Oh God I’ve got to stop working a double shift! ‘ Janey, can you do this, Janey can you do that?’ I am too easy going and too broke to say no. I hate my life! I am too tired to think and I stink of cheap beer. EWWWWW! I can still smell vomit! Eddy you have got to get a better class of drunk in this run-down bar. Damn! Did I collect my tips? How could I forget my tips? I’m swear I am going to sleep for . . . “What the . . . oh geez, sorry you scared me! I don’t mean to be rude but it’s late, I’m tired and I’ll not really in the mood for any . . . look I’ll see you around . . . . .what the . . . . hey stop that, OWWW! AHHHH! You’re hurting me! Oh my God, my God it’s you!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH . . .
“Mr. Leibowitz you are going to give your self another heart attack and your wife is going to kill you!”
One man was shifting heavy boxes of fruit from a truck parked outside his grocery store. As the second man approached, the first stopped, wiped his brow and smiled. The second man took over and finished the job in only minutes. The two men stood back to admire their handiwork and shared a good nature chuckle. One was a small man with a back bowed by old age and arthritis, the other was a large man with a straight back.
“Officer Patrick are you arresting my husband?” This new voice belonged to the small man’s wife. She was as formidable and she was angry. “You should arrest this lump of coal! He no good. He disobeys his son the doctor and he is determined to make me a widow. Me, a young woman in my prime, I say!”
Both men had refrained from moving and each knew better than to attempt any kind of conversation while Mrs. Leibowitz was in full rant. She would either run out of steam or out of room for her formidable figure. With luck she would just go back inside to continuing ranting without an audience. And the luck had it. With barely a pause in her rant, she returned to more comfortable surroundings.
Retired Officer Patrick O’Halleran was a twenty-nine-year veteran of the local police department. Before he had retired, Patrick walked this beat for almost 10 years. People knew him and had a difficult time accepting the fact that he no longer wore the uniform. In fact, they still treated him as if he did. The days when police officers walked the beat no longer existed and they all missed that. So, Patrick strolled the streets every day as he had done for all those years. It gave him a chance to think and it was great exercise.
So here he stood talking to a man who, just three weeks ago, had suffered a mild heart attack. Tobias Leibowitz knew he shouldn’t be moving these grocery boxes, but he also knew that Patrick was due to come by any moment. Patrick had a reputation for helping. Everybody knew that. And everybody expected it.
When Patrick finally left the Leibowitz grocery store he was tired. He was tired of walking this endless beat but he didn’t know how to stop. He was tired of everybody expecting him to do the right thing. Everybody wanted something from him. People expected him to fix their problems, even his family. No one asked Patrick what Patrick wanted.
“Officer Patrick, Officer Patrick, please I think she’s dead! She no breathing! She no breathing! Come!
His years of training allowed him to react immediately. As he was running after the stranger, he was already preparing for whatever lay around the corner.
Patrick followed closely behind the agitated man; he was not one of the regulars. As he came around the corner of the alley, he saw in front of him a large crowd made up of mostly children. They were hovering over something that seemed to be quite small, another child perhaps? Patrick quickly pushed his way to the centre of the crowd; his expertise was needed. When he reached the centre, he realized he probably shouldn’t have hurried.
“You didn’t tell me it was a cat.”
“No, my cat, my boy’s cat, make better yes? She no breath!”
Patrick knew he was never going to live this down but he couldn’t make things any worse. So, he reached down to this ratty feline and put his mouth over it’s and breathed, once, twice, three times . . . The stinky old fur ball had the unmitigated gall to spit up in his mouth and then run away. DAMN cat!
“Thank you, thank you Officer Patrick, you good man.”
Patrick did chuckle. Yes, he could see the funny side of things. His life saving efforts had been wasted on a mangy and ungrateful cat. Well the kids were entertained.
He stood up and looked around the back alley. When the cat had run off, so had all the children. It seems there was no more excitement here. He could see clear to the end of the alley. There’s Mr. Grant, he used to be an executive in some bank but lost it all because of a sordid liaison with a secretary and now he is the local drunk. He could see two of the resident hookers coming home from what must have been a successful night as they were laughing. A lot went on in this alley. It was great place to catch a glimpse of the dredges of life. It was also a great place to hide from the rest of the world. Patrick looked up at the windows that overlooked the alley. Blinds were drawn and windows were closed tight. No one wanted to see or be seen.
With a last look around the alley Patrick returned to the main street. He could see Anna Winslow through the glass of her flower shop. She was a timid woman who had been beaten by a drunken husband until he had managed to cut his own throat with his pocket knife while drinking in the alley a few months ago. No one had seen a thing. Ms. Winslow was doing much better on her own. She even smiled occasionally.
Patrick continued his endless patrol. When he had retired, he was left with too much time on his hands. So, he continued to do in his spare time what he did on the job: he patrolled the neighbourhood. He remembered that he had promised Mr. Olson that he would look in on his son. Mr. and Mrs. Olson were traveling in Mexico; their twenty something-year-old son was taking care of their bookshop. The kid had a head for selling books. He knew his stock better than his father. Of course, his father was too proud to admit that. Still, he’d stop in on the kid and maybe get a cup of coffee.
As Patrick continued down the street occasionally crossing to the other side, his eyes were always on the move. He was watching for kids up to no good, he was watching for telltale signs of shoplifting, and people who just looked guilty. Patrick had been good at his job. He was so good at his job that any time he had asked for a transfer to a different branch of policing it was denied. He was always told that his job as a front-line officer was more important than any other position in the police force. He was the face of policing to the common folk. That and the fact that he was very good-looking, and well loved by the people on his beat, made changing assignments very difficult.
“Hey Officer Patrick when are you going to catch that guy? Us girls shouldna have to worry when we walk the streets. We’s got rights you know.”
The young woman chiding Patrick was another of the streetwalkers coming home from a late/early meeting. They always kidded him. He was single, attractive and polite. Fodder for their warped sense of humour.
“Don’t you worry Betty they will catch him. It just takes time, and good police work.”
“Hey Officer, I read in the paper that this strangler has killed four women in the last six months. This is happening very close to our street. Are we in danger?”
This time Patrick did grin, although he did it surreptitiously.
“Well Miss Montague I think you will be just fine. So far, the only women that have been strangled have been young women. While you are indeed a fine figure of a woman, I think you have a few decades on the victims. But I must say Miss Montague if I was only a few years older…”
Abigail Montague was indeed a fine figure of a woman. Forty years earlier she had been a dance hall girl. She sang and she danced with all the greats of the time. She enjoyed a good joke: preferably dirty, rich men, and Scotch, not necessarily in that order. She also loved to flirt with Patrick because he gave as good as he got. As Patrick moved past her perch, she admired his backside and shook her head. If she was only a few decades younger. . .
As Patrick continued along his self-imposed beat, more and more people came out to ask him about the Back-Alley Strangler. That is what the newspapers had started calling the man who was randomly strangling young women in back alleys. Patrick didn’t have much to add to what information people already had but he did his best to calm their fears. This strangler was preying on young women, many of them prostitutes, all of them poor if not destitute. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a segment of society that registered high in the Homicide Bureau. Of course, he wasn’t about to admit that to people who were already concerned. It never does well to admit to one’s faults especially if everyone is looking to you to fix the problem.
Eventually the day came to an end. His day had been jammed packed with requests. He had been asked to change a light bulb for Edna Smith, Mr. Fitzwilliam had wanted him to chastise his grandson for spitting, then there were the two dogs that were fighting: they had to be separated, and warnings to a couple of young boys who were fighting over a girl, and people wanted information on the Back-Alley Strangler. They all wanted a piece of him.
By the end of the day Patrick always felt as if he’d been pulled in a hundred different directions. He was tired and his feet hurt. He knew he was well-liked by these people but they only liked him because he offered them a symbol. They still saw him as The Police, he made them feel safe, and they felt that he belonged to them. Patrick wanted to help. He wanted to help them all. They needed him. He was the only one who knew the right way. Eventually he would help them all.
And now another is saved! I feel such relief, such pleasure, such strength. This is what I was meant to do, to release other’s demons, to help them find their path to salvation. I do not understand why they fight me, why they resist me. They are miserable and I am giving them passage to paradise. Only I know how many I have helped and I will be damned for my good work but I am not important, only them, only their souls. Janey is in a better place now.
As he stood up and straightened his coat, he knew that what he was doing was for the greater good. He looked around the back alley. People needed him to help them relieve themselves of their burdens. Patrick heaved a sigh; there were so many souls to save.
Psychologists and psychiatrists speak long and hard about psychopaths. But even they don’t know why one is created or if are they born. What they do know is that they can function in society their entire lives with no one knowing about their dark side. Patrick was good at his job.