Authors: Cylin Busby
“You’re going to help me study, rookie,” Don told me as we went out to the car. “Maybe you’ll learn something yourself.” He handed me the books he was using to study for his sergeant’s exam and off we went in the line captain’s unmarked Ford to save the residents of Falmouth from the party-loving tourists. It was
only 6:30 p.m., parties wouldn’t get going until 11:00 or later, so Don drove and I read question after question. He got them right for the most part. The only answer I remember still is that you can’t have a battery without an assault. I must have been a pretty good instructor; Don passed the exam a couple of months later.
As the night wore on, calls began coming over the radio, and wonder of wonders, I began to understand some of them. It was also my job to write our calls in the logbook kept in the car. Time in, complaint, location, finding, action taken. About nine o’clock, Don heard a call that I didn’t totally follow. He put me out at Maravista Avenue, southern end, telling me to divert traffic from entering. So I directed cars away, responding to questions with the answer that there had been an accident, but really I didn’t know more than that. About midnight, Don comes back to pick me up. By then, I’d waved my arms to exhaustion trying to imitate traffic cops I’d seen in the movies and on TV. Seems two people on a motorcycle had been killed up the street—that was the radio call I hadn’t understood.
We headed down to the Pizza Shack, where Don knew some guys in the kitchen, who gave us pepperoni slices. By 4:00 a.m., we had been to a few noise complaints, but all were unfounded. In any event, I got a chance to watch how Don approached a house, talked to people, and took action like the authority law figure that he was. By the night’s end, I was feeling a lot better about the job. I’d be spending at least another month with Don, a good guy and experienced cop. Maybe things wouldn’t be so bad after all.
And so there I was, nine years later, in a hospital room with all kinds of tubes and machines keeping me alive. And it was Sergeant Don Price, along with a Falmouth police detective named Leno and another cop whose name I didn’t catch, asking me questions about the vehicle the shooter was in. I wrote out my answers for them, everything I could remember about the car, type, and color.
I wrote them a note telling them I’d had a run-in with Raymond Meyer shortly before this—and was supposed to go to court to testify against his brother, James Meyer. Had either of them been questioned?
Leno told me that they were aware of that. “No one has seen Raymond Meyer since the shooting.”
“Maybe one of your guys already took care of him, if you know what I mean,” the other cop chimed in, and gave Don a knowing look. Cops looked out for cops. At least, that’s how it was supposed to be.
When they were done with their questions, I was so exhausted, I drifted off. When I came to again, there were more cops in my room. Paul Stone, Mitch Morgan, John Ayoub, and Jack Coughlin. Don was still there, and he was organizing the police security detail assigned to protect me. This was part of the police contract: any officer who was threatened was entitled to protection at the town’s expense. There would be two guys on duty at all times, twenty-four hours a day. Paul had been a tight end on the BU football team. Jack, a body builder. Both with
Hollywood good looks. I noticed that the nurses started coming by my room more often after the security detail kicked in.
As part of the security detail, anyone who wanted to visit me had to be cleared by the Falmouth Police Department first. This was not a major issue in the first few days, as most of my visitors were cops anyhow. I was visited by just about every officer in the department while in the intensive care unit. A lot of the guys made the trip all the way to Boston just to donate blood, even if they weren’t my blood type, even if I couldn’t see visitors because I was still in surgery. The only notable absences were two cops who I knew were tight with Meyer: Larry Mitchell and Arthur Monteiro. The fact that they didn’t show their faces made me more certain that it was Meyer who wanted me dead, if there had ever been any doubt. And of course there was the rather glaring absence of our chief of police, John Ferreira, who was kind enough, when he heard I might survive, to send me an insurance form that I’d have to fill out pronto or the medical bills were mine. In all the weeks that I would later spend in the hospital, he never once made the trip to Mass General. In fact, I don’t think he even sent a card.
WHEN we got to Natick and Uncle Joe’s house, it was the middle of the day on Saturday. Lauren and Cassie were there with Aunt Kate. They were all in their bathing suits and had already been in the pool. “Where’s Mom?” I asked.
“She’s at the hospital with your dad,” Aunt Kate told us. “Why don’t you change into your swimsuit and come outside?”
I went upstairs to Lauren’s room, and Eric and Shawn used Cassie’s room. After I had changed into my blue one-piece, I sat on the floor by Lauren’s bookshelf for a minute to check out her Nancy Drew collection and see if she had gotten any new ones since the last time I’d been over. There was one with a cool-looking cover called
The Secret of the Old Clock
that I hadn’t read. I wondered if she would let me borrow it.
“Cylin?” I heard my aunt calling me from downstairs. I put
the book back in its place—Lauren didn’t like anyone touching her stuff—and went down to join them all by the pool.
My aunt was in the kitchen, fixing lunch for us. I watched as she cut the sandwiches and put each one on a plate. From outside, I could hear Eric and Shawn already in the pool with my cousins, screaming and laughing and splashing. I looked at Aunt Kate’s face while she focused on lunch. She was tall and blond and very pretty. I liked just looking at her. I waited for her to say something to me, about my dad or anything, but she didn’t. It felt funny to be at her house without Mom and Dad there. “Take these outside, okay?” she finally said, handing me the sandwiches.
The afternoon went by and before we knew it, Uncle Joe was back from the hospital. “Who wants hamburgers?” he said. We never got to have food like that over at their house. But tonight was special. “And after that, we have ice cream and jimmies,” Aunt Kate added—this was what they called sprinkles there. I was pretty excited. It sounded like we were having a party. Uncle Joe fired up the grill, and we ate hamburgers and potato chips out by the pool, our bathing suits still dripping wet. When it started to get dark, Aunt Kate got out the popcorn maker and we melted butter to put on top. “You guys can stay up tonight and watch
, okay?” Aunt Kate told us.
“Even Cassie?” Lauren asked. Cassie was only about six, so it would be pretty late for her.
“Everybody,” Aunt Kate said. So we all piled into the den and ate popcorn and watched
. I fell asleep somewhere in
the middle of
, which was probably a good thing, since the show sometimes scared me.
Eric and Shawn and I slept in our sleeping bags in Lauren and Cassie’s playroom, which Uncle Joe had built in the basement. It was a big room, about half the size of their house, and had a soft, shaggy blue carpet. This is where Lauren and Cassie kept most of their toys, and we spent hours in this room playing when we came to visit. That first night, Lauren and Cassie wanted to join the slumber party, but I could tell from the look on Aunt Kate’s face that she wasn’t too happy about it. “Go get your sleeping bags,” she said finally after Lauren and Cassie begged and whined.
I woke up late the next morning, and everyone was already upstairs. I went up and found Uncle Joe and Aunt Kate in the kitchen with Mom—it was the first time I’d seen her in two days. “There’s my girl,” she said, and I went over to sit on her lap. “You better brush this hair today,” she told me, pushing my long, tangled hair back from my face. It was all snarled from being in the pool yesterday and not brushing it out afterward. Without Mom there, I had forgotten to take care of it.
Mom looked tired and her eyes were red. “How’s Dad?” I asked.
“Your dad’s doing real good,” Uncle Joe said quickly.
“He had an operation. And he’s in a part of the hospital right now where kids aren’t allowed,” Mom explained. “But as soon as they move him, you guys can come visit, okay?”
I nodded and looked closely at Mom’s face. She was telling the truth. So he must be okay. “Is it like when he had his tonsils out?” I asked. My dad had to go in for surgery once a few years before, and I remember that he had to rest on the couch for a day or so afterward.
“Tonsils?” Uncle Joe asked, looking at Mom.
“Oh my God, I had forgotten all about that.” Mom laughed. “I’ll explain later,” she told Uncle Joe quietly.
“The kids are in the den watching cartoons,” Aunt Kate told me. “Why don’t you grab some cereal and go in there?”
I could tell they wanted to talk without me, so I got some Lucky Charms and went in to watch TV with my brothers and cousins.
“You guys remember when Dad had his tonsils out?” I asked my brothers.
Shawn snorted a laugh. “You’re such a retard; he was getting fixed. They just told you that.”
“What do you mean, ‘fixed’?” Cassie asked.
“It’s like when they cut a dog’s balls off,” Eric said, not taking his eyes off the TV screen, where superheroes were battling it out.
“Ewww, that’s gross.” Lauren made a face.
“Don’t you remember how dad had to sit on the couch with a bag of frozen peas between his legs?” Shawn asked me. I vaguely remembered, but I didn’t really know what he was talking about. I pretended that I didn’t care.
“Well, what about that time when Dad had that bump cut off his side and had stitches?” I asked them.
“Yeah,” Shawn said. “And he went and played handball the next day and tore the stitches out.”
“Mom was so mad,” Eric said.
“And when he came home, his shirt was all bloody,” I added. Seeing Dad covered in blood, I had been horrified and started crying. I was sure he was going to die, but it didn’t seem to bother him too much. Mom also wasn’t worried; instead she was pissed. “Just what the hell were you thinking?” she yelled at him when he got home.
“The stitches tore right after the first serve, so I figured I might as well just keep going,” Dad explained. “Gonna have to have them redone anyhow, right?”
Mom lifted his shirt to see the spot where he’d had a tumor removed two days before, beneath his right arm. As she lifted his arm, the incision opened and blood poured down his side and into the waist of his running shorts. It looked horrible. “You have to go to the hospital,” she said, wrapping a towel around his middle and pressing his arm down against it to hold it in place. It was decided that he would drive himself, since he really was fine. After he left, Mom took the bloody shirt and threw it into the sink, talking under her breath about how she had married a crazy man.
“Is Dad going to be okay?” I had asked her, sniffling back tears.
“He’s going to be fine, he just doesn’t think sometimes,” she said angrily. She lifted the bloody shirt from the sink and looked at it for a second. “Damn it, John!” she said to no one, and dropped the shirt into the kitchen garbage.
“What’d you throw my shirt out for?” Dad asked her a few days later.
She just shook her head. “You’re unbelievable,” she replied. But Dad was fine later, just like he knew he would be. Just like he said he would be.
“I remember that day,” Eric said, turning away from the cartoons for a second. “He was dripping blood all over the carpet in the living room.”
“You better stop being gross, or I’m telling my mom,” Lauren threatened.
“I’m just saying, Mom said he had an operation—like before, but that we can’t go see him yet,” I explained. I liked being the one in the know.
“Yeah, right,” Shawn mumbled sarcastically. Eric didn’t say anything. I felt like they were keeping a secret from me, so I decided to go and ask my mom. But when I went out to the kitchen, Aunt Kate was the only one there, and she was doing dishes.
I handed her my cereal bowl. “Where’d Mom go?” I asked.
“They went back to the hospital,” Aunt Kate said without looking at me. “Go get on your suit and go out to the pool.” I did as I was told, and we spent another
day swimming and eating all the junk food we wanted and staying up late. And then another day the same way. Mom was usually there in the early morning, but we never saw her at night. She was always wearing the same pair of jeans and always looked tired.
On Monday—Labor Day—I sat at the edge of pool with Lauren as we both dangled our feet in the deep end. We watched as Eric and Shawn did a competition to see who could do the most underwater somersaults without coming up for air. Shawn was winning.
“I heard my mom say that your dad is in a coma,” Lauren told me.
“What does that mean?” I asked her.
“It means that he’s almost dead but he’s not dead yet.” Lauren kicked her legs in the water, trying to splash big enough to hit Eric and Shawn, but they didn’t even notice. “After you’re in a coma, you always die,” Lauren explained.
I was getting pretty tired of Lauren thinking that she knew everything. I didn’t think Dad was in a coma, so she must be wrong. Even if he was, he wasn’t going to die. Not my dad.
I thought again about the day that he tore his stitches out and came home in a shirt drenched in blood. Even though things had looked really bad, he just went to the hospital for a few hours and then he came home. He healed up and had hardly any scar. That’s what would happen again this time. Lauren would be wrong.
BY my fourth day in the hospital, I was awake long enough at one point to notice that I was having trouble seeing. I couldn’t see the signs out in the hall without squinting, and I used to have better than 20/20 vision, so something was wrong. I wrote a note to one of the oral surgeons, and they sent someone up from the Eye and Ear Infirmary, who found glass fragments stuck in my eyes—probably from the second shotgun blast through the windshield. So Eye and Ear decided that I needed to visit their clinic, and my guards wheeled me down with all my IVs and tubes but without the breathing machine. (I was able to breathe through the trachea now for short periods without being hooked up all the time.)