Charlie went around the side of the bridge and started down the incline towards the dry creek bed.
“Slow down, Charlie,” said Margaret in his head, “or you’ll fall.”
Charlie slowed down just in time to keep from slipping on the steep incline.
“And be quiet, Charlie,” said Margaret. “Be quiet as a mouse.”
Charlie moved slow, and was quiet as he crept forward.
Level with the creek bed now, he heard a woman sobbing underneath the bridge, and also heard a man’s voice say, “Shut up.”
Charlie’s heart was pounding. He took a deep breath and moved forward, holding his nine-iron high. Peering into the darkness, he was able to make out a moving figure. He let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Then he made out two people: a woman lying on the ground with a man moving on top of her.
“Now,” said Margaret.
Charlie took another deep breath and stepping forward swung the nine-iron straight into the right side of the man’s head, knocking him sideways off the woman.
The man grunted in pain and rolled out from under the bridge into the light where Charlie could see him clearer. To Charlie's surprise, he saw that the man was a cop and his pants were down.
The cop was not moving. He’s out, thought Charlie, and turning to the woman bent down to help her up.
“Look out!” said a young male voice from the other side of the bridge.
Charlie whirled around and saw the cop aiming his gun. Charlie swung the nine-iron into the cop’s hand, knocking the gun away.
The cop started crawling towards the gun. Charlie swung again, this time striking the cop’s head, and swung it again and again until there was the sound of something hard suddenly going soft and the cop was still.
“Holy fuck!” shouted the young man. “You killed him!”
“Oh my god,” said Charlie, gasping for breath. “I killed a cop.”
“Don’t worry,” said the young man, “I got it all on video.”
The young man was Mystik and he was holding a camera.
“Night vision lens,” he said proudly. “All I need is an Internet connection and this goes viral.”
Charlie was still staring at the body. “Oh my god …”
“Get these handcuffs off me!” shouted the young woman.
Mystik bent down over the cop’s body and found the key to the handcuffs. Then he freed Heather …
* * *
Mystik had been flying down Hammond Street on his skateboard when he came upon the scene: a patrol car by the side of the road, lights flashing, and a citizen’s car in front of it, both empty and no one around, and a woman screaming underneath the bridge.
Mystik hopped off his skateboard into the tall weeds and listened. He heard a man’s voice say “Shut up.”
Then he heard a car door slam on the other side of the bridge. Peering over the weeds, he saw an elderly man with a golf club marching towards the bridge.
Then Mystik heard a voice in his head—it was Roach, saying, “Do it, buddy.”
Mystik opened his backpack, and grabbing his new night-vision lens snapped it onto his camera and sliding down the dirt incline towards the creek bed began recording the cop raping the woman and also recorded the elderly man beating the cop on the head …
* * *
“Oh my god,” Charlie said again.
“Goddamn you were good,” said Mystik. “You killed him!”
Heather fell into Charlie’s arms, sobbing. Charlie put his arms around her, but could not keep his eyes off the lifeless body on the ground.
“We gotta’ get out of here, man,” said Mystik. “I need an Internet connection. Now.”
“I’ve got one,” said Charlie.
The three hurried up to Charlie’s car and Charlie started driving home. On the way, they passed Heather’s apartment complex. Heather saw Jim pacing around on the street; he was anxious, waiting for her to come home.
“Stop!” she shouted. Charlie stopped.
Heather rolled down the window. “Jim!” she cried.
Her face was so bloody and bruised Jim did not recognize her at first. When he did, he ran forward. “What happened?”
“I’m okay,” she said. “These men helped me.”
“Get in!” yelled Mystik.
Jim got in the car and held Heather in his arms.
“I know you two,” said Charlie as he sped away. “You’re the ones who were at the AA meeting …”
* * *
It was the next night, Christmas Eve.
Charlie thought, God this heartburn is killing me.
He took his antacid, but it did not help. In fact, he felt worse. The pain spread to his stomach and he had trouble breathing, causing him to panic.
I’m having an anxiety attack, he thought. I should lie down.
He had some Temazepam but couldn’t find it. Never mind, he thought. It never worked. Just lay down and breathe. It always worked before.
He lay down, and breathed, and in a little while fell asleep.
And woke up some hours later, feeling better … and heard music coming from the living room. Christmas music. It was that old LP Margaret always played this time of year, Pete Fountain playing Christmas music Dixieland style.
And there was a wonderful smell wafting from the kitchen. He recognized it right away: Margaret baking her usual Christmas specialties.
Charlie threw off the covers and got up. He went into the kitchen and walked up behind Margaret and put his arms around her, and she turned around and kissed him and told him to sit down.
He did as she said, then she went on with her baking, and asked him, “Charlie, how did it go? Did you reunite the young couple?”
“Yes, I did,” he said, laughing, “and it was wonderful. They love each other so much. And they miss their boy and want so bad to be sober.”
“Did you give them the money?”
“I did. It was hard, but I did.”
“All of it?”
“I gave them every last bit of it, Margaret.”
“And what about Mystik and his video?”
Charlie laughed out loud. “The video went viral just like he said it would. Which is why I’m so tired. The news stations have been interviewing me all day. It’s worn me out.”
She went on working and Charlie’s heart soared watching her. He said, “That young Mystik is great. He reminds me of me, before I went to ‘Nam.”
Margaret turned. “Charlie, I have something to show you.”
She led him to the back door and onto the patio and pointed into the sky. Charlie looked up and saw a beautiful circle of light. Margaret held him and they kissed and watched the light together as it expanded and encompassed them.
They giggled like teenagers as they were carried into the sky.
* * *
Not far away, Mystik, Jag, and Zoop were sitting on the top of a parking garage, smoking a joint, and they saw the light too.
“Whoa man,” said Jag, pointing.
Zoop said, “That’s fucking awesome.”
Mystik was silent a long time watching the light grow. Then he said, “It’s Heaven, that's what it is, and it's Roach saying goodbye …”
* * *
Heather and Jim were sitting on the patio, holding each other, and they saw the light. And Heather said, “Oh no Jim, it’s coming from Charlie’s house.”
* * *
Preacher Bob, Tuffy, and six other homeless men were drinking beer and singing Christmas carols under the stars, and they saw the light.
When the light suddenly disappeared, Tuffy said, “What the hell was that, Preacher Bob? Some kind of fireworks?”
“I don’t know what it was,” said Preacher Bob, “but it was prettiest blasted thing I ever saw—”
Then he took a swallow of beer and led the men in the rest of the song …
"Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name."