“Hey, chica, are you ready to rock this thing?” asked Eduardo.
“Sure am. Our last one was a runner. He didn’t get far before Tank caught him.”
“Well, if this one is a runner I won’t let her get by either”, said Miguel.
I took the bottle out of my trunk and got my clipboard ready. “Ready?” I asked. At the nod of the men, we walked up to the house. I swore as we all heard the same sound – a baby crying. “Damn, I hate it when they have kids.”
I rang the doorbell and waited for Olivia Piper to answer the door. After a few minutes, a young woman walked to the door carrying a little baby who was still wailing away. “I am sorry”, she said, “but I was changing Junior’s diaper and could not answer the doorbell right away.” Her eyes brightened as she spotted the bottle of whiskey. “My husband said that this was just a gimmick, that I wouldn’t get a free bottle of Jack. But I’m really going to get one, aren’t I?”
“Yes, you are. I just need to see some photo ID and get your signature, and then you may have the bottle.”
“Just a minute”, she said, thrusting the baby at me. The baby was still wailing, so I put it on my shoulder and started to sway, just like I had seen Val do so many times in the past. The baby stopped crying and started to suck on his fist. Olivia came back with her purse. “You must have the magic touch. I haven’t been able to get him to stop crying all afternoon.”
“I think he’s hungry. He certainly seems to be sucking on his fist pretty hard.”
“It’s his feeding time. As soon as we’ve completed our business I’ll feed him.”
I stepped inside the house, Eduardo and Miguel coming in after me. “I will give you the bottle of Jack, but I am actually here representing your bonding agent. You missed your court date and we have come to escort you back to the precinct to reschedule.”
“I can’t go in. There is no one to look after my baby.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m authorized to take you in, no matter what. However, I will give you a little time to find someone to look after the baby. Perhaps I could call your husband and ask him to come home?” I said, handing back the baby and pulling out the phone.
“I guess you’ll have to.” Deprived of my swaying, the baby started to fuss again.
“Let’s go sit down. And while we are waiting for your husband to come home, you can feed the baby.”
We all sat down in the living room, and Olivia pulled down the neckline of her scoop-necked t-shirt and undid her nursing bra. She pulled her breast out from her shirt and latched on her son. I looked at Eduardo and Miguel. Both were bright red and looking anywhere around the room other than at Olivia and the baby. I looked back at Olivia and could see the laughter lurking in her eyes.
I called Olivia’s husband, introduced myself, and explained why I was calling. I received agreement from him that he would come home right away. When I got off the phone, it was quiet in the room; the only sounds were ones of sucking as the little boy enjoyed his lunch.
“Why did you miss your court date?” I asked.
“I didn’t forget it or anything. I just didn’t have anyone to take care of Junior, and I was afraid that he’d be taken away from me if I took him into court with me.”
“I can understand why you are concerned. However, it isn’t advisable for you to miss your next court date. Judges tend not to look too kindly on people who continually miss their court date, even if it’s for a valid reason. It’s imperative that you show up the next time.”
Olivia switched sides for Junior, placing him on her other breast. “Ohmygod. They wouldn’t take Junior away from me, would they?”
“Not likely, although they will be more likely to put you in jail if you continually don’t show up to court.” Junior popped off the breast, sound asleep. Olivia tucked herself back into her shirt and slung the baby over her shoulder to burp him.
A few minutes later a harassed man came running into the house. “Olivia!” he shouted, waking the baby up as he ran into the room. “What have you done now?”
“This is all your fault”, she yelled right back. The baby started to cry. “If you hadn’t charged me with assault, I wouldn’t have to go to court. All I did was hit you once. You didn’t even bruise from it. And I already apologized.”
“Can we all calm down?” I said loudly to try to get heard over the crying and the yelling. Olivia and her husband continued to berate each other, and the baby continued to cry. I felt like I was losing control of the situation. I went over to Olivia and took the baby, putting him on my shoulder and again beginning to sway. The baby slowly settled again. Olivia and her husband were so surprised by the absence of crying that they also stopped yelling, instead turning to me to look at me in shock. “Your yelling is upsetting the baby and is causing him to cry. The two of you need to stop, if not for yourselves then for the baby. No baby deserves to grow up in a loud household. Now, this is what we are going to do. I’m leaving the baby with you”, I said, passing the now snuffling infant over to Olivia’s husband, “and I’m taking Olivia with us to the precinct for rescheduling. I’ll call Vinnie and have him come down right away to have her rebonded out as soon as possible, to try to get her home in time for the next feeding. After that, it’s up to you. Just be aware that it would not be a good idea for you to miss your court date again.” I helped Olivia up off the couch and took Miguel’s cuffs from him. “I’m sorry, Olivia, but it is protocol to go into the station cuffed. I don’t think you are going to try to escape, however, so I’m not going to shackle you.” By now Olivia was crying, great gulping sobs which set off the baby again.
Olivia’s husband looked at me in a panic. “What do I do?” he asked.
That’s like asking the blind to lead the blind, I thought. “Cuddle him and rock him. That’s what I found works.” I cuffed Olivia and led her from the house to the car. I handed her off to Miguel, and handed the paperwork over to Eduardo. “I am sorry to run, guys, but I am late to my next appointment.”
“No problem, Steph. We’ll take care of her for you.”
Manuel and Ethan were already waiting for me at Mila Madison’s townhome in the projects, an area of Trenton filled with cheap houses and broken dreams. I got out of the car and, taking a bottle out of the trunk, met with the men at the base of the walkway up to the house. “Sorry I’m late”, I said. “We had a domestic situation at the last house.”
“I look forward to hearing about it”, said Manuel.
I rang the doorbell. We waited. I rang the doorbell again. We waited. I rang the doorbell again. When I didn’t hear any footsteps in the house, I pulled out my phone and punched in Mila’s phone number. After letting it ring several times, Mila answered. “Who’z callin’ at such an infern…infern…infernal hour?” If her slurring wasn’t indication enough of her level of sobriety, then her inability to pronounce her words was.
“This is Stephanie from the Jack Daniel’s corporation. We are at your front door with the Jugs of Jack’s promotional bottle of whiskey. Are you receiving visitors?”
“I be there.” We heard someone staggering around, walking into walls and stumbling over carpets. Eventually, we heard her open the closet door. “Fuck!” we heard her exclaim. “Coats! Where did my bottle of Jack go?”
A few minutes later the front door finally opened. “Where’s my bottle? You came at a good time”, she slurred out. “I’ve run out of h…h…hooch.”
“Mila Madison?” I said.
“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out”, she cackled. “Can I have my bottle now?”
“You may have it in a minute. I need to see some photo ID, and then you have to sign the form for me.”
“Fuck. I just want the bottle.”
“You will get the bottle, but we have to follow protocol. May I see your photo ID?”
“Yesh.” Mila turned around and stumbled into the house. Manuel, Ethan and I followed behind. She grabbed her purse and opened her wallet. She tried to take out a card, but her fingers weren’t working properly. She thrust the wallet at me. “Can you … can you take it out?”
“Certainly.” I took out the card and saw that it was a library card. “This doesn’t have a picture on it.” I took out another three cards until I found her gym membership, which did have a picture on it. I wrote down the information on the form and had Mila sign it in her illegible scrawl. As she reached for the bottle, Manuel cuffed one of her wrists. “Bond enforcement”, I said. Manuel spun her around and cuffed her other wrist, almost toppling her over with the movement.
“Doesh thish mean I won’t get the bottle of Jack’s?” asked Mila, looking as though she were about to cry.
“No, I promised you a bottle of Jack’s and I will give you a bottle of Jack’s. I will leave it on your kitchen counter for you when you return from the precinct. You missed your court date and, as a representative of your bonding agent, I’m authorized to take you in to the station so that your court date can be rescheduled. This is a simple administrative exercise. It’s not a big deal. However, I would not advise you forgetting again. The courts don’t tend to like that.”
“Why are you arresting me again?”
“You were arrested for drunk driving.”
“How could I be arrested for that? I don’t even have a driver’s licence.”
“I know. But you can still be arrested for drunk driving even if you don’t have a driver’s licence. All it takes is for you to be driving when you are drunk.”
“But how can they take away my driver’s licence if I don’t have one?”
“I don’t know what they are going to do, but you’re right. They can’t take away your driver’s licence if you don’t have one.”
“I don’t want to go back to the precinct.”
“I’m sorry, but this isn’t optional. You have to go back into the station to get rebonded out.”
“What did I do again?”
I looked at the guys. “I’ll close up the house if you want to move her to the car. I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.” Manuel and Ethan moved Mila towards the car, and I did a quick run-through of the house to make sure that all the windows and doors were locked. I picked up Mila’s purse off the kitchen counter, put her wallet back in her purse, and rooted around in her bag until I found her keychain. I closed the front door, locking it behind myself, and walked down to meet Manuel at the car. Ethan was already sitting in the driver’s seat. I handed Manuel my apprehension papers, then wished them luck. “I will meet you back at the office in half an hour”, I said.
“Sure thing”, said Manuel.