Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hey! You're makin' that up!

One of the frequent questions most authors get is, "How do you come up with your stories?" For me, writing is an outlet and my stories reflect my experiences. Pat answer, eh? Yeah but it's true.

When most people have a long day, they come home and tell their significant others about the asshat who berated them or the boss who took the credit for their work or the co-worker who... -you get the idea.

When a cop has a really bad day, it usually involves some type of death, destruction and mayhem- a macabre, horrifying extravaganza that seemingly doesn't faze the cop but the human psyche is not wired for the instant stress, sudden adrenaline dumps and the emotional roller coaster of police work.

In short, the job takes its toll. Somewhere, somehow, the stress manifests itself. How it manifests itself depends on the officer.

So, officers come home from the job, often physically and mentally exhausted from the daily grind. Some grab a few long necks, some grab a lot of long necks. Others take their days out on their spouses. As everyone knows, the alcoholism and divorce rate is statistically much higher for police officers.

Still others take more reasonable approaches- weight lifting, running, biking- great, healthy releases that improve the mind and body while clearing the stress hormones from the body.

I have a beer and I get a hangover. I like Margie and she's been working out. I'm not arguing with her. Besides, just mention formatting a book and my beloved mate turns into a monster. I'd hate to see her really pissed. Strike that. I've seen her really pissed. I'm fairly resilient. The other survivors are still in therapy.

I do spin an occasional pedal and I run when chasing some clown but neither give me the release filling white space with words gives me. So, I  write.

I spend hours my cruiser, monitoring traffic, waiting for the next dispatch and thinking about plots. I start with an incident, my overactive imagination takes over and soon, I'm itching for the end of my shift and a blank screen.

An incident from the other night is a great example- There I sat, stopwatch in hand, secluded behind the stop sign on the hill, waiting for the preoccupied speeder. Of course no one can see the Vicky hidden behind that stop sign- damn my cloaking technology- so people fly by me. Go figure.

A box truck lumbered past me, under the speed limit but without tail lights. That's a problem because on the country roads of my jurisdiction, someone doing, say, the average speed for our area, approximately mach five, could come up on the truck and not seeing tail lights, blast into its rear bumper. I'm suspecting the truck driver would feel a bump and complain about the poor roads while the car would be an accordion and the driver... hey, that's why they make paper towels and sponges.

I activated my lights, gave chase and soon had the vehicle stopped in the only safe area in the vicinity- the intersection of a little-used street and the main road. Between the cruiser and the truck, we blocked the intersection. I made contact with the driver and obtained his information. He said the interior lights weren't working either and thought a fuse blew.

The driver was a male in his fifties, as was his passenger. The driver was from out of state. The truck was from a different state and registered to a different person. I was suspicious.

I ran the driver and found he was suspended. Just as I received this tidbit from Comm Center, a pickup truck pulled alongside my vehicle. I clicked off the dome light and my hand slipped to my weapon as I heard a voice say, "Could you move your car so we could get by?"

So, to recap, I've got something going on in the truck that could be just an unpaid citation and a blown fuse or something much worse. I don't know if the two males had weapons, just did a crime and I was in the way of their freedom or if the pickup truck occupant was a friend trying to protect his buddies or accomplices. Cops get killed in situations like this.

I yelled at the driver, "Back up now!"

From the truck I hear, "Back up?" and a woman's voice saying, "you want us to back up? Why the hell should we back up?"

I yelled back, "Then stay there and I'll cite you after I get done with this driver!" The truck suddenly disappeared. I took a deep breath and let go of my weapon.

I got out and talked to the driver. He had an unpaid ticket from his home state, eventually confirmed by Comm Center- hence the suspension. His buddy had a valid license. I sent them on their way with the buddy driving and the vehicle flashers on. They were only a few miles from home and towing the truck would have been a nightmare.

The driver also got a four part mandatory request for a donation to the state treasury in the form of a citation. Driving on a suspended license is not cheap.

It was just another incident, another day in my life. But as an author, the incident sent my imagination into overdrive. What if the driver was hauling drugs? What if the driver was high or drunk? What if the truck was leaking a reddish fluid from the cargo area? What if there was a smell of cat urine- a sign of a meth lab?

Then there's the pickup. What if they were there to protect their fellow terrorists and I just interrupted their plans to set off a truck bomb outside a nightclub later that night? What if the truck driver was the father of the... my mind raced through the scenarios.

Back at home, the story begged to be told. I'm not sure where it will show up, a book or short story, maybe but it illustrates the process:

"I remembered seeing several alerts in the past several months to be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles possibly hauling AN/FO explosives, a mixture of Ammonium Nitrate and diesel fuel. The alerts had the standard "stop and hold" tags and I didn't give it much thought. In my jurisdiction, we consider a DUI a big deal.

In fact, the truck without tail lights didn't immediately set off any alarms in my head as I pulled it over. I thought I'd warn the driver and he'd be on his way. After all, nothing exciting happened in our little town.

I approached the box truck and immediately smelled a strong odor of diesel fuel, mixed with ammonia, my suspicions aroused because the truck was from out of state and had an "unleaded only" sign over the fuel door. I asked the driver for his info like a regular traffic stop. This wasn't going to be a regular stop.

I told the driver, a tense, slightly built, blond male with a crew cut and a pock-marked complexion that I pulled him over for a bad taillight. I explained that if his license was ok, I'd give him a warning and send him on his way. The driver visibly relaxed as I told him to sit tight.

Back at my cruiser, I used my cell to alert Comm Center I had a suspicious vehicle and to send backup. I also told Comm I would call in the license and they should tell me to stand by because the computers were down for a few minutes, just in case the driver had a scanner.

On the radio, I requested the license check on the driver. Comm Center responded as requested. I began to approach the driver to explain the delay as a pickup pulled in alongside my cruiser and fired two shots where I would have been sitting. The driver of the pickup couldn't see the cruiser was empty because his truck, a big F250, sat above the car by at least two feet.

I was trapped between the driver and the pickup!

I pulled my weapon as the truck door opened and I saw the barrel of a shotgun arcing toward me. I dropped to the ground and fired twice as the shotgun exploded, pellets filling the air where I stood a  moment ago. The driver staggered back, hit the truck and slid to the ground.

I rolled under the truck and saw a pair of feet walking around my cruiser. I fired once, striking the calf visible from my vantage point and the gunman from the pickup fell moaning and holding his leg with both hands, a gun lying a foot away.

Seeing no other targets, I grabbed my radio and yelled, "Mike 4, shots fired! Officer needs assistance! Officer needs assistance!"

In seconds, sirens filled the air. The two units already headed to my location for the request for backup surrounded the scene, taking the injured pickup truck driver and his passenger, a woman with a loaded shotgun who was waiting for me to pop out from under the truck, into custody.

The truck driver was dead. The ton of AN/FO explosives in the back was still live. Homeland Security later told me the driver and his associates were planning to take out a Family Clinic in the next state. Apparently, this crew was part of an extremist group who saw the clients of the Family Clinics as "welfare cheats, lowlifes and abortionists" and thought they'd rid the world of some "freeloaders," as they called them,  with a little pyrotechnical assistance.

In the end, ten members of the group were arrested and very likely, twenty or so clients, several nurses and a couple of doctors went on with their lives.

I went home that night, grabbed a beer and made a new floor panel for my Maverick. Twice. The first one was destroyed by a sledge hammer, the sound of a shotgun blast echoing in my head at every blow."

There you have it, the bones of a chapter, based in reality, bathed in fiction, ready to fluff and insert into a book or expand into a story.

Now, it's time for a beer and a little work on the Maverick. Maybe a new floor pan.

       Want more? Get to know Rog and Morris- In Another Life!                      

If you haven't already done so, click on the title for a free copy of Thirty and Two,  and a sample of  In Another Life! 

And after you finish the sample, don't forget to buy a copy of In Another Life!

***Update! Margie's done cursing up a storm! She finished formatting "Drop a Dime!" Cover Goddess Deb delivered yet another stunning cover and my latest short story is up!

Rookie police officer Rog Mackay is getting tips from a very unusual confidential informant- one who seems to know more than he should! 

Robberies, attempted murders, suicides- who is this mysterious citizen who has the info and is ready to drop a dime at just the right time? 

Find out in this new short story, "Drop a Dime,"  just in time for Halloween!

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