Routine Traffic Stop
This was supposed to be a routine traffic stop, a quick check-up before he finally called it a day and drove home. But something kept tugging at him, screaming that he needed to check the back of that van.
Lines of worry fell over the driver’s face as soon as the officer asked him to step out of the vehicle. Everything was going okay until the kid inside blurted two words.
Bring Him Home Safe
For Officer Frank O’Reilly, the end of the day was always something to celebrate. Although he loved his job to the moon and back, he couldn’t deny that it had its perils and dangers.
Each morning before he left for work, his wife Maggie would say a quick prayer for him, asking God to bring him home in one piece. This prayer had worked for the fifteen years he’d carried his badge. But today, things would go very differently.
Frank had always wanted to serve and protect. Growing up in a military home, his family raised him to believe that the best thing a man could do in life was take care of the ones he loved.
For Frank, this was his family and the town he lived in. He knew he wanted to become an officer of the law by the time he was in junior high school. As far as dreams go, Frank had found something that truly spoke to him.
Turning His Dream Into A Reality
Four years in the military and three in the academy gave birth to the man Frank would live the rest of his adult life as. He received his badge, uniform, and firearm with honor, knowing the last thing he’d do was let the ones he loved down.
He began serving immediately and, for the next fifteen years, became a favorite of many in Jerome, Arizona. He had no idea how all of this would end.
A Significant Arrest
Nothing this profound had ever happened to Frank in the years he’d worked in law enforcement. Given how small his town was, everyone knew everyone, with many of the infractions Frank had to deal with being small-scale.
He never thought that a routine traffic stop would lead to one of the most significant arrests of his career. More than that, he never considered what it would all cost him.
Going To Work
The day the incident took place had been like any other for Frank. He woke up early and helped Maggie get their kids ready for school before putting on his uniform.
After a hearty breakfast, he hopped into his cruiser and drove into town. If only he knew that he wouldn’t be coming home tonight.
The Hand Of Fate
For such a small town, Jerome’s traffic was hectic during rush hours. This was because the municipality was in the middle of fixing the main road that fed into town.
Although they’d promised it would only take a short while to complete, the construction had already taken a few months and was nowhere near complete. Frank had no idea that this was fate funneling him precisely where he’d need to be that evening.
The Morning Traffic
The officer moved with the morning traffic at a snail’s pace, patiently waiting for the road to clear. Where he usually spent less than fifteen minutes traversing, he now sat for close to an hour.
It had reached a point where he would do some of the day’s paperwork in the car while listening to the radio. But soon, he’d be thankful for the heavy traffic.
At The Station
Frank reached the station after a good one hour and fifteen minutes on the road. Sometimes he wished he’d just get out of his car and walk. But the cruiser was necessary for someone like him.
In recent months, there had been a spike in criminal activity in and around Jerome. The town and its environs had never seen this type of carnage before, and it fell on Frank and the rest of the station to help bring it down. That evening would be a good start for him and his team.
Stepping Up To The Challenge
Since the surge in criminal activity across town, the station had become a beehive of activities. There were mountains of paperwork to deal with, suspects to process and question, and meetings to attend.
But Frank and his team were taking everything in stride. This was what they’d signed up for when they accepted their badges all those many years ago. They would cleanse their town if it were the last thing they did.
The day went on quicker than Frank had expected. After hours spent hunched over paperwork and walking up and down the station’s hall, it was finally time to head home.
His wife usually loved it when Frank told her he spent his days behind a desk. To her, being behind the desk instead of in the streets ensured her husband came home in the evening. Tonight, Frank wouldn’t come home.
The Day’s Far From Over
Evening time came, and Frank packed up his belongings and left the office. The setting sun hung low in the darkening sky, flooding the whole of Jerome with its dark orange light.
The air was cool and dry, and the wind a soothing breeze. Frank smiled as he walked to his cruiser, knowing he’d spent his day doing something substantial. He had no idea that the day wasn’t over for him yet.
Time To Go Home
Jumping into the driver’s seat, he turned on his cruiser. The engine roared in greeting, the vehicle dancing about as Frank revved the vehicle.
Among the best perks of his job was the vehicle the department had assigned to him. It was big and powerful, with enough horses under the hood to make a Nascar driver grin. This evening would be Frank’s only defense against the forces looking to tear his town.
A Vigilant Officer
The officer put the vehicle in gear and pulled out of the station’s parking lot. Usually, he’d have the radio playing some of his favorite tunes as he drove home as he was officially off duty.
But of late, he’d been keeping the dispatch’s feed live whenever he was in the car, even on weekends. Today, his vigilance would pay off.
Passing The Time
Frank drove into the town’s evening traffic. He slowed down as he neared a station wagon. He got a few documents from his briefcase, knowing he was about to spend another hour here.
He’d been investigating a robbery throughout the day and had written down a few notes he needed to review. But just as he immersed himself in what he’d written, he heard a scream outside his car.
The White Van
The scream was fueled by anger, jolting Frank upright. His eyes narrowed as he looked around. A white van cut through the traffic about three cars ahead, trying to squeeze through the vehicles.
It seems the driver had triggered another driver by getting in front of him. Frank was used to how tense road confrontations were. He knew he’d need to disarm it before it got out of control.
Let Me Handle This
Without turning on his siren, he exited his cruiser and wended through the heavy traffic. The van had stopped in place, and the car behind it was honking its horn, its driver angrily hurling out curses.
Frank walked to the car first, asking the man to calm down. “Let me handle this,” he said with a weary smile, and the man listened.
But the driver of the van had no intention of giving the officer what he wanted. He had something to hide, and he didn’t intend to get caught.
Knocking On The Door
With a deep breath, Frank knocked on the van’s driver’s side door. He waved when the man rolled half of his window down. “Is there a problem, officer?” the man asked, his eyes darting all over the road.
“There is,” Frank said calmly. “I saw you cut in front of this car right here,” he jutted his chin at the black sedan behind the man’s van.
What the officer didn’t know was that there was a secret hidden within the van, and the driver wouldn’t be backing down without a fight.
Wrong Place At The Wrong Time
Little did Frank know that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the offense being minor, the driver of the van had a lot more to hide than he knew.
As a lone officer confronting a man, there was so much that could go wrong. It just took one hand movement while Frank had his guard down to end in tragedy.
Are You Okay?
“Oh, so sorry for that,” the man quickly said. Despite how cool the evening was, a thin sheet of sweat was forming on his forehead. He apologized again, seeming on edge.
That’s when Frank first realized that something was off about the situation. He suddenly realized that there would be no backup if things went sideways. He would have to calm down the man.
“Are you okay, sir?” Frank asked with furrowed brows. He’d noted that the man kept looking at the road in front and behind his vehicle.
Was he in some kind of danger? Or was he a cause for concern? As an officer of the law, he had to be prepared for any circumstance. What was he hiding?
Frank quickly realized that the man was a cause for concern. His gut was setting off all kinds of alarm bells, and that usually only happened when he came face to face with a criminal.
He knew he’d have to ask him to step out of the vehicle if his suspicions were true. But how would the man react if he thought he was going to be arrested?
Cause For Concern
So he started paying more attention to detail. He was focusing on the little details instead of what was right in front of him.
And what he uncovered was a cause for serious concern. But he had to be careful; things could explode in a heartbeat if he was negligent. In a way, both of their lives were in his hands.
Being in this situation, Frank’s training kicked in. He thought about all of the rules and regulations he had to follow in these scenarios.
But there was one abnormality that was throwing him off. He glanced back to his cruiser, and his heart dropped. He was alone, and no one would be there to help him.
Frank knew all too well what could happen to an officer on their own. He’d seen the body cam footage himself. But now he could very well become an “officer down.”
Cops that were normally assigned to traffic had a partner with them. This meant that if anything went sideways, they had someone to watch their back. But the issue was that he didn’t even call this in.
When Frank saw the van cut the person off, he felt an obligation to resolve the matter. The issue was that he didn’t call dispatch and tell them what was going on.
That meant that they were unaware of the danger that their officer might be in. To make matters even worse, he didn’t have a partner to help him out either.
Since he was technically off-duty, that meant that he didn’t have a partner with him for a patrol. He had no one to help him or give him aid.
His wife would never even know if anything went wrong until hours later. He couldn’t do that to her, so he had to make sure that things didn’t escalate too far.
Something Wasn’t Right
From the minute Frank laid eyes on the man, he could tell that something wasn’t right. But he had no idea how serious the situation truly was.
Was he on something? Frank would have to breathalize him if he acted strange. But sometimes people put up a fight and complicated things. At the end of the day, nobody wanted to go to jail.
The man was looking in every direction, but he didn’t make eye contact with the officer once. Why was that? What was he trying to get away from? Or trying to hide?
Regardless, he didn’t seem to be in a stable state of mind. Whether that was due to substances or just stress, that was Frank’s job to figure out. But the truth would change everything.
Why Was He Acting That Way?
Frank knew that it had to be one or the other since any normal human being would alert an officer if they were in danger.
The only time they wouldn’t do that was if the officer was the danger. He gripped his holster tightly, ready to have to use his service pistol if it came to it. But he didn’t want to.
And the only people who would see officers as a threat were criminals. So what had this man done? It was clear he was running from something, was it really the law?
To make the arrest. Frank would have to do something he didn’t like, he’d have to go back to his police cruiser to use the computer inside. Only then he could be sure of what was going on.
Using The Database
Frank would have to use the police database in order to figure out what this man had done in the past. His record could be accessed by the computer inside his cruiser.
But he didn’t want to have to do that and for a good reason. He couldn’t afford to put anyone else in danger just because he chose to stop the unhinged driver.
Back To Him
Frank would leave himself and others exposed if he had to go back to his cruiser now. He’d have his back to the driver, who could do anything at that point.
He could flee the scene, damaging other cars and putting others in danger, or he could do the unthinkable. Frank wouldn’t take that chance alone.
Thinking about going back to the police cruiser had Frank remembering one more thing. Since he was off duty, that meant that he didn’t have his gear on him.
He felt his chest, and his heart sank. The last line of defense was sitting in his cruiser’s trunk. His ballistic vest that would save his life against a weapon wouldn’t help him now. His pulse started racing.
Cause For Concern
The more time Frank spent standing next to the window, the more concerned he became. To the untrained eye, it would look like the man was ignoring the officer. But Frank knew better.
His police training meant that he could spot the smallest change in a suspect’s behavior. He had an acute awareness of exactly what was unfolding at the scene.
Getting The Better Of Him
He could tell that the man’s anxiety was getting the better of him. And that was exactly what told the officer that something fishy was going on. Now he just had to find out what that was.
His next move was to examine the van. He was sure that he’d be able to find something that would point in him the right direction. But how would the suspect feel about that?
What Was He Hiding?
Frank’s eyes roamed over the interior of the van as he tried to figure out what was going on. And that was when the man snapped out of it.
“Can I go now?” the man asked, clearly oblivious to the fact that the officer asked him a question. “Are you okay, sir?” Frank asked once more.
“In a bit of a hurry,” the man said as he swallowed the lump in his throat. “Aren’t we all?” Frank chuckled. He was prepared to let the man go with a warning.
But he had become intrigued by him. And intentionally cutting off other drivers could result in accidents. He needed to at least figure out what was going on before letting him go.
Breath Of Air
The man whistled out a breath of air. That alone sent the officer’s curiosity to the next level. This man was either in a hurry to get away from Frank or to get to someone else. Frank needed to find out which.
This was what piqued the officer’s interest. He felt obligated to make sure the man wasn’t a threat to anyone before proceeding.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the vehicle,” he said, tapping on the man’s door. He stepped back, thinking the man would comply. But in the back of his mind, he had a feeling he wouldn’t give up so easily.
“Sir,” he called again when the man only stared at him. “Get out of the vehicle now, please.” The man still didn’t comply.
He rolled up his window, turning and mumbling something to someone in the car. That’s when alarm bells went off in Frank’s head.
The man wasn’t alone, was he? Now he meant business. He’d make sure the man complied no matter what kind of tactic he had to resort to. Even if the precinct didn’t approve of his methods.
Moment Of Truth
Frank put his hand on his belt, inching his fingers toward his weapon. He only meant to spook the driver into complying. Knocking on the window again, he asked the man to step out.
“Let me see your license and registration, too,” he added. Something fishy was happening here, and Frank would get to the root of it.
He Opens The Door
When Frank first walked up to the van, he didn’t think it would escalate to something serious. But the man’s behavior convinced him something was wrong.
The door unlocked and swung open, but the man didn’t make any attempts to step out or produce his documents. He stared at Frank with wild eyes. And that’s when the officer saw it.
It Gets Interesting
The man wore a beat-up shirt and shorts. He looked like he hadn’t showered in a while. But that was only half of it.
Beside him were two kids, none older than ten years old. The older stood while the younger sat in the passenger seat. “Hi,” Frank waved at them, noticing something that made the hairs behind his neck stand.
The older child was trying to fight back tears. His lips quivered as his gaze layered the man beside him. “Are you okay, sport?” Frank asked, and the man leaned over to block his view.
“He is,” he said. “He wanted ice cream, but I told him it was getting late and we needed to get home before seven.” “Is that right?” Frank asked the kid.
Is This Your Vehicle?
The boy didn’t answer. Frank followed his gaze, which had been trailing all over the van’s interior. He noticed the vehicle seemed too feminine for a man to drive. “Is this your vehicle?” he asked the man, who nodded.
But the kid shook his head. It was a quick gesture, but Frank caught it. “Is he your dad?” he asked the boy. The answer would change everything.
“He is not my dad,” the boy said in no uncertain terms. He wiped his tears and repeated the statement. “Step out of the vehicle,” Frank commanded. The man hurried out. “Hand where I can see them!”
“The back!” the kid blurted out. “Check the back!” Frank’s attention snapped to the back of the van. He cuffed the man and hurried back there, quickly opening the backdoor.
Frank’s heart was slamming against his chest as he approached the back of the van. But it nearly stopped working when his radio went off.
What dispatch had to say would change his entire evening, if not his whole life. Frank’s world was about to be turned upside down, and his wife’s worst fears were about to become a reality.
A Stolen Van
Immediately, his radio started going off. Dispatch informed him of a stolen white van. A man had been seen knocking out a lady in a mall parking lot and making away with her vehicle.
Witnesses were saying there were kids in the vehicle. But no one knew where the lady was. Where was she? And was that the van in question?
Frank’s hands were shaking as he opened the door. The sight of what it contained had him stepping back.
A lady was passed out and gagged on the van’s floor. But that wasn’t the worst part. This was just the beginning of Frank’s long road home, and it was only about to get worse for him and everyone involved.
It Gets Worse
The lady was out cold, and Frank couldn’t tell whether she was breathing. He was about to reach for her when a loud bang erupted behind him.
Sharp pain fired through his hand, a powerful force flinging him into the van. Frank turned around, seeing the driver with a firearm in his hands.
One look at him and adrenaline fired through the officer’s system. There was no way this man would get away with any of this.
Frank launched himself at the man, fighting for the firearm in his grasp. He kicked it away and aimed the weapon at him. “Freeze!” he roared even though black splotches beat at his sight, and he wobbled on his feet.
Warm liquid covered his forearm, which was now starting to sting. He had been shot, and it would be a miracle if he managed to keep this man down until backup arrived.
On Their Way
Frank called for backup and was glad to hear a siren wail somewhere up the road. The tarmac was stained crimson in the minutes it took back up to reach the scene.
Frank had held the man in his sight throughout this time, although he was bleeding profusely. He collapsed as soon as he saw the other officer.
Even though his vision was blurry, Frank could see that the man was fighting with the other officers. He heard the words spewing from the man’s mouth and the commotion that was going on around him.
But the officer was unable to move. He had lost far too much blood, and if he didn’t get help soon, he might not make it.
He Tried To Escape
It was clear that the man was trying to escape, and for a moment there, he managed. He had slipped through the officer’s iron grip and ran down the road.
But with four police cars and eight able-bodied officers going after him, there was no way he was going to get away. That wasn’t what bothered Frank, though.
It was the children that prevented Frank from passing out. Their cries were echoing through his mind, and he knew that they were still in the car with their mother.
But the scene that unfolded around them must’ve had them terrified. No child that young should be a part of something so big. Yet, there they were, waiting for someone to save them.
Consumed By Darkness
Frank tried to push to his feet so he could help the children, but as one foot hit the ground, darkness consumed him, and he fell to the ground.
His body had finally given in. And all they could do now was hope that he managed to get to the hospital in time. Would he make it through this encounter?
Frank’s mind was hazy, but the distinct laughter of happy children was something he couldn’t ignore. He wondered where he was and how he had gotten there.
But the moment he opened his eyes, all his questions were answered. He was in the hospital, lying next to the woman he found in the van. And they were surrounded by familiar faces.
Once he was fully awake, Frank learned that the man had been arrested that night, along with a few of the other troublemakers that had been plaguing the town.
The case was closed. The woman and her two children were safe and walked away with just a few scratches and bruises. And Frank… Well, he had a decision to make.
A Hero At Heart
The two boys saw Frank as a hero. And even though he decided to hand in his badge after that fateful night, his efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
The older of the two boys saw how heroic police officers, especially Frank, were, and he decided to become one when he grew up. He wanted to honor the man who saved his mother, and that meant the world to Frank.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.