Note: This is an unpublished story but I wanted to share it because I love the character of Friday Hampton so much. She's actually the hero of two published stories (Last Gasp in BCMM#10, and A Body at the Dam in BCMW #36).
Police officers work with all types of partners. In most departments, you end up getting whoever is closest to the call as your back up. But everybody has their favorites. Some of my best partners have been female officers who are as different from 6'4" me as they can be. Where I could sometimes get by on just being big, they had to perfectly walk the line between courtesy and aggressiveness. Too far one way or the other, and they were in trouble. Friday was my way of writing about what that looks like. She's the type of partner I was glad to have checking in.
A few years later, I was struggling to bring to life one of my other characters, old, cleaver Detective Broyhill. It turns out, Friday was just the sort of partner he needed, too.
Friday Hampton was purpose made to be a cop, the way a needle is designed for sewing, the way a hammer is meant for pounding nailsShe was supposed to be a boy. Her father painted the baby’s room in French blue and already had his heart set on the name Joe, but when the doctor presented him with his brand-new baby girl, Tony Hampton went with his second choice in baby names and made very few other adjustments. While Friday’s friends got dolls and dresses for their sixth birthdays, she got a bike decked out to look like her father’s police motorcycle. Instead of taking horseback riding lessons when she turned thirteen, Friday went to the range with her dad and learned how to put ten rounds through a dime-size hole at a distance of twelve feet. When she came home crying at sixteen because some jerk she’d gone on one date with was telling all his friends that “Friday is the easiest day of the week,” Tony Hampton took his daughter out in the backyard and taught her a shoulder lock with which she could bring even the biggest punk in high school to his knees in front of all of his classmates. Criminal justice classes, the police academy, field training: these had all been almost afterthoughts. Friday was the job.
That was how, at the stroke of midnight on the back-half of a Friday night shift, Officer F. Hampton ended up being the exact right person in the exact right place to save a man’s life.
It came in as a suicide call. Dana Tomlin came home from her first date in twenty years to find a text from her ex-husband. He’d followed her on her date and had only sent the message to let her know that he was down the street from their old house and that he planned on making her a widow. Dana, who’d had enough of her ex-husband’s shenanigans, replied, “You can’t be a widow if you’re not married anymore,” before second-guessing herself and calling the police.
Other officers roamed the suburban neighborhood hoping to spot the suicidal man from the front seats of their cruisers. Friday had a different idea. Her gut told her to check the house. It was really just a memory of her father telling her desperate people always tried to come home, but her gut often spoke with her father’s voice.
Friday found the front door open. Normally, she’d have yelled something like, “Hello? Is anybody home?” like an extra in a horror movie. Instead, she slowly turned the latch on the screen door and quietly slid inside. The house was dark except for the kitchen light. It had an open floor plan and the light touched most everything, though only dimly. The smell, a blend of damp coffee grounds and old lunch meat, filled her nose. Friday fought the urge to go for her flashlight and just let her eyes adjust to the darkness. When they did, she had a lot to take in.
The house was destroyed. Not a single piece of furniture remained upright or intact. The lights weren’t off; they’d been shattered with a gulf club. Pebbles of glass mixed with the contents of the kitchen trashcan strewn across the floor. A bald, shirtless man stood in the kitchen panting and holding the aforementioned gulf club like a samurai sword. A middle-aged woman, presumably Dana Tomlin, curled against the dining room wall behind a tangle of recently distressed fiddleback chairs. Her lower lip trembled. Her eyes pled with Friday for help.
Friday held up her hands to the couple and said in a steady, authoritative voice, “Let’s everybody be calm.”
The bald man let out a war-cry and raised the golf club above his head preparing to hurl it at one of the two women. Friday’s sidearm appeared in her hand as if conjured. She drew a bead on the man, the glowing green dots of the gun’s sights settling neatly inside the outline of his torso.
“Don’t make a decision you can’t undo,” she said with a calmness that surprised even her. She didn’t want to shoot the man. She’d give nearly anything not to have to, but Friday was also acutely aware that she was the only thing standing between this deranged man and his terrified ex-wife. She steadied her aim and put steel into her voice. “Drop the weapon.”
The man thought about it. Friday could almost see the gears grinding in his head. “Decisions?” he screamed and threw his club on the counter. “I don’t get to make decisions! I didn’t want to be divorced! I didn’t want to be bald! The only decision I get to make is if I live or die.”
“That’s not true,” Friday said, trying to buy time. “That’s just the last decision you get to make. Once you make it, you don’t get any more choices. Ever.” She needed to key her radio and get help, but she had to get the man stabilized enough that doing so wouldn’t set him off.
“What?” he said, tears spilling down through the stubble on his cheeks. “What do you know about it?”
“I know you’ve had a tough go of it. I don’t know the details, but I know what it’s like to have things out of your control.”
“You’re a cop. You control everything!”
“Don’t I wish,” Friday said and let herself chuckle once. The man couldn’t have been more wrong if he tried. “What’s your name?”
The bald man kept panting, clenching and unclenching his hands into fists, but he answered. “Travis.”
“Travis. That’s a good name. Mine’s Friday. That was out of my control. You have no idea how tough it is growing up with the name like that. My nickname in soccer was Friday the 13th because we lost every game I played in. If I had a nickel for every time someone’s yelled, ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ when I walk in a room, I’d have almost a twenty-eight dollars.”
Friday lowered her gun slightly and spoke in a normal conversational tone. That was her little trick; instead of yelling when things got stressful, she spoke like a friend. Most times, like now, it worked.
“Really?” Travis asked. “People think that’s funny?”
“Oh, there are worse puns. My freshmen roommate was a lot more popular with the college boys than I me. She got saddled with the nickname ‘Fat Tuesday.’ “
The bald man could help it. He had to ask. “Why?”
“Well, she was a big girl. And like I said, she was popular with the boys. The joke went, ‘Tuesday always comes before Friday.’”
Travis thought about it, his eyebrows knitting together in concentration. Even in the stress of the setting, even with the dim lighting, Friday could clearly see the moment that understanding dawned on the man. He winced and smiled at the same time. Friday cautiously holstered her weapon and leaned down to whisper into her shoulder mic, “All units, I’ve got the subject at his wife’s house.”
She thought he was calm, that their little exchange had brought the man down to a place where they could figure something out. She was wrong. No more had she finished her traffic than the sound of a nearby unit’s siren split the night air. Travis flew into a rage. He drew an eight-inch butcher’s knife from the sink and spun on Friday. His ex-wife screamed. Friday’s gun came out again and she felt the resistance of the trigger breaking under her finger. She was going to have to shoot this man.
Something made her pause, though, and that pause saved Travis’s life. As he began his dash towards her, the bald man’s feet slipped and slid on the damp coffee grounds he’d slung across the smooth tile floor. He tried to recover by running faster, but ended up looking like a cartoon character. There was a beautiful moment, forever burned into Friday’s memory, where Travis hung completely suspended in the air, arms and legs splayed wide. He crashed face down on the tile, the knife bouncing out of his grip.
Friday leapt into action, literally. She bound over the shattered wreckage of a coffee table, holstering her weapon mid-stride, and fell like a 130 pound sack of bricks on the man. Travis grunted, but then tried to crawl for his knife. Friday didn’t even have to think about what to do. The shoulder lock worked just like it did in high school, and in less time than it takes to talk about it, she had Travis handcuffed.
Her backup arrived to find the situation already under control. Friday had Dana Tomlin on her feet and walking out of the front door. Inside, the ex-husband sat, handcuffed and shirtless, tears carving tracks in the coffee grounds stuck to his face, alive but still years away from understanding how Friday Hampton had just saved his life.