Chapter 9: What lies behind the badge, the uniform, the gun?

Merlin Troy
8 min readApr 7, 2021


Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

His name was Davion Wade.

He was a fifteen-year-old boy. A sophomore in high school. And he killed himself.

I was about a mile out when I heard the call came out. The details came in broken segments, coming from a panicked caller to 911 dispatcher and finally to me. Davion’s grandmother had found him in the closet, with an extension cord wrapped around his neck. His cousin had cut him down. His mother called 911. He wasn’t breathing.

I was the first to arrive. The cousin, a child no older than the age of twelve, came running out of the house, waving his arms wildly to get my attention. He ran back inside, and I followed. A small crowd of family and friends filled the room. I pushed my way through the dead boy's family. They yelled for me to help. Screamed at me for not getting there faster.

Even as I tried to save their loved ones, they called me a pig and a racist.

I tuned it out. None of it mattered, really. Not that I was a white cop and this was a black neighborhood, mattered. Not that the decades of distrust formed between their community and those who wore the uniform before me, mattered. All of that was just background noises as I pushed my way through the screaming men and women.

No, none of it mattered.

Nothing ever did.

Except for the boy who lay dead in the middle of the room.

Davion laid on his back surrounded by loved ones who said they never saw this coming. No one ever did. It wasn’t their fault, not really. No parent or grandparent is ready for the day their child decides to take their own life. They looked at me, yelling for me to do something. I had taken too long. Davion was already dead and it was my fault.

“He’s dead!” A woman with tear-filled eyes squeezed my arm, holding me back as I shoved my way through. “Oh my god, Davion. My baby is dead.”

I should have said something to comfort the woman. Something to calm her while I went to work doing what little I could do for the boy. But as I looked down on the body in the room, my mind drifted toward the parts I kept locked away. To the last child, I could not save.

“Move.” I snapped at a woman who pleaded for me to save her son's life.

I knew I sounded harsh — cruel even, given the circumstances. But now was not the time for nice. No, something had to be done. I had been here once before, and that was one time too many as far as I was concerned. I looked over the fifteen-year-old boy, who looked so damn similar to the last child I had failed to save.

I felt a panic grip tightened around my throat as I looked upon Davion’s too-stilled body.

Why did he have to look so much like Amir?

I breathed in. I breathed out. I forced the past behind me, where it belonged. Nothing else mattered besides what was right in front of me. Nothing mattered besides what I could control. I felt numb. I welcomed the ice flowing through my veins. It allowed me to think. Allowed me to act.

Davion was tall and lanky, in the space where a boy is no longer a child but in no way yet a man. A dark and purple line crossed his neck where the cord was still loosely wrapped around the boy’s neck. He looked almost peaceful, his eyes closed and his lips parted.

I checked his pulse, knowing already that he wouldn’t have one.

“Control, Baker-five,” I said, my voice cold and emotionless in my ears. “I am with the kid now. He is not breathing and has no pulses. Update fire and medical. I am starting compressions.”

I placed my hands on the boy’s small chest and began to beat out a steady beat. One hundred twenty beats a minute. One inch deep. No breaths. It seemed the criteria for CPR changed every year.

I had been a paramedic before I was a cop — a corpsman before I was a paramedic. The repetitive motion of saving someone’s life, of keeping their blood flowing through a patient’s veins and to the brain, was no longer second nature to me. It was first nature. I could keep the rhythm going forever. I could keep him going until fire and medical arrived. I could do it without thought.

And there was the problem.

As I beat the boy’s heart, my mind began to drift from the safety of my practiced numbness. My thoughts drifted from the present and landed in the firm past. I stood in a war-torn village in Iraq. I stood over the body of a boy, half-buried in the rubble of the small home he had shared with his grandfather. Even as I continued compressions in the present, doing everything to save the child in front of me, my mind was with the boy I had let died — a boy I had forced out from my mind.

And yet now that boy returned. An unstoppable force tearing through all the mental barriers and walls I had set up to separate me from that day in Iraq. I tried to force him out of my mind. To ward him off like an evil spirit. But his name rang through my mind, reverberating off my skull until all that filled my thoughts was him.


I saw him dead, body crushed in the rubble left after a mortar attack. A Mortar attack sent by those we fought — a message of what happens to those villagers who allied themselves with infidels. Amir, a boy, little more than a child, and yet like Davion, still not a man was dead. Not because he was an enemy to any cause, but simply because his village had sided with us.

I had been injured in the attack on the village. A concussion. Bruised ribs. Second degree-burns that ran from my wrist to my elbow and scars I would carry for the rest of my life.

But none of them cut as deep as that name. Amir, the boy I could not save.

You can’t be dead. Don’t die, kid. Keep fucking fighting. Live!

“Come on, kid. Fucking fight.”

The present came back to me in a rush. I was no longer in the past. No longer in Iraq, staring at the body of a kid long dead. I was sitting in a room where a kid had hung himself only moments ago. Davion Wade, A sophomore in high school. The compressions continued, a steady beat I had done a hundred times before. Everything had continued as it always had.

And yet, everything was different.

The family was quiet, staring at me as I continued to keep their loved one alive. But they were no longer screaming. They were no longer yelling at me to do more. They looked down at me in a way, and there was a look in their eyes I could not understand.

Compassion. Commiseration. Understanding.

It was then I noticed the tears staining my cheeks.

I tried to pull back the unfeeling mask — the mask of a silent professional who could navigate the ugliness of the world and yet came out unscathed. I had to be strong. Like Teflon, never letting anything stick.

But as I looked down on the boy, my tears falling onto the hands that continued to beat his long stilled heart, I could feel the ice slipping away. The protection which kept all the evils I had seen at bay washed away. I felt exposed. Weak. Not the hero of the uniform and badge that portrayed me to be.

I was just a man who had seen too much.

“Keep talking to him.”

I looked up, and I saw her. Davion’s mother. A black woman who had grown up in an impoverished neighborhood. A woman who had grown up fearing the badge and uniform and all they stood for. She had never seen the police as heroes.

But I saw her, and for the first time, I think she saw me. Not the badge. Not the gun. Just me. The human underneath.

“Please. Talk to my son.”

So, that was what I did.

I told Davion he had made a mistake. Just a mistake. He had let a temporary something cost him everything forever. I told him he had made a mistake but if he could only hold out for a little bit longer. He would have time to fix it. I checked his pulse.

I told him about Amir. I told him about the boy I couldn’t save. About how I had stood there in the village, watching as his grandfather pulled him from the rubble. I told him how part of me never made it out of that village. How in a way I think I was the one who died that day. I checked again.

I told him I couldn’t lose another kid. I told him I knew I was being selfish. That I was making this about me, but I didn’t care.

Come on, kid. Just fucking come back.

Fire and medical arrived. They went to work, cutting off his shirt and pants, placing electrodes on his thin body. I continued compressions as they worked. Davion looked so small. He looked like a kid. Too young to die.

They lowered the gurney by his side, and I checked pulses one last time before turning it over to them. Before I touched his neck, I saw it.

A fluttering in his chest, soft as a bird’s wing. A heartbeat, strong and fast.

“Control, Baker-Five.” I said, my voice breathless,I got pulses back. He is going to be transported by Fire 103.”

I stepped aside, crowded against the wall of the small room of the fifteen-year-old boy who had just killed himself. A boy I had saved. We watched as Davion was loaded up onto the gurney and rushed to the hospital. As his mother left to follow her son, she gave me one last look. She mouthed a thank you.

And I left.

I walked out of the house. I went to another call. I drove around the same neighborhood where I had just saved a child’s life and got the same dirty looks from people who only saw me for the badge on my chest and the gun on my hip. I got called a racist for arresting a man who beat his wife. And then I went back to the station, changed out, and went back home.

In a way, the day had gone as it always had. I helped those who needed help. I punished those who would harm. But somehow, everything was different. Something in me had changed.

For the first time in a long time, I had allowed myself to feel. I allowed myself to acknowledge the horrors I had seen. And it scared me.

People call first responders Heroes. They call us fearless, but it isn’t true.

The things we do, are terrifying, but we know someone has to stand up for what is right. We know we cannot let fear control us. So, we shut those feelings off. We numb ourselves, forcing ourselves not to feel.

We shut off the part of us that is human.

But at the end of the day, when we remove the badge, guns, and uniform, humanity is all that we have left.

More exciting reads —

Next Chapter 10: Slow Nights on Watch III

Previous Chapter 8: The War Story II

For quick access to other chapters: Go here

Merlin Troy writes fiction inspired based on his time as a police officer, paramedic, and veteran. He is working on his first novel which will be available for readers when published on Kindle. Expected release: July 2021
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Merlin Troy

Writer who draws on unique personal experience to make up stories where lots of people die and stuff.