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Short Story - In Memory
The flashing lights glistened on the dark, wet pavement as muffled radio traffic sounded through the light rain. Above the overpass, unseen traffic roared by on I-17, bound for Flagstaff to the North and Phoenix to the south.
Daisy Mountain Fire had been the first responder, followed by the sheriff’s department, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety . Since it was on the I-17 right of way, final jurisdiction went to the DPS. Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies turned it over to their fellow DPS officers, and left the scene. Daisy Mountain had already gone.
“Well, there goes his Memorial Day weekend.” The dark humor came from Officer Hardy Wallace. He was standing on the shoulder overlooking Officer Davis and the reason for the call.
The dead man looked to be in his late sixties or maybe early seventies. He had a short, gray pony-tail, and a thin beard. His face was worn and tired. His sightless eyes stared up at the bottom of the concrete overpass. He was beyond caring.
A passing motorist from New River had spotted him in his headlights, sitting silently and unmoving. He had stopped to render aid, and then realized the man was dead. A 9-11 call brought emergency services and now Officer Wallace and Officer Davis were finalizing the report before the county morgue unit came to retrieve the body.
“I know this guy. He usually worked the Thunderbird exit ramp in Phoenix. I wonder why he's up here?”
Officer Jimmy Davis was a five year patrol officer. He had served in Iraq.
“He wasn’t a bad guy,really. He just had a few mental problems. Kept to himself mostly. I’m going to look through his backpack for ID and maybe next of kin info.”
Hardy Wallace nodded and watched as a curious motorist slowed down. He waved him on and turned back. He had served in Desert Storm, and he watched out for the younger Jimmy Davis.
A radio call reported that county morgue was fifteen minutes out. Officer Wallace responded and flipped on his unit’s headlights to see if it was still raining. It was.
“What are you and Judy doing tomorrow for Memorial day?”
Officer Wallace was divorced. Karen had endured one too many long nights alone, and she’d given Hardy an ultimatum. It was the job or her. Hardy didn’t even have to think about it. He had been with the Arizona Department of Public Safety when they first met, and Karen had known it from the beginning, so she had no cause to claim she did not know what she was getting into.
Lightning flashed close by, and Hardy counted the seconds. At one-thousand-five, the thunder roared, making the lighting strike about a mile away.
Jimmy Davis was a Christian, so the unexpected cursing drew Wallace’s immediate attention.
“This guy is a Marine. I just found his discharge papers. He served in Vietnam.”
Jimmy Davis was also a Marine, while Hardy Wallace was Army.
“We’ll note that on our report so the guy gets full honors.”
The radio notified Hardy that county was five miles out. Another curious motorist slowed down and he waved him on. Something had changed after learning the guy was military. There was just something about it. He thought of the TV series, “Band of Brothers’. There was something about a brother in combat.
“County’s close Jimmy. You about done?”
“Yeah, the poor guy didn’t have much….”
His voice halted, and then there was only the sound of rain and the idling motors of the units.
The words were low and spoken in reverence. It was not a curse. It was more of a prayer. It was a calling on The Savior.
Officer Jimmy Davis climbed out of the ditch and walked up to Officer Hardy Wallace. His face was pale and tears were welling in his eyes. Something was clutched in his hand.
“It’s The Medal, Hardy.”
Confused, Officer Hardy Wallace stared at his brother officer with a question in his eyes.
Jimmy Davis opened his hand. “He won The Medal, Hardy. This guy was a Medal of Honor winner.”