August 3, 2007
I can’t get this out of my mind. My dreams won’t let me forget the lightning that exploded from the end of the barrel, the ripping orange flash off the black steel, and the burning scent of gunpowder. The sound, like an M-80, and the pain—the fucking searing pain. It is permanently scorched into my memory. Everything except for his covered face. The face I didn’t see haunts me every second. All I remember are those ultra-white Reebok sneakers as he ran away. The fucking coward would have shot me in the back, but I turned around and caught the blast in the chest. I didn’t have time to pull my Glock.
The blast knocked me off my feet. I thought I was having a heart attack—I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I understood what happened, and reality hit: I was going to die.
It seemed to take minutes rather than seconds, but I managed to radio my location into headquarters. The response from the good guys was impressive, to say the least. They saved my life. Cops from my own town and others surrounded the scene. I knew they would come. When a cop gets shot, they all come, and with one thing in mind—to find the bastard who pulled the trigger.
Things grew foggy. My thoughts became hazy. I saw blue uniforms scurrying around the scene while white-clad EMTs lifted me onto the gurney and loaded me into the ambulance. I could hear people talking about me—reporters, other cops, curious residents. “Detective Matthew Longo… Only twenty-nine years old, been on the force nearly ten years… Shot in the fucking chest and shoulder. No wife or children. Parents live in town; Hutchville lifers. Oh yeah, the town is going to go batshit over this.”
Blood oozed from my left shoulder. My friend and paramedic Scotty Franks hovered over me and placed direct pressure on my wound. Even through my fog I could tell he was holding back tears. My shoulder was on fire. I never wore my bulletproof vest unless making entry on a search warrant, or if a hot pursuit was coming my way; then I quickly threw it over my shirt. I was lucky I had it on that night. Maybe someone on the other side was looking out for me.
I fell unconscious even with all the shouting around me. I dreamed of my funeral and who would be there. I saw myself in the blue box surrounded by a sobbing crowd of familiar faces. My parents looked horrible. My poor mother clutched her bible and rosary beads. My dad kept his eyes fixed to the floor, angry and broken. My little brother Franny, in full dress uniform, stood near my casket at full attention, his white gloves damp from tears. Donny was there too, trying to keep it together.
I heard Scotty screaming for me in the distance. The poor guy loved me, but why was he screaming my name, spitting all over my face, at my wake? Maybe I should have had a closed casket.
Suddenly I felt him slapping me. I awoke and found myself back inside the ambulance. Scotty took a deep breath, in and out, and said, “Okay Matt, okay. Don’t do that again.”
The pain was relentless, and I couldn’t help but cry. Scotty inserted a syringe into an IV line that was attached to my arm. My pain vanished almost immediately. “Don’t give me morphine Scotty,” I managed to whisper. “It killed my grandparents.” Then, I lost consciousness again, falling into a world between life and death.
I heard someone screaming in the night. Was it me? It was too dark to see. Where’s Donny? I really needed him now. Was I dreaming again or was this some delusion of reality? I slapped myself and felt a sharp sting, jolting me awake.
It has been three weeks of hell living inside this apartment. My social life has been placed on indefinite hold. The phone rings constantly but who cares? I don’t answer. The window shades are drawn. I don’t know if it’s day or night, and I don’t give a shit.
Thankfully, the wound has been healing well. But I look at my shoulder and am repulsed by the scar and missing flesh. People say scars are sexy but this one may be the exception. My left arm is still in a sling. At times, the pain is still unbearable. The Percocet I’m still taking makes me pass out.
The sink is loaded with paper dishes and plastic cups. Last week’s dinner from my mother sits on the kitchen table still wrapped in tin foil, and the smell is starting to ferment in my kitchen. I can hear my dad’s deep voice in my head: “Why don’t you pull it together and clean up around here? You’re making your mother nervous.” She’s nervous? I can’t help laughing.
Hey Dad, your oldest son was almost shot dead in the same small, safe community where we played Little League baseball. Mind if I take a week or two to let that one sink in?
Only cops—and maybe some of their wives—realize how dangerous police work can become in a millisecond. Parents of cops usually choose to ignore this reality—it’s too difficult to accept that a life-or-death choice awaits their son or daughter at any moment. A bank robbery turns into a shootout; a wanted felon gets pulled over for a broken tail-light and decides suicide by cop is his only way to avoid a lengthy jail sentence. As a detective, this is my everyday reality.
This wasn’t supposed to happen in a small town. We’ve never had a police shooting—never. In fact, the last time we had any kind of criminal shooting was ten years ago, and it was a domestic dispute between a father and his cheating son-in-law. These old-school Italians are no joke. The father said his son-in-law disrespected him, so he “took care of it” like they do in the old country.
It didn’t make any sense. It would have been one thing if I had been shot on a traffic stop. But I was just picking up a fucking pizza. Half pepperoni, half sausage. I was just walking down the street. It wasn’t even dark out as the sun was just setting in the western sky.
My mentor and partner Detective Domenico “Donny” Mello always told me never to “go anywhere alone.” He said, “Don’t even pick up lunch alone. A cop is always a target for someone looking to become infamous. The public hates us most of the time because our interactions are rarely positive. Nobody calls us when they have a new baby but if that baby isn’t breathing, there is no one else to call. Always the bad,” he would say. “Always the bad.” I miss Donny. He’s been away for three weeks at his family’s villa in Italy, on the Amalfi coast. Did he even know I had been shot?
The press remains close by outside my apartment, salivating for an interview, the fucking cretins. I’m the talk of the town—everyone wants to know about the cop shooting. Fuck them. Twice. Even if I wanted to relive the horrifying experience for them, it goes against department protocol.
I swallow down two Percocets, lie down on the couch and let the painkillers do their magic. In my head the image haunts me—a dark shadow with the whitest fucking sneakers you ever saw.
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