A VIOLENT BEGINNING:
It was mentioned to all of them at roll call that morning, before they went out to the streets. The duty sergeant said that the latest invention of local bullies was called 'Tweaking the Freaks'. It involved going to the B.O.C.E.S schools areas-- there were three BOCES schools in the city neighborhoods-- and bullying the kids as they were released from school.
"The captain says that he wants this stopped!" the sergeant went on, "So, we're going to deploy in those areas. Ray, you take the north side school. Johnnie, you take the south side school and Andy, you go over to the one on the east side."
There were nods among the policemen that were gathered about those assignments.
"Okay, ladies and gentlemen," the sergeant concluded, "Let's do a line up inspection and then out you go."
They lined up for inspection, their weapons presented in front of them, as the sergeant did the inspection. When they were okayed to go out on patrol, the sergeant went to Ray Bentler and said:
"Ray, you okay with this assignment?"
"Yeah," Ray said, "I'll be cool, Sarge."
It wasn't a very long time before Ray Bentler was near the BOCES, Board of Cooperative Educational Services, school, where he'd been assigned. In order to better run the surveillance, he was using an unmarked car today.
(Ray Bentler had gone to the police directly from the military. He'd been a military cop in Iraq and also did some time in Afghanistan. He found that the pressures of policing that way had abled him to get his mind off of things that he didn't want to think about. That was mainly his little angel, Stephanie. Born with a mental problem; it was as though she was too sweet to live.
Of course, Ray never counted on the effect that the eventual death of little Stephanie would have on Marcie, his wife. She somehow blamed Ray and his family background for the problems that Stephanie had, had and, after Stephanie had died, Marcie was gone. Ray, after a time period, had been served with papers and that part of his life was, in effect, all over. He still had a lonely spot, a warm spot, a secret spot in his heart for his Stephanie, and missed her all the time.
The policing kept his mind active, as well as his body. He made sure that he worked out regularly, had weights at home and kept at them actively. At 33 he was in the best shape of his life.
After the debacle with Marcie and the tragedy of Stephanie's death, Ray moved back home with his Mom and Pop. They lived in a large victorian that Ray loved as much as the older folks, and during that time period, Ray and his Dad, Gus, had the task of nursing his Mom, Marjory through her bout with alzheimer's disease, until she finally passed about three months ago.
Ray and Gus spent a good deal of the free time that they had working on the marvelous old victorian. It was this kind of task that kept Gus active. It helped to ward off the onset of depression, following Marjory's death.
It was also at about that time that, after a lot of conversation, Gus had decided to move to a facility that catered to the elderly. He kept saying, despite Ray's counter insistence, that he didn't want to be an anchor around Ray's neck. He was sure, he often said, that Ray still had a lot of living to do and he wanted to be where he had friends at the facility for the elderly. They were in the process of working on that move these days.)
Ray spent the time that afternoon making sure that he was ready and finally, after waiting for about forty five minutes, the school was letting out. He had positioned himself about three blocks from the school. It was a long enough distance, he said to himself, to allow the kids to disperse.
He sat and simply watched them, mostly with parents walking them, make their way home. They seemed to be a very happy and active lot.
Down the block Ray spotted one of his favorites; it was Amanda Hill. She reminded Ray of his own Stephanie. The Hills, Amanda and her Mom, Judy lived in an apartment not far from Ray's house, and Amanda was a good friend of his. Ray was always open and available to the neighborhood kids.
He noticed, as he watched, that Judy was hurrying toward the school, probably having been delayed a bit. She was going to pick up, meet Amanda.
It was also then that Ray saw the three kids, late teens from the looks of them, cross the street. He immediately didn't like the way that they looked. They were grinning and smirking, as they crossed the street, which put them directly in front of Amanda.
Ray had, ever since he became involved with policing, obeyed his instincts. They kept him from getting hurt time after time. He certainly didn't like the way that this scene was shaping up.
He heard the one kid, the biggest of them, call out to Amanda, about the same time that Judy did, who was approaching behind the kids.
"Hey, freak!" he said, and the three of the laughed.
Amanda, seeing her Momma coming behind them, and not knowing what to do simply called out: "Momma!"
She tried to run around the three of them but one of them grabbed her by the collar and began to shake her.
"Stay put, freak!" he said, and the three of them laughed again.
It was then, as Ray was getting out of the car, that Judy reached the scene also.
"Leave her alone, damn it!" Judy cried out.
"Oh, a heroine!" one of the three of them said, and grabbed Judy by the collar and kind of pushed her to the ground.
Judy went down, since he grabbed her when she was off balance. The kids were laughing, Amanda was crying and Judy was swearing.
"Hey, lady," one kid said, "Stay put!"
It was then that Ray got to them. He'd pulled the billy, which was no longer standard issue but still came in handy, that he had in the car, as he got out.
"Hey, heroes!" he said.
The three of them turned in his direction. Leaving Judy be for a few seconds, Ray lashed out with the billy and simply broke the forearm of the kid who was holding onto Amanda, and had been shaking her.
The kid gave a huge yell and staggered away a few feet, holding his arm.
"You broke my arm!" he cried out. But by then Ray was dealing with the second of the bullies. He had the billy in his hand but simply lashed out with a left hand and punched the kid, putting him on the sidewalk.
However, at the same time, the third kid, who'd been hassling Judy, was able to pull out a knife, and was about to stab Ray. Judy, however, once his attention was taken up with the big cop, pulled out a pepper spray can and sprayed the kid's face.
The kid shrieked! The blow aimed at Ray went astray and, instead of being able to plan the knife in Ray's neck, the kid stabbed Ray in the arm. But by then, the kid was bent over and sobbing, rubbing his eyes all the while.
Amanda was immediately in Judy's arms. She looked up at Ray, who was busy just then holding his handkerchief over the wound, to stanch the blood, and she said:
"Officer Ray, you're a hero!" She turned to Judy and said: "Momma, he's a hero, isn't he?"
"Yes, love, Officer Ray is a hero!" Judy agreed.
Ray was talking then into his shoulder mike, reporting the incident and indicating that there was an officer injured at the scene. Soon enough two more squad cars were heard approaching and an ambulance.
Ray turned to Judy, who was still there holding Amanda, who was now sobbing.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you," Judy said, "Thanks to you, but you're not."
"It's fine!" he said.
The other police from the squad cars that had arrived, rounded up the three assailants.
"We'll get them in, Ray," one big cop named Harold said.
"Thanks, Harold!" Ray said.
By then the ambulance was there and wanted Ray to sit and have his arm looked at.
"Just a minute," he said, and turned to Judy. "Give me the mace," he said. "It's not legal and I'll just say that I maced the kid."
"Oh, thank you," Judy said, handing the can of pepper spray over to him. He put it in his pocket.
"You take her home now," Ray said. "Give her a treat, when she gets home for being so brave with those creeps!"
"Yes, officer," Judy said, grinning and winking at Ray. She went to him then, before leading Amanda off, and gave him a hug, being careful not to touch his injured arm.
"Thank you again, Ray!" she said.
"Me too!" Amanda said, "I'm going to give Officer Ray a hug; he's my hero!"
Ray bent to her and hugged the little girl then; he simply couldn't keep his mind from remembering the hugs from his Stephanie. It brought tears to his eyes, but he stored the thought back in the back of his mind.
Judy led Amanda away then, with Amanda turning to wave to Ray once before they walked away.
Ray received first aid for the knife cut there at the scene but the attendant told him that it should be properly stitched at the ER. Harold, one of the other responders, told Ray to go ahead with the ambulance.
"We'll take care of your car," Harold said.
"Thanks!" Ray said, going with the ambulance attendant.
The knife cut took four stitches and Ray was given some antibiotics to take for a few days. He stopped in at the station house then but was sent home and told to take a few days, after it was clear that the assailants were being taken care of in the system.
A SPECIAL THANK YOU:
It was a day later, in the evening. Ray was at home. Gus had gone to spend some time at the elderly facility. They were having a kind of orientation aimed at potential residents. Then the doorbell rang.
.... There is more of this story ...