An excerpt from
A World Between
Parts of the world were disappearing; nobody had noticed.
That’s what the kid was saying. Antifermo hoped the kid would change his story, make it easier to file a report, but he wouldn’t; he sat in the dark processing room of Precinct 19, staring hard at the floor, next to his sister, determined to tell his truth. The detective looked down at them, the black teenage boy and the younger girl, picked up an official incident form, and wrote “general purpose” where it asked for nature of incident. The crowded room cackled with the sounds of tired men typing behind beaten wooden tables, awash in the stories people told. The kind that get transcribed, not believed. There wasn’t a window that seemed to look out on anywhere. The keys fell like small-caliber shots at close range, the paper ripped through the rollers like sad gears grinding.
Lucy’s small chin jutted forward, but she nudged close up against the side of her brother in spite of herself. He put his arm around her. She wasn’t used to big, dark-haired old white guys talking to then. Neither was he; they’d walk around an avenue block to avoid that. He could tell she could hardly follow what he was saying, and Tyrone, who could chatter nonstop for hours sitting on a stoop, was just muttering and looking down as if his sneakers had become so important.
Tyrone stayed tight and ready to move, to protect Lucy, because Momma had said to, and because he had more pride than fear, which was why the report was such a pain in the ass for Detective Sal Antifermo.
“Tell me again, Tyrone, just what happened.” He held the form in front of him like a baton he wanted to pass, only the rest of the team had left the track. His bulk shrouded the paper; all the boy saw as he peeked up was the dark contour of a large man against the smudged gray walls that surrounded them. Tyrone started to speak; a phone rang, and he held his breath until it was picked up. When the words came out, it was as if they were being expelled from a punctured balloon.
“I awready tol you.”
“I know you did, Tyrone, but maybe I missed something. That’s some story you got yourself there.”
Lucy finally spoke, her high-pitched voice cutting through the striking keys like a knife through cardboard. “Tyrone, I gotta pee.”
“Lucy, damn you sit there ‘til he say we can go, okay.”
“Hey, that’s alright, we can take care of her, hey, Patoozie, take this kid to the can, now would be a good time.” He yelled over to a woman in the light blue blouse and darker pants of a patrol officer, who was sitting on a bench talking to another cop.
“That’s Patous, you know, Sal, like it could kill you to learn.”
Sal pointed at Lucy and shrugged. Patous walked over, looked at Lucy, pulled up the sagging belt that held her gun and radio and a dozen other hanging cop items, and said, “Awright, kid, c’mon. We’ll take a leak and leave the boys to their BS, you know what I mean?” Lucy stared intently at the equipment so near her head, her eyes magnified through thick round glasses; she stood, barely taller than when she was sitting, and held out her hand. Patous looked down at it, rolled her head while Antifermo held back a laugh, then took the hand and they walked down the hallway. Sal turned back to Tyrone.
“Listen, kid, I know how it is, you don’t wanna look silly in front of the little sis, but you wanna say anything different, you know, like what happened, it’ll just be between you and me, she’ll never know.”
Tyrone stared at him and talked through the sounds of others in the room telling their tales, talked past the clatter and the rings, talked into Antifermo’s eyes and swore, “No, iss like I tol you, jus that way.”
Tyrone had been caught running off a stretch of Jones Beach closed for restoration – nobody went there or guarded it, so they didn’t have to pay an admissions fee to get into the area. He and two other kids were stopped as they came tear-assing out of the dunes by a couple of cops trying to coop in the hot sun, who popped out of their cars like all hell breaking loose from the shouts and then had to stand tough to make up for the embarrassment. When the kids finally caught their breaths and looked at each other, this one blurted out how some section of the beach wasn’t there anymore, gone. Well, of course, the cops said, that’s the restoration. No, that’s not it, he said. The cops reported the kid refused to state why they were running. They let the skinny one, Samuel, go and brought Tyrone and Lucy in for questioning, mostly to make sure the girl got home safely.
“Gomez,” Antifermo shouted over to the duty clerk. “Anybody check this out?”
“Hey, Lieutenant, gimme a break, huh.” Gomez didn’t even look up, his head barely visible over the papers on his desk. Sal shrugged; he knew the drills, and the weights, the piles of folders and reports that pinned them in place. Anyway, what did it matter? In fact, he kind of liked this story. He’d heard so many, the kind involving cousins having sudden urgent needs to go to hospitals, but this was a new one, and he appreciated that. He didn’t believe it, of course. He didn’t believe any of them, not after twenty-six years. Still, he liked it, it wasn’t the kind you heard every day. It was definitely a good story.
Gomez threw a report over to him about some wannabe biker who’d scared a yuppie near the meat market. Antifermo skimmed it, told him he’d get to it in a little while. He turned back to Tyrone.
“Hey, kid, let’s go get an Italian ice, whaddaya say?”
“When Lucy ges back, den les go,” Tyrone said, still staring at the floor, his feet swaying in big white unlaced sneakers beneath him. “An I don like lemon.”