By Barry Wax
It was a typical day in the windy city. Patrolman Ted O’Brien was on his beat, daydreaming even as he walked the streets. All he could think about was his retirement which would start in six days. His paperwork was in, the house was sold, the condo in Florida bought and the tickets to fly down to the Sunshine State had been secured on-line. Life was good. That is on the surface but go deeper and the scabs of discontent were there.
For a second he thought of his granddaughter, Cindy. He winced because her actions had caused him grief. His wife and he had raised her when her mother died when she was five. He thought they had done a good job but kids and even grandchildren sometimes test the waters. She was sixteen when she met Jerome and within six months became pregnant. O’Brien was a conservative but his Jewish wife was a liberal. He overlooked her liberal tendencies but Cindy took after her Grandmother. Every time he thought of Jerome he became inflamed. O’Brien was on the verge of prejudice before Jerome but after the “Black boy” started to date Cindy he became a real bigot. Being a cop he had seen too much and it registered anti-black. Thank god the community he was moving to did not have any of them. But Jerome was now out of the picture. A drive by shooting took care of that problem. Now Cindy would have to stay with them. It would take a long while to overcome the baby problem. A mixed child. O’Brien was hoping after the birth she would put it up for adoption but that would take time and a lot of treading on bread crumbs.
O’Brien did not see it at first. He noticed a few people on the street looking up and pointing. There on the ledge twenty or so stories up was a man on a ledge. Immediately he called it in and entered the lobby of the apartment building where someone was threatening suicide. He had in tow the manager thinking he would need the key. They ran to apartment fifteen. It was vacant and someone had broken the lock and had entered the apartment. O’Brien ran to the open window and looked outside. Fifteen feet from the window on a ledge seven inches out from the building was a young Black. The first reaction was “Jump” but the patrolman quickly shook the idea out of his head. It was not that he was not prejudice, hell it was the paperwork nightmare that would happen if this occurred on his watch. It would cause him to have to postpone Florida and that just cannot happen. He leaned out of the window.
“Hey, boy. You got to come back in,” he yelled to the guy leaning against the building. On reflection that was just the wrong thing to say on so many levels. To his surprise the young man, about nineteen talked back.
“I have got to do this. She left me. I have nothing to live for.”
“We need to talk. No woman is worth this. I know it seems like the end but believe me you can get over this. All you need to do is inch back to me and then we can sit down and work this out.”
At that moment other people entered the room. One was his squad chief with a couple of officers and thank god, the psychologist for the station. O’Brien thought, “Good, I can pawn this situation to these guys and get out of the loop.”
Dr. Frank Joyce was the typical egghead. He was small in stature. Only about five foot four and if soaking wet would weigh in at one hundred pounds. He was thin and had the friar hair of an old man even though he was just fifty years old.
“Brief me,” he asked O’Brien.
“I got nothing much. I think you can talk me out of this. Something about a girlfriend dumping him. But he will talk. My gut is he has not made up his mind.” O’Brien talked in staccato phrases for every second counted.
The shrink went to the window and started his spiel. O’Brien briefed the squad chief. Two fire rescue men entered the room. They carried material including some rope. As the shrink was leaning out of the window one of them tied him securely so he did not fall out to the pavement which was twenty two stories below. He spent about five minutes conversing with the jumper. That was a good sign for the longer the delay the better chance that this could have a positive result. The shrink turned back to the room.
“I think I have him under control. He told me his girlfriend is down there and has her cell phone and videoing what he is doing. The idea was to film his swan dive and put it on y-tube. He figures it would go viral and the money from his death would take care of her and the upcoming baby.” Dr. Frank took a breath.
“What now?” asked the squad chief of the doctor?
“I have convinced that he should come in and we would talk it out. The problem is when I said an emergency fireman would come on the ledge to help him back in, he balked. Officer O’Brien must have made a great impression on him because he is insisting that he bring him the rope and secure him.”
Before he realized it O’Brien was back in the loop. The chief just gave him the look and that was that. But even while the fireman was hooking him up with the rope to secure him as he would be secured while bringing the jumper a second rope he had this nagging feeling. In the back of his mind he remembered the kid had said the reason he was going to jump was he broke up with his girlfriend and now she was supposedly filming this event. But before he could capitalize on this contradiction he was being helped through the window. A harness was tied around his waist and he helped the second harness as he gingerly moved to the jumper. He appeared frozen at the same spot that he was when O’Brien first spoke to him.
Slowly the firemen let out the harness rope attached to O’Brien. He inched out towards the jumper.
“What is your name, Sonny?” he asked.
“Johnny” the kid responded watching as the officer came closer and closer. Finally he was close and started to wrap the harness around the lad. The kid held onto him. He had his right hand on the back part of the rescue harness wrapped around the cop.
“I thought you said you broke up with a girl” O’Brien asked and quickly realized he should not have said anything. He had secured the jumper and should have instead brought him in.
“I lied. You see I wanted you here. You killed my cousin Jerome. I know that you set up the drive by as an alibi and now you are going to pay.” As he said this he used the pair of shears that was hidden in his right hand and cut through one of the attached ropes to the cops harness. He then grabbed O’Brien and jumped. His harness attachment held but O’Brien’s link with the rescue party at the window broke as his weight hit.
The men holding the ropes expected a giant tug. They braced themselves as the captain yelled, “They fell.”
One team did strain. They held the harness rope that secured the jumper. The other team felt a momentary tug and then nothing. Officer O’Brien link held him only for a moment. The jump caused the men to swing on a pendulum as the one harness held and the other did not. O’Brien landed ten feet to the left of the inflated safety net set up on the ground by the fire rescuers. The team pulled in the jumper who gave no resistance to being saved.
The aftermath to this incident left many questions but with time they dissolved. There was a girlfriend making a video of the ledge tragedy. It did go viral and money was made. The kid on the ledge Johnny spent time Baker acted for the month but because he had no priors and had seemed very remorseful about what happened he was back on the streets with little consequences.
There was the small problem of the harness rope. But since this would lead to an investigation that would delay the settling of the life insurance to O’Brien heirs and tarnish his status of being a hero this was buried. The shears were never found. They still remain on the ledge exactly where they were dropped.
Poor O’Brien. He never would have been able to convince Johnny that he had not done the drive by that killed Jerome. Not that he was not happy about it. That was until he took a pendulum swing off the building called The Jerome Apartments.