The Equalizer

Harold Forsyth was very tired. If officer Joe Marchetti hadn't held him firmly by the right elbow as he shuffled down the corridor, he might not have walked at all.

 

It was now 3 a.m. at the 72nd Precinct and the dry burning lights made dozing an exercise in half-conscious head bobbing. When they arrived at the holding cell, Harold looked through the white bars at the man sitting on one of the stainless steel benches against the back wall.

 

Officer Joe remained bright. “You have a weekend guest, Tad. I’m sure youz'll get along fine.”

 

He reached behind Harold and began to unlock the too-tight handcuffs.  “How are your wrists, Harry?  A tussle like that always make it more painful.”

 

“It’s Harold. I’m OK, thank you.”
Officer Joe slid the door closed. “Sure thing, Harry. I’ll be back for ya when the paperwork’s done.”

 

Earlier, Harold had resisted when he realized he was going to be cuffed a second time at his arraignment in Central Booking. When his verbal protests went unheeded, he’d found himself in a gentlemen’s scuffle. Following a Newtonian law of incarceration, the court officer clamped the cuffs on him with a force equal to his show of resistance. Later, at the precinct, officer Joe had placed the Tom Ford cufflink from Harold’s now torn Brooks Brothers shirt into a plastic bag for safekeeping. Harold was charged with Aggravated DWI and Aggravated Vehicular Assault.

 

Early on Friday, he’d given his chauffeur the day off. He knew it was going to be a late night at the Manhattan Yacht Club, where an investor friend was being honored. He kept the Bentley in a Chelsea garage next to his Manhattan pied-à-terre and drove to the yacht club himself. It was an especially boozy party that was summed up with Louis XIII cognac for a nightcap.

 

After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge he began to nod off, but then turned up the radio to keep himself awake after almost missing the turn onto Atlantic Avenue. While he was driving south on Court Street, a mere two blocks from his brownstone in Cobble Hill, he dozed off again. A young couple was crossing the street at the corner of Warren and he went straight through the red light, running them down. He was awakened by the loud thump on his windshield and he forced a screeching stop while swiping two parked cars.

 

Both of the young pedestrians were now in critical condition. A nearby sanitation worker had called 911. Harold, in near panic, called his attorney and woke him up, but at arraignment a decision for bail was put off until the status of the victims could be determined.

 

Tad had been arrested for drunk driving. His planned drop-in to the after-work party at The Sycamore next to Brooklyn College was supposed to be a short courtesy stop before driving out to Long Island for a weekend wedding. Two hours later he left The Sycamore and got into a fender bender with a yellow cab and then failed a sobriety test, blowing a .09, just over the legal limit. Normally he wouldn’t be driving a car, but had borrowed one from a fellow professor so he could be present to see his niece walk down the aisle out in Farmingdale.

 

As the door slammed shut, Tadeusz Tucholski looked up and took measure of his happenstance roommate. He was sitting on one of the two steel benches and instinctively glanced over at the other one, hoping Harold would simply take a seat there without any fuss. Harold was thirsty and his early stage hangover was beginning its familiar throbbing surge. He walked to the far end of the second bench, leaned over and using his right hand steadied himself to a soft landing. Then he slumped forward, elbows on knees, face in hands and let out a sigh.
The men sat silently for several minutes. Tad was the first to speak.
“Harold, right?”
“Yes.”
“What got you here?”

 

Harold was agitated and didn’t feel like talking to some loser, sitting in the 72nd Precinct in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. He wanted to tell this odd-looking nobody that it was none of his business, but then decided he might as well talk. What else was he going to do?

 

“Drunk driving. And I hit some people.”
“You got in a fight?”
“Yes, well, no…I hit them with my car.”

 

Tad thought for a moment. “Oh. That’s serious.”
“No shit, asshole,” said Harold.

 

Tad had expected to be released by now, but since there’d been an accident and the court was backed up, all was delayed. Now he was feeling anxious as he sat across from this irascible drunk in Italian dress shoes. They sat for five minutes in silence, listening to the buzz of the overhead fluorescent light fixture. Harold, in tacit apology mode, started things up again. “So, what do you do?”

 

Tad was matter of fact and monotone. “I’m a teacher.”

 

Harold sat up a little straighter. “My father was a teacher.  Where do you teach?”

 

“I’m a professor at Brooklyn College.”
“And what do you teach at Brooklyn College?”

 

He was as curious about Harold’s line of questioning as Harold was about Tad’s job, since it contained no inquiry about why he was in jail.

 

“I teach economic history and political economy.”

“Really, that’s it?  I mean, you must specialize in something.”
Tad looked at the Armani dress jacket and the shoes again. “I teach Marx’s Capital.”

 

“Hah!  A fucking Marxist.  I could have spent the night sleeping with the David Yurman model and I wind up in a jail cell with a fucking Marxist. Beautiful.”

 

Tad wasn’t too taken aback and half-expected a hostile response to his revelation. It came with the territory. He’d often try to explain to perplexed inquisitors that he wasn’t a Marxist and that the term connotes something that Marx himself decried; that the three-volume work he taught was a masterpiece of deep inquiry and abstract reasoning. In Tad’s mind, it helped explain an awful lot in human affairs. He realized most people didn’t buy it and thought his average with obtaining understanding from people in these situations was about 50/50.

 

“I teach the book. It’s not well understood, having been forced out of the mainstream and castigated as radical left ideology. Actually, the old man wasn’t really an ideologue, he was trying to get to the heart of things and spent thirty years researching and writing the book that I teach. History, as always, can spoil a good thing. I’m just a teacher.”

 

Harold was unmoved. “Look, capitalism won the day. It’s over. Why dick around with that quaint bullshit? I mean ‘workers of the world unite.’  That’s not ideological?”

 

Tad had been across this turf before. “That’s popular culture. Marx wrote that when he was a young man and there were actual revolutions going on in Germany and France. The important work came later.”

 

Tad was losing energy already. Another swing and a miss. He moved to change the subject, away from himself.

 

“And what do you do?”

 

Harold leaned back against the wall and looked up. “Thirty years ago, I started a private equity firm, Blue Stone Partners. Today we have $98 billion under management.”

 

“Private equity,” Tad stated with nominal incredulity.
“Yes.”
“Didn’t you guys used to call yourselves venture capitalists?”
Harold wasn’t sure if he was receiving sarcasm or a compliment.

“Do you know the difference, Tad?  By the way, is that your real name?”

 

“Tadeusz.”

 

“Well, Tadeusz, Venture Capital normally funds early-stage businesses, which private equity firms sometimes still do, but we fund larger deals as well.”
“Oh, like mergers and acquisitions, using leverage?”

 

Harold started to grin. “Oh, so you do understand! Listen Tadeusz, are you busting my balls?”
“No, you asked me what I do and I am asking you what you do.  That’s all.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Harold took a deep breath and began to think about how the hell he was going to get out of this one. The arraignment hadn’t gone well and the judge was rigid. His attorney had proved useless.

 

The men continued to sit beneath the buzz of the overhead light ballast in silence. Time moved slowly and each of them became deeply immersed in their own thoughts, forgetting the other one was there. Tad contemplated how he could have been so careless and wondered if and how he’d get to the wedding. Harold was less circumspect, asking himself just how the fuck he was going to get out of this one. He hadn’t called his wife yet and he knew she’d be wondering what he was up to.
Suddenly a new sound broke the silence. The security door at the end of the hallway was unlatching. The triple-clunk roll of the steel lock assembly sounded closer this time. Then, after a three-second pause of silence the heavy door slammed shut, delivering an echo that sounded far away.  Soft rubber-soled steps could be heard coming down the hallway.  Both men stared out through the cell door.  It was officer Joe.
“Well, Harry, we got a call from the trauma center over at NYU Lutheran. The young lady died at 3:55 a.m. Her name was Eileen. Her fiancé is still critical, but they think he’s going to make it. His name is Scotty. We’re gonna be taking you back over to Booking. Wanted to give you a few minutes to get yourself together.”

 

Tad looked at Harold, who was staring at officer Joe, expressionless.
“Then what happens?” Harold asked.

 

“Well, there’s a ninety-nine-percent chance you’ll be sleeping at Rikers.” He turned to walk back to his station.
“You really fucked up, Harry.”

 

Tad was stunned and tried to imagine what was going through Harold’s mind. He wondered what the actual difference was between the two of them.  Sure, he was a Left intellectual teaching Marx and working on a salary and Harold Forsyth was a billionaire, a member of New York’s senior oligarchy. They were different, but right now, they were the same. He knew he could have run someone down, too. Was this all about luck?

 

Harold, pacing around the cell while Tad watched him, said, “What?”

 

“I was just wondering about the girl’s family. Her parents, siblings, I don’t know.”

 

“You think I don’t care?”
“No, I’m sure you care. That’s just what I was thinking about.”

 

“All the money in the fucking world isn’t going to fix this. My life is over.”
“It could have been me, Harold. Mine was a fender bender, but…”

 

Harold was a problem solver and over the years his self-assurance had developed to a point of mystique. He was viewed by many in the finance world through a magical lens. Now, a decision he’d made resulted in catastrophe and he was unable to fathom its consequences. He struggled to reckon the meaning of what he’d wrought, but it eluded him like a jackrabbit hearing a predator approaching.

 

The door was opening at the end of the hallway. Harold stopped pacing and looked at Tad. He stared closely at the face of the man living on a professor’s salary from a city college. Tad’s eyes were showing Harold what he’d look like to a sympathetic world, but he knew the real world wouldn't be sympathetic at all. He realized he was preparing himself for a life of judgment while being held hostage by Tad’s empathy. Now it was off to a second arraignment for vehicular manslaughter.  He’d been drunk. Would it be murder?

 

Officer Joe made his way down the hallway and was unlocking the cell door. “Time to go, Harry.”

 

Tad and Harold were on their feet. Tad reached out first and they shook hands for several seconds.
“Good luck, Harold. Is there anything I can do for you when I get out of here?”
“I don’t think so. Good luck to you.”

 

“One more time, Harry,” said Joe Marchetti as he held up the cuffs.

 

Harold silently turned around and complied. Tad listened as the carbon steel ratchet teeth were engaged around Harold’s wrists. Joe gently spun Harold around for the exit march and the inmates nodded farewells to each other. Tad leaned against the bars and watched the men walk slowly away until they passed through the iron door. He began to imagine what it would be like for Harold, standing before a judge, charged with killing an innocent human being and critically injuring another, having his rights stripped away in an instant and then being transported to a notorious prison; entering that prison under the watchful eyes of blue-uniformed officers and of prisoners in jumpsuits with a billionaire in their midst. Inmates would whistle from their cells and one might welcome him with “Hello, sweet pea.” He’d feel afraid, unprotected, and his billions would be useless. Tad decided to lie down on the bench and fell asleep.

 

The slamming door awakened him. He knew the cadence of the footsteps.  Officer Joe was back. “You’re going home, Tad. I’ve got your belongings at the front desk.” Tad arose, allowed himself a yawning stretch and walked out of the cell. No handcuffs. They passed through the jail door and out to the front office. Tad could see the lobby entrance through the protective glass. Daylight burst through the front door. He gathered his wallet, watch and cell phone and was handed a form to sign. Joe Marchetti gave him his court summons. “You’ll need to appear in court. The address and the date are right here. Your car is at the impound. Here’s the paperwork for where you can pick it up and pay the towing and storage fees. Do you have any questions?”

 

Tad could not escape the vibrating dissonance of strings that fate held over him and over Harold Forsyth. He knew his only likely encounter with Harold would come through a newspaper.

 

“What will become of Harry?”

 

“Aside from Aggravated DWI, Reckless Endangerment and Vehicular Assault, he’s being charged with one count of Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree. He’s lucky it’s not murder. The judge refused to offer bail. He’s gonna do time.”

 

Tad walked through the precinct’s front door and onto Fourth Avenue. He glanced at the address of the impound location and started toward Green-Wood Cemetery to hail a cab, but once there he kept walking, taking in the morning light to wake himself up. From Green-Wood’s perimeter, headstones were clearly visible with their individual names, birth and death dates and family relations all there for anyone interested enough to notice. Older plots appeared to contain whole families as if they enclosed finished stories, while others suggested a state of waiting, ready to complete a tale for generations to come. How were the story lines drawn? Tad sensed a dialectical force between the living and the dead. What had seemed final before now appeared to be ongoing, determined by an equalizer that had eluded him. A mother had passed at age eighty-two, her husband at seventy-eight, but their daughter had died at the age of twenty-three. What were those circumstances? This was how Eileen would appear, perhaps in this very cemetery. Tad thought of picking up a newspaper to see if the story was published yet. Maybe he would read the family name and then quietly attend the funeral standing in silence, unknown, but representing the sorrow and stupidity of his life and Harold’s in a kind of abject solidarity. What had separated them?  Tad would have to pay the cost of damages to his friend’s car—the yellow cab didn’t even suffer chipped paint—and he would pay his fine. Maybe he’d have a restricted license. For Harold and Scotty, the nightmare was just beginning.

 

As he walked through a scattering crowd of pigeons, he wondered how Howard was feeling. Was he feeling? If he was still numb, he couldn’t be blamed. It might take time.

 

Get the car, go to the wedding. Show up late, but show up.

 

The impound station was straight across from the bowling alley at 36th street. Tad grabbed a Daily News before crossing the street corner. He glanced at the front page.

 

Finance Titan Kills Woman with Bentley
“Harold Forsyth, New York billionaire, being held for manslaughter.”

 

They must have run the story about manslaughter before that charge was even made. What time had Eileen died? New York seemed to be checking its pulse every minute of the day. He folded the newspaper under his arm and moved on. By 10 a.m., he was driving through the Midtown Tunnel on his way to Long Island to see a family story grow. He’d miss the vows, but make the reception. And he’d skip the cocktails.

 

© Kevin Swanwick 2017

Harold Forsyth was very tired. If officer Joe Marchetti hadn't held him firmly by the right elbow as he shuffled down the corridor, he might not have walked at all.

 

It was now 3 a.m. at the 72nd Precinct and the dry burning lights made dozing an exercise in half-conscious head bobbing. When they arrived at the holding cell, Harold looked through the white bars at the man sitting on one of the stainless steel benches against the back wall.

 

Officer Joe remained bright. “You have a weekend guest, Tad. I’m sure youz'll get along fine.”

 

He reached behind Harold and began to unlock the too-tight handcuffs.  “How are your wrists, Harry?  A tussle like that always make it more painful.”

 

“It’s Harold. I’m OK, thank you.”
Officer Joe slid the door closed. “Sure thing, Harry. I’ll be back for ya when the paperwork’s done.”

 

Earlier, Harold had resisted when he realized he was going to be cuffed a second time at his arraignment in Central Booking. When his verbal protests went unheeded, he’d found himself in a gentlemen’s scuffle. Following a Newtonian law of incarceration, the court officer clamped the cuffs on him with a force equal to his show of resistance. Later, at the precinct, officer Joe had placed the Tom Ford cufflink from Harold’s now torn Brooks Brothers shirt into a plastic bag for safekeeping. Harold was charged with Aggravated DWI and Aggravated Vehicular Assault.

 

Early on Friday, he’d given his chauffeur the day off. He knew it was going to be a late night at the Manhattan Yacht Club, where an investor friend was being honored. He kept the Bentley in a Chelsea garage next to his Manhattan pied-à-terre and drove to the yacht club himself. It was an especially boozy party that was summed up with Louis XIII cognac for a nightcap.

 

After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge he began to nod off, but then turned up the radio to keep himself awake after almost missing the turn onto Atlantic Avenue. While he was driving south on Court Street, a mere two blocks from his brownstone in Cobble Hill, he dozed off again. A young couple was crossing the street at the corner of Warren and he went straight through the red light, running them down. He was awakened by the loud thump on his windshield and he forced a screeching stop while swiping two parked cars.

 

Both of the young pedestrians were now in critical condition. A nearby sanitation worker had called 911. Harold, in near panic, called his attorney and woke him up, but at arraignment a decision for bail was put off until the status of the victims could be determined.

 

Tad had been arrested for drunk driving. His planned drop-in to the after-work party at The Sycamore next to Brooklyn College was supposed to be a short courtesy stop before driving out to Long Island for a weekend wedding. Two hours later he left The Sycamore and got into a fender bender with a yellow cab and then failed a sobriety test, blowing a .09, just over the legal limit. Normally he wouldn’t be driving a car, but had borrowed one from a fellow professor so he could be present to see his niece walk down the aisle out in Farmingdale.

 

As the door slammed shut, Tadeusz Tucholski looked up and took measure of his happenstance roommate. He was sitting on one of the two steel benches and instinctively glanced over at the other one, hoping Harold would simply take a seat there without any fuss. Harold was thirsty and his early stage hangover was beginning its familiar throbbing surge. He walked to the far end of the second bench, leaned over and using his right hand steadied himself to a soft landing. Then he slumped forward, elbows on knees, face in hands and let out a sigh.
The men sat silently for several minutes. Tad was the first to speak.
“Harold, right?”
“Yes.”
“What got you here?”

 

Harold was agitated and didn’t feel like talking to some loser, sitting in the 72nd Precinct in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. He wanted to tell this odd-looking nobody that it was none of his business, but then decided he might as well talk. What else was he going to do?

 

“Drunk driving. And I hit some people.”
“You got in a fight?”
“Yes, well, no…I hit them with my car.”

 

Tad thought for a moment. “Oh. That’s serious.”
“No shit, asshole,” said Harold.

 

Tad had expected to be released by now, but since there’d been an accident and the court was backed up, all was delayed. Now he was feeling anxious as he sat across from this irascible drunk in Italian dress shoes. They sat for five minutes in silence, listening to the buzz of the overhead fluorescent light fixture. Harold, in tacit apology mode, started things up again. “So, what do you do?”

 

Tad was matter of fact and monotone. “I’m a teacher.”

 

Harold sat up a little straighter. “My father was a teacher.  Where do you teach?”

 

“I’m a professor at Brooklyn College.”
“And what do you teach at Brooklyn College?”

 

He was as curious about Harold’s line of questioning as Harold was about Tad’s job, since it contained no inquiry about why he was in jail.

 

“I teach economic history and political economy.”

“Really, that’s it?  I mean, you must specialize in something.”
Tad looked at the Armani dress jacket and the shoes again. “I teach Marx’s Capital.”

 

“Hah!  A fucking Marxist.  I could have spent the night sleeping with the David Yurman model and I wind up in a jail cell with a fucking Marxist. Beautiful.”

 

Tad wasn’t too taken aback and half-expected a hostile response to his revelation. It came with the territory. He’d often try to explain to perplexed inquisitors that he wasn’t a Marxist and that the term connotes something that Marx himself decried; that the three-volume work he taught was a masterpiece of deep inquiry and abstract reasoning. In Tad’s mind, it helped explain an awful lot in human affairs. He realized most people didn’t buy it and thought his average with obtaining understanding from people in these situations was about 50/50.

 

“I teach the book. It’s not well understood, having been forced out of the mainstream and castigated as radical left ideology. Actually, the old man wasn’t really an ideologue, he was trying to get to the heart of things and spent thirty years researching and writing the book that I teach. History, as always, can spoil a good thing. I’m just a teacher.”

 

Harold was unmoved. “Look, capitalism won the day. It’s over. Why dick around with that quaint bullshit? I mean ‘workers of the world unite.’  That’s not ideological?”

 

Tad had been across this turf before. “That’s popular culture. Marx wrote that when he was a young man and there were actual revolutions going on in Germany and France. The important work came later.”

 

Tad was losing energy already. Another swing and a miss. He moved to change the subject, away from himself.

 

“And what do you do?”

 

Harold leaned back against the wall and looked up. “Thirty years ago, I started a private equity firm, Blue Stone Partners. Today we have $98 billion under management.”

 

“Private equity,” Tad stated with nominal incredulity.
“Yes.”
“Didn’t you guys used to call yourselves venture capitalists?”
Harold wasn’t sure if he was receiving sarcasm or a compliment.

“Do you know the difference, Tad?  By the way, is that your real name?”

 

“Tadeusz.”

 

“Well, Tadeusz, Venture Capital normally funds early-stage businesses, which private equity firms sometimes still do, but we fund larger deals as well.”
“Oh, like mergers and acquisitions, using leverage?”

 

Harold started to grin. “Oh, so you do understand! Listen Tadeusz, are you busting my balls?”
“No, you asked me what I do and I am asking you what you do.  That’s all.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Harold took a deep breath and began to think about how the hell he was going to get out of this one. The arraignment hadn’t gone well and the judge was rigid. His attorney had proved useless.

 

The men continued to sit beneath the buzz of the overhead light ballast in silence. Time moved slowly and each of them became deeply immersed in their own thoughts, forgetting the other one was there. Tad contemplated how he could have been so careless and wondered if and how he’d get to the wedding. Harold was less circumspect, asking himself just how the fuck he was going to get out of this one. He hadn’t called his wife yet and he knew she’d be wondering what he was up to.
Suddenly a new sound broke the silence. The security door at the end of the hallway was unlatching. The triple-clunk roll of the steel lock assembly sounded closer this time. Then, after a three-second pause of silence the heavy door slammed shut, delivering an echo that sounded far away.  Soft rubber-soled steps could be heard coming down the hallway.  Both men stared out through the cell door.  It was officer Joe.
“Well, Harry, we got a call from the trauma center over at NYU Lutheran. The young lady died at 3:55 a.m. Her name was Eileen. Her fiancé is still critical, but they think he’s going to make it. His name is Scotty. We’re gonna be taking you back over to Booking. Wanted to give you a few minutes to get yourself together.”

 

Tad looked at Harold, who was staring at officer Joe, expressionless.
“Then what happens?” Harold asked.

 

“Well, there’s a ninety-nine-percent chance you’ll be sleeping at Rikers.” He turned to walk back to his station.
“You really fucked up, Harry.”

 

Tad was stunned and tried to imagine what was going through Harold’s mind. He wondered what the actual difference was between the two of them.  Sure, he was a Left intellectual teaching Marx and working on a salary and Harold Forsyth was a billionaire, a member of New York’s senior oligarchy. They were different, but right now, they were the same. He knew he could have run someone down, too. Was this all about luck?

 

Harold, pacing around the cell while Tad watched him, said, “What?”

 

“I was just wondering about the girl’s family. Her parents, siblings, I don’t know.”

 

“You think I don’t care?”
“No, I’m sure you care. That’s just what I was thinking about.”

 

“All the money in the fucking world isn’t going to fix this. My life is over.”
“It could have been me, Harold. Mine was a fender bender, but…”

 

Harold was a problem solver and over the years his self-assurance had developed to a point of mystique. He was viewed by many in the finance world through a magical lens. Now, a decision he’d made resulted in catastrophe and he was unable to fathom its consequences. He struggled to reckon the meaning of what he’d wrought, but it eluded him like a jackrabbit hearing a predator approaching.

 

The door was opening at the end of the hallway. Harold stopped pacing and looked at Tad. He stared closely at the face of the man living on a professor’s salary from a city college. Tad’s eyes were showing Harold what he’d look like to a sympathetic world, but he knew the real world wouldn't be sympathetic at all. He realized he was preparing himself for a life of judgment while being held hostage by Tad’s empathy. Now it was off to a second arraignment for vehicular manslaughter.  He’d been drunk. Would it be murder?

 

Officer Joe made his way down the hallway and was unlocking the cell door. “Time to go, Harry.”

 

Tad and Harold were on their feet. Tad reached out first and they shook hands for several seconds.
“Good luck, Harold. Is there anything I can do for you when I get out of here?”
“I don’t think so. Good luck to you.”

 

“One more time, Harry,” said Joe Marchetti as he held up the cuffs.

 

Harold silently turned around and complied. Tad listened as the carbon steel ratchet teeth were engaged around Harold’s wrists. Joe gently spun Harold around for the exit march and the inmates nodded farewells to each other. Tad leaned against the bars and watched the men walk slowly away until they passed through the iron door. He began to imagine what it would be like for Harold, standing before a judge, charged with killing an innocent human being and critically injuring another, having his rights stripped away in an instant and then being transported to a notorious prison; entering that prison under the watchful eyes of blue-uniformed officers and of prisoners in jumpsuits with a billionaire in their midst. Inmates would whistle from their cells and one might welcome him with “Hello, sweet pea.” He’d feel afraid, unprotected, and his billions would be useless. Tad decided to lie down on the bench and fell asleep.

 

The slamming door awakened him. He knew the cadence of the footsteps.  Officer Joe was back. “You’re going home, Tad. I’ve got your belongings at the front desk.” Tad arose, allowed himself a yawning stretch and walked out of the cell. No handcuffs. They passed through the jail door and out to the front office. Tad could see the lobby entrance through the protective glass. Daylight burst through the front door. He gathered his wallet, watch and cell phone and was handed a form to sign. Joe Marchetti gave him his court summons. “You’ll need to appear in court. The address and the date are right here. Your car is at the impound. Here’s the paperwork for where you can pick it up and pay the towing and storage fees. Do you have any questions?”

 

Tad could not escape the vibrating dissonance of strings that fate held over him and over Harold Forsyth. He knew his only likely encounter with Harold would come through a newspaper.

 

“What will become of Harry?”

 

“Aside from Aggravated DWI, Reckless Endangerment and Vehicular Assault, he’s being charged with one count of Vehicular Manslaughter in the First Degree. He’s lucky it’s not murder. The judge refused to offer bail. He’s gonna do time.”

 

Tad walked through the precinct’s front door and onto Fourth Avenue. He glanced at the address of the impound location and started toward Green-Wood Cemetery to hail a cab, but once there he kept walking, taking in the morning light to wake himself up. From Green-Wood’s perimeter, headstones were clearly visible with their individual names, birth and death dates and family relations all there for anyone interested enough to notice. Older plots appeared to contain whole families as if they enclosed finished stories, while others suggested a state of waiting, ready to complete a tale for generations to come. How were the story lines drawn? Tad sensed a dialectical force between the living and the dead. What had seemed final before now appeared to be ongoing, determined by an equalizer that had eluded him. A mother had passed at age eighty-two, her husband at seventy-eight, but their daughter had died at the age of twenty-three. What were those circumstances? This was how Eileen would appear, perhaps in this very cemetery. Tad thought of picking up a newspaper to see if the story was published yet. Maybe he would read the family name and then quietly attend the funeral standing in silence, unknown, but representing the sorrow and stupidity of his life and Harold’s in a kind of abject solidarity. What had separated them?  Tad would have to pay the cost of damages to his friend’s car—the yellow cab didn’t even suffer chipped paint—and he would pay his fine. Maybe he’d have a restricted license. For Harold and Scotty, the nightmare was just beginning.

 

As he walked through a scattering crowd of pigeons, he wondered how Howard was feeling. Was he feeling? If he was still numb, he couldn’t be blamed. It might take time.

 

Get the car, go to the wedding. Show up late, but show up.

 

The impound station was straight across from the bowling alley at 36th street. Tad grabbed a Daily News before crossing the street corner. He glanced at the front page.

 

Finance Titan Kills Woman with Bentley
“Harold Forsyth, New York billionaire, being held for manslaughter.”

 

They must have run the story about manslaughter before that charge was even made. What time had Eileen died? New York seemed to be checking its pulse every minute of the day. He folded the newspaper under his arm and moved on. By 10 a.m., he was driving through the Midtown Tunnel on his way to Long Island to see a family story grow. He’d miss the vows, but make the reception. And he’d skip the cocktails.

 

© Kevin Swanwick 2017

POST RECITAL

Talk Icon

TALK

BR: I don’t know why, but I have a suspicion that this episode’s author, Kevin Swanwick, may have twisted some of the facts in relating the story of Harold and Tad. You know, we people in the media have a responsibility to tell the truth. So, by way of fact -checking, I’m gonna call up the 72nd precinct in Brooklyn.
 
(SFX: dialling, ringing.)
 
Receptionist: Seventy-second. Hold. (SFX: Click, then muzak.)
 
BR: Hm, friendly.
 
Receptionist: (Click) Yes?
 
BR: Officer Joe Marchetti please.
 
(SFX: Click, ring, pickup.)
 
KS: Marchetti.
 
BR: Officer, this is Brent Robison at The Strange Recital. I need to check on--
 
KS: The what?
 
BR: The Strange Recital. It’s a pod--
 
KS: Strange what?
 
BR: Recital. You know, like a performance--
 
KS: No, I don’t know. Perform what?
 
BR: It’s a podcast about fiction that questions--
 
KS: Are you aware you’re talking to the police?
 
BR: I need to ask about a story that was --
 
KS: Get to the point. What’s yer question?
 
BR: Harold Forsyth and Tad Tucholski--
 
KS: Don’t know ‘em.
 
BR: They were both in your jail for drunk driving. But I was wondering--
 
KS: Not a chance, pal. We don’t reveal details about inmates. You nuts?
 
BR: OK, I appreciate --
 
KS: Anything else?
 
BR: What happened to Mr.--
 
KS: If not, have a good day. (SFX: Click, dial tone.)
 
BR: Hm. Well. So much for getting the truth.

BR: I don’t know why, but I have a suspicion that this episode’s author, Kevin Swanwick, may have twisted some of the facts in relating the story of Harold and Tad. You know, we people in the media have a responsibility to tell the truth. So, by way of fact -checking, I’m gonna call up the 72nd precinct in Brooklyn.

(SFX: dialling, ringing.)

Receptionist: Seventy-second. Hold. (SFX: Click, then muzak.)

BR: Hm, friendly.

Receptionist: (Click) Yes?

BR: Officer Joe Marchetti please.

(SFX: Click, ring, pickup.)

KS: Marchetti.

BR: Officer, this is Brent Robison at The Strange Recital. I need to check on--

KS: The what?

BR: The Strange Recital. It’s a pod--

KS: Strange what?

BR: Recital. You know, like a performance--

KS: No, I don’t know. Perform what?

BR: It’s a podcast about fiction that questions--

KS: Are you aware you’re talking to the police?

BR: I need to ask about a story that was --

KS: Get to the point. What’s yer question?

BR: Harold Forsyth and Tad Tucholski--

KS: Don’t know ‘em.

BR: They were both in your jail for drunk driving. But I was wondering--

KS: Not a chance, pal. We don’t reveal details about inmates. You nuts?

BR: OK, I appreciate --

KS: Anything else?

BR: What happened to Mr.--

KS: If not, have a good day. (SFX: Click, dial tone.)

BR: Hm. Well. So much for getting the truth.

Music on this episode:

Elevator by xj5000.

Used with permission of artist.

Trompe L'Oreille by Rick Altman.

Used with permission of artist.

THE STRANGE RECITAL

Episode 17112

BLACK BULL Logo