The black Labrador came ambling up to me and said, “howdy do” in dog-speak. His name was Jake and I recognized him and his purple collar immediately. No sooner had I exited my patrol car to greet him, did I see his owner approaching in the green Dodge mini-van. There were five kids hanging out both sides, screaming Jake’s name, and a mother behind the steering wheel. For the sake of this blog, her name was “Penny.”
I had met Penny a couple of times in the months preceding Jake’s dash from their yard. She was a good mom. The unfortunate thing about Penny was that she was married to a monster. We shall call the husband, “Zahhak.” Zahhak was a figure in Iranian mythology known to be a monster, so my pseudonym is approppo.
Zahhak was a waiter at a very high-end restaurant/hotel in Dallas. The type of place where you could make $60,000.00 a year in the mid-nineties. He was very meticulous and took great care of his customers. Zahhak was well liked by his co-workers, they described him as a very earnest immigrant. They said he had come from Iran and had found his American dream. All good monsters have an outer façade that enables them to walk among the general populace. This monster excelled in appearing normal…to most.
Zahhak had been in the city jail two times for domestic violence assault. I first met Penny one early evening on a Saturday. Penny and Zahhak had five children, under the age of 12. They lived in a well-maintained, two-story Ranch style home and were known to keep to themselves in the sub-division. Penny had originally fallen in love with Zahhak because of, and these are her words, “his dark good-looks and the intensity of his love.” The children had come in quick succession and they had settled in this bedroom community of Dallas in what was to them, an idyllic setting.
But on this day, it seemed that Zahhak had bounced Penny’s head off the kitchen wall for messing up his dinner. He was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor assault, bonding out 4 hours later. Zahhak received 6 months probation and took an anger management class as his penance for the crime. Penny accepted his apology, but this pattern had been established years ago.
Two months passed and my department was, once again, dispatched to the two-story house on Sugarberry Lane. This time was even worse, Penny was bleeding from a small cut over her left eye. Zahhak had back-handed her, in front of their five children, for “disrespecting” him.
Penny had finally reached the end of her rope after the second assault. She took the kids and moved out of the house. Zahhak came home from jail the next night and found a copy of a signed protective order, along with a petition for divorce, laying on the dining room table. It had taken Penny fourteen years, but she had made her break. He had never assaulted her before in view of the children, she knew his madness was escalating.
The details of the divorce matter not, except that Penny got primary custody and Zahhak had a standard visitation schedule for the five kids. Zahhak remained in the house and Penny moved into her mother’s home with her children…a safe 15 miles away.
My police department had a copy of the divorce decree at the station on file. Zahhak hated me and every other police officer he had met because we knew his secret…we knew the truth.
Eight months had gone by the wayside since Penny escaped the grip of her abuser. She bounded out of the van, her kids leading the way. I was happy to be talking to her in a non-exigent environment. There was a relaxed, ease about her and a smile from ear to ear. I told her she looked great and inquired why she looked so darned happy? Then I remembered, it was Mother’s Day,…it was May 8, 1994.
Penny told me she was going to take Jake back to the house, then she and the kids were off to Chuck E Cheese. The kids were treating her to lunch for Mother’s Day and we both had a chuckle at their culinary choice! Penny related that Zahhak had the children for the weekend, but had let her come to Sugarberry Lane that morning to pick them up for their special lunch. I helped her get the kids and Jake back into the mini-van and they drove back to the house to deliver the randy canine.
Zahhak was to have the kids until 6pm that Sunday and was none too pleased about the 2 hours he was “giving” to Penny for her Mother’s Day lunch of pizza. He had been promised that she would drop the kids back at 2:30pm. He would then keep the kids until 6pm, when Penny would again return to retrieve them. Zahhak sat in a lawn chair, on his driveway and waited for her return. The façade was beginning to slip, the neighbors could have seen true evil that day, if they had dared a glance in his direction.
I had come in early that Sunday to work a double-shift. A friend on the day shift wanted the holiday off to spend with his wife and kids, so I had traded 8 hours with him. I would use my 8 from him another day. It was about 12:30pm when I said my goodbye to Penny and her troop. I drove off to patrol my district on a very slow Sunday afternoon.
By the time May of 1994 had rolled around I had changed departments and made the rank of sergeant. I was supervising the evening shift in a Dallas suburb of about forty-thousand people. I was biding time, wanting to leave it all for law school, but until then I did my job, and I liked to think I did it well. My badge number was 212 and all hot calls were dispatched through me. A “hot” call was one in which you proceeded, code 3, lights and sirens.
212? 212, go ahead. Code 3, domestic on Sugarberry Lane…she didn’t even have to give me the numbers…I was flying towards the scene. It was standard for one more unit to be dispatched as back-up, he was 6 minutes out…I was less than 3. The time was 2:55 p.m., oh my, I thought….Penny had returned the kids late.
My heart raced with the car as I made my way, siren blasting. A sense of foreboding came over me, this time things would be different.
END OF PART ONE