I can’t say that it was fun, being a cop’s daughter.
Oh, sure, it had its perks. Like when my father would leave for work. I’d run outside to watch him drive away every day. As soon as he hit the end of the driveway, he’d flash his lights for me, and I’d giggle and scream. Sometimes, he would let me ride along to work in the front seat, and on the quiet stretches of roads he’s let ME play with the lights and intercom system. If he was in a really good mood, he’d let me wear his hat.
But those moments were often overshadowed by the darker reality of what he had to do every day. His job wasn’t as dangerous as it could have been. He wasn’t a city cop. Rather, he was one of the beige boys who gave you tickets for driving a bit too fast – a state trooper. We lived in a rural area, so it wasn’t usually too bad.
There were times, though. Seven-car crashes. Chases. Active shooter situations. From a young age, I understood the dangers involved in my father’s job. He worked the night shift, and each afternoon when he left at approximately five, I could be found clinging to his leg and crying, asking him not to go. He wouldn’t come back until around one in the morning – if the night was quiet, that is – so I would have to wait until I woke up to find out if my dad had made it home that night.
I was always waiting for the night he wouldn’t come home.
There were also dangers that I didn’t know about until I got older, ones that involved my mother and I specifically. See, some people didn’t like my dad. Being a cop is a difficult job because, if you do it wrong, people hate you. And if you do it right, people hate you. It’s just a matter of who will hate you. My father certainly pissed people off – people he gave tickets to, people he threw in the drunk tank, or perhaps their families. Angry people begot angry threats: smashed mailboxes, threatening letters and phone calls. Occasionally the unexpected visitor who came to rant and rave in our front yard, though I never personally saw any of those. I had to learn about these situations when I was in my early adolescence so I knew how to protect myself. I imagine it was hard for my mother, explaining to me why I wasn’t allowed to answer the phone until I was in high school, or why they almost never left me home alone.
So, no, being a cop’s daughter wasn’t really much fun. But I was proud of my father. In fact, I still am. He helped people. He cared about people. He went out and tried his damnedest to make the world a safer place, even at the cost of his own personal safety.
But I don’t have a problem admitting that I was relieved beyond belief when he retired just after I graduated college. I didn’t have to worry about my parents anymore, about getting a phone call that would shatter my world. My family was finally safe.
Well. That’s what I thought, anyway.
Things were quiet until about two years after he retired.
By this time, I’d moved four states away. I was living in an apartment in the Great Big City, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. Small town life had never suited me, and I enjoyed the scream and whir of the city.
I saw it at around ten o’clock at night. I was heading back from a rather long day of work – I work as a journalist and I often spend long hours either in the office researching and writing or out in the field doing much the same. I don’t mind, though. I love writing.
But I digress.
Anyway, it was late and I was exhausted. I’d trudged up to the third floor and down to my apartment, when I noticed a note stuck to my door.
I thought it might be from my landlord and I had a small moment of panic – was I late on my rent? I was pretty sure I’d already paid for this month… I quickly dismissed that idea, as I figured she would have called me on my cellphone if my payment was late. Curiously, I lifted the note from the door and unfolded it.
You and your pig are dead men walking.
I had sort of a movie moment where everything slowed to a glacial pace and I felt like I was moving through molasses. A few thoughts fired through my brain as though from a rifle, shattering the peace that I’d built into my life.
Who and why? Were my parents threatened, too? How did they find me?
And, finally, are they in my apartment right now?
I stared hard at the wooden door in front of me, as though trying to memorize it. I took in every detail as I tried to decide what I was supposed to do – the flaking gold paint on the number, the scuff-marks on the bottom of the door, the scratches along the lock plate.
I knew that there were two possible outcomes to this situation. One, whoever had left the note was waiting in the apartment for me, and if I opened the door, I was dead. Two, they had left after placing the note and my apartment was safe.
I decided to try the handle of the door as quietly as possible. If there was no resistance signaling the lock wasn’t in place, then I’d bolt. If the door was still locked, then I would go inside and hope for the best.
I reached out and laid my hand on the handle, curling my fingers around it lightly. I twisted the knob slowly, slowly… until I felt it jolt and breathed a sigh of relief. Well, it was at least locked. That was a good sign.
I unlocked the door and stepped cautiously into my apartment. It was a pretty small apartment, so I grabbed a knife from the kitchenette and decided to do a quick search. Three rooms – the living space/kitchenette, the bathroom, and the bedroom – produced nothing. Satisfied that I’d been threatened but not yet attacked, I returned to the living room, phone in hand to call the police station.
I reported the events in full, knowing that, at the moment, there was nothing they could really do. Yes, I’d gotten a threatening note, but there was no indication as to who might have sent it. However, I knew that it would be best to start the report now, that way I’d already be on their radar if something more happened.
The cop I spoke with, an officer named Mentuckett, confirmed what I already knew, but was very kind and calming about it. But when he asked me the question I should have been expecting, I honestly didn’t know how to answer it.
“Do you have any idea who might have done this? Anyone who has a grudge against you and your father?”
Huh. That probably should have been my first question, too, but in my panic I hadn’t even thought of it. I’d only been able to stay calm by setting out a plan of action and following it – I’d staved off all other thought until I could approach the situation more calmly. Now that I was finally starting to calm down, the question loomed over me and I found that I couldn’t answer it. I promised him I’d call him when I found out and hung up.
Did people hold grudges against my father? Of course they did. But I wasn’t living in small town Minnesota anymore. This wasn’t some local drunk that my dad had thrown in jail for the night and had come out disgruntled and ready for a fight. I was living several hours away in a city where I assumed that no one knew me.
Well, you know what they say about assumptions.
I tried to remember if there had been any specific incidences that might prompt special attention. Dad used to tell us about his more interesting traffic stops, the cool car chases, the strangest people he’d encountered. I ran through all his stories in my head, searching for someone who stuck out. There were one or two that might be out for revenge, but the chances seemed pretty slim – they were just routine traffic stops gone bad, ending in arrest rather than a simple ticket.
Finally, I had to accept the fact that I was going to have to ask my father if I wanted answers.
Oh, I’d have to tell him anyway, because he was threatened, too. But I wasn’t looking forward to it. Not at all.
I wasn’t the only one who was relieved when he retired. He was pretty happy himself. He’d been a cop for a long time, over 30 years, and he was all too happy to part ways with the force. I guess dealing with the scum of humanity on a regular basis gets to you after a while. He wouldn’t be happy that his former life as a cop had caught up with him once again.
Additionally, my father has always been protective of his family. He was going to be very displeased that I was the one who received the threat and not him.
I sighed before chickening out and dialing my mom’s cell instead. Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to give him the bad news. It’s funny, isn’t it? He used to give bad news, and now he was going to get it.
I was still thinking about that when my mom chirped out a happy little hello and asked why I was calling so late.
“Mom… are you home alone?”
“Hm? Yeah, your father’s out at the bar with an old work buddy. Is everything okay?” I could hear a thread of concern in her voice now and I knew that I hadn’t kept my voice neutral enough despite my best efforts.
“Look, I don’t want you to say anything to dad yet, but… I found a note on my apartment door today and I think it has something to do with him.”
My mom was quiet for a minute before asking, “What did it say?”
I gave her a summary of the events and wasn’t surprised when she ended up scolding me. “You went INTO your apartment after finding it? What the hell were you thinking?”
“Well… the door was still locked, so I figured…” my defense trailed off weakly.
“Kaylee. The next time you find a note like that on your door, you get the hell out of that building and you go to the police station. You DO NOT go inside. You are damn lucky that nothing happened. Are we clear?”
I murmured an assent at my mom’s no-bullshit tone. She only used that when she was particularly displeased with me, or scared… and those two often went hand in hand.
My heart dropped when she kept going, “You know that you have to tell your father about this, don’t you?”
I felt like I was going to start panicking again, so I took a few deep breaths to steady myself. “I know. Just… not yet. I wanted to ask you a question first, anyway. Can you… can you think of anyone who could have sent it? Anyone in particular that he pissed off that might have been this determined to come find me?”
Mom gave that some consideration, but her answer was the same as mine. “Hm… to be honest, I just don’t know. I can’t think of anyone, but your father is really the only one who can answer that question.”
I sighed again. Fuck. I didn’t want to ask him about this.
“Okay… but… can I wait until tomorrow? He won’t be home until late, anyway. You can have him call me in the morning and I can tell him then.”
My mom sounded like she was about to protest, but she must have heard the concern in my voice because she relented. “Fine. He probably won’t be in any condition to talk tonight, anyway. I’ll have him call tomorrow, but you have to tell him everything, you understand? Including the name of the officer you talked to – I imagine he’ll want to call the station himself.”
I groaned. Of course he would. That was one of the things I wasn’t looking forward to. See, I never called my dad an ex-cop. I used the term “retired cop.” Do you know why? Because he always told me that, “once you’re a cop, you’re a cop forever.” As soon as he heard the word “threat,” he’d slip into cop mode and, although I’d never admit it to either mom or dad, I’d have to start worrying about him all over again.
But there was no other option. Grudgingly, I agreed, before hanging up the phone and crawling straight into bed for the night. I didn’t have work in the morning, and I was suddenly terribly exhausted. Stripping off my work clothes, I made a nest for myself in my covers and decided against setting an alarm. My eyes were already struggling to stay open as my head hit the pillow, and I fell into a fitful, nightmare-ridden sleep, full of notes and doors and unanswered questions.