The howling began after midnight from the windows of a boarding house. The rooms sat above the sidewalk facing the street a half-block from the parked cruiser.
Undisturbed, Sergeant Caruthers ignored the sounds. Turner imagined a black market animal ring. Floors full of cages hiding exotic creatures. The kind of scheme that hit the switch, getting Turner’s blood going.
Turner found the day shifts full of pedestrian and vanilla infractions. Fender benders, silly disputes, and vagrants disturbing the peace. The rookie pined for fire watch. The eruptions and collisions spawned from nocturnal reactors.
Turner’s first overnight found him riding shotgun, assigned to Sergeant Caruthers. Caruthers was known for breaking-in the rookies. To show them around, tour the caper sections, while pointing out the hot spots.
A stoic Caruthers nibbled at his coffee while Turner concentrated on the mysterious noises. He also wondered why they were sitting still. Were they waiting on the riot gear and battering rams? Speaking of which, Caruthers never spoke with headquarters. Odd, thought Turner.
The cries continued to escape the boarding house windows and waft through the street. Once the wailing found the fuzz, it settled inside their patrol car like a virus. Faced with it, the yelping seemed less bestial and demonic. More painful, desperate, and human-like, shaking Turner.
“You hear that crying?” asked Caruthers. Of course he did. Turner wasn’t deaf, only dumbstruck.
“What is it?” Turner answered.
“Why don’t you step out and get a better listen,” Caruthers said. More of a suggestion than an order. Curious, the rookie left the car and followed the commotion’s trail.
As Turner faced the bedroom window, he heard more sounds. The loudest infant had others around it, their murmurs drowned out by the yelping one. Caruthers coasted the cruiser up to the curb as a confused Turner returned to his post.
“Beats me, Sarge. I don’t get it,” Turner told Caruthers.
“It’s a nursery for crack babies,” Caruthers answered, still looking ahead, locked in a thousand-yard stare.
As a father himself, Turner’s heart collapsed while the knot in his stomach began to gel. An infant’s cry is supposed to be melodic and full of birdsong.
Caruthers filled Turner in about mothers on the lam, behind prison walls, holed up in drug dens. Grannies and midwives had stepped in to look after the children.
That’s when the loudest voice, the one that alarmed the police, had stopped crying. The pause inside the squad car descended into silence. Even dispatch hid behind the tablet, holding all incoming calls in case the aunties requested help.
“I hope that precious one went to sleep,” Turner said.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” answered Caruthers.
If the distress call beamed out, the cops could intervene while paramedics rushed over. Caruthers pulled a satchel from the console just in case.
Turner yearned for the baby’s voice. The breath of life, not the pain of it. A hapless thought, knowing that crib, this world wouldn’t send one without the other.
The light went on in the baby’s bedroom as Turner listened for the mayhem to tell him. He stepped from the vehicle to hover beneath the window.
A few minutes passed. Nothing from the nursery or the dispatch lines to suggest the worst.
“You need to get used to that sound,” Caruthers told Turner on his return. The rookie remained sober and numb. How does anyone get used to this?
That’s when the tablet facing Caruthers lit up. The sergeant slapped the cruiser into gear and punched the gas. The patrol car erupted, leaving the nursery behind.
“Where to?” Turner asked, relieved the baby was alive. Anyplace, any call would be a bonus, no matter it’s danger and cost.
“Mr. Pibbs. A fast food joint in the lower ward. Somebody reported a newborn baby left in the ladies room.”
It took until this night for Turner to realize the gravity of his oath and swearing in. The rookie felt shame over his lack of empathy and maturity. That being an officer isn’t about himself, the bennies, and his zest for adventure.
As Caruthers dashed off, Turner promised himself to protect, serve, and become the best policeman he could. He also pleaded to arrive in time. To find and save that newborn before it discovered the pain.