Losing Jon - David Parrish

Chapter One

KIDS DON’T THINK. That’s just the way it is. A kid who is partying thinks the whole world is partying.

They weren’t really kids anymore. All were college students but one, mostly freshmen and sophomores, but they were still kids to me. Some attended college locally and others were home for winter break. There were fifteen of them—eight girls and seven guys. They had grown up together and were all friends or familiar acquaintances.

The tallest in the group, a kid named Chris, was six-foot-two, blond, and a good first baseman on recreational-league baseball teams I had coached against. Jon and Mickey Bowie were identical twins with sandy hair, dark eyebrows, and a frequent glint of devilment in their eyes. They had often played on teams I coached from the time they were eleven until they graduated from high school.

As a group, they had talked for weeks about renting a motel room. Most were under the legal drinking age in Maryland, and those who drank wouldn’t have to drive or worry about getting hassled by their parents or the police. Cramming fifteen young people in a motel room without disturbing other guests wouldn’t be easy, but kids don’t think.

At 11:39 p.m. on Friday, January 5, 1990, a young woman who was the night clerk at the Red Roof Inn on Route 1 just outside of Columbia, Maryland, placed a call to the Howard County Police Department.

“Howard County Police. May I help you?”

The night clerk identified herself and explained, “A guest just called and said there was a party or something going on in one of the rooms. I’m the only person on duty right now, and I didn’t want to go out there.”

“Well, I mean, are there narcotics involved? I mean, what—”

“I have no idea.”

“Is it a bad party? A good party?”

“He just said there was a bunch of noise.”

She gave him the address and phone number.

“You know, it’s good to be able to describe to me what’s going on because I don’t like to send police into situations—”

“Noise complaint.”

“Okay, I’ll send somebody over.”

Several police officers were eating chicken at a chain restaurant practically across Route 1 from the motel, and two of them responded almost immediately. Soon, a half dozen additional police cars would arrive at the motel, followed by one or two patrol cars from the state police barracks a mile up the road.

Things were about to get ugly.

* * *

I was coaching a team of ten- and eleven-year-olds the first year that my son Dan, who was ten, and the Bowie twins, who were eleven, played on the same team. The Bowies were the kind of kids that other kids wanted to be like. They enjoyed themselves, were good at what they did, and when the game was over they did something else. Jon was the closest to a genuine free spirit I’d ever encountered. Mickey usually had less to say and was fierier, more physical. Although their personalities differed, I still got them confused even after I’d known them for years. In later years, Mickey told me that sometimes he and Jon switched positions for the fun of it, and Mickey played catcher and Jon shortstop. I never caught them at it.

During that first summer I also met their mother, Sandra. She was a single divorced parent and went by her maiden name, which I kept forgetting and like most people I referred to her as Sandra Bowie. Her family and mine weren’t what you would call regular friends—we didn’t keep up with each other’s lives, and we didn’t socialize—but something about Sandra and her sons reminded me