Ed P. Rexbyl8bloom©
Thanks to drksideofthemoon for invaluable research.
Dr. Ira Spinks knocked once before entering the mayor's office. His face foretold the grim news.
"Three more deformed births today," announced the doctor.
"God damn it," swore Mayor Ed Rex. "What the hell is causing this?"
Before the doctor could answer, an aide burst in. "We've got trouble. There's an angry mob outside. If you don't speak to them, I think they're going to riot."
Ed jumped up. "Set up the microphones."
The aide followed his boss. "What about Mrs. Rex?"
Ed's thoughts darted to his wife. She'd been so upset lately -- everyone was -- but there seemed to be something deeper bothering her, some kind of dark edge. He didn't want her to watch events unfold on TV, he'd rather be able to talk to her directly. But there wasn't time now.
"Try to keep Jocelyn away from the television, and tell her I'll be there as soon as I can."
In front of city hall, a large crowd had gathered. People were carrying signs and chanting. Onlookers, civil servants who were supposed to be having productive days in front of their computers, were leaving the surrounding office buildings to watch.
The crowd cheered when the mayor appeared. Even before the technicians finished setting up the sound equipment, the people formed a ragged half circle in front of the building. Police, some on foot and some on horseback, kept the crowd at bay.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Ed started, but was interrupted by a high-pitched blast of feedback. The crowd roared. "Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate seeing you here today."
This took the people aback. They hadn't expected to be welcomed, to be thanked for their time.
"I know you wouldn't leave your places of work" -- Ed looked pointedly at the city workers, many of whom he knew by name -- "I know you wouldn't come here to talk to me unless it was something very, very important. I have a few things to say, which I hope will reassure you, that in this time of crisis, the city is doing everything it can."
Near the back of the crowd, someone hoisted a sign. In big letters it read, "Where is Lance Reyes?" There was a large picture of the former mayor above the words.
Ed ignored the distraction.
"First, I want to remind you that we have been through difficult times, and we have come through them successfully. When you elected me three years ago, this city was overflowing with filth, there were no jobs, and the electrical supply was unreliable at best. I solved this riddle by securing the aid of private investors who built garbage-burning plants, and we now have a clean city, plenty of jobs, and plenty of power."
The crowd voiced its approval. Some could be heard to murmur, "That's true" or "He's right." Others clapped politely, and a few whistled.
"Now we face before us another crisis," Ed went on, and the crowd grew silent. There was a feeling of apprehension. How would the politician pull off another miracle?
"Today I have ordered the City Investigation Agency Officers -- CIAO -- to launch a full-scale investigation into the -- into the difficulties we have been experiencing."
"It's a plague!" yelled a heckler.
"We don't know that it's a plague," argued Ed. "However, I promise you, we will find out what is going on, and we... will... stop it." The crowd cheered. Ed lifted his hands, palms to the crowd, and nodded. A barrage of questions volleyed toward him which he pretended not to hear. He stepped away from the makeshift podium and let his press secretary take his place. She would handle the rest.
* * *
Jocelyn Rex's eyes were blank as worn coins. Ed figured she was at least on her second whiskey. It was four in the afternoon.
Slowly she lifted her stare from the bay window to her husband's face. "They told me," she slurred.
"Told you what?" He drew up a chair beside hers. He hated seeing her like this and he hated himself for thinking of his own political image. Wouldn't the media love this!
"I never told you," she rambled.
He shook his head. "Baby, you're not making any sense—"
"Baby! I never told you about my baby."
For some inexplicable reason, a chill went down Ed's spine. "What are you talking about?"
"I was young..." Jocelyn rubbed her nose as she spoke, mashing her words. She sighed, and seemed to sober up.
"Lance and I were in high school when I got pregnant. We decided to give the baby up for adoption."
"Why?" Ed was shocked.
"It would have killed him..."
Ed stared at his wife.
"He said so. He said, 'Jocelyn, having this baby will kill me.' Even then he was planning on running for office...you know how it is ..." She lifted her hands.
The gesture of helplessness reminded Ed of that central feature of his wife's personality. She was a passionate, caring woman, but she was not always good at making decisions. When her husband, Mayor Lance Reyes, had mysteriously disappeared, Jocelyn had run the city for the remainder of his term. She had made a hash of it. Ed won the 2008 election, and fell in love with the beautiful, helpless widow, even though she was old enough to be his mother. The civic infrastructure was in a shambles, but he could not be angry with her. Instead he vowed he would help her clean up the mess. And he had kept his promise.
"I never knew you and Lance had a child..." Ed was still stunned at the revelation.
"I guess we really didn't." Tears welled in Jocelyn's eyes. "And now these other women can't have children either. Edward, you've got to do something!"
"I will. Honey, I will." Ed kissed his wife's hair, still golden blonde although she was well past forty. He loved her. He would figure this out.
* * *
At three in the morning, Jocelyn sat up in bed, stone cold sober and angry with herself. I never meant to tell him that. She mulled the secret in her mind. Maybe it had been wrong to hold back. What difference did it make?
Lance -- she shook her head -- Edward lay beside her, his back turned toward her in sleep. That was why she had first been attracted to him. He reminded her of a young version of her husband. It wasn't just his physical features -- which were similar, she admitted -- it was his cocksure arrogance, the way he strode into a room. There was something about him that seemed to say, "I can handle this." Somehow with this man by her side she felt that everything would be all right.
It will be all right. Jocelyn drew up her knees and hugged her shins. But I have to quit drinking, I have to get my act together. I have to be a good partner to my husband. She gazed at the man in question. Fiercely she whispered aloud, "I will."
To her surprise, he rolled over. She looked down at him. "I thought you were asleep."
He laughed. "You're thinking so loudly, darling, I can't sleep." The moonlight painted his tan chest white. Jocelyn lay on her side and placed a possessive hand on his ribs. She caressed the soft skin there.
"Loud thoughts, huh. Sorry to wake you." Her voice was flirty.
"I don't think you're all that sorry..." Ed petted her pear-belly and nestled his fingers in the curls between her thighs. He looked up, a devilish grin on his face. "Are you?"
In answer, Jocelyn crushed her mouth to his. With her hand she adored the muscles just above his groin. Her fingertips figure-skated over his pelvis, barely avoiding his sex. She loved playing with him this way. Her nails inscribed feather-light curlicues on his upper thighs.
Ed twitched vertical at the teasing touch. "God, you make me crazy!" He grabbed her hand and pressed it to his cock, thrusting his flesh insistently into her grasp. Jocelyn gasped at her husband's fire. Arousal shot through her body and she found herself trembling into motion, unable to resist the ancient dance. Her own hips pumped. She felt helpless as a marionette.
In the moonlight her breasts were pale as ice, though her skin was warm as fresh milk. He pinned her, hands on her shoulders while he tongue-wrestled the nearest nipple. He won. He nipped at her aureoles before sliding his nose down her midline. Tender words fell unintelligibly from his lips.
Jocelyn spread her legs wide for him. Her noises echoed his own. "Don't stop. Oh, god. Oh god." The tongue-lashing spurred her desire. She writhed at the probing as her fever pitch rose. Lustily he sucked on her clitoris. "Oh. Oh!" Ed got a faceful of his wife's reaction. On impulse he pushed her buttocks apart and darted his tongue down below her perineum. Swiftly he licked the twisted skin. Jocelyn choked out a broken shriek and bucked wildly, almost throwing him off the edge of the bed.
Frantically she scrabbled at him, dragging him up beside her, demanding to be fucked. Ed lanced her gladly. She was drenched. Their eyes connected in a voltage of lust. Faster than words and more primal than thoughts, they knew one another, and their motion became as one. Again and again, Ed fathomed her depths. He dove into her sweaty saline until he groaned and filled her with his own.
They panted, whispering bits of sweet hot air to one another. "Where did that come from," she wanted to know.
"Sometimes you don't get to know."
"Yeah, but sometimes you do ... I love you, Edward Pablo Rex."
"And I love you, Jocelyn Austin Rex." They smiled at one another. Unchanging as fate, the moonlight still spilled over them both. They kissed. Their connection had given them strength, and hope for the future. Each was thinking, We will work this out.
* * *
Ed should have slept great after having sex with his wife, but he didn't. He had a bad dream.
In the dream, he was in some kind of maze. The concrete walls were half again his height. Along the base of the walls ran foul-smelling rivers. Ed hurried along, desperate to find a way out. One dead end after another presented itself to the confused and frightened mayor. Sounds of moaning filled the air -- it sounded like women in the pain of childbirth.
After many twists and turns, Ed finally saw another human. The man had his back to him and was wearing a business suit. "Hey!" Ed called. "Can you help me find a way out of here? Do you know the way out?" He put his hand on the man's shoulder.
At first the man seemed to be turning around, but his body collapsed at Ed's touch. Ed pulled his hand away from the rotting flesh. "Ugh!" The man fell onto his back. His hand dragged into one of the trenches of dirty water. With a start, Ed realized the man's face was his own.
Ed woke with a sharp gasp. Sweat beaded his nose and forehead. His heart banged as if he had run a long way. He sat up, working to control his breathing. Sitting up seemed to help bring him back to reality. "Okay, it's okay. It was just a dream."
But he still couldn't sleep. He went to his den and turned on the light. Here were many things that affirmed his identity: his books, his awards on the walls. A piece of parchment declared his political science degree from the University of Iowa. Smiling from an 8x10 was his bride, the woman he'd just made love to this night. Ed eased his frame into a heavy leather chair. He felt a little better. His office made him who he was.
* * *
Unfortunately, the investigation made little progress, while Ed's nightmare made a lot. More and more frequently he dreamed the same dream. He became irritable with his staff, snapping at them when they failed to produce results. Stillborn and deformed births were becoming increasingly common, and lately children and sewage workers had been turning up with ugly skin lesions. No one could offer an explanation.
"What the hell do I pay you people for!" he barked at a CIAO agent.
The junior officer squirmed in his chair. "Uh, actually you don't pay us, the taxpayers do."
Ed growled and half stood up from his desk, looking as if he would tear out the civil servant's throat. "Then give the good people their money's worth!" he fairly screamed.
The man from CIAO gathered up his papers and stammered something useless. He zipped from the room, leaving the mayor to his own foul temper.
Dr. Spinks gave his customary single knock and entered the room.
"Ed, if you don't see a therapist, I'm going to declare you medically unfit to hold office."
Anger flared in the mayor's eyes. The doctor did not back down.
"Okay," grumbled Ed. "Make the appointment."
* * *
"Do my eyes bother you?" asked the therapist. "If so I can wear dark glasses."
They did bother him, but Ed could not say so. He had not had any preconceptions about gender -- it didn't matter to him if he talked with a woman or a man -- but he hadn't expected a blind person. He felt uneasy, as if she could see things he could not. Then he told himself that was just ridiculous. That was superstition, an old wives' tale.
"Okay. My name is Teresa." She held out her hand and Ed shook it.
"My name is Ed."
"I'm glad we're on a first name basis, Ed. It could get awkward if we're discussing your private life while I call you 'Mayor.'" She chuckled and invited him to sit down.
Teresa's skills were impressive. She drew him out in such a way that Ed spilled his whole life story in a very short time. He talked about growing up as the son of Pablo and Muriel Rex. Pablo himself had recently retired as the governor of Michigan. Ed talked about how he had been worried that no one would take him seriously as a politician in his own right -- that people would think he had grown up as a spoiled rich kid.
"But you've proven that self-doubt to be wrong." Teresa's voice was smooth as glass. "You've proven yourself as a leader."
"Except for the current circumstances."
"What do you think of those?"
Ed found himself telling her about the dream. He talked and talked until he realized that Teresa had not prompted him for several minutes. In fact she had grown quite still.
"I don't know if we should proceed," she answered slowly.
"What do you mean? We have to proceed. I have to get to the bottom of this. I can't function properly if I can't sleep at night and I can't sleep if this dream keeps haunting me!"
"True." The therapist chewed on her lower lip. Ed watched her think. "True," she said again.
Hesitatingly, Teresa asked Ed if he had ever considered hypnosis. No, he had not, but was willing to give it a try. As much as he had been opposed to seeing a therapist at first, the bottom line was that he wanted to be a good leader. He wanted to solve the problems that were plaguing his people and he knew that he couldn't do so unless he was mentally strong.
And so it came to pass that Ed found himself lying down with his eyes closed, accepting commands to relax, and taking to heart the belief that he would awaken when Teresa told him to. She further instructed that when he awakened, he would remember everything they talked about.
"The dream," Teresa told him. "You're in a hurry. What do you see?'
"Stone walls. They're everywhere. I can't get anywhere. I'm in a hurry."
"Tell me more about these walls. What do they look like?"
"Poured concrete, they're --" Ed sat up. A look of realization snapped across his face. "They're berms. The road is under construction. That's why I can't get anywhere. I keep making wrong turns."
"What do you do?"
"I step on the gas. I --! Goddamn it! I have the right of way! SHIT! NO!! " Ed was breathing fast. His face was red.
"What's happening?" Teresa asked urgently. "What's going on?"
"The cyclist, I hit him," Ed moaned, "I think he's -- oh god, I think he's dead."
"Are you sure --"
"I'm turning him over. He still has his helmet on. His sunglasses are dark, I can't see his eyes. I can't, I can't find a heartbeat. He's dead."
"Ed, you've got to tell me. What did you do next?"
"I can't let anyone find out... it would end my father's career..."
"Ed, what did you do? "
"I dumped him. In the Coralville basin. I dumped his body ... and his bicycle ... I ran..."
Teresa sighed heavily. Her worst fears had been confirmed. Her client, the Honorable Ed P. Rex, was a murderer.
"Ed, I'm going to count backwards from ten now. It's time for you to wake up."
Ed mumbled something that might have been, "Okay."
Teresa counted backwards. "Ten...nine...eight... you're starting to come back now, Ed."
"Seven ... six...five...four..."
"With you in a second." The mayor yawned and rubbed his hand across his mouth.
"Three... two ... one. Wake up, Ed."
The man opened his eyes. "Oh, god," he said. "Fuck. My own doing ... my own undoing..."
"I'm sorry, Ed. Truly I am. But you know what this means."
Ed nodded, his eyes full of sadness. He couldn't cry just yet. He wanted to look Teresa in the eyes, to connect with her, as if that touching of souls could bring him some salvation. Of course, her blindness made this impossible. He looked toward her anyway.
"It's the water."
* * *
The city dissolved into scandal, one festering mess after another. Ed gave the CIAO agency a direct order to investigate the water supply, as well as the waste management of the garbage burning plants that had supplied jobs and electricity for the past three years.
Not surprisingly, the plants were also supplying toxic waste. They had simply been dumping it into the local river, the source of the city's drinking water. Pregnant women who drank the water gave birth to misshapen or stillborn babies. Children who played in ditches, and city workers who directly processed water and sewage, developed a grotesque skin disease. The federal government became involved, and lawsuits multiplied like Virginia jackrabbits.
At the center of the maelstrom was Ed. The city that had once trusted him and looked to him for leadership now turned its back on their favorite son. To make matters worse, blind Teresa had done her duty. Patient confidentiality cannot be maintained when the therapist knows the patient has killed someone; and she turned him in.
The mayor was on trial for murder.
* * *
At the trial the judge banged her gavel. "Order! Order!"
The lawyer repeated the question. "When did this take place?"
Ed mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "I was a sophomore at the University of Iowa. It was spring, spring of my sophomore year."
"What date would that have been, sir?"
"2005." There was a noisy gasp throughout the courtroom. People again began talking loudly and the bailiff cried for order. The bedlam made Ed's head spin.
When things calmed down, the judge made it clear that she would start throwing people out if they didn't shut up. "Proceed!" she snapped at the attorney.
"Are you aware, sir, that your predecessor Lance Reyes disappeared in the spring of 2005?"
"Irrelevant!" shouted Ed's lawyer.
"Overruled!" directed the judge. Sotto voce she said, "Get to the point."
"Lance Reyes disappeared while traveling alone in the spring of 2005. His itinerary took him directly through Iowa, on I-80, exactly where the murder took place."
Ed wiped his face again. His hankie didn't have a dry place left. "It couldn't have been him. The man I struck was a cyclist."
"Lance Reyes was on a biking trip! "
When he came to, he was in his cell. Jocelyn was seated beside him where he lay on the narrow cot.
"Ed?" She looked worried, though whether for him or for herself was difficult to tell. The scandal of the toxic waste in the city's water had been hard on their marriage. Now it seemed Ed had killed her former husband. How much could one woman take?
Ed swam up through the layers of damask. "Why didn't you ever tell me Lance was on a bike trip, when he disappeared?"
Jocelyn looked confused. "I did tell you. You've seen the old pictures. He loved cycling."
"No, I ..." Ed shook his head. "You said he was on a road trip."