|The Transformation Story Archive||The Visionary Saga|
To Protect and Serve
The officer in midnight blue entered the darkened home idly fingering his gun.
He didn't expect anything wrong that night, not now, and not in this home. It was his own.
The gun was empty anyway.
He turned on the light, and for a moment, felt the sense of normalcy he wanted. The mail was piled below the mail slot, the clock on the wall ticked quietly, and the crumb covered plate and ice cream bowl still sat on the living room table, where he had eaten lunch earlier.
He remembered sharing some with Rasputin.
His eyes fell on the dog bed, now empty.
He absently fingered his badge. The badge he'd worn for so many years. The badge that he had dreamed of wearing since his childhood. The badge he had earned with so much blood, sweat and tears.
In a sudden fluid movement, he ripped it from his uniform and threw it through the glass fireplace screen. Pebbles of fire retardant glass fell across the brickwork. His arm swept across the mantel, sending vacation souvenirs, candle sticks and framed photos across the floor. He removed his baton from its place on his belt, and with an expert and practiced motion swept the brass floor lamp from the corner. The bulb shattered with a soft pop.
The baton ended up embedded in the wall board across the room.
He looked to the floor and stopped. He bent down to pick up one of the photos from the mantle. The glass in the frame was cracked, but he could still see the subjects of the picture. Gingerly, like it was suddenly made of the finest crystal, he set it on the cleared mantle.
His hand fell to his pant leg. The dried blood was nearly hidden by the deep blue of the uniform.
He collapsed into his leather easy chair, breaking into tears for only the third time in years. The first time he lost his mother. The second, a partner.
"That wasn't too bright, was it officer?"
Officer Carl Tyson looked up, to see a stranger standing amid the shattered glass and knickknacks in his living room. Under most circumstances, he would have had his gun in his hand by now, but the fight had left him. He didn't think that he would ever have it again.
"Destroying your own home never solved anything. I'm sorry to have startled you, but your door was open."
"Who are you? Are you from the department?"
The man removed his dark overcoat and fedora, "No, but I am here to help."
Carl wiped a hand across his cheek. He didn't care that this man had seen him crying. "How? What's done is done."
The man took a seat across the room and smiled lightly, "Not always. You might be surprised."
The man stood again and walked to the lone picture on the mantle. He handled it with the same care that the officer had. "This is you and Rasputin, right?"
He nodded. "It was taken three years ago, right after he was assigned to me in the K-9 unit."
The man set down the picture, showing a police officer in a much happier times, posed with a two year old German Shepherd named Rasputin. "Lovely animal."
Carl suddenly started to cry again, his throat became tight. "He was."
"What happened out there tonight?"
Carl sniffed a couple times. The man offered him a white handkerchief. "I shot him. My God, I shot him." he said quietly, unknowingly repeating the words he had shouted into his radio so many hours ago.
"Did you mean too?"
"No!", he said, more loudly than he intended. Then, more quietly, "No. It was a mistake, my mistake."
The man got a faraway look in his eyes. "It was an accident."
The sobbing officer shook his head, "No. It was my fault."
"What happened? Or what do you think happened?"
Officer Tyson didn't want to recall, he didn't want to remember. He'd already told this story too many times tonight. The last thing he wanted to do was repeat it.
It had been a routine call. Suspicious man in a backyard. Happens all the time. Probably the most common call he and Rasputin got every day. Almost every time, it was nothing more than a cat knocking over a trash can.
They had arrived at the house with no lights and sirens, and no back-up at the moment. It was a busy night, he'd have to wait.
A middle aged housewife ran from the house to his car. "He's in the back! My kids are scared out of their mind!"
Officer Tyson decided in that moment not to wait for back-up. Children in the house changed the situation. It was his job to protect them, at his own risk. He paused only long enough to call it in and open the door for Rasputin, who jumped excitedly.
Rasputin really did love his work.
He thought about releasing his partner from the leash, but decided against it. He still didn't know what was going on and wanted to err on the side of caution. He kept his hand ready on the release hook, though.
He spotted the side gate to the home and looked at the woman. "Stay here by the car."
One hand on his pistol, the other on the leash, he crept across the damp lawn to the shadowed gate. Looking into the backyard between the wooden slats of the fence he saw nothing. He released the latch quietly and crept into the yard.
He saw the man standing in the middle of the yard as he rounded the corner. He was younger, but not young. He looked familiar, and a memory from the afternoon briefing came to mind. A rape suspect was wanted in the area.
Rasputin began to growl.
"Police! On the ground! Now!" he shouted.
The man seemed to notice them for the first time, and started to slowly crouch down. Officer Tyson kept his weapon trained on the suspect as he slowly and wordlessly lowered himself.
The next moments were a blur. Rasputin, normally the best trained dog in the state, was off his leash. He lunged barking at the man in the half crouched position.
In the next moment, the man had a gun in his own hand and started to point it at Tyson, then Rasputin.
Then he fired.
The next moment, Tyson fired his own weapon.
The same moment, Rasputin leapt.
Three bullets were fired. One from the suspect, which was found embedded in the handle of a rake in a nearby tool shed. Two were from Tyson. Both passed through Rasputin and stuck the suspect in the chest.
The suspect fell over, never having said a word. He never would again.
Rasputin had yelped once, the first time that he was hit. He was either dead or in too much pain to yelp when the second came. His body fell on top of the suspects.
Tyson ran over to them and kicked the mans' .38 away. He gently and firmly pulled his partner to one side and looked at him. Blood gushed from his neck and chest.
He checked the suspect quickly, making sure he was dead, and shouted into his radio, "I shot him! My God, I shot him!"
He ignored, or rather didn't hear, the pleas from the dispatcher for more information. Instead, he cradled Rasputin in his lap until back-up arrived.
Carl stopped retelling his story. The rest was just the start of the investigation. The supervisor had told him he'd most likely be cleared, that these things happen in police work.
But that didn't sit well with Carl. Rasputin was dead by his own hand.
The old man leaned a little forward in the chair, "Why did Rasputin lunge at that man?"
Carl looked up from the scuffed shoes he was so intently studying, "I don't know. He'd never done anything like that before, even in training. He never did anything without a signal."
"How did he get off the leash?"
Carl though again, how did he get off? "I don't know. I guess I released it by accident."
"I think that you need to know how..."
Carl wasn't in his home anymore, he was back in his patrol car. But he was lying on a carpeted platform in the back now, looking out the front.
He realized he was Rasputin, but wasn't. He didn't have any control over anything, but he felt what he felt, heard what he heard, and, to a degree, could feel the thoughts of his canine partner.
But Rasputin was in control.
He heard the call come over the radio. A suspicious man in a backyard. Rasputin knew what the words meant.
So did Carl.
Carl wanted to close his eyes, to hum out the sounds he heard. But he was locked into Rasputin, and Rasputin controlled what he saw and did.
They had arrived at the house, and Rasputin became excited. He had never realized just how much the dog loved this work. He'd always assumed it was just the training.
He felt the familiar leash go around the collar, and they started running to the side gate.
He had smelled the man before Carl saw him. He felt a low growl begin to boil up, which began audible when the man came into sight.
Rasputin waited. He knew that he'd be released if needed. He also knew that the leash was actually already released, that it was standard procedure to leave the clip open with the hook facing backward, so that all the officer had to do was pull it off. Rasputin knew that he only needed to back up a little and crouch down to get free.
Carl felt all these thoughts. How did Rasputin know all this?
Rasputin smelled the gun oil before he saw the gun. He knew that Carl couldn't see it from his higher position. He saw where the mans right hand was going. He knew what the man was planning.
Rasputin inched backward slightly, felt the leash go slack, and lunged. He knew what he was doing.
Carl wanted to scream.
Rasputin saw the gun point to his partner, and then the confused look across the mans face as he realized the more immediate danger of the lunging dog. The gun began to swing around.
A shot fired.
Then two more.
Then Carl was back in his living room, looking at the old man again.
"You should be able to tell me that now, officer."
Carl though, "Rasputin knew that he could release himself. He always knew. How?"
The man stood again, stepping over the shattered lamp to a larger framed photo on the wall. It showed a man in a police officers uniform, taken about six years ago. "This is Sergeant Peter Tarovich, isn't it?"
Carl looked to the picture, the one that he had concisely avoided looking at all night. "Yea."
"What happened to him?", asked the man.
"We were called to a domestic disturbance. We were walking up the walkway when the husband came out the front door with a gun. Before we could do anything, he had fired. Peter was hit below his vest. He died a few hours later."
"The man who shot him?"
"Dead, but not at my hand. I returned fire, but didn't kill him. He died two years ago in a prison riot." Carl looked away from the photo. "Good riddance."
The man had a mild twinkle in his eye, "Not exactly, but that will serve."
"Sergeant Tarovich didn't die that morning."
Officer Tyson looked at the man a long moment, "I watched him die."
The man nodded, "You did, but not that morning. You watched him die tonight."
Carl was getting confused and a little agitated, "What the hell are you talking about?"
Then Rasputin was in the room again.
But not Rasputin. Carl stared at the form in front of him for a long moment before he realized that it wasn't solid. It was vaguely transparent.
The image sat down, unbothered by the broken glass, but looked around in mild annoyance. Then he looked back at Carl.
Carl looked at the dog for a long time. He felt a connection to the animal, one that he never had before. It wasn't like a conversation, more a passing of facts between them. Then he knew.
"Peter? That's really you?"
The dog wuffed once and wagged his tail, but never moved.
Carl looked at the old man with accusation, "You did this to him, didn't you!"
Even as the old man shook his head, Rasputin barked once. "I did this for him, and with his permission. He knew."
Carl looked at them both for a long moment, then asked both, "Why?"
"We all have a future and a destiny. We all have possibilities, though, and that destiny can take many forms. You still have a destiny. So did he."
Carl looked again at the dog he had known as a partner, "You went though this for me? Why?"
The dog barked lightly once and looked back at the old man.
"You are alive. Do you need another reason?"
Carl slumped heavily back in his chair. "What does all this change?" he asked. "I still shot him. It's my fault that he's dead."
Rasputin whined a little and looked again at the man. "Carl, you don't understand. Life is probabilities, possibilities and destinies. Three lives met in that yard tonight. Only one was going to leave."
Carl looked at him, "I don't understand."
The man sighed and sat down. "If Peter.."
"Sorry. If Rasputin didn't die tonight, then you would have."
Realization dawned on Carl, but he felt no better. "Did I have to kill him?"
The man shook his head sadly, "No. That was one of the possibilities, but it wasn't ordained. It was an accident."
"Peter should have lived. He's already died once."
"He would have again, as will you someday. But had you died tonight, then his sacrifice six years ago would have meant nothing."
Carl felt more tears roll down his cheek as he looked again at his former partner, but said nothing.
The old man picked up his overcoat and hat. "We must be going, I'm afraid."
Carl felt his throat tighten up again. He jumped from the chair and knelt beside his friend. His hands touched the fur and felt the warmth, but somehow it felt different. "Can't you stay? You let him stay once."
"That decision isn't mine to make. Besides, his work is done here. Yours isn't."
They started to fade, and Carl suddenly had a million questions. Only one came to mind fast, "Wait!", he looked at the slowly disappearing dog, "If you're Peter, then why did you keep eating my slippers?"
The dog just let his mouth hang open in a loopy grin as his disappeared from sight.
Carl looked around the shattered living room a moment, wondering what had just happened. He wondered if it was all a dream, a stress induced hallucination.
Then he saw his badge back on his chest.
He saw the photo on the mantle, showing he and Rasputin three years ago.
The glass was mended.
To Protect and Serve copyright 1996 by Brian Eirik Coe.
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