This is an excerpt from the first novel I ever wrote, Fallen Heroes. It has not been published, and most likely never will be, but I love the story and the characters I created. I hope you enjoy meeting Officer Taylor Douglas.
Taylor peeled of his sweat soaked navy blue T-shirt and stood bare chested in the feeble breeze being generated by the window mounted air conditioner in his bedroom. He stayed there until goose bumps dimpled his chest and belly, and enjoyed the feeling of comfort for the first time in several hours. He threw his shirt over the shower rod to dry before he would add it to the mound of dirty clothes that dominated one corner of the small room.
The small bedroom was dark enough that the glare from the television caused him to squint until his eyes adjusted. Static and fuzz covered the screen as the ancient recorder struggled in reverse. He wanted desperately to crawl into bed, but the remote was broken and once he got in bed he wanted to stay there. The tape finally stopped and he stabbed the play button twice before the machine would obey. Taylor propped his head up on the pillow and saw Turner Field come into view on the screen. He'd managed to stay ignorant of the outcome of this game all night long and was looking forward to watching it.
He had stuck with the Braves through the rough years and was enjoying their recent successes more than most. Memories of past trips down to Atlanta with his dad had a lot to do with it. His dad had always worked two shifts at the textile mill and Taylor smiled as he remembered his dad coming to his after school ball games on his lunch break. He had his best games when his dad was there to watch. The family vacation was a trip to Atlanta every year, where they stayed with his Uncle Ray and went to see the Braves. Right up to the year his dad died they had made the trip, and for several years there were three generations of Douglas men at the game. His smile faded when he wondered if he'd ever take his son there again.
He lay there in nothing but his shorts and was finally cool enough to relax. The muggy weather seemed to affect him more with each summer and working the midnight shift had been his latest defeat. Senior man in the division and he was keeping time with the rookies on third shift. By all rights he should be pre-retired, working first shift in a Disneyland district where the most serious crimes were illegal parking and truancy. But the sun was too much for him when combined with a suffocating Kevlar vest and navy blue uniform. So he would be pale all summer long and had bags under his eyes that would not go away, but at least he was not being roasted daily.
Within twenty-five minutes of leaving the station he was in bed and ready for ten hours of uninterrupted sleep. He didn't bother to set his alarm. He fell asleep with Hudson pitching a shutout going into the bottom of the sixth as the tape played on.
The knocking in his head grew louder and louder until it finally woke him up. Taylor stumbled into the living room toward the source of his rude awakening. He flung open the door and was attacked by heat and light. He shielded his eyes and stepped back inside.
"Officer Douglas. I've been knocking for five minutes. What if this was an emergency?"
Slowly the small woman with the large voice emerged from the light. She did not seem bothered in the least that she had woken him up.
He closed his eyes.
"Those kids are back in the pool again." She was obviously expecting a response.
"All right," he grunted. "I'll take care of it." Then he slammed the door in her face.
He found his flip-flops and a ball cap with the department shield stitched on the front and put on dark glasses before opening the door. She startled him as she spoke.
"Officer Douglas…" She stopped when she looked at him as if something has caused her train of thought to derail.
"Aren't you going to put your uniform on?"
"They're all at the cleaners," he replied as he walked past. "We don't want to alarm the residents, do we?"
This seemed to satisfy her, and she let him walk away without further interrogation. The traffic noises coming from the interstate completed the sensory assault. At least on midnights he got to sleep through rush hour. Even with the dark glasses on he had to squint to keep his eyes from melting. Once again spring had skipped the Piedmont and it was summer in May. He silently cursed his ever-present solar enemy. He attributed his perspiration to the temperature and ignored his poor physical condition as he wiped the sweat from his salt and pepper crew cut.
When he got to the pool he recognized the trespassers as repeat offenders: two brothers, nine and ten years old. They lived in the housing project next to his apartments. There were a few other people at the pool, so he decided not to yell at them. He plopped down in a stained lounge chair and motioned them over with his finger.
"It's too hot for me to yell at you two again, so I'm just gonna’ tell you to leave. You can't swim here 'cause you don't live here. Understand?"
They nodded, but they also understood that they were hot and the pool was right next to where they lived. Taylor felt sweat drip from his armpit and saw the manager watching him.
"I'll make a deal with y'all. You see that crappy looking red Escort parked in front of the office? As long as it’s not here, you can swim, OK? If you’re in the pool when she’s here, I’m going to take you both to jail."
They both grinned and he saw that the eldest was missing his two front teeth.
"Just you two!" Taylor yelled after them. One of them threw up his hand as he ran toward the hole on the wooden fence that separated their worlds.
Taylor looked at the inviting water. He should be at his house, looking at his pool, he thought. But now he had a free one-bedroom apartment in exchange for keeping dangerous criminals like those two at bay. Maybe his ex would take his son to a ball game with this month's check. He'd do it someday, as soon as they started speaking to each other again.
His legs felt cool where the boys had dripped water on him as they talked. The shorts were loose, but he figured he would be all right if he just waded in. He almost left to get a towel but knew that he wouldn't come back if he did. The water was warmer than he expected and he sat down on the bottom and leaned back against the steps. He didn't know how long his eyes had been closed when he heard the commotion. He ignored it for as long as he could, and finally opened his eyes. A large woman was dancing next to the pool.
"My baby! Help my baby!" She then began yelling in Spanish, and Taylor was completely confused. He got out of the pool and looked as she pointed at the deep end.
"My baby!" she sobbed as she pulled on his arm. She was pointing at what looked like a doll that was lying at the bottom of the deep end of the pool.
His heart began to pound and time slowed as he dove in. He could still hear her screaming under the water. Taylor clawed at the water and pulled himself frantically toward the small, still form on the bottom. It was only eight feet deep but his lungs felt like they were going to explode. He grabbed an arm and pushed off the bottom, surprised at how heavy the child was. He gasped as he surfaced and handed the baby to someone.
"Call 911!" he spat. He had to yell it again before he saw anyone move. He climbed out beside his victim and skills learned years ago but never put to use came back to him quickly. He blew four quick breaths into the small mouth and watched her chest rise with his efforts. The child's eyes were closed and still. Taylor whispered a prayer as he tilted the head back and blew again.
He started chest compressions again and began to feel lightheaded. He waited for someone in the crowd to help but everyone just watched. He took a deep breath and blew again, watching the small chest rise as he exhaled.
Without any warning, bile and chlorine exploded into his mouth. The little girl began to choke and convulse. He scooped her mouth clear and smiled as she started crying. The mother took her child and held her close as she cried and hugged the man that had saved her little one’s life. Taylor felt his eyes begin to water, and everyone was staring at him as he stood up.
He knelt to speak to the mother when a dark object in the water caught his eye. He gasped at the thought of missing a second child. He was about to dive in again, but when he saw his ball cap floating on the water he suddenly realized that he was about to rescue his shorts. His mouth dropped open and he stood frozen in place. He felt a shiver work its way down his spine and end at his big toe. Someone handed him a towel and he wrapped it around his bare ass. Turning to thank his rescuer he saw a giggling bronzed beauty no more than eighteen struggling to control herself.
"Thanks," he stammered with a thick tongue. "I'll get it back to you."
"Keep it." she said.
He clutched the towel tightly around his waist and trotted back to his apartment. Taylor could hear the sirens as he closed the door behind him. As his cheeks began to cool, his taste buds reminded him of the flavor in his mouth. Some searching produced a dusty bottle of bourbon and he gargled with it, spitting in the sink. It was only a child, but these days it paid to be careful. With his luck he would get the plague.
He was sleepy but hungry too, and knew he would sleep better on a full stomach. He threw a couple of frozen burritos in the microwave and poured himself a glass of generic diet soda. Still wearing only the towel, he carried his meal into the bedroom and remembered the game. As he reached for the rewind button the commercial suddenly ended.
"The Braves loose a tough one in the ninth, ending a five game winning streak and dropping them into second place in the standings." The announcer said.
He swallowed a bite of food and burped. For all that his life lacked, at least it was consistent.