Nothing To Do
By Monday morning, I was sitting up, I was feeling almost a hundred percent, and I was anxious to get out of the hospital. I was even more anxious to go upstairs to visit Kate. I wondered if I could sneak upstairs to see her, but I knew that if I wasn't in bed when the nurse came in, they'd be worried, so I stayed put.
The nurse arrived before breakfast. "How are you feeling, Tony?"
"Antsy. I want to get out of here."
"What, you don't like us?" She pouted playfully.
"No, it's not that..."
She laughed. "I know. Being in the hospital sucks, doesn't it?"
She put the thermometer into my mouth and put the blood pressure cuff around my arm. She checked my blood pressure, then pulled the thermometer out of my mouth. "Sorry to tell you this, you're normal. Blood pressure is good, temperature's right at 98.6, you're just about ready to go home."
"Do you think I could visit my girlfriend before I go?"
"I think you'll need to ask the doctor that. I'm not the one to release you. He should be around in a little while." She patted me on the back. "I don't think he'll have any trouble with it."
She left just as the breakfast cart was arriving. Pancakes, sausage, orange juice, milk and green Jell-o. I laughed when I saw the Jell-o.
"Tony, how are you feeling today?" Dr. Weiss asked when he came in.
"Feeling great. I want to go home."
He smiled. "I'm sure you do. No one wants to spend too much time in the hospital. You could get sick in here. Let's have a look at you." He shined a light into my left eye, then into my right eye, and smiled. "Normal pupil activity, nothing seems out of balance. Can you stand up for me?" He had me touch my nose with my eyes closed, asked me if I felt dizzy, and seemed satisfied with the answers. "Well, I think we can let you out."
"Um, Doctor, would it be all right to see my girlfriend?"
"Girlfriend...refresh my memory..."
"Kate Molloy. She came in with me on Saturday night..."
"Right! Broken hip. She's upstairs in room 614. I was just up there before I came down to see you. She's doing well, and she was asking about you. Did you want to go up and see her?"
"Is it OK?"
"I don't see why not. Why don't you throw some clothes on and take a ride up there? It'd be good for you to move around a little bit before you go, just to be sure that you're doing all right."
Kate was lying in bed with her leg in a cast. There was a huge bouquet of roses on the bedside table. I knocked on the door, and she turned her head and smiled.
"Hey Tony! How are you? Come on in!" She waved me in.
"How are you doing?" I stood beside the bed and squeezed her hand.
"A lot better now that you're here. C'mere, let me give you a kiss." I bent down, and she put her arms around my neck and kissed me. I sat down and took her hand.
"Nice flowers," I said.
"They're from Rick," she said. It sounded like she wasn't particularly impressed. "So, how are you feeling?"
"A lot better. I heard that you had surgery for your hip."
"Yeah, they had to stick all the bones back together with pins. My father's really angry about all of this."
"I know. He came down to visit yesterday."
"Oh, no!" She made a face. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right. He was upset, and I don't blame him. I was pretty upset too. I met your mother. She seems really nice."
"She's OK." Kate smiled and nodded. "So, you're getting out today?"
"As soon as my sister can get here. She lives in Skokie, but she's at work this morning and can't get over until after lunch. She's going to drive me down to my mom's house."
"All the way out south?"
"Yeah. It doesn't take that long to get there. Maybe an hour and a half."
"That sounds like a long time to me. Will you be back soon?"
"Oh, yeah. I was going out there anyway to vote tomorrow. It's my first time."
"I'm jealous. I was looking forward to my first time to vote, too." She sighed. "Oh, well."
"I'll tell you what it was like when I see you next. I'll come on Wednesday."
"Good." She smiled. "I wanted to tell you how much fun I had the other night. That was a really neat place, and I liked playing Go. That's a fun game, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Probably more fun when you win." I rolled my eyes and acted hurt.
"You stinker." She swatted at me playfully, and giggled. "Maybe I'll let you win next time."
"Nah, then I'd know you let me."
There was a heavy knock at the door. My sister was standing in the doorway. "They told me I'd find you up here," she said. She looked different from the last time I had seen her. Her hair was cut shorter than mine and it was dyed brown. "You about ready to go? Vera's down in the car."
"Yeah, I just need to be released," I said. "Claire, this is Kate Molloy. Kate, this is my sister Claire."
"How do you do?" Kate said. "It's nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you, too. So, I'll meet you downstairs on four." She left the doorway and walked down the hall.
I stood up. "Well, I guess I've got to go. I'll come by on Wednesday and give you a call tomorrow, OK?"
"I'll be here." I leaned down and we kissed again, this time more slowly.
Someone cleared his throat at the door. Mr. Molloy was standing there when I looked up. "OK," I said, breaking off our kiss, "talk to you later."
"What's he doing here?" Mr. Molloy asked.
"He came by to say hello, Daddy. He's being released today. You've met Tony, haven't you?"
"Yeah, we met yesterday," he said. I walked to the door and he stood aside for me to leave. With a wave, I walked out and scurried down to the elevators.
Still, Nothing Makes Sense
They made me ride out of the hospital in a wheelchair, for some stupid reason. I tried to argue with them, but they insisted, and Claire finally told me, "Knock it off, Tony, you're not getting out of here unless you ride out. Sit in the chair and enjoy the ride."
A few minutes later, we were at the curb, and Vera, Claire's girlfriend, roared up in her black Electra 225, screeching to a halt in front of us. Suddenly I felt sick all over again, and prayed that I'd make it home all right.
"Tony, are you OK?" Claire said.
"I'm not sure. Maybe you guys could drop me off at the L."
"Not a chance, little brother," she said. She opened the passenger door and held the seat forward so that I could climb into the back seat. Vera, as usual, said nothing as I got comfortable. Once I was situated, Claire climbed into the front seat, and we sped off. A few minutes later we were on the Kennedy Expressway headed south. Vera had the radio tuned to "Newsradio 78", the all-news station, which was fine with me. The droning of the voices on the radio relaxed me and I closed my eyes.
"So, Tony," Claire said, "big day for you tomorrow, huh? Your first election?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess."
"You guess? Come on! The world is going to have to listen to you now, little brother. You can change the world."
"Oh, Claire, don't feed him that bullshit," Vera said.
They started arguing, and I spaced out again. I really didn't care that I could vote. Right now, I had other things on my mind. Like my conversation with Detective Johnson the day before. He had written down every word that I had told him, not only about the accident that put me in the hospital on Saturday, but about the two previous incidents, and the guy who had been following me, and my relationship with Rosalie. I think he thought that it was pretty incredible, a young guy like me involved with an older woman like her, and an undercover cop besides. He probably didn't believe me. I didn't blame him; I didn't believe me, either.
We passed the big Magikist sign. I always thought it was neat, these big lips rising up out of the industrial neighborhood we were passing through. My thoughts shifted to Rosalie. Was she going to forgive me for blowing her off yesterday? She seemed really upset when I turned away from her when she tried to kiss me, but I think I was well within my rights. There was something that she wasn't telling me, and now it had not only hurt me, it had hurt Kate. Badly. She was really lucky that she hadn't been killed. I was really lucky, too, come to think of it, not only that I hadn't been killed by the crazy driver, but that Kate's father didn't beat the shit out of me for what happened to her. I didn't like him; I knew that he beat on Kate and probably her mother and that he drank, probably a lot and probably every night. But that wasn't what was bothering me. When I asked Rosalie what was going on, it was as though she knew, but she wasn't telling me, and then she got all hurt and upset because I wouldn't kiss her goodbye. It didn't make any sense.
"You stupid son of a bitch! What are you tailgating me for?" Vera shouted at her rear view mirror. I sat up and looked out the back window, and saw a dark car following us too closely. He was so close that I couldn't see his front license plate. The windshield was darkened, so I couldn't see the driver, either. I was getting really scared. What if this guy was coming after us to finish the job on me? Why was he following so closely?
"For Christ's sake, Vera, you're doing less than the speed limit and you're in the middle lane. Move over," Claire said.
Vera sped up, pulling away from him a little bit, but then he sped up and was soon just as close as he had been. "OK, fine, mister, I'll move over," she said, and turned on her right blinker. Just as she was moving over, the guy behind us shifted over into the right lane. She swerved back into the middle lane and he came in behind her.
Now I was ready to shit my pants. I got down between the seats and lay down on the floor with my hands over my head.
"Tony, everything's going to be fine," Claire tried to assure me.
"I don't think so," I yelled.
"All right, you fucking idiot! Try to go through me!" Vera shouted, and slammed on the brakes. I felt the car swerve suddenly to the right, heard a cacaphony of car horns, but somehow, miraculously, we weren't hit. Instead, we slid onto the shoulder of the road and came to a sudden stop when we bumped against a cement wall.
"Damn it!" Vera shouted, slamming her fists down on the steering wheel. "Stupid son of a bitch! Doesn't he know that there's a gas shortage?"
Claire swatted Vera on the side of the head. "You could have gotten us killed! What the hell was that all about? I asked you to move over, but no, you had to stay in the lane and get the guy even more aggravated with us."
"He could have moved over," Vera said.
Vera whirled around and glared at me. "What do you want, junior?" she shouted.
"Did either of you get the license plate number of that car?"
"No, I didn't," Vera said. "I was just a little tied up trying to make sure that maniac wasn't going to kill us."
"Vera!" Claire said.
"Your brother is a pain in the ass."
"Tony, no, we didn't get the license plate number," Claire apologized. "Why do you ask?"
I was going to tell her the story, then thought better of it. "Never mind."
A couple of minutes later, a blue-and-white Chicago Police cruiser pulled up behind us, its blue lights flashing. Two officers, an older pot-bellied man and a young guy, got out and came toward the car. "Oh, great, the fucking cops are here," Vera said. She rolled down her window. "Yes, officer?"
The older cop leaned into the car and sniffed, probably for booze or grass. "Looks like you've had an accident."
"We have, officer," Claire said, ignoring Vera's glare. "Someone ran us off of the road."
"Are you three all right?" the younger officer asked. "Anyone need to go to the hospital?"
"I just got out of one," I complained. "I don't want to go back."
We got out of the car, and Vera examined the damage to the car. "I don't think I'm going to be able to drive it in this condition. Is it possible to get a tow?"
The cops arranged for a tow, took a preliminary statement, handed each of us a sheet to fill out and mail in, then asked us if we wanted a ride anywhere. Claire said that she'd stay with Vera and wait for the tow truck, and the cops turned to go.
"Could you guys take me to the L?" I asked.
"Sure, kid," the older cop said.
"Tony! Stay here with us. You just got out of the hospital..."
"And I'd like to stay out of the hospital, if you don't mind." I followed the cops to their squad car and got in the back seat. We pulled out into traffic and drove away, leaving my sister and her girlfriend on the side of the road.
They took me to the L station at Addison, and stopped. "Could you guys do me another favor?"
"Depends on what it is," the younger cop said, and smiled.
"Do either of you guys know a Detective Johnson?"
"I know about a dozen Detective Johnsons," the older cop said. "Is there one in particular?"
"Yes," I said. I pulled his card out and handed it to him.
"Out of Rogers Park," he said. "I don't know him personally. Did you want me to get in touch with him?"
"Yeah. Could you send him a copy of your report on the accident?"
"Sure, kid, not a problem. Any particular reason?"
I gave them a condensed version of my last seventy two hours. When I was done, they looked at each other, then back at me.
"Are you sure you don't want us to take you home?" the younger cop said finally.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I just wanted to let him know what's happened, and if you could tell him that I'll be at my mom's house tonight."
"No problem," the older officer said. He wrote down the information and handed me back the detective's card. "Now, you be careful, kid. Straight home, all right?"
"Thanks a lot," I said. I got out of the car and waved as I ran up the stairs to the train.
I got to Mom's house at about four, and went inside. Mom was sitting in the living room with Claire, Vera and Francis. "Anthony Joseph Reardon, you come in here this minute." It didn't sound good.
"What's up?" I asked.
"Where have you been?" she asked.
"I took the train home. I didn't know how long Vera and Claire were going to be, and I wanted to get home."
"I have been worried sick about you. No one knows where you are, you don't call, you don't let me know what's happened, I have no idea where you are...whatever possessed you to take the train home?"
"I didn't want to sit there and wait."
"Tony, you are not well..."
"Mom, I'm fine. I'm feeling much better now than I was the other night."
"That's not the point. You are supposed to relax. You can't be riding the trains and going through bad neighborhoods when you're supposed to relax."
"Yes, ma'am." There was no point in arguing with her. There was never any point in arguing with her. "Listen, I want to go take a shower, and I need cigarettes. Someone at the hospital took mine."
"They're in my purse," she said. "I didn't want you to have them while you were in the hospital. It's not good for you, you know. You probably shouldn't smoke while you're taking medication."
"Mom, the doctor didn't give me any medication. He just said to go home and relax, and to try not to get upset, which right now, I'm not doing a very good job of."
"Why are you getting upset?"
It took all of the strength that I had not to tell her. I took off my jacket and hung it in the hall closet, retrieved my cigarettes from her purse, and went upstairs to take a shower.
After my shower, I put on a pair of clean underwear and lay back on my bed. I lit a cigarette and relaxed. Dinner wouldn't be for another hour, and I was in no mood to join the rest of the family until then. I heard the phone ring, and didn't bother to move. A few seconds later, Mom shouted up the stairs. "Tony! Telephone!"
"I'll get it up here, Mom," I said. I went into her room, sat on the edge of the bed and picked up the extension. "Hello?"
"Tony, this is Ike Johnson."
"Detective Ike Johnson, Chicago Police Department."
"Oh, I'm sorry! How are you, Detective?"
"I'm fine. I heard you had another incident this afternoon on the Kennedy."
"Yeah. Some crazy driver tried to push us off the road."
"I have the preliminary report. Thank you for having them send it along. I wanted to ask you to send me a copy of your statement once you've had a chance to write it. You have the address, right?"
"Right. I still have your card. I'll take care of sending it to you. Anything else?"
"Yes, um, I was curious. This Rosalie Jakubauskas, when was the last time you saw her?"
"Sunday, at the hospital, around eleven. Why?"
"Well, we tried calling her at the phone number you gave us, and it's been disconnected. We went to 175 East Delaware, the Hancock Center, and the superintendent told us that the apartment number you gave us is vacant, and has been for some time. Are you sure that you gave us the right apartment number?"
"6703. I've been in there a couple of times...are you sure that it's vacant?"
"We asked him to let us in, and there's nothing in there."
"Nope. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"
I thought for a minute. "No." I thought some more. "Doesn't she work with you in the police department?"
"I asked around, and they knew of no one by that name. Can you tell me what she looked like?"
"Dark brown hair, brown eyes, a couple of inches shorter than me, nice figure."
"I'll check again. She might have given you an alias. When will you be back at school?"
"Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be back at the dorm."
"OK. Give me a call when you get back. That's all I need for now. I'll talk to you tomorrow."
I hung up the phone and went back to my room. I lit another cigarette and sat on my bed. I felt sick all of a sudden.
Nothing That A Few Beers Won't Cure
"Is everything all right, dear?" Mom said when I came down for dinner.
"Yeah, everything's fine. I'm just a little wiped out from everything that's been going on. What's for dinner?" I knew the answer, since I could smell everything cooking from upstairs, but I always liked to ask.
"Oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and neapolitan ice cream for dessert."
All my favorites. Mom was great at making you feel good when you were feeling crappy. And I didn't even have to peel the potatoes. "Wow, thanks, Mom."
"You're welcome, dear. Now, I want you to take it easy this evening, and tomorrow, if you don't feel up to getting up at the crack of dawn and voting, you can always hold off and do it later. The mornings are usually pretty busy, but after that, it's generally quiet. What time is your class tomorrow?"
"Ten. Maybe I'll sleep in a little bit. I don't want to miss much more class, and I've got to make up an exam that I missed today, so I'm going to try and catch Dr. Wilcox in his office. I think he has hours tomorrow."
Claire and Vera begged off on dinner, and said goodbye just as we were sitting down. Mom wasn't happy about it, but walked them out to their car, leaving Francis and I to start eating. I hadn't had anything since early that morning, and it hadn't stayed with me all that well. It was a struggle for us to leave anything for Mom, even though, as usual, she had cooked enough to feed a small army and didn't want any leftovers.
She came back in and sat down at the head of the table, muttering to herself. "What's up, Mom?" I asked.
"Nothing, it's just that, I mean, your sister knew that we were going to have dinner. I don't know why she had to wait until it was almost on the table before she and her...whatever Vera is decided to leave." I really didn't want to get into it with Mom, because I knew where it was going. Mom complained regularly about Claire's choice of lifestyle, choice of partner, and choice of where to live. But, with Mom, you pretend to listen until she runs out of gas, which didn't take very long most of the time. "I mean, really, it wouldn't have been that difficult for the two of them to sit here at the table with us..."
"They had a long way to go home, Mom. They live further north than I do, and besides, they're in a rental car."
"Yes, but still, it wouldn't take them any longer after dinner than before. They'd miss the rush hour traffic."
"Maybe they don't like chicken," Francis offered.
"Right!" I said. "Maybe they don't like chicken."
"Your sister loves chicken. How many years did she sit at this table with all of us and eat chicken with us?"
"Not as many for me as for Tony," Francis said. Mom gave him a look, and he went back to eating.
"Well, it's their choice," Mom said, signalling the end of this part of the discussion. "If they're happy, there's nothing that I can say or do to change their minds." She patted me on the wrist. "So, you're voting tomorrow for the first time! Are you excited?"
"Mm, not really." I might have been more excited about it, but I really didn't have any feelings one way or the other about any of the people running. I had seen the sample ballot in the newspaper while I was on the train, and had no idea who any of the people were, let alone who was better at representing my views.
"Now, that's surprising," she said. "Well, maybe not. I don't think that I was all that interested or excited the first time I could cast a ballot. But those were different times. Nowadays all you hear about is how important the youth vote is going to be in this election."
I hadn't heard anything about it, but then, I didn't watch a whole lot of TV. I just nodded and stuffed more chicken into my mouth.
"Who you gonna vote for, Tony?" Francis asked.
"Now, Francis, that's your brother's business," Mom scolded.
"I was just asking. Geez." Francis was genuinely hurt. He was my baby brother, and not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but sometimes Mom treated him like he was still in grammar school. Of course, sometimes he acted like he was still in grammar school, but that was beside the point.
"I haven't decided yet," I told him.
"The election's tomorrow and you haven't decided who you're going to vote for?" he exclaimed.
"Francis, dear, would you go get some more green beans from the kitchen?" Mom knew how to defuse the situation. He slid back his chair and took the bowl into the kitchen. When he had left, Mom turned to me. "Who called you earlier, Tony?"
"The detective who was working on my case. He had heard that I had been in another accident, and wanted to make sure that I was OK."
"That's nice of him," she said. "Tony, are you sure that you're doing all right? You've been acting strangely. Last Sunday, it was as though you were scared about something. Is everything all right at school?"
"Yeah, Mom, everything's all right at school, everything's...about as well as can be expected at work..."
"Has your manager taken a bath yet?" She made a face. "The time I was there, the smell from him was overpowering. Hasn't someone said something to him?" I shrugged. "I mean, how can someone be in a business where you're in contact with the public, and..."
"Let's not talk about Mr. Schwartz, OK?" It was bad enough that I had to deal with him on the weekends. I wasn't going to spend my time away from the job talking about him.
"See, honey, that's what I mean. You seem jumpy, irritable...I know that you're not feeling well after your accident, but this has been going on for a while. Did something happen between you and Kathleen?" It took a minute for the name to register. "Your girlfriend."
"Yes, the girl that you took out on Saturday night. Her mother called her Kathleen."
"No. I saw her this morning and she was doing a lot better. Her father is upset about what happened..."
"He's a drunk."
"Tony, the man reeked of rotgut booze, and was threatening the doctors. Kate's poor mother. She really has her hands full with him." She shifted gears again. "Well, if something's wrong, you can come to me. I hope you know that by now."
"I do, Mom. I love you."
"Oh, honey, I love you too." Francis came into the room with the green beans. "And Francis, I love you."
He set the bowl on the table and hugged my mother for several minutes. I think he was grateful to know that Mom loved him. I was, too. Everything was right with the world, at least for a few minutes.
We finished dinner, and had our ice cream in the living room while we watched TV. I fell sound asleep sometime during the first quarter of "Monday Night Football". When I woke up, I saw that Mom had put a blanket over me and turned the lights off. I knew that I should go upstairs to bed, but I was just too tired, so I took off my shoes and lay on the couch.
"Tony dear, time to get up," Mom said early the next morning.
"What time is it?" I asked.
"Quarter to seven."
"Oh, geez, it's late."
"You said you didn't need to be at school until ten."
"Yeah, but I wanted to be up a little earlier than this." I had planned on voting early, then riding up to the dorm and picking up my books before going to class. I wasn't going to have time now.
"I'm sorry, dear, but you do need your rest."
"That's true. It's OK, Mom. I'll live."
I had bacon and eggs for breakfast. Francis, as usual, went with Lucky Charms. Mom just had coffee and read the paper. I finished my breakfast and stood up. "OK, I'm off to vote."
"You're not going to go dressed in those clothes, are you?" Mom protested.
"Sure! Why not?"
"Tony, you slept in those clothes. People will look at you and know that. Go upstairs and change."
"Go upstairs and change. I washed your clothes from yesterday."
There was no point in arguing with her. There never was. "OK, I'll be down in a few minutes."
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I voted, then I rode the bus down to school, went to class and went back to the dorm. Eddie was sitting in the suite with some of the other guys arguing politics when I got in.
"Hey, he's back!" Eddie shouted when I returned. He stood up and put one of his big arms around my shoulders. "Lazarus has risen from the grave!" All the guys gave me some grief about not looking both ways when I crossed the street, and more than a couple of them wanted to know how I managed to land a date with Kate Molloy in the first place. I put off all of their inquiries until later (in the case of the questions about Kate, until much later), and went into my room.
Eddie had picked up my mail and tossed it on my bed. Along with the usual junk mail that I got, there was a heavy white envelope addressed to me, but with no stamp on it. It was written in peacock blue ink in the kind of writing that the nuns always tried to get you to copy from the penmanship book, but you never could match. Eddie came in just as I was looking at it. "That was under the door when I got in this afternoon."
"Who's it from?"
"Hey, I don't know. I didn't read it. How'm I supposed to know?" He started back out of the room. "We're going to dinner in a few minutes. Want to come with?"
"Yeah, wait up for me." He left, and I opened the envelope, pulled out the letter, and read it.
"I wanted to let you know that I won't be around for a while. I can't tell you where I'm going, or when or if I'll be back, and it's probably best that you didn't know, considering everything that's gone on lately for you. All I can say is that I want to come back, and that I'll want to see you when I do, and that I hope that you will want to see me, too.
"I want to apologize for what has been happening to you. I can't explain why it's happening, although I have my suspicions. Part of the reason that I'm going away is to see whether my suspicions are true. You should be safe while I'm gone. I know that you've spoken to the police, and that they're working to find out what's been happening as well. My investigation has nothing to do with theirs, and the less said to them about it, the better. In fact, please try not to talk about me to them.
"Enjoy your life, Tony, and please, don't worry about me. Work hard, treat that pretty girlfriend of yours well, stay out of trouble, and don't change a hair. You are a gentleman, a scholar, and one of the sweetest guys I've ever met.
"I'll see you when I see you, and we'll go from there to wherever it goes.
"All my love,
I sat down on my bed and read the letter again. My eyes were burning, and when I blinked, tears ran down my cheeks. In spite of everything that had happened since I had met her, and in spite of the fact that Kate and I were now dating, sort of, and in spite of the fact that she had lied to me repeatedly since we met, I liked her. A lot. I had slept with her and everything. It was like she had taken a piece of me and disappeared. I hurt inside. I opened the drawer to my desk and tossed the note inside, pulled out a fresh pack of cigarettes, and sat there, thinking.
"You ready to go?" Eddie said from the doorway.
"Y...yeah," I said, and stood.
He came into the room. "Everything OK, man?"
"Nothing that a few beers won't cure."
"The bars are closed today, man. Election day."
"They'll be open tonight."
"Oh, yeah. Well, let's eat. Can't drink on an empty stomach." He stopped. "Well, you can, but you end up with a nasty hangover the next day."
Nothing Much To Say
It felt good to get back to normal after everything that had happened over the weekend. I had dinner with my floormates, did my homework, then went out for beer with them at about ten.
The big topic of discussion at Huey's, our local bar, was the election, and the effect that any one of the candidates would have on the economy, the energy problems and the status of the United States afterwards. I wasn't interested at all in the conversation, and zoned out through most of it, using the time to meditate on my current situation with Kate, and with, or rather without, Rosalie. Eddie could tell that something was amiss, and slid up beside me.
"So, what's going on, mo?"
"Nothing much. Just thinking. I've heard enough about the election for the rest of my life."
"So, who was the note from?"
"What note?" I asked, trying to avoid the question.
"You know. The one on the heavy paper in the purple ink."
"It was peacock blue, not purple."
"Oh, Mr. Decorator here!" He swatted me playfully. "How would you know that it was peacock blue?"
"I had a nun that used to write in that color. OK, if you must know, it was from Rosalie."
"What'd she do, dump you or something?"
"Not really. It was more like she told me that she's going away for a while, and she'll be in touch once she gets some things worked out."
"So she did dump you. Oh, man, that sucks. But hey, you got things going with Kate, don't you?"
"Yeah, but she's going to be in the hospital until after the holidays, and probably won't be out of her cast until after Christmas sometime."
"She ain't gonna be in the hospital that long, is she?"
"Probably not. She's probably going to go home in a few days. But she'll be laid up until after the holidays, probably. I mean, she broke her hip, not her leg. That takes longer to heal, I think."
"So? You got other possibilities, don't you?"
"Yeah, but I had wanted to see what was going to happen with Kate, and with Rosalie. Now it's like, they're both out of reach."
"Tony, like my brother always says, women are like buses. If you miss one, another one comes along pretty soon. And neither one of them could blame you for going out and having a good time, could they?"
I sighed. "I guess not."
"Hey, you know, there's a frat party on Friday night. Maybe you'll run into someone there. Wanna go?"
"Eh, let me think about it. It's not like I have a whole lot going on these days, but I don't know if I want to stoop to going to a frat party."
"Why not? There's lots of beer, and good looking chicks, and decent music, usually." I gave him a look, and he sat back. "Yeah, OK, well think about it, OK?"
"All right, I will." I looked up at the projection TV, and saw that Gerald Ford was giving his concession speech. I lit another cigarette and ordered another beer.
Nothing Behind Me
I woke up the morning after Election Day, and lay in bed for a while, looking out the window of my room, listening to Eddie snore away, and took stock of my life. My grades were good, I was getting along well with my roommate, and I had a job that paid about as well as any part-time job paid. On the other hand, I had nearly been run over by a car three times, one woman with whom I had been building a relationship had mysteriously departed, a girl who I was just starting to date had been injured and her father wanted to kill me, and my boss at work was a real idiot who picked on me constantly and never bathed. In my estimation, I was a little better than even, but if any little thing were to change, life could really begin to suck. I decided to concentrate on the things that were going good in my life and try as much as possible to avoid the things that weren't, at least for the three weeks between today and when I went home for Thanksgiving break.
I threw myself into my school work. I had a paper due just before the holiday, as well as several exams, and while I was doing all right, I knew that I could do better. I found myself leaving for school before 7:30 every morning and not getting back to the dorm until dinnertime most nights. I visited Kate in the hospital at least once a week, being sure to be gone before her parents arrived. Her mother was all right, her father scared the shit out of me. On the weekends, I made sure to be at work right on time and not to leave until my area was clean and stocked.
"What's gotten into you, Tony?" Eddie asked one Saturday evening when I got back to the dorm at about six. "You trying to make me look bad?"
"Nah, I just decided that maybe concentrating on the important stuff would help the time go by faster," I said.
"I guess. You gotta be just about ready to explode," he said. "All work, no play, no women..."
"You'd be surprised. It's like, I haven't even thought about it. I know that Kate's doing all right, and I know that when she gets out of the hospital and out of the cast, we're going to be together. Rosalie, hey, I don't know. She always said, it goes where it goes. Right now, it's not going anywhere. So, I'm not going to worry about it."
"Yeah, well, you're not looking over your shoulder like you had been," he said.
I stopped for a minute, and thought about what he had said. He was right, of course. I hadn't had another incident with a car trying to run me over, or with someone following me, in over a week. Ever since the note from Rosalie, life was like it had been before I met her. It made no sense at all; I mean, why would anyone be after me because of her? Or, was it that they were after her because of me? Or maybe, I was just unlucky. Maybe everything was a huge coincidence, the two near-misses and one accident nothing more than the alignment of the planets. I wasn't in a mood to speculate.
The Monday before Thanksgiving, I went up to the hospital to visit Kate, and was surprised to see her dressed and sitting up in a chair. "Hey! You're looking good!"
She kissed me and hugged me around the neck. "I'm going home today!"
"You are? That's great! It seems so sudden."
"No, they've been working with me, giving me physical therapy, and think that I'd be better off at home, so they're releasing me. Isn't that great?"
"It's wonderful! You'll be able to have turkey at home!"
"No, we're going to my grandmother's. Mom decided not to cook this year, and Nana came through. So, how's school?"
I never got a chance to answer. Her parents and the doctor walked in.
"All right, Kate, are you ready to get out of here?" the doctor asked.
"I've been ready for two weeks now, Doctor," she said.
"How are you, Tony?" Mrs. Molloy said. "It's nice to see you again. Kate said that you had come every day or so to visit, but we haven't seen you..."
"Well, I've been busy," I said. I looked over her shoulder and saw Mr. Molloy glaring at me. "Not too busy to come and visit, but I've had schoolwork to do."
"Well, that's understandable," she said.
"Peg! Do you mind? The doctor's trying to talk here," Mr. Molloy said.
"I'd better be going," I said. "Kate, have a good Thanksgiving, OK?"
She looked at me sadly. "Oh, you too. Give me a call over the weekend sometime, all right?"
Mr. Molloy piped up. "Hey, why don't you stick around, give us a hand with her, and I can drop you at the dorm?"
I looked at him in disbelief. He tipped his head and opened his eyes wide, as if to say, come on, kid, I ain't got all day. "I'd really appreciate that, Mr. Molloy. Thank you."
Half an hour later, we were in the Molloys' Impala, Kate and I in the back seat, her parents in the front. It took some doing to get her and her crutches into the car, but we managed somehow. When we left the hospital, Kate moved her hand down toward mine, and I took it.
"I'm going to miss you," she said, just loud enough for me to hear.
"Me, too," I said.
Mr. Molloy drove carefully, glancing up into the rear view mirror every once in a while. "Your dorm's on Sheridan, right, Reardon?"
"Yes, sir, just north of the L station."
He grunted. As we pulled out onto Sheridan Road, he glanced up in the rearview mirror again and shook his head. "Still there."
"What's still there, dear?" his wife said.
"Same old Galaxie 500 that was behind me when we pulled out of the hospital," he said. "He's sure following closely enough."
I turned and looked at the car behind us. This guy was following pretty closely, but not so closely that I couldn't read the front license plate. I wrote the number on my hand, and tried to see the driver. Unfortunately, it was dark, and the glare from the headlights behind him made it impossible to see him.
"Tony, what's going on?" Kate asked.
"What? Oh, nothing."
"What did you write on your hand?"
"Nothing! Just some numbers that I remembered from homework today..."
"Oh." She smiled. "OK, whatever."
We came to the stop light at Loyola and Sheridan, and Mr. Molloy put his turn signal on. "This is your dorm, right?"
"Right. You can drop me off at the side," I said, realizing that was just what he had in mind. I looked back and noticed that the Galaxie was still behind me. What was going to happen when we pulled up and stopped? I was starting to get nervous. Was I going to have to make a run for it when I got out of the car? Were the Molloys in danger from whoever it was that was following us?
The light changed, and I knew that I was going to find out. As Mr. Molloy pulled over to the right to let me out, the Galaxie turned and went around us. I breathed a sigh of relief.
"You all right, kid?" Kate's father said.
"Yes, I'm fine. Just glad to be home. Home sweet dorm." I chuckled.
He put the car in park. "OK, here you are. Have a good holiday." He extended his hand to me and I shook it, and shook Mrs. Molloy's hand.
"Thanks for the ride, Mr. Molloy. Kate, I'll talk to you later." She blew me a little kiss before I got out.
I went up the stairs to the dorm, stopped and watched the Molloys drive away, then walked across the concourse toward the door to the dorm. I stopped again. I was curious about the Galaxie. I knew that I was probably tempting fate, but I just had to see if it was anywhere on the block. I went back down the stairs, lit a cigarette and walked nonchalantly down Loyola Avenue toward the lake. I made it all the way to the end of the block before I finally saw it, parked in the lot at Campus Towers, the tall building right by the lake. I walked up to it and looked inside. There was nothing particularly suspicious about the contents. I shrugged and cut back through the campus, back to the dorm. You are getting paranoid, Reardon, I said to myself.