Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Police (10/12/06)
TITLE: Officer O'Malley's Beat
By Jan Ackerson
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The day was bright and glorious, and Officer O’Malley followed the street in a new direction. The homes here were large and lovely, and the smell of—what? apple blossoms?—filled the air.
As Officer O’Malley walked, a young woman approached him, grinning broadly and with a glow in her eyes. “Officer O’Malley?” she said. “Hey, welcome to the neighborhood!”
He stopped, cocked his head, looked quizzically at the young woman. “I’m not sure I…”
She laughed. “Of course, you don’t remember me, do you? I was just a little girl when…well, when the accident happened. But I’ll never forget…you were there so quickly…and you were such a comfort to my mother…you even prayed with her while they were putting me in the ambulance...well, anyway, it’s great to have you around!”
Officer O’Malley watched as she walked away with a bounce to her step and a happy flutter of her fingertips. He remembered the accident now—how severe the little girl’s injuries had been, and how devastated her mother was. Wonderful to see the girl here, and to know that he’d been able to help the woman. He resumed his stroll, whistling.
Down another street now, and Officer O’Malley noted with satisfaction that this new section of homes appeared safe, calm, well-maintained. He was about to head back—he had recently discovered his voice and joined a choir, and it was nearly time for their next performance—when a voice called out to him from a nearby lawn. “Yo! O’Malley!”
O’Malley approached the man. “Tommy Hawkins? Well, I’ll be! How’re you doing, Tommy?”
Tommy chuckled. “I bet you never thought I’d be livin’ in a place like this, huh, O’Malley?”
“I guess I didn’t, Tommy. Seems like I was always hauling you down to the station for some kind of trouble or another.” O’Malley searched Tommy’s face for signs of the punk teenager he had once known. “Didn’t you do some time, Tommy?”
Tommy nodded. “I like to say I done lived in the Big House, and now I got me a bigger house. I ain’t such a punk no more, right, O’Malley?”
“What happened to you, Tommy?”
“Well, I was in the right place in the right time fer once in my life. I got an incredible offer—an’ here I am!” Tommy gestured expansively at his home. “Wanna come in?”
O’Malley hesitated—it would be nice to revive memories of the old neighborhood with Tommy—but the pull of the choir performance won out. “Another time, Tommy, okay?”
“Sure thing, O’Malley—I got nuttin’ but time.” Tommy grinned and headed back across the lawn.
O’Malley quickened his pace, and set off toward the center of the city. He could hear voices raised in song in the distance when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
He turned, and found himself face-to-face with the teenager he had first encountered on his last day on the job. Memories of that day tumbled through O’Malley’s mind.
A convenience store robbery gone horribly wrong…hostages held…shots fired, his partner on the pavement…more gunfire…rushing in to find the shooter dead…two barely alive kids, soda mingling with their blood…one teenager whispering “Save my friend…please”…scooping up the unconscious teen and performing CPR until the ambulance arrived…running back into the store…too late, too late…
He had wondered for years—did I do the right thing?
A youthful voice brought O’Malley out of his reverie. “Officer O’Malley, I’m glad I saw you! I just wanted to say thanks for rescuing my friend. He wasn’t ready to die, and me—well, I’m here, aren’t I?”
O’Malley nodded, speechless with gratitude. He grasped the youth in a silent embrace, then hurried off to join the singing voices. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that a few steps ahead, a small chunk of pavement had broken loose. He picked up the nugget and tossed it gently into the air, where it sparkled golden in the brilliant Light of day.
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