What police work is really like, Episode VIII: The Crack Monster

09Dec13

crackhead

So there I was, minding my own business, bored almost to death on night shift patrol in a tiny town. After midnight, streets deserted, nothing happening anywhere. Then I got a call: “Natural DOA, Pleasantville Motel, 300 Main. Room 10.”

I turned around and headed toward the motel. It was a place I knew well. Even in tiny Texas towns, crack addicts and prostitutes need a nice, semi-safe place to get high and give happy endings. Whatever had happened to our ‘Dead On Arrival’ person, I doubted it was natural.

I arrived at the hotel. Room 10’s door was standing open. Inside, I saw an older man with an oxygen mask lying on the bed. A woman, almost shaking in panic, paced frantically near the door.

I knew exactly who the woman was. Pretty much every time we had a call that involved more than one crack addict, she was there. She was about 30, happy and friendly, intelligent, and one of the most dedicated crack smokers I’ve ever met. In addition to being a prostitute, she was also happily married to a guy about 30 years her senior who drove her and her Johns to hotel rooms or crack houses for sex.

She was also the daughter of the former chief of police.

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I walked inside the room and looked at the man on the bed. He was in his underwear, laid out in a comfortable position as if sleeping, face up with eyes half open. “Janice” blurted several times, “He just quit breathing! He’s dead!”

I walked to the man and grabbed his wrist. No pulse, and he was much cooler than someone should be if they had just quit breathing. Just on a hunch, I pressed my fingers lightly into the man’s forearm. They left white spots on his dark skin. Clearly, he hadn’t breathed in quite some time.

An ambulance and other officers arrived. The paramedics took a few minutes to announce what we all knew. The man was way dead, and had been for a while. But Janice kept insisting he had just quit breathing.

I asked Janice what had happened. She claimed they had just been talking, and he quit breathing. That was it.

I looked at him, in his underwear. Then at her, the well-known drug prostitute. And I asked why his pants were off.

“I don’t know,” she stammered. “I guess he wanted to have sex with me.”

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Other officers and I spoke to the paramedics, who told us, “This guy did not ‘just’ quit breathing.” So we went back to Janice, who hemmed and hawed and feigned surprise and claimed total ignorance. So we assured her that we didn’t think she had killed the guy, we just wanted to know how he really died. And eventually, she told us the story.

The man on the bed was almost 70 years old. He had just received an $800 Social Security check that day. He cashed the check, called his crackhead friends and got a motel room. Janice, two other women and a man came to the room. By around one in the morning they had smoked $700 worth of crack at $20 a rock.

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The old man was down to his last $100. He asked the other, younger man to go get five more rocks. The younger man took his two women friends and headed to the dealer’s house, leaving Janice and the old man alone.

The man started getting frisky. Janice, of course, was shocked and abstained from any extramarital sexual activity with the man (remember, she was the one telling the story). The man gave up on Janice. But then he started having trouble breathing.

He put on his oxygen mask and laid on the bed. And then he “just quit breathing”.

Janice freaked out. She sure as hell didn’t want to call 911, and this was before everyone had cell phones, so she couldn’t call her friends. So she just stayed in the room and waited for them to get back.

Several minutes later her friends arrived with the precious last five rocks of crack. Janice was spazzing out in the room, telling them the old man was dead and asking what to do. The younger man looked at the corpse on the bed, took stock of the situation. And he made a decision worthy of the wisdom that comes from years of hard drug use.

“Well, he doesn’t need the crack anymore. Let’s smoke it.”

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Janice loved crack more than she hated dead bodies. She agreed. The other women apparently never had a moment’s hesitation. The four crack addicts got comfortable, broke out their pipes and spent about an hour smoking the last five rocks.

When they were done, the young man and two of the women left. Janice was alone with the dead man again. She waited for the high to wear off, then called 911 to report that the old man “had just quit breathing”.

After we got the more or less true story, I had the unpleasant duty of notifying the dead man’s son. The son’s reaction was anger and disbelief, until he came to the scene. We didn’t let him see the body, but he saw Janice, and knew what went on that that motel. After the reality set in, he quietly said to me, “He had no business being in this place with these people.”

The son was a decent, hardworking family man. And I had to wake him up in the middle of the night to tell him his father had smoked himself to death with $700 worth of crack. Even now, many years later, I feel badly for that man’s son.

After the autopsy confirmed that the old man hadn’t been murdered, the matter was closed. No charges filed on anyone. Janice went on smoking crack and servicing happy customers, the others who had been there undoubtedly did the same.

That’s the life of a small-town crackhead. Get your fix however and whenever you can. Even if it means passing a crack pipe over a dead body.

Available in print and as an ebook from Amazon.com and Tactical16.com. Available electronically from iTunes/iBooks and Barnesandnoble.com.

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6 Responses to “What police work is really like, Episode VIII: The Crack Monster”

  1. 1 Scott Timmons

    Chris,
    I think you’ve found the title for your cop novel, whenever you finally write it. “There I was, minding my own business…” And I’d still like the honor of buying the first copy. When do we see the release of the follow-up to “Line in the Valley”? Keep up the good work.

    • Scott,

      That’s a damn good idea. “There I was, minding my own business…” by Chris Hernandez. Hell, maybe I should just collect the stories I’ve already written and put them into a book. Hmmm…

      Line in the Valley will be released January 18th, if all goes well. Did you mean follow up to Line in the Valley, or Proof of Our Resolve? The next book after LITV is titled Safe From the War, and actually takes place during the time between PoOR and LITV.

      • 3 Scott Timmons

        That just shows that time is a friend to no man in the end! Wait…what were we talking about?
        I meant the follow up to Proof of our Resolve which I think is Line in the Valley. You have so many oars in the water I have trouble keeping up. And I seriously think you should put all the cop stories as a compilation of shorts or weave them into a full novel. I’d like to see the full version of that robbery pursuit vignette involving Jerry (protagonist from PoOR) that you put up a year or so ago.
        I would love to buy the first copy of both the electronic and hard back versions of the cop book. Keep up the good work and stay safe.

  2. The moral of the story, finish your crack then call the cops because the guy is dead anyway. Priorities are messed up. I miss your cop story!

  3. 6 Ben

    Outstanding work. I absolutely love the “What police work is really like” stories. This one reminds me of that phrase from “The Corner,” by David Simon and Edward Burns – Two rules for drug addicts – Get that blast, and never say never.


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