Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Don't freak out, but .... "

That was the subject line of a message that popped into my emailbox early Friday morning and as you might expect, I totally freaked out over what the rest of the missive from No. 1 son might say.

With my imagination in overdrive, I feared something had happened on his overnight shift that was too terrible to tell us over the telephone. Or had the "I want a bike" message on his Facebook page finally led to the dreaded purchase of a motorcycle?

Needless to say, my heart was doing somersaults while I opened the email. To my surprise, it contained a link to a news story that had nothing to do with No. 1 son but everything to do with No. 2.

It seems the Army Corps of Engineers has uncovered a fourth major disposal area for World War I weapons in a neighborhood near American University, the college we pay thousands of dollars for No. 2 son to attend. Apparently it was once home to an Army chemical warfare testing station -- something I do NOT recall reading in the school's slick admissions brochure.

The most recent finds were a jar containing the chemical agent mustard, glassware still smoking and fuming (since World War 1????), scrap munitions, and oh yeah, a shell containing a tear gas agent. (For the gory details, click here.) I picked up the phone and called No. 1, who was en route to bed after working all night. I knew No. 2would never be awake at that hour.) "I wonder if maybe you should get in your truck and go get your brother," I said, only half-kidding.

"What -- in my hazmat suit?" he chuckled, then advised me such attire wasn't standard issue for DC Metro Police.

Life is never dull with these children. I'm not sure what to do about this interesting new piece of information about No. 2's son current location because AU assures us there's no danger. Whether or not that's true, my investment in "color enhancement" is skyrocketing as I attempt to deal with the gray hair created by activities related to my children.

It's also been another week of wondering whether participating in the local Citizens Police Academy was a good choice for parental sanity. I did a four-hour ride-along with a patrolman Friday night and let me tell you, watching him use his right hand to touch every vehicle he stopped unnerved me even more about No. 1 son's career choice.

The reason law enforcement officers do this, you see, is to make sure their fingerprints are on the vehicle in case something goes terribly wrong with the traffic stop. The patrolman also called in the plate number to the dispatcher before approaching any vehicles he pulled over so there would be a record of the car or truck involved. Law enforcement officers are only too aware that motor vehicle stops and domestic disturbance calls can be the most unpredictable -- and deadly.

I had hoped the Citizens Police Academy would help with my mystery writing, and it will. Just last week during the demonstration on TASERs, I realized with a jolt (a literary, not literal one) that a personal TASER would be a useful tool for one of the characters in my novel-in-progress.

(TASER, by the way, is named for the 1911 book "Thomas Swift's Electric Rifle" that inspired the weapon's creator. These nasty "less than lethal" weapons shoot two hooked electrodes into a person and then deliver a five-second pulse carrying 50,000 volts that causes temporary paralysis and considerable pain which reportedly ends the second the pulse does. I can't speak from experience -- I was too afraid to shoot one last week, fearing I might hit one of CPA classmates by mistake. )

Mystery writers, as you may know, write about what interests them (so you can count on "Murder Most Municipal" containing several police department tidbits). A good example of this is the Dirty Business Mystery series authored by my friend Rosemary Harris, a master gardener whose new book "Dead Head" is featured in the short book trailer below. Enjoy!


Rosemary Harris said...

Mustard gas? Holy cow..that's a story.
I featured a Taser in book two and visited the Taser Corporation in Scottsdale, AZ for some info. It was a lot of fun - but I resisted the offer to get tasered!
Thanks for linking the trailer. I think the animator did a great job!

PatRemick said...

And stuff still smoking.... geez.
Love the trailer and I know everyone's gonna love the book.