January 20, 1999
These past two weeks, the weather has been absolutely rotten. Record levels of cold have been accompanied by record levels of snow. Making matters worse, a flu epidemic has swept through the city. The squadroom is a huge sick ward. Munch looks even paler than usual, and Ballard coughs with every other word. Kellerman is doped up on NyQuil. Frank was smart enough to get himself vaccinated. If he got sick, he couldn't just run down to the drugstore. Verampamil and flu medicine don't mix. As for me and Lewis, we've been lucky. Not so much as a sniffle. Meldrick warned me though, he's been known to get sick last and be affected by it the hardest.
With so many detectives out sick, the caseloads have piled up. All the healthy and semi-healthy are doing double the work. My schedule was hectic enough, then I received a call from Emily. She sounded terrible. Lal had the flu a few weeks ago, and she had caught it. Josephine couldn't care for a sick woman and a child at the same time, so she asked if I could take her for the rest of the week.
"Of course I'll take her," I said.
After I got off the phone, I had to do a lot of begging. I wasn't going to leave Lal with a baby-sitter every day, so I started cashing in some favors. I managed to get out of working Friday and Sunday, but no luck with Saturday. I had to ask my mother for help. Thankfully, she agreed to watch Lal while I was at work. She said it would be a good chance to spend time with her granddaughter.
January 21, 1999
When I came to pick up Lal this evening, I was surprised to find my cousin Jim at the door. His wife had taken the kids to see some relatives in Ohio, and he'd been coming over for dinner all week. He tossed a bottle of root beer my way, then let me in. I settled down in the living-room on my favorite end of the sofa. Jim took his usual spot on the opposite end, right beneath the huge black-and-white Army picture of my father on the wall.
"So Teej, how's the wonderful world of Homicide?" he asked with a grin.
"Not so wonderful, I'm afraid."
I told him about this one case Frank and I have been working on since last December. An eighty-year-old widow was found shot to death in her home near Camden Yards. At first, it looked like a suicide, but an autopsy revealed that she was full of booze and cocaine. Maybe I'm naive, but it's hard for me to picture a little old lady snorting up, tanking up, then blowing her own head off.
These kinds of stories always disgusted Jim. He wondered what kind of sick bastard would do that to an old woman.
"I wish I knew." I replied. "So far, there are no suspects. Everyone Frank and I spoke to had a viable alibi. The family wasn't much help, either. Her daughter and son-in-law moved away from Maryland in the mid-eighties. Her grandson went to school in Boston. None of them knew what kind of people she associated with. They couldn't tell me how her health had been...they couldn't even remember the last time they had spoken to her."
Jim shook his head. "You know, that's what's so sad about society today. Instead of respecting their elders, people discard them the moment they no longer fit into their schedules. They're treated like trash. No one cares what becomes of them. I'm glad we're not like that, Teej. Our family has values--we take care of our own..."
Our conversation was interrupted when Mom walked in. She kissed me, and ran her fingers through my hair.
"Rough day, sweetie?"
"It wasn't so bad." I tried to sound convincing, but she knew better.
"You look completely worn out. Why don't I fix you something to eat?"
I told Mom to sit down. "You've done enough for me already. I'll bet that Lal had you running around in circles all day."
Mom smiled. "Lal has been a complete angel today. I don't know what I would've done without her."
"She's right," Jim added. "Lal's been helping out all day. She shoveled the walkway, helped with the cake--she's even been keeping Uncle George company."
I did a double-take. "What did you say, Jim?"
My cousin shrugged. "I said
she's been helping us with Uncle George. I brought him over for
"You brought HIM over here without telling me?"
"Yeah, I thought it would be nice for him to get out."
My heart began to race. I jumped up so fast that the root beer I was holding slipped out of my hands.
"Where is she, Jim?"
What happened next could be likened to a nuclear explosion. I grabbed him by the collar.
"WHERE THE HELL IS MY DAUGHTER?"
Jim pulled away from me. He looked completely horrified. So did Mom.
"My God, Tim. What's wrong with you?"
"WHERE IS SHE, MOM?"
"She's watching TV."
I ran down the hall into the living room. There I found Lal, standing by a wheelchair, holding a glass of water to the lips of a pale, shrunken old man. To anyone else, this may have seemed like a poignant moment, but to me it was my worst nightmare come to life. I grabbed Lal, and without saying another word, ran out of the house.
The drive home was terrible. I felt so stupid and helpless--me of all people.
A grown man.
A man with a badge.
A man with a gun.
Of course, Lal was confused by all of this. She kept asking why we left without saying good-bye.
What could I tell her?
"I'm sorry we had to leave so fast, but Daddy doesn't feel well right now."
Maybe I shouldn't have said that because this worried look came across Lal's face.
"Do you think it's a cold?" she asked.
"No, it's not that."
"Well, maybe its a tummy-ache," she suggested.
I shook my head, but in reality, my stomach was about to turn inside out.
"Are we going to the hospital?" she asked.
"No, no...I just really want to get home."
When we got in the house, I didn't know what to do next. I wanted to talk with her, but I was afraid of what I might hear. I decided that I should give myself time to calm down. I helped Lal change, brush her teeth, and say her prayers. Then I tucked her into bed. Before I turned off the lights, Lal put her hand to my face and said,
"I hope you feel better soon, Daddy."
January 22, 1999
This morning, after breakfast, I asked Lal to tell me exactly what happened over at my mother's house.
"Well, nothing much." she replied." After you left, Grandma let me play with some of her dolls. When I was finished, I went and looked out the window. There was all this snow on the ground. It was so pretty. I asked if I could go outside and shovel it up, and Grandma said OK. Then when I was done, I came inside. Grandma was in the kitchen, and she had all this stuff out. I asked what she was doing and she said 'I'm making a cake.' I asked if I could help her and she said I could put the frosting on. After that, we had lunch. We were eating when Cousin Jim knocked on the back door. He said he brought someone over to visit, and that he needed help getting him inside. Grandma went to help him, and that's when they brought the old man in. I didn't know who he was and Cousin Jim told me that was my Great-Uncle George. I said I'd never seen him before and Grandma said that was because he hadn't been well lately."
According to Lal, she and my uncle spent the rest of the evening watching TV.
"I asked what kind of shows
he liked to watch, but he didn't say. So, I turned it to the
'Cartoon Channel.' He just stared at the ceiling the whole time.
After a while, I got kind of hungry. I asked if he wanted anything,
but he didn't even look at me. I went to the kitchen and got
some cake and a glass of water. I was about to sit down when
Great-Uncle George turned and looked at me. He didn't say anything,
but I got the feeling that he was hungry too. So, I gave him
half my cake, and I was about to give him the water but that's
when you came and got me."
Though I am relieved that my daughter wasn't hurt, those feelings are outweighed by a sense of dread. I can't go back to that house and act as if nothing happened. I can't look at my family the same way ever again. To them, George Bayliss is an object of pity. They see a poor soul who's been broken and disappointed by the world. But I know differently. He's a monster. He's danger to this family, and they have to be told.
The question is...will they believe me?
January 23, 1999
I spent most of last night on the living room couch. I was too just scared to sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, I was in that bathroom again.
I could feel the warm water running over my hands.
I could hear the door creak open.
I could sense his shadow creeping up behind me.
I tried to distract myself by watching TV, but the images kept playing over and over again in my mind. I finally fell asleep around five in the morning, out of sheer exhaustion.
I woke up at nine, when I heard the phone ring. It was Emily. Though she was a bit hoarse, she sounded much better compared to last Thursday. Emily told me that she didn't have the flu, just a minor throat infection. Since the condition wasn't dangerous, she said I could bring Lal back anytime. I asked if I could bring her back today.
Emily seemed surprised, but she didn't ask any questions. She probably thought I had a lot of work to catch up on.
I woke Lal up at ten, got her dressed, and helped her pack. Then I fixed breakfast. While we were eating, I asked if she could do something for me:
"You know, if Grandma Emily asks you about this weekend, I'd really appreciate it if you didn't tell her about going to Grandma Virginia's house, OK?"
Lal looked confused. "You want me to lie, Daddy?"
"No...no. I'm not asking you to lie. I'm just asking you not to talk about this."
"But why, Daddy? Did I do something wrong?"
"You didn't do anything wrong...I'd just like to talk to Grandma Emily about this myself."
I forced myself to smile. Lal
stopped eating. She put her spoon down, and rested her head on
her chin. I could tell she was trying to make sense of what I
just asked of her. After some time, she looked up and said:
"OK...I promise I won't talk about it."
I dropped Lal off at one. She kissed me good-bye, then raced up the stairs into Emily's arms. She was glad to be home. Though I hate to admit it, I was actually glad to see her go. I knew she'd be safe with her grandmother.
When I got back to my apartment, Mom was standing in front of the door. She looked pissed.
"Timothy, you've got a lot
of explaining to do..."
I barely got the door closed before she started in on me. I had never seen her this angry before. She paced around me in circles, stopping occasionally to wave her finger at me. Her voice was low and forced.
"You scared the daylights out of me last night, not to mention everyone else. Jim doesn't know what to think, and poor George...I bet he'll never want to come over to the house again."
"Well, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing." I replied.
"Now why in the world would you say something like that?"
I didn't answer.
Mom sighed. "Tim, your uncle has had his problems, but he's really a good person at heart. Your father thought the world of him, and he was a big help to your cousin after his father died. Honestly, I don't know why you're so angry with him. What has he ever done to you?"
Mom had asked the question rhetorically. She was not prepared for the answer.
I don't remember exactly what I said, or how long it took me to say it. I just remember the look on her face. Her eyes grew wide with horror, and her skin went deathly pale.
When I had finished, I asked if believed me. She put her head in her hands and cried.
February 26, 1999
It's been over a month since
I spoke to my mother. I went by the house several times, but
she was never there. I left messages on her answering machine,
but never got a response. Frank thought I did the right thing
by telling her, but he was still concerned.
"Your mother can't be having an easy time dealing with all of this," he said. "Have you ever thought about seeking some help together...some type of counseling?"
The word made me cringe. "No way am I spilling my guts to some shrink," I replied. "They don't know us, or any of our circumstances. They'll think we're all a bunch of sickos."
I told Frank thanks but no thanks. "Believe me, this is not an issue for some stranger to poke around with. This is something my mother and I need to deal with ourselves."
February 28, 1999
Frank was off today, and I decided to spend the day going over the Valpresio files. This was the case I had mentioned to Jim back in January. It's been over two months, and things had pretty much come to a dead end. All our tips led nowhere, all the forensic evidence proved inconclusive. When Lewis saw what I was doing, he rolled his eyes.
"Man, give it up," he said with a laugh. "This case here is cold. It's colder than liquid nitrogen. I'm surprised your fingers didn't fall off when you touched the folder."
I promptly told him to shove it. Meldrick cowered in mock fright as he walked off.
I worked the rest of the shift without being harassed. As I was headed out the door, I got a note from one of the secretaries. Mom wanted to see me.
I arrived at her house an hour later. When she came to the door, she greeted me with an awkward smile.
"I'm sorry I haven't called," she said. "I've been working on something."
She pointed to a large folder on the coffee table. Inside were brochures, papers, and a number of forms. They were all from local nursing homes.
"You're having George put away?"
Mom nodded. She thought I'd be pleased by this, but she was wrong.
"You can't do this," I told her. "You can't just lock someone away like that!"
"And why not? What George did to you was unspeakable! I consider it a fitting punishment."
I couldn't believe this my mother speaking. I'd never heard her sound this...cold.
"Look at him! His mind is
gone, and his body's not far behind. There's no greater punishment
out there than the one he has already inflicted on himself."
I begged her to think this over.
"I'm not asking you to forgive him," I said. "I'm not sure if I can ever do that myself. I'm just asking you to not let yourself be consumed by hatred and bitterness. For better or worse, this family has always taken care of its own."
My mother threw her hands in the air. "So you're asking me to have mercy? You expect me to keep letting him in this house?"
"No!" I replied.
"So you're going to keep going over there, helping him?" she asked.
I shook my head. I told her we could get a nurse. I told her George should stay in his own home."
For the first time in years, my mother yelled at me. "No, you are NEVER to have anything to do with him ever again."
"Mom, I'm a grown man! He can't do..."
"You may be an adult, Timothy Bayliss, but you're still my son! No matter how old you are, I have a duty to protect you!"
She turned around, pointing angrily at the picture of my father on the wall.
"I will not sit around, like SOME people, pretending that nothing ever happened!"
Then mom burst into tears. She pushed past me, and ran to her bedroom. She slammed the door so hard that my father's picture fell from the living room wall. It shattered into a million pieces against the hardwood floor.
June 21, 1999
Frank and I spent the entire
afternoon in court. This was the last day of the Valpresio murder
trial, and we wanted to be there for the verdict. It's been a
long, strange trip with this one. In February, nearly everyone
considered the case a lost cause. Despite our persistence, the
whole thing looked like it was headed for the back of the file
Then in May, I got a call from Jack Parker, a friend of mine in Robbery. They had this young woman named Annie Sutter in custody for a string of restaurant break-ins. While they were interviewing her, the detectives found out that she was mentally impaired. There was no way she could've cooked up this scheme on her own. It turns out that Annie had been under the influence of her boyfriend--Joey Carpenter. Now Joey was a real piece of work. Not only was he into robbery, he was also into drug-dealing and assault. He had somehow convinced Annie that what they were doing was just a game. Like "Robin Hood." Interestingly enough, until last December, the two had also been renting a house near Camden Yards.
We found Joey wandering around Butcher Hill. Not surprisingly, we had to chase him down. When we got him to the station, he was in full bad-ass mode. He was laughing and cursing up a storm in the Box. He said that the word of "retard girl" wasn't worth a s**t. He threatened to spit in my face, and I threatened to snap him like a twig. Frank had to break us up twice.
It took five hours, but the little punk eventually confessed. It turns out that Mrs. Valpresio lived a few houses down from him and Annie. She liked Annie, but thought Joey was no good. She confronted him several times about his attitude, and each time he told her to f**k off. Mrs. Valpresio wrote a series of "anonymous" letters to the renter, which led to Joey being kicked out. Well, Joey wasn't taking this lying down. Using Annie as bait, he got into Mrs. Valpresio's house. He tied her up, gagged her, then proceeded to trash the place. All along, Annie was under the impression that they were playing "the game." Around midnight, Annie dozed off. While she slept, Joey decided that he was through playing. After drugging the woman, he put a gun to her head and killed her.
Joey Carpenter got sentenced to life in prison, while Annie Sutter was determined to be mentally incompetent. When they read the verdict, there was very little reaction. The Valpresio family didn't even bother to show up. Joey sat frozen, while Annie seemed genuinely confused. As they led her from the courtroom, she blew a kiss to the guy. Annie was released to the custody of her parents, who promptly had her institutionalized. I know it's ironic, but I felt more pity for that girl than for the family of the murdered woman.
After court, Frank suggested we try this new Italian restaurant around the corner. I told him I was going home for lunch instead. Frank asked how things were.
I told him things were fine. "Mom and I...we're talking. We're trying hard to work things out."
Frank nodded, but I swear that for a moment, there was a look of doubt on his face.
For lunch, my mother fixed grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade cream of tomato soup. She always thought the canned stuff was too salty. We were eating and talking about our plans for the summer when the phone rang. I answered it. It was Ms. Delisi, the nurse we hired to take care of George. I was barely able to say hello before my mom took the receiver from my hand. After a couple of uh-huh's, she hung up.
"What did she say?"
"Nothing much," she replied.
"Everything OK over there?"
Mom gave me a weak smile. "You'd
better finish your lunch, Tim...it's getting cold."
July 7, 1999
Gee called us into his office early this morning. He had this weird smile on his face. I figured that we were up for a promotion. Frank figured that he was about to send us on a kamikaze mission. When we got inside, there was a box of jelly donuts and some coffee waiting. Gee motioned for us to help ourselves. As Frank picked out his donut, he kept making these little crashing airplane noises.
After getting settled in, Gee came out from behind his desk.
"Colonel Barnfather contacted me this morning. He's been working on this 'special project' for the past few weeks and now he's run into some problems. The project has gone beyond the scope of what he originally envisioned and he needs some extra hands to pull it off. Seeing that you two have the weekend off, I told Barnfather that you would be more than happy to assist him."
Frank nearly choked. "You gave him our names without asking?"
"You guys owe me on this one," Gee replied. "How many times have I stuck my neck out for you?"
"Can't we pay you back some other way?" I asked. "I mean, what does this 'special project' consist of anyway?"
"Let me guess," Frank said. "The Barnfathers need someone to cook and clean at their next big soiree."
Gee smiled. "Actually, Frank, you're pretty close."
Before we could react, Gee handed us a piece of paper.
"The Police Wives Association of Maryland Presents: The First Annual Children's Day at the Zoo. Saturday, July 9 from 10 AM to 8 PM."
Gee went on to explain that Mrs. Barnfather, the president of the PWA, had come up with the idea of sponsoring a day of fun for the youth of the city. All children were welcome, but special effort was made to bring children in from inner-city and rural areas. The celebration was going to be held at the Baltimore Zoo.
"I know Annette Barnfather--she grew up in Lafayette Courts," Gee said. "While the kids in the suburbs spent their summers going to parties and picnics, she and her friends were worried about where their next meal was coming from...or whether they'd live to see the next day. Those days are over for Annette, but she hasn't forgotten what it's like. She was just trying to show these kids that despite all this madness, they could have some part of their childhood."
Gee shook his head. "I'm sorry I put you guys on the spot. I'll tell the Barnfathers that you two can't make it."
Without another word, Gee went back behind his desk. Frank looked at me. I looked at him. We knew what we had to do.
July 12, 1999
When I told Lal about the Children's Day, she begged me to take her along. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity for her to meet other children. Frank must have had the same thought. When Lal and I arrived at the picnic area, Frank was already there with Mary, Olivia, and Frank Jr. I'd never seen the place look so festive. The trees were decorated with streamers and colorful balloons. In addition to the food, there were all these little booths, with everything from face-painting to fortune telling. A woman in a beehive hairdo gave us a brief orientation. Then we were given our assignments. Frank was sent to the barbecue pit, while I was given the dessert stand. Before departing, we were each handed a hairnet and a ruffled red apron. When Frank put his on, Mary and the kids burst out laughing.
Mary offered to watch Lal until my shift was over, but she insisted on staying to help me. I quickly tied my apron around her waist. While I sliced the pies and the cakes in the back of the booth, Lal handed them out at the front. Things were going great, until noon. That's when Lal spotted this guy walking around the park dressed in a clown suit. He was telling jokes, and making little balloon toys. There was a constant stream of children running in his direction.
Lal pulled on my sleeve. "Ooooh, can I have a balloon animal, pleeease?"
I wanted to take her, but things were starting to get busy. I had a line of people waiting for their dessert. I looked around for some help, but everyone was busy. I told Lal that she would have to wait a little while.
"But what if we can't find the balloon man later?"
"Don't worry, he's not going anywhere."
"But what if he runs out of balloons?"
"He won't run out of balloons."
"I don't want to wait, Daddy...." Lal started to whine. At first, I was shocked--I'd never seen he act like this before. Then I remembered something I had read in one of those parenting books. I kept reminding myself that this is normal behavior and that I just have to let her know who's in charge. I told Lal that she was going to have to wait and that was the end of it. She pouted for a second, then went back to her post.
A half hour later, the crowd started to die down. Someone came and offered to take over. I was all set to take Lal to get her balloon. I went to the front of the booth, but didn't see her. I called her name, but there was no answer. I scanned the tables nearby, but she was nowhere in sight.
I started questioning everyone in sight. I yelled at a couple of them. I mean, how can you NOT notice a little girl in a tacky red apron? Frank saw what was going on. I told him what happened, and that we needed to secure the area. I was really panicking at this point. I could hardly breathe. Frank found a couple of uniforms, and we combed through the zoo. After half-an-hour, we found her over on the other end of the grounds. She was sitting on a bench, playing with a long-shaped yellow balloon.
When Lal spotted me, she smiled.
"Look, Daddy...it's a doggie! The funny man made it for me before he left."
I ran over to the bench. I should've been relieved, but that wasn't what I felt.
"Do you know how worried
I've been?" I asked. "Do you know what you've put me
Frank tried to interrupt me, but I told him to back off.
Lal shrugged. "I just wanted a balloon, Daddy."
I couldn't believe that Lal would put herself in danger like that. Furthermore, I couldn't believe that she had no remorse for what she did. In a flash, I snatched the balloon out of her hands, and threw it on the ground. Then I grabbed her by the arm, and made her look me in the face.
"How could you do something so stupid! Do you know what kind of world we live in? "Do you know how many BAD people are out there? Do you know the kinds of things that can happen to little children like you?"
My head was throbbing. That's when I realized how hard I'd been yelling. I turned around. Frank was staring at me, along with most of the zoo. I let Lal go, and she ran sobbing to one of the officers. I was so stunned that I froze. Frank had to walk me out of the area. We ended up standing near the entrance gates.
"I can't go back in there," I told him. "Please call my Mom. Have her take Lal home."
"You don't have to do this," Frank replied. "Talk to her."
"She won't want to come near me."
"She'll be OK."
"It's not going to be OK. I HURT HER."
"Tim, you did NOT hurt her. Lal ran off, you were scared. If Olivia or Frank Jr. had wandered away like that, I don't know what I would've done."
"You wouldn't have lost
it like I did. You would've kept your head on straight. In fact,
I bet this wouldn't have happened to you in the first place.
You and Mary are good parents... not like me. I've tried to be
a good father, but I've made a complete mess of everything. You,
know, I'm beginning to think that Lal would be better off without
someone like me in her life."
"You don't mean that," Frank countered.
I told him that I did. "I'm thinking of what's best for my daughter. Look at all that has happened since she's known me. Lal has been exposed to things that a little child should not have to deal with. She ended up sitting in the same room with the man who abused me. I didn't keep my eye on her and she walked off. That moment in the park when I realized she was gone, all these images flashed in my mind. Me getting a call. Me coming up on a body. Only this time, it wasn't someone else's child."
Frank put his hand on my shoulder. "Tim, I know you are afraid for Lal. It's normal. I feel the same way about my children sometimes. But if you think distancing yourself will protect her, you're wrong. The best thing you can do for your daughter, and for yourself, is to learn how to live with your fears."
That one statement went against all I believed. My whole life, I'd been trying to fight my fears. I thought if I tried hard enough, I could bury them. Now here Frank was, telling me I had to accept all these terrible things into my life? I told him I couldn't do it. I'd drown.
Frank gave me this sad look. "You've been drowning ever since I can remember, Tim. Only this time, you're taking someone down with you."
Without another word, he went back into the park.
I spent most of last night thinking about what happened at the zoo. I stood outside the gates for a long time, fuming. I wanted to kick the gates in. I thought I was angry at Frank. He had made some ugly accusations. Then I realized I was angry at myself, because what he had said was true.
I went back inside and apologized to Lal. However, I let her know that it was wrong for her to wander away. Lal promised she'd never do that again. Instead of taking her home so soon, I figured that some of the day could be salvaged. I got Lal some ice cream, then I let her play with Olivia, Frank Jr., and the other kids. By the time we left the zoo, Lal seemed to have forgotten the whole affair. That didn't mean I could. When I brought her back to Emily, I told her what happened. Though she appreciated my honesty, she also expressed concern. Emily suggested we get together soon to discuss the matter of discipline.
Before I knew it, I could see the sun coming through the window. Though I was drained, I figured I'd better head into work. A part of me dreaded going because I knew they'd be talking about me. I could just imagine what Gee was thinking.
On the way out the door, I reached into my desk drawer to get my car keys. After some fumbling, I found them clinging to an old piece of paper. I turned it over and noticed a phone number scribbled in blue ink. Frank had given it to me several years ago, after the Tonya Thomson case. If it weren't for yesterday, I would've thrown that paper away. Instead, I picked up the phone and dialed. A few seconds later, a kind voice answered: