Sunday, November 10, 2013


Jim, Preacher Bob, and Tuffy stood on a street corner. Jim was saying goodbye.

“You guys saved my life last night,” he said. “I’ll never forget that.”

“It wasn’t us,” said Preacher Bob. “It was God put us there. You may have given up on yourself, but God didn’t give up on you. So don’t thank us. Thank God.”

“Well, thank you all the same,” said Jim, sticking out his hand for a handshake.

Preacher Bob looked at his hand. “Aw, we can do better than that,” he said, and hugged Jim. Then Tuffy hugged Jim, and the three stood there looking at each other.

Jim said, “Well, here I go. So long, guys.”

He started walking home. It took longer than he thought it would. The night before, in his wild state of mind, he had not noticed how far he went. But now, walking back in the daylight, it seemed to take forever. He wanted to take a city bus, but did not have money for the fare, having left his wallet when he ran out the door. There was nothing to do but walk. And walk.

He arrived at the apartment complex after dark. He had also left his keys at home, so couldn’t let himself in. He had to knock. No answer.

She’s not here, he thought. Which did not surprise him. She was probably at work.

It was too late to get a key from the office—it was closed—so all he could do was wait. He took a seat on the steps.

* * *

Just after midnight, Heather left the Pink Pussy Kat and started driving home. She did not notice the police car that pulled out of the parking lot behind her.

Officer Reynolds hoped she would take her usual route home. Usually she turned on Hammond Street—a street that saw little traffic at this hour. That was the best place for what he had in mind.

He also hoped the timing would be right. On a previous night, he had had to call it off when he received a call on his radio to respond to a car accident. Tonight, he hoped, would be the night.

He stayed behind her all the way up Industrial Boulevard, but kept well back so she would not notice him. Then, at a red light—the intersection of Industrial and Carson Road—he pulled up behind her.

She did not see him. She was thinking about Jim—worrying about him. Where did he go? Why did he stay out all night and most of the day? Would he come back? He had left his wallet and keys. Surely he would come back for his wallet at least. But if he came home while she was gone, he wouldn’t be able to let himself in without keys. Unless he got a key from the office. She hoped he did that, and prayed she would open the door and find him there, home again.

The light changed. She turned left onto Carson. As she did, she glanced in the rear view mirror and noticed the cop car turning behind her. She never liked to see a cop car following her. Not that she had reason to think he would pull her over—she had been driving the speed limit—but still, she didn’t like it. Better safe than sorry, she thought. She reached in her purse and felt for the tiny brown vial of meth. Then she hit the button to roll down the passenger window. She hoped she wouldn't have to, but she was ready to toss the vial, just in case.

He kept following her, but at a distance. She wasn't nervous, but she kept an eye on him. Her next turn—Hammond—was coming up. Hammond was a back street that carried little traffic—a short cut she liked to take to her apartment. Most people didn’t turn on Hammond. The cop wouldn’t turn there either, she guessed.

But when she turned on Hammond, the cop car followed. Now she was nervous. Should she toss the vial? No, she thought. No reason to panic.

Then he sped up. His headlights grew larger in the rear view mirror and he turned on the flashing lights. She tossed the vial, then rolled up the passenger window.

In a few seconds he was right on her tail, with his cop lights flashing. She couldn’t believe it. He was pulling her over.

Officer Reynolds’ adrenaline was pumping. She pulled over and he stopped behind her. He did not turn on his dash cam.

Heather rolled down her window. Her heart was pounding. Why had he stopped her? He hoped he hadn't seen her toss the vial out the window.

She heard the police radio as he opened his door, heard his footsteps on the pavement approaching. Then a flashlight shone in her face, blinding her. She could not see his face.

“You got a tail light out,” he said.

“Oh. I didn’t know.”

“Let’s see your drivers license.”

“Sure,” she said, digging into her purse. She tried to keep her hands from shaking, but couldn’t. She handed him her license.

“You got your insurance card?”

“It’s in the glove—”

“Get it.”

He shined the flashlight on her shaking hands while she opened the glove compartment.

“You seem nervous,” he said. “You got something to be nervous about?”


He put her license and insurance card in his shirt pocket, then stood there, not saying a word, shining the light in her face. After a minute, he said, “Get out of the car.”

He’s going to search the car, she thought. But he won’t find anything. I’ve got nothing to be nervous about. Still, she was nervous.

She got out. He turned off the flashlight and hooked it to his belt. She turned. In the strobing cop lights, she could make out his face now. She recognized his sneering grin. It was the man who had harassed her at the club. Her heart beat faster.

Suddenly he backhanded her across the face. The blow stunned her. She reeled backwards. He grabbed her and spun her around, forcing her arms behind her back—she thought they would break—and pinned her against the car. She cried out.

“Shut up,” he said, slipping handcuffs on her. He pulled her away from the car and pushed her in the direction of the bridge. “Walk,” he said. She started towards the bridge. He was right behind her. She could feel her heart beat in her neck and head, it was pounding so hard.

At the bridge, he guided her down a narrow dirt trail that dropped steeply to a dry creek bed just visible in the street light that illuminated the bridge.

At the bottom of the incline she slipped and fell. He pulled her up by the hair. She screamed. Then he pushed her under the bridge and spun her around in the darkness. “On your back,” he said.

She lay down on the ground. He got on top of her, straddling her, then struck her in the face. Again, she screamed.

“Shut up!” he barked.

She started sobbing. “I said shut up,” he said, quieter this time. He pressed his lips against hers, kissing her, then suddenly bit her lower lip. She started to let out a cry. He bit her again. “Shut up,” he repeated. Now she was quiet.

* * *

Driving home from the party, Charlie turned right on Hammond, a short cut he often took to his neighborhood. He had driven only a mile when he came upon a cop car pulled over to the side of the road, lights flashing, with a car parked in front of it. It appeared to be a routine traffic stop, except for one thing: Both cars were empty and there was no one anywhere else in the vicinity. Strange, he thought.

He crossed the bridge, and drove on. But he kept thinking about it. It didn’t feel right. He turned around and drove back, stopping a few yards away from the bridge, surveying the scene.

No, he hadn’t been mistaken. Both cars were empty and there was no one around. The scene was entirely still, except for the flashing cop lights.

Something’s wrong, he thought. Maybe the driver ran into the woods and the cop started chasing him.

I should call 911, he thought. There might be a cop in trouble.

He took his cell phone out of his coat pocket, opened it and—dammit—the battery was down. He started rummaging in the glove compartment for the car charger, but stopped ... he thought he heard a scream.

He turned off the engine and rolled down the window. Total silence, just the wind in the winter trees.

A minute passed. He kept listening. Then he heard it again—a woman’s scream, followed by a man shouting “Shut up.” Charlie’s heart jumped.

There was no time to charge the phone. He got out of the car. He had to do something. There was no one else around to do something. But what was he going to do? Jesus Christ, he thought, I’m just a 71-year-old man. And I'm not in the best shape.

He wished he had a gun, or any kind of weapon. His mind raced. What did he have that he could use as a weapon? He remembered the golf clubs.

And all at once understood. This was why Margaret insisted he keep the golf clubs in his trunk, and why she insisted he stay so late at the party. He was meant to make this stop.

He opened the trunk and took out his nine-iron, and walked to the bridge …

(To be continued)