The voice on the other end of the line is deep and has a thick very authentic Brooklyn, New York accent. “Hi, Kevin, ” I say. and he booms back in his inimitable fashion, “Pete! How Ya doing?”
How long has it been? Five years? Ten years? More? I am not sure. But, really, no time has passed. We are together by phone, and nothing has separated us. He mentions the time we arrested John Yancy, a black dope peddler, in Harlem one cool evening, and he carried him down several flights of stairs, dumping him in the back of the car, and, as an ominous crowd gathers, urges me to “Get the hell outta here!” That was back in the late ’60’s when cops were getting shot not too far away, and two white guys “kidnapping” one black guy did not look like something which should be done without a battalion of black clad troops and a few tanks. But, what did we know?
I remember the sunny afternoon on First Avenue when he clotheslined some guy running away from us and I, chasing him, stepped on his head just as he hit the ground. Someone else scooped him from the street, threw him into the car just pulling up, and we all piled in on top, driving off while the well dressed folks stopped and gaped, trying to figure out what had just happened to their world. It took about ten seconds, after we’d been watching and waiting for about two hours.
Today, they’d have roped off Midtown and evacuated all the people. helicopters would be all over the place, sirens day and night, searchlights, stun grenades, smoke bombs. After a day or so the guy would give up, and MSNBC would break down the set and go off somewhere else for continuous coverage of another disaster, catastrophe, chariot race or what all.
What did we know?
“Where are you? What are you doing, now,” I ask. He’s down in Georgia, Brunswick, GA, to be exact, the only Catholic surrounded by Baptists for miles around. “I gotta be careful on Sunday, Pete,” he says. “I gotta be careful going out to mow the lawn and have a beer. All them eyes on me.” I give him the name of another fellow, another Irishman, another Catholic who has to be careful in the same way down there, and tell him to get in touch. This guy is from Indiana, a Bobby Knight fan, an old prosecutor. They’ll get along I say to myself.
This guy got his picture on the cover of some magazine years ago after he made a big deal case. His boss was on the cover, too, which is strange because his boss didn’t think the case was the right kind of thing to spend time on. Matter of fact, no one but him and one lone guy in the IRS wanted the case made. Until it was made. Then the defendant pays a $500,000.00 fine from their petty change account, and walks out the door. See what I mean?
What did he know?
Then Kevin says something serious to me. “I was working for the Children’s Court, Pete. The judge down here was an ex-FBI agent. I couldn’t take it anymore. All these kids coming in raped by their uncles, their older brothers, and nobody’s doing a damn thing about it. You know?,” He says, “I wanted to grab a few of them and give them a beating. I had to leave. There was one girl who kept having kids, one a year. She gives them up for foster care, but makes a living out of the money she gets when she’s pregnant. And, no one does a thing about it. Don’t talk to me about foster care, either. That’s a racket, and no one cares.” As he talks I’m thinking about another guy I used to know in one of the sheriff’s offices up here in Cow Hampshire, from some place like Alabama originally; another good guy.
The first time I meet him is in this big office in the new county courthouse, not too far from the county jail, and he’s surrounded by boxes and boxes of smut; evidence in a case against a guy who…; well I’ll leave all that alone. He tells me that his office sees this kind of stuff more than anything else. He’s sick of it and wishes he could get lost in a nice murder case, or some boat owner smuggling dope in from a mother ship off the coast. But, there’s only one other detective in the whole department.
Back in the present, I’m listening to Kevin going on about life down South; about him and his wife Judy, and his little dog; about how he goes for walks along the beach, and talks to the folks he meets, and nets shrimp from the shore. “Pete, they’re the biggest juiciest shrimp you ever ate! They’re great!”, he rumbles.
I’m smiling as he says goodbye, and we promise to call and stay in touch, and love each other forever. I have a picture in my mind of Kevin about forty years ago in the middle of some street in Brooklyn where we spent four days and nights back then waiting for a shipment of heroin from Spain to leave the dock so we could follow it and arrest the rats who smuggled the stuff here. There’s Kevin in the morning. It’s early, and it’s cool and the sun is bright, the sky is blue and clear. He has a football in his big hand, and the rest of us are down the street.
What did we know?