Autumn Sky Fade to Black

He had a full conversation with his reflection in the mirror. It was the sense of paranoia setting in. He could almost feel the entire city rustling nervously. The chatter started as it filtered through the chains of command. It was a Pandora’s Box waiting only for the right activist or famed preacher to grab hold of it and scream out racism or police brutality. His image would be plastered over every news reel long enough and hard enough that the mayor and the police commissioner would be looking for heads to fall. It hasn’t happened yet, but he was still waiting for it.

The detective was thinking about the young man’s face. It was smooth and unworn and he probably just graduated high school, or was one of the many who dropped out. He was a black kid who lived in the P.T. Barnum Housing Projects over on the west-end. Their eyes locked and the young man had an empty stare. It seemed cold and unfeeling, but the fact was still the same. He was a young person.

It all happened so fast that the detective couldn’t remember the shooting. The young man was rolled to one side as another detective with white gloves pointed to the gunshot hole in the back of his jacket and the exit wound coming out the young man’s chest. Above the young man’s eye was a bloody contusion caused by his fall to the concrete. The bullet that killed that young man fully penetrated the heart causing it to explode. The bullet entered from the back and had a slightly downward angle.

He died instantly, and it didn’t take much for the pathologists to determine that the young man was shot in the back while fleeing.

Looking out his office window the detective watched the autumn sky fade to black. He kept hearing the police cover-up words streaming in the back of his head. It was such an odd guilt tugging at his heart. He felt guilty because if the shooting had been someone else, the reports would have been different. The shooter would have been labeled a murderer. The young man who died would have been labeled a homicide victim. The case was regarded not as a murder but a police-involved shooting. The word crime appeared nowhere.

He glanced at his reflection in the mirror which was enhanced by the lighting. He stood silently, waiting. He just stared at his reflection as he went over the shooting again in his mind. His reflection’s expression was passionless, almost cold. He tried to force himself to remain calm Yet, with each moment that ticked by, he felt hope fading. He didn’t know what to hope for, but nevertheless it was fading. His imagination was playing tricks on him and he couldn’t stop it. He had always been a fighter and a man that stood for truth, but that failed him. He was watching his truth shatter to pieces.

He then remembered what happened. It all came crashing back. It was going to be a foot chase. He radioed into command explaining his position and requesting back up. He stumbled and fired one shot from his service revolver. It was a wayward shot fired when he lost his footing while staggering from the stumble. He thought his service revolver was pointed down, and the bullet struck the cement. That wasn’t what the bullet hit. It struck the fleeing suspect in the back killing him instantly. He couldn’t believe he fired one shot as he then blacked out.

When he came to he heard his radio chatter. The sergeant was making corrections. He was telling back-up that it was indeed a police involved shooting, the suspect and a police officer was down. The suspect fired at the police officer and missed. The stray bullet hit the building which caused the police officer to fire his first round killing the suspect immediately.

That was how the story remained except for one critical fact: The suspect did not shoot at the detective giving chase.

© 2012 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 37 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 4 years ago from The Caribbean

After a while, the detective might consider that death is better that the burden of guilt he is carrying. Skies might forever seem black. More than one tragedy here. Quite dramatic.

xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Sad story of an accidental shooting turned into a fiasco and even greater tragedy by an attempeted cover up. Another great hard hitting tale of police work. The detective apparently knows he can't live with the lie.

writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Great story Frank, you really are a fantastic writer.

Voted up awesome and very interesting, Joyce.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks Msdora for visiting my fade to black.. and you're right X-man it would be more difficult to prove the accident.. and Joyce you're swesome..:)

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Valleypoet 4 years ago

The detective is having a tough time grappling with his conscience, although the truth appears to be that it was a freak accident. I guess that no one would easily believe what happened, especially as the suspect was shot in the back, but by covering it up the detectives are shooting themselves in the back too!...great psychological drama Frank, thanks buddy:-))

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Brilliant Frank you sure know how to tell a tale.

I vote up plus share onto my FB page.

Enjoy your day.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

On the mean streets accidents will happen. The black community would never believe that though, so it was taken care of in the reported. The lesser of two evils? A riot where many more may be killed, or just let it be, after all, it truly was an accident. Up awe and Inter my friend- I've know of this happening before in a town once.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much Valleypoet for getting right into the thick of it.. and thanks for the visit Eddy good to see you and as always thank you for that one two punch comment Alastar bless you all :)

Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I wonder how many times such instances happen and we never know. Frank, you have an amazing intuition for these crime incidents.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks hyphen :)

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is your best yet that I have read, not that I like it if you know what I mean? Very well done to make me ashamed people like this exist. It reminds me of an incident lately of two cops stopping this woman who was doing nothing and knocking her down, roughing her up and high fiving....and it was all caught on a nearby business camera. It really is hard to respect authority anymore isn't it?

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

How's this for a psychological analysis of the character:

It appears that the officer was deranged right from the start and the accidental stumbling was only an unconscious excuse to kill.

Great story, Frank. Your use of the 'inside track' of how things operate in the police world is always fascinating to me. Up and awesome.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks Jackie for visiting my Autumn Sky... and yeah I kno what you mean...:) and Handlon unconscious excuse to kill? Couldn't it just have been an accident...yeah? NO? LOL thank you so much for your comment bless you both

Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

LOL Nope, no accident...

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

This is terrific Frank. I know, I know, I know you are a poet and a good one at that...but I really really like your stories best somehow. :)

Great hub. Great slice of life. :) ~~Theresa

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal


Pleasure of reading your unique poems and stories is unmatched.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

LOL okay Denise.. and thanks for visiting my Autumn sky Phdast7 and Vin good to see you guys and bless you all

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Very well told. A sad case of accidental shooting. Unfortunately in big cities things like this are common place cause you never know who has a gun who doesn't and sometimes you can't tell the good guys from the bad.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks Gypsy Rose Lee ... for stopping by my Autumn :) Frank

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Amazing! I mean, truly amazing how you can create such depth of feeling and such a great story in such a few words. After we're done reading there's millions of thoughts racing through our head. Why did he shoot while running? Is he really an honest cop? What had the young person done and why was he running?

I'm sure everyone's been asking...but as the Autumn sky fades to black we're all loving this story!!

Voted up, awesome, interesting, pinned, and shared.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much Till and that's the reaction I was trying to catch with these stop on a dime crime flashes... your reaction just told me that this piece worked.. and bless you for that :) Frank

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Excellent write Frank. Very dramatic . . . "Autumn sky fade to black." Love this on many levels.

Voted up, awesome and interesting

God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thanks Faith :)

Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

An excellent piece of writing Frank. Tragic accindents like this do happen unfortunately and the shooter has to live with it on his concience. Imagine the chaos if the truth were reported, possibly leading to more deaths.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

Good day Rosemay baby and dog.. good to see you and thanks for stopping by :)

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

Frank, I tell you, you are going places pal. Your work is great Frank, a true professional at what you do. I have been reading your work for over a year now and I can honestly say that I do look forward to each new piece you publish. On top of that, you have a lot of fans also Frank. Always awesome. Voted up, awesome, interesting, and shared.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

Lyrics thanks you're good for my ego LOL :)

Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Frank you are a master of poetry and the short story form. I loved this.!

Chillingly and heartbreakingly awesome!! Like any excellent story, it leaves you wanting to know what happened afterwards? Will the detective be able to live with himself, even although it was an accident? Or will his story take a downward spiral ending in suicide or eventually becoming a homeless drifter, because he's eaten up with guilt and keeps moving to escape it?

I love the character of the detective, hard as nails, yet underneath there is a true heart there! But which one will win? His toughness or his own true heart? A tough battle for this guy as he gazes at his reflection day in day out!


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

thank you Seeker for this wonderful comment bless you :)

wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

This is powerful, Frank. I'd bet that detective, in real life, would wind up "eating his revolver," I believe the expression is.

Good job.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton Author

LOL you got the lingo down pact... thanks winged coming from a talented person like you.. yeah Ill take it..:)

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

Makes you wonder how often this happens. That Blue Wall is hard to penetrate. Nice work, frank

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

so true PDX so true

cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles

How tragic to watch the unraveling of this young detective's moral fiber to avert political and social drama. It's no wonder street cops become desensitized - it's necessary for survival. Those who feel too much end up suicidal. Your words come alive and tear at my heart.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much cat for the revisit bless you

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Lee Cloak 23 months ago

Fantasticly strong stuff, great to read, well done, amazing writing, thank you!

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 23 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you lee cloak

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