Thursday, May 17, 2012
The River’s Void
April looked peaceful lying in soft linen. Her blond hair flowed around her pillow, her skin was smooth and flawless. Her rich full lips were a nice shade of scarlet. As David watched her, a voice broke his thoughts.
The usher helped David to his seat, while the pallbearer closed the casket on April. David desperately tried to wipe the tears from his eyes as they laid his partner in the cold winter’s ground. Tears from the heart were something even the toughest detective from the hard streets of New York couldn’t hold back. Today, he couldn’t shut them out. David was not only putting his coworker in the ground, he was burying his lover, his best friend.
Late nights had been spent discussing their future. Something had to be better for David and April than the brick-city madness they were living in. They’d dreamed of a quiet setting somewhere in the horizon, a farm house surrounded by green prairie with not a neighbor in sight. But sometimes, dreams have a way of staying dreams between two people forever.
The day of April’s untimely death, as David remembered, was cold and bitter. It was the kind of cold that went straight to the bone. April had worked the lower Eastside for the past three years, shaking down two-bit criminals, street walkers, and hustlers. She was on to one such hustler that morning.
Crossing Fifty-Second and Norman, April spotted the perp. An eye witness later recalled in the police statement that April was sipping her coffee slowly and watching a strange looking man from a distance. His face was rough and hardened from years on the street. A green tattooed teardrop hung from the corner of his right eye. This was a symbol April had seen before in her work on the street. It meant this man had taken a life at some point, then proudly marked himself with the tear of death for all to see.
Suddenly the man turned and started to run. The chase was on. April dropped her cup and ran after him pulling her gun and radio, then called for backup.
"Suspect fleeing west on Norman toward the Blue Water Docks. I need back up and I need it now."
Rounding the corner she couldn’t see the suspect anymore. Then something caught her eye. It was a movement from above. In front of her, pipe link scaffolding reached into the skyline like some sort of a metal giant. April started to climb. Pipe by connecting pipe, platform by platform, April kept moving, never looking down from fear. Finally, she reached the top and was face to face with her foe, his outstretched arm gripping a pistol.
With her gun drawn April said, "Look man, there’s no way out of this, just drop your gun and turn around."
The man stood silent for a moment, gazing at her with his bloodshot eyes.
"Look, I’m telling you for the last time, drop that gun," April demanded.
The man gave her a half-hearted smile, dropped his gun, and turned around. April walked up slowly, pulling her handcuffs from the belt that lined her waist. This is when David’s and April’s dreams forever stayed just dreams, when their hopes turned to horror.
As she approached him, the screeching tires of the backup police cars filled the air. They were on the docks below. At this point, April made a crucial mistake. She took her eyes off her subject just for a second. It was all the time he needed to turn and put a six inch knife into her abdomen. April slid from his cold metallic blade as the man grabbed her gun. The cops below watched in shock as April was shot in the back, then pushed from the scaffolding onto the docks of the river below. April was gone forever. The killer slipped away into the rooftops of the city.
Coping with April’s death was easier for David in a drunken haze. He spent dark days in his apartment staring into the bottom of a bottle, then waking up on the couch just to do the same all over again. David felt he was going insane. He had even gone so far in his madness as to build what he called his "Communication Box" out of an old transistor, a few guitar pickups, and any other electronic parts he thought would help him contact April in the next world.
David was up for hours soldering circuit boards and wrapping magnets with copper wire, hoping to break through, yet nothing happened. David’s frustration built, and madness carved away at his very existence.
"Let me see her again."
He screamed at the ceiling as if yelling to the heavens. He slammed his fist into the coffee table, not feeling the pain of glass shattering beneath his rage. Then retracting into a fetal position to cry over his overwhelming feeling of loss, he didn’t care who he had to provoke to hear April’s voice again. Heaven or Hell—it didn’t matter to him. He just wanted her back.
By this time, David hinged on any late night sounds that came from his Communication Box. Static or not, he was all ears. Drifting to sleep sitting up then waking in a cold sweat thinking he had heard her voice trying to make contact. But still no April. David was beginning to realize he had hit rock bottom.
Early one morning, a knock came to his door. David crawled off the couch. He glanced at his watch.
Who could it possibly be this time in the morning?
Opening the door, David was stunned to see his police captain.
“Captain, what are you doing here?”
David motioned for the captain to step inside. Walking in with the look of disgust he said, “I’m here to tell you to pick yourself up. This has to stop. You need to pull your ass together. April would not like what you’ve turned into.”
“How would you know anything about it?” David fired back.
The captain’s face grew cold and his brow narrowed. For a split second, he looked as if he wanted to smack David in the head.
“Look, David, you’re not the first person to experience this kind of loss. You either stop living or you pick yourself up. Remember you’re NYPD. People who haven’t given up on their life yet rely on you. Don’t forget the man that killed April is still at large.”
David sat motionless for a minute, rubbing his unshaven chin.
“All right, captain, I’m coming in.”
“Okay, eight o-clock Monday. Between now and then get your ass to a shower and sober up. By the way, you’ll be breaking in a new partner.”
“A new partner?”
The captain turned and walked away saying, “Monday, David, don’t be late and don’t be drunk.”
Back on the street looking for the suspect and looking for revenge, David finally woke up from his grief. David’s new partner, Jessica, was a little overbearing at times with her by-the-book enthusiastic ways, but David also realized that sunlight was a little overbearing at this point. Just getting up and facing the day was rough. However, it was nice to be back on the beat. He felt it was one of the only things he had left after his love was ripped from his life.
Walking down Norman, David asked Jessica if she wanted some coffee. She nodded and then walked across the street to wait on the park bench. David went inside a little coffee shop and stood in line with the rest of New York, or at least this is the way it felt when people were between him and his morning java.
A very well-dressed, soft-spoken man was standing in front of him. He looked to be in his thirties, yet he walked with a cane. Strangely enough, he did not have a limp. David noticed oddities in people. For a detective it was his job to analyze the world around him.
The man turned and spoke. "I think this line is going to go on forever. It doesn’t seem to end."
David smiled and kept chewing his gum.
"You’re a constable I see."
"Yep, a detective."
"You must stay busy in a city like ours."
"Yea, you could say that."
The two men kept up this small talk conversation until both were drinking their precious morning coffee. Walking outside David went to bid the man farewell, but before doing so he asked the stranger his name.
The man turned and said, "The next time you call into that Communication Box of yours, know we’re always listening."
David felt faint. The last thing he remembered was the stranger’s smiling face as he fell to the ground. The next thing he saw was his partner Jessica looking over him.
"David, you okay?"
David sat up somewhat confused. "Where is he?"
"Where is who, David?"
"The man with the cane. The man I walked out with."
"You walked out alone. I watched you. You looked around, and then collapsed."
"Yeah, maybe." David put out his hand and Jessica helped him to his feet. "Look, don’t say anything to the captain about this."
Jessica smiled. "Don’t worry. I won’t mention it. You’ve gone through a lot the last few months. It’s going to take some time to get back in the swing of things."
David kept working April’s case. As the days went by, he couldn’t help but think about the strange man from the coffee shop. Early one morning after following a lead that went nowhere, he decided to walk over to St. Michael's Cathedral. David felt something was drawing him there, but what? As he walked in, the hair stood on the back of his neck. He felt something wasn’t right. Something was there with him. Looking up and suddenly chilled with fear, the stained-glass figures seemed alive and to be looking down at him. As he approached the Communion altar, he saw the man from the coffee shop. Sharply dressed, brim hat to boot, his dark eyes searched David with a hard stare.
"David, sit down," the man said softly.
David could not believe what was going on. He walked over and slid into the long wooden pew next to the man. Shadows danced toward the ceiling cast from slow burning candles. A giant wooden crucifix hung in front of them. David’s mind raced with thoughts of who else could be lurking in the dark corners of the cathedral. What have I done? David thought.
"You’ve done nothing wrong David, and no one is hiding in the corners. David, I’m here to help you make things right." The man said while rolling his cane with his fingers.
David was quit for a long moment then pointed with a shaking hand to the crucifix "Are you one of his?"
The man smiled. "I was around long before he came to save the world and long after the world so happily nailed him to a cross." The man said, as he pulled a small silver hip-flask from his coat pocket, then took a long draw from its mouth.
"Like I said David, I’m here to help you. Whether you knew it or not, you called out to us. Over and over again you spoke, yelled, and even screamed into your Box trying to make contact with the other side. I know what you’re thinking—why didn’t April come back? Why are you stuck with me? Well, it just doesn’t work that way. Chaos would ensue, if this were allowed."
"I just wanted to hear her voice one more time." David said, his eyes welling with tears.
"I know David, but we are not allowed to see anyone that could recognize us from our previous life. It would just cause too many problems."
David started to get cold from the draft that crept in over the marble floors. He folded his arms in discomfort.
"It’s a little chilly, even for me." The man rubbed his smooth white hands together. The gold ring on his finger seemed to jump out visually against his pale skin. He gestured for David to stand.
"Let’s take a walk. At least outside we’ll be moving. Get the blood flowing, you know?"
"Yea." David said slowly in a drawn-out voice from the mans choice of words.
The two men strolled toward the doors of the cathedral. The stranger’s cane tapped the floor with each passing step. Out in the street, it seemed as if they walked for hours talking about April’s Killer.
"David, you’re close to finding the man that took your April. But, understand death surrounds this man like a thick rolling fog. There is no goodness in him, none." the man said. "Go down to the warehouse district and you’ll find an old acquaintance of hers. Someone April worked with years ago."
"In the warehouse district?"
"Yes, the warehouse district. The acquaintance is a washed up fashion designer by the name of Louie Loose Fingers."
"What?" David interrupted. "He doesn’t sound like anyone April would have known."
The man put up his hand. "Give me a chance to explain. Louie was one of the top designers in Manhattan until his habit became too much. He quickly went from the upscale northern tip of New York Bay, the heart of the never-ending lights, to the lower Eastside, where the park benches are always full and stomachs are always empty."
David rubbed his temples as his face pulled into a strained smile. "Selma Kicks, that’s what she called herself. That was a long time ago." David said looking away in the distance as if seeing some fading memory.
"I knew she did some modeling years ago, but she never mentioned this guy Louie."
"Some people are best left in the past. David, find your girl’s killer." The mysterious man said as he handed David an address. "Remember, death surrounds him."
Their conversation was interrupted by a familiar voice. "David, who are you talking to?"
David turned to see Jessica coming up the sidewalk. Looking back, he realized the man had vanished. David knew that Jessica was already suspicious of his odd behavior. He couldn’t say that he was talking to an apparition. She would think he was mad.
I need to come up with something, anything.
"You know, I was just talking to myself. I do that sometimes for some strange reason."
Jessica smiled but didn't reply.
"Look, I’ve gotten a lead on April’s killer," David continued. "We’ve got to go to the warehouse district."
"Kind of sudden, isn’t it?"
David buttoned his jacket against the cold wind that had started to blow. "Not really. We’ve been working the case for weeks. I’m not surprised people are starting to talk."
Jessica followed him back to the squad car.
He opened the car door and turned to her. "Where’s your car?"
"The captain dropped me off down the street," she replied.
David groaned. "Am I in trouble?"
"Nah, I told him we had arranged to meet down here," Jessica said.
"How did you know where I’d be?"
"Just a hunch."
David frowned. He wasn’t sure what to make of his new partner. As hard as he tried to dislike her, it was becoming more difficult.
The two of them arrived at the warehouse district and started to look for 2076 Hanger 13. After a long walk down the wooden planked pier, they arrived. Stepping in through the door of the seedy warehouse seemed a little overwhelming for Jessica. She had not been a detective as long David had. He hoped she was up for what lay ahead.
Louie’s warehouse was filthy with a heavy stench that hung in the air. Bottoms of soda cans were cutout and burnt from preparing his prescriptions. Trash covered the tables and floor. David looked with a heavy eye at Louie sitting at a desk in front of him.
His clothes hung off his boney figure. His pale eyes were slightly sunk into his head and glazed over like an old fish in a supermarket. His dry skin was ashy and adorned with red open abscess. Obviously, he was hooked to the gills. Louie was cutting photos out of magazines and then pasting them into an old book. Women, men, subtitles, it didn’t seem to matter to Louie. In fact, it didn’t seem to matter that David and Jessica had just walked in to his world.
"Hello," David said in a low, non-threatening voice. He could not afford to start off on the wrong foot with this man. Criminal or not, he could lead David to April’s killer.
"Well, now, you here to bust Old Louie?" He said in a scratchy voice.
"Good, you would be hard pressed, anyway. I’ve got a prescription for all this medication. I’m under the care of a doctor, you know."
Yea! Doctor Death.
We’re here for some information on a case we’re working."
Louie continued to work on his project, cutting and pasting very slowly.
"And what makes you think I would help you?"
"My fiancée." David paused for a minute, as he was choking up.
Jessica spoke. "His partner was killed about six months ago. We heard you may have some information."
"Who was your partner?" Louie never looked up from his book.
"April, but you knew her as Selma Kicks."
With a sigh Louie began to tell of a time that once was in his industry.
He said there were many models but none more memorable than Selma, explaining she had beautiful features, flawless skin, and a walk to die for. She had it all.
Louie looked up at David, his rotten teeth exposed between his cracked lips. "I heard about Selma’s death. Might have some info on her killer."
David leaned in closer to the reeking man. "Who is it?"
Louie shook his head. "I said might. Don’t know for sure. He’s a slender man, taller than you, blond hair, rotten teeth." He laughed with a gurgling smoker’s voice. "But don’t we all?"
David was growing impatient. "Just tell me about this man."
"He stays down at the old Johnson Center, run down place about three blocks from here." Louie motioned south from the warehouse. "Can’t miss the place, and can’t miss the fella. Lost three fingers on his left hand. Don’t know his name, but you’ll find him."
"Is that all you can tell us?"
"You’re sure pushy for someone that needs my help." Louie paused, cut his eyes at David, and then continued. "He works for the mob as a hired gun. That’s all I know."
"I appreciate the information. Just one more thing before I leave. Why?" David motioned toward the drug paraphernalia and magazines.
"Cut art is a coping skill for me. It’s how I deal with the everyday pressures of life. Falling from a life that once was is not easy, especially the one I was in. The champagne, the limelight, I had it all at one time and pushed it right into my vein. Drugs are a horrible thing, a demon that some of us will never shake. A demon you get used to seeing each and every day. He is always waiting for the next hit. Now I beg for change, for food. All I have now is a habit and a few good memories. Selma is one of those memories."
Dead silence hung between them for what seemed like forever with just the click of the second hand on David’s wristwatch, clicking through moments of deep and heavy thought.
"Well, David, you may need a coping skill before it is all over. Go find your killer. Find him, and put him away for what he has done." Louie turned his attention to his magazines.
David and Jessica walked through the warehouse and back outside. For blocks, no word was exchanged between them. They were headed into the badlands, the lower Eastside--April’s old district. David knew he was taking his life in his hands walking these streets. Finally, they made it to their destination, the Old Johnson Center at Sixth Street and Main.
The color of the brick building resembled an old tabby cat. Rust stains ran down its walls from the fire escape discoloring the sidewalk below. Windows of broken glass lined the front like jagged teeth in a darkened mouth.
The two of them made their way inside. A terrible feeling came over David that he had never felt before, but he was driven to find April’s killer. Fear of the unknown wasn’t going to stop him at this point. Jessica walked slowly behind him. Both of them were ready with guns drawn. The sand and trash that littered the floor felt as if it were moving underneath them with each step.
"We need to make it to the top floor. That’s probably where he is," David said in a low voice.
"How do you know that?"
"I don’t, but that’s where I would be if I were hiding out. You can see everything from the top floor. You can hear everything from the top floor. So that’s where we are going."
Step by step, they made their way to the top. It seemed as if their legs were going to give out. After twelve flights of stairs, they just wanted to finish their climb. At the upper level David signaled Jessica to turn down her radio before they moved down the hallway. A slight breeze blew through the building’s hollow shell and made old newspapers dance in the air in front of them. The old crystal chandelier in the hallway marked a time that once was when people crowded the ballroom below.
Something suddenly caught David’s eye, a movement in a room just ahead of him. It was a man, but not who he was looking for and certainly not who he expected. It was the man from the coffee shop. He gazed at David with hollow eyes. Then he motioned for David to look in the room he was standing in.
"What is it, David? Why have you stopped?" Jessica asked in a low voice.
"April’s killer is in that room." David pointed forward.
"Wait, how do you know?"
"I just do. Come on."
As they rounded the corner and entered the room, the killer waited with his gun drawn. David was now face to face with his fiancée’s killer.
"Put it down, man," David yelled.
The killer said, "I knew you would come for me after I put my knife in your partner. In fact, this is her gun. How ironic would it be to shoot you with her gun."
"Shut up and put the gun down."
The killer smiled. "You know she begged for her life."
David looked at the man from the coffee shop which no one could see or hear but him. Shrugging his shoulders, his mysterious friend said, "I think comments like that trump the law, don’t you?"
David looked back at the killer. There was an eerie silence between them. This man was no good. He only lived to bring misery and death to others. David knew he was sworn to uphold the law. He was torn between what was right and what was law. But David wouldn’t have to wrestle long with his thoughts, the killer squeezed his trigger, firing in David’s direction. The flash from the guns muzzle in the dark room was almost blinding. David fired back but something strange happened. His gun didn’t fire.
What is wrong with my gun? Why won’t it fire?
Jessica’s gun was working just fine. She shot at the killer. David glanced at the man from the coffee shop. Calmly, he said, "It’s over, David. It’s time."
David looked back at the gun fight and the killer was lying on the ground lifeless but so was David. Horrified, he instantly realized why his gun didn’t work. He wasn’t able to pull the trigger because he was dead. David could see Jessica trying to resuscitate him.
The man from the coffee shop spoke again. "Someone is ready for you to cross over."
David couldn’t believe what he saw. It was April standing in front of him with a smile that David had longed to see again. Her eyes were full of happiness and her arms were ready for his embrace.
The man spoke once more. "You see, David, sometimes dreams have a way of staying just dreams between two people when one of them is suddenly taken away. And sometimes the dreams are just meant to take place in the next life."