“You speak a foreign language. Things the police in New Orleans rarely say.”
Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015
Caroline: Caroline next decides to track down this on-scene police officer Neil mentioned. Her ex even said he was awake.
A few inquiries among the hospital staff yield the hospitalized officer’s name and room number.
She knocks on the door.
Support: “Come in,” calls a hoarse voice from the other side.
The man Caroline finds in the hospital bed is a tall, thin-framed African-American wearing a standard dressing gown. He looks in his late 20s or so.
Caroline: Caroline strides inside and offers the police officer a dazzling smile.
“Good afternoon. Detective Kane, right?”
Support: The man sits up as if at a desk and clasps his fingers in his lap. His gaze is pointed, but a resistance holds back its full bore.
“Yes. That’s me. But you wouldn’t be visiting unless you already knew that. Who are you?”
Caroline: “Caroline, Malveaux,” she replies with a momentarily wider smile. “I’d heard you’d been hurt last night responding to a call with some girls. I thought I’d check in on you while I was here.”
Support: “I see. Well, I appreciate the care. Do you generally check up on injured NOPD officers, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “When the opportunity presents itself,” she replies, her heeled feet snapping along the tiled floor as she enters the room.
“And when they’ find themselves swimming in the deep end unexpectedly.”
Support: “That’s an interesting turn of phrase, ma’am, what do you mean by it?”
Caroline: “Oh, come now, I suspect you must have some idea of what things have turned into after your injury. Three girls in the hospital, a detective on the run, another in the hospital…” Caroline watches his eyes as she speaks.
“You don’t mind if I sit, do you?”
Support: His eyes are steely, but the corners of his mouth curl up. The rest of his face remains frozen.
“What kind of host would I be if I didn’t let a visitor sit? Though I suppose I’m a guest here myself. I don’t intend to stay here too long.”
Caroline: The heiress slides into one of the less than comfortable-looking green chairs in the room and crosses her legs, looking as comfortable as she might on a throne.
“You didn’t know him, did you, the one that went insane?”
Support: “Not well, no. Do you by chance know the girl who arrived here with me? I hear she’s in a coma.”
Emil’s lip curls downwards a bit. Perhaps he’s a bit stiff from his surroundings. Perhaps he’s just not very expressive.
Caroline: “I know of her,” Caroline replies easily. “Something of a troubled history, I’m told. How she found her way among a group of upstanding girls is beyond me, but not really an immediate concern next to the health of all parties. They all have long roads to recoveries.”
Support: “I heard they all met at the McGehee School. So, that’s how.”
Caroline: “Ah, well. Slipping standards,” the blonde remarks back.
Support: “Well we wouldn’t want that, it’s one of the only decent schools left around here. Did you study there, miss?”
Caroline: “Of course not,” Caroline replies easily. “I attended St. Joseph’s. More Catholic that way.”
There’s some amusement on the back end that fades away as she continues to regard Emil. Something about his statement nags at her.
“Did you?” she asks with another hint of mirth.
Support: “You’re asking if I studied at the all-girls McGehee School?” the man asks dryly.
Caroline: “Well, as my uncle is fond of observing, it’s a different time. And we already discussed standards.”
Support: “We sure did, Miss Malveaux.” Emil lets out a short spurt of natural laughter, breaking the tension momentarily. “I was just pulling your leg there.”
Caroline: “I’m glad to see the atmosphere, and the food, hasn’t robbed you of your good spirits, Detective Kane.”
Support: “Well we are in New Orleans, ma’am, there’s plenty of spirits to go around,” Emil says plainly.
Caroline: “Sadly but perhaps appropriately fewer in the hospital.”
Support: “Depends which type you mean, I suppose. Though both could be attributed to those lowered standards you were talking about. That’s the trend these days it seems. A pox on all our houses.”
Caroline: “Not mine,” Caroline replies firmly, though not unkindly. “And yours, well, that might yet remain to be seen.”
Support: Emil smiles at the woman. “If you have a stone to throw, ma’am, go ahead and throw it. It’d be a sure shot. Fish in a barrel.” His voice is warm and encouraging, but his eyes are cold and straight as they dare her to take the shot.
Caroline: “Oh, Detective Kane, if I were here to take shots at you, I could do it from the hall. As you say, fish in a barrel. Or at least police in a hospital bed. There will be others though—plenty of them. As I said, quite a disaster last night. Has anyone clued you into it?”
Support: “Everyone’s said their bit. But I wouldn’t mind a retelling if that’s what you’re about to do for me.”
Caroline: “I bet you wouldn’t, but I’d hate to step on toes just yet. Things are delicate right now. I will share this much, though.” There’s that dazzling smile again.
“It’s probably better for you if you don’t remember what happened. After a head injury, no one would be surprised.”
Support: “That’s your bit. You take everyone’s bits and put them together and suddenly you don’t need to remember.” The lawman smiles earnestly back and continues, “You didn’t come just to tell me about how delicate things are. Won’t hurt to tell me what it is you want. Maybe I can help you out. And if I can’t, well I have a head injury, I’ll forget it. What do you think, Miss Malveaux, a favor for a favor?”
Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly.
“Detective Kane, is that it? You’re looking for my angle?”
Support: “I’m looking to see how I can actually help someone get ahead in this town. That’s my job, you know, fixing the problems in this city. Others might disagree, but that’s what I think. That’s what I want. What do you want, Miss Malveaux?”
Caroline: “Caroline, please. We need not be so formal here, Detective Kane. Your mistake, though, is in assuming I have need of anything.”
Support: “Caroline, I didn’t say you need anything. But you’re human. Humans don’t stop wanting until they’re six feet under. Some say even past that. So what do you want?”
Caroline: “I want to minimize the collateral damage here. And perhaps make a friend.”
Support: “They say the best friendships are based on common interests. Luck has it that I’m also in need of a friend. Someone to trust. Someone to be trusted by in this dirty city. I’ve also seen too many people get hurt since I arrived, so if you want to reduce collateral damage, you have yourself an ally. By the way, my friends call me Emil.”
The lawman gives her a pained smile. She can see a glimmer of something warm, even hopeful, behind the sharpness of his eyes. “What do you think, Caroline?”
Caroline: The blonde smiles that pretty smile again, but it’s not a happy one.
“I think I saw what the last honest detective in the city did last night: he shot two teenage girls in the chest at point blank range in front of a room full of witnesses. I got their blood on my hands as I tried to stuff their insides back where they belonged. One might have brain damage because so much of her blood poured out onto the floor that she couldn’t get enough oxygen to her brain, but they won’t know until she wakes up.”
Support: “Jesus Christ, that’s horrible. No one told me that, Caroline. You may not trust me when I say this, but I really understand how you feel. My first night in the city, I get a call that a girl is bleeding out. No one’s called the police when I got there and the girl had soaked the ground with her blood, there was more out than in.”
“She was dying. I saw the light go out from her eyes as I tried to fix her. I’m not a religious man by any extent but somehow, by some power, I was able to stabilize her. It’s a miracle she’s alive. But she’s also in a coma. So trust me that I understand the stakes here. I want to stop anything worse from happening. Can you trust me, Caroline?”
Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “No, Detective Kane, I don’t know that I can.”
“Those girls got shot because someone did call the police. They were in that station because the police arrested them on an array of trumped-up charges because that’s what the NOPD is unfortunately quite good at. They were strip-searched, and questioned, and held, and eventually shot in that very station, and all of their futures went tumbling down a black hole because someone did what they thought was right.”
“I’m glad you managed to save Ms. Savard. I wish her no ill despite the fact that she was entirely responsible for her own injuries, but the pursuit of self righteousness un-moderated by wisdom is a path towards folly.” She sighs sadly.
“Discretion, sometimes, is the better part of valor. But maybe you have to see it for yourself.” She stands and readjusts her dress.
Support: “Wait! It’s not self-righteousness to save someone from death. I’ve been around long enough to know discretion, and I’ve made many mistakes learning that. But calling the ambulance wasn’t a mistake. If the ambulance hadn’t arrived both her and I would be dead right now. If you decided to chase after the gunman instead of saving those girls, they would be dead right now. Those issues you talked about, the girls’ futures, recovery, trauma, capturing the gunman, they are tragic and difficult but they can be worked on.”
“The one thing that you can’t work on is death. Death is permanent. The universe let those girls live for a reason, and we meet today with shared experience of mortality for a reason. The world is sending you a friend today, Caroline. A flawed one, yes. But the situation is flawed. If you can’t trust me to be your friend, at least take me as an ally, it can’t hurt to have one.” Emil scrawls his phone number on a piece of paper and offers it to the woman.
Caroline: Emil’s words cause the heiress to pause for a moment. She considers him again.
“Emil, why were you there in the first place? How did you find out about what had happened?”
Support: “My daughter called me. For the first time in twelve years my daughter called me, and what did she say? Her friends needed help, their friend was on the floor almost dead. They were afraid of calling 911, and my daughter wanted me to go save Ms. Savard. That’s why, Caroline. That’s how.”
His arm is still outstretched, waiting for her to take the number. It holds there like a statue, rigid and infinitely patient.
Caroline: The woman chews on that for a moment before she makes her way over to take the paper out of Emil’s hand. She idly spins it between her fingers as she replies, “Then calling the police and what happened to the girls is going to blow back on her as well. In ways you’re not going to have any control of.”
“What they’re going to do to you on the force I’m not certain of. I can imagine that some fairly senior people are very unhappy, but exactly what form that unhappiness will take… well, that’s not really my arena. I can imagine much more clearly what might happen to the girl whose father was supposed to fix the problem.”
Support: “Well, as my friend, and as someone who wants to minimize collateral damage, you’d want to help me limit any blowback to an innocent like my daughter, yes?”
Emil’s expression hasn’t changed much, but despite that the heiress can feel his eyes cutting deep, weighing her heart against the feather of the innocent.
Caroline: “That depends on what you’re willing to do,” Caroline replies. “I’m happy to exercise what influence I might have in ensuring the blame for all of this falls away from your daughter. I can’t promise there will be no blowback, but I can certainly help to mitigate it. And so can you.”
Support: Emil smiles. “It’s my duty to. And naturally, as your friend, I can help you out with the damage you’d like to prevent, and maybe even with the damage already done.” He seems to retreat to his thoughts for a moment before looking back to Caroline.
Caroline: “Are you new to the city, Emil?” Caroline asks rather suddenly.
Support: “If I was new to this city, I’d be gone by now. Too much hassle. Why do you ask?” he responds frankly.
Caroline: “You speak a foreign language,” the blonde replies sharply. “Things the police in New Orleans rarely say. Duty in place of opportunity, responsibility in place of authority. Those are dirty words to many here. And not only among the police.”
Support: Emil seems to drift into thought again, looking at nothing as he replies slowly, “There was a time when things were better. There was a time… I was young, but there was a time when justice was the top priority. If my father was still alive you’d see what a good policeman could do. He was a real soldier of the people. But it all went wrong… I’d like to bring it all back some day.”
Emil sighs, his eyes refocusing on the heiress. “In any case, a dream is a dream. Right now we need to make a plan and put it into action. What do you want accomplished, Caroline?”
Caroline: Caroline sighs back, then digs in her purse for a moment. She produces a small paper card with ten digits and no letters and sets it next to his bed side.
“I never close a door, Detective Kane,” she begins, “but I’m afraid you and I may be on different floors.”
“If you find yourself closer to mine, give me a call. In the meantime, I’ll pass on that you recall very little of last night and that your daughter can hardly be held responsible for the father she barely knows making a mess of things.”
“Some friendly advice before I go, actually forget last night ever happened. Don’t talk to anyone. Not in the media or elsewhere. As I told the girls, there’s nothing good that can come of saying anything, and you’d only be closing doors on yourself.”
“I’ll leave you in peace. I’m sure you’re still tired from last night.”
Support: “I appreciate it, Caroline. You have my gratitude. If you’re ever in need of a friend, or just someone to give you the time of day, I’m only a phone call away. Happy trails.”
Caroline: The snap of heeled feet on the tiled floor are his response as the heiress takes her leave.
She does not look back.