The Final Trip - Norman A. Rubin
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The peaceful atmosphere of the early afternoon hours of a cold winter's day was broken by the sound of the shatter of glass. A curse was called out loudly from a passerby as the pieces fell in front of him. Momentary gasps from others followed as they looked up to the noise; as they searched with their eyes saw a body that appeared from the opening of a broken window to an apartment on the fourth floor of a tenement building. The onlookers stared, one or two screamed as the figure slowly twisted and turned like a wounded bird through the empty void; a strange loud noise was heard from the body as it fell, 'wheee'.
Then with a sickening tone that detailed the breaking of bone and splash of blood as the body crashed to the cold cement. The hurt form lay spread-eagle on his back on the dirty sidewalk in the writhing of pain and anguish, but still with the 'wheeee' calling to the lips; it ended with a pitiful hoarse sound of pain. Then silence sealed his bleeding mouth.
It took just a few seconds for the awed bystanders to catch their breaths before they were able to move or react to the terrible sight. A few ran to the broken misery on the cement walk. They circled the injured figure and looked on in utter disbelief and with a question to their lips. Then a concerned stout housewife and one fragile elder knelt to the figure and they tried to discern the injury and the possible aid. Their words commanded:
"It's the Riordan boy... God almighty!"
"Keep back, give him a bit of air!"
"You there, call 911 quickly," as the shaking finger of the pensioner pointed to a curious shopkeeper.
A truck stopped near the scene of the incident and a hefty truck driver emerged with a large first aid kit in his hands. "Saw it all! Let me through - been a medic in Vietnam."
But, the driver took one look at the pathetic creature shivering on the ground and he shook his head, "Little I can do for him. The boy looks pretty bad. How he survived that fall and still lived God knows?" The two attendants nodded in accordance with his words.
The driver took off his wool-lined jacket before he knelt beside the boy. Then with a tender touch he covered the lad with the cloth's warmth; he told the woman to tuck it carefully under the body. Then he pressed heavy rolled bandages against the neck to prevent movement. Then the elder lifted the boy's head carefully and the former medic slid a compressor bandage under and tied it firmly to set the bleeding ruined skull bone. It slowed the flow of blood from the wound to a trickle as it was blotted on the dressing.
"That's all I can do for the poor critter," as he wiped the spittle and blood from the boy's mouth.
The siren of a police vehicle was heard as it approached the scene. The uniformed men alighted from within - one a greying veteran with a Gaelic twang and the other a young Afro policewoman. The tremor of voices from the small crowd tried to press on them the knowledge of the incident, but they knew all the details through a radio call from headquarters.
They saw that the poor creature was being treated properly as they questioned the medic and understood that an ambulance was on the way. Then the Afro officer saw to the order on the street while her senior partner questioned the witnesses to the tragedy. Words flowed from many tongues.
Another sound of sirens could be heard followed by the squeal of brakes as the ambulance neared them. The officers immediately saw to the parting of the curious onlookers. Two medical orderlies leaped from the vehicle and went to the scene. They gave a cursory nod of introduction to the officers and went to the side of the boy and meted out the proper treatment. The injured boy was placed on a wheeled stretcher and placed within the ambulance. Before they speeded away one of the attendants handed the former medic his jacket, "good job, probably it will help save the boy's life."
The veteran officer continued to interview the witnesses to the incident and his hand was busy scribbling on a worn notepad. Words and phrases flowed from the onlookers of busy housewives, passing workers, shopkeepers and from those with morbid curiosity.
"Tis' was sudden-like when I'se heard the glass a-breaking and thet hefty kid falling."
"The boy's name be Michael Riordan. Called Red, thet freckle face kid – sure has a mop of red hair.
Lives with his maw up on the fourth floor of that building yonder!"
"The mother be a widow. Hard time she had since her man died a couple of years ago. Cancer t'was!"
"She sure has her hands full the poor dear. Her man didn't leave much for her to live on when he passed away, so the woman had to put in a full day scrubbing stairs."
"Nothing but troubles for dear Mrs. Riordan. Her elder daughter be a mental case. A bit of a loony she is. Pretty girl abouts 18 years.
"Good thing the good sisters in their chapter were understanding and they managed to care for her girl during the day."
"Michael her boy turned fifteen a month ago! Good looking lad. Always had a smile on his lips and a twinkle to the blue of his eyes.
Can't understand what happened. Michael be a good and helpful lad. Good marks at school. An ace in basketball he was. Never a spot of trouble."
"The blessed Father Peters called the boy a fine example to the faith. Always ready to serve as altar boy during the mass at the church. Good voice too when he sung the responses.”
The veteran heard nothing but good phrases about the boy. It was only at a latter period when he filed his report that he learned that Michael Riordan was a frequent truant at school and that he was dealing in dope. The officer also learned that twice the police busted the youth for the distribution of marijauna and other illicit substances. The last scrape with the police occurred recently and his poor mother had to leave the brush and pail in order to sign court papers for Michael’s probationary sentence. "
Suddenly another vehicle pulled up near the scene, an auto that had seen better days. A burly man managed to lift his corpulent body from the driver's seat. Before he was able to close the door he was inundated with garbled words that more or less filled him with the details of the tragedy. He then appproached the veteran officer.
"I be the Mrs. Riordan's brother. Johnny Flattery be my name. Heard that me sister's boy Michael had a nasty fall. What be the cause of the trouble? Me other sister told me to leave me office, and come to the flat." It was a misnomer to the listening police officer as his place at work was his stance at the local taverns collecting betting slips. At one time it earned him a trip to the cells and a hefty fine.
"Me mates knew me and they gave me the message to come h'yar. Then I must mosey off to the hospital and see how the poor lad is doing. Luckily Bridget Riordan's sister be with her. Good lass she be the Sister Mary. Took the vows, y'can know.”
The Gaelic twang of the policeman filled him with the details. The paunchy fellow took in the words and now and again muttered 'tsk, tsk'. Then he proffered a key to the apartment and agreed to come with the officers for their inspection of the room where the window was shattered.
The boy's uncle huffed and puffed on thick legs as he attempted to keep pace with hurrying officers. He took him a bit of deep breathing to catch his breath when he reached the flat. A found handkerchief in his rough hand wiped his beefy face and for a good snort from a reddened nose.
"You would be better off if you laid off the booze," commented the Afro, "and at your age!"
Johnny Flattery dismissed the remark and searched through his many pockets before he found the key. Then with stubby fingers he inserted it in the lock, and fiddled about before the door opened. He was pushed aside as the officers entered the apartment.
Cleanliness and order were seen, a sign of a good housekeeper, as the policemen walked to the boy's room. The opposite of orderliness was there with an unmade single bed, a baseball mitt and bat was strewn on the floor along with a couple articles of clothing. The bedside lampshade was askew and there were scuffed shoe marks on the wall near the bed. Michael Riordan was definitely not an orderly young man.
As the two officers walked towards the broken window they heard the sound of footsteps entering the apartment. The looked back and saw a presentable young man and an equally presentable young lady, carrying two large cases.
"The proffered his hand to the officer, "We are from the forensics laboratory. The hospital gave us a buzz; they wanted to know of the drug the Riordan boy swallowed. Anyway it is required by law to examine incidents of this sort and find the cause. "The name's Mike and this is Sally my assistant. Now my good chaps let us get down business and check the room carefully. We got a heavy case load so we need to finish it quickly."
An official form was taken from one of the cases and the routine questions were asked and recorded. The uncle was told to stand aside as the forensic chaps together with the officers proceeded to inspect the boy's room in search of evidence that will lead to the solution to this tragic incident. "If you find anything don't touch; just call me or Sally and we'll handle it," were the instructions to the cops.
It took for a minute or two when Sally found a small plastic bag containing two pills as she searched the draw of the sided night table. "Found something quite interesting!"
Mike quickly joined her, "Let me take a look! Quaaludes I bet. It is the new rage for trips into lah-lah land now on the streets. Can't get the real thrills from the joint! This stuff is quite easy to come by; sold cheaply for a quick profit!
Then he instructed Sally to open one of the cases to remove a small beaker and bottle with a chemical compound. With a careful hand Sally poured a few ounces of the liquid into the container. Then she broke a tiny piece from one of the pills and dropped it inside the beaker where it fizzed and changed the colour of the liquid.
"You're right,' she exclaimed, "Quaaludes and from the test it looks like poor quality at that!"
"Well!" interjected Mike, "there's the answer. Will know more when we sample the boy's blood."
Mike looked at the attentive officers, shook his head and cursed, 'damn crazy kid!' With a few words he outlined the drug’s effects to the officers.
"I'll spell it easy-like so that you can understand. Quaaludes or as it it is known as 'Methaqualone' is simply a sleeping pill prescribed by doctors to people with sleeping disorders. But as an illicit drug it has a form of intoxication. The boy was most probably experimenting with it when the effects hit him. Let me give you a possible scenario:
"The pill dissolved in the boy's blood and the reaction was felt in his brain. He was intoxicated immediately, similar to the effects to a drunk. Slowly his reflexes slowed down and he had a loss of judgment. As a drunk he has euphoric sensation, a happy feeling of well being more like a mania. Then this boy, Michael, started to see flashes of light in all colours, which increased his phobia. Within the colours a mythical creature appeared for example a lithe nymph, nude and enticing. The lad probably followed the spirit and danced in delight with her.
Then this Michael boy followed the creature of his imagination to the window and when she flew in the air he felt invulnerable. Maybe he thought he was invisible only to her sight. Then the tradegy occurred and he went through the glass and tried to fly after her. But then it is hard to tell what was on his mind when he thought he could walk on air. I'm just putting in the simplicity of words."
Then with an afterthought he added, "The Quaalude pills in the bag looks crudely compounded, probably done by a chap with a bit of chemistry knowledge. Unfortunately this type is the most dangerous as the dosage is not regulated, which could of increased the hallucinatory effects to the boy. We will know more of the composition of the pills in the lab."
"Well there is hardly more to learn of this incident; just the final trip gone sour. How many, how many? I wish all our cases would be so simple, yet, so unecessary."
"Will send the police a copy of our forsenic report," were the last words heard as the two experts packed their cases, turned their heels and left the flat
The scene in the street was the everyday sight of people going about their daily routine. The only sign of the tragic incident was the large rust stain of drying blood on the sidewalk. An attempt to remove the odious display was seen as a near neighbor was approaching it with a pail of soapy water and a floor mop.
The two officers returned to their squad car; only a few onlookers were about buzzing in awe as they looked about the scene of the tradegy. As the officers sat back in their seats, the Gaelic voice was heard reporting to the police headquarters. In return, the speaker on the other end announced in official terms the death of the boy Michael Riordan.
Norman A. Rubin