©1999 - 2005
Edward D. Reuss
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Hands Up !

It was 1 AM when I arrived home after working a 4 PM to midnight shift in my precinct. My wife and three-month-old baby were asleep as I eased myself into our apartment in Astoria, New York. We lived in a two and a half room apartment. I never could figure out what half a room was. Maybe it was the hallway off the front door and the closet where we stored kitchen utensils that couldn't fit into the cupboards above the stove and refrigerator.
The small kitchen was divided from the living room by drapes from the ceiling to the floor that pulled back and forth. When watching television or entertaining, the drapes were pulled across the kitchen but when having meals, the drapes were open. At a little after 1 AM, I sat down in the living room, took my shoes off, slid my off duty gun and holster off my belt and put it on the table. It was summer and the city was hot and humid. At night we slept with all our windows open except the one to the fire escape. If you left that one open you might have someone coming in through the window to join you. It was so hot though that we did open the window on the fire escape during the daytime.
As I sat there munching on cookies and milk, reading the paper, I noticed my wife forgot to close the fire escape window before she went to bed. I made a mental note to close it before I went to bed. The widow woman across the alley complained to my wife about light shining in her bedroom from our kitchen so I got up and closed the drapes so as not to disturb her. There were enough battles to settle at work without having to come home and fight some more if I could avoid it.
By 2 AM I was wound down and ready to sneak off into bed and hopefully not wake anyone. One thing I didn't want to do was wake the baby. I picked up my holstered gun, turned off all the lights and silently opened the door to our bedroom. My wife stirred and I whispered "Hi" as I sat down on the bed. I opened the night table and put my gun in the sliding drawer. Then I made a stop at the bathroom. When I came back to bed, my wife rolled over to my side of the bed. Instead of waking her, I walked around and slid into bed on the other side.
"Bang, crash, bang, crash, bang," I woke with a jolt. Someone was in our apartment. The window on the fire escape, I forgot to close it! Some burglar was stumbling around in our apartment in the dark. He knew he must have woke us by now and would be coming in to finish us off. This all flashed through my mind in a millisecond. I jumped across the bed onto the floor and slammed our bedroom door shut. I put my shoulder to the door and held it in place with all my strength.
"Mary, get me my gun! It's in the night table by you!" I yelled at the top of my voice. Any moment I was expecting some muscle-bound excon to be slamming into our door. The baby was screaming, terrified. Mary woke from a sound sleep and in half a daze she opened the night table and handed me my holstered gun. "Stay in here by the phone. Call 911 when I tell you," I whispered as I slowly opened the door to the total darkness of the hallway.
I stood in the doorway, my left hand on the open door and my right hand gripping my 38 Colt off duty revolver. It was pitch black. I couldn't see anything. He was out there waiting for me. Mary picked up the baby and was holding him behind me. I inched forward, gun in hand, watching for any sign of movement. I couldn't detect anything. There was a light switch in the hallway and I switched it on. Now I was lit up in the hallway. A perfect target. He was in the dark and I was in the light. That was stupid of me. I started to look back, thinking I might want to turn the light back off when in the corner of my vision I caught Mary heading for the apartment door with the baby in her arms. Oh well, just as well, I thought to myself. If this turns into a shoot-out or a big brawl there's no sense her being here. In my bare feet I inched forward.
Now I could see the window by the fire escape. Stupidly, I left it open. He probably came in that way and crossed the room. In the dark, he didn't see the end table in the living room and crashed into it. I turned on a lamp in the living room. Now I could see the whole room. Where was he ? "Come on out with your hands up!" I ordered. I thought I sounded convincing but no one popped up from behind the living room chair or the couch. OK, I would have to do it the hard way. Crouched, in my combat stance, I inched forward. My heart was beating like it was going to jump out of my chest. I made my move to the couch.
In an instant I was standing on top of the couch, looking behind it, gun at the ready. He was not there. Where was he? The living room chair. He must be behind that. I leaped across the room to the rear of the chair, gun at the ready. Not there. It was then that I looked over toward the kitchenette where the drapes were pulled across. There at the bottom of the drapes, sticking out were the tips of two black shoes. "OK, I see you. Come on out and you won't get hurt!" The shoes did not move. He thought I was bluffing. Maybe he was going to rush me when I got close enough. Perhaps he had a knife. I cocked my gun with my finger gently resting on the trigger. "If you don't come out. I'm gonna pull you out." I thought that should do it. Still no response.
I went to the side of the kitchenette and prepared to pull the drapes back with my left hand while I kept the guy in the shoes covered with my right. I knew that at any moment I may have to shoot someone and I was prepared to do it. I pulled the drapes back. Nothing but the refrigerator. The black shoes were my shoes that I had taken off when I came home earlier. I had almost killed my refrigerator. I can see it now. Headlines, "Cop kills refrigerator." But what was that noise we heard?
I went to the hallway closet and opened the door. There on the floor of the closet was a rolling pin. During the night, I guess the vibrations from the elevated train caused a tremor and the rolling pin rolled off the top shelf. On the way down it hit plenty of dishes and made it sound like someone was in the living room. I found Mary with the baby out in the hallway with her thumb resting on the neighbor's bell, ready to press it if the shooting started. We came back in. But before I went to bed, I closed the fire escape window.

Copyright © 2001 Jim McDevitt



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