It had been a long day; most of them are when one is the mother of two small children ages two and six weeks. Bottles, diapers, baths, and finally bedtime, signal the beginning of rest and relaxation for harried, over-worked moms. Such was the case on this day for the young housewife. Her husband, a Chicago police officer, was working a power shift, 6pm - 2 am, on the city’s south side.
At about one in the morning, asleep for only a couple of hours, she hears a knock at the front door. Looking out first before opening it, she is greeted by two detectives who show their IDs and tell her they’re from Homicide. She is somewhat surprised but not too concerned . . . yet.
“Are you Mrs. Wills?” the lead detective queries.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“Your husband has been is a little scuffle, we need to take you to the hospital to sign some papers.”
She’s been through this drill before. Her husband is an aggressive cop, making countless street stops and raising the ire of bad guys who prefer not to be hassled. As a result, people aren’t always cooperative, to put it mildly.
“Any kids in the house?”
“Yes, two babies.”
“You got anyone can watch ‘em?” The homicide dick starts getting impatient.
“Uh, my mother-in-law who lives a few miles away. She can . . .”
“No, get someone closer,” he quickly throws out, before she can finish her sentence. “Get a neighbor.”
An uneasy feeling begins to build in her stomach, something’s not right. “Okay. A woman across the alley is a good friend, let me call her.” Despite the late hour, the neighbor appears at the back door in just minutes. She is quickly briefed about baby bottles and schedules before the woman leaves the neighbor in charge and hops into the backseat of the unmarked squad. Heading toward the hospital the car is travelling fast - too fast it seems for what they’ve described as just a scuffle.
En route, they make small talk with the young woman: “How long have you two been married? How long has John been on the job?” She answers their questions but soon recognizes their ploy - keep her mind occupied with mundane matters - don’t let her think about what’s happening.
The unmarked unit arrives at the hospital. Tons of cop cars; this can’t be good. She picks a face out of the crowd of cops and reporters just outside the ER entrance, her husband’s partner - in tears. He rushes to her. “He’ll be alright; he’ll be fine.” Before she can respond they lead her past him to a small room down a hall where another cop is waiting. “Sit down, please.” She does as she’s told; she’s a cop’s wife, knows the importance of listening when things are going south.
Several moments pass before he begins. “Your husband was shot, but he’s alive. He was involved in an exchange of gunfire.” That’s all he’ll offer her. The cop grabs a phone sitting in the middle of the table and slides it toward her. “Call your family and let them know what’s happening. I can’t put out a press release until your relatives have been notified.”
She reaches for her purse to get her address book out, then realizes she forgot to bring the purse in all the commotion. Her mind spinning out of control, she tries to remember a family phone number. Tony, yes, my brother, I’ll call him. She manages to dial the number on the first try.
It’s almost two in the morning. “I told you not to call here anymore.” Click, the line goes dead.
“Tony . . . Tony!” the woman screams into the phone. She would find out later that her brother was having problems with prank callers late at night and thought her call was another of those pranks. She dials again and the phone rings, unanswered.
“Try another number,” says the cop in a gray, monotone voice.
Holding her head in her hands she tries to recall another number as her world crumbles around her. Lord, we’re just beginning. We have two small babies, please don’t take him - we need him. She calls her other brother who picks up on the second ring. “I’m at the hospital, John’s been shot.”