The Ship is Sinking – Jonathan – Spring 2004
Detective Jonathan Doours sits at his desk and pounds the computer keys willfully, filing the paperwork on yet another person lost to crystal methamphetamine. The drug is running rampant through the streets of this town, along with large cities and small towns across the entire country.
Sitting beside him is the new rookie – Ben Myers, watching his every move. Ben was hired last month and had been shadowing Jonathan since his first day here. Next week he would play sheep to the guys on domestics. Another eye opener that should dim what brightness the kid had left in his eyes from a mere 26 days on the job. Jonathan finishes the paperwork and glances over at Myers. The kid looks forlorn.
“Any questions then?” the sound of Jonathan’s voice makes the rookie startle.
“What? Ummmm…yes, I do actually.” He adjusts the gun belt slightly as he shifts in his chair. “How long…or, when do you…”
Jonathan waits for him to finish, but the young man just looks at him despairingly. Jonathan recognizes the look the rookie wears. It’s the face each new officer earns, once he realizes the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but before they get jaded and are ultimately unaffected by tragedies. “Let’s have it then. When do you… what? Finish your question, Ben.”
“When…when does it get – I don’t know – less shocking how fucked up the world is?” Ben leans in towards Jonathan, lowering his voice. “That guy scared the shit out of me. What a freaking mess.”
Jonathan nods. The guy they just arrested was exactly that – an utter mess.
“When I was a cadet – a bit younger than you, I guess, just 21 years old, the people I busted fit into two groups. The first were long haired hippy types, shaggy beards and sandaled feet – hanging onto the 70’s generation – they were at least peace loving.” He gave a light chortle. “They didn’t resist much. The drugs were mostly pot or hash, sometimes mushrooms. It made the generation sloppy, lazy, and damn nitwitted. But pot smokers were mostly shitheads, who wanted to waste their days away. You know – listening to music while munching on everything in sight?”
Ben laughs and when Jonathan looks at him, the worry on the young rookie’s face has faded and instead he leans forward with anticipation of stories of the old days on the beat. Jonathan smiles back at him. Storytelling was a right of passage that he, along with a few other long timers at the detachment, relished in when the new guys came on shift. They had enough stories to fill every unusually quiet day or an endlessly long nightshift.
“Those guys” Jonathan continues, “They were mostly harmless, mostly controllable. The second group though – we called them “porn people”. Men with oversized ‘stashes, and form-fitting leather jackets; and the women wore crazy shit like silver spandex and mega big hair. They were more high-strung. Edgy. Indignant, really. They were usually coked up and were ready to call the lawyers in the minute we walked on the scene. Pain in the ass they were.”
Oddly, he looked back at those days with certain nostalgia. He spent most of those early years on the beat, clearing drunks off the sidewalks, checking in on the town stores, and handing out simple violations for public nuisance. What was seen at the police station in today’s world was a different matter. The hippies of yesteryear were child’s play compared to the waste he saw daily on his job as a drug enforcement officer.
“Well, looks like we get all kinds these days. Can you believe that guy we just booked was a teacher and has 4 of his own kids?” Ben face gets long again.
“And a wife,” Jonathan reminds him. “That disowned him after he had lost their home to the bank, after almost a year of spending their mortgage payments on meth. Sad, but true. She likely won’t bail him out this time around.”
Ben shakes his head. “What the hell gets you to that point, eh?”
Jonathan understood, how in so little time, this beloved grade 8 teacher went from being a good husband and father into the shrunken man who sat shaking with tremors in the cell behind him. He understood it, because he saw it too often. He figures Ben will learn soon enough, but decides to give him his own views anyhow. The kid is looking for answers, there is no need to shelter the truth of how ugly it really is.
“Crystal is one nasty bitch. Ben, that drug will take down anyone in her path. It turns normal average family members into liars and thieves. Addicts will do anything to get money for that drug. They spend paychecks. College funds. Just to breathe in the toxic waste that left them in a hell disguised as ten-hour paradise during the high.”
“Is that how long it lasts? Ten hours? Shit, that’s potent. No wonder this guy looks like hell.”
“You haven’t heard the worst of it.” Jonathan continues. “Then they spend the remaining 14 hours of each day looking to score more. No eating – which accounts for the emaciated appearance meth addicts have. No sleeping – which accounts for their confusion and general pissed-at-the-world attitude. Oh, and my personal favorite – the nervous twitches which always lead to incessant scratching until their skin comes off in chunks, leaving open sores on their face and body.”
Ben winces, his face starting to pale. Jonathan suddenly regrets throwing it out there like that. Ben’s just a kid after all; and he’ll become jaded without Jonathan coaxing him into it. Overkill. Jonathan was famous for it, or so his wife always said. Looking at the discomfort he had just spread onto the young rookie’s shoulders, he reminded himself to shut the hell up for a while.
The face of this drug was gut wrenchingly painful to watch, and yet he witnessed it every damn day. Ben would too. They’d see more of the effects this very evening when they had to deal with the guy they’d just booked.
Ian Sykes, the meth-head school teacher, was brought in after breaking into a elderly neighbors’ house, searching for money so he could score his next fix. The couple, in their 80’s hid in the closet until they saw that it was their trusted old neighbour. They’d seen him almost everyday for the last 6 years before Sykes had lost his home. Across the yard. In the driveway on the way to work. Always pleasant, always polite. They were relieved when they saw it was him, and the old man came out to see what was going on, telling his wife to still stay put in the closet. He shuffled over towards him, and offered out a questioning plea.
“What are you doing here, Ian?” the 85 year old voice was frail, and not nearly as intimidating as it had been when he was a young man with confidence and vitality.
The school teacher spun around, frantic, realizing the house was not empty, just still. His eyes flickered to the bedside table and back to the old man who stood before him. His voice strained through clenched teeth, the desperation pained his face.
“Get out of my way old man. You shouldn’t be here.”
The old man dug his slippered heels into the carpet and set his jaw, eyeing him in this new light. More bewildered than alarmed, he barked back.
“You get out of my house, Ian Sykes. Get out of here now!”
Sykes acted without reason. The monster within him reached out, and shoved the man aside as he lurched for the bedside drawer, ransacking it with fury before grabbing the roll of bills and the silver wristwatch, before tearing out of the room. The same moment the front door slammed, the blood had seeped onto the carpet; after the old man’s head had split on the antique bedpost. He didn’t struggle to get up; he simply reached his hand towards the closet door, and closed his eyes.
His wife, witnessing it all from the crack down the centre of the old bi-fold door, crawled to him on her hands and knees. She tried in vain to get him to respond to her voice. With no other option, she made her way down the hall to the phone that hung on the kitchen wall. By the time the EMS and the police arrived, she was simply spooned around him, whimpering his name.
Jonathan looks down the hall of the station towards the first cell. Sykes is quiet now, and though likely still shaking, he is calm enough for Jonathan to takes his prints.
“Ok Ben…the fun begins. If Sykes is anything like the last few meth heads we arrested, the shaking will get a hell of a lot worse before it got better. We’d be better to print him now.”
Jonathan walks with long confident strides. Ben trails behind him to the cell door, and they both peer in at Sykes.
“I need you to get up. We need to get your fingerprints. Let’s make this easy, ok buddy? Let’s go.” Jonathan waits for him for get up, and head towards the cell door.
Sykes moves nervously, cowering towards him with his head bend down towards his chest, though his eyes flash fiercely around the cell. With each step slowing, his eyes flicker faster. Like a cornered animal, Jonathan notes, and readies himself for the battle that always seems to come with that look.
He reaches his arm out and lightly grips the back of Sykes arm, trying to ease him out of the cell and avoid any ugly confrontation that might be building in his mind. It seems to calm rather than rile him and they start towards the print room. Jonathan often wondered if the calming effect came over the detainee due to the small gesture of human contact that felt soothing; or if the touch registered the prey instinct that assured them they’d have their face planted to ground in seconds if they resisted his grasp.
It wouldn’t have been the first time Jonathan would have driven a man to his knees before they knew what hit them. The fact that he towered over most men at 6’5 and 240 pounds – gave them little chance to defy him. Besides his brute strength and intimidating size, Jonathan had great instincts. Anticipating reactions meant survival for him.
Ben is watching him as well, Jonathan notices, and has kept back a few paces as they walk down the corridor. They print and photograph Sykes. The guy had made a call to his wife, but she’d hung up before he’d even finished explaining the pickle he was in. He spent the next 20 minutes sobbing out his story to Jonathan instead. It was part of the job – lending an ear. Jonathan refused to be so bitter and jaded that he would turn away from someone who needed to say their peace. Since it had been a few hours since then, and Sykes was still docile and quiet, Jonathan offers him the phone again.
“You wanna make another call, Ian?” Jonathan asks. He pauses at the phone that hung at the end of the corridor housing the small row of holding cells.
“I thought I just got one call.” Sykes replies – his voice meek now, and weary.
“That’s just in the movies. You want to call a lawyer or another family member?” He lifts the receiver and puts it in the crook of the frail man’s neck and bony shoulder. “I’ll dial. What’s the number?” He says, looking back towards the cuffs, locked tight on the teacher’s wrists.
“I…I don’t have a lawyer. Nobody will want to hear from me. Other than my wife, who I thought might, there isn’t anyone. Do you have a lawyer?”
“I don’t need a lawyer.” Jonathan snaps the reply without thinking.
“I mean…well…do you have a number of a lawyer who I can call?” Sykes pales at Jonathan’s bark. Grasping the skeleton-like arm of the strung out school teacher, Jonathan slips the phone back into the base and starts to lead him back to the cell. He softens his tone deliberately, aware that this guy has hit a nerve.
“Officer Myers here, will place a call into a public defense lawyer for you, but they won’t be in until morning now. We’ll get you settled for the night. Someone will be here to see you bright and early. Alright then?”
Jonathan motions Ben off, and then continues to lead the school teacher down to the cell. He gently coaxes him through the door, and turns him around so he can remove the cuffs.
“Yeah. Okay.” Sykes sounds defeated. His shakes start to come back stronger again, a growing tremor running through his veins.
“Get some rest. Sleep if you can.” Jonathan advises as he shuts the cell door. He watches Sykes jump and give a shutter when he hears the bang of the iron door clang shut, then turns away and leaves him sitting on the edge of the small bed. An iron growth from the concrete wall. Sykes already has his head in his hands and rocks back and forth, as if to comfort himself.
Jonathan walks back to his desk and sits down. He rubs his hand across his forehead to ease the tension growing there, then just stares at the blank computer screen in front of him. The world had changed. Policing was different. Jonathan often felt like he was making a desperate attempt at keeping the world together with duct tape.
His family had changed drastically too. Somehow his perfectly normal, happy home was an utter wreck. As head of the family, he’d been long ago elected team captain. At this point though, he didn’t know how anyone saw him fit to master this wayward ship, swiftly sinking.