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Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Song of the Past: Installment 3

(Previous installment.)
II
The First Exchange

“In yonder nether world where shall I seek His bright appearances, or footsteps trace?”
—John Milton, Paradise Lost

Sunday, Oct. 19, 9:00 AM
“Detective, I am all set?"

Deirdre, finished filling out her reports, saw Calzone on his way out of the police station. She waved him over. When he reached her side, Deirdre touched his elbow in a gesture of familiarity.

Calzone was a stocky man in his mid thirties. If he resented the fact that Deirdre had leap-frogged past him on the NHPD career ladder, he didn’t show it, perhaps because he regarded her as “one of the boys.” She tried hard to make the uniformed officers feel at ease around her, and could usually out-drink and out-curse them, if it came down to that.

“Calzone, do you think you can win me introductions to a few of our man Ben’s friends?”

“Detective, Sergeant Johnson and I are the premier social coordinators for inner-city New Haven. Consider yourself a debutante that we are presenting.”

Deirdre laughed. “Thanks. Maybe get a couple of them in tomorrow.”

Over Calzone’s shoulder she caught a glimpse of curly red hair. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me.”




She threaded her way the maze of cubicles quickly while trying to avoid looking like she was in a rush. Something I was looking for, was just about to… act surprised to see…

“Why, if it isn’t Dr. Stuart!”

“Detective O’Reilly. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Well, I do drop by from time to time. For the free coffee, you know. Look, I want to apologize for my feeble attempts at making jokes this morning. I know the results weren't in very good taste.”

“Well, we each cope as best we can. It isn't easy facing a scene like that.” He half-smiled toward her as she gazed at the floor.

She glanced up and asked, “What are you doing now?”

“I have to be at my office in an hour and a half. I’ll probably grab breakfast in the meantime.”

“Let me treat you. After all, it was the NHPD that got you up so early.”

“No, please, we’ll go Dutch.”

“Okay, but you’ll have to drive.”

“Oh, really?”

“Well, I don’t have a car.”

“Do you like Clare’s?”

“That’s fine by me.”

During the ten block drive to the restaurant, Deirdre fidgeted uneasily in her seat, anxiously seeking things to say that would not come off as stupid as had her earlier mal mots. She did not give her efforts high marks. Stuart found a parking spot on Chapel Street only a few yards from the corner where Clare’s was located. Once they were inside and seated, a young, pretty Asian woman took their order for coffee and bagels. In the moment of silence that then ensued, Deirdre looked around and noted: the tight red and white check of the tablecloth, large black and white tiles like a chessboard on the floor; bright-colored many-hued diamonds of modern art hung midwall; wicker baskets, stacked whimsically askew; Calistoga bottles blooming with bright-hued flowers; the garbage-strewn sidewalk bathed in morning light; on the trees scattered across the town green golden autumn leaves, above them the brilliant white steeple of Christ Church; a “benetton” across the street.

She was pulled back to the table by the sense that she was under scrutiny. Had he been “checking her out”? Yes or no, the inkling that he had spurred her to engage him.

“You’re new to this area, aren’t you?” seemed to her a reasonably conversational inquiry, inviting increased familiarity without suggesting any desperately unbalanced desire for instant intimacy.

He stared up at the ceiling briefly before replying, “That’s partly true. I went to Yale as an undergrad, so I lived for four years in New Haven, about a decade ago.”

“And where have you been since then?”

“Seattle. I went out there for med. school after Yale, and stayed to set up a practice.”

“How do you like being back in Connecticut?”

“It's certainly different than the west coast. One thing I really appreciate is the feeling I get out here that I’m living in a place with a significant past, where people have laid down some roots. So many of the people in the west arrived so recently that the whole area often struck me as a vast motor inn, where everyone is just passing through on their private trip.”

“I wish I knew more about the history of this area.” Deirdre made a vague gesture with her hand that seemed to indicate that Clare's was the area in question. She liked listening to Stuart talk, and she suspected that he only wanted a little encouragement to expand on this theme.

“Now, I find the story of New Haven quite fascinating. For instance, the city, although only in its infancy at the time, had a significant role to play in the English Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century.” Deirdre watched his hands gesticulate more and more vigorously as he warmed to the topic. As she did so, she noticed the faint tan line on his left ring finger.

“Did it now? Do tell.”

“The first English who settled here were Puritans, seeking to escape the religious persecution they suffered in England. Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan who eventually headed the revolutionary government, had considered moving to New Haven himself.

“When the revolution eventually failed and the monarchy was restored in the person of Charles II, the judges who had condemned his father, Charles I, to death were obviously not going to be court favorites. Three of those jurists chose to flee to New Haven: Whalley, Goffe and Dixwell. The three major streets branching out from York Square are named after them. And Judges’ Cave, up on West Rock, is where the trio hid out when soldiers dispatched by Charles pursued his foes across the Atlantic.”

“Why do you know so much about the history of New Haven?”

“Oh, my father is a bit of a history buff, and seventeenth-century England was his favorite period. When I decided to go to Yale, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to share his obsession with a receptive audience.”

Dr. Stuart smiled at Deirdre while nodding, which she read to mean he was, at least for the moment, finished with this topic. She saw an opening to steer the conversation back onto more personal matters. “And what was it that brought you back here after all this time away?”

“I have friends here who knew someone looking for a partner in his practice, and my family’s from upstate New York, so I’m a lot closer to my parents and my sister.”

“You’re not married?” Deirdre was puzzled about the ring mark.

“Well, that was another factor—I was—I mean, I am…” He stared at the tablecloth for a few seconds. He looked up from the table directly into Deirdre's eyes. “I’m separated. My wife’s in Seattle.”

“It must be difficult for you.”

Seagreen eyes inviting her in for a swim. But what beasts might lurk beneath the surface?
“Yes. I really care about her, but..."

“But?”

“She’s too dysfunctional. The demands she put on me weren’t healthy for either of us. I… I had to get away to save myself.”

Deirdre nodded. “Drugs?”

“Some drinking and some pills, but that wasn’t the worst of it. I always had the feeling that she wouldn’t be able to cope without my constant presence, that only after filling every one of her needs could I think of the first of mine.”

“I’ve been in the same boat.” She opened her mouth to ask another question, but he waved his hand at her, motioning her to stop.

“Now, we’re not being fair here. It’s my turn to ask questions. I’ll start with the obvious one.”

“Which is?”

“Why does this black New Haven cop have an Irish brogue?”

Deirdre’ face lit up with a smile. “I am a bit of a conundrum, aren’t I?”

“Is there a key to it?”

“Of course. First of all, I’m only half black. My mother was Jamaican, my father Irish. They met and married in London. The English, they have a wonderful scheme for world unity -- they bring together all of the former colonials in the ghettos of London and Leeds and Manchester and Birmingham.”

“Then why don’t you have an English accent?”

“My mother died when I was two—she was accidentally shot during a riot. The police blamed the rioters, the rioters blamed the police. My father didn’t have much of a stomach for England after that. We moved back to Cobh, near Cork, where he was from, and I grew up there.”

“It must have been a strange place for a kid with your skin color.”

“It wasn’t that bad. I was mostly a curiosity, although there were times . . ..” Deirdre’s voice tapered off. Little nigger girl, made of mud.
“And what brought you here?”


“I wanted to get away, see the wide world and all that. Cork can be very provincial. My mother’s sister had settled in New Haven, so I moved in with her after high school, and studied criminology at the University of Bridgeport. I was hired by the New Haven police right after I graduated.”

“What made you decide to become a cop?”

“I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes.”

He laughed. “Well, I wanted to be Marcus Welby.”

They had finished their bagels and coffee. Dr. Stuart glanced at his watch.

“Christ! I’ve got to get going. I’m meeting my accountant at my office.”

“On a Sunday?”

“The weekends are my only chance to catch up on the books. Can I drop you anywhere?”

“Where’s your office?”

“Orange Street.”

“No, I’m afraid I’d take you a good bit out of your way. I’ll just grab a bus.”

“Are you sure?”

“I do it all the time.”

They had gotten up and made their way onto the sidewalk. Deirdre extended her hand towards him and half-bowed, saying, “Dr. Stuart.”

“Chuck.”

“All right then. I’m Deirdre.”

They shook hands and parted, she to the bus stop across the street, he to his Saab. Within a minute after Deirdre reached home she collapsed onto her bed. Ariel, who had no doubt been perturbed earlier by the rude interruption of her sleep, cautiously approached the bed. Deirdre called her up, and held up the covers so that Ariel could slip underneath and curl up by Deirdre's belly. Deirdre scratched the cat's head for a couple of minutes, and then drifted off for far more than the five hours sleep she had promised herself.

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