Stargazer

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Chapter 15: The Long road to recovery

September 1999


He was home now nearly two months. His Tampa Bay apartment on the third floor of a twenty five floor building, had initially felt a little like a pleasant prison cell, but a prison cell nonetheless. For the first few weeks it took enormous effort just to do things outside the apartment like buy groceries. He would have to plan a route of minimal distance, avoid even small flights of steps, and calculate just what he could carry back in terms of load. And all of that would exhaust him for hours after. The journey to the nearest store that did deliveries became his next big goal ironically. He managed that by mid fourth week. And then, almost like a switch being flipped, he regained his strength rapidly. Now David was left only with a limp and a small scar on his throat to bear witness to his last 9 months.

And in some ways that 9 months had been a gestation of sorts. What had grown and been born however, was not something created from a loving home. Ir was not about the creation of life. It would be nurtured though, it would be realized. He had considered focusing on Jerry Spielheiner, the driver who ran him over, but he knew that the police would be knocking on his door the next day after Jerry disappeared. Chaos Theory told him that within chaotic complex systems formed by behavior of biological entities, there were underlying patterns and feedback loops which preserved the status quo. The butterfly effect within a universe governed by Chaos Theory detailed scenarios where a small change in one state of a deterministic system could result in huge knock on effects downstream.

David hated this theory but admitted it was grounded in solid mathematics and could explain many apparently random events. Events like a driver being fatigued and running a light. Events likes a driver risking his life and everyone else’s driving beyond his allocated hours and rest periods to make a delivery because he was behind on his rent or some other bullshit reason.

He hated it because it took control from him. It reduced his agency when he reflected on it. But now he would seek restitution or at least add to the melting pot of Chaos Theory with an almost equal and opposite reaction. The trucking company Spielheiner worked for had a depot in London, Ohio. It was time to leave Florida anyway, he had plenty of things to do to get his pool maintenance company back in shape, mostly making customers know he was back in business having missed the summer and spring gone by. And of course, he had big plans for the summer of 2000, the millennium summer.
.........

McEvoy sat in the interview room of Lima Prison, looking back at Lewis. They both smiled at one another, silently acknowledging the strangeness of their respective positions. Gamekeeper turned poacher thought McEvoy, I wonder what it would be like to undergo a Lewis interrogation.

Today’s interview was set up through Lewis as part of a small research program into violent offenders run by Ohio State Uni’s Psychology Department. Lewis would be leaving very soon, his interrogator today primarily would be a college kid barely out of nappies. He had come today just to use this as an opportunity to hand over some transcripts of interviews typed as part of the Stargazer investigation, as well as to just say hello and catch up. The first thing he noticed was McEvoy’s appearance. He looked to have put on weight and his hair was neater and he was clean shaven.

“You look well Jim, I thought I’d never say this to anyone least of all you, but prison suits you.”

McEvoy smiled back. “Can’t drown my sorrows in here Tom. That’s made a hell of a difference”.

He noted the smile was a little tight, a little forced.

“Still think he’s out there? “ He asked as he pushed the transcripts over to McEvoy. It had been a quiet summer in Columbus and Ohio as a whole. The State Police had become aware of the importance of contacting Lewis and the Columbus PD about any teenage African American boys going missing state wide. Regular checks on the NICC reporting database were part of Lewis’s daily routine, looking for children and teenagers reported missing. So far they’d had three or four false alarms, teens that had run away and turned up a day or two later. It had been a not insignificant waste of time and the experience of this summer gone had shown Lewis that the scale of what they needed to achieve across the state was not sustainable.

He kept contact with Ware and Johnson by email; they all agreed the trail was currently stone cold dead. Either their killer was himself dead or ill disposed to more killing, or at some time as yet undetermined, they would all receive a call from some local PD having come across another scene of brutality. They all hoped it was the former, but they all suspected it could be the latter. Either way, everyone had to return to their day jobs and just wait and see what happened. And exactly the same applied to their .38 shooter. Whoever it was had not killed anyone since mid November and the trail was cold.

“He’s out there, I can feel it” McEvoy replied. “Everything about all that shit in Cinncinati makes me think he’d never stop. I don’t think he’d ever let himself get caught. You can’t cage some animals”.

Lewis nodded and put out his cigarette. “You’re probably right. If you make any new connections, you have my cell number. I’ll take the charges anytime. I gotta go. Be easy on the kid”.

He got up as the college post grad came in. For a 25 year old who’d likely never seen the inside of a prison, he seemed remarkably calm, although not so relaxed that the prison guard was allowed to leave the room. Lewis made the introductions and left.

McEvoy eyed his new interviewer who was at pains to point out nothing discussed could be used in any future proceedings. He was in his mid twenties, short curly blonde hair with unusual green blue eyes, and dressed smart casual as if for a job interview. He was attractive in a preppy kind of way.

Dirty fucking faggot flashed through McEvoy’s mind like a lightening bolt as time seemed to slow interminably.

And then he was back in the room, calm and ready to play the game. The man-boy’s accent was definitely not midwestern, sounded like New York State. His name was Robert, and he was here to just ask a few simple questions around McEvoy’s past and what kind of feelings he’d had that fateful night. Robert was clearly doing his level best to avoid saying “the night you nearly beat a man to death and blinded him in one eye”.

McEvoy ignored the first question about his family and asked instead where he was from. “That accent- upstate New York?” He smiled back at the student.

“Well, I did my undergrad at Syracuse. I can’t really give you much more personal information than that though” Robert replied back a little meekly.

McEvoy let out a short barking laugh. “You think I’ll chase you down and beat you to a pulp too?” McEvoy’s tone wasn’t quite jovial, and not entirely without menace. He stared at the man-boy unblinking for long enough to be uncomfortable and then broke the atmosphere with another soft laugh.

“I’m just pulling your leg, I’m sorry. What was the question again, something about my childhood?”. Robert shifted uncomfortably in his seat and repeated the question about McEvoy’s family.

“Irish Catholic working class from San Diego is how I’d describe my background. Mother was religious as all hell, mass every Sunday, fish only on Friday, confession once a month, that type of thing. My father was a laborer on the naval docks, left us when I was twelve. I was an only child, my father said I made my mother barren. He was a real charmer.”

Robert was furiously scribbling on his notebook. He had clearly a series of basic questions to get to. “Was he violent? What about alcohol? Did he have a problem?”.

McEvoy laughed softly again. “Isn’t that a bit racist?. I say Irish, you think alcoholic wife beater”.

“Well, he wouldn’t have been the first Irish alcoholic wife beater” Robert replied back.

“True. And yeah, he was handy with his fists to my mom. He liked his whiskey. A bit of a stereotype.” McEvoy was curious whether the man-boy would take this chance to diverge from the formulaic questions at this point. It seemed a ripe time to ask him whether he was acting out another stereotype - drunken tortured Irish cop.

“What about major childhood traumas?. You say your father left you at twelve. Did this affect you? Can you remember what you felt like back then?”.

McEvoy sighed and fingered the lip of the transcripts Lewis had given him in a distracted way. “I can’t remember really what I felt. But if I was to guess, maybe relieved. I don’t have too many fond memories of my father. I don’t really have any memories at all of him”.

He looked to the floor and raised his right hand as if to wipe away a tear but his hands were cuffed to the table preventing this, and so he made a little drama of moving his head to forearm instead. He kept his gaze to the floor. His imaginary tears dealt with, he shifted his gaze to the transcripts again, assiduously avoiding making eye contact with his interviewer.

Robert left what he thought was a suitable interval before asking his next question. “Your uncle died when you were fourteen. I understand you discovered the body. Can you remember how this made you feel. Were you upset?”.

McEvoy looked up suddenly, his eyes darkened and narrowed, clenching his left fist unconsciously, his right hand slowly tearing the corner off the folder of the transcripts. “Yeah I remember that. You don’t forget that. Ever. Real upset. I think I might have cried. I’ll never forget my uncle.”.

Robert stopped writing on his notepad, and was looking at McEvoy directly. “I see that. Maybe we’ll move on to the night in question”.

McEvoy sensed a change in the atmosphere in the room as much as his interviewer. “Maybe let’s talk about my first handjob or maybe my hobbies. Let’s lighten the tone a little”

McEvoy forced a big shit eating grin out of himself. Robert looked to his list of questions nervously. McEvoy groaned inwardly- why had he ever signed up to this shit. Focus motherfucker he reminded himself. He flashed that wholesome shit eating grin again at the man-boy. They moved on.

................

Lewis met Robert outside Lima Correctional Centre in the car park. He had been a little nervous helping set up this whole research project for him. He had warned him that some of the people who had agreed to meet him may agree in principle to talk, but on the day, prove unhelpful or just clam up. He reckoned by starting with McEvoy, Robert would at least get someone that Lewis had gotten a promise of co-operation from that he could personally stand over.

He had been in reasonably regular phone contact with McEvoy since first getting a reverse charges call from him in early May. McEvoy had apologized for his behavior over the last year, thanked him for helping put Sadie’s killer away and been generally very humble. He seemed to have turned a corner, and not having a steady supply of booze was the key. He knew from his own past that drink never solved anything. So McEvoy seemed a safe bet to start Robert off with.

“Got what you came for?” Lewis asked confidently outside the car. Robert shot him a bemused look.

“How well do you know this guy Tom?” he replied.

“Well, he’s been my partner for around seven years I guess. I mean, you’ve seen the file, he’s not had the best last couple of years. Why?” Lewis’s curiosity was piqued.

Robert didn’t hold back. “I’m not going to bore you with some college psychology babble here Tom. You’re a murder detective a long time, I’d hazard a guess you can read people a whole lot better than some postgrad green behind the ears type like me. But that guy in there? If he is my easiest interview, this thing will be a struggle”.

Lewis was genuinely a little surprised. He smiled at Robert. “I’m all ears. He’s my ex partner, not my brother”.

Robert got into the passenger seat and asked Lewis for a cigarette. “Didn’t realize you smoked” Lewis said as he handed him the cigarette.

“Just every now and then, usually around stress hot spots like exams. They don’t teach that coping strategy in therapeutics, but it works. And that was stressful” Robert nodded in the direction of the main prison block.

“Did you ever get any kind of creepy vibe off him when you worked with him?. I know that’s not exactly an approved psychoanalytic term, but you know what I mean right?. Like something isn’t quite right, like he’s putting on a performance maybe?”

Robert took a deep drag off the cigarette before continuing. “And then, sometime the mask drops and the real Jim McEvoy is there? I dunno man, I mean, I’ve only met him for an hour or so, you’ve known him way longer”.

Lewis lit his cigarette while he thought on this. “I gotta say no to all that to be honest. The McEvoy I’ve only ever known largely kept to himself. He was always a bit of a loner. One thing he always did was be brutally honest, sometimes to the point he got in trouble with the captain”.

Robert exhaled a plume of smoke and opened the car window. “Well, all I can say is that at times in there, he came across as nearly schizoid in there. And I think he thought he had me fooled. And..... well, there’s something very dark behind him. Real ugly. I saw it once or twice. It’s in his eyes and the way he almost contorts his face to smile”.

Lewis was a little unnerved. This was all new to him.

“And you know he’s a committed homophobe right? Not just your garden variety college jock who joked about queers nervously in the locker room. I’m talking 17th Century burn ’em at the stake level homophobe”.

Lewis looked across at Robert trying to gauge just how freaked out the kid was. Because he clearly was a little shook up. And none of what he described was something Lewis had ever honestly seen before in McEvoy. And this little chat for the first time ever in his almost 20 years as a cop, was questioning the one aspect Lewis thought he had a natural ability in, to read people, to read their motives, to understand what made them tick.

Whether right or wrong on this, Robert was genuinely a little perturbed at meeting McEvoy. Lewis decided to drop the conversation and began pulling out of the car park. But he’d park this conversation in his memory all the same, because he knew McEvoy would contact him again. He had a feeling McEvoy might lean on him again in the future.

———-



February 4th 2000 Friday 7:20 am
4 miles northeast of Shelby, Ohio

The snow was coming down hard now. Antonio had taken a risk using the secondary road off Route 96 leaving Shelby but it would be worth it if he could avoid the mayhem of the first few miles out of Shelby when almost certainly he’d meet idiots having slid off and caused a tailback. He always took this route on this job, the traffic was always shitty getting out of Shelby.

The risk was if he met anyone in this weather coming against him. He had another half load of refrigerated lamb carcasses to get Cleveland today and this weather was not helping. This secondary road was always likely passable if he met no other rig coming the opposite direction, and the beauty of it was it was usually deserted this time of day and year with only farmers passing irregularly later on in the day. There were no ice warnings issued yet. This storm was forecast to dump 25 inches over the next 16 hours and it would probably be impassable by the afternoon, but right now the going was good. He was for once was glad of his ’95 Freightliner FLB Crossover cab with its spicer synchronized transmission. You needed to pop the clutch for any gear change, and that could be a real bitch driving in an urban environment- you have a dead leg after a few hours.

But in these conditions, being able to match engine revs to traction was useful if you knew what you were doing. He popped the rig into 3rd and accelerated to 40 miles per hour. Even with his full beams on he still barely got a glimpse of the grey van in the gloom, 600 yards ahead of him, it’s hazards blinking silently in the distance.

Fuck Antonio thought to himself. The van was lying three quarters across the right hand side of the road with one quarter of it on the left, just enough of it blocking any possibility of him passing it. He popped the clutch quickly, going in to 2nd to slow the rig enough that he barely had to use the breaks to slow to a stop, 20 yards from the van. He switched on his hazards.

The owner was on the sheltered side of the van trying to use a shovel to apply dirt to the rear left wheel. He was a big guy, easily 6’3 maybe 6’4, dressed for the weather with his hood up, gloves and snow boots on. Antonio wondered whether he had noticed the rig pull up, he hadn’t even glanced at the 18 wheeler.

The wind was whipping up and Antonio was downwind, so maybe he couldn’t hear, but surely he’d seen the light of the rigs high beams. Fuck it, better grab his coat and help this dude thought Antonio. His trucker overalls were thick but he could be out in this for 20 minutes helping dig this guy out. He put on his coat, left the engine running and jumped down onto the road. The snow was accumulating and sticking, but there didn’t seem to be ice, Antonio wasn’t sure what this guy had spun out on.

“Hey” Antonio shouted a few feet away. “Need a hand?”.

He had to shout now, the wind was howling and the noise of his diesel rig wasn’t helping. The man spun around almost surprised.

“Aww Jeez man, thanks so much. I must have found the only patch of ice on this god damn road.”

Antonio caught a look at him for the first time. He was definitely a big man, towering over Antonio’s small frame, and for a split second, Antonio thought he was one of those albino dudes. Then he realized the guy was of mixed race. His facial features were African American, but his skin tone was almost cream white. He had a curious small scar in the middle of his throat, red enough to be recent.

“Thanks so much man, this weather is really gonna get bad quick. Maybe you can take that dirt and spade there and go around the right back wheel and put it under”.

Antonio didn’t get an accent but then again, the guy was half shouting.

“Sure, no problem” Antonio replied as he grabbed the bucket with its childlike spade. His hands were already getting cold; he was regretting not bringing his gloves. He walked around to the right rear, now in the full force of the driving snow and wind, and bent down to start scraping the surface snow away before laying the dirt. Odd he thought as he scraped the small amount of snow out from under the wheel, there was no ice whatsoever under the wheel. He went to stand up to get the guys attention. He never even saw the shovel arcing down onto the back of his head. The lights just went out.

.........

This pain was now getting beyond a niggle, and turning into something Lewis would have to take seriously. When he woke up this morning to the white landscape from the overnight snowstorm, he thought it was maybe a toothache. It was constant and in his lower left hand jaw but not sharp, more a sort of dull ache. When he checked his teeth on that side, there didn’t seem to be a cavity or one particular tooth that was sensitive. He had popped a couple of aspirin and continued his normal morning routine.

Marcella had called early on him on his cellphone, they had a body in Grandview Heights, almost certain domestic, scene was preserved with the weapon, a eight inch kitchen knife left in the victim. Preliminary witness statements suggested the husband was most definitely a person of interest and an APB was out for him. By the time he had made it through the snow, the pain was now going from his jaw into the left side of his neck and the aspirin had no effect.

“Jesus Tom, you look like shit” was the first thing out of Marcella’s mouth when she saw him.

“Stayed over at June’s last night by any chance?”.

Lewis managed a smile. “Nope, she’s in Utah at her mom’s. I’ve got this really annoying pain in my jaw and it’s getting worse, not better”. He looked around at the scene with a tired look. “Is this locked in Marcie? I’m thinking I might need to see someone about this”.

The dead woman lay on the floor of the kitchen with the forensic guys taking their scene pictures and prints.

“Go sort it out Tom, I’m fine here on my own. Uniformed have taken almost all the statements we need from neighbors. Apparently they heard fighting last night and there’s a long history here. I’ll finish this off”.

Lewis thanked her and stepped back out into the cold. The snow was beginning to turn to slush on the sidewalks, about seven inches had fallen on the city but they had gotten off lightly; almost three times that had apparently fallen in northern Ohio, the worst winter storm in years.

He fucking hated snow or more to the point, what it did to the city. They got maybe an average of twenty three inches a year, but they got it like this, episodically with storms. And despite knowing it came like this every year, people took their lead from the City Authorities and went into full panic mode when it fell. There was only one thing worse than the grey slush melt, and that was if the snow froze to ice. Because then the city ground to a halt as if everyone had simultaneously lost their minds and forgotten how that maybe they needed to drive to the conditions. Lewis made a call to his family physicians office.

Forty minutes later he was sitting with her, telling her how shitty his morning was. Dr Derowitz was not impressed.

“So tell me how many cigarettes you smoke again a day Tom?” she asked. Of course, she knew the answer, they went through this little dance once a year at his annual check up.

“Exactly the same number that is the amount of times you’ve told me to quit doc” he replied. She looked at him, exasperated.

“Well I’m not liking what I’m hearing here. We are taking your blood pressure, and then I’m running a EKG to check your ticker.”

She started with the blood pressure which seemed to squeeze his arm savagely. Her expression on deflating the cuff thing was one of worried puzzlement. She got him to lie up on the exam couch and take off his shirt. She wired him up to some machine with colored wires and printed out a piece of paper and then stared at it.

The puzzled worried expression went straight to worried.

“Tom, I’m not happy. Your blood pressure is sky high 220/100, and this tracing of your heart, it’s suggestive than you are having a mild heart attack or angina. I’m ringing in an ambulance and you are headed to Grant’s. You need to see a cardiologist as soon as possible”.

-------
It was all a blur after that when Lewis thought back on it. Within hours he ended up being wheeled into some X-ray room, signing a consent form for something called an angioplasty and having his arteries unblocked. They gave him something for it which made him feel like he was floating and relaxed, but afterwards it felt like someone had punched him in his right groin. He left a message on June’s cellphone telling her not to come and that he was fine, but of course she came back from Utah. It was nice though; their relationship which had started on the night course in Uni had been causal enough in that he stayed over at hers maybe once a week but increasingly they made a point of seeing one another at least three or four times for even just lunch or coffee.

The heart doctor had told him he was lucky he came when he did, they had put three stents into his arteries and that his jaw pain was in fact angina pain. He would be out in a few days but would be now having to take three tablets a day, a spray if he got any chest pain, and worst of all, no more cigarettes. June had been beside him when he got this particular good news, and Lewis knew she would be the enforcer on this. He was being told he had to take at least 2 weeks off work and join a cardiac rehabilitation program. The rest of the spring stretched out like a prison sentence.

------------

February 2000

The parole board was just as he’d imagined- three fat white haired men and one woman. To his surprise, the woman introduced herself as the DA’s representative, two others were regular Commission members and the fattest guy in the room was a Lima Correctional Institute representative he had never seen before.

His case manager wouldn’t be drawn out on what it meant when he’d heard the DA was sending someone; this apparently could be good news or more likely, very bad news. Somebody in Columbus PD either hated him or liked him. Given how things had been left, he figured it was the former. His case file was summarized and details like the court ordered fine being paid were confirmed first. McEvoy had prepped for the meeting as much as he could, having rehearsed his speech and his case manager had explained how things would proceed.

He had been visited by Lewis a month previously in advance, who knew his case manager. McEvoy only hoped now that the DA representative had something to do with that connection although he knew he was probably grasping at straws.

“Mr McEvoy, you’ve served 13 months now of your sentence. Can you tell us why you think this thirteen months has benefited the people of Ohio and how it had benefited you?”.

The question came from the guy who had introduced himself as the Hearing Examiner for the Parole Commission. McEvoy concentrated on looking at him first and then each of the other members of the board. He had been practicing his contrite tone of voice with one of the other inmates, another ex cop in for corruption on VICE.

“First off, as an ex cop, but also as just a regular joe, I know I’ve done wrong. And I know I have to pay for what I did to that man in the bar that night. And I know that the people of Columbus and Ohio need to see I have paid for that. Thirteen months in here goes someway to that payment.”

McEvoy paused and looked down to the floor and back up for effect.

“I was a mess back then. I had lost my daughter to a terrible crime, and I was drinking a lot. I admit I was out of control then. I’ve seen an addiction counselor here and I haven’t had a drink in thirteen months. I needed to do that for myself. I hope this answers those questions sir”.

The woman representing the DA spoke next. “I see your time spent here in Lima shows no incidents of misconduct. I’m also told you co-operated with a Ohio State Psychology Research Project. Did you learn anything from that?”.

McEvoy allowed himself a small brief smile. The only way she could know that was through Lewis.

“I learnt that maybe my upbringing didn’t help me but I still can’t put it all on that. I guess there might be value in me seeing a shrink when I get out” he replied. He looked to his side at his case manager who was smiling back at him. McEvoy allowed himself a private moment of almost joy. This was looking good. The Parole board sat back and had a brief discussion before the Hearing Examiner spoke.

“Mr McEvoy, this board is of the opinion you should be granted early release subject to certain usual conditions as well as one extra condition. You will be required to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous twelve step program and provide proof of same to your Case Manager. Your release date will be set for Febuary 12th. Your Case Manager will have the rest of the details for you nearer that date. This hearing has ended”. McEvoy sat back in his chair, a broad smile across his face. Now he could begin again. Now he could start over. Now he had control and this time, he would be more careful.
......

Lewis waited leaning on his car, chewing ferociously on his nicotine gum. It tasted like shit but it definitely helped the cravings. The weather was suitably dull for the location, a cold grey sky, 34 degrees and a rumour of sleet. This was his last day before going back to work, and it seemed oddly fitting that this would be his last task before going back. McEvoy had asked could he pick him up at Lima Correctional Center. The drive to his storage depot in Cincinnati was a quick one and the Parole Board appointed job and initial lodgings there awaited McEvoy.

Lewis was secretly glad McEvoy wasn’t coming back to Columbus, he wasn’t quite sure how what passed for his friendship with him would sit with Lewis’s new life now. He was moving in with June, and McEvoy being out in some ways reminded him of the shitty time and minor crisis that he had in 1998. The door of the main building opened and McEvoy walked out with his small bag of belongings, looking trim and fresh. They shook hands and silently got into the car together. Maybe this was a new start for both of them.

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