Things Change

Author: Roberta

Character: Wendell “Bud” White, “LA Confidential”

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own.  The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.


The big old man was sitting in front of the gate of the High School, checking from time to time his old fashioned clock. He knew that modern quartz clocks were more precise and didn’t need to be winded up, but he still preferred listening to the familiar tick-tock. The school guardian saw him and gave him a short greeting, while preparing the gate open for the approaching flood of teen-agers. The old man smiled to himself. The first time he had seated on the bench in front of the school, the guardian had watched him with suspicion, probably wondering if he was one of those sick-minded coming for spying the girls. Only when he had seen him with his granddaughter, he had relaxed.


An entire life spent serving the law and I got taken for a dirty old man in my eighties thought Bud, but, as a matter of fact, he wasn’t upset. The guardian was doing his job in the right way: keeping his eyes open.


Kate wasn’t really listening to Mrs. Doherty. Knowing the teacher and her rhythm, she was aware of her pauses and climaxes and nodding each three minutes or so, Kate looked very interested in the subject, even though she was thinking to something completely different. Her Granddad was waiting for her after school and she was considering that relatives might be a strange thing, especially Grandpa Wendell, or better “Bud” as he preferred. She noticed that Grandma Lynn used his first name only when she was angry or in a teasing mood. Bud with his sandpapery voice and his beautiful green-blue eyes. It was amazing taking note of an old man’s eyes, especially if he happens to be your grandfather, but Kate sometimes wondered if it had been his eyes to make Lynn fall in love and still being in the same condition after half a century. She thought so.


She had passed a great part of her summer holidays in Bisbee observing the surroundings as well as her grandparents and she was still convinced that this latter occupation was so much more entertaining. Just like when she discovered that Grandpa Bud went armed and still had good reflexes, deftly shooting a rattlesnake which had had the bad idea to come too close to her. More than afraid, she had been proud of him and she had boasted about this fact for a great part of the following fall with her classmates. Of course, she had said nothing to her mother.  She wasn’t sure she would have understood.


Bud’s thoughts traveled free while he was waiting. One the best or worst thing of ageing, is that no one really expects you to hurry, so it wasn’t that bad dozing on a bench under the spring sky. He hoped it wouldn’t rain. He wasn’t accustomed anymore to the weather in LA and his old bones seemed to agree. He also felt his scars aching a little, but he thought that this could be just an aftermath of bad memories connected to his hometown. He never regretted leaving and his life spent in Bisbee seemed sometimes a daydream compared to the nightmares of the first part of his existence. During his occasional return he had seen the town growing and changing but not that much, everything was only more in plain sight. Watching the news on TV it seemed that violence and blood were a recent discovery, but he knew that they were part of the DNA of the town. Drugs, booze, blood, and crime belonged to the City of Angels, as well as Hollywood and the Ocean. Everything in it seemed misleading. An innocent name for a city that had probably never been innocent, sprawled in front of a restless sea.


Unlike LA, Bud realized that his own life had begun like a whirlwind of violence and hatred, to slowly become something really different. Meeting Lynn had been the turning point and even the bullets at the Victory Motel had been helpful. He had lost blood and went near to loose his life, but the outcome had been well worth the price.


Ed’s TV was always tuned to the news channels. Even now that he had left his political career, he hadn’t given up being interested. He strained his eyes through the glasses. His deceptive frail look, underscored by the passing of time was his better mask. Those who had thought to fool him were still licking their wounds. His wife Francesca used to say that he was a little deadly cobra. His eyes traveled to her picture on the wall, near those of their twin daughters, Rachel and Kim. He’d always been proud of them, Rachel who had become a surgeon, and Kim, a district attorney. The anchorwoman mentioned the hour and Ed realized it was time to prepare for the surprise party. His grandchildren had plotted during the previous fortnight and he was eager to discover what they had in store. He grabbed the remote control and switched the TV off, heading upstairs.


Today it must be the day of memories, thought Bud, recalling his life with Lynn. In their early days in Bisbee, after his recovery, he had spent some time working at their house, and then he had applied for a place of deputy. Lynn hadn’t been happy of his decision, but she was aware that he wasn’t born to be a farmer. When the Marshall had finally retired, he had been elected on his place and he had held the office for many years. It had been so different from being a cop in LA, no ghosts threatening him on every corner and even his nightmares had ceased to haunt his nights. He had always kept an eye open on the women in town, but while Bisbee’s men were tough, they seemed to behave decently with their spouses. Only once he had had a meeting with a stupid fuck, eager to assert his supposed virility beating his wife. He was a big man, taller then Bud, but he had turned up a coward. Bud hadn’t had to put his hands on him. After a polite and cool explanation of the consequences of another black eye for his woman, he had left town, never returning. The woman had mourned for a while, then she had found a new mate in the chemist and she had been a happier wife for many years. Little by little Bud had felt his anger watering down, melting in the dry soil of the desert and he had never regretted LA for a minute.


I had also refined my way of talking, he thought with a smile. Being foul-mouthed had never been a problem until he had heard his three-years daughter yelling to her brother: “What the heck are you doing with my fucking teddy-bear?”


He had started laughing out loud, but Lynn’s expression had convinced him to refrain from cursing, at home, at least. He hadn’t been always successful, but Lynn had admired his efforts and he had been proud of it, too.


Mrs. Doherty was still talking and Kate pretended to listen. She was still thinking to Grandpa Bud and Grandma Lynn. It was amazing thinking that they were still in love after so much time. She also suspected that they still had sex and this was really a stunning revelation, or a promise for the future, she thought hiding a grin. She had seen old pictures of both of them and they looked so different. Strangely he had never seen a picture of her grandparents in LA, even though she knows that they had met there. Lynn was much like an actress, but what had amazed Kate had been the look in Bud’s eyes. In his first pictures in Bisbee he looked haunted. That anguish had grown less evident with the passing of time and now there was no trace of it in his gaze. She knew that he had arrived in Bisbee after a gunfight in which he had been badly hurt, but she suspected that his wounds were deeper. While Lynn used to tell her lots of stories of her parents, Bud never spoke of them, safe once in which he had said that his mother was a redhead. Not a single word about his father and Kate was quite sure it wasn’t because he hadn’t forgiven him for the name Wendell. And neither Lynn, nor Bud ever spoke of LA and the time of their first encounter. It seemed that they life had started in Arizona.


The guardian paid a short nod to the big old man dozing in front of the school-gate. He had seen him from time to time, to fetch his granddaughter; a long-legged blond that had surely started to cause traffic stops since childhood. He hadn’t trusted him in the beginning. Notwithstanding his age, there was something frightening about him. The way he walked, or his light eyes, cold and wary, that seemed to warm only when he looked at the girl. He didn’t know why, but he was inclined not to bother with that man if he was angry and God save the fool trying to hurt his granddaughter.


The ringing of the bell startled Bud from his doze and he got up approaching the gate. He stepped in a minute before the tidal wave of teen-agers. He was still surprised to see how different were the colors on their faces. He couldn’t say he was so happy about this; Lynn had once teased him saying that with a name like White, it was probably unavoidable being racist, but with the passing of time he had started to think that good and evil did not depend on the color of your skin, or your ancestors’ country. This feeling was born when, a long time ago, he was reading of the rape of a black girl. Her parents were accusing the police not to bother finding the guilty. The victim was sixteen, the same age of his Audrey and he had thought about his feelings if the same situation had occurred to his family. He hadn’t become a fighter for civil rights, but he had started to understand.


Kate had spotted Bud leaning near the gate and her face lit in a warm smile. She was just raising her hand to salute him when somebody grabbed her right forearm. She turned to watch on the school toughest bullies leering at her.


“Take you fucking hand far from me,” she hissed, but Frank did not move, while a wicked grimace curled his lips. He tightened his grip, moving his other hand up to her breast. As a matter of fact, he never reached his target, because he was stopped by a nudge in full face that made him fall, cursing.


Watching Kate’s head standing taller to most of the other guys, Bud was stunned, as he always felt, to see a girl bearing a strong resemblance to his Lynn, so tall and graceful at the same time. Suddenly he knew that there something was going wrong. There was a guy grabbing her arm and from the look on her face, he knew he wasn’t a friend. He moved to reach Kate and the crowd parted as he approached, sensing his urgency and anger. He saw her hit the bully and the guy crumbling down.


Frank touched his aching face, seeing the blood pouring from his nose. A red mist clouded his vision as he prepared to jump up and crash that bitch. She would learn to know him. Before he could make a move, he felt a steely grip on his shoulder. Turning angrily, he saw an old man looking down at him with a dangerous look in his steel blue eyes. He was probably in his eighties, but the large hand that was keeping him down showed strength.


The unknown just whispered, “don’t.”


Frank’s body tensed to break his grip and get rid of both of them but the fingers on his shoulder tightened, taking his breath away. He still tried to struggle, but froze when he felt the barrel of a gun against his back.


“Are you alright, Kate?” asked Bud and the smile on her face was the answer he needed. He looked down at the guy with a glare dating back his wild young years. Bud did not speak a word, but he was able to recognize surrender and he knew that the message had arrived loud and clear. He tightened his grip once more, and then released Frank, holstering the gun in the back of his pants, turning to Kate, smiling. The girl was actually smiling, too, of relief and pride. Bud’s eyes softened helping her with her backpack. She accepted his help with grace, even though it wasn’t needed and walked away holding her wonderful grandpa’s arm, heading home.


Lynn heard Kate and Bud talking in front of the house. They went in giggling and she was happy to see how easy was for them being together. Even though Bud had always been a faithful slave to all his grandchildren, he had something special for Kate. They were so similar, she thought, watching her blond hair standing some inches over his silvery one. She seemed having inherited his honesty and toughness, but thank God, not his anger. Surrounded by her family’s love, she had had the chance to let her strength develop for good, without passing through all the hatred and pain Bud had had to face in his life. Bud and Kate noticed her, at last, and the twinkling in his eyes, made her heart skip a beat, like it has always been. She reached them and, after a kiss to Kate, then bestowed on him a kiss deeper then a welcome’s. He recognized the look on her face and gently squeezed her ass, grinning.


“You Dirty Old Man.” Lynn whispered in his ears and he replied, “You started it, my Dear. I only answered to the call of the wild.” Lynn laughed and Bud did the same.


“May I stay here, or you’re going to put up a show a teen-ager like me is not allowed to attend at?” asked Kate teasing. Bud and Lynn blushed.


“Gotcha!” she said heading for her room, laughing, while she thought to the preparations for the surprise party of that evening.


Bud was fumbling with the small buttons of his shirt whispering something Lynn did not hear but suspected.


“Give up swearing, Bud. It will be only for tonight, you can make a sacrifice and wear a tuxedo.”


“I feel like a squeezed penguin and I hate these small buttons.”


She approached to him, putting his large hands away and buttoning his shirt.


“Now, let’s watch you. You’re wonderful and you are really a handsome gentleman.”


“You’re really kind, but I’ve never been a gentleman and a tuxedo won’t change my nature,” he said grinning and stretched his hand to pick up a hairpin from her hair.


“Wendell! Stop that or you’ll go at the party alone.”


“No, Lynn, if I must wear this thing, you come with me. So they’ll all be looking at you and nobody will pay attention to an old cop squeezed in a tuxedo.”


“More probably, they’ll all be looking at Kate. If she wears a dress as short as last time we saw her, there will be no male eye looking anywhere else that her legs.”


“She’s really beautiful, but no woman on earth will ever be as wonderful as you.” he said and Lynn read in his eyes hat he wasn’t teasing her.


“God must have loved me for having given you to me,” she replied smiling and her hands come up to his face for a caress light as a whisper. She went closer to him to be wrapped in his arms, her head on his shoulder and so they remained for a while, just happy to listen to each other’s breath.


As always, Ross was the first ready in front of the door. He’d always hated being late, so he often found himself waiting. From the sounds from above he judged that his parents-in-law would be the next to show-up, followed by his wife Audrey, then his son Anthony and Kate, as shining last. He won his bet. Bud and Lynn appeared on the top of the stairs, hand in hand.


He smiled, remembering the first time he had knocked at their door in Bisbee. The embarrassment for the formal presentation to his girlfriend’s parents had been augmented by the knowledge that Bud was the town Marshall. At the first, the word Marshall had made him think to gunmen at noon, or Indians running down a desert hill, but when he had seen him, he had considered very seriously his feeling for Audrey. Do I love her enough to get so close to this big man, with a steel blue gaze, promising hell for those daring to hurt his beloved ones? When the answer had been a true yes, he had relaxed and stepped into Audrey’s home lighthearted. He hadn’t changed his mind since then and when he had become father, he had understood Bud’s feelings.


It was a kind of strange watching him in a tailored tuxedo, his tanned face clearly unaccustomed to all this formality and elegance and Ross suspected that Lynn had had to coax him to reach the goal. Lynn who had aged with an unbelievable grace, with her blue eyes and sweet smile.  He had often thought that, like Audrey used to do with him, she was able to lead her man exactly where she wanted, leaving him the illusion of being in full control of the situation. As evoked by his thoughts, his wife emerged from their room with the fancy dress she reserved for great occasions and this party was going to be one of them.


Soon after Anthony appeared in his private version of an elegant outfit, i.e. black pants, a white shirt and his beloved black leather jacket. Not so late as usual, Kate showed up in a black sheath dress that seemed painted on her body. Ross sighed, but he soon relaxed. She was well able to defend herself and with each and every male of the family keeping an eye on her, she would not probably cause a riot. They headed to the cars for a destination known only to the puppies of the families, who was still grinning like werewolves under the full moon, like they had done for the last fortnight.


When Kate said they reached their destination, Bud looked quizzically to the place in front of which they had stopped. There weren’t signs of the fact that this was a restaurant of any sort. Anyway, a doorkeeper with a gold-buttoned uniform came to open their car-door and he gestured them to the threshold. He ducked his head to Lynn and she had a similar expression. They entered in a semi-darkened room and when he was going to look for a switch, an explosion of lights half blinded him. He tried adjusting his eyes and when he was finally able to see again he found himself in a big room in the middle of which there was a table already occupied by lots of well-known faces. On the farthest side of the table, there was Ed with his wife and their family, mixed to Bud’s one at full. He also saw with amazement his son Richard who lived with his second wife and their children in the Hawaii. He had stopped, stunned, and Kate was soon near him, whispering in his ear.


“Need help for walking down the steps, my old Grandfather?”


“Pay respect to this old man,” he answered grinning “you may be taller then me, but I’m still strong enough to put you on my knees and give you all the spanking you did not receive when it was time.”


“You won’t. You’re too sweet to do such thing to your preferred granddaughter,” she said, grabbing him gently, leading him to the free place near Ed who was smiling.


“Hi, Ed. You got caught, too.”


“Of course, Bud. I didn’t know our … puppies could be so deceiving,” Ed said when Bud and Lynn was at earshot.


“We ought to be careful. Who knows what may arise from such an allegiance?” Francesca said.

Ed and Bud eyed each other for a while knowing that they were sharing the same thought. What would have thought their families if they’d known how bad their acquaintance had started so many years ago. Sometimes the truth is not the best solution, if leads only to sorrow. They ended their reflections with a similar smile on their old faces and they really started enjoying the party.


Some years later….


The rookies of Police Academy were all waiting for their graduation. Boys and girls looked nervous in their proud new uniforms. The Chief of the Police began to call their names and when she didn’t hear hers’, Kate began to panic.


No, please, don’t tell me I’ve been flunked. Please don’t, she pleaded. She was so nervous that she really missed her name.


First of her course!


She realized then that this was the reason why she hadn’t heard it before. She flushed with pride, stepping forward to take her diploma. From the last row of the audience, a big old man was clapping, trying unsuccessfully to hide tears of commotion in his eyes to the elderly smiling lady on his side.


You would never fool me, Bud. I know you far too well. Lynn thought through the tears of joy.


The End