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.
And for those of you in the mood for a little more reading, how about this?