It was late, a quiet night filled with complete emptiness.
And then this: “BU10…Bureau County.”
“Go ahead,” I said.
A woman called, my dispatcher said. She was being held against her will…by her husband. He had her locked up in a room and was coming back in a few minutes and would probably take the phone away from her.
I had an instant adrenaline dump. Yeah, the call was probably bogus, someone drunk and trying to get a spouse or an ex in trouble, or just calling for shits and giggles, but we have to take them seriously. Because there’s always the possibility the call is real. There is always the chance that someone actually is being held against their will. And when it does happen, it’s almost always a spouse. Sadly, unlawful restraint is just another part of domestic violence.
And frequently, unlawful restraint ends in bloodshed. Do a quick Google search and tell me what you find.
I start making calls and getting the pieces in place for whatever might happen and the entire time, my brilliant dispatcher is on the phone with the woman, getting more and more information.
As we get closer, we find out, from her, that she’s by herself at this very moment but that moment might not last long.
It was a long drive to the address and the entire way, with each new bit of information, with each new word and plea, my heart cranked up even more. My skin broke out in sweat, my head pounded and I felt the visual distortion, the auditory exclusion, that comes with an adrenaline dump.
“Bu10…she says it’s not just her husband. His friends are helping him.”
Another mile down the road.
“BU10…she’s says she can hear them moving around in the next room.”
Another mile and a half down the road as I sped up.
“Bu10…I lost her.”
I almost screamed. The most precious commodity law enforcement has is not the gun or the purty marked cars with them purty flashing lights. Our most precious commodity is information.
And we were going to get no more from her because she was deep in a domestic situation.
Google something else for me. Google officers killed at domestic problems. Go ahead…I’ll wait.
Done? Okay, so now you know those calls are amongst the most dangerous, and that if they’ve gone as far as restraint, then we’re probably in for a bloody night.
That’s what my partner and I were headed into.
Except that’s not at all what we were headed into.
When we arrived, we surveyed the place. It was dark and quiet. I banged on the door while my partner was around the side, both with guns drawn and ready to war if we needed to.
An older man answered. He’d been sleeping in the living room with a very old dog. Both stared at me confusion ripe and pungent on their faces.
“Sir, are you here alone?”
“You don’t mind if I look around?”
He blinked rapidly. “Why? What’s going on?”
“We got a call that you’re keeping your wife locked up…against her will.”
I will never forget the look on his face. His eyes became the saddest song I’ve ever heard, his entire body slumped into a beaten state, a battered shell of what had once been a strapping man.
He said it simply and easily.
He let me and my partner search the house. My partner talked to him while I went room to room, even rooms that had been closed for years upon years. It was an old farmhouse and it might have been magnificent back in the day. But at that moment, it was cluttered and dirty, frozen in some ageless time. It was filled with the accomplishments of a couple’s life. Awards and pictures, books and furniture, with the scent of a life-well lived.
They’d been professionals. They’d worked around the world, he as an engineer, she as a cartographer. Her maps were everywhere. Both elegant and stunning.
Ultimately, he told me that he’d recently had to put her in a nursing home, probably for good. She’d been calling him incessantly, crying, wanting to come home. She’d said she was being held against her will and she was. She wanted nothing more than to come home but he was unable to take care of her anymore.
I called dispatch and had them call the home. While my dispatcher was on the phone with the home, they went to her room and made sure she was at least physically okay.
He was crying when we left and I almost was, too. The pain in his voice, the longing for his wife and best friend, for his partner and lover, was palpable.
It crushed me. I never want to be that lonely in my life, but at the same time, he was only that lonely because he’d had so many wonderful years with the person he loved more fiercely than anyone else he’d ever known.
It was a terrible night for all of us, but then it was done, as calls always are. A few weeks later, a very dear friend of mine told me her family had just put her grandmother in a home and, again, the woman just wanted to go home.
I can’t imagine being physically separated from someone you love that dearly; being trapped behind walls that will never come down. I hope that if I ever have someone in my life that dear, that important, that loved, that I can crash the walls between us.
And if not, then I can at least trap us together inside those walls.