Holly and Nedward were an odd pairing. She was a young, gung-ho go-getter and he was a placid, unassuming “calculating every move” veteran.
Their first “real” case involved what was described as a drug deal gone wrong in a seedy part of town. When Holly and Nedward arrived on scene, a few uniformed officers were standing over a body. After a few “how are you doing’s?” they turned the investigation over to Holly and Nedward.
It was Holly’s nature to take charge and jump in with “all six feet” as her father used to say. Nedward stood back and said “tell me what you see.”
Holly, full of self-confidence said “I see a man who looks to be in his mid-twenties, holding a 9mm semi-automatic weapon in his left hand. A large part of the right side of his head is scattered across the parking lot, like somebody dropped a pizza and dragged it.”
Nedward watched as Holly studied the victim as well as the scene. He was impressed when she carefully looked at his hands. She checked for identification and found a wallet which contained credit cards, a drivers’ license and a considerable sum of cash.
“So,” said Nedward. “What do you see?”
Holly said “I see a well-dressed young man, who was obviously not the victim of a robbery. I don’t believe he was an addict. He could be a dealer but I don’t think so and I don’t believe he committed suicide. I think it was made to look like he did.”
Nedward asked her how she made those determinations. She said “he has a callus on the middle finger of his right hand from writing, yet he’s holding the gun in his left hand. Clearly, he was shot in the left side of his head. Given the trajectory of the bullet and being right-handed, that doesn’t make sense.”
“He doesn’t have any track marks on his arms. Nothing was taken from his wallet and he has a rather nice cellphone in his jacket pocket.”
“And?” asked Nedward.
Holly stood up and said “and, I think he was executed. Maybe he saw something he shouldn’t have or maybe he was about to take a wrong turn, changed his mind and paid the price or maybe he got lost and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
In his soft monotone voice, Nedward said “okay. Have you ever done a notification?”
Holly said “no, but I’ve been on the other end of one as you well know.” Nedward looked at her and said “let’s go.”
They got into the car and Nedward, looking straight ahead said “when you give notification, there will be all sorts of reactions. Some folks will be numb. Some will be hysterical. Some will attack you. And believe it or not, some of them will express relief.”
He went on. “No matter the reaction, you have to be prepared. You can’t get angry. You can’t get upset. You can empathize and sympathize but you can never let yourself get emotionally involved to the point that you fall apart. Death is part of our job and unfortunately, being the ones who have to tell someone the worst thing they can ever hear is part of it, too.”
“I understand,” Holly said. She momentarily went back to that day when she was called to headquarters to get her “notification.” She hoped that she could emulate Chief Morrison and Father Phillips’ calm, caring demeanor when she was the one delivering devastating news.
Nedward said, “you never know how someone is going to react.” She didn’t know how she was going to pull off being the bearer of such horrible news but she did know that she was going to treat the people like they mattered.
As they walked up the long pathway to the address on the victims’ license, Holly felt as if they were walking in slow motion. Nedward told her to take a deep breath and reminded her that it was just “part of the job.”
“Will it get easier?” asked Holly. Nedward stopped, looked her in the eye and said “no. It never gets easier.”
After the victim’s next of kin had been “notified,” Nedward saw Holly reaching for her card as she said “if you need anything, anything at all.” Nedward interrupted her and said “please call headquarters. They’ll be glad to answer any questions you might have.”
When they left, Nedward gently admonished Holly. “If you start handing out your card, telling these folks to call you if they need anything, you will be getting calls all the time. Some of these people won’t know how to handle news like this and they will become very needy. You have to remember, we’re not counselors or psychiatrists or priests.”
“You don’t follow up with these people. You don’t check on them. You don’t send cards. You don’t go to funerals. You do your job and then you let it go. If you can’t do that, it will eat you alive.”
He gave Holly a serious look and said “if you think you aren’t going to be able to handle this, you need to get out now. This job isn’t for everybody.” Holly straightened her shoulders and said “I can handle it.”
After a few minutes, Holly looked at Nedward and said “can I ask you something?” Nedward said “you can ask but I can’t promise that I’ll answer.”
She hesitated and then said “how much death have you seen?” Nedward didn’t even look at her when he said “too much.”
Then as if starting a brand new day, he smiled and said “what do you say we grab some lunch?”
To be continued_____________