West Side Story
Ripples in the Water
Notes: The characters from the movie aren't mine. The other characters and the story is! This takes place after a post-movie story of mine called The Worth of Souls, but that doesn't have to be read first; there are just a couple of explanatory references to it. Also, since it seems it was not Arthur Laurents' intention for the setting to strictly be the 1950s, and hence, moved it to a nebulous time period for the 2009 revival, I felt no need to make it the 1950s either. The time period is intended to be the present day, but I'm not as yet sure if that will really make itself manifest. Thanks to Crystal Rose for plot help!
The Manhattan night was on the chilly side, but to Lieutenant Schrank's relief it was not outright cold.
All manner of extremes in weather aggravated him. It was frustrating to patrol the streets looking for gangs in any temperature, but blistering heat and biting cold made it infinitely worse. Schrank preferred more moderate conditions. It was late summer now, almost autumn, and various dying leaves were finding their way into the road, despite the scarcity of trees. They crunched, but Schrank mostly ignored them.
Sergeant Krupke glanced his way, as he had done many times on their trek up and down the neighborhood. The Lieutenant had only recently returned to active duty after a near-fatal shot from a nervous street gangster's gun. Krupke wondered a bit whether Schrank was recovered enough to be back yet. Of course, Schrank said he was fine, but who knew if that were really true.
This time Schrank caught Krupke looking at him. "What is it?" he asked, typically gruff.
Krupke shrugged. "Nothing," he said.
Schrank regarded him in exasperation. "Krupke, you've been eying me all evening," he said. "You've gotta have a reason for it."
Krupke sighed. "Okay, I wondered if you're feeling okay to be out," he said.
"Okay? I feel fine," Schrank said. "Krupke, I followed the doctors' orders—as much as I didn't want to half the time. I was cleared for duty."
"Yeah, I know," Krupke said. "I just don't want to see anything else to happen to you."
Schrank grunted. ". . . Everything looks quiet tonight," he said, switching the subject. "We might as well head back to the car."
Krupke concurred. But it was at that moment that the quiet was decimated.
A girl in her twenties staggered out from around a corner, her thick red hair swaying as she nearly lost her balance and pitched forward. She reached out, catching hold of Schrank's shoulders. Both he and Krupke stared.
Her glazed eyes lit up. "Well, if it ain't Lieutenant Schrank," she slurred. "Hi there. It's been a long time, ain't it?"
Krupke's mouth fell open. Schrank gripped the woman's arms, peering into her face in shock. At last some hint of recognition gleamed in his eyes. "Ann?" he exclaimed.
She gave an enthusiastic nod. "Yeah! You remember me!" She looked up at Krupke. "He was teachin' me stuff, you know. Tryin' to keep me off the streets."
"And I can see it didn't work," Schrank retorted. "You're stoned!"
She cackled, lightly hitting his right shoulder. "I know!" she said. "It's the greatest. Maybe you're not really here. Maybe I'm imagining it, just like that."
"I'm really here," Schrank said, swinging her around to lead her to the squad car. "But you're going to wish I wasn't."
"Awww, you're not gonna punish me for this, are you?" Ann whined.
Schrank reached into her open purse. "These are illegal drugs, aren't they?" he said, holding up a fistful of assorted pills.
She pouted. "You're taking away all my fun," she said, rocking back and forth as Schrank lowered her to the back seat. "Anyway, you've got bigger problems."
Schrank frowned. "What are you talking about?" he demanded.
She leaned in close, as though about to reveal a closely guarded secret. "Someone from the old gang is gunning for you, Lieutenant," she said in a stage whisper.
From Schrank's expression, he did not believe it. "Are you sure it's not just another of your . . . hallucinations?" he spat in distaste.
She shook her head. "Nope, it's true. Cross my heart and hope to . . . no, never mind. I don't wanna die. I wanna live!" She rocked back, flinging her arms wide. "Living is great!"
Krupke gaped. "Why is someone after the Lieutenant?" he demanded.
She sat up straight again, poking her head out of the open doorway. "He's mad or something," she said as she walked her fingers across the seat. She looked to Schrank. "He blames you for something that went wrong."
"Like what, his life? That was out of my control," Schrank growled. "And don't you know anything more than this? Who is it?" He folded his arms, still not convinced.
She tilted her head, gazing into the distance. "Jimmy's dead," she slurred, thinking aloud. "Can't be him. . . . André? Nope, haven't seen him. Maybe it was Carlos. Or Bennie. . . ."
Schrank pushed his hat back on his head. "Do you want to know what I think?" he said.
She blinked at him. "Sure. What do you think, Lieutenant?"
Schrank leaned forward, resting his hand on top of the car. "I think that while you've been in La-La Land, some phantom came out of your head and showed up in front of you, saying he was gonna kill me. Then I think that same phantom strolled off with his top hat and cane into the fog and disappeared."
She pouted. "You don't believe me," she said.
"Should I?" Schrank answered. "Even if someone is out to get me, why would they go blab it to you?"
"He wanted to know if I'd seen you," was the reply. "I said Nope! I hadn't seen you in ten years, at least. And then I run into you tonight. How about that." She giggled.
"Yeah, how about that." Schrank straightened. "Swing your legs into the car. We'll take you down to the station and see what you can tell us there, about these." He indicated the pills.
Ann complied, but was not pleased. "You oughtta try 'em sometime, Lieutenant," she said. "They'll give you a big rise. Maybe you'd loosen up a bit." She fumbled with her seatbelt, unable to get it fastened.
Schrank did it for her. "No thanks." He shut the door and walked around to the driver's side of the car. He got in, setting the purse on the arm between the seats.
Krupke slid into the passenger side. "What if there's really something to what she's saying?" he asked in concern.
Schrank started the car. "Maybe there is, maybe there isn't," he said. "I'll look into it."
Krupke lowered his voice as they pulled away from the curb. "Who is she, anyway?" he wondered. "What'd she mean about the 'old gang' and you teaching her?"
Schrank shrugged. "You've heard the boys talking at the precinct, right? About me mentoring kids? They always think they're talking when I'm not around, but I've been there sometimes."
Krupke suddenly felt awkward. "Yeah, I've heard," he admitted. "I've kinda wondered, but I figured you'd say something if you wanted to talk about it."
"You're right." Schrank stared ahead at the road, falling silent. Uncomfortable, Krupke said nothing more.
In the backseat, Ann had retreated into her own little world, rocking and singing some song to herself. Schrank could only tolerate a moment of that before he swore under his breath. "What a waste." He glanced over his shoulder at the young woman, then caught Krupke's eye.
"I took on looking after her and these other four kids that'd been picked up after a rumble. You know, she used to show a lot of promise. She was so enthusiastic . . . interested in discovering new ideas, new things to do. I really thought she'd stay off the streets if any of them would. And now look at her—a pathetic, washed-up junkie and who knows what else. I wouldn't be surprised if at least some of her drug money came from walking the streets."
Krupke looked down. He had never tried the mentor program himself. It was hard to picture Lieutenant Schrank taking part in it—but not because of a lack of interest. Schrank cared very much even now; he would not lose his temper if he did not. It was difficult for Krupke to imagine him in the mentor program because it was painful to think of him trying to help the kids, growing hopeful as they showed interest, only to have a lot of them slip right back. Schrank had been particularly close to Jimmy, Krupke had heard, and after that kid had chosen the gang, he had ended up killed in a rumble.
"What about those other kids?" he ventured at last. "André and Carlos and Bennie? What happened to them?"
Schrank sighed. "André, who knows. I lost track of him about eight years ago, when his family moved. I heard that Bennie showed a lot of initiative and got himself into a job with connections to the Mob. And Carlos . . ." His eyes darkened. "Carlos talked Jimmy into going back to the gang. They were seen heading off together the night Jimmy took a powder. And before the night was out, Jimmy was dead. Carlos disappeared when the gang was getting rounded up. I haven't seen him since, but there's been rumors that he's been mixed up in a lot of different illegal stuff—mostly burglary and theft."
"So nobody listened?" Krupke deduced.
"Do they ever?" Schrank shook his head. "Ann was on the straight and narrow for a while. I saw her a couple of times and she seemed fine. Then I heard later that she'd been getting into drugs."
"I'm sorry," Krupke said sadly.
Schrank kept his eyes on the road. "Eh. I got out of the mentor program after that. It wasn't for me; I hadn't had much hope going in. I didn't have any going out." He pulled up in front of the precinct.
"You did everything you could," Krupke objected.
Schrank turned off the engine. "Yeah, sure." He got out, pocketing the keys. Before Krupke could reply, he had gone around to open the door for Ann.
Krupke sighed, moving to get out as well. He had started to learn that Schrank's noncommittal "Yeah, sure" usually meant Schrank disagreed with whatever was being said.
Within the hour Ann was sleeping off her drug high in a cell and Schrank had a new casefile on his desk. He glared at it in frustration. Ann had cooperated, albeit grudgingly, and had given the name of her drug dealer. The narcotics squad would be put on that. Meanwhile, Schrank had a new robbery that looked like it tied in with a string of similar robberies across New York City. It had been given to him because of what was known about the perpetrators.
"A bunch of guys in their late teens or somewhere in their twenties ran off with a bunch of television sets," he paraphrased, skimming over the file. "Somebody tried to stop them and they jumped in their blue minivan and took off."
Krupke glanced up from his desk. "How much stuff did they get?"
"Who knows. The witness didn't get a good look. She said maybe six, eight TVs." Schrank set the folder down. Characteristic disgust was written all over his face.
". . . You wanted to get that pusher, didn't you." It was not a question.
Schrank looked annoyed. "Of course I wanted to get him," he said. "Who knows how many idiots he's been messing up besides Ann. But that's not our department." He tapped the folder. "We're supposed to get out where these punks were seen and try to find any leads."
"What're you going to do about what Ann told you?"
"That someone hates my guts enough to want to paint the streets with them? What else is new." Schrank stood. "After we check into this, I'll see if I can find out where the rest of the 'old gang' went off to. Maybe Ann really did learn something."
"That's what I'm worried about," Krupke said as he followed Schrank towards the door.
Several officers looked up, tracing the duo's movement with their eyes. Krupke glanced to them, then away. Something about the way they were looking made him uneasy. They had been staring like that when he and Schrank had come in, too.
Schrank had noticed as well. "What's your problem?" he growled to the nearest policeman.
The officer jumped a mile to have been noticed. "Nothing, sir," he said, quickly returning his attention to the folder on his desk.
Schrank was not convinced, but he let it go. There were other, more important things on his mind.
There was nothing of worth to be found at the scene of the crime, other than a round blue pin that featured a peace symbol design. Schrank rolled his eyes when he found it. If that had been dropped by one of the thieves, what an irony it was. He slipped it into an evidence bag and brought it back to the precinct for analysis.
Ann was still asleep in her cell, so Schrank set about to look up the latest known information on the other kids' whereabouts, as promised. But to his annoyance, there was not really anything new. André and Bennie, as before, had seemed to have completely dropped off the radar. They could be dead for all Schrank would know. Or maybe they had even changed their names. As for Carlos, some people had linked him with a burglary gang operating on Staten Island, but there was no proof that he was the one.
Schrank sighed and leaned back. He thought about the past a lot more than he really wanted to. When he had been recovering from the bullet wound he had run through that era again and again in his mind. And now, meeting up with Ann tonight was pulling those old wounds open even farther.
Was there more he could have done? If he had seen the writing on the wall, could he have stopped Jimmy from going back to the gang and getting himself killed? Could he have kept Ann from ending up a drug addict? Carlos from becoming a thief? André and Bennie from whatever they might have gotten into?
Captain Black had told him he had done everything he could and that sometimes those things just happened, in spite of one's best efforts. Of course, Schrank knew that was true. But it was still hard to always keep that logic in mind. It felt like a personal failure—that he had let all of those kids down when he could have turned their paths around.
And if one of them really had approached Ann and said they wanted to kill him, what could be the reason? What could it be that he was being blamed for? Would Ann remember when she came back down to planet Earth? Or would she not recall saying anything about it whatsoever?
Officer Bentley walked past the Lieutenant's desk, uneasy. Schrank looked up with a start, locking eyes with the young policeman. But before he could say a word, Bentley gave him a nervous nod and a "Sir" and hurried off.
Schrank muttered to himself. This was beyond strange. He had never seen the patrolmen act afraid of him before, unless it was for a short moment right after losing his temper. That was understandable. This was not. And he did not like it one bit. The next officer that acted jumpy around him was going to get pinned down and interrogated.
But, as it turned out, he did not encounter anyone else before finally leaving for the night. The solution to the mystery would have to wait.
He paused at Ann's cell on his way out. She looked quiet and without a care in the world. But when she woke up and was sober again, that would change.
"Will that ever change," Schrank vowed to himself as he turned to leave.