A Miracle For MarcybyDanielQSteele1©
"Officer Belker, Bill called and told me what had happened. I was so sorry to hear about your wife. I am so glad that you accepted his offer to come and spend a few hours with us. I think you'll enjoy the dinner. Bill says I'm not really a bad cook."
"You are entirely too good a cook, Cathy, to be constantly angling for compliments. You ever known me to pass up an invitation to eat here?"
"You need to pass up a few meals," she said, but the fond smile removed the sting from the words.
Then he turned back to Belker, who was to surreptitiously trying to adjust his trousers to conceal a growing problem.
"Cathy, we'll be right behind you."
She turned and walked inside. Belker couldn't help looking at her walk away. God almighty. Maitland glanced back at the front of Belker's trousers. He just shook his head.
"Take a minute and then come in."
His glance followed the swaying figure of the Betty Crocker grandmother.
"Don't be embarrassed, Belker. All the woman in this family have that effect. She's where they get it from."
When he could he walked in the door to the smell of turkey and dressing and what he would have sworn was apple pie. From somewhere not too far away rap or some teen type music blasted away. He felt like an alien. This was not his world. Maybe it had been at one time, but no longer. Coming here had been a mistake. Maitland had thought it would make him feel better. It made him feel worse beyond any words.
Maitland walked around a corner.
"The dinner is ready but we're going to hold off a few more minutes to give Debbie time to get here. You like some coffee, tea? Something stronger?"
"Coffee'd be fine. Black."
He drank it while meeting Cathy's husband, a tall, balding guy who was watching something on a nature channel. The 13 year-old called BJ just waved at him as his father introduced him and Maitland said that daughter Kelly would be down when it was time to eat.
After Belker drank the coffee he told Maitland he wanted to just step outside and enjoy the cool air. He had been cooped inside all day. It was full dark now, the Christmas ornaments lighting up the yard. Looking up and down the middle class street, he saw yards lit with Santa Clauses, elves, deer, garlands of multicolor lights. His breath frosted as he breathed in and out.
It came into his mind without his control or bidding. He was sitting inside Marcy's 2000 red Saturn coupe, what she laughingly referred to as the last survivor of her bachelor girl days. They had gone out just driving around Riverside, looking through the neighborhoods that vied for the most elaborate Christmas decorations.
He sat back in the passenger seat as they parked on a side street and said, "This is where you tell me you've run out of gas and want to fool around, right?"
"In your dreams, cowboy. You've got to wine and dine me first."
He picked up the 16 ounce Pepsi in the cupholder and then the supersized SlimJim.
"Will this do?"
"Good enough," she said with a smile that haunted his dreams as she slid over into his arms.
It was their Last Christmas.
He came out of the past as a car pulled into the driveway. It was a small sporty thing in the darkness. As it pulled up in front of the front door he could tell in the light from the Christmas decorations that it was a red Audi two-seater. What his friends and single cops on the beat would call a Pussy Wagon. He had never had the money for one, but he'd had a few friends who had. And they did work as magnets for women. Something about that power under the hood, or the wealth they represented. He'd never owned a new car in his life.
He stood to one side in the shadows so the people inside the car couldn't see him unless they were looking for him. The woman in the passenger seat was talking and then laughing about something. She opened the door and slid long legs in a short skirt out and then leaned forward to get out. He didn't need an introduction to know who she was. She was her mother's daughter, but even more beautiful. Maitland was a lucky man.
The driver said something and touched her on the shoulder. Belker could only see that he was dark haired and young. She leaned over and casually brushed her lips against his and then slid out of the car.
"You going to that party?"
"Yeah. Nowhere else to go. No family down here. But it should be nice. You have a nice evening with your family and a very merry Christmas."
"You too, Doug, and if I don't see you before then, a happy New Year. Just don't get too drunk and do something you won't remember -- or will regret later."
She swiveled her head toward the house and an expression flashed across her face so quickly he couldn't label it.
"No chance of that, Doug. Drive carefully."
She was walking up toward the door as the Audi smoothly slid away. She saw him and stopped.
"You must be Mrs. Maitland. Didn't mean to startle you. My name is Belker. Patrolman George Belker."
"Patrolman....? You're not in uniform so this isn't anything official. Can I ask..."
"I...your husband felt sorry for me because I'm....alone...this Christmas and invited me here for a few hours to have dinner with you guys. I hope I'm not intruding on your family time."
She gave him a look that as good as said he was intruding and a pain in the ass, but she said, "You did startle me, Officer Belker, but I shouldn't have been surprised. I don't know why you're alone, but you're welcome to share our food and our company. I can't imagine what it would be like....to be alone on Christmas Eve."
The door opened and Maitland stepped out. The two exchanged glances and then Maitland, standing above her on the porch, stepped forward and grabbed her chin and leaned forward to plant a kiss on her lips. Somehow his lips slid until they landed on her cheek.
"It was a good thing, a kind thing, inviting Officer Belker to spend Christmas Eve with us, Bill, but I wish you'd called and let me know. I'd have come home earlier..."
She gave him a hard look.
"Business is social and vice versa. We both know that. This was social but it's part of the game. You had to be there. No reason for you to come home early. And I didn't call you because your cell was turned off."
She turned back to Belker.
"Anyway, Officer, we always have more than enough food for an army. My mother cooks like the end of the world is around the corner. I imagine the dinner is ready and that they were holding everything for me. Usually it's my husband that's late or never shows up, but this time it's me."
"Thank you, Mrs. Maitland. I'll be right in. I....uh....was just...thinking about some things out here. Alone. It helps."
She stared at him and he thought for the first time that night she was seeing him as a human being.
"Come in whenever you're ready, officer."
She turned to walk in and as she passed her husband she leaned in to give him a quick hug and patted his belly.
"And no thirds this time, okay. I want to be an old widow, not a young one."
"As long as we die in bed together."
She just shook her head and walked past him and into the house.
So they had problems. Maitland had told him they'd been married for nearly 20 years and together for two years before that. It was plain to see that she had her life and he had his. It wasn't that unusual. But they were still married. They still slept in the same bed. He'd have given anything in the world to be an old, grumpy couple with Marcy.
He opened and closed the door behind him quietly. He expected they'd have moved into the large dining room but as he approached the den he heard them talking and stopped.
"...so why am I not surprised, Bill. I show up to spend a few hours with my husband and kids and parents -- my family -- away from our jobs -- and you've dragged up another stray."
"You can't be that fucking cold. I know you don't give a damn about my job or what I do, but the poor bastard just killed two men, got kicked off the street away from the job he loves, and his wife of four years is dying in an irreversible coma. And he's alone on Christmas Eve. I don't make any excuses for inviting him into our home for a few hours. And if you don't like it, tough shit."
"Oh, make me the bitch, like you always do. I feel sorry for him. I didn't know any of that and it's terrible. But I was thinking...hoping...that once, just once, we'd be able to sit around and eat turkey and tease our kids....pretend like we're a normal family. Spend a holiday with just us...not the ghosts you carry around, not the victims of the cases you're trying, not the all the terrible things out there that most people never think about. Maybe that makes me a bitch, but I wanted it to be about US...for a change."
There was a long silence and Belker was trying to figure out if he should start walking again, when he heard, "I don't think you're a bitch, Deb. I get angry at you sometimes, but you're still the woman I love. I wish I could give you what you want, but we're not a normal family. I am who I am and the world is what it is. Do you think....think we can pretend that we are a normal family for a few days. Not just for him, for us. It's been too long. I just want us to have a good Christmas Eve and Christmas...the way it used to be."
"It will never be the way it was, Bill."
"You don't believe that."
There was a longer silence.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be a bitch. I don't know where that comes from sometimes. I know why you invited him here. It's who you are. It's why I love you, even when you irritate the hell out of me."
"As long as you still love me."
"Never doubt that, Mr. Maitland."
"I never have."
An hour later Belker made a "no mas" gesture to Cathy Bascomb as she tried to pile more turkey and oyster stuffing and candied yams and stuffed mushrooms caps and jellied cranberry sauce onto his plate.
"My stomach will explode, Mrs. Bascomb. Please, no more. It was all delicious."
Roy Bascomb from the seat at the head of the table laughed and said, "She is not only the hottest grandmother around, she's also the best cook."
Cathy Bascomb smiled at her husband and said, "I don't know if that's true, but I haven't had any complaints in either area."
The teenager everybody called BJ rolled his eyes and said, "Oh, Jeez, gram, you guys go get a room, or something."
His sister who had finally come down and was picking at her food while obviously aching to get away to get back to what he'd been told was a non-stop telephone marathon with at least two boyfriends just gave him a look, obviously wondering if they could be legitimately related.
Belker almost felt sorry for the Maitlands. This one was going to be hell on wheels. He was happily married and loved Marcy beyond any limits, but this brunette teenager could tempt a stone statue.
Roy Bascomb laughed and told his grandson, "You'll be a lucky man if you get some sweet young thing that's half the woman your grandmother is.
Debbie Bascomb joined the laughter and said, "I hate to agree with BJ, but folks, get a room. You're embarassing our guest."
"No," Belker found himself saying. "Two people that care for each other after a long time...that's nothing to be embarrassed about. I wish...."
He pushed himself away from the table.
"Thank you for the food, Mr. and Mrs. Bascomb, and for having me, Mr. and Mrs. Maitland, but it's time I took off. I have things to do and I have to go see Marcy."
Cathy Bascomb put one hand on his shoulder to stop him from rising.
"At least, Officer Belker, you have to stay and try my home made Dutch Apple Pie. One piece and some coffee and we'll let you go. A few minutes won't kill you."
So two coffees and two slices of Dutch Apple Pie later, he finally pushed himself away from the table and made his goodbyes. Kelly Maitland had already vanished, followed closely by her younger brother.
"Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs. Bascomb. I...you made this a good Christmas Eve. Thank you."
Cathy Bascomb made a move to approach him but he slipped away from the hug. He didn't want to walk away from these nice people with a rampant hard on.
"I hope everything works out for you, Officer," she said, with a little smile and what might have been a glance at his groin. He wondered for a second if she was as naïve and innocent a grandmother as she appeared to be. A woman couldn't look like that and be that age and not know the effect she had on men.
"God works in mysterious ways. I really believe that. I am a Christian and I believe there is always hope. I'll be praying for a miracle for your Marcy."
Roy Bascomb just shook his hand and said, "Good luck, Officer."
Cathy Bascomb said, "I'll get Bill and Debbie," but Belker shook his head and said, "I'll say goodbye on my way out. Have a Merry Christmas."
They were back in the den and, again, he heard them before he saw them.
'....why not? The Hunts have all the money in the world, and Gail is your friend. She runs that place. A half million dollars or so would be pocket change to them. All you'd have to do is ask. You've never asked her for anything, in all the years you worked for that bank or since."
"She's my friend BECAUSE I've never asked her for anything, Bill. You have no idea what it's like to be that rich. Everybody always -- always -- wants something. That's why she married her first husband. Because he never wanted anything from her, never asked anything, never cared about her money."
"And see how much good that did him. She screwed around on him, dumped him, nearly got him killed, and just walked away from him."
"She had reasons."
"They always do. I'm not asking you to ask her to help Belker because she's a wonderful woman. I think she's a deceiving, cold hearted bitch, but she is rich. And she is your friend."
"I can't, Bill. I'm sorry. I just can't."
"Have you forgotten....it was me in that hospital bed once upon a time? And if it wasn't for the kindness, and mercy of a stranger, I might never have gotten out of it. We wouldn't be here, nor would Kelly and BJ. You do what you have to do, Debbie, but I know what I'd do if she was my friend."
Belker let a few moments pass and then stepped hard enough so they could hear him.
"Mr. Maitland, I'm going to go now. Mrs. Maitland, thank you for allowing me to share your Christmas Eve. I will never forget it."
He walked out before they could say anything.
It was nearly 9 p.m. and he could have driven straight to Baptist and Marcy, but she wasn't going anywhere. Until later tonight. And he wanted to take a last look around.
So he drove the deserted night streets of Jacksonville, from the Riverwalk to the Courthouse to the Cop Shop to Arlington and out Arlington to Jacksonville Beach. He parked his cruiser in a beach entrance and walked out into the soft sand. He might have been the only person alive in the world. There was only the night sky, a sliver of moon, and the waves rolling in off the ocean.
When he left, it felt like he was saying goodbye.
He held Marcy's small hand in his as he thought over the events of the last nearly 24 hours. She now knew what had happened, and she'd understand.
"It's like I've been tired and haven't been able to think straight, but while I was holding that guy's hand, it all became clear. It's all a lie. Christmas, miracles, happiness. None of it is real. I can't afford the million dollars it would take to bring that specialist from London and I never will. And someday, someday soon, after you've suffered too long, you'll die."
Shivering and feeling like a weak old man, he picked the Glock off her bed with his right hand and, disengaging his left hand from hers, brushed the hair back from her face.
"I won't let you go alone, Marcy. I'll go with you now and we'll be together again. God, I've missed you."
"Officer Belker!" Liz's slim body was outlined in the doorway by light from the hall. Something glinted on her cheeks and he realized she was crying too.
"It's a miracle! The chief of surgery said Dr. Wallinsky called a few minutes ago from London. Somebody - they don't know who - has paid the way for his entire surgical team to fly here next week."
Wallinsky's experimental surgery might not save Marcy, but it gave her a chance. Who could have come up with that money? Eight months of begging and fund raising hadn't come close to a raising more than a quarter of the million dollars for the procedure.
The phone by the bed rang. He holstered the Glock and picked the receiver up.
"I'm calling from the hospital pay phone in the lobby. There's no way you could catch me before I get out of here."
With the first words he knew who the caller was.
"You saved my life. They were going to kill me. I owe you -- big time. So I got with a friend of mine who does magic with computers. We did a little checking and found out about your wife- and about Dr. Wallinski in London.
"Trouble was, all I could come up with was 500K. But it was better than nothing. I have it set up where I can transfer it electronically on the last day of the world. Then my friend tells me there's a $500,000 deposit made into your Marcy fund an hour ago. Who the hell comes up with $500,000 on Christmas Eve with all the banks closed?"
He didn't even know he was talking until he heard himself say, "Gail Hunt."
"How did you....yeah, Gail Hunt of the Hunt Bank clan. I don't know how you know them, but....anyway, I had to dip into -- that's clean out - my savings to pay my part for that English doctor, but I'll make it up next year. There are always more banks. Who knows, Ms. Hunt might make up part of my losses."
"If I tell anyone where the money -your money - is coming from?"
"How are you going to prove it? The money is clean - and anonymous. The doctor is paid and he's not going to give his fee back. Relax, Officer Belker. This is Christmas. It's the time for giving gifts - and accepting them."
After a moment's silence, the Night Depositor added, "Merry Christmas, Officer Belker. I hope your wife makes it."
There was more silence and then he heard himself say, "Thank you."
He knew he was thanking more than a grateful thief, more than a compassionate prosecutor, more than a woman who had remembered what mercy felt like, and a woman who might be a deceiving, cold-hearted bitch, but had not forgotten what friendship was.
He wanted to laugh, and he wanted to cry. He settled for kissing Marcy's hand, picking Liz up in a bear hug and swinging her around and kissing her on the forehead. He knew Marcy wouldn't mind.
Liz smiled up at him through her tears.
"This really is a miracle, isn't it?"
Now he could laugh and he did, stopping only to say, "Oh yes, more than you will ever know."