And then an unfamiliar car comes through the neighborhood, one with tinted windows so no one can see the driver, and it passes right by the house you’re guarding and slows down a bit but keeps going.  “We need to ID the driver,” someone says over the radio, so you go after the car until you can get close to it and try to get a look inside.  And you pull up next to it at a traffic light and try to see inside but the tinted windows make it hard.  And you realize that if it is the killer, you might not know who he is but he sure knows who you are.  And if it’s him, he’s got a gun pointed at you right now, and the last thing you’re going to see is that tinted window breaking when the bullet comes out heading right at . . . you.

Then you hear about an officer-involved shooting way down in Temecula, about a hundred miles from L.A., and again you think they got him, but a little later you find out it had nothing to do with the guy you’re looking for.  And you remember that all the ordinary trouble and strife is still happening out there; the killer is not the only bad guy on the loose, only the worst of them.

But then comes other news: the killer stole a car up near Big Bear, or maybe it was a truck.  The cops are chasing him.  No, now they don’t know where he is, but he’s driving a white pickup truck.  And you calculate how long it would take to drive from Big Bear to where you are, and God help the next person who comes down the street in a white pickup truck.

And then on the news radio stations the reports start coming in: they’ve found him.  He’s surrounded in a cabin near Big Bear.  There’s been more shooting.  Two sheriff’s deputies have been hit.  They’ve been flown to a hospital.  And a little later you learn that one of them has died and now that’s four people dead, four people who never knew the killer, never met him, never even saw him before in their lives.  And he thinks he got a raw deal.

Then, as night begins to fall, you hear the reports of the cabin going up in flames, and you think, well, if that’s what it takes.  But even as the cabin is reduced to ashes there are rumors that the killer has escaped.  He stole a police car and made it down the mountain.  Or it wasn’t even him up there in the first place.  And it seems like the fourth act in some horror movie where everyone thinks the monster is dead but he really isn’t and he kills a few more people before the good guys win and the credits roll and the lights come on.

They tell you the protection details will continue, because maybe, just maybe, the killer wasn’t caught in that fire after all.  And then you’re replaced by the next shift, and as you drive home you listen to the news hoping someone is going to say it’s all over.  But they won’t say it, not yet.  Not until they find a body in there, and even then not until they identify it.  When you get home, even though you haven’t had much sleep lately you can’t help but watch the news, and you learn that, yes, they did find a body but, no, they don’t know who it is because it’s been burned so badly.  But then you hear they found a wallet with the killer’s driver’s license in it, so even though there’s no positive identification through DNA or dental records yet, you can go back to your regular duties because, finally, it’s all over.

All over that is, but for the antics of the odd band of people who profess support for the killer, who are getting organized on Facebook and staging protests at the LAPD headquarters building and asking questions like, “Why couldn’t we hear [the killer’s] side?”  To which you want to answer, Maybe we’ve heard just about enough of his side.

And when you think it can’t get any worse there’s the inane commentary on television, like from the guy on CNN, some moral midget with a PhD, who talks about how “exciting” it all was and how the killer was some kind of “superhero.”  And you think, “What?”  And you wonder how much more of a superhero the killer might have been if he had murdered ten people.  A hundred?

And maybe that’s something to shoot for, if you’ll pardon the expression, for the next guy looking for a novel way to have his grievances aired.  Won’t that be exciting?

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage assembled from multiple Shutterstock.com images.)