Chase – Seven Years Ago
Eddie had been missing from his usual spot for three days. After lunch, Peyton made me walk around the neighborhood with her to see if he’d turned up yet. I had a bad feeling after seeing that gash on his head last week. Peyton must have, too. As we rounded the corner, a sense of relief came over me when I saw him. Only he wasn’t alone. He was being hassled by two cops. The taller one—Officer Canatalli, according to the badge on his puffed-out chest—had just kicked Eddie’s feet.
“Afternoon, officers,” I called. “New beat?”
The cop, who wasn’t much older than me, gave Peyton a leering once-over, then squared his shoulders and widened his stance. “You got a problem?”
“No problem. Just usually see Officer Connolly around this block. I work around the corner.” I tilted my head to Eddie. “This is Eddie.”
Peyton added. “Eddie is a friend of mine. I volunteer over at Little East Open Kitchen. It’s a local food bank on—”
“I know where it is. Little thing like yourself shouldn’t be around these type of people. They’re dangerous. You could get hurt.”
I closed my eyes, knowing how Peyton was about to respond.
“They’re dangerous? Don’t you think that’s kind of a generalized statement? It’s no different than talking about Italians and saying they’re all a bunch of mobsters, Officer Canatalli.”
I tried to temper where the conversation was heading. “Eddie here has been getting hassled by some teenagers lately. That’s how he got that gash there on his head. Peyton went down to the precinct to report it, but nothing was done about it.”
“Yet another reason why he shouldn’t be hanging out here on the street. We were just telling him it was time to move on for today. Sergeant wants the street cleaned up.” The cop kicked Eddie’s foot again, and Eddie’s leg recoiled as he balled himself into a position to protect his head.
“Eddie doesn’t like to be touched. He prefers people to keep a few feet away.”
“So do I. That’s why I don’t sit on the sidewalk where someone will physically remove me if I don’t get up.”
“Come on, Eddie. Come with me.” Peyton extended her hand.
Eddie looked at me, then the officers, then back to me before taking her hand to get up. He lifted his black garbage bag over his shoulder. The bag was bulging, and after two steps, a small hole in the bottom spread wide, and everything he owned began to spill onto the sidewalk. The impatient policemen started to complain. They had no compassion.
Peyton had her guitar case slung over her shoulder, and she kneeled down, setting it on the sidewalk, and removed the instrument.
“Here, Eddie. Use this. The case just made it heavy anyway.” She slipped the guitar’s strap over her shoulder, and Eddie eventually bent and stuffed everything into her case.
As we walked back toward my office, I whispered to Peyton, “What are we going to do with him?”
She shrugged and gave me that sweet smile I could never resist. “I don’t know, but there’s plenty of room in that big, new office of yours.”