It was a rare cold day in Houston, a city known for its hot, humid summers and mild winters. But for a few days near the beginning of the year the mid-day temperature almost approached freezing levels.
The weather matched the occasion: a large crowd of people gathered for the funeral of Captain Charles Cooper of HPD. The mayor of Houston was on stage giving a speech and with him were a dozen other high ranking politicians and policemen. As he spoke, he looked out into the crowd of over five hundred that filled up the seats in Tranquility Park.
“The city has lost a hero.” said the mayor. “But we must not dwell on this tragic loss. Instead let us remember him for what he brought to the city. This man, a Marine that served this country in the Gulf War, was also one of the best law enforcement officials this city has ever seen....”
As the mayor continued on, Officer Martinez looked on from his seat at the side of the stage behind the mayor. Calling the late Captain Cooper a hero was almost an understatement. Houston was the city that Cooper had grown up in, and after building a great reputation in the military he came back and was soon appointed by the mayor as the captain of the homicide division.
Martinez had been a veteran officer already when Cooper first joined HPD, and he watched the homicide division go from a mediocre department to something that far exceeded expectations. Thanks to Cooper’s leadership they drastically increased their conviction rate and the number of murders in the city had been reduced. As Martinez gazed at the casket in front of the mayor, he couldn’t help but feel the same respect and honor that the former Captain had brought to the city.
Out in the crowd, Rob Hesslemen stood behind the rows of chairs with his eyes on the audience. As a transplant from the north, he was far more prepared for the cold weather than the majority of the people that grew up on the Gulf Coast. While a lot of the crowd had to blow on their hands and bury their heads in their windbreakers to keep them warm, Rob had worn a leather jacket with gloves and a wool beanie.
“No! We need sight of the stage. The two of you stay in position and keep your eyes on the target!” He whispered angrily into a hidden microphone in his wrist, drawing a few suspicious looks from the people in the back row that probably thought he was a spy.
But he wasn’t a spy. He was the news director for Houston’s channel 2 news station. Considering the scale of the event, he knew he had to be on scene to make sure the right angles were caught on film. For this reason, he had an open line of communication to every single one of his cameramen.
Other news affiliates were on the scene as well, but they just had footage of the mayor speaking and a few shots of the crowd. Hesslemen knew an opportunity like this when he saw it. A beloved public figure that had done so much for the city had been tragically killed in the line of duty. He could see the ratings such a story would bring. Channel 2 was already airing this event live, but in addition to coverage today they had planned on airing a special later that night on the fallen Captain.
Cameras all around the park were catching the looks on people’s faces as the mayor gave his speech. One of those faces was David Lesiker. He came to this event with his wife and their little five year old son in tow. Back when Cooper had been just a detective, he had been assigned to their case where a man had broken into their house while they had been sleeping. David just happened to wake up and realize what was happening and was able to call 911. They were able to escape the incident with their lives, but their peace of mind had been taken away from them, as well as a precious family heirloom. Cooper knew the odds of them getting their stuff back were slim. All most detectives usually did was take down a report and check the pawn shops.
Cooper did more than that though. He checked security cameras that were placed at the entrance of the subdivision. That got him a license plate number, which got him an address. They went to the address and saw that the same car from the video was just leaving. So he put on his siren and pulled the car over and the robber actually had all of the stolen goods with him.
Was it luck? Fortunately the robber made a mistake and left them a lead that eventually led back to their arrest. But that lead would’ve been pointless if it wasn’t for the effort taken to follow it to the thief or a dead end. Maybe if they had arrived at the house a few minutes later the robber would have already been gone. But instead everything turned out the way it did and the criminal got charged with robbery and the Lesiker family got their stuff back. They owed everything to that man.
As they sat in silence listening to the mayor give his speech, their kid in between them squirmed on the ground. He was vaguely aware of what was going on and was bored out of his mind with nothing to do. Occasionally he would look up at his parents as if to ask when this would all be over, but they would look back at him and put a finger over their lips to remind him that he needed to be quiet and keep still.
The whole crowd was like that. Some came because they either directly or indirectly worked with the late Captain Cooper like Officer Martinez. Some came because they were opportunists like Rob Hesselmen that saw this as a way to make money. Some came because they were one of many lives that had been touched by Charles Cooper at some point in time.
A wide range of emotions were displayed on the faces of everyone in attendance. Respect for what the man had done throughout his career. Stress that came with trying to get the perfect camera angles to maximize potential ratings. Appreciation for someone that had been there in a time of need. And the boredom of a five year old child that didn’t know what any of this meant.
But there was one distinct emotion that wasn’t felt by any of the attending Houstonians at that funeral: grief. A true sense of loss that only comes when a close friend or family member dies. Despite being held to such a high regard in the city, he only knew a few people that he could truly call a friend. And as for family? Well, that was a different story altogether.
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