‘Rookie’s Luck’

Diner

A couple of months ago I was invited over to Oklahoma in the United States to assist in an investigation into an alleged haunted house. The investigation itself transpired to be a fruitless task, and our efforts ended prematurely and with an unsatisfying whimper.

Finding myself with some spare time on my hands before my flight home I elected to rent a car and take a drive around the state, taking in us much of the local geography as I could. In the late evening I found myself in the town of Gage in Ellis County, where I stopped at a small restaurant (of the type which our American friends rather quaintly call a ‘Mom & Pop diner’) to partake in a spot of dinner before I travelled on to my motel for the night.

Whilst at the diner, I got to talking with a member of the local law enforcement, one Sergeant Jason Bradley. A thoroughly pleasant individual, I found him to be good company, and our conversation soon turned to our respective vocations. Once Sergeant Bradley found out what I did for a living, he asked me if I would be interested in hearing his recollection of an event that occurred to him some time ago.

The officer’s story was so compelling, it more than made up for the wasted days I had just spent at the alleged ‘haunted house’.

Here is his tale:

‘Now you see, Doctor Gotobed, I’m from a big family. Heck, everyone is from a big family out this way. I’m the youngest of eight, and my Dad left home when I was young. So the job of man of the house fell on the shoulders of my oldest brother, Wayne.

‘Wayne was a big guy, bigger than me, but he was also the gentlest man you could ever meet. Real kind too. He literally once gave a homeless person the jacket off his back just so the guy didn’t have to sleep in the cold.

‘That’s the kind of person he was. He could place a hand on your shoulder and tell you it would all be okay, and you’d believe him. 

‘Anyway, Wayne joined the army when I was about twelve, just to get a scholarship. There’s no way he would’ve been able to go to college otherwise. Then, guess what? Yep, Saddam fucking Hussein. Suddenly we’re at war with Iraq.

‘So out he goes to the desert. To fight for a reason that even to this day doesn’t really make any sense to me. But he was a good guy, and a good American.

‘He’s out on patrol one day,  and he tells his CO he’s going to take a deuce. And what do you know? My poor brother treads on an IED. That’s an Improvised Explosive Device. A land mine to you and me.

‘Now, those things are nasty. They’re designed to injure, not kill, so that more bodies are taken up helping the wounded. But not Wayne. The one he treads on blows him to bits. They told us that at least it was quick.

‘Me, my Mom and my brothers, we’re all cut up to bits when we get the news.

‘His coffin comes home and we’re told not to open it, it’ll be too horrifying, they say. 

‘I don’t think my Mom ever got over that.

‘I still miss that guy. You don’t get many like him anymore. He’s the reason I became a cop. He always said that if you can do the right thing, you should.

‘Anywho, fast forward ten years or so, and I’ve just got my badge, out on my first patrol in the big city. It’s late night and my partner and I, we spot this big pimp pistol-whipping one of his girls. Really going to town on her, whacking her over and over again. 

‘I jump out the cruiser. This guy spots me and turns to run. And then it’s on. He’s weaving through all these little alleyways and I’m chasing him with my gun drawn.

‘The pimp rounds a corner, out of my sight. And just as I get to the spot he vanished, I hear my brother’s voice.

‘Wayne’s voice. 

‘He says ‘it’s gonna be alright, Jay. Don’t be scared’.

‘It’s like he’s right next to me, running alongside, speaking in my ear. 

‘I take the corner and the pimp is standing off to one side, his gun levelled right at my temple.

‘He pulls the trigger once. Click. Nothing. And then again. Click. Nothing. It’s a revolver .32, so I can even hear the chamber turning as he tries to shoot.

‘I pause for a split second. Not even that, just the shortest moment. Next thing you know I’m whacking this scumbag with the butt of my gun and restraining him.

‘To this day I don’t know why I didn’t shoot that son of a bitch.

‘My partner turns up and we bundle the perp into the back of the cruiser. I unload his gun, and there are two bullets with strike marks against both of them.

‘I tell my partner about the pimp pulling the trigger. He just laughs and calls it ‘rookie’s luck’. 

‘I didn’t mention hearing my brother’s voice.

‘But that’s not the end of it, no siree. Once we get back to the station, I show the gun to one of the lab techs. He reloads the struck bullets and fires them into the test tank.’ 

Sergeant Bradley makes the shape of a gun with his hand and points it a downwards angle.

‘They both go off. Bam! Bam!’ 

A few of the other diners glance over. The Sergeant waves them away with a smile.

‘Now I’m a simple man, Doctor, and my job means I can’t afford to be daydreaming about stuff. But if there are angels, I’d like to think that Wayne was the kind of guy to make the grade. 

‘I think he was watching over me that night. 

‘I never heard his voice again. But I reckon he’s still got my back.’  

Bullets

In my opinion, Sergeant Bradley makes for a very credible individual, and he told me his story without prompting. Whilst it is indeed possible that his tale was no more than a fabrication designed to humour a tourist such as myself, I find this difficult to believe.

Someone in his position has no need to invent such a tale. Indeed, he confided in me that he had not shared it with anyone else, out of a desire to maintain his credibility as a police officer.

This is not the first time I have heard an account like this. In my experience, stories of this nature involving members of the emergency services seem to be relatively more commonplace than similar accounts concerning members of the public.

Either way, I am grateful to Sergeant Bradley for ensuring my trip over the Atlantic was not entirely wasted.

I wish him all the best for the future.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

‘Stuff to Scare the New Guys With’

SymbolMedic

There is much debate in scientific and theological circles regarding the exact point in time that a collection of cells can be considered living, as well the exact point that the same collection of cells can be considered dead.

The moment of death has historically been a fluid concept. Indeed, there are many examples of those whose hearts have stopped beating or been declared brain dead being bought ‘back to life’ thanks to advances in modern medicine. As I write this, it is commonly accepted in the medical community that true death occurs the moment there is no chance of such a resurrection.

But what of the spirit, that intangible and unique life force that makes us who we are? Is it possible that this part of us can live on after this ‘true death’?

In my experience, the best place to begin searching for answers is in the testimonies of those who work at the boundary between life and death; the medical profession and the emergency services.

HMonitor

4th February 2012

Karen Sawyer is one such individual. Short, slight, and with a disarming smile, she currently works as a baker specialising in bespoke wedding cakes.

However, fifteen years ago, she was employed in an altogether more ‘challenging’ field.

These are her words, not mine.

We meet in a small boutique coffee shop in the London Borough of Hackney where, over several strong cups of Americano coffee, she shares her story.

As she speaks, it is impossible not to notice that her words suggest an inner steeliness at odds with her soft voice and somewhat gentle demeanour.

‘I was a call handler back then, and an emergency medical dispatcher. The trust I worked for smooshed both those roles into one. The night shifts were tough. The hardest parts were the long spells of doing nothing or dealing with mundane calls. Then, ‘Wham!’ You’d get these moments of incredibly high stress. I didn’t last long. Two years, maybe.

‘Some of the ‘old timers’, the people who’d worked there for ages, they all had the odd weird tale to tell or spooky story to share. But you took it all with a pinch of salt. They seemed like urban legends, you know? Just stuff to scare the new guys with, no more than that.

‘I only had one really strange thing happen to me, but crikey was it strange.

‘The shift started as normal, nothing unusual. Some mum rang up, worried about a rash her kid had. A drunk lad who’d snapped a finger, just the typical midweek stuff.  I remember getting up for a cup of coffee, then sitting back down when the call came in.

‘It was a young woman. She sounded… distant, tired. I could tell she’d taken something. She said her name was Tiffany.

‘Tiffany was asking for an ambulance. She said she’d taken a bunch of pills. She said she’d tried to kill herself, but she didn’t mean it. She was begging me for help.

‘I got her address and dispatched an ambulance out to her.

‘We’d been trained to keep people on the line, ‘til the paramedics arrived. She kept kind of dipping in and out on me. She’d go from loud and distraught to quiet and whimpering. She kept saying: ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, a terrible mistake.’

‘I spoke to her for about five minutes, whilst the help was on its way. I tried to get more information out of her, specifically what the pills were that she’d taken. She said she didn’t know. So I asked her about her family. But she kept, kind of, coming and going is the only way I can describe it. Hysterical to sad. So sad.

‘I asked her if her front door was unlocked. I heard her put the phone down and then a clicking noise, which I assumed was the door being taken off the latch. 

‘Now this is before everyone had mobiles, so I guess she’d put the handset down somewhere near the receiver. 

‘She never came back on the line.’

Ms Sawyer wipes tears away from her eyes.

‘I heard the paramedics enter the building, and then some muffled voices talking. I disconnected and took a deep breath. I thought that I’d done all I could.

‘A couple of minutes later, one of the paramedics on the scene rang up. He was asking me who’d made the initial call.

‘I thought that was a bit odd. I told him it was Tiffany, the young woman.

‘He asked me if I was sure. Maybe someone else had made the call?

‘I was adamant. It was the young woman I’d spoken to. Not a relative, not a friend. No one else.

‘He just said okay and then hung up on me.’

She brushes strands of hair away from her face, composing herself.

‘Someone contacted the front desk, asking for the supervisor. I watched him take the call, all the time looking at me. He hung up and then waved me over.

‘He’d been talking to the paramedics on the scene. Apparently when they got into the place, Tiffany was dead in the hall. She was ice cold, showing signs of lividity and rigor mortis.

‘They estimated she’d been there, dead, for at least a day.’

LondonMono

According to Ms Sawyer, the recording of her phone conversation that night was reviewed at length, along with the logs of the paramedics.

All the timestamps pointed to Ms Sawyer conversing with the caller, a woman who had apparently committed suicide by an overdose of codeine, an opiate, an overdose which took her life some twenty four hours before she dialled 999.

This is not the first case of this nature experienced by a member of the emergency services that I have encountered. Indeed, the more of them I investigate, the more I am convinced that the spirit can sometimes linger behind, tied to this world for a short while, particularly after a traumatic death.

I suspect, in this instance, that the phone call Ms Sawyer answered was a final plea for help.

But without further, focused research, answers to the nature of the soul will continue to remain elusive. I must add that, once again, this is not the kind of incident that can be replicated under the conditions required to satisfy the scientific method.

Mannequin

A month after her experience, Ms Sawyer left her job as a call handler, stepping back from the edge. I cannot blame her.

If there were any justice in the world, those who toil at the apparently fluid border between life and death would be revered and rewarded accordingly.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

This was another one that was tough to type up. It’s always easier when it’s abstract concepts or historical accounts, not actual, living (or dying) people. I think I need a break from reading the good doctor’s notes for a bit. And a drink. A large one – C.R.