There’s an incident on my side of town. It’s early afternoon. Too early for this. My partner agrees. He’s turning on the sirens and preparing to tear through traffic.

Maybe I shouldn’t have grabbed dinner early. Already I feel the food, barely digested, slipping down into my bowels. No matter how long I’ve been on the force, this happens to me every time.

The next few intersections are a mess, even with the light in my favor. People are pouring out from their jobs. Just trying to get home. We wouldn’t be speeding by them if a several more men had jobs to occupy their time.

Over the radio, we hear the call for more cops farther out. The incident is getting worse. Still, we’ll be the first to arrive. Well, the first to provide backup. At least two officers were at the scene to call for help.

This is my part of town. I know these blocks. I know the look of the neighborhood before we arrive. It isn’t much to see.

We pull up next to an undercover car. The door is open on both sides. Both officers hopped out in a hurry.

I draw my sidearm. My partner does the same.

The door to the house is wide open. Wide. People are stopping across the street to look inside. Their movements make it clear they can’t see anything.

Still, I approach the door with caution. I’m not fully convinced there isn’t a man hiding slightly out of sight. I never am.

“Police!” I yell as I step inside. There’s no response.

A quick scan of the living room, if you can call it that, shows that the space is empty. The sofa pillows are hanging off the couch. Each one has a tear in it. There’s a foot-sized indention in the arm rest, and a lamp is lying sideways on the side table. It’s surrounded by white powder, but that appears to have come from a bottle that also fell over beside the lamp. A pack of diapers is on the floor.

There’s a beep, and I jump. A few sections pass and we haven’t blown up. Turns out it’s from the microwave. From the smell, it’s a Hot Pocket. It’s been sitting there for a least a minute, though by the looks of things, this isn’t the first time the microwave has beeped.

The kitchen is too small for anyone to hide, so I turn my sights to the hall leading out from the living room. Knowing what I do about the houses in this area, there’s a single bathroom and two bedrooms attached to the hall. The bedrooms are opposite one another. There’s no way to look in both at the same time. Even with a partner, it’s not the ideal setup.

He takes one and I get the other. We each take out our flashlights to blind any guys lying in wait. Again, there are none. Both rooms are empty. I mean, they’re packed wall to wall with stuff. A mattress lies on the floor of one with no frame or box spring. It’s next to a large number of shoe boxes, a fan, and a large TV with a PlayStation hooked up.

The other room is marginally better. The bed there has a frame, and there’s an actual dresser. Baby supplies are spread on top. But in both cases, there are no people to be found.

The bathroom door is already slightly ajar. My partner nudges it open and gives a quick lookover. There’s no one in the house but us.

Then the voices start coming in over the radio. They’re on foot, chasing after three men. I can’t tell if shots have been fired.

We step back out into the living room. The couch and the recliner next to it both show the imprints of three rear ends. Judging by the direction of knocked over furniture, everyone retreated out the back. I do the same. My partner runs back out the front so that he can wrap around the building from another direction.

The backyard is hardly secluded. Straight ahead and to our left, there are identical plots. The backs of houses stare back at us. To our right, there’s the sides of buildings. There the neighborhood transitions into row houses.

“We’ve cornered them, but there’s one man missing.” The radio says. This time, I make out the voices clear.

Immediately after, I hear footsteps coming in my direction. They’re pounding the dirt fast. Then there’s the brief sound of a shaking chain-link fence.

A man pops out from behind the shed in the backyard. He has a gun. He sees me and sticks his hands up into the air. His face is full of fear.

So is mine.

I shoot.

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“One Less Man” by Bertel King, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.