Well, here’s the last set of images.
I’m thinking I’ll combine these four parts into one long post, maybe. Kind of. Who knows? I sure don’t.
Here it is.
(insert drum roll here)
Hope you enjoy.
Images et échos d’autres réves
When I look up to the skies
I see your eyes a funny kind of yellow
I rush home to bed I soak my head
I see your face underneath my pillow
I wake next morning tired still yawning
See your face come peaking through my window
Pictures of matchstick men and you
Mirages of matchstick men and you
All I ever see is them and you
Pictures of Matchstick Men Status Quo (1968)
He was, along with every other Traffic Division officer, on duty that night.
New Years Eve.
DUI checkpoints on all the major ‘party-harty’ roadways, every available patrol car working radar, working the highways – but it was 28 degrees out – and a light drizzle was falling. Bare tree limbs turning white as ice coated them, streets and sidewalks glazing over rapidly, and by 2200 hours the streets were, he thought, good for only one thing: ice skating.
Everyone was inside drinking, getting ready for Dick Clark to make his annual Times Square Countdown, and he know by the time people got out to their cars they’d find themselves smack-dab in the middle of an upside down winter wonderland. Hopefully before they did something really stupid, like start their cars and try to drive home.
Still, he was hopeful. The roads were, so far, remarkably empty, very few people were out and about – yet – and he was in one of the departments new Suburbans. The normal tires had been swapped for winter tires, and he’d just stopped by the garage and had them put on chains. He was good, but how many people in Baja Oklahoma were? On a night like this, Trouble was out and about, ready to make mischief on his appointed rounds.
He rotated his left shoulder, felt bone fragment tearing into muscle and winced, let his arm down slowly and realized he’d been holding his breath. He sighed, took a deep breath and tried not to think about it.
And he knew what the call was even before he picked up the mic.
“2141, 36B, Greenville and Caruth Haven, officer on the scene advises code 3 not necessary.”
“41, code 5.”
“2141 at 2230 hours.”
He left downtown and got on Central, drove north as quickly as the chains allowed and exited at Caruth Haven, turned right and there it was. Patrol car already had the intersection blocked off, the scene secure, so he was just here for the report. Weird, he thought, because they only called him for the bad ones, and this didn’t look all that bad – then he saw one of the cars.
“Oh, god no…” he groaned, then shook his head – wished he could be anywhere else than here right now.
He gathered his notepad and opened the door, stepped out on the ice and nearly fell before he was halfway out the door. He steadied his fall with outstretched arms and winced, very nearly cried out when his left shoulder took too much weight.
But he managed to walk over to the wrecked gray Maxima and look inside.
The L-T was sitting there. His friend. The watch commander at the Biltmore bust. His sense of religion shattered in the aftermath, then his marriage shattered too. Divorce, almost bankrupt, the L-T had come to him, asked for help. Financial help, anything at all. Help to try and pull his life back together. He’d lent him money, co-signed a couple of loans with him and the L-T had been getting there, slowly, but at least he had some kind of life now, something worth living for.
Then he saw the girl in the passenger’s seat. Young girl, maybe in her twenties – he hoped.
“Hey, L-T…what happened?” But he knew. He could smell the booze on his friend’s breath, on his clothes, in the air, and when his friend looked up at him it was all there, plain to see. Eyes red and glassy, and he’d been crying. The girl was looking away, clearly trying to act bored – which meant she was hiding something. “Okay, hang tight, let me see what’s going on out here.”
He walked over to the officer who’d responded first. “What do you have so far?” he asked them.
“The lieutenant ran the red light,” the officer said.
“Oh, did you observe that?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Then someone alleges the L-T ran the red light. Is that a more accurate statement?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Any other witnesses?”
“No sir, not yet. I’ve been securing the road.”
“Uh-huh.” He walked over to the other car, an old black Firebird, a real scrote-mobile, and he looked at the two guys in the front seat. Total hooks; scraggly blond hair, house tattoos on the knuckles and forearms – and they were nervous now, watching his every move with angry eyes as he walked up to the driver’s window.
“Howdy,” he said genially. “Reckon either of you can tell me what happened?”
“Yeah, that bastard ran the red light…” the driver said.
“And which bastard would that be, sir?”
“Fuckin’ whack-job in the Maxima.”
“Okay. Can you tell me what happened?”
“We come out of that gas station…”
“Which one?” he asked, starting to sketch the scene.
“That one, there,” he said, pointing across the intersection.
“If you don’t mind, could you sketch where you were, which pump you were at, and what happened next?”
He watched as the driver took the pad, his hands shaking, then he took the pad back. “So, those pumps over on the far side?”
“I’ll need both your licenses, as well as your registration and proof of insurance,” he added, and when the driver handed over the papers he looked them over, saw the insurance was expired and for another car, while the passenger said he didn’t have a license. “Nothing? No ID at all?”
“What do you need that for?” the passenger said. “I didn’t do nothin’.”
“Just for the reports, sir. I’ll need some kind of ID.”
The man got his wallet out, handed over his state issued ID card and he took it, thanked them and said he’d be back in a while. He walked over to the first officer on the scene and looked him over. Young, arrogant, lazy. “Did you bother to ID those guys, run their car?”
“No, sir,” the officer said. “Thought I’d leave that to you.”
“Oh? Well, thanks. Here are the IDs, and here’s the tag number. Run them, now, and get CCHs on both those jokers. And keep your radio volume down.”
He walked over to the gas station and found the attendant inside. “Did you see what happened out there,” he asked.
“Yup. Sure did.”
“What pump did those guys use?”
The attendant pointed at pumps on the other side of the station. Not the ones the driver had indicated.
“How did the car exit the station, sir. Could you sketch there path on this diagram?
The man sketched an altogether different route than the driver had, one that put them exiting the station and driving about a hundred yards on the wrong side of the divided roadway before turning south on Greenville. “Do you have a readout you could print up showing me which pump these guys used?”
“Sure,” the man said, and he printed up the receipt, handed it over.
“I’ll just need your name and a phone number sir.”
“The station number okay?”
“Both would be best, sir.”
He walked back out onto the ice, walked gingerly back to the first officer, looking at the contrite little turd as he walked up.
“Driver has warrants, both have CCH for signals 1, 3 and 5.”
“Plates come back on a 77 Mustang…”
“And that car is?”
“Not a Mustang, sir.”
“So, let me get this straight. You’ve got a stolen car over there, driven by a dude with a criminal history including murder, burglary and armed robbery, and with warrants out for his arrest, and you’ve been letting him sit there, watching you, not knowing whether he’s armed or not, for about a half hour. Is that about right?”
“Well, I uh…”
He picked up his radio and called dispatch: “2141, I need the district WC and about three units for back up this location.”
“2141 at 2241 hours.”
He turned to the officer. “Get your 870 and get behind that fuckin’ car, right now,” he growled.
“2141, we have returns on the second ID now.”
“Suspect Leftwich has an active BOLO and warrant out of Beaumont for Signal 1, signal 3.”
“41, confirm warrant, expedite backup to Code 3.” He looked at the officer and shook his head, knew the kid had no business being out here and wondered what his story was. “I guess you didn’t hear me? 870, cover the rear of the car? Like…now?”
Ten minutes later the bad boys were on their way downtown and he walked over, talked to the district watch commander about the officers performance and the old man shook his head.
“Navy SEAL, thinks he knows it all.”
“He’s a menace, L-T.”
“You’re the third person to tell me that in the last two weeks. Write him up and I’ll send it to personnel.”
“Who was his FTO?”
“Yeah. Oh. Now, what about Truman?”
“Drunk, but the accident wasn’t his fault.”
“Yessir.” A DUI for a cop meant immediate termination and loss of certification. Period. State law and no exceptions allowed for any reason, personal or otherwise.
“You know him?” the L-T asked.
“Yessir. We’re friends.”
“Goddamn. You want me to assign this to someone else?”
“No, I got it. I’ll put all my notes with the supplemental, and you should have Nelson assign someone to double check my report, but it’s cut and dried. A rookie patrolman could’ve worked this one. Just not that asswipe,” he said, nodding at the other officer.
He walked to the Suburban a few minutes later, and the SEAL was waiting for him by the front door. He turned on his Olympus Pearlcorder in his shirt pocket as he walked over, smiling as he approached.
“What did you tell the L-T?” the SEAL asked.
“What happened out here.”
“Dereliction of duty, incompetence, and that you’re a menace to your fellow officers.”
The SEAL grinned. “Oh, is that right?”
“No, it’s not right. Everything about your performance out here tonight was anything but right.”
“Here’s a piece of advice for you, hotshot,” the SEAL said. “Maybe you need to be careful what you say from now on. And who you say it to.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he said – but the SEAL was walking away now so he got in the Suburban, pulled out the little Olympus and spoke into it for a few minutes, describing who said what, and why.
“2141, are you clear for a call?”
“2141, DPS advises they have multiple cars in the water on Highway 67, the west span over Lake Ray Hubbard. Two are submerged, no survivors.”
“41, code 5.”
“2141, clear and code 5 at 0014 hours.”
He sighed, made his way south to Highway 80, then turned northeast, heading for 67, mindful of the ice now. It was almost an inch thick and snow had started falling; there were cars off the road everywhere he looked and whole neighborhoods were dark from power outages. He heard Lieutenant Nelson call dispatch, report that all accident investigators were now working calls and to call out the reserves, get back up on the street now. Then Nelson called him.
“205 to 2141.”
“Don’t let DPS rope you into doing their report. Get back here as fast as you can.”
“And 41, go to inter-city now, keep me posted.”
“Got it.” He switched over to channel three and called in. “41 to 5, go ahead.”
He pulled over at the scene on 67, walked over to the DPS trooper and got the low-down, then walked back to to Nelsons car, took out his Olympus and played the recording.
“Well fuck,” Nelson said. “Nasty little fucker, ain’t he, threatening a brother officer and all.” Nelson grinned, then looked at the scene. “You better get suited up. Need a hand with that shoulder?”
“Yeah, see if the fire department has any tanks handy. I’ve only got one 60 with me.”
“Okay. Oh, I heard Truman was in that wreck on Greenville.”
“Yessir.” He walked to the back of the Suburban and got his dry-suit on, and he was about to hook his 60 pound tank to his vest when a fireman arrived with an 80. “Whew,” he said, “thanks.”
“Hey, better you than me…that water’s freezing now. Literally, I mean icing up.”
“Swell.” He pulled his hood on and sealed it, then walked down the highway to where two cars had left the road. Two set of tracks, both yawing left as they tried to steer back onto the highway, and one of them appeared to have begun to flip on it’s top as it entered the water. Someone helped him into his BC and he snapped the vest tight and pulled his mask down, walked into the water, felt pressure as the water pushed in against his skin, but no leaks…
He turned, held out his hand and a fireman threw a safety line out and he caught it, clipped it onto his vest. “Get another ready,” he called out, then he sat down in the water and slipped his fins on, cleared the vest and took a deep breath, put his mouthpiece in and cleared it. He crab-walked over the slimy boulders under him until he was under water, and he turned on his flashlight, started walking along the bottom until, about fifty feet out, he saw the first car. He swam over to it, shined his light inside and saw two kids, maybe five years old, in the back of the station wagon – and both were still alive, breathing in an air pocket at the bag of the wagon.
They couldn’t have much oxygen left, he thought, not enough to mount a rescue operation, and he shone his light in again, looked at one of the kids fingernails. Blue nail-beds, hypoxic already.
He tapped on the glass and one of the kids put his head under the water and saw him. He smiled, pointed at the left side passenger door and made a fist, then swam to the door and saw the door was locked – and he reached for the rescue hammer strapped to his leg. It took two swings but the glass broke and the pressure inside the wagon broke too, flooding the back.
He had the door open within seconds and swam in, grabbed both kids and pulled them free of the car, then yanked on the safety line, felt sure hands pulling him in. He broke surface and the kids started coughing and gasping, and a dozen firemen and police officers were in the water within seconds, helping him to shore. Both were in deep hypothermia but both were alive, and he asked for slack and submerged again, swimming down to look for the second car.
It was a little orange Honda Civic, resting on it’s top about fifteen feet beyond the station wagon and he swam down, looked in the window, saw all he needed to see for now and swam back to the wagon, looked for the driver and saw an old man face down on the seat – lifeless. He reached around, unlocked the door and on the off chance felt for a carotid pulse, but no. Nothing. He hauled the man out and pulled gently on the safety line, felt pressure as he was pulled through the water again. When he was almost to the shore he held up two fingers: “Two more,” he said as he handed over the man’s body – before he disappeared under the waves again. He swam back to the Honda and easily opened the door, saw several empty bottles of beer rolling around on the ceiling and shook his head, pulled a young man out, felt for a carotid pulse then pulled on the safety line, and a few minutes later went back down again, for the young girl he’d seen crammed in the back.
He pulled the girl’s leg and her body slipped towards the door and he stopped, looked at the knife wounds, the slit throat, Defensive wounds on her arms and hands – and why was she naked, in this weather? He closed the door, pulled sharply on the safety line, felt himself jetting through the water, breaking the surface a few feet from the rocky shoreline. He pushed his mask up on his forehead, treading water.
“Is this DPS’s call?”
A trooper on the rocks called back: “It’s mine. What do you have?”
“Homicide is my guess. Naked, slit throat, defensive wounds on her hands and arms. Probably better to tow the car up intact, preserve what evidence might be left?”
“Semen would be my guess. Pulling her body through the water might wash away anything like that.”
“Anyway, you think about it while we get the first car hooked up.” He swam up to shore and took a metal tow line from the wrecker driver, then swam down to the wagon, secured it to the rear tow hook and swam around the car one more time, saw a kid’s teddy bear resting on the muddy bottom and picked it up. He surfaced and gave a thumb’s up to the wrecker driver and swam clear of the towline, then watched the wagon slide clear of the water, then up onto the roadway.
“Just leave the body in the car,” the trooper called out and he swam over and took the towline down again, swam around to the front and hooked it up. He looked the scene over, then surfaced again. “Car on the roof. One more line, please,” he called out and he took the second line down and hooked it to the rear axle. Back on the surface he called out “Take in line one!” and he watched the Honda spin on it’s roof. “Okay, take in two,” and he watched as the Honda flipped over on it’s tires. “Okay, hold on while I let the second line go.”
He swam down, released the second tow line and pulled it clear, surfaced and called out: “Okay, she should come in easy now.” He walked up the rocky bank as the Honda rolled up the incline, but he stood there a moment, then turned and dove back into the water, swam down to the bottom. He could see where both cars had been and he swam around, poking in the mud as he moved along inches above the bottom.
His eyes caught something, a flash, an impression, and he swam over to a large rock, swept the his beam of light around the area. A knife. Serrated edge, eight inch blade. He picked it up, put it in his vest pocket and swam back up to the rocks and climbed out. When he saw the trooper waiting for him he walked over to him.
“Got an evidence bag handy?” he said, opening his pocket.
The trooper took the knife, shaking his head – and he walked back to the Suburban, found Nelson still there, waiting for him. He looked around, saw the ambulances were gone and turned to his L-T.
“How’re the kids?” he asked.
“Girl was shocky, they did CPR once, got a rhythm and took off for Parkand. The boy’s fine.”
“Hot damn! We got lucky tonight.”
“Yes, they did.”
“What time is it?” he asked, unzipping his dry-suit and climbing out of it.
“Not quite three.”
“Shit, how long was I in the water?”
“‘Bout two hours, I’d say. You cold?”
“No, not with this fleece. I was sweating in there. Feels good out here.”
Nelson shook his head. “Better you than me, Ace.”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?”
Cleared after the Biltmore shoot, he and Desjardins saddled up for their last week riding together, and if he signed-off on her she’d go to deep nights for six weeks, then to days for six weeks. After that she’d go to traffic, probably with someone other than him for a week, then to CID for a week. She’d be assigned a district and a shift after that, but ride two-up for another year, and if she passed all that she’d be cut loose – to a car of her own, a beat of her own.
“You feel like driving tonight?” she asked as they walked out of the station.
“You don’t, I take it?”
“No, not really.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said as he put his dive gear in the truck. She did the walk-around, checked flare and cones and the 870, then got in the right door and buckled up. He got in and looked at the expression on her face, shook his head and checked into service, then took off down Illinois, heading for 67. “What’s the problem?” he said a moment later.
She sighed, looked out the window at traffic, then turned to him. “It’s your father.”
“Oh?” he said, slowing for a stop light.
“I think I’m in love with him.”
He turned to her, grinning. “About goddamn time, Deb.”
“Why do you think I invited you over there? I was hoping something like this might happen…”
The light turned green and he took off, turned on Zang then slipped onto the freeway. “Yeah, I mean, why not? He’s lonely and you’re cute as hell? It’s a match made in heaven, right?”
“You think I’m cute as hell?”
“Look, Deb, I told you day one if I wasn’t married…ya know?”
“But you are, right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Are you two doing okay? Arguing a lot?”
He looked at her, frowned. “It shows, huh?”
“Like a fucking bonfire.”
“It’s been going on a while. She wants me to quit, start flying again.”
“So? Why don’t you?”
“I dunno. Maybe I like it out here, ya know?”
She shook her head. “That’s insane. You ought be outta here, like yesterday.”
“You think so?”
“I do, but here’s the real problem. I want you so much it hurts.”
He looked at her again, frowned, shook his head.
“I’m not kiddin, Ace. I’ve had it bad for you, real bad, since about the second week.”
“That’s half infatuation and half Stockholm Syndrome…”
“Stockholm…? Why do you say that?”
“‘Cause I’m holding you hostage. Your career is in my hands, remember?”
She laughed. “I’m trying to be serious.”
“Yeah? Well, so am I. I’m here to train you, get you ready for your life out here. I’m not here to fall in love with you.”
“So? Have you?”
“What? Fallen in love with you?”
He turned, looked at the road for a long time, not saying a word, then he looked at her and shook his head. “What makes you say that,” he said, softly.
“I see things. I see things, like in your eyes.”
“Look, I care for you, alright? But that doesn’t mean I’ve fallen in love with you. Okay? Got it?”
She nodded her head, looked away. “Yup.”
“Goddamn…I wish you were butt-ugly and had a face full of zits…but oh no, you had to be so fuckin’ cute it makes my heart ache. You had to have a voice that makes my heart sing. And yeah, I could fall in love with you in a heartbeat, but you know what? Ain’t gonna happen. It just is not going to happen.”
“You know what? You keep telling yourself that and you just might get around to believin’ it – but I doubt it.”
“2141, signal 53, possible 14. Reporting person is a pilot landing on Runway 17 at RedBird, advises a gold sedan is parked in the trees off Mountain Springs, possible in-progress 14.”
“41, code 2.”
“2141 at 1615.”
“2110 code 2.”
He exited on Ledbetter, tore down to Old Hickory and made a hard, sliding left, yawing on the gravel and correcting, and seconds later they were on scene.
“Check us out,” he said, bailing out of the Ford just as it slid to a stop. Gun drawn, he ran past the gold Mercury Montego and she saw him skid to a stop – then turn around, laughing.
She ran up, heard music playing from a boom box and then saw a teenager – fucking a blow-up sex doll – complete with blanket spread out on the ground and a six-pack of beer in a cooler.
The kid was oblivious, and when the sergeant pulled up they walked over and explained what was going on…
“No shit. Yet, anyway.”
They all walked up just as the kid was in the short strokes, grunting away like a pig then blasting away into PVC ecstasy, and the three of them burst out in applause…
The kid rolled over, going from pure white to crimson in moments.
“I give him a ten on form, but a three on the exit,” he said.
“And the East German judge gives him a five! Boo-hiss!” Desjardins said, and the kid was staring at her now, devastated.
The sergeant walked up to the kid slowly. “Do you have a permit for that sex doll, young man?”
“Do you have a permit for that sex doll? In order to use a sex doll in public, you have to have a permit.”
“Uh…n-no, I didn’t know…”
“Well, that’s a felony you’ve just committed. Did you use a rubber, at least?”
“A rubber? Did you take steps to insure you don’t get that doll pregnant?”
Desjardins turned and staggered back to the car, trying not to let the kid see her laugh.
“Look, the last thing we need is for a bunch of pregnant sex dolls to start showing up at Parkland. No permit. No rubber. What kind of irresponsible young man are you, anyway?”
“What? Dolls can’t get pregnant!”
“Can too. Why do you think the state requires a permit?”
The sergeant turned to him: “Get his ID, call it in.”
He walked close and the kid lunged at him, tried to grab his gun and the sergeant took out the kid’s arm with his nightstick, pulled him up and slammed him into the Mercury and cuffed him.
“2141, 27, 29 on subject.” He called in the kid’s information, and while they waited for the return he started talking to the kid. “Why’d yo do that?” he asked.
“I ain’t got no permit. I don’t want to go to no jail. I know what they do to kids like me in jail…”
“Oh? Been to jail before?”
“Been to joovey. Couple times.”
“Jackin’ off? Where?”
“House next door. I sneak in, jacked off on Mrs Zimmermann’s panties.”
“Still doin’ that?”
“Not as much as I used to.”
“Subject clear, negative 29, negative 27.”
“41, 28 on Paul George Ida – 283.”
The kid looked nervous now and he walked over to him, looked in his eyes. “Where’d you get the car, Ronnie?”
“2141, have returns.”
He motioned for Desjardins and took the kid by the belt and walked him over to the car. “This kid’s about to rabbit on us,” he said. “Lets get him in the back.”
“I ain’t gonna run…”
“I know you’re not.”
“It’s air conditioned. You look hot.”
Once he was strapped in he reached inside and turned off the radio, then went out and called dispatch. “2141, go ahead.”
“Vehicle reported stolen two days ago by registered owner, Zimmermann, Edna, 3001 Gladiolus, city.”
The sergeant walked up, shook his head. “What do you think his mental status is?”
“IQ about the same as a head of lettuce?” Desjardins said.
“Yeah. My thought too,” the sergeant said.
He looked at them, shook his head, “I think we need to get to that house, check it out.”
“Why?” the sergeant asked.
“My guess? The kid killed her, took some money, bought the doll and came out here.”
The sergeant nodded his head. “I’ll follow you.”
He got behind the wheel, turned on the radio. “2141, 10-95 one, code five to address on 28 for a 54.”
“2141 at 1643.”
“2110, I’ll be with 41.”
It wasn’t far. A few blocks, a few turns. A nondescript beige brick house, tan shingles, brown trim around the windows and doors – just like most of the other houses in the neighborhood. Front door locked, back doors too, but when he looked in a bedroom window he saw the woman on her bed, hands tied behind her back with pantyhose, her neck twisted at an unnatural angle, her body starting to bloat as it decomposed.
“2141, need the ME this location, and a truck with hazmat suits for a Signal 60 evac, possible signal 1. If someone from juvenile could come down, too?”
“41 at 1650.”
“2110, get two units over here for traffic control.”
He walked back to the car, got in the driver’s seat and pulled out his Miranda Card and read through the kid’s rights. “You understand what I just read you, Ronnie?”
“When did you kill her?”
“I didn’t kill her. I was just trying to scare her.”
“Did you stick your thing in her, Ronnie?”
He nodded his head. “Yeah. But I didn’t mean it to…it just kind of happened.”
“Did she know you took her car?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
Firetrucks rolled up a moment later and he left the kid with the sergeant.
“Better you than me,” the sergeant said, laughing.
He led Desjardins to the truck and they put on bright yellow hazardous materials suits, and she looked at him like he was nuts…
“Trust me,” he said, and when they were sealed-in the suits they walked up to the front door.
“No air conditioner going,” a fireman said.
“Hey, better you than me…”
The fireman put a huge pry bar up to the lock and pushed a little – and the door knob exploded, fell to the concrete porch and scattered – and he pushed the door open, walked in.
“This way,” he said to Desjardins. “Bedroom’s back here.” He walked up to the door, saw it was closed. “God damn,” he moaned.
“Look, I can’t do this to you.”
“What? What can’t you do?”
“I can’t let you open that door.”
“What? Why?” she said, reaching for the knob.
“Don’t do it, Deb. I mean it.”
She stopped. “What are you saying?”
“Look, every rookie gets one of these, but I just can’t do it to you.”
“When you open the door air pressure in the room changes. The skin ruptures…basically…the body explodes. It’s fuckin’ awful.”
“Did you do it? When you were a rookie?”
“Yeah, and they sent me in without a suit. Had to burn the uniform.”
“Then it’s my turn, isn’t it?”
“I don’t want you to.”
“Why? You protecting me?”
He turned away.
“I knew it. You do love me. Don’t you?”
He turned and looked at her. “I told you. I care for you.”
“No! Say it. Tell me that you love me.”
He shook his head. “Don’t do this to me, Deb.”
“Then shut the fuck up and teach me how to do my job.”
“Okay. Right. Look, that shit is going to fly everywhere, so the trick is to open the door and jump back…”
“But if I go back out there without that shit all over me, they’re going to know you warned me, right?”
He nodded his head. “Right.”
“So? You’d better stand back.”
“Nope. You’re not doing this alone.”
She turned and looked at him again.
“I wish you were a man.”
“Man enough to tell me the truth – how you feel about me.”
“Actions speak louder than words, Deb.”
He took her hand – and she reached out for the doorknob.
He was sitting at an exercise machine, working his shoulder back and forth, up and down – with two pounds of resistance – about all the joint could take today. His physical therapist was a real charmer too, he thought. Like a Marine Corps drill sergeant is charming.
“Come on. Don’t cheat…move that joint all the way up.”
He was sweating, cursing under his breath.
“You pussy! My Aunt Gladys can do better than that!”
“Does your Aunt Gladys have four fucking pounds of stainless steel in her fucking shoulder, you cunt!”
She laughed. “That’s the spirit! Come on, fight through the pain…that’s it, FIGHT!”
They worked ten more minutes, then she took his temp and BP and wrote them down on a chart, then she rolled him back to his room. A nurse came by and they helped him up into the bed, his left femur still not ready to take any weight.
“So,” she said, “you’re with the PD? A motorjock? What happened?”
“Working radar, truck went by, down there, on Harry Hines. Just robbed a store. They blew by and I had them on radar at close to 70, then the BOLO comes out. Anyway, some clown starts shooting at me…”
“I remember. You went through Snyder’s windshield, right?”
“Yup. That’s me.”
“Thirty six fractures. Man, you are going to be a human barometer.”
“So my wife tells me.”
“How long have you been in here?”
“Five weeks now.”
“That’s right,” the drill sergeant said, suddenly making a connection, “your wife’s a doc here too, right. Internal medicine?”
“Yup…and speak of the devil, here she is now!” His wife walked in – in green scrubs and a lab coat – and he looked at her. “Scrubs? What gives?”
“Your dad did one of my patients this morning, and he let me scrub in and watch.”
“Fun. Ready for another residency?”
She laughed. “Not quite. Oh, he and Deb are going to come down in about a half hour, she’s bringing in some Chinese.”
“Ah…awesome. I’ve been craving…”
“I know. I gave her the list.”
The drill sergeant stood, excused herself, but not before she told him she’d be by at ten tomorrow morning – for some more fun, she said, a little too sadistically.
“I can’t wait.”
She turned to him after the therapist left, tried to smile. “Your white counts are weird. Going to do a few more tests.”
“Another needle. Oh, joygasm.”
“Weird, huh. Is that one of those fancy new medical terms?”
She came and sat on the edge of the bed, ran her fingers through his hair, shook her head. “What am I going to do with you.”
“A blowjob would be nice?”
She laughed. “You’d say anything to get me to do that, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, I would.”
“Sorry. No can do.”
“Yeah, me too.”
She turned away, looked at his most recent vitals on the board. “Still running a fever?”
“All night. Look, if you have someplace you need to be, you don’t need to hang around.”
“No, no, I wanted to see Deb. It’s been a while, ya know?”
“Have you seen her since the wedding?”
“Once, I think, right after the accident.”
“How’s your – friend?”
“Are you staying over there now?”
She nodded her head. “Sometimes.”
“It’s funny, ya know. If I’d lost you to another guy – I think I could understand things better.”
She looked at him, a little too defiantly, he thought. Gloating, maybe? Like: what did you expect? Gone all the time, never home. Not one vacation in the last three years. But why –with a woman? Something else I missed along the way?
“Things happen, I guess,” she sighed.
Deb and his father came in a little before noon and they talked about life outside the hospital for a while, and Deb talked about all the usual BS going on the department, but he found himself looking at the ring on her finger more than once, and at how good she looked. Happy, he thought, and his father looked happier than he’d ever seen him. Ever. And that made him happy too. Then he looked at his wife and he felt like he’d lost something precious, even vital, while the world spun out of control.
And soon enough both his wife and father excused themselves, he to make rounds, she to see patients. Once they were gone he looked at Deb, and she couldn’t take her eyes off him.
“Your father told me about what’s going on,” she said, out of nowhere. “With Carol, is it?”
“You didn’t know?”
“Good. That means I wasn’t the last to find out.” She laughed, and he did too, a little. “How’s Dad doing? Treating you alright?”
“He’s an amazing man, took me flying last week.”
“Ah. Where to?”
“I guess he told you that part of the story?”
She nodded her head. “Sad.”
“You know, my mother knew. Everything, all along, when I was growing up. Never said a word.”
“I would have liked to have known her.”
“I suspect she does. I can’t imagine a little thing like death keeping her away from Dad.”
“He loves you, you know. The accident scared him to death. He cried for days, until you were out of that coma.”
“I can’t imagine what life would be like without him. You do love him, don’t you?”
“I do. More than you’ll ever know, but never as much as I’ll love you.”
“You know, when she came in, a while ago, she asked if she could do anything for me…and I said, sure, how about a blowjob? She just walked away, too. I guess it hit me then. She was never into things like that. Never once, in ten years, did she ever do anything like that. Said it was revolting.”
“Yup, she’s a lesbian alright.”
They laughed, for a long time.
“So, would you like it if I…?”
“Give you a blowjob?”
“Nope. I love you too much to put you through that kind of guilt.”
“And what if I love you too much to let you lay their suffering.”
“Look at me? I’m not going to push you away – because I can’t. But I will ask you not to, as nicely as I can. Again, because I love you, and I love my father. And I know this, Deb, too. If it’s meant to be, between us, it will be. I’m willing to wait, if you are.”
“You’re a Boy Scout, you know that? Too nice. To a fault.”
“So are you. A Girl Scout, I mean,” he said, giggling a little.
“What are you going to do?”
“What? Now? Get into PT, get my body back. Six months, that’s the word. Six months and back to unrestricted duty…”
“No, no more duty. No more department. Take a medical, retire, move on. It’s time, and you know it…”
“No, it’s not, and I know it.”
“It’s going to kill your father…if you go back. You have no idea how much he worries. Your becoming a cop was childish, infantile, a need to act out cops and robbers fantasies, a need for adoration…”
“Yes, adoration. Can’t you see that? All you’ve wanted, your whole life, is to fly. Your father told me…in the middle of your second year in med school you dropped out, you dropped out because you got a position flying. Who does that? And then, when that was taken from you, you start this whole cop bullshit? Why”
“I thought it would be fun?”
“Fun? Bullshit. Think about it? Up in the cockpit, everyone adoring you, all those stripes on your sleeve, walking through terminals. That gun and that badge, and wherever you walk, people…”
“If you say adoring me I’m gonna puke. It’s more like the exact opposite…”
“Sure. Tell that to that kid. What was his name? Jason? At the Biltmore shoot. That’s real adoration, in case you didn’t know it…”
He looked at her, shook his head. “How’d we get from blowjobs to taking me down a notch?”
She rushed to the bed, took his hand and kissed it. “Oh, my love, I’m not taking you down. I want you to do what you were always meant to do. Can’t you see that? I’m trying to protect you, and your father, from all this childishness.”
“Policing isn’t childishness…”
She sighed. “No, it isn’t, but your doing the job is like living out a child’s fantasies. Your father told me with your grades, your MCAT scores, going back to med school was still a possibility, but even if you couldn’t, there are so many other things you could’ve done. Why go out there and put your life on the line – everyday? Why do it? What were you trying to prove?”
“Deb, you know as well as anyone it’s a war out there. A war that’s been raging since the beginning of time. Good and evil, right and wrong. If everyone turns away from their responsibilities, to insure we aren’t overrun by evil, well, then evil wins. I’m just doing my part. Giving back. I feel that, in my bones, Deborah, and that’s the God’s honest truth of it.”
She looked at him, blinked her eyes then nodded her head a little.
“Okay. I can buy that. But even so, you’ve given enough. Done enough. It’s time to move on. You’ve been walking the razor’s edge for years. You need to move on. Too many people…need you.”
There came a gentle knock on the door, and she walked over, opened it a little. She saw an older man, little Ben Franklin glasses perched low on his sunburned nose, and a young woman standing behind him in the corridor, but the man looked over Deborah’s shoulders into the room.
“Hey? Rookie? What the fuck are you doing in bed? Time to get up and get dressed…we got work to do!”
“Eddie?” he whispered, his voice full of wonder. “Ed Fuckin’ MacCarley! Oh my fuckin’ God! Eddie! What are you doing here?”
He had his favorite spots. Like fishing holes, he’d thought once. Places where he liked to sit up and, with radar gun in hand, watch traffic, waiting for ‘the big one.’ The 60 in a 30. The 45 in a school zone. The really egregious ones.
It was called ‘stroking.’ As in, ‘yeah, I got a good one out there today, stroked him for 75 in a 55.’ Or: she got a double stroke – meaning two tickets, or the dreaded ‘triple stroke’: three tickets, three strokes for the truly big assholes. The more a ‘scrote bitched and moaned, the more strokes he got – simple as that. Nice people usually got away with one, or even a warning.
He sat up in the shade of an old pecan tree and pulled out the radar gun from the Harley’s saddlebag and went through the calibration procedure again, the bike balanced between his legs, a light breeze blowing on this sunny Spring afternoon. ‘God, what a glorious day!’ he said to himself – and he closed his eyes, felt the wind sifting across his arms, his face.
He was on a two lane road that approached a school playground, set up where the speed limit dropped from 45 to 30, and he looked down the road, saw a little red car headed in at close to 70; he watched as the car passed the 30MPH sign and pulled the trigger.
“72,” he grinned – and the little car’s brakes locked up, the driver looking at him as she skidded past. He put on his strobes and pulled out behind her, but she was already pulling off the road into a faculty parking lot at the school. He pulled in behind her and killed the strobes, then checked out on traffic with dispatch and dismounted, approached the car.
He saw blond hair, long, wavy blond hair – and black skin. As he got closer, long legs and purple fishnet stockings, a gold lamé dress – and the shoes, too. Big hands, and aircraft carrier sized shoes.
“Yes, good afternoon…” he began, scanning the car for weapons.
“Well, it was. It sho ain’t now,” the woman said, lightly laughing.
“Yes, well, you were observed doing 72 in a 30, and I’ll need to see you license and proof of financial responsibility.” He watched her closely now…hand on his Sig.
She opened her purse, pulled out a license and an insurance card and handed them to him.
He looked at the license and did a double take. “Uh, it says your name is Harlan T Polk. Is this your license – that your name?”
“Yes it is,” he said, his voice now a deep baritone. “Any problem with that, officer?”
He bit his cheeks, tried not to laugh as he walked back to the Harley. “Uh, 2141, need 27,28, 29 on…” he said as he called out the driver’s and vehicle information, then he added. “I’m out on a female, black, in a gold lamé dress in heels.”
When dispatch read out Polk’s information the radio erupted in squelch pops, a sure sign that everyone knew what was going down, and sure enough, by the time he finished writing up Polk’s ticket two patrol cars drove by, the officer’s hooting as they passed.
He walked back to the car and handed over the ticket book. “Press hard, you’re making three copies,” he repeated as he did for all his paying customers, then he took the ticket book back and tore out Polk’s copy and gave it to him. “By the way,” he continued, “I’ve heard that talking in a falsetto like that really damages your vocal cords, and there’s an increased risk of cancers in the throat associated with that.”
Polk looked up at him like he had just stepped out of the mothership and said “Take me to your leader.” “You for real?”
“Yessir. I read that in an Otolaryngology Journal a few months ago.”
“There are speech coaches that can help you with this, over at Parkland.”
“Where were you going, I mean, why so fast?”
“I’m late…for one of my customers, if you know what I mean…”
“Ah…well, you have a good afternoon, Ma’am, and please try to drive more safely.”
Polk shook his head, rolled up his window and drove off – slowly – and he walked back to the Harley shaking his head, too.
A patrol car pulled up, windows rolled down.
“Was she cute, at least?” the FTO in the passenger seat asked.
“Not my type,” he said. “Hands too big, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh, you like them trannies with teeny peckers?”
“Yeah, man,” he said, grinning, and everyone laughed.
“You get many of those?” the rook behind the wheel asked.
“No, not many. A couple, I think, in the last year.”
“How did you keep from shooting it?” the rookie said next, and he looked at the boy’s FTO. The old man scowled, rolled up his window and they drove off while he mounted the bike and started the engine. He cleared from traffic, stowed his ticket book and the radar, then rode off for another fishin’ hole.
Another good one, too. An alleyway, heavily shaded, another speed transition zone. He was about to open his saddlebag when he saw a car headed his way…weaving across two lanes of traffic…and he saw two black men in the front seat. As their car passed he saw one man with a glass pipe in his mouth, then a sudden fiery flare-up coming from the pipe.
Free-basing? While driving? He called into dispatch: “2141, signal 61 on traffic, southbound Clark at Big Stone, two male blacks – and get a unit headed this way.”
He pulled in behind the black Camaro and it was obvious the driver had no idea who was behind him, let alone why. There was a small strip shopping center ahead and he flipped on his strobes, and – still no reaction.
Just another fireball, this time from the driver’s seat.
He saw a patrol car ahead, in the shopping center – but they apparently didn’t – and he flipped on his siren, finally causing an – immediate – reaction. Paraphernalia started flying out the window, most into the hands of the officer standing by his patrol car’s door, then the driver decided it was time to try and flee. His speed leapt from an annoying 20 to, perhaps, 35, but the kid obviously couldn’t see well, at least well enough to see the lane markers – or the sharp curve in the road ahead.
The Camaro left the road at 43 miles an hour and nosed into a very deep drainage ditch. And both were not wearing seat belts, as it happened. He checked out on traffic, called for an ambulance as three patrol cars screeched to a stop behind his Harley. Five officers, three with shotguns, emerged – and advanced in a line on the steaming Camaro. Guns aimed, spreading out as they approached – he joined the advance, the crawled down into the ditch, then down to the passenger’s door – and he looked in.
“Y’all might as well start traffic control,” he said to men above,“because these kids are about 90% dead.”
“Well, shit,” one of them, the rookie from earlier that afternoon, said, “thought we was gonna get to shoot us some coons.”
He looked at the FTO again, then walked over to him. “You need to get this kid off the street, now. He has no business being out here, and you know it.”
The man nodded his head. “I know, but my hands are tied on this one.”
“Yeah? Well, y’all just go on. Really. Get him away from me.”
They left, the rookie still driving, and he walked back to the Camaro, got down to the bottom of the muddy ditch and felt for a pulse on the driver’s neck, but the neck flopped over, obviously broken when it impacted the steering wheel, so he crawled around to the passenger’s door and reached in. Firm, steady pulse, barely conscious…
“Hey, amigo, can you hear me?”
“What…what happened, man?”
“You’ve been in an accident. Try and hold still, we’ll get you out of here in a second, okay?”
“Yeah…like where am I?”
“Don’t worry about that now, just try to hold still…the firemen are here now…so just hang on…” he made way for firemen and paramedics as they jumped down into the muddy ditch and he crawled up the steep bank – just as another patrol car drove up.
He smiled. Dickinson, The Duke, another kid he’d trained two years ago.
“Hey,” he said as he walked over to Dickinson’s patrol car, “they finally took the training wheels off your car, huh?”
“Yeah, solo – three months. What is this shit, anyway?”
“Total clusterfuck,” he said, running down the sequence of events.
“Well,” Dickinson said, holding up an evidence bag full of paraphernalia and baggies full of white powder, “lookie what I found?”
“Holy shit…what say we go pull this car apart and see what else we find…?”
Betty Sue Rollins walked out to her ‘63 Rambler Cross Country station wagon – with two buckets full of the Colonel’s Secret Recipe fried chicken in a big paper sack – and she put the chicken behind her seat and got in her old car, started the motor and drove through the parking lot for the exit…
Mark Tyler was stopped at the red light on his brand now Honda VF1000F “Interceptor”, revving the engine with sharp, sudden twists of the wrist, and when the light turned green he hammered the throttle and dropped the clutch –and the Interceptor popped into a ‘wheelie’ for a second, then rocketed away from the intersection. He looked down, for a split second, and saw he was passing a hundred – when something caught his eye…
A beige station wagon, pulling into the road just ahead –
Before his mind had a chance to register the event, before his hands and feet could react and engage the Honda’s brakes, the motorcycle penetrated the driver’s door – at what would eventually be measured between 127 and 129 miles per hour.
The motorcycle penetrated the drivers door and metal was fused to metal in the instantaneous friction of the collision. The motorcycle’s engine and chassis collided with Betty Sue Rollins, vaporizing her torso and arms, literally, leaving her dancer’s legs intact – severed from mid-femur down.
The Rambler slid a few inches to it’s right, but the overwhelming force lifted the left side up and the car began to flip, sideways, through the air. Tyler’s abdomen and legs were fusing to metal at this point, his chest and head arcing down into the car’s roof, the force great enough for his face to break through the thin metal roof, flesh fusing to metal again, in the process. When the overturning motion was complete the Rambler slid on it’s roof another forty three feet, grinding Tyler’s head and chest into the concrete roadway well before the car stopped sliding.
Witnesses and onlookers ran up to the Rambler and stopped dead in their tracks; most turned away in horror, a few dropped to their knees and vomited. The first patrolmen on the scene blocked off the scene, called for more units – and an accident investigator.
It was Sunday, and his day off when the pager started beeping. He was sitting with his father and Deb by the pool, but he was on-call and in uniform, his Harley was in the driveway out front. He went inside and called dispatch, wrote down the particulars and turned, saw his father standing there – his old man’s hopes dashed once again.
“You have to leave, I take it?” his father asked.
“I suppose you’re getting back at me. For all the times I left, when you were growing up?”
He walked over to his father, hugged him. “Look, I’m happy for you, for you both. Have you set a date yet?”
“Christmas Eve. I’m hoping you’ll be able to drop by,” his old man added, more than a little sarcastically.
He laughed, a little, then leaned over and kissed Deb on the cheek. “Gee. Bye – Mom…”
Everyone laughed at that, and he walked out to the Harley and got on, checked in service – and his father jogged over, put his hands on his son’s shoulder. “I’m proud of you, son,” his father said, and he choked-up a little.
“You know? That’s the first time you’ve ever said something like that to me?”
“I know. I know, and I’m sorry.”
They looked at one another and he slipped the transmission into first and let go of the moment, flipped on his strobes and siren, riding through Sunday afternoon traffic out Preston to Royal Lane. The scene secured, he made his measurements, took his photographs, then called in, asked for a department photographer to bring some High Speed Infrared and a Wratten 25A filter. He talked to witnesses, dozens, as it turned out, and every recounted version was uniformly the same: high speed acceleration for a few hundred yards, perhaps two seconds, then a shattering impact.
Another one for lawyers, he sighed. Cumulative negligence. The driver of the Rambler: failing to yield right of way; the rider: speeding, obviously, but reckless conduct as well. Insurance companies and their lawyers would struggle to apportion blame, divvy up all the various liabilities, but he looked at the senselessness of the scene, again, and wondered what it would take to stop the carnage?
The boy? Seventeen years old. His motorcycle endorsement not even a month old. The bike: three hours off the showroom floor, a father’s last words to his son – “be careful out there.” Rollin’s son called to the scene, his breakdown, then murderous rage. News crew walking the scene, their camera man walking behind the reporter, imaging the carnage, interviewing the boy’s father, the mother’s son. All the tears, all the anger, and it would all be forgotten by tomorrow morning, and by next weekend he would be at another scene almost exactly like this one. More father’s burying sons, more grandmothers and aunts and uncles would be driven to the basement at Parkland for autopsies in an endless parade of gasoline fueled misery.
“Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends…”
He couldn’t, of course, rely on witness statements to establish the motorcycle’s velocity – not speed, mind you, but velocity. He would have to derive that using simple physics, and he had to make sure he had all the vectors to make that work. All the approach angles, all the departure vectors, the coefficients of friction: for the roadway, for the car’s roof – and he’d have to establish a baseline acceleration vector, too, but he’d have to wait, do that tomorrow – with a real Honda. A new one.
Once Rollins’ body was removed he had a department’s wrecker hook up to the Rambler, tow it up to 30 miles an hour, then cut it free, slide to a stop, with Tyler’s body still fused to the metal, and he measured the distance it took the car to stop and wrote that down. He took a patrol car and did the same thing, measuring the braking distance to determine a baseline coefficient of friction for the concrete. He measured the roadway. He observed the traffic lights, for time and operation. He marked witness locations.
This preliminary part of his investigation took five hours, then he rode downtown to Central, to his office in the Traffic annex, and he fixed coffee then laid out all his notes on the huge drafting table. There were no computers to help him with the math, no drawing programs or pre-packaged Accident Investigation programs to do the work for him; in fact, the courts insisted that all the math be done in pencil on paper, so that each step could be checked for error.
With his notes on the table he drafted the scene, in pencil, right down to the correct radius for each corner, all the medians too, then the exact placement of traffic signals and drain openings, the locations of man hole covers and every surface irregularity he’d noted on the pavement – right down to large cracks in the concrete.
Two hours later he began placing vehicles and witnesses on the drawing, down to the inch, noting where they were located at the time of impact. He penciled in the approach angles, then the departure angles, and with that established he began to construct the vector diagram he would use in his ‘conservation of linear momentum’ calculations.
Using an H-P 41 calculator he ran through the math, arrived at a speed of 129, then he filled out the State accident form, reducing the accident to a series of simple written explanations. With that complete he started in on the much more detailed, infinitely more complex departmental forms, and all his notes and drawings were folded up and put in a large manilla envelope, attached to this report, then put in the L-Ts in-box. Fifteen hours after he sat down at his drafting table, twenty one hours after he took the call, he left the station and rode home – just as the sun started to peek above the horizon.
She was gone by then, of course. An angry note on the corkboard by the refrigerator signaling her cold fury, her growing contempt for his lingering absences. He groaned, walked to the little bedroom he was sleeping in now, and he fell into sleep – as images of crashing motorcycles pushed their way into his dreams.
Her belongings were boxed up, waiting for movers to come and pick them up, and he walked around the house looking at a world without her in it. Only his pictures on the walls – her’s all packed. His stuff in the kitchen – but nothing she’d bought over the years. He walked out back, looked at the swimming pool, looked at memories of parties they’d had out there over the last two years, when his father had come out for dinner with Carol.
That’s the night they met, wasn’t it?
She was a scrub nurse, and he’d asked her to come with him that night. That was when all this started, the long slide to “goodbye and good luck.”
He walked further out into the yard, looked over the fairway. His father had bought five lots out here at Preston Trail, and had built five very large, very fancy “spec” houses on Club Oak Drive. Then he’d simply leased one to him, and to him alone. Her name wasn’t on one piece of paper.
“Why not, Dad?”
“Because I don’t trust her, son. I never have. There’s something different in her eyes, something I don’t recognize, and I don’t trust it.”
Yeah, he whispered to the trees, he always was better at people.
“Right again,” he sighed, “one more time.”
He looked up, saw a Baron on base, in the pattern for Addison, and he squinted into the sun, tried to make out the color – but no go. He turned away, looked at his watch and nodded his head. That was probably them, coming back from New Orleans after the long weekend. Said they were going to drop by on the way home, too, so he went inside and stripped off his uniform, jumped in the shower and washed the day away. He dried off and put on some shorts and a polo shirt, then walked out to the mail box and picked the letters out, looking over three days of mail. He flipped through, found one envelope from TWA, another from American – and he looked at them both for a long time, his hands shaking a little, then he went inside, put them on the entry table – still unopened – and walked to the kitchen, poured himself an orange juice.
Nine years. Nine years – and that’s it? Just turn and walk away? Like it all never happened?
He laughed long and hard, wondering what life was really all about – while he wiped sudden tears from his eyes. 384 fatality accidents. Three shootings. Too many felony arrests to count. Shot twice. Two motorcycle accidents resulting in forty-plus fractures. Fifteen fellow officers trained – including Deb – his new ‘mother.’ Too many funerals attended. Too many friends gone. Lost. Some shot, some run down out there on the streets.
He thought of MacCarley, still out there on Awaken. In France, with Sarah, on the canals. “Living the dream,” Eddie said. He’d found the dividing line, found his way out of the blue. Not a bad way to go, he thought.
He heard a car pull into the circular drive out front, saw his father’s Jaguar stop on the far side of the glass door, and he watched his old man go around and get Deb’s door. She was his pygmalion, he thought, his diamond in the rough. The country girl with the pure heart he’d been smart enough to recognize, and now she was his elegant wife, beyond gorgeous – yet still working for the department, though behind a desk now. Assigned to ‘Crime Prevention’ – working schools, talking to classrooms full of kids again, teaching them about the world ‘out there.’
He watched her as they walked in, so beautiful it made his heart hurt – literally hurt. Anything money could buy, hers now. And he couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.
He let them in and led them past mounds of stacked boxes to the living room, but his father darted to the guest bath and they heard him let go – the loud “Ahhhhhh” audible, he felt sure, all the way to Oklahoma. Washing hands, then the loud fart – just for good measure – and he bounded back into the room, grinning.
“Good one, Dad.”
“What? Good what?”
“About a seven point four on the Richter Scale.”
“Y’all head that one?”
“They heard it in St Louis, Dad.”
“Bosh!” his old man said as he walked to the kitchen. “Deb? Anything?” he called out.
“Ice water! Gallons of ice water!”
“How was Brennan’s?” he asked.
“Heaven, as always. John and Claire send their best.”
He nodded. “I like them. Good people.”
“You had a thing for their daughter, didn’t you?”
“In junior high, yes. When I was twelve, I think.”
“She remembers you. Divorced recently. She wanted me to make sure I told you that, for some odd reason.”
“She was always a cute.”
“She’s not cute anymore. She’s what I would call drop dead gorgeous.”
His father was walking back from the kitchen – but he stopped at the entry table. “What’s this?” he said, picking up the envelopes. “Not even opened yet? Deb? Here, please!”
She scrambled over, took the envelopes and carried them into the living room while he brought their drinks in.
“Not even opened? What the hell is wrong with this picture?”
“Just brought ‘em in, Dad, when you guys pulled in.”
“Uh-huh. You gonna open them, or shall I?”
“No, you go ahead.”
Father looked at son, shook his head just so – to indicate mortal disgust – then he ripped open the one from American and shook his head, frowned. “No go,” he said – tossing the envelope aside – then he opened the one from TWA. “Report first May, Kansas City, for First Officer training on L-1011s,” he said, and he stood, came over and pulled his son up into his arms, hugged him for what felt like hours. “Well, I guess that interview went better than expected!”
His old man stepped back, concern in his eyes. “You’re going to take it, aren’t you?”
“It’ll mean moving, Dad. Maybe LA, probably Boston. I’m not sure I want to do that. Be away from you two.”
“Take Boston. I’ve been wanted to buy some property up there, maybe retire on Nantucket, get a big fucking sailboat.”
“Well then, Boston it is,” he said glumly.
“So? You’re gonna take it?”
“Yeah, you know, I’m gonna think about it. How long do they give me to confirm?”
His old man read through the letter again, looked up. “Next Friday; a phone call will do.” He looked at his son, saw indecision in his eyes and frowned, then he looked at his wife, saw the tears in her eyes and grumbled. “I think you need a swift kick in the ass, but in as much as I can’t kick worth shit these days, why don’t you let me take the two of you out to dinner. Maybe a swift kick of bourbon will do the trick?”
“Is Edelweiss open on Sunday?” Deb asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “At five.”
“Could we go there tonight?” she asked. “Does that sound good?”
He looked away as the phone rang, and he went to the study and picked up the handset. “Hello?”
“I don’t feel good.”
“About all this. About – everything.”
“What’s on your mind?”
“You. You’re on my mind. I can’t get you out of my mind. Not all week long.”
“This is all wrong. This wasn’t supposed to happen to us.”
“No, it wasn’t,” he said, and he felt his eyes filling with tears. “No, it sure wasn’t.”
“I’ve been talking with Carol all afternoon. About my feelings for you, for us. She says she can’t be the one to come between us.”
“Well, God bless Carol.”
“Look, don’t be trite…”
“I’m not, I mean it. God bless her. You tell her I just fell in love with her, too.”
He heard their laughter.
“Don’t tell me…she heard that?”
“Hey, Carol! I love you!”
“I was wondering. Could I come over? We need to talk.”
“Uh, yeah, sure. Dad and Deb are here, we’re going to run down to Edelweiss. You wanna join us, or come by later?”
“We’re close. Could we just drop by now? Say about ten minutes?”
“You live here. You don’t have to ask for permission to come home.”
Her’s was a long pause. “You’re right. And thanks for understanding. We’ll be there in a few.”
“Yeah.” He hung up the phone and went into the living room…
“Did I hear that correctly?” his old man asked. “Second thoughts about all this nonsense?”
“She wants to talk. Coming over now, or so she says. About ten out.”
“Well, hell, we better get this road on the show…”
“Nonsense. I told her you both are here, and that we’re going out to dinner. Asked them to join us, as a matter of fact.”
His father looked at Deb and grinned. “Always spending my money for me.”
“Like father, like son,” she said to him, grinning.
And he kissed his wife…hard.
“Y’all go get a room, wouldya?”
He heard a siren in the distance, saw a dirt bike running up the fairway out back, chewing up the grass – and they all went over and watched as an Addison PD patrol car chased the bike up the fairway.
“Shit, not again…” he said.
“Is that the same kid as last summer?”
“Yeah, the Andrews kid.”
“Thought they caught him?”
“His father’s a big deal with one of the oil companies downtown, a lawyer, I think. Got him off with a slap on the wrist, paid for all the damages.”
“Live around here?”
“Yeah, just up the street.”
“Well, come on, Doll. Let’s give these two have some privacy. You finish up early just give us a ring, we’ll meet you at the restaurant. We’ll shoot for five, maybe a little after. That okay with you?”
“Yeah, sure, but you ought to stay…”
“Bosh…” he said, standing. “You two have some serious talking ahead of you. Don’t need me looking over your shoulders…” He reached out and Deb took his hand. “Come on, darlin’, let’s hit the road.”
He walked out with them, heard the siren and the revving engine a few blocks away, and he helped Deb in her seat while his father opened his door – but he stood there, waiting – and he walked around, took his old man’s hand.
“A year ago and I wasn’t even sure I’d see you walk again, and now this. TWA. I’m so proud of you I could bust.”
“And I’m married to the sweetest gal that ever lived…thanks to you.”
“She told me, a long time ago, how you two feel about one another.”
They looked at one another for a time, and he nodded.
“Anyway. I thought my life was just about over, only now I find it’s simply beginning again. The next chapter. And you got me there, son.”
They heard it then, getting closer. The siren, the Andrews boy on the dirt bike, then he saw her car, a bronze BMW 325 convertible, coming up the street. They turned, saw the dirt bike roaring down the street, the Addison police car a hundred yards behind – and everything went into slow-motion…
His wife, turning into the drive, her eyes looking at him, then at the dirt bike.
The kid, paying attention to the cop behind, not the road ahead.
The last minute reaction, then the bike slamming into her door. The BMW lifting, rolling – and his eyes are locked on hers.
Then she’s gone and only a haze remains. He’s on his knees, sliding into the ruins trying to get to her, and he sees his father and Deb pulling Carol out of the gasoline soaked wreckage, people running from houses standing and staring, women crying, children peeking out from behind skirts, mother’s shepherding their kids inside.
He has her hand, can feel her trying to squeeze his hand. Her face is intact, but her chest is torn apart and she’s bleeding out – her blood falling down on him as he looked up at her.
“Love you,” she whispers, and he pushes up through the twisted metal, kisses her – then people have his feet, his ankles, and they are pulling him away from her, away from the sudden fire that is engulfing the wreckage. He stands and watches for a moment, then dives for the pavement, for a way back into Hell – but strong hands have him again, pull him from the brink.
His father. He’s beside him, holding him, crying with him. And Deb. She has him now and he looks at her, not knowing where love is anymore. Where one love ends and another begins. Where life stops for a moment, and changes, moves to a different beat – like a broken heart, he imagines.
And his father fixes broken hearts, doesn’t he?
He breaks away, walks down the street – then turns and looks up at the sky. He shakes his fist at God and screams “You mother fucker! You Goddamn mother fucker!” – then he falls to his knees, crying.
He’s at Central two weeks later, cleaning out his locker, going over memories of the last nine years. The walls in this room so familiar, even the smell of the place. Almost like home, yet anything but. He has boxes filled with ticket books, hundreds of them, each ticket a memory – some good, some bad. Folders full of incident reports, reports he wanted to keep for one reason or another. Hundreds of photographs, most from wrecks, a few of fallen friends, all neatly labeled and catalogued in the boxes now, ready to go home with him. Letters of Commendation, diplomas, training certificates, all filed away, meaningless now to anyone but him. He carries a couple of boxes out to his car, then goes in to get the last one when he sees her, standing outside the locker room, waiting for him.
“I guess you thought you could just slip away,” she said, “like a thief in the night.”
“Worth a try, I guess.”
“No,” she said, shaking her head, “it wasn’t.”
“One more to get,” he said as he walked past her. He came out a minute later and walked past her again, kept on going through the station, out to his car. He put the box in the trunk and turned, looked at her. “What’s up?” he asked.
“When are you leaving?”
“Why won’t you answer your father’s calls?”
“I’m not ready for that yet.”
“And you’re ready to fly?”
“Presto, ladies and gentlemen, and the Wall–Comes–UP! Just like that, huh?”
“Just like that.”
“And what happens when the wall breaks?”
She looked into his eyes, searching for something, anything to hold onto – and not finding it. “Yeah. Who knows, maybe it won’t. So, this is it?”
He nodded his head, looked away and she watched him for a while, then took his hand.
He responded to her touch, closed his eyes and saw her in the wreckage, the fear in her eyes, the words forming on her lips.
“What are thinking?” he heard her ask.
He turned, looked her in the eye. “Life is but a dream.”
“Yeah, row, row, row your boat. But what about me? What about us? Were we a dream, you and I?”
He leaned over, kissed her on the forehead, then looked around and sighed. “I’m gonna miss this place, you know? I’m going to miss every mother-fuckin’ moment of this place.” He opened his door and got in, started the motor and backed out of his parking space, then he rolled the window down and looked up at her.
“I’ll see you around the campfire, darlin’ – ” and he looked at her once again, then slipped away into midday traffic and was gone.
She watched for a while, for an hour or so, then she smiled.
“Yes, you will,” she said, as she walked back into the station.
© 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com