“Baby cows attacked me,” says the student sitting on the other side of my desk. She brushes strands of her long brown hair from her face and focuses a pair of bright green eyes at me. “I’m not joking. They attacked me.”
“Yes,” her voice rises impatiently. “You know. Little cows.”
“You mean calves?”
“Whatever.” She sighs. “They chased me. Thought they were going to eat me.” Her eyes bulge. “Bite me, at least. I had to run.” She leans forward and stares at me and I fight to keep from smirking. She’s a pretty kid, a freshman according to the ID card she’d presented as she came into my office with her complaint. About five-three, thin but not skinny, wearing only light make-up. Her name is Dana Degas and she’s eighteen.
I don’t normally handle original complaints. I’m a police detective. I do follow-up investigations but since I’m not particularly busy during the summer break and our patrol officers are tied up on equally trivial matters (one issuing a ticket for someone playing music too loud in their car, another checking out some sinister-looking juveniles lurking outside the library, another searching for a golf cart stolen from the physical plant—our patrol sergeant probably napping in his car beneath one of our large oaks), so I take the case. Note: most of what we university police officers handle aren’t serious matters, then again, when I was NOPD, we got our share of ‘barking dog’ and ‘cat in a tree’ calls. But no baby cows chasing co-eds.
“Where, exactly, did this happen?”
“In that big field behind the University Center. The one with the signs that says this field belongs to Cajun State.”
Hey, I actually know the place. I’m still new here and I consult the campus map most of the time. We’re talking about the huge field where they plan to build a baseball stadium. The University Center is a domed arena where we have basketball, concerts, graduation and some theatre-in-the-round. It’s pretty large and many of the big high schools here in South Central Louisiana use it for their graduation, which is a constant source of irritation for the university police department, with traffic and parking, but that’s another story.
“What were you doing in the field?”
She tells me her car wouldn’t start, she lives off-campus adjacent to the big field and just cut across it. She was on her way to the Recreation Center to work out.
“When did this happen?”
“Just now. I came straight here.”
I glance at the time on my iMac screen: 0810 hours. “So, you’re all right?”
“Yes, but you have to do something about those baby—I mean those calves. They’re vicious.” Dana gets up and says, “I’m late for my work out.” It’s then I realize she’s in some sort of work-out gear, baggy tee-shirt over shorts that go to her knees, jogging shoes and leg warmers. The young women here don’t dress like the young women did when I was in college. Few wear dresses.
“Good thing you’re wearing running shoes.”
“Exactly,” she answers seriously and I escort her out of my office, back down the hall to the exit of the police station.
“I’ll call you on your cell when I find out what’s wrong with those calves.”
“Good.” She turns back to me. “I hope you don’t have to shoot them. Put them out of their misery.”
“They look miserable?”
“No. Kinda fat but they scared me, for sure.” She leaves and I go back to my office to refill my coffee mug.
Shoot them? I blame TV. Everyone thinks all cops do is shoot things or slap bad guys around. I’ve been a cop twenty-three years and I’ve never shot at anything except targets on the pistol range. And I worked in one of America’s most violent cities—New Orleans.
My partner’s in the office now, filling his mug and I ask him if we have video surveillance of that big field behind the U.C.
“We have cameras on poles at the edge of the field and can view parts of it.” He gets excited. “So what’s up?”