Officer Bud White regarded the homicide suspect who had just been brought into the LAPD precinct. She was a Caucasian female, average in height, looked like she was in her early to mid-forties with faded blonde hair and dark hazel eyes.
Gazing at her, he could still see a tiny glimmer of attraction in her appearance and how she carried herself. She must have been a real beauty in her younger days, he thought. However, life hadn’t treated her well, and it showed in the lines of her face. She looked worn out and defeated.
Handcuffed, her head lowered, she was taken to an Interrogation Room. Lieutenant Johnson and the public defender entered with her, and the door shut firmly behind them. Bud following her with his eyes couldn’t get the heinous crime that she had been accused of out of his head.
She had murdered her husband by stabbing him with a butcher’s knife. More than a dozen separate puncture wounds had been tallied up, as if the killer had been in a wild frenzy. She had also bludgeoned him with a fireplace poker. And if that wasn’t overkill, she finished the job by pouring gasoline on him and setting him afire.
She had fled the city. An extensive manhunt had followed, and she had been apprehended due to the quick thinking of a young male teenager. He had seen her picture flash across the TV and recognized her as the lady who always bought a newspaper from his stand every morning.
Bud wondered what could possibly have driven this woman to lose her sanity and in one horrendous moment throw her life away. Maybe he was being too blinded by the fact that the murderer was a woman. Perhaps the murder hadn’t just been an eruption of rage igniting. Maybe it had been pre-meditated and well-planned out.
She was a slight woman, yet she had managed to overpower a man who was six feet tall and close to 200 pounds. Rage could do all sorts of things. Bud knew that personally, and he had seen how it could send people over the precipice.
Memories of his father came back to him–striking his mother, striking him. In many ways, his abusive childhood had formed the man he now was. As Captain Dudley would tell you if he were still alive, it was best not to tangle with Bud ‘when his blood was up’.
In his day, Bud had bent, broken and made his own rules, thrashed confessions out of perps and planted evidence, all for his special brand of justice. But since the Night Owl massacre and all that had happened with Lynne Bracken, Bud had done much soul searching and had changed his way of life and how he reacted to things.
He was studying for the Sargent’s exam, and all of the anger he had stored up inside himself was being slowly exorcised by a hard, honest day’s work and many, many nights punching the shit out of the old bag down at the gym.
His relationship with Lynne hadn’t lasted through his process of dealing with his inner demons. He could never forget nor forgive himself for the split second where he had lost control with her even though she had, and had repeatedly told him so.
He still remembered her words. “Bud, you have to let it go. I know the kind of man you are with me, and that’s not the violent thug you imagine and dread. That’s why I want you in my life.” Despite her pleas, he just couldn’t trust himself. So it had ended, leaving him feeling more alone than at any other time in his life.
His attention was drawn back to the present as Johnson and Slate came out of the room. Captain Slate looked like his day had suddenly gone from bad to fucking shot to hell. Johnson was shaking his head. Bud wondered what had gone down. Did she cough up all the spine-chilling details?
“She won’t talk.” Johnson announced.
“Is that on advice of counsel?”, Bud asked.
They had her dead to rights. All the forensic evidence pointed to her. Her fingerprints were on the murder weapons. The neighbours had seen her run out of the house covered in blood.
“Let me try”, Bud volunteered.
They looked at him uneasily. White had a fondness for hopeless cases, particularly if they involved women in distress.
Slate shrugged once more. “Okay White, but just remember what she’s done. No bleeding heart tactics to downplay this to simple manslaughter. This is murder one. I want her confession, and I want it yesterday on my desk in triplicate.
Bud nodded briskly to his superior and accompanied by Johnson, they headed back to the room. They interrupted a heated conversation between her and her lawyer. The PD, whose name was Carrie, was advising her client to be careful of what she said, especially when she wasn’t around to represent her.
Her client gave her a defeated look. “What’s the difference? They’re going to nail me anyways.”
Johnson coughed loudly making their presence known.
The prisoner, Amanda Emerson, narrowed her eyes as she saw the newcomer. No doubt, he was just another cop sent to harass and bully her into talking.
“So what are you, the heavy artillery?” She poised her question to Bud.
“No ma’am. I’m Officer White. I understand that you don’t wish to make a statement at this time. Is that correct?”
Amanda gazing into the younger man’s bluish-green eyes was surprised to see something in them that almost seemed like soft-hearted empathy. That was quite unusual considering the crime she was accused of. The other cop with him had been hard-nosed and predictably grim which is why she hadn’t chosen to open up to him. She fully admitted her guilt to herself, but she would be damned if she would spill her guts and her secrets to men who could not comprehend her pain.
“My client has nothing further to say at this time.”
Mrs. Emerson waved her hand slightly in Carrie’s direction. “No, that’s all right. Why postpone the inevitable?”
“Mrs. Emerson…Amanda”, Carrie tried to intervene.
She cut her off. “I want to make my confession.”
The two policemen sat quickly down opposite her. Johnson turned on a recorder. Her rights had already been read to her at the time of her arrest, so Johnson took out a notepad and pen and began. “Please state your name for the record?”
“Amanda Blake Emerson.”
“Mrs. Emerson, can you tell us the events of March 23rd of this year that occurred in your home on Palmerston Avenue?”
Amanda stared directly into Bud’s eyes. “On March 23rd, 1956, I killed my husband.”
Carrie had gone berserk at this point and tried to convince Mrs. Emerson that it was extremely unwise to implicate herself. Mrs. Emerson had then waived her right to counsel, and after a brief argument, Carrie had shut up but continued to sit there stoicly listening.
“Can you tell us what happened?”, Bud prompted gently.
“The facts speak for themselves, gentlemen. My husband, Stan, had just walked out of the kitchen when I took a knife out of the drawer and stabbed him in the back. He swung around and came after me. I ran into the living room and snatched up a poker from the fireplace. I hit him in the head, and he went down. After that, everything is a blur. I really don’t remember what happened next.”
Johnson peered at her closely. “You don’t remember plunging the knife again and again into your husband’s body until he died nor pouring gasoline on him and setting him alight?”
Mrs. Emerson gave him a vacuous look. “No, I don’t, Lieutenant.”
Johnson shared a glance of disbelief with Bud.
Bud continued calmly. “Mrs. Emerson, can you tell us why you attacked your husband?”
Amanda gave a little grimace. “Oh that I can tell you. He was a mean SOB, and he deserved to die. My only regret was that it wasn’t a slower, more painful death.”
Bud, uncharacteristically, chose to halt the interview at this time. What was plainly obvious was that she felt no remorse, and what they had on tape was enough to send her to the big house for life. He called a guard to take her away to the holding cells.
Johnson made a circling motion around his head. “She’s a fucking psycho.”
Bud turned to face him. “Don’t you wonder what could have made her snap like that?”
Johnson barked, “Who cares? She killed him in cold blood. She fried him to a crisp, and she just admitted it. She’s a fucking goner.”
While he went off to type up his report, Bud remembered her eyes. They had been ice-cold, but something in her voice, a slight tremor, told him that she wasn’t completely unaffected by her offence. He was certain that she had been abused by her husband, if not physically, then mentally and emotionally.
It still made him incensed after all these years. There was still that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. His hands got clammy, and his whole body clenched up tight.
He reviewed the file to find out more about what kind of a man Stan Emerson was. He had been fifty-six when he died, and the Emersons had been married twenty-seven years.
Fuck! She must have been merely a child when they wed. No children though. Interesting. Was that by mutual choice?
Stan was a business man working as a consultant for investment firms. According to recorded assets, he was extremely well-off financially. But his wife wore clothes that had seen better days, Bud recalled. She did not look like the polished wife of an executive. Her shoes had been scuffed, and her simple house dress had been shapeless and very plain. Bud wasn’t too keen on fashion, but it looked dated.
Back to Stan. He donated substantially to several charities and was a member of the local neighbourhood council. He was even a respected elder at his church.
“Regular fucking pillar of the community”, Bud muttered.
He smelled a rat, and his instincts were usually dead on. This guy just looked way too good on paper. There was a story here, one that hadn’t been told.
Amanda sat idly in the small cell on the hard mattress. It was cold and damp, but she didn’t feel anything. She had been numb for years. Why should that change now?
She pulled up her knees tightly to her chest and brought her head down and started to rock back and forth gently. Memories of her past pulsed in front of her–her mother smiling down at her playing in her crib (She could remember all the way back to the age of two), her father lifting her high in the air over his head and laughing, her friend down the street, Nancy and her walking arm in arm to school, her fifth grade teacher, Miss Leeson, pinning a red ribbon on her blouse for winning the junior spelling bee.
As Amanda’s mind flitted through her younger years, the recollections were good and pleasant to retain. Amanda stopped rocking. She didn’t want to go past the age of thirteen.
She heard a heavy door scraping open and footsteps drawing near. A tray of food was slid in to her. She never looked up until she heard his voice.
“It’s not that bad if you eat it while it’s lukewarm.”
It was the cop with the big build and the soulful eyes that had seen too much in his time.
“Thank you”, she uttered in a whisper.
Bud turned to walk away, but his own intuition drew him back. He put a hand on the bars of her cell. “I want to understand.”
He just had said that, one sentence, and the sheer honesty of it tugged at her.
She stood and walked slowly to the door. “Would it make such a difference?”
“It would to me”, he asserted.
She angled her head. “It’s a long, unpretty story with no happy ending to look forward to, not even at the beginning of it.”
Bud reached through the bars and touched her hand. It was rough and calloused.
She withdrew it, embarrassed.
“You were very young when you married.”
“I was seventeen”, Amanda answered, “a very sheltered seventeen.”
He looked upset at that. He raised his jaw slightly. “Did he take advantage of you? He was quite a bit older.”
She turned slightly away. “I wish I could say that he did, but that wouldn’t be true. The moment I first saw Stan, I wanted him. He was handsome, smart and butter couldn’t melt in his mouth. He was everything a small-town girl longed for–a ticket out. It also didn’t hurt that I actually thought I was in love.”
He was still intently gazing into her eyes…expecting, anticipating the part where it had gone bad.
“So, it started off good but somewhere down the road, things changed.”
Amanda’s eyes darkened and then blanked out.
“Mrs. Emerson…”, Bud tried to regain her awareness.
She blinked and then retreated. “I’m tired Officer. I want to sleep now.” She went back to the bed.
Bud was feeling frustrated. He needed to know for his own satisfaction the reasons.
As she pulled the thin blanket over her body, he tried to reach out once more. “If you want to talk, just ask the guard for me, Officer White…Bud White.”
He didn’t get a response.
Bud tossed and turned all night alone in his apartment. Violent dreams planted seeds in his brain. He woke early in a sweat with Amanda’s face and eyes coming immediately to mind. He decided more research was necessary.
Bud did his detective work well. When he approached Amanda’s cell the next evening, he was well prepared.
“Mrs. Emerson, your parents died when you were thirteen.”
It was a direct statement, not a question.
Something in her broke. He could see it as her head hit the back of the wall softly.
“Call me Mandy. It seems ludicrous to be so formal when we’re talking so intimately.”
Bud pressed on. “Mandy, who took care of you when your parents were killed in that car accident?”
Her eyes had that far-away glance in them again.
“My grandmother until she died. And then, I went to live with my best friend Anne’s family.”
Bud waited for her to elaborate.
“I had to leave after three months.”
“Anne’s mother didn’t like me. She had a vivid imagination where it concerned her husband.”
Bud was trying to put the pieces together. “Did he do something to you?”
“He tried but I went out of my way to avoid him. It didn’t matter in the end because I was accused of enticing him like a nubile Lolita and leading him astray. I not only lost a home but my friend as well.”
“Is this where Stan comes in?”
“Officer W..Bud, may I call you Bud?”, she asked.
“Bud, why all these questions. I know that you’re trying to make sense of it, trying to find my motive, but that won’t save me.”
He pulled a chair close to her cell door and straddled the back of it. “You said he was a mean son of a bitch. You might be able to get your sentence reduced if there were mitigating circumstances.”
“He didn’t beat me if that’s what you’re looking for. Stan actually never lifted a finger to me.”
Bud banged his hand hard down on the bars. “Then why? Dammit….tell me why. I know he hurt you or someone close to you.”
When her eyes shifted uneasily, Bud felt that was the first clue he’d been given.
She would tell him no more that night.
Bud went to Slate with his suspicions.
“Where’s the evidence White? What proof do you have that she’s not conning you? Show me medical records, bruises or broken bones. Even if he did something, that doesn’t justify her overkill. Show me some facts I can take to the D.A. Everything that I have shows he was a model citizen, an upstanding leader in his community and an ethical and profitable business man. Don’t get over your head here, or I’ll take you off this case.”
So publicly, Bud backed off, but privately, he was very much digging further.
In the interim, since Amanda had confessed to the crime, she was arraigned and awarded the maximum sentence–twenty-five years without parole and sent to the federal penitentiary.
Bud continued to see her even then. Along with bringing her small gifts like cigarettes and mints, he persisted to probe for answers.
Mandy soon got used to the attention and looked forward to his visiting days. Even though they spoke through a cold, impersonal telephone, and she only saw him through a wall of plexi-glass, she began to depend on him emotionally.
She remonstrated with herself sternly not to get her heart involved. After all, he was only pumping her for information to put a final touch on her case or to ease his own troubled mind. Nothing would come of it. They were on opposite sides of the fence. He was the law and free. She was a convicted felon and would forever be locked away.
It was more than his tenderness and concern for her that fed her attachment. He was good-looking in a completely different way than Stan had been. Bud did not have chiseled classic features or the manufactured body of an Adonis, but his eyes were kind and his rugged masculinity appealed to her more than Stan’s dapper, dashing ways ever had.
Bud was everything Stan hadn’t been where it mattered the most. Bud was caring, sincere, gentle and he made her feel important, that she was worthwhile. It was too late, she told herself. She had fallen in love.
Bud read between the lines of what Mandy had told him so far. She had been all on her own when she married Stan. There wasn’t any family nor friends to make sure she was well cared for.
It hadn’t taken Stan long to exploit her situation and drop the nice guy routine. He had seen to it that her whole world revolved around him. While he was making big waves on the corporate scene, she had been kept at home and isolated. Stan had not permitted her to work. He wanted her right where he could manipulate her every move and mastermind her total subservience.
It made Bud furious that Mandy refused to fight for her life. She kept refusing the services of a lawyer who could possibly have appealed her confession. Bud didn’t know why he cared so much, and that bothered him. There was something about her that touched him so. Was it her frailty? No, ’cause sometimes he thought that was just a cover. Sometimes, he could see the inner strength in her shine through. He hadn’t been this moved by a case in years.
Every time he thought he had moved closed to figuring her out, she pulled away. He was determined and stubborn enough though to stick it out. He wanted the mystery solved. So he kept coming and kept pushing until one day they had a breakthrough.
When Mandy came to pick up the phone, it became painfully obvious that she was having a very bad day. Her posture was listless, and her voice was barely above a whisper. He had to drag any sort of conversation out of her.
“What’s wrong Mandy?”, he queried gently.
“It’s my anniversary today”, she responded. “I’ve just been thinking of all those years, so much wasted time and heartache.”
“So what?”, Bud deliberately baited her. “He was a fucking bastard. Don’t even give him a second thought, or you’ll continue to waste your time and energy.” He gave her a moment to consider his words. “Or maybe you just feel like making yourself miserable. Does that make you more of a martyr? Are you through punishing yourself for what he did? ‘Cause Sweetheart, believe me you are paying, and he’s down there burning in Hell laughing his ass off, still sticking it to you.”
Her face had gone crimson. “Don’t you dare talk down to me. Who do you think you are to presume to tell me what I’m feeling? You don’t know shit about me, Mr. Super Cop, or what I went through. You don’t know the half of it!”
Bud slapped the glass. “Then tell me, for God’s sakes, Mandy. Let it out! If you don’t, then he wins. Can’t you see that?”
She had started to cry then, something he had never seen her do.
“You want to see my whole world fall apart? Then watch out Mister, because here it comes.”
Bit by bit, piece by piece, he heard more of the oppression she had went through.
Not only had Stan completely controlled her, he also had refused to let her have the children she desperately wanted. He had forced her to have two back-alley abortions. One of them was botched and had left her scarred and permanently infertile. He kept her penniless, dishing out petty amounts of money for only her most base needs. He wouldn’t let her have anyone in the house, unless he was home and he approved of the visitor.
The abuse went on and on. He had many affairs and flaunted them in her face. He ridiculed her, told she was ugly and that no one would ever want her. He basically had brainwashed her into thinking that he was her great white hope. Only he kept her from being a laughing stock, a pauper and a total nobody.
Bud wanted to hold her in his arms as she poured out her soul to him. The best that he could do was hold up his hand to hers against the glass that kept them separated.
Before they knew it, their time was up. He watched as she slouched defeatedly away, never looking back.
Bud knew that something more had to have happened. It was bad enough what that rat bag had done to her. He felt it in his bones that something terrible had happened that day that propelled her over the edge.
Bud had had dealings with some of the pen guards and had got to know a few of them over the years. One or two of them had even started out as cops, and he had worked with them. It was time to call in a favour or two.
Mandy was stunned when one day she was led to a private room where convicts and their lawyers usually met. The guard led her in, seated her and then left. Bud had then entered alone.
Her feet carried her to him, but her hands were still cuffed.
His strong arms wrapped around her, and he hugged her close.
She inhaled the smell of his skin and wished he would never let her go. He released her all too quickly.
“Bud, how did you do this?” She gestured with her arms.
“Pulled a few strings”, he had simply said. “Sorry, they wouldn’t budge on the cuffs.”
They then had sat at the single table facing each other.
“Mandy, it’s time to let me know exactly what happened that night. I want to be able to see you, hold you and comfort you while you tell me. C’mon Baby, after all this time, you’re going to have to trust me.”
“It’s not a matter of trust, Bud. God, I trust you more than anyone. I have every faith in you. To be honest, I can only remember parts of that day. It’s like I’ve blocked it from my mind.”
He waited patiently.
“All right. I’ll tell you what led up to it.”
He nodded. It was a start.
“We kept separate bedrooms after a few years. One night he came home after one of his flings. He was drunk. I could hear him stumbling around downstairs. I wasn’t too afraid at first, because it had been years since he…since he came to me in that way.
I could hear him swearing, and his voice got louder and louder. I was worried the neighbours would hear him, so I opened my door to see if I could calm him down.
He came up the stairs with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a gun in the other.”
Bud reached across to grab her hands and gave her a nod of encouragement.
“I ran back into my room and slammed the door. I was so frightened. I had never seen him with a gun. He started banging and pushing on the door. I tried to keep him out, but he was so much stronger. He busted his way in. I tried to run, but he grabbed me. He forced me to sit on a chair. It was the first time he had ever been violent with me.”
Bud sensing something dire coming on came around and sat by her side. He draped his arm around her shoulders.
Mandy took in a big breath, and her eyes filled with tears.
“I tried to get him to tell me what happened. Why was he so angry? Where did he get that gun? He told me to shut up. He started in on his usual spiel of how worthless I was. He told me I was a waste of space on this earth, that nobody would ever miss me if something were to happen to me.
He kept cocking and uncocking the gun while he spoke. I was shaking so badly that he physically had to hold me to stay upright in the chair. I don’t know how, but I got up the nerve to ask him why he didn’t just divorce me if I was so repulsive to him.
And then he laughed, this horrible maniacal laugh. He said why would he need to do that. He could have whatever women he wanted and still make my life a living hell.
He got real quiet then, and I was more scared than ever. He then said, and I’ll never forget it, ‘I should just send you straight there right now and be rid of your pathetic, grotesque sight.'”
Mandy burst out crying in big heaving sobs.
Bud held on tighter. His lips were pressed to her cheek. “It’s okay, Baby. I’m here; I’m not leaving.”
She tried to continue, gasping for breath at times. “He forced my mouth open with his hands, and he put the gun in my mouth. He cocked it again…and he pulled the trigger.”
“Shh Baby”, Bud hushed her. “You don’t have to say any more.” He held on to her trembling body with all his might. He kissed her cheek, and his lips slowly slid to the side of her mouth. He hadn’t planned to do it. He only knew that it was meant more to soothe than start something that they wouldn’t be able to finish
She was too distraught to react.
He pulled back, not wanting to confuse her.
“There’s more”, she rasped out.
“Only if you want to tell me”, he murmured.
Mandy got herself under control. “When I closed my eyes and thought I was going to die, he drew the gun out and tossed it on the dresser. He yanked me up and threw me on the bed.”
“That sick mother fucker”, Bud cursed.
“He raped me and fell asleep on top me in a drunken stupor. I managed to get out from under him, and I was going to finally leave. But before I had gone five steps, I thought where would I go? Who would take me in? I had no money; I had no friends.
And I realized that nobody would. So I went to the bathroom, opened up the medicine cabinet, took the nearest bottle and swallowed all of the pills.
But even then, I couldn’t do anything right. All that happened was that I woke up on the bathroom floor in the morning in a pool of my own vomit.”
“I think we should stop”, Bud interjected not wanting to put her through any more.
Mandy laid back in his reliable arms.
There was a knock on the door. The guard came in. “That’s all the time I can give you White.”
Bud nodded and helped Mandy to her feet.
As the guard led her back to her cell, he called out. “Mandy, I’m going to try my best to have a judge review your case.”
She didn’t look back.
Bud did indeed try his best with the judge. He talked himself hoarse. It was futile.
He was asked why Mrs. Emerson hadn’t told this story as soon as she was arrested. He was told that the police should have been called immediately after the murder, and the perpetrator should not have fled the jurisdiction. She had just compounded her crime. Where was the proof? There was no way to back up the abuse. There hadn’t even been a plea that the murder was committed in self defence! No one had come forward on her behalf, not her neighbours, not friends nor her husband’s co-workers. Mrs. Emerson should have gone to a shelter. She should have told someone, anyone, about her ordeal. The judge simply didn’t buy her story.
The system that Bud had once believed in when he first became a cop was failing Mandy.
It only took him two days to decide to take matters into his own hands. As he planned and plotted, he knew he was unleashing the old Bud White but never once felt the slightest twinge of guilt.
Bud investigated the weak links in the security at Mandy’s prison. He looked for anything he could find, payoffs, cover-ups, and other crimes. It started with the Warden and worked its way down the chain of command.
He resorted to playing hardball then. Blackmail was an ugly business, but Bud was way beyond self-recriminations by this stage of the game.
He called in more favours owing to him. He was merciless when the higher-ups balked. Bud knew exactly how to play the game and how to throw his weight around. It became second-nature to him again.
One day, he simply came to the jail; the guards looked the other way, and he smuggled Mandy out via one of the delivery trucks.
When they finally were together after all the chaos, they were still at cross purposes.
Bud was thinking twenty steps ahead–how to cover his tracks, how to hustle Mandy out of the state, how to get her a new identity and how to ultimately protect her.
Mandy just wanted to make love to her savior and show him physically all her appreciation, gratitude and yes, love.
Instead they talked about the escape plan. Mandy was fretful that Bud would ultimately get caught. He blustered and put on a big show of bravado before her, but she knew that he was worried about how this would all end for him.
She was terrified for herself and for her future. All her life, she had depended on others to make decisions for her, to guide her, and now she would be on her own. God how she wanted Bud to come with her. Was there a chance for them, or was she just living in a dream world? If it was the latter, then she would make the most of the time they had left.
So while she was held up in a safe house and Bud was busy running around town getting her a passport and other crucial documents, she came to the realization that she only had this one chance to let him know how she felt.
One night he came to her, and she dropped her robe in front of him.
Bud’s eyes took in all of her and then rose to meet hers.
What she saw in them make her quickly cover up again and run out of the room.
“Mandy!” Bud ran after her as she tried to escape.
He caught her in his arms while she struggled to break free. “Mandy, it’s not what you think.”
She lashed out at him. “Bud, you have always been so honest. Don’t start lying now. You’re not attracted to me. I’m just your crusade. That’s all I am to you.”
He twisted her around to face him. “You’re wrong. I find you very attractive. But I’m not able to give you what you need and should have.”
She pounded her fists on his chest. “Why don’t you let me decide what I need and what I want? I have a mind, and it’s telling me that if I don’t act on what I feel for you, I’m only going to regret it. I have a heart, and it’s tired of being broken. It needs to be healed. I have a soul, and it’s crying out for you.”
She broke away from him.
“Stan was right after all. I’m so repugnant that not even you who knows me so well can find anything still alive inside of me. I’m just a hollow shell of a woman, a freak.”
Bud couldn’t bear her to think that she meant so little to him, so he decided to show her how he felt.
He went to her and softly slid the robe from her shoulders.
She looked into his eyes and saw genuine desire. She pressed back against him.
He bent down and kissed her long on her neck. He felt her submit the warmth and softness of her body to him. He picked her up and carried her to the bed.
Mandy ran her fingers through his hair as she pulled him closer to her. Her lips opened wide on his mouth, and her tongue caressed his.
She helped him undress. Their breathing became laboured as their hands sought more of each other’s bodies.
Bud’s hand trailed up and down the sweet side of her face lightly. He wanted to give this precious woman so much tenderness and pleasure. He knelt between her white thighs and felt the trembling weakness in her limbs as he gently touched her.
She let out a long sigh of released tension. Mandy suddenly glowed with the radiance of her love for him.
“Mandy, you are truly beautiful”, Bud whispered. “Don’t ever doubt that for a second.”
Time froze as they met in a pulsing rhythm that slowly quickened and became urgent. They made love as they both knew it would be their one and only time.
Mandy cried tears of happiness.
Bud let his defences down.
They held each other through the night, and then Mandy fell asleep finally in the wee hours, her head on his chest.
Bud stayed awake knowing the time left to them was very short.
Mandy’s escape had made headlines, and the pressure was now on Bud. Slate had deep misgivings about his officer and had temporarily suspended him pending an enquiry from Internal Affairs.
The day came when Bud had to bundle her into a car.
Hiding on the backseat floor, Mandy’s heart was heavy as Bud floored it. As the miles steadily went by, she made a decision.
“Bud, I didn’t tell you everything about that night.”
He looked into his rear view mirror even though he couldn’t see her.
“It doesn’t matter.”
“I want to tell you Bud.” She paused and then stammered. “I lied to you about my friend Anne’s father, the one I stayed with after my grandmother died.”
He quickly veered off into a side lane, slammed on the brakes and waited.
“I had an affair with him. His wife’s suspicions of me were correct. I needed comfort back then, and I took it in any form that I could get. When they kicked me out, I was pregnant. I met Stan, and he said he would raise the child as his own.”
Bud was angry. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me? That was kind of an important detail to leave out. Did it just slip your mind?”
She got up and sat on the seat. “I thought you would think less of me if you knew I wasn’t as innocent as I made you think. I’m sorry.”
“Go on”, Bud demanded.
“When my daughter Penny was born, her brain was not fully developed. I was told she was mentally retarded. Stan didn’t want to have anything to do with her then. We put her in a state facility. That was when he told me there would be no children with him. He was convinced that my genes or my family’s were defective. That was also when he started treating me like dirt.
I never visited my daughter though I thought about her every day. The day of Stan’s death, I came home from grocery shopping, and I opened the mail. There was an envelope addressed to Stan from the institution where Penny lived. I looked it over and as I turned it around in my hands, I kept thinking to myself, why would they be writing after all these years and why to Stan.
Curiosity got the better of me so I steamed it open. It was a letter requesting follow up on Penny’s treatment and care so they could close their files. There was a stamp on it that said this was the final notice. I couldn’t make sense of this. Did this mean he had received other letters from them?”
Bud knew instinctively what was coming but couldn’t prevent her from saying it.
Mandy went on. “What did they mean by follow up? Wasn’t Penny still their patient? I had so many questions. So I finally decided to call them. When I identified myself as Penny’s mother, the social worker seemed surprised that I didn’t know.
Mr. Emerson had taken Penny from the residence saying that he and his wife would care for her on their own. I asked if there was any forwarding address given for her. When she gave me it, it took me a minute or two but I finally recognized it. The address was for an apartment building where Stan frequently set up his mistresses in.”
“Mandy”, Bud tried to stop her.
“No, I have to say it”, she insisted. “Stan came home later that afternoon, and I just laid the letter out in front of him. He looked at it and then looked at me and just grinned.
He then said, ‘She’s quite a looker now. That must come from her father.’ He got up to go to the kitchen as if nothing had happened, as if he had done nothing wrong. Then he turned back to me and sneered, ‘She’s all you need in a woman, big boobs, long legs and no brain.”
And as he entered the kitchen, I felt something indescribable take over me. It wasn’t anger. It wasn’t rage. It was just a white hot sharp sensation.
I followed him in. He had just taken something out of the refrigerator, and he brushed past me nearly knocking me over.”
Mandy stared deeply into Bud’s eyes, which gave her the courage to finish the story completely. “I felt my body move, but I wasn’t the one in control of it. I took out the knife, and as I raised it in my hand, every bad thing that had ever happened to me flashed through my mind.
I don’t remember stabbing him, but obviously I must have. He staggered and fell on the floor. He cried out, ‘No!’, but he couldn’t get up or turn over.
All of the names and nasty things he ever said to me came back in an instant. I thought about my daughter, and I got the poker. As he was just trying to raise himself up, I hit him hard on the back of his skull. After that he didn’t move any more.
But I couldn’t stop thinking of what my life had become and the choices I had made.”
Mandy reached for Bud’s hand, and he grasped hers firmly in response.
“That’s when a heavy sea of redness consumed me. The knife had a life of its own. It still wasn’t enough. So I went to the basement and brought up the gasoline.
As I poured it on him, I felt like I was cleansing myself of my sins of naivety, stupidity and helplessness. I lit the match, and it was all over. I watched him burn, and then put out the rest of the fire with an extinguisher.”
Bud opened the back door and slid in beside her. “He got every bit of what he deserved.” As the tears cascaded down her face, he put his finger under Mandy’s chin and tilted it up to face him. “You are free now Mandy. You are finally free.”
Bud arranged for Mandy’s new identity in another country that didn’t have an extradition policy with the United States.
Internal Affairs could not find anything that linked Officer Wendell White with the escape of Amanda Blake Emerson. His suspension was lifted, and he returned to work. In a few months, he passed the Sargent’s exam and was promoted accordingly.
Penny Blake was returned to her former residence not mentally aware of any sexual abuse she had endured at the hands of her step-father.
Years later, Bud received a postcard. The picture on the front was of a fledgling bird taking flight from its nest. On the back were written two simple phrases. “Your crusade has been won. Liberty, love and respect found at last.”