Hetch (Men OF S.W.A.T #1) by River Savage

Prologue Hetch

I once heard you can trace who you've become in this life to three external factors: ten defining moments; seven critical choices; and five pivotal people. I’m not sure how true it is, but it’s one of those things that always stuck with me. Sure I’ve had moments, both positive and negative, that one could say redefined the type of person I have become. But I’ve never had a moment which entered my consciousness with such authority it changed the core of who I thought I was.

Until I did.

One

Hetch

“Before we begin, I need to form a baseline. I’m going to ask you to state your name then tell me two truths and one lie, in that order.” I shift in my seat, jostling the cords I’m attached to before answering.

“My name is Liam Hetcherson. I have one sister. I drive a black Ford F150. And I’m really excited to be here today.” An unhurried smirk appears on the psychoanalyst’s chapped lips, and I get a small sense of satisfaction knowing I managed to break through his stony composure.

“Good. Now, let’s try some word association. I say a word, you give me the first word that comes to mind. For example, if I say cat, you may say dog.” I nod, already aware of how these things work.

“Ask?” He kicks it off without any warning.

“Answer.”

“Gun?”

“Shot.”

“Responsibility?”

“Mine.”

“Red?”

“Blood.”

“Help?”

“Late.”

“Respect?”

“None.”

His assessing gaze behind his rimless bottle-cap glasses moves from the polygraph machine and connects with mine. A surge of silence pulses around the four-by-six interview room we sit in as I wait for his next word.

“Father?”

The word drawls from his mouth and crashes through my steely resolve.

My father.

What this psych evaluation will come down to today.

Imagery floods in of the man, who for twenty-nine years, I called Dad. The man who taught me how to drive, to work hard, to value family. The man who I looked up to, who I aspired to be.

Until I didn’t.

“You’re thinking too hard, Sergeant. Let’s try it again. Father?” He presses when I don’t answer.

“Coward.” My honest answer slaps the air. It’s years of hurt, years of suffering, years of unanswered questions that weigh the one word down with pain.

“Your father… he took his life.”

It’s not a question. It’s a true statement. A fact.

My defining moment.

“Would you like me to word associate it, Doc?” If I was expecting some kind of reaction from him as he notes something down on my file, I would have been left disappointed.

I was prepared for this line of questioning. I’ve dealt with it plenty of times throughout the last three years. The polygraph machine monitoring my stress while answering these questions, however, is new.

It’s my psych evaluation. Department forced counseling at its finest. Part of the selection process I must endure if I want to be team leader. An entire day where written tests are issued and various interviews are conducted to find out if I can make the cut.

Everything I’ve been working toward rests on this.

“Let’s talk about it for a minute. It’s what, the third anniversary of his death next month? How are you coping?”

“What’s your machine tell you?” It’s no surprise I dislike talking about the death of my father. What I dislike more is being hooked up to the fucking machine and being asked to talk about it so they can overanalyze my answers with their psychobabble bullshit.

“You know this isn’t how it works, Sergeant Hetcherson.” He’s right. I do. I know how this fucking works. I know every time tactical requalification comes up, I’m evaluated. Every time I discharge my weapon, hell, every time I can’t talk a subject down, I’m being assessed, put through the wringer to make sure I’m coping.

“Tell me, Doc, how do you measure how well I should be coping?” I decide to indulge him. It’s not the first time I’ve played this game.

“Well, coping does not represent a homogeneous concept. It’s a diffuse umbrella term. Coping can be described in terms of strategies, tactics, responses, cognitions, or behavior.” There he goes with his psychobabble bullshit.

“I use sex, beer, and my job. However, I liked sex, beer, and my job before he shot himself in the head less than five feet from me. So where does this leave me?” While there is some honesty to my answer, I am fucking with him.