me. Lucas seems to be handling this well, but his friend just becomes more and more nervous the longer I stand there. "Is your friend alright?" I ask him, growing concerned.

His head darts around to look at his friend, tells him something under his breath that I can't hear, then looks back to me. "He's just, um, bit of a jumpy person," he tells me. I give both of them another look, swiveling from them to the covered truck bed.

"What's in the bed?" I ask.

Lucas looks at me, eyes open wide. "What?"

"The back, may I inquire as to why it's covered?"

"We j-just never got to it," he says to me, but not looking in my direction. His friend just looks down at his feet. At this point I have made up my mind. Something is wrong with these two. I just need to check on it.

"Okay... just sit still for a moment." I tell them. I leave those two to fester in the truck. John notices and walks to me, his hand still gripping his gun.

"So what's going on?" he asks.

I tell him, "I'm not too sure, but something isn't right." We both stop and look back. Lucas and his friend are talking, making quick glances at us through the back window. "Stay behind the truck and keep ready."

"Got it."

I continue walking back to the squad car, with John taking his place just behind the truck. He's doing a good job staying alert, but I can still see that the adrenalin is starting to affect him. Even from the car I can see his shaking hand. I throw myself into the front seat, turn the radio back on, and reach immediately for the receiver.

"This is Mark Stable, member of the Reeve's County Sheriff's office. I need a read on a license plate; Romeo-one-seven-Charlie-Delta-nine. It's on a blue, old model Ford pickup," I say. A moment later a female voice comes from the radio.

"Yeah, Sheriff Stable, we actually just put a BOLO out on that truck," she tells me. "It was seen leaving the scene of a kidnapping. A girl named Ellen Paige. The suspects are said to be armed and dangerous."

I sigh and say, "Okay, please send some backup to the empty stretch of 285."

"Right away Sheriff..."

I hang up the receiver and I close my eyes. I knew something was up, now I have to resolve this situation without it ending badly. Those boys are nervous enough as it is, I can't just come out guns blazing, me and the boy will have to do this tactfully.

I walk up to John, pulling him back a bit. I explain to him the situation, and he listens. He's always been a good listener. I tell him the plan, that we have to force them to surrender without them able to use their weapons. We both pull out our firearms slowly, making sure those four prying eyes don't notice.

Everything, though, doesn't always go according to plan. John stays at the back, waiting for my signal. I'm walking up the driver's side to the window. I see the two of them discussing something. It's so clear that they know something's up. So we have to do this as fast as possible.

I pull my gun up to Lucas and shout, "PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!" John joins me, lifting his own gun, aiming at the back of their heads. The two of them don't follow my orders, so I yell some more. "I SAID PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM, AND GET OUT OF THE CAR!"

That is when things go wrong. The next thing I hear is the crack of a gun discharging. Glass is blown into my face. I fall to the ground, the glass following, sprinkling onto the rocky dirt. Lucas's friend fired his weapon at me. Thank god it wasn't a good shot.

John fires a shot, shattering the back window, sending shards of glass at those two. They both duck down, giving me time to pull myself toward the back of the truck, glass scraping against my skin. I would get up, but my shoulder hurts. I try pushing myself up, only to collapse back down. I resign myself to crawling like a wounded animal.

Lucas kicks open the driver's door and falls out. I see that some glass impaled itself into his face as a trail of blood forms, running down his left cheek. He looks confused. Trying to take advantage of this, I spin around on my back and aim my gun. My vision is a slight blurry, so I just aim for center mass. I fire, but the bullet only scrapes his arm. He falls back onto the open door.

I try to take another shot, but my shoulder gives way again, so my hand falls back to the ground. I try getting up again, this time successfully. I see John exchanging fire with the other criminal as he presses himself against the back of the truck. I shuffle myself to join him, but end up collapsing to my ass.

"Are you alright?" he yells at me after taking a pot shot.

I strain to tell him, "Yeah, but my shoulder is pretty shot."

I lean past the taillight. That glass seems to be giving Lucas trouble. It's possible he can barely see at this point. He begins to fire his gun at random, some hit the truck, but one hits me right in my exposed thigh.

"Argh! SHIT!" I yell, gripping my leg with force. I remember this. The pain of a gunshot wound is so intense. John hears my cry and comes to me.

"Shit! Oh, Shit!" he yells as he watches my leg start to bleed profusely. His grip loosens and he allows his gun to fall to the ground.

I yell at him, "What are you doing, you idiot!? Pick up your fucking gun!" I then lean over and take some errant shots at the still stumbling Lucas. John fumbles for his gun while still concentrating on me wounded leg.

"Oh, god, what do we do?" he asks, his hand shaking.

"Just keep suppressing them!" I yell. He, though, makes a mistake, a large mistake. John, in his shock, stands up in the middle of a firefight. Now exposed, I watch - as if it were in slow motion - as a crack rings out, and a spurt of blood flies out of John's neck. He stumbles backwards a bit, stops, and looks to me, and I look back. He grips his neck, but the blood just flows through the gaps between his fingers. His eyes glaze over, and his lip quivers. He tries to say something, anything, I can tell that he wants help, but all that leaves his mouth is a gurgle, and he falls.

My eyes don't leave him for a second. My mind goes blank as I continue to stare, as if this were a nightmare. Indeed, that's what I hope, that all of this is some nightmare. That I will wake up soon, able to start my day and do my job with my young partner. That is not to be, though. Lucas stumbles forward, hitting into the truck and falls to the ground right beside me. My mind fills again, and I am brought back into the present. Without thinking, I lift up my gun, and fire. The bullet impacts at the side of Lucas' ribcage. He lets out a horrid scream, one that could make your blood curdle, but I don't care. Not anymore.

I'm growing tired of this. I continue to watch Lucas squirm. It angers me that this scum is the reason why I am here. The reason why my partner has to die. Though shaky, I keep my gun fixed on him, and fire again. This time he doesn't scream, his body just stops moving. The feeling this gives me is profound. I remember that there's one left. One last scumbag to take care of. One I will have to take care of by myself.

Perhaps matching my thoughts he yells out, looking for his friend, "Lucas! LUCAS!"

Annoyed by the mere presence of his voice I yell at him, "Lucas is dead! I killed him!" I can feel him hitting the truck in his anguish, not that I give a shit. His acting like this will only be to my advantage.

"How dare - I'm going to kill you!" he yells.

"Come and get me, fucker!" I yell back.

Footsteps. Deep, strong, stomping footsteps. I can hear them coming near. And there he is. Emerging from the other side, a pissed expression etched onto his face. He stares at me, and I stare back. His gun lies limply in his hand, at his side, maybe he forgot in a fit of anger that he was in a gunfight, but it doesn't matter, because mine isn't. My firearm is already waiting, aimed at his chest. He realizes, and his expression changes to that of surprise. I feel good about that, for his face will look eternally surprised in his death. A remembrance of his stupidity. He tries to speak, but the sound of my discharging gun drowns it out. I hit him, dead in the heart. A pink mist explodes out of his back. His mouth is left agape. He falls. I look. I watch. I hear. The sounds of sirens echoing off the mountains. Coming closer. I look at John. His eyes are still watching me. His arm outstretched, reaching toward me, still wanting that help I can't give him.

Yeah... I think I'm done...


  1. Intense gun battle scene. Short, quick sentences at the end help ramp up the action.

  2. that was a good old battle Scene. agree with Jim, well presented.

    good characters.

    Michael McCarthy

  3. This is some of the toughest kind of writing (action) to do well and you've done it really well.

  4. Very well executed. Like the others said, the gunfight was expertly described. It reads fast and fluidly.