These People Called Writers

These people called writers are a breed apart.

Some writers post random pictures and create guffawing humorous stories as if they had been privy to the conversation just as the camera shutter snapped, capturing the subjects who will forever be frozen in time.  

Some writers have the ability to use their words as a medium to create hauntingly beautiful pictures, which literally take your breath away as you read the illustrations they have painted.

Some writers sit at their computers and feel as if they’re bleeding to death, all the while hoping for rescue, or seeking solace from a bottle or a pill or a bullet.

Then there are always those,
Who are able to write magnificent prose,
With words they very carefully chose,
For the ones who fought, or fled or froze.

Some writers pen stories of broken angel wings, and flowers blooming in the dark.

Some writers shed tears, pleading for mercy and begging for understanding. Their keyboards become caked with salt that hardens like they fear their hearts eventually will.

Some write about hopes and dreams that were never realized.

Some writers bring tears to your eyes, and break your heart while you helplessly join in their poignant journey to the end of their life, after having been diagnosed with a fatal illness.

Some writers tell about their scars that may have been self-inflicted, or may have been the result of an accident, or a horrific trauma.  They tell about the invisible scars left from unspeakable suffering that can’t be seen.  They tell of wounds that caused those scars; wounds so deep they will most likely never recover, but they put on a brave face and soldier on, trying to deny that the wound was fatal.

Some writers weave used memories and secrets into tapestries, meant to offer a hint about what shaped their lives and made them who they are, but no one wants to remember.  Those same writers are told that no one wants to hear their story, and denying someone of his or her story is the worst kind of suffocation.

These people called writers are a breed apart.

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Five

One week later, Alice and Jacob were at Tierney’s, and gossip was abundant.

The server walked over to their table, smiled and handed Alice a note when she brought their hot chocolate and Bonbons.  The note was from Georgia.

Dear Alice,

Thank you so very much for
opening my eyes and giving
me the courage to follow my
own path.
I will write when we get settled.

Your eternally grateful and
affectionate friend,

Georgia had defied her fathers’ wishes, left town and married William. Alice was thrilled, and hoped to someday see her friend again.  Before the smile left her face, Jacob said, “darling, I have to tell you something”

Alice’s heart sank.  She knew what he was going to say.  She swallowed hard and hid her disappointment as she asked, “are you going away again?”

Jacob said, “I am, but my darling, if all goes well, when I come back, we are going on a whirlwind trip.  We’re going to go places we’ve never been. We’re going to see sites we’ve never seen. We’re going to meet people we’ve never met. We’re going to stay in the finest hotels, and we’re going to dine in the finest restaurants.” 

“While I was in San Francisco, I was approached by some gentlemen who admired my work.  They asked if I’d be interested in putting the finishing touches on a project for a woman they described as a ‘grand lady’.” He smiled and said, “I imagine she’s some wealthy, bored heiress who is in the process of restoring some fancy new hotel, or maybe an elaborate art gallery, which will bear her name.  The work would be quite the feather in my cap.”

Alice said, “it sounds intriguing, but where are you going, and how long would you be gone?”

Jacob took her hand and said, “you must understand, my darling.  I would be traveling to Europe and I would be gone for at least two or possibly three months.  Most of the work is done but, as I said, I would be assisting in the completion.”

Alice said, “of course you must go, but I shall miss you terribly. I feel as if I am not whole unless you are with me.” She hesitated as if she didn’t really want an answer when she asked, “when will you be leaving?” Almost agonizingly, Jacob said, “in three days, but remember my dearest darling, our farewells are always so bittersweet, but, oh, how glorious our reunion when I return.”

Alice spent the next three days, trying to think only of Jacob’s promise of untold adventures, but she was desolate. Before, her loneliness had been tempered by Georgia, but now Georgia was gone.

The day of Jacobs’ departure arrived. He boarded the train, which would take him to the port of call.  As before, Alice said a prayer as she stood and waved until her beloved was out of sight.

After he left, she again tried to busy herself and not dwell on things like missing him, and her Papa, and Grace and Georgia.  Occasionally, she would go to Tierney’s for hot chocolate and a Bonbon, and even shake things in town up a bit by arriving in trousers, but for some reason she felt empty as she sat there alone.

After almost three weeks, Alice received a letter in the mail.  She felt like a little girl on Christmas morning, opening a special present as she read:

My dearest darling,

I arrived safely, although I 
will admit that more than
once, I was stricken with 
motion sickness.  I am stricken
with even more sickness from
missing you.
I have met the grand lady I will be

working for, and I must confess
that I am quite taken with
her. I am perhaps even a bit in

love with her, but don’t fret my 
dearest darling.  It shall be a fleeting
affair.  There’s not much time

for writing, but I will write as 
often as I can.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

She held the letter to her chest and whispered, “thank you.”  Once again, her prayer had been answered.  He had arrived safely.

Another month went by and Alice hadn’t received a letter.  She was worried, but knew that mail traveled slowly, and also knew that Jacob was working hard.

She found herself remembering, in his last letter, he said that he was a bit in love with this, as he described, “grand lady.” She could understand the attraction of a wealthy, high-born, poised older woman, but he hadn’t said that she was an older woman.

What if she was a younger woman?  A younger woman who might confess that she was a little in love with him?  A younger woman with aspirations to leave a bit of herself behind, just as Jacob wanted?

Alice quickly dismissed what she told herself were silly notions and patiently counted the days until she received another letter, and anticipated even more, the return of her beloved.

Still, she wondered why he hadn’t told her much about what he was doing.  It wasn’t so much that she thought he was keeping something from her; he just wasn’t being very forthcoming.

Thirty-eight days after the last letter, Alice was delighted when she received one.  As she opened the envelope, her hands shook slightly with nervousness.  With untethered joy, she began to read.

My dearest darling,

By the time you receive this,
I will already be on my way back 
to you.  Please forgive my indolence
in writing, but things were being hurried,

and I am so very tired.
I have been successful,
although there
have been some disagreements with the
I will be traveling with the grand lady, but

I want you to know that I have remained,
and will forever remain true to you, 

my dearest darling.

Upon my return, I have a marvelous

Beside herself with joy, she clutched the letter close to her chest. The work he had done for the grand lady would surely leave a lasting mark, but what he didn’t yet know was that his greatest achievement was yet to arrive. As she gently rubbed her stomach, she smiled as she whispered, “and I have a marvelous surprise for you as well, my love.”

Glancing once more at the precious letter, she noticed a post script. It read: 

P. S.  I have enclosed a picture of 
the grand lady I have been working

for, and will be traveling with.
I think when you see her, you will

understand my infatuation.
Until we meet again, my dearest
darling, I remain,

Your loyal and faithful husband,

She put the letter down, and began to open the small envelope.  “Ah,” she said to herself.  “This must be a picture of the lady who enamored him with her great beauty.”

She opened the envelope and took out the picture.  Across the top, in bold letters was written:


Die Einde.

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Four

Alice busied herself with the daily routines of life, albeit missing Jacob terribly. Every minute, she wished that he was with her, but she didn’t retreat to solitude.

Twice a week, she went to Tierney’s for a cup of hot chocolate and a Bonbon.  It was one of her favorite places to go and the visits always brought back such fond memories of both Jacob and Grace.

One day, she quite literally ran into a young woman named Georgia.  They laughed at the dark, chocolaty stains they both wore on their frocks, and after futile attempts to remove them, began to talk. Georgia reminded Alice of Grace, and she liked her straight away.  

Georgia was very prim and proper; the epitome of what a young lady of those times should be, but she wasn’t stiff or hubristic.  She had a delicious, almost naughty sense of humor and a high-pitched, head-turning squeal when she laughed.

Alice told her about Jacob and how they met.  Then she told her about the day she and her Papa had seen him with another woman.  Georgia let out such a guffaw, that she had to reach for her elaborately detailed smelling salts holder. Recovering, she said, “mercy.  This corset is going to cause the death of me yet!”

Not wanting to be obtrusive, but straightforward to a fault, Alice asked Georgia if she had a beau.  Georgia, blushing bright red said, “I have my eye on a certain gentleman, yes.”  Then she fanned herself and said, “I get the vapors just thinking about him.”

Alice leaned forward and whispered, “you must tell me all about him, but first, what’s his name?”

Georgia said, “his name is William Longstreet and he’s a lawyer.  My father has a firm here and he works for him. Maybe you have heard of it. The Morgan Phillips firm.” Alice made a polite apology and said, “perhaps Jacob knows him and has done business with him.”  Then she smiled and said, “or perhaps he knows and has done business with your beau.”

Georgia sighed and said, “I would think not. Alas, it has become an unrewarding occupation. There just isn’t enough business for all the lawyers here.  My father’s firm used to be so busy, he barely had enough time to come home for supper, but no more.  Wouldn’t you think that in the age of constitutional reform, there would be a need for lawyers?”

Georgias’ voice softened when she said, “my father doesn’t like William.  He doesn’t think he’s suitable for me.”  When Alice asked why, she said, “he wants me to marry rich.  He wants me to put on airs, and act like we’re royalty just so I can land a wealthy husband.” Alice put her hand on Georgias’ and said, “what about love?  Doesn’t your father want you to love and be loved?”

Georgia said, “I think my father would rather I be rich than happy, or in love.  See, he and my mother married because it was good for the family. My father’s parents were wealthy landowners and had a lot of money.  After they died, he couldn’t afford to pay the death taxes, so he lost all of the land and most of the money. Then, I guess you could say that fortune smiled on him when he met my mother. They married, and all of her wealth became his.”

She smiled and said, “I believe that they are fond of each other, but I have never seen my father look at my mother the way William looks at me.”

With an apology, Alice told Georgia that she must get back home. She looked at her and said, “you are a strong, and from what I can tell, an intelligent woman.  Fight for what you believe, and never let anyone make you do something you don’t want to do.  Don’t give a fig about rules.  Make your own rules.”

As she was leaving, they agreed to meet every Tuesday, until of course, Jacob returned.

When Alice got home, a letter was waiting in the mailbox.  She rushed inside, sat down and opened it.

My dearest darling,

Things are moving more rapidly
than I had expected.  Everyone
seems to be excited about the work
we are doing, and have done.
I believe my part will be accomplished
in no more than two weeks.
Then, my treasured one, I will be anxiously finding
my way back home to you.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

Alice felt as though she was walking on air.  Her beloved would be returning and once again, she would feel whole.

Two weeks and a day after Alice received the letter from Jacob, he arrived at the train station.  She could hardly contain her excitement as she embraced him.  She smiled and said, “you must tell me all about your adventure, but not before we have some time together.”

The next morning, Alice told Jacob about meeting Georgia.  “She reminds me so much of Grace,” she said, “but her father has plans for her.”  Jacob queried, “what do you mean?  What kind of plans?”

Alice said, “Georgia carries a torch for a young gentleman, whom her father thinks is unsuitable.  He wants her to marry a wealthy man.  It’s just so sad, because I believe that she will bend to her father’s wishes.”

A month later, Alice and Jacob went to Tierney’s and saw Georgia sitting at a table with a much older man.  In a low voice, Alice said, “that must be her father.  He’s a lawyer in town.  Do you recognize him?”  Jacob said he didn’t.  Alice said, “I’d like for you to meet her.”

They walked over to the table, the gentleman stood up and a surprised Georgia said, “hello Alice.  This handsome young man must be your Mr. Harper.” Jacob extended his hand, requested that she call him Jacob, and said how happy he was to make her acquaintance. He followed it with, “I’ve heard such lovely things about you.”

Georgia said, “please allow me to introduce you to my fiancé, Mr. Horace Spellman.  He’s the president of the B & O railroad.” Alice had to hide her disappointment as well as her anger as she allowed him to kiss her hand.

Horace looked at Jacob and said, “I understand you travel quite a bit on my train, young man.  We must see about getting you a discount.” Jacob thanked Mr. Spellman, but avoided possibly putting himself under obligation.

Georgia could see the displeasure on Alice’s face and said, “Alice.  I would like to extend an invitation to you and Jacob.  Mr. Spellman and I are to be married in three weeks, and I would like very much for you to attend.”

Alice quickly said, “I need to powder my nose.  Georgia, would you like to accompany me?”  Georgia, as if in servitude, asked Horace if he minded, which angered Alice.  As soon as they got out of earshot, Alice angrily asked, “what are you thinking?  I know you don’t love that man, not to mention that he’s old enough to be your father!”

Georgia said, “my father arranged the wedding.  In return for a lavish life-style, plenty of money, financial help for his practice, and the promise of a male heir, he gave Mr. Spellman my hand in marriage.”

Alice, unsure if she could sway Georgia said, “I I beg you.  Don’t throw your life away.  Wouldn’t you rather be with someone you love instead of being some old man’s drudge, catering to his wishes and being nothing more than a silent, pretty face and a brood mare?  And what if you don’t produce a male?”

Alice tried to calm herself and said, “we only have one life, Georgia, and we mustn’t waste one minute of it doing the wrong thing.”

To be continued______________________

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Three

Trying to control her laughter, one day Grace told Alice the tale of the tree-house.  “Jacob cut down trees and scavenged wood from anywhere he could find it,” she said.  “He worked day and night, and mind you, he was only nine years old.  He was determined to have the biggest and best tree-house ever.”  She giggled as she said, “he just knew that people from all over would want to come to see what he had built!’.”

“He used the gardeners’ ladder to climb up this huge oak tree that had bifurcated through the years, creating what Jacob thought would be the perfect place for his house.  He heaved all those pieces of wood up that tree, and tied them together with weeds because he didn’t have a rope or nails. He didn’t even have a hammer.”

“He carved his name into one of the pieces of wood, using a sharp rock and tied it to the base of that big tree.  Finally the day came when it was finished and he was so proud of himself.  He came inside and asked me to come look at it. Just as I got outside, he stepped into the tree-house and down it came.  I was trying so hard not to laugh, but you should have seen his little face.”

“He was hanging onto a limb, looking at what was now just a pile of wood. He looked much like you would expect someone to look after their lifelong dreams had just been dashed.”

“But,” she said, “surrender was not in his nature. After having his first effort at building something fall down, he wanted to know why it fell down.  That’s why he became a structural engineer.  He wanted to understand weight distribution and what made some things last merely a few years, or in his case, a few minutes, while others lasted a lifetime.”

Alice smiled and said, “yes.  He has a sense of leaving a part of himself behind, I think.  Something that is beautiful, and lasts, but something isn’t necessarily beautiful because it lasts. The beauty is in the art of the way it’s built to last.  He wants to leave something behind that will be appreciated long after he’s gone.”

Alice crossed her heart with her arms as she said, “he’s such a wonderful man, and I am grateful every day that he came into my life.” Grace smiled and said, “he really is a wonderful man, and he’s a wonderful brother.”

Just ten months after Alice and Jacob were married, Grace became gravely ill.  The doctors were baffled as to the cause of her ailment, and their treatment ranged from warm cinnamon milk, to behind closed doors blood-letting, an almost abandoned and frowned upon practice, but desperation sometimes calls for unconventional methods.

Grace was languishing in a semi-conscious state.  Alice and Jacob were at her side, feeling helpless and hopeless. When it became obvious that she was never going to recover, Jacob whispered to Grace that it was okay for her to leave.  “Go be with God,” Jacob whispered.  After five days, she finally succumbed.

She was gone and they grieved, but she was no longer suffering, and they were grateful.  Her charming way of speaking and her captivating stories of days gone by were forever silenced, but she would not be forgotten.  Alice and Jacob would always remember their darling Grace.

In lieu of a funeral, Jacob and Alice decided to have a memorial service.  They would not mourn for her.  They would celebrate her life with song and dance and yes, stories of their own.

Two weeks after Grace died, Alice went to see her Papa.  She found him sitting in his chair, holding a picture of her mother.

Death had come knocking twice in as many weeks, and the loss of her Papa left Alice devastated.  Her only solace was believing that he and her mother were finally together once again.

He had talked to her about dying, and told her not to grieve for him when his time came. He told her that he had tried to be an honorable man, and being re-united with the love of his life would be his long-awaited reward.  He said, “I have been fortunate enough to have experienced great love.  I have loved someone with all of my heart, and I believe your mother loved me with all of hers.”

As with Grace, Jacob and Alice decided to celebrate Papa’s life, and laughed as they reminisced about the day she and Papa saw Jacob and Grace together, and how that happenstance had almost cost them their future together.

Jacob cupped Alice’s face in his hands and said, “don’t fret my dearest darling.  Just think of how rich we are from having known them, and having had them in our lives.”  Jacob had a way with words, as had Grace.  He also had a way of making Alice feel as if she was the most important person in the world.  Their bond, she thought, was going to be unbreakable.

Six months later, Jacob had news.  A hotel in San Francisco had suffered major damage from the 1906 earthquake.  It had been renovated to serve as City Hall, but now there were talks to convert it back to its original beauty and purpose.  A previous client had put forth Jacobs’ name to help evaluate the restructuring, and should he accept the offer, he would be leaving in three days.

Taking the job would mean that he would be gone for several weeks.  He hated the thought of leaving Alice, but he knew that she would be fine, as she was a strong-willed and independent little spitfire.

She would miss him, but she also knew that it would be a wonderful opportunity to further his already established, but not yet quite renowned career.  She expressed her dismay that not only was he was going to the other side of the country, he was going to the very spot where just a few years earlier, a catastrophic event had occurred.

He assured her that statistically, it would be another hundred years before such a calamity would happen again, and with a smile said, “besides, my dearest darling.  I will make sure that the new hotel will withstand mother nature’s mighty wrath, should she decide to shake things up again.”  

Alice said, “don’t tease me. You know I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you.” Jacob said, “nothing is going to happen to me, except finding it agonizingly painful to be separated from you.”

It was the day of departure and Alice was unusually melancholy.  Jacob tried to cheer her up as much as he could, but he understood.  He knew that his heart would feel empty and incomplete without her, but he promised to write every day.

As they embraced, Jacob said, “farewell is always so very bittersweet my dearest darling, but how glorious our reunion will be when I return.”

Jacob boarded the Transcontinental Express and blew kisses to Alice from the window.  The loud whistle sounded and the train slowly started moving down the tracks.  Alice said a prayer as she stood and waved until her beloved was completely out of sight.

A week later, a letter arrived.

My dearest darling,

I arrived without incident, although as you
can imagine, it was a long and tiring trip.
I am getting ready to settle in for the night,
but wanted to send my love, and tell you
that I am thinking of you, and already
missing you terribly.

Your loyal and faithful husband,

Alice closed her eyes and whispered, “thank you.”  Her prayer for Jacob’s safe arrival had been answered.

To be continued__________________________

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter Two

She was smiling as she watched him drive down the road, and as his car crested the hill, she couldn’t see that he was smiling, too.

When she went inside, she sat down in the comfortable side chair and said, “oh Papa.  I’ve just had hot chocolate and a Bonbon with the man I’m going to marry.” Papa smiled and said, “good Heavens, child.  Is he a prophet?”

With a twinkle in his eyes he said, “I seem to recall a certain young lady professing that she would not, under any circumstances marry, as that kind of commitment would never allow her to have the freedom to do as she wished.”

Alice, in an almost dream-like state, said, “oh, Papa.  He’s so very fine and polite and charming and handsome and smart.” Papa said, “and does he share this infatuation?” Alice said, “it’s not an infatuation, Papa.  You know how it is when you meet someone and you instantly know that they’re the one.”

Papa looked down and said, “yes child.  I know the feeling.  It was that way with your mother.  I knew the first time I laid eyes on her that she was the only one for me.  I still miss her every day, and I thank God that He allowed me to have you to remember her by.” Alice got up and put her arms around him.  She said, “I’m sorry if I made you feel sad, Papa.”  

He said, “with great love, there is always great sorrow when one of you dies, but it is with love and happiness that I remember her.  She wouldn’t have wanted me to remember her with tears and sadness.” He sat down and said, “now tell me more about your young man.”

Alice said, “he’s a structural engineer and he wants to build things that will last.  He’s not a ‘here and now’ person.  He wants future generations to appreciate things that will endure throughout the ages.”

Papa smiled and said, “well, I’d like to meet him.  Bring him to dinner on Sunday.”  Then he leaned toward her and said, “but you must be careful who you give your heart to.  You must be sure, because when you give your heart away, it should be forever.”

Alice smiled and said, “Papa, you’re such a romantic.  I can see why mother loved you so much, and that’s why I love you so much.” Papa chuckled and said, “get off with you now.”

Suddenly Alice spun around and said, “oh Papa.  I don’t even know how to get in touch with him.”  Thinking aloud, she said, “I’ll go into town tomorrow and look for him.  That would be quite forward and very unladylike but…” Before she could finish her mental strategy, Papa said, “maybe you could drive into town, get stuck in a ditch, and he could rescue you again.”

Alice looked at him with wide-eyed surprise, but said nothing.  He had a playfulness in his eyes when he said, “did you think that young Jacob was the only one who saw you?”

Once again, Alice hugged him and said, “Papa, you’re so wise and so wonderful and I do love you so dearly.”

He said, “how about we both take a trip into town tomorrow?  It might not look so…how did you put it?  So forward and unladylike?” Alice almost squealed with delight.  “Yes, Papa.  That’s what we shall do. Oh, thank you Papa.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

The next day, Alice and Papa drove into town, past Granville’s Department Store toward the Worth Building, thinking they might see him there.

When they didn’t, they drove to Tierney’s and just as they arrived, they saw Jacob. His arms were wrapped tightly around a woman, and they watched as he gave her a soft kiss on the cheek.

Bravely trying to hide her disappointment, Alice asked Papa to take her home.  As he was turning the car around to leave, Jacob caught a glimpse of Alice, and couldn’t hide the surprised look on his face.

Alice looked straight ahead as they left, and neither she nor Papa said a word as he drove down the road.  Papa felt helpless. He knew about sadness, he knew about loss, and he knew about the pain they caused.

He didn’t want his precious daughter to know those feelings at such a young age, but he knew that after a period of mourning, her heart would heal.  She had her whole life ahead of her, and love would find her again. He was sure of that.

Alice retreated to her bedroom and stayed there for the rest of the day. Papa knew that grief makes one so terribly tired, and maybe sleep would give her the strength she needed to face tomorrow.

Early the next afternoon Jacob arrived, unannounced and uninvited.  When Papa greeted him at the door, he stepped outside so as not to disturb Alice.

Jacob introduced himself and said, “forgive my familiarity, but my intentions are to call on Lissy.” Papa was a kind man, but he became a fierce warrior when it came to protecting his daughter.  He told Jacob that he and Alice had both seen his “intentions” at Tierney’s, and he and his familiarity were not welcome.

Before Jacob could protest, Papa said, “as you can imagine, my daughter is very precious to me.  She is my only child and I will not allow anyone to toy with her affections.  I appreciate your help when my car was stuck in a ditch, but my gratitude does not include allowing you to trifle with my daughter’s heart.  Now, off you go.”

A pleading Jacob said, “Forgive me, but I don’t understand.”  Papa said, “Alice and I saw you holding another woman in town yesterday.”  Jacob took a deep breath and said, “what you saw is not what it seems, and if you would just let me explain…”

Papa interrupted and said, “son, I don’t want to be impertinent, but I know men like you.  Handsome, charming men who are familiar to many, but faithful to none.  I feel quite certain that there are several young women who would be more than happy to accompany you in your life’s many endeavors.  Alice, however, will not be one of them.  Now, I really must ask you to leave.”

Jacob started to walk away but turned and quietly said, “the woman you saw me embracing yesterday is named Grace. She is my sister.”

Three months later, Alice and Jacob were married.  Papa and Grace stood beside them as they spoke their vows, and Papa beamed with pride.

Alice and Grace became as close as sisters, and when Jacob was out of town supervising a new building he designed, they would meet for hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s.  There they would chat about life and love, and occasionally indulge in improper gossip, surrounding the local men who allegedly frequented a house of ill repute.

Grace was as full of life as Alice.  Although not brave enough to defy tradition the way Alice did, she was certainly one of a kind, and was what you might call, “a silent protester.”

Alice loved to hear the childhood stories Grace told about Jacob.  She was such a delightful, detail oriented story-teller, and ofttimes told them with a mischievous look in her eyes.  Alice listened with focused intensity and relished every word, every nuance and every particular.

To be continued_____________________

The Bittersweet Farewell – Chapter One

Alice had become accustomed to anxiously awaiting word from her beloved husband when he was away on business. She was always overcome with joy when the letter carrier handed her an envelope.

Their unexpected, unlikely romance began on a chilly day in November, some five years earlier.

Having been trusted with her father’s brand new Model-T Ford, Alice had taken it for a spin uptown to do some shopping. She was high-spirited, unorthodox, spunky, rebellious, and courageous almost to a fault.

Being seen driving a car was not the first time she had raised eyebrows.  She once donned a pair of trousers and pranced through town as if she hadn’t a care in the world.  That daring event prompted a visit from the local clergyman, who prayed for her immortal soul, and only after the threat of arrest for “cross-dressing,” did she return to wearing the more fashionable and acceptable style of long frocks.

Women were supposed to be prim and proper, be seen and not heard, and stay at home. But Alice was never going to follow the cookie cutter idea of what was expected from the female persuasion. She was the epitome of a rebel.

She was daring, and not afraid to try anything, but she was not yet familiar with the potential hazards of driving on an unpaved, snow-covered road. Alas, before she knew what was happening, the car slid into a ditch. While pondering which would be the most frowned upon…waiting all night, unchaperoned and guarding the car in the bitter cold, or leaving it and walking home in the bitter cold, she was suddenly distracted by a handsome young man who stopped and offered assistance.

He introduced himself as Jacob Harper.  When she told him her name was Alice, without a second thought, he said, “Well, Miss Lissy. Let’s see if we can get this car of yours unstuck.” Alice had never cottoned to nicknames and was properly incensed when someone dared to shorten her name to “Ally,” but for some unexplained reason, this handsome young man’s moniker didn’t seem to bother her. Actually, she rather liked it.

After relentless prodding and careful persuasion, Jacob was able to coax the car back onto the road.  Clearly smitten, he said, “this is what you might call serendipitous.  I made a wrong turn on my way home, you were stuck in a ditch, and here we are, together on the side of the road.”

A polite suggestion to follow her the rest of the way home to insure her safe arrival, was met with a flirtatious smile, a genteel refusal, and a reminder that it was not she who was stuck in the ditch.

“Indeed you are right,” said a not yet ready to surrender Jacob.  “Let me make amends by treating you to a cup of hot chocolate and a Bonbon at Tierney’s tomorrow.”  He smiled playfully as he said, “maybe I could come fetch you, lest your car get stuck in a ditch again.”

Alice found Jacob to be decidedly bold, and also thought him to be a bit full of himself, but she was never going to settle for a run-of-the-mill, “fancy man,” as gentlemen folk were often called. After what she considered to be an appropriate amount of hesitation, she found herself agreeing.

She was intrigued by his self-assurance and daring suggestion that only after a brief encounter, they should meet again. “Fine,” she said.  “I live in the big white house at the end of the road, and you may come fetch me at three.” Jacob was smiling as he watched her drive down the road, and as the car crested the hill, he couldn’t see that she was smiling, too.

When Alice finally got home, her Papa expressed concern about the lateness of her arrival.  She didn’t dare betray herself by admitting that she had gotten stuck in a ditch, so she fabricated a story about being so enamored with the new frocks on display at Granville’s Department Store, she completely lost track of time.

Her Papa, an astute man, looked at her and said, “are you sure you were only looking at new frocks?”  Alice smiled and said, “Papa.  You know me so well.  I really was looking at frocks, but I was also looking at a somewhat handsome young man.”

“Tell me about this young man who has obviously captured your attention,” Papa said.

She began to describe her gallant rescuer, who unbeknownst to her Papa, had also rescued his car, but she didn’t tell the whole truth.  In her version of the story, it was she who was the heroine. “He took a wrong turn,” she said.  “I set him on the right path, and tomorrow, as a way of thanking me, we are going to Tierney’s.  His name is Jacob Harper and he’s fetching me at three o’clock.”

Her Papa could see a glow about her. He knew that his young man had to be something special to have turned his young daughter’s head.

Alice was a beauty.  She had a double row of impossibly long lashes that framed coquettish, hyacinth-colored eyes with golden flecks that seemed to dance around her pupils when she blinked.  Her long, slender neck was accentuated by her porcelain colored, heart-shaped face that required only the slightest bit of rouge to give her the appearance of a modest blush.

Alice’s defiance of confining rules did not convey when it came to the dictum that long, loose tresses were not respectable in public.  She wore her thick, dark hair swept up, held in place by a jade-colored dragonfly comb given to her by her late grandmother, and she had no need for the commonly used “rats,” designed to increase hair volume and make it appear fuller.

She vehemently resisted the wearing of a restrictive corset, just to achieve what she considered a ridiculous Empire silhouette.  Her small, twenty-inch waist was as she said, “a gift of nature and had no need for such torturous apparel.”

Alice was unable to sleep that night, nervously anticipating her rendezvous with the aesthetically pleasing, eye-catching young man.  She was not easily charmed, but something about him seemed to touch her on an almost mystical level.

The next day, even though tired from the lack of rest, Alice counted the hours until the clock struck three.

At three o’clock sharp, Jacob arrived, driving a three-wheeled, open carriage Motorwagen, wearing a stylish, knee-length topcoat.  His trousers boasted cuffs and were meticulously creased, both front and back. He wore a stiff collared shirt and a four-in-hand tie.  On his head sat a soft, felt bowler hat with a rounded crown, which he tipped when first seeing Alice.

“Good afternoon, Miss Lissy,” he said with a broad grin.  “My carriage awaits.” Having never seen such a contraption, she asked about its origin, as she hoisted up her long skirt and gracefully slithered onto the lush red leather seat. She smiled as Jacob gingerly placed a woolen blanket on her lap.

“It was designed and built by a mechanical engineer named Karl Benz,” Jacob said.  “It’s powered by a single stroke, 4 cylinder internally combustible engine, housed in a steel horseshoe frame.” He further proudly boasted, “it has a top speed of almost ten miles an hour.  I find it to be quite delightful to drive, that is unless I happen to be out during a rainstorm.” He smiled and said, “then, as you would imagine, it’s a bit uncomfortable.”

When they arrived at Tierney’s, he ordered two cups of hot chocolate and two Bonbons.  Alice was mesmerized by this young man and found herself lost in thoughts as she watched his playful interactions with the young female server.

He was a deliciously striking man, with dark hair, aristocratic eyebrows and cool, seductive ice-blue eyes.  An impeccably trimmed mustache rested above his generous, provocative lips.  His strong hands were meticulously well-groomed and seemed to bear no signs of callouses, often indicative of hard manual labor.

Alice finally gathered her senses enough to ask what he did for a living. “I’m a structural engineer,” he said, “and I dabble a bit in metallurgy.  Are you familiar with the Worth building?”

Alice said, “is that the big building around the corner from Granville’s?” Jacob smiled and said, “yes.  I helped design it. I hope to someday be famous, not necessarily for elegantly pleasing buildings, but more for safe, sound buildings that will withstand the test of time.”  He smiled as he said, “I want to design buildings that will still be here a hundred or even two hundred years from now.”

Jacob wasn’t the only one who was smitten.  Alice could hardly contain her eagerness to know more about this exciting, thoughtful young man but alas, the hour was growing late and it was nearing time for her to return home.

With the promise to call on her again, Jacob dropped Alice off at her house.  He walked her to the door, kissed her hand and said, “until we meet again, Lissy.”

To be continued____________________________

The Question – Chapter Two

Roberta hung up and went outside.  Roberto looked at her and smiled, but the smile disappeared when she threw the cards and letters on the table next to him.  “What are these?” she demanded.  Roberto looked down and said, “I want you to know that we never meant to hurt you.”

Roberta said, “you sound like a fucking parrot.  That’s exactly what she said.  How could you?  She said it has been going on for about ten years. Is that true? She didn’t make it sound like it had ended. Has it?”

Roberto looked at her and said, “it hasn’t ended, but not because we’re still involved or because I’m in love with her.  It was just a tryst that got out of hand.  You know I love you.  I always have and I always will.”

Ignoring his protestation of love, she said, “what does that mean?  It was just a tryst that got out of hand?”

Roberto looked down and said, “we have a daughter together.  That’s why I couldn’t completely end it with her.”

Roberta got up and walked back into the house, ignoring Robertos’ desperate pleas for forgiveness. She got her purse and pulled out the pink handled revolver he had given her for protection.  She calmly walked back outside, pointed it at him and emptied the chamber.

After telling April her story, Roberta waited for questions or at least some kind of reaction, but got nothing. She knew that Aprils’ parole hearing was scheduled for 10 o’clock that morning, and asked if she wanted to be alone for a few minutes, but April just shook her head.  She sat in her cell, stared at the wall and waited until the guards came for her.

Roberta tried to lighten the mood by saying, “you know it’s not called a parole hearing around here.  It’s called a ‘hopeful denial’ inquisition.”

April knew her consideration for release hinged on “the question.”  It always did.  She would be sitting motionless in a chair in front of a panel of people who thought they knew what reform and readiness to rejoin society really meant, and she resented being judged by their rules.

Rules that were written years ago onto a now obsolete pile of papers, and adopted as absolute law, constructed to make the “expert specialists” feel good about giving a lowly convict a second chance.

Say the right thing…beg…cry and plead.  Boast about starting a class for the inmates who could barely read. Tell them you were growing your hair to be donated to children with cancer. Tell them you got a degree in something…and the one that would get the most attention…tell them that you had found your God.  Anything convincing enough to make the “powers that be” believe that you had been reformed…worked.

She knew the spiel.  She knew what she had to say, and she knew what they wanted to hear.

The first to speak was Mr. Taylor, a stout, sweaty, bespectacled man, who began the usual inquisition with his pseudo, soft-spoken benevolence, as if talking to a child.  He had been on the panel before and hadn’t changed, other than being a few years older, as was April.

At some point during the hearing, he said, “Ms. Drummond.  We understand the immense grief you have suffered…”

Before he could finish, April looked at him and said, “do you?  Do you really?  How many of you have suffered immense grief?”

The panel looked back and forth at each other as if somewhat embarrassed.  Mr. Taylor said, “despite the horrific events you endured, you cannot take the law into your own hands.  That is why we have a judicial system.  If everyone took the law into their own hands, there would be utter chaos. Don’t you agree?”

April looked at him and said, “no.  There would be justice.”

Mr. Taylor sighed and asked “the question.”  April sat in the chair, still motionless and silent.

“Ms. Drummond,” he said.  “The only reason you have been considered for parole is due to certain extenuating circumstances.  There is, and always has been a certain amount of sympathy for you but, you must answer the question.”

Two full minutes of silence was interrupted only by the sound of “DENIED” being stamped on the application.

April returned to her cell, and Roberta was waiting.  She looked at her, but said nothing.  April had never spoken about her crime, and although Roberta had told her all the gory details of her own, she knew that April would tell her in her own good time, or maybe she wouldn’t.

April had stopped going to the visitation room years ago.  Roberta never went.  She knew, like April, that no one would ever come to see her.  She was a disgrace.  All of her fair-weather friends as well as the ones she considered to be loyal, had abandoned her.

She mused that it was always about what she had done to her husband.  It was never about what he had done to her. He had lied to her for years.  He had cheated on her.  He had a child with another woman.

She had devoted her life to him, had been a dutiful wife, and had taken care of him when he was seriously ill.  “That’s the way it is,” she once said.  “The ones who destroy everything, suddenly become the victim.”

True, Roberto was indeed a victim, but no one tried to understand what it must have been like for her.  What was it like, finding out that her entire life had been a lie?  Why did no one see her as the victim of a lowlife, deceptive Lothario? She didn’t know and she had long since stopped caring.

Two more years went by and once again, April was being considered for parole.  The board consisted of the same tired quorum of special commissioners, with the exception of a new, young man named Roger Carson, who all but announced that he was going to flex his muscles.

He looked at April and took the lead.  “I see that you have been somewhat uncooperative through the years.  Let me ask you something.  You do understand that there’s still time for you to have a life, don’t you? Or do you want to die in prison?”

April reacted with the same blank expression the others had been seeing for years as she asked, “you say there’s still time for me to have a life?  What kind of life?  A solitary life?  That’s what I have here, and I don’t know if your records reflect anything other than my refusal to answer the question, but I have never had one visitor since I entered this steel and concrete purgatory.  Tell me, Mr. Carson.  What would be different? Might I smell the flowers and hear the birds singing?”

Mr. Taylor said, “very well Ms. Drummond.  As I have stated numerous times, we have a certain amount of sympathy, but the fact is, you committed murder.  You took revenge and…”  Before he could finish, Roger inserted with a smirk, “before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.  He smiled and said, I think Niche said that.”

April looked at him and said, “that was said by Confucius, you mook.  Dig two graves?  I did, and he’s the one in the ground, isn’t he?”

Mr. Taylor smiled slightly and said, “Okay, Ms. Drummond.”

She sat and waited for the question.

“If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?”

“Again,” asked Mr. Taylor asked.  “If you had it to do over, would you do anything differently?”

Through gritted teeth, April said, “YES.  I WOULD HAVE MADE HIM SUFFER.  I would have made him beg for mercy.  I would have made him beg for his life.  And then, I would have made him beg for death.”

Silence filled the room, until the familiar sound of “DENIED” being stamped on the application was heard.

Het Einde.

The Question – Chapter One

As April Drummond looks at her etiolated image reflected in the dirty, almost opaque windows of Craggy Prison, she counts the steel bars that separate her from the outside world, and waits.  She waits for the monthly visit she desperately wants, but knows will never come.

She is inconsequential.  She is unimportant, insignificant, irrelevant, nonessential, meaningless.  She is picayune. She was just a number.

She is also a murderer.

There are no words of comfort from the guard, who watches her every move, as she sits and waits.  There is only a slight look of fear when her visitation time is up, and no one has come.

April has a look in her eyes…the kind of look that unnerves you.  The kind of look that makes you shudder.  The kind of look that makes you question whether she is predator or prey.  The kind of look that foments the common reaction of fight or flight, when confronted by fear.  For those reasons, other inmates don’t bother her, but those aren’t the only reasons.

A one time interaction with another prisoner named BB, aka Big Bertha, aka Big Bitch, who invited April to join her “family,” became folklore legend.

BB, an unsympathetic bully, was born in this very prison, and as if written in a playbook, found her way back “home” when she was just 23.

Her mother, street name Jasmine, was a drug addict, who got pinched for prostitution after she solicited an undercover police officer.

Jasmine told BB that she didn’t know who her father was, and winked as she said, “but whoever he was, for a minute or a month, he was surely a happy man.”

The day before Jasmine was to be released, she was stabbed to death by another inmate.

It was well known that BB ruled the prison, had a few guards in her pockets, had her defenders, her enforcers and her family, which included several “daughters,” and three “wives.” She was not the kind of prisoner you ignored, challenged, or turned down.

Although BB wasn’t a large woman, she was powerful and intimidating. April, being diminutive, was mistakenly considered an easy mark by BB and her family.  When she refused BB for the last time, the family gathered around her like a pack of angry wolves.

April grabbed BB’s left breast and twisted it like a corkscrew.  BB screamed in agonizing pain, and dropped to her knees.  After she surrendered, she attempted to smile as she said, “I forgot that you were a murderer.”

April leaned over and whispered, “don’t forget it again.”

At 38, she is three years into her forty year sentence, which carries the possibility of parole after ten years, or possibly sooner if she is a model prisoner, or overcrowding becomes an issue.

Everyone who is incarcerated declares their innocence, but not April.  She is the only guilty inmate in the prison.

Six years and two parole hearings later, April Drummond, Inmate #11124721, now 44 years old, was notified of a third upcoming hearing. That’s when she would be asked…the question.

During that time, she acquired a cellmate, an unlikely sidekick named Roberta Nix.  Roberta was 60 years old, and was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for accidentally shooting her husband five times.

The day she arrived in her worn-out orange scrubs and matching flip-flops, carrying equally worn-out sheets and the paltry amount of toiletries provided, Roberta immediately recognized the hierarchy, as she listened to the cat-calls and heard the intimidation tactics used by BB and her family.

April didn’t participate in the usual initiation and barely glanced up as Roberta strolled into her new “home.”  Like April, Roberta wasn’t interested in joining BB’s family, nor was she interested in having to service the other inmates.  At her age, she felt as though she had already paid enough dues.

April seemed to be protected by some invisible shield.  Roberta wasn’t sure how or why, but noticed that the other inmates stayed clear of her.  Being smart, she knew that April could by association, provide insurance for her own safety, if she played her cards right.

Their collaboration started slowly; each testing the other’s loyalty, each divulging only the minimum amount of information about their lives before, and neither ever discussing the details of their crimes.

It was a year before Roberta began talking.  She married a man named Roberto when she was 16 years old.  His real name was Robert, but he thought Roberto sounded a little more exotic.  Everyone used to call them “the Robbies.”

Roberto, 10 years her senior, was a successful businessman who loved to make money, and loved to spend it even more.  He found Roberta at the local cafe, serving “a meat and three” to the local blue collar workers; workers with names like Bubba, Cooter, Josephus, Homer and Rufus.

The delicious homemade cooking wooed Roberto into the cafe week after week, and week after week he arrived, accompanied by a different young woman who was easy on the eyes, and appeared overly eager to please their older companion with public displays of affection.

Roberta knew women like them, and she knew men like him.  He had definitely caught her eye, but she played it cool. “The ones who don’t pay them no mind, will lure them in every time,” her daddy once said, and she paid attention.  The more she ignored him, the hotter his pursuit became.

She let him chase her until she “caught” him, and entered into a lifestyle she never dreamed possible.

He shaped and molded her into a perfect lady.  He showered her with luxury and she slowly emerged as the queen of the castle; the lady of the lounge; the consummate hostess, and the personification of the ideal wife.

Their union produced no offspring, of which she was disappointed, but also almost equally grateful.  Roberto was a selfish man, and through the years she had learned to accept the fact that her world revolved around him.

When he was 70, he was stricken with a mysterious illness that left him almost bed-bound.  Having been the epitome of healthy living, his affliction was puzzling, and left the doctors scratching their heads.

Roberta was his angel of mercy, devoting all of her time to his care.  She fed him, cleaned him, read to him, and did her best to keep up his spirits.  She didn’t want him to give up, and made it clear that she hadn’t married a quitter.

He slowly began to recover, thanks in no small part to her dedicated steadfastness.  His doctors were again, scratching their heads.  Roberta had pulled off a coup. Whatever she did had worked, and the doctors expected him to make a full recovery.  After being told that he could go home, the discharging doctor asked what she had done. She smiled and said, “all I did was love him.”  The doctor patted her on the back, smiled and said, “well, that was enough.”

Roberta was hoping that it had been enough. She was hoping that he would pay a little more attention to her.

A week later, Roberto was out on the veranda, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  Roberta smiled, excused herself and went inside with the promise of a quick return.  She had an idea.

She was going to look for old cards that she had given him throughout the years; birthday cards, anniversary cards, silly cards and of course, romantic, suggestive cards.  She thought they might elicit smiles and laughter and bring back good memories.

What she found was not what she was looking for.  There, among all of her cards, were cards and letters from a woman named Lisa.  Lisa? One of her dearest friends was named Lisa.  As she was gathering them, she was shaking.

She picked up the telephone and called Lisa.  When she answered, Roberta dispensed with the niceties and said, “how long have you been fucking my husband?”  Lisa was silent for a few seconds and said, “I want you to know that we never meant to hurt you.”  Roberta raised her voice and repeated, “HOW LONG?”  Lisa quietly said, “for about ten years.”

To be continued_________________________

Deleting Martina – Chapter Eleven

Exactly two weeks later, the phone rang. “Are you ready for what you’re going to hear?” asked Dick.

Randall took a deep breath, sighed and said, “go on.”  He barely got the words out of his mouth before he added, “is she on Broadway?” Dick began his narrative in a matter-of-fact monotone. “Yes, she’s on Broadway, but not exactly where you would probably hope. Trying to hold himself from the precipice of assumption, Randall asked, “what do you mean?” asked Randall.

“She’s making movies,” Dick said. Randall interrupted momentarily and almost tongue-in-cheek, asked, “is her name in lights?”

“You could say that,” Dick replied.  “She’s the headliner in the marquee over the theatre.  It reads,” he hesitated, cleared his throat and said, “are you sure you want to hear what I’m going to tell you?” Randall said, “yes.”

Dick continued.  “The movie is called Getting Intimate With Martine Monroe’. Underneath the marquee reads, ‘You’ll forget all about Marilyn, once you feast your eyes upon the provocative, captivating temptress, Martine’.”

“So, what does that mean?” Randall said, sounding confused.  “Is it a movie a little on the seedy side or is it…?”  Dick said, “son, it’s exactly what you think it is.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  She’s a porn star, and from what I hear, and have seen, she’s a pretty good one.”

“You’ve seen the show?” Randall asked.  “How does she look?”  He quickly corrected the way the question sounded and asked, “does she look okay?”  Again, trying to correct himself, he said, almost mumbling, “I just want to know if she’s okay and looks like she’s enjoying herself.”  

Still trying to reclaim some dignity, he said, “I guess there are no easy questions to ask about this kind of work.  It would be sort of like asking a prostitute is she has fun doing what she does…or asking an addict if they like doing drugs.” Then he asked, “did she look high?”

Dick said, “that, I couldn’t say.  Did she look like she was enjoying herself? Yes, she did, but I imagine she’s making a pretty penny for acting like she’s enjoying herself, and I will say that she looked like she knew what she was doing, high or not.  This may be a little too personal, but was she promiscuous in the past?”

“Not when I knew her,” Randall said. “I’m not sure she had ever even been kissed.  We didn’t have an intimate relationship, so I really don’t know.”

Dick gingerly asked, “did you want one?”  Randall said, “I didn’t really give it much thought.  I just knew she was headed down a dark path and I wanted to help.  I understood the constraints of the way she was raised, and I know that sometimes, privilege makes one…rebellious…shall we say?  I also know that rebellion sometimes manifests itself in the shape of booze, or pills or liquid inside a needle, or powder sucked up a nose.”

“You know, son,” Dick said.  “Almost daily, actors and actresses admit to popping a few pills or having a little snort to help them with the long hours and strenuous demands of their jobs.  Now, I’m not saying it’s right.  I just know it happens. My question to you, is this. Now that you have this information, what are you going to do with it?”  Randall said “I have no idea.”

After the call, he sat down and poured a glass of wine.  The last time he had wine was when he and Martine were toasting Callie. Dick had a valid question, he thought.  What was he going to do? Should he go to New York?  And what would he do when he got there?  Try to talk her into coming home? Try to talk her into ending her pornographic career?

He wasn’t her official advocate.  He wasn’t her mentor in any sense.  He wasn’t even sure that she still considered him to be a friend, or if she had ever considered him to be a friend, but his past kept echoing.  Someone had reached out to him. Someone had saved him.

He finished his glass of wine and sat, staring at the wall, mentally weighing the benefits versus the cost of a privileged lifestyle. Many times he had overheard people talking about what they would do if they had money. It always amused him. People tended to think that money meant happiness. More often that they thought, it meant isolation and loneliness. It meant doubt and suspicion. Did someone like you for you, or did they like you for your money? And of course, privilege, for a few, made the heart yearn for escape.

Two weeks later, he received a call from Dick.  “I don’t know how to tell you this, son, but Martine has, um, how can I say this gingerly…Martine has taken her final curtain call.”

Almost unable to breathe, Randall asked what he meant.  Dick said, “she was found in her dressing room after she failed to appear on the set.  It looks like she overdosed, but not before someone damn near beat her to death.  They haven’t yet released the official cause.”

“Are you sure it’s her?  How did you find out?” Randall asked.  Dick said, “I always make friends with local law enforcement, and as you know, information is for sale.”

“Are you still there?” asked Randall.  “No,” Dick said.  “I left last week, but I got the call a few minutes ago.  Apparently, Martine was well known to ‘New York’s Finest’.  They closed their eyes to the drug use, if she…well, if she…opened her mouth…or her legs. I know that’s an indelicate way to put it, but it is what it is…or it was what it was, rather.”

Randall was audibly crying as they continued to talk.  “Do they know who did it?  Do they have any leads?”  Dick said, “no leads. The kind of work she did, and the lifestyle she was leading, doesn’t really lend itself to a list of ‘usual suspects.’  It could have been anyone.  A spurned cast member, a jealous cast member, one of New Yorks’ finest, or a complete stranger.  They just don’t know.”

“What’s going to happen to her?” Randall asked.  Then, panicked he asked, “has anyone gotten in touch with her mother and father?”

Dick said, “I don’t think they know who to get in touch with.  That’s why I called you.  Do you want me to tell them who she was, and how to get in touch with her parents…or will you?”

Randall dropped the phone and yelled, “JESUS!”  Not sure if he had broken his phone and the call had been disconnected, he apologized and asked Dick if he was still there.  He said, “I’m still here.”  He hesitated and said, “it wasn’t released, but I was made privy to a note the officers found.” Randall was suddenly catapulted back to the day they found Callie.  “What did the note say?” he asked.

Dick said, “I don’t know, but I can probably get my hands on a copy, for the right price, of course.”  Randall said, “pay whatever they want.  Just get a copy.”

“Consider it done,” Dick said, “but what about her next of kin?  Don’t you think they should know?”

Randall said, “yes.  I think they should know, but I don’t want them to know everything.” After a long pause, he said, “let me ask you a question.” Dick said, “I’m not sure I want to hear it, but go on.”

“Do you think you could buy off the coroner?” Randall asked.  “Maybe have him certify her death due to maybe natural causes?”  

Dick sighed and said, “wow.  That’s a pretty big ask.  I don’t know how corrupt the coroners there are, and even if I found one who would be willing, I’d bet it wouldn’t come cheap.  You’re talking about official, legal documents, and if I could get it done, and again, that’s a big if, it would mean that the person who brutalized her would get away with it. Natural causes means no evidence, no investigation, no conviction, no nothing.  Do you understand?”

“I understand,” Randall said.

Two days, and twenty-five thousand dollars later, Dick called Randall.  He had obtained a copy of the certificate, listing cause of death as “natural.”  He also had a copy of the note Martina left.  It was déjà vu for Randall.  Dick said the police officers on the scene said that Martine was clutching the note in her hand when she died, and it would of course, be documented as evidence.

Dick said, “she’s listed as Jane Doe. They’ll probably cremate her in a few days, unless someone comes forward to claim her.”

Randall asked, “and then?” Dick said, “well, in New York, unidentified bodies are ferried to City Cemetery, which is a potters’ field on Hart Island.  Do you want to leave her there, or do you want to bring her home? That can be arranged, you know…again, for the right price.”

Randall said, “does someone have to identify her body before her remains can be returned?” Dick said, “I don’t think they would care. It would just be one less body they had to deal with. I’ll see what I can do, and by the way, I still think you should let her folks know.”

Randall didn’t answer. He just said, “can you send me a copy of the note?”

“Check your email,” Dick said.

As soon as Randall got the alert, he opened the email and openly sobbed as he began to read.

I went looking for love,

And all I found was shame.
I went looking for justice,
And all I found was blame.

I went looking for truth,
And all I found was lies.
I went looking for someone,
Who would hear my desperate cries.

I was playing a part,
And I let people stare.
I took off my clothes,
And I colored my hair.

I went looking for reasons,
I had questions to ask.
All I found was deception,
From the ones in the masks.

I went looking for answers,
And all I found was silence.
I went looking for warmth,
And all I found was violence.

I went looking for trust,
And all I found was deceit.
I went looking for honor,
And all I found was a cheat.

I went looking for peace,
And all I found was regret.
I was looking for a pardon,
But they couldn’t forget.

I went looking for sunshine,
And all I found was rain,
I went looking for friendship,
And I found it in Cocaine.

I went looking for dreams,
And all I found was pain.
I went looking for comfort,
So I needled a vein.

I went looking for rescue,
But it came far too late.
All I had learned from living,
Was how it felt to hate.

A post script was included with the email. How or where Dick had acquired a copy of the note was not revealed, and he said that all he knew was that it had been found, tucked inside her wallet. There was no date, but clearly, it had been written recently.

Things were crystal clear to Randall as he read with rage.

I saw you last night, and you scared me,
I picked up my phone, and you dared me.
A call never made, a call not received,
A scream never heard, a killer relieved.

Randall couldn’t remember where he had heard the exact phrase, but it seemed to fit, as he softly recanted aloud;
“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop on upon the heart.”

Randall called Dick, but said nothing.  Finally, Dick asked, “are you there? Tell me what you are thinking?”  Randall said, “I think she hated what she was doing.  I think she was looking for redemption, but couldn’t get past her defiance of everything she had ever known.  I think someone betrayed her, and I know someone killed her.”

“Well,” Dick said.  “When it comes to her, you wanted the slate wiped clean, and that’s what you got.  As far as anyone will ever know, she just died, and that’s what you wanted. Now, you have to let it go.  I don’t want you to go all cowboy on me and open up a can of worms.  In other words, don’t start opening doors that you can’t close.  She made her own choices.  You tried to save her, but she obviously didn’t want salvation. Tell me that you are going to let this go.”

After several seconds of silence, Dick asked, “are you there?  Are you going to let this go?”

Randall said, “I appreciate everything you’ve done.  Send me the bill.”  

Dick again asked, “are you going to let this go, son?”

“No,” Randall said, and hung up.