Artist: James Golaszewski
Title: Guardian Angel
Size: 30"h x 26"w
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This piece was inspired by my encounter with the person (was it a person?) I have come to think of as “The Foosland Demon”.
I don't want to bore you, but a little background information is in order.
I am in my 35th year of police work, every second of it spent on the streets serving the citizens of Champaign County as a Patrol Deputy for the Champaign County Sheriffs Office. Early in my career I worked the overnight shift. Champaign County covers about 1000 square miles (998, to be exact). After 11:00 pm, it was not unusual to have 2 patrol officers and one patrol supervisor on duty. That meant 500 square miles for each deputy, and the sergeant patrolling either Dunkin' Donuts or “The Home Stretch” restaurant.
If you needed help, it could take your backup deputy over 30 minutes to get to you, - and that was assuming that the other deputy was not busy dealing with some other problem somewhere else. And, when your backup did arrive, now there were two deputies on scene. Not exactly an overwhelming force.
Anyway, one particular summer night there were several heavy thunderstorms wandering across the county. Being flat and open country, I was able to see the lightening form the storms as they moved across the county. Being a practical person, I decided to patrol only the areas that were not getting rained on. This plan was going real well until about 3:00 am, at which time I was dispatched to investigate a “suspicious person” standing on a roadway near “Foosland”, which is a village (population of 101) in the far northwest corner of the county.
It was storming in Foosland when I got there. I checked around and was not able to locate the individual, which was fine with me. At the time, when we cleared a call we had to radio in “beat, mileage and codes” using a chart indicating patrol beat numbers, the distance from Urbana, and a sheet with FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Codes. I stopped in the middle of the road just outside Foosland and looked down to consult my code book. It was storming so hard that the wind was rocking the squad and the rain was blasting at the windows.
When I looked up from my code book there was someone standing in the road right in front of my squad. He was standing motionless, staring at me. The wind and rain were howling and my wipers were banging back and forth on high. He was about 30 or so, wearing a trench coat, long stringy hair and a long beard. Even though he was soaked, he looked filthy. He looked like he had fleas, mange, scabies, and cooties – the proverbial drowned rat. I did not want to touch him. I did not want to get wet ( I did not have my rain coat on... because, remember, I was only patrolling the dry parts of the county...). I did not want to get out of the squad.
That was when I made my decision. A bad decision.
I should have searched him, but I did not want to touch him, and I did not want to get wet.
I leaned over and unlocked the rear passenger door (no power windows/locks or prisoner cages in those days) and motioned for him to get into the back seat, which he did. And then he sat there. He said nothing, and would not answer my questions.
Now I was stuck with him. One of the things you learn as a cop is, unless you want to adopt them, don't put anyone in your squad unless you already have a plan for getting them out. So apparently this was my night for ignoring the rules, 'cause I had no clue what I was going to do with him now that he was in my squad.
So I did what we all did in those days in situations such as this, I decided to dump him at Burnham City Hospital (I mean transport for evaluation).
I drove with him in silence for the 40 minutes it took to get from Foosland to Champaign. He was seated behind me in the stormy darkness the whole time. With no security cage. From time to time lightening or car headlights would illuminate him, and I could see him in the rear view mirror, staring at me. He was all tensed up and he seemed to be straining. I hoped he wasn't... well you know, defecating. With each passing minute I began to reconsider my decision not to search him, but it was raining, he was wet, he smelled like a muskrat...
We made it to Burnham City Hospital. I decided to search him before I took him into the ER.
There was an ambulance bay on the east side of the hospital, I escorted him into the bay and out of the rain. Before I started my search I asked him if he had any weapons or contraband. With a blank stare he pulled his hand out of the sleeve of his coat. He was holding a HUGE hunting knife, a Conan/Rambo class knife.
As he handed the knife to me, he calmly said, “I was going to kill you. I wanted to lean over the seat and cut your throat... but your guardian angel held me back.” I must have looked stunned, because he then added, “you don't know, do you... about your guardian angel?” Now it was my turn to be mute. He shook his head, turned around, and put his hands behind his back. I put handcuffs on him (better late than never, right?) and took him into the ER for an evaluation.
The title of this painting is Guardian Angel.
Sometimes, when the storms come, you just have to admit that you are not as smart as you think you are, and some things are beyond your understanding. On those days you just have to trust your Guardian Angel.
Painting and text © 2014 James Golaszewski
NOTE: I went back to Foosland the next night and looked around. I saw there was a culvert underneath the road where I had been stopped. I figured that the guy had found shelter under the roadway, and emerged when he heard me stopped above. Or maybe not.