No words could describe the period of the last three months I had been through and if you would ask me to explain any of it, you would find me mostly stumbling in words trying to justify the unjustifiable and seeking a single thread when the whole fabric of reality was nothing but a tangled knot. Nothing felt real to me in it or tangible and most above all the path I was marching on that seemed like a tightrope I had to find a way to balance on, and unfortunately, there was nothing to prepare the ground for what was to come as I plunged right along with the blissful ignorance of a madman.
Here is the schedule I was following, in these bleak, grave days which pulled me into their hallucination-net, like a whirlpool within the sea.
By the morning I was Sergeant Andrew Howells, honorable member of the society and established officer of the force, the sort that everyone has stereotyped into a box and thinks he knows what to expect from. I would walk by the paper-packed desks with their infinite bureaucratic paperwork, in a regressive paper-driven world. I would smile and greet cordially my peers most of which we shared an extensive multi-year friendship with, exchanging loving greetings to each other and then march on the streets, equipped with hot coffee and the buzzing police radio that had become something of a second nature to us.
Then there was the strolling with the police car, crossing the dim city roads, the areas that crime lurks on its every corner and a moment of inattention could prove costly of someone’s life. And we would rush through our days, fighting crime, and hunting ghosts and we would be so used in the drill that we would pay no attention to the danger as if it was the most normal thing in the world and death was nothing but a part of the process let alone a dismal one.
For those that have never been through the ordeal of such torture -and I gravely hope that you haven't- there are hardly any words that can describe the level of bonding you get with your peers. You are not mere partners but brothers fighting against a common enemy. You could literally give your life to save them and most of the time that would come as natural as fighting for your own blood. You wouldn’t think twice.
What good virtues and proper conduct would take place in the day though, would completely turn upside down and vanish in the night, once the curtains threw their sweet velvet cover, and the man that was supposed to operate his duty and being omnisciently present in his jurisdiction had to switch his facade like a master of disguise that puts on a different mask, heaving his magician's trick, and would operate on a different plane, one that he had little to no control of his own.
In the evenings, cologne filled, and debonair Mr. Howells, would masquerade into a humble man, and cross the entrance of a controversial Cabaret, one that was filled with the very sort of people I was hunting in the day and become one of them as if this was the time of the day were the two opposite sides of the war could come together in peace, if only for a limited amount of time, and converge together temporarily till the first light of the dawn was to proclaim their eventual hatred to start again.
Oh dear reader, hold your thoughts for the dismal image you probably conjure of me and judge me not so fast as you are probably so keen of doing, for what possessed me all this time was not the declining ebb of degenerated spirit —if only!— but the wholesome embrace of noble love that came and strike me out of nowhere and that took hold of me with the uncontrolled potency that only such phenomena can possess.
The object of lust? Natalie, or as I would like to call her Nat. A solid little mixture of temperament, gaiety, and delight that could command a whole room just with her presence. And commanding it she would every night that she would perform.
Her silver skin shining under the cylinder light that encircled her. Her movement slow and deliberate every step of the way. From the hand that would slide along the contours of her silky feet, to turning into a tiger, pawing her hands to the glossy tiles, and swirling around the pole like a divine entity that has the ability to fly.
Trust me when I say that it is very hard to convey on paper that particular delicacy of the movement, delivered with the potency of a great performer that has consolidated his act close to perfection. There are no words to describe that vivacious thunder in her eyes when she would shine her glazing hair up and down in a burst of fury that could tantalize the spirit of the most dreadful man. And who can talk about the excellent coordination of her movement that would resemble an underwater dancer or the potency of her spirit that would manifest through that indomitable attitude of hers.
It can be a hard task to transfer the magnificent compound of all those elements that would interplay together into one single act that was to last only for seven or eight minutes of time but there it was pulling your eyes straight up to it as if your mind could comprehend nothing else in those dreary few minutes and the whole room would stagnate at the same time, where the time would freeze, pulling out another one of its tricks and everybody would get hypnotized as if he was observing a miracle.
As entranced as I was from the performance and no matter how rejuvenating I would found its every moment, the spectacle didn't lack the element of regret for there was nothing I would wish more than to get my darling out of there and on into the normal world where no eyes of other men could share this relish with me.
"Would you just consider it?"
"I don’t know. A normal job. A normal life."
"What do you consider a normal job, a normal life exactly?"
"You know what I mean."
"By all means. Enlighten me."
She leaned over the teetering circular table, folding her hands around her elbows, intrigued to catch my response and scold me the way she would like to do every time I would bring up the subject.
"Is being a police officer considered to be a normal job. Do you think you have a normal life, as you put it?"
"I guess you could say it offers some basic security."
"Does it? I thought it can have its own perils."
"It has. But it's different. Nat, look. All I'm saying is that you could get a normal job. Work with regular people. Good people. The kind that is not a threat to you. I could help you in that."
She pulled back and rubbed off her blotched wrist, making me realize that all this time I was squeezing her hand a tad too tightly. Part of a desperate attempt to change a mind that is too adamant to change. And no matter how many times I tried, dear reader, no matter how many pledges and promises and unreturned opportunities I would throw in the table she would always tingle her head on the side with the same haughty indifference, she would dismiss it with a slight burst of her fingers, if at all, fail to bestow attention to the pressing longings of an eager man.
And how could she really? She seemed to enjoy this degenerative path with a submissive acceptance of a person that has given up a long time ago. That was the same attitude I encountered when I first met her six months ago, when she came to the police station, ushered by the grave hands of an officer, handcuffed on her dejected limps hanging in front of her, pink-wigged and filled with a muddied make-up resembling the smudges of a kid, setting an urgent question as to her doings. I was assigned to interview her and besides her uncooperative, laconic attitude I could see a hurt soul seeking a way out of her predicament lurking somewhere in there.
"Natalie Andersson. How long have you been in your current occupation?"
"About a year."
"And during this time how many times have you seen John F. in your show?"
"There are multiple accounts of Mr. F. being a regular customer. Some claim he was there at least two times the last week alone."
"Must have missed it then. You know how busy things can be."
"Ever had the chance to talk to him before?"
"As I said, never seen him before."
"Mrs. Adderson, you realize F. is a dangerous person. If it is your safety that you worry about, I promise you we will provide.."
"I don't think you listen. I know nothing of what you are asking me. Now excuse me but if you have nothing else to ask me, I have work to attend to."
Talk about a tough nut to crack! You couldn't get a single word out of her and yet there she was surrounding herself with real human wolves, the likes of which would make the underworld tremble with their passing.
From the moment I met her, I realized she was special and the idea came so strong to me that I couldn't get myself to stop unless I was to know her. Yes, there I was, a well-established officer carrying years of service on his back, taking his time out every night to frequent to the very places he ought to hunt. The operation wasn't without its risks if you are to think about the possible implications that would arise from an unlucky encounter.
For one thing, the likes of 'officer Howells', with his exaggerated jaws and wide shoulders that made him look like a bear, could be easily recognized by some ex-convict, a criminal I happened to interrogate sometime or another or a scumbag that I had put out in jail that got finally free if only with my own very image attached behind the dartboard to provide a target. Oh, and what hell it would have arisen if only some guy had raised awareness of my presence or even if someone affiliated to the police happened to catch anything of my doings.
I could see myself standing in front of the bald captain, being scowled of like a traitor that works against his own kind. Confronting eyes that are all a bit too willing to turn down, and look away from you. And then the badge leaned on top of the desk. The pistol removed, extracted out of you like the worst kind of dishonor. And then they would probably make an example of you to the whole force -they would often embark in such tactics of reformation, often not showing the slightest bit of mercy to these people of which their actions, no matter how horrible-- would get magnified in the worst possible way.
The last time I saw her, I tried once again to entice her with another one of those picturesque visions that I would throw every now and then in hopes of skirting some parts of her perspective. Forgive me for saying that but that was the first time it occurred to me that her indomitable attitude wasn’t some inherent predisposition she had on her own, but a particular necessity. An act she had to embark on to keep her reality intact.
"Have I ever talked to you about Mary?"
"No, you have never talked to me about Mary. Is she your ex?"
"No of course not. Mary is actually my second cousin, living in Denver."
"Is she? And what is so interesting about this Mary?"
"Well, for one thing, she used to have a special liking for dancing, just like you. But she never really pursued any sort of career out of it. And we are talking about great talent. I’m sure you would like her if you were to meet her. But anyway, she used to take on these dull office jobs trying to accommodate the nine-to-five lifestyle, but she wasn’t happy. And you could tell she wasn’t happy just by her demeanor. It was like she had lost all appetite for life."
"And so one day she walks down one of those vast streets, the ones that are grey and mundane, and that you barely notice anything colorful in them. In that case, though she saw this little ad, glued outside a window panel asking for a dance teacher. Little did Mary know, but this mundane place was actually a dancing school. And much to her amazement, the owner agreed to see her, and he happened to like her quite a lot."
"So guess what Mary is doing right now that makes her super happy and fills her life with purpose"
"Andrew, you don’t have to do this,"
"All I’m saying is that Mary not only took the job but she found her passion again. It's truly an amazing thing."
She leaped up out of my gigantic arms and took a walk around the room, hands crisscrossed, head down, ruminating over something that was utterly upsetting to her. Her house was nothing like the small apartment someone would imagine a young person to have and if you were to think my dear reader that her earnings were anywhere near modest you would be highly mistaken. Imagine vast, luxury rooms, with glossy surfaces and expensive paintings on the walls. The living room was this glorious overextended space, of white color that contained in it all at once, two large sofas, a glass table, a bar filled with any imaginable drink, a fireplace, and a bunch of armchairs all tied together in the same light colors that were carefully picked to offer a blending of modern, flawless decor. In comparison to this, my house seemed like a derelict cabin that whatever elements it entailed were mostly for survival rather than for any kind of selective temperament.
"Andrew, you don't understand,"
"Then by all means help me to," I said. I had already given up on the idea that I could influence her in any substantial way.
"It's easy for you to say that. It's easy for you to say that I could get a real job, send a goodby letter and leave everything behind. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that."
Her face had turned into a wooden mask that had solidified all its parts into an icy immobility. Every part of her body seemed to have plummeted to inactivity and all signs were showing that I was walking on hazardous ground.
"What is stopping you? I'm here for you. Tell me."
"You don't understand. You can't do that. This whole scheme goes much deeper than what you or anyone else imagines to be. Just drop it."
I had never seen her absolute in her mind to such a degree, in anything so long as I knew her and I gave up, defeated and dispirited by the invisible ghost that was occupying her thoughts. But maybe this wasn't a ghost. And the fear maybe wasn't just a distant possibility but a very real and palpable threat that was established by whatever Mr. Mafia guy was lurking behind the show.
The database spurt out a name and the name pointed to a number of felonies between which were smuggling and human trafficking all tied to this super criminal character that somehow always managed to escape prison. Ross Cooper seemed to have managed his business quite effectively and I knew that in such cases, people like him had their hands over-extended into the police-realm, and was directing officers like puppets into a theater show. That meant no questions could be raised to others as to his doings, or he would be the first to know about it. And that meant that no one else could know anything about my doings or I was to put myself in great danger.
It is hardly the case, my dear reader, that vigilantes can still exist in a dismal era like this and most of all for them to be actual officers that chase after their righteous hype into the world of darkness trying to shed light on whatever thing they think is wrong. Honestly, I couldn't care less about what was right or wrong or what is admissible of a police officer and whatnot. What I cared about was Nat and setting her free and I was willing to do for it anything it would take.
The light of the moon was trembling upon the sea like quivering dust, maybe too sensitive to lay upon the cold water. The wind was playing its wailing song of mourning for the time's unaltered past. The port seemed like a host-house of ghosts and evil spirits taking their stroll into the only place they were allowed to play around. And there it was right in the middle of the night, the shuttering wobble of sealed souls, tied under an unbreakable rope, reeling them out of the sea into this new land of fake promises, that honey and mild has been long time dried-out. I counted two men, equipped with arms standing aside their two vans, and Cooper sitting in a chair, smoking his cigar with an acid smugness that was about to be swiped off his face in a few seconds. Then time stopped all of a sudden and the sound dropped dead following the strange rhythm of the night. And then the sudden disruption that stole the show with a violent burst. And the bang, bang, bang that echoed up to the whole sky and that set everything right once again.