We picked him up on a street corner near the payphone and brought him back to my house in center city to spend the night. In the car on the way home he wasn't making much sense.
Back at the house, we cleaned him up and checked him over. He'd needed help getting up the stairs, and my room was on the third floor. We checked his pupils, washed off the blood. Paul's partner had gotten angry at him, hit him, smashed his head through the wall, then dragged him down the hall, face against the stucco wall. His cheek and ear were a mess, and his eye was blackening. Paul's partner then threw him down the stairs.
Paul escaped while his partner was looking for something to finish him off. They'd both been to Nancy's house, so both Paul and Nancy were both afraid to go there. She and I took trips there to feed the cats, not trusting that she'd not be ambushed going home herself.
No hospitals, Paul told us. He clearly had a concussion and had torn something in shoulder going down the stairs. The face looked bad, but it would be ok once the bleeding stopped and the swelling went down.
There'd been a series of domestic disturbances at their house, and the police had been out a number of times. There'd been some false starts – the idea of domestic abuse between two men was a non-issue for many police in South Philly in 1990 – but there was a policewoman on the force who understood such issues, and she made a point of responding to dispatches to their address.
So Paul called the station to report the incident. The guy who answered the phone was hostile to the obviously gay man trying to report that his partner had tried to kill him, so he tried to get a more sympathetic officer on the phone. He tried to remember her name but couldn't, then tried to describe her: short, stocky black woman, mid-thirties. It seemed unwise to say bulldyke.
It didn't matter.
“We ain't got no niggers in this precinct,” said the officer on the phone, and he hung up.