Saturday, January 26, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody", Pt. 2

            Sitting in his patrol car, driving around all day, Alex himself was wondering the same thing: was he slowly descending into stark-raving madness? Any sort of movement in his rearview mirror at all sent him into a flurry of jerky movements. He pulled into the station that night at 7:43, not caring who knew that he was much too early, nursing the bruises on his head and his left leg from the steering wheel and the roof of the car. He constantly reminded himself (out loud) that Ted and Marlo had promised not to bother him that day—but every time he looked in that mirror and saw something moving, he forgot and lost his head. Once, he even had a passenger in the back seat that he forgot about, so there he was, cruising down the freeway when he glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the deep black face behind him, it was all he could do to keep from coming to a dead stop there in the middle of traffic as he screamed for (from the passenger’s point of view) no apparent reason.
            Nighttime, in his bed, was no better. It seemed as though, goaded with the knowledge that Ted and Marlo could see his entire past, every little thing he did, even the secret things, his mind was intent on digging up every single occurrence of even the smallest amount of embarrassment Alex had ever experienced, broadcasting them in full view of Marlo’s big green eyes. Alex almost didn’t hear his alarm over the sound of Marlo’s inane giggling in his dreams…
            His alarm!
            Alex jerked upright before he was fully awake. His body was at an odd angle, mid-toss, so he promptly fell out of bed in a tangle of sheets. Sometime during the night, he’d ripped his t-shirt off. His body was drenched in sweat. It would be a cold shower this morning, for sure! He checked his clock: 7:52. His alarm was long since over, and there was no way he could even hope to get to work on time. Alex yanked the sheet of and tripped and stumbled his way into the bathroom.
            The shower felt good; he was more awake when he stepped out and wrapped himself in a towel. He grabbed his toothbrush and wiped the condensation from the mirror to begin brushing his teeth.

            “Mornin’, sunshine!”

            GAAAHHH—“ Alex’s shrill scream at seeing Marlo’s face staring back at him from the mirror was cut short by his left knee connecting with the bowl of the sink at the same time he involuntarily jabbed the back of his throat with his toothbrush. He collapsed on the floor in a towel-swathed heap between the sink and the toilet.
            “It’s not like we didn’t tell you we’d show up at eight,” Ted shrugged as he casually stepped—fully clothed and completely dry—out of Alex’s shower.
            Alex flinched again, this time narrowly missing smacking his face against the toilet base.
            “Ge-get out!” he gasped, waving his arm weakly. Ted immediately disappeared. By the time Alex struggled to his feet, Marlo was gone, too. Warily, he peeked out of the bathroom door to check if they were in the bedroom. The coast seemed clear. He heard dishes clanking in the kitchen. So that’s where they were. Alex basked in the privacy of his room, noting that it was now 8:00, and since he hadn’t even left his apartment yet, he was now officially late for work. Who cared? Would anybody listen if he tried to blame it on a couple ghosts freaking the living daylights out of him?

            A far-more-composed Alex Davis met his two “ghost-parents” in the kitchen minutes later.
            “Don’t ever show up in my bathroom again!” he growled savagely as he ate the breakfast Marlo set on the table.
            Marlo scoffed, “Do you think I wanted to land in your bathroom mirror and see you like that?” she demanded. “You best be glad that—“
            “Marlo!” Ted reached across the table and silenced his wife with a gentle squeeze of her hand. He looked at Alex, “We’ll do our best, but honestly, Alex, we don’t control where we show up; you do. Our first appearance will always be near you, so if you don’t want another situation like this morning—“
            “Make sure you’re dressed and decent by eight o’clock!” Marlo finished.
            “Yeah, speaking of eight o’clock,” Alex glanced at the clock hanging next to the microwave in the kitchen, “I—“ he froze. The hands clearly pointed to 7:45. Why had the clock in his bedroom said 8:00, then?
            Marlo grinned at him and clasped her hands under her chin. “You’re what?” she prompted him significantly.
            Alex peered suspiciously at the pair. “Or maybe you two…
            “We’re outside the realms of time and space, Alex,” Marlo reminded him with chilling calm, “With us, you’re outside the realm of time and space.”
            Alex stared at her, blinking hard, trying to make sense of the situation. “You’re making it whatever time you want it to be?”
            “Not quite,” Ted shook his head. “We’re not going to make it that arbitrary. We both agreed that at any time you needed it—such as this morning—we would make it whatever time you needed it to be. Right now, you need it to be 7:45.”
            Alex shook his head in disbelief, “Won’t that mess with the whole world, man?”
            “Right now, our priority is you, Alex Davis,” Ted replied. “Now it’s 7:50. I suggest you start walking if you want to get to work on time.
            “I’ve never been on—“ Alex stopped protesting as the two ghosts lifted him out of his chair and compelled him to walk toward the door. They didn’t set him down until he was just outside the door of the station.
            “Let’s do it!” Marlo cheered as Alex walked inside.
            Marnie scanned the names as they showed up on her computer screen whenever the officers clocked in; she murmured a greeting as the names showed up.
            “Hi, Brian… Morning, Sylvia…Hi, Darren…Hi Al—“ she stopped, actually taking her eyes off the screen for once. “Alex Davis?” she gasped.
            Alex froze guiltily, keycard in hand. “H-hi, um…Marnie,” he stammered.
            She stared back at her screen. “I think this is the first time all year you’ve clocked in—“ she turned her monitor so Alex could see, “—right on time!
            Alex looked at the time next to his key-code: 8:00:00:00. He glanced at where Ted and Marlo waited for him inside the station. They flashed him a thumbs-up.
            “Well, um,” he responded weakly, “W-would—would ya look at that!” he dashed through the doorway before Marnie could utter another syllable.
            Alex checked the schedule on the wall; he wasn’t on beat till 9:30. That gave him plenty of time to look over and fill out the modest stack of paperwork on his desk. He sat down and commenced working.
            “Davis!” Captain Prosser’s gravelly voice boomed out across the office. Alex snapped involuntarily to attention, sending his chair skidding out from under him.
            “Good to see you on time… for once!” Prosser raised his mug of coffee in salute and returned to his office.
            Alex’s knees buckled as he prepared to sink into his chair, but Marlo caught his elbow. “Whoa, easy there!” She held him up till Ted brought the chair back over for him.
            Alex grabbed the chair as soon as it was close, and sat down, collecting his wits for a moment.
            “Are you okay?” Marlo asked him.
            Alex wagged his head, “I’ve just—I’m not used to being called out for a compliment by my captain like that.”
            “How did it feel?” Ted asked with a chuckle.
            Alex didn’t answer. He only shook his head and grabbed a pen.

Not long after he began forging through the small pile (one benefit of choosing only few cases, and only the ones he would enjoy? Less paperwork, and what he had brought up pleasurable memories), Marlo sidled up next to him.
"Whatcha doing?" she asked.
Alex was self-aware enough to know that at any time, there was a good chance there was at least one pair of eyes on him at every moment. He kept his voice low as he muttered, "Filling out paperwork."
"What kind of paperwork?" Marlo shuffled through the stack of papers, but when Alex went to re-straighten it, he found them exactly how he left them.
"Reports from the week's beats," he answered.
Marlo began searching through the drawers of his desk. "What's in here—"
"Would you stop that?" Alex hissed. "Do you even have any idea what that looks like?"
Marlo winked at him, "Hello, outside space and time, here!" she returned to her nosing, "Nobody can see anything. Ooh, what's this?" she pulled out a small envelope from the back of the drawer.
Alex glanced at her in alarm, knowing that things would only become obvious if he actually interacted with her. "Would you put that away!" he begged.
Marlo frowned at him just like his mom used to do. "Young man—" she began.
"Look, I'll explain that when we're alone, out on patrol," Alex proposed. "Now will you please just let me finish my reports?"
Marlo nodded and joined Ted in wandering around the station, peeking over shoulders and peering into cabinets, and passing comments about the other cops, all within earshot of Alex.
Suddenly, Alex heard Marlo cry out, "Ted! It's our file!"
Alex glanced up as husband and wife surveyed the report from the night that ended their mortal lives.
"Who was the officer in charge?" he wondered under his breath.
"Lieutenant Morgan Haversham, it says."
Alex flinched and bit back a cry as Marlo appeared next to him with a file in her hands. Alex glanced into the file and saw that as far as the robbery goes, a few items were listed, then a reference to an insurance list. Alex wondered what was on that list.
He returned to finishing the forms, ending with the report on following Miss Adelaide.
"Who is she?" Ted appeared beside him, and Alex was suddenly aware that his expression when he thought about Adelaide gave him away.
"Um, well," Alex flushed with shame, "she's just someone who...crossed my path on a beat a few days ago."
"Do you like her?" Ted asked.
Alex shrugged, "Well, I don't know, we haven't really had the chance to talk yet."
"But you want to get to know her?"
"Well," Alex snorted, "yeah!"
Ted laughed, "Good luck with that one!" he cried.
Alex eyed him warily, "You wouldn't—I mean, you guys wouldn't, you know, mind if I stopped to talk with her, would you?"
Ted shrugged, "In the off-chance you had a small opportunity and she was there and not doing anything?"
Alex nodded, "Yeah."
"No, Marlo and I would not interrupt. Just as long as no calls come in while you're—chatting."
Alex bobbed his head, setting aside the last case file and turning away from his desk. He gave the Brendons a look that asked, "Are you ready to go?"
They nodded, and Alex stood just as Captain Prosser emerged.

"Davis!" he barked.
Alex immediately approached his captain, ready to head past the office and out to the garage. "Yes sir?"
Prosser looked toward the front of the room and beckoned a young cadet with bright-red hair and an easy smile.
"This is Jones," Prosser said, "He asked to shadow you today."
"Shadow... me?" Alex echoed, wondering how he was going to have a chance to talk with the Brendons if he had another person in the car.
Prosser glared at Alex, mistaking his tone for reluctance. "Yes; you'll take him out on your beat today. He'll ride in the front seat...unless you decide to stick him in the back." Captain Prosser said this last with such dangerous certainty that Jones flinched in horror, but Alex had been around long enough to know not to take the Captain seriously when he said things like that. He clapped Jones reassuringly on the shoulder.
"Nah, I don't think I'll need to do that! Let's go, Jones."
Jones bobbed his head and tried to smile again.

Alex felt a little proud of his capabilities as he took Jones over the procedures and "bells and whistles" of his patrol car. Jones seemed to know quite a bit already, but even with only seven years under his belt, Alex knew that mere knowledge did not separate the "men from the boys," as it were. Jones seemed to know a lot about Alex himself, as well.
"I'm really honored that you're letting me do this," the young cadet gushed as they pulled out of the station. "Captain Prosser said if I wanted to run with the big dogs I'd have to get by you first. And another cop I talked to, Officer Van Derby, said he considers you the most streetwise cop of all the juniors." Jones hesitated before remarking, "He did say you don't generally take your calls by-the-book, and that you tend to meet a lot of girls on your beat." The young boy grinned and asked slyly, "So...are we going to meet some girls today?"
Alex glowed at the praise from his superiors, and he was about to answer in the affirmative, when he saw Ted and Marlo frowning at him from the back seat, and Ted shook his head.
"We'll see," he conceded, not quite willing to give up the idea but at the same time scared of what the ghosts might do if he ticked them off. He already discovered their uncanny ability to manipulate time; who knew if they would choose to force him to live this one day over and over again, like so many movies he'd seen?
"Say, Jones," Alex decided now would be a good time to change the subject, "do you have a first name?"
Jones shook his head, “Yeah—it’s Leroy.”
Leroy Jones?” Alex tried the name and found it cumbersome. “Really?”
Jones’ red eyebrows danced, “I know, I don’t like it much, either. Most people call me Tom.”
Alex tried that one, “Tom Jo—“ he stopped and flushed when he realized the joke.
From the back seat, Marlo giggled, “Tom Jones? Heehee! I like this kid!” she squealed.
Alex shook his head, “Well, okay, Tom; let’s see what we have on the scanner.” He turned the knob, and the dispatcher’s voice came through as monotonous as ever.
“Geez,” Tom remarked, “you have to listen to that all day? No wonder you’re always trying to find somewhere to hook up! Any chick would be more exciting than her!”
“Hey, man,” Alex spoke up defensively, “this is where I find the chicks!” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He glanced back at the furious ghosts guiltily, and added, “…but hooking up is not why we’re out here,” he saw Ted nod approvingly, but at Tom’s combination of confusion and disappointment on his face, he finished, “—it’s a side benefit!”
Ahem!” Marlo cleared her throat noisily, knowing that Alex would be the only one to hear her. She wagged a warning finger at him, and he tried to shrug at her without Tom noticing.
Tom sighed, “Okay, Mr. Cop-Man,” he teased, “where do we go first?”
Alex paused to listen to the dispatcher.
“Available units respond to a car theft at Marley Avenue…Available units respond to medical emergency at Northwood Drive…”
“Ooh!” Marlo spoke up, “there’s a good one!”
“Northwood Drive?” Alex replied aloud, “That’s—“
“—A residential area, isn’t it?” Tom finished curiously. “I thought you normally do the high-profile stuff.”
Alex saw that this was the call Ted and Marlo wanted him to take, so he didn’t have a choice. He tried to excuse himself, “Yeah, but Northwood’s only a short ways down from us, and I like to keep my beats close…”
“Whatever, dude,” Tom sighed, “I’m just riding in the car.”
Alex reached for his mic. “I’ll show you how to respond to the dispatcher,” he told Tom, clinching the “call” button and replying, “Dispatch, this is 145, I’ll take Northwood.”
“Fourteen-five?” The dispatcher sounded as incredulous as Tom had been. “Are you sure you want to? I think it’s just an accident, a young kid, and the EMTs are already on their way. I could get someone else—“
“I’ll get there before they do, Dispatch,” Alex responded, flicking on his lights and steering down the road that would take him out to Northwood Drive.
Alex arrived at the small residential house in time to console the frightened siblings of the young girl, who had tripped and broken her ankle, but none of the kids were old enough to drive, and the parents weren’t answering their cell phones. Alex gave the obligatory congratulations for proper use of 9-1-1, and stayed with them till the ambulance arrived to take the girl (and her siblings) to the hospital.
When he returned to the car, Tom was listening to the scanner again. “I think I found something for us to do at the Mountainside Golf Resort!” he crowed.
“I have a better idea,” Ted offered, “Try going down Martindale Avenue, and take a right at the donut shop.”
“What’s there?” Alex asked before he remembered that technically he was talking to two people.
Ted answered first, “Marlo’s over there now; there’s a—“
“I think it sounds like a security issue or something,” Tom answered while Ted was still speaking.
Alex huffed in annoyance; as much as he wanted to look like he was listening to Tom, he figured he would get into trouble if he didn’t at least head over to where Marlo was waiting, even though it would be no trouble for her to just “jump” back into the car.
“All units please respond to a car theft on Martindale Avenue! Suspect heading east!”
Alex sighed with relief and gunned the engine. “That’s us!” he told Tom. He roared off in the direction of Martindale Avenue.
“Awesome!” Tom cried, “A chase!”
“Unit 145, is that you?” Alex heard the transmission from another patrol unit at the end of the road.
“Roger, this is Unit 145,” Alex replied.
“All right, son; stay put in case he decides to bolt in your direction. If you see him, follow but do not engage, I repeat, follow but do not engage!
“Copy that, sir,” Alex replied, wincing.
Tom scowled, “Aww, nuts!” he grumbled. “So now what do we do?”
Alex heard the back door open and he glanced back; Marlo climbed into the car and closed the door behind her—but at the same time the door had never opened. She saw him watching her and winked.
Alex shook his head, “Now, we wait for further orders.”
Five minutes later, the call came in: “All secondary units, suspect has been apprehended; thanks for your help!”
“That’s just wrong!” Tom snapped.
“Hey!” Alex tried to calm the young cadet, “It happens from time to time; it’s okay. Let’s see what else is on the scanner.” He turned the dial and the dispatcher’s voice came through the speakers.
“…lar emergency on the shoulder of Interstate 60, repeat, there appears to be a stalled vehicle on the shoulder of Interstate 60, would the nearest patrol please respond?”
“Alex?” Ted asked, “Interstate 60’s just down the way, isn’t it?”
Alex rolled his eyes and continued listening. “All nearby units, I have possible shots fired in an alley on Courthouse Way; repeat, shots fired, who’s listening to me?”
Alex lifted the mic to respond, and Tom encouraged him, “Yeah! Armed suspect! Let’s do it!”
Alex hesitated. Courthouse Way was across town; as much as he would rather chase down the shooter, Interstate 60 was closer. Before he could speak—
“Dispatch, this is Unit 561, I’m on I-60 en route to motorist.”
“Dispatch, Patrol Car 148, I have visual on the shooter.”
“Thanks boys…Unit 145, do you copy?”
Alex winced; he’d missed both calls, so what could she want now? “This is 145, I copy!”
“I have an officer requesting backup in front of the Justice Building on Main Street. Would you mind lending a hand?”
“Wilco, Dispatch; en route now.”
“Backup?” Tom asked as they drove away, “What does that mean? What will we do?”
“Sometimes they tell you ahead of time,” Alex admitted, “but if they don’t tell the dispatcher, there’s no way to know till we get there.”
He navigated the city blocks till he arrived at the imposing grey building on Main Street. He saw three other cars parked next to the curb across the street from the front steps. It seemed that numerous black sedans with tinted windows were always in front of that courthouse. Alex pulled up behind one of the patrol cars and radioed the driver.
“Unit 618, this is Unit 145,” he identified himself and the number on the car in front of him, “Dispatch says you requested backup?”
“Weeelll, Officer Davis!” Lieutenant Bree’s familiar icy voice slithered over the radio. “I was afraid you’d turn me down again, so I told Dispatch to keep it anonymous and spare you the details. I’ll be out to tell you myself in a second.”
Alex hung up his radio and groaned. Why did it have to be the lieutenant?
Bree was at his window in ten minutes. She held a paper bag in her hand.
“Lunch?” she offered when Alex rolled down the window. Alex accepted the bag.
“What’s all the commotion?” he queried sarcastically, gesturing toward the empty street.
“Millionaire with a grievance,” Bree informed him, “Just wanted local eyes for the to-and-fro, he’s got his own set of bodyguards that went in with him.”
“How long is this going to take?” Alex asked as Tom started pulling the burgers out of the bag.
Bree shrugged, evidently enjoying the fact that Alex was committed to the thing he hated least: sitting and waiting. “It’s the Justice Department, it could take hours.” She elongated the word just to watch him squirm. Her icy blue eyes darted over to the redhead in the passenger seat. “You gonna introduce me, or do I have to ask him myself?”
“Lieutenant, this is Cadet Leroy Jones; he’s accompanying me on beat today.” Alex turned to Tom, “Jones, this is Lieutenant Bree Munroe—running point on this operation.”
“Ha! You know it!” Bree crowed. “So, Al’s supposed to be showin’ you the ropes, huh, kid?” she winked at Tom. “Has he taken you out to his old stalking grounds yet?”
“All right,” Alex began to roll up his window, “Thanks for the lunch, Lieutenant. Radio if you need us to do anything else.”
Bree shook her head and strode away from the car.
“What did she mean, stalking?” Tom asked, glancing nervously at Alex, “You’re not a stalker, are you?”
“No,” Marlo muttered to herself and to Alex, “he just loves watching pretty girls!”
“She’s just teasing,” Alex reassured Tom. “She’s one of the ones who doesn’t think the way I pick calls is very cool.”
“I don’t know why,” Tom scoffed, “I certainly haven’t seen you do anything that looks anywhere close to stalking, and I haven’t seen any of these girls the other officers talk about—“
“Bogey on your four,” Alex murmured, nodding out Tom’s window. Tom discreetly checked that direction. A girl wearing chunky Prada sunglasses, a tea-length summer dress, and carrying a Gucci purse strode up the sidewalk.
“Oh yes,” Tom gasped, and Alex admired the way her brown hair curled around her face.
As the girl crossed over to approach on Alex’s side of the car, he saw her heel slip a bit—and in that slight, tipsy movement, realization hit him like a thunderclap: it was Adelaide! Here was the chance he’d been waiting for! She was nearing his window now. Alex rolled it down.
“Careful, ma’am,” he called to her, “wouldn’t want a pretty thing like you to be a danger to yourself!”
Adelaide Donahue stopped and turned, “Do I know you?” she demanded, walking over to his car.
“Maybe you don’t remember,” Alex suggested smoothly, “you were pretty full-up the night we first met.”
“Wait a minute!” Marlo burst out, “That’s the chick he followed the night we—“ she was too overcome to finish her sentence.
Adelaide, meanwhile, smiled as she remembered, “Hey! You’re the cop who followed me home after Sandie’s party!”
“That’s right, ma’am,” Alex answered, “I did; you don’t mean to say you remember that night?”
Adelaide blushed, a slight reddening in her tanned cheeks, “Well, no, that night’s pretty much a blur, but I heard from the neighbors what y’all did for me,” she leaned closer to Alex, “And I think it’s really sweet,” her voice dropped as she leaned in so close Alex could almost taste her breath, “…and I was just hoping for the chance to thank you…”
“Um, hello?” Tom was getting uncomfortable at being forced to witness the scene.
Alex fumbled for the handle of his door, wanting to continue this tryst outside the car so the cadet would not feel so uncomfortable, but Marlo screamed out, “Don’t you dare touch that handle, young man!”
Her voice was so shrill, Alex jumped and banged his head on the rim of the window. “Ouch!” he cried.
Adelaide pulled back, visibly disappointed. “Well, I have to go,” she said, still leaning her elbows on Alex’s door. “Do you have a name, Officer?” She winked.
“Alex, Miss—Alex Davis.”
The petite heiress winked, “Call me Addie, Alex.”
“All right—“
“No, seriously,” she reached into her purse and pulled out a small piece of paper. Addie dropped it through the window and into his lap, “Call me.”
She sauntered easily away.

Silence reigned in the car for ten seconds, and then Tom could not resist a long chuckle.
“Oh-ho-ho-ho!” he laughed, with an astounded grin on his face. “Is that how you do it, man?”
Alex ignored the frowns of the couple in the back seat and basked in the admiration of the rookie sitting next to him. “That’s sorta how I do it,” he answered, “yeah.”
“Dude!” Tom cried, “I feel like I should be taking notes or something!”

Once they received the “okay” to leave the Courthouse steps, Alex immediately requested permission to drive around the higher-end side of town, just to avoid being close to the sort of “small” jobs he’d spent all morning taking. It was easier, too, to avoid looking in that rearview mirror and seeing the disapproval of the Brendons, because the more they drove around the beachfront highways and the large outlet malls and the gated neighborhoods, the more Tom gushed about “chicks” and “lookers.” In particular, he would compare every girl he saw to Adelaide.
“Aw, look!” he cried out to Alex, whose eyes followed a pair of easy, slender young blondes with bleach-white smiles and flawless skin. One of them was walking a pint-sized terrier. “That one is wearing the same dress Adelaide had on!”
Alex glanced over to where Tom pointed, “Yeah, but it looks different on her, doesn’t it?” he remarked to the young cadet.
“True that!” Tom agreed.
Alex spent the rest of the day being choosy and basking in the raving adulation from the passenger seat. Tom was in high spirits by the time they pulled back into the garage at the station.
“Man! That was the most awesome beat I think a cop could ever have!” He told Alex as the young officer filled out the driving log for that day. “Thanks, Officer Davis; when I get to be a cop, I can’t wait to get a beat just like yours!”
Alex shook his head, “You’ve gotta put in the work first, man!” he reminded Tom loftily.
“Oh, right,” the redheaded cadet conceded, “Play comes later, right?”
Alex laughed, and Tom returned to the station.

“When you mentioned that you saw her the other day,” Ted remarked, “I should have known you meant that night.
Alex turned to face the ghosts, “Why so worried?” he demanded hotly.
“Alex,” Marlo gazed at him with pity, “Obviously she’s an alcoholic, she’s spoiled-rotten, she thinks you’re a tool, and she—“
“Hey!” Alex snapped, “You know what? You guys have lived your lives already; I would appreciate it if you would let me at least live my personal life how I want, if you’re gonna claim custody of my professional life!”
“Alex,” Ted cautioned him, “Don’t you see that the choices you’re making in your personal life are affecting your professional life, too? You think you can just float through relationships and be choosy—and you’re trying to be choosy about your job, too?”
“Yeah, I am!” Alex retorted. “Maybe you never had the chance to get it, but that philosophy just happens to work for me, so I don’t intend to give it up any time soon, thank you very much!” He crossed his arms. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I believe I’m off–duty now, so I’ll be seeing you!” He stormed out of the garage.
“Yeah, you bet you will!” Marlo hollered after him.

Next >>>>>>

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Communion: A Commitment To Unity

*This is an essay I wrote last fall. I don't pretend to be any sort of scholar or authority at all on Biblical matters; this was not a result of any length of arduous study. It is merely a frank understanding of some passages that I have read dozens of times without really understanding, and a straightforward look at a concept I had for so long taken for granted.
Imagine a friend asked you to come along to a memorial service for a relative of hers. You would go, right? Of course; you desire to support her in her time of grief.
            So you go, and once there, you discover that this particular relative has actually been dead and buried for some time. The “memorial service” turns out to be a detailed, ritualistic reenactment of the last twenty-four hours of the relative’s life, complete with the last meal she ate, the death, and the burial. Your friend’s grandfather stands and recites the last words of the deceased.

            Would that not be bizarre? Let us imagine a second scene.

            This time, it’s your own grandmother who has died. This venerated matriarch was regarded in your family as the anchor, the one who taught all your relatives everything they knew about life. At the funeral service, you all gather around her coffin and confess every wrong you’ve ever done her. Once confessional is over, the service ends and everyone goes about their business.
            Still crazy, right?
            Yet so many Christians treat Communion—the “memorial service” for Jesus Christ—in just these ways.

            Some are like the family in that first scene. Communion is a spiritual ritual, a disciplinary tradition complete with the recitation of the original Biblical account. The congregation goes through the motions, passing the plate and taking their specially-designed “Communion cups” of watered-down grape juice and the small corner of kosher matzo, and waiting for the Pastor to give the “okay” before you drink or eat… but that’s all it is; a synchronized ritual.
            Others try to pack the “ritual” with significance, and so treat Communion time as “confession” time, listing out every sin they’ve ever done. They rehearse the crucifixion scene in their minds, desperately trying to convince themselves that they did the act of nailing Jesus to the Cross, that the broken bread and the blood-red juice are more like evidence at a trial than tokens of remembrance. The Last Supper is a somber affair, very much like a “last rites” as opposed to a party feast. They feel that this is the right way to take Communion, because Communion represents a very serious time in Jesus’ life.
            I am not saying that either of these are “bad” or “sinful”, per se—but perhaps they are both a bit unbalanced, slightly skewed off-kilter. I do not pretend to offer the “right” way of taking Communion based on years of research and study and a thorough exegesis. What I intend to offer, if you’ve never thought about it before, is some context and a bit of perspective, Amen?

            First, let’s place the First Communion in it’s context. What exactly was the Last Supper? It certainly was not like the “last supper” of today, served to criminals on death row, where they are going to die soon, but at least they can die marginally happy with a belly full of whatever food they want.
For those who don’t know, that night every Jew in Jerusalem (including Jesus Himself) was observing the Passover Seder. For those who remember somewhere in the Gospel of Matthew something about the Passover before the Crucifixion account, but are not sure where the whole “supper” thing comes in, there is in fact a meal that takes place in the midst of the symbolism and the ritual and the recitations and the guzzling goblets of grape juice. It’s not something Christians decided to stick in there to “redeem” the tradition from Judaism just because Jesus happened to be having a regular meal with His disciples while everyone else in the city followed a prescribed reenactment.
In the Seder (which Jesus and His disciples observed), there are traditionally four cups of wine (or juice) poured at specific times. Two cups come before the meal. Immediately following the meal is the traditional breaking and eating of the afikommen, a specially-named “loaf” of unleavened bread, followed directly by the Third Cup. Incidentally, the Cups all have names and special significance, too: The Cup of Sanctification, The Cup of Deliverance, The Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Praise.

            With that in mind, let’s look back at the account of the Last Supper, according to Mark 14:22-24:

            “And as they were eating…”—This is the traditional Seder meal, remember?

“He took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take ye: this is my body.”—This is the afikommen, still within the Seder tradition.

“And he took the cup…”—What Cup? The Cup of Redemption.
“…and when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it.”
Still the traditional Jewish Seder happening.
“And he said unto them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”


The light goes on. Jesus had already poured out the Cups of Sanctification and Deliverance, remember? Why did He wait until the Third Cup? A cup of drink is a cup of drink, is it not?
As it says in the Seder, “on other nights”, a cup of juice is certainly a cup of juice, a means of refreshment and hydration. But you see, during the Seder, the cup of juice or wine is more than “just a cup.” They have names with special significance attached. So you see. Jesus had very good reasons for waiting until after the meal—waiting till that Third Cup, the Cup of Redemption—to try once more to get His disciples to understand what was about to happen. Because in His Blood, we have Redemption; not just Sanctification, nor simply Deliverance—we have Redemption.

Now do you understand? Communion is not just a reenactment or a ritual. It’s a realization. When you drink the juice at Communion, you are partaking in that Cup of Redemption, acknowledging that Jesus brings Redemption by His Blood, which He shed for that very purpose on the Cross.

So if Communion is more than a ritual, does that mean that considering it a time of arduous confession is right? Not entirely; confession is valid and worthwhile, and should happen during Communion, if it never happens anywhere else, lest we “eat and drink unworthily,” as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians—but permit me to contend that it ought not be our whole focus during that time!
Let us consider again that First Communion: did Judas Iscariot feel any remorse or feel the need to confess all of the sin in his heart? No; but look at the consequence he suffered because he ate and drank, and then betrayed the One he had Communed with.
Did the disciples use that time to confess all their sins? The Bible doesn’t say so; yet they were Communing in their hearts with Jesus, and so were not “unworthy” of the Lord’s Table. They did not “eat and drink damnation”; they ate and drank Redemption. Was it a sober moment? Was any man there considering the cross and the devastation? No; in fact, they had no idea that Jesus was about to die. After all, it was only the Passover.
So what is Communion if not confession time? Confess, yes, but be mindful of why you are confessing! It’s not just to kill time, and it’s not to make you cry or because you feel awkward about sitting and waiting while everyone else is praying. The opportunity to confess is if the Holy Spirit brings to mind something that is disrupting the unity between yourself and God, or yourself and another believer. Communion is not about sin, it’s about Redemption. It’s not about killing Christ over again; it’s about the fact that He now lives, and the same Power that gave Him life has also redeemed us to live as well.

Here I will offer a third view of Communion that takes the two views I expressed in the beginning and combines their valid points with the perspective and the context I have just described.
Communion is an act that I participate in that involves confessing my sin to God or the one I have sinned against as a demonstration of my COMMitment to the UNION between myself and God, and the unity between myself and fellow Christians.
Very often a wedding ceremony will include the couple’s first Communion together. Why? Is it because of tradition, like walking down the aisle or exchanging vows? No. Is it necessary for the couple to confess their sins to one another right there in the middle of the ceremony? No.
In taking that communion, the couple is demonstrating their commitment to each other and to God in a much deeper way than repeating their vows.

Jesus demonstrated his commitment to the restoration of the unity that sin had disrupted when He established Communion with His disciples. When we take Communion at church, we are affirming that same pledge for unification, demonstrating that same commitment that nothing should come between us as believers, or between God and ourselves.

More than a pious custom; more than personal confession; Communion is a public, corporate COMMitment to UNION.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Serial Saturday: "Protective Custody", Pt. 1

“A. DAVIS.” Alex Davis…Detective Alex Davis…
            Other than the fact that the initials spelled out “D.A.D.”, Alex thought it sounded pretty good; and he didn’t doubt that it would be soon. He fingered the brim of his cap, picturing the string of “scrambled eggs” (as they called the braided yellow roping across the brim of the senior officers) he would see there soon. As of this week, he had been an officer for longer than he stayed a rookie. For a young man like Alex Davis, that was really saying something.

            Not that Alex was lazy or anything; he preferred to consider himself “choosy.” He’d always been choosy about the kind of jobs he’d do, even around the house. With two brothers and three sisters, being choosy hadn’t been hard. Alex did the easy chores, the small tasks, and let his brothers and sisters handle the rest. They all did the work so much better than he ever could, anyway. Even if he decided to get up and do the job, one of his sisters was guaranteed to come behind him and re-do it; so why bother lifting a finger in the first place?
            Alex was “choosy” in the field of academics, too. Whenever he could, he would find a “study buddy,” or a teammate who didn’t mind doing most of the work in the assignment or the sport. Alex would contribute only slightly above the average minimum, and his partner would handle the rest--especially when it came to the matter of books. He moved in with a roommate while the two of them attended college so that he would only have to pay just barely under half the rent, while his roommate footed the rest. In fact, about the only thing Alex ever actually set his mind on working hard at was becoming a police officer, and at least there, he had succeeded.
            As a rookie officer, it was harder to be “choosy” about which beats the senior officer he shadowed would take, but once Alex became the one to decide the beats, he found that he rather enjoyed being the one to drive out and break up the parties with the hot chicks, or the one to chase down a purse-snatcher because the victim couldn’t run in her stilettos, or the one to pause in his patrol of the highway to help a poor innocent standing beside the road with her hood propped up and jumper cables in her hands. There were plenty of other guys in his precinct to handle the druggies and the old ladies’ cats stuck in trees and the little boys who hit their baseball through somebody’s window. Alex could have his pick off the scanner, and the dispatcher knew it. She’d be calling out codes in her dry, dutiful voice, to whoever was closest to the scene, then she’d announce, “Patrol 145 (Alex’s car), we have a female situation on the shoulder of Hartford Road, would you mind covering that one?”
            Alex would pick up his mic and respond, “Dispatch, this is Patrol 145, I’m on it.”
            “Have fun,” the dispatcher sometimes replied, and everyone knew Officer Alex Davis was going to be another damsel’s hero.
            They would tease him about it back at the station. “Who are you going out with tonight, Al?” whooped Chris Tanner, an officer who was only two pay grades above Alex, even though he’d logged almost twice as many patrols. “The jumper cables on I-60, or the domestic disturbance from Main Street?”
            “I had a nice-looker stop and ask me for directions and my phone number in the same breath,” offered Senior Officer Zack Van Derby, “I had to tell her I was already married, but do you mind that I gave her your number and told her to watch out for Patrol Car 145?”
            Alex snorted, “Ha, ha; y’all are funny.” He was interested in Van Derby’s offer, though, “Where were you at, Derby?”
            “Well now, let me see, it was about eleven o’clock this morning, so I was doing my rounds in the Powerball Loop.”
            Alex scoffed, “A Powerball chick? You really think I’m that shallow, sir?” The “Powerball” Loop was a low-income neighborhood that was the source of numerous complaints to the dispatchers, and got its nickname because nearly everyone who lived there scratched lottery tickets in the hopes of moving to a better area of town.
            “Now, wait a minute, Davis,” Derby defended himself, “You shadowed me for a long while, we know each other better than that. She may have been on the Powerball Loop, but she was new in town and took a wrong turn trying to visit a friend in Pentomino Heights.”
            The rest of the junior officers howled at this, and Alex grinned, “Now you’re talkin’!” Pentomino Heights was a notoriously posh neighborhood, a magnet for any celebrity (or celebrity-hunting tourist) who passed through the state. “So, did she give you any info? Do you think her face was familiar?”
            Zack shook his head with a smile, “Well, she didn’t exactly leave a name, and I’m sorry, son, I don’t watch much TV these days—but I coulda sworn I saw a face just like hers when Martha was watching an episode of ‘America’s Next Top Model.’”
            “Nice!” Alex smiled. “Well, I’m off to boogie!” He used the precinct’s slang for going on a beat.
            “Have fun!” the officers in the break room chorused, using the exact same tone as the dispatcher.
            Alex chuckled as he climbed into his patrol car and switched on the scanner.
            “Available units please respond to a medical emergency at 143 North Hammersmith Drive...I have a possible B&E at the Beautiful Sun bakery on Turnkey Road…A motorist has locked her keys in the car—Unit 145, are you on beat?”
            Alex bit back a laugh as he flipped the “call” switch, “This is Unit 145, I am just pulling away from the station; what do you have? Over.”
            “Unit 145, motorist sounds young and desperate. She’s in the parking lot of the Great Western Mall; what can I tell her?”
            “Dispatch, give me fifteen minutes, I can be there.”
            “Thank you Unit 145; nice to have someone we can depend on; Out.”

            Alex hesitated at that last remark; was she being serious, or sarcastic? She wondered how she could talk all day long without altering her tone of voice; the woman was completely deadpan, no matter what she was saying. Sometimes he found it hard to read her. Alex switched on his lights and siren and headed out toward the highway, enjoying the way the cars in front of him politely pulled off to the right and let him pass unhindered. How often he wished he could do something like this on a date, but he knew he’d have to answer to the chief if he dared use his lights or siren during off-duty hours.
            In the parking lot of the Great Western Mall, Alex pulled up behind a tearful blonde standing next to a sea-green Volkswagen Jetta. He basked in the look on her face as he climbed out of his car and asked her, in perfect movie-cop patois, “What seems to be the problem, ma’am?”
            “Oh, just me being an idiot!” she sniffed, dabbing at her tears so as not to ruin her makeup. “I went shopping—“ she pointed to a mound of bags from the higher-end stores in the mall sitting in the parking lot next to her car, “—and I didn’t even realize until I came back out here that I had left my keys in the car when I locked it!”
            Closer inspection revealed a thin crack between the rim and the top of the window. “Well, ma’am,” Alex kept up the formal speech, “today, you’re in luck, because your window is slightly cracked, so I should be able to get in there in no time.” Alex walked back to his patrol car and dug out a wire hanger (which he always kept in the car for just such occasions), unbent it, threaded it through the crack, and seconds later, he was climbing into his own car again with the taste of her lips on his mouth and the smell of her perfume in his nose. He reached into his back pocket where he had felt her hand, and sure enough, he found a paper with her number on it. He tossed the hanger under the passenger-side seat.
            “Alex, you sly thing,” he crowed to himself, “you did it again!” He loved it when the rescue techniques he observed in other cops worked so well in his favor when he tried them.
            Alex switched on the scanner as he moseyed around the mall for just a bit longer, scanning the milling crowd of shoppers for another rescue opportunity.
            “Unit 145… Unit 145, please respond!”
            Alex was so intent on people-scanning that he almost missed that the dispatcher was now calling for him. “Dispatch, this is Unit 145; over.”
            “Unit 145, there is a request for backup from Unit 823 on Maverick Highway; are you still at the Mall?”
            “Dispatch, yes I am.”
            “Unit 823 chasing white male on foot, headed your direction; traffic’s a beast.”
            “Maverick? He’ll have to run right past me.”
            “Yeah, well, don’t let him, 145, you copy?”
            “Copy that, Dispatch.”
            Alex flipped on his lights again, just enough to clear the immediate area, then he pulled roaring out of the parking structure. Two blocks down, and one left turn, and he was out on Maverick Highway; he couldn’t even see Patrol Car 823, which he knew was Officer Van Derby’s unit, but his “cop-sense” kicked into gear when he saw a white man in a brown ski jacket pushing through a couple people and glancing over his shoulder.
            “Dispatcher,” he called quickly, “Verify: target is a white male, 6’1”, dark hair, brown jacket.”
            “That’s the one; do you have a visual, 145?”
            “I’m going in!”
            The man was so busy glancing over his shoulder he didn’t even notice Alex’s car coming at him until it was too late. Alex pulled the car to a stop and almost in the same motion jumped to his feet and pulled his gun. “Freeze! Put your hands where I can see them!”
            A few people screamed, but the man knew better than to bolt. He lifted his hands next to his face.
            “Kneel on the ground,” Alex instructed, “and put your hands on your head.”
            The man obeyed instantly.
            Alex touched the “call” button on his intercom unit. “Unit 823, this is 145, I’ve apprehended your suspect.”
            “Fourteen-five, this is Eight-twenty-three,” he heard Officer Van Derby’s voice crackling over the speaker, “Do you have him in custody?”
            “No sir,” Alex responded, “Waiting on your call, sir.”
            “Cuff ‘im,” Derby confirmed, “He’s one of four I caught in a narc bust, and when he saw there wasn’t room, he tried to slide out the other side before we could catch him. Are you in the middle of something, or would you mind bringing him back to the station for me?”
            Alex barely concealed his chagrin; he much preferred beautiful babes to scruffy men! But Alex learned early on that a senior officer asking a favor was non-optional, no matter the circumstances.
            “See you there, 823.”
            He clapped handcuffs on the wrists of the suspect—now his responsibility—and quoted the Miranda rights before he guided him into the car. Pulling back into traffic, Alex observed protocol and restrained himself from using his lights and siren to scream through the crawling traffic. His hand strayed that direction more than once, and his passenger noticed.
            “You know, we’d get there faster by walking,” he egged Alex.
            “Hey,” Alex snapped back, “I think it’s sort of pointless to remind you that you are in the back of my patrol car, wearing my handcuffs, and since I already informed you of your right to remain silent, I suggest you exercise that right.”
            At last, Alex made it to the freeway. His passenger slumped in his seat. “Does this thing have A/C?” he whined.
            “Up here it does,” Alex answered with a chuckle.
            The man’s response was indistinct, and anyway, Alex was sure it was only curse words. It served the guy right, wearing a ski jacket in late summer! He exited the freeway, and not six blocks from the station, he saw Lieutenant Bree Munroe standing outside her unit with two deputies and five prisoners. She flagged him down. Alex pulled in front of her.
            “What do you need?” he asked.
            “Did you flip off your scanner or something?” Bree retorted tartly. “I thought you must have heard from Dispatch about my little predicament.”
            Alex twitched the dial; sure enough, he recalled turning the volume all the way down after apprehending Officer Derby’s suspect. He didn’t want to hear about all the juicy hits he was missing.
            Bree rolled her eyes and brushed a lock of hair off her sweaty forehead. “Dispatch said minimum three suspects hitting up that gas station over there. I had no idea ‘minimum three’ meant five! I don’t have room in my car. Would you mind taking a deputy and a few of these hoods down to the station?” She grinned darkly, “Got ‘em all cuffed for ya!”
            Alex glanced over at the sidewalk. Who knew how long those guys had been waiting in the hot sun; even from there he could see the sweat glistening on their faces, and he did not doubt that none of them had showered in the last week. Alex did not doubt the amount of stench he would have to undergo if he accepted, even the short distance to the station.
            “I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he tried to be as respectful and apologetic as possible, “Officer Derby instructed that this man be kept alone; that’s why he’s in my car, not Derby’s.” Alex shrugged, “You know I wouldn’t normally refuse a request like that, but I just can’t swing it right now.”
            Bree scowled at him, “You scurvy sonuva selfish—“ she pushed away from his car. “Fine!” she snapped, “Get on back to the station with your overflow passenger!”
            Darn; she’d heard about it, then.
            “I’m not overflow!” The man bellowed, giving Alex the opportunity to ignore the angry lieutenant and roll up his window, ostensibly to yell at his prisoner.

            Alex reached the station, where Officer Derby was waiting for him. Officer Derby booked his prisoner with the others, and Alex checked in at the front desk for any more requests. As luck would have it, somebody from Pentomino security requested a brief drive through the neighborhood. Alex, having nothing else to do, graciously offered to be the one to drive all the way out to Pentomino Heights for the obligatory drive-by.
            While he was there, he “just happened” to be waved at by the newcomer brunette Derby had spoken to earlier. Alex returned to the station with a second paper in his pocket. One for happy hour, he surmised, and the other for dessert, perhaps? Or would an out-of-towner visiting Pentomino Heights really just be satisfied with a walk under the stars? Maybe the blonde could wait till next weekend… or Sunday night, but who knew how long the brunette was staying! Be it never said that Alex Davis missed an opportunity for a score!
            Alex tooled around for the rest of the day, performing drive-bys, reporting the status of various sensitive situations the cops were involved in, assisting the women of his fair city in whatever distresses they found themselves in—in short, being an all-around good cop. Near the end of his twelve-hour shift, just when Alex was thinking about heading back to the station for the night (he knew if he just drove slow enough, he’d make it back to the station with just enough time to clock out without looking like he was early), his cell phone vibrated. Alex picked it up.
            “Davis?” it was Captain Prosser, the highest authority at Alex’s station.
            “Yes, sir,” Alex responded right away, wondering what this call could be about.
            “Bobby Tartino, from Bobby’s Tavern, just called.”
            “Yes, sir?” Bobby was an old friend of Alex’s parents, and like an unrelated uncle to Alex.
            “He wants a favor; apparently one of his classier patrons is insisting on walking home alone. He asked me if you could be the one to shadow her, make sure she gets to her apartment okay.”
            “I’ll get right on it, sir,” Alex whipped out smartly. What a way to end the week! Friday parties were always the best for scouting out potential dates, because they were usually sober by Monday evening.
            He heard Captain Prosser sigh, “I figured you would…” Alex heard the click as the captain hung up the phone.
            Alex started up the car and drove out to the tavern, all the way across town, as the dispatcher droned on over his scanner:

“….All units respond to an emergency situation on Seventh Street. Repeat, armed robbery in progress, two victims, all units respond, repeat, all available units, respond!”

            Alex woke up to his alarm on Monday morning and yawned. He slapped the “off” button and slowly eased himself up to a sitting position.
            The brunette had gotten herself home, right enough. In spite of being tipsy that night, there had been no mistaking her designer clothing and her Gucci purse; Alex consoled himself that she probably wouldn’t have drunk so much if she’d had somebody like him at the tavern with her, to keep her from drowning herself. He made a mental note of her address to see if he could look her up at the station when he returned.
            A short drive and a few keystrokes later, the number and profile of Miss Adelaide Donahue was his to survey. She looked very pretty, even in her DMV photo. Turned out her late father was an intensely successful business magnate who left such a profound legacy that young Miss Adelaide could go out partying like that every night and never have to work a day in her life. Alex smiled as a third slip of paper—this time in his own handwriting—joined the other two. Boy, he was really getting them this time! He had slept well that night, full of pleasant dreams of conquests to come.
            Now, at 7:30 in the morning, Alex was ready to face another day. He showered, brushed his teeth, pulled on his uniform, ate his breakfast, and at 7:53 sharp (as always), commenced his ten-minute walk to the station.
            At 8:04, he clocked in for his twelve-hour shift. Marnie, the receptionist, barely glanced up at him. She knew who it was; the only officer consistently late to his beat.
            “Morning, Davis,” she muttered.
            Alex was in such good spirits that not even Marnie could dampen him.
            “Good morning!” he replied heartily.
            Alex glanced at his schedule, walked past all the other junior officers in the break room and out to the garage, where he climbed into his patrol unit, good old number 145. He buckled his seatbelt, checked his mirror alignment—

            “Hi there!”
            AAAAUUUGGGHHH!!!” With a banshee howl, Alex ripped off his seatbelt and dove out of his car. He stared through the window into the back seat, not sure what was real or not. The seat was empty, but as he had sat in the front seat, Alex Davis was ready to swear he had seen two people, a man and a woman, sitting in the back of his vehicle! And was his mind playing tricks, or had the woman actually spoken to him? But there was no one there, not even the slightest sign that anyone had been there.
            The hackles on the back of Alex’s neck raised; he whipped around. The couple he had seen in the mirror now stood behind him!
            The woman spoke again, “How’s it going?”
            Alex keeled over so fast he didn’t even feel his body hit the cement floor of the garage.

“You know, you really should get down.”
“Aww, but isn’t he sweet? I love his hair! This is really so much fun, Ted!”
“Marlo, honey, I really don’t feel comfortable with you up there.”
“Oh, don’t be such a fussbudget!”
“All right, Mrs. Brendon—“
“Oh, come on and die already! It’s not like we’re still married! Didn’t we both say ‘till death do us part’?”
“I’m just saying, I think there are other, better ways of—“
“Shh! He’s coming around! Watch this!”

            Alex moaned and raised his head, which felt as heavy as a sandbag on his neck. He opened his eyes and blinked.
            His nose rested less than an inch from somebody’s collarbone. He could not feel a thing, but his eyes told him that he had a woman in her early thirties sitting on his lap with her arms around his neck. She giggled like a schoolgirl and planted a kiss on Alex’s forehead; apparently his whole body was numb, because he couldn’t feel that, either.
            “Welcome back to the land of the living!” she chirped brightly.
            Alex wasn’t even sure he could speak or move, since he evidently couldn’t feel.
            The woman slipped off his lap, and Alex sat forward and tried to bring his hands in front of him. He heard a soft chink and felt the cold bite of handcuffs around his wrists. A quick glance told him they were his own handcuffs. In front of him stood the woman, with honey-colored hair and sparkling green eyes, and a man with dark-brown hair. They both looked dressed and ready for a date night. Seeing them reminded Alex of the last thing he saw before blacking out just now: this same couple in the rearview mirror of his patrol car (but not actually in his patrol car), and then appearing in the garage behind him when he had jumped out in fright.
            Feeling the handcuffs told Alex his body wasn’t numb, so he tried speaking. It didn’t work as well as he planned.
            “W-wh-what are—H-h-how did—you…“ he tried to shift his position, which was moderately difficult, cuffed to the chair as he was. Alex went for the most pertinent question. “Why am I handcuffed?”
            “Oh, I did that!” the woman raised her hand. “I’ve never handcuffed anyone before. It was fun!”
            “Sorry about her,” the man apologized, “my name’s Ted, and she’s my wife, Marlo. We decided to cuff you because we were afraid you might do something we couldn’t prevent when we tell you—“
            “Tell me what?” Alex demanded, growing more and more fearful of this odd, obviously-insane (and strangely inconspicuous) couple.
            “We’re ghosts,” Marlo answered brightly.
            Alex felt dizzy and nauseated at the same time. “I’m gonna pass out again…” he muttered.
            “Don’t worry, we’re only newly-ghosted,” Marlo hastily continued, as if that was any reassurance.
            “Our murderer killed us at about eight o’clock Friday night,” Ted added significantly.
            “B-b-but why—“ Alex spluttered, “Y-y-you came back?”
            “Well, some ghosts do, honey,” Marlo answered matter-of-factly, “especially those with…unfinished business.”
            Alex felt a chill run down his spine at the way she said those words. “What unfinished business?” His words came very fast, because he was so scared. “Do you want me to catch your killer? Find your mortal bodies? Avenge your deaths? What?”
            “Oh, our killer’s caught already,” Ted replied, “I believe he’s in the hold right now, and he’ll be transferred to federal prison on two counts of first-degree murder in the morning. Your buddies took care of that.” He said this last with such scathing bitterness that Alex furrowed his brow in confusion.
            “You want him released?”
            Certainly not!” Marlo shrieked.
            SHHH!!” Alex snapped in alarm, wishing his hands were free so he could clap them over the woman’s mouth. Finally, he found the presence of mind to ask the question that had been bothering him ever since they first showed up. “Okay, okay; how did you get inside this station? Did anybody see you?”
            Ted looked at Alex like the young officer was a complete idiot. “No, of course nobody saw us; we showed up to you. You’re the only one who can interact with us, and we can only interact with you.”
            “But why me?” Alex demanded, trying in vain to calm his pounding heart, “Why now? Why here? Why you guys? I didn’t—I don’t think I…Did I do something wrong?”
            “Just take a moment and think, Alexander Robert Davis,” Marlo’s clear voice enunciating his full name hit him like a slap in the face. She stalked toward him on her bright-pink t-strap sandals, her bright, floral dress swirling around her knees. Her green eyes flashed dangerously. “Think back over everything you’ve ever done…” her face changed to one of pity, “You really haven’t done a lot with your life, have you?”
            “Well,” Ted cut in, finally grinning, “Except that one time in fifth-grade…”
            “Oh, right,” Marlo nodded, “And the one thing after graduation—“
            Alex’s cheeks—come to think of it, his whole body—burned with shame. “How did you find—who told you—how do you know all that stuff?” he demanded.
            Marlo sauntered around behind him and wrapped her arms around his neck—but Alex could not feel her touch. She must really be a ghost, Alex thought.
            “I guess since Ted and I are dead,” Marlo whispered in his ear, “we aren’t bound by time and space. We’ve observed the entire history of your life in the last ten minutes, Alex.”
            “Which also means we know exactly what you were doing last night, young man,” Ted reprimanded him sternly.
            Alex shook his head as Marlo rejoined her husband, “Look, guys, I’m sorry—I would have been there if I had not been called away…”
            “Hmm… do you remember what he was doing last Friday night, Ted?” Marlo looked at her husband.
            Ted pretended to ponder this deeply. “I believe he was—following a girl that night, Marlo.”
            “It was a favor, okay?” Alex leaned against the handcuffs as he tried to make the couple understand. “The bartender called my captain personally and requested I shadow the patron home and make sure she was safe.”
            “Oh, okay,” Marlo seemed to accept this, “So while you were making sure this young, gorgeous, rich gal could roll into her front door without smacking into a telephone pole—“
            “Marlo,” Ted tried to rein her in, but Marlo’s cheeks burned and her ire was up.
            “—You left my husband and I at the mercy of an armed robber!” Her hand lashed out, and Alex felt the strange sensation of his head snapping to the side, even though he never actually felt her hand connect with his cheek, nor did his skin tingle like it should have.
            “To think that you got that call from the bartender while you were sitting on 16th Avenue,” Ted added mournfully, “and you chose to drive all the way across town when there was a robbery happening two blocks away.”
            “Dispatch didn’t call it in until I was en route to the bar!” Alex protested.
            Ted raised his eyebrows, “Oh, so you did hear about my call, did you? By that time you were, what, three blocks down? And still two miles from the bar? If you would have turned around right then, Alex, you could have saved us!”
            “At the very least you could have saved Ted and recovered our stolen property!” Marlo snapped, “He killed me first!”
            “I was fighting him when his buddy made off with the loot,” Ted explained, “I was able to keep him from using his gun, but he still had a knife, and he stabbed me with it.”
            “We came to, standing on the street just outside our house. The police were just leaving with the man who murdered us in custody,” Marlo continued the chilling tale. “It took a while to figure out how to jump through time and space, but once we did, we found you, and found out what you knew, and what you did, and—“
            “—now we’re here, talking to you,” Ted finished.
            Alex hung his head, “Look, Marlo, Ted—I’m sorry! It was a dumb decision, and I’m an idiot and a jerk, and I promise I’ll never do anything like that again!” He glanced up, “Can you un-cuff me now?”
            “Oh, Alex, honey, baby,” Marlo gushed in a syrupy voice, climbing onto his lap again and taking his face in her hands. Alex was only compelled to look at her because he could not turn his head; he felt neither her weight nor her touch. “It doesn’t work that way,” Marlo said with a sultry pout. “Our unfinished business can’t be tossed away with a wink and a promise. You’ve got some work to do, sugar!” She slapped him on the shoulder, but Alex didn’t flinch. “We know how much you love your work!”
            “So here’s how it’s going to be, kid,” Ted began. Marlo turned toward her husband so Alex could watch him, too. “From now on, the minute your workday begins, Marlo and I will be here with you.”
            “Mm-hmm,” Marlo affirmed, “Let’s see, you’re supposed to clock in at, what, eight o’clock every morning?” She grinned and mussed his hair, which immediately laid down flat as if she hadn’t touched it, “But we know you haven’t quite made it right on the dot every morning now, don’t we?”
            “All right, so eight o’clock, we are your official ghost-shadows.” Ted grinned, “Like we said before, you’re the only one who will be able to see or hear us. Nobody else will even know we’re there. We’re going to ride in your patrol car—and we decide what calls you answer, not you.”
            Ted pressed his lips firmly, “That’s right; you don’t get to be ‘choosy’ anymore, Alex. You owe us. Marlo and I will pick your beats, and you will perform your duties like you’ve been trained.”
            “Don’t worry, Alex,” Marlo inserted, “Ted and I can make sure we don’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
            “In return for doing what we say while on-duty,” Ted continued, “Marlo and I promise to leave you alone when you clock out at night.”
            “So…” Alex fought to understand, “you’ll only be around when I’m on-duty?”
            “The whole time you’re on duty,” Marlo confirmed, standing up again. “And once you’re not on duty, we’ll be gone!” She pinched his cheeks, but he only felt the way she made his head bob up and down. “But we’ll be back the next morning!” she finished in a singsong voice.
            “We’ll let you have all day today to get used to the idea of being shadowed by ghosts,” Ted offered benevolently.
            Alex glanced at the clock on the wall; according to it they’d been in the garage for almost two hours now. “All day? But it’s—“
            Ted glanced over his shoulder and shrugged, “Remember? Marlo and I aren’t a part of time and space. Once we leave, it will be as if you just walked into the garage and got out of your car. The time will go back as if none of this conversation ever happened.”
            “But you’ll remember us, Alex,” Marlo reiterated.
            “Ready?” Ted grasped his wife’s hand. “Bye for now, Alex.”
            “See you in the morning…” Marlo’s voice blended with the sound of his own thoughts.
            “Hey, Al!”
            “WHAAAT!” The voice was so loud and sudden after the soft patter of the Brendons that it made Alex jump in the chair and fling his hands over his head.
            His hands! Alex peered at them, feeling like his hands had been trapped for the last two hours. Yet there were no marks on his wrists, and his handcuffs were still securely clipped to his belt like they always had been. What in the world had just happened?
            “Geez,” Officer Chris Tanner shook his head, “It’s okay, buddy, it’s just me—what the heck was that about?” Chris reached out to put a hand on Alex’s shoulder, and could not understand why his buddy flinched as if Chris had delivered an electric shock.
            Alex blinked three times before he could speak. He looked at Chris. “Did you—were you watching when I came in here?”
            Chris glanced sidelong at his friend, “Yeah,” he answered slowly.
            “Did you, um—see any—I mean, see me do anything?”
            Chris could not imagine why Alex suddenly looked so paranoid. “You walked into the room, opened the door of your patrol car, closed it, and sat in the chair looking like you’d just seen a ghost.” Chris shrugged, “That’s all.”
            Alex chortled and wagged his head, “That’s all,” he echoed. He let his head drop in his hands and ran his fingers through his hair, “Like I’d just seen a ghost… that’s all.”
            The young officer’s behavior was beginning to creep Chris out. “So…” he tried to prompt Alex, “are you going to leave, or what?”
            “Excuse me?” Alex turned back to him, his eyes suddenly alert.
            Chris pointed to the car, “You’re on beat, dude.”
            Alex jumped up with alacrity. “Oh, right!” he exclaimed. “See you later, Chris!” He crawled into the front seat, buckled his seatbelt, and pulled out of the garage.
            Chris could only shake his head in wonder. Had his good buddy Alex Davis gone nuts?

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