“One Summer Night” – 1

I’m heading home to see Granny Grace on my way through Ohio. In the past after another year of teaching, I would’ve stayed in New York and complained all summer that there was nothing to do and no one to see. But I’m trying to change my crappy attitude and live life again.

Just thinking of spending all my childhood summers at granny’s flooded my mind with tons of memories. Catching lightening bugs at night and watching the glow in your hand were priceless times as a youth.

Drinking pitchers of Kool-Aid in the hot summer days, did it really matter if it was orange or grape sugar water? O course it mattered. My cousin Eddie and I would argue every time over the “flavor.” Chasing bubbles in the air from granny and swimming in the plastic Snoopy pool seemed like a lifetime ago.

Then there was sleeping in the backyard tent. We always helped Granny Grace put the tent up but we were probably more in the way than any real help. When Eddie would stay over, nine times out of ten we’d be sleeping outside in the tent. It was an adventure only kids truly loved.

As Eddie and I got older, we would still sleep outside. Only the ghost stories and jokes were traded in for Indians baseball games and rock and roll music from my transistor radio. Until that little battery gave out!

Running around the yard all sweaty and sitting on the porch with granny there was always cold lemonade and melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies.

Playing catch with Granny Grace in the yard it got so dark we couldn’t see the ball. We’d laugh all the time. I think granny enjoyed it as much as I did. Hot dogs for dinner with big bowls of ice cream, “Don’t tell your mother,” she would say.

Of course there were rainy days too. Playing Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, I realized years later that she would let me win every time! Staying up late and watching old black and white scary movies with Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, only bowls of popcorn and cups of Kool-Aid could keep the monsters away.

When the fourth of July would arrive, granny had sparklers for us. Then we’d watch her neighbors set off fireworks all day and all night. Even when I tried to sleep, I didn’t mind the colorful explosions through the curtains in my room.

Then Labor Day was coming again and it was time to move back to my real home with mom and dad. School was waiting too. But the memories would stay with me until it snowed and Christmas was almost here. At least Granny Grace visited us through the holidays.

I saw the sign for Wilshire and couldn’t believe that I’ve been in Ohio for two hours. Have you ever noticed that every small town has a Main Street and a Front Street? Usually there are streets named after trees (Maple, Cedar, Oak) or after presidents (Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson).

As I pulled into Granny Grace’s driveway (1213 Beech Street), I reflected on all those summer days and nights. Why does it seem like it’s so much more fun being a child than an adult? Granny came out to meet me with, what else, a plate of chocolate chip cookies!

Michael Woll

Posted in "One Summer Night" | Leave a comment

“One Summer Night” – 2

Granny Grace looked the same as I always remembered. A crazy blue print skirt to her ankles mixed with a mustard colored top with her usual plastic necklaces and bracelets of gold and blue. It was her big head of overflowing white hair that had changed from brown to grey to white. And her sparkling green eyes completed the picture.

“Hi Joey, welcome home,” she gave me a big hug without spilling the cookies off the plate. She touched my face,”Getting a little grey in the temples.” She laughed, an infectious laugh that pulled you in until you were laughing just as hard as she did.

We sat on lawn chairs enjoying again her screened-in porch. I sipped my ice-cold lemonade. “I’m sure mom told you about my second marriage to Brittany ended.”

“You’re two for two. Some people aren’t supposed to be married. It’s okay Joey. Put it out of your mind. I have a surprise for you.” She walked back into the house and returned carrying a shoe box.

“My baseball cards,” I blurted out. “I can’t believe you still have them.”

“They’ve always been in my attic.”

“Frank Robinson, Rick Manning, they’re all here and in mint condition. Thanks granny.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Sorry to hear about Eddie dying in that car accident last month. Mom called me but I couldn’t get back for the funeral.”

“It’s over.” She waved her hand in the air to make it disappear. “Let’s remember the good times. We had a lot of good times didn’t we Joey?”

Putting down the shoe box, I stared out into the yard,”Wonderful times, the best of times.”

“I’m starting dinner now, all your favorites. Why don’t you go outside and look in the garage. I’ve cleaned up your bike and Eddie’s.” She left for the kitchen and I walked into the backyard.

So many memories were everywhere I looked. The big apple tree in the corner of the yard where  I kissed a girl, Lucy, for the first time. She ran home crying and I thought I did something wrong. The tall row of sunflowers in the back were, are still standing?

I saw the broken window on the garage from my famous home run swing. It’s still not fixed? But I remember going to that hardware store with granny and buying the new window. I even helped her install it. I entered the garage and there was my bike just like it came out of the Sears window where we bought it decades ago. How could granny have cleaned away dirt and years?

“Joey, Joey, dinner time,” Granny Grace yelled from the porch. I caught myself running to the house. Running? What was going on here?

The small table featured a platter of fried chicken, a plate of biscuits, and corn on the cob. My smile matched granny’s as we both ate enjoying the early evening breeze. In between bites, I said,”You outdid yourself granny.”

“Thanks Joey.”

“I have to ask you something. I don’t know how to say it but everything seems like old times.”

“It’s magical!” Granny had a big smile.

“Wait! Did I really see that? Is Eddie riding his bike in the driveway?”

Michael Woll

Posted in "One Summer Night" | Leave a comment

“One Summer Night” – 3

Granny Grace laughed hard until I was laughing too. “Maybe it’s a combination of the summer heat and your long drive. Eddie riding his bike? Do you know how silly that sounds?”

I felt foolish and reached for another biscuit. A special summer night with granny was rare these days. “I’m sorry granny. I must be seeing things.”

She reached behind her and a plate of brownies appeared. “Got room for dessert Joey, your favorite?”

“I could never say no to your brownies granny.” I selected the biggest one just like I used to do in my youth. Were those lightning bugs outside in the night air? “About those sunflowers in the back of your yard, I remember planting the seeds and watering them every day. We used to measure me against the height of the sunflowers until they towered high above me. I was surprised to see them still here.”

Granny smiled,”Got good soil I guess. They grow back every year and that tall too. Like when you were a little boy.”

“Joey, Joey come out and play.”

“Who said that?” I leaped to the screen and stared into the dark night.

“Who said what Joey? Finish your brownie. I’ll do the dishes.” Granny grabbed the plates and silverware disappearing into the kitchen.

“Let’s see who can catch the most lightning bugs Joey.”

Again a voice outside, a familiar voice, calling to me. I sat down but my curiosity got the better of me. I ran outside. “Eddie, is that you?”

Eddie was on his bike. “Let’s race up and down the driveway on our bikes.”

“No,” I said,”let’s catch bugs.” We chased the lightning bugs around the yard. “Granny, granny I got four bugs. Come and see them glow!”

Granny, with her big head of brown hair, joined us. “You boys want to sleep in the tent tonight?”

“Yes granny,” Eddie answered.

“You bet granny.” I said with renewed excitement. “This is the bestest summer ever!”

Michael Woll

Posted in "One Summer Night" | 1 Comment

“Deadly Desire”

I woke up face down on a dirt covered road. My entire body ached and bled. I tried to raise my left arm but it only moved inches. Something burned on my forearm like I was branded with a hot iron. No street lights, no lights of any kind. I’m surrounded by the night. Can’t even move my body off the road. Maybe the pain will go away if I die here in the dark.

Bright lights, headlights, moved quickly towards my mangled body. This is how it ends run over by a car in the middle of nowhere. The lights stopped in front of me. Suddenly a female in white illuminated by the headlights (an angel?) walked towards me. “Oh my god!” I heard her say then I passed out again.

I remember being lifted onto a stretcher and the loud, blaring sound of the ambulance. Incoherent voices talked to me. Nothing made sense. Everything was blurry. I fought hard to stay awake. People kept talking around me. “He’s lucky to be alive . . . lost a lot of blood.” ‘I’ve done all I can for him.” ‘The police want to talk to him when he regains consciousness.”

My mind saw Isabella’s cover girl face, the source of my greatest joy and my greatest pain. Her long black hair cascaded over the white pillow case. A pear shaped diamond necklace drew my eyes to her sensuous ebony body. Laughing, happy, she enjoyed the moment with me. Isabella’s soft brown eyes invited me to a world of pleasure.

Isabella screamed! Then the pain began.

I recall being thrown from the bed against the far wall. Gilley stood over me. His menacing six foot frame had a muscular build from his obsession with the weight room. “YOU BASTARD!” He kicked me in the stomach. I gasped for breath. “And robbing me too!” He emptied the briefcase covering me in a sea of fifty and hundred dollar bills.

Isabella ran from the bedroom wrapped in a sheet crying loudly. Taz, Gilley’s henchman a mountain of muscles and tattoos, rushed in. “What happened?”

“Mac was in bed with my wife!”

Taz jammed a silver revolver against my head. “Just say the word Gilley.”

“Not here. Drag his ass  behind the house in the woods.” Then Gilley looked at me. “I won’t kill you. But when we’re done with you you’ll be begging for a bullet to your head!”

“She loves me Gilley.” I blurted out.

Taz’s boot smashed into my face. The next few hours I was in and out of consciousness. The beating brought me to a new level of pain throughout my body. I heard Gilley say something about calling Joshua, Gilley’s tattoo guy, “to come over right now. You and Joshua dump his body couple hours from town.”

I woke up on the dirt road and again in a hospital bed. A warm hand in mine. A woman’s voice.”I’m alone in the world since  my divorce is final. No reason to hurry home just Checkers my cat waiting for me. I hope you wake soon. There’s so much I want to share with you.”

My eyes tried to focus. A nurse sat next to my hospital bed. I attempted to smile at her instead I moaned. The cute nurse had blondish brown hair, dark, expressive eyes and reacted with a big smile when I opened my eyes.

“Hi. Welcome back.” She greeted me.

“Were you the one who found me, who saved me that night?”

“Yes I did. I take that shortcut to the hospital when I’m running late and I’m always running late. There’s no traffic. It saves me ten minutes every day.” She paused and gripped my hand tighter. “I almost didn’t see you. I could have run you over.” A tear ran down her cheek.

“But you didn’t. I’m alive thanks to you.” I returned her smile even though my face hurt. “How long have I been here?”

“One week tomorrow. You were in a coma for days. I didn’t know if you would come back to me. I sit with you every day on my breaks and after my shift’s over. You have blue eyes. I haven’t seen them till now.”

“I’m sure you have lots of questions for me.”

“You’ve mumbled some names in your sleep like Gilley, Taz, and Isabella many times. I hope you’re not married.”

“I’m not. No kids either. Let me rest. We’ll talk tomorrow. And thanks again for saving my life.” I passed out and didn’t hear her leave.

The next day I spent with doctors and medical tests. Everyone seemed happy that I had returned from the dead. Nobody asked me my opinion to be back among the living. Maybe it would have been better for everyone to have died on that dirt road.

Still, I longed for my dark beauty Isabella, my reason to keep living. Would I ever see her again? The welcome mat will definitely not be out for me if I go back.

My dinner tray arrived. Hunger dominated my thoughts until I saw a bowl of soup, crackers and orange jello. I used the straws for my drinks. Based on my sore jaw I couldn’t chew anything hard. I had my last spoon of jello when she walked in my room. “There you are,” I said. My nurse friend had arrived. She removed my tray and sat next to me.

“We haven’t been introduced. I’m Kate Mathews. No one knows your name. You’re listed as John Doe.” Her hand slipped into mine.

“Everyone calls me Mac.”

“Are you able to answer my questions? The police detective said you couldn’t remember what happened.”

“For you I’ll answer anything.”

“Who beat you up and nearly killed you?”

“That would be Gilley.”

“Who’s Gilley?”

“My brother. A dangerous man. He’s involved in drugs and guns. Not the man to cross.”

“Who’s Isabella?”

“The reason I’m in the hospital. Gilley’s wife. We were gonna run off together with a briefcase full of Gilley’s drug money.”

Kate dropped my hand. “Maybe I have judged you all wrong.”

“I’m not a bad guy. Just got crazy over the wrong woman. The other name you mentioned Taz is a big mean dude. Avoid him at all costs.”

Kate stood and looked at me. “You’ll be able to leave the hospital in a few days. I thought about offering my home to you. I’m not sure. Can you explain your tattoo?”

“What tattoo?” She pulled off the long bandage on my left forearm revealing, DONT COME BACK. “I didn’t ask for that.” I explained.

“You need my help. I’ll take you home on a trial basis. We’ll see how it goes.” She left the room.

The day finally came and I rolled along in the wheelchair to Kate’s waiting car. My legs were gaining their strength from my daily walks down the hospital hallways. My left arm remained weak though.

We ate a quiet meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Soft food helped my jaw the most. I finished my coffee. She walked me to the guest room. “I hung some of my ex-husband’s old clothes in the closet. They should fit you. I’m across the hall. Don’t get any ideas. I’m locking my door.”

I slept soundly and woke to an empty house. Kate left coffee for me. I managed to find the toaster for some breakfast. I showered, dressed and watched tv until I fell asleep in a comfortable chair.

Kate ran into the house. “Mac, a man came looking for you at the hospital. A huge man dressed in black, Taz?”

I jumped to my feet. “Do you have a gun in the house?”

“Yes, but I’ve never used it.” She handed me the pistol and a box of bullets. “He won’t find you here.”

“He might have followed you from the hospital.” Suddenly a bullet shattered the front window. I knocked Kate to the floor. The second bullet slammed into the wall over our heads. The only good news, Taz couldn’t shoot real well. He relied on his brute strength to punish people. I loaded Kate’s gun and crawled to the broken window.

Taz’s size made him a very big target. He ran from the oak tree for a closer shot, his fatal error. I could shoot. I did learn something from my brother Gilley. Both bullets hit his chest knocking him backward to the ground. I hurried outside and watched him struggle and bleed in front of me. My last shot went directly into his large head. I took his gun and fished two more clips out of his pocket. Grabbing his Humvee keys, I found Kate standing behind me.

“You’re not going back there! They beat you to death last time.” Tears welled in her eyes.

“I have to. They nearly killed me twice. I can’t wait for them to come after me again.” She reached for me. I turned away.

“All you care about is that bitch Isabella!”

I didn’t answer. I didn’t look back at Kate. I hopped in the Humvee. If they see Taz’s vehicle, I might be able to drive right in before they notice. Was I going back for revenge on Gilley or for the love of Isabella? Maybe both. Since I had a couple of hours to drive, I thought about Kate. She had feelings for me. It might be better to turn around and make a new life with her. Sure I’ve had my share of other women in my life. But Isabella brought a sensual desire I’ve never known before. Being with her makes the whole world stop. Only the two of us exist in a combination of lust and love. My exotic girl, my reason for living.

Gilley would never understand. He tried to corner the market on beautiful women of every color. Isabella represented his flavor of the month. He would tire of her and send her packing. All I want is one woman, Isabella; he can have the rest for himself.

I crossed into Taver Hts. and knew it would only be twenty more minutes to reach the other side of town and Gilley’s house. I had no plans, running on straight adrenaline. Pulling to the side of the street, I reloaded the clip in my gun. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Taz left a bottle on the floor. I filled my mouth with good Kentucky bourbon. This could be the beginning of my new life or the end of my sorry one. There would be no mercy from Gilley, even for his own brother. I glanced at Joshua’s tattoo – DONT COME BACK. Too late. I’m back right now!

Gilley’s big country house had a large yard until he bought out his neighbors and tore down their houses. Then he owned the whole street. For late night shipments of guns and drugs, no prying eyes wondered what that truck delivered at four in the morning. At any given moment, six of his henchmen worked in the house or in the vast woods behind the house. Most of the men knew me. I’d work for Gilley off and on. He always overpaid me probably felt sorry for me.

I remember the first time I saw Isabella, the African queen of Gilley’s collection of gorgeous, international females. When our eyes met, I knew I had to have her. I started hanging out more at Gilley’s house. Unloading trucks, packing boxes, anything to appear useful, I needed to see her, be around her all the time.

That moment in the kitchen her hand touched mine. I reached for her hand squeezing it tightly. This time our eyes locked together for a brief moment. Talk about dangerous desire, my brother’s wife! We would exchange words in passing throughout the house.

“He won’t let me leave the house ever. I’m like a prisoner here. You know he hits me when he’s drunk.”

“We have to be careful or he’ll kill us both.”

Another time days later she said,”I’ve been putting money aside for us. He’ll never miss it.”

We stepped into an empty bedroom. I hugged Isabella for the first time. We shared a passionate kiss. I unbuttoned the front of her white cotton dress. Then I let my hands move across her black skin and she moaned with desire. I had to have her.

“When?” I whispered.

“Tomorrow afternoon, he’s leaving with Taz for a meeting downtown. It could take hours.”

The next afternoon we planned to take the briefcase of money and leave everything else behind. It didn’t happen that way. We were in the bedroom. We were alone in the house. One kiss led to another. Clothes flew in all directions. The blue quilt joined the clothing on the carpeted floor. Passion made its own plans, its own rules. Her perfumed body, her inviting brown eyes, I never heard Gilley’s voice until he opened the bedroom door.

Now I approached the house in the Humvee. A red Benz left the four car garage. Seeing my arriving Humvee they assumed a returning Taz and kept the garage door open and honked in my direction. At this time of night, probably a food run before the trucks rolled in again. A lucky break for me.The other two cars in the garage included an emerald green Jaguar and the midnight blue Corvette. Gilley loved his cars. As I closed the garage door, I set the house alarm to warn me when they returned. Any opened door of the house or garage would set it off.

I needed to find Gilley before I could save Isabella and live out my dream life. College football blared from the enormous family room tv sound system. No one occupied the black leather furniture. I entered the adjoining kitchen. There Gilley sat on a bar stool with his back to me. He drank the remainder of his Scotch rocks. “That you Taz? You killed Mac for me?”

“Afraid not Gilley.”

He turned to face the pistol I pointed at him. “Don’t do anything stupid Mac. You want money, I’ll give you money.”

“You know what I want, who I want.”

“Isabella? She’s outta your league brother. She loves me for my money. You have nothing to offer her.”

“Is she alright?”

“Outside of that black eye for saying your name, she’s perfectly fine.” I watched his right hand move slowly to a butcher knife laying on the counter. “You won’t leave this house alive. The guys’ll kill you if I don’t.”

“Nice try Gilley. I saw them leave.”

He threw his glass at me and grabbed the large knife. My gun fell to the floor. I managed to kick the knife out of his hand. We scrambled for the gun. He elbowed my nose and it exploded in blood. The gun landed across the floor from us. But Gilley moved faster and inched closer to the gun and killing me.

I didn’t hear her. Isabella stood over Gilley screaming and stabbing him repeatedly with the butcher knife. Lastly, she buried the knife up to the handle in his back.

Gilley was dead.

“We have to leave now.” I pleaded with her. I tossed her a kitchen towel. “Wipe the blood off your hands.”

“I need my purse.” Isabella hurried up the stairs unsteadily as if the reality of the moment finally caught up with her.

We raced to the Humvee. We’ll need different transportation that will blend in soon. I punched in the alarm code and we drove away. With Gilley and Taz both dead we had time to disappear. Isabella sat next to me leaning on my shoulder. Tears of joy and I’m sure regret, streamed down her face. From now on we would live our lives on the run.

By the way, her purse was filled with Gilley’s cash!

Michael Woll

Posted in "Deadly Desire" | 1 Comment

“Beatle Boy and the Detective”

“911, what is your emergency?”

“HELP! I need someone. HELP!”

“We are sending the police right now. Stay calm sir.”

I walked outside and met the patrol car in my driveway. A beautiful blonde detective accompanied the police officer. She said,”Officer Brooks, take a look around while I talk to this man.” Her long hair was pulled back into a ponytail. “Mr. Pepper, my name is Detective Shelia Green. What can you tell me about what happened here?”

“I want to hold your hand,” I smiled at her.

“Business first sir. There was a break-in? When did this happen?”

“Yesterday. All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as tho they’re here to stay.”

Detective Green produced a small pad of paper and pen. “Okay yesterday. Now we’re making progress. Where did the break-in occur?”

“She came in through the bathroom window,” I explained and sang at the same time.

“Is this a game sir? Beatle lyrics are all you say? What is your profession?”

“Paperback writer.”

She looked at me but then continued writing. “Is there anyone you suspect of this crime?”

“Eleanor Rigby.”

“And where can we find this Miss Rigby?”

“Here, there and everywhere.”

Detective Green closed her note pad. “If I’m gonna help you, I need better answers than that! Is there anyone else we should investigate?”

“Lovely Rita meter maid,” I offered.

“She works downtown as a meter maid? We can check that. What is missing from your house?”

“Maxwell’s silver hammer.”

“Silver hammer, okay. Why do you suspect Rita?”

“I saw her standing there,” I sang.

“Again with the singing? I don’t know what to believe from you. I’m trying to do my job!”

Even her angry look was cute. I said,”Got to get you into my life.”

She turned to walk back to the patrol car. “This is what I get for working on my birthday!”

“You say it’s your birthday. Happy birthday to you.”

“Thanks. I didn’t mean to be angry with you. You’re kinda cute. Maybe if we met under different circumstances.” She had a big smile for me.

“I wanna be your man,” I responded.

“We could meet for a drink. I’ll be off duty in a couple hours. My family’s in Florida and I broke up with Ron last week. The bum!”

“Nowhere man!”

She laughed,”That’s a good one! He’s nowhere.”

Officer Brooks walked towards us. “There’s a broken window in the bathroom. It appears to be the entry point. Nothing else to report.”

“Thank you officer,” Detective Green continued. “I’ll finish up here. Meet you in the car.”

I added,”Happiness is a warm gun.”

“Yes it is,” she replied. “Fortunately I’ve never had to use mine.”

“Do you want to know a secret?” I asked.

“Save it for later. I’ll meet you around six at the Liverpool Pub.” She returned to the car.

As the patrol car drove away, I said,”Why don’t we do it in the road?” But they were gone. I have a date tonight!

Detective Sheila Green entered the Liverpool Pub and saw me sitting at the bar. “Here comes the sun,” I said to myself.

“Hi,” she smiled. “Gin and tonic bartender.” Then she was serious when she added,”This will be our secret. No one needs to know.”

“Your mother should know.” I responded.

“I might tell her sometime. I like to sing along to songs. Do you like to sing?”

“What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me?”

Sheila squeezed my hand. “I like you. I’m not going anywhere.”

I hugged her saying,”Honey pie you are making me crazy.”

“How about you and me dancing? Are you a dancer?”

“With a little help from my friends.”

“I’m your friend.” She took me by the hand to the dance floor. “What is your favorite dance?”

“Twist and shout.”

“I don’t know that one,” she admitted.

“I’m happy just to dance with you,” I sang pulling her closer. “Let me whisper in your ear, say the words you long to hear.”

“Whoa, slow down Beatle Boy,” she pushed me away. “I wish I’d driven here instead of getting dropped off.”

“Baby you can drive my car.” I offered.

“Thanks but I’ll call a cab. ” She walked back towards the bar.

I chased after her. “All you need is love, love is all you need.” Then I left the bar and landed on the sidewalk.

She said,”I called for a cab. It should be here any minute.”

“The long and winding road leads to your door . . .”

“Enough of your singing.” She disappeared into a cab. “This was a mistake.”

I stood by myself reflecting on what just happened. Finally I shouted out,”Let it be, let it be . . . ”

Michael Woll

 

Posted in "Beatle Boy and the Detective" | 1 Comment

“Traveling Companion”

She was already mad at me when I walked up behind her and hugged her. “I gotta  hunk a hunk of burning love for you darling.”

“Get out of my kitchen! I just mopped the floor.”

I dropped to one knee. “Love me tender, love me dear.”

“Fat Elvis, enough! Go away!”

I sang out loud as I left the kitchen,”I got a woman mean as she can be. She’s almost mean as me.”

She followed me into the living room saying,”Must you insist on talking in song lyrics?” When I didn’t respond cause I saw the doghouse in my future, she added,”I can throw lyrics at you too. Like hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more no more.”

“I guess if you say so, I have to pack my things and go,” I replied heading to the door.

“That’s right hit the road Jack” she said opening the door.

Suddenly, I was on the outside looking in. Maybe I should go for a ride, a long ride. I sang out to the night,”Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody.”

I was driving in the dark “with no particular place to go.” I really couldn’t get music out of my head. Even at James’ Repair Shop everyone ignores my out-of-tune singing. But it drives Ruby nuts. “Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town.” That’s why I’m on the road now.

“Bye bye love, bye bye happiness,” I sang with the Everly Brothers on my satellite radio. I didn’t grow up in the 50s. My older brother, Bradley, did and I got my musical taste from him.

I was outside the city limits and driving on country roads, still no destination in mind. Was there somebody else in my car? “Devil or angel, dear whoever you are . . .”

“DEAR!” A deep voice cut in. “I’ve been called a lot of names over the years but never dear!”

I glanced to my right and saw a tall hooded figure dressed all in black. “Johnny Cash?”

An uncomfortable laugh was the response. “At least you stopped singing every word.”

“So who are you?”

“My usual answer is the Grim Reaper.”

“Baby don’t fear the reaper,” I responded without thinking.

“People call me Death or Dr. Death, Executioner, Lord of Death, Death Warden. I guess my favorite is Angel of Death. I’m really a nice guy if you get to know me.”

“Well, you make me want to shout!” I answered nearly driving off the road.

“Relax. I’m just along for the ride. But if you keep driving like that, I’ll have to take you with me.”

I looked at that grin on his face. “The shark bites with his teeth dear and he shows them pearly whites.”

“Again with the song lyrics dude? I see why you’re all by yourself. That would drive me crazy.”

My car was flying down the middle of this nameless country road. There was a bar coming up on my right. A parking lot full of pickup trucks and a flashing neon Bud Light sign greeted us. “I know a place where we can go. I know a place where the lights are low.”

“I don’t eat or drink. But there might be some new customers inside.” The Grim Reaper reached in the back seat and retrieved his scythe. When he was leaving my car, he said,”Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you again.”

As the car door slammed shut, I sang,”That’ll be the day when I die.” I u-turned heading back home.  Guess my number wasn’t up yet. I finally could relax and enjoy my life. “Oh baby that’s a what I like!”

Michael Woll

Posted in "Traveling Companion" | Leave a comment

“Traveling Companion” – 2

“It’s late I gotta get on home. Can’t wait . . .” I screamed out,”Good golly Miss Molly!”

“It’s just me the Reaper. I’m back again.” His black appearance blended in with the starless night.

I tried not to panic. “Why so grim Reaper?”

“That bar was a dead end. Ladies Night! No serious drinking only a long line for the ladies’ restroom. I was going to buy a drink but it goes right through me. So I’m back riding with you. Heading home?”

“I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come,” I sang.

The Grim Reaper shook his bony head. “For someone who likes to sing all the time you sure have a lousy voice.”

“Only love can break a heart . . .”

“Sorry.” He was glaring at me and my car was weaving all over the road. “You got weird taste in clothing. What color are those shoes?”

“You can do anything just lay off of my blue suede shoes.” My mind was searching for a solution. How can I get rid of this deadly joker? A plan was forming as I returned to the city limits. I made a quick right turn on Madison and a left on River Road.

“You’re not going home?” The Grim Reaper seemed puzzled. When his question was met with my silence, he asked me,”What did you do today?”

“Splish splash I was taking a bath.” I ignored his menacing look. “Rub a dub just relaxing in the tub . . .”

“Enough dumb singing! Where are we going?” He demanded.

“The answer my friend is blowin in the wind,” I sang back to him. I stopped my car in an empty parking lot. “Enough dancing in the dark,” I said jumping out of the car. “Signed, sealed, delivered I’m yours!”

We faced off across the pavement. The Grim Reaper had my name on an hourglass full of sand. “It’s not your time yet. I don’t want your soul tonight. But I could kill you if I wanted to.” He swung his scythe and I was surrounded by fire.

“I fell into a burning ring of fire. I went down down down and the flames kept gettin higher,” I sang through the heat.

His bony hand reached in the air and the fire vanished. “I won’t waste any more time on you. You have your life enjoy it.” The hourglass had disappeared. He gripped the scythe in both hands waving it in a circle.

Loud crashing of horses’ hoofs preceded the vision before me. A huge pair of white horses appeared pulling a rickety old black coach. “I’ve enjoyed our travels. You’re one singing fool,” the Grim Reaper laughed through his hooded cloak. “Another time, another place,” he said as he entered the coach and it flew into the dark night.

I returned to my car shaking in my shoes. A smile finally covered my face. I started my car and sang loudly,”Oh how happy you have made me oh how happy you have made me.”

Michael Woll

Posted in "Traveling Companion" | Leave a comment

“If the Shoe Fits”

Annie marched down the sidewalk, passed the car-lined street, and blended in with the large group of people walking towards the mansion. At that moment she searched through the crowd. “Ricky?”

“I’m here.” A reluctant Ricky responded. “Told ya I’d rather wait in the car.” Her flowing red hair and captivating smile made it hard for him to say no.

“This is where Vito the Mauler Lepinski lived! One of the most famous mobsters of all time. Don’t you wanna see his house?” They walked through the imposing iron gate.

He caught up with her. “No. Not interested in a giant garage sale.”

“It’s an estate sale, not a garage sale. They’re selling everything for cheap. Maybe you’ll find something to buy.”

“I doubt it,” he said. “All the good stuff is probably gone by now. Okay, I’ll play along. After all I’m Italian too.”

A long table was set up opposite the front doors and had become the place of business. Two serious-looking men in short sleeve shirts sat in front of a cash box with a stack of papers between them. A uniformed policeman paced behind them reflecting on his luck at getting this off duty assignment. The short line of people carried everything from lamps to paintings over to the table.

Annie grabbed Ricky’s hand. “Let’s explore the upstairs. There’s over a dozen bedrooms.”

“How exciting,” Ricky yawned.

The large staircase led them to spacious hallways. After ducking in and out of several rooms, Ricky spied a king sized bed and sat down. “I’ll wait for you here. At least this bed’s comfortable.”

“This is Vito’s bedroom!”

“It’s as big as the entire first floor of our house! Look a mirror on the ceiling too. Who needs a room this size?”

Annie pointed at the burgundy couch and chairs with the well-stocked bar. “Bet a lotta deals went down here. Probably gave orders to have people killed.”

“You read too much. That’s gossip not fact. I heard he never served a day in jail.”

“Gangsters got the best lawyers. Everyone knows that.”

Ricky reached under the bed. “Hey look what I found – black patent leather shoes! I could use new dress shoes. I’m sure they won’t fit.” Ricky tried on both shoes and stood up. “Damn, they actually fit. Good condition too. I’m guessing two hundred easy for these.”

Annie entered the huge walk-in closet. “There’s still some of his suits in here. Maybe you can find a suit to go with your shoes.”

“Thought he was fat.”

Annie laughed. “You haven’t looked in the mirror lately.”

He flipped through the suits and pulled out a black three piece suit. “What’d think Annie?”

“You’ll fit in at Muraski’s Funeral Home.” She placed a black felt hat on his head. “Now you look like a real gangster!”

They cut short the rest of their upstairs tour and joined the line of customers. “Don’t know what they’ll charge me.” Ricky remembered having about a hundred and twenty in his wallet and had to buy dinner tonight for them. “I wonder if Vito left me some cash.” He laughed this time.

Ricky rifled through the suit pockets and retrieved a handful of hundred dollar bills. Since the line was slow, he counted out twelve hundred dollars. This day just kept getting better! “I owe you a special dinner tonight honey.” He flashed the roll of hundreds for only her to see.

“Wow!” Annie reacted. “Let’s dress up for dinner. You can wear your new clothes.”

They reached the table with the emotionless men staring at them. “What are you buying?” The man on the left asked.

“Gotta suit, shoes and oh yeah this hat.”

The second man wrote everything on a blank sheet of paper. “Your offer?”

“Two hundred for everything?”

“Done. Sign here and put today’s date. All sales are final, no refunds.”

Annie left the mansion and began strolling through the colorful flower gardens, neatly trimmed hedges and Roman style water fountains. Ricky followed closely behind. He would not complain this time. Maybe he finally got lucky; his ship had come in at last.

Hours later, they dressed for their night on the town. “Yes you need to wear a tie Ricky.” She stood in her white slip staring into her closet. Something dressy, something sexy. The short navy dress always looked good showing off just enough of her shapely figure to turn a few heads when she entered a room. Of course she would add the pearl necklace.

Ricky walked in with two ties. “The blue stripes or the solid red?”

“Blue, it’ll match my dress.” She was startled by his smack on her behind as he left the room. “You’ll pay for that Ricky.” She giggled.

“I plan on collecting babe.” He called to her. “How bout that expensive Italian place, the Golden Bowl?”

“You need reservations to eat there.”

“Well let’s stop anyhow. I should buy a lottery ticket with my luck today.” As he zipped her dress, he said,”You look amazing!”

“And you look like a gangster out of the old black and white movies, especially with that hat.”

After a short drive, they reached the Golden Bowl. Annie took his arm as they walked up to the maitre d. “Need a table for two Oscar.” Ricky said to the white coated man.

“Vito?” Oscar couldn’t hide the shocked look on his face. “Of course, your usual table follow me.” He tried to regain his composure.

They sat at a small table by the enormous fireplace. The waiter appeared handing them menus and pouring glasses of water.

“Tony, how’s the veal tonight?”

“Delicious, your favorite meal I know. Sorry for giving you menus Mr. Lepinski. A pleasure to have you dining with us again.” Tony reached for the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.

“How do you know everyone’s names?” Annie questioned. “I thought you never ate here before.”

“They wear name tags I guess.”

“No, they don’t Ricky.”

Ricky shook his head. “Can’t tell you. It just came to me.”

Tony returned and filled their wine glasses with champagne. Then he left the bottle in a bucket of ice by Ricky’s chair.

“You’ll love the veal doll. Best I ever had!”

Annie said,”Ricky, you’re doing it again! You’re scaring me. It’s like you became Vito!”

“Don’t be silly.” He grabbed her leg under the table. “Who else would do that?”

“Okay, I’m overreacting. Let’s enjoy our dinner.”

The salad bowls were quickly joined by their dinner plates of veal and penne. They ate quietly. Ricky refilled their glasses until the bottle was empty.

Oscar rapidly crossed the restaurant to Ricky’s table. “Vito, you need to leave now! The Torelli brothers pulled up in a white limo. Follow me through the kitchen. We have a car waiting for you.”

“Annie, we gotta scram. Those are the Torelli brothers who killed me!”

Too startled to talk, Annie’s wine glass slipped from her hand spilling champagne on the white tablecloth. She took Ricky’s hand. It felt like a dream or a nightmare and she couldn’t wake up. They rushed past the kitchen crew and into the dark sedan in the alley.

Oscar closed the car door. “That was too close,” he said to the darkening night sky.

“Is it really you Vito?” The driver asked as he drove rapidly through the downtown streets.

“Michael, good to have you at the wheel. Like old times.”

Was it the champagne? Had she fallen asleep watching Edward G. Robinson in a gangster movie? Tell me this can’t be happening; Annie cried into her hands.

“Change of plans tonight Michael. Drop us off at 1370 Wallings. Then disappear. I’ll see you in the morning, usual time.”

“Whatever you say boss. Gotta a little hideaway for you and the girl. Fine by me.”

Annie waited in her lace robe until she heard Ricky snoring. As she expected, he piled all of his clothes on the bedroom floor. Whatever spell Ricky was under, the clothes appeared to be the key. She scooped them up, with his shoes, into a garbage bag and threw it in the trash can behind the garage. Perhaps she could sleep and life would be normal in the morning.

Ricky emerged from the shower towel-drying his black hair. “Annie, I barely remember what happened last night. I should never drink champagne.”

Putting on her robe again, she responded,”We had a great time, especially when we got home.”

“That I remember!” He smiled when the sizzling memory resurfaced. “You’re incredible.”

Annie kissed his cheek. “I’ll make some coffee while you get dressed.”

Ricky called out to her,”Hey, where’s my new suit?”

She didn’t answer. Maybe the genie was finally back in the bottle. No more mobster Vito.

“I found my new shoes. Must’ve put them in the closet.”

Shoes, Annie thought, they were tossed away too. She poured the water in the coffeemaker and flipped the switch.

Ricky appeared in all of his gangster clothes – black suit, black shoes and hat. Annie was speechless. No, it couldn’t be possible! “Ricky?”

“Who’s Ricky?”

Ricky/Vito kissed her hard on the lips and squeezed her ass. “Thanks for last night doll. I feel like a new man. See you soon. Michael’s got your address.” Then he walked out the door and into the waiting Lincoln Town Car.

Annie collapsed onto the kitchen chair in a burst of tears. Why? Why was this happening?

“Where to boss?” Michael asked.

“Silvio’s. Gotta connect with the boys. Let ’em know I’m back.”

“Oscar called me from the restaurant. Said the Torelli brothers came in heavy looking to kill you. Guess they went away disappointed.” Michael finished the drive and opened the car door. “Call me when you’re ready to leave boss.”

Ricky walked through the side door of Silvio’s. “Hey Frankie, good to see ya.”

Frankie’s large frame slowly rose from the desk chair. Stacks of twenties, fifties, and hundreds covered the desk. “Vito?”

“Who else?” He hugged Frankie patting him on the back. “How’d we do last night?”

“Pretty good. I’m still counting. Surprised to see you Vito.” Shocked better described his true feelings as he returned to his chair.

“We need to hit Dominic and Vinnie Torelli. They were gunning for me at the Golden Bowl. We gotta put them in the ground.”

“Lemme call Max. His crew would be perfect. Nobody knows them.” Frankie dialed and nodded to Vito. “They’ll be here in ten minutes.”

“I’m going too.”

“Not a good idea Vito. They’ll see you coming.”

“I’ll stay outta sight. I gotta watch them die for what they did to me!”

Joey, a slender man in his twenties, walked in. “Rumors must be true! Vito lemme make you a drink. Scotch and water?”

“Always, thanks Joey. Good to be back.” Ricky sipped his Scotch and waited.

The phone rang. “Yea,” Frankie answered. “Keep an eye on ’em. Call me here if they leave.” Frankie hung up the phone and wrote on a small piece of paper. “Got an address, Hillcrest Motel over on State. The Torellis are staying there.”

Max opened the door. His blonde hair and glasses reminded Ricky that he wasn’t Italian but had prove his loyalty many times. A ruthless killer he could rely on.

“Here’s the address.” Ricky handed him the paper. “I’m riding along with you.”

“Yes Mr. Lepinski. Whenever you’re ready.”

Max opened the back door of the black Impala for Ricky. Two other men were already seated rechecking the clips from their pistols. Max took the wheel as they slowly approached Hillcrest Motel. He stopped and gave the orders. “Front door for you two. Bobby take the parking lot. I’ll take the door.”

Like a smooth military operation, Max’s boot kicked open the motel door. All three men fired before the Torellis could reach their guns. Dominic never got off the bed. Vinnie fell by the bathroom door riddled in bullets. Max shot each brother in the head.

Ricky stood by the motel door. “Good job! I could always count on you Max.” Then he turned and walked away.

Frankie answered the ringing phone. “Max, is it done?”

“Yes. You won’t believe this Frankie. Vito vanished. All we found was a pile of his clothes. Can’t find him anywhere.”

“Is this a joke? It ain’t funny Max.”

Annie started to calm down by her second cup of coffee. Nothing made any sense. Vito back from the dead? Suddenly Ricky walked in the house. Annie jumped up and greeted him with a big hug. “I’m really glad to see you.”

“Crazy thing is I don’t have any shoes.” A confused Ricky added, “And I’m standing here without any pants on. What’s been going on?”

Michael Woll

Posted in "If the Shoe Fits" | Leave a comment

“MEPHISTOPHELES”

I sat in the darkness with my newly lit cigar and a glass of forty year old Macallan Scotch. Easing back in my comfortable rocking chair I tried to relax.  Smooth jazz played through my Bose speakers. Dave Brubeck will be missed in the music world. I wore my navy silk pajamas one last time. My life was ending and I had grown to accept the inevitable event. Will this be my new reality – eternal night?

Dr. Harvey gave me my death sentence. “Sorry, there’s nothing left we can do. The cancer has spread throughout your body. Go home. Spend time with your family and friends.” I never told anyone. Just a quick smile and reassuring words that everything would be alright. They bought the lie.

Are there days or hours remaining for me? The grandfather clock chimed loudly twelve times, the midnight hour. I drank my expensive Scotch. No reason to save that $10,000 bottle anymore. Nothing to be concerned with since my will and power of attorney  were all in place. I waited for my midnight visitor.

I exhaled the cigar smoke into the air. Suddenly two red eyes appeared out of the blackness of my family room. “Mephistopheles, I wondered when you’d show up.” I forgot how tall the devil’s wing-man stood nearly seven feet.

“Good evening Edward. Time to pay the piper as they say.” Mephistopheles sat in the chair next to me.

I blew smoke rings in his face and laughed. “I know all about contracts. I’ve practiced contract law for thirty-six years.”

This seemed to amuse him. “Experience? Try hundreds of years dealing with mankind’s greed and desires. You are still a rookie when it comes to contracts.”

I tapped my cigar lightly onto the ashtray watching the burning ashes. “Should I turn on a light?”

“You know I have an aversion to light.”

Jumping to my feet, I began switching on every lamp in the room. “Now I can see you in all your ugliness.” He wore a black cape over his leathery  crimson skin. Huge red wings and a bearded face with small horns completed the fallen angel’s appearance. “If you made a deal with your boss Satan for good looks, you need to rescind the deal.” It was my turn to laugh.

“Glad to see you are in good spirits knowing your soul is going to eternal damnation in a matter of hours. The fires of Hell are real and waiting for you.” His large frame shifted uncomfortably in the chair. “Most men in your position are crying and begging. Praying to the god they betrayed for a last minute reprieve. Take me to the pearly gates. Please god please.” His laughing filled the room.

“No regrets, no begging from me.” I drank deeply from my Scotch rocks. “A deal is a deal. After my years of contract law cases, I know if the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted, a contract is a legally binding agreement in any court of law.”

Displaying the ancient book in his hands, he said,”I brought the book you signed in blood in case you would argue that you never wrote Edward J. Sterling Jr. inside.”

My laughter stopped him. “Sorry, please continue.”

“A sense of humor still?” The face of evil spoke. “Your soul will be mine. You had your successful life, your wealth, your bling as they call it today.”

“Yes, that was part of the contract or was it?”

“Are you trying to confuse me? Do not waste my time Edward. This is not my only stop tonight.”

I left the room and refilled my Scotch. “If these are my last hours on earth,” I said entering the room again,”I get to select the topic of our discussion. The other souls can wait.”

“I will play along with your game for now. But do not try my patience Edward.” His personality could change from charming to screaming in a second. I’ve witnessed both.

“I graduated from Notre Dame and remained there for my three years of law school. By my last year, I had met my future wife, Abby. We didn’t know until graduation day that she was pregnant with our son, Frank.”

“You are boring me,” Mephistopheles commented.

“Wait till you enter the story.” I puffed on my cigar before placing it in the ashtray. “When the final rank of my law school class came out, I dropped to twelfth. Sure I graduated from Notre Dame but the top ten lawyers were guaranteed the big money. This is when you came into my life.”

“The star arrives.” He smiled his crooked yellow teeth at me.

“I was desperate. Abby and I married. The big law firms passed me by. I had huge college loans. I had a family.”

“You needed my assistance. I met you at midnight in your apartment.”

“Then you painted the picture of golden tomorrows, of power, prestige, and wealth. At twenty-five, my mind was law school sharp. I listened to your offer. Weighed the pros and cons.”

“Mankind is weak.” Mephistopheles continued,”I tell people what they want to hear. Money for a soul. People are not even sure what the soul is. If only they knew! Losing one’s soul  did not matter when one is desperate or greedy like you.”

“Have you ever lost a soul you thought was signed, sealed, not delivered?”

Mephistopheles responded,”I try not to dwell on that.” He seemed to choose his words with care. “Of course over hundreds of years, someone slips away. A very rare occurrence.”

I smiled at his lies. He would never admit to failure in front of a mere mortal. “Back to my story, I signed your book in blood. Edward J. Sterling Jr. The contract between us began.”

“You have no regrets?”

“None for Edward J. Sterling Jr. Within a week I flew to New York and interviewed at Danford and Associates. They hired me. I made six figures by my third year at the firm. My stock choices were golden. We had more money than we could spend.”

“A fairy tale came true.” He answered with sarcasm. “Are we done reminiscing? I have other places to be.”

“No.” I finished my cigar. “Abby became famous for her charity work and served on many boards in the art world. Then came her heart attack. I called for you.”

“Yes, we met a second time.”

“But you wouldn’t help her. My contract did not include her deteriorating health. Damn you!”

“A deal is a deal. You said it yourself.” He rose from the chair and began pacing back and forth. “The hour is late Edward.”

“Frank became successful in the brokerage business selling commodities on Wall Street. He married Ava and they are expecting their first child soon.”

“Enough! Let us finish our business.” Mephistopheles marched towards me. His size alone intimidated and then there were those glowing eyes of fire.

“Sit down,” I said as firmly as I could. “Let’s talk about that contract you think you have.” I smiled at the evil being.

Mephistopheles returned to his chair. “We both know your last hours on earth have changed to minutes. Ticktock, time is almost up.”

“About that contract . . .” I teased him.

“Again?”

I stood and acted out the part of my favorite contracts law professor, Dr. Metger. Yeah, the same guy who wrote all those books and was on the short list for the Supreme Court. “Each side enters into a contract with a promise made. The first party offers a life of wealth and fame. The second party offers in return his immortal soul. A binding contract is made when, in this case, his name is signed in blood in your book of souls.”

“Yes, yes. I need to leave!” His anger grew with each word.

“What if a mistake happened to void the contract?”

“Impossible!”

“Oh no, very possible.” I lit my final cigar to celebrate my victory. “The name I signed in your book look at it again. Open your book of souls.”

“What exactly am I looking for?” His vicious temper nearly exploded.

“The name Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“Yes. I see your signature. What is your point?”

I blew smoke in his direction. “That’s not my name. My father was named Ralph and my grandfather Benjamin. Sorry no junior. You made a deal with someone who doesn’t even exist! I keep my soul. You lose!”

His book flew past my head. He shrieked. Suddenly, the archdevil appeared to regain his composure. “You win your soul. But you gave away another’s soul tonight. Remember what you did for all eternity!”

“What are you talking about? There is no Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“Call your son.” Mephistopheles vanished from sight.

I dropped my cell and tried again for his number. “Frank?”

“I was just about to call you. We have great news dad. Ava had a boy and we named him after you, Edward J. Sterling Jr.”

“NO! NO! NO!” I stumbled backwards, fell and left this world a broken, bitter man.

Michael Woll

Posted in "MEPHISTOPHELES" | 1 Comment

“Justice For All”

 

 

The Principal

 

Woodrow Woody Williams stared out at the snow accumulating on the sidewalk in front of Kennedy High School. Monday again. How many more Mondays till retirement? Too many! He finished the last sip of coffee and tossed the Dunkin’ Donuts cup across the room, off the wall and into the wastebasket. He smiled at his small victory.

As an African American male, he thought that would give him an edge in dealing with inner city students. It didn’t. Kids today didn’t respect anybody, even each other, he thought. Black, white, blue, whatever color the person was wouldn’t help you in this job. Being a mean son of a bitch got a better response, certainly got their attention.

A knock on his office door Mrs. Ray, his head secretary, walked in saying,”There are four teachers out today and we have three substitute teachers. But you need to talk to Miss Collins. She’s demanding to see you.”

“Thanks Mrs. Ray. Send her in.” Miss Collins, a first year teacher, had the nickname Flame because of her temper and her tendency to blush when angry. A cute little blonde straight out of college, she should be teaching in the suburbs, not the city, he reflected. If he had any hair left, he would have pulled it out over her demands. No wonder the students called him Bald Eagle behind his back.

Miss Collins entered wearing a navy pantsuit with her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She carried a stack of books and dumped them on top of Williams’ desk. “I QUIT! You can have my grade book, lesson plan book and all my teacher’s editions. I don’t need them anymore!”

“Please sit down. Let’s not make a rash decision.”

“I can’t do another day in this hellhole!” She paced back and forth.

“Maybe you should talk to your union rep Jackie Majors.” He didn’t know what else to say to her. “Take the day off and get some rest. Things will look better tomorrow.”

“I QUIT!” Miss Collins stormed out of his office slamming the door. Could this day get any worse?

Mr. Williams walked through the office and into the front hallway. The halls were crowded. Several groups of students stood in conversation making no effort to head for first period classes. Until his booming, gruff voice yelled,”Let’s clear the halls and get to class!” Reluctantly, the groups divided disappearing into classrooms.

Suddenly two police officers appeared from an adjoining hallway followed by a mother, daughter and a female detective. The detective spoke first,”Principal Williams we need to talk to you.”

“Follow me to my office.” Yes, this day could get worse! “What’s this about?” He asked as he closed his office door behind them.

“We are here to arrest one of your teachers for the statutory rape of a student,” the detective revealed.

 

The Teacher

 

Mr. Bradley Remer glanced in the mirror by the classroom door. His straw-colored hair grew long and he usually had that “need a haircut” look. But his morning runs before school kept his body long and lean. A fact he was proud of and a brag point with his fellow teachers. Remer stood outside his classroom waiting for the arrival of his senior English students. Mr. Williams expected all the teachers at their doors greeting students. The real reason to provide extra hall security, more eyes looked for potential problems. Morning coffee had forced him awake to face another week of school.

Here comes trouble, he thought, as ReRe ran into his classroom. He watched her hop on his desk kicking her brown legs in her short denim skirt and red Jordans. The bell rang. Mr. Remer called out,”ReRe go to your class. That’s the bell.”

“Get outta here bitch!” Sissy screamed from the back of the classroom. “Leave my teacher alone.”

ReRe jumped down. “I’m not running from you! Bring your ugly ass up here!”

Mr. Remer grabbed ReRe by the arm and led her in the direction of the door. “I’ll talk to you later. I don’t want any confrontations in my room. Go to class ReRe.”

“Yes Bradley,” she laughed. ReRe hugged a security guard who escorted her down the hall.

“It’s Mr. Remer,” he spoke to an empty hallway.

Closing the door, he turned to face his students. “Okay, back to Othello. Who remembers what we read last week?”

Sissy’s hand rose. “Why did you let her in your room?”

“Let’s get back to Iago and the handkerchief.”

“Me and the sisters can tune her up for you,” Sissy added. Remer knew Sissy didn’t need help from anyone else.

“Enough Sissy.” Remer tried to remain calm. “Now how does Iago acquire the strawberry handkerchief?”

Two police officers entered the room with one officer reaching for his handcuffs. “Mr. Bradley Remer we are placing you under arrest.” He cuffed the surprised teacher.

“Hey! What’s going on here?” Remer pleaded. The classroom exploded in cell phone pictures, texts, and loud laughter.

“You’re coming with us. You have the right to remain silent.” As the policemen continued his Miranda rights into the hallway, students left their seats. Then Mr. Williams walked in and the students scrambled back to their desks.

“Mr. Williams why did they arrest our teacher?” A quiet boy in the front asked.

“Son, I’m sure the media will be all over this story. They love to say bad things about Kennedy High.” Oh lord, he thought, will this day ever end? And it was only 8:12 a.m.

 

The Student

 

Detective Emily Rodgers sat down at the principal’s desk and stared at Makia Davis. A little girl of fifteen shouldn’t have to endure sexual advances from a man more than twice her age. Emily recalled losing her virginity at a college frat party. Even nineteen seemed young to her now. But fifteen was too soon. This poor girl had no idea of the media attention a trial would bring to her and her family.

Makia wore her school uniform of a red polo shirt and navy denim skirt. Her long black hair was pulled back into a silver clip. Makia wiped away her tears and gripped her mother’s hand tightly. “I’m ready for your questions,” her shaking voice said.

Emily smiled trying to relax the young student. “Call me Emily, Makia. Let’s review some of the details from your statement.”

“Is this necessary?” Mrs. Davis interrupted.

“Yes, I’m afraid so. This is a serious charge.” Turning to Makia, she continued,”When and where did this incident occur?”

“Friday. On my way home from school it  rained real hard. Mr. Remer stopped and offered me a ride home.”

“But he didn’t take you straight home.”

“No. We drove to Memorial Park. He parked away from the road.”

“You had sexual intercourse with Mr. Remer?”

“Yes.” Makia searched her mother’s face. “I’m sorry momma. It’s true.”

“Is this the only time you had sexual relations with Mr. Remer?”

“No. There were two other times.”

“In his car too?”

“Yes. He kept a red plaid blanket on the back seat.”

Detective Rodgers reviewed her notes. “Okay. All the details are exactly the same as the statement you made last night. I have two more questions then your mother can take you home.”

Makia nodded fighting back more tears.

“How did this relationship begin with Mr. Remer?”

“He’s my English teacher. Sometimes I would stay after class and help him grade papers or decorate the classroom. He bought me McDonalds a few times and I would eat lunch in his room. He said I was special. He touched me, hugged me. One time we went for a ride after school.”

“Why didn’t you report Mr. Remer when it happened the first time?”

Even Makia’s tissue couldn’t stop the tears. “He said he loved me. Nobody ever said that to me not even you momma.”

Mrs. Davis pulled her from the chair and headed for the door. Detective Rodgers spoke to them,”I’ll call you.” But they were gone. Emily Rodgers shook her head. Why were parents always the last to know, she wondered. Picking up her purse, she walked out of the office.

The Reporter

Quinton Lancaster laughed every time he saw the framed picture of Ron Burgundy on his desk. That helped somewhat with the resentment everyone in the newsroom had for him. He dealt with being the office smart ass as well as the eldest son of legendary ABC news anchor Jerry Lancaster. Connections from his father got him his job and everyone knew it.

But the trial would change everything. A small story about a fifteen year old girl raped by her teacher had caught fire across the country with the media fanning the flames. A career making story had fallen into his lap that no one else wanted at first. Quinn’s report with a national audience would elevate him perhaps to that NBC weekend news anchor position? At least he might get a date with Maryann, the hot anchor who all the guys drooled over when she walked by. Maryann knew it and wore tight sweaters and short skirts to drive the men mad.

“Are you preparing for your update on the six o’clock news?” The deep voice of Russ Thomas, his station chief, brought him out of his daydream of Maryann.

“Yes sir. Ready to go.”

“You have ten minutes till sound check. Straighten your tie. The whole country’s watching. CNN might even rebroadcast your report.”

Quinn remembered selecting the exact shirt, tie, and suit for this moment, his biggest moment until the trial started next week and he would be the only reporter working live with True Trial TV. He rechecked the teleprompter and took a deep breath, advice his father had shared with him. Even though he partied his way through his university days, father would get him a position with one phone call, two at the most. Friends with better voices and far more talent still searched for that first broadcasting job while he began his fifth year at station KYC.

Maryann gave her best smile saying,”Let’s get an update from Quinn Lancaster on the trial of Ohio teacher Bradley Remer.”

For a brief second he stared at Maryann’s beautiful face and auburn hair. Then he turned to the camera and the waiting teleprompter. “Good evening. Monday begins the trial of Bradley Remer for the alleged  rape of his fifteen year old student. Reports tell me that Bradley’s wife Vicki has moved back home with her husband to present a united front for the trial. True Trial TV has signed releases from Bradley Remer and Mrs. Davis, the mother of the rape victim. Therefore, the trial will be on live tv. I will report everything to you as we watch the trial together Monday 9:00 a.m. on True Trial TV.”

The Trial

“I’m speaking to you from outside the doors of the Franklin County Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio. Just a few moments until the trial that all of America is waiting to see. Let’s have a brief comment from the parties involved. Quinn Lancaster, KYC News, Mr. Remer, what are your thoughts before the trial begins?”

“I’ve waited three months to clear my name. This has been very hard on myself and my wife Vicki. I want to be back in the classroom with my students. The truth will be heard today for the first time.” An emotional Bradley Remer walked through the doors with his attorney.

Mrs. Davis stood in front of her daughter. “I got something to say too.”

“Mrs. Davis tell America your feelings about your daughter and Mr. Remer.”

“That devil needs to be locked up! He violated my Makia and robbed her of her innocence. That son of a bitch!” She stomped past the news crew dragging her daughter by the hand.

“True Trial TV reminds the audience that both the Davis and Remer families are being paid for allowing us to broadcast their trial to you. Whatever the verdict of Judge Tolliver, even if it involves a prison sentence, will be carried out like any courtroom trial. Let’s go inside and watch today’s True Trial.”

With the cameras in position, Quinn sat down in the final row of seats. The bailiff announced,”Everyone please rise for the Honorable Judge Spencer Tolliver.” A silver-haired man in a black robe entered.

He hammered his gavel. “Please be seated.” Judge Tolliver looked around at the crowded courtroom and the cameras, the damn cameras! “Before we begin today’s proceedings, let me speak off the record about True Trial TV. I personally don’t believe that the trial of a fifteen year old girl should be broadcast to the public. That being said, both Mr. Remer and Mrs. Davis signed legal documents allowing for this to happen. Mr. Dent for the prosecution please proceed with your opening remarks.”

A veteran of True Trial TV, Dent smiled for the cameras and spoke to the judge,”Your honor, this is a horrible case of the rape of an innocent fifteen year old girl, Makia Davis. Mr. Remer violated the public trust of a teacher working daily with our sons and daughters. He is a rapist and needs to be sent to prison.”

The judge faced the defense table. “And your opening remarks Mr. Turner.”

Jake Turner, the college roommate and lifelong friend of Bradley Remer, stood in front of the judge. “Your honor, the good name of Bradley Remer has been damaged by the media for months. It ends today. You will see that we are dealing with a school girl’s crush on her English teacher, a fantasy romance that is all in this little girl’s imagination.”

Dent announced,”I call Detective Rodgers to the stand.”

“Bailiff, please swear her in.”

Emily Rodgers felt the eyes of every male in the room watch her walk. Great, she thought, with all the cameras too she’ll probably attract a stalker or two.

“Detective Rodgers when did you meet Makia Davis?” Dent began.

“On Sunday after the incident on Friday, Mrs. Davis brought her daughter to the police station.”

“And what happened?”

“I took Makia’s statement about being raped by Mr. Remer.”

“Did you believe her story?”

“Of course! The next morning the three of us met at Kennedy High and reviewed her statement. Word for word everything was the same.”

“Thank you detective. Your witness Mr. Turner.”

Turner checked his notes as he approached Detective Rodgers. “Good morning detective. Just a few questions for you. You had a search warrant for my client’s Buick. What did you find?”

“We were looking for a blanket that Makia described. It wasn’t there.”

“What else detective?”

“There were no hair fibers, DNA, nothing we could present in court.”

“Thank you detective. You can return to your seat.”

Dent stood frowning. “Makia Davis, please take the stand.”

Makai wore her Sunday best blue dress with navy ribbons tying back her hair. She gripped several tissues in her right hand.

“Makia, you are a sophomore at Kennedy High School. How did you meet Mr. Remer?”

“He’s my English teacher.”

“Okay Makia, let’s focus on the Friday incident. Please tell us what happened in your own words.”

She hesitated searching for her mother’s face in the crowd. Her mother smiled at her. Then Makia spoke,”I was walking home from school. It was raining. Mr. Remer stopped his car and offered me a ride home. I got in his car. We drove to Memorial Park and that’s where we did it.”

“You had sexual intercourse with Mr. Remer?”

“Yes, but I wanted to like the other times.”

“Other times?”

“We did it twice before that. I love Mr. Remer and he loves me. I didn’t wanna go to the police. That was momma’s idea.”

Vicki Remer erupted in tears rushing out of the courtroom.

“No further questions. Mr. Turner?”

Turner asked,”One question Makia. Were you a virgin when this alleged affair began?”

“Objection your honor!” Dent said jumping to his feet.

Judge Tolliver responded,”I’ll allow it. We have signed releases to include everything. Makia, answer the question.”

Tears rolled down her cheeks as she admitted,”No, I lost my virginity to Franklin, a older boy lives on Decker, when momma was at work.”

“No further questions.” Turner returned to the defense table giving Bradley a thumbs up.

Dent said from his chair. “The prosecution rests.”

Turner announced,”I call Principal Williams for the defense.”

Williams checked his watch. Homeroom would be starting in a few minutes for his Kennedy’s students.

“Principal Williams, tell us about Bradley Remer.”

“I’ve known Mr. Remer for the past six years as an English teacher at Kennedy High. He seems to be well liked by the staff and students. Several teachers are in the courtroom today. His classroom is organized and he never misses school, a model teacher.”

“Thank you Principal Williams. Mr. Dent?”

“No questions.”

“I call Bradley Remer to the stand.”

The courtroom seemed to come alive with renewed interest in the trial. Remer sat down waiting for his attorney’s questions.

“Mr. Remer, let’s return to the Friday in question. Tell us in your own words what happened.”

“I was driving home and saw my student, Makia Davis, walking in the pouring rain. I stopped my car and gave her a ride home.”

“That’s all that happened?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you believe Makia Davis would make up this story of rape?”

Bradley Remer looked past his attorney to the little girl seated next to Prosecutor Dent. “Students have crushes on their teachers. It happens all the time. In Makia’s case she loves to write fantasy stories. I guess she wanted a relationship, wanted attention.”

“Thank you. Mr. Dent?”

Dent’s face grew angry. “Why did you rape a fifteen year old girl?”

“It never happened, only in her imagination. I’m happily married Mr. Dent.”

“Closing remarks,” Judge Tolliver instructed. Remer passed Dent as he returned to the defense table.

“Your honor, this man is a rapist and needs to be in prison. You heard Makia Davis. She was caught up in his lies, trading a promise of love for statutory rape. Send him to prison your honor.”

Turner approached the judge. “There is no evidence, no witnesses. You have the words of a young girl with a vivid imagination versus a family man, a teacher. Let’s end this nonsense and return Mr. Remer to his classroom.”

Judge Tolliver stared into the camera. “I know True Trial TV has time restraints but I am ready to rule. I find Mr. Remer innocent of all charges. Court dismissed.” He hammered down the gavel for the final time.

“THIS ISN’T JUSTICE!” Mrs Davis screamed. “MY DAUGHTER WAS RAPED!” The bailiff ran to her and escorted her out of the courtroom.

Within minutes, only Bradley Remer and his attorney remained. “That was too close Jake. Guess I better be more careful with the next girl. I got my new candidate already, her name’s ReRe.”

“I don’t want to know Brad,” Turner interrupted closing his attache case. “You’re lucky the last girl took cash to keep her mouth shut.”

“You know what they say, once you go black . . .”

“Brad, I’ll call you. Maybe have lunch on the weekend. Watch yourself. Next time I won’t be able to keep you outta prison.”

 

“This is Quinn Lancaster reporting from outside the courthouse. Thanks for tuning into True Trial TV.”

Michael Woll

 

 

 

 

Posted in "Justice For All" | 1 Comment