The Dividing Line

This is another one of those stories…

More than a little memory tied up in this one. The McCarley character is based on a training officer of mine during my rookie year. I spent three months with this guy on ‘deep nights’ – midnight to eight in the morning. Learned a lot from him. The very opposite of the ‘mean cop’ you might have stuck in your mind, too.

Yes, he met a girl quite like Sara Wood, similar circumstances, too. The odd thing about them? They did get married, but they didn’t sail away. She got her GED, then an AA in Criminal Justice, and she went to work for the department, first as a dispatcher and eventually as a patrolman. She responded to an armed robbery one summer afternoon and was getting out of her squad car when the ‘suspects’ pulled out of a parking space and deliberately ran her down. Crushed her pelvis, but not her spirit. She’s still in a wheelchair, still the same fierce spirit I knew. Last time I saw her was at his funeral. She was there with their daughter. She still looks like Sissy Spacek, too. Maybe only cuter.

+++

Stuff like this happens all to frequently ‘out there’ – and cops are usually the first ones on the scene. They get to pick up the pieces, make sense of it all, even if there’s no sense to it.

Here’s a ‘war story’ for you – one of those ‘this really happened to me’ stories, one that makes no sense in a just world. Another runaway, another girl who slipped through the cracks…

I was on motors, working traffic on a Harley in the middle of the day. A call came out for a district patrol unit to investigate the sighting of a girl who had just ‘escaped’ from a local ER. She was described as, well, essentially a paranoid schizophrenic, violent, delusional, and (most importantly) HIV positive. She’d just been seen by the clerk in a ‘Stop-n-Rob’ near the hospital, and the patrolman checked en route. I, on the other hand, was about a hundred yards away from the location, and could see the girl.

I reported this to dispatch, and the responding patrolman arrived in short order. We coordinated, decided to ‘box her in’ – but as soon as the girl saw the patrol car she turned and ran. Straight at me, as it turned out. When she saw me standing beside my bike, she came to a dead stop. She had something in her hands, but I couldn’t make it out. Turns out it was one of those small ‘ejector-blade’ razor blade dispensers, small little single edge razor blades, and she had a handful of them.

When she saw me she started hacking away at her left wrist, and doing a lot of damage. I used a ‘night-stick’ only once in my brief career as a cop, and this was the day. As she was hacking away I used the stick and hit her right arm, the upper arm, and her hand fell away. But her left hand was full of these tiny ejector blades, and she popped them into her mouth and began chewing.

I’d never seen so much blood in my life. Paramedics were just arriving and they ran over to lend a hand – and they too stopped dead in their tracks.

I took her down while the other officer cleared her hand, and then I forced her mouth open. I still had on my leather motorcycle gloves, so quite stupidly began to clear the blades from her mouth. Still, a couple were embedded in the roof of her mouth, and one towards the back of her mouth, behind the tonsils. The paramedics wouldn’t touch her, the whole HIV thing back in the 80s being similar to the Black Death, but one of them gave me some hemostats and I got them out, stuffed a wad of gauze back there and applied pressure while we hand carried her to the ambulance.

I rode with her to the ER, holding pressure all the way. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was covered in her blood. Face, arms, all over my uniform. I hate needles, but got checked every few weeks for the next year. I was lucky that day, I suppose, but that’s the job.

Anyway, I recently took out The Dividing Line and looked it over, brushed it off and brought the two chapters together. Here’s Eddie and Sara’s story again, and thanks, Elvis, or whatever your name was. You were the man.

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The Dividing Line

May 7th

Sara Wood lived in darkest shadowlands, and she kept to her shadows – lived to blend in, to disappear; if caught in light of day, she simply faded away into the pale warrens of the city. Sara Wood was an expert in the fine art of disappearance, of camouflage, of falling through cracks in the few systems left to deal with girls of her sort: homeless, nameless…faceless girls used to life in the darkness. There was ‘no place like home’ for Sara Wood, there never had been. No Auntie Em, no Toto, and never a Wizard of Oz waiting to carry her back to Kansas. No, there had been foster homes. Homes where spectacled, fat-thumbed men tried to introduce Sara Wood to the rituals of oral sex – when she was nine years old, and finally, shelters. Where wild-eyed women pushed her down to her knees – Bible in hand – forcing her to repent for sins she had never committed. There had never been, in Sara Wood’s life, a fridge in the kitchen to feed her empty belly, no television in the den to fill her empty time, nor were there chat rooms or the ‘net late at night in a darkened bedroom were she could learn about the carefree, empty lives of teenagers spread over the American landscape – like a thin coat of white paint.

So, Sara Wood kept to the shadows of the city, although there were times when it felt like the city did it’s very best to keep her in the dark light of day. Out of sight, she knew, was out of mind. What little comfort in this world she could buy, she paid for in the currency of her soul; earned on her knees in alleys, or with her legs spread in back seats of suburban minivans. She was paid for taking short, smelly cocks in her mouth, or for taking a reedy, whiskey-soaked tongue up her vagina. She didn’t use drugs; the thought had never occurred to her because she couldn’t afford them. Dealers and pimps didn’t hook her and sell her; the market was glutted with teenaged boys and girls who sold their cocks and cunts and mouths for almost nothing, just enough money to, perhaps, buy a burger and a coke. Sara Wood couldn’t rock the boat – because there was no boat to rock. She couldn’t beat the system – because the system was gone.

So, in Sara Wood’s shadowlands, she knelt on the altar of poverty, and of justice for all. On any given day, like today perhaps, her face poised before urine tinged khaki trousers, she sucking the three inch dick of a fat, smelly man named Bob, whose plastic name tag identified him as an employee of the New Life Christian Family Bookstore. Bob had Sara Wood’s hair grasped tightly in his hands, and he was pulling on it roughly, calling her a dirty little whore, telling her to suck his cock, to eat his cum. His half-hard dick, Sara Wood thought, was about the size of her little finger and she had been sucking on it for what felt like an hour. Bob would not – or could not – cum, and the more apparent this became to Bob the harder he pulled on Sara Wood’s hair. Bob looked down at Sara Wood’s face and noticed tears in her eyes when he pulled her hair especially hard, and Bob liked that. He liked that a lot.

Bob gave Sara Wood’s hair a vicious tug, and she cried out, tried to pull away. Bob liked that even more, and could feel his dick get hard and twitch in response to her discomfort and attempt to flee, and he told her to hold still, that he was going to cum. He held her head forcefully to his groin and tried to pump away, but Sara Wood was now in a fair amount of pain, getting afraid, and was in fact trying to pull away from Bob with a fair amount of effort. Bob both liked and disliked her struggling. Bob liked the fact that he could frighten and hurt someone; this was something very rare in his experience. Bob disliked the fact that he was probably not going to be able to cum in this girls mouth, which, too was a very rare experience in Bob’s life, one that he had paid good money – five bucks – for. Determined to prevent her spoiling the moment, Bob decided to shut her up, and with his fist he swung down with his not considerable strength – and hit her smartly on the top of her head.

Bob’s cock was, at just that moment, seated rather deeply – and deeply for a three inch penis is of course a relative term – in Sara Wood’s mouth. At that moment, as well, Bob still had a hold of Sara Wood’s hair and he was holding her tightly in place with his grasping fingers, pulling her tight against his right knee, which he had lifted to brace Sara Wood against, to keep her from pulling away. As Bob’s hammer blow connected – driving Sara Wood’s head downward as a result – her lower jaw, now supported against Bob’s right knee, was in effect driven up. Unfortunately for Bob, Sara Wood still had all of her teeth, and they were in pretty good shape.

Bob screamed and reached for his groin as he fell back in agony, his groin now on fire. He fell in a thrashing heap, and as he tried to come to grips with what had happened he reached for his groin, felt the bloody stump of his cock, and brought his hands to his face. Bob’s ensuing scream was reportedly heard five blocks away, and over city-traffic, at that. Bob tossed and twisted on the grimy asphalt; unfortunately Bob was losing a lot of blood just then, and his gyrations slowed to a fetal crawl as shock set in.

Sara Wood had, at the time Bob dropped, fallen to the ground under the impact of his clutched fist, fallen in a completely unconscious pile of ragged disarray. There was now, in fact, a large raw patch on the side of her head where a substantial handful of hair had been pulled out – when Bob’s penis had come into full contact with Sara Wood’s teeth. Bob’s penis was, by the way, lodged under Sara Wood’s tongue. The only visible evidence of this was the small trickle of blood that leaked out of the corner of her mouth down onto the grimy asphalt of the potholed alley.

In due course an ambulance arrived, and a squad car from the police department was not far behind. Bob was stabilized by the fire department’s paramedics; firemen who responded with the paramedics searched they alley and the nearby garbage cans and potholes for the remnants of Bob’s penis. The street-waif had been ignored by the medics as just another piece of garbage; they had concentrated their attentions on the man who was bleeding profusely, and who was now, in fact, in very serious condition.

The first police officer on the scene was Paul Edward McCarley, a twenty one year veteran of the department. McCarley’s glacial demeanor stood in stark contradiction to his open, friendly face; his slow movements and quick eyes belied careful observations, endlessly analytical observations. He was the first official to move to Sara Wood’s side, to see the blood and the raw patch on the side of her head. He looked across at the man on the ground and saw hair twisted in his hands. He felt inside her pockets, found a grimy, sweat-soaked five dollar bill inside, and shook his head knowingly. He felt a twisting churn in his stomach as he took a silver Cross pen out of his shirt pocket, and pried open her mouth.

“Get me some saline and a baggie…I got the penis right here,” McCarley said quietly. A couple of firemen came over, and of course these firemen all had something quick and clever to say about the penis in the young girl’s mouth. McCarley just grimaced as he put on his latex crime scene gloves, pried open the little mouth, and swept the penis clear of the girls mouth with his gloved finger.

An ammonia stick was produced and cracked open, waved under the girls nose. She stirred, her eyes fluttered, and she sat up in startled confusion. She looked around – wildly, then coughed and wretched when she recognized the taste of blood in her mouth. She sat holding her knees to her chest, breathing in shallow fear – because she wasn’t in the shadows just then. Then, as Sara Wood regained awareness of her surroundings, the first thing she noticed was, and this was a very dangerous thing in Sara Wood’s world, a police officer kneeling beside her. It didn’t matter that this man was speaking gently to her, holding her shoulder with kind, steadying hands. What Sara Wood saw was a navy blue uniform, a badge, a black leather belt, a holster, a gun, a nightstick and radio, and most dangerous of all, handcuffs. She saw a system that could hurt her, had ignored her, and here was a man in uniform that represented a system. A system that had always been manifestly unjust to her, even as it’s adherents swore to uphold justice.

The policeman asked what her name was, where she lived. He wanted to know what had happened. She was non-responsive, a deaf-mute, a shadow-girl. She didn’t exist; she knew that this man would know that one simple fact of her life better than anyone else in this alley. He told her he didn’t want to take her to jail, that he thought he knew what had happened. If he guessed right, would she tell him he was right, he asked gently. He talked to her, told her what he thought had happened, told her about her missing hair, why her head hurt, what the taste in her mouth was – where that bloody taste had come from.

Sara Wood turned away from the man in the uniform and wretched, would have vomited all her stomach held but for the simple fact her stomach was empty. She didn’t even have what little nourishment there would have been in Bob’s cum. She lay on the earth and felt the world spinning beyond reach. She lay on her side and drew her knees up to her chest and cried like a baby, cried like the baby she had never had the chance to be.

+++++

June 14th

Ed McCarley sat in his squad car writing a police report on his battered aluminum clipboard, listened to calls on the car’s radio – to respond if anyone needed back-up – and checked his watch. Ten minutes until he could check out for lunch, so he turned his attention to the report, wanting to finish it now in case calls backed up later in the afternoon.

“Hey there!” A girl’s voice, out of the blue.

Lost in paperwork – a rookie’s mistake – Ed McCarley jumped in his seat. His head jerked to the left, quickly assessing his surroundings, analyzing threats as he reached for his holster. What he saw was a girl, one that looked like a ghost from one of those concentration camp survivor photos. He looked in her eyes and it took a moment or two – but he recognized her. Her eyes.

“Sara Wood, right?” he said

“Yeah. Howya doing?”

“Good,” he said as he scanned her, gauging the threat. “What’s going on with you?”

“Nothin’ much,” she said. “Actually, I just wanted to thank you for what you said to those D.A. people. They told me if you hadn’t done your job right I’d be spending a long time in jail.”

Ed McCarley looked down; he never knew how to take a compliment, or even a simple expression of gratitude. He just nodded.

The girl took his silence as rejection, stepped back, and started for the nearest shadow.

“So,” Ed McCarley asked, “how are you doing?”

She stopped. Something in his voice. “Oh, you know.”

All Ed McCarley had to do was look at this girl to know how she was doing. “Hey, I’m going to check out for lunch in a minute. Care to join me?” He could see the conflict roll across her face. Trust. Fear. Trust. Fear.

“Yeah, I guess,” she said.

He thought he could see her salivating. He picked up the microphone hanging from the side of the squad car’s radio. “2141, 25 code baker kilo 114” In that jargon, he checked out for lunch at the Burger King in his district: southwest. He rolled up the window, got out of the car and locked the door. “O.K., let’s go!” he said with forced enthusiasm.

Inside he ordered, and asked her what she wanted.

“Guess a glass of water,” she said, looking down at her shoes.

“Sara, I’m buying. What’ll it be? Come on, sky’s the limit!” Sara Wood ordered two Whoppers with cheese, a large order of fries, a large Coke – and a small chocolate shake. The girl behind the counter repeated the order, called it out over the system and shook her head. They got a table and waited for the order to be called, and McCarley carried it back to the table when the surly girl slid it to him over the counter.

Ed McCarley sat back and watched the show as Sara Wood tore into the food. It was almost painful to watch, and he was sure that, as shrunken down as her belly was it would be very painful to see in an hour or two. He didn’t say a word, didn’t want to interrupt Sara Wood as she piled the food down, which took about three minutes. “Still hungry?” he asked.

Sara Wood made a laughing noise that came out her nose, her mouth was so full of food. She nodded her head and got out, “Double Whopper?”

“Comin’ right up.” He walked up to the counter and placed the order. He waited until surly-face slid it over to him, then took it back to Sara Wood. He put it on the table in front of her and smiled. “Well, bottoms-up!” he said, and only then did he start on his grilled chicken sandwich, and he sipped his iced tea while he looked at Sara Wood’s face – as if for the first time – and as he did he flinched. As he looked at the pale blue eyes, the weathered skin and the scabs on her shoulders, he recognized something lost and even lovable in her abandoned, forsaken eyes. Whatever that something was, the feeling tore at his sense of humanity.

‘Fuck, I’m getting old,’ he thought. “So, filling up?” he said, forcing another smile.

Her mouth full, she nodded, managed to say, “Yeah, this is really good!”

He smiled at her. “Alright!” he replied.

After they had both finished eating, she asked him where he worked, and he told her at Central Division, and gave her one of his cards. “You can call me at the station if you need me; if I’m not in they’ll know how to get in touch with me.” he said. ‘Now just why the hell did I do that,’ he thought.

Sara Wood took his card as if someone had just given her a burning stick of dynamite, or a one pound bar of gold. The conflict she felt was instant and extreme. She looked at the card intently for a moment, then stuck it in her pants.

The radio on Ed McCarley’s belt came to life: “2141.” He slipped the radio free of it’s holster and brought it to his mouth. “2141, go ahead.”

“2141. 17B Main and Oaklawn, possible fatalities.”

“2141, 10/4,” he said into the radio, and he turned to Sara Wood: “Sorry, gotta go. Really. If you need me, call me!” And he was gone, trotting out the door.

She watched him as he got into the car; the red and blue lights turned on, then he pulled out into traffic as the siren came on. She watched his car as it sped away, went to the window and watched the blue and red lights until they disappeared. She didn’t realize it just then, but she was standing on her tip-toes, biting her lip, afraid for him.

She was afraid of all the unknown dangers she knew were waiting out there on the streets, waiting out there for Ed McCarley.

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June 21st

It was Friday afternoon, and Sara Wood looked across the street at the Central Division sub-station, still standing in the shadows. She had been hiding there, waiting, watching until she saw Ed McCarley’s car pull into the parking lot, until she had seen him walk across the lot into the station. And still she remained, waiting now to see if Ed McCarley would walk out of the front door. She just wanted to see his face, know he was alright, maybe even talk to him. About twenty minutes later he did walk out, dressed in jeans and a white shirt, wearing sneakers, and he carried an orange canvas gym bag. She looked as he walked to the sidewalk, and wondered where his car was parked. He stopped to talk with a couple of other – she guessed – cops, then he crossed the street in front of her and headed down Grant. After two blocks, he turned left on 21st. She followed him, but stayed well behind him, always in the shadows. After a couple more blocks, on a street lined with narrow two-story apartment buildings, he turned out of view at a grey brick apartment building, his retreating form hidden by a wooden fence and a thick row of hedges. She darted forward to catch up, to see which apartment was his, and as she got up to the fence she flew around the corner and ran into – Ed McCarley!

As she ran into him he caught her in his arms and brought her gently to a stop. “Whoa, there, kiddo,” he said. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to follow a cop?”

Sara Wood just stood in Ed McCarley’s hands, mute.

A couple of moments passed, his face awash in a befuddled grin as he scanned his surroundings, then he sighed. “Well, c’mon. Let’s get you upstairs out of this heat, maybe get you a Coke.” He led off toward an apartment house one block over and back towards the station. Sara Wood figured it out right then and there. He knew he was being followed, probably from the time he crossed the street in front of the station.

He walked up one flight of stairs, took out a key and opened the door to Number 7, then walked in. He turned the thermostat on the air conditioner down, way down. He put his gym bag on a table by the door, then went into the kitchen. He poured two Cokes over ice and went back out into the entry. McCarley knew he lived in a modest apartment, but when he looked at Sara’s face it looked as though she was gawking at the White House. He walked and handed her the Coke, and right then the smell hit. Pure, rank, unadulterated stink. He looked at her skin and saw that the dirt he had thought was on her skin – was in her skin – ground into the pores of her skin. Her hair was greasy. The fabric on the Salvation Army jeans and t-shirt was thin and foul with dirt and body odor. He thought the worst would be the shoes, but he had no intention of finding out. One thing was for sure, he had to get her cleaned up before the neighbors complained! Cleaned up, and maybe out to a shelter.

“Well, sit you down, Sara Wood, and tell me a story!”

She looked at him quizzically; she still hadn’t spoken since he’d caught her following him. “What kind of story?” she said.

“Well, maybe your story, Sara. Like maybe what you’re doing following me home.”

“I was scared. I wanted to see you was O.K.”

“What were you afraid of, Sara?”

“Afraid of you gettin’ hurt.”

“Don’t you have any family, or friends?” Sara Wood shook her head. “Well, Sara, how old are you?”

She shrugged her shoulders, shook her head. “Nineteen, I think, maybe twenty. Nobody’s sure. Maybe twenty, I guess. ”

“Where did you go to school?”

“Didn’t go to school.”

“Where do you stay?” he asked, not wanting to hear the answer. She just shrugged. “Well, O.K., you got any other clothes?” She shook her head. “When’s the last time you took a shower, or a bath?”

“At the jail, when you took me.” He remembered now, the case of the missing dick! That’s where he knew her from. Street girl, sucking dicks for food money. His stomach turned. “Do I stink?” she asked.

“Well, honey, uh-Sara, you sure do.”

“You can call me honey if you want. I like it when you say it.”

Ed McCarley looked down at the carpet, embarrassed.

“It makes me feel like you ain’t gonna hurt me.” McCarley looked away, hurting inside for this poor human being. When he looked at her again he wanted to cry.

“Well, O.K. then. Let’s get you cleaned up” He stood and took her Coke into the kitchen. She followed him like a puppy, almost thoughtless devotion, he thought, maybe more like a child. He felt intensely uncomfortable as he went into the apartment’s only bathroom and turned on the shower in the bathtub, and he adjusted the water to warm. “Alright, Sara, you come on in and get cleaned up. There’s soap and shampoo in the shower. You take your clothes off and put them in that hamper,” he said, pointing at the white plastic basket next to the sink. “I might have something to fit you in my kids’ room.”

“You got kids?”

“Yeah, well, they live with their mother up in Oregon. I see ‘em twice a year now, but I have some of their stuff here; I’ll bet I can find something for you to wear. Now come on and get yourself cleaned up.”

He closed the door behind her, went to his kid’s room and found some generic sweat-pants and a couple of t-shirts. Socks wouldn’t be a problem, but shoes might be. He pulled out a couple pairs from the closet that looked like a ‘maybe’ and gathered them up and put them just outside the bathroom door. He called out to her, told her where to find the clothes and she answered “Okay!” He looked at his watch, phoned the D.A.s office, got shuffled around, then asked a clerk to look up some information on a Sara Wood, unknown DOB possibly 19 to 20 years old, arrested in May, he thought. When he was informed she was twenty he breathed a little easier. Not much, but a little. He asked if they had done any blood work, wanted to know if he’d been exposed to anything, then hung up the phone.

He sat in the living room, turned on the evening news which was, as always, full of news about terrorists and the Kardashians. He heard the water cut off, the shower door sliding open; a few minutes later he heard the bathroom door open and close as Sara grabbed the clothes he’d set out. “Can I use your brush?” she called out.

“Yeah, go ahead. Oh, yeah. There are some new toothbrushes in the medicine cabinet over the sink. Help yourself.”

About five minutes later she came out. There must have been a pair of gym shorts stuck between the t-shirts, because she came out wearing navy colored shorts, a white t-shirt emblazoned with an L.A. Laker’s logo, some white gym socks and an almost new pair of black suede Pumas.

Ed McCarley’s blood pressure went through the roof. The girl that walked out of the bathroom that day looked hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July. Her hair was reddish-blond once the dirt and grime of the city had been rinsed away; it struck him in that moment she looked like a very thin Sissy Spacek. Suddenly his voice was shaking – and he looked away. “Well, how’d that feel?” He felt his face flushing – and very uneasy.

Sara Wood walked into the room and sat on the couch next to Ed McCarley; she obviously knew enough about the world, and the baser instincts of men, to understand the effect she was having on him. “That felt really nice,” she said with a smile, leaving him to drift in silence. She found herself looking at his forehead, and the wrinkles over his eyes, at his receding hairline, and his left eyebrow was twitching!

But Ed McCarley stood up and walked away, headed toward the bathroom. “If ya don’t mind, I’m gonna take a quick shower, then I’ll take you out to dinner. How’s that sound?” ‘And it’s gonna be a cold fuckin’ shower, too,’ Ed McCarley thought as he peeled off his jeans.

Sara Wood sat on he sofa, smiling. ‘So, he isn’t like the rest of them,’ she said to herself. ‘And he blushed! I hope he loves me as much as I love him!’

In Sara Wood’s world people either used you or killed you. But what about love? While Sara Wood knew what it felt like to be used, she was pretty certain she had no idea what love was supposed to feel like, because she was certain that in her entire life not one soul had ever loved her. And she had never loved anyone.

But something deep in her belly was connecting to a primal scream that crawled through her being now, seeking connection, desiring release. Sara Wood knew this was what love was supposed to feel like. When she saw him, that’s all she felt, and it felt good because that feeling didn’t want to hide in the shadows.

She got up from the sofa after Ed walked into the bathroom and closed the door. She heard the water turn on and walked around the apartment, curious what he was like. She walked into his bedroom, around the bed, looked out the window. As she turned to go back to the living room she saw some magazines under the bed, and bent down to look at them. She couldn’t read the words on the covers, but there were women on them, women with very few clothes on. She picked one up and opened it up; there were men sticking their things into women, women sucking on men’s things, women sucking on women – which she thought looked really funny, and laughed at – and all of the women were wearing weird stuff. She had never seen anything like what these women had on; not anywhere, anytime. She picked up another magazine, and another, and they were all filled with pictures like the first one, and all the women were dressed up in these silly looking costumes.

Ed McCarley finished drying himself off and cursed when he realized he’d left his change of clothes in his bedroom. He wrapped the towel around his waist, prepared to dash across the hall into his bedroom. This he adroitly did, only to screech to a halt as he saw Sara Wood sitting on his bed giggling at pictures in his stash of magazines. Like a deer caught in headlights, Ed McCarley froze.

But Ed McCarley had failed to appreciate the innocence harbored within this girl; she turned another page, completely focused on the new images, giving an appreciative ooh here and a stifled giggle there. At some point she became aware of Ed McCarley; she turned around to him and said, “Look at this!”

Ed McCarley, so rarely at a loss for words, was now speechless. He shook his head to clear his mind after a few more moments in the headlights, and as nonchalantly as he possibly could, asked Sara Wood if he could have some privacy while he got dressed. She grabbed a handful of the magazines and headed out of the room with them toward the sofa with the look of happily sated curiosity on her face! ‘Oh, brother,’ McCarley said to himself, closing the bedroom door behind her and wiping the band of sweat that had suddenly erupted on his forehead.

Soon they were headed back down the steps and out into the parking lot. He went up to a car covered with a heavy tan cloth and pulled the fabric away from the vehicle, revealing a tangerine colored Triumph TR6 convertible; Sara Wood squealed and clapped her hands as she looked at the car.

“C’mon, help me put the top down,” McCarley said, pointing to hooks and levers, giving her directions. They folded the top down, and he pulled a vinyl-canvas cover out of the space behind the seats and snapped it into place. He opened her door and showed her how to put on the rather complicated manual seatbelt, and shut the door behind her.

“Oh, this is so cool,” she said, happily drumming the dashboard in front of her. McCarley turned the ignition and the Weber carburetors feeding the little six cylinder engine kicked the beast awake. He studied the gauges while the engine warmed, doing his best to ignore her thighs all the while.

“Nothin’ like an old British roadster,” McCarley said as the car sputtered and burbled to life. “So,” he added, “you want dinner and a movie, or dinner and shopping at the mall?”

Sara Wood’s eyes went round as saucers. “The mall?” she exclaimed. “Could we…I’ve never bought stuff at the mall before.” When McCarley simply said, “Answers that question!” she just squealed again, and bounced up and down in her seat.

Ed McCarley backed the little roadster up and pulled out onto the street, heading toward a gathering of restaurants clustered around the mall nearest to his apartment. “Whatcha feel like eating?” he asked. He looked across at Sara Wood, her long hair dancing in the slipstream, whipping around in her face as she laughed at the experience of bouncing down an urban street in a roadster.

“I don’t know. Can you pick something out?”

They had dinner at a local steakhouse. He delighted in watching her fiddle with a ‘bloomin’ onion,’ and he ordered her – again at her request – a filet mignon, fully dressed baked potato, and a heaping bowl of creamed spinach. She wolfed the food down and McCarley was certain he could see a little color return to her cheeks. After they finished he told her they would get dessert at the mall, and she again clapped her hands and bounced in her seat.

He took her to The Gap, and she picked out some – to Ed McCarley – wild low-cut jeans and some equally “interesting” shirts to go with them. He also got her some khaki shorts and a white cotton polo shirt. They went to one of the athletic shoe stores, and she picked out some tennis shoes and some hot pink Converse All Stars, which she found especially “cool” and asked to wear from the store. They made their way down to the food court, where she ordered some pineapple sherbet in a small sugar cone, and Ed ordered the same thing. They gathered her packages from the counter and went to sit by a fountain under a huge skylight in the center of the food court.

Ed McCarley watched Sara Wood lick the soft sherbet in the cone, watched as her small clean tongue licked at it white cream, and he saw his penis under her tongue in a flash that was as suddenly, and disturbingly gone. He shook his head and bit through his cone, yet in his mind’s eye he was licking a chaste vagina. Again, he shook the vision from his mind. He looked at her and he saw abuse and neglect and a society that turned it’s back on people like Sara Wood, and all too often took a perverse pleasure in the pain and suffering caused.

He struggled to reconcile the two visions of her…

He saw the Sunday school hypocrites in his mind one moment, the one’s that complain about the tax burdens of helping the poor – as they dive past starving families on their way to a Sunday buffet at the country club. The he saw her in that alley.

And after twenty years on the force, he had seen it all a hundred times before. The incremental murders that suburban johns inflict on downtown runaways, and just then he realized he had seen them over so many years he too had grown numb.

He thought of fucking Sara Wood and it made him feel sick to his stomach; not that she was ugly or a turn-off, far from it. He looked at her open, guileless – and very cute face – then the thought of being the next cock in a long line of nameless cocks to be shoved down this poor unwitting girls throat left him dry inside.

If ever their was a victim of society’s hypocrisy and overt neglect, Ed McCarley told himself, here she is, sitting right next to me.

Sitting here in this mall, here sat one Sara Wood, poster child of the new American dream.

“Can we go look at more stuff,” she asked. The childlike aspect of her voice was in full bloom now, as if the prospect of having something to call her very own could erase the facts of the last twenty years of her life – hit the rewind button, and start recording all over again – and let her start her life all over again.

Given the morality-free void that she had obviously grown up in, perhaps it was remarkable she had the capacity to feel good about herself on any level, or anyone. But, more to the point, she now had a huge grin on her face, and she was happy in a way very much like his own children once had been. Her’s was an innocent happiness, a ‘for the first time in my life I’m happy’ expression of wonder.

They took off and walked down a wing of the mall they hadn’t seen yet, and she saw things she had never heard of – it was an infinitely bewildering progression of ‘stuff’ that most kids in this mall took for granted.

And she didn’t know how to ask for things, she had no experience with asking anyone for anything. She’d never had anyone in her life to give her anything; she had never been spoiled by a doting father or a caring mother.

He saw that it wasn’t just that things were out of reach; no, it was that there had never been anyone there to teach her how to reach.

She saw shiny iPods and had no idea what they were; the purpose of a laptop computer was a mystery to her. She saw posters of popular teen idols, and had no idea who they were, or why they were on a poster. The corridors of wealth were a mystery to her, simply beyond comprehension.

But as they walked along they came to a store that had mannequins in the windows dressed like the women in the magazines she had seen at his home. She stopped and looked at them; Ed McCarley looked embarrassed as he stopped beside her, noticed the locus of her attention. She ran inside, he looked up and groaned.

She ran up to a figure that was outfitted all in white, kind of like what McCarley thought might be Hugh Hefner’s idea of a bridal lingerie-slut outfit. “Can I get it?!” she exclaimed. A salesgirl came over and looked at Sara Wood, then at Ed McCarley – and she gave him a knowing smirk. Ed nodded at the salesgirl, sent Sara Wood off to be measured. She looked at another outfit that was very pale lavender and said, “Oooh, ain’t this pretty!?” Ed again nodded to the salesgirl, who solicitously added, “Would you like to see some shoes, Miss?” When Ed McCarley walked out of the trashy lingerie store she was outfitted with the whole regalia; garters, stockings, pumps, bras, panties, ‘you name it,’ Ed thought, ‘I bought it.’ He shouldered the load and carried her loot to the car. They made their way to the Triumph and stashed her clothes in the trunk, and headed back to Ed’s apartment as the sun set.

He carried her packages up the stairs, into his apartment. He paused, thinking about what had been bothering him all evening long, and made a decision. He took her packages into his kid’s room and put them on the top bunk, then went back out to Sara, who was standing in the doorway. “Do you live somewhere I can take you?” he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders, looked uneasy.

“Listen, Sara,” Ed McCarley said, looking her in the eye. “If it’s none of my business just say so, or if you feel I should just shut-up, just – tell me, Okay? My kid’s only come here for Christmas and Easter; their room is empty the rest of the time. If you want to live here, with me – in their room – for awhile, until you can figure out what you want to do, well, it’s yours if you want it. You won’t have to worry about eating, or getting new clothes, or having a place to sleep. Okay? I just have a couple of rules.”

Sara Wood was looking at the floor, because she didn’t have the words for what was streaming through her mind.

“No drugs, no booze, no friends hanging out in here when I’m not around. Clear? You keep yourself clean, and your room picked up, and I’m going to figure out how to get you into school…”

Ed McCarley was cut off when Sara Wood ran into his arms at full speed, he put his arms around her as she started trembling, then crying. He kept his arms around are and stroked her hair, saying little things like ‘shhh, it’s going to be all right’ and ‘it’s okay baby, it’s okay.’ He held her until she was spent, until he could feel her relaxing in his arms. She looked up at him, he looked down into her very tear-streaked face and kissed her on her forehead. “It’s okay baby, you’re home now,” he whispered. “You don’t ever have to worry about falling down again, because I’m gonna be here to catch you.” He held her face in his hands and wiped away her tears with his thumbs.

“Can I ask you something?” she said.

“Yeah, sure.”

“What’s your name?”

A blank look came over Ed McCarley’s face as he thought back to that day. ‘I gave her my card – oh, God, of course, she can’t read…’ He shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, darlin’, I guess you should know my name. Ed, call me Eddie, okay?”

“Okay, Eddie.”

“Now, let’s get those teeth brushed, and get you off to bed.”

After he had her tucked into the bottom bunk in his kids’ room, he flipped out the light and closed the door. He went into the living room with a rum and coke, and sat down with his feet up on the coffee table. He reviewed the decisions he had made in his mind, which was a problem, because he had made the big one with his heart. He thought about Sunday School hypocrites; he thought about Sara Wood lying curled up and unconscious in an alley with a beer soaked bloody cock in her mouth. He thought of the dividing line between right and wrong, the gray area – the no man’s land caught between absolutes of good and evil – where his feelings for this girl lay.

He leaned forward and put his head into his hands and cried, and Officer Ed McCarley cried for a very, very long time.

She was a child…

No, she’s not…she’s a woman…

You’re just taking advantage of her…

So, maybe she’s taking advantage of me…

And finally…

How will she grow past this if I treat her life a child. She needs to be treated like an adult…

He was lying in his bed a couple of hours later – on his back, eyes wide shut. There was no way he was going to get to sleep, he thought, glad for the three day weekend he had. He tossed, turned, struggled with his emotions, then…

Suddenly, quietly, the door to his room opened. He saw Sara Wood silhouetted in the doorway, her long straight hair falling over the t-shirt she had gone to bed in. She walked in slowly, and sat on the bed, looking at Ed McCarley’s face.

“Eddie?”

“Yes, Sara.”

“I don’t want to be your kid.” She was speaking with a tremor in her voice. “Ya know what I mean, Eddie?” When he was silent for a moment, she went on. “I want to be in here with you, Eddie. You said you wanted to take care of me; well, I want to take care of you, too.”

“Eddie, say something, please?”

He sat up in bed, pushed himself up on his arms and flinched as an old shoulder wound bit into the present, and he cried out.

“What is it, Eddie?” she said, plainly scared at his reaction.

“It’s nothing. I got shot once, and some nights it hurts me.”

“Can I see?” she asked. She slid forward on the bed until she was close to McCarley at the head of the bed. She reached out to touch his shoulder and he flinched, slid away from her.

“Please,” she pleaded, “don’t run away from me, Eddie.” She reached out again, touched his shoulder. She rubbed her fingers on his skin, probing and stroking. “I’m not going to hurt you,” she continued. “Promise, okay?”

Ed McCarley felt an electric tremor pass from her fingers to his skin as she touched him; he felt this tremor on his shoulder, and he felt it boiling up from his groin, into the small of his back, up his spine. He tried to look away, close his eyes, but he felt that the worst thing he could do right now, do to the very fragile Sara Wood, was reject her, hurt her again in some new, unexpected way. But he knew he had to control the situation; all of his training commanded that he control the situation.

Sara Wood felt the fragility of her own sense of control, and his, too. Yet from the moment she ran her fingernails over Ed McCarley’s shoulder, then across to the back of his neck, she knew she could control the music of his heart.

“Turn over, Eddie, turn over and lay on your stomach for me.” Ed McCarley slipped back down into his bed, turned over onto his stomach.

‘A good, safe position,’ he thought.

She continued to scratch his shoulder lightly, running her fingernails in little circles, moving over to his neck, running her fingers through his hair, scratching and rubbing his head gently. He felt her moving, felt her move to sit on him, sit on the backs of his thighs. He felt her pubic hair on his skin then, felt warm dampness spread on his skin. He felt her lean forward, put her hands on his back between his shoulder blades, begin to rub his back with the open palms of her hands. She put strength into her movements, rubbing from the middle of his back with both hands, moving up to his neck and out along his shoulders. After a few minutes of this he let out a deep sigh. She retreated down the same slope with her fingernails, current flowing down his back as she moved, and he saw the feeling as a brook meandering through sun-dappled fields.

Sara Wood kept rubbing his back, his shoulders and neck, for what felt like hours. Every now and then Ed McCarley sighed “Oh, God, this is heaven,” and “That feels great,” until he once said, “Oh God, you feel so good.” With that said, with that opening, Sara Wood leaned forward and slid her arms under Ed McCarley’s arms and cradled his soul in hers, put the side of her head on his back, just below his head, and she nuzzled her face on his back. She then kissed his back, moving her tongue up and down his spine, ran her hands over his outstretched arms, tracing little eddies in the flow of her currents. She then sat back up, and slid down until she was sitting on the backs of his thighs again. She scratched his back as she slid, scratched where she had been sitting, scratched the warm-moist slick where her vagina had rubbed against his back. She lightly ran her fingernails over his buttocks, felt him tense in the ticklishness of the silvery motion, then she rubbed his butt coarsely, soothing the currents out and away into the charged atmosphere of her intentions.

Ed McCarley felt Sara Wood as she moved down his back, felt the weight of her need, and he felt the weight of his desire for her growing with each stroke of her hand, each warm breath of her’s on his back. With the tension that melted from his knotted muscles, with each pulse of her beating desire, he felt his resistance to her withering within the ever-slowing heartbeats of time. He moved from the world of his training, his profession, into the dim gray world of the dividing line.

And then she asked him to turn over.

Ed McCarley felt the conflict between his head and his heart. He saw his ex-wife looking at him, fellow officers in the department shaming him, store clerks and fast food cashiers casting little sidelong glances; all of them looking at him, judging him.

She lifted from his thighs as she felt him beginning to turn.

He turned his body under hers, struggling to make sense of this new world.

She straddled his belly now, just below his chest. She reached behind, reached for Ed McCarley’s groin, ran her fingers through his pubic hair, moved her hand purposely towards his need.

Ed McCarley’s entire body stiffened as her hand made contact with his belly. He felt her hand as it moved down, as she encircled him.

Sara Wood held him and stroked away his fear. She continued to look intently into Ed McCarley’s eyes. She saw the smile on his face, an echo of her own, perhaps.

Ed McCarley felt her sliding away from his face, away from his chest. She was sliding down through time, down to infinity. He felt her pubic hairs as they traced faint electric contours on the charged surface of his need.

She still had him in hand as her vagina hovered, wraith-like, pulsing, above his groin. She lowered herself slowly, gently, until she felt the head just grazing the petals of her lips. She reached with her fingers and spread them apart, leaving a faint pink opening that seemed to reach of it’s own volition for the straining loneliness below.

Ed McCarley felt the heat of her folds radiating throughout his body, and he arced to meet the vast, oceanic pull. He felt his skin and her lips, felt her lips parting in supplication, conforming to the shape of their need. He moaned as her warmth penetrated the darkness, as the wetness of the moment flowed across the fabric of time.

She felt the head of his cock as it’s rim slipped past the rings of her vagina, and rise into the waiting arms of her womb. The muscled walls of her vagina gripped his cock in rippling waves., and she fell down, ever downward, onto the base of his cock, thrusting back, driving her clit into his groin. She was daring time to interfere with this moment.

He drove his cock into her as she sank down on it, felt her contractions as the tightness of her vagina defined his progress through her womb. She began to lift, the speed of her rise not tentative, clamping down on his cock as she climbed to the light of heaven.

The arc of time stands still, looking down on two lovers. Time does not judge, does not weigh motive or intent. If the infinity of time can be measured between two beating hearts, when two lost souls collide and dance in molecular fury, this was the moment of time’s choosing.

Time fused in the heat of love’s release, bathed in the light of this new passion’s uncertain wisdom, and time laughed with them – if only for a while.

+++++

October 7th

Ed McCarley, sitting in the watch commander’s office, Central Division sub-station; there are knots in his burning stomach, a acrid-tight sensation boiling deep within his gut, spreading to his chest. The watch commander, an old captain named Thomas Hardy sits opposite; Hardy has been in the department more than thirty years, has been at the job even longer than MacCarley. His close-cropped hair is silver, his stomach still flat as a board. Both men look very careworn; there is a large bottle of antacid tablets on the watch commander’s desk, next to a cluster of photographs of a woman and several children. On the watch commanders lapel is a small gold pin that states clearly, in bold letters: “Try God.”

The watch commander has a file folder open in front of him on the chipped plastic-laminate desktop; a cigar smolders away in an gleaming amber ashtray off his left hand. He continues reading the documents in the file, occasionally back-tracking to a previous page to double check a fact or relate to some other bit of information. There are moments when he stops reading to rub the bridge of his nose, then his closed eyes.

The files detail an incident that had happened the day before. McCarley had responded to a call in an affluent neighborhood to back up a unit on a suspicious persons call. He had arrived just moments after the first responding office, an old friend named Alan Simpson. He had seen three very sweaty, and very dirty, Latin American men standing by the street, their hands in the air. Simpson had his Sig-Sauer P-226 drawn, and he was yelling at the mute and visibly very cowed men. It was obvious to McCarley that the men were mowing a nearby lawn, yet Simpson was treating the men as if they were subjects of a felony drug bust. There were also several women standing in the doorways to their houses, looking on with barely sated curiosity. McCarley was still off balance as he watched Simpson; he must have missed something, maybe some resistance before he arrived, but what? His training explicitly told him to back up his fellow officer, no questions asked. But McCarley was concerned that the level of force on display was getting excessive, even out-of-hand.

Simpson holstered his weapon, but he swung the night stick out of the loop on his belt with his left hand and moved toward one of the men.

McCarley now acted instantly. He jumped between Simpson and the man, who by that time had backed down and was cowering on the ground, crossing himself and crying “Madre de Dios” over and over. McCarley looked into Simpson’s eyes and saw blind rage: it looked like the depths of hell had boiled to the surface of some private inferno, that Simpson was getting ready to beat the man to death.

In a guttural whisper McCarley said, “Simpson, get it together.”

Simpson tried to push McCarley aside…

“Alan! Get the fuck out of here. Now!”

Something caused Alan Simpson to pull back from the edge; he shook his head, cleared the fog, and walked back to his squad car. Simpson tore away from the scene in a hail of flying gravel and exhaust fumes, leaving McCarley and the Mexicans standing in the street.

MacCarley checked with a few witnesses – the women in their doorways were more than ready to talk – then let the men resume mowing lawns and picking weeds. No suspicious people found, no burgled houses reported or observed. He had called the watch commander on the telephone a few minutes after he cleared the scene, told him what had happened. The commander told him to come down to the station and write up a detailed summary of the event. That had been yesterday afternoon.

Now he was back in the W/Cs office.

“Anything you wanna add to this, Ed?” the watch commander asked.

“No, sir. I think that about covers it.”

“Well, this is a goddamned mess. Lots of civilian witnesses came down to fill out complaints. Even so, it’s probably going to have to go to the DA, civil rights violation alleged, no probable cause. It’s good you came to me with this stuff when you did. If you hadn’t, you’d burn to.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know there’s gong to be some pretty heavy fallout headed your way. Lotta the guys aren’t going to like you doing this, not at all. Don’t get me wrong, Ed, it was the right thing to do. Just watch your back, okay?”

“Yes, sir.” He knew this would happen; it always did. You break ranks, you pay, so Ed MacCarley stood to leave. “Thanks, Tommy.” They had been friends a long time.

“Yeah, okay Eddie. I mean it, watch your back.”

+++++

It was a little after eight in the morning. A trace of cool just edged into the air, stirring faint echoes of autumn into the still city air. Ed MacCarley walked around his squad car giving it a once over, checking for any overt exterior damage, then he checked the Remington 870 shotgun, first to see that rounds were up the tube – and that there was a round in the chamber. There was another much younger officer walking around the black and white Chevrolet behind him, looking as though he was taking mental notes and not just a little perplexed. The young man with Ed McCarley was that most dangerous of all creatures on Earth, a rookie police officer – one just out of academy.

Ed continued to point out things in the car to check for, like the correct functioning of the lights and siren, spare rounds for the shotgun in the glove box, the proper operation of the radio. Tire pressures, fuel gauge, cones and flares for accidents scenes. Ed asked the rookie if he had his clipboard and enough report forms to get through the day. And of course the rookie didn’t have squat, and had to be sent back into the station to retrieve everything he’d forgetton.

McCarley shook his head, opened his briefcase, took out a bottle of antacid tablets and unscrewed the lid. As a training officer it was his job to get the rookie up to speed fast enough to be useful, but not so fast the rookie would be more dangerous then he already was. The long favored method for breaking-in rookies was ridicule and derision, then build them back up after breaking through the ‘macho he-man gotta badge and a gun’ mentality. He brought the bottle of antacids to his mouth and poured several tablets into his mouth and started chewing. ‘Ah, breakfast…’ he thought as he crushed the cherry flavored chalk with his teeth.

Ed strapped himself into the passenger seat and started getting settled in for the days work. He turned on the radio and set the frequency to the division primary, checked the tactical and intercity frequencies for normal function. He logged into the computer, checked the secure computer-to-radio hookup. He picked up the radio’s microphone from the console, and pushed the transmit button on the upper side of the mic.

“2141, radio check,” he said into the microphone.

“2141, you’re five by five. 2141, are you in service yet?”

Ed looked around, saw the rookie headed out of the station back to the squad car. He wondered what the rookie would forget next. “2141, 10/4.”

“2141 10/8 at 0817 hours. 2141, signal 4b, 3601 Hollandale, see the resident.”

“2141, en route.”

“2141 en route 0818 hours.”

MacCarley scribbled notes on his DAR, his Daily Activity Report, then yelled out the window to the rookie, “C’mon, Meathead.” Rookies were really a pathetic life-form, he thought. “Let’s try to hit the streets sometime today, OK?”

The rookie got into the car. “What, we got a report already?” When he saw his training officer nod his head he said, “Aw shit, man, that sucks.”

To which MacCarley replied, “Well, Meathead, when you live in a sewer, you’d better get used to the stink.”

“C’mon, Ed. Do ya have to call me Meathead?”

“No, Meathead, I don’t. But you don’t want to deprive me of one of this job’s few pleasures, do you?” MacCarley turned his head and smiled at the vacant stare hanging in the air. “And I’ll tell you something else, Meat. You call me Ed one more time today and we’ll have to get you to county, and fast, to get my boot out of your stupid ass.”

“Yessir,” Meathead replied, now as if at attention.

“So, 3601 Hollandale, sig 4b. Remember what a 4b is, Meathead?”

“4b? That’s a rape?”

“No, Meathead, but you’re getting closer. A barking dog complaint, Meathead. Quick, hit the lights and siren!” As the rookie reached to switch on the lights and siren, MacCarley swatted the kids hand away from the console, shaking his head as he growled. ‘Pathetic,’ McCarley thought to himself. “Well, okay, sometime today would be nice. And I don’t feel the need to run code 3 to a barking dog call, OK?” He paused, let the sarcasm sink in. “Hollandale. Well, Meat? Think you can find it?”

The rookie started the squad car and swung it out of the station’s lot northbound onto Grand Avenue. MacCarley sat in silence. Hollandale was south and west of the station. ‘Oh God,’ he thought, ‘it’s going to be one long mother-fuckin’ day.’

+++++

A little after five thirty that afternoon McCarley and the rookie walked back into the station and turned their day’s reports over to the evening shift sergeant. He sat with the rookie while the sergeant checked the reports for errors, then, after the final ‘okay’ was given, they headed back to the locker room. McCarley felt the chill in the briefing room, and as he walked to his locker; there was a piece of paper taped to his locker door; “Pig Fucker!” was written across the note in big red letters – and there were several – apparently used – condoms stapled to it. McCarley left the note taped to the locker door as he changed out of his uniform and into his jeans. He put his gun belt in the old academy gym bag he’d been using for almost twenty-five years, and zipped it shut, then walked out of the station and headed to his apartment. He never looked back at the rookie; the kid sat dumbfounded in front of his own open locker, looking at the stapled rubbers like they were a dead dog hanging from his training officer’s locker door.

+++++

Ed McCarley climbed the steps up to his apartment, and went to door number seven and slipped the key into the lock. He turned the doorknob quietly and opened it, walked into his apartment, the apartment which until so recently had been such a dim, lonely place. As he turned toward the living room he heard, then felt Sara running at him, saw her leaping through the air for his arms. He turned in time to catch her, gave way a little bit under the momentum of her impact. He felt her legs wrapping around his hips, her arms around his shoulders, her hands in his hair. He turned and pinned her body between his and the wall, put his arms around her waist, and their faces met in an explosion of hot breath and wet kisses.

It had been almost the same every day since that first weekend in June. Ed McCarley had thought that the force of her love for him would diminish, but it hadn’t. He had felt that her thirst for intimacy would diminish, but it did not. And Ed McCarley had for a while lived in fear that this miracle of God named Sara Wood would simply vanish, that the whole miracle of her smile and laughter would turn into a empty dream. Yet it had not. Every minute of every day that he spent with her was a gift, a priceless bestowal of time. Such is the nature of destiny, the measure of love’s hold on the human heart, that Ed McCarley had committed himself to this dramatic course of action and never once looked back.

Ed McCarley ran his hands down Sara Wood’s lithe body, and he smiled inwardly as he felt the lingerie and the stocking tops with his starving fingertips. He kissed her with even more passion, felt the room around him dissolving into sweat-filled mists of open mouths and healing hearts. He fell under the weight of their combined need, the burden of her escape from poverty by now a cold memory. She played her heart’s strings only when he was gone from her, and when he walked in that door he fell under the weight of destiny’s undeniable call to love Sara Wood, and he fell slowly to the floor as he cradled her in his arms. He fell weightless, through mists of hope and fear, came to rest on top of her, between her legs. They seemed to kiss for eternity, his hands moving over her body with practiced ease now, finding her hands, holding them as if they were the forge of his redemption.

She rolled on top of him, laughing with a child’s joy at the conjoined mystery of his need and the salvation of his offering. She felt him growing under her frail weight through the rough fabric of his jeans and reached down to release him. As she fumbled with his jeans Sara laughed and kissed his face; she grew more aroused and in love with each breath she took. She was so hungry for Ed McCarley’s love that food had become unnecessary when she was with him.

And then in that sudden silence all her own, she was poised above him. Poised above the arrow of his need, her lips brushing the tip of his cock as she slid lightly back and forth, teasing the head with each grazing stroke. She kept her hands flat on his chest, her eyes languidly locked on his. As she danced above his need she could feel the warmth releasing from deep inside her belly and spread slowly within her loins. The heat and the wetness coated the walls of her womb, rolled down to the straining cock below. She lowered herself gently on each successive stroke, controlled his entry with her descent.

He could feel the warmth, the fury of her impending need, as she lowered herself on him, and he took her hips in hand and began to guide her motions. Forward, back, and twisting; he moved her from front to back in motive bursts. Sara began to gather speed, her up and down stride stormed toward the full fury of release. Soon two bodies were fused in the consuming rhythm of their heat, each building to single release, their unique fusion of fear and desire always carrying them higher.

After they were spent and lay quietly in each others arms, only then would all her vast uncertainties come to the surface. The call of her past was still a vast shadowland, a huge swath of fear and loathing that still came unexpectedly from time to time, though not as often. Sara Wood lost focus on the present in those moments, lost her grip on the here and now, and when they found her she was soon confronting images of other men in her mind’s eye, other tongues probing warped desires. Today she wilted, she looked at Ed MacCarley and knew she was not worthy of him. With peaks of ecstasy receding in an instant, she felt implosively exposed and began to cry.

She found her shadowlands again, and fell into the darkness.

McCarley felt her unravel in his hands, and he met the extremity of her need with insight born of years on the street.

He held her.

He let her go to the darkness and despair, visit it, touch it for a moment.

And just as quickly he pulled her back, let her feel only the vague outlines of her fear. Now he kept it from consuming her. He pulled her closer to him, held her tightly, told her that he was with her, and would be with her for as long as she wanted him. He felt her relax.

“Want you!?!” she cried. “All I want is you. I die every morning when you leave, Eddie. Want you? I get so afraid…”

“Tell me what you’re afraid of, baby. Tell me again.

“That you won’t come back. That one day I’ll be alone again. I don’t want…I can’t…” and she to the music of her private symphony of despair.

“You’ll never go back there, darlin’,” Ed said in velvet soft whispers of reassurance. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore. I’ve taken care of all of that, Sara. If I die tomorrow, I’ll still be able to keep you from going back there. But, now listen to me honey, I’m not going to die tomorrow. I’m not even going to work tomorrow. As a matter of fact, darlin’, I’ve got a pretty big surprise for you tomorrow. But part of that surprise? I’m not going to work for almost three weeks; you and I are going to be together all that time, and I’m not going to leave your side for one second. Not even when you take a shower. And guess what, that’s where we’re going, right this red hot minute.”

She climbed from the shadows, the shadowlands of her past.

She looked at him, true wonder in her eyes, wanting his words to be true.

Hoping they would become, not merely be, and she looked back into the shadows and wondered…

Does the future cast a shadow all it’s own?

And might a very certain past cast a shadow so dark, so unambiguously deep, that no future can break free of it?

+++++

October 14th

Ed’s tangerine roadster bounced down the interstate, top down and sun shining, Sara’s light red hair streaming out over the trunk as the engine hummed along. Ed McCarley held the steering wheel in his left hand and Sara’s hand in his right. She would sit quietly for long stretches, looking out at cows in fenced pastures or at an airplane flying overhead. Then she would turn her eyes to Ed.

“Thanks, Eddie.”

“For what, Darlin’?”

“For all this,” she said, waving at the sky. She began to tear up and laugh. “This is such a nice way to live. So far away from…”

Ed could, even after so many weeks together, just barely imagine what her life had been like, and a part of him wanted to shut that part of her past away forever. But that wouldn’t be true to her grief, to her understanding of the world, or to the world he wanted to make for her. To help her hide from that past would only cause her to feel shame, shame for a life that had not been her fault. Running away from her wounds would build a wall between his love for her and her acceptance of his love, would root their relationship in a lie. In Ed McCarley’s world, his world of streets and alleys, lies were everywhere, the fount of hatred and violence, of recrimination and accusation. Love couldn’t live in those shadows.

“You know I love you, don’t you, Sara?”

She nodded her head as she looked at him. “Eddie, I’ve thought about this a lot, what I feel for you, what I think you feel for me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt these things before, Eddie, so I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like. But I know how I feel when I’m with you. I know that when I’m with you I feel like the world is going to be alright, that I am going to be OK. I feel all warm inside, Eddie. Does that make sense?”

He nodded his head. Yes, it did very much.

“If you feel anything like that, then I know you love me,” she said as she squeezed his hand and looked away, not wanting him to see her tears again.

Always ashamed. Always afraid. He was an answered prayer, but the shadows were so deep.

+++++

They crossed a very high, very long bridge, and in the distance, off the left side of the car, Ed pointed out the ocean. Sara’s eyes went wide with astonishment, almost fear. There had been many unknowns in Sara Wood’s life, and she had been pretty good at confronting them when she was physically able, but she wasn’t prepared for the blue-green infinity that defined this new horizon.

The little Triumph exited the highway and turned to the ocean, and Ed steered the car toward a forest of white trees that lined the ocean just ahead of the car. Sara had never seen anything like it. Shiny white trees! Ed pulled into the parking lot, a forest of cars – then she saw the trees again, beyond restaurants and colorful buildings. They put the top up – “in case it rains,” Ed grinned, then he got out and went around to help Sara out of the car. He wanted her to feel that way, that someone should and would go out of their way to do little things for her. He wanted her to appreciate other people who were nice to her for no reason. Life needn’t always be a calculation between fight or flight, that love meant the little things, too.

They went into the restaurant, and it smelled like nothing she had ever experienced. They were taken to a table on an outside deck that overlooked – not trees, but boats! Sara looked out over a vast island of sailboats, their white and blue hulls gleaming under a clear, bright sun. She heard the sounds of a working marina for the first time in her life; the slapping of halyards against masts, seagulls wheeling through the air, looking for food. She looked at families coming and going up and down the docks, mothers and fathers and children who, by and large, looked happy and carefree. She took in the scene with a sense of jealousy and sorrow, but also with wonder in her heart.

“I would give anything…” she started to say, but her voice trailed off. She pushed down the anxiety, the flood that lived in her shadows, waiting. “Eddie, this is so nice…” yet her voice drifted away, again.

“Hey darlin’. Let’s eat first, then maybe we’ll take a walk, go down to the water and see what we can see.”

“Would you order for me, Eddie?”

“Do you want to try fish?”

“Had tuna fish before, a sandwich. Will it taste like that?”

“No, probably not, at least if we’re lucky it won’t. Leave it to me, darlin’.”

Sara watched boats putting up sails and catching the wind, heeling over, and soaring out over the water like magic birds. There were a handful of boats running off to distant horizons, and  these Ed McCarley watched intently.

+++++

After lunch Ed took Sara down to the marina, and they meandered slowly along, drifting in their own currents among the rich and the not so rich, the pretenders and the old salts. Ed pointed out this type of boat and that type of rig; he knew it meant nothing to Sara, but he wanted to fill the silence that had enveloped her; keep her mind focused on the present.

The piers that went out to the boats were behind locked gates. Sara wanted to look at some of the boats, pointed to one every now and then, saying they were pretty or cool or “wouldn’t that be nice…” and Ed just held her hand as she rambled, then he would tell her what kind of boat that one was, read the name on the transom aloud. Sometimes he would have to explain what a name meant; and there were the names he didn’t understand. They came to a spot where they could look down at a pier, and Ed pointed out a nearby white sailboat that had a deep green stripe along the top of the hull. There was gleaming teak all over the boat, and it had teak decks that made it look like a little ship, brass portlights in sleek oval shapes, and green canvas over the sails and on the cushions in the cockpit.

“What do you think of that one, Sara?” Ed MacCarley asked.

Sara Wood stared at the little ship, at all the gleaming brass and chrome and the glowing teak that accented the lines of the boat and covered the deck. “Ooh, Eddie, ain’t it pretty. What’s it called?”

“Well, lets look at it for a second. You see the letters on the side, near the back? See if you can say them along with me. A- W- A – K – E – N. That spells Awaken, which means to wake up after sleeping, or to be reborn – out of an insane existence. Kind of a neat name for a boat, huh?”

“Ooh, I wish we could see it inside. I wonder what looks like inside.”

“Well, let’s go and see if we can take a look.” He walked down the ramp toward the gate and took out his keys; then he opened the gate. Sara Wood looked truly lost as she followed Ed down the ramp.

“What are you doin’, Eddie? You’re not, you didn’t pick the lock, did you?” Eddie was holding the gate open for her, and he motioned her through. They walked to the boat; it was the first one on the pier, and he stood there looking at her, a quiet smile of private amusement on his face.

Ed walked over along the side of the boat until he came to a gap in the lifelines; he un-clipped the line blocking the way and let it fall.

“Eddie, Jesus, what are you doin’? We’re gonna get in trouble.”

Ed McCarley stepped on board. He held out his hand to Sara.

“No way, Eddie. I ain’t going to jail.”

He just kept his hand out, enjoying this little moment completely. “Come on, honey,”

Sara Wood looked at Ed McCarley, then suddenly, she got it. She flew across across time and  space and into his arms.

“Welcome to my home, Sara Wood. Our home.” He held her trembling waif-like frame in his arms and accepted the gales of kisses that flew into his soul at the speed of a sigh. He whispered, “Oh, God, Sara, I love you so much, so much…” into her ear over and over. The young woman in his arms went very quiet and still after a moment, then looked up at him.

“I love you to, Paul Edward McCarley.”

“Then spend your life with me, Sara Wood. Marry me.”

Sara Wood recoiled from the shock she felt. Ed just held her, caressed her face, watched in awe as a tear formed in her eye, watched the tear swell and roll down her cheek. He moved his face to hers and kissed away the tear, held her face in his hands, smiled into her eyes.

He took a little light blue box out of his pocket and opened it up, showed her the simple white gold wedding band he had chosen for her. “Marry me, Sara Wood. You’d make me the happiest man that ever lived.”

“I…I’m not…good enough…for you…Eddie,” she said as a wave of tears engulfed her.

He continued to hold her face in his hands, stroking her cheeks and her tears with his thumbs. He looked at her with a different expression, spoke in a different voice, “Sara. Listen to me, listen very carefully. When two people say they will marry one another, it’s a solemn promise before God that they will protect one another, that they won’t run away from one another, or do anything to hurt the other. That’s what I’m promising to you, Sara. That I’ll always be here by your side. That I’ll never leave you. That I’ll love you as much twenty years from now as I do right this very moment. And one last thing.”

Ed was visibly shaking now. “There is one thing in the world that I am afraid of, Sara. That’s the thought that I might wake up some day and find that you’ve gone, that you’ve left me. When I think of that, Sara, it feels like I can’t breathe. If you leave me, I think I’ll die. My love, you are the most important person in the world to me. I love you with all my heart.”

And Ed McCarley was crying now.

Sara Wood clung to this man through gales of passion, felt him tremble as he came to blows with his own doubts and fears. “Oh Eddie, oh Eddie,” she said as she felt with her own awakening sense of wonder the power of love to rule the human heart. “Eddie, I love you too. I do. You’ve been my savior, my…”

Ed pulled away from Sara Wood, pulled back far enough to look into her eyes. “Oh, Sara, I don’t know how to tell you this…I’m not your savior. You are my savior…you saved me from…” He fell to his knees, hugged her thighs, his face buried in her hips. He felt the release that comes from understanding a critical event in life, of moving beyond the pressure of doubt. “Oh, please, God. Sara, don’t ever leave me.”

She felt this hold on her heart and she embraced it. She knelt beside him, cradled him, rocked him in the sway of her body. “Oh, Eddie.” She kissed the top of his head. “I’ll never leave you, Eddie. If you really want me…Oh, Eddie, I Love you and I’ll marry you and I promise I’ll never leave you.” She felt his shaking sobs throughout her body.

‘How did I save him?’ she thought to herself, lost in the terms of an equation she didn’t understand. ‘That doesn’t make any sense at all…’

They sat in the cockpit of the little sailboat for hours, holding each other tightly. As evening returned the man held his woman to his breast, cradled her in the warmth of his need – and his passion. As darkness enveloped them, he opened the companionway that led down into the little boat, into their home.

+++++

October 17th

Awaken motored out from behind the stone breakwater and turned into the breeze. Ed MacCarley quickly hoisted the big main sail above the cockpit and cleated it off. He turned off of the wind a bit as he shut down the engine, and Awaken bit into the wind, heeled ever so slightly to the gentle breath of the Earth. Ed next unfurled the big sail, the genoa, on the forward part of the boat, and just as suddenly Awaken bolted as if she had been spurred in her flanks. She heeled dramatically and tore into the wind. Ed dashed back to the wheel and took the helm.

Sara Wood was huddled in a calm corner of the cockpit, wrapped in a cocoon of sweatshirts and fleece pants. Her arms were outstretched, holding onto grab-rails, but she was laughing with the sudden exhilaration of flying. She stood up, holding on to the railings which seemed to be everywhere, and stuck her face squarely into the full force of the breeze. Her red hair stood straight out from her head, parallel with the surface of the sea, her eyes began to swell with tears, not from anguish or joy, but from the simple force of the wind. Awaken dove down into a trough between waves and threw a huge wall of spray into the air.

Sara watched the airborne water arcing through the air as with outstretched arms, daring it to find her. This was not, however, a particularly wise move, as the wall found Sara with little problem. Ed heard her squeal as the water cascaded down onto her, into her clothing, drenching her almost completely. Ed laughed as she turned around; she looked both surprised and happy, like a wet, floppy-eared puppy. He bore off the wind a bit, eased the sails out, calmed the motion of the boat. He switched on the autopilot and dashed below to grab Sara a towel and a fleece lined wind-breaker.

Sara toweled her hair as best she could, wrapped the towel around her neck. She sat back again, looked out over the rear of the boat as it danced away from the shoreline. Ed kept the autopilot engaged, magically produced a mug of hot chocolate and handed it to her. She took a sip, surprised at the heat of the liquid.

“What is this?” she asked.

Ed hid his surprise – but caught himself. “Special sailor’s brew, darlin’. Secret recipe. We call it hot chocolate.”

“It’s a secret? Why, Eddie?”

“‘Cause every body would want to drink it all the time, darlin’. But don’t worry, we got plenty.” He remained at a loss sometimes, at her vulnerability to humor and the other things he took for granted; what might be funny in one set of circumstances to one person could be painfully uncomfortable for her, bring on a set of reactions that would unsettle her, send her reeling into the shadows. He despised the paternalism of his little lie, tried to will away his own shame within veils of innocent humor.

Sara sipped the hot chocolate, lost in the complexity of the brew – and the world around her. It was all so unreal. One day slipping from the shadows, taking care to remain out of sight as she dug through garbage cans looking for food, or some useable piece of clothing. She remembered that day, the day the pissy-smelling guy had hit her, the guy whose shrimpy little dick had stuck in her mouth as she fell. She had gone to the hospital, then to jail. Then she was back on the streets, and all she knew was that an Officer McCarley had kept her from going to prison.

She had walked from police station to police station looking for him, but had never found him. She had slipped back into the shadows by then, slipped back down into the world of hunger and dumpsters and the prison of the shadowlands.

And how all of a sudden he had been there, right in front of her, and then he had taken her to lunch. Oh, sweet Jesus, she thought. How could she ever explain to him that she been searching for him all over the city, walking, looking, hoping. She had felt his caring embrace as she wretched and heaved her guts in that alley, felt him pick her up and carry her to the ambulance, how he followed her to the hospital, saw to it that people helped her. He had cared. Cared – for me?! So, that’s what it feels like! She thought of sleeping on the streets on summer nights, how she would look up at street lights, watch bugs circle pale yellow glows in the sky.

That’s what being cared for feels like. And once you feel it – you’re drawn to it – just like those bugs up there.

She looked at him sitting beside her in the little world of his sailboat, felt her love for him, saw his love for her in his every gesture, in every thing he did. He had tried to explain to her last night, but she couldn’t understand, really, why he thought of her as his savior. What had he meant when he said he had lost his humanity, that he had lived in a sewer too long, and that he would have fallen into darkness had she not come to pull him back into the world of the living. It hadn’t made sense, but she believed him. Then he had made love to her so tenderly, with such soft reverence, she had felt her soul glowing, she had felt her body dissolve. In the warm glow of Awaken’s belly she had felt the ropes of her own insane existence fall away. She had felt some new being emerge from within, felt an awakening.

“Eddie?”

“Hmm?”

“Why did you name the boat Awaken?”

He thought about the question for a while, then turned to her. “You like music?”

“I guess.”

Awaken is the name of a song, a pretty old song I guess, from the 70s, by a group called Yes.”

“Why that song? Why not, like, a Beatles song, or, well, I don’t know too many music groups. One of the foster homes I lived in, the mother played Beatles songs all the time. I remember a song called The Long and Winding Road, she played that one all the time. I can still hear the music, too, and the words.”

“Oh, I’m not sure I can explain the feeling, Sara. There was a time when I believed in the goodness of men, and that song seemed to explain all of the infinite possibilities of what our world could be if people embraced love, explored the connections we share with everything in the universe. Anyway, the song lasts forever, and most people lose interest in a song after a couple of minutes. But Awaken was, to me, like a sailboat; the music drifts along through currents of time, and then it builds into this explosion, pulls all of the various themes within the song back together, makes it whole. I kinda hoped this boat would be that song for me, that she would help me pull all of the pieces of my life together, make it whole again.”

Sara thought a minute. “I understand that, Eddie, and you know, sometimes when you talk to me about things like this, well, it sounds like you’re trying to protect me from something. You don’t have to, you know. I’m pretty strong.”

“Yes, you are. And I love you so much.”

She smiled, kissed him again, then looked into his eyes. “Could we listen? To the song?”

“Yeah, I’ll play it tonight. Sometimes the words are kinda hard to understand, and you need to be in a quiet place.” He just smiled.

+++++

They sat in the cockpit, watching the sun set through a wall of distant purple thunderheads. Awaken sat at anchor in a small, secluded bay; there was only one other boat sharing the little hideaway. Ed had made a dish he called spaghetti carbonara, made with egg yolks and bacon, and lot’s of cheese, and she liked it – but thought it was weird. She sipped her first glass of wine, a sweet wine from Germany. They sat after dinner playing with their wine, taking small bites of apples and cheese. Soon Sara leaned back, leaned so that she was using Ed as a chair. He enfolded her within his arms, and they sat in silence as the sun crept down to the sea, as the air grew cool. Little darts of lightning shot across the distant clouds.

Ed and Sara had come to that special place lovers share where words lack the capacity to convey the specificity of meaning within a sigh – but the soul understands perfectly. They had found the place where you go when you lean against your lover’s back and feel their heart beating through your chest, feel the pulse of life beating through the airs of time, and their beating heart is yours, too.

Oh, just in silence, silent waves curled through time, so precious was their love.

Ed pulled a blanket over her dreamlike form, felt her breathing slow as soft darkness made it’s way into this heaven sent air. He felt her relax, then fall, fall deeply into sleep.

He felt the tears building in his heart, felt his prayer reaching from the depths of his soul to the heavens. ‘Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing her to me.”

A little before midnight she stirred, woke up. She looked up into the night and gasped out loud, waking Ed from his light cop’s sleep.

“What is it, honey?” he said, his voice full of sleepy concern.

“What are…are those stars?”

Ed sat up and looked at the dome of the heavens. It was totally clear; the distant thunderstorms had evaporated with the setting sun. High in the October sky, the Orion constellation blazed in distant fury, Betelgeuse and Rigel like fiery beacons reflecting off the still waters of their little secluded bay.

“Yeah, darlin’. Those are stars. And a couple of planets, too.”

“Really!?”

He started pointing out the night sky, took her to Jupiter and Mars, showed her the big dipper and Polaris. Finally he guided her back to Orion, to his belt, and he described the sword that hung from it. He pointed out the huge fuzzy patch in the middle of the sword, and described the violent birth of hundreds of stars that was happening right before their eyes, deep within the Orion Nebula.

“How far away is it, Eddie?”

“Real far, darlin’. It would take billions of years to get there if we walked! If we could move as fast as light moves, it would take 1,500 years, maybe more.”

“It must be cold out there,” she said.

“Uh-huh. Until you get close to a star.”

“But I sure feel warm right here with you, so I guess you’re my star.” She turned around on the narrow cockpit seat and kissed him. They sat huddled together cheek to cheek, occasionally kissing, for several minutes. “Eddie?”

“What is it, sweetie?”

“Could we listen to the song now, then would you make love to me?”

They moved below, within the cloudy nebula of Awaken’s belly, her wooden interior barely glowing from the single oil lamp that burned in gentle refrain. Sara Wood sat inside Ed McCarley’s warm arms, the side of her face resting on his shoulder.

She jumped as a burst of piano music shattered the darkness, then felt her body relax into the gentle voice that sang of the sun, of being, and just as suddenly the music dissolved into chaos, music from a different time, a different place. The music was jarring, unsettling, like a storm tossed dream – full of anger and confusion. Like how she felt when she ran and ran and ran…

The music rolled through valleys of touch, crashed in sudden shifts within the dream, then the music seemed to be at an end, only to be reborn, and build again in other distant dreams. Soft interludes lapped at the shores of the song-dream, then folding in on themselves, they gave way to more violent spasms of, what, a nightmare?

But the music kept moving toward light, building towards its awakening, and exploded like an orgasm as light and fury poured into her imagination, only to once again fall into the soft gentle voice…

‘High vibration go on

to the sun, oh let my heart dreaming

past a mortal as me

where can I be…

Wish the sun to stand still

reaching out to touch our own being

past all mortal as we

here we can be

we can be here…

Sara could feel Ed’s tears on the side of her face, could feel him, lost within the words, swaying in the currents of his music. As if time had given way to the music, she felt her body join with his, in the afterglow of a dream.

“You were standing close to me, weren’t you, Eddie? When you found me, I mean.”

“Yes, I was, darlin’. Because we were always meant to be together.”

+++++

October 28th

It has always been a simple fact of life that the better you know who you are, the more you know what you want.

For Ed MacCarley, he knew after spending two weeks on Awaken with Sara, he was a wanderer, that he felt destined to wander the byways of his heart and soul with her, but further, that he could no longer face life on the street. He knew the realities of convention too, knew the scorn a man his age would reap with a 20 year old girl as his wife. He knew what would happen if he tried to blend into to the social world of his fellow officers.

And a funny thing happened.

He wasn’t ashamed of his decision to love Sara, that he could never be ashamed of her. He felt sorrow, for people who would condemn her, and him, without understanding either his capacity to see through walls of shame, or Sara’s infinite capacity to forgive. He felt shame when he thought of those same self-righteous people driving past all the other ‘Sara Woods’ hiding in the shadows – without even once noticing or trying to understand all the pain and suffering around them. Where was human compassion? Where had the ability to simply care for fellow human beings gone? Tax cuts were all that seemed to matter these days. A bigger house, a bigger car, a bigger black hole where the human heart used to live. He had been in churches recently where preachers castigated their flocks for not earning enough money, equating one’s earning power with one’s godliness. Ed had watched with utter astonishment as people wrote out checks for hundreds of dollars to this con-man, and then the con-man preacher had driven away after the service in an S-class Mercedes Benz!

That’s Love? That’s Christianity?

No, what concerned McCarley most was Sara would be unjustly branded with shame by these self-serving jackals, that she would feel pain – simply because she didn’t understand their world better. There was, McCarley knew, no better victim for this society to attack than a truly innocent victim. Especially if the victim was helpless.

So until she could make these distinctions on her own, Ed felt comfortable with the paternalism of his choice to protect her. She was a primitive in her way, certainly not by choice, but a blank slate, nonetheless. And while he felt confident in his ability to lead her to a place where she could stand on her own, he was not at all sure of her ability to stand up to people who would only too gladly shove her back down into the darkness of their apathy.

And so, on the way back to the city, MacCarley was facing the music of choice, choices that were the consequence of his actions – but shaped by his understanding of society’s aboriginal hypocrisy. When you stripped away the veneer of civilization, what grew visible within the grizzled flesh of humanity was a truly vast and horrible capacity to inflict pain. Defy conventions and suffer. Suffer, and you will be crushed. The further you fall, the harder they try to end you.

In this juxtaposed, and angry, frame of mind, he sat lost in thought as clouds gathered and rain started to fall, yet he was very much aware of the gentle-fragile being next to him. Every protective instinct Ed had was focused on her survival, and the role he would play in her rebirth. Her awakening. All his years on the street had left that vision sharp and clear.

He guided his little Triumph through heavy traffic on rain-slick streets until he reached the apartment, but as he turned into the parking lot he felt something wasn’t quite right; instinct alive now, warning flags started popping left and right.

Ed unzipped his gym bag as he parked the car, picked up the little stainless Walther PPK/s he carried as a backup, leaving his holstered revolver inside the bag. He looked around, noticed a car out of place, a man walking in the bushes. “Stay in the car, Sara,” he said as he opened the door.

He stepped out into the drizzle.

Almost immediately she heard an angry man’s voice yelling, yelling at Ed McCarley, and she saw another man step out of the bushes. She saw the gun rising in the man’s hand . . . saw the drunk hatred oozing from his eyes…heard him yelling “They fired me, you mother fucker” as he pulled the trigger. Sara Wood saw flame barking from the man’s pistol.

Ed McCarley had seen his old friend Alan Simpson emerge from the bushes, and had momentarily relaxed. In that infinite moment of uncertainty – the moment when uncertainty averts it’s eyes to betrayal – Ed MacCarley lost his edge. He hesitated.

He heard Simpson’s anger, but could not understand the words – time had slowed so dramatically in the milliseconds of dawning awareness that only instinct had time to command reaction. His little Walther rose to meet the challenge.

Ed MacCarley could see Simpson’s pistol recoiling, see the flame as it boiled out of the barrel in slow motion. He could see the bullet spiraling towards his chest. Days later, it seemed, he could feel the burn spreading out across his left shoulder as the bullet tore through flesh, could feel his body spinning under and away from the devastating impact. He felt his head bouncing off the pavement, could see the vibration of the world as his head came to rest.

Ed McCarley watched as his friend Alan Simpson walked to him, watched him as he lifted the gun up, up towards his head. He tried to say hello, but he felt light-headed, sick to his stomach. He watched, fascinated, as his friend continued to yell at him. ‘I wonder what he’s saying?’ McCarley thought as brightness settled in all around him.

Alan Simpson knew his friend was dead when the first bullet struck, but he wanted to finish the job properly. As he walked over to Ed MacCarley, he was focused on the revenge he had been planning for days. He did not see the young girl in the car, did not see her digging around on the floor in front of her seat. He did not see her as she flew out of her door, or as she leveled the huge Smith & Wesson 44 magnum at his head. He never heard the hammer as it arced back under the pull of Sara Wood’s finger, or as it slammed home, igniting the cartridge in the cylinder. It is doubtful he ever heard the roar of the gun, or felt the silver-tipped hollow-point bullet as it tore into the left side of his neck.

Maybe he heard a fragmented voice off in the distance, heard the fury of the girl’s words. Heard her calling him a mother fucker again and again. By the time the girl fired the remaining five bullets into pulpy mess of the man’s head, there was no Alan Simpson left to hear or see or feel or hate or love.

There was no sun.

There was only darkness.

Sara Wood dropped the gun and flew to Ed’s side, cradled his motionless head in her lap. She looked up at the sky and screamed. She was screaming as the ambulance arrived. Screaming as paramedics ran to Ed’s side.

She screamed as they pushed her out of the way, back into the shadows.

She screamed as hundreds, thousands, millions of police cars and ambulances arrived.

She was frantic. She tried to remember the words.

‘High vibration go on…’ 

‘And you were standing next to me’

She watched as the men over Eddie tore away his shirt. One of the men stuck a huge needle in his arm.

‘And you were standing next to me’

She stared in mute horror as another man took a knife and stabbed Eddie in the chest, then stuck a pair of funny looking scissors in the hole he had made, leaving a long rubber tube dangling from his chest. Another man was putting a mask on Eddies face as blood oozed from the tube…onto the pavement…

‘And you were standing next to me’

“And you were standing next to me,” Sara Wood yelled. “Eddie! I’m here! I will never leave you.”

She ran after him as they lifted him into a helicopter that had just landed in the street, and she watched in horror as the machine lifted into the sky, leaving her there, silent as the world raged around her.

+++++

November 7th

The department Chaplain stood outside Ed McCarley’s hospital room with Thomas Hardy, Ed’s friend and watch commander. They talked quietly about the old days, about honor and duty and the things most important to their world. About life and death, about all the funerals for officers and friends they had been to. And funerals yet to come.

Ed sat up in the hospital bed, a tangled mass of tubes and leads sprouting from every arm and leg, from his penis, and all over his chest. His eyes were half open, and he breathed on his own today, after seven days on a respirator.

Sara Wood sat in a chair next to the bed, asleep, her head almost face down on the bed, next to Ed’s hand. The last words she had heard from him were to ‘stay in the car’. That now felt like a lifetime ago, an echo from another world.

She had been sitting in the chair next to him since he had come out of surgery, which had lasted almost fourteen hours. At some point in time over the last few days she had stopped crying. She had held his unresponsive hand in hers for so long it had started to cramp, and a nurse had rubbed the cramps away for her. Hardy brought her a little machine that played music, and he had shown her how to play songs on it. She had learned quickly, and learned how to use the uncomfortable things over her ears, as well.

She only listened to one song. Day in and day out.

“Oh, Eddie. Come back to me,” she whispered. “I’m here, Eddie.”

She felt his fingers lift off the bed, find her hair.

She froze, wanting to believe what she had felt, afraid to find that she had imagined it.

Distant fingers rose like the sun to her hair, drawn close by the infinity of chance.

He felt…what? Her hair? He felt her hair, knew the texture of it in his heart.

What is that smell?!

God, my mouth is dry.

It’s too bright, can’t see.

He felt the world move, and then she was there. She was looking at him.

“It’s O.K. Eddie, I’m right here. You’ve been fighting real hard, but you’re gonna make it.”

“Hey, partner!”

Is that Tommy? What are you doing here?

“Man, buddy, you’ve given us one hell of a scare. But you’re doing better, ya know, its gonna get better every day.”

It’s okay, Tommy, just relax, willya?

“I’m going to leave you two together now, partner. But I hope you know she saved you, Ed. She’s just been an angel. Now, get some rest, I’ll bring some of the guys down tomorrow, okay? And, hey, Meathead sends his love.”

He looked up at Tommy as he left.

He drifted in and out of currents of time, afloat as a leaf down a gentle stream.

He felt something slip over his ears, something warm.

He felt his soul come alive as the piano burst into his ears, heard the voice.

As involuntarily as he now breathed, he felt tears of remembrance dance across his eyes.

Sara Wood watched as the music played across his face, watched as he drifted into that place he went. She watched the music of his life play across the love in her eyes, and she understood now that with love comes pain.

But maybe it’s through both love and pain that we grow.

Ed McCarley drifted through the music of that other world, soared between peaks of human experience, gliding through sun-swept airs of sweet sleep on the gentlest of wings. He held himself to the warmth of her love, to the light in Sara’s eyes. He could hear the music of her smile, feel the touch of her skin on his soul. He felt the dream yield to the rush of music, felt the moment of his birth among the stars.

He felt the moment of his awakening. To her.

It was when I saw you there, curled up on your side, in that alley.

He looked up into her eyes. They glowed in amber light.

How did you know I needed to be saved?

And, I would never have guessed you were an angel. Oh, my love.

+++++

December 21st

A little airliner touched down in Las Vegas on sunny morning, and two souls, once upon a time two lost souls, walked through the terminal and out to the street. They walked to a huge, flaming pink Cadillac and crawled through the parted front seat into the back. The two souls talked to the man and the woman in the front seat as they headed off into the city.

They came to a little chapel. The two souls and the man and the woman walked into the chapel, down the aisle as music payed. They came to the end of this road as two, and stood before the Man of God, waiting to be united.

The Man of God was wearing a huge-collared white leather suit, his big, black hair slicked back, standing there in outrageous sunglasses and platform shoes.

The Elvis-God read the words of passage, and the two souls repeated the words, looking into each others eyes, looking to the eternal innocence of pure love as their salvation. They kissed, they looked at the man and woman, their friends in this life.

“Thanks for doing this, Tommy,” Ed McCarley said to his friend.

“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world, Ed.”

The two men shook hands, hugged one another. The women hugged for what seemed a long time, and the older woman kissed the younger woman on the cheek, told her to “take care of that man.”

Two souls – now one. Lost in time’s embrace, setting out on the next journey, together.

Hand in hand, they walked away from what had been. They walked now to what might be.

“Wait, Eddie, I wanted to thank that preacher,” Sara McCarley said.

Ed looked over his shoulder. “Well, that ain’t gonna be happening, darlin.”

“Why not, Eddie?”

“Well, because, darlin’,” Ed McCarley said, “Elvis has left the building.”

©2005-2016 Adrian Leverkühn | abw

+++

As always, thanks for coming along, and yes, this story is the nucleus around which my first attempt at writing a novel is built.

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