The first person to spot the body was fifty-two year old Herman Garber as he huffed and puffed his way through his early morning jog in the cool April air of Central Park. What had caused him to glance to his right was not the body itself, which was laying face down and unmoving, but a glimpse of two dark-clad figures disappearing into the trees directly behind it. Just then, a few rays of the rising sun managed to squeeze their way through the gaps in the monolithic stone apartment buildings lining Fifth Avenue, and fell onto the corpse. Or was it a corpse Herman wondered? Maybe the guy was still alive and needed some immediate aid, maybe….
But Herman, being a long-time cynical New Yorker, dismissed that crazy thought and picked up his pace. No way was this discovery going to ruin his upcoming day. No way would he lose the entire morning, or maybe the entire day answering dumb questions from dumb cops and detectives over and over again. No way was he going to deal with the press who would publish his identity in the papers and on the evening news, causing the whackos and associates of the deceased to seek him out, stalk him, threaten him – maybe even murder him, too. No, not a chance in Hell. Herman Garber firmly believed in the basic theory of existence in the crime-ridden, business-burning, store-looting city that New York had become. I see nothing. I hear nothing. I know nothing.
Herman’s usual route would have him pass this spot one more time, but not today. Wiping his balding head with his neckerchief, he exited the park at 72nd Street. In ten minutes he would be home in his apartment enjoying a shower and his morning coffee. Sorry pal, let someone else be your Good Samaritan today.
In the space of the next twenty minutes, as the morning sun rose higher and the birds chirped louder, three more runners passed the body. The first two, absorbed in the music blasting through their ear pods, hadn’t even noticed it. The third one did, stopped momentarily, then shook his head and continued on as Herman Garber had recently done. Then, eight minutes later, the fifth person to come across the body, Cindy Nelson, a petite blond from Des Moines, Iowa, in town to visit an old college friend, stopped short in her tracks and cautiously approached the body, wrinkling her nose for the telltale signs of decomposition. Being a volunteer in a local Emergency Unit back home, she knew she first must determine if this guy – it appeared to be a man – was still alive and needed immediate aid.
She took her cell phone from her fanny pack as she pushed gently on the body’s shoulder. There was no response so she pushed harder, and then a slight groan emanated from it. He’s alive! She dropped to her knees and grabbed his right shoulder and right hip and skillfully rolled him over. When she glanced at his face she gasped in shock. The urge to vomit passed through her, but she did not succumb. Thank God she hadn’t yet eaten her breakfast. Cindy Nelson had seen a lot of bad stuff, and a lot of blood, in her three years as an EMT, but she had never seen anything resembling this man’s face. He was grinning at her, at least his teeth were grinning at her, as it became apparent that someone had expertly and completely sliced this poor guy’s lips off. And it looked like half his tongue was gone as well. And there was no first aid for that, other than stopping the bleeding, which had pretty much already occurred on its own as the dark, reddish-brown scabby clots attested to.
Cindy dialed 911 and informed the operator of the situation and sat back down on the grass to await the arrival of the troops, of which she knew, would be many. As she waited, she dialed her girlfriend, and when Janet Corcoran answered she explained the situation to her. Janet said, “Are the cops there yet?”
“No,” she answered.
“Why don’t you get out of there now and come back to the apartment?”
“But...but, Jan, I couldn’t do that. I’m the one who found him. I have to stay here. I can’t leave this guy alone.”
Jan sighed and said, “Okay, my hero girlfriend. See you at lunch time – I hope.”
* * *
The first car on the scene was from the Central Park Precinct and manned by two young Police Officers, Jeremy Sanchez and Viola Washington. The sun was now over the tops of some of the buildings on Fifth Avenue illuminating the scene fully. Cindy waved to the car as it approached. The two officers got out of their vehicle and hurried over to her, eyeing the body on the ground. “He’s still alive, Officer,” she said.
“Are you a doctor?” Jeremy asked.
“No, an EMT.”
“Oh, I’m from out of town. Des Moines.”
“What’s your name?”
“Hang around awhile, okay? We’ll get an ambulance for him if my partner agrees with your diagnosis.”
“Oh,” he said with a smile. “Sanchez. Jeremy Sanchez.”
“Pleased to meet you, but –”
“Jeremy!” a voice shouted. “Get over here and take a look at this!”
Cindy was going to finish her statement with – “I want to tell you about his face,” but obviously his partner would be showing him that right about now as she heard Sanchez exclaim, “Holy shit!”
“Indeed,” Officer Viola Washington said. “Lips and part of his tongue gone. Let’s see if we can sit him up and give him some water.”
“I have a bottle here,” Cindy said, joining them as they sat the man up.
“Do you want a drink of water?” Jeremy asked.
The man nodded and Jeremy carefully poured some through the blood-stained teeth and gums. He then poured some more over the man’s face and washed a lot of the blood from it. As his features became clearer, Viola whispered to her partner, “Jeremy, I think I know this dude.”
“Who is he? I don’t recognize him.”
“I’ll ask him,” she said, lightly touching him on his shoulder. “Sir, is your name Stanley Neuschotz?”
The man nodded and mumbled something that sounded like “glub.”
“Wait a minute,” Jeremy said, “Is that –”
“Stanley the Serial Spitter,” Viola said. “No doubt about it.”
* * *
The ambulance and the detectives from the local squad arrived. The EMTs from the FDNY skillfully loaded Neuschotz into the vehicle, and after informing the detectives where they were taking him, moved out quickly, lights flashing, and siren whooping. As the ambulance left the area, Viola playfully poked Jeremy in the ribs and said, “Fuckin’ Stanley ain’t gonna be spittin’ at any of us cops anymore for a long, long time, is he?”
Jeremy grinned and said, “No, he ain’t, partner. Not for a long fuckin’ time. I wonder who did it.”
“No idea,” she said, “but the dicks are sure looking at a lot of suspects. Around 35,000, if you get my drift.”
“And they all wear the same dark blue suit, with brass buttons down the middle,” Jeremy said, both in agreement and disbelief at their conclusion.
Cindy, who had been detained for over two hours of interviews, did make it back to Janet’s apartment on West 76th Street in time for lunch and told her in great detail of her grisly discovery, concluding with the question, “Jan, why would somebody mutilate someone like that?”
“Either for revenge for something he did, or to send someone else a message. Or maybe both.”
“I’m not following you.”
“If his lips and part of his tongue were removed, he certainly can’t speak anymore. Maybe he insulted or lied about someone once too often. Hey, it’s New York; maybe somebody did it just for kicks.”
“That’s awful, Jan. Why do you stay here?”
“I’m an optimist. I hope the city comes back to what it once was. Maybe another Rudy Giuliani will ride into town and clean things up.”
“For your sake, I hope so, too,” Cindy said. “How about some shopping and sightseeing after lunch? I only have two days left here.”
“We will do that, and maybe take a stroll through the park on this beautiful spring day.”
“Uh, I’m not so sure about that.”
“Don’t worry Cindy, the cops usually find, and remove, all the previous night’s murder victims by noon at the latest. Only the partially dead, homeless, and terminally insane remain.”
“Very funny, but I wonder if we’ll find out what the story was on the one I found.”
“It will be all over the evening news and tomorrow morning’s papers for sure. We should be home by then to check it out.”
* * *
The word of the maiming of Stanley the Serial Spitter spread quickly through the ranks of the New York Police Department and more than a few thousand tuned in to the five o’clock news that April 23rd. They were joined by Jan and Cindy who had arrived home in time to mix up a cocktail and relax on the sofa in anticipation of the details. Still in his executive office at the insurance company he worked for in midtown, Herman Garber, scotch and soda in hand, also awaited five o’clock to see if his early morning discovery was, in fact, newsworthy at all.
The anchorwoman on Channel 7 Eyewitness news explained what had happened to the young victim factually and unemotionally, mentioning that he was found and aided by a morning jogger from out of town whose name was being withheld by the NYPD.
“Thank goodness for that,” Jan said. “You don’t need the grief if the media discovers who you are.”
“Glad I’m out of here in another day,” Cindy said. “Not that I’m anxious to leave you, but–”
“I get it. Let’s hear some more about the victim.”
“The police have identified the victim as Stanley Neuschotz, male, white, age 33, from the Midwood Section of Brooklyn. Well known to the police department as The Serial Spitter, Mr. Neuschotz has had numerous arrests over the past three years for various minor offenses such as public lewdness, defecating in public, desecration of statues of public figures, breaking store windows, and spitting at police officers. This last offense was committed by Mr. Neuschotz on hundreds of occasions resulting in his being arrested fifty-seven times. However, the Manhattan and Brooklyn District Attorneys decided not to prosecute this offense anymore declaring it to be merely nothing more than protected speech, akin to yelling at someone.”
“This is unbelievable,” Cindy said. “What’s wrong with these prosecutors?”
“Liberal weenies, brainwashed by their liberal weenie professors in college and law school,” Jan said.
The anchorwoman went on to say that the police had no motive for the attack at this time and would interview the victim when he recovered from the surgery performed on him this morning and afternoon. And, of course, any information on who may have perpetrated this horrendous crime should be forwarded to the NYPD at the number on the screen below me.”
Herman Garber finished his drink and smiled. That guy got what he deserved. I’m glad I didn’t stop to help the prick. Wonder which cops did it? He turned off the TV and left the office for home, reminding himself to take a different route on his next morning’s run. No doubt the cops would have a stakeout at the crime scene and detain every runner that came by. He would not be one of them. Besides, he had nothing to say that could help the investigation, and even if he had some information, he would say nothing.
Jan got up to refresh their martinis and Cindy said, “Jan, do you think maybe some police officers could have done that?”
Jan smiled and said, “Maybe? I would say most certainly.”
“But they’re sworn to uphold the law! I can’t believe –”
“There is no law in this city to uphold anymore. I’m surprised the NYPD hasn’t revolted and struck back way before this. If they did it, that is.”
“What a world we live in now,” Cindy said shaking her head.
“Hey, cheer up and drink up. Only one more day in the Big Apple to suffer through.”
“I wonder if this will be a solitary incident, and I hope it doesn’t escalate the violence here.”
“I hope so too, Cindy. Things were beginning to quiet down a bit. This may turn up the heat again. If it does, maybe I will make a move outta here, but I hope I don’t have to.”
* * *
Almost everyone in the city came to the conclusion that the cops did the job on Stanley, even the cops themselves. After all, who else had a motive to do so? When Stanley recovered from surgery, although skillfully interviewed by the case detectives utilizing pencil and paper, smart phone, and hand communication, he could not provide a clue as to the perpetrators identities. All he could remember was being grabbed by the arms as he was heading to the subway station in Manhattan after the protest to go home to Brooklyn, and some chemical- smelling substance on a cloth being held over his nose and mouth. That was it until he awoke in Central Park with a young woman helping him up.
The detectives had a doctor bring some chemical solvents in for Stanley to sniff test and he positively identified the odor from the bottle labeled Chloroform. The emergency room doctor told the detectives he had discovered a needle mark on Stanley’s neck and that blood and urine had been obtained and was now being analyzed. The next day the test results showed Stanley had been injected with a sizable dose of the common anesthetic Propofol. Stanley’s lips, and the front part of his tongue that had been cut off, had not been found at the scene, so any attempt at re-attachment could not be attempted. The plastic surgery team did the best they could, but as NYPD Officers Jeremy Sanchez and Viola Washington had concluded earlier that day, it would be a long time before Stanley spit at another cop.
And as far as everyone’s belief that it had to be the cops who did it, everyone was wrong.
Well, not totally wrong.