“So, you studying ballet this week?” Gio asks. “You looked like West Side Story or some shit.”
“Tap,” I say.
At the Command, I sit across a desk from White Guy and fill out his online booking report. I know all about the revolving door that keeps the same faces passing before my eyes from the D to the command to the Tombs and back out again, but this guy is for sure not walking around unsupervised for at least a half a decade. Both of the guys he hit would be lucky to live past the weekend and “James Otto Healy,” as White Guy’s known to his parole officer, has priors like Calvin Murphy has kids. He’s been pretty chill from the moment we dropped him so I loosen his cuffs and Gio brings him a drink of water. A little blood trickles from one hand where he’s been cut by the cuffs. Where James is going he’s gonna need both his hands in working order. If a perp hasn’t been an asshole, I try to make the remaining time I spend with them as painless as I can. Anyway, I wanted to talk to him about those bags of dope while we had some privacy.
“Jim, you want to call anyone?” I say.
“No,” he kind of moans, “There isn’t anyone.” He’s starting to drown in the reality of the situation. He’s hunched forward and breathing shallowly. The rib shot has done a number on him.
“You sure? Family, friend, you don’t wanna let anyone know you’re going to jail?” I say.
“No,” he sighs. “Fuck it. Those guys, those two guys Hector and Tingo, they were my best friends.” He pauses. “I’ve known them since like forever.”
“Feel like telling me what happened?” I say. He’s talking it out. Fine with me.
“They were messing with my girl.”
“Both? You caught them?”
“Both, yeah. No, she told me. We were in bed this morning and she tells me. She was into it. We’re having problems. A lot of fights and shit…” He looks at the floor and is back in bed with a freshly broken heart for a second.
“I went out and I got high and when I saw them walking down the street, I went after them.”
“Yeah, you sure did. Where’d you get the bat?”
He looks across the table at me. “It’s mine. I went home and got it from my closet, came back and started hitting on them.” He starts to cry. “They were my best friends,” he sobs. “I know them like my whole life.” I wonder if he realized how much of their blood he was wearing. He looks at his wrist. It’s swelling fast. Turns out later he swung the bat so hard the impacts broke a bone in his hand.
“So, a little C or D sometimes?” I ask him gently, matter of fact–like we’re trading eye-glass prescriptions.
“Yeah,” he says. “I like coke but a little dope like helps me chill. I’m not like a dope addict, though. Just snort once in a while.”
“Right. So where did you go? For the dope.” I hold up the bags we found on him. I haven’t decided whether to voucher them or hang onto them and keep them and use them as sugar for our informants. “Third St.?”
“Yeah, Third Street. Mostly that spot.”
“‘Body Bag’, right? Yo, I seen you, bro.” I have. It clicks in for sure now.
“Yo, you seen me?” Even though it’s the least of his problems, it weirds the guy out that a cop knows a spot location, the name of a brand, and remembers him.
“Yeah. Yeah I seen you. That’s Eddie’s spot. You know Eddie, right?”
White Guy nods. “You’re friends with those guys, right? Eddie, Macatumba, they your boys, right?” He nods and smiles again. Then the 25,000 question.
“What about Davey Blue Eyes, bro? You ever see him? Davey Colas?” I try to be nonchalant but, just like everyone else on the D I ask about Davey, his expression transforms between my second and third syllable. He looks at me cold. “What,” I ask, “Eddie talks about him maybe?”
“No? ‘No’, you never seen him or ‘no’ Eddie never mentioned him or what?”
James Otto Healy leans forward and looks at me, clear-eyed and self-possessed and focused for the first and only time while we’re together. “No, I don’t even wanna say that dude’s name,” he says. “You see Beetlejuice? You say the name three times and he fucking pops up and you’re fucked, right? That’s how it is with that guy. You already said it twice. I never seen that guy and I know for sure I never want to. That’s all I heard and all I know and all I’m gonna fucking tell you, yo. Hey papi,” he turns to Gio, nerve ebbing again. “Can I get another glass of water or some juice or something? Fucking so hot…”
Alphaville: 1988, Crime, Punishment, and the Battle for New York’s Lower East Side, by Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett and published by Thomas Dunne Books, is on sale now.