A Miracle For MarcybyDanielQSteele1©
© Daniel Quentin Steele 2011
Author's note: This is my Christmas story and I hope LIT readers enjoy it. I didn't submit for the Xmas contest because it doesn't meet the contest rules. On another matter, I was unaware that LIT rules prohibit providing information about off-site publication. There have been major developments in the When We Were Married story and if anyone cares to contact me, I'll let you know where it can be found. And for those who care, there is no sex in this one but I think the story definitely falls into the Loving Wives category.
"Silent Night" echoed through the deserted hallways as he passed the nurse's station. Liz, a small dark woman who often worked the night shift, smiled at him and said, "Merry Christmas, Officer Belker."
He glanced down at his watch and realized it was past midnight. Christmas morning.
"Merry Christmas, Liz," he said, walking past her and entering a familiar doorway before she had a chance to say anything else, to offer condolences.
He bent over and kissed the sleeping blonde princess who was ensnared in a jungle of tubes and cables and wires that invaded every part of her body, hooking her to machines that beeped and gurgled and hummed beside her hospital bed.
"Hey, Marcy," he said softly, as he always did when he came in off shift. He pulled a chair up to her bed and turned it around, sitting across it, and held one of her small, cold, unmoving hands in his.
Unlike every other night of his eight month vigil, this night he took his ten-shot police-issue Glock pistol out of his service holster and laid it on the bed near his right hand.
Talking more to himself than her, he said, "I have to do this now, darling. I won't have the courage later. This has to end tonight."
Then he started to talk to her about the day's events, as he always did.
"I killed two men this morning. I mean, yesterday morning. The first two men I ever killed, on Christmas Eve."
He had been parked in the darkened drive-through of an abandoned Shell station across the street and on the corner a half block down from the Baymeadows Barnett Bank. It was 2 a.m., the temperature on the sign in front of the bank down to 37 degrees.
His sargeant had told him, "George, stay home,", but he could not stay in the warm and comfortable apartment he and Marcy had called home. He could not sleep there now, never could again. Because she was all around him as she had been before the freak medical accident had stolen her from him.
Instead, he waited for the Night Depositor - as he had been dubbed by police - to make a visit to this bank as he had to three others in the past two months.
The Depositor's MO was deceptively simple, taping an open plastic bag to the interior of a bank's night depository after banking hours so that unwary customers' deposits dropped into the bag. Before the bank opened he retrieved his bag and thousands of dollars in cash.
Because of its location and the fact that retailers would be depositing large amounts of cash, he had gambled that the Depositor might hit the Baymeadows Bank, and his gamble had paid off.
A late model Chevrolet entered the bank parking lot. The driver got out of his car and approached the depository, festooned with Christmas wreaths and decorations. The driver reached into the depository and pulled out a plastic bag.
"Bingo," he said to himself softly and quietly turned the ignition on, picking up his mike and keying it to talk.
"This is unit 37," he said, aware that communications knew the location of his off-duty stakeout. "I've got the Night Depositor in my sights. Request backup."
A beat up and dusty red Mustang roared into the parking lot, cutting off the Depositor from his car.
Two men jumped out of the Mustang, the revolver and shotgun they held frightening the Depositor into throwing up his hands and dropping his bag of money.
He could hear the Depositor begging them to take the money, heard the gunmen laughing as they roughly forced him to kneel on the pavement.
A BOLO alert from Atlanta had reported a pair of gunmen who preyed on convenience stores and other late night businesses might be heading for Jacksonville . In Atlanta and Charleston they had cold bloodedly executed their victims.
The gunman holding a revolver to the Depositor's head swung around first, bringing the revolver up to fire. A hail of bullets from the Glock threw the gunman onto the hood of the Mustang.
The gunman holding the sawed off shotgun was saying something he couldn't make out for the roaring in his ears. Belker's body seemed to be acting on its own as he pumped rounds into the big man firing the shotgun. Something stung his face and he wiped away blood.
When it was over, he asked the Depositor, huddling on the ground and shaking, "Are you alright?" The slightly built, blond man nodded yes.
The gunman with the revolver was dead. A bullet had gone through his heart. The big man had fallen forward on his side.
Belker rolled the big man over, feeling for a pulse at his throat. Suddenly, the big man grabbed his hand in a meaty paw. He flinched, but did not pull away. The big man couldn't talk, blood spilling out of his mouth showed that a bullet had gone through a lung. He was drowning in his own blood.
He wanted to say something, but what do you say to a dying man you've just killed. He held the big man's hand while he struggled to breath and rhythmically squeezed and relaxed his grip, and the car radio in the Mustang played "Jingle Bell Rock."
The big man let go of life and his grip quietly, the heavy, sweaty hand growing slack and loose. Belker was on his knees beside a dead man when he heard the Depositor scrambling to his feet and running to his car.
He should have called halt, he should have fired a warning shot, but he couldn't let go of the dead man's hand. He still held it, tears streaming down his face, when the first units arrived.
"That's why I didn't come by this morning, Marcy. I was tied up with Internal Affairs investigating the shooting and going to University to get a few shotgun pellets dug out of my face and shoulder.
"The Sheriff came by to talk to me. He said nobody blamed me for letting the Depositor go. Shock and reaction to the shooting. But they won't let me go back on the street. I can't blame them. I can't hold things together any more."
Belker sat back in one of the hardback chairs that along with a plain metal desk marked every interrogation room in every police station in the world.
Chris Coleman leaned forward in the chair and propped his elbows on the table in front of him. Harry Munson, another IAD spook, leaned his gangly frame back against the wall of the room and chewed on a toothpick.
"I know we've been over this a dozen times, but this is the part I don't really understand, Belker. This is Christmas Eve. You're exhausted. Your wife is lying comatose in a hospital. You could have been by her side. Everyone says you are a devoted husband. Instead, you're out in the freezing cold by yourself, on an unauthorized stakeout. On a hunch? Why?"
Belker rubbed his eyes. It felt like sand and grit caked the insides of his eyelids. He thought he probably smelled rank. He thought he'd showered yesterday, but the days had begun to run together.
"I've already explained it, Coleman. I couldn't stand going back to my....our...place. I can't sleep there...not good. I get more sleep in my cruiser. And....I spend my free time with....Marcy. But I have to get away sometimes. I....I...can't....
"I'd been following the reports of the Depositor's pattern of hitting banks and I just had a hunch he might hit one in the Baymeadows area. It is a big commercial area, there are a lot of department stores so there would be a lot of merchant deposits. I took a chance he might hit this one."
"It worked out," Munson said, He was usually the silent one. Coleman had done most of the talking for the last five hours since Belker'd finally finished all the paperwork involving two police shooting homicides and a successful bank robbery. He'd had at least a half dozen cups of coffee and he was still having trouble keeping his eyes open.
"You were there, all by yourself, and you had him nailed. And he got away."
"With what the bank people tell us could have been as much as a hundred thousand dollars. That's a nice payday," Coleman added.
He stared into Belker's eyes. Belker held his gaze unblinking.
"You've got a good record. You haven't killed anybody, until this morning, but you've been in shoot-outs, and you did put that one guy into the hospital last year. It's not like you're a rookie. Yet you froze and watched the Depositor drive off with his loot. It doesn't seem....it seems curious."
Belker finally stared down at the table. He couldn't explain it to the IAD headhunter because he couldn't explain it to himself.
"I don't know why. I've been asking myself why. Ever since this morning. I...just couldn't. Couldn't move."
"Why are you still on the street, Belker?"
"What else am I going to do?"
"You could ask for desk duty. There are jobs you could fill. Jobs that wouldn't put you in situations..."
"Where I could let a guy get away with a hundred thousand dollars in bank money? Right?"
"You ever had anybody in the hospital, Coleman? Ever had somebody bad sick, hurt bad, in a hospital, for a long time? Ever had to sit and wait and do nothing but think....for hour after hour. I need to be out of the street, doing things. Not sitting behind a desk...thinking..."
Coleman was silent. Finally:
"No, I've never had anybody in the hospital. Not like your wife. And that's the only reason we're not coming down on you with both feet. You nailed two bad guys this morning. Good for you. But you let a thief skate with a hundred grand. Most departments I know of, that wouldn't get you any commendations."
There was nothing he could say to that. He picked up the styrofoam coffee cup and sipped the coffee inside. It was cold and bitter.
The door to the interrogation room opened. A short, pudgy, rumpled-looking guy with light brown, sparse hair and an expressonless face, wearing a sweater and a pair of brown slacks, walked in. He nodded toward the two IAD detectives and Coleman got up. Both men followed him outside.
Belker recognized him. He was just surprised to see him at the Cop Shop on Christmas Eve.
Belker made himself sip more of the cold, bitter coffee to put something in his stomach. Ten minutes later the door opened again and the rumpled guy walked back in. He stared at Belker for just a moment, then sat down opposite him.
"It's nothing personal, Officer Belker."
"I know, Mr. Maitland."
"IAD guys don't trust their own mothers. Occupational hazard. A thief gets away with a hundred grand when you could have popped him and the first thought in their heads is that you worked a deal with him. Took a cut."
"I know. I believe you. We've -- our office and IAD -- checked it out under a microscope. Everything you've told us fits. The first officers on the scene told us you were in shock. I doubt many people are good enough actors to fool a bunch of street cops.
"You have shotgun pellet holes in your face and shoulder. A little closer or better aim on the part of the guy with the .45 and you wouldn't be sitting here right now."
Maitland stared into his eyes and Belker had to fight the feeling that he was staring into his soul. He was just good at his job. He'd been the guy who did most of the heavy lifting over at the State Attorney's Office for a few years and Belker was used to seeing him at crime scenes when in other years younger men and women would be out in the rain and after hours.
"And, if you were dirty, you'd have raised a lot more than $250,000 to get that British doctor over here to see if he could help your wife. Yeah, I knew something about your situation but today I did some in-depth checking. It's a million, right? A million dollars is what it would cost to get that experimental treatment and that team of docs over here."
"Yeah. A million dollars. That's all."
"A lot of money, but a dirty cop might be able to raise it."
"A million dollars is further away than the moon, Mr. Maitland. If I thought it would have given Marcy a chance, I'd have been the dirtiest cop that ever lived. But, I still couldn't raise a million dollars. And I couldn't face her if I'd saved her by doing that. She would hate me. Even so, I think I would. I'd rather have her alive and hating me, than....the way it is now. But it wouldn't work..."
A tall dark haired man with a face pockmarked by teenage acne wearing Jacksonville Sheriff's Department blues stepped into the room and exchanged glances with Maitland, then looked at Belker?
"How are you doing, Officer?"
Sheriff Gerald Knight looked back at Maitland with an unspoken question.
Maitland stared at Belker but he was talking to the Sheriff.
"It was a clean shoot, Sheriff. I'll make sure the paperwork is filed and I'll sign off on it. Cut the dog and pony show. Let Belker go. Okay?"
Knight just looked at him for a moment, then walked over until he was standing beside Belker, who had to crane his neck up. Knight was a tall man.
"You know I can't let you go back out on the street, right?"
"I...uh....I kind of thought that was how it would go down."
Knight rested his hand on Belker's shoulder.
"You're a good cop, and a good man, Belker. You did a standup thing, taking out those two killers the way you did. And I know...I still dream about the first guy I ever killed. And that was 20 years ago. It's harder than it looks in the movies. But..."
"You can't have officers out on the street who freeze. If the Depositor had been any other kind of guy, you'd be lying on a slab right now. Forget about the money he got away with. You could get other officers, or civilians killed. I can't take that chance."
Knight shook his head a little.
"I know the FOP has done some things to help raise money for you, but I could pass the word to work on it harder. Remember, there's always hope as long as she's alive."
Belker examined the pockmarked moon surface of the metal interrogation table as he said, "She doesn't have forever. They're keeping her alive, but the doctors say it's not a stable situation. Little by little, she's slipping away, shutting down. She has months, maybe, maybe weeks. Not years. After awhile it won't matter if we do get Wallinsky to fly in here. It will be too late. He's not a miracle worker. He can't bring back the dead."
Finally Knight reached out to lay his hand on Belker's shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I'll see what we can do to help. When this is over, get away from here. Take a few days off, a week to get your head together before you come back to active duty."
He stopped by Maitland and held out his hand.
Maitland reached out and shook the Sheriff's hand.
"Thanks for coming out, Bill. You could have sent somebody."
"Everybody has plans on Christmas Eve. And Debbie had this thing at UNF so she won't be home till this evening. And the kids...well, they're teenagers. You know."
Knight just gave him a slight smile.
"Yeah, do I ever know. Mine are 14, 17 and 20. That's the bad thing about family planning. Those teen years last forever."
Belker stared at the two men. Joking about teenagers and the challenge of surviving the teen years. He wondered sometimes, staring at the ethereal blonde features of the most beautiful woman in the world sleeping in a medically induced trance that no kiss would ever rouse her from, what their children would have looked like. Would they have been dark and stocky and Eastern European-looking like him, or blonde and fair and lithe like their mother.
He'd never know. He had finally made himself face it. There wouldn't be any children. Ever.
The Sheriff looked back at him one last time but said nothing. Then he was gone.
Maitland leaned back in his chair.
"You're free to go, Officer Belker. I know this has been a really shitty way to spend Christmas Eve. A really shitty eight months. I wish....I wish there was something I could do. But, I don't come from money and I really don't know anybody I could hit up."
"A very shitty eight months, Mr. Maitland. But..."
Maitland looked at him curiously.
"I know two men are dead, and the bank is out a hundred grand, but I'm not sorry that I saved his life -- the Depositor. He's a thief, but he didn't deserve to be executed. Nobody deserves to die like that."
Maitland stood up. He looked down at Belker, then said, "What are you going to do when you walk out of here. Going to see Marcy?"
"Yeah, eventually. I...see her every day. Every day. But..today I'm going to go home and shower, go out and get something to eat and then I'm heading over to Baptist to see her. I don't have any family. Both my parents are dead. So it's just....me and her. I...won't be leaving her...until Christmas is past."
"I have a better idea. I'll follow you to your place, let you get a shower, and then I want you to follow me. We're spending Christmas Eve and having dinner with my wife's parents, Roy and Cathy Bascomb. Spend the evening with us, have a good dinner, and then you can go be with Marcy."
"I couldn't. Christmas is for spending time with your family. I'd...be a downer if I came over. You don't need my troubles."
"Please. I can't do anything about your real problem, but nobody should be as alone as you are on Christmas Eve. I'll feel better if you come over. Just for a few hours."
At 7 p.m. he was following Maitland's Escalade into a residential neighborhood and finally pulled up into a circular driveway leading up to a two-story brick home. Metal deer gamboled inside a forest of wire christmas trees and the house flashed a cheery red/green/blue message of "Merry Xmas" and "A Happy 2005."
He stepped out of his cruiser and followed Maitland toward the front door. Before they reached the porch a blonde woman dressed in a green dress and wearing an apron covered with white powder looking like something out of a Betty Crocker ad opened the door and came up to Maitland, enveloping him in a hug.
"Bill, I'm glad you made it here. Roy and I have almost had to sit on those two to keep them from going out with their friends. We're not the world's most popular grandparents right now."
"You did the right thing. Deb should be here soon. I haven't been able to reach her, but you know she turns off her cell at those things."
A look flashed between the two and Belker felt for a moment like he was intruding on a private conversation.
"You know she has to. It's university policy. She'll be here soon."
Cathy Bascomb put one hand out to touch his arm in an oddly maternal gesture and said, "Oh...alright. I'm just glad you're both going to be here and that you insisted on BJ and Kelly at least spending dinner with us. Debbie at the university and you gone to the courthouse....it's an old story. Someday..."
She stopped in mid-word and almost physically bit her tongue to keep from saying anything else.
Maitland turned back to Belker.
"We have our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve, usually with Cathy and Roy. Our kids -- Bj is 13 and Kelly 17, will be gone like wild horses once they've opened their few presents tomorrow morning. When they get up beyond a certain age, all their presents are expensive and they don't get a bundle. But they'll be happy."
He looked back at Cathy.
"Cathy, this is George Belker."
He held out his hand but she brushed it aside and enveloped him in a hug. She was a tall woman, about five foot eight, and solid, but not fat. As she pulled him to her he felt the soft give of her large breasts and felt embarrassed and aroused at the same time. She was a grandmother, for God's sake. But it had been eight months....