“Dude, turn on the TV.”
“You're not gonna believe this.”
Flipping to the early morning news. “Oh, Shit.”
“Do you think they did it?”
That was the 5:45 a.m. phone call.
About four hours later the other call came.
“Can you come see me? Something bad just happened.”
“Yea, I'll be right there.”
Four months earlier, Mark had moved to Los Angeles. Now, I was in my car on the way to his house, trying to figure out who just murdered his parents…and why...and what the hell I was supposed to do with that information. I arrived in his driveway where he was waiting.
“Yea. Can you spend the weekend?”
“Of course man, anything you need.”
“Just be here, ok?”
With armed security guards all over the grounds of his palatial estate, the yellow police tape seemed pointless. Detectives wandered through the house, taking notes and photos. We moved to the kitchen. Passing by the swinging door of the living room, I caught a glimpse of the red-soaked couch and bloodstained carpet. A few hours ago, his dead parents were lying here, mutilated by shotgun blasts at close range. And he walked in to find them. And now he wanted my help.
1:00 p.m. Saturday.
I am sitting on a crowded beach in Malibu. The waves are huge and pounding the sand. A little boy is playing near the water. The mother is immersed in a John Grisham novel, one I've read before, and liked. A wave crashes. I reach for my sunscreen. Another wave. The child is swept off his feet. He is pulled back into the surf. His head goes under. I look at the mother. She is contemplating why the jury isn’t listening to the protagonist.. I scramble headfirst into the water searching for the child. My lungs pound as I am hammered by the sea. I surface, gasping for air. As I rise up, I hear the scream. The mother is on her feet searching. I know I am close. I feel something touch my leg. The child is within reach. I grab his arm and pull him to the surface. I drag him to the beach. I saw CPR administered once on a television show. I clear his mouth. I press my lips against his and blow gently. Two minutes pass and nothing. It is agonizing. This is the longest two minutes of my life. I am in absolute panic, shaking with fear, with dread that I cannot save this child. Scenes of failure pound through my head as I fight against the desire to run. He is going to die. I cannot save him. I cannot handle this. I shake more. He is going to die. A lifeguard arrives but I continue. A shudder. I blow hard into his mouth. Something comes back. The child coughs and water comes out of his mouth and nose. The lifeguard removes me from the child's chest. I have just saved a life. For the moment, it is over. I have just saved a life. For the rest of my existence it is with me.
When Mark turned to me after we passed the living room where his parents had been executed, I thought about that rescue, and begged for the comfort and peace of its moments.
I spent the rest of that day just hanging around the house, staying out of the way, picking up food for him and helping Mark field phone calls. He was depressed, scared, aloof. He was also focused intently on whatever task he was performing. From a distance, I remember watching him fold his shirt into a square and place it gently on the counter. He completed the task diligently, perfectly, neglecting no detail. It was as if things had to be precise. Later, I would find out why.