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Once and For All


Bob Schackner


I don't know exactly why I'm leaving this account behind me. Wait! I take it back. I do know. I believe it's time for the world to see what horrible deeds people can perpetrate upon others. How humans can physically and mentally torture another human beings is beyond my ability to understand.

I know the ways. God, do I know them all.

Perhaps in reading this, you will be outraged, as I was, to stand up to protect you and yours. I can assure you, by grouping yourselves you can fight them all. But only through mass numbers can you be successful.

I can assure you also, that by the time you read this, I will be, by all means of the word, quite dead.


My name is Ben Phillips. Yeah, that's a good start. As a twenty-one year-old American male, I was exceptionally happy with my life, life in general.

The Los Angeles Police Department gave me a chance to prove myself as a denizen of the law, and with my badge, sidearm and a bunch of prayers I protected her streets. That's how I met Paula. Paula Erickson, the most pretentious, yet loveable woman I have ever had the pleasure to meet and fall in love with.

I was working the night watch with my partner Eddie Bernard, when a call came in reporting a fire at 3rd and Walker. Responding to the call we could see the bright, orange flames contrasting against the ebony sky. A four-story apartment building, once a majestic dwelling for the well to do, was now a roaring inferno. As we neared the building, I could feel the intense heat through the windshield.

A large crowd had formed in front of the building, meaning Eddie and I had to go to work. Moving people away from a burning building was, to me, not my idea of Wambaugh's Blue Knight, but somebody had to do it.

We had everyone just about cleared away when a young girl came to me screaming, with tears streaming down her pretty face, "Paula, it's Paula, she's not here."

"Hold on," I shouted back, trying to calm her down and make myself be heard over the cacophony of jumbled voices in the background. "Who is Paula? What are you talking about?"

She swallowed, hard, and surmounting her courage, she managed to force out, "Paula's my roommate in 321. I thought she came out with the rest of us, but she must be trapped inside."

"Okay, take it easy, I'll see what I can do." I motioned to an elderly yet maternal looking woman, who now that I think about it, looked quite foolish with a mink coat wrapped around her bedclothes.

I turned to Eddie, who by this time knew exactly what I was thinking, and I began to speak when he cut me off abruptly. "Hold on Pal, you're still my responsibility, and you're not going anywhere." Pointing in the direction of the fireman he added, "That's what they get paid for."

"Yeah, that's fine Eddie, but they don't know about her yet. I'm going to tell them."

"Alright Kid, but haul your butt right back here. If the Sergeant comes and finds you gone, it's going to be my ass!"

Not wanting Eddie to change his mind, I took off. I searched the busy avenue until I came across who I suspected to be the Fire Chief.

"Listen!" I started, "There's a woman trapped up on the third floor."

"What?" came his reply, "Jesus Christ, are you kidding? Do you know for sure?"

"No, but her roommate said she hasn't seen her."

"Christ, I can't send a man up there because some broad doesn't know where her girlfriend is. Come on, I lost two men last year. If I lose any more the department is going to hang me out to dry."

My face was getting hot, and it wasn't because of the flames. "What the hell are you going to do, stand here and let her die?"

"We don't know if there is a 'her' up there, do we?" he responded.

"Well screw you pal, I'm not waiting until this place burns down to find out." With that, I turned into the burning building ignoring the shouts of the fire chief and Eddie Bernard.

Three flights of stairs are nothing to run up when the surrounding temperature is a normal 72 degrees. However, when deadly gases as well as a temperature of up to 1000 degrees control the air, progress can be inhibited. It took me all of ten minutes to make the three flights of stairs, ten minutes of choking, blinding smoke, and lung searing air. I kept close to the floor as I made my way to room 321.

Luck had me by the seat of my pants for after the first turn I made, I stumbled into room 321. The door was wide open and thickly matted with smoke. But, there were no flames. I closed the apartment door and crawled to a closed window. Using my nightstick, I smashed the pane of glass, thrusting my head out the window to fill my oxygen-starved lungs.

After a short search I found the prostrate body of a young woman on the floor. Feeling for a pulse, I smiled to myself. She was still alive, with no visible injuries.

Gathering the unconscious figure in my arms, I made my way to the door. Foolishly, I opened it too quickly, just in time to have a wall of hell come right at me. I turned my back to the door to protect the woman and headed for the window.

Waving, and screaming blindly, I managed to attract the attention of the fire fighters below. They sprung into life at once, opening the life net, into which I threw the woman.

I remember feeling pain, sharp intense pain on my back as I realized, yes too late, I was on fire. I jumped, feeling the cool rush of air on my face as I fell three stories. That's the last thing I remembered, before slipping into the dark recess of unconsciousness.

I awoke in Los Angeles Central Receiving area, and with considerable pain, spent the next six weeks in bed. Every day, twice a day, a beautiful young woman by the name of Paula Erickson came to see me. We were married a year later and we both thought we were going to spend many happy years together. Unfortunately we were both wrong. Dead wrong.


Eddie Bernard had retired six months before I was married, and I got a new partner by the name of Willie Murphy, a big strapping Irishmen who could drink any man under the proverbial table. Meanwhile, Eddie Bernard and I remained close friends. He was best man at my wedding. I think Eddie probably loved Paula almost as much as I did.

Two months after Paula and I were married, Willie Murphy and I were working a surveillance in a run-down section of Los Angeles. Assigned to a special detail, Willie and I were in plainclothes and driving an unmarked car to follow a late model Mercedes. The car stopped at an old tenement on Wells Avenue. The primary occupant of the Mercedes was a well-known junk dealer who went by the name of Tony M.

To make a long story short, we hit the apartment and took Tony M. and two others for everything, including 145,000 dollars of pure heroin and an assorted arsenal of handguns, stilettos, and carbines. All we had to do was make the collar stick. We'd have our day in court to make sure.

Then it happened. It started out as prank. Phone calls to Paula while I was at work. You know, heavy breathing, that sort. At first I ignored it all. "Paula, honey," I tried to soothe her, "There are people with sick minds, just ignore it. The calls are bound to stop."

Trusting in me, she went along with my advice. The only problem was, the calls didn't stop. As a matter of fact, they became more frequent. My only alternative was to have my telephone number changed which, against my better judgement, I did.

One week after our number was changed the calls began again. I was due to appear before the Grand Jury in three days when I received the first call.

"Phillips?" Came the deep soft voice.

"Yes, who is this?" I queried.

"Never mind that, Phillips. Listen and listen carefully. In three days you're going to appear in front of the Grand Jury. You're gonna spill your guts to try to put Tony M. away, right?"

"Yeah, that's right. So what? Who are you?" I listened carefully for any telltale background noises.

"Don't sweat that, kid.  You have a pretty wife. You want to keep her that way?"

Panic began to seep into my stomach. I could taste acid in the back of my mouth. Anger suppressed fear and I shouted into the receiver, "Okay you jerk, I don't know who you are, and I don't care. I'm going to testify for the Grand Jury come hell or high water, so you can stick your phone up your…" But it was too late, the caller had already hung up.

"Crazy Bastard!" I cursed, trying to shrug it off as a prank call. It didn't work.

On the day of the Grand Jury hearing, I called Eddie Bernard and told him what had happened. He laughed, and chided me about being too nervous. Being persistent, I convinced him to 'drop by' to visit Paula while I was at the hearing.

The hearing was to convene at 10:00 A. M. that morning so I got back into bed with Paula, for I had more than enough time to make it. I stared down at her, taking in her beautiful brown hair and olive tanned skin. "God, how I love you." I whispered. I put my arms around her sleeping body and pressed close for her warmth. She awoke to my movements and smiled at me through her sleep-ridden eyes.

"Hi sweetheart," she said. "Did you know that I'm madly in love with you?"

I laughed out loud. "Boy I sure hope so, cause I'm just as much in love with you!"

We lay there, the two of us, and made love, such as we never have before. When we were done, I showered, dressed and headed for the door. Paula followed me to the front door as always, and she kissed me good-bye. Again, as always, she added a large hug to go along with the kiss.

"Good Luck," she said, and I was off.

The preliminaries were, to say the least, extremely boring. At 12:00 we broke for lunch, and I went to call Paula. I let the phone ring six times, and I was beginning to get that acid taste in my mouth again. My stomach began to knot and fear crept into my brain. I was about to replace the receiver when Paula answered, "Hello?"

"Paula!" A sigh of relief escaped. I tried to hide my concern. "Hello honey, what's doing?"

"Oh, not much. Guess who stopped by?"

I smiled, "Ah, I don't know. Who?"

"Eddie stopped in to say hello."

"That's good, are you two having a nice day while I sweat it out at Criminal Court?"

"Don't be dramatic, dear. We're having a nice conversation."

"What about?"

"The pro's and cons of having a husband that's a police officer!" She laughed. It was good to hear her happy.

"Well," I baited her. "Who wins? The pro's, or the cons?"

"Oh no, not till dinner, you hear? I want you with me when I make the final decision!"

"Alright Paula, you win. I've got to go. Lunch is over. I'll see you tonight. Oh, by the way, I love you."

"Yes, my love, I love you too."

Back in court my mind rambled back and forth between the shouts in the courtroom and Paula. As luck would have it, I sat there for another four hours and never got called to take the stand. Maybe it was just as well. I never made it when it came to public speaking.

The ride home was as uneventful as the one earlier that morning. I parked my car in the driveway right behind Eddie's conservative Oldsmobile. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to stay for dinner.

I fumbled for my house key as I reached the front door. I knew something was amiss. The front door was ajar, and I couldn't hear any voices coming from within. I called out, but there was no response. As I entered the front door, I withdrew my off-duty service revolver, praying to heaven that I had no reason to use it.

The living room was calm and nothing looked out of place. Cautiously, I made my way through the hall into the den. All the horror, all the fear I have ever known came rushing to me then. For there, sprawled across my couch, lay Eddie Bernard, a neat bullet hole in the center of his forehead. A dry river of blood had run down the center of his wrinkled face.

I crushed the urge to be sick as I ran through the rest of the house, from room to room. The last door I came to was my own bedroom door. I swallowed, and pushed the door open. I knew what I saw there was going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

Paula lay across our bed, her hands and feet tied to the bed posts. The room reeked of death, complete and agonizing death. My beautiful wife had died, like so many before her, at the hands of madmen. She would have died with a scream on her lips had it not been for the dishtowel that had been stuffed wickedly into her mouth.

I managed a small whimper before I collapsed to the floor in a complete state of hysteria.

The funeral service was quite beautiful, one befitting Paula's own beauty. Eddie was buried next to her. It seemed fitting, they died together, and they should spend eternity together.

The weeks passed, but the pain never did. My friends from the department were helpful, but no one could reach me. With me as the principal witness in the case against Tony M., the prosecution was at a stand still. I could not bring myself to face the man who I knew was responsible for the death of the only women I had ever loved. In short, the charges against Tony M. were dropped. He was a free man. Tony M. was a free man, and my lovely wife was dead, and in a way, so was I.


Gaining access to the storeroom where all the evidence for trials was kept was no problem for me. I knew Jerry at the desk very well and besides, these days, when anyone saw me sympathy would force his eyes to the ground. No one could look me in the eye. So, Jerry could not help but miss the bulge in my suit jacket as I passed him upon my exit.

So, I sit here now, looking back at my life wondering if I'm about to make the right decision. I feel confident I am. I sit here now, with six pounds of Trinitrotoluene, commonly known as dynamite, strapped to my waist. With the overcoat Paula gave me for Christmas last year, no one could possibly notice.

I'm going to pay Tony M. a visit now at his home in the hills. I know he'll have quite a shock, the last one of his life. I know also, as I leave my house now, I will never return.

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