PROTECT AND SERVE
By Stephen Patrick
There I was, just before dawn, in the armpit of
Texas, when our universe was saved from an angry demon
by the bravest cop I’ve ever met.
It started at 2am, on the graveyard shift, outside Ray’s
convenience store. Our black and white was parked
outside on the gravel lot. I had been training with
Officer Sanchez for a month, still hoping to get past
being called a rookie. He was so focused on the job
that his first name was ‘Officer’, even to his friends,
if he had any. He was a tough man, a hardened cop, but
he had been clear about asking questions. “There’s
dumb questions and there’s dumb rookies. When they mix,
we get dumb cops.”
Inside Ray’s, Sanchez was sipping coffee and flirting
with the clerk at the counter, while I pretended not to
notice from my hideaway at the magazine rack. At least
I had the April edition of Ghost Hunter to keep
“You still reading that weird stuff?” Sanchez asked from
his perch next to the take-a-penny tray.
I looked down at the bold, glossy pages in my hand. The
bright orange headline read “Are you safe from the
other side? What will you do when the demons come?”
“Demons, and ghosts, huh?” The words slipped from his
mouth like they did not belong.
“What do you think, sir?” I asked, trying to avoid being
a dumb rookie or asking a dumb question. "These are all
normal folks who said they saw something hiding in the
shadows, just out of view. What if there is something
mucking around with us mortals?”
“Bullshit as far as I’m concerned. I ain’t met nothing
yet that I can’t explain. I’ve got a flashlight to take
care of the shadows and there ain't nothing in the Texas
Penal Code about
demons or ghosts. Anything coming here from the other
side is a problem for Immigration, not two
Our police radios chirped. "Unit 122, Burglary
at 1865 Route 4, near the trailer park."
Sanchez tossed his coffee cup into the trash can
behind the counter.
"That’s Lucy Scott’s place. Her husband died last
Lucy Scott’s home was a throwback to when houses
were built to last. Thick glass windows, pristine brick
siding and a hand-crafted wooden porch complete with
white columns across the front that made it a
Rockwellian dream of southern living. Lucy paid several
local boys to keep up the place, but their shoddy
maintenance only highlighted the fact that she lived
We parked on the street and made our way up the gravel
driveway. As we neared the house, I heard screaming
from the back yard. Behind the house, we found Lucy
Scott, dressed in her Sunday best, hoisting a
single-barreled shotgun. She pointed the quivering
barrel toward her back door and screamed over her
shoulder at us.
"It’s in there! And it’s something that's pure evil."
The barrel of her shotgun dipped as her bony arms grew
tired. She cradled the stock of the gun under her elbow
and gritted her teeth. "Pure evil, I tells ya."
We drew our pistols and scanned the back door, looking
back at Lucy and then to the door. Sanchez took the
lead, focusing his flashlight on the door. "We’re
here now, ma’am. Put down the shotgun,
us what’s going on."
Without taking her eyes off the back door, she
was coming home from playing dominoes with my
girlfriends Sally Chesterfield, Juliana Shepherd and
Diana Duke. Diana has been a bit down in the dumps
about her husband’s new habit of eating pickles at every
meal. She thinks he might be cheating on her, but I
think he’s just enjoying eating himself some pickles.
Either way, she spent all night talking about it, just
blabbing on and on and --"
interrupted. “The door?”
you got ears, boy? I’m telling a story.
When I come home, the screen door was open. Not a lot,
just a little. Maybe like an inch or less. I heard
something rustling inside."
"Did you see anything unusual?" I asked, my eyes
still locked on the dark opening at the door. "Today?
"I found armadillo tracks around my crepe myrtles
the other day...."
Sanchez lowered his gun. "We're not here to police the
'dillos. You called us for a break-in. Did someone
break into your home or not?"
getting there, boy! I pulled the door open and heard
this infernal racket, like a cat trapped in a sack full
of bees. I screamed and something scampered across the
floor. It moved under the couch, under my dining room
table, and then back out the door. I grabbed the
shotgun from the closet, but when I got outside, it
couldn’t see it no more. It wasn’t invisible or nothing,
I just stepped outside and it was gone.”
like an animal snuck in," Sanchez answered as he
holstered his pistol.
“I know what it was.” Lucy lowered the shotgun and
leaned it against the door frame. She reached into her
purse and handed
an empty bag of Cheetohs. “I found these under my couch.
I haven’t had snacks in the house since my Don died last
summer. Worse, when I peeked inside, the box with Don’s
ashes was knocked over in his favorite chair. On the
wall behind it, the
crucifix was hanging upside
“Cheetohs and an upside-down crucifix?” I asked as I
holstered my weapon and stepped to Sanchez’ side.
“That’s what I said! My Don loved Cheetohs."
Sanchez whispered to me. “She just a scared old
"I am not scared," she screamed. "I called you two
donut-eaters to find out if my husband has come back to
haunt me. I could barely deal with Don when he was
alive, let alone after he's dead." She stepped in front
of me, her ragged lips pulled back over yellow teeth
that were chomping just below my chin. “So what are you
gonna do about it, rookie?”
Sanchez ran his hand over his head. “Ma’am, we are
officers of the law. We deal with folks that break the
law. If you think your deceased husband is coming back
from the dead, that’s not illegal. There's not much we
can do to help you."
"Didn't you swear to protect and serve?” she
continued chewing on me. “Can't you at least make sure
my dead husband's not sitting in my living room?”
Sanchez went first. We had our guns drawn, mostly
for show, but I wanted to prove I knew how to search for
searched Lucy’s house room-by-room, looking for
intruders, ghosts and a rogue armadillo. The beam of my
flashlight found every dark, shadowy corner of her house
as I did my best to put on a show for her and my
The house was sterile and lifeless. The furniture
was wrapped in thick plastic,
and everything appeared glued into place as if any
change would destroy the facades Lucy had built up in
We found an ornate box in the living room, upside down
in a well-worn easy chair. Sanchez tapped my shoulder
and pointed at the box. “Must be Don.”
I reached for it, but before I could pick it up, Sanchez
grabbed my hand.
“Demon or not, I don’t think she wants you to spill
Don’s ashes all over her clean house.”
Sanchez slid his hand under the box, scooped it up
from the chair and set it on the coffee table.
Above the chair, a crucifix hung upside down, held up by
one nail. Sanchez tried to re-hang it on the vacant nail
above it, but the wooden statue would not hold. Instead
he pulled it free and tucked it under his shoulder.
“Ashes and crosses, but no signs of a break-in.
Definitely nothing missing. Not much we can do here.”
“What about my demon husband?” screamed Lucy from the
doorway. “What if he’s come back?”
Sanchez took a deep breath. “Ma’am if your husband is a
demon and has come back through from another plane of
existence, that’s more suited for men in another line of
“Do what you do!” she screamed. “Protect and serve! It’s
on the side of your car!”
Sanchez handed me the crucifix. “You’re the one
interested in demons, rookie. What do you want to do
now? Anything in your magazines give any tips?”
A buzzing sound drew our attention to the walls. It
swelled until the terrible clatter rattled the windows.
Every window in the house creaked in protest and then
cracked from the strain. Spider-webs spread across each
pane and smoke began to seep through cracks in the
roof. The doors bowed outward like an inflated
I turned toward Lucy “Is that Don? Please tell me that’s
“It’s not Don.” answered Sanchez, grabbing Lucy and
moving to the door. “Probably a sinkhole or maybe an
earthquake. We need to get outside, before this place
“Don’t let Don come back,” screamed Lucy as she pulled
away from Sanchez. “I worked too hard to get rid of
Suddenly, the doors and windows exploded into a spray of
shimmering shards of glass and splintered wood. Before
a single bit could fall to the ground, everything
stopped, hovering in the air. A red shaft of light cut
through the clouds, bathing the house in crimson.
Inside the house, a deep rumbling seemed to come from
all the walls at once. Like two mountains grinding
against each other, a voice boomed. “The hour has come.
The gateway is open.”
I drew my pistol, trying to find something to shoot at
through the debris floating around us.
Sanchez brushed away a piece of wood floating in front
of him. “Something tells me a pistol ain’t gonna do us
much good against this.”
In the center of the living room, on the coffee table,
Don’s box was open. Smoke and energy flowed from it like
an open spigot.
“I warned him,” screamed Lucy. “All that black magic
stuff. He spent three years carving that silly little
box. Did some sorta ceremony with his own blood.”
“A blood ritual?” I asked.
“He fell in love with those weird books. Never even
gave me a second glance.”
The house hiccupped and bowed inwards, the shrapnel
moving closer to us, jagged glass and sharp shafts of
wood, quivering like anxious lions waiting to pounce.
Sanchez touched a large piece of glass. The edge bit
into his fingertip and drew blood.
I grabbed Lucy by the arm. “Is there a counter-spell, an
incantation? Where are his magic books?”
A voice boomed from the walls. “Foolish mortals, you
dared to unleash the awesome power of the --”
Before the voice could finish, Sanchez leaned over the
coffee table and flipped the lid shut. His finger
smeared over the lock, spreading a single drop of his
own blood over the latch. As the box closed, the smoke
and energy collapsed back into it. The floating shrapnel
collapsed to the floor, each glass piece shattering on
contact. Sanchez sealed the latch with his thumb.
Lucy pulled away from me and raced toward Sanchez.
“You did it. You stopped my Don.”
Sanchez wiped another drop of blood from his finger
onto his uniform pants. “Ma’am, there’s nothing more
for us to do here. Looks like an armadillo snuck into
your home. Please be more careful in the future, and
don’t leave food laying around.” Sanchez brushed the
glass and splinters from his uniform and walked out the
I followed Sanchez to the car, grabbing the radio
from my belt. “What do we do now?” I asked. “Call in
an expert, a detective, the lieutenant, a priest? Maybe
the Texas Rangers or I.C.E? This is big. I’m not even
sure what sort of report to write. What do we even say?
The guys are never gonna believe this.”
Sanchez sucked at his cut finger and took his seat
behind the wheel. “There’s no crime here, just a lonely
woman.” Ain’t nothing to write up. Put us back into
service. Someone else’ll need us for a real problem.”
I re-holstered my radio and flipped through my
glossy magazines, scanning the ads for ghost hunters or
some phone number to call. “Is there even a group that
looks into these? I mean, you undid a blood ritual. You
sealed it with your own blood. You think it was Don? Or
maybe a demon? Maybe it was Lucifer himself disguised as
Sanchez shifted the car into drive and pulled away
from Lucy’s house.
“So, we stare down a demon and just drive away?” I
asked. “Where are we going?”
“Unless someone else calls 911, or we pass a drunk or a
stolen car, I am going back to Ray’s. I’m gonna get me a
new cup of coffee and talk to Sheila.”
“But, the demon?”
“This ain’t no rocket science,” answered Sanchez.
“There ain’t no law being broken. People call the police
to solve their problems and we did. It doesn’t matter if
that box is her husband’s ashes or a portal to Hell. If
an open box is causing her problems, we close it. That’s
what we do.”