Author: WriterJC PM
Peter deals with a situation shortly after taking the brands.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 2,665 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 1 - Published: 09-17-00 - id: 75409
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
by Writer JC
If you just close your eyes
Just imagine everything's alright
But do not hide your tears
Maybe we can wash away those years
- Creed, Wash Away Those Years
"Who's there?" Peter Caine's voice echoed in the late night darkness of the all night grocery store. His steps slowed and his eyes narrowed as he scanned the empty area in search of the noise that had brought his senses to semi-alertness. A light breeze wafted, bringing city smells of oil, spent fuel and an undertone of urine. Peter dismissed them and concentrated on sight and sound. Visually nothing seemed out of place, and the droning thrum of a street lamp was the only sound he detected nearby. Yet the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Instinct rather than Shaolin senses warned that something was amiss.
"Hello?" He called again as he took another half step, and felt something crunch beneath his shoe. Freezing in mid-motion, he lifted his foot and peered underneath. The meager light that shone from the buzzing street light illuminated an intricately patterned gold chain and pendant. The loop of precious metal that had once united pendant and chain was crushed and no longer performed its assigned function.
Glancing around the parking lot once more, he shifted his single grocery bag and stooped to retrieve the broken item. A soft sigh caused his head to jerk in the direction of his Stealth. Moving to his feet he strode purposefully toward the vehicle. He rounded the automobile and came to a startled halt.
His eyes locked on to the woman who sat huddled against the driver's side of his car. A chill ran the length of his spine, conjuring images of a bloodied face and a bruised body. Shaking them off, he quickly stepped to the woman's side, setting his groceries on the ground nearby.
"Are you all right?" he asked, stooping to her level.
He blinked in dismay as she slowly turned red-rimmed eyes in his direction. The haunted face, the bloodied nose, the darkening bruises were the reality of the images that he wanted to deny. Fall out from taking the brands and being the son of Kwai Chang Caine.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, tentatively reaching for her, but not making contact. Where his father's touch had always seemed to emanate calmness and peace, he could only seem to absorb misery.
The woman continued to stare wordlessly at him, beyond him as if she were trapped in some other place, some other time. The depth of the desolateness that Peter sensed in those dark orbs unnerved him. So much hopelessness, so much despair, so much pain. He fell back on procedure, consciously ignoring the Shaolin side of his nature. "We should get you to a hospital."
"No." The woman blinked and focused on him. "No. I don't need a hospital."
"Are you sure?" Peter asked softly. "Those bruises look pretty bad to me."
The woman ducked her head away, concealing the bruises in shadow.
"Listen, I'm - I used to be a cop. " He smiled wryly at his near mistake. "Tell me who did this to you. I still have friends on the force." That was the world he felt comfortable in. Despite the rightness of taking the brands a few days prior, the mantle of Shaolin priest was still odd, and years of cop instinct could not be denied.
The woman laughed a weak, disdainful chuckle. "I know who you are. I've seen you on TV and around. Come to Chinatown, ask for Caine. But he's gone, and you're here. Can you help me? Can you make me feel whole again?"
Peter's heart sank. She comes looking for Caine-the-priest and she gets Peter-the-confused-ex-cop. Oh God, Pop. Where are you when I need you? "I can offer you a safe place to stay out of the cold," he said, hoping that would be enough. "I happen to be in possession of two apartments at the moment."
"Can't make me whole, huh? That's too bad." The edge of bitterness in her tone was unmistakable. Peter thought he detected some other emotion as well, one that he couldn't put a name to. It frightened him, set his nerves on edge. Years of finely honed cop instinct told him that this woman was trouble and that he needed to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand. Shaolin training said that the woman was in trouble and needed his help. What would Pop do? Probably make tea.
"No I can't make you whole," Peter finally said. "My father would say that becoming whole takes many steps in life's journey."
"Your father." The woman looked disappointed. "What would you say?"
Peter was startled by the question. "I would. . . I would say that you can never truly be whole if you rely on someone else to make you complete." He frowned. Was that the lesson in this latest separation from his father?
"You're probably right. I'll never be complete, haven't been in a very long time." A shudder ran through the woman, and she seemed to collapse further against the car.
Peter reached for her. "We should get you out of the night air. I can buy you a coffee or a. . . tea or something."
"No!" She flinched away from him, wrapping her arms more tightly in the folds of her dress. "Don't do that. Don't touch me. I don't deserve to be touched. Never again."
"I think its time you call those friends of yours on the force."
"Tell me why you don't deserve to be touched?" The horror of the answer toyed at the edges of Peter's consciousness, but he wouldn't allow it entry.
"I killed a man." The woman looked in his eyes. He thought he felt the deadness in her soul reach across a great chasm and swipe at his heart. He steeled himself. Her despair would drag him under.
"Who did you kill?"
"2359-B Old Sidz Rd." The woman mumbled the address. "Tell them to check. He's there. I left him to die."
"I'll have to take you to the station," Peter told her.
"Aren't you going to call and have them check it out?"
Peter reached past her and into his car for his phone. He quickly dialed the precinct and passed on the information that the woman had given him as well as his current location. She remained impassive throughout the exchange.
"Can you tell me what happened?" he asked.
"Horrible things," the woman said after long moments. "Horrible things that happened for years and I just let them."
Peter didn't need to have it spelled out for him. He'd seen enough situations of domestic violence to last him a lifetime. "It's not that simple. You weren't always in control of the situation."
"But I was," the woman argued. "I was. Whenever things. . . got out of hand I could go to that peaceful place inside where he couldn't touch me. I could just close my eyes and go there. Everything is beautiful there. I'm beautiful there and he loves me."
She closed her eyes and a small frown creased her brow. She opened her eyes again and looked at Peter. "He took that away from me. I tried to go there and he took it. So I killed him. I killed him dead."
Peter felt chilled through by the darkness he saw reflected in her gaze.
"I killed him dead," she repeated. "But my eyes are dry. I can't cry for him. But he did. He cried when I pulled the trigger for the first time. Never saw him shed a tear in 20 years till then. I figured he owed me a lot of tears. A lifetime's worth. So I made him cry some more." A hysterical laughed bubbled up from her throat. "I made him die crying."
Peter sat stunned, at a loss for what to say. His Shaolin heritage gave him more insight than he wanted into what had taken place in the small dingy apartment that the woman called home. The ringing of his cellular phone drew him back from the cloying darkness that emanated from the woman.
He leaned back in the driver's seat and numbly answered the phone. He didn't need the confirming words. He already knew what the scene in the apartment looked like. He knew how the anguish of two humans had erupted into mind-altering violence fed by years of anger and abuse. He had to take a deep breath before he turned back toward the woman who had so softly and emotionlessly imparted the information. The glint of black amid the folds of her dress froze him in mid-motion.
Clamping down on the surge of adrenaline that told him to grab for the weapon, Peter made an attempt at nonchalance. "Why did you come here? Why not just call the police?"
The woman looked at him with those painfully dark eyes. "I knew you were here. I knew that they would come if you called. How long before they get here?"
Peter tried to swallow away the sick feeling growing in the pit of his stomach. "About five minutes. What's your plan?"
The woman looked away. "I think you already know."
Peter nodded. "You want to use that gun to maneuver the policemen into killing you. Death isn't the answer."
"Death is the ultimate answer. And since I don't have the courage to do it myself. . . Think of it as a tax-free death penalty. I apologize in advance if you get hurt in the bargain."
"What makes you think you deserve to die?"
"I killed a man. An eye for an eye. Surely you're not going to tell me that I was in the right."
"My father would say--" He paused. "I say that what you've done is a horrible thing. A life was lost tonight. You were both victims."
"Then it'll be a mercy killing," the woman said. "Did you know that when I was in high school I wrote a paper about euthanasia and the death penalty? I argued against both. Isn't it poetic that my death can be considered both?"
"What if you don't die?" Peter asked softly.
The woman looked sharply at him. "What do you mean?"
"What if you're only wounded? What if you have to shoot someone else to get them to shoot you? What if you kill that person?"
"That's not going to happen." The woman shook her head.
"What if that person is a young cop, fresh out of the academy with a new wife and a baby on the way? A young man with sandy blond hair and laughing blue eyes? A young man named Joseph, but all his friends call him Joey. " Peter felt a peace come over himself as the words spilled from his lips.
The woman frowned and shook her head more vigorously. "No. Can't happen. I'm going to be the one to die here tonight."
He looked down at the chain still clasped in his hand. He held it toward her. "I think this is yours."
She looked down at it, but made no move to accept it. "It's broken. Just like me."
"It can be repaired."
"Too late for me."
Peter gazed out into the night, allowing echoes of the past to come to mind. "I used to feel that way. But someone who had no reason to took a chance on me. He taught me that sometimes a stranger can see things in you that you can't see in yourself. Things that make us worth saving."
The woman swallowed. "I'm not worth it."
Peter looked at her. "I see in you that you are."
The woman returned his gaze, uncertainty replacing some of the darkness. "You can't see what's not there."
"That place you go when you close your eyes. It was real once, wasn't it?"
The woman nodded, her eyes beginning to slowly fill. "Yes. It was. It was in that place that he gave me that locket. It was all I had left to hold on to."
"It's still in your heart. The memory of that happy time can always be yours. I once told that person who gave me a chance that you count up the happy moments of your life and hope that you reach double digits by the end of it. You've got to remember the happy times, they can carry you through the bad."
The tears spilled over. "I can't. There's too much bad, too much pain; it's crowding out the good. There's no balance, no happy medium. I can't find the mean."
Peter saw two police cruisers approaching in his peripheral vision. "Then take my hand and let me help you. When you acknowledge your pain and all that's happened, then you can find your way on to the path of being whole again."
Tears ran down the woman's face unchecked. "My God, what have I done?" She looked around as if seeing for the first time. "What have I done?"
"You've come a long way," Peter said, placing his hand over hers. "Give me the gun."
The woman began to tremble in earnest as she lifted the gun from the folds of her dress and placed it in Peter's hand. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "So sorry."
Peter stuffed the gun in his jacket pocket as he helped her to her feet. "They're going to have to take you down the station," he told her softly. "You can do this," he urged when panic rose in her gaze. "Remember you're on that path to making yourself whole again."
The woman nodded and turned toward the fresh-faced young officer who approached. The threesome froze momentarily. The woman cast a shocked look in Peter's direction before turning back to the sandy haired, blue-eyed police officer who after a moment's confused hesitation advised her of her rights and handcuffed her.
"You're Peter Caine, aren't you?" the young officer asked several minutes later when Peter handed over the gun the woman had used to shoot her husband.
"Yes. I retired from the force a few days ago."
"Joey Sloane." The young patrolmen shook Peter's hand. "I've heard a lot about you. I appreciate you handling this situation." He turned toward the direction of the cruiser and shook his head bemusedly. "You just never know."
"What do you mean?"
"I could be wrong, but I think she used to be my social studies teacher. If it wasn't for one of our class debates on the death penalty I don't think I ever would have considered becoming a police officer. " He turned back toward Peter. "You were a good cop, why'd you give it up?"
Peter chuckled softly to himself. "I couldn't find the mean."
Peter shook his head. "Never mind. Any idea where I can find a good jewelry repair shop?"