Skin Deep II: The Dance
Chapter 11: The Last Tango
by Mark McDonald
©2002 Mark McDonald -- all rights reserved
The officer and Detective Callahan appeared at the gate to Gary's cell about two that afternoon. "Time to go Shipley," Callahan announced. "You'll get one last chance to modify your statement before you're arraigned, then it's off to Baltimore. Any questions?"
"Is it possible for you to get any dumber than you already are?" Gary asked and smirked at the detective.
"It's nice to see that some things never change," Callahan said as he stepped in and cuffed Gary. Gary's face was bruised and cut in places with minor abrasions. He was hustled out and down the hall of the old precinct house as they crossed in front of the small passageway to the waiting area Gary spared a glance at the old-style bench the day officer of two hundred years ago might have sat behind. Tall and imposing, it dominated the room. It was designed to make the officer that sat there seem larger than life. It was surprising to him that it had remained unchanged during the passage of all these years since it had been placed there back in the late 1800's. It was however out there where he could not get. He was almost in the system at this point.
As he cleared the door way and lost sight of the bench he could just see a lady's foot and leg come in to view. Gary was jerked around the corner and down the hall before the woman came completely into view. "I'm here to see my husband. I believe you're holding him here," he heard the voice say softly. The sound of it drifted out of earshot as they continued down the hall. It sounded surprisingly like Michelle's voice but Gary knew in his heart that was impossible.
My mind is playing tricks on me. It was a phenomenon that Terrence Michaels could have tutored Gary well in. He shook his head to clear his head of the sad sound of that woman voice. It threatened to send him back to that black place where he had been after Beth and Randy had left that night. He couldn't go back there. He had to think of a way to get himself out of this mess so he could care for his children, so he could get William out of the country before they found out he was a user.
He marched on and was guided on toward interrogation room #3. The door was unlocked and he was placed inside his wrists secured to the table. Behind him Gary could hear the door close and lock. He sat and waited calmly for the inevitable to come, wishing in vain he could hug his kids one more time. He sat and allowed himself one tear of grief for his whole family.
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The lawyer and the stunning beautiful woman strolled into the precinct house with all the confidence of the President of the Federal United States. As she approached the bench she glanced to her left down a short, narrow hall that was blocked by a steel cage gate. She saw an officer escorting a man down another hall; she only caught the shoe of the prisoner as it vanished down the hall. She was grateful that she didn't have to look into the faces of the men back there. They were the lost angry souls of dangerous men locked up with her gentle, loving husband. Yes she was very grateful she didn't have to see what Gary was seeing now.
She walked up the risers of the podium and faced the officer at the bench who refused to look at her. She waited for an acknowledgment. The cop sat shoving mouthfuls of mayonnaise-laden ham sandwich into his mouth and said nothing. So the lady volunteered, "I'm here to see my husband. I believe you're holding him here."
"Yeah? Look lady, whoever you are, have a seat and I'll call you when I'm done with my lunch," the cop said, still not turning away from his greasy ham sandwich.
"Whoever I am is Michelle Shipley. Does that mean anything to you?" She stood arms crossed waiting for a reaction. And she got one.
The cop gasped drawing down a huge bite of sandwich into his neck. He looked up coughing and gagging to see the face of the woman before him. She was even more beautiful than any picture could have told. Her body and face were of perfect goddess quality. She was dressed in a red silk 1940s woman's suit; her hair was pulled up and framed her gorgeous face and creamy skin. In her hand she held a small dark box about the size of a large brick. She looked pissed off.
"God Damn!" croaked around a mouth-full sticky white bread and smelly ham with inspired recognition. The recognition only worsened his choking. Michelle was pleased to see the startled and concerned reaction of the man. It meant she had leverage.
The cop was now beet red and appeared to be dying. He heaved and gacked trying to dislodge ham and sticky white sandwich bread from his throat. He bent, forcing his huge belly up and down against the tops of his thighs trying to free trapped carbon dioxide from his lungs and out of his blocked airway. He rose up in the chair and started pointing over his shoulder to his back. Michelle understood and waited for the man to bend back down. When he did she smacked him, open handed, several times until a wet and partially chewed lump of ham and bread hit with a wet smack at her feet. Part of it landed on her shiny high heel shoes.
"How sweet," she mocked him. "Sharing your lunch with me. But I've already eaten. My husband if you don't mind," she finished sternly.
"He's..." cough "He's..." cough cough "...not..." cough "...here." he choked out and then went into a new volley of hacks and coughs.
The Mat Quinn who had accompanied her here, one of three of the family's lawyers spoke up. "Then I suggest you get him back here, in ah... oh let's give them ten minutes. How's that Mrs. Shipley?"
"Five; fully dressed and ready to walk out the door," she said turning her attention from her lawyer to the choking cop.
At last the coughing stopped and the cop protested. "Now look here. Mr. Shipley can't just be released. He has to be processed. He's been arrested..."
"Falsely!" stated the lawyer.
"There may have been a mistake," the cop continued, "but he still has to finishing processing and booking."
"Not according to this Writ." The lawyer handed the cop the court order of immediate release.
The officer read the highlighted elements of the document. Fear began to darken his features. "You have to give us time," the cop said.
The lawyer shook his head and dialed the circuit court's number. Michelle was quiet. "Yes, it's me your Honor... No, they say processing... Yes sir." The lawyer handed the phone to the cop. "He wants to speak to you," Quinn said with a slight grin.
The cop took the WristVID, looking first from Michelle to the lawyer and then back to Michelle again. Michelle raised her eyebrows in an encouraging manner to suggest, Go on... take the call, it won't hurt long!
"Yes?" the cop asked. There as an angry buzzing from the VID. "Officer Hammock, Sir." More buzzing. "Sergeant, Sir, and yes, I like my job very much Sir." More buzzing, then louder buzzing. "Beat cop? But Sir!" The buzzing took on a screaming quality! "OK, OK... Don't have a stroke!" more loud buzzing. "No Sir, no disrespect Sir. I'm getting him now. Yes Sir, thank you Sir," The cop handed the hand VID back to the grinning lawyer.
"Don't you say a fucking word." the cop warned and the lawyer held up his hands in a 'Who? Little ole' me?' gesture that made Michelle smile.
The desk Sergeant was on the closed VID trying to raise anyone back in the cellblock he could. "Five minutes you said?" he asked Michelle and she nodded. "I'll need more time than that, OK?"
"Tough!" she spat out at him.
From the VID came a voice, "What the hell do you want? Oh Sarge what's up?"
"Get Shipley out here on the double, dressed in his street clothes and ready to go."
"Wrong answer," Sergeant Hammock said.
"But we can't, Callahan took him to Baltimore, he was VID arraigned today. He's in the system now."
"I need him now! Court order."
"Court order? But..?"
"Jacobs, go find him or we're all cooked," pleaded Hammock.
"Why didn't you say so Sarge?" The officer turned away from the VID screen and shouted back in to the cell block, "Any one seen Shipley hangin' around? He's wanted up front." The sound of the other inmates laughing at the joke made Michelle cringe.
"Corporal, Mrs. Shipley is standing right here listening to everything you're saying," warned the Day Officer.
"Mrs. Shipley? Isn't she dead?" the guard asked turning back to the screen now visibly confused.
Michelle had had all she could take, she pushed her way in front of the VID and shouted, "Look you pathetic little snot, my lawyer is here and is taking notes; and unless you want to see your disregard for the feelings of the family members of prisoners falsely accused and wrongfully jailed on some nationally aired, night time documentary then I suggest you learn pretty damn fast to act as a professional and get my husband out here right now!"
The Sergeant stepped back in front of the screen, "Any questions? We're down to..." the cop looked at Michelle who held up two fingers, "two minutes to get this thing done." Michelle could hear the cop on the other end scream "What?" from both out in the blockhouse and over the VID. "Just do it son or we're all going to be looking for work, not just Callahan."
The cop tuned off the VID. "Can I offer you a seat?" the cop offered kindly.
"I'll stand thank you," Michelle replied coldly.
Bitch! The cop thought to himself.
Worthless bastard! Michelle thought to herself.
Both would have been pleased to find they held each other in the same high regard.
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Gary could hear the commotion outside the door but could not see out the two-way glass. He hoped vaguely that the building was not on fire. If it was, what were the chances of someone remembering he was locked in this isolated little room? He didn't want to burn to death with his wrists locked to the table. An image came to his mind. Once, when he had been seven he and his mother had gone to the closing of an old discount store. His mother, being the pack rat that she was, saw and opportunity to stock up frequently needed cleaning items and a few dish towels and whatever else she could find to stockpile in the subterranean floors of their ranch style home. On one of the shelves he found a plastic horror model called The Forgotten Prisoner. It showed a skeleton seated with it's back resting on a stone wall. It was a cutaway section of a dungeon room. The prisoner had its wrists chained above its skull, ankles chained to the floor in front of him. He was dressed in beggars rags next to him on is left had been a rotting uneaten bowl of food on the other, at the base of the wall was a small arched and heavily barred window too narrow to crawl through if it hadn't been barred. It struck at a core fear of Gary's he begged his mother to buy it for him. He wanted to assemble it and see if it was as terrifying as it seemed to be.
It had been. Once assembled, the image of it plagued him with nightmares that grew in intensity until his father finally had thrown the model way. Now, if something was happening out side the door that might cause those in authority to forget he was here, he had no hope of getting his hands free of the manacles that held his wrists attached to the metal table in front of him. He could almost envision him still confined to the table once the fire was out; he had all but convinced himself that was what was going on. They would find him here, a blackened, charred and smoking corpse, still sitting here waiting for a rescue that come too late.
Jail was in deed, a different place from the comfort of his normal life. This was an experience that would make him appreciate, everyday that he had apparently taken for granted. Never more in his life did he want just the freedom to simply scratch his nose. Maybe it was fitting that this had happened to him. He had failed as a father, leaving his children to fend for themselves in a world where it was much more like a jungle than in any of the remaining forest habitats left in the world. It was an easy thing to die out there from inexperience or want.
He had not protected his family. He had let grief get in and cloud his judgment; but oh what a black, suffocating cloud it had been that had swallowed him and stymied his brain. It hung over him now. It threatened to never leave him. How was he expected to live now? You're doing it again. Your children need you and you're wallowing in a pool of self-pity. Snap out of it and be a fucking man for God's sake.
He had to think of a way to get out of here and meet up with his children.
He was nearly 'in the system' as they say. It was a system that had eliminated the bonding of prisoners since the Anti-Terrorist Act of 2004. No one accused of a capital crime could seek or would be granted bond release. A measure put in place to make sure that suspects stayed where the authorities could find them rather than letting them run out on major charges. Once in the system you waited for trial. One didn't get out until one's trial. If there was evidence that might exonerate a suspect, that evidence was expected to be presented at trial.
The system was, for want of a better phrase, secure. Once he was in any hope of getting to his children was remote at best.
The noise outside was becoming fierce. People were shouting. There were footfalls racing up and down the corridor. Maybe the place was on fire. He wanted to get free of this table he was locked to. Panic was beginning to rise in his throat, like sour bile He kicked the chair away from the table and was about to shout for help. He heard was a key in a lock on the other side of the door. The door swung open and there stood an officer, his hand on his F-Tazor, "Mr. Shipley?"
"Mr.?" He asked with some surprise.
The officer called down the hall. "I've got him here!" The officer removed his hands from the Tazor but Gary had the distinct feeling they were simply going to execute him right then and there. He started to back into a corner, dragging the table he was cuffed to along with him.
"Hey, where ya going? Look, no one's going to hurt you." The officer reached outside and unhooked something from the wall. "Here," the officer moved to the table and electronically unlocked the manacles on the table. "Put this on; and hurry." He laid the suit Gary had been brought in to the station wearing on the table before him. It had been cleaned and pressed and was free of the horrible filth they had found him in.
"What's going on here?" Gary asked as he rubbed the soreness from his wrists
"You need to put these on in a hurry, don't argue just do it."
"No questions... Just do it. You're going home."
Gary was flabbergasted. "Home? What do you mean?" Gary shed his convict grays and started putting on his own clothes there in the interrogation room.
"I think you know perfectly well what I mean, everything you said turned out to be true. Now we're in CYA mode. I'm sure as hell sorry all this happened Mr. Shipley. I hope when the investigation into this starts you'll remember that I was nice to you. Always nice to you Mr. Shipley."
"Sure, sure I will! What do you mean true?" he asked as he finished dressing
"Done? Good let's go!"
"No wait..." he said but was rushed along to the short hall that led to the Day desk in the lobby.
"Got him right here. He hadn't been arraigned yet," the young guard shouted through the bars, "Hey open up. I've got Shipley right here."
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Michelle could hear the voice of a young male guard shout, "Got him right here. He hadn't been arraigned yet. Hey open up. I've got Shipley right here." At the sound of those words she felt she might faint. She could feel her love for him rocket to the sky, it hovered there waiting to pounce on him, waiting to see him for the first time in what seemed like a thousand life times.
"Gary?" Rushed to the door, there were two guards between Gary and the locked gate of the cell and interrogation area of the old city jail, now not much more than a holding center for the Baltimore processing center and Federal Prison
She was dimly aware that she felt good to be herself again, to be in love with Gary and to almost have him back. Not yet, almost but not yet. Any minute now you'll be a complete person again. She told herself. The anticipation was about to drive her wild.
"Let him out of there!" she was shouting. Everyone seemed to be moving in slow motion. Please!"
"Michelle?" it was Gary, he sounded great but surprised.
"Gary! Oh someone let him out of there," she pleaded. "I'm here Gary." She tried to see over the head and shoulders of the guards but she was too short to see him standing, fidgeting nervously behind them "Gary? I can't see you."
"I'm here." He shouted. A hand slithered out between the two men and she knew it was his. There, on the third finger was his wedding ring. She grasped it and knelt, she moved her face in close and brought her lips to his fingers. Michelle kissed the hand and the fingers caressed her lips. She felt she might faint dead away.
"I'm here love," he reassured her. "I'm here."
"Yes, I can see. Oh God, let me hold you." She made no attempt to hide the desperation in her voice.
Still the guards fumbled with the lock. Finally the door opened and Gary pushed past the guards and Michelle sprang into his arms. She realized that she had never been separated from him for so long. Not since that first weekend as Michelle. Not even when she had alienated him had they been separated like this. They had never spent more than ten or twelve hours apart from each other.
He stammered in stunned surprise. "God... What..? How?" His hands were shaking badly and his eyes were blood shot. That was not the worst of it as Michelle could now see. One eye was black and blue for a radius of almost two inches and was nearly closed from swelling. Michelle counted three cuts on his face. Not minor abrasions but deep cuts, one of which should have had stitches at this point. They looked to have been cleaned but not professionally. He didn't seem to notice the cuts that must have been very painful. There was a bruise on his chin and neck like someone may have kicked him just under the chin. She wanted to look more closely, horrified by what she was seeing. He refused to let examine the wounds however; he pulled her close to his face and smelled her hair. It was one of his most favorite things. He had always loved the smell of her. She could hear him whispering in a shaky voice somewhere very close but out of sight, "I thought... I could have sworn." He was unable to finish. As if completing the combination might unlock some terrible Pandora's box and set free that which he truly feared had happened. Making his a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"I'm back!" she confirmed in his ear, for him before he said something they both regretted. "I'm back and I'm never leaving you again. Not for five minutes. You're stuck with me now."
Both were on the edge of hysterics. Neither could believe they had pulled it off. Neither could believe that the other was actually there. The combined knowledge they shared had told them both that this meeting would never take place and yet here they were, back in each other arms and more in love than ever before. The emotion of the moment was almost more than either one could bear.
"Oh good,." he breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought since you brought the lawyer here you were going to serve me with divorce papers." With that everyone in the station house laughed and the tension of the last six minutes began to abate.
The two kissed hard and long. Gary smothered his wife in his arms saturating her with wet passionate kisses. The desperation and need of her was plain to all and her heart sung with the joy that was Gary. She was once again a whole person. Michelle tired to force her body to meld with his refusing to let him go. Gary on the other hand gripped her, ran his long arms around her and pulled her in close and held her firm. He wanted to never let her go again. It was more than a dream, she had been resurrected it was a miracle. His wife, his love was back from the dead.
The two tangled while others looked on. It was as if, to those around them, the two had been separated by a gulf of time and space rather than an ocean and a continent. It was confusing to some but sweet and romantic to others, and most looked on with the fondest of memories of their own great loves, some of which had not lasted for this reason or that, some of which had been shattered for sacrifice of money or status, some still in tact.
The two professed their undying love to each other, mumbled incoherencies and broken phrases like "I thought I'd never..." and "Oh God you can't imagine..." and "I'll never leave..." and "Not now... kiss me please, just kiss me..."
The two unlocked their lips and heaved heavy breaths of oxygen deprivation, smiling at one another, foreheads touching nearly drunk with giddiness. They attacked each other's faces again and continued until the two could no longer exist without a breath. Again with arms locked tightly around one another, smiling, nearly laughing the two enjoyed a new found passion for one another.
His fingers plunged deep into her hair and gripped it. He did not hurt her, but she could sense his desperation. She flung her arms around him and pulled him in to her. At last she reached for one of his hands. She pulled it around to her face and she kissed it gently. For the longest time it seemed, they were alone, the world had disappeared. There were no outside sounds, no interruptions. If the building had been on fire, as Gary had first feared it might be, they would have perished in the blaze.
Michelle noticed cuts and scabs on Gary's wrists and pulled her head back just a bit to examine his face again. Gary tried to avoid this, knowing how he must look but not caring. At last he relented and looked at her with as peaceful a look as he could manage. He was happy again. Damn is selfishness, it had almost cost him everything he had left, but he could not help himself. He could only hope Michelle and his children would forgive him.
Michelle said softly. "Oh baby." She moaned as she gingerly touched one cut then another. He winced a bit, sometimes more than others depending what and where she touched but he tried to keep up a brave front. He was not accustom, however to such injuries and hiding the pain was taxing. "What did they do to you?" She kissed one of the cuts, one on his lower lip and drew back again.
"It's noting. Please, I don't want to talk about this right now. I just want to hold you."
"Mr. Shipley!" one of the officers shouted. "If we could get you to sign these release forms."
The Quinn spoke up. "I'll look at those before he signs them."
"I assure they are the standard..." the officer started.
"I'll still look at them or he won't be signing them."
In the center of the room, Gary and Michelle had taken no notice of the power struggle going on behind them. One way or another Gary was leaving this building now. Michelle was not worried about him having to be confined here any longer. When they got home, she would agree to leave. Their home here, her nest as Gary liked to call it didn't have so much meaning anymore. Without her family she was nothing. Not all the money in the world or all the possessions she had would ever change who her family had made her. She would leave and be happy to do so. It would be another adventure with her best friend, and why not? She had missed so many with him because of her stubborn streak before she had changed then afterward too she could see. She would go on any adventure he wished her to join him on from now on. She would never say no to him again. Just so long as she didn't lose her family again.
"We need to get you home, I'll take care of these for you... make you all better," she cooed to him softly. "Then I'll make me all better." She smiled at him a knowing smile.
"If I get to do any of it with you, then my wish has been granted. I'll be happy," Gary confessed.
"Come on, let's get out of here."
Gary pulled her up short as she began to walk to the Day Sergeant's podium. "How..." Gary started and Michelle cut him off again with delicate fingers to his lips. He kissed them one at a time tasting his wife as he did. Extruding love and joy for her and she soaked up every ounce of it as he did.
"I heard about what was going on. I called to let everyone know that I had found William but no one was home. I got here as soon as I could."
"William?" he asked hopefully, Michelle knew what he wanted to know and decided that the best answer would be to just say no.
"No honey," she said, and handed him the box she had been carrying.
"No..." he whispered. True pain hit him with the force of a runaway train. He knew his son, that male child he loved so much was not coming home. He had a daughter in William's place now he would love just as much as any son he could ever have, but still he grieved. Lost were any more father/son moments they might have shared. Gone were the spontaneous wrestling matches that had broken out almost every night on the living room floor. He grieved for what his son had lost as well. How might he handle all this they called life now?
Gary cried silent tears on the box that was supposed to be the remains of his dead son. Once again he was going to bury someone that wasn't truly dead and the idea hurt beyond measure. As those in the room watched all got the sense that a horrible mistake had been made and this poor man had been made to suffer because of it. It was exactly the effect Michelle had wanted. The deal was struck, the devil had been paid it was time to go home.
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"I tell you something Williams," Callahan said as he strolled down the hall towards the bank of duty officers that were in charge of the holding area, "Sometimes life is very good to me."
Williams was neither impressed nor pleased to have this particular baby-sitting job. He and Callahan had just come from the rest rooms before getting the paperwork to be delivered to the Federal system in Baltimore that would put Mr. Shipley in the system for God knew how long. Officer Parker Williams, age thirty-three and first in line for Callahan's job when he quit, retired, died, committed suicide from years of shame wrought upon his family name, whatever. The method mattered little to Williams. He felt that this man Shipley was being badly abused and his Captain was allowing it to happen out of misplaced loyalties. The times had changed more than a while ago. The state run police systems were gone and free of local politics. Hell, Police Services of Pennsylvania was projected to earn over sixteen billion by the end of the year. That was clear and away profit above expenses. But it wouldn't last if these old guard bastards had their way; the system would collapse just as it had fifty years ago from corruption and scandal.
If the company could just hold on until these old bastards died off they would be fine. To Williams it felt this is what it mush have been like when the mammals began to take over the planet shortly before the extinction of the dinosaurs. He was waiting for the comet that would mercifully take out the last remaining dinosaurs and finally let the police become the law enforcing agency it had always meant to be, not the good-ole-boy system of favors, kickbacks and bribes it had always been.
He had to admit however, Martin was one of the better "old cops" the force had seen. The trained labor had to come from someplace. When police stations shut down during the cloning riots of the '59 and '60 in protest to violence, directed in a large degree to the officers for protecting the scientists responsible for breaking the anti-cloning laws, municipalities all over America were plunged into chaos. Politicians were reluctant to give the police the green light to harm protesters, voters, constituents that might pull them from office during the next election The result was cities all over America pleaded with a company that had proposed to many cities a privatization of the police industry to do what they felt they could and prove themselves in time of crisis. What was offered was a clear contract. If a law was suspected of being violated, action would be taken without interference from politicians. The case would be remanded to a Judge of the state and the evidence submitted for judgment. End of issue. That's how it would work, clear-cut and as it had been meant to be. Let the lawyers hash the details out at trial time. There would be no pleading to a lesser charge. No favors of reduced time that would put cut throats and puss-bags back out on the street to screw someone else a day or two later. The city leaders, desperate for control, agreed. Officers were fired and then rehired, more contracts were signed, protection from the crowds guaranteed and the framework was set.
First the scientists were arrested. Not placed in protective custody. The announcement was made that they would stand trial and that anyone interfering with the functions of transporting, arresting or detaining prisoners suspected of unlawful acts would be shot, first to wound and apprehend, if necessary to kill.
To the dismay of the politicians it did nothing to reduce the backlash of angry voters at the poles, what it did do however, once peace was restored was render the city governments powerless over law enforcement. Cities all over the country tried and failed to reestablish city controlled law enforcement departments once its citizens were at peace, but their efforts failed. None of the police would come back to state run forces and organizations. The new system was much more attractive to officers used to years of low wages and abuse at the hands of city officials. Benefits and pay had been tripled for most with the stroke of a pen. No unions or strikes had been necessary. If the force made money, so would the cops. Police Services had wrangled the power away from the cities in a political coup designed by the politicians themselves.
However with enough public persuasion they might lose that chance to keep things safe, and it was assholes like Callahan and his sympathetic buds on the force that could end up bring the whole thing down.
"Well what Williams?"
"Are you going to drop the other shoe?" Williams asked.
Callahan grinned. "I know you hate my fucking guts you officious little snot. Furthermore, I don't care. You and I ain't buddies, we ain't partners and... hell you know the rest. I won't even bother waste my breath on you. You want to know what makes me feel good? You want to know why I'm so fucking happy?" sparkled Callahan in surprisingly good sprits.
"Well then, I'll fucking tell you," Callahan exclaimed with glee, and Williams groaned. "What makes me happy is this. That little cocksucker Shipley is gone. Even if he doesn't pay for murdering his buddy Vello, which he did by the way; even if he never pays for any of that. Hell I don't care if he confesses. Little bastard will be so far in the system by this time tomorrow, he'll never get out."
"What if he's really innocent? Did you ever think of that?"
"So even if someone else is out there killing these people, if any of them are dead at all..." Williams began.
"Oh, they're dead son," Callahan assured him.
"So if any of them show up, any of them, what then?"
"I don't give a fuck," Callahan answered cheerfully.
"He shouldn't pay..." Callahan suddenly grabbed Williams by his uniformed shirt. Williams was surprised and shocked at the speed and strength of this old man. He felt his toes leave the floor of the hall. Then without warning his back was slammed into the adjacent wall.
"God damn son. If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were trying to spoil the mood of my fucking victory."
"It's not about a victory," croaked Williams
Callahan leaned in with forearm, elbow on Williams' neck, cutting of the officer's wind. "Yes it is!" Callahan growled in a deep low and menacing growl. Williams was faintly aware he was frightened.
"Why?" the question was barely above a whisper.
"Because I hate him. I hate him and that's good enough for me." Callahan saw that the officer was turning blue and leaned back off the man's airway. "If I hate someone I do my best to take them out of the picture."
William felt the breath being externally regulated. He was afraid that if he didn't get more air he was going to pass out. He carefully attempted to remove his FTazor from its holster in the midst of his thrashing. He didn't care if he stunned or killed the old man. He believed that his life was now at a critical point. If he didn't act to save it, it was going to end. Maybe not this minute, but Callahan now saw him as a threat.
"Why not just kill Shipley?" whispered Williams stalling for time.
"You mean like this?"
Before Williams knew what had happened, Callahan shoved his elbow into the officer's neck. There was a brief snap as the man's trachea shattered, forever blocking his airway. The man went into convulsions for a few seconds and shook and thrashed from the pain of the injury, the pain of not being able to draw a breath and the surprise of this unexpected twist in his quickly shortening life. As he thrashed Callahan held him neatly to the wall without much effort or strain. He heard Callahan ask, "You look surprised! Huh? Huh? Well, are ya?" Callahan slapped Williams on the face and the officer seemed to become a bit more alert. "I warned you about omelettes son. When someone is making omelettes, it's best if you try not to do your best impression of an egg head."
They were the last words Williams would ever hear.
Callahan let the officer's body slide to the floor. "Well, I'd dare say, this complicates matters just a bit." In Callahan's pants, an enormous erection was building.
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The old scientist in the young mans body stood hunched over the homemade computer panel. It was a small thing no bigger than what he might as called a notebook since they had them when he was in school. About twelve inches high and ten inches wide it was wired to an open panel on the systems main control board.
"Please God... Please. She said this vould vork." He reached up and turned a dial slowly to the left. A series of small clicks announced to Terrance to what degree the dial had been turned. "Please," he whispered.
On the floor was an empty SKIN. No geo-genetic programming installed in the twenty-six thousand, eight hundred and ninety-six miles of filament wire and Nano-conductors that were milled into each bond-flesh unit.
Attached to the chrome connectors that activated the SKIN were two small electronic leads. This was all there was to pass the billions of pieces of information necessary to make sure that a SKIN turned one human into a perfectly programmed and fully functional imitation of either someone's ideal or a copy of an already living human. Not the customary interface for such a piece of technology. This SKIN was different. It wouldn't have the all the pre-programmed genetic information of someone else's body stuffed into this flesh bond unit's bubble memory. There were blanks in the sequencing that would conform to the corresponding genetic codes found in the body of the wearer. What was been added was the genetic hit men that would irradiate each wearer's aging sequence and enhance their healing abilities to a factor of some where five thousand times a persons normal ability. Each a genetic time bomb if he failed to set the sequencing just right. Failure could cause immediate death or instant aging, the latter a particularly gruesome way to perish in Michaels' mind. He shuddered and thought what it would be like to age and rot in ten minutes. To experience the effects of decay with your body not yet truly dead would be a horrible way to die. He felt he could make it work however, and the trade off would more than compensate for the degradation of information between his body and the system. If he wasn't able to he was afraid his deal was off.
A red sensor lit up on the smaller of the two consoles. "Shit! Shit!" he shouted and then gathered himself to think. He looked at small patch of flesh on his arm. There was a small rivulet blood trickling down his arm. He swallowed hard and picked up the scalpel that sat on the workbench next to him. "God give me strength." He picked up the knife and sliced off a three-centimeter square of skin from his arm next to the spot from where the blood was flowing.
"Is this how you plan to kill me? One patch of skin at a time?" He asked of no one and no one answered back.
"A little help would be appreciated. I fear I'm running out of time," he did not attempted to hide the desperation in his voice.
"You'll get it," answered the quiet musical voice of a young girl.
The voice startled him. He spun around and searched the room. It had sounded as if it were right here with him, in the same space. "Where are you my new friend?" He asked as politely as he new how.
"Behind you," said the girl.
He turned and there, not much more than a reflection in the glass of the chamber was Erin Vello. She stood in a confident posture wearing what she had always considered her favorite outfit. A one-piece dress, with shorts sewn in so they couldn't be seen, it was an outfit she had used to mentally prepare her brother for the road that lay ahead of him. Erin had been a lovely girl when she lived. She had mid-length brown hair and a beautiful tanned complexion that came from her father's Mediterranean heritage. She had been more slender than most girls, smallish breasts and thin model-like figure that was attractive but slight and lean. Her fingers were delicate and thin. They had grown longish as she aged and were perfect for playing stringed and keyed instruments by virtue of their natural reach. Erin's face was perhaps her most striking characteristic. She had a trim, slender V shaped face; high cheekbones marked a thin tapered nose. Her eyes were almost cat like in their shape and her mouth was full-lipped and beautiful. She had been built to be a star.
Frightened just a bit to be in the presence of a ghost, Terrance trembled just a bit.
"There is no reason to fear me," she said in a sweet voice holding up one semi-transparent hand.
"No, I know of this. You have come to answer my prayer."
"Not I. I cannot answer your prayers. I am sent to tell you your prayers will be answered," Erin said.
"What's the difference?" Terrance asked.
"Much!" Erin assured. "You must make three, then return here as Ziven and wait. Do not return to being Terrance."
"Yes... I understand, but this is so painful. Can you help? Time is short." Terrance pleaded.
"You are ready to move. Do what you must. We will be waiting," Erin said as her reflection faded to nothing. Only the chamber beyond the glass was visible.
Terrence sighed a heavy sigh and then said. "I hope I can make your deadline my little friend." He turned back to his work. The freshly harvested square wafer of skin sat in the thistle tube. A ribbon of blood sank to the bottom and down the shaft of the tube where evidence of three other attempts had been made. His arm ached and stung. Not for long, hang in dhere old man, you're goink home.
He doused the genetic sample with Ethanol then with another liquid that steamed and hissed and evaporated almost immediately. Once the liquid nitrogen had done its dirty work Terrence then broke the sample into pieces with a sterile glass rod. The sample fell apart neatly. He then bathed it once again in Ethanol washing most of the sample down the thistle. These were hardly laboratory conditions but he had no time to even consider wasting. If his friend was right, he had only today and tomorrow to finish and deliver these "Blanks".
One thing that concerned him the most was whether or not he could live through the matrix shift. He might die delivering the SKINs. So what you old fool, you're doing this for that very reason! Dead is still with your family isn't it? But Terrence wasn't sure. He felt he had a pretty good grasp of the dynamics of this situation. He didn't understand what might happen if he failed by dying before his mission was complete. Old man! You would not have been tasked with this if you were going to perish before you were done, he scolded himself.
Might they have the power to keep him from his family? If this was the only thing, the only task that could restore him to his family and he should fail by dying, he could not recover from that. That was as permanent as what he was about to do to these fine people. As soon as his own matrix was shifted forward, they, that is, the woman known as Michelle Shipley, and her daughter Beth would be trapped forever. No technology he could foresee would free them at that point. With Ziven dead, his matrix could never be moved back again. Further, he was forced to program the "Blanks" using the same methods used to build those intended for his wife and daughter. They would all be connected to the same damaged matrix. None could ever be free again.
"Perhaps!" said Terrence to no one. "But this time, those new to this vill at least be demselves!" Again, no one answered.
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Callahan emerged from the closet at the end of the hall where he had just killed fellow officer Parker Williams. He looked briefly about but didn't waste too much time determining if he had been seen exiting the utility room or not. He held the door open with force, Williams' body was lodged behind the door and its bulk was attempting to push the door closed. Callahan had one more task before he would allow that to happen.
He stuck his head back in and found the keypad to the security lock. All doors in the precinct house had electronic locks that could be accessed from either side of the door so prisoners attempting to escape could not lock a door from the inside that an officer couldn't unlock from the outside. They had another special adaptation. If a lock were disabled on one side, it prevented entry from both sides. This was configured in such away to prevent potential escapees from hiding in locked closets that officers had trouble getting into or out of if locked from the outside.
Callahan shoved his meaty paw into the keyboard of the lock system on the inside of the utility closet where the damaged wouldn't be noticed for a while. The room was empty except for boxes of papers that, from Callahan's view hadn't seen the light of day in years. The place where he had broken the keypad arched and sparked and dimly lit the room, now the tomb of Parker Williams. Callahan withdrew from the room and shut the door. The system beeped softly one chime to indicate the door was secure and was then silent. Parker Williams' body would not be found for over seventy-six hours. By then, Callahan would be dead.
Callahan smiled and fondled himself with one hand that was thrust into the pocket of his pants. He hummed an unidentifiable tune as he strolled casually down the center hall of the prisoner integration area.
As he progressed he would glance left and right into the rooms to see the activity there, if any. There were empty rooms, but occasionally there would be a room with a single prisoner or one with a lawyer and his client or one with an interrogator and two others.
Every once in a while he would slam his hand against the wall making the already nervous occupants the select room jump in surprise. Callahan would chuckle to himself, as he would watch the reactions of those inside through the one-way glass secure in the knowledge they could not see him.
The construct of the interrogation center was thus. Three parallel hallways separated from each other by rows of rooms, small and blockish the back walls of the rooms in the center all were all one-way glass. The doors to each of the rooms were on the halls that ran parallel to the center hall. Each hall was connected to the center by shorter passages that also acted as a sound buffer that separated each room from the next; preventing the walls of any room from touching that of it's neighbor.
Callahan had killed Williams at the opposite end of the hall where there were sixteen rooms. As he approached room #3 he could tell right away something was off kilter. The tables of all these rooms were in the same place, the center of the room. Callahan had been up and down these halls often enough to know when to expect certain elements to appear in his field of vision. When the corner of the table didn't materialize he reached for his pistol.
Callahan was a cop of the old school. He carried a pistol, a Ruger .44 Redhawk that had belonged to his grandfather. He was not supposed to. And in fact, he had not used this pistol in many years. Not on the job anyway. Today would be different. All he needed was time enough to get to Shipley, get him halfway to Baltimore and Shipley would be shot like so many others trying to escape. He would have Callahan's FTazor in his clutches, and just thank God he had put his pistol in the boot of his HOV a month ago. That's all he would have to say about that, just thank God.
But now something in that room was not right. He slammed himself noiselessly against the wall to think about this situation for just a second. If Shipley was trying to escape right now, he could shoot him here and eliminate any questioning there might be of his motives or of suspicious circumstances. Callahan said a little prayer and then stepped round the in front of the one-way glass and bore the sights of the gun down.
Callahan began to boil. Shipley had really escaped. He gave a little grunt and holstered his gun. That's when he realized there was a commotion down one of the other halls. Thinking the other officers may have already found Williams; Callahan hung back, then he grinned, He could always blame Shipley if they had found the body already.
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The noise that Callahan heard from the hallway was applause and cheering. There was not a soul that was not moved by the emotional display of Gary and Michelle. This man, who had not aged nearly as gracefully as his wife but was still handsome and strong and still quite young and this woman who showed such desperate devotion and longing for him seemed to have been distanced and reunited before. This was not new to her but still, the separation seemed to be a fresh and unpleasant memory for her vanquished by her reunion with her lover. They cherished the moment of reunion and the people gathered there, perhaps fifteen or so, could feel it.
When the applause broke, they paid no attention to it. Instead they held each other's faces and swam in the depths of one another eyes. It was an expression of emotion that few of these people had ever seen.
Many watching thought of their wives, husbands, girlfriend or boyfriends at work or at home and longed for this same emotion that these two seemed to share. It was no secret that these two had been married sometime and now, it was apparent that they were still very much in love with each other. There were officers and visitors milling in and out of the lobby area. Many stopped to observe the celebrities out of curiosity as they embraced. Most that were there stayed to watch because they were deeply touched by the tenderness of their touch. Many of the bystanders were now thinking of knocking off early and perhaps bringing home a surprise bottle of wine or some cloned roses to that special person at home.
Michelle touched Gary's scarred and battered face and soothed him with tender whispers that none of the others could hear. Gary would smile, wipe a tear from his eye and shake his head, a gesture that he was all right, and no; he didn't think something was what; A good idea, it didn't hurt, who knew? They spoke in whispered tones no one else could hear but only speculate on. They were in love and reunited. No one in the room saw Detective Callahan slip in from the door behind the Day Officer's podium.
Callahan broke between the bodies of watching officers and saw Gary with his back to him standing in the middle of the lobby. "What the fuck is going on here?" Callahan looked around the room and saw that Gary had somehow escaped the interrogation room and was now standing in the middle of the room with the other loser officers of this precinct looking on as if he were Marcus Sharp or some other fucking hero or something.
"Hold it right there Shipley," Callahan exclaimed. He suddenly pulled a pistol from his belt and bore the sights down on Gary's forehead. Callahan pulled the hammer back and prepared to fire. In his own mind, Detective Callahan had practiced for this moment for the last twenty years. He had dreamt but never actually believed that Shipley would find the resources or the balls to escape, but his dream had come true and he would shoot him and end this entire embarrassing fracas forever. His name would be cleared and he would live vindicated until retirement.
"No, Gary! Oh God!" Michelle screamed when she saw the gun. Callahan recognized the voice and turned to see Michelle Shipley standing there in his precinct house.
"Impossible!" he shrieked. "You're dead."
"Please," Michelle pleaded, "It's all just been a mistake."
"Callahan?" Captain Martin slowly walked out of the wide doorway behind the Day Desk. "I know what this may look like on the surface," he said in a soothing voice. "But let me assure you that I just got off the phone with the commissioner and all of this is above board son."
"No! He killed Mike Vello. Where's their son? Ask them that!" Everyone else in the room went dead silent. "Well, ask them. If she's not dead then she part of it," shrieked Callahan pointing the barrel of the gun at Michelle. His fantasy of showing her what a real man might have been long gone from his mind. If she was collaborating with his hated enemy then she could never trusted. It had never occurred to him that one so beautiful might be guilty of the same crimes as his nemesis. Callahan's eyes opened wide at the revelation. He thought about the pictures in his desk drawer. "She may have even had something to do with his Vello's death." Callahan was nearly crazed.
The Day Sergeant leaned in and whispered to his Captain. The Captain then spoke to Gary very gently. "Mr. Shipley?" The man walked forward and stepped between Callahan and the detective's target and at the same time gently guided Michelle out of the range of fire with his left arm fully extended. "I'm sorry to hear about your loss." Captain Martin said offering his right hand, "and I'm sorry about all this trouble. Your name is not unknown in the town as you might well be aware."
Gary, still red eyes from crying at the joy of seeing his wife, nodded and he expressed his thanks at the Captain's regrets. The Captain continued in a whisper. "I want you to stand right here, don't move. If he shoots someone it will have to be through me first then you, do you understand?"
"Yes." Gary said but felt funny about letting an innocent stand between himself and an attacker.
Then the Captain said louder, "Could you let me have that box you're holding please?" Gary looked down at the box that had the time and date of death and the place and circumstances of the death labelled in German and the name of his son written in plain English. Gary slowly handed the box over to the Captain.
"Thank you Mr. Shipley. I'll get this right back to you. And again, I'm sorry for all of this." He turned, saw Michelle standing there but made no move to go to her. He was a shield, he could not move now. "Mrs. Shipley. My condolences."
Michelle who had gone ghost white, simply said, "Thank you, Sir," and was quie again. It was more than just a thank you for his sentiment. She didn't want to lose Gary again after only now just getting him back, then that policeman that had come in; had taken a place between Gary and Callahan, and had seemed to fill the station house with his presence. He was truly larger than life, and she was in grateful awe of him. She would accept his sacrifice if she had to, to save Gary. Not willingly but she would accept it.
Captain Martin then faced Callahan. "You should see this," he said and slowly handed the box over to Callahan. Confused he took the box and looked at it.
"It's a casket," he said flatly.
"Correct! From a crematorium in Germany, read the name on it."
Callahan took the box, pistol still pointed at Captain Martin and read the label. Confusion spread over his features. "William... Shipley? What the fuck is this?"
"Their son died three days ago in Germany after a skiing accident. I've confirmed it with German officials. That's about the time Mrs. Shipley went missing. More importantly it matches their story prior to verification. Not only that, Callahan, but these two haven't had a chance to get together and corroborate stories and they have a body. I think they're in the clear Callahan. Why don't you just give me the gun?" Martin reached out and Callahan started to lower the pistol into the Captain's hand.
Callahan looked around in disbelief. To those around him it was the look of a man who had just woken up from a long and nasty dream. One in which he held a knife and there was a body on the floor. The sleepwalker not knowing if he had found a victim and pulled a knife out or found a victim and shoved the blade in. "I'm sorry." Callahan suddenly started saying. "I'm sorry, I didn't know." He was close to blubbering. Michelle felt sudden pity for the man. He seemed so confused and lost. Even Gary felt a spark of compassion for the man slowly lowered the gun that had, only minutes before been levelled at his head, slowly into the hand of his superior officer.
Callahan was blubbering now, repeating over and over again how sorry he was. The staff and other officers were moving in slowly, sympathetically to help their confused comrade. Callahan hung his head and tears began to flow. Gary watched this strong man, one he had known as strong for so long fall completely apart before his very eyes.
The box that Callahan had been holding, the casket of ashes suddenly wobbled in the detective's hands and threatened to tumble down to the ground. Captain Martian reached down to grab them as they left Callahan's grip. From some where above him, Martin heard Callahan whisper to Gary, "Gotcha!"
It was 2:14:44 in the afternoon
The Shot that rang out was deafening. It was like being in a bunker when a bomb went off inside it. It shocked everyone into surprised screams of fright and terror and then into cold silence as the ghost of the vibrations bounced rapidly from wall to wall within the small enclosure that was the lobby of the precinct building.
It was 2:14:45 in the afternoon
Smoke and the smell of cordite hung heavy in the air. Everyone looked around for just a second and then the officers in the room tackled Callahan, wrestling him to the ground and stripping him of his weapon, cuffing him. Callahan struggled to see if the shot had hit its mark but it was hard and painful with knees and elbows in his back keeping him prone.
It was 2:15:03 in the afternoon
Michelle stood afraid to move. Her hands were tight little balls seemingly stuck to her mouth. Her arms were pulled together in a tight gesture and she stared wide-eyed at Gary waiting for some indication that he was OK.
He stood in an expression of total shock and surprise. That noise had been so loud he had felt the concussion of the gasses as they escaped the barrel. The wind of it had even rippled his jacket back some. He stood trying to adjust to the ringing in his ears. He looked around and saw Michelle standing there. She jumped with what looked like fear when their eyes met and her eyes fairly bulged with terror. Then she seemed to relax just a bit.
She was about to fly out of her skin with fear. He was hit. She just knew it. "What was he doing just standing there like that?" she thought to herself. She wanted to run to him but she was frozen. The moment dragged on forever and then she realized Gary was looking at her. "He's going to open his mouth and blood will come gushing out." She thought and then he did smile at her and she gasped quietly and jumped with surprise. But there was no blood, and she allowed herself to unwind just a little bit.
He watched as his beautiful wife allowed a slight smile to touch the corners of her mouth from behind her hands. He could only see the barest ghost of it hiding there. Then it faltered.
She could feel relief sneaking in and a smile began to form on her lips. "What's that?" Her eye caught something, some movement running down to the corner of her husbands jacket and she thought to herself, Oh God no! That's blood!
Her lip started to tremble just as he felt the first signs pressure on his chest. That's annoying. He thought, Must have pulled a muscle. He looked down to see where the pressure might be coming from. As he did he found he needed to pull open his jacket to have a better look he glanced at his wife for just a brief moment and saw her face had become ashen, her eyes were pinched and she looked like a woman attending a funeral.
Gary raised his right arm and the pain tore through him like a saw through wooden board. It felt as if someone were cutting his flesh with a dull hot blade. The world swam before him but he had to see where the source of that incredible pain was coming from. It was so intense he couldn't make a sound, yet his mind wanted him to wail like a baby. He pulled his jacket lapel away from his chest and saw light shine through in a small hole that hadn't been there when he put the jacket on in the hallway back in the cellblock, he would have noticed that. Shit, that's an eight thousand dollar coat, shot all to hell. He thought and then realized that's what had happened. He'd been shot. He said out loud in amazed wonder. "Wow!"
Michelle started to make strangled little noises. "Don't move and it will all go away. Please God... Make it all go away." She closed her eyes and then squinted them open to see if things were normal. Gary was looking at her and his color was different. It was more than just different it was bad. He had turned a nasty blue/gray color. The sight of that caused her paralysis to break. She leaped forward but it was too late.
Time slowed down even more for Gary. The light dimmed from his eyes and the world swam black. He didn't know it but he was falling. If he had known it he would have put his arms out in front of him to break his fall.
Time sped up to an incredible level for Michelle. She watched in horror as Gary closed his eyes and pitched forward and she realized Gary was falling in fast forward. She would never reach him before he hit the floor.
The sound of Gary's head hitting the floor was sickening. It sounded to Michelle like a hollow pumpkin hitting the street. Blood splattered out in a radius pattern from around Gary's head. Everyone was still. The shock of the moment was more than any could bear to break.
Until Michelle wailed...
With her forward momentum she knelt at Gary's side and tried to turn him over but he was too heavy in plain dead weight. She screamed at those looking on. "Please, someone call an ambulance! He's dying!" Captain Martin sprung to life and started to bark orders, policemen and women leaped and marched and called and offered assistance.
Callahan, who had been hauled to his feet, was in the arms of his captives singing, "I win, I win, I win..." he was silenced when one of his brother officers landed a right cross over his jaw, fracturing his jaw in six places. Callahan collapsed like a wet sack of potatoes.