Case #4.12: "Things We Said Today"

Harry is listening to a football game on his car radio at a gas station. Kyle, the teenage attendant takes Harry's credit card, studies the name, and runs it through the old-school carbon machine. Harry signs the receipt and drives away. Kyle stares after him. Harry pulls up to his apartment building but doesn't get out of the car because the game has gone to an important play.

"What the hell are you doing?" Harry asks as Kyle gets into the passenger seat. Kyle answers with a question of his own: "Do you remember me?" Harry replies that Kyle works at the gas station. The kid pulls a revolver, thumbs the hammer back, and says, "You've got 10 seconds to tell me who I am." This is starting to remind me of the opening scene in The Sixth Sense. Theme song. Kyle counts and gets to four. Harry starts to remember.

Flashback. The title card tells us it's January 28, 1986. Students are sitting in an auditorium watching a broadcast of the Challenger launch. Harry sits next to a girl, gripes that they have to watch this, and thinks it would be cooler if they were all stoned. "Then ditch," says the girl, "Go watch it in your grandpa's opium den." Kyle sits on the other side of the girl. They argue.

The girl says proudly that her father got a nosebleed from snorting too much cocaine the night before. The kids count down to liftoff of the Challenger, then cheer and applaud. The room goes silent as the Challenger malfunctions. 

Cap'n Rufus pulls down a homemade banner that says CHICAGO BEARS '86 SUPERBOWL CHAMPIONS. It's not even in Chicago's colors. He asks Judy and Doug to have Harry report to his office when he comes in. Doug wonders how long he'll last under the new captain. "He's not Jenko," Judy agrees. 

Harry updates the captain on his case. He thinks someone is dealing drugs on Roosevelt High's campus through a student named Jeanine. Cap'n Rufus is annoyed that Harry hasn't made more progress in 2 weeks. Harry explains that Jeanine is standoffish. Rufus tells Harry to go through Jeanine's brother. Harry says the siblings don't get along. Rufus doesn't think Harry has exhausted the possibilities to crack the case yet, not even close. He tells Harry to befriend the brother and get invited to Jeanine's house. "Captain Jenko would never..." Harry starts, but Rufus cuts him off.

Harry and his unnamed girlfriend watch Reagan's speech about the Challenger disaster. Harry remembers the astronauts' moon landing when he was a kid in Vietnam: "I felt safe because friends of the American soldiers were up there watching over us." His girlfriend says that watching the explosion made her realize what it would feel like to lose Harry.

At Lincoln High, a police officer passes out JUST SAY NO pamphlets that have the phone number of a drug abuse hotline printed on them. If a family member has a drug problem, the kids shouldn't be afraid to get help. Kyle asks, "So you're saying we should be snitches?" The police officer says not to think of it as snitching: "If someone is hurting our families like a user or a pusher, we owe it to our brothers and sisters to act aggressively upon that problem."

In art class, Kyle makes a creepy bust out of clay. Harry likes the bust. Kyle's guidance counselor won't let him take more art classes, but the teacher lets him use the studio after school. "She won't go out with you, man," Kyle tells Harry, who's seen the Asian following Jeanine, "You don't wanna get what you're goin' after. She's...she's a major cokehead. She sells too. Jeanine's trouble." Their parents aren't helpful either because they're both addicts. 

Harry suggests that Kyle could help Jeanine by reporting whoever is selling her the drugs. "Maybe," says Kyle. Harry thinks he's interrupted Kyle and starts to leave. Kyle thanks Harry for listening. 

Kyle walks home. His dad pulls his pickup into the driveway, having finished a roofing job "on time for a change." He has a check in hand. Kyle asks his dad not to go to his dealer with the check. Dad says he deserves to relax after work. Um, coke does the opposite of relax you. Kyle goes up to his room and slams the door. He throws his schoolbooks and a pile of laundry. He rips all the blankets off his bed. Through the wall, Kyle hears his dad calling his dealer Donny. Kyle looks at the JUST SAY NO flyer.

That night, Kyle walks into a police precinct. He gives the desk sergeant a paper bag and a slip of paper. "I just got this from a guy named Donny," he says, "Here's where he lives." The desk sergeant looks in the bag and sees plastic bags full of weed and coke. "Okaaaaay," he says. Kyle gives him another piece of the paper: "These people sent me to buy it. If you go to their house, you'll find more drugs." The desk sergeant asks how Kyle knows that. Kyle admits, "They're my parents."

Still in flashback, Doug introduces Judy to Blowfish the new janitor. Blowfish does his party trick for Judy, who looks disturbed. Doug introduces Blowfish to Harry who's "recently perfected a new police method of getting suspects to turn themselves in." "It's the Asian way," Harry jokes. Judy can't believe Kyle turned in his own parents. "That sounds a little Hitler Youth to me," says Blowfish. Doug explains that Kyle's parents are addicts; Harry is sure Kyle has tried other ways of helping them. He feels good that Kyle will be better off now.

Jeanine sits on her bed at the Riverbend County Youth Shelter, morosely looking out the window. Kyle comes in. "I want you to understand," he starts. Jeanine doesn't want to hear it. Kyle claims he didn't know their parents would be arrested; he just wanted the drugs out of the house. He wanted their parents to stop hurting themselves. "That's straight out of the Nancy Reagan BS at school! I can't believe you fell for that!" Jeanine says angrily. 

"They were ruining our lives," says Kyle. Jeanine yells, "No! You mean they were ruining yours! You couldn't have things your way, so you wrecked them for everybody!" She calls Kyle a narc and pushes him. She knocks Kyle's chair over and starts slapping at him. Two youth shelter workers come over and pull Jeanine off her brother. 

Harry's girlfriend Cheryl brought him a cake and an astronaut snowglobe for his birthday. Harry thanks her. He blows out the candles and wishes his name was Jim. When his parents knew they would have to flee Vietnam, they told Harry to pick an American name; one of his favorite TV shows was The Wild Wild West and the main character's name was Jim West. They kiss. Harry hears kids complain about their parents all the time while he's undercover and he'd give anything to see his again. Cheryl says, "I can't fill that hole." Harry asks her not to make another one.

Kyle and Jeanine sit in the courtroom gallery. Kyle's dad had no idea his habit harmed Kyle and Jeanine; he wants the judge to consider that he was trying to find a drug treatment program at the time he got arrested. That's probably a big fat lie. Kyle's dad requests the same sentence his wife received: probation and admittance to the county hospital's drug rehab program. He wants to retain custody of the children because he can't stand losing them to a foster home.

"I beg...allow natural right," the judge quotes Kyle's dad, "You are a very selfish man, Mr. DeGray." The judge doesn't believe he cared about keeping his children until he got convicted. The judge is sympathetic to Kyle and Jeanine but thinks the family will eventually be grateful to Kyle about his decision. 

"You were selling drugs and giving them to your daughter, contributing to her delinquency," the judge goes on. He sentences Mr. DeGray to 30 months to 5 years in minimum security prison. 

Kyle and Jeanine sit in the office of a counselor or social worker. The actor was featured in an earlier episode as the coach of Augustana High School's steroid abusing football team. "I was led to believe this would help them. Why should we be taken away?" asks Kyle. Jeanine thinks that's what Kyle gets for listening to people. The social worker tells them to stop bickering and that they can't change what happened. The kids have to move on with their lives and that's where the social worker comes in. "Oh wow, it only gets better, huh?" sasses Jeanine.

The social worker ignores her. He tells the teens that they're fortunate. Jeanine and Kyle have an aunt and uncle in Portland who've agreed to take them both in. "No way, my aunt's a total bitch," says Kyle. The social worker tells him, "It's that or foster parents who'll only take you in because they get paid to." Jeanine wants to get away from Kyle. Kyle doesn't understand why his life is getting ruined; he didn't break the law.

The social worker unnecessarily explains that there are laws against selling and doing drugs. "Ain't no law stronger than family. He should get the chair," Jeanine snarls. The social worker admonishes her. "This may not sound very good right now, but you have relatives who care about you," says the social worker. He promises it'll be a better environment and a fresh start. 

Harry dreams about a bunch of people dressed all in white standing on a beach, including him and Jeanine. The Challenger explodes overhead. Ronald Reagan intones, "The future doesn't belong to the faint of heart; it belongs to the brave." Vietnamese soldiers run out of the jungle and start shooting the people on the beach. Harry's best friend Tai is killed. So is Cheryl. Harry wakes up in a cold sweat.

Harry drives to Cheryl's house, races up the porch stairs, and pounds on the door. She doesn't answer. He sits on the stairs, sniffles, and hangs his head.

At the youth shelter, Kyle packs a bag and leaves his room. He peeks into Jeanine's and sees his sister is asleep. Kyle slips out the front door. Wonderful security at a place for vulnerable teenagers.

Cheryl heads toward the porch with a bag of groceries and sees Harry on the steps. It's obvious he's been crying. Cheryl hugs him.

Back in the present, Kyle is still holding a gun on Harry. Kyle has counted all the way to six after telling Harry he'd only count to three. Harry bumps Kyle's arm, causing Kyle to shoot out Harry's passenger window. Kyle gets out and runs; Harry tackles him and restrains him on the grass in front of the building. He tells Kyle he's a cop. "Oh great! I shoulda known it! You bastard!" Kyle says as he struggles.

In the interrogation room, Harry is sporting a bandage on one arm from where the bullet grazed him. Kyle hates Harry. "When I was 16, you took away my life," Kyle says, then refreshes Harry's memory on the finer points, "...You put a gun to my head 3 years ago, only you pulled the trigger." Harry reminds Kyle that the teen is the one who chose to turn his parents in.

Harry doesn't understand why Kyle blames him. Kyle's parents were the addicts and the school sponsored the "Just Say No" assemblies. Kyle thought Harry was his friend and really cared. We find out that Kyle dropped out of school shortly after the arrests and Jeanine still won't speak to him. He again accuses Harry of taking away his family and asks how many other lives Harry has ruined. This must have touched a nerve because Harry leaves the room.

Harry goes to his locker and blows some dust off the astronaut snowglobe. Harry uses a precinct computer to look up Kyle's name and sees that social services sent Kyle to the county youth shelter because his parents were convicted of possession of a controlled substance. Harry goes to the social worker's office and asks for his help finding someone.

Jeanine's house is modest but well-kept. There's a large Sacred Heart painting and a crucifix over the fireplace. A stroller sits in the hall. Jeanine hasn't spoken to her brother since he ran away from the shelter. Harry repeats that he just wanted to help Kyle. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," Jeanine says, "I don't think you can understand the pain of having your parents taken away." Harry thinks he can. Jeanine is upset that Harry told Kyle to "betray" their parents.

"My mother died of cancer," Jeanine continues, "My father is still in prison. He refuses to see his own daughter, his own grandchild....Kyle didn't have to go to the police. He could've called one of those helpline numbers or turned to God for help." She quotes the part of the Lord's Prayer about forgiving trespasses. "Then forgive Kyle," says Harry, "He needs someone." Jeanine says Kyle is a lost soul and not welcome in her home.

Harry sits across from Mr. DeGray in a prison visitation room. Mr. DeGray blames his poor parenting on not having a good role model and says Kyle wasn't a good son. Harry tells him not to let the past ruin the future. "You feel a little guilty?" asks Mr. DeGray, "You used some dumb teenager to advance your future and now you know how dumb you were. Some stuff you broke you just can't fix." 

Harry goes to Cheryl's house and knocks on the door. She answers. "Hi, remember me?" he says. Cheryl coolly replies, "Yeah" and shuts the door in his face. At the Chapel, Fuller and the staff bring a birthday cake to Harry's desk. He blows the candles out.

Back at Cheryl's house, she checks the answering machine. Harry's voice comes out of it. He's rehearsed what he wants to say, "but these machines only give you one chance. We need to talk." Harry tries to make a joke that he's not pregnant. He asks Cheryl to call him and leaves his number. Cheryl erases the tape. Harry's asleep on his couch, presumably after waiting for the phone to ring.

The next day, Cheryl checks her mailbox and finds the astronaut snowglobe in it. Harry, parked across the street, watches as she tosses it in the garbage.

A judge who looks like a younger version of Judge Judy asks if Kyle wants to make a statement before sentencing; he doesn't. Harry stands up and asks to speak on Kyle's behalf. He tells the judge there were extenuating circumstances that caused Kyle to pull a gun on him. "He pleaded guilty," the judge says. Harry doesn't think Kyle thought about the consequences of what he did. "You are way out of line, Officer," says Judge Judy's lookalike. 

Harry keeps on talking: "They took his family. But it wasn't his fault." Judge Judy's lookalike gets her bailiff, who sadly doesn't look like Byrd, to escort Harry out. Harry asks why Kyle isn't saying something. Kyle mimes putting a gun to his temple and pulls the trigger.

Harry is on the answering machine again at Cheryl's house. Miraculously, she decides to call him. She wants to sit down with him.

Cheryl and Harry go to a restaurant. Cheryl tells Harry she couldn't get the pain in his voice out of her head. Harry tells her he feels like he killed himself, her, and Kyle. He wants to leave because the restaurant is "too formal." Harry leaves some bills on the table even though neither one of them have ordered anything yet. 

Harry and Cheryl sit on a rock by a lake. Cheryl tells him that what happened to Kyle isn't his fault. Harry says Cheryl was the best thing that happened to him; he feels bad about how things ended and wants to fix it.

That night, she and Harry go for a walk by the observatory. Harry feels like the Challenger explosion was an omen about their relationships. Cheryl says, "You left me before you left me." She advises him to let it go that things didn't work out between them. Harry didn't mean to hurt her. Cheryl tells Harry that he can't let losing his parents stop him from loving. He apologizes for ruining their future.

"You didn't ruin my life," says Cheryl, "I'm with someone now who makes me very happy." If this were an episode of Jerry Springer, this would be the part where she reveals she's shacked up with another woman. Harry sighs. He asks Cheryl to dump her new boyfriend and give him another chance. He wants her help to avoid making the same mistake. "I can help you without being in love with you," Cheryl says, then reveals that she's pregnant by her new boyfriend. 

Harry asks when she's due. Cheryl is due in 6 months and already has names picked out: Michelle for a girl and Artemis for a boy. Harry smiles, remembering that Artemis was Jim's sidekick on Wild, Wild West. Cheryl gives Harry a big hug. Yeah, potentially naming your child after a character from your ex-boyfriend's favorite TV show isn't weird at all.

Harry visits Kyle in jail. Mr. DeGray is out on bail and Harry wants to know if Kyle wants to see his dad. Kyle says no. Harry tells Kyle that everyone did mess up his life: "Your parents were bad parents, your sister was a bad sister, and I'm a bad cop." Kyle demands to know why Harry didn't think about that before getting Kyle to turn his parents in. Harry did; he knows kids who were helped by telling someone what their parents were doing to them. He realizes it was the wrong thing for Kyle; social services or NA may have been a better option.

Kyle says it doesn't matter now. Harry takes off his belt and gives it to Kyle. Kyle asks what he's doing. "I'm helping you," says Harry, "You want me to write the note?" Kyle tells Harry that he doesn't want to hang himself. "Then we better move on," says Harry. He picks up his belt and leaves. Kyle sits looking bewildered and confused. End of episode. And on that cheery note, Happy Father's Day!

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