Short Story – “The Weight of the Badge”

Here’s a little something I came up with based on my Tech Update on 3D printing metal. It was also supposed to double as NaNoWriMo practice, but ended up taking longer than I expected when I started to care about making it actually somewhat polished and well-written. All in all, it probably took about 3-4 hours to write and edit the 1000 words here. Hopefully I can improve on that rate for NaNo when I’ll try really really hard not to edit at all. And inevitably fail because I awkwardly enjoy editing…

The Weight of the Badge

Officer Karen Winters pointed her pistol at the rear exit and waited. She tried to steady her trembling hand and brushed a bead of nervous sweat from her forehead. It was her first case outside the office.

Around the front of the small condo she heard one of the other officers knock on the door. “Mr. Kane, please come out. We have a warrant to search the premises.”

Despite the current focus on this house, Karen kept her ears more focused behind her. She had heard the stories about this rundown neighborhood. Drugs, guns, poverty.

Suddenly, a large crash sounded from inside the house. Karen jumped and instinctively pulled the trigger, blasting a hole through the back door. Her partners came running, guns drawn and ready.

“What happened? Where is he?”

Karen’s face flushed. “I got startled. Sorry.”

Then she heard a car engine starting. “Oh shoot…” The engine revved.

“Damnit, Karen!” Officer Thornton yelled. “Stay here!” He raced to the squad car with Officer Juarez and they drove off to follow the suspect, leaving her alone.

Karen stood motionless for a long time. She let her gun fall to the grass and freed her long blonde hair from its bun. How could she be so stupid? Oceans threatened to breach the floodgates of her eyes, but she sniffled and held them back as best she could. Maybe she wasn’t cut out for this after all.

Then she remembered the warrant and unfolded her copy from a jacket pocket. She could still redeem herself.

Karen walked to the door and tested the handle. It was unlocked. She passed through the kitchen and into the main living area. It seemed like any typical low-income home, even similar to the one she grew up in. An aged couch and chair huddled around a small television and the walls were scarcely decorated. Only a few pictures hung over an unused fireplace. Karen was immediately drawn to them. The family looked so happy, so average. How could they be doing anything against the law? They had no prior citings aside from unpaid tickets. She identified the man in the pictures as Mr. Dominic Kane based on the file she read that morning. The woman was clearly his wife and the sparkling, smiling child was his son Billy. These pictures must have been a few years old, because Billy was supposedly 14 now. She turned her attention to the more recent ones framed on the mantle. In these, Billy appeared to be closer to his current age, but something else was wrong. He wasn’t smiling. And his hair was all gone.

The picture made Karen want to cry. She brushed her thumb against the boy’s cheek, wiping away some dust. He was so young.

But she wasn’t here to look at pictures. This was her first mission and she couldn’t afford to fail. Her instincts told her that anything illegal would be hidden in the basement. Or at least, that’s where she would do illegal things if she were so inclined.

They had traced stolen copper wire back to Mr. Kane’s car based on a witnesses description. Unfortunately, black Ford SUVs were fairly common, so they were originally unable to pin down who the suspect might be. A few days ago, the same vehicle was spotted parked a few blocks from the wire manufacturing facility after midnight. This time they got the license plate number and followed that lead here, to 57 Sunset Boulevard.

As Karen approached the last few steps to the basement, she heard a robotic mechanical buzzing. Suddenly, she found herself wishing she hadn’t left her pistol on the ground outside. She ventured a peek around the corner, planning to run if someone was there, but the room was nearly empty. Against the far wall she discovered the source of the noise. It looked somewhat like the drill press her father kept in the garage when she was young, except that it moved automatedly and had a long needle tip rather than a drill bit. She moved closer and noticed that the needle had completely free range of motion—it moved in a circle several times, then lifted up, realigned and began rapidly oscillating in complicated patterns.

Karen watched until the machine finished and a little brush pushed the object off the surface. There was a jingling sound as it fell into a box on the floor. Karen lifted a large handful of the copper coins from the box. They must have been some foreign currency, because she didn’t recognize the symbols at all. She dropped the coins back into the box and closed it, then turned the machine off.

Karen’s mind flashed back to the pictures upstairs. How could she condemn this family? Especially when she would’ve done the same thing.

For the first time, Karen felt the true weight of her badge.

~             ~             ~

“I lost it all.” Dominic Kane sat in the chair beside his son’s hospital bed, face in his hands. “It’s over.”

“Dom, I told you this was a bad idea!” his wife hissed.

“Did I have any other choice? Artist and waitress salaries can’t pay for these treatments.”

“It’s not right,” she added, holding their son’s hand as he slept.

“You think I don’t know that? But what’s worse, letting Billy die or breaking the law? It was just supposed cover us for a little while. Until Billy was better.”

There was a knock at the door and they both froze. A police officer with long blonde hair walked in holding a familiar box. He didn’t think they’d find him so soon.

“Mr. Kane,” the officer started. Dom stood up and braced himself. “You won’t have much time, but I think this belong to you.” She placed the box on a table near the door. “I’m so sorry about your son.”

The officer turned and walked away, dropping her badge in the trash as she left.

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