Stan began to slowly walk down the hall of the blood-splattered apartment, surveying the aftermath of the drugs raid. By the broken front-door, lay the dead, bullet-ridden body of Mr Lando, lying face-down in a pool of blood. Stan half-kicked him as he stepped over the body. Faintly in the distance, Stan could hear his name being called.
"Stan?...STAN?" The voice calling Stan's name became louder and had an urgent, frantic tone to it. The voice penetrated Stan's thoughts and he suddenly came round. There, in the corridor, stood in front of him was Grace; D.E.A. Officer Grace Pesci. His 'immortal beloved' and the woman to whom last night he'd made love.
"Hi babe," smiled Stan, with a glazed, far-away look in his eyes, like someone who was slightly drunk or as in Stan's case, high on incredibly strong analgesic drugs. Stan was addicted to painkillers. He had been prescribed them for most of his adult life, but now he had become physically and mentally dependent on them. The pills helped him to cope with the emotional and psychological aspect of his job, especially when he had to carry out drugs raids and kill people.
"Oh my God Stan, thank Christ you're OK," cried Grace, throwing her arms around Stan's neck and hugging him tightly, "Malky phoned me and said that Lando had shot you."
Grace was panting heavily from where she had just ran up all six flights of stairs. Stan felt Grace's body heaving against his, as she fought to get her breath back. Stan liked the sensation of it; Grace's bosom rising and falling against his chest with every deep breath she took. It reminded him of their passionate love-making twelve hours earlier.
As a general rule, Stan hadn't had much luck with women. Actually, Stan hadn't had ANY luck with women, not unless you counted a couple of drunken fumblings with girls at the Police Academy in his younger days. Oh, and then there was the time when a trainee officer named Sandy had slept with him for a bet and had told him afterwards that in reality she wouldn't have let a Beethoven-loving odd-ball like Stan touch her with a barge-pole. Stan couldn't understand why women didn't like him. He was fairly good-looking, with his piercing blue eyes and short mousy-brown hair and although compared to most guys, he was a little on the short side, he was slim and impeccably dressed.
"It's just a scratch honey," Stan heard himself say to Grace, as he stroked her hair with his non-bloodied hand, "You should see the mess I made of that son-of-a-bitch Lando."
Since that incident with Sandy ten years earlier, Stan had been virtually celibate, which hadn't exactly been easy for him. Stan had used the services of call-girls on a number of occasions, but could never bring himself to have full sexual intercourse with them, opting instead for either oral sex or masturbation. So with relationships very much out of the picture, Stan had concentrated on his job and rose very quickly through the police ranks. At the age of thirty-five, Stan was now an extremely high-ranking officer in the D.E.A., but it was no wonder he got so wound-up and angry with his fellow D.E.A. officers. All those years of pent-up sexual frustration building up inside of him had to erupt in some shape or form.
Grace released her grip on Stan and noticed the bullet hole in the upper left arm of Stan's jacket. Then she noticed the blood all over his left hand.
"Oh my God Stan, you're bleeding," gasped Grace in horror, "I've got to get you to a hospital."
"It's OK angel. IT IS OK," replied Stan grinning, stroking Grace's cheek.
Then six months ago, Grace came into Stan's life. D.E.A. Officer Grace Pesci was a year younger than Stan and was only one rank lower. Being of Irish/Italian origin, Grace was five feet, four inches tall, slim, with shoulder-length, dark-blonde hair and brown eyes. The decision for a female officer to join Stan's team had been made by his bosses and even though Stan was unhappy about this, he was not allowed any say in the matter. He saw Grace and this decision as a threat to his job. Stan did not want a female on his all-male team of D.E.A. officers and had told Grace as much on her first day. Stan also told Grace that just because she was female not to expect any special kind of treatment. If she stepped out of line or messed up, she would get her backside kicked just as hard as any of his male officers. And finally, Stan told Grace that if she was offended by 'men talk' and swearing, then she had best leave the team now.
What Stan didn't expect was to fall in love with Grace and for Grace to fall in love with him.
"It is NOT OK," Stan heard Grace answer hysterically, "You're bleeding all over the God-damn place and..."
"But it's NOT my blood," interrupted Stan laughing manically, waving his hand in front of Grace's face, "It came off one of the corpses in there."
"Jesus Christ Stan, that was NOT funny," cursed Grace, sighing half with relief and half with frustration at Stan's 'joke', "I thought you were bleeding to death."
Stan looked intently at Grace and said soberly, "And if I was, would you care if I died?"
Stan didn't really have to ask Grace that question. He already knew that Grace cared deeply for him. She had shown him that over the past six months, from things like making him cups of coffee, listening to his problems and most of all, buying him a card and present on his birthday. Not even Stan's own mother had bothered to remember a single birthday of his. Stan's mother had never given a damn about him. He remembered the way she used to scream and hit out at him. In fact, Stan often wondered why he'd ever been born. It was no wonder Stan was so mentally damaged where women were concerned. Grace was the only woman in his whole, miserable life who really cared about him. She was kind, honest and trustworthy and nothing like all the other females he had encountered in his life so far. That was why Stan was in love with her.
"What sort of a question is that?" Grace screamed back at him, "Of course I'd bloody care! What on earth has got into you today?"
"Sorry sweetheart," apologised Stan, "I'm just a bit shell-shocked that's all. I did nearly have my arm shot off."
"I'm sorry too honey," said Grace, putting her arms around Stan's neck again and hugging him, "I love you Stan. If you died, I wouldn't want to live either."
"I love you too babe," replied Stan, kissing Grace on the lips.
The words of a song flitted like a butterfly into Stan's mind.
Stan held Grace close to him, looked skyward and thought to himself, "Was it just possible that his prayers HAD been answered? Had God really sent down Grace for him to love and to love him in return?"
"What are you thinking about?" asked Grace interrupting Stan's train of thought, as she noticed the distant look in his eyes.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," replied Stan grinning, "Come on, let's go and get some lunch. Willie can handle things here."
"OK," said Grace, taking hold of Stan's right hand.
Stan and Grace both began to walk down the corridor together. Just as they were about to descend the stairs, Stan suddenly heard a tintinnabulation of bells ringing.
"Nah," he thought, shaking his head, "It's just ringing in my ears from that shotgun being fired so close to me."
Then out of the corner of his eye, Stan caught sight of a shaft of light appear in exactly the same spot where he and Grace had been standing.
"This is crazy," thought Stan, "It's just sun-light coming in through the windows."
But if Stan had looked properly, he would have noticed that there were NO windows in that part of the corridor.