Sunday, May 25, 2008

Phone calls after midnight

Phone calls after midnight are rarely about anything good. When the phone rang at quarter past midnight my first thought was "Who isn't home?" My husband has just gone to bed, but I am still up and working on my computer. I think, "Where did Christine say she was going tonight? That's right, she had studio time until 10 pm. So she has had plenty of time to get home. She should be here by now." The phone quits ringing. Randy has picked it up. I wait to hear Randy call for my son Rob. His friends sometimes call late in the evening. I hope for an angry response from the Bear who has to get up early in the morning. I listen but there is just silence. A few minute pass and I turn to Rob and say, " I wonder who was one the phone. Your Dad hasn't said anything." Then the bedroom door opens and Randy comes into the family room dressed and his car keys are in his hand. He says, "Chris has called. She hit a pedestrian. She asked me to come." I asked the question that was most terrifying, " Was she drinking?" He answers, "I don't know anything else, just that she hit a pedestrian at Carillo and San Andreas." Rob says, "I am coming." I add, " We are all coming." Randy says, "We need to go."

The three of us pile into the Tahoe. It is a cool evening and I am glad we brought along sweatshirts. It helps to keep the chill of terror at bay. The drive is about 12 minutes heading south on 101. We drive in silence. We take the exit at Carillo Street and turn right. When we pull out from the shelter of the underpass I see the flashing blue and red lights. Randy says,"Crime scene tape." Two police cars block the street and direct us to the a left turn down a side street. Randy sees Christine's boyfriend's truck. He says, "There's Vic's truck" as he pulls over to park next to it. I am counting the police cars and there are at least six. The red and yellow flashing lights are on the ambulance. Indeed, the street scene has yellow tape blocking off all traffic, pedestrian and vehicular alike. Randy says, " You stay in the car while I go find out what's going on.

Rob an I wait in the car as long as our patience will allow. I decide that I have to get out an get some air. I might be ill. My stomach is rebelling. The rest of my GI tract seems to want attention as well.

Rob questions, " It would be alright if we just go to the corner and look, don't you think." We look at each other and know that we can't continue sitting here out of site. We arrive at the corner and Vic practically runs into us. I ask, " How is Chris?" He explains with confidence, "She is alright. She is not hurt. She is just really upset."

Vic then tells us the story about how he and Mark were following Chris and they had just turned the corner at 25 mph when Chris suddenly slowed down even further. A guy ran across the street from the liquor store and towards a dark alley. He gestured to a second guy to follow him. The second guy ran right in front of her. She ther was nothing she could do about it." I ask,"How is the guy? Vic, an EMT himself, listened in to the ambulance EMTs to learn that the guy was really broken up, but nothing appeared life threatening at the moment. He was really drink." No sooner that Vic had reported the situation that we see Randy walking up with his arm around Chris.

The police direct up to wait at a distance while they interview other witnesses. We all find a place to sit along the concrete block border of a flower bed. We watch the police at work measuring and writing. I ask, "What is that thing in the street in front of her car?" Vic responds, " That is the bag of beers that the guy dropped." I ask, "What is that thing on the side of the street?" Vic responds, " That is the bag of beers that the other guy dropped. He had been drinking too."

Chris isn't saying much, but after the questions about the bags in the street she says to everyone, "Please, quite talking about it. I don't want to talk about it." Then she says, " I thought he was dead. I looked down and all I could see was his feet. And I thought he was dead. Then he started to scream. And I couldn't stand it."

Now we have quite a group shivering together at the side of the road in the glow of red and blue for there isn't much other light. There are a number of pedestrians out walking about and I I wonder if this is usual around here on a Saturday night or if they are all just curious. I look around and there is Randy, Rob, Chris, Vic, Mark and some other random guy hanging in close like he belongs with us. I turn to him and say, " Who are you?" He admits he is just hanging out. He confides, "Those people there have totally got your back. They told the police that they saw everything. The guy just ran right out in front of her and there was nothing she could do." This seems to make him part of our team of support and it seems OK, but a little weird, to let him stay in the group.

Finally, the police come up to speak with Christine. The young officer has a case in his hand which he explains is a "Breathalyzer." Chris says, " Do I have to?" The officer reminds her that she said she hadn't been drinking so, of course, she shouldn't mind taking the test. Randy rolls his eyes. The officer asks Christine, "When did you last have a drink?" She answers, " Earlier in the evening, about 2 1/2 hours ago, I had a beer. I am 23 so that's alright isn't it?" The officer asks, "You haven't had anything to drink since the accident have you? She answers, "Yes, water." The officer explains that this test is for her protection. I t will be how she proves that she was not under the influence at the time of the accident. Christine acquiesces and blows into the tube. It takes three tries before she gets a reading. The officer states the result loudly for all to hear, "Zero-point-zero" We all melt with relief.

The officer now asks us all to move away from Christine for some more private questioning. Another officer tells us that Christine will have to go to the hospital for check up and a blood test to rule out any other drugs that might have impaired her driving. Again, this is just to protect her in any future litigation. She will then go to the Police Station for a more detailed statement. Her Dad can come along for moral support. Vic has to give a statement at the Police Station too.

Randy hands me the Tahoe keys and I take Mark and Rob home.

It is 4:55 am when Randy enters our bedroom. He is bone weary, but relieved that we have endured this crisis and that it is over. This means we should be good as far as crises go for awhile. He can relax now. After all, his bags are packed and after a shower he will be off to a two week sailing adventure in Tahiti and the more remote islands of French Polynesia.

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