Everyone's Park was filled with families, children, neighbors and friends. Some old, some new. Young and old alike, black, white, brown, tan. Grey hairs, no hairs, multi-colored hairs. Everyone was having a great time. It was a glorious day. It was what Jayson would have wanted.
Rita glanced around and couldn't find Chris. That was kind of odd, she thought, since he was the creator of this event, this picnic of sorts. The food was just about ready to be served and he was no where in sight. She started to walk over to where she thought she might find him.
Off in a small clearing was a statue of a small boy. It had a circular fence that ran around it, as well as a curved bench placed directly in front of the smiling, happy-playing child. She spotted Chris sitting with his elbows on his knees, his head hanging down as if he were deep in prayer.
She quietly walked over and stood momentarily in silence next to the bench. Chris didn't notice that she had come up. "So, do you like golf?" Rita asked him.
His head swung up and his eyes were filled with tears. "I almost forgot about that line," he said. He started to smile at her, but it quickly faded from his face. He put his head back down.
"I thought I'd find you here," she said moving closer and rubbing his back, remembering how hard this particular day was for him, even after all this time.
"Yeah," he said softly, his head still down, "you know me pretty well after all these years, Sam," he added.
"You know you're missing the best part of this picnic," she began with a smile, "the food!"
He took a deep breath, "I know but I had to come over here," he said, "alone, at least for a little while, to keep my promise," he said still making no eye contact with her.
"I knew that too. Diana's gonna save us both something," she said.
"Thanks Sam," he said finally glancing up at her.
"You know, I think about him a lot too," she said nodding toward the statue. "I kind of think of him as our guardian angel. He did sort of introduce us to each other, " she began.
"I guess something good came out of it all then, huh?" he said turning away from her to look at the statue himself.
"Can you remember us back then?" she laughed, "I was so by the book, it's a wonder I survived," Rita said shaking her head in amusement.
"No, it's cuz you're by the book that you have survived. You're a good cop Rita," Chris interrupted.
"I had six months under my belt, so to speak," she said, "one more week till I wasn't considered a rookie anymore. And you, it was your first day. I actually saw you come into the station that morning. You wore your uniform in, instead of carrying it in and changing in the locker room like everyone else. That's how I knew it was your first day," she laughed, "I did the same thing on mine."
"I had a lot to learn that day," Chris said sadly.
"We all did Chris, we all did," Rita added.
Chris got up and walked to the edge of the fence. "He would have been seventeen this year. Can you believe it? You know a part of me hates coming back here every year."
"Then why do you?" she asked.
"I guess the other part of me sees things changing and coming back here, even though it's hard, it's just something I gotta do, for him. And to make sure it never happens again, not while I'm around," he explained. "Not in this park, anyway."
"Well, that sounds very mentally healthy to me," she said.
He turned around and smiled at her, "then why am I standing here by myself?"
"I'm here too!" she said.
He walked over to her and grabbed her hand in his and raised it up to his lips and placed a tender kiss on it. "I knew you were gonna be a great cop after that day," he said, his mood brightening a little.
"Tell me what it was like for you, your first day, Officer Lorenzo," she said reaching out and cupping his chin and cheek. They both sat down on the bench.
He smiled. "It was crazy, hectic, it was a rush, I remember," he started fondly recalling. "I was so nervous and scared. I'd been out on ride-a-longs with other officers for about a month up and down the coast, but this was the real thing. My adrenaline was working on overload from the minute I woke up that morning. I think it was the first and only time I've ever gotten to work on time," he said letting out a 'ha.'
"You looked so uptight in the parking lot, I remember," Rita started, "but I noticed you and that silly grin of yours right away."
"I'd like to say that I noticed you right off too, but I believe I was too busy being scared to think or to see anything or anyone," he replied.
"That's ok, I had gone through the same thing six months earlier, remember?" she asked.
"I was riding with Carl Davis that day. Roll call indicated some possible gang activity, but nothing that was serious or out of the ordinary. In fact, the morning was pretty quiet. We had one roll. Some woman's cat was in a tree. Carl wouldn't let me get it down. He said, 'Chris, how many cat skeleton's have you seen in tree's?' Of course I had never seen one. Then he said, 'cuz they come down by themselves, the same way they get up there.' Said it wasn't worth risking injury to myself. He made a lot of sense. I learned a lot from Carl that day," Chris said.
Rita smiled. "I didn't know Carl very well, but I heard a lot of good things about him."
"And you, you lucky thing, you and Peter Simmons," Chris began.
"Ughh, don't remind me. But he was a good cop," she said in his defense.
"Yeah, when you could stand down wind from him. Did he retire wearing the same shirt?" Chris asked.
"Probably, he wore it every day, oh did he smell bad. The car..." her voice trailed off.
"Stop, I don't need to hear anymore, I believe you," Chris said holding up his hands.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, then Rita began to speak again.
"This was a great idea you had, the annual picnic and the scholarship fund," she said, "and renaming the park."
"I think someone else would have come up with it if I hadn't," he offered.
"Don't sell yourself so short. Most people just don't care. You took a hopeless situation, a tragedy and turned it into something positive," Rita said.
"It's not just me Sam, I just had the idea. It takes all of us to pull it off every year," he said glancing back toward the people.
"Hopefully now, they'll all think about him first and what violence can do," she said looking at the statue. "How killing is no answer to a problem," she said.
"I think Jayson would have liked this," Chris said.
"I'm sure of it," she answered.
"I spotted him hiding over there," he pointed to a playground area, not too far from where they were. A group of children now was playing and laughing on the equipment. "He was inside that play tube. I was over on the other side of the park. He was the only one there, I saw the movement. Carl wanted to head the other way and he wanted me to follow him."
(OK READERS......USE YOUR IMAGINATIONS.....WAVY PICTUREDEFOCUS.....FLASHBACK SEQUENCE......PICTURE FOCUSES/CLEARS.....IT'S TENYEARS EARLIER)
"Chris follow me, I hear some action over this way," Carl called out to Chris who stood looking at the playground area.
"I think I spotted someone in the park," Chris replied, still searching.
"We've got people over there, I think. You need to come with me," Carl said again.
Chris scanned the playground for another unit. He didn't see anyone. But he did see the child crawling in the play tube. "Carl, it's a kid and I don't see another unit in the area."
Carl's eyes drifted around the playground now. He also saw the child and saw Chris moving toward the child. He grabbed his arm, "Wait a second, let's think this through."
"There's a kid out there Carl," Chris said hotly.
"Yeah, I know, but I don't want a dead kid and a dead partner, so just hold up and let's figure out a plan," Carl said still holding Chris by the arm.
Chris nodded his agreement, "You're right, what should we do?"
Carl surveyed the area. Chris mimicked his movement. Neither one spotted anyone in the immediate vicinity. At least no one was out in the open. No gunfire could be heard in the area either. Carl quickly calculated the distance to the child by using various obstacles, such as trees, bushes and other playground equipment. "Ok, this is what we'll do," Carl began. "You hit that tree and I'll cover you, wait for me and cover me, then we'll go to that bush the same way, follow this line all right," he said motioning to the direction he wanted Chris to envision. Chris nodded his understanding.
In the meantime, Rita and Peter Simmons were moving in from the other direction. Some light gunfire could be heard off in the distance. All the officers were wearing full riot gear, vests, helmets and face shields.
Coming from the two opposite sides of the park were members of the Vice Lords and Crypts, two rival gangs that were bent on killing over this park and who they thought it belonged to.
Rita was the first to notice three of the Vice Lords coming into the playground area, while Peter spotted two Crypt members entering from the other direction. No one had seen Chris, Carl or the little boy.
Chris now had reached the third obstacle, a shrub. He still had two spots to get past to get to the frightened child. The little boy was crawling back and forth inside the tube, hearing the shouting and the shots that echoed in the park. Chris could hear him crying. Carl now ran up beside Chris. It was time to move to the next spot. Before he could, one of the Vice Lords began opening fire on the two Crypts. They were approaching the playground area.
Chris and Carl saw all the commotion. Carl aimed and hit one of the Vice Lords in the leg, sending him sprawling to the ground. The two other Vice Lords saw this and quickly headed toward their wounded comrade. Errant bullets flew high and low and Chris heard the boy screaming for help and for his mother. "Carl, I gotta get him," Chris implored.
Carl gave him an assured smile, "let's do it partner, I'll cover ya."
Chris focused on the boy in the tube. He stayed low to the ground, swinging his head to and fro, on the lookout for more shootings. He moved quickly. Carl covered him all the way.
(READERS....TAKE YOUR IMAGINATIONS ONE STEP FARTHER HERE.....WHILE YOUREAD THE NEXT SEQUENCE.....ENVISION IT IN SLO-MOTION)
The little boy got more frightened by the sound of shooting. He began to run out of the tube, covering his ears with his hands, tears streaming down his face.
Rita and Peter now were also in the thick of the action. They quickly began to give cover fire for the officer that was headed toward the child.
Chris started screaming as he now ran full out to the child. "GEEEEETTTTTT BAAAAAACK," he cried out. The little boy wasn't listening. He saw Chris and started running toward him though. It was too late. A bullet from one of the Crypt's hit the boy in the back. He stumbled at first, but continued to crawl to Chris, holding out one of his hands reaching up for Chris to help him, while the other clutched his stomach. Chris reached him on the run and scooped him up in his arms and ducked back inside the tube.
Carl, in the meantime, had turned and focused his attention on the two remaining Vice Lords, who he thought had fired on the child. He made sure that Chris was safe first, inside the tube. Carl called out to the two Vice Lords to freeze and throw down their weapons. Rita and Peter moved closer to back up Carl. One of the Vice Lords threw down his gun and surrendered. The other started shooting crazily at Carl, hitting him in the shoulder and leg. Rita came up from behind and cuffed the surrendered Vice Lord, while Peter came forward and held a gun on the Vice Lord that had shot Carl. He surrendered quietly with a gun aimed directly at his head.
(BACK TO REGULAR MOTION)
In the tube, Chris looked out both sides and saw that his partner had been hit. Carl was rolling on the ground in pain. Chris glanced down at the child he held in his arms. Blood was oozing from the child's chest, even through the pressure that Chris applied. The boy, however was still breathing and was still conscious. His large brown eyes were wide open, staring up at Chris, who now had removed his helmet and face shield in case the boy needed mouth to mouth. Chris began to talk to the child. "Hey buddy, you just hang on ok? I'll get you outta this all right, it's you and me now," he said giving the boy a smile. "I'm Chris, what's your name?"
The child barely blinked. Chris figured he was going into shock. He looked out again and saw his partner still on the ground. He felt helpless.
"Jayson," the boy answered barely audible.
Chris quickly looked back at the boy, "Jays, you keep talking to me ok, that's what you need to do, how old are ya?"
"Seven," the boy coughed and closed his eyes and winced in pain. Chris thought this might be the end, but Jayson opened his eyes back up again to stare at Chris. He also reached out and grabbed Chris' arm, in obvious pain. Chris could see it in his eyes.
He nodded at the boy, "It's ok Jayson, go ahead and squeeze all you want, you yell too if you want. You're gonna be ok, I promise, I'll get you outta here real soon, alright. Just hang on now ok. Stay awake and keep talking to me." Chris scanned the park for any kind of an opportunity to get the boy and his partner out of harms way and to a hospital.
Two more Vice Lords now entered the area along with the Crypts who were bearing down on Rita and Peter. Four more officers now headed into the area. More shooting started. Peter took a bullet in his arm and went down. The four officers quickly were joined by six more. Between them, the eleven standing officers quickly subdued both the remaining Vice Lords and Crypts.
Inside the tube, things were grim. The little boy was fading fast. Chris heard the shooting all around him. He knew he couldn't risk leaving. He knew he needed to think like a cop and not like an emotional, crazy man. He was trained for these kinds of situations, wasn't he? Just then Jayson started to speak to him, "Chris, I can't," he said starting to cry.
"Sure you can, I know you can, it's almost over now," he said soothing the boys forehead with his free hand. "We'll get you to the hospital and they'll fix you right up."
"No Chris, it hurts too bad," the boy coughed out, "I can't make it, you go ahead."
"I'm not going anywhere without you buddy, I promise," Chris responded giving the boy a kiss on the forehead.
"Why Chris, why did they shoot at me?" he asked.
"I don't know Jays, I don't know the answer to that one," Chris said.
"I don't know either, I just wanted to play here. It's everyone's park, right?" he asked.
Chris' eyes welled up with tears. "Yeah, it is everyone's park Jayson. It'll always be."
"Promise?" Jayson asked.
"I promise Jayson, I promise," Chris said as the tears slid down his face. He hastily brushed them aside. When he looked back down at Jayson, his eyes had closed. Chris checked his breathing. It had stopped. He began mouth to mouth right away.
As gang members were being hauled off, Rita called out to another officer to call for some ambulances. Two officers were hit, one was critical. Rita remembered the other cop and the child inside the play tube. She ran over to it and peered inside. She saw the cop giving mouth to mouth to the little boy. "The area is secure, do you need some help?" she asked him. "Are you hit?" Rita wondered, seeing all the blood.
Chris shook his head no in between giving the child his breath, "Ambulance?" he spit out.
"There's several on their way. Are you sure you don't want me to take over?" she asked again. Chris started sliding out of the tube, still cradling the child. He shook his head no again. He looked toward his partner and motioned to Rita. Several other officers were around him, giving first aid. "He's critical, he took a bullet in the shoulder and one in the leg. I heard someone say he lost a lot of blood." Ambulance's started rolling into the area. Rita stayed close to Chris and the child, in case he needed someone to take over. When the paramedics arrived, she went over to her own wounded partner.
Chris rode in the ambulance with the child. He finally gave up holding him to the paramedics who put him on oxygen and started an IV. At the hospital they wheeled him into an emergency room, not allowing Chris to enter. Behind him they brought in Carl and Peter. Chris never felt so alone in his life standing in the hospital corridor watching doctors and nurses hustling in and out, seeing strangers and friends faces in pain, agony and sadness. He collapsed against the wall in a crumpled heap, holding his head in his hands. Rita saw this, but at the moment followed Peter into the trauma room to make sure that he would be alright.
A nurse came up to Chris and asked him if he was ok. His vest, shirt and hands were covered with Jayson's blood. He looked up and her standing over him, "yeah," he said, "I'm ok, it's the child's," he added glancing at his appearance, "how is he?"
"He didn't make it, Officer, the bullet lodged in his heart, it's a wonder he didn't die instantly," she said, "I'm sorry," she added.
Chris' mouth dropped open and he started to cry. The nurse reached down and started to help him up off the floor. Chris quickly tried to compose himself. "My partner," he sniffled, "Carl Davis, can I see him?"
"Let me check," she said helping him sit in a chair, "just wait here a second."
He watched her walk over to the nurses station and saw her talk to another nurse. A doctor came by and joined in on the conversation. The doctor nodded affirmatively. Then the first nurse came back over to Chris. "You can see him, but only for a minute, they're going to take him upto surgery, follow me," she said.
Chris took a deep breath as he went into the emergency room. By now Carl was hooked up to all kinds of machinery, wiring and tubing. Chris went closer to the gurney and slowly reached in for Carl's hand. As he grabbed it, Carl's eyes opened to see Chris. Chris didn't know what to say so he just stood in silence. Carl noticed this and began to speak for him. "I know what you're thinking kid and I'm telling you to stop. Right now, ok? You did everything by the book, just what I would have done or what anyone would have done. So stop second guessing." Chris shook his head and put his head down, turning it away. Carl grabbed his hand tighter forcing Chris to look back at him. "This happens kid, remember that, but that's why we're cops. I know the little boy didn't make it. But you did you're best right?" Chris slightly nodded and wiped a tear that was forming in his eye. "Yeah, I know you did. You would have saved all of us if I'd have let ya," he laughed. Carl got serious. "Don't let it eat you up Chris, you're too good to let this beat you. You hear me? Always remember today, but move on ok, promise me?" Chris nodded. "Let me hear you say it, I promise," Carl asked.
Chris cleared his throat, "I promise, Carl, I promise."
"Alright, good, now get outta here and let these doctors fix me up, ok?" Carl said gruffly
Chris walked out of the room and again found himself in the center of the crazy hospital corridor. He looked both ways, not knowing where to go or what exactly to do. Rita was sitting outside of the next room waiting for him. She stood up and walked over to him. "Officer Lorenzo?" she asked.
Chris turned around a little surprised when he heard his name. "Yeah," he answered spotting the familiar female cop.
"Officer Lance," she said sticking out her hand. He took it and shook it. "You can call me Rita," she added.
"Chris," he replied still scanning the corridor for something, he didn't know what exactly. He felt so alone.
"I, uh, um, I talked with Sergeant Roland, he said we're both off duty, we can go," she started. "I've got my squad here, I can give you a ride?"
"That'd be great, thanks," he said following her down the hall.
Rita didn't know what to say to him. She knew the child had died and that his partner was listed in critical condition. They walked to the parking lot in silence. She started driving in silence. She finally decided to completely change the subject, maybe get him talking about something else, take his mind off of the day. "So, do you like golf?" she asked.
He turned and looked at her strangely, "come again?" he asked.
"Do you like golf?" she asked again.
"You mean like Slammin' Sammy Snead, golf?" he asked.
"Exactly!" she said with the warmest smile he thought he'd ever seen. "He is, THE, greatest golfer of all time," she added. He shook his head in disbelief. "What?" she asked looking at him, "don't you agree?"
"No, it's not that," he said waving his hand. "I mean, yeah, Sammy's the best, but" he began.
"Well what then?" she asked flashing that smile of hers again.
"Well," he started with a laugh, "you know that the word golf has another meaning?"
"Oh yeah, and what would that be?" she asked acting as if she didn't know.
"Uh, let's see, how can I say this? I guess you could say that it's a pick-up line of sorts," he tried to explain.
"Really?" she said pulling into a parking space and turning to grin at him. "I never knew that," she kidded and added, "don't even think about it Sam! For now, we're only friends, deal?"
"Sam?" he questioned with a laugh. "Yeah, it's a deal, Sammy," he called her in return.
They spent the rest of the night together, eating dinner, talking, watching old movies and quickly becoming life-long friends.
(BACK TO THE PRESENT...FLASHBACK IS OVER.... SHOT DEFOCUSES...CLEARS TOCHRIS AND RITA AT THE PARK)
"You've been there from the beginning Sammy," Chris began seriously. "I made three promises that day. I promised Jayson that this would always be Everyone's Park, I promised Carl that I'd remember, but I'd move on and not let it beat me and I made a promise to myself. I think I've kept them all."
"I know about the ones to Jayson and Carl, but what's the third one?"
"I promised that I'd keep you as my best friend, forever. You really saved me that night. You brought me back to life then. I'll never forget that. God, I love you," he said reaching in for a tender kiss, "I promised myself I always would."
The End August 1998
Thanks once again goes out to Lisa & Linda for posting my story.
Alright readers....this was something a little shorter (ok a lot shorter) and a bit different. Whattaya all think? If you got the time....drop me a line and let me know. I can take the good and the bad (I think!)
Thanks to everyone who has enlightened me and brightened up some days for me by commenting. Standard yada...Chris, Rita and Diana belong to Stooooie and Stephy and of course the USA
Network. I don't mean to infringe upon anyone.....how could I even considering infringing on these lovely characters? (Ok, maybe I'd infringe on Chris)
Carl, Peter, Jayson and Sergeant Roland and the nameless nurse are all my creations. Hope you enjoyed them.
Write to me at email@example.com