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Guardian Angel

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  • Guardian Angel

    Hello, first time poster. I'm working on a story entitled Guardian Angel about two actual angels behind-the-scenes who are involved with protecting a railroad police officer. The story was actually written as a screenplay for my screenwriting class 20+ years ago, but I never sold it and never published it. Recently I dusted it off and decided to try to bring it up to date and rewrite it as a novel.

    I'll take full responsibility for all of the theological aspects, but my only background in police work is watching Hollywood movies and the ten o'clock news...In Other Words, worse than nothing. I'm hoping to get some feedback to make the story more believable to a knowledgeable audience. Now this is speculative fiction, of course, so I'm counting on the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of my readers. If you see something and say, "Eh, that's kind of far-fetched, but I can maybe see it if....", then I'm OK. But if you see something and as a professional in the field say, "No way. That could never happen," then I need to rewrite. Of course, if by a few factual tweaks I can bring a story line back closer to reality without changing the plot points I need to hit, that's even better.

    The attached chapter opens the action; it's intended to be the bust of a crack house...which eventually leads into more interesting territory. The major characters are: Dawn, the eponymous guardian angel; Michael, the human she protects; Rick, Mike's childhood best friend and currently a narcotics lieutenant in HPD; and Ariel, another angel acting as Dawn's right-hand-girl who is the narrator of the story. Some specific questions I have about this chapter:
    • Is the timeline realistic for such an action, and is the police response to it believable? I don't want to tone down the scale of the bust, so if you think that it's overkill then what steps might be taken to "raise the stakes" to justify the action pictured?
    • Can you suggest ways to make the actual execution of the bust more believable without getting bogged down in a lot of detail?
    • For the next chapter, what would happen the next day for everyone concerned as far as completing paperwork and reports and possibly issuing media releases? Again, a great deal of detail is unnecessary but I would like to hit the high points. And, oh, when would anyone sleep...if they did!
    • I'd like to set up a scene during the follow-up where, after his duties are discharged, Rick (who is a party animal) tries to invite Mike (a straitlaced Baptist) to join him for a visit to a topless club (Mike will say no, but Rick will go without him), preferably the night following the bust. Plausible?
    • A couple of weeks after this action, Dawn will be in the human world with Michael. I need to have a plausible reason for Mike to visit Rick at police headquarters and to take Dawn along with him, preferably a reason connected to this bust. Possibly something involving discovery in the wake of the arraignment?
    • I am projecting Rick as graduating high school in 2005, attending two years of college, then joining HPD. The story is set present day, so that would give him a total of 11 years police service (we'll assume he went to night school along the way to complete the educational requirements). Is it plausible for someone to advance to that level in that time span? (Rick may be a party animal, but he is a good cop.)
    Thanks in advance for any helpful feedback.

    Excerpt: Chapter 4 (Author: Eric H. Bowen, 2018)
    GA-Chapter4.20180730.pdf

  • #2
    Wanted to bump this; it's been a month and a half. Hoping that someone will be willing to open a conversation.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi there!

      Your premise sounds good. I believe the public wants interesting stuff, and the twists you mention are absolutely realistic without necessarily being cliche. You identify that of course, cops can sniff out an overdone or underdone scenario- but I think you’ve got something here.

      If I get your character development, Mike seems like the leading man. Rick seems like the guy you wonder how he ever got through the background screening process for the career? The angel pops in and out to provide guidance?

      Whats totally reasonable is you’re describing real people who are likely LEOS right now. And THAT is the essence of the profession...”You can’t hire angels!” Some of the best cops on the street can sniff out crime like a bloodhound,,,and sometimes it’s becuase they have been raised up near that line in the sand....so they know what it looks like when they see it. LEOs tend to be regular people with the gambit of lumps, bumps, and issues just like everyone else. They put the negatives and life’s challenges aside to deal with other people’s negatives, and then try to unwind enough after shift to sleep and take on the next shift,

      There are the risk takers, the oddly withdrawn, the flamboyant, the sprinkling of egos. And yes, the copper who goes to the strip club right after a raid or crime scene to wind down.

      Where is “HPD?” (Houston?) Depending on who younask- HPD could be a bunch of different places, big or small. Every single agency has a “culture.” HPD might have a culture from its geography. HPD will also have its own unique culture of doing things that everyone is raised up to understand once you’re inside it, this department culture was created over decades of department history, and is morphed and forged into a slightly changing version of itself with each passing year,

      Oh, recommend you use caution with the use of rank. While it is completely and absolutely possible a detective lieutenant or inspector hangs out at a strip club and is constantly pressuring his straight laced buddy or parter, he must have done something to get promoted to that management position and have supposedly kept the position...unless only Mark knows about his extra curriculars. Mark and Dawn that is.

      Thank you for reading my feedback! Best wishes!

      Rick Shaw

      Comment


      • #4
        Rick, first of all thanks for the response. I'm ready to move on to my next topic, now, which is, "The niceties of search and consent." But to quickly answer your questions, yes, HPD is Houston. I'm trying to make the setting realistic. As far as the lieutenant who frequents topless clubs...well, I'm kind of postulating that the narcotics lieutenant has a bit of a sixth sense as to where the line is and never puts a toe across it...although he comes right up to it from time to time. So he is a bit of a playboy and has had several girlfriends, and he frequents topless clubs...but he doesn't cross the two. He never gets into any activity that the vice squad might take an interest in, and he never makes a forward move without consent. I'm not trying to put him across as a paragon; your comment that others may wonder how he ever got through the process may apply...but I'll be satisfied if most LEOs who look at the story will say, "That's a stretch, but I can maybe see it happening."

        So as far as Search and Consent...the next big scenario I'm setting up has to do with narcotics following up on the information developed from the bust mentioned previously. I'm presuming that they ID from surveillance photos taken of the van before the bust one of its drivers. Investigating, they go to his mother, who innocently tells them that he works at a local industrial plant (which happens to be the one I'm at right now...the former Maxwell House). It's in the neighborhood that Rick and Mike grew up in and, being a little like *yours truly* at that age (10-12 or so) and not being intimidated in the least by "No Trespassing" signs, they "just happen" to know its interior layout fairly well (For What It's Worth, the place IRL is a maze...I've been utterly lost more than once). When Rick's detective(s) tell him about the lead, he volunteers to go check it out with them.

        They're not suspecting anything but, unbeknownst to all save the bad guys, while legitimate industrial work is still going on there a sizable portion of the plant has been transformed by the new owners into a MAJOR drug distribution facility...the stuff comes in by rail and leaves by semitrailer. But the officers don't know that; they come to the office, exchange pleasantries with the personnel department, and are told, "No, we have no record of this individual working here."

        Here's where the search and consent comes in: I'm going to have Rick (the narcotics lieutenant) ask, "Do you mind if we look around a bit?" The plant manager says, "Sure, go ahead!" or similar. But, knowing the basic layout of the facility fairly well, Rick comes up to a large set of doors marked, "DANGER - HIGH VOLTAGE - AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY" in an area which he knows used to process food and soft drinks. He asks the accompanying plant manager, "What's in there?" and receives the answer, "Nothing much; that's just the transformer room." Rick muses and says, "Funny, it didn't use to be."

        He then asks to take a look inside. The plant manager tells him, "I don't have the key." Rick asks him to go and find it. The manager says, "Due to liability concerns, I can't let you in there without a warrant." Rick says, "No problem," and tells his detective, "Run downtown and talk with Judge Crater (g). I think I'll wait right here." Inside the Big Room, a red light warns everyone to lay low...but there's no restroom, and Antonio really has to Go Now. And nobody knew that Antonio was color blind....

        The objective here is to set up a situation where all hell can break loose with Rick being the only officer actually in the danger area. I'm postulating that he gets a glimpse inside through the open door after his partner(s) have left the floor to seek a warrant but before they actually drive off the property and before the occupants can hide the contraband, and that some hothead fires shots as Rick is calling the situation in on his portable radio.

        Could this scenario be made to line up with believable police practice, and how might it be improved?

        Comment


        • #5
          I really like the setting you’ve chosen. I think the maze of the warehouse, and the abandoned on the outside but covertly repurposed on the inside is very interesting. Sort of a modern Pan’s Labyrinth scenario. I like.

          I understand that the direction will take the story to the mystery of what’s in that unknown room. Here are a few thoughts to consider for your characters.

          At present, the officers are there via consent. Totally okay. Questions that arise is did the person who gave consent have the authority to grant it to police? Are/were there any conditions of where they could or not go and look? A consideration is that consent can be revoked at any time. If officers find fruits of a crime while they occupy a space they are lawful to be in- they can act on that as a lawful “find.” They don’t have to “unsee” it. However- the thing to do is guard the space while someone else seeks a warrant to search further.

          Something that happens pretty frequently in “the real” is that officers are not limited to using the power of sight. The power of observation also includes hearing things that give rise to suspicion. They may smell something that experience allows them to articulate in a warrant. They may feel changes in temperatures that may be a clue. These things may bring an interesting dimension to your writing. As an aside....unlike the old Beretta Tv series...tasting anything on the job is a BIG NO! LOL...

          Best,

          Rick

          Comment


          • #6
            How would this sound? As the plant manager is accompanying the officers through the facility and they get near the wing which is the "hot zone", he tries to tell them, "Nothing here. This whole area has been shut down." Rick asks him, "Oh? Then why do I see fresh trash in the garbage cans in the lunch room?"

            By the way, some of the areas around here have been abandoned for 20 years and they look like they were designed by Doctor Frankenstein, even when new. The production crew for the next Terminator movie could have a field day around this place.

            Edit To Add: Now that I think about it (and since this isn't a screenplay, where you have to voice every thought aloud), it seems like a better way to handle the situation above is to have Rick think to himself, Why is there fresh garbage in here? without speaking a word aloud to the plant manager. But that observation coupled with the manager's attempted misdirection should spark his instincts.

            One other question related to the bust in the excerpt in my first post: What would be the procedure if children were expected to be in the house (school records)? I'm assuming that the police department would not tip CPS off in advance, or would they? If they did not, would it be a reasonable practice in a large department like HPD to assign an officer, preferably with psychology training, to take charge of the kids and keep them out of the way until CPS could be notified and respond? Which division would normally handle cases of child abuse and similar?
            Last edited by ehbowen; 10-10-2018, 05:26 PM. Reason: Add a couple of thoughts.

            Comment


            • #7
              I see where you’re going...you might consider bringing in some sort of observation that brings in exigent circumstances. This would help you bridge from a consent search to taking action.

              The observation about fresh garbage is a great observation to make. Cops do this every single day. Good observation involves looking for what seems just a little bit off. Now how you transition that observation into the appropriate investigative path or legal avenue such as a search would have to be worked out. Hence you might consider using the various senses in an exigency.

              For example- officers are on a consent search and smell fire, hear screaming, or someone moaning for help. They don’t need to leave or call another agency in or seek a warrant...They can intervene to preserve life. They can overcome resistance or force or make arrests to carry out that preservation of life too.

              Regarding your CPS question...each state/county/city had its own version of CPS with it’s own procedural requirements. So in this case, the Houston area policies would apply. In my own area- CPS can open opportunities to check the welfare of children at risk, but LEOs already have that authority without needing to get prior buy in from CPS.

              But yes, many agencies do have specialists that are officers/detectives that specialize in supporting juveniles and families.

              Comment


              • #8
                Where I'm going with the search:
                • It starts as a routine checking out of a lead a detective has identified. Rick (the lieutenant) comes along because he hasn't seen the plant in some years and wants to see how it has changed.
                • The personnel office is polite but unhelpful; they claim no knowledge of the suspect. The plant manager (who does have authority to consent to a search) comes in and greets the officers.
                • Rick asks him, "Mind if we look around for a bit?" The place being, as I said above, a crazy-quilt maze which has taken shape over more than 100 years, the manager suspects little danger and says, "Sure, go ahead," as if he doesn't really care.
                • The search starts off with the manager leading the officers through the legitimate production areas where paint mixing, etc., is going on and where there is nothing to find.
                • Rick starts asking, "How about this area? Can we take a look inside this door?" He hasn't let on that he does have a pretty good working knowledge of the plant layout. He does note that the manager's mood is...not exactly nervous, but less helpful.
                • When Rick was a kid snooping around the place (with his best friend Mike), they had a friend who worked at the plant who used to give them samples of drink mix. He wants to check out the area the friend used to work in and heads up the back stairway...which leads to the lunch room.
                • That's when the manager says, "This whole area has been shut down." Rick notes the presence of fresh garbage in the trash cans and resolves to go over the entire area with a fine-tooth comb.
                • The manager has still not formally revoked consent. To keep things casual, Rick says, "I had a friend who used to work here. I'd like to look around the old place. Do you mind?" The manager does not take any action to revoke consent.
                • That's the point at which Rick finds the big double door with the "Danger - High Voltage" sign installed in the same area where his friend used to blend soft drink mix. Now he's really on alert. He asks to take a look inside.
                • The manager first claims not to have the key, and then tells Rick that he can't let him go inside without a warrant. Consent has been revoked.
                • Rick sends the detective who he has been accompanying to run downtown and "talk to the judge"...i.e., get a warrant. He remains on site to ensure that nothing is tampered with.
                • While Rick is there, alone with the plant manager, an oblivious drug lab worker who is color-blind ignores the red warning light and exits the drug lab to use the restroom. He leaves through the door Rick is watching.
                • Rick sees, through the open door, activity in the large drug handling room. No sign of transformers or high voltage equipment. He grabs his radio and calls the detective, saying, "I need you here NOW!" and calls for additional backup.
                • One of the crooks is a hot-headed thug who fires shots at Rick while he is making his radio call. The detective hears Rick call and then the gunshot over the radio as the transmission breaks off. He repeats Rick's call for additional backup.
                • From there, it's on. The railroad police officer Mike and our guardian angel heroine are in the vicinity and will have a part to play from there...not leading the charge, of course, that's for SWAT, but Mike knows the layout of the maze which is this plant just as well as Rick does, and Dawn (the angel) knows it even better. They will advise SWAT of access and exit routes.
                • Of course, the REAL fun happens "behind the scenes" in the spiritual realm....
                So a question: The basic premise for this scene is detectives checking out a lead on a suspect, and the lieutenant "just happens" to tag along. Would it be standard practice for a single detective to do this kind of work on his own, or would they normally work in pairs for something like this? Remember, when they go into the plant they're not anticipating any trouble; as far as they know it's a legitimate industrial concern.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Depending on the nature of the facts that drove the lead detective to poke around, it’s absolutely possible to go it alone as you are planning. Remember that just as uniformed officers often go solo when making a contact or doing an investigation, the plainclothes investigator might also be alone. Generally speaking, plainclothes officers lack the safety gear and communications equipment the uniforms carry around, so many will double up or ask for uniformed support where there might be suspect contact. Other than that, going solo is pretty common depending on locale and agency policy.

                  FYI on sending someone to “get a warrant,” While it may or may not have any bearing on your story development, it might be good for you to know that seeking a search warrant requires that an officer have articulable facts that speak to suspicion that a felony is occurring or has occurred, and you are asking a judge permission to enter the structure not open to the public, against the will of the owner and occupants. And to use force if necessaryntomcarrynout saidmsearch. It’s a big deal. Huge. Movies and TV make it sound as if the threshold to obtaining a warrant is to simply ask for one. Not the case at all. It is one of the most instrusive actions “government” can direct upon a private person who has the right to be “secure in his own home or business” and should be handled with the highest accuracy and caution.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Rick Shaw View Post
                    FYI on sending someone to “get a warrant,” While it may or may not have any bearing on your story development, it might be good for you to know that seeking a search warrant requires that an officer have articulable facts that speak to suspicion that a felony is occurring or has occurred, and you are asking a judge permission to enter the structure not open to the public, against the will of the owner and occupants. And to use force if necessary to carry out said search. It’s a big deal. Huge. Movies and TV make it sound as if the threshold to obtaining a warrant is to simply ask for one. Not the case at all. It is one of the most instrusive actions “government” can direct upon a private person who has the right to be “secure in his own home or business” and should be handled with the highest accuracy and caution.
                    Very, very good point. Here's where I am with the story so far. Please let me know whether, in your professional opinion, this would meet the threshold or if I have to find some other way to "sweeten the pot."
                    • A felony drug suspect has been identified. I'm on the fence exactly as to how. It could be by surveillance photo of the van at other locations, but it would be best for story purposes if the driver (in another van) is making another delivery to the crack house the night of the bust, and Mike (the railroad police officer who reported the suspicious activity initially) saw him visually at close range as he (Mike) was leaving the area (on foot) and the suspect stopped upon observing the police activity related to the bust, hesitated, and then quickly departed. (I'm sure it's tough to ID someone inside a vehicle at night, but we'll presume it was a cool night and the window was open. Perhaps the suspect was lighting a cigarette.) Mike calls the suspect in to HPD dispatch, but all they find is the abandoned van with all obvious incriminating material removed a mile or two away.
                    • Physical evidence leads do not pan out (too many different drivers to pin down just one). Rick asks Mike to come in and go through mug shots. By this time the angel is present, known to Mike but incognito to everyone else...Rick sees her as a potential girlfriend [Sorry, you're just not my type!].
                    • Mike IDs a suspect from a mug shot with a very high confidence level. The detectives go to work. The suspect has disappeared, but the suspect's mother innocently tells them that he was working at the plant. They decide to follow that lead and see where it goes. Rick (the lieutenant who knows the plant) tags along with him/them.
                    • They're hoping to find information such as when he last worked, number of hours, shift assignment, etc. They're instead told that the place has no record of him. Rick has a hunch...at that point, that's all it is, just a hunch...and asks permission to "look around a bit," which is granted.
                    • After a few minutes where the plant manager is helpful (in the legitimate spaces), Rick notes that they seem to be steered away from the area he knows best where his friend used to work. He begins to go in that direction, and the plant manager says "this whole area has been shut down." Rick wonders, Why is the air conditioning on and why is there fresh trash in the lunch room?
                    • Rick comes to the area where his friend used to work and give him samples of Kool-Aid. Now he sees the door with the "Danger - High Voltage" signs. He also sees that the floor is clean, no accumulation of dust as you would expect in an abandoned area. Also, there are no obvious conduits going into the supposed "transformer room," nor is there any noticeable transformer hum.
                    • The plant manager, initially helpful, refuses to allow him to enter the "transformer room", citing potential liability.
                    That's the point at which I postulate that Rick tells the detective(s) to seek a warrant. Does that meet a reasonable threshold, or do I need to come up with a few more puzzle pieces?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Bottom line is I think you have the makings of a good storyline.

                      And granted, for the sake of good entertainment cops come to accept that Hollywood and reality can be far apart.

                      To answer your question specifically though, you may well in your mind have facts that you intend to put into your story that do indeed meet the threshold, but you’ve not described them in your post quite yet,

                      The neat thing is this convo IS just like real life. Investigators may have the right elements to meet the requirements to obtain a search warrant, but the trick is articulating those facts on paper to a magistrate.

                      The things you mention are clues. Clues that someone (a suspected drug dealer) is doing something suspicious. (Occupying an area that is supposedly or possibly conceals the true nature of what’s going on)

                      Investigators need to take those clues (reasonable suspicion) and dig for info until they turn into articulable facts that point to a felony that is occurring or has occurred. Having a person look at a mugshot book to comfirm a guy seen in the building was a known drug dealer isn’t sufficient on it’s own unless the subject happens to be wanted. IE- if there is an arrest warrant out on him. Otherwise, it’s back to articulating what you feel this known drug dealer is doing and why you want to search this business. You can’t search a residence or business simply on the reputation of the occupant. The easy argument would be...”If you want him, why not just wait until he leaves the building and pull him over?”

                      Use this measure to guide you when you write your story:

                      You’re an author. You’re an upstanding tax paying community oriented respected member of your area you call home. If you had a say in what threshold police should have before kicking in YOUR front door to look for who knows what...what restrictions would you demand? You would probably want the police to be darn sure they did extensive research and had more than just a hunch that you are committing or had committed a felony crime AND that fruits of that crime were in your home- AND that they had to demonstrate this to a judge before they just came over busting through that front door.

                      And so, good or bad- this same threshold that protects good decent people from unreasonable search and seizure, ALSO works to protect suspected drug dealers and others of criminal element from it as well.

                      The good news is, good cops will find clues that lead to articulable facts that lead to the request and approval of a search warrant. So eventually...crooks get caught. Oh, you may also be interested in knowing that AFTER serving the search warrant, the investigator owes the Court a report that explains that they did or did not execute the search approved by the magistrate, and what if anything was found, be it info or evidence, or arrest.

                      Then again- we understand that sometimes it’s better to entertain the reading audience than be constrained by laws and regulations of reality. And that’s totally A-okay too!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Rick Shaw View Post
                        Bottom line is I think you have the makings of a good storyline.
                        Investigators need to take those clues (reasonable suspicion) and dig for info until they turn into articulable facts that point to a felony that is occurring or has occurred. Having a person look at a mugshot book to comfirm a guy seen in the building was a known drug dealer isn’t sufficient on it’s own unless the subject happens to be wanted. IE- if there is an arrest warrant out on him.
                        If the suspect was seen by a peace officer approaching the site of the drug bust in another van at a suspicious hour, and then is seen to flee the area when he gets close enough to notice the police activity, and shortly (minutes) thereafter the van is found abandoned with incriminating material (drugs) in it, is it likely that after the suspect is identified by mugshot that an arrest warrant could be issued? And if, after an arrest warrant is issued and in place the officers note the hypothesized suspicious activity at the industrial plant, is it likely that a search warrant could be issued for the "transformer room" area (only)?

                        Editing to Add: Sorry if it sounds like I'm working too hard to get this lieutenant shot, but it sets up the real meat of the story! (And, if I can't get the scenes in our world to be believable, how is anyone going to believe what I have to say about the spiritual world?) But I'm thinking that some lawyer might well argue, "Hey, that abandoned van was just a great place for a passerby to store his drugs!" With that in mind, let me amend the scenario:
                        • The suspects, in the van, are stopped by a railroad crossing. Mike, the railroad police officer, just happens to be at that same crossing, on foot. One of the occupants of the van rolls down his window and lights a smoke.
                        • Mike recognizes the two occupants of the van as the same two individuals he saw when he first made the report of suspicious activity at the crack house. He takes his radio and makes a call to his dispatcher, the railroad dispatcher for the area, giving information to be passed on to the local PD.
                        • The occupants of the van, OTOH, see a guy in a black windbreaker by the side of the road making a radio call (at three in the morning) and immediately think, "Cop." The train passes, and they then notice red and blue flashing lights reflected off the treetops in the direction of their intended destination, the crack house. They turn tail and floor it to clear the area.
                        • The local PD dispatcher relays Mike's report via the railroad dispatcher to units in the area. One patrol car, heading the other way on an esplanaded boulevard, sees a van matching its description headed away at a high rate of speed. He turns on his lights, makes a U-turn, and attempts to catch the van.
                        • The van sees the patrol car chasing them and veers into a residential area, before additional backup can arrive for the patrol car. The van stops abruptly and the two occupants flee into the residential area. The patrol officers following observe this, but the suspects succeed in escaping on foot before the area can be cordoned off.
                        • The van is found to contain twelve kilos of cocaine, but no physical evidence which can match up to the unknown suspects...Mr. Big has trained his flunkies to wear gloves when handling junk.
                        • The officers have a video record of the fleeing van and the escape, but the video is not clear enough to identify the two suspects.
                        • However, upon reviewing the mug shot file a couple days later, Mike is able to recognize and identify the two suspects which he observed in the van at the railroad crossing.
                        Would that be sufficient cause for a judge to issue an arrest warrant for those two suspects? And, if an arrest warrant is in hand and the pattern of suspicious activity mentioned earlier is noted on site at the plant, would that be reason for a search warrant to be issued for the transformer room? I'm not asking for a plant-wide fishing license...just to get into that one room where the major drug activity and the hot-headed thug are. (BTW, the suspect in the van is in Mexico by then...he's just a MacGuffin.)
                        Last edited by ehbowen; 10-13-2018, 03:57 PM.

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