News Item: The Spy Who Came Home - 3
(Category: DIVERSE)
Posted by Pârvu Florin
Saturday 13 July 2019 - 15:30:08

Foto: LINK

On New Year’s Eve, locals launched fireworks out of abandoned lots, and Cuyler-Brownsville erupted in celebratory gunfire. “Good trigger pull,” Skinner noted, as someone emptied what sounded like a .40-calibre pistol about thirty feet from the car. “Trigger control is half the battle.”

Shots fired into the sky take about forty-five seconds to hit the ground. Less than ten minutes into 2018, two other officers, parked a few blocks over, fled Cuyler-Brownsville when bullets took out a street lamp overhead. All through the neighborhood, pavements and doorsteps glistened with brass shell casings. We heard hundreds of rounds—from shotguns, pistols of all calibres, a Kalashnikov. At the corner of Fortieth and Florance, there was a scrap of crime-scene tape, from an incident the week before.

At 12:11 a.m., Skinner was dispatched to the site of a burning car. But, before he got there, another call came in, and he was sent to the Live Oak neighborhood to investigate more gunfire. “You can commit felonious aggravated assault with a firearm for fifteen minutes,” Skinner joked. The city has installed a costly but discerning gunfire-detection network, called ShotSpotter, with receptors in high-crime areas; that night, ShotSpotter was so overwhelmed that it was operating on a lag of around five hours.

It often falls to the police to handle what Skinner calls “the social work of last resort.” One night, as the temperature dropped into the twenties, he spotted a person in dark clothing skulking through an empty parking lot, near the site of a recent unsolved robbery. He pulled into the lot, and as he got closer his headlights illuminated an aging black woman with a sunken face, wearing a Santa hat and a leopard-print jacket. “You doing O.K.?” Skinner asked.

“I was trying to get to Walgreens,” she said. She looked at the ground and spoke slowly, in subdued, raspy tones. “Everybody mad at me,” she said.

“They’re not too mad at you, are they?” Skinner said.

“They say I’m a troublemaker.”

“You’re not a troublemaker. What’s your first name?”

“Norma Jeane.” She was too cold to make it to the Walgreens, she said, and so Skinner told her to hop in the car. After he closed the windows and turned up the heat, Norma Jeane lit up. “I’m named after Marilyn Monroe,” she said. “I’m gonna be a superstar.”

She launched into tales from her past, with characters and events entering and vanishing from her story as spontaneously, it seemed, as they had in her life. As a young child, she said, “I took my brothers with me, and we got baptized” at a church on May Street, just north of Cuyler-Brownsville. “They say, ‘Where are your parents?’ And I said, ‘They’re both alcoholics.’ ” The rest was a chronological blur, a half century of hardship, arguments, scarcity, and violence. As we approached Walgreens, the McDonald’s next door caught her attention.

Skinner asked if she was hungry, and she asked if he would get her some pancakes and sausages, since she hadn’t eaten all day. Skinner pulled into the drive-through. “If I sit down, it hurts,” Norma Jeane said. “Feels like I got polio. That’s why I keep walking. I know how to walk, and I ain’t scared. I never been scared. I been walking these streets since I was five.”

When Norma Jeane mentioned that someone had once given her a calico cat, Skinner asked for its name.

“I didn’t know no better name than Calico,” Norma Jeane said.

“That’s awesome—I have an orange cat named Orangey,” Skinner replied. “He’s so mean, though. I usually just call him Mean Cat.”

“Oh, boy, I love cats! I turn cats into dogs,” Norma Jeane said.

This news item is from Proiect SEMPER FIDELIS
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