Penthouse Retrospective

by Joe Sharkey Originally Published: June, 1991

Chuck Stuart | 30 Years Ago This Month

“Someone got into the car at Huntington Avenue. He drove us — he made us go to an abandoned area,” the caller gasped.

“Okay, sir. Can you see out the windows? Can you tell me where you are?”

“No!… I don’t know. An abandoned area, I don’t see any signs. Oh, God…” The caller had a slightly high-pitched voice with just a trace of a Boston accent.

“Has your wife been shot as well?”

“Yes, in the head,” the caller said, and added almost as an afterthought, “I ducked down.”

“Are the people that shot you, are they in the area right now?”

“No, they took off. Or they left. …Should I drive up to the corner of the street?”

“If you can drive without hurting yourself, yes. If you could, just try to give me a cross street.”

“I’ll try to start the car. He took the keys, but I have a spare set. Oh, man… I’m starting the car.”

“What’s your name, sir?”

“Stuart. Chuck Stuart.” Chuck groaned in pain. “Oh, man…”

“Okay, Chuck,” said McLaughlin, writing down the name. “Stay with me, Chuck. Help’s going to be on the way. Bear with me. Is your wife breathing?”

“She’s still gurgling. There’s a busy street up ahead. Oh, shit. My lights are out.” The voice drifted out, then came back. “Oh, man… I can’t see where I am.”

“Hang in with me, Chuck. Just try to give me any indication of where you might be. A hospital, do you see a building?”

“Oh, man, I’m pulling over. I’m going to pass out,” the voice strained.

During the next five minutes, McLaughlin called on everything he knew about handling terrified crime victims. There had been a shooting, obviously a bad one. The victims — a man and a woman — were evidently inside an automobile, lost somewhere in Boston’s worst neighborhood. McLaughlin was afraid the man might pass out before he got the vital information — A cross street! Give me a goddamn cross street! — to pinpoint the location. The Toyota was blue, the victim said.

But then the caller seemed to give up.

“Oh, man, I’m going to pass out,” he gasped. “It hurts, and my wife has stopped gurgling. She’s stopped breathing. I’m blacking out.”

“You can’t black out,” the dispatcher said sharply. “I need you, man. Chuck? Chuckie? Is anybody going by? There’s got to be people out there. Chuck, open the door. Can you open the door? …Try to talk to someone on the street. If there is anyone on the street, stop a passerby in the street so they can tell me where you are.”

“I’m going to try to drive,” Chuck said.

McLaughlin’s tone was gentle now. “Chuck, pull over — someone on the street.”

“I’m looking. I don’t see anybody.” “Chuck, pull over to the side of the street right now,” McLaughlin said. “Open the door and talk to anyone passing by, my friend.”

“There’s no one there. Ah, man.”

“You hang in there,” McLaughlin told the wounded man. “Help is on the way. Chuck, you talk to me now, brother. You talk to me, brother.” McLaughlin was worried that the young man was going into shock. “Have you pulled over?”

“His hand jerked out of place just as the gun fired. The bullet tore through his intestines and lodged in his abdomen. Immediately, he knew that he had shot himself in the wrong place.”

The reply sounded defensive, but McLaughlin didn’t notice that. “There’s no one walking by,” the caller whined.

A few desks away, Grabowski stayed in rapid-fire contact with police head-quarters. There, an officer, who had ordered cars to flood the Mission Hill sector, could be heard telling the cops to turn on their sirens, one by one, and turn them off again. “Bravo Two-One, shut off your siren,” he was saying on police radio. “Bravo One-Four, sound your siren…” The hope was that the sound of a siren might come through the stricken couple’s car phone. Like in the children’s game, dispatchers might be able to then tell a patrol car that it was getting warmer, getting colder, getting warmer again, getting hot-home the cruiser right in there — if they could hear that siren on the phone.

Sadly, the Chuck Stewart story has been going on for centuries and shows no signs of slowing going forward. Love can be a dangerous dance.