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Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will always hurt me...

Oh Doamne, ce ai parasit tu ma?
Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me? 

The gun slipped from my fingers, the digits slick with sweat and blood. The 'clack' it produced by striking the pavement reverberated in my ears, and a small noise escaped, unbidden from between my numbed lips. The bright, early morning sun tried to warm me, but I still felt cold. My footsteps seemed so loud, the silence that had permeated the brief battle suddenly seemed stifling, smothering me in a choking blanket as I tried to breathe.

Then from the silence, came the voices...

"Put it down, man, just put it down.."
"You first, dog!"
"This isn't getting you anywhere, Rogeras.." 

It seemed so far away, my destination. All I really wanted was to sink to the ground; it would be so easy. I gritted my teeth and lifted my leg again.

My right arm swung limply in its socket, the hand connected uselessly unable to press to my side with its pair. It spasmed instead, twitching and flexing as though finally remembering what it should be gripping, what had only fallen from it mere seconds ago. It felt longer...

The voices came again, and they were louder. More insistent. I bit my lips to keep the mutinous cry inside...

"What you doin? Don't move dog, or I'll shoot!"
"Alright, alright...just calm down, man"
"Officer Manning, Officer Jose! Come in! I got your call, and I'm almost there..."
"Carlos, who-Hey! Get those back down!"
"We told you not to do anything!"

Strange noises echoed in my mind, cutting off the voices, unidentifiable in my unfocused thoughts and memories.

I reached it. Just in time, as my expanding numbness won the mental war with my will and gave out. I half fell into the gap. I groped for the device that would save their lives, and possibly one more.

My clumsy, bloodied fingers found their mark, and my thumbnail levered it open with a faint click. I turned and after vainly trying to keep standing, I gave up and slumped against the hard metal surface of my car, dialling on the miniature keypad of my mobile phone.

A cool, painless voice answered.

"9-1-1, what is your emergency?" I struggled to gain the breath needed to reply. The sound finally came out, but it cracked and wobbled.

"Th-theres been a th-the corner of Wall...Wallmark and West...End." My voice sounded strange, my swollen tongue distorting the usually gentle tones, thickening it to the point where it was unrecognisable.

"Okay" said the cool voice, "there's help on the way. Is anyone injured?"
"Four" I managed to not look up at the carnage. "Three...three officers, and one civilian."
"Alright, now what's your name? Are you OK?"

I looked down at myself for the first time, and felt something akin to surprise.

My white dress shirt was turning red from a wound in my shoulder, and further down, my left hand still pressing against my gut wound; blood leaked through those fingers, and as I lifted my gaze, I saw the trail of crimson droplets leading back to where my abandoned gun lay, also splattered with blood.

My body didn't even realise how bad the situation was.

It did now. Pain clawed its way out of my abdomen and shoulder, and I struggled to control the scream of agony rising like bile in my throat. What came out sounded not unlike a strangled gurgle. I felt myself hit the ground, my back still against the side of my car, and the jarring halt sent another excruciating explosion throughout my body.

"Miss? Miss?" The voice emerging from the phone still held to my ear seemed to become more urgent as my silence lengthened.

I shuddered; the cold feeling was growing worse, despite the sun. I fought to for my next breath, pushing out the following words with great effort.

"No I-I'm not alright!" I clenched my jaw against the pain, and my words became a little stronger, even though it began to hurt to talk. "I am Detective Sheridan of the NYPD, and we need an ambulance here right NOW!"

"Alright, Detective, it's on its way..."

Those last forced words had cost me, but still, I let myself fall into the pool of relief that blossomed in my chest, and without knowing, my slippery cell slipped from my grasp and lay forgotten next to deadened fingers.

I could hear the sirens now, but they faded somewhat as the others voices drifted up again...

"Put them down boys, or this will end badly for all of us."
"Naw, bitch, you puts yours down first."
"That's not gonna happen."
"Okay, so that's the way you wanna go-"
"No, don't-!"

Gunshots detonated in my ears, jolting me awake. I didn't even remember dropping off...

"Can you hear us, Detective?" Light shone in my eyes, and I only just made out the concerned ones of a paramedic, over top of the oxygen mask over my mouth and nose.

No, no, this wasn't right. Not me...

I weakly lifted my hand and attempted to take the mask off.

"No..." I tried to say, my voice sounding frail and quiet to my own ears. "...them...them first..."
Gentle hands of another removed mine and replaced the mask.

"Don't worry, they're being taken care of as well..."

The reassuring voice faded in my ears. My eyes struggled to stay open, but my will strained under the fog that was descending over my brain.

I dreamily wondered if I was being sedated. If so, I didn't remember feeling the prick of the needle.

Another voice, different to all I had heard in the last few minutes, suddenly cut through the blessedly silent fog...

"They're prepping the surgery now. It'll be ready by the time we get there."
"Do they know how many to prepare for?"
"Yeah. I told them for two; the civilian and one of the cops were DOA..."

It was the same day, one week later, that I stood over the long rectangular pit in the ground, the tombstone already in place. Engraved on it were words that although my blurring eyes couldn't see, they remained seared onto my memory.

'May angels fly thee home,
Ronald Galvez Jose,
Beloved son, brother, husband and father,
Taken before his time,
May your memory live on in the lives you have touched.'

The priest who presided over the mourners finished the eulogy, none of which I could recall. But the dirt that pattered on the coffin lid sounded louder in my ears, as though they were rocks instead of fine grains.

"Earth to earth..." began the priest, and I closed my eyes, my lips mouthing the words along with him.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...I commit thee, Officer Ronald Jose." He closed his bible, and as if knowing the end had come, the black clouds hovering menacingly over our heads rumbled, and torrential rain fell, drenching everyone.

The Chief of the NYPD called us to attention, and I torpidly imitated the others on the force and saluted, steadfastly ignoring the rain dripping from the rim of our caps, while all the other attendees unfurled umbrellas.

I just managed to keep from shrieking in terror when the guns fired in salute, but my raised hand still shook.

I looked over the other side of the open grave, and saw the slim, Latin-American woman who clutched the folded square of Star-and-Stripes tightly to her breast, her head bowed and thin shoulders shaking with shuddering sobs. People surrounded her, giving her all their support.

As if knowing she was being watched, her eyes lifted to meet mine. We stared at each other, both faces wet, not just by the rain.

Maria Jose, knowing how I must have felt, nodded at me, a small forced smile curving her mouth. I blinked quickly, trying to restrain even more tears, and nodded back at her.

She had forgiven me, didn't blame me for what happened. For events beyond my control.

But, deep in the depths of my heart and soul, I could never forgive myself. I could have done something different, something better than what I had done. If only I had been stronger, smarter, more experienced, then I might have been able to save his life. And Maria Jose wouldn't have had to feel the loss of her husband, and his children would have been able to know their father.

High above me, the dark angry clouds thundered their fury, and the pounding rain lashed all the more ferociously at the shadow-clothed mourners.

A new day it may have been, but it dawned dark and unforgiving, the presence of the Angel of Death felt by all.

That one three letter abbreviation drove a knife into my chest. DOA...
Dead On Arrival.
I caused the death of a Police Officer.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All characters and story lines, as well as anything that I make up within my head belong to me. Plagiarism is not cool.

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