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This Side of Death Ch. 5 Born Again

The shock of my statement cold cocked her. People preying on people to the point of callous murder was something she thought only took place down at the local theater on a Saturday night. She had swam naked with him in warm Caribbean azure seas. He had lavished expensive gifts upon her, flown her half the way around the world to places she only seen on public television or on a poster in the window of the local travel agency. He had given her everything that was his with the raw intent of taking it all back and then some —pretending to give, intending to receive.

Dawn was lost to her own identity like most people never are. Reality was blurred, drunk on vividness. And yet, she was living in a dreamland so strange and unreal.

“How old is this Rudolfo Maximilian of yours?”

“Thirty-six. Why?”

“Ummm, nothing. Just trying to add a little flesh to the voice.” Thirty-six? Still young and ambitious with an evil goal in mind. He was no saint dressed in white! ” You have to remember, when I was under that bridge I couldn’t see anything. Neither you or him. I was a blind voyeur trying to interpret what the hell was going on up there by sound only. Your Maximilian certainly had that sing-song voice you mentioned. At the time I guessed him being in his late twenties.”

“Well, you’re not the first. I never saw him carded when buying wine at the store but he certainly turned heads. I mean, he turned a lot of heads a whole lot younger than me. Even Audrey. Of course, at first, his age bothered me. But he acted beyond his age and now a days, age seems to be less and less an issue.”

Kendel laughed a dark sigh adding, “When Audrey was still living at home and would have some of her girlfriends over, they all made fools of themselves like teenage girls do. You would have thought they had never seen a man before. And boy did he eat it up and play to their naïveté. How could I have been such the fool? Why didn’t I see it? Why-” She stopped in mid sentence, turning her eyes away from the fire and up at me.

“I’m sorry. I don’t even know your name. And, oh please- I’m sorry. Please forgive me? What an oaf I’ve been. I never even thanked you for saving my life!”

If the situation had been different, the sweet, sweet look of her apologetic face would have drawn me down deep into her slightly open lips. In an instant I cataloged high puffy, cheek bones, soft and full in their maturity; the full, naturally colored lips, the briefest of crows feet cornering bright cheery eyes. With her bra still hanging on the line, even hidden beneath one of my extra sweatshirts, her breasts were full and weighty with only minimal sag. Her smile was as natural and as innocent as daddy’s little girl, complete with starlet white teeth. A long but shallow smile creased the right side of her face. I was sure that under effervescence, Webster’s read, “See Kendel Dawn.” Under radiance, it read, “See effervescent.” I wondered. Why would a sane man discard this for money? But then, I reminded myself, sane men don’t throw people in the drink from thirty feet up.”

“Please, no need to thank me. Any man would have done the same thing.” I guess I must have blushed as Kendel Dawn stood to her feet, walking over and sitting down next to me on my log.

“I really mean it. Thank you. Thank you for risking your own life. I could tell by the way you got up this morning that you must have hurt yourself last night. Even now I can tell it by the way you are sitting. You’ve strained your back or something.”

Turning back to the fire, taking my hand into both of hers with the ease and comfort of life long acquaintances, she continued, “If you hadn’t picked me up off that beach and carried me up the trail . . . it shutters eryaman escort bayan me to think what that wave would have done. How you got your boat out is beyond me. Please,” she turned back to face me while pleading, “Tell me your name.”

We were two people caught together in a raging storm miles for nowhere. We had each lost what we had once thought secure. I had had time to adjust to my situation. She hadn’t.

“Chance,” I answered her simply. “Chance Harper. Born in Washington, DC, raised in Chicago, hiding from the world up here in God’s country.”

Kendel Dawn St. Claire stood back up, placing herself between me and the halo of firelight. “You’re wrong, Chance. A lot of men would have done nothing. ‘Sudden trouble reveals character, not create it,’ as my mother use to tell her teenage girl. She use to also tell me that what people don’t do can tell you as much about them as what they do do. And I can assure you, not every man would have dried me off in front of a warm fire the way you did. I was a wet noodle. If you had been like so many men today, I don’t think I would have, could have, resisted you. Thank you for not being evil.” Pulling back from me still holding my hands but nervously laughing, “And those eggs! God love you. They hit the spot. As I’ve sat here thinking about it all this day, if it weren’t for you, Chance, I’d only be a memory to my daughter and an inconvenience to my once-use-to-be husband. Death is so final, isn’t it?”

“I do not believe death is not final” I told her. “I believe it’s only a transition. And to correct you if I may, you still are an inconvenience to your, once-use-to-be husband. I hesitate to remind you that legally, he still is your husband.”

Dawn released my hands and looked at the emptiness of her own.

“I meant Fred. Funny, for a moment there I didn’t even think of Max.”

Reluctantly I asked, “And what on god’s green earth happened to push that man to the point where he thought nothing of throwing you off a bridge?”

The silence was deafening. It was as if the planet had stopped rotating. There was a dead stillness in which neither wind nor squirrel stirred. Silently I watched as the frail little woman slid back into her shell, biting her lower lip, wrestling with the demons deep inside her. I couldn’t tell if it was guilt or sorrow that she was chewing on. Something had triggered this latin lover of hers. Something had caused irrational haste on his part. Time seemed to stand still but eventually our friendly squirrel made its way down the tree and over to my make shift kitchen table to see if I had left it anything to eat. Kendel Dawn awakened.

“It started Thursday night. He was all packed and was going to leave first thing in the morning for Mexico, his next assignment. We were just eating left overs at the kitchen table when I told him that I thought it would only be fair to put Audrey’s name on title to house. After all, it really belonged to my family and Audrey was all the family left to me. I told him he honestly didn’t need the house if anything happened to me. That was when everything sort of got twisted. And I didn’t see any reason why he would object. But as I became more resolute about it the angrier Max got. He became someone I had never seen before. Talking to himself. Steaming while looking for things to throw yet fighting for restraint. Then he just froze, staring at me and saying nothing. I was still seated at the table trying to understand what was happening. Then it was like a dark cloud passing. He laughed and then said, yes, Audrey should be on the title. It was the right thing to do. And that was that and everything was all hunky dorey again.”

I knew there was more to the story. And though I didn’t know if the house was ankara escort worth a death to inherit, it evidently had been included in his evil little plan.

“Then yesterday, we were in town and I saw Tracy, my accountant and quasi lawyer. I told her about my wanting to put Audrey on the house title. She agreed and reminded me that I needed to put her as the beneficiary on my life insurance as well. When Max and I got back to the car, I could tell he was upset like he had been the night before. And though he didn’t say anything, I could tell he was upset. Then we stopped to get something to eat and he was like nothing ever happened all over again. Joking with the waitress and holding my hand and so lovey dovey. Then when we got home, he rushed over to open my door before going into the house. I don’t remember much after that. I think he must have hit me because I woke up back in the SUV with tape over my mouth and my hands tied behind me. He was arguing with himself all the while yelling at me. I was crying because I was scared he was going to hit me again. Instead, he pushed me down onto the floor, under the dash and drove faster than ever before.”

Dawn stopped talking as she replayed the video tape over and over again in her mind. I imagined she was doing what many of us do when we play the “what if” game. What if I had said or done this or that differently, still confused as to the why’s and wherefore’s.

“You realize,” I said, breaking the silence, “he’s faked all those ten million words of history and revelation that he shared with you. And I know that hurts —it hurts like hell and it’s going to sting for a long while— everything that you thought was real about him will have to be torn out of your heart in bits and pieces. His life never planned on taking root in your own. He builds nest-eggs, not nests. But you must not feel cheap or humiliated any more than a bank robbers hostage. You were merely a means to an end, if I read what actually went down correctly.”

“But he’s taken everything away. I can’t let him do that. The house has been in my family for nearly two hundred years. He’s not going to get away with it.”

“‘Only pigs get slaughtered,’ my investment broker had once told me, Your Latin lover, I think, will be or already has been out here looking for the body. He’s had time to think. He’s got to straighten out the mistake he made if he has any hope of cashing in on your death anytime in the near future without there being any sort of out-of-the-ordinary investigation.”

“I don’t think that will happen. He was driving back to civilization, as he calls it, this morning to catch his flight to Chicago. He’s suppose to be Mexico for the next two weeks. Something about updating a switching unit and reprograming everything, whatever that is all about, out in the middle of nowhere. Max never talked about work that much other than let me know he always has to travel a lot and doesn’t have much say in it if he wants to keep earning six figures a year. He warned me before we got married that his job is a job that doesn’t allow him to call in sick. If he has been scheduled to be somewhere, he has to be there.”

“If that’s true, then it might be wise if we got back to town as soon as possible —before he can make any significant changes. If you pulled all the money out of that banking account, you would bring all sorts of over-the-shoulder glances into his world. You said he’s smart but even smart people make mistakes. And its been my experience that if you kilter their neat little worlds, it causes them to make more mistakes. It would also give us a good indication as to whether or not he was in this for a dime or for a dollar.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, if he’s an amateur, he will pack sincan escort bayan his bags and run. If he’s a pro he will take the time to try and see where HIS money went.”

“Why don’t I just go to the police?”

“You certainly have that option. And, it would be a safe one. But then again, you might end up losing everything in the end if he fought you in court, denying everything. You have to remember, I was not an eye witness. I can give testimony that someone with a voice sounding like your husband was up on top of the bridge but I can’t give anything beyond the circumstantial. That said, I think the circumstantial is fairly substantial. Also, I don’t know how strict the law is up here. You’d have to judge that for yourself. Would police look at this as just a bit of cabin fever, a domestic squabble that can be taken care of with some court appointed therapy? If so, he could divorce you after he has emptied the bank account, claiming the lawyer took it all. Then he’d come after half of what was left -and that would include the house.”

Dawn sat down in her chair and resumed her contemplation of fire. Gravity pulled at her face. There was a sadness there. I had seen it before. I had seen it in other men’s faces as they watched their life earnings suddenly evaporate as the market plummeted. I had seen in the face of a mother who had been told her only son had died in the war. I had seen it in the mirror.

Life had suddenly gotten very complicated -both for her and for me. For me it was the sense that she was worming her way into my heart. She reminded me too much of the wife of my youth. She fit all the physical parameters. Men, it seemed, chose their women like they chose their trucks. Either you want a long bed or a short bed. A V-8 or the economy six. Color is secondary, choosing that which least offends. Manual or slice-o-matic. After that its all about spirit -will it get the job done or won’t it. A callous approach, appraised and disapproved of in the effeminate West but none the less real. As soon as a woman meets the basic physical preferences, all a man is worried about is whether or not her spirit will meld with his own.

I suppose it was the liveliness of spirit that I had seen in her eyes. It had quickly moved me on into the second stage. The eyes told me she could be trusted; that she could be the best friend I had ever had in my life. Tears may have flowed easily down those cheeks twenty years ago, but she had since entered into the shrinking ranks of women of whom I consider complete women. Dawn was no half woman. I knew that from experience. That sort of woman, all delicate and wet noodle three hundred and sixty-five days a year, wasn’t worth a damn in bed or out. There was no quality of animal playfulness about their sexuality. They lacked the necessary imagination. They lacked that mature completeness which distinguished them from the complete woman who was so utterly other, that even a man could not compete with them -not in the harsh realities of life. They swim like fish in the ocean of life. The dynamics of tides and wave and gravity have little lasting effect on them. They are triage nurses of daily warfare. They are the ones who clean up all the blood and pain brought into the world by men. They straighten out the messes. They clean the soiled clothing and smooth out the wrinkles. Most importantly, they do it without complaining. They do it without first considering whether or not they will receive any recognition for all their sacrifices. They do it because of, not in need of, love. It is a necessity of life for them. Nor is it what they do as much as how they do it. They mean it. Such women are the few who have accepted the wisdom that one grief can be worth more than a thousand joys.

“You mentioned your house being on the water. Is it closer than Duchess Harbor?”

“Oh god yes. But I don’t know if I could tell you where it is in the dark without a map.”

“I’ve got the kitchen sink but as for a map… Here’s what I’m thinking. What, if . . .”

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