Chapter Five: The News

It was early afternoon when Steve heard the keys rattling in the door. It was Rob and Sandra Johnson, his father and mother.

“So, how was the party at Aunt Beth’s last night?” Steve asked.

Rob and Sandra just frowned. Rob sat down on the sofa, unaware that one of Steve’s female classmates had slept on it for a few hours that morning.

“Steve, have a seat.” Sandra said. Steve sat down next to them.

“What’s up, Mom?” Steve said, trying not to look guilty.

“A cop from the New Hampshire State Police was just up at Aunt Beth’s. It took them a few hours to notify us, because your brother Andy didn’t have any identification in his pockets. He was killed in a crash in Nashua early this morning.”

Steve was stunned. He couldn’t speak. When he finally could talk, he observed, “So that’s why a State cop was here this morning, looking for you guys.”

Nobody could speak for a few minutes. Then Steve asked, “How did the crash happen?”

Rob answered, “We don’t know yet. There’s still an investigation going on. There’s a limit to what they can tell us. However, it looks like Andy was on foot, and got hit by a truck.”

“I wonder what happened. He was only twenty-two.” Steve said.

The doorbell rang. Sandra got up to press the button. “Who is it?” she asked.

“Sergeant Whalley, with the New Hampshire State Police.” was the reply.

Sandra buzzed the buzzer. A minute later, the cop was at the door.

“Hello. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, sorry to bother your family again, especially at a time like this.” the cop lamented. “However, there is an investigation going on, and I need to speak to family members.”

“Come on in.” Sandra said, giving the required permission to enter the apartment. The cop walked in.

“Steve, I need to speak with you, since you’re a member of the immediate family.” the cop requested.

Rob and Sandra left the living room while the cop and Steve chatted.

“Did he have any emotional troubles?” was one question.

“Well, he wasn’t having any luck getting a date. I remember, he was here on Christmas Day, and I asked him for some advice about that, and he said, ‘You’re asking the wrong guy. I haven’t gotten laid in like, the last four years, and that was a hooker, the day I turned 18, to celebrate my birthday. It looks like, for once in my life, I’m finally going to get a date for New Year’s Eve.’ That’s exactly what he said.”

There was a pause while Sergeant Whalley wrote it down. Steve wondered, “Why would emotional problems enter into a motor vehicle accident investigation?”

“These are just questions I have to ask.” the cop replied.

There were a number of questions. Steve answered them all, as best he could.

Sergeant Whalley also spoke with Rob and Sandra. He asked to see their identification, so he could document the names of the people with whom he spoke. For the same reason, he asked them if Steve was really their son, Steve. He asked a number of questions. Then he asked them, “Did Andy have any emotional troubles?”

“Well, no. He always seemed well-adjusted. He was a happy young man. Except he didn’t have a girlfriend. But, other than that, he was fine.” Sandra said.

“That’s about right.” Rob agreed. “He seemed like he was okay. He didn’t have a girlfriend, but he had no real, serious problems.”

The cop wrote it all down. He asked more questions, writing down the answers.

Rob observed, “This was the first New Year’s Eve after Operation U.S.A. Freedom forced the New Hampshire Legislature to repeal the drug laws and liquor laws. It must have been a crazy night for the police.”

Sergeant Whalley replied, “Actually, things went more smoothly than before. The taverns were able to stay open all night, so there wasn’t a sudden rush hour. There were plenty of taxis, so people weren’t tempted to take their chances playing Blotto Lotto. The taxi license restrictions weren’t being enforced, that would have required a person to insure a taxi and license it for a year, just to drive it one night. Plus, the penalties for DWI are much higher now, and that was a deterrent. Underage kids were able to drink in supervised settings. The radio stations all broadcast the appeal from the State Police, urging everybody, if you’re going to drink, first make sure you have a way to get home. People weren’t kicked out of taverns, either, because they could just stay there. Before, the taverns were required to kick the drunks out into the cold, and a lot of them tried to drive home. This time, a lot of them were allowed to stay inside and sleep on the floor.” Then he thanked everybody, and left.

Rob said, “The body is still in the morgue, Steve. There has to be an autopsy before there can be a wake. That may take a few days.”

Steve asked, “How is Jennifer taking this?”

Sandra replied, “Your sister is just as stunned as we are. You know she and Andy were very close.”

Rob said, “I remember when Jennifer was in second grade and Andy started first grade. She was so cute, being protective of her younger brother.”

Steve observed, “The fact that Andy is still in the morgue may work to our advantage. It gives you guys time to select a funeral home. We can check out their web sites, and visit them. We don’t have to make a rushed decision.” Then he walked away, into his bedroom, and closed the door.


Copyright © 2004 Tom Alciere