Sure, I knew Bud White. We worked at the same station for a while. My first job. What a place to start, huh?
I didn’t actually “know” him. I saw him around. He was a policeman and I was one of the girls that typed and filed, so we didn’t work together or anything. He was just one of the guys.
OK, so that’s not exactly true. You gotta remember, I was just a kid. Just outta secretarial school. Never been away from home before, never ran into anybody like him before…….
It’s kind of embarassing, really. I guess I had sort of a crush on him……
I know the other girls thought I was nuts. I got a lotta ribbing…..and there was one time I’m lucky I didn’t get fired…but I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. You know? He was just different from the other guys at the station. I’m not saying I wanted to, you know, go out with him…
….ok, yeah, I woulda liked to go out with him, sure. But he never asked any of the girls at the station out on a date while I worked there. So I didn’t expect it. Not really.
DeeDee said he asked her out once, right when he first transferred here, but after that, I guess he wasn’t interested in secretaries.
Most of the other girls spent their breaks mooning over Vincennes. They all envied Ginger because she got to work with him. She played it up for all it was worth. She always knew when he got a call from the studio. Judy kept telling her to listen in sometime, and one time she did. She blushed when she told us about it. She said she was never doing it again, it wasn’t worth risking her job over to listen to Jack and his buddy from Badge of Honor talking about who they banged the night before. Natalie, who was new, said, “What?” real innocent like, and we all burst out laughing……..
I could never see the attraction. Vincennes was smooth, that’s for sure, and he wore great suits, but personally, I thought he was boring. I could never say so, though. Can you imagine? I woulda never heard the last of it. So I kept my mouth shut most of the time when they were discussing men.
Sylvia knew I was interested in Bud.. I’m not sure how she knew; maybe she saw me watching him once, and remembered it. She used to bring it up when she wanted to get me back for something. Like the time I refused to cover for her when she wanted to duck out early on Friday. We all woulda liked to leave early, you know? I knew she’d never do the same thing for me. So I told her to get somebody else. It made her mad. Nobody else would do it either, but she was mad at me……Well, OK, there was another reason, but that’s a long story.
Anyway, the next Monday, when we were having coffee, she said, “Now Doris, here, she likes her men a little different.” Everybody stopped talking, ‘cause we weren’t really talking about men. “Don’t you, dear?”
I didn’t say anything.
“It’s easy to understand. I mean, what’s the point of being interested in someone with taste and class and some smarts…..if you’re Doris? Who else would look at her twice, except somebody with no taste and no class and not much in the way of brains? I don’t know, though. Has he looked at you at all? Has he asked you out? Maybe…..and here’s a thought……even White’s not desperate enough---“
She stopped talking at that point and screamed a little, ‘cause I dumped my cup of coffee in her lap, and went back to my desk.
Of course some of the guys were out in the hall when I opened the door of the coffee room. Officer White was there, too. They all looked interested when they heard the screaming and the cursing, but I just walked on past. If they wanted to know anything, they could ask me.
I was surprised to see him there. He didn’t usually stand around with the other guys. Quiet, you know? Not much for joking around and goofing off.
Not that he was a loner, ‘cause he wasn’t. He had a partner; and everybody at Hollywood station knew each other, at least enough to say Hi, howareya to everybody else. He just didn’t go out of his way.
I heard one of the guys ask him if he was going for a beer after their shift was over with the rest of the guys, and he said, no, he had stuff to do. It was Tracy, I think, that asked him. At least, he’s the one who said, after White walked away, “He always has stuff to do. What kinda stuff does he do that’s so important?”
Phil said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. You know Bud.” And they left.
I asked DeeDee once how the date with Bud went. She said, “What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you say he asked you out once?”
“Sure, but I didn’t go. I said I had other plans.”
“You didn’t go? Why not?”
She rolled her eyes. “Well, look at him. Would you want to be seen in public with somebody who dresses like that?”
Yeah. I would have. If he’d asked me.
No, he wasn’t the best looking guy I’ve ever seen. He cut his hair like he was still in the service; he didn’t dress the best. I knew that. His suits all kinda looked the same; like he got ‘em outta somebody else’s closet; and they were mostly all brown.
At least they were clean.
That’s one of the things I like about working in police stations---all the guys are clean. My sister works in the office for a car repair place; and she says it’s awful. Papers have greasy fingerprints on ‘em, and that smell’s always in the air…….I was lucky to get a good job like this right out of secretarial school.
So Bud’s suits, even though they weren’t real nice looking, were always clean. And he took care of himself. He always had fresh butch-wax in his hair; you could tell because of the way the front stood up.
He wasn’t smooth, like Jack. He didn’t talk a lot. He wasn’t always trying to make time with us secretaries like some of the guys. Sylvia mentioned something once about how maybe he was one of those [I]funny[/I] guys, that don’t like girls; but one time, a girl came to the station to see him; and she kissed him; and not like you’d kiss a guy if he was funny that way.
Like I said, I couldn’t ask about him. I was getting enough guff as it was. After I’d been there a while, though, I heard things. Ginger mentioned once that he made more off-duty arrests than the other guys, and that’s why I looked up his arrest records. Typing and filing are so boring; I started reading the reports just to keep from falling asleep; and White’s sounded interesting, so I looked ‘em up.
Once I started reading, I was hooked.
I used to imagine Bud saying the stuff I was reading, telling me about his cases. That sounds like something a kid would do, I guess. I suppose I was a kid.
There were a lot of assaults in his reports. A lot. I thought at first maybe he lived in a bad part of town, and that’s how come there were so many. Most of them were, somebody tried to pick a fight with him, or swung at him. Most of the others were assaults on women. I didn’t understand what he was doing till later, till after I saw him doing it.
He always talked in his reports like it wasn’t a big deal, what he did. Like going out to buy a loaf of bread. “Suspect then assaulted this officer, and was subdued after a struggle.” That kinda thing. That means that the criminal decided to hit Bud, or shoot at him, or something, and so there was a fight, and Bud had to beat him.
He always did. ‘Course I guess if he didn’t, then the criminal didn’t get arrested, and there wouldn’t be a report, huh?
I looked up his attendance record one day. Just to see. He came to work every day, all the time…..except a couple times. So I looked those times up, and you know what I found? “Absent due to injuries sustained in performance of his duty.” So I went into the records room in the basement and found those times……one of ‘em was a concussion, and he was off for ten days. The other was a knife wound, but he was only off three days. Course that was right before his regular days off, so he had a couple days more.
Ten days, just for getting hit on the head!
And then I found the really interesting thing. Right after the concussion thing, before he came back to work, he got shot in the arm helping his partner. That’s the reason he had so many days. It sounded funny to me. He was supposed to be off duty. He was too sick to come to work. Why would he even have been there? So then I had to go back and read the whole thing. All the details.
They coulda made a TV show out of this one. It woulda been better than anything on Badge of Honor. He got the concussion in a woman’s apartment, and the woman got took to the hospital, ‘cause some other guy tried to cut her into pork chops. And the woman was naked. And the guy got away. And it turned out later the woman was married to the guy who carved her up. Married, for gosh sakes!
I had to look up reports from the other cops who were there to find out all this, and it took me a while to understand it, what with all the five dollar words they put in those reports, but I did it. The thing I couldn’t find anywhere, what nobody seemed to know, was what was Bud doing there?
The reports said Bud’s partner, big ol’ Stensland, got a tip, and went after the guy, and they found him, and the guy shot Bud in the arm, and then Bud shot him and killed him. It never did say why Bud was there, either.
I even looked up the coroner’s report on the dead guy. Kinda wished I hadn’t. Talked about “tissue” and “contents” and lots of other stuff I didn’t wanna know about. So I didn’t read it all.
I suppose I shoulda just forgot about it, but it seemed funny to me.
So I asked Phil. Phil’s been at Hollywood Station probably longer than anybody else. He’s older than my dad. He’s OK, though, not creepy or anything. Just bald.
I asked him if he remembered that.
“Yeah. What do you want to know about that for?” he asked.
I shrugged. “I just saw it in the records when I was putting some stuff away, and I thought it was interesting.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know if I should say anything. That’s all done and over with. Why bring it up again?” I thought, if there wasn’t anything much to it, he woulda just said so, wouldn’t he?
I was just asking outta curiosity. You know? Just because my job’s kinda boring and I was kinda interested in Bud. But when he said that, I realized maybe I was on to something. Something I could write up for True Confessions. A girl in my building wrote a story about how her sister got pregnant and lost the baby walking down the street one day, and had to go to the hospital, and the doctor told her she was lucky to be alive, so she never slept around again after that. Like being married woulda helped her if she was gonna bleed to death. Anyway, she got paid 25 bucks. 25 bucks!! For making up lies like that.
An actually true story oughta be worth that much.
I had to drag it outta Phil bit by bit. Like pulling teeth. And some of it I had to figure out by myself. But I got it.
Bud killed the guy. Not in self-defense or anything. Just…..killed him. Phil said everybody knew it.
“Because he was seeing the woman that got cut up?” I asked.
“Nah,” he said. “Well, yeah, I think he was sleeping with her, but Bud wouldn’ta killed him for that. See, Bud…….Bud’s got his own ideas about things.” He shook his head. “That woman got cut up real bad. So that first time, I think maybe he was just trying to keep her from getting killed.”
First time? That means there were more…….
See? Really interesting.
And then something happened.
It’s a funny thing, you’d think it would be exciting to work in a police station, but really, practically nothing ever happens there. It’s boring. Just typing and filing, day after day. Reading about the guys doing exciting stuff, but never seeing any of it ourselves. So maybe that’s why when this really hairy looking guy came charging up the stairs one afternoon, with a big ol’ knife in his hand, we were too surprised to do anything. There were three of us standing up on the second floor close to the stairway, and he ran at us, and I guess I shouldn’t speak for the Shelley and Natalie, but I was so surprised, I didn’t think to run away or even scream.
It all happened really fast. The hairy guy running at us, and then suddenly, somebody else was standing in front of us. The way I remember it, it was like that saying, ‘an irresistible force meeting an immovable object’. I don’t know how irresistible the hairy guy was; he smelled pretty bad. But Bud sure fit the immovable part. I feel like I heard the crash when the hairy guy ran into him. Bud grabbed for the knife, and held him right there, planted his feet and stood in front of us, didn’t let the guy get by him, or get away or anything, with the hairy guy screaming and yelling and trying to stab him. Then the other cops ran up and hit the guy on the head with the fire extinguisher until he fell down.
I never saw anything like that before.
Bud turned around, and asked Natalie if she was ok. Shelley fainted. I wanted him to ask me if I was ok, but then a couple of other cops got between us to pick Shelley up, then Shelley woke up and screamed, and then……..he was gone, walking down the hall the other way.
I felt cheated. You know? You get rescued, you feel like you oughta get to talk to the rescuer. Or something.
I was interested in him before, but I guess this is when I got the stars in my eyes. No more True Confessions ideas. I just wanted to find out all about him. I wanted to know all there was to know about Bud White. I wanted to figure out how to get him to notice me.
This is when I almost got fired. I started spending more time looking up stuff in the records than typing it or filing it away. I started spending my break time in the records room.
Once I knew what I was looking for, it all became clear…….you know, about him and women…….
Ginger came right out and asked me what I was doing. And I musta been tired that day or something, cause I told her.
“Oh, honey,” she said. “You wanna be careful. Other people are starting to wonder what you’re doing, too. And maybe White won’t like you digging up stuff about him.”
I hadn’t thought about that.
“How would he ever find out? Only person that knows is you.”
“You’ve been acting pretty queer, honey,” she said. “Everybody can see that. Be a surprise to me if he [I]didn’t[/I] know about it.”
That made me feel funny. Like I was doing something wrong and I was gonna get caught.
I wasn’t doing anything wrong. There was nothing wrong about it at all. I was just looking stuff up. I just wanted to know about him. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
I decided to lay off for a while, anyway.
But it was too late.
I came out of the break room the next afternoon, and there he was. He stood right in front of me and didn’t move.
“I wanna talk to you,” he said.
The rest of the girls slipped past us; Ginger rolled her eyes at me when she went past. “Merry Christmas,” she whispered. And she left, too.
“I have to go back to work,” I said. There he was, looking right at me, talking to me….and I was too scared to take advantage of it. I should have said something clever, or at least acted a little less like a scared bird from the typing pool…..but when he jerked his head toward the open door, I just backed up, back into the break room.
“You been asking questions about me,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say to that. I just swallowed hard. Looked at the floor.
“So what’s your angle? What do you want?”
I shook my head. “I don’t—“ That came out kinda squeaky, so I cleared my throat and started over. “I don’t want anything.”
“So? Why the questions?”
I looked up, into his face, and couldn’t say anything. He was so close; and I couldn’t say anything. He was looking right at me. Looking right in my eyes. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t look away. His gaze was so clear, so intense, I could feel it right down to my toes.
If this had been a movie, his eyes would have softened, his hand would have gone to my hair, and then……he would have leaned close…..and kissed me……
We weren’t in the movies.
“Hey,” he said, and gave me a little push with his knuckles. “I’m talking to you.”
“I’m…..I’m just interested in you.” Oh God, what a stupid thing to [I]say[/I]. “I mean, I’m interested in what you do.”
“I’m a cop. There’s lotsa cops here.”
“Yeah, but……you….do other stuff.”
He frowned. “OK, what d’ya want?”
You, I thought, I want you. Kinda scared myself with how bad I wanted him all of a sudden. Hoped to heck he couldn’t tell.
Stensland picked that moment to poke his head in the door. “Hey, partner, we gotta go.”
“OK, I’m coming,” Bud said. “Look,” he said to me, “I gotta go. Maybe tomorrow—“
“I’m off tomorrow.”
“OK, the next day. I’m gonna want some answers.”
And he went outta the room, and was gone.
I went home before the fight down in the jail that night. I missed it. I was home in my bathrobe, listening to Bing Crosby on the record player. And I was off the next day.
When I got back, it’s all the girls could talk about. I looked for Bud, but I didn’t see him. Ginger told me at lunch that he’d been suspended.
And then they unsuspended him. I didn’t understand that, but one day, he was back. He stuck close to Stensland, though, and didn’t seem to remember our date.
And then Stensland got killed.
I didn’t like Stensland myself, so I didn’t miss him much, but I felt bad for Bud. He looked terrible. And after that, he wasn’t around much, and when he was, he walked right by me without looking at me.
I was working the day they brought Lt. Exley in with his arm in a sling. The rumor raced through the station that Bud was dead. I didn’t believe it at first.
The bigwigs talked to the Lieutenant a long time. When they were done, I stopped him in the corridor.
“Is it true?”
“Is Bud dead?” I couldn’t keep the quiver out of my voice.
He didn’t answer right away. I felt like he was trying to figure out what to say. So I knew before he said it.
“Yeah. I’m afraid so.”
I didn’t really have a reason to cry. It wasn’t like we were even friends. I don’t know, maybe it was partly because we never would get to be friends, or anything else, now. I waited too long. I’d been dreaming about going on a date with him, about kissing him, when I should have been doing something about it. Now it would never happen.
I told Ginger I was sick, and I went home. So I didn’t hear about Bud being alive for another couple of days. I stayed at home, and cried, and thought about how all the stuff I missed out on was my own stupid fault.
I tried to stay away from the hospital, but I couldn’t do it. He was alive for the moment, but everybody said it was real serious; what if something happened and he died after all?
That was only part of it. Like I said, we weren’t friends or anything, but……I wanted him to be well. And I wanted him to know that.
The nurses said I couldn’t go in his room, but I waited until the nurses were all busy, and then I scooted down the hall on my own.
I didn’t knock, I just opened the door a crack, and peeked in. There was a blonde woman sitting next to the bed. I thought maybe I’d gotten the wrong room.
She saw me before I backed away. “Yes?”
I opened the door a little further. “I’m looking for Bud White’s room?”
“He’s here,” she said. “Come in.”
He looked so different lying there. Pale. There were wires around his jaw, and tubes and bandages and all that hospital stuff all over…..and he looked dead. He did. It was scary.
“Are you a friend of Bud’s?”
“Umm…..we work together. I just came to see…..”
She nodded. “He’s sleeping now. I don’t think we should wake him. But I can tell him you were here when he wakes up.”
“Oh. Umm…..maybe I’ll just come back later sometime.”
I was wondering about her. If she was his girlfriend, she’d have come to the station sometimes, wouldn’t she? Most of the other guys’ wives and girlfriends came to the station once in a while. Maybe she was his sister.
The door opened. A phone call for “Miss Bracken.”
“I’ll be right back,” she said. And she left me alone there in Bud’s room with him. But not before she leaned over him and kissed him on the forehead. And then on the mouth.
She was beautiful---classy and soft-spoken and just the kind of woman any man would want.
It was stupid of me to be there at all. What was I there for?
His eyes opened. He didn’t see me at first. He was looking up at the ceiling, his forehead all wrinkled up like he didn’t feel so hot……and I suppose he probably didn’t. Three bullet holes in him, they said. Or four or five or six, depending on who you listened to.
I walked over next to the bed. “Hi.” Then I didn’t know what to say. Usually I wait for the other person to talk first, but he couldn’t do that. “I came to see how you were.”
He just looked at me.
“I was afraid you were—“ Whoops, you don’t wanna mention death to somebody that’s this bad off. He shut his eyes a minute like he knew what I was gonna say anyway.
And then I realized I was doing it again. I was here with him alone, and I could say or do anything I wanted, and I was wasting the opportunity. I’d never have another chance to do anything.
They had his left arm strapped across his waist, to hold it still, I guess. I put my hand over his, leaned down, and kissed him, very gently. He couldn’t kiss me back, but that was OK. Probably it was better. “I hope you get well soon,” I said. I had to say something, didn’t I?
He blinked his eyes, like he didn’t know what I was doing….and I suppose he probably didn’t. And then I thought, maybe he doesn’t remember me. “It’s Doris. From the station.”
He nodded, just a little bit. If you weren’t watching close, you’d have missed it.
“I just came to see if you were gonna be ok.”
He nodded again.
“Well……I gotta go. Maybe I’ll see you when you get back.”
He frowned. I squeezed his hand. He turned it, a little, and caught my fingers and squeezed back. Not hard, just a little. And then he closed his eyes. I guess he was tired.
And that was it. There was lots more stuff I wanted to say, but how could I say it? Anyway, the blonde came back in the room right then, so I didn’t stay…….
He never did come back to the station. The talk was, his girlfriend took him back East. Natalie said she heard he was never gonna be able to walk again.
“That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of,” I said. “He didn’t get shot in the legs, for God’s sake.”
That made Natalie mad, and she wouldn’t talk to me for a week.
About six months later, I met Jerry. He was a cop, too. We went out for a few months and when he asked me to marry him I said yes. I’m single again now. I’ve been divorced for a couple of years.
I don’t think about Bud much these days……but when I do, I get a feeling like I missed out on something. We weren’t ever an item—never went on a date, never even talked that much. I’ve decided there was nothing I could have done; we just weren’t meant to be more than people that work in the same building.
But I feel like…..like there was a possibility of something good that passed me by; and it wasn’t that it was out of reach……I just didn’t reach for it. And I should have.