The commissioners looked at a few pages of photographs. Cassidy at his graduation from York College. Cassidy in his rookie photo from the Western. Gene and Patti in the limo at their wedding. Then, abruptly, a page of black construction paper, punctuated only by the date of the shooting. Then, photographs of Cassidy's children — Patti, and Lauren, who was conceived a month or so before the shooting and born seven months after, and Kevin, three years after that.
Cassidy has kept the binder. He offers it to a visitor in his basement rec room, waits, listening as the pages are turned. His face is gray-yellow, jaundiced. He isn't at his best today. In fact, he'll be headed back to the hospital an hour or so after the interview ends. But now, remembering the hearing, he is animated.
"They asked me if I wanted to sit for the hearing, but I wouldn't do that," he remembers. "I told them, no thank you, I'm fine."
Patti remembers the look on Frazier's face: "He was looking at you, amazed that you were standing there," she tells Gene. "He couldn't believe that you were there in front of him."
The commissioners looked at the binder. Then they sent Butchie Frazier back to prison. And Cassidy went on with life itself, which is the real and righteous revenge.
He is now 51 years old, retired as a sworn officer but still teaching at the academy. That's more than two decades of cadet classes, each and every member of which bears the stamp of Gene Cassidy. He taught them law; the vagaries of probable cause, the way it works on the street. And he taught them something more. For them, he's a talisman, an argument — walking, talking, living proof that what they do every day matters, that they are beholden to each other, that what they are asked to do and expected to do carries with it a fixed and constant risk.
Cassidy built that legacy when many thought he was finished, that having survived his shooting in miraculous fashion, he should take his 100-percent disability and do whatever it is one does when you are no longer required to show up. They didn't get it.
After the shooting, he told his closest friends that he would not quit. I want, Cassidy told them, to have my children grow up watching me get up every morning and going to work. That was essential.
Only days after he came home from Shock Trauma and from all that rehab, Gene turned to Patti and asked her if she wanted to go out to dinner; that nice place in Hunt Valley, the one they liked.
"Gene, we can't go out to eat."
"I can't. I'm not ready for that."
"Sure you are."
Patti Cassidy met her husband at York College, where he was majoring in law enforcement. He had grown up in North Jersey, but attending college in York soon oriented him toward the metropolis just to the south. She can remember him new to the Baltimore department, standing in the Inner Harbor — a short world away from the Western District — taking in the city's brand-new waterfront, telling her that this was a place he wanted to police.
And yes, there were later moments when Patti would begin to wonder, aloud, what life might have been like with other choices, other decisions.
"Don't even go there," Cassidy would tell her, shutting it down.
This is the life that is. He carries it like that, day after day, year after year.
* * *
Cassidy's old shift spends the afternoon chasing calls that haven't changed since 1987: domestic complaints, juvenile shoplifting, car stops, and, of course, drug trafficking on Lauretta, on Lanvale, on Payson, on Bentalou.
Everyone backs the calls, showing up in twos and threes, leaving no one to get out of a one-man car and stand alone. Shanice Price, a young female officer with little time on the job, pulls up a pedestrian, thinking him right for an outstanding warrant. But when she keys her mike, she's told by dispatch that the computer is down.
She holds him for as long as she can, but eventually, when the system stays down, Price gives the suspect a walk. Later, she learns that, yes, she'd been thrown a false name. The rest of sector two spends hours hunting the mope, hoping to make right on the insult.
"There's ways to hold a guy if you have to," explains Santucci, schooling her in street legal. "You can always come up with reasons."
They hunt some more for the man, checking the Bentalou corners, but, no, not today. They finish their shift and come home, parking the units around the house. Run sheets are dumped, keys exchanged.