short story

Haunted

This is another writing sample from your humble fictionalist. Not really sure whether it’s just a sketch I may use later on, or flash fiction, or what have you. You be the judge.

Every cop was haunted.

There were exception, of course, because some cops, Derek knew a handful himself, were every bit the sociopath as the folks they pursued; they had simply chosen to enforce the law rather than break it. Maybe as kids they’d flipped a coin.

So most cops were haunted, especially once they’d spent a significant number of years on the job. It went with the territory. They learned to hide it well, from their friends and family and especially from their colleagues, but the ghosts were there, waiting, patient, ready to appear the moment they dropped their guard. No one ever completely escaped.

The ghosts appeared in your dreams, or against the screens of your closed eyelids as you laid in bed, unable to find sleep yet again. For some it was the broken body of the toddler lying in the street after being hit by a car. There’d been nothing anyone could do to save him. For others, it was the expression on the face of the child’s mother. Or on the car’s driver. The guilt. The horror.

Sometimes it was the vacant expression on a six-year-old’s face after watching his mother get beaten by her boyfriend. Sometimes it was the emotionless, matter-of-fact manner a killer described his crimes.

For Derek, the image was always the same. His ghost was named Melvin O’Connell. Five years ago, Melvin, in the midst of a week-long methamphetamine binge, had come after Derek with a six inch folding knife. Derek had warned him. He’d drawn his sidearm. He’d ordered him to stop. Told him that he would shoot him. Told him to stop again. Melvin had ignored him, kept coming with that knife, insanity in his eyes.

Derek had put two rounds in Melvin’s chest.

It had surprised Melvin, getting shot. His face showed utter shocked surprise, as though he had never before conceived of this possibility. He had dropped the knife. Then he, himself, had dropped. He had died on the way to the hospital. To this day, Melvin was the only person Derek had ever shot and it was Melvin’s face that haunted him during those long, lonely nights.

Melvin and that look of complete, dumbfounded surprise.

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