“Not all medicines get to taste sweet.”
Day ? Month ? Year ?
GM: “…hello there, Emil.”
Pain in his head.
“Can you hear what I’m saying?”
Pain in his belly.
Pain in his everywhere.
Emil: Emil grunts and opens his eyes. He tries to blink the pain away.
His voice is torn in shreds from the sheer desert-dryness of his throat.
“What… happened to the girl?” he croaks.
GM: Darkness grates at his vision like sand from that same desert. Talking hurts. His throat wants water. His surroundings have a sterile, hand sanitizer-like smell.
He blinks a few more times. The outline of a dark-haired man wearing a physician’s white coat and stethoscope looks down at him. The man looks relatively young for his presumed profession, maybe in his 30s. His hair is shaved to a near buzzcut, and his facial stubble is maybe an hour short of five o’ clock. Emil can’t say if it’s due to the doctor’s almost-beard or just the lighting, but a shadow seems to spread across his lower face as he smiles down at the bedridden lawman.
“You take it easy there, Emil. You’ve been through a pretty rough spot.”
Emil: Emil stretches his neck to examine the damage to his body.
He’s unsure why he checks his legs first. Maybe he watches too many Vietnam War movies. Maybe something else.
GM: Emil’s body aches as he tries to make himself sit upright. His arm is hooked up to an IV drip. He does not see his legs.
Emil: He freezes in mid-breath.
GM: There’s a blanket covering them.
Emil: Emil lets out a too-deep sigh once he notices they’re still attached. He gingerly reaches over his stomach, hesitant to touch it for fear of spilling out its contents again.
“Doc, what happened to me. Where is the girl?” he asks, keeping his tone level despite the pain.
Where is that even from? he thinks, trying to pinpoint its origin.
GM: Emil can feel bandages against his head.
“Easy there, Emil,” the doctor repeats. He leans closer and touches the side of the injured man’s bed in seeming substitute for touching his body directly. “You had a stroke and subdural hematoma. You also banged your head pretty bad.”
The doctor smiles widely. “You’re lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to see and talk to me. But don’t strain yourself. Nearly a quarter of all strokes in the U.S. are recurrent, you know!”
Emil: Emil’s mind races. How could he have a stroke?! That’s fucking insane! He’s only twenty-nine, for God’s sake. His grandma got a stroke before she died, but her medical history was longer than a goddamn novel! And a hematoma on top of that… what about his job? His family? He has a family to take care of.
He recognizes the risk in getting so stressed, though, and breathes deeply to let out his anger with each exhalation. Once he’s calm enough to speak plainly, he asks, “What about my intestines, are they in good shape? Tell me what happened, Doctor.”
GM: The doctor raises his eyebrows and gives a simultaneously humoring smile. “There’s nothing wrong with your intestines, Emil. They’re doing just fine.”
Emil: Emil definitely felt his guts falling out of him. He saw them, for chrissake. But he doesn’t want to look crazy, so he laughs to hide his concern. “I had some real bad coffee yesterday, doc; glad to see it didn’t mess me up too bad.”
GM: “You had a real bad fall yesterday, Emil. Glad to see that didn’t mess you up too bad either,” the doctor chuckles back.
Emil: Emil never fell. This man is hiding things from him. Or maybe someone is lying to everyone about last night’s events. And his innards definitely fell out of his stomach last night. Emil lifts the blanket, trying to check his stomach for any scars or stitches. They have to be there.
GM: Emil’s bare stomach lacks any bandages, stitches, or other signs of injury.
The doctor makes a ‘hmm’ sound. “I’m going to administer a sedative to help you relax. Coming out of a stroke this soon, you want to be taking things easy.”
Emil: “Don’t,” Emil says as he rests his head back and smooths out his blanket. “I’m fine. What happened to that girl. Is she all right?”
GM: “That’s what I’m here to judge,” the doctor smiles reassuringly. He holds up a hypodermic needle, squirts it into the air, and pulls back the fold of Emil’s hospital gown.
“You’re in good hands…”
Emil: Emil pulls away from the needle and responds with the harsh tone one might use with a misbehaving dog. “You should get that needle away from me if you want to keep your residency, Doctor. Because at some point I’m gonna wake up and I’m sure your employers won’t have much use for you behind bars.”
GM: The doctor smiles down at the bedridden lawman. “I’m always happy to do things another way, Emil, if you don’t want to give me your consent. But I’m afraid that kind of verbal abuse isn’t acceptable in our hospital. There’ll be a form for you to sign that releases staff from responsibility to treat you if that keeps up.”
Emil: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, Doctor. Say, maybe we could speak more cordially if I knew your name. Hm?” He speaks neutrally, making it hard to tell his level of sincerity.
GM: “Verbal abuse includes sarcasm, Emil,” the doctor smiles as he wags a finger. “But I don’t want to risk agitating you any further in your condition. We’ll have a nurse come by later to make sure you’ve calmed down. Take it easy.” He cheerfully pats the side of Emil’s bed and turns to leave.
Emil: “No sarcasm intended,” Emil says honestly. “I just want to know who is treating me is all.” He thinks for a moment before adding, “And can I use a phone? I need to tell my family I’m all right.”
GM: Emil’s only reply is the sound of a closing door. His last sight is of the doctor’s smiling face.
Emil: Emil is not smiling as he leans across his bed and looks as its foot for his medical notes.
GM: Emil finds no such notes. He remembers how nurses would hang clipboards at the foot of a patient’s bed in the old days (which his father spent his share of at the hospital). The notes would list vital signs, IV medications, intake and output measure, and so on. The rest of the chart was kept at the nurses’ station.
These days, as his bed’s empty foot makes apparent, everything is digital and kept in electronic medical records systems. He suspects a bed-hanging chart would also violate HIPAA.
Emil: He sighs and resigns himself to lying down, making himself comfortable, and searching for a nurse call button.
GM: The ‘button’ looks more like a speaker phone than a button, but one is present and within reach of his bed.
Emil: He pushes it to call a nurse.
GM: A tired-sounding woman’s voice crackles to a terse semblance of life over the speaker.
“What is it?”
Emil: “Hi, sorry for the trouble,” he says, trying to sound more weak and pitiable than he has any right to be. “I just want to access my medical records and give my daughter a call. Can you help me? Please?”
GM: “Are you in pain and or need of medical treatment,” inquires the monotone-sounding voice. Emil can’t hear a question mark.
Emil: “I just want to talk to my daughter. If you were in my position you’d want your kids to know they’re safe too, wouldn’t you?” He waits, expecting the woman to ask him again, but hoping she listens.
GM: “Your family’s been told you’re here,” the monotone voice continues with a sigh. “You’ll be allowed visitors with the attending physician’s approval.”
Emil: “What is my attending physician’s name then? He wouldn’t tell me, ma’am.”
GM: “Are you in pain and or need of medical treatment,” the monotone voice repeats.
GM: There’s a click from the intercom.
Emil: So much for Southern hospitality.
Emil rests in his bed, apparently stuck resting until someone comes to visit.
GM: Emil observes a television in the corner of his room. The stroke-afflicted lawman can flick on the remote to watch non-cable game shows.
GM: “For years, Gomek the giant crocodile was the big attraction at this oldest Florida city’s alligator farm.”
“What is… St. Augustine!”
Applause sounds from the televised audience.
Emil: The droning Jeopardy tune loops over and over in Emil’s ear, mocking his inability to find an answer to his troubles.
Impotent to do anything—at least for now—he settles in to his personalized slice of hell.
Saturday afternoon, 29 August 2015
GM: Hell comes to visit Emil on a plate.
The injured lawman has no idea what it is. It’s all mushed browns, pale yellows, and sickly greens congealing in a runny, vomit-like morass over the center of his plate. A Hispanic woman sets it down on his tray along with a spork, napkin, and glass of water without a word.
Emil: Emil looks down at the ‘food’ he’s just been served and considers what in God’s name to do with it. He concocts some half-baked theories but ultimately can’t avoid the understanding that he is meant to eat it. Murderous good-for-nothings on death row get fancy chocolate crepes topped with powdered sugar and he gets… he’s not exactly sure what this is, but it ain’t a crepe, that’s for sure. It looks more like crap.
Nevertheless, he needs to eat if he’s going to get out of this hellhole any time soon. He pinches his nostrils shut in an attempt to block as many senses as possible while using his spork to shove the sludge-like ‘food’ past his tongue and straight down his throat.
GM: Emil smells the ‘food’ through his nasal passage. It’s somewhere between ‘fermented cabbage leaves’ and ‘grime scraped out from the rim of a public bathroom sink.’ The peculiarly stringy texture belies its sludge-like appearance. Dozens of ‘ends’ tickle Emil’s throat on the way down. It’s like swallowing a clump of hair that’s congealed in semi-solid grease.
The woman wordlessly stares at him as he takes his first bite.
Emil: Emil pauses for a moment to let the gunk slide down his throat. He looks at the woman and smiles. “Thanks for the food, ma’am, but do you think I could have access to a phone? I need to call my daughter. I promise it won’t take long and I’d really appreciate you doing that for me.”
GM: The woman walks out of his room without a word.
Emil: Emil curses under his breath and returns to dealing with the situation on the plate in front of him.
GM: Emil ‘deals’ with the situation. The last un-chewed bites taste even worse than the initial ones. Finishing his meal feels like it takes a thousand years until the woman returns to collects tray and eating utensils, then leaves.
Eventually, his doctor comes by again and smiles down at him.
“Good evening, Emil. We feeling calmer now?”
Emil: Emil is in the lion’s den. He can’t afford to be anything but calm.
“Yes. Much calmer,” he responds. “Look. I’m sorry I acted so rudely to you when I woke up. I just came out of a very stressful situation… someone hitting me on the head… and with the stroke… suffice it to say my brain was a bit confused. Anyway, I was hoping we could start over.” He reaches his hand out towards the doctor and places his hand over his chest. “My name’s Emil, what’s yours, Doctor?”
GM: “You don’t say,” the doctor smiles as Emil gives the name he’s used at least several times. “But plenty of my patients are confused and upset, Emil. I don’t take anything they have to say too seriously.”
The doctor’s smile grows just a bit as he sits down. “You can call me Dr. Brown.”
Emil: “All right. Dr. Brown.” He nods for a moment, digesting the situation. “Well, Dr. Brown. Do you have any questions for me? Because I have a lot of questions for you,” Emil laughs casually.
GM: “I make sure to know everything I need about my patients, Emil,” Dr. Brown smiles. “But all right, since you’re feeling better. What can I clear up for you?”
Emil: “Well first of all, how long have I been out?”
GM: “Not too long, actually. Last night and this morning.”
Emil: “Oh, good.” Emil relaxes a bit against his pillow. “So were you briefed on what happened last night then? Can you tell me about it?”
GM: “You had a stroke last night, probably brought on by occupational stress. You sustained further injuries when you fell and hit your head. That’s about all that concerns me,” the doctor smiles.
Emil: “Oh, Doctor, there must be some confusion because I didn’t fall. Something hit me on the head, but it wasn’t the floor.”
GM: “Yes, Emil, you are starting to sound confused again,” Dr. Brown replies, though his smile doesn’t dip. “Now what do you believe hit you on your head, mmm?” he asks in a humoring tone.
Emil: “I’m not completely sure. I was trying to stabilize an injured girl, and I think something hit me from behind which triggered the stroke. Does the injury look more like a fall than a hit? Is that it?”
GM: “Your injury was sustained by a fall,” Dr. Brown explains patiently. “The girls and EMTs on the scene found you lying passed-out on the sidewalk. You had your stroke while administering first aid, which was probably what caused you to run out from the house. When you passed out, your head got a solid bonk against the sidewalk. Make sense?”
Emil: “I suppose that sounds self-consistent, but I remember resting against a wall before I passed out. Anyways, all that matters now is that the wound is healing. How long do you think it will take to heal?”
GM: “That wouldn’t surprise me if you’d wanted to stop and catch your breath, Emil. It was a very hard and confusing night, so let’s take things one at a time,” he says reassuringly. “That’s not the last thing you remember, hitting your head, or passing out as you fell?”
Emil: “Well, I tried to call my daughter, but the call didn’t go through. Then I rested against a wall and passed out. Speaking of which, has my family called or visited yet?”
GM: “Oh no, you haven’t been approved for visitors,” Dr. Brown replies. “I don’t make it my business to know about patient calls, but I’m sure they’ve been thinking of you.”
Emil: “I sure hope so.” Emil’s eyes flash with doubt, but he swallows it down like that gunk the hospital passes as food.
“Well, now that I’m awake, how soon do you think it will be until I am approved for visitors?”
GM: “Oh, once you’re up for it. You’re in a very fragile state after that stroke, Emil. We haven’t had to operate, and it would be much better if no one needs to put you under, now wouldn’t it?”
Emil: “I think having my family beside me would help with the stress. Do you have family? What do you use to calm yourself, Dr. Brown?”
GM: “I’m afraid that I don’t share your thought there, Emil,” Dr. Brown smiles. “Your care is my highest concern. I’m sure you miss your family, but not all medicines get to taste sweet. Choke down this one and you’ll be out of here in no time.”
Emil: “All right. If you think that is best then I trust you.”
GM: The doctor’s smile widens. “Good. Trust between patients and their caregivers is so important. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to check on you again. Let me know if you hear any fun questions over Jeopardy, hear?”
Emil: “Well, I’ll be here waiting. But one more thing, Doctor. Is that girl I tried to save gonna be all right?”
GM: “She’s in good hands, don’t you worry,” the doctor smiles as he withdraws.
Emil: Somehow Emil doesn’t feel completely reassured.
Sunday morning, 30 August 2015
GM: Emil spends a restless and uncomfortable night in his hospital bed. His dreams are strange, dark, and exhilarating, leaving his heart pumping and his gown soaked through with sweat. Recollections slide away like the raindrops pattering against his window as he awakens to the sight of the same woman entering the room with breakfast.
Emil: It’s a relief and exactly the opposite at the same time. Emil pinches his nose again to blunt his sense of taste and mechanically begins to swallow lumpy morsels of the mush, again pinching his nose to blunt his sense of taste. He pauses to let the ‘food’ sink into his poor stomach as he asks the woman, “Is the doctor coming in soon?”
GM: The woman stares at Emil as he takes the first several ‘bites’ of his food, then walks out the door.
Emil: Emil sighs and continues clearing his plate. He fantasizes about eating something, literally anything besides what’s on his lap.
GM: Emil’s not sure if he feels sicker or better by the time he’s done. The woman returns later to gather up his tray. Another woman in nurse’s scrubs stops by later, too, to check his IV drip. She doesn’t once speak to him.
Then Dr. Brown comes by again. He smiles down at Emil.
“It’s a brand new day, isn’t it, Emil? How are we feeling?” he asks over the outside rain’s faint pitter-patter.
Emil: “Oh I feel just grand, Doctor,” Emil responds with a toothy smile.
GM: “Very good!” Dr. Brown exclaims. He spends the next few minutes asking Emil questions and discussing the state of his health and current medications before continuing, “You have some visitors today. You feeling up for having anyone in here?”
Emil: Finally! He was worried it might take a week before he could convince Dr. Brown he’s well enough to get a visitor. He’s still surprised, but can’t help but chuckle away his worries. “Yeah, I believe so, Doctor. Who’s visiting?”
GM: “A few police friends of yours,” the doctor chuckles back. “They’ve been very insistent.”
Emil: “Oh.” This is what he wanted, someone to bring him up to date on everything he’s missed. But he still can’t push the sad fact of his daughter’s absence out of his mind.
“Well that’s just great!” he exclaims. “Send them up.”
GM: Dr. Brown pats the foot of Emil’s bed with another smile. “You’re in your family’s thoughts too, Emil, I’m sure.”
Emil: He nods weakly in response. A silence fills the room and doubt pours from the jagged edges of his smile. “Do you have kids, Dr. Brown?”
GM: “Let’s welcome in your visitors,” the doctor replies with his ever-present smile as he rises from his seat, then disappears through the door.
Emil is alone with his thoughts once again. He stares into the curved metal of a beeping machine and finds his distorted reflection. Cold eyes stare back, judging him. The color of his face is washed out, replaced by a silvery pallor. He sits up to prepare for his visiting co-workers, attempting to appear stronger than he is.
GM: His visitors, as it turns out, are superiors.
The first man looks like a fifty-something, over the hill blump with a receding hairline and a large belly. His vaguely beanpole-shaped head seems like it could have been thin once, but it’s since filled out with several chins that spread when he smiles. He’s dressed in the standard NOPD summer uniform: short-sleeved light blue shirt, dark tie and pants. His arm bears a commander’s single gold star.
The second man is dressed the same, but has a lieutenant’s single gold bar instead. He’s also got a large belly and looks maybe half a decade younger, with a bald head, dark skin, prominent jowls, and an even more prominent squatch-shaped nose that’s nearly as wide as his mouth. Emil recognizes him as Captain John Baron, who’s in charge of the Homicide unit he was so recently hired to work for.
“Hell of a way to start your time here, Emil,” Capt. Baron says with a knowing smile as he takes a seat by the detective’s bed.
“This is Delron,” he says, indicating the other cop. “Commander of the Eighth.”
Delron extends a hand for Emil to shake. “I knew your old man. You’ll hear that a lot around here.”
Emil: Emil shakes the commander’s hand and replies, “Well, he was a good man, Commander, hard to forget.” Once their handshake breaks, he reaches out for the lieutenant’s.
GM: “Normally the superintendent shows up when one of ours is in the hospital. He’s been a little busy lately, so you’ll have to make do with me,” Delron says with a self-depreciating smile as the other two men pump hands.
“How you holding up, Emil?” Baron asks.
Emil: “Oh, I’m doing fine. It’s nothing too bad, just a bit of a bruise… and a stroke,” he mentions offhandedly. “But there’s some fine people here taking good care of me. So I’m all right. I assume everything is going well at the station?”
GM: “Yeah, the docs mentioned that,” Baron says with a frown at Emil’s first statement. “Explains you dropping out, I guess. Couple hotheads thought the girls did something to you.”
Delron gives a not-quite warm smile at the captain.‘s words. "We’re still cleaning that up."
Emil: “Well, the docs here say I got the bruise from falling after the stroke. But I remember pretty clearly getting myself stable before passing out. So I’m not exactly sure where the hit came from.”
GM: “Hitting your head can do funny things to your memory,” Baron shrugs. “You weren’t attacked by anyone, though. We’ve got that figured out.”
“Say, how’s the food been in this place?” Delron asks. His grin looks like he’s already sure of an answer.
Emil: “Well, it certainly motivates you to heal up quick, that’s for sure.” The conversation might be moving on, but Emil can’t help but worry about the fidelity of his memories. Furrows to form in his brow.
GM: “Take your time,” Delron says, hefting up a large O’Tolley’s bag.
Emil: “Oh, you are a saint of a commander, sir,” Emil says, his mouth watering at the sight of real food. He normally detests fast food, but this looks like mana from the heavens compared to the hospital’s slop.
GM: Baron reaches into the bag and tosses Emil a red box with a golden ‘O’ and picture of a burger printed on it. Delron sets a milkshake and carton of fries on his bedside table. Both cops dig into their own burgers.
“I’m more of a Du Monde man, most days,” Delron remarks between a thick- and greasy-sounding bite. “But there’s nothing like a good burger, sometimes.”
“They’ve got an O’Tolley’s right here downstairs,” Baron says between a thick munch of his own. “Don’t eat that slop they bring you again. And that’s an order, detective.”
Emil: “Oh, I wish I could, sir. I don’t think they will let me get out of bed, let alone order a burger.”
GM: Both older cops make guffawing noises past their food.
“When was it your mama took you away, Emil?” Baron asks, wiping his mouth. “From the city, that is.”
Emil: “Oh, that’s ancient history, sir. 22 years. 23 in a couple months.”
GM: “22. And you look… what, 30 now?” Baron takes an audible ‘glug’ from his milkshake. “So pretty young. And your mama lived with you in LA, right?”
“We do things different than California hippies here,” Delron grins. “If Earl’s boy wants Big O’s in his hospital bed, he gets Big O’s in his hospital bed.”
Emil: Emil savors the burger and lets the greasy flavors get to know each other in his mouth. He answers Baron once he finishes his swallow.
“29, actually. Well, y’all sure know how to make a man feel at home. Thank you for that.”
GM: “We take care of our own,” Baron states emphatically.
Delron snarfs down a few french fries. Flakes stick to his chin as he yells, “NURSE!”
“There’s a button you can push for that, sir,” Baron says.
“I could use the exercise. NURSE!!!” Delron bellows in a roaring voice that sounds like it could be quite audible over police sirens.
The nurse who silently attended to Emil walks in. Her blank expression changes as she looks over the cops.
“Emil here’s been pretty hungry the last few days,” remarks Delron.
“Does he need something?” the nurse asks uncertainly, looking between them.
“We should hire you as a detective with a brain like that,” says Baron. He takes a long pull of his milkshake. “Yes, he does. Some real food.”
“He’s eating,” says the woman, looking between Emil and the uniformed cops again.
“Well bless the brains on this one. Full merit pay for her,” remarks Delron. “Emil, what do you want for dinner?”
Emil: “Whatever you suggest, Commander. Add a fresh apple to that and I’m happy.”
GM: Delron waves a hand. “No, no, it’s your dinner, Emil. Besides, you should have that with your family.”
“You want a menu maybe, to help make up your mind?” asks Baron. “Fresh apple, though, that sounds like a healthy side.”
Emil: “Actually. You know, I think I’ll have some red beans and rice.”
It was Emil’s favorite meal as a child. His memories of that time have always been foggy, but he clearly remembers eating warm beans spoonful by spoonful. Each bite was cooked with love. His mother stopped making it after they left and he hasn’t had it since.
GM: “Beans and rice. You can take the boy outta the city, but you can’t take the city outta the man,” Delron says approvingly.
“Okay, I’m sure you’ve got patients to see to, Nurse…?” Baron asks.
“Green,” the woman replies.
“Nurse Green. Okay,” says Baron. “Since you’re smart enough to notice how Emil’s eating, I guess we don’t need to tell you he doesn’t need his dinner right now. Or that once it’s dinnertime, or whenever he’s feeling hungry, Emil’s getting red beans and rice. With an apple. That right?”
“All right,” says the nurse.
Emil: “I’d really appreciate it, ma’am,” Emil adds.
GM: “What about dessert?” asks Delron.
Emil: “A chocolate crepe with powdered sugar, if you wouldn’t mind, Nurse Green.”
GM: The nurse looks at the other two cops, who nod approvingly.
“Emil, when you’re out of here, I want you to stop by Du Monde for lunch with me. And then the Crepe Cart for dessert,” says Delron. “Man could kill for the crepes there.”
“That’s an order too,” smiles Baron.
Emil: “Now that’s an order I can follow,” Emil chuckles softly.
GM: “That’ll be all, Nurse Green. Unless you want a beer or something to drink too?” Delron asks Emil.
Emil: “No thank you, I’m all right.” He might have asked for a coffee, but that last cup of Folger’s left a bad taste in his mouth and he doubts the hospital can make anything better.
GM: “Just water to drink. That’ll be all, Nurse Green,” says Baron.
Nurse Green looks between the three cops, then leaves without a word.
“We do things different in New Orleans,” Baron declares, snarfing down another bite of Big O as he turns back to Emil.
“People respect cops here,” agrees Delron. He fishes out a box of Chicken O’Nuggets from the bag and chows down several. “Almost forgot, one for you too,” he says, plopping another box on Emil’s bedside table.
“Things are different here,” Baron repeats. “Like up north, I hear they call O’Nuggets O’Dribbles.”
“Do they? That’s funny,” says Delron.
“Yeah, and they’re Patty Kings instead of Big O’s.”
Delron takes another long slurp of milkshake and smacks his lips. “Why do they call ‘em O’Dribbles? Makes me want to lose my lunch.”
Baron shrugs. “Guess they do things weird up there.”
Emil: Emil eats a few nuggets as his superiors talk, then asks, “So, I was wondering if y’all knew what happened with that girl who took a fall? Is she all right?”
GM: “Ah yes, the girls from that night,” Delron nods. He slurps his milkshake again. “Did you have any idea who they were, Emil? The one you gave first aid, and the ones who called you?”
Emil: “No. They were just friends of my daughter. She was the one who called me in the first place.”
GM: “And your daughter goes to school at McGehee? Your wife must make all right money,” Baron says.
Emil: “Well, we never actually married, but she does live comfortably, yes.”
GM: “Did you figure that about the girls?” asks Delron.
Emil: “That they come from wealthy families? In the back of my mind, yes, but I was more focused on saving the girl than getting to know them.”
GM: “Thinking on the spot is what a detective does, Emil,” Baron says, tapping his head in emphasis. “Detectives are people we pay to think.”
“Now, as it happens,” Delron smiles amiably, “there’s been no harm done—this time. But when you had those girls write down statements, our boys figured you figured they were up to no good.”
Emil: “There was more blood on the floor than in that poor girl’s body. I did what I had to to keep those other girls busy. If they kept looking at the scene they might have been traumatized for good.”
GM: Delron simply goes on, “Our boys also figured they were up to no good, on account of you lying passed-out on your ass in the rain. The ambulance crew, who ID’d you as one of ours, didn’t make them feel any better. So they got a little… hotheaded, and arrested all the girls. Made ’em strip and spend a few hours in cells.”
Emil: “Oh God. What were the charges? Did they think those children knocked me out?” Emil asks, surprised. “Whose idea was it to arrest them?”
GM: Delron smiles again. “None of that was your fault. But the girls—and their families—were, for a few hours, up in arms over those arrests and written statements. They were scared out of their minds, like you said. Wrote down a jumble of ‘confessions’ they thought they’d get charged for.”
“Or not get charged for,” says Baron. “Lot of details between their stories that didn’t add up. Lot we coulda gone after them for.”
Emil: “Well, the statements were thrown out, right? Who was escalating the issue?”
GM: Both of the older cops look at one another. They’ve stopped eating.
“Who do you think, Emil?” Baron asks.
Emil: “Well I’d expect my fellow officers to be generally up in arms about one of their men getting hurt, so I guess a zealous officer looking to, quote on quote, punch up was likely leading the charge.”
GM: “No. Their families were escalating the issue,” says Baron.
“Rich families, with lawyers, who send their daughters to a place like McGehee,” Delron goes on.
Emil: “I meant escalating as in making it worse, not trying to diffuse it, but I understand.”
GM: “That does make it even worse,” says Baron, his eyes suddenly cool.
“They’re not sparing another thought for those statements now, of course,” Delron adds.
“But we are,” says Baron, tapping his head. “We’re the ones who get paid to think.”
Emil: “You’re right. I’m sorry I slept through most of this mess. I screwed up with the notepads. I apologize. Though if you tell me what is the current hurdle we have to face I’ll put my best efforts into finding a solution, I promise you.”
Emil keeps his voice level and his tone caring yet professional. He needs allies and can’t afford to lose the respect of his superiors. They need to trust him.
GM: “The hurdle is you, Emil,” Delron answers without blinking. “Not thinking. And not listening.”
“I think it’s better if you spend some time walking a beat after you’re discharged,” says Baron. “I’ll keep a spot saved for you on Homicide. We remember who your old man was.”
“But you need to learn the way things work, first,” says Delron. “How to walk before you run. How to walk a beat, like we both did.”
Emil: “I see…”
So he was the linchpin? The statements he made those girls write incriminated them. The other officers saw one of their own get hurt and rashly decided to blame the girls. All in all, it’s a relatively merciful punishment for the problems his actions caused. At the same time, he needs to stem the bleeding before this becomes permanent or damaging to his reputation.
“The chaos caused was my fault and understandably a predicament of this magnitude before I’d even started work would indicate that I’m a major risk factor,” Emil continues. “And so, you want me to learn the work culture before I make another egregious error in judgment. In most cases that would be an understandable decision.”
“However, I would first consider the reactions of my fellow officers. If they were so up in arms at me getting injured that they were willing to fight the most powerful people in this city, they might react even worse finding that once the issue was cleared up, the injured officer, their fellow man, took the fall instead of the powerful targets of their anger. And this time, their anger would likely be directed internally at their superiors. I do not want to cause any further chaos in the station, that would be spitting on my father’s legacy and I don’t think any of us want that.”
“Now, with that said, I do think I need to learn how things work around here, but I spent time on a beat in LA, I learned investigative techniques from my father for as far back as I can remember, and I have a college degree. I think if you kept an eye on me, taught me about ‘how things work here,’ my skills could be better put to use. Of course, you know more than I do about the situation and so obviously I will respect your final decision, it is my duty to do so.”
Emil waits patiently for his superiors’ final judgment, struggling to keep his hands from tensing.
GM: Delron’s many-chinned smile, so laid-back and self-content, suddenly has an edge as hard and pitiless as iron.
“Is that what you think of your fellow officers, Emil? Are you sure?”
Emil: “I respect those men and women very highly, I looked up to them as a kid and I have ever since. I don’t think poorly on them for acting on their emotion. We’re all only human. My fellow officers and I do not know the entire story about the situation. We shouldn’t know it, it’s not ours to know. But like you said, when a man sees his brother hurt, you can’t expect him to become anything but furious. With rightfully limited knowledge, it is dangerous to let anger fill in the blanks in their understanding. I am new to this family, and I don’t want to be responsible for tearing it apart. Please, sirs, I want to help our department thrive. Just let me.” Emil looks at the two men earnestly.
GM: The Eighth District commander’s answering words ring out as hard and unerring as a bullet to the brain.
“You walk a beat—or you walk out this hospital a civilian.”
Emil: Smackings of vengeance nibble at Emil’s hot throat, but he swallows them down like the rest of this hospital’s gunk.
“I understand. I’ll walk the beat, Commander. I will do my best to integrate into the system. I intended no offense to you or any of the officers. I hope my work ethic will help you forgive my mistake.”
GM: Delron’s smile is suddenly as warm, soft, and fat as the Chicken O’Nugget he pops into his mouth.
“Integrated. Now that’s a good word for how we like to do things. You ever think of working in the Public Relations Bureau?”
“Not a chance, sir, I’ve got a desk saved for this one!” Baron protests over a french fry-interspersed guffaw.
Emil: Emil resumes popping down O’Nuggets. He chews meticulously, twice every second, as a sort of fast food meditation to calm his nerves.
He notes after swallowing, “You know, I didn’t walk a beat for too long in LA, so I might need someone to show me the ropes so to speak.”
GM: “Your sarge and squadmates will show you how things are done,” says Baron.
“We’ll assign you to my district,” Delron adds over a loud milkshake slurp. “Don’t be fooled by the officer base salary. A reliable cop can make good money in the Eighth.”
Emil: “All right. I will not let you down, sir. Though I’m still wondering, how were my first aid skills? Who was that girl… is she alive?” Emil pops another O’Nugget.
GM: Baron nods over what’s left of his Big O. “She’s alive. You did good.”
“She’s to blame for most of what went down that night,” Delron says over the soft crunch of french fries. “She’s facing a laundry list of charges from vandalism to drug possession.”
“She’s in a coma right now. DA will throw the book at her when she wakes up,” adds Baron. He gives a faint smirk. “Too bad for her she’s ugly as sin. Real bulldyke.”
“Pretty girls can get off lighter,” Delron grins.
Emil: “I see. All of those girls with her were McGehee girls, was she? Is her family also powerful here?”
GM: Delron’s grin doesn’t slip at Emil’s question. “I guess you could say. But not powerful enough.”
Emil: “Clearly,” Emil grins right back at him, though deep down, he’s not so sure he should.
GM: “You’ll want to sign up for the French Quarter Response Force once you get out, by the way,” says Baron. “Pay is great. $50 an hour and restaurant gift cards whenever you arrest someone.”
Emil: “Thanks for the tip, sir,” Emil responds.
GM: “Nolan Moreno’s the man behind it,” Delron elaborates. “You’ll see him at the station pretty often. He’s a friend to NOPD.”
Emil: “Any friend of the department is a friend of mine,” Emil smiles.
GM: “It’s a nice gig,” Baron agrees. “You do it on your off hours. Carry around a phone, and when someone with Moreno’s app calls a cop, you swoop in.”
“Same job for a million times the base pay,” Delron says.
“My boys say they do a lot less paperwork, actually,” Baron adds.
“Well wouldn’t you know it, I suppose they must. Bless Mr. Moreno,” Delron smiles.
Emil: “Bless him indeed. He blesses us so it’s only polite to return the favor,” Emil says, before savoring the taste of the last O’Nugget.
GM: There’s still an untouched chocolate milkshake left for Emil, but beyond that, the three cops have made fast work of the O’Tolley’s bag.
“Oh, say,” Delron says, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin, “my boys picked up some LSD on that girl you saved. You think she got the others to try any?”
Emil: “I doubt it, Commander. LSD is generally long-lasting. If they were given some, and none was found on them, then it follows that they must have used it. However, none of the girls, including the injured one, seemed to have their pupils dilated or were acting any more erratically than one might expect of them. Therefore they didn’t have any. Why do you ask, sir?” Emil gauges the man’s reaction as he slurps from his shake.
GM: “So I know which girls to arrest again, of course. It’s your word that’s gonna make all the difference, Emil,” Delron drawls.
He looks at Baron, then both cops guffaw.
“So you think the Savard girl was the only one on acid,” Baron says.
Delron burps into his fist and pats his belly. “That is funny. The other girls gave some crazy accounts I’d normally chalk up to being on acid.”
Emil: “Like what, sir?”
GM: Baron wipes his mouth with a napkin. “People say crazy things when they see someone die. Or almost die, I guess. Girls especially. Stress gets to their heads. Doesn’t it, Emil?” he asks.
Emil: “It does. To be honest, I’ve always been curious about how people think in those states. What does a human think about when their minds are stripped bare, when all that’s left is their instincts? If you don’t mind sharing, I’d like to hear.”
GM: The two cops trade looks with one another.
“I do mind, Emil. And you need to get your head in order,” says Delron, a trace of that earlier iron edging back into his voice.
Emil: Emil nods. “My bad, Commander, you’re right. My head’s still somewhat foggy. I need to rest up.”
GM: “That’s right, you did hit your head,” Baron remarks.
“Yeah, that must be what’s making you say insane things,” Delron smiles. “Same for the girls. Probably just stress. And being teen girls.”
The overweight police commander leans closer.
“But let’s not have any more crazy things getting said around you, Emil. Or by you. Unless the witnesses really are on acid.”
Emil: “Yes, sir.”
Emil can’t say he didn’t expect this from the NOPD, but the image of the honorable New Orleans police officer that his father exemplified appears to have blinded him to the dirt that lay all around him. Nevertheless, he has his orders.
“It’s clear my understanding of these events is pretty fogged over, so I would appreciate an official refresher once I’m discharged.” Emil looks to them, resolute and obedient.
GM: “This’ll all be taken care of once you’re feeling better,” Baron says, casually stuffing away wrappers and empty containers into the O’Tolley’s bag. “Water under the bridge, Emil. Water under the bridge. You’ll have other things to keep your mind busy.”
“My nephew, Ricky, is a plainclothes in the Quarter. He’ll show you how to fit in.” Delron smiles as he stands up. “And I’ll still expect you for that lunch at Du Monde. My treat for Earl’s boy.”
“You want anything else while you’re here?” asks Baron, also rising from his seat. “Phone, better TV, that kinda stuff?”
Delron grins. “Yeah, or visitors. Maybe some company that’s less ugly than us?”
Emil: “Oh don’t be so hard on yourself, Commander, a spot of real food and human interaction does wonders for one’s comfort. I’m not sure if my family called you, but if you can reach them, tell ‘em I miss them and I’d like to see them.” Emil’s smile falters slightly before fixing itself.
GM: “Oh, you haven’t seen them?” asks Baron, almost offended. “Say no more, Emil. They’ll be in soon.”
“Same with that other company,” grins Delron. “We won’t tell your wife. Ex-wife, whatever.”
Emil: Emil grins with him, he has to dive in if he’s gonna succeed in this city. That’s fine, though, he might still be able to get out of this.
“Well hopefully they won’t arrive at the same time,” he laughs.
GM: “A man can dream,” Baron replies with a wide grin of his own.
“But don’t you worry about that, Emil. We know how to sweep stuff like that under the rug too.”
Emil: He doesn’t doubt they do.
Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015
GM: It’s perhaps telling which visitor NOPD is able to arrange first.
The woman who strides through Emil’s door is tall, lithe, and has a ready smile that invites approach. She has a heavily made-up face, long black hair, and tight clothes that are just proper enough for the hospital setting while teasing viewers over at what lies beneath. Emil can make out tattoos of stars and thorny roses along her arm and neck.
“I heard about the brave cop injured in the line of duty,” she murmurs as she sets down her purse and slides onto Emil’s bed.
“My name’s Chardonnay.”
Emil: “That’s a nice name, Miss. A good chardonnay on a rainy day will cheer up any man,” Emil smiles.
GM: “It’s because I have a taste for the finer things in life,” Chardonnay smiles back, her eyes roaming over Emil’s body… and lingering over one piece of his anatomy in particular.
Emil: “Do you mind chatting for a bit with me? I won’t bite,” Emil responds calmly.
GM: “Not at all… though I can’t promise I won’t,” the woman answers with a wink, lying down on the bed and drawing up close to Emil. She tilts her head and leans it against her closed fist so he can get a full look at her smile.
Emil: “Tell me, Chardonnay, are you an independent contractor? Or is there someone I should call if I’d like to see you again?” Emil stares into the woman’s eyes with false warmth.
GM: Chardonnay laughs and strokes Emil’s arm. “I work for no one but me. That’s called an ‘outlaw.’”
Emil: “That’s nice. An outlaw called Chardonnay coming to visit an injured police officer. Would be the start of a nice story.”
GM: Chardonnay laughs again. “It would be, wouldn’t it? All she needs is a heart of gold, and some tragic figure from his past to have torn out his…”
Emil: “It would. Certainly. An instant classic.”
Emil locks eyes with the woman. He’s reached the line. The edge of the cliff. He looks over the precipice and finds only the unknown. He has no clue whether he’ll be able to climb back up again. All he knows is that he wants to find what lies behind the darkness, below the ocean, in the belly of the beast.
GM: Chardonny doesn’t pull back Emil’s blanket so much as pluck it off. She smiles and licks her lips as her lithe fingers start to tease the injured cop’s hardening manhood.
“Well, I sure do love my classics…”