by Robert Lanz LCSW
I was standing causally in the doorway to the suturing room so the patient who was handcuffed to the bed by all of his extremities could only see the ceiling for the most part, me being out of his view. He had been cooperative during the stitching and now was laying quietly, maybe counting the dots in the ceiling tiles like we did when we were kids in grammar school.
We had sewn up his big fat lip and he was medically cleared to be booked into jail. It was a busy night and I got to this party a little late, always wanting to check on any possible problems in the ER and even a handcuffed bad guy in custody with a well armed cop in the room had potential. He’d already showed some bad intentions before he got arrested and my experience told me most guys with bad intentions don’t give them up that easily, if at all.
The uniformed cop was pretty fresh on the job but appeared to have mastery over the situation-at least while the guy in custody was in four point restraints. But getting him out of the room, through the ER crowd and into the police car could be problematic.
That’s probably why the trainee cop called the training officer and Officer Villa showed up to help. No need to have a scene in the ER with a guy who already showed a willingness to fight. Officer Villa said “Hi” when he passed me by and walked over to the prisoner’s bed, leaning over him to check the damage and look him square in the eye. Best to get a read on the enemy I guess before taking off his leg cuffs so he could walk out to the black and white. Villa’s face interrupted the upward gaze of the prisoner but from where I was I couldn’t see much. The vibes were OK and the prisoner was calm.
“Officer Villa” he said in an easy going manner as if they knew each other. “How’s it going? Did you see your mom today?”
Relaxing his stance, apparently caught off guard he answered like he was talking to one of us.
“No, but I called her.”
“Did she tell you I fucked her last night?”
As fast as a rattlesnake strikes a mouse in the desert underbrush Villa drilled him with a power punch to the jaw, immediately undoing an hour of our fancy suture work.
The new cop was pretty shocked. He looked at Villa then looked at me. We were frozen in time. Well, not all of us. The guy with the gushing bloody lip was yelling and cursing like he was still getting hit. We may have been in a state of suspended animation but he sure as hell wasn’t.
Villa looked at the trainee cop and then at me.
“Bob, I’m calling the station right now and the watch commander will be down in a few minutes. No use having your name on all that paperwork, I’m taking the hit.”
The new guy just looked at me and shrugged. I disappeared.
I went and told the doc what happened. Sort of. I left out the part about me being in the room. No use being all over our paperwork either. After all, Villa did the crime and he would do the time. Didn’t need me involved in all that.
“Is that cop a friend of yours Bob?” the doc asked.
“Well I’ll just sew that guy up again. I live in this city. As long as you tell me it’s legal, no problem. Make sure your friend remembers who I am.”
“Don’t worry. Your name will be all over the paperwork. Ours and theirs. But they will do whatever they can to keep you out of court if it comes to that.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
The giant pneumatic double doors to the outside parking area for paramedics and police hissed open.
“Hey, look at the bars on that collar. Must be the watch commander.”
“Hey Bob. Where’s Villa?”
The prisoner got sewn up again. And the doctor was sure he wouldn’t get any speeding tickets in our town. The watch commander asked him a couple of questions and that was it.
Villa got ten days off without pay. Nobody asked me anything.
A few days later I got a call about the time I would get off my shift.
“Hey Bob, I’m getting bored. Wanna get a brew?” It was Villa.
Neither one of us ever mentioned the events of that night again. Another silent test and I suppose I passed…
But wait. That’s not the end to the story.
Almost ten years later one of my regular long time psychiatric patients, a woman I had befriend during repeated admissions to the ER, called my office directly.
“Bob, I know about a murder but I’m afraid to call the police myself. You know how they can be with people like me.”
By that time, Villa was a sergeant and working in Robbery/Homicide.
“I’ll hook you up with a guy I trust. You’ll be safe.”
My name didn’t appear on any of that paperwork either but I heard the crime was solved.
That’s the end of the story. Except for at Villa’s retirement after he did his thirty years. A social worker well received in a room full of cops….