Biblical Apples

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Chapter 27: John 16:22

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

She studied him and two new tears, like chapters, raced each other down each of her cheeks, framing her tired face. “Look, the truth is that I knew Tatiana and Toni. We were part of Flynn’s stable, each of us with a specialty.”

“What do you mean a specialty?” Mike wiped his eyes but did not look at her directly.

“Flynn had his eyes on a property to get zoned for a massage parlor. Throw in that with the Jewel and the motel down the road, and Wells Avenue was going to become a red light district. Tatiana is a licensed masseuse to legitimize things, but she was also big on recruitment on campus, looking for girls to train.”

“What about Toni?”

“She’s a stripper and a recruiter on campus. Flynn’s eventual plan was to turn the Jewel into a strip club, and Toni was just getting acquainted with Hillview.”

Thinking back to his discussion with Frankie, Mike asked, “How did Frankie get caught up in all this shit?”

“Frankie helped move the dope on campus, and Flynn appealed to his little guy complex by hooking him up and giving him ideas, all of which, study room included, came from Flynn. I knew all this, but when I questioned you, I wanted to find out how much you knew. All of it was too close to me, and Little John still was an ill-fitting piece in the puzzle. I called in the police to let Flynn know to back off of my floor.”

“Were you aware the dope we smoked came from Flynn’s stash? Did you know that it was laced, probably with angel dust?”

Carol stared at him, the varnish of prostitution glossing over regret. “Mike, I didn’t know that, but I do know that as much as I realize I hurt you, I still get memories of that night in bits and pieces. When I saw your body that morning, I knew it was something I did because…”

“Come out with it Carol. Because what? Is that your fucking specialty, robbing men of any trace of dignity?”

She looked away from him for a few seconds before responding. “Yes, it is!” she yelled across the table, causing the bar tender in back to stop wiping the counter and look their way. She exhaled deeply and continued in a softer voice. “I guess my brain didn’t separate you from the sick fucks that wanted that done to them. That’s how I made the big money, all well-off older men with wives and kids, guys in power who got off having pain inflicted and being humiliated. What’s worse is that I started to like it.”

The sound of the bed springs squeaking, and the crushing power of her legs, and the hand with no conscience, and her grunting found him fixated, invading his thoughts. They sat speechless for several minutes. He studied the dried tributaries on her profile as she blew smoke into the air before turning around to face him. She took a long drag, blew the smoke into the ceiling fan, watched the blades cut in into segments, and smashed the butt into the ashtray “Do you have any more questions?”

“Can you give me the names of the high-profile people who were your clients?”

“I’ll never do that. I still have to protect myself. I will tell you that in a month or so, something will happen with one of them where you’ll be able to put two and two together and figure it out yourself. You can ask me anything else you want.”

For the next several minutes she responded to Mike’s question regarding her plans, revealing how she had moved back in with her grandmother, the only parent she’d ever known, and how she would be making arrangements to finish her degree as a commuting student. To him, these were ramblings caught by his tape recorder but erased from the moment. He now stared at her and wondered how Carol Frazier, the girl of his dreams, had become his worst nightmare, wondered if the mental scars and darkness would ever go away. Her ramblings could never furnish captions for the images that flashed like strobe lights on his psyche, the whitened fist crushing him, the flexing buttocks muscles immobilizing him, her cascading hair blanketing her face, so he could not see an expression as he begged her to stop, as he hoped that some sane human part of her during that moment might still have wanted to be nurturing, wanted to tuck him in, to tell him not to look as it was happening, to tell him it would all be over soon, to tell him it was okay, and to repeatedly tell him that he was still a man as she ground the ejaculate all over his face and slowly put him to sleep.

There was a final order of business. For this, he paused momentarily, no longer feeling the fear, able to look into her eyes and ask, “Who the hell are you, Carol? What the hell are you?"

Her eyes had lost their penetrating quality; there seemed to be some kindness fanning outward. “I’m no longer that person, Mike. Don’t tell me you didn’t see the wall, what was on it."

He thought back to his initial reaction to the image on the wall. It was his blood, after all, that made it possible. Thus, his deduction, one of self-preservation, was attributed to coincidence like the arbitrary splashing of paint that settles onto a canvas looking for an excuse to become art.

"My blood was on the wall, Carol!" This he said with anger, not at her for having mutilated him, but at her for having brought it up as though it served some divine purpose, some intervention. He looked at her for a reaction.

Carol stood up, zipped her jacket, and put on her wool cap, signalling the end of their meeting, the end of their acquaintance. She gazed at him for an uncomfortable moment.

"I'm sorry to have made you into a martyr, Mike, but for me it was a message, long overdue. I now can thank God for what happened that night. Thank you for being his vessel.”

He always had done some of his best thinking behind the wheel of a car, his BMW 320i speeding down the straightaway’s and managing the curves. In his life, some of his ideas had been borrowed, and some were of his making, but he pursued them vigorously, willing to take the risks and gamble with chance. For this idea, he sought and found affirmation, acceptance, and forgiveness from his eyes in the rear-view mirror, and his foot pressed the accelerator to the floor.

The fury of the lake had been released the previous week when the dormant waves came to life with an early thaw, sweeping up the thinning sheets of ice like broken glass, crashing against seawalls, and sending columns of water onto Lake View Drive. Winter showed its moodiness so that the escaping water once again froze to the pavement as the afternoon temperatures dipped.

Those at the scene suspected high speeds meeting slick road, an over-correction, a struck curb, and an unimpeded rolling into the murky water. Police arrived with their yellow tape. Channel seven was first to engage in speculation and shoot its backdrop. The service trucks, a fire engine, an ambulance, a towing company, awaited their calling, and from their respective perches, the shadowy outline of the vehicle was visible in about eight feet of water, nose down.

The lone occupant had belted himself in, the contents of the vehicle floating in his proximity, some finding freedom through the shattered window, an emptied plastic Coke bottle, indiscriminate paper slips, and the yellows, reds, and whites fluttered past like flags for McDonald’s. Growing heavy, a copy of the Sylvan Northwood Times rested on the passenger side floor, occasionally taking wing with the water’s movement but soon just blurry and motionless. Equilibrium was achieved when the car was totally filled with water, and the lake’s undertow became present in the vehicle as well, pinning the driver’s hair behind his ears and bathing his wide open eyes.

He never talked about his family, but they were easy to spot. His dad was fiftyish, short, had a pot belly, and fought for his youth with the Tom Jones hair and sideburns. His heavy eyelids lent to a stoic posture, but he was a gentleman, linking elbows with a stout, salt-and-pepper-haired woman who looked straight ahead as if acknowledging anyone would lend credibility to the proceedings. A young lady, perhaps 15, nervously chewed gum and repeatedly brushed her long black hair away from her face, her overdone make-up hardening her appearance as if in some self-defense. They had an odd comportment about them, arriving as a unit but functioning like letters that fill a line in a crossword puzzle without accommodating the surrounding elements.

Three long black limousines formed a line perpendicular to the breezeway and smoked in the biting temperatures, their chauffeurs awaiting the exodus of a hastily-assembled gathering of ill-fitting people who for this moment had a common purpose. With its tires peeling off the pavement like Saran wrap, a fourth black vehicle arrived, almost as long, boasting a back area with privacy curtains. Black was the spot color for a gray February day and an adjective for the occasion.

Inside, a huge Jesus was dying on the cross but played second fiddle to the open casket in front of him where the mannequin-like figure of a young man inspired visitors, crying, kneeling, and making the sign of the cross. The scene was repeated several times over with the emotions, the movements, and the gesticulations having exactness, a rehearsed quality, a morbid choreography.

Two miles away a rectangular hole rested under a tented area that would be the gathering’s next venue. Sprinkles of cold raindrops provided an unsteady beat on the canvas, like impatient fingertips drumming atop a desk. The sun was fighting, trying to find something good about this day, its light coming and going as if at the whim of a dimmer switch.

Everybody there had more desirable things to do, but everybody was there because there was the place to be. Two motorcycle police units guided the journey; the black limos pierced the dank air like long-range bullets; with headlights on, the vehicle procession announced its distinction, and the grandiose production was nearing its destination, its fitting conclusion. There certainly were less-final ways to go about it, but Frank Spinelli had always enjoyed the attention.

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