Going Home

Bob Okroi


2:03 A. M.----November 24th


‘It’s colder than a witch’s tit’ thought Officer Climes as he stepped from the warmth of his squad car into the clutches of winter.  He winced from the chill.  His features were something fierce like a middle-aged drill-instructor.  The overcast night sky blanketed over the stars and moon.  It was dark and dreary with only the dull glow from an overhead street lamp offering real light.  During the day this part of town was alive, bustling with commerce and busy-bodies, but now the solid wall of store-fronts on either side was like a ghost town.  It was dead quiet.  Officer Climes let his eyes roam down to the cement directly ahead of his feet, listening to the scrape of his boots over the pavement.  So quiet. 


Officer Climes hadn’t quite looked at the scene yet (he didn’t like this part of the job), instead he just kept his gaze one step ahead of his feet.  The coroner was here already, an ambulance, another squad car, and a fire truck also had arrived before him.  Climes watched a puff of air release from pursing lips, it expanded too fast and disappeared right before his eyes.  He was almost to the accident.  He slapped his black leather gloves together loudly and grinded palms together, he told himself it was because it was cold and not his nerves.  And then he paused as another uniformed Officer, a man Climes knew as Bill Grady, came up beside him.  Grady spoke first “All the first-responders are here, it’s messy.”


“I haven’t seen it yet” Climes said as he raised his gaze to bear witness to the scene for the first time.  It was twisted metal between a large black Explorer and a dark blue Monte Carlo, their front end’s mashed together and a rippling crunch upon the side doors of both vehicles.  It looked as if the two had become one, or at least tried to.  Windows were a mural of spider-webbed cracks, a smear of red staining both of them near the center of each intricate design.


“What are we looking at?” Asked Climes as he lifted a glove covered hand to remove his winter cap and scratch at his flattened and frizzy brown hair before replacing his cap and turning his chin towards the other cop.


“A middle aged couple in the SUV were both DOA.”  Grady explained.  “Uh, we got two kids in the car… a girl who got banged up pretty bad, and the driver was already picked up by the first ambulance and he was all busted up. So, yanno.”  The Officers walked side by side towards the serene scene, post mayhem.  Coroners were in the process of moving a body from the scene to their vehicle, and a couple of firefighters were peering through a knocked out window of the Explorer.  The workers seemed to stick to their own for the most part, sharing quiet conversations as they went about their business. 


They had gotten close enough to the accident to smell it, an acrid burning smell.  And death.  It couldn’t be described, it was just something that lingered.  They both gazed upon the wreckage, perusing over the utterly still sculpture of the two machines mashed together.  They moved closer.


Crunch.


Officer Climes slowly lowered his body into a crouching staring at the ground beside the passenger side of the Monte Carlo, the little rocks of broken glass littering the ground.  He picked up a handful and he winced.  He eyed the tear in his glove and stared at his a drop of his blood, and then settled his vivid blue gaze on the red painted piece of glass.


10:23 P.M. ----November 23


Ryan was clinking his amber filled glass with Karen’s over the head of a dark-haired stranger who cut between them.  Ryan’s smooth features were cast in wrinkles as he laughed loud enough that Karen could hear him over the blasting of “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” being screamed enthusiastically by the entire bar.  The dark haired stranger was smiling sheepishly at the red-headed Karen, apologizing through expression.  Over the din Ryan yelled over the stranger’s head towards Karen.  “Yeah, so he just let me use his car and I gotta pick him up on my way back Sunday, cool deal, right!?”


Karen was nodding as if she heard him, but she hadn’t.  She lifted thin fingertips to brush a drifting tendril of red from a freckled cheek.


The building was bumping, hard.  It was almost impossible to have more than a foot worth of space between one person and the next across the dance floor, and every table was maxed out.  Swaying people were standing up all around, people setting up their own little factions where card carrying members could converse and gaze out from their invisible barriers.  The interior was dimly lit, but strobe lights, drifting spotlights, multi-colored flashing lights, and disco-ball reflections were blinking, flashing, moving, swirling at all times. 


Ryan looked over towards Karen.


Karen’s snow-white flesh was marked with a few freckles, luscious red hair spilling over her slim shoulders that were covered by thin black straps from her top.  Ryan couldn’t help his sky blue eyes from rummaging over the top of her shirt, idly drifting down the rounded curve of her feminine endowments.  He caught himself biting into his lip with his latest glance, but quickly had to stop in order to continue with their recent “cheers”.  Up the glass went, and down went the beer.  He could see in the corner of his eye that Karen had already stopped after about two seconds of sipping, but he wanted to impress her with his newly acquired drinking skill.  So chug he did.


Karen and Ryan had been together for nearly two years, it had begun about three months before he had left for his first year of college.  He let his eyes settle on Karen’s soft dimpled features and felt his stomach twist in knots.  She still had that effect on him.  She was his slice of heaven while he was still here on earth.


The glass tipped almost completely vertically and the cold swell of Miller cruised down into his mouth, throat pumping vigorously to suck down every last drop.  He grinned and pushed the emptied glass onto the bar, and waved an arm a bit frantically to catch the eye of the bartender.


Ryan was athletically built and about six feet tall, strict and rigid features passed down through his father’s genes.  Karen was looking intently upon him, and with the stranger moving away from them she was able to step in close to Ryan.


“Hey!”  Ryan said while moving in closer to Karen. “I’m gonna grab a couple shots for us!  I’ll meet you back at the table with Erica and Steve!”


“Okay!” Karen plucked up her shiny black purse that was no bigger than a bible from the bar’s top and pushed into the crowd to head back to their table.


Ryan eventually was able to wrangle down one of the bartenders.  “Two Jaeger-bombs!  And a Miller-Lite!” He pointed at the emptied glass to insure that the bartender knew he wanted draft, not bottle.  He watched while the bartender went about diligently pouring the shots and the beer.


Fifteen bucks was found and left on the bar-counter once the drinks were delivered, Ryan then turned away with his hands full and went through the crowd in the direction that Karen had gone.  Slow and steady he went, nudging here and there and carefully balancing the two shots in one hand and his beer in the other. 


Luckily he pushed past one rather thick guy and hit a magical empty clearing, an oasis from the chaos of the club.  He treaded through the six foot gap and had one more line of people to break past before he could reach the table his friends were all at. 


Erica and Steve were speaking loudly into each other’s ears and Karen was leaning across the table trying to listen.  Back here the noise wasn’t so nearly invasive, so communication was much easier.  The three of them started to laugh altogether as they came to the conclusion of a story Ryan must have just missed.


Steve had short cut blonde hair, much shorter than the three inch length brown-hair of Ryan.  He was lifting his glass of water up for a sip while Erica simultaneously sipped at her Jack n’ Coke, and all eyes moved to the arrival of Ryan through the last wall of people.  He was grinning broadly at the bright faces before him, setting the shots and beer down as he took a seat beside Karen.


She had one hand on the table and the other was brushing aside a few strands of red hair that managed to get into her face.  Ryan had slid his arm around her shoulders and carefully leaned forward as he put his blue gaze onto Steve. “Hey man, you wanna go have a smoke!?”


2:12 A.M.----November 24th


Gray plumes of smoke were billowing from the front engines of the two vehicles.  The firefighters had already assured Climes that there wasn’t any danger of an explosion or start of a fire.  That was reassuring.  He dug his fingers into the handle of the passenger’s side door and pulled.  There was a piercing shrieking grind of metal on metal. 


Once the door was opened he leaned into the inside of the vehicle and procured a small flashlight from his belt, flicking the light around a bit to take inventory of what was inside.  That smell of death had intensified, and he could see a smear of blood on the dashboard and over the center console.  He subconsciously rubbed wounded finger against the inside of his palm as he shifted the light around the console.


In the divider there was a pack of Marlboro Reds and a green lighter.  He peered between the two front seats and sent the mini-searchlight adventuring towards the backseat, sliding onto a suitcase that was wedged up between the passenger’s seat and the back row.


He furrowed his brow and he pressed his knees deep into the cushion of the driver’s seat while he managed to get half of his body into the back.  He put his hands on the suitcase and began pulling it out before Grady arrived at the window of the driver’s side.  Grady put his mustached face through the opening of the window and immediately caught a face full of flash light.  “Ah, fuck…” He chuckled lightly as he raised a glove covered hand to block his face and Climes also stifled his own laughter towards Grady’s misfortune.


“Sorry, What’s up?” Climes said as he slowly slid back out of the vehicle, forgetting the suitcase. He shifted to put his forearms on the top of the car’s roof and look over at Grady. 


Both men’s noses were bright red from the cold, wrinkling, and sniffling every so often.  Grady spoke “It’s cool.  So turns out we got three dead now.  Just got the call from the paramedics.”


“Fuck.”  Climes remarked with a steady tone. “ Some poor families are going to have a helluva Thanksgiving…”  He frowned and remained utterly still as he let his gaze shift about the wreckage again.


“Yeah, I hear ya'.”


“Any idea what happened yet?” Said Climes.


“The person who called it in was about fifty yards behind this one here…” Grady nodded his head down towards the blue Monte Carlo they were both leaning on. “And they said it looked like it weaved out of the lane into the oncoming Explorer there.  And the girl they’re talking to said they were coming from Falcon’s Pub.”


“Drunk driver?”


“I’m assumin’.” Grady looked down and mumbled when he spoke.  Climes did not feel like making eye contact with the other officer either and so instead perused through the busted up windshield of the explorer.  The wind whistled through the car they were leaning on and snow particles came sweeping up with the swirling air. “We got IDs on those in the SUV, Martha and Jimmy Walson… They’ll probably get a name on the girl and the guy soon.  Paramedics say the girl’s in shock or somethin’ right now.” Grady lifted his fingers up and slid them over the curve of his mustache.


They were quiet for a moment before the grit of Climes voice broke the silence “It’s cold.”


1:45 A.M.----November 24th


Steve was gritting his teeth and shivered against the cold as he spoke “How’re you doing, Ryan?” Steve looked to his glassy eyed friend who was leaning against the dark blue Monte Carlo and seemed to be in an extremely relaxed pose.  His skin was paler than usual and carried a light sheen of sweat through the coldness.  Steve was shifting his eyes over Ryan’s features and body before extending his hand out and opening it up, not even giving his friend a chance to respond verbally. “Hey, just gimme the keys. I’ll drop you and Karen off at her place.”


They both shivered a little and tightened their bodies up as a wailing breeze came through. Pulling their arms closer to their bodies and driving hands into their pockets as they both worked on keeping some motion going to fend off the cold.


Ryan’s body shifted away from Steve, answering the first question while he reacted to the second part of his statement. “I’m fine, bro. Trust me, I’ve driven worse than this…"


“Well, Karen’s not riding with you.”


“I’m crashing at her place, bro… You know what…? Whatever the fuck man, I’ll just fucking sleep in my car tonight!”


Three vehicles over Karen and Erica were having a quiet, but important, discussion. Erica was continuously grabbing at Karen’s wrists as she spoke, but Karen kept pulling her limbs free and moved hesitantly away from her friend before throwing a glance towards Ryan and Steve. “Ryan, don’t be an ass... Just come with us…” Karen says in response to the overheard shout.


“Fuck that, I’m fine to drive. And I don’t wanna leave my buddy’s car in this shitty ass lot.” Ryan says while opening the door to the Monte Carlo.


“Well, whatever. Don’t be a dumb ass then, just go to your parent’s house then.  It’s like two minutes away.” Karen said.


“Whatever, I thought we were going to your place, just whatever… Go, I’ll be fine.”


“Karen let’s go, he’s not going to listen.” Steve says as he begins to step away from Ryan’s car, putting a hand out to help move her along.  She stares at Ryan steadily and she even turns to peer over her shoulder as she’s towed away.


Ryan meanwhile had already climbed into and started up his car.  Slowly he backs out of his parking spot and then he slams his hand down on the shifter roughly. He prepares to slam his foot down on the gas to peel out of the parking lot, but his blue eyes settle on Karen walking quickly back towards his car.  She immediately pulls on the passenger side handle only to find it locked. Ryan unlocks it and she climbs in.  As she climbs into the car she quietly says “You’re such an ass Ryan… I don’t see why you just don’t go home.”


“I told my parents I’m coming home tomorrow, I told you that already, otherwise they woulda not have let me go out tonight.” He mumbles his response a bit and lets his half-lidded gaze drift from the freckled Karen to the world outside the windshield.  He lazily smiles at Steve and Erica who are watching with frowns, Ryan waves an arm out the window to them and they wave back slowly as the car drifts out of the parking lot.


“Put your seatbelt on.” Karen pulls her own on as she commands Ryan about five minutes into the drive.


“I will.” He smiles again and reaches his hand over to fold her slim fingers into his, and from the road to Karen’s face do his blue eyes shift.


2:20 A.M.----November 24th


Officer Climes lets his blue eyes swivel from Grady towards the paramedics. “What do you mean?  What are you talking about?” Officer Ryan Climes says with his voice and shoulders rising together as one. He pushes forward, but Grady presses his hands firmly against the shoulders of the larger Climes.


Grady repeats himself soothingly “Settle down, Ryan. Settle down, man… Just listen… Okay, let’s go sit down…”


“What the fuck are you saying? Who is over there… What did she say? What is going on, is it Ryan? That’s impossible.” The road the pair are standing on is icy and with a violent shove, and some bad luck, Grady spills onto his rear end and Climes is moving hurriedly towards the ambulance.  His heartbeat is hammering and his head is spinning.  His teeth clench down onto the inside of his lip hard enough to draw blood, and his eyes moisten while his mind races a million miles a minute.


Two paramedics are standing near the edge of the ambulance and upon seeing the officer charging their way they brace themselves to hold him back. It takes both of them to stall the rampaging man. Together they shout:


“Stop! Settle Down!”


“It’s okay man!”


“Let us take care of the girl!”


“Settle down…”


Climes responds to their shouts vein faced “I want to talk to her! Let me fucking through!”


After recovering from the slip Grady comes up quickly from behind Officer Climes, sliding his arms up underneath Climes’ arms and pulling him back. “Ryan, Ryan… Just calm down man…Come on settle down!”


“It’s not him! Who the fuck is over there!? Why the fuck would you say that! That’s not his fucking car!” From around the corner of the ambulance a figure drifts into sight, frail and thin.  Ghost white. 


Red hair. Freckles. She is set with young features with a bloody red bandage across her forehead and a series of nicks and cuts over her hands and forearms. A blanket rests over her shoulders to keep her warm, but to no avail since she’s trembling.  She’s shaking so hard it seems the whole world must have been shaking with her.  Her mouth opens and hangs there as hot tears come down hard and fast, attempting to drown out the fire of emotion that erupts within her at the sight of Climes. “Oh, God Mr. Climes! Oh my God… Ryan… Oh my God…”


It‘s Karen.  Officer Climes’ body is lost to him.  His knees tremble before they go out and his hands clutch at his head.  He is only capable of mustering a whisper at this point “It’s okay.  Ryan’s not coming home until tomorrow.”  The arm’s that were restraining him loosen up and a moment later he is on the ground.  He stares at the ground and his entire body visibly shakes.

 

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