Mystery and Crime Fiction posted January 2, 2017

This work has reached the exceptional level
Pete's morning began like any other, until it ended.


by Mary Wakeford

Pete was a thirty-eight year old cop in Dallas with fifteen years on the force. He was happily married with a second child on the way--a daughter. He rose early the morning of July 7th to the news of riots sweeping the country.  Violence had been brewing to a slow boil since a kid named Michael Brown was killed by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri a few years before.

There seemed to be one side to the story--Brown's. Professional race baiters flocked to the small town of Ferguson, seemingly before the young man's blood had dried on the blacktop. The kid's mom and step-dad successfully incited rioting in the small community, and revelers set fires and looted the businesses of innocent, hard-working people who shared their heritage, not their work ethic. Police cars were set on fire, cops were challenged with rocks, bottles and insults. Nerves were frayed and accusations were coming in fast and furious before the investigation into Brown's death was complete. Children learn what they know.  

News stations went live with broadcasts documenting the mutiny, seemingly inciting heightened violence as camera crews and satelite trucks recorded the fury, fight, fires and looting. Police departments across the country took note, bracing themselves for the ripple effect and eventual impact on their own communities.

Pete Cross was raised by a single mother who struggled to put food on the table each week for her three boys. Their father deserted the family when Pete's mom was six months pregnant with their last child, never returning home from work one Tuesday afternoon.

Roy Cross severed all contact with his wife and kids when he left, never bothering to find out the sex or health of the baby. Evelyn Cross was at a loss coming to terms with the feeling of abandonment, or what could have caused her husband to snap; a man she had loved since the tender age of eighteen.  

The Cross boys also suffered with the reality of their father leaving them. They were often mocked at school by children who went through life never having to deal with diversity or set-backs. Their parents were the Ken and Barbies of the hood, perfectly dressed, perfectly poised and perfectly cruel in their snide comments at the dinner table about the Cross family saga. The same snide comments were repeated verbatim by their 'Skipper and Todds' on the playground and throughout the hallways at school. Children learn what they know.

Evelyn Cross was determined her boys would not turn out like their father. She made them accountable in school, and when they became of age, in their jobs. They attended church every Sunday. Evelyn made it a point for the boys to stay in touch with their father's parents; she knew her once in-laws grieved the loss of family their son had created with his stead. She didn't want to add his parents to the carnage of psychological pain Roy Cross left behind. 

The boys grew up with a resolve to make their mother, and their own families proud.  They each possessed a steeled determination to be the polar opposite of the man whose last name was the only thing they shared.  

Years later, Evelyn took her last breath in a sterile hospital room surrounded by the three strong men she raised by her own grit, commitment, love, and by the grace of God.  

It was Roy's name Evelyn's unconscious mind cried out for under the blanket of morphine and cancer.  It was also the first time the Cross brothers understood the love their mother still privately held for their father.

Pete joined the Dallas police department after working his way through college; his brother Mack was a hard-working criminal attorney, and Sam, Evelyn's youngest, was in his third year of medical school. The Cross boys made their mother proud, and made up for the pain their father delivered upon all of them years before. Children learn what they know.
Pete Cross showered that hot, humid July morning, then pulled his pressed uniform from the closet, and dressed. 

He joined his very pregnant wife, Karen, at the kitchen table as their son scarfed down a bowl of Cheerios with sliced bananas, while absorbed in a Paw Patrol cartoon.  Pete and Karen discussed the upcoming appointment with the obstetrician, and he promised to make every effort to attend the ultrasound on Thursday. He couldn't wait to see the 3D vision of their baby girl, but his department was on high alert for potential rioting, and he was on 24-hour call.

He kissed his wife on the cheek, felt her rounded belly with his large hands, then bent to kiss their son as the child bounced around the room using imaginary tools to assist Marshall and the other cartoon dogs with their mission.  

This was a usual morning ritual for the Cross family, and Pete savored their early coffee, conversation, and Paw Patrol.  He backed his classic 1969 Ford pickup out of the garage and down the driveway, before heading east.

As he drove the fifteen minute commute to work, Pete thought of his mom, and how excited she'd be with the impending birth of a granddaughter and namesake.  

Pete didn't know if his father was alive or dead, but he was certain God took the wrong parent ten years earlier. He missed his mom like crazy. Karen had suggested early in the pregnancy they name their daughter Evie, an abridged, more modern version of Evelyn.  Pete pulled into the parking lot at the precinct as a smile erupted across his face at the thought of little Evie due less than two months away.

As he collected his gear from the passenger seat, he called his youngest brother, Sam, to check in and let him know he was thinking of him. He felt a responsibility to let Sam know he was loved as often as he could, hoping to replace the void of never knowing a father.  At least Pete and Mack had a few years knowing what it was like.  
Following the morning briefing, Pete Cross called home to let his wife know he'd be home late.  He was assigned to the riot unit that would be keeping the peace in downtown Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest.  That would be the last time Pete heard his wife's voice, or that of his four-year-old son playing in the background.

Four hours later, Pete Cross crossed over.  He was maintaining the front line of his squad's perimeter. Their assignment was to keep the peace and assist citizens in the event things turned ugly. Pete never knew he was in the crosshairs of a maniac's assault rifle.

The bullet found a path between the Kevlar vest, tearing through Pete's flesh before entering his heart.  Evelyn Cross was there to greet her oldest son before his body hit the pavement.

A reporter from KVLX captured the last photograph taken of Pete Cross, minutes before he was killed, as he spoke with a peaceful protester.
Pete Cross was laid to rest at Sacred Heart cemetery the following Saturday, on a clear day in Dallas. His obituary noted he was taken from his wife Karen, son Daniel, and daughter, Evie, born prematurely two days following his murder. Evie is in the NICU at Dallas Memorial. It was also noted he is survived by two brothers, Mack and Sam Cross. The family of Pete Cross acknowledged their gratitude to the community for their prayers and donations.
In a filthy apartment in downtown Dallas, just paces from where an assassin's bullet stopped the hearts of five police officers, an old man stared in stunned silence as the blonde news anchor announced the names of the slain officers felled by a mad man bent on payback.  "Pete Cross, a husband, father, brother died a hero..."  

Roy Cross could not stop the tears and body spasms as he wept uncontrollably for the son he abandoned decades earlier.  

Roy Cross died a miserable death five years later, alone, not a hero.

Neither Evelyn nor Pete met Roy when he crossed over.




Potlatch 1/1/2017 Photo Challenge:

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