Super Bowl Sunday, January 31, 2010, 2330 Hrs.
I’m done now and know it.
San Francisco Police Officer Phillip Matthew McManus slumped hard in his seat in the fifth-floor Hall of Justice conference room. He stared across the large rectangular table at Homicide Inspector Arthur Lahey and four members of the department’s Command Staff led by Deputy Chief Michael Turner.
No one cracked a smile when the Deputy Chief — in a tone so grave it sounded like he was kidding — said, “Officer McManus, in accordance with department procedures and pending a further hearing, you will be placed on sixty days of unpaid administrative leave. I’m directing Dr. Rector, the department’s psychologist sitting there at the end of the table, to conduct an evaluation when we’re finished here.”
Turner’s eyes bored into McManus. “Any questions, Officer?”
McManus shook his head.
“I need to get your star.” Turner reached his hand towards McManus, who sat up and unfastened star #1125 from his uniform shirt, then placed it on the table.
The department will tighten ranks and move on. They always do. McManus watched Turner pick up his star and, without further comment, leave the room.
Throats cleared. McManus’s career flashed before his eyes. Was pretty exciting being a part of San Francisco history: Zodiac, the Zebra killers and the SLA, Golden Dragon Massacre, White Night Riot, Loma Prieta … am I history now?
The 59-year old McManus glanced across the table at his immediate supervisor Sergeant Jack Grogan, 30 years his junior. The brown-nosing 29-year-old Grogan flashed a Cheshire-cat smirk at McManus as he followed the Deputy Chief out the door.
You little cocksucker, you haven’t seen the last of me. I guarantee that. McManus slumped back in his chair and blew out a deep breath as the last three officers departed, leaving him alone with Dr. Howard Rector.
Shit, to save my career now I gotta go one-on-one with the shrink. Do I even want to save it? Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll have a heart attack. McManus stared at the doctor like a child seeking love from a dispassionate parent. When he saw Rector looking back at him like he was a piece of shit, McManus placed his palms on the table to steady his equilibrium … I had my chance to avoid all this out at the Labyrinth Cliff.
“Phil?” Rector took off his glasses.
McManus watched with curiosity as Rector’s expression transformed into a look of professional empathy. Maybe I could just reason and plead with him. I got the best argument a desperate cop could have. The job is all I got.
“You were a good police officer, Phil,” Rector began. “Nobody can ever take that away from you.”
McManus looked down at the mahogany table, fighting to maintain his composure before he lifted his chin and met Rector’s gaze. “But, I wanted to go out with more dignity than this.” He wiped a tear from his eyes. Man he’s studying me like a map.
“It’s a tough deal you’ve been going through, Phil.” Rector said, cracking open a bottle of water and handing it to McManus.
No shit, Doc. He took a mouthful to moisten his mouth, then chugged the rest.
“Part of being a cop is being resilient and thick-skinned,” Rector said. “But everything we deal with out on those streets can stack up without us recognizing it.”
The roaring in McManus’s ears returned, just like he had experienced at Lands End. “What am I supposed to do tomorrow morning when I wake up?” Rector’s mouth tightening. I guess he didn’t like the question.
“Phil, I’m your friend. We’re all trying to help you, so, you need to talk about this.”
McManus chuckled and shook his head. You’re not my friend. None of you are my friends. Right now, it’s your job not to let the department keep a liability around. He took another sip from his bottle of water. “Everybody’s got their shit.” He wiped his mouth with his shirtsleeve. “You deal with it and move on. That’s what you do when you’re a cop … not a pussy. You don’t bring anything up unless you really want to have a problem.”
Rector shifted in his seat and looked at his notes.
“I can handle this shit, Doc,” McManus continued. “I don’t have a problem. I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep.”
Rector jotted something down in his notes. “You happy, Phil?”
McManus smirked. “I’ve never given that much thought. NO, WAIT. Oh, yeah, I’m real happy. I can see how much I’m valued around here after 37 years in the business.”
“What are the things you want to live for?”
“Well, I don’t want to lose my job, for one.”
Rector made another note and looked up. “Then I’m confused by your behavior lately, Phil.”
McManus looked away and avoided making eye contact until Rector asked, “Phil, I see from your personnel jacket you have no next of kin. Never married, no kids, no siblings, parents deceased.”
McManus interrupted Rector. “Just tell me what I have to do to keep my fuckin’ job.”
Rector cleared his throat and spoke in a more official tone of his voice. “You made the SFPD your only family, Phil. So be advised…”
“So be advised.” Fuckin’ guy sounds like he’s talking on a department radio frequency. And he says he’s my Friend … yeah, right.
“You’re not just leaving a job—you’re leaving your family. You’re leaving your support network and all the things that make a family: love, conflicts, and shared experiences.”
McManus shifted in his seat and looked at his hands.
“Phil, if you haven’t noticed, this place is changing. It’s getting to be like the NFL. At 32, around here, now, you’re past your prime and it all starts passing you by. America values youth. This isn’t 1966 anymore. The Baby Boom Generation isn’t on the cover of Time magazine. The problem is, a lot of guys our age see holding onto this job as holding onto their youth.”
McManus felt his stomach drop and his anger rise. Fuck you, you self-righteous asshole.
“Here’s what’s going down, Phil,” Rector said, smiling now. “You can look at this as if your life is just starting. You’ve earned a 90-percent pension.”
I don’t have to listen to any more of this bullshit.