Ben Murphy was one of the police officers assigned to keep the peace in the poor neighborhood of Millington. Ben liked his job as a police officer and to him, wearing the badge was an honor.
He came from a long line of police officers; his father’s career had been a successful one, but Ben was not impressed by it because he knew his father had risen up the ranks so quickly because he was a dirty cop.
When the man died in a planned revenge attack, Ben had no tears to shed. He had been proven right — it was more honorable to do the right thing. That’s what he thought when Rodney Jacobs, his partner then, had approached him with an under-the-table deal.
“Hey Ben, my buddy, don’t you look absolutely rosy this morning,” Rodney said on that bright morning.
Ben liked to wear colorful clothing because colors pleased him, and Rodney enjoyed calling him out on it in his jokes.
“Hey Rodney,” Ben groaned. “It’s too early to be teasing don’t you think?”
“Look buddy, I wanted to run something by you, it’s about the fiasco with the gang leader we’re investigating.”
That had Ben’s attention. At the time of their conversation, he and Rodney had been trying to arrest a crime boss who seemed to have influence within the justice structure.
“What about it?” he asked. “Any new leads?”
“No, that’s what I wanted to talk about. We will have to do a lot more investigative work trying to figure out the case but his people are ready to pay handsomely if we pin his latest crime on someone else,” Rodney had said.
Ben had not been comfortable with that. He wanted to put the man behind bars for a long time to punish him for his crimes.
“It’s only right that he faces the consequences of his actions Rod, the world will be better for it. We can’t let monsters like him keep roaming the streets. What if it was your daughter he was accused of drugging and raping tomorrow.”
“I’m doing this for my family Ben, I’m not asking you to commit a crime. I’m just asking you to look the other way for a large sum of money …or a promotion. I know your father liked those.”
The statement got Ben very angry, but it did not matter; he was already determined to stay out of the shady business. So he kept pursuing the case until somehow, the crime boss got to his captain, who requested that he be put off the case and transferred to a more quiet area of the city.
The place was a nondescript town with a population of just over a thousand, 10% of whom were beggars. The elites called the place the pond because it was the most poverty-stricken part of Millington.
“Rodney warned you to just play along but you refused. Now the higher powers want your head and I can’t protect you. All I can do is send you away for some time. Go and cool off at the pond,” the captain told him when he was summoned one Monday morning.
Ben supposed it was punishment for kicking the hornet’s nest. So while he remained at the pond, he lived at the precinct’s officer quarters and patrolled the streets.
Life there was different, and the streets were often quiet. It was a poor part of the city, and hardly anything happened. Nobody had anything worth stealing, and they all knew one another.
Ben’s favorite part of his patrol was when he got to meet a cute freckle-faced girl who looked exactly like he would want his daughter to look if he had one. The first time they met, she was about to get thrown in jail for attempting to lift groceries.
“Do you know how much trouble you’re in?” Ben had asked her while they waited for her mother.
“I have a feeling you’re about to tell me,” the 13-year-old girl said defiantly even though there were tears in her eyes.
“No, because you’re not yet 18, I’ll let your mother do that. What I want to know is why you did it.”
The sincerity behind the question loosened her lips, and she told him all about how her mother had been struggling to raise her and her brothers and getting the groceries was her attempt at helping. She wanted to feed her brothers and her mother had been in no position to help.
The story touched Ben, so before he left the girl and her mother, he took them to a grocery store where he paid for their shopping. He also took them to their home later that day, and he never stopped going there since.
If she wanted to talk, she would walk outside to meet him, and they would talk, and she would feel better. As a result, Ben knew about her dysfunctional family and other secrets like boys.
One day, Ben walked past Penelope’s house but noticed the girl wasn’t by her window. He could have kept going, but her absence did not sit right with him, so he went to knock at their door to check up on her.
As he approached the door, he heard crying and immediately went on alert. It sounded like Penelope’s siblings. Ben tried to enter, but the door was locked.
When he managed to break in, he found Penelope lying unresponsive on the floor between her two brothers who were crying. The girl was hardly breathing, so he quickly rushed her to a hospital.
“The girl you brought in was severely malnourished sir. How are you related to her?” the doctor asked.
“I’m a family friend of hers. I found her passed out.”
“She needs to eat a lot of food as well as get enough rest,” the doctor told him.
After the incident, Ben started to take food to the little girl and her family, giving Penelope big nuggets of advice to follow, especially on the importance of not giving up and being strong.
But after three months, Ben regained his position as a detective in the city, and the girl and her family also moved to another city. Ben tried to track them down, but it proved difficult, mostly because they had no digital footprints, so he eventually gave up.
However, 20 years later, in his retirement, he received a call from the police station. Veteran cops were meeting to welcome young blood to the force. To Ben’s shock and delight, one of the new officers was Penelope.
He soon learned that when Penelope’s family had moved to another city back then, it was because her mother came into some inheritance. The money she received was substantial enough to clean up their lives and help her kids secure admission into good schools and colleges.
Because of Ben’s influence on her, Penelope also desired to be of help to people the way Ben helped her family so she strived to become a police officer like him.
“I never got to thank you,” she told him when they got to talk.
“For what?” he asked, still suffering from the after-effects of seeing her again — doing well and blossoming at that.
“For being my father when the load became too heavy for my mother and for those great words of advice. It made me yearn for a better life, and now as a cop I can help others have a chance to find better lives too.”
Ben could not have been more proud had she been his child. He had never married or had kids because he never thought about anything but his work as a police officer, but thanks to Penelope, he felt he had fathered a child he raised right.