“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night”

Final Chapter…

The very brave Officer Daniel Nelson, a member of the police force for only three days, swallowed hard and even though he was now looking down the barrel of a very shiny but deadly weapon…he resisted every instinct he had…to pull out his own gun and shoot this obviously demented woman…who could probably end his life and/or his career this very night.

But instead…he took a deep breath and somewhat calmly said…with only a slight quiver in his voice…

“Mrs. Johnson…would you please put your gun down?”

My mother was a sucker for polite young men…so she promptly did exactly what she was asked to do.

And then…from the backyard…Officer Roger Small, who was Officer Nelson’s partner, hollered…

“Hey Danny!!  There’s a dead guy on the back porch!  And he’s wearing a Halloween mask!”

It was the first time that cold, winter night that Gee smiled.

The End.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 33

The Paperback Edition…

I had had only one whiskey sour tonight.  After last night’s drinking fiasco, I figured one drink was plenty.  But it had been a strong one.

When did I last eat?  I wondered to myself…breakfast had been sweet rolls and coffee…but I had had no lunch.

I had been abruptly woken up from my nap, hearing a text alert on my phone, announcing a press conference at the Minneapolis Court House.  I had had no time to eat…I barely had time to drive down there.

There had been a horrible drive-by shooting this past Tuesday and a little five year-old boy had been killed in the cross-fire between two local gangs.

The police had a suspect in custody and they had called a press conference.

I couldn’t miss this.  Day off or not, hangover or not, I had dragged my body down to the court house.

This one was my story to cover…but what I did miss was lunch.  Dinner had been a piece of cheese eaten on the way over to Hannah’s apartment.

What a life…the news never stops…and if you’re a reporter…neither do you.

I could hear the clean-up crew in Doyle’s kitchen so I knew I could go out the back door without setting off any alarms.  They all knew me and Hannah.  No one would be surprised to see me…or if they were surprised they surely wouldn’t care.

When you go to the same bar week after week…you pretty much get to know everyone who works there… and they get to know you…or at least…recognize you.

It was sad, right?  But since both Hannah and I covered the crime scene in Minneapolis, we felt we had a justifiable reason to have fun whenever an opportunity arose…and that was usually on the weekends at Doyle’s.

Doyle’s also had a great house band…so there was live music and liquor.  What could be better when you’re twenty-four and single…right?

Well…….what would have been better…was to have not seen Bobby…”potential love of my life”…and flight attendant Tiff sharing passionate kisses every time the band took a break tonight.  Boy, I had that one figured wrong…

Oh well…life goes on.  I was always so optimistic that I would meet someone.  You know…a really nice guy.  They had to go to bars too, didn’t they?  I was nice…I was here…

Maybe I was just kidding myself.  Maybe I should start going to church…join a book club…I liked to read…

I noticed the light was still on in Jake’s office…not that it mattered one damn bit to me anymore.

Something must have happened in the “Marlowe household” today…Jake was sporting a shiny, gold wedding band…with a diamond stuck on it for good measure.

He had been at the door tonight, checking ID’s and had greeted both Hannah and I when we came in.

He had given me a totally sheepish look when he noticed I had seen his ring.  I gave him a smile.  Hey, it’s who I am.

Hannah gave me a ‘look”…but did not say “I told you so…”    It’s nice to have good friends.

I looked around the club…waiting to feel normal.

Wow.  This place is really strange when it’s empty.  Where’s the magic now?

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 32

The Paperback Edition…

LATER THAT NIGHT…

I was leaving Doyle’s a good twenty minutes after closing.

Everyone else had cleared out.  I had sent Hannah on her way with her new boyfriend, reassuring her that I was right behind them.  The “new boyfriend” was that cute cop she had met last night.

He was new to the Minneapolis ‘cop shop’…neither Hannah nor I had seen him before….and he was drop dead good-looking.  Hannah was absolutely on fire about him.

She had talked of no one and nothing else all the way to Doyle’s…wondering if he would show up tonight like he had promised.

She had also told him that she would probably be singing with the band.  Oh.  My.

They had been inseparable since the minute we had walked in.

I never got a chance to ask her if she knew who had called out my name last night during my rather sketchy departure.

To be brutally honest…I was a little embarrassed to admit…even to Hannah…that I was drawing a blank about some of last night’s activities.  It’s pretty scary when you don’t remember…

Just as we were all getting up to leave, I realized that I did not have my favorite pen…the one that I always use to take notes.

I told Hannah and her “little detective”…to take off since I was sure I would find it shortly.

I searched my purse again…for the umpteenth time and was not looking forward to pawing thru the rubble on the floor but I knew that was my next mission.

Even the bright white lights they usually put on to hurry us drinkers out into the forgiving darkness…had now been replaced by the bar’s glowing, red security lights.

At most clubs, when the last note had been played, people quickly left in droves.

There were after-hours parties to go to and “romantic” hook-ups that needed completing.  But…I wasn’t going anywhere until I found that damn pen.

It was an old Peterson family tradition to give a 14 KT Gold Cross pen to your son or daughter at their high school graduation.

Even though my dad knew he wouldn’t be able to do this himself…he had died when I was seven…he had instructed my mom to to buy one and give it to me on the day I graduated from Hamilton High School.

I was not leaving Doyle’s without that pen.

As I was searching around underneath the nearby tables, I finally found it under a bunch of grubby napkins.  Gross…

When I stood up from the floor, I felt a little dizzy so I sat down in a nearby chair  and waited for my head to clear.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 30

The Paperback Edition…

Of course…bitter truth be told…I was also foolishly hoping that maybe tonight would be the night that Bobby would come over during the band’s break and talk to me.  He was so damn cute.  Picture Bradley Cooper with a guitar and a killer smile…

I had this stupid crush on him…it was so pathetic at my age… even though it did appear that he maybe had a girlfriend.  I’ll give that to Abby. 

There was this beautiful flight attendant from Delta…and yes…she often came into the club in her uniform…who was always sitting at one of the front tables with a couple of her girl friends…also decked out in their uniforms.  

Her name tag…pinned right on the shoulder of her oh so cute uniform…read “Tiff”.  Yeah…I’m sure that name was on her birth certificate…give me a break.

During his breaks, Bobby almost always went over and sat down with her and her friends.

But I thought that last night he was actually heading in my direction…until she raised her arm and signaled for him to bring her another drink and…so he did.

Some nerve.  He wasn’t a waiter, for Pete’s sake.  But before he had headed towards the bar he had turned towards me and had given me a super, dazzling smile…and a wink.

“Maybe he was trying to tell me something…like ‘I was going to come over to you but I have to do this to be polite…'” I pondered out loud.  Stella raised her head.

“Wow.  That was an amazing stretch…even for you.” Stella said.

I laid back against my propped up pillows and closed my eyes, trying ever so hard  to remember last night’s smile from Bobby.  He had been smiling at me, hadn’t he?

I.  Am.  Never drinking that much again.  Ever.

Suddenly a vivid memory flashed like a bolt of lightning through my brain.

A voice.  A man’s voice…

“You’re not driving tonight are you Charlie?”

And me, drunkenly oblivious to anyone but my own pitiful self, had waved a hand in the direction of the concerned voice and dismissed the question with what I had thought was a brilliant answer.

“Driving?  Not tonight, babe.  I’m flying home tonight….simply flying…”

And then…that was it…end of lightning bolt.  End of memory.

“The Day After the Night Before” Chapter 29

The Paperback Edition…

Complicated and drawn out conversations were not Stella’s cup of tea.

She tended to stare off into space if I talked too long…and in Stella’s world…too long was defined as one or two minutes.  A yawn often escaped.

“I wonder,” I said, as I scratched behind her ears, “if this beautiful rose is connected to the someone who said ‘good-by, Charlie’…or whatever…to me last night?”

“And…how did that someone know my real name?  We still haven’t figured out that mystery.”

“I should call Hannah and see if she remembers if anything out of he ordinary  happened last night.  Or…even better…maybe she even knows who shouted out my name.”

“She’s still sleeping, I bet,” said Stella.

I continued…

“…because I’m so sure this rose has something to do with last night…”

“Of course, she had been pretty busy with that cute cop that wandered in around midnight.  I vaguely remember he was pretty interested in her too.”

“You know she’s asleep.” persisted Stella.

“So you say.   I should call her anyway to see if she still  plans to go to that party tonight at that after-hours place.”

“I thought you were done going to those places…didn’t the cops raid one of them a couple of weeks ago?”

I ignored her comment…even though I knew it was correct.

I totally knew neither Hannah nor I should go to any after-hours clubs.   If they got raided while we were there, we could lose our jobs.  Hell… we would lose our jobs.

Sometimes it sucks to be young and have a really great job.  You have to be so responsible.

“You weren’t very responsible last night.” said Stella.

“I know.  I know.  That…was the last time…for sure.  I promise.”

“I’ll be keeping track.” said Stella.

I pulled her close and nuzzled the top of her little furry head.

What I really wanted to do tonight, was to just stay home with Stella.

I would curl up on the sofa…eat hot buttered and generously salted popcorn, followed by my favorite ice cream, Haagen-Dazs Belgium Chocolate…and…watch the ‘Gilmore Girls’.  Again.

“I love the ‘Gilmore Girls'” sighed Stella.

 

“Quite By Accident” Chapter 10

The Paperback Edition…

My bedroom walls are covered with black & white blow-up posters of all the places I would like to visit but will probably not…Paris, London, Gloucestershire, anywhere in Scotland and  Stockholm.

Did I mention that I am just a teeny bit claustrophobic?   Oh.  Well, now you know.  Otherwise normal…very normal.

I also have huge posters of every animal I have ever owned…except for the 4 goldfish I once bought at Sam’s Club.  They actually died before I could come up with exotic names for them…

“Hello, Emma,” I whispered to my sleeping cat…most beloved cat…

She looked up at me from her favorite resting spot…the top of my bed pillow…and smiled.

“Are you going to have your customary glass of red wine tonight, Tobey?” she asked.

Do you think it’s odd to talk for your  pet?  I mean…to give a voice for your pet?Or…perhaps even to have a conversation with your pet? 

Well here’s the deal. If you ever move into an apartment building that has a lot of senior citizens who have pets, you will find that it is not odd at all.  It’s normal…very, very normal.

And besides…if someone asks you a question, it would be rude not to answer…right?

I turned on my bathroom night-light and politely answered Emma’s question.

“Not tonight dearest, I am exhausted.”

I was only able to read for about ten minutes which really ticked me off since the book I was reading was so exciting.

But my eyes were starting to close so I put the book on my night stand, turned off the floor lamp by my bed and cursed because I had forgotten to turn off the hall light.

I dragged myself out of bed and padded down the hall, hit the switch off and cursed again since I was now in almost total darkness…having also forgotten to turn on my living room night-light.  Using the light from the courtyard I went over and turned it on.

I literally staggered back down the hall to my bedroom.

As I sat on the edge of my bed, I apologized to God for being so tired as I said my nightly prayers.

“Dear God.  I’m sorry.  Thank you.  Please help everyone.  Amen.”

I put my head down on the pillow and rolled over on my right side…then I rolled over to my left side…almost unconscious at this point… but then…I rolled back over to my right side…AND THEN…

..here we go…

 

 

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 15

The Paperback Edition…

I looked from my dear ‘talking cat’ Emma to Fred my ‘no longer invisible guardian angel’ and then let out a huge sigh.

This was crazy…maybe not really crazy, crazy, according to Fred but…you know…crazy nonetheless.  I mean…really…what was going on?

It appeared I had a talking cat…who was talking to my guardian angel named Fred…who also talked…and… and…my mind was spinning.

I glanced over at the clock on my night table.  Crap!  It was almost 2:00 a.m. and I had to be up at 7:00 to get ready for work.  I had the early shift at  The Book Shop tomorrow.

“No you don’t,” said the all-knowing Fred.

“Margo closed the shop because of the snow storm…remember?  She called earlier…just before ‘Housewives’ ended.”

“Oh, right, right,” I answered quickly, remembering and then thought to myself, does he know everything?

“Yes.  Yes, I do.” said Fred…and his voice sounded like he was smiling…if guardian angels can smile…that is.

“Well look,” I said in a very matter of fact manner, trying to remain calm, trying to wrap my mind around this completely nutso night.

“I don’t want to dismiss the importance of you,” I said as I nodded to Fred.

“Or you, Emma,” I said as I scratched my little cat under her chin.

“But…I do need to get some real sleep after this strange dream…so…good night, sleep tight all, sweet dreams…it’s been fun.”

And I quickly laid back down on my pillow…still not completely sure of my sanity…but giving it a try anyway.

“Not a dream,” Fred whispered very softly.  “Not a dream.”

I took a deep breath and then another and then closed my eyes.  After a few minutes, I ever so slowly opened them and peeked over my covers to the corner of my bedroom where Fred had been hanging out.

He was gone!!!!  Fred was gone!!!!  It was a dream!  I knew it!  Thank God!!!

“Shall I pass that on to Him in person?” asked Fred as he floated in from the hallway.

Fuck.

 

 

 

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 16

The Paperback Edition…

“WHY AREN’T YOU GONE?” I screamed as I sat bolt upright in bed and leaned towards him, hands waving in the air as if to make him go away.

“I never leave,” Fred said very calmly.   “You are my job until you die.  That’s the rule.  I don’t make the rules.  I just do what I am told.  I am an excellent obeyer of rules.”

I sighed, completely and utterly exasperated.

“But…but…I can’t have you just watching me,” I persisted.  “All…the…time.  It’s already bothering me…”

I decided to try the sympathy approach.  I’m sure a little wheedling will go a long way…  I’ve been told I can wheedle with the best of them.

“Stop wheedling.  It won’t work.  I have to watch you.  Watch OVER you is the correct term..to be precise.”

“You are going to drive me to drink!!”  I shouted at him and then thought…hey…what a great idea!

I slipped out of bed, being careful not to disturb the now very sound asleep Emma, flipped the hall overhead light switch on and trudged slowly toward my kitchen.

I knew there was an almost full bottle of Jim Beam in the cupboard that I occasionally used if I was having trouble getting to sleep.

It didn’t happen very often…but still…I had the bourbon just in case…and now seemed like a very appropriate time…very.

I reached up and took the bottle down from the shelf over the sink and then turned to open another cabinet to get a glass.

“JESUS CHRIST!!!!” I yelled and almost dropped the bottle of whiskey.

Fred was hovering right behind the breakfast bar…not two feet away from me!

“I’m sure He heard that…by the way.” Fred said with a hint of reproach in his voice.

 

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 17

The Paperback Edition…

“WHAT are you doing out HERE?” I cried.

“And what part of guardian ‘watch over you’ angel…do you not get exactly?” asked Fred with just a hint of snippiness in his voice.

“I ‘watch over you’ ALL the time.”

I pulled out the breakfast bar stool and started to sit down and paused a bit to give Fred a not so friendly but rather meaningful look.  He wisely drifted slightly away toward the patio door.  He seemed to sense I needed some space…and why wouldn’t he?

I opened the bottle of Jim Beam and pored a couple of inches into my glass.  I took a sip…it was AWFUL!

I got up and walked over and opened the freezer.  I scrounged around and found some ice cubes in a bowl and tossed them into my glass.  I returned to perch on the stool.

“Here’s to livin’ the dream…” I said and I raised my glass in a toast to Fred.  He swayed a little.  I nodded back.

“If I go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow…will I remember any of this?  Will you still be here?” I asked.

Fred didn’t say anything for a minute or two.  I sensed that he might be thinking…or  perhaps not…

But then he said, “I don’t know…and…definitely yes.”

I took a bigger sip. It wasn’t that bad now…with the ice.  I swirled it around a little.

“I’m not sure I can handle this,” I said hesitantly…and stared at the bourbon in my glass.

“Oh…you’ll be fine, Tobey.  You’re pretty tough.  You have to remember…I’ve seen you in action…during the good times and some very bad times…I’ve been with you your whole life.”

“…I hugged you when you cried…helped you create new swear word combinations when you were furiously angry…I tried to steer you away from people who were not good to you or good for you…and I even let little words of encouragement and love from your mom and dad seep into your subconscious when you were sleeping.”

“I even helped you get this job and this apartment.  I could go on but I don’t want to brag…too much.”  Fred swayed from side to side…obviously very proud of his accomplishments.

“Wow!  That’s awesome!!  And you didn’t need…like…permission to do all of that…right?”

“Oh, no,” Fred said confidently. “That fell totally under my job description.  I can do a LOT of stuff.”

My glass paused on its way to my mouth…brain now seriously engaged in full speculation mode…

“Quite by Accident” Chapter 18

The Paperback Edition…

“You can ‘do’ things?” I asked quickly.  Suddenly, I was no longer so sleepy.

“What kind of things?  Can you perform miracles?  Can you cure sick people?  Can you grant wishes from…from really deserving people?  Can you change things?”  I rattled off  my questions like machine gun fire .

Fred swayed back a little…

“Hey, hey!  Don’t get too excited, Tobey.   GA’s…if I may abbreviate…work in the background.  Think of us like agents…like the CIA or MI6…we have many powers but we also have limits.”

“Oh…” I said with considerable less enthusiasm.    “No miracles.  No magic.  No changing the world…right? ”

“Right.” answered Fred.

I thought for a few moments and then very hesitantly asked…

“Could you make it possible for a person as in…me…to visit Heaven to see Iris and Rain?  Just a short visit…or could you arrange it so they could  come down here?  Just for a few minutes?”   But even as I was asking…I already knew the answer.

Unwanted tears were forming in my eyes.  I missed them so much.

“No, Tobey, I can’t do that.”  Fred said softly and then I sensed a comforting warmth on my arms and back that made me feel less sad.  It was like a very loving hug.

“Is that what you do?  I asked Fred.

“That is what we do a lot.    And…sometimes…we add an extraordinary amount of a powerful  laxative to a very despicable and obnoxious boy’s cup of punch when he is being very unkind to one of our “people”.

“OMG!!!…do you mean Albert Simmons, my super creep date to the 11th grade Snow Dance? ”

“Precisely.” said Fred.

“He never lived down the embarrassment of that night.  He had to have his parents come to the dance to take him home…he couldn’t even drive.”

I chuckled…thinking of that night so long ago…Albert thought he was so cute and so charming and God’s gift to all girls…

“He had to go to a different school for his senior year…someplace where he wasn’t called  ‘Poopy.'”  I smiled broadly and then yawned.

I finished off the Jim Beam, looked at my kitchen clock and saw that it was almost 3:30 a.m.

“I have to go to bed, Fred.  I need to sleep.”

Imagine this, I thought…talking to my guardian angel at 3:30 in the morning…just like I would talk to my cat Emma…or even a real, live person.

“Sure, I understand.” said Fred as he floated across the living room and down the hall.

I followed behind, turning off the lights as we went…so abnormally normal.