I'm Jack Callahan, Badge number 1066, one of what some people call Endicott City's Finest, which is a steal from New York City's colorful name for their cops.
Well, I'm not among the finest of the finest. If I was, I wouldn't be temporarily demoted down to a basic blues-wearing beat-riding patrol officer. Which is my sly offhand way of saying that I got busted from detective two months ago, and that I can apply to be reinstated in four more. It'll probably go though. Hopefully! That's the temporary part.
It's not the first time I got busted down, and if I didn't have a few good friends on the force, it would and probably should have happened before.
See, I'm not a very good cop. A really good cop learns to develop a thick skin and a callous attitude toward all of the nasty stuff that he sees almost every day. I've been at it 18 years, and I've tried to go that way, but somehow it just doesn't take. My late partner Jake used to call it. He'd sit in the cruiser and watch me and say, "Uh-oh, Jack's gettin' a mood on him." And he'd be right. I would be losing my cynical guard and getting pissed about something. Good cops don't do that.
Jake said there were a couple of kinds of Jack Callahan moods. One comes on slow over time because of something like, say, some lightweight brown-noser who's been fast- tracked past real down and dirty police work — street work. Then I see him getting promoted over better men and women who've paid their dues. And now he's in authority and he's gonna be putting people on the street and they'll be in harm's way because he doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
Jake would steer me away from guys like that, because at some point I would probably tell the asshole what I thought of him. A smart cop would be buttering that guy's ass.
Geeze, I miss Jake Rizzo. We were partners for 13 years, and then one night he went down flat on his face, dead of a massive stroke. And for God's sake, don't laugh; he was running to the cruiser in the rain from a doughnut run. A Goddamned fatal cop cliché!
I don't have a regular partner right now, since no one expects me to be in the cruiser longer than those four months. So I give rookies on-the-job street training. I kind of volunteered myself to do that. Whenever I was without a partner for one reason or another, I'd do that over the years. For some reason, my boss, Captain Mary Lee Breyers thinks that passing on my experience may make them better officers, and maybe help keep them alive.
But it's another kind of mood that really gets me in trouble. Nothing slow about it. Like now. I'm definitely in a mood.
= = = = =
I was at the end of my shift when I got tapped to go to a crime scene, a mugging and sexual assault, and help out. So I dropped off my latest trainee and headed over. I'm not allowed to work rookies off the clock.
Now, get this: The victim was a 77-year old woman. Tiny, frail, stooped over, walks with a cane. So the perp pushed her into a wooded area and dragged her behind some thick bushes, grabbed her purse and yanked rings off her fingers. Then he pushed her down to her knees and made her fellate him. Suck him off! And then he raped her!
A seventy-seven fucking year-old woman! Someone's great grandmother! Jesus, you damn well know I was in a mood! If I'd have caught that fucker ... well, I wouldn't be one of Endicott City's almost Finest any more. It wouldn't have been police brutality; it'd have been police mayhem.
But the guy got away. Don't they always? Well not always, but too damned often!
The assault call should rate an ambulance, but there were none available for at least an hour or more. Budget cuts!
So I got volunteered to drive her to Endicott General Emergency for treatment. Well, like I said, if I had the choice, I'd rather have gone storming through the neighborhood looking for the rapist. And I already told you what would happen if I had caught the sick bastard. Maybe I would only have hurt him. Maybe a little of Jake might of rubbed off on me.
A 77 year old woman! The poor thing!
But luckily for me, that wasn't my job. What I could do was talk to her and get her to talk to me. That took some time and patience. I was trying to get her mind off the painful and suffering thoughts, even for a few minutes. I managed to get her to stop crying so helplessly. I got the names of her family and called them in so someone could contact them.
And then I gently bundled her in the front seat of the cruiser and drove her to Endicott General Emergency for treatment, talking to her all the way, trying to get her mind off what had happened. I got her to talk a little about her family and her grandkids, anything to get her away from her terrorized mindset. I got a call from dispatch on the way over that her son was on the way. They got her in a wheelchair at the emergency entrance. I wished her luck and she thanked me for my kindness. As if I had done anything.
But the mood was still on me. Things like that happening! People like that rapist free on the streets. I was in no big hurry to go home to an empty house, feeling like I did. Like most cops, I have to be careful of the booze, and there was bottle of bourbon there, calling to me.
Instead, I tried to lighten up and kill time, so I was just hanging around the ER/clinic, trying to flirt with the nurses. They tolerated me. For some reason they thought I was one of the good guys. Not that a one of them would give damaged goods like me a tumble. Busted former detectives don't trump hot young interns.
Busted marriage, dead-end career, busted nose and damned few prospects summed me up. A near has-been at 43 with two years to go before a damned lonely retirement. That summary alone was worth a fucking perpetual mood.
I was telling them some almost lies about my exploits when a woman came in with her two young kids. Her name, I overheard, was Marcie Smithers; theirs were Amy 5 and Zach, 8. I'm naturally nosy. I overhear a lot.
She had been down a couple of days before, donating blood and they had just now called her back about an important matter. They took her into the carrel right next to me and I shamelessly eavesdropped through the partition. Hey, what can I say, detectives are born snoops. And I'm occasionally a detective, remember?
One of the candy stripers was diverting the kids so Ms. Smithers could talk in private.
Well, at least except for my big ears. I was just being my nosy self, the old fly-on-the- wall. Old detective habits. Learn to listen. Pay attention.
Her donation had tested positive for an STD. The interviewers quickly assured her that it was one of the more easily treatable ones.
They told her she needed to go for treatment. But first, she needed to list all of her sex partners. According to her angry voice, that list would begin and end with Dan Smithers, her apparently cheating spouse. I heard that loud and clear through the partition! Mrs.
Smithers was hot!
You're busted, guy, I thought. I immediately believed her, just from her voice and the tone of anger. No particular reason, seeing how so often people lie. Just gut instinct. It's also right 75-80% of the time.
Marcie said she couldn't afford any treatment. Her husband did day labor off and on and they have no insurance. There used to be a free clinic where you could go for things like that. But it ran out of money last year and closed. Budget cuts!
I knew the interviewer wasn't allowed to tell her that if she just walked in and asked for treatment, they were required by law to treat her, even if she couldn't pay or had no insurance. They would just write it off as uncollectible.
I knew some of the nurses here were pretty decent kids. It was very likely that one of them would take her aside and tell her that. And I figured if the nurses didn't tip it to her, I would. Hell why not? Not like it was a big deal. Just part of the game.
"I don't know what to do," I heard her say. "I'm terrified of going home and having to tell all this to Dan."
One of the nurses who was also listening nudged my arm. She whispered that Marcie had been in a couple of times for what they were pretty sure was physical abuse. I peeked around the partition at the woman, or what I could see of the woman. I could see her back, her neck and shoulders and some of one arm. If you looked hard you could see the telltale fading marks: finger marks and bruises.
I couldn't see her face.
My chatty nurse buddy whispered that they had called in charges against hubby Dan twice, but that Marcie had eventually refused to press charges. She explained the injuries by saying she was just clumsy.
Jesus, I was so sick of hearing poor abused women say that crap. I understood why; they felt trapped and defenseless and all that. And they were right. There was no place to go.
Our social services network was inadequate on its best days. Right now, what with budget cuts, it was getting worse.
Since Marcie had said she was afraid to go home, one of the nurses asked her if she'd feel safer if a nice big handsome cop took her and the kids home.
I looked around, figuring some other cop must have come in. Then I realized that was her joking and trying to yank my chain. I saw the other nurses and the candy-striper grinning. Nice? Big? Handsome?
Jack Callahan may be a lot of things, but nice? I'm no midget, but I'm a little undersized for your average cop. I'm a twice-busted nose and few scars away from getting back to plain.
Jokers! The nurse with Marcie also knew I was at least a couple of hours off the end of my shift by now. Trying to volunteer me for some more unpaid overtime! But she didn't know I was in a mood and could care less about going home to see Mister Jim Beam.
Marcie seemed doubtful. The nurse said it would beat waiting in the middle of the night with two tired kids for a bus. Everyone just assumed I was willing to do it. There were still some papers to be filled out and signed. During that time, Marcie and the nurse got into it about the abuse. Not arguing; just discussing.
It seems like there's an endless cycle of abuse. Marcie talked freely, since she and the nurses were convinced there was nothing that could be done for her. They were just venting.
There was no place for her to go, she said. Her parents and a brother had been killed in a traffic accident when she was 18. She had lived with her only remaining family, her grandmother, for 3 years until Gram had died of heart failure.
She said she went to a shelter for abused women one time, but it had limited space, and Dan managed to track her there. He talked to the counselors and promised to be good.
I snorted at that. "Don't they always!" That was the first time that Marcie was even aware of me. She took little notice of me, at first. I was just horning in. Her glance was cool, but not dismissive. I think she saw me as just another person who might be sympathetic but would be of no help to her.
It was my first real look at her. I saw a quietly attractive black-haired woman who might have been edging toward beautiful if the lines in her face weren't edging toward despair.
She had a nice womanly shape, as I vaguely recalled what women looked like. Oh, it wasn't like love at first sight or any crap like that, but I felt ... there was something about Marcie. Something long dormant stirred in me.
I know I liked the way she looked. Her figure wasn't va-va voom, more like hidden treasures to be sought and discovered. For a few moments I was even forgetting that I was in a mood.
Anyway, so Dan had promised to mend his ways, as they used to say. So she went back home and there would be a few good weeks, and it all would start up again: the drinking and the yelling and the hands-on abuse. So far all of his abuse had been aimed at her.
The kids had been spared. So far. That would come, though. Experience told us that, the nurses and cops.
If she called 911 for a domestic violence scene, the cops would come, but they were reluctant to do anything. Dan would apologize and kiss and make up and the cops would go away, glad to be out of it. Good cops, smart cops hate domestic violence calls. Often they erupt into violence against the responding officers, and about half the time the attack comes from the victim.
So the cops can't help. If the children were in jeopardy, Child Protective Services would step in. But all CPS would do is take the kids away and that would leave Marcie without her children and still at Dan's mercy. She has nowhere to go, no family left alive.
There's the church for comfort, but no shelter. There are homeless shelters, but accommodations for a woman with two young children are rare and always filled. And the shelters often harbor thieves and rapists. They have easy pickings among defenseless women and children.
There is no easy way out. Like the old routine goes, "You can't get there from here!"
All of a sudden, I had this insane idea. I knew I could take Marcie and Amy and Zach to a place I knew was safe.
Oh - oh, I could hear Jake's voice telling me to be cool, to be professional, to not get involved: it was none of my business.
Well too late old friend, I was already in a fucking mood. Hell, I walked in the hospital with one and I'd be walking out with a bigger one unless I could do something.
Oh, realistically, I knew I couldn't take them to my place. That was just a pipe dream, but I had to do something. Well, what I had been volunteered to do was to take them to their home to be with Dan, the Man.
That was giving me a notion. But I buried it for now.
You know what bothered me the most? The kids. I had glommed onto the candy striper who had been talking and playing with them, a really nice kid named Tammy. She told me how their faces looked when they were told they were going back home. "They just went dull, like a light in their eyes had been turned off," Tammy said. "Can't anybody do anything to keep them safe?" She was looking at me with her big baby blues. ME! Like I was supposed to have all the answers for all the problems of the world!
Oh, sure, ain't I Officer Friendly? Geeze, why do they teach that crap in school?
She handed over the kids and I could see what she had seen. Anyone paying attention to them could see that they were scared. Resigned to their fate.
I gathered them and Marcie up and shepherded them out to my cruiser. I asked if they were hungry and ignored what Marcie said. I drove them to a 24-hour Jack-in-the-Box drive-through. Against Marcie's protests, I treated them all to meals. They all ate like they had missed a meal or two today, including Marcie. She smiled at me and said, "You certainly have a habit of getting things your own way, Officer Callahan."
Well we hadn't really been introduced, but my name was on a tag on my shirt. She smiled again and thanked me. And guess what? The kids thanked me too, with no prompting. Damned polite little munchkins!
I had to think. Sometimes that was my strong point. It had made me a pretty good detective when I wasn't temporarily demoted. But it's hard to think when I'm deep in a mood.
About four months ago I'd been in a mood, and didn't think clearly, and I'd roughed up a rapist perp. He was from a family with some influence. There had been charges by the rapist's high profile attorney, and I got busted for excessive force, which was what the official documents call police brutality. That was why I was wearing blue and sitting in a cruiser driving an abused young woman and her scared kids home to meet their lovingly abusive husband slash daddy.
It was a rundown rental apartment, although I could see she kept it as neat and clean as she could.
No one was home. I decided to wait with them. Not really in my job description, but I told her that I had to take down his recent, um, history. That was because the kids were right there. Big ears.
"Get the fuck out, Jack," Jake said in my head. "This is more than required, Jack. Don't try to be..."
I told Jake to shut the fuck up and eat a celestial doughnut or something. Marcie looked at me kind of funny, a little startled. Geeze, I thought, did I say any of that out loud?
That had become a bad habit of mine, lately: talking to myself out loud. I gotta knock that off.
= = = = = =
Dan came home drunk. I could hear him coming up the stairs.
He glared at me and started in with some pig comments.
Marcie got right up in his face. First, she asked him what the landlord had said about them being overdue for the rent. He just grunted a non-answer. Then she told him about the STD test and that she needed to get treatment. He'd given it to her, she said calmly, and he needed to be tested, too. And they needed a list of his sex partners. She looked over at me and I dug out my notepad.
He cursed at her. Nasty vicious slurs. She was a fucking slut and she had probably caught it herself, fucking around behind his back. All this was in front of the kids.
I had come forward with my notepad out, ready to take down the names of Dan's fuck buddies, ever the helpful public servant. I was just praying I could get a chance to work that notion I had back at the hospital.
Come on, Bigfoot, turn your attention to me, I was thinking. Well, maybe hoping.
Dan was getting hot now. He yelled, "I guess the pig here is one of your limp-dicked lovers that you whore around with," and he went to hit her. I pushed myself in his way, and he shifted his aim and set up to take a swing at me. I could see him winding up.
Bingo, I had a winner. That was that notion I had. You see, nothing else had worked, no matter how abusive this big asshole was. His wife was afraid and messed up about charging him. She couldn't leave him; no place to go. The police system didn't work.
The Social Services barely, marginally worked, to the benefit of very few.
Marcie was like she was afloat in a big wide ocean holding her kids barely afloat, and all she had was a leaky life preserver. And that was Dan. And she didn't know yet about the rest of my notion.
But the first part of it was working. I had gotten him to take a poke at a cop! With witnesses! Marcie might lie about herself, but I didn't see her lying about an assault on someone else.
Now, you might probably wonder why even a stupid abusive drunk would mess with a cop. Well, it happens more than you might think. People don't grow up with the respect for cops that they did a couple of generations ago.
And besides, Dan was a big arrogant bruiser with a bellyful of booze. I sized him up as being used to getting what he wanted by force, and who gives a fuck whether someone has on a uniform?
Oh, I ducked his swing with no problem and got a partial choke hold on him, but he was hard to control. We waltzed around and I kept telling him to cool it, and he was under arrest. He was a damned big handful!
He crushed me against a wall with his big carcass and I lost the hold. He grabbed my shirt and tugged at it to throw me sprawling. It ripped open, buttons flying all around.
Did I mention he was a big dude? He had me by an easy 60 pounds and six inches. But then, I ain't that big.
I clawed out my two-way communications unit and keyed the button that transmitted an automatic "Officer needs assistance" signal. They could locate me by a GPS beacon signal from a chip in the unit. That was a Godsend in the new radios. It's sometimes a little tough for a cop to use the proper calling protocol and remember to phrase his request for backup in proper format by the book while having the shit kicked out of him or being shot at.
Dan was going at Marcie now, as she was trying to shield the kids. He smacked her in the face, open handed, but the blows were rocking her head from side to side. Given the size and strength of him, it was the same impact as punching her.
And little Zachary, all sixty pounds of him, was out there trying to punch and kick Dan to protect his mother. Jesus, talk about a brave little guy! He was his mom's son.
Dan backhanded Zach and he went flying. Luckily I saw he fetched up against a couch ok. Then I saw red and weighed in on the big man.
Now protocol says that if an officer is confronted by a bigger, dangerous man, he or she should, a) Taser him, or b) use Mace on him. It is expressly NOT advised that he or she should, c) go in punching. Not when alone and overmatched.
Well, as for that overmatched thing, it depends on your point of view. Marcie probably saw Dan as King Kong and me as Bonzo the chimp, when she looked at size. He was bigger and heavier. Certainly smelled worse, too. Dan was big and a brawler, but he had no skill, unless meanness counts as a skill. He was used to overpowering most anyone he fought.
I was madder than hell, but controlled. Sometimes the mood works for me. I also had some hard-gained skill. I gave him a couple of hard jabs in the kidneys, which got his attention and then kicked him in the knee with a sideways sweeping kick. He yelled and went down. I figured I had just fucked up a couple of ligaments.
But even so, he came up a lot quicker than I would have figured and with a knife in his hand. He lunged and slashed at me. I stumbled on the edge of a loose throw rug, and he got me across my belly. With my shirt hanging open, I got it pretty good, but not very deep, I hoped. If he had been thrusting instead of slashing I would have been in serious shit!
I got my balance back and chopped the back of his hand, which got the knife out. Then I began to cut him up with my fists. I can box, and I know how to throw an effective punch, with a little twist at the end to cut skin open. I laid into him. It was my mood coming out and it was savage, but it was still scientific. I was punishing the sucker, cutting him across his face; laying open cuts over his brows that would bleed down into his eyes and blur his vision.
"How do you like it when it's someone your own size," I snarled.
Well, that was a stupid thing to say under the circumstances, but I felt I was fighting bigger. I wasn't even anywhere near his size, but I was trained and cool and I took him out. He fought back and got me a couple of clumsy shots, but I slipped most of their force. Then I had him face down bleeding on the crappy carpet, and all cuffed by the time I heard the backup cop cruiser's sirens stop. He rolled over, trying to kick at me.
Just as I heard them pounding up the stairs, I kicked him in the balls once, just for grins and to temper my mood. Then I remembered too late that there were witnesses. Marcie, Zach and Amy had been watching me.
Damn! I saw that reinstatement pushing back at least another six months. If I was lucky.
= = = = =
The senior officer who took charge at the scene took it in with a professional eye. I knew him. Name of Ballenger, a real old-timer who was going for 30 years before he took the pension. He wasn't one of my biggest fans, but he was a fairly honest cop. He only took a little graft, little favors he thought were his due. He listened to my skimpy report without comment. I was mainly skimpy on the details of the encounter. He ignored the blood on my belly and uniform blouse. I got knifed; it was no skin off his nose. I could still walk and make reports, couldn't I? Like I said, not one of my fans.
Marcie got me a damp towel to hold across my stomach to help staunch the bleeding.
He took Marcie and the kids downtown as witnesses with me following. As I was getting in my cruiser, he sauntered by and said, "Don't you be getting blood all over Department property, Detective Callahan." He grinned at his little dig at my status.
Like I said, not one of my fans.
Marcie and the kids were in Ballenger's car. As I drove mine alongside, I could see Marcie whispering earnestly with her kids. Then she caught sight of me, and they all three waved as I passed by. I wondered how they were going to describe the incident. It could make me the poster boy for the anti-aggressive zeal campaign.
As I said, Captain Mary Lee Berwyn was still administratively my boss, since I was still likely to go back on as a detective — some year. It wasn't worth transferring me to the blues brigade and then having to transfer me back whenever.
So I sat outside her office making out my obligatory paperwork, as the Officer in Charge, Ballenger reported in Mary Lee's office and they talked. Then he left. But not before I heard, " ... leaving it all in your hands Captain, like you want it. But he didn't use Taser or Mace, and I think the little prick went over the line, as usual."
Then Mary Lee brought in Marcie, Zach, Amy, and a stenographer, and closed the door.
The stenographer sat with her arms folded while the two woman and children talked a while off the record.
I hoped that Mary Lee was explaining to Marcie where I was with regard to my disciplinary record and how I was already in the shits for police brutality.
Mary Lee understands me. Rank aside; she is one of my protectors on the force, and a very good friend. For some reason she thinks I saved her life one day long ago when we were both street cops. It was no big thing; I just got lucky and took out a guy with a gun at her back. One shot through the ear. From the side. I was always a good shot.
Practice, practice, practice!
At last she called me in and it was time for the formal statements. Mary Lee broke protocol and let me hear theirs before I gave mine, which was way out of line. It informed me on what to say when my turn came. Marcie and Zach gave a cleaned up version, minus some of my extra effort punches and the knee kick, and particularly the last kick, and emphasized how I was trying to protect them and fight off Dan, who was attacking them. Amy wasn't asked to do anything but nod when Mary Lee asked her if she agreed. She nodded big time. And winked at me. The little scamp!
They made a lot out of Dan's attack with the knife. The combination of the bloody knife in an evidence bag and my blood-soaked belly and torn up and bloody blue blouse seemed to carry some weight.
I think it all made me look, well maybe not good, but not too bad. Something about a cop being slashed with a knife covers up a lot of cop sins.
By that time the slash was beginning to hurt pretty badly. The towel had stopped the bleeding, but it hurt to do little things, like breathe. There was an on-call EMT sitting around outside, but Mary Lee wanted to get the statements out of the way first.
Mary Lee asked me specifically why I did not use my Taser or Mace.
I said that I had read police bulletins that said they both might be ineffective against large hostile individuals who were high on some illegal substances. I said that I feared that if I got close enough to use those methods, and they failed, I would be in danger, since the man was so large and powerful. And then Marcie and the children would have been defenseless.
She asked why I thought that Dan might have been high on illegal substances. I said that why else would he have attacked an armed officer of the law?
Why didn't I use my weapon? I looked over at the three innocent civilians. "Couldn't risk a stray bullet."
She asked me did I consider Dan to be large. I said he was damned well bigger than me.
She asked for the record how big I was. I said 5' 9 and 170 pounds. She said that Dan was measured at the hospital at 6' 3 and 240 pounds. I said, "That would make him fall in the bigger than me range, yes?" Mary Lee smiled.
She said that the statements certainly established him as being hostile.
I said I wouldn't have had much of a chance, then, would I? Him being all hostile.
With a straight face, Mary Lee asked me, considering Dan's size, possibly drugged state, and high level of hostility, how I had managed to subdue him? "Um, a combination of luck and clean living. Oh, and I had Right on my side," I said.
Mary Lee laughed. Hell, even the stenographer laughed. I guess the two of them knew how I get when I'm in a mood. But then Marcie laughed, too, which was strange.
Marcie didn't know anything about me.
I wondered how much Mary Lee had told her.
I had gone in to the interview thinking, ok, maybe now it'll be another 6 or maybe even 12 months before I can apply for reinstatement, if ever. But in their statements, Zach and Amy backed up Marcie's version one hundred percent.
Mary Lee had it all taken down as Gospel, and with a straight face.
She motioned for the children to leave first. As they left, but well before Marcie followed them out, Mary Lee said, "Nice work, you cocky asshole," with a grin. I was sure that Marcie didn't miss any of that.
= = = = = =
When we were finally out in the bullpen, I got treatment for my slash from the on-call EMT. Marcie sent the kids to sit at a bench across the room. She seemed upset when I peeled off my blouse and unstuck the bloody towel, and she got a good look at it. Her face got pale. I don't think she had seen it well when everything was happening so fast.
As she watched the guy stitching me up, she thanked me for saving her and the children.
I thanked her for her COMPLETELY accurate story. And I winked at her as I said it. I didn't want to be explicitly thanking her for covering my ass with the big-eared EMT there. She smiled as if we had a little secret between us.
She said that Mary Lee had told her something about my record. She also told me that Mary Lee said she was counting the days until I could be reinstated as a detective.
Damn! That sounded hopeful.
I put on my blood-stiffened, buttonless, and slashed blue blouse, thinking, Damn! I'm gonna have to buy a new one. I had thought I could make it to the reinstatement with the three I had.
Marcie reached out tentatively and touched the bandage over the slash. "Does it hurt much?"
"Only when you touch it," I said, and she yanked her hand back, blurting out, "Oh I'm so sorry." I quickly laughed and told her I was kidding. "It doesn't hurt right now. My buddy Sully there used a local to numb it for the stitches. I ain't THAT tough!"
Sully was the EMT. He slapped me on the shoulder and said, "You'll do 'til tough comes along, Jack." He looked at Marcie and said, "He'll be stiff and it'll hurt like hell tomorrow and for a few days, though, Ma'am."
I waited until he left, and then said, "Say, listen, I seem to be the duty chauffer lately, Marcie. How about I give you three a ride home again. I'll hit another drive-through.
You must be hungry again after all this mess tonight."
Marcie beckoned the munchkins over. I'd noticed that they had watched the medical stuff pretty closely from where they had been sitting. They were enthusiastic over the prospect of some more greasy salty food. I think the idea of going home to an apartment without an abusive dad was appealing too.
I called and checked on Dan's status. He would be arraigned tomorrow on charges of assaulting an officer and, oh by the way, assaulting his wife and seven year old son. This time, Marcie said she was going through with the complaint for her and Zach. And of course, assaulting an officer would get Dan a lot of Judicial attention.
By the time we finished at Mickey D's it was well into daylight, and the day workers were heading to work on the streets. Marcie asked if I had to go to work that day.
"Nope. Wounded in the line of duty gets me off for a minimum of three days.
"Three days", Marcie said. "That's a coincidence."
"We have an eviction notice for three days from yesterday." Marcie said. "Dan hadn't worked much and had drunk up what wages he got. We've been eating on the charity of the church and our neighbors.
"I had hoped that Dan might have come home with some money or some news about what we were going to do."
I escorted them into the apartment and asked if they had a phone. "No, they cut that off a few days ago, right after I got the notice to come in to the clinic. Last night was the first chance I had to bring the kids with me without having to argue with Dan about it. He told me he'd be home late.
I had to make some phone calls, and I would have to use my cell. I hated having long conversations and having to hang on Hold on a puny little thing like your average cell phone.
"Marcie, I'm making this my project for now. We've got the next three days. We gotta find you a place to stay. Consider it police courtesy service. We 'Protect and Serve.'"
She looked a little like she wondered if I was bullshitting her, which I was, of course, but she sat down at the table with me and listened.
I called Mary Lee and asked her to see what Social Services could do for us.
"Us?" she said. "And just who would 'us' include? Maybe that pretty little woman you seem to be so happily squiring around?"
"Oh, don't bust my balls; you know what I mean, Mary Lee. I'm involved and I feel sort of responsible, so I'm trying to help." She said she'd do a quick check around and get back to me.
"How come you are so free and open with your Captain? You just call her whenever you feel like it. Isn't she kind of busy?" Marcie asked.
"Well sure," I told her, "but we've been good friends over the years and she doesn't mind me going directly to her for some things. Like this. If a Captain asks around about things, she gets real answers, fast.
= = = = = =
Mary Lee did finally call back but without any good news. There were no family accommodations available anywhere in Social Services. The abuse and homeless shelters were full. The only possible likely thing would be that Marcie could be put up for a day or two in some fleabag hotel, but then the kids would be taken away from her by CPS and then possibly put into an institution.
That she could not care for them would be the judgment. To be able to care for them she would have to be working and then the children would need subsidized day care. Which was also full.
Budget cuts. The new Catch 22.
I explained what we'd found. Or rather not found.
She slumped. "Jack, what are we going to do? I really have no place to turn. The way Dan was, I never made any friends. And his friends, well you can guess what they'd expect from me to take me and the kids in.
"I can't even look for a job right now. I'd have to drag the poor children around with me, and even if I found something, what could I do with Zachary and Amy while I worked?
You said there's no child care available."
I looked at the beginnings of hopelessness start to take over her face. But she had said
"we", which sort of included me.
Fuck it, I thought. I gotta do something. I was getting an idea, but I was going to have to be subtle, which wasn't exactly my strong point.
"Listen, Marcie," I said. There's ... there's this guy I know who has a big old house that he's been thinking of turning into a kind of rooming house. He owes me some favors, and I think we can convince him to let you and the kids room there for a while. You might be able to swap some housecleaning and domestic work for room and board." She looked dubious. She started to say, "I don't know..." but I stopped her.
"Look, Marcie, you haven't known me very long, but don't I seem like a good guy?
Heck, I've even gotten sliced up for you, right? Why don't you just take a big leap of faith and trust me?
She gave me a piercing look, as if she was trying to get past the everyday me and see the me inside. I wasn't at all sure I wanted her to see that me.
But whatever she saw, it seemed to persuade her. "Ok, Jack. Big leap of faith. You haven't let us down so far."
It wasn't as much to move as I had thought. Other than their clothes and some stuffed toys for the kids, almost everything else in the apartment came with it as furnished. I inwardly swore at a marriage that didn't even give a wife the bed-linens she slept on. I went down to a small convenience store and bought some heavy-duty trash bags. We packed up their clothes and personal stuff in four big trash bags. That was it! All their worldly possessions!
I put three of the bags in the trunk of my cruiser and the kids sat in the back seat pillowing on the fourth that contained their clothes and toys.
We drove in silence. I tried to sneak some looks over at Marcie to see if she was feeling any better now that Dan was out of the picture and she and her kids might have a place to stay, but whenever I did, I found her staring at me. Very unnerving.
She cleared her throat. "This friend of yours, the one who's going to let us room with him, he wouldn't happen to be a cop, would he?"
"Mm, yes, he is as a matter of fact."
"About 5 foot nine, broken nose, bandaged belly? Ugly mug? Looks a lot like you?"
Well, she was ahead of me, but at least she was teasing. "Yeah, he's my Good Twin John. I'm the Evil Twin, Jack. You'll be safe with him, you and your kids. He locks me up at night.
"Just don't prejudge, Marcie. I'll explain everything. It'll work out. And just to be clear, there are absolutely no strings. You do not owe me anything for helping you out.
She didn't reply. But she still kept staring at me. Very unnerving. Also annoying. With her always looking at me, how could I sneak looks at her?
= = = = = =
I took them to my place. I live in a big old house that I inherited from my Mom and Dad That was after I turned 18 and no longer had to live in foster homes. Think a combination of the Bates motel main house and the Addams family homestead. Very transplanted New England horror Gothic spooky.
I think my folks must have had a warped sense of humor. The best that could be said about it was that it was big and roomy, and that the interior was all modern as of about 25 years ago and structurally very sound. After I got out of the Navy I upgraded the wiring and plumbing and climate control systems. It takes a very heavy duty fan to circulate the air in a four level house.
It didn't faze the children in the slightest, but it put a smirk on Marcie's face when she got a good look at it.
She leaned closer and whispered, "Where does Igor sleep?" I ignored her and hustled them inside.
I apologized for the mess, but they were lucky that day and it wasn't as bad as it might have been. On those occasions when I had partied with Jimmy Beam, the place looked like a disaster area the next day. Today, it was mostly just casual clutter.