The tension in the air was palpable.
It always is, but it’s worse when the weather is so unbearably hot and the air is thick with humidity.
Twelve police officers circled around a slick suited detective in a vacant parking lot discussing their entry strategy.
At twenty minutes before 5AM, the hope was that the target would be asleep, along with anybody else who might be inside the condo.
What’s inside the condo?
You’re sure about the target?
People other than the target?
Dogs. The target has a couple of huge dogs. Rottweillers I think.
The snitch has told them all that he knows.
He’s a drug addict, yes, but he’s been reliable in the past. He gets paid for information, but the information is always good.
The snitch says that the target plans to kill a rival drug dealer later in the day because he thinks the rival shot at him two weeks before, right on the very lot where the officers are planning this raid. There is a search warrant, ostensibly procured for drugs, but saving a huge group of teens and young adults from expanding a violent feud beyond where it is right now is the real purpose.
It’s curbing the violence, if you will.
Big Lou is already holding the steel. His two big hands are gripping two steel handles welded onto a one hundred plus pound steel cylinder.
Lou will bust the door down on the first strike as he always does.
JT and Grease will go in first, followed by Rick, Johnny and Fritz.
Lou will stay at the front door with another officer and the others will all take positions in the backyard and under the side windows. They’ll corral the runners or jumpers, if there are any.
JT and Grease have been partners for seven years. They ride in the same car every single shift.
They’ve been the first ones through the door together many times before.
They know each other and trust one another with their lives.
On this day, JT has forgone wearing his bullet proof vest because of the heat. Had he known the boys would recruit he and Grease for a search warrant, he’d have brought it to work this shift.
The vest will do him no good sitting on the floor in his walk-in closet.
That’s the image JT sees as he’s the first officer through the door.
Lou has busted the door wide open on the first strike, as he always does, and JT sees a television set on and two people sitting on a couch staring at it mindlessly.
His eyes are suddenly alerted to a man moving in the far corner of the living room. He is half in a closet and half leaning out. He recognizes the man as the target.
The right side of the target’s body is exposed, while his left half is hidden behind the wall of a coat closet.
In the target’s right hand is a gun.
JT isn’t sure who is yelling gun, but it should be him. He was the first one in and saw it, but he can’t take his eyes off of it to focus. He’s having a fit with tunnel vision.
Everything seems in slow motion when his brain finally clicks, snapping him to again. Before he’s all the way mentally back on this planet, back in the living room where he should be focused, his mind shows him that vest he should be wearing one more time.
The mental image of the vest laying on the carpeted floor of his closet makes him mutter, “Fuck” to himself, not loudly, but loud enough that the target hears him.
The target turns the gun towards JT, but Grease was already acting.
Grease has his vest on this day, ironically, because JT made him wear it. He instinctively ran in front of JT.
The target fires two or three shots, with several officers firing right back, almost instantaneously.
The target was struck multiple times; he lays dying on the scene, right there in his closet.
JT has fallen to the floor and is waiting for pain to engulf his body and the white light to shine on him, leading him to his next destination.
After a couple of moments, no light had shone and no pain was burning through his body anywhere.
JT rolled over and watched as all the other officers were busy containing the scene and clearing the house of other people.
Everybody was on their feet except Grease.
He had heard Grease shout out in pain, but JT was waiting to be hit with his own bullet and wasn’t fully aware what was going on with Grease.
JT saw an indention in Grease’s vest. The bullet didn’t go through, so maybe Grease just had the wind knocked out of himself from the force of the bullet.
JT rolled Grease over and was sickened by the amount of blood he saw. It had been hidden by Grease’s body and JT knew there wouldn’t be time to wait.
JT and Lou carried their brother to JT’s car and they raced him to the hospital.
JT and Lou carried Grease into the hospital with the help of some hospital staffers waiting at the door, all the way to the surgery table.
JT sat in a chair and replayed the scene in this head. Everything happened so fast.
“He took those bullets for you, JT.” Lou said as though he could read JT’s thoughts. “Those bullets were meant for you.”
The doctor returned to the waiting area and didn’t mince any words telling JT that his partner and friend was dead.
“The second bullet got him in the heart, JT. There was nothing…nothing that could be done.”
JT was crying before the doctor said bullet. He thought of his own kids and how they almost lost their daddy. The kids would be devastated at the loss of Grease, but at least they still had a father in their lives.
Grease didn’t have any kids, but he was still young enough that he could have someday. He didn’t date or have any hobbies either.
He was a good cop though. He was JT’s partner and his friend, and in the end, his savior. He took those bullets meant for JT by jumping in the air on purpose, right in the path of those bullets.
Later on at JT’s house, Lou told JT’s wife all about how JT had started to trip when Grease saw the target, ran, and then jumped up to take those bullets.
Lou was telling JT’s wife the story as she sobbed on the couch clutching Grease’s favorite tennis ball, the whole time staring blankly at the dog crate that Grease would never sleep in again.