The story so far:
Jimmy had been silent too long.
Replaying the recent events on his mind’s stage, he watched the first glimmers of sunlight drift through his narrow excuse for a window, splashing amber pools against his grey cinderblock wall. He pondered Charlie’s incompetence and Adara’s desperation, Methra’s unknowing compliance and Franco’s naïve bravado. Jimmy was weary of watching the action from a distance. It was high time he join the game on the playing field.
Suddenly footsteps sounded down the sterile hallway. Jimmy could discern the familiar clamor of the guards making their first daily rounds. He recognized the gait: one, two, three, clank. One, two, three, clank.
Hmmm. Sounds like Mason this morning. Perfect.
It was show-time.
The deception was effortless.
Jimmy worked quickly, wrestling the edge of his coarse cotton bed sheet, gnawing the end like a hungry animal discovering a fresh kill. It shredded easily beneath his canines, the taste of industrial bleach lingering on his lips. Then, methodically, he dug his thumbnail into the side of his neck, circling his throat in a jagged ring, feeling a necklace of warm blood gently erupt from his self inflicted wound. It was superficial but the blood would be copious and the immediate startling effect would prove most dramatic.
Jimmy deftly twisted the length of shredded sheeting around his neck, attaching one end, with just enough give, to the aluminum frame of his bed. Artfully, he slumped, seemingly lifeless, on the icy unwelcoming floor in a twisted blood-soaked mound. Jimmy closed his eyes and regulated his breathing, willing his heart to slow to an almost imperceptible rhythm. His limbs grew colder and paler, numb. He could sense the small droplets of cold sweat develop against his clammy forehead. He drifted deeper. It would be a matter of seconds now.
Through the haze of his semi-catatonic state, he could determine the ideal series of sounds and noises and smiled internally. There was the predicted brief awed silence, the shout for help, the drone of an alarm, then the flurry of movement as he felt his body lifted, distant sirens against the curious frantic banter of fellow inmates. Jimmy surrendered to the darkness drifting backwards, weightless, free.
Jimmy was fifteen when he first set eyes on Adara, working for his father’s landscaping business.
“You’re damn lucky” his father warned when Jimmy complained of the backbreaking labor. “No one else would hire you.”
So Jimmy dug and raked and weeded for suburbanites trying to grow an oasis in the middle of the brown Vegas desert.
“Jackasses” his father would sneer, “but their money is green”
Jimmy would watch as Adara trodded home from school, the plaid skirt of her uniform swinging around her tan legs. He watched as her mother kissed her hello, plying her with brownies or lemonade. Jimmy clenched his eyes shut, trying to remember his own mother; she had escaped, abandonning him before he could form a memory of her, leaving behind him with his older brother to live at the mercy of their father’s temper. She was a ghost.
“You’re here to work, Romeo, not ogle the customers” his father barked. “That girl has no interest in someone like you. You‘ll be lucky if anyone‘ll have an interest in you” Jimmy knew his father was right.
It was a Thursday afternoon when Jimmy was removing a dead shrub from Adara’s front yard. His father had taken the truck, picking up more top soil at the local supplier. “Don’t screw up” were his only instructions. Jimmy gripped the small brown tree from its base, wrenching it from its sandy roots, his eyes slits against the unforgiving sun. Suddenly the roots loosened their tangled grip and Jimmy was thrust backwards with a violent jolt. A sharp pain seared through his left palm, which had impaled itself on an upturned rake. He let out a horrific shriek and then cowered in embarrassment as Adara came galloping from the house to his aid.
He watched dumbfounded as she gingerly pulled the tongs of the rake from his swollen palm. She ushered him inside and he braved the cold water and Neosporin as she wrapped his wound in clean guaze. She wasn’t squeamish like most girls, but deliberate, calm.
“Th…Th..Thanks” he stammered. There was no avoiding at least uttering a courtesy.
“No problem” she responded “might want to keep an eye on that.
Had she not heard him stutter, had she thought he was just frazzled.
“I..I..I…I’ve ha..ha..had w..w…worse” he tested the waters, forcing a weak smile.
“See this” she added seamlessly, pointing to a pale path of scar tissue, running up her elbow. “bike accident, got infected.” she made an adorable eeewwww face.
“Ou…ou..ouch” he chuckled.
He nodded to her pile of library books. “our…our…our class is reading tha…that too”
She picked up her copy of Catcher in the Rye.
“What do you think?’ she queried. They talked about Holden Caufield and how her catholic school banned certain books. They looked for the “good” parts and giggled when Adara underlined them. They chatted about school and music and teachers. He had never met someone so warm, so easy to talk to.
“Get in the truck” His fathers voice boomed behind him. The moment was over.
“You are not to speak to her, you are not to speak to anyone. You will not embarrass me with your idiotic stut…stutt…stuttttering” the mocking voice resounded off the walls of their small dingy kitchen, rising in heated waves to the apartment above.
Jimmy knew not to protest. He saw the fist just before he fell to the floor.
From then on Jimmy tried to catch brief, safe moments to talk with Adara. A hello, a brief exchange, anything. Her smile could sustain him for days and when she threw her head back to laugh it was as if someone was releasing a thousand butterflies. Jimmy Garcia had it bad. Did she like him too? He had to tell her. He had to know.
One evening Jimmy risked the worst. His father and uncle were out drinking, possibly for hours, most likely all night. Jimmy fearfullly grabbed the keys to the truck and slipped behind the wheel. He gunned the engine with a satisfying and rebellious roar and headed west. Slowly he careened down the well manicured streets, rehearsing what he would say, contemplating what declarations of love would win over a girl like Adara, pleading with himself not to stutter. He had bought a paperback copy of catcher in the rye and wrapped it in blue tissue. He coasted up to the curb and saw an unfamiliar black ford mustang in the driveway.
“We won’t be late” Adara waved to her mother as a tall blond tuxedoed boy of maybe eighteen guided her out by the small of her back.
Jimmy sank into the car seat. His chest tightened and he struggled for air. A ferocious ache traveled from his stomach into the back of his throat and he swallowed hard.
He clenched the steering wheel as Adara settled into the mustang in a swirl of pink chiffon.
“Idiot, you ****” Jimmy barraged himself with insults and slammed his forehead into the wheel, setting off the blare of the horn. He thrust the car into drive and headed for the desert.
There in the expanse of the desert, he shouted to low craggy mountains, to the network of hidden caves that were his refuge.
“I will be silent, but I will not be weak. I will not speak but I will have power! I will not be hurt again!”
Jimmy was brought into an exam room, police officers stationed securely outside.
Once alone with the young doctor, Jimmy found it easy to overpower him, quickly inject the man with the syringe intended for himself and don the ubiquitous nondescript lab coat, dark rimmed glasses and name badge, leaving an incapacitated Dr. Chang Li, M.D. tucked snugly into the hospital bed in exam room 305.
How many people really look at the world around them, Jimmy thought, ambling past two law enforcement officers as he pretended to examine a clipboard. Jimmy may have been silent but not stupid; the world was full of unsuspecting dupes, too busy or distracted to realize what was happening right under their noses, coasting through their days on autopilot.
That’s how a six foot Cuban born criminal walked out of a hospital room with an I.d tag belonging to 5‘7” Asian-American man of medicine. Jimmy chuckled as he quickly navigated the hospital floor plan, located the doctor’s locker and after finding a small brass locker key in the lab coat pocket obtained a wallet, a gym bag and keys to an audi A4.
The road through desert seemed interminable as Methra pressed the accelerator, suddenly veering left and skimming the shoulder making a wide abrupt u-turn.
“Change of plan” she stated calmly. “She Ok?”
Franco brushed the hair from Paige’s face. She muttered and shifted, but didn’t wake, instead resting her head against his shoulder.
“out like a light” he sighed, thankfully. “what’s with the change?”
“just a hunch” She smiled.
“You know, I think it’s time we told Adara” she added, her tone more solemn. Franco nodded silently, still reeling from the news himself.
“It’s not you’re fault” he urged, “you had no choice”
Methra nodded, unconvinced. “Still, maybe none of this…would have”
“Don’t” he urged.
An hour ago Methra had told Franco the truth about Adara. It wasn’t a coincidence she came to work for her, that she was “there” at the right time, that the two shared the same gift.
“I was young,” she had explained. I had gone to the police with information, about those murders in the seventies. I had had visions, detailed visions. I thought it was the right thing to do. Of course they thought I was in on them. I couldn’t have my baby in jail” her eyes had filled into luminous liquid pools as she stammered, “I had to give her up and my sister promised to take good…of course Ann doesn’t have the gift but she’s…”
Methra contained herself and continued. She explained how she had been released a year later, but threats had been made on her life. She had had to lay low. She changed her name and went underground, literally at times. She had adopted a new faith whose practice included ceremonies in the Mithrae or caverns in the mountain range, much as it had been practiced in the time of Christ. She was accepted, her gift cherished.
“Ironically now the police come to me for help, and pay me quite well” she laughed through a curtain of tears. She was one of their most valued, albeit undisclosed assets.
“Now that I’m no spring chicken, they don’t send me around the country anymore. I figured I could work for Adara, keep an eye on her until the time was right…I’ve missed so much. I had no idea….” She whisked the stream of tears from her field of vision. “ I kept tabs on Adara all those years, you know, I got reports, checked up. I even went to one of her plays at St. Stephens, in disguise of course”
“In disguise?” Franco queried. Despite all his powers of intuition, the lalmost everything these last few weeks days had had him baffled.
“Yup” Methra hiccupped back a sob. “ I was dressed as a nun, figured it was appropriate, until I started applauding and realized I was sporting bright red nail polish” They both laughed, they needed to. “It was Revlon, scarlet sin.” She waved her long fingers. “You know, no one noticed. Its amazing how much we choose not to see everyday of our lives”
Franco nodded toward Paige. “Sometimes though, we see too much”
She was glad she had chosen Franco as Adara’s guardian.
Adara didn’t know where she was heading. The painted desert sped past her like a kaleidoscope of earthly hues. It was as if she was a satellite succumbing to a greater force of gravity. She gunned the engine. Her newly discovered gift had left her both empowered and hesitant, but now she knew she just had to keep driving. She chanted Paige’s name, please, please. She thought of Charlie fleeing her office like a scared cat. The names and faces of her clients, or victims, paraded through her minds eye. These people had come to her for help, for healing, and now she had their blood on her hands, she was powerless, she was eight years old again watching her grandparents house burn to the ground. She needed to put an end to this now and had an uncanny feeling she was about to.
The deserts of Las Vegas were littered with ghost towns; some now tourist destinations, with mechanical bulls, tex--mex restaurants and shops brimming with authentic western wear made in China. Appaloosa Canyon had escaped this fate. It’s precarious location prevented throngs of visitors and its ramshackle buildings overlooking a sharp precipice above a slip of the Colorado river, were genuinely imposing.
Adara knew she was not alone. She heard the rush of water far beneath her, the call of desert birds riding the strong breeze. But someone else had beat her here.
Jimmy was ready for the meeting. Adara had proved a worthy oppponent, making the challenge that much more satisfying. He had listened to Charlie ramble about his bulldog of an ex wife, but when he mentioned her name was Adara, Jimmy new why the two had crossed paths. There was no way he was going to let Charlie have this one. Adara was his, and his alone. Jimmy grinned at how easy it had been. Willing the court appointed psychiatrist to relinquish his list of her referrals without batting an eye, their sins spelled out in black and white Times Roman font.…adultery, greed. He got to them before Adara could do anything. Surely she would blame herself. They were collateral damage but they served as a warning to others. They were not victims, they were martyrs, and they would be rewarded for their sacrifice.
It was the sense of justice in Father Preston’s words that had spoken to jimmy. Jimmy had seen little of that. Born different, neglected by his mother, exploited and brutalized by his tyrannical father, robbed of the one girl who had showed him kindness and then convicted of a crime he did not commit, Jimmy had been the victim of other’s sins. Now he was their avenger. He would punish the sinners for their cruelty, he would take the reins, take control of bringing justice and order back to his world.
Adara entered the old Appaloosa hotel, gingerly climbing the sagging steps to roof. The scent of centuries old dust and whisky filled her nostrils. From there the remnants of the town spread out in a panorama before her like a child’s history project diarama.
“I’ve been waiting for you” the voice was eerily calm, monotone. She reeled on her heels to see a tall man in a white button down and grey pants, expensive sunglasses propped on his prominent nose.
She gazed at the face, a vague familiarity shadowing its contours.
“been a while Adara” the voice continued, cold, purposeful.
She racked her brain as her body pulsed with intense energy.
“Jimmy?” she queried aloud.
“in the flesh” He sneered.
Adara’s shock was palpable.
“you seem surprised” he continued, “Don’t you remember me?”
She recognized that look, that tone; that subterranean rage disguised as sarcasm. He was toying with her and she had to play along.
“Of course Jimmy” she cooed sweetly swallowing the hard lump in her throat.
Jimmy had done their lawn. She patched his hand once and chatted on occasion. She remembered hearing he had gotten in some kind of trouble.
Oh Adara, why did you have to turn me out for some blond kid?”
Blond kid? What the…?
“You wearing your fancy pink dress, for him, him and his ‘hot wheels’” he laughed a cruel gutteral sound.
“I saw you Adara, I saw you get in the car with him”
She built a memory path. Word association. Ok. High school, date, pink dress, blond- that’s it. It came back like a shock, that odd day she went to the Spring dance with Nick. The landscape truck had been out front, blasted the horn and sped off. She thought it was odd. She realized she hadn’t seen Jimmy after that.
“Oh that” she giggled nervously, at her transparent attempt at deception. “ That was my cousin Bruce, poor guy, girlfriend dumped him before the big dance. He went to Archbishop Penn. I pretended to be his date. You remember being a teenager. Make her jealous” She studied his ink black eyes for some feedback on her performance.
“Must have worked” she rambled on “Married four years this June, they have a two year old boy.”
To her surprise, Jimmy didn’t object. He had expected a battle with an ice queen but he saw the kindhearted girl he had known so fleetingly.
Could jimmy be behind this? These murders and bloodshed and heartache. She thought of the cliché about the butterfly who flaps its wings and creates a tsunami on the other side of the world. She looked at the brutal murderer and saw an awkward boy, nervously flirting at her kitchen table.
Helicopters buzzed above like the flapping of angel wings. Methra’s call was received, or at least the one on her cell phone.
“You disappeared.” she hushed, a mixture of feigned and genuine concern.
“Come down from the building” the voice commanded like thunder. “You are surrounded.
Adara looked down at the semi circle of police cruisers, behind them a familiar sedan with Franco, Methra and a fragile Paige standing at a safe distance behind. Her heart soared.
“Come on Jimmy… Let’s go” she held out a hand.
“No Adara, this journey, I go alone” he jumped into the raging Colorado below.
Adara watched the white frothy waves into concentric rings as if he had never been there.