tagLoving WivesBeyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale

bydtiverson©

Put down those torches and pitchforks folks, I've seen the light!!

Last month, I posted a Legends Day piece called "Beyond a Shadow." That led all four of my regular readers to tell me that they expect happy endings. Fortunately, my buddy Rick, who is now going under the handle "Blue Devil" (something to do with basketball and the Research Triangle, not Satanism) had his usual brilliant idea. So I whipped up this little piece as an alternative. I'm curious about which ending you liked best.

This story follows the same general premise as the first one. However, it's a standalone piece. So, you don't need to read Beyond a Shadow, first. As is my habit, I've sprinkled in characters from my other stories. If you like the context, you might also want to read some of those. And, before you waste both of our times, I know that this belongs in Romance. But the first story was in Loving Wives. And, since there are a gazillion authors on this site, I put this one here to ensure that the people who read me can find it. I hope you enjoy - DT


*

It was a miserable July night. The temperature hovered around eighty-five, and I'd sweated through my shirt. The badge pinned to that shirt said, "County Sheriff." I'd been one for almost twenty years.

I usually don't get called out at 3 AM. But tempers fray when the weather gets hot. And occasionally, one of our fine citizens will get the bright idea to drink too much and touch up the wife.

Two of my guys responded to the call. When they got there, the moron chose to add an extra ten years to his sentence, by taking a shot at them. That was when they called me.

The red and blue flashers lit up the neighborhood; if a collection of decrepit mobile homes could be called that. The gunman's dilapidated residence was mostly rust colored, with some of the siding coming off. There was no evidence of air conditioning, which might explain his attitude.

We were thinking about giving his pathetic little hotbox a lot of extra ventilation, just to flush the varmint out. But, killing innocent bystanders doesn't sit well with the constituency; and our nine-mils would have gone through his place, and a couple of the neighbors.

Plus, the idiot's wife was in there, and, she hadn't given us convincing proof that we should take her out of the gene pool. Even if, culling her husband would have done humanity a favor.

So, we just sat there in the heat, listening to the katydid's and the sound of loud ranting inside. I suppose the dude regretted shooting at us. In fact, I imagine he was sorry he had even opened his third bottle of Jack.

I sighed and said, "We're gonna be here forever if I don't do something."

I looked at both of my men and said, "Do you guys care whether he shot at you?" Both shook their heads "no." So I took a deep breath and stood up. A shot went whistling over my head.

I yelled, "If you come out right now Melvin we are NOT going to charge you with shooting at us. If you take another shot, you are going to do hard time for a decade. If you hit me it's going to be life. So, which is it? You have ten seconds to decide."

There was a hesitation. Then the door of the trailer opened, and Melvin came out bleary eyed, unshaven and wearing a pitted-out wife beater. He was holding his hands up. I said, "Smart move buddy." Then I grabbed him and handcuffed him. God! He stank!

I handed him to the two patrol officers and they threw him, none too gently, into the back of their cruiser. I said wearily, "You two get the wife's statement and then lodge him." They were on duty. I wasn't.

I got into my cruiser and headed back down Wisconsin 121. It had been a bitch of a night and I wanted a couple more hours of rack time before the sun came up.

Geographically, Wisconsin sits between the Great Western Prairie, the frozen Canadian north and the dynamic mixing-bowl of the Great Lakes. So, it can get some seriously wild weather. The entire State had been smothered in a long stretch of hot summer days and we natives knew what that meant.

There would be the devil to pay when the weather broke.

My luck being what it was, the devil decided that the bill was overdue. All of my senses told me that the storm was coming, vision, smell, touch, and hearing. The hot humid wind picked up. The fast-moving air was charged with electricity. I thought to myself, "Great!!! Armageddon!"

The trailer park was outside Perkinstown. So, my route took me through the heavily forested Plain State Natural Area. I had just gotten on the bridge over Chequamegon Waters when the storm, which had been nothing more than flickering lightning in the distance, arrived with a vengeance.

There is nothing like being caught on a bridge over dark water in the middle of a thunderstorm. It's terrifying. The first thing that happens are the wind gusts. Fortunately, my cruiser was built to police specs and it could take that kind of thing. But the wind still rocked it on its suspension.

Then the first fat drops arrived. Their impact sounded like I was running through a massive swarm of Wisconsin June Bugs. I slowed to 20 miles an hour as I re-entered the forest and turned on the wipers. They didn't help. It was like I was driving through a car wash.

I was getting worried. My wipers were on full. But, I couldn't see ten feet in front of me. Then the lightning started. It was a continuous sequence of forks, with strikes all around me in the forest. The noise of the thunder was calamitous. I couldn't drive any further.

I've been a cop for three decades and I've faced a lot of scary situations. But sitting there alone, in THAT forest, was the worst I've ever experienced. The rain made it impossible to see and the constant flashes of lightning and deafening volleys of thunder lit up the area with a nightmare ambiance.

An atavistic feeling of dread crept over me. It probably hearkened back to the days when we lived in caves. We were the prey back then, not the hunters, and looming trees and impenetrable darkness hid a lot of terrifying things. I quickly found out just how truly prophetic that was.

*****

I loved a woman once, and I knew that she loved me. I'd met her while I was looking into her murder.

Her murder? Well, that requires a little explanation.

I was a bright-eyed and bushy tailed Sheriff's detective, married to an intelligent and beautiful woman. Janet was everything you'd ever want in a wife, until she got into politics.

They say that power corrupts. Well, my wife was a case study. She hopped on the slippery slope and never got off. I was in on the bust. She got witness protection. I got a divorce.

After that, I vowed that I would never have anything to do with the treacherous creatures.

Then I stumbled on Mavis. In truth, I nearly ran her over. It was certainly NOT your classic boy-meets-girl situation. I was driving through the Nicolet Forest in the middle of the night. The setting was eerily similar to my present state-of-affairs. Except it was only raining hard, not the Apocalypse.

Mavis thought the year was 1946. So, naturally I took her to have her head examined. The local Doc certified that her belfry was totally bat-free, and she DID seem to know things that would make the local historical society jealous. Plus, she dressed and acted the part. Of course, there was no way her story made sense.

That is, until I began digging into it. After a couple of weeks, I found out a bunch of interesting things.

A woman named Mavis Pritchett had indeed disappeared in 1946. I subsequently learned that she had been murdered by one Felix Wynn. How did I know that? Well, Wynn confessed to the crime. He did it while he was dropping dead at age 95. Meeting the person who you thought you'd murdered seventy years ago, can do that to a fellow's heart.

The problem was that, while Wynn was in his nineties, Mavis was a stunningly beautiful raven haired blue eyed, fresh-faced twenty-five-year-old. That, only added to her mystique.

Having solved the murder, I was left with what to do with Mavis.

Let me describe her. She is smart, spirited, genuinely funny, brave and deeply loving. She can cook like Julia Child and fuck you like Mata Hari on meth. The latter happened every evening of our life. So of course, I married her.

Oh yes, the child. Well you see, we kind-of conceived her early in our relationship. We were planning on getting married anyhow. So, the advent of little Ava was another blessing in a long line of wonderful things that happened to me.

Then, I spent nine years living with a person who was so excruciatingly beautiful and accomplished, in everything that make females a superior species, that I thought my heart would burst with happiness.

Instead, it broke.

There had always been the inconvenient fact that a person with Mavis's name was a 1946 murder victim. That couldn't possibly be MY Mavis. She was wrapped in delectable corporal flesh; and she was very much a part of the here and now. Hence, I filed all other options under the heading of, "alternative explanation required."

That was until somebody dug up the long-buried body. I rushed home to find an empty house.

We utilized every investigative resource available. But, it was like Mavis had dropped off the face of the earth. Finally, I accepted the fact that she was gone forever. So, I held a memorial service for the body of a recently dug-up murder victim. Most people thought I was nuts. That is, except for four true friends, .

The grave is still there, on the hill right next to the house. It is overseen by a marble angel and a grieving husband. But, life is a march or die proposition and I was afraid to die. So, I marched.

My nine-year-old daughter saved me. It was the love and devotion that I poured into Ava's upbringing that kept me on the rails.

Ava makes me proud. At age twenty-one, she is the spitting image of her mother. A stunning young woman with a perfect body, honed by years of dance and a flawless face; which in Mavis's case was so beautiful, that it drove an unbalanced man to murder.

Me? I'm still just a County Sheriff. I do my best. But people never see me smile. That is, unless they are with me on that lonely hill, when I am talking to my wife. They'd think I'd lost my mind if they heard me. But I sincerely believe I'm near her then.

*****

I was parked in the middle of the road, waiting for nature to get the end of the world out of its system. My flashers were advertising my presence. There were a series of violent ground strikes and then the sky above the trees lit up with ball lightning.

What happened in the instant after that is a little hazy. I remember that the rain passed like somebody had pulled a curtain. And, I was looking down a rutted gravel road with a bright sunny sky over my head. That was deeply disturbing since the road was blacktop the last time I had seen it and the sky had been anything but tranquil.

I started the cruiser, put it into gear and bumped my way down the road. It took me almost an hour to get to the end of the forest. That was confusing in-and-of-itself. Since by my reckoning it was no more than a mile until I got into open country.

The road was gravel until I got to Wisconsin 73, which was narrow concrete now, instead of a broad two-lane State Road. Where was I?

I swiveled the laptop to call up the navigation program. But the browser wasn't hooked to the internet. There was also no sign of the monster storm, that had just passed over me. That was puzzling? So, I turned south and started down 73 in a bright Wisconsin morning.

I felt like I had slept all night instead of spending most of it prying a drunken loser out of his squalid little home. My watch said it was 8:45. I didn't recall the lost time. But I must have fallen asleep during the storm. That was the only way I could explain the gap.

The fields were full of corn, and I could see farmers on antique Ford tractors. There were none of the big combines and other farm equipment that I was used to seeing. Several of the people stopped to gape at the cruiser as I drove past. It was like they had never seen a Crown Vic before.

I got to Cadott and turned down State 27 headed for home. Everywhere I went people gawped at me. It was like I was driving a flying saucer.

I got to the Hot Spot, parked and went in for my morning cup of Joe. As I sat down, everybody but the waitress rushed to the window.

I looked around the diner. They must have remodeled the place. Because, it was laid out with stools along a counter and tables, not booths. It was like they were going for diner kitsch.

The waitress came over. She was new since the last time I'd been in. She said, "What can I get you Sheriff?" She'd noticed my uniform, badge and tool-belt; Glock 19, extra ammo pouch, pepper spray, handcuffs and Asp.

I said. "Coffee and eggs." She turned to a kid who was hanging around behind the counter and said, "Get the Sheriff some coffee Dot."

I thought, "That's interesting the current owner's name is Dot, too."

The kid was very pretty and clearly smart. She was about 12, just starting to get a figure, and it promised to be a doozy. She, got a cup down from a stack and poured the coffee out of an elaborate antique coffeepot. It looked like the kind you see in the old cartoons. That 1940s vibe just kept getting stronger.

The little girl said, "What's that car you're driving? It looks like a P-51?"

I'd never heard the stodgy old Crown Vic compared to a World War II fighter before. I said proudly, "It's a Ford, a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with the Apprehender package. It can do 150 miles an hour if I need it to."

The girl's eyes widened. She said excited, "Can I ride in it?" She was a feisty one indeed. She had also apparently never heard of child predators.

I said, "I'll take you for a ride if your mother approves. But you should never get in a car with strangers."

She turned to the waitress, who was obviously her mother, and bawled, "MAAAAA!! can I ride in the Sheriff's car?"

The waitress laid my eggs down in front of me and said exasperated, "Stop bothering the man Dot. We need you here." Then she turned to me and said, "That'll be two bits."

It took me a second to translate that into English. I said, "Do you mean an entire breakfast is a quarter?"

She said defensively, "We charge more because the food's all fresh."

As I dug a quarter out of my pocket, I thought, "They must be having some kind of promotion to advertise the new decor." The waitress looked at the quarter and said, "Wait a minute, what's this?"

I said, "It's a quarter."

She said, "No it isn't. THIS is a quarter," and she held up one of those old-fashioned ones, before they started putting the State stuff on the back.

I dug in my pocket and found an old one and said, "Are you a collector of old coins?" as I handed it to her.

The waitress said, "What are you talking about? This one is from this year."

Her quarter had 1946 embossed on the bottom underneath Washington's head!!

I had a moment of vertigo. I sat back down on the stool and said, "Wait a minute. What's the date?"

The waitress looked at me like she thought that I was messing with her and said, "It's July 29th."

I said with growing unease, "What year?"

She thought I was joking. She laughed heartily and said, "The last time I checked it was 1946. Isn't that right Dot?"

Dot giggled and said mischievously, "No I think it's 1846."

The reality of my situation was sinking in. This was the REAL Dot. I had last seen her a week ago. She was eighty-two years old!!

*****

I hastily ate and left. Maybe one of the lightning strikes had gotten me. Maybe I'd had an aneurysm and was lying unconscious in the middle of the forest. Maybe I'd really been transported back to the 1940s? Whatever the circumstances, I was clearly NOT in Kansas anymore.

I should have been appalled. But, I'm a hard-headed practical man. The whys-and-wherefores of my situation were irrelevant to me. My only thought was that Mavis was still alive and I could save her!!

I had memorized every detail of the case. The murder didn't occur until two days hence, on the 31st. Of course, I had a problem. In 1946, Mavis Pritchett was a total STRANGER.

I would deal with that later. But, first I had to get rid of the cruiser. The last thing I needed was for people to ask me questions, and the cruiser attracted too much attention. More important, I needed money. I had plenty of 21st Century cash. But I would've been washing dishes back in the diner, if I hadn't dug up an old quarter.

I could kill two birds with one stone by selling the Crown Vic.

There was a garage in Fall Creek, which had been in constant operation since the 1930s. The garage was there all right. It looked well-to-do, and it was selling cars. I chuckled gleefully, "The owner ought to LOVE what I have to offer."

I parked and opened the hood. Four men stirred from where they had been lounging to come over and stare. Then the guy who was clearly the owner came out. They all looked puzzled.

I was counting on the uniform and gear to establish my bonafides. The owner was a rawboned guy, tall and gaunt, with grease-stained overalls. He walked up to me, not too friendly, and said, "What can I do for you SHERIFF?" It was clear than none of them liked cops.

I said in my friendliest tones, "I'm looking to sell this fine automobile. The Department doesn't need it anymore and I want somebody local to benefit from it. I'll throw in the shotguns and the special radio for the right price."

The owner looked skeptical. He said, "What is this thing anyway?"

I said, without batting an eye, "It's a Lamborghini." Even though the blue oval clearly said, "Ford."

I added persuasively, "It's an experimental car. The government gave it to us. They made it out of spare parts from one of their fighter planes." Dot gave me THAT idea.

A lounger said, "How fast does it go Sheriff?"

I said, "It'll do 150 at the top end. But you can drive it at 120 all day." They all gasped in wonder. Since most of their passenger airplanes cruised under 200 miles an hour that was unheard of speed.

It was obvious that the owner wanted it so badly that his teeth hurt. He said, "What do you want for it?"

It had initially cost fifty-six thousand. I knew that I had to scale that back to 1940s prices. I said, "Five thousand." I could tell I might as well have asked for fifty million.

The owner shrugged eloquently and started to walk away. I hastily added, "Okay, since you're local I'll let you have this fine automobile for two thousand cash, if you'll throw in that little beauty over there." I pointed at an immaculate blue 1940 Ford convertible.

Two thousand was a year's salary, back then. But, the guy's eyes lit up like he thought he was stealing the cruiser.

We rode down to the Fall Creek Bank. The owner spent the whole time playing with the shotguns racked in the front seat. I said irritably, "If you blow a hole in the roof, you've bought it anyhow."

He said, "What's that?" He was pointing at the laptop between us.

I said, "It's an experimental radio that the government uses to monitor spies." In the 21st Century's world of electronic surveillance, that wasn't really an exaggeration.

The owner withdrew twenty, one-hundred-dollar bills and handed me the money. We rode back. He handed me the title and keys to the Ford. I handed him the keys and signed the title for the cruiser. I was hoping he didn't notice the year it was manufactured.

Then we shook hands and I drove away. Phase one was complete.

*****

I needed a place to stay. So, I went back to the Hot Spot. Dot was standing at the counter polishing a soda glass. She said, "What happened to your car?"

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