We knew Florence well. She was what we like to call a frequent flier. Florence had numerous problems and some of them were real. She had some sort of mental disorder bipolar or schizophrenia something that made her mind go off the rails from time to time.
She was never the one who called 911, that was generally the function of friends or neighbors. Flo would go off her meds or have an episode of whatever it was that she did and we would get the call to “check the welfare”.
Check the welfare was a catch all phrase dispatch used when they weren’t sure what the hell we were dealing with. The result of these checks ranged from no one was home to dead bodies. We just never knew which.
Every fire station has a small number of addresses that are just burned into your memory, as I sit here writing, about half a dozen addresses ran through my mind. Some of the places are large facilities like a homeless shelter or these huge complexes dedicated to the care of the elderly population.
Many are individual homes and the residents of those homes are well known to us. At the big facilities the call volume is related to the sheer number of people concentrated at the site, it’s a density issue. The single family dwelling that requires numerous visits is a situational problem.
So we knew Flo’s address by heart and when it came in we also knew it was going to be something different. On this particular summer day we were greeted by one of my favorite police officers Pizza. Pizza was a long time veteran patrol officer and I don’t think I ever saw Pizza get excited, not once, ever.
Dispatch always sent a cop with us to Flo’s house; we just never knew what resources were going to be needed.
“Hey guys.” Pizza said as he indicated we should follow him to the backyard.
Rock Chuck, my lieutenant, (we called him Rock Chuck because he was an instructor for our high angle rescue team and was always climbing rocks) asked Pizza what was going on with Flo today.
“Hell if I know Chuck.” We followed Pizza all the way to the backyard.
“Notice anything new guys?” Pizza waved his hand toward the house. It took a second but then we saw it. Flo had had some security bars installed over all the windows, big metal ones like you see on a pawn shop or a liquor store, not what you would expect to find in this upper-middle class neighborhood.
“Great” Rock Chuck muttered. Rock Chuck really didn’t like most aspects of the job outside of climbing around in the mountains all day, and these kinds of calls frustrated him to no end.
“Have you seen her in there Pizza?” I asked.
“Oh yeah she’s over here at the patio doors, and she’s dressed just for you again TimO.”
Flo had a habit when she went sideways of dressing in skimpy lingerie which would have been okay if it was something she looked good in, but unfortunately for her or us she didn’t, and the tiger print she was wearing today was especially disturbing.
She had her face pressed up against the glass of the patio doors and huge glass of red wine in her hand. She gave me a smile when I got to the glass.
“Hi Flo, you gonna open the door for me so we can check you out?” She smacked the glass hard with her free hand and yelled at me through the glass.
“You’re already checking me out TimO (yeah she called me TimO too, that’s how well we knew her). She ran her hands over her body in a sexy little dance. I almost tasted my lunch again for a second.
“Come on Flo, let us in.”
“No!” She hit the glass again.
“I see you put bars on your windows. Why’d you do that Flo?" She kissed the glass and left a smear of bright red lipstick all the way across it.
“To keep you out TimO, I know you want me.” She twirled and then just wandered off deeper into the house.
“Now what do we do?” Asked Rock Chuck.
“We gotta go in boss, we have to take off some of these bars or something.” I answered. Flo also had a history of numerous suicide attempts and since she was obviously under the influence we had to get to her.
While I was talking to Flo, Tommy (the Driver) and Denny (the other firefighter) had been checking out the bars. Tommy had an extensive background in construction and that was what he did on his days off.
“Forget the bars Lou. She didn’t go cheep on these, these babies are bullet proof.” Tommy said as he yanked hard on some of the bars.
We had been in this kind of situation many times before; our goal when breaking into a house was this, if we had to do damage do the least expensive damage. So a broken window is cheaper to repair than a broken door, breaking a little window was less expensive than breaking a picture window and so on.
Pizza had been snooping around and found that a small rear door was open. The door went into the house, but it went into more like a mudroom and there was another door we had to get through to get in. The good news was that the hinges on the interior door faced us. We could just pop the pins and go in.
We got the door open when Rock Chuck asked us to hold up.
“Don’t go in boys, I just saw her go by that window and she’s got a butcher knife in her hands.”
Now Flo was a tiny thing and very drunk so was she a real threat? That is what we had to consider. This was before the days of Tasers so Pizza couldn’t just shock her into submission. We were going to have to go in and disarm her by force.
Sorry 1000 words. I’ll finish it tomorrow.