Beyond Measure

Info DTIverson
08 Sep. '19

This is my first effort on this site. I hope you enjoy it. If you do there are plenty more where this came from – I return all email messages from readers - DT Iverson

BEYOND MEASURE

Chapter One:

The rain was coming down in sheets. All I could hear was the hypnotic slapping of the wipers. The darkness of the Nicolet Forest ate my headlights. It was 2 AM and I was losing my battle with the Sandman.

Then suddenly - a figure stepped out in front of me!  I stomped on the brake and swerved into the oncoming lane. There were a couple of thrilling seconds, as I did a 60 mile-an-hour fishtail down the slippery blacktop.

The cruiser ended up sitting crosswise half on the road, perhaps two feet from a huge fir. And I was suddenly, VERY WIDE AWAKE!!

The mysterious apparition was straddling the white line a hundred yards back. She was in no danger of being hit. There were no living creatures within 20 miles; except deer, bear and yours-truly.

I restarted the engine and drove to where she was standing. My headlights revealed a woman in a weird costume. I would assume that she’d come from a Halloween party. But, they don’t hand out drugs on Halloween; at least in rural Wisconsin, and it was closer to Thanksgiving.

I turned on the flashers, got out, and approached her. The cruiser’s lights painted the rain with a red-and-blue tinge. The woman looked quizzically at my car and said, “What’s that, some kind of Studebaker?” They haven’t made a Studebaker in over fifty years.

I thought to myself, “Great!! Two in the morning, and I’m in the middle of nowhere with a certifiable whack-job!!!” I said, “How much have you had today Miss?”

She said, “Don’t flip your wig Mr. Fuddy-Duddy, all I had was a Sidecar.” Was that even English?  I had no idea what she'd just said... And was she chewing gum!!?

Seriously?!! This woman was standing in the pouring rain, with one hand planted aggressively on a jutting hip, chomping on a wad of gum and arguing with me about how much she’d had to drink?

I said, using my solicitous cop voice, “Why don’t we get in the car? I can take you someplace dry.”

She looked around, like she had just noticed the rain, and said in a distressed voice, “Where did THAT come from?”

I said, “It’s been raining all night.”

She said puzzled, “It wasn’t a couple of minutes ago.”

Yes indeedy! Bat-shit-crazy!!

I couldn’t leave her in the forest-primeval. So, I took her by the arm and led her unresisting to the passenger side of the cruiser. It was an old-fashioned Crown Vic with plenty of room up front, even with the swivel mounted computer, and the two shotguns.

She slid in, dripping on my seats. She didn’t seem to notice that she was soaked. I guess that’s the way it is, when you’re stoned out of your mind. I went around to the driver’s side, put the cruiser in drive and started off home. The road featured nothing but wide spots until you got to where I was headed.

She said wonderingly, “How did you do that?”

I said, “What?”

She said, “Make it move without shifting.”

Really!!!?? That was disturbing. I said incredulous, “Are you telling me that you’ve never been in a car with an automatic transmission?”

She said conversationally, “I heard they had something like that on the Olds, but I’ve never seen one.” 

Yep, nuts!! They haven’t made an Oldsmobile in going-on twenty years.

She looked at the onboard computer, which was sitting between us. She tentatively touched the space bar. The desktop lit up and she jumped back startled. She said surprised, “What’s THAT??!”

I was trying to figure out what kind of game she was playing. So, I said patiently, “It’s a laptop computer. It’s hooked to the Wisconsin CIB database. She looked mystified. I clarified, “Criminal Investigation Bureau. Every patrol car has one.”

She said, in a tone that sounded like she thought I was messing with her. “What’s a computer, is it some kind of fancy radio?”

That did it. I’m NOT a social worker. In fact, I mostly try to avoid people, which is a bit ironic since I happen to be the County Sheriff. I wasn’t going to say one more word until I got this woman’s head examined.

We have a clinic in town and the Doc was a smart dude. Maybe he could sort her out. Still, I couldn’t help appraising her in the dim light. After all, I AM a guy.

She was a real beauty, even though she currently resembled a drowned cat; perfect complexion, flawless features, and raven hair done up in some kind of World War Two upsweep; complete with a little pillbox hat.

She must have bought THAT ensemble from a theatrical supply store. Even the Goodwill didn’t carry stuff that old.

I wasn’t having any of “those kind” of thoughts. My mysterious lady was undeniably gorgeous. But she was clearly not right in the head. Plus, women have always been bad news for me. That’s why I avoid them like the plague.

*****

It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in a small town has a lot of advantages. You’re plugged into a way-of-life that hasn’t changed much since the place was founded.   It’s humble, and it’s relatively stress free. You just don’t get too worldly surrounded by people who are exactly like you.

That all changed when I joined the Army.  There are only two reliable ways out of a small town, college, or the service. My old man thought that college was a waste of money; while the recruiter in Eau Claire was extremely persuasive.

I rang the bell on the ASVAB, and they gave me my choice of military occupations. The thing that jumped out at me was “helicopter pilot. I had visions of sitting in an Apache blasting evil-doers.

I lasted exactly one month in Army Flight School. Apparently, you need depth perception to be able to fly. So, the Army, being the kindly institution that it is, found me alternative employment; Military Police!!

I knew a recruiter in Eu Claire I was going to kill.

They shipped me to Fort Leonard Wood. Let me assure you that; if they ever give the earth an enema, Fort Leonard Wood will be the place where they’ll stick the hose. After that experience, I spent my first few years raising and lowering the gates at Fort McNair. It wasn’t glorious. But somebody had to do it.

During that time, I took online classes at UMUC. By my third year I had all the requirements to apply for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Service.  I had to re-up to get into the Program, and of course the CIS Special Agent Training was back at the bastion of the Ozarks, also known as Hicksville on the Big Piney.

After my second sentence there, I was a certified CIS Special Agent, with a certificate in Special Victims.

*****

The odds of a soldier being posted to any of the hundred bases in the South, or West, are pretty good. The odds of ME being posted to the frozen tundra of upstate New York were one-hundred-percent.

The average snowfall at Fort Hood, which is where the Fourth Infantry Division is based, is zero. The average snowfall at Fort Drum, which is where the Tenth Mountain Infantry Division is based, is 126 inches; or about ten feet. I think you get the picture.

They partnered me with a woman. That’s standard protocol for SVU Special Agents. I was the muscle and she was the empathy.  Julie was a great partner. She was mid-thirties and moving toward her golden twenty.

The Tenth had just gotten back from hard time in Afghanistan.  The incidents we investigated tended to go up after that. So, when a unit deployed or returned we handled a greater number of domestic battery and spousal rape allegations. 

That was how I met Janet. A cruiser had responded to a call from the Mountain Community Homes area of the post.  We arrived at 13:00 hours, just as the MPs finished squaring away the scene. Julie went straight into the house.

I asked the patrol sergeant what happened. He told me that an intruder had broken in and sexually assaulted the occupant. The call that had alerted them was placed by someone other than the victim. He said that his men were canvassing the neighborhood to identify who made it.

I gave our electronic investigation people a ring and told them to find the owner of the phone. I was pretty sure it was a cell. In the meantime, I went in to the interview.

The woman was sitting on the living room couch, with Julie in a chair opposite. Julie isn’t one of those, “Let me give you a hug and make you feel better,” kind of women.  She’s a no nonsense criminal investigator.

The healing process from sexual assault takes a long time. Whereas, the first forty-eight hours are critical for what WE do.  And, in Julie’s mind the victim had to understand that difference.

Julie was walking the woman through the details of the crime. My role is to observe her reaction.  I immediately noticed two things. The first was that she was beautiful, dusky complected, thick dark-brown hair, perfectly symmetrical oval face and big brown eyes.

The second fact was more telling. Her behavior was way off. Rape isn’t an act of sex. It’s a physical assault. It impacts a woman’s being to her core. Our instructors had beaten that into our head throughout training. Yet this woman seemed surprisingly unphased.

She was shaken up and crying. But when we told her we wanted to take her to the clinic, she was almost dismissive. She said, “I’m fine, I wasn’t hurt. I don’t need a doctor.”

Julie said kindly, “We still want to examine you. There might be evidence that we can use.”

What Julie was saying was that we wanted to run a rape kit.  I could see in the victim’s reaction that that was the last thing she wanted.

I said to Julie, “Come outside, there’s something I want to show you.”

As soon as we hit the front porch I said, “She’s lying. I think she knows her attacker.  There’s a lot more to this story than an assault.”

Julie nodded. We went back inside. This time, Julie sat NEXT to the victim. She said, “We are going to insist that you do a rape kit, darling. And we are going to identify whoever did this because I’m sure his DNA is in the Army system. Now… Is there anything you want to tell me before we do that?”

The woman looked horror stricken. She said, “You can’t make me!!”

Julie said ominously, “We can always get a warrant Sugar. What’s the matter Hon? Is there some reason why you don’t want us to identify your attacker?”

It was obvious that Julie meant every word and the victim knew it. She lowered her head and began to sob, “My husband will find out if you do!!”

Julie went for the kill. She said, “I assume that the perpetrator is somebody who you have been having extra-marital sex with.”

The woman wailed, “YES!! I had a sexual relationship with the man who raped me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I love my husband. I tried to break it off, but he wouldn’t let me. He kept pestering me and finally he came over to force me. I tried to fight him, but he was too strong.” She began full throated sobbing. 

Julie said, “What is this man’s name? We can protect you from him. But, we have to know his name.”

The woman looked pleadingly at Julie. Julie gave the woman her patented, “grow up girl,” stare. That stare has been known to intimidate cats out of trees and racoons out of trash cans.

The woman said very hesitantly, “Steve Marquesan.”

Wow!! No wonder she was acting so weird. She was fucking the Colonel commanding the Brigade that was about to be deployed. That was going to cause a major ripple all across the Division. Julie looked at me, and I looked at her, and we said simultaneously, “We need that sample!!”

That is how we nailed Colonel Robert Marquesan’s hide to the barn wall. He had a fetish about fucking the wives of his subordinates. He regarded the spouse of anybody who served under him fair game. The woman who brought him down was the wife of a Captain in his headquarters unit.

We finally traced the phone call. The husband was the one who placed it. He had probably discovered them making the two-backed-beast and turned it in as an assault in progress, which got law enforcement’s wheels turning.

I didn’t like Marquesan, when he was a bird Colonel. I liked him even less as a rapist. As far as the Army was concerned, Marquesan was a disgrace to the uniform. The forensic evidence all lined up and he went down for rape and enough violations of the Universal Code of Military Justice to keep him enjoying Federal hospitality for the next ten, to fifteen years.

I met Janet during the Court Martial. She was a 46-Quebec, Army Public Affairs Specialist. She was there to make sure that the story was spun the way the Army wanted it. Naturally, I was one of the people she interviewed.

Janet was a stunner. I guess that’s why she worked Army PR. She was medium height, perhaps five-six and a little on the heavy side. But that was because she possessed the biggest pair of tits and the most erotic hips, since the Greeks chiseled up the Venus de Milo.

There was just something overtly sensuous about her. Her look was direct, but it was also suggestive. You could see the roaring fires, beating drums and bounding savages back there. I was attracted to her; to say the very least.

She had thick auburn hair and a heart-shaped face with even features and very compelling eyes.  Her boobs were so big that the fruit salad on the front of her uniform was a lot closer to me than anything else on her. She had a surprisingly, narrow waist and big utilitarian ass. I wanted to grab those hips, mount up, and yell “Yeehaw!!”

I told her that the investigation didn’t require Sherlock Holmes. Since, the two parties weren’t exactly criminal masterminds.

The Colonel must have been suffering from temporary insanity to do something that stupid. He had to know he was leaving behind evidence. He probably didn’t think his paramour would rat him out. The wife was just a dumb slut. She wasn’t facing criminal charges. But the subsequent divorce didn’t sit well with her.

I had to hand it to the husband. It was a brilliant move. Instead of doing something very stupid involving a gun. He had done something very smart by immediately phoning it in.  That way we did all the heavy lifting.

I was starting to get a vibe that Janet was interested in more than information. So, I went fishing. I said, “It’s a shame that some people just can’t maintain a respectful relationship. I know that it will be for life when I marry.” Somewhere, the Gods laughed.

Janet said amused, “An unmarried soldier with genuine moral values? Wait, I have to write that down. How did they let you in the MPs with that attitude?”

I said lightly, “I grew up in a small town. You can take the boy out of there, but you can’t take the small town out of the boy, and I’m an MP because they couldn’t find anything else for me to do.”

I said, still fishing, “How did you get into Army PR?”

She said, “It’s the same old story. I was in love. We had been going together since junior high school. I always assumed we would be married. But, I found him in bed with my roommate. He didn’t even apologize. He said that he was, what he was; take it, or leave it. So, I left it.”

She paused, like she was getting herself under control and went on with, “I didn’t want to have anything to do with college and the bastard who was attending it. I was in Army ROTC and I liked the culture.” I nodded in agreement.

She continued with, “So, I talked to the cadre about active service. I’ve been in for two years. I love the work and I love the Army.”

I looked across at her. Her dark eyes were challenging, like she was daring me to take the next step.

Well!! As they say in golf, and other sports, “Never up, never in.”

So, I said, “What are you doing after we’re off duty?”

*****

She groaned and muttered, “Come on baby – fuck meeee!! Don’t stop!!” The strain in her voice sounded like a jockey urging a racehorse down the home stretch. We’d been married for six years and the sex just kept getting better-and-better. 

Janet had her "O" face on. Her eyes were scrunched up, her mouth was open and she was making loud effort noises, as she worked toward her orgasm. Her legs were straight up in the air, toes pointed. I could feel her hands reflexively gripping my butt and her pussy beginning to pulse, like it did when she came. That tipped me over the edge. I came so hard that I must have changed the atmospheric pressure in her womb.

I flopped over on my back. Both of us were panting like steam engines. Janet was lying there staring at the ceiling, one big boob puddled on her chest and the other hanging off under her arm. She looked stunned. 

I said, “Let me clean up first and I’ll fix breakfast.”

She said, “Go ahead baby. I just want to lie here and bask in the glow.” I took a gloat at her as she lay there naked, one arm shielding her eyes, long legs still spread wide and covered in a sheen of sweat. I didn’t know how I could get any luckier

It was one of those lazy Saturday mornings when there was nothing to do except enjoy the hiatus from work. I fixed us a couple of veggie omelets, whistling like a man who had just had his ashes seriously hauled.

We had both been out of the Army for six years. First, there was the adjustment to civilian life. That was inevitable. Janet went back to Madison to finish school. She only needed a year to get a teaching certificate. I went back home, because I couldn’t think of a better place to live.

I hooked on almost right away with the Sheriff’s Department. The Post was near where I grew up. I had almost eight years of police experience, six as a Special Agent and they were happy to have me. Janet and I were married later that year and she got a teaching job in the local elementary school. That was her vocation. But her avocation was politics.

Janet was from the Dells. So, it was just natural for her to have an affinity for countryside. That interest developed into a crusade for environmental causes; from ozone layers, to preservation of the Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird.

She threw herself into every effort with her legendary energy and dedication. Oil companies trembled when she entered the room; as did mining interests, big box store developers and tract housing contractors. Janet had the vision and personal charisma to make a difference in people’s lives.

That ability didn’t escape the tree-huggers. They talked her into running for the County Board of Supervisors. Of course, Janet was a shoo-in for election. Who wouldn’t vote for a package of energy, beauty, and sex appeal like her?

That was almost two years ago. Since then, she had become a rising star in the political firmament.

Me, not so much.

I was just a cop. The good news was that, being the only detective in the Department made me Number Two. It also gave me exposure to every kind of crime. Most of it was petty stuff, thefts and robberies. But I had a few real cases, like the ones that I had investigated for the Army; assaults, spouse abuse and even attempted rape.

My Boss was the Sheriff. Big Jim Moore was a red-neck’s red-neck. So, every four years, our gun-toting, Bible-beating, relative-fucking citizenry would march down to the polls and renew his mandate.

Big Jim was big in every category, six-six, two-seventy, big hat, big mouth, and if you believed his public statements big dick. He was also the biggest asshole in rural Wisconsin.

The people who didn’t know him thought of him as a, “tough and uncompromising lawman.” The rest of us just thought of him as a narcissistic d-bag, whose opinion of himself was unaccompanied by any real results.

Big Jim was a bully too. He always got what he wanted; mainly because he was willing to be the loudest voice and most unreasonable asshole in the room. And, since he thought he WAS the law, he sometimes stepped outside the lines. That would eventually come back to bite him.

Janet appeared at that point. Her t-shirt and painted on jeans showcased her voluptuousness. She has gorgeous hazel eyes that sparkle with intelligence and good humor. Right that second, they were sparkling at me.  She plopped down opposite and said cheerfully, “Thanks for the fuck baby, and don’t forget the fundraiser tonight.”

The Democrats were doing their annual dinner for flying unicorns and fantastical beasts; or some-such liberal cause.  I said, “Had it circled on my calendar for weeks. Even rented a tux.” It was formal. 

I knew that I was the “plus-guest.” Janet was the mover and shaker. And she would be the person at the head table with the rest of the great and good. The Dems had made the necessary “charitable contribution,” so as to get their star up front. I was just happy to sit with the rest of the riff-raff and bask in her reflected glory.

Personally, I didn’t need it. There was far too much backstabbing, kowtowing, phony posturing, and downright sleaze associated with being a politician. I knew my wife sailed above most of the muck. But she occasionally had to roll in it. That’s just what politicians do to “get along;” as it were.

There was never any hint of real corruption. It was just that her actions were sometimes slightly amoral. She told me about it, which was technically a problem, since I was a sworn officer of the court. It was petty stuff, like looking the other way when an influential business knowingly violated county zoning regulations.

Since I thought most of those regulations were bullshit anyhow I applauded her “willingness to be flexible.” But she HAD been elected on an environmental ticket and some of that contradicted her personal beliefs.

I knew that she was rock solid ethically before she had started her political career. But apparently, she was learning to, “Work together for the greater good,” as she put it.  That’s an infectious disease with politicians.

We arrived together, me in my rented tux and Janet in a ravishing little black dress. Actually, it wasn’t the dress that was so striking. It was the body that was stuffed in it.

She did the usual noblesse oblige with me. You know what I’m talking about. She was itching to get up to the main table. But, she couldn’t just blow off her husband. So, she hastily introduced me to a few of the lesser mortals and then hustled off to join the “somebodies” at the front.

I didn’t mind. She liked the limelight and I didn’t.

The folks I met all seemed like nice people. One guy was the local doctor.  He’d been in the Army too. We chatted a bit about our service. He was hazy about what he did. But I’m a cop. I could see it in his eyes.

I’d met a few guys like him in my active service days. That type of dude is steady, level headed and, in most respects, kindhearted and humane. They ALSO just happen to be expert killers.

His wife was gorgeous. She was a nurse and she radiated her husband’s aura of superb capability, self-confidence, and strength. She was a Swedish blond, which was not a rare commodity in rural Wisconsin. But she had the sort of Nordic fire and ice sexuality that can get a rise out of any man. There was just something about her obvious strength of character and the way she held that perfect, nubile body that pulled you in like she had her own gravity.

My other table partners were teachers. He was the District’s Athletic Director much taller than the rest of us and with the greyhound frame of a runner. I asked him what he played in college, since it was obvious he had competed in something. He said matter-of-fact, “Soccer.”

Then he added playfully, “But Penny was the real star. She was a Badger cheerleader and she was engaged to.” He named a guy who played for the Packers. I wondered how the dude felt, being a tunnel buddy with an NFL All-Star.

The wife’s name was Penny. She worked with Janet at the local elementary school. That was why the whole group was there. Janet can be very persuasive when she is selling tickets.

Like Janet, Penny put new meaning to the term “brick-shit-house.” She had auburn hair. But, she had a heart-shaped face with stunning china blue eyes. I thought to myself, “I’ll bet this woman is super-hot.” I don’t want to disillusion you, girls. But men carry that scorecard around in our heads everywhere we go.  

Penny was glaring daggers at her husband. She said, “Jake likes to tease me. I could have a loving marriage with a perfect man. Or I could spend my life wondering who my husband was sleeping with. The choice wasn’t hard to make.” I thought to myself, ‘Hot AND with genuine values.”

It was a pleasant evening. Janet was the star of the show. Her stemwinding speech about wetland preservation had all the nature lovers on their feet. That included my asshole boss, who had about as much sensitivity to the environment as a strip mining company. Janet acknowledged the cheers with the glowing demeanor of a true politico. The girl was a natural.

After the speeches, we mixed for cocktails.  It was time for me to be at my wife’s side, acknowledging my luck at being married to such a “visionary woman;” their words, not mine. Unfortunately, Janet was standing in a group that included Big Jim.

I have to deal with that rectum all week. So, I thought I’d hang with my new friends and let Janet wheel and deal on her own. I knew she would come to me when she was finished.

Janet seemed to be doing a couple of odd things as I watched her socialize. Why did I notice them? I’m a detective. I detect stuff.

First, she was getting smashed. That was a new wrinkle. Lately she had been drinking more. I didn’t know why she was doing it. It was almost like she was anesthetizing herself. That was strange, since we had a great life.

The second and most eye-opening thing, was that Big Jim was monopolizing her time. The entire County Board was standing in a herd talking and laughing. Jim was hanging around that group because he never misses the opportunity to brownnose.

He was telling one of his off-color jokes. How did I know it was off color? Because, Big Jim was telling it. The whole group chuckled uneasily, except Janet. She laid her head back and gave the asshole a full-throated laugh. Then she put her hand on his arm.

In the time we had been together I had seen that gesture thousands of times. But this was something different. Maybe her hand lingered a fraction too long. Or, maybe it was the look in her eye. But I knew that it was something that I had to investigate, if nothing more than to ease my suddenly troubled mind.  

I think it was the abrupt change in attitude that caused my unease. I had never heard Janet say a good word about Big Jim. Culturally, he was as far as you could get on the other end of the human spectrum. Janet was smart, caring and generous. Jim was the most aggressively self-righteous yokel on the planet.

Both Jim and Janet were icons to their own constituencies. It was just that they represented polar opposite groups. Janet was educated and socially aware. Big Jim had built his public image around his ignorant and narrow-minded attitudes, and he never missed the chance to brag about it. It was like being "King of the Great American Underclass" was a badge of honor for him.

Janet had made it clear that she thought that Jim was embarrassing. That was the reason why her touching him in an overfriendly manner immediately drew my attention.

There was nothing overtly sexual. It was just so out of character. It wasn’t like I could confront her about laying a hand on Big Jim. That would have made me sound paranoid. But I DID file it away under the heading of, “To be looked-into.” I’m a cop. We file a lot of stuff for future reference.

Janet was absolutely ravenous when we got home, and I don’t mean she wanted to eat. Well, she wanted to eat something. I ate something too and we fucked in novel ways. I know the drinking loosened her up. But it was like she was working something out of her system.

*****

A gentleman called a couple of weeks later. He asked if we could meet at the local diner. I told him to come in to the Sheriff’s Office. Having coffee with strange dudes who call from out of the blue did not fall under the heading of “proper procedure.”

The caller added, “I really think you need to talk to me Senior Special Agent Schwartzwalder.”

THAT got my undivided attention. Whoever this was had just used my Army title.  I had not been called that in over six years. So, this was probably somebody from my past life. I said tersely, “Meet me at the Hot Spot in a half hour.”

The Hot Spot is in the next town, which is like across the street in rural Wisconsin. It is legendary for good food, and atmosphere. The guy sitting at the two-top in the back, stood out like an ostrich at a turkey farm. The locals were eyeing him like he was a zoo animal. He just screamed Fed.

I sat down warily. He was tall and gaunt with the classic uniform, cheap suit, wrinkled white shirt and partially undone tie. He solemnly checked me out and said, “What I’m about to tell you is part of a Federal investigation. You may be subject to prosecution if you reveal anything. Should I continue?”

That was a little disturbing. I’ve been right to the top in the federal clearance space and so the threat wasn’t THAT intimidating. But this was small town Wisconsin, not the CIA. I couldn’t imagine what he had to say.

He was staring back to me with arched eyebrows. I finally said, “Okay, fire-away. I understand the consequences,”

He said, “I’ll need you to sign this,” and produced a document. I signed. I was committed now.

He said, “My name is Barnestaple and I’m with the FBI.” He produced the credential. That was a laugh. The Feebies have their own special look. I wondered if the stick up his ass was original equipment, or it was installed when he graduated from Quantico?

He said, “We checked you out before we contacted you. We know you were a hotshot with Army CIS and we know that you are currently number two in the County Sheriff’s Office.”

I said, “There are only nine of us so that’s no big deal.”

He looked at me seriously, and said, “Are you familiar with the Leptis trucking facility?”

I said, “Of course, my wife was one of the people who had to approve the easement. She’s a major tree hugger and there were some environmental issues with the trucks and traffic going in and out of there.”

He said, “How does your wife feel about drugs?”

I didn’t think I’d heard him right. My brain was processing the concept of Janet and drugs. It came back with, “Error 404 – Not Found!” I spluttered, “What the fuck are you trying to say??! Janet would NEVER be involved in something as stupid as that!!”

I realized I had just implied that she might be interested in something LESS stupid, but I think he got the gist. He said, “We’ve been surveilling James Moore for the past three months. We have evidence that he is running a distribution network for opioids coming into the U.S. from Canada.”

Canada? that didn’t make sense?? I said, “Wrong border buddy. Aren’t you talking about Mexico?”

Barnestaple looked pained and said, “Nobody thinks the Canadian border is a threat, whereas Mexico is a political talking point. The Border with Canada is four thousand miles of very hard to surveil, tree covered terrain. Whereas, the Mexican border is a mere two thousand miles of easy to watch desert, and the U.S. Border Patrol is sitting on every inch of it.”

He poured a little more sugar into his coffee and said mildly, “So, which border would you pick if you wanted to run shit into the U.S.?”

I thought about it. He had a point. There is nothing but miles of trees and mountains, with no major river barriers in the stretch from the Great Lakes to the West Coast. There had to be some observation. But there was no way to prevent a person who knew his way around from walking from one country to another, or four wheeling, or snowmobiling, or even driving an 18-wheeler through the Fort Fisher Border crossing.

When it’s minus-two outside and the snow is up to your ass, inspecting trucks in the middle of nowhere isn’t the same vibe that you get when you’re working the Reynosa, or Tijuana border crossing.  It got my cop instinct cooking.

I said, “Okay, let’s say it’s possible that some dude in Moose Jaw is trying to flood the market with home cooked Fentanyl, or Demerol, or whatever. Why would they choose our hick County?”

Barnestaple laughed and said, “That’s the point. Your County is perhaps the least obvious place in the universe for a major drug operation. So, if you wanted to stay off law enforcement’s radar would you set up shop here, or in Chicago?”

Then he added ominously, “And, if the hillbilly Sheriff in that hick County is one of the main cogs in the network, then WHY NOT? It’s a straight shot down 53 from Canada and even if there wasn’t much product on the truck when it exited border control, there is a lot of surrounding forest where couriers can load up a 60-foot trailer.”

He added by way of explanation, “The FBI got called because the drugs are coming in from another Country and moving across State lines. It’s the same situation with folks running coke, or smack in from SOUTH of the border.”

I mused to myself, “Hmmm, the Feebs think Big Jim’s dirty?  How delightful!!”

It didn’t surprise me. I knew that the dude thought that he was untouchable, and I also knew that he didn’t have a moral, or ethical bone in his body. But why was Barnestaple talking to me?

I said, “Okay, I buy your premise. But, why am I involved?”

Barnestaple stirred his coffee and said with studied casualness, “That oughta be obvious. The FBI is national. We don’t just storm into local jurisdictions. That’s very bad optics. The press views things a lot more sympathetically if we are seen as working with the locals.”

That made sense. The FBI isn’t any LESS political than the rest of the apparatus in DC.

He took a sip and said, “We’ve backgrounded you, including your Army records. We’ve also done a bit of intensive combing through your personal info. We know you are exactly what you’re advertised, and we need you to run point on this.”

I said, “Let me get this straight. You have already done your investigative due diligence and you think you have the evidence to indict Big Jim and other players in his scheme – correct?”  Barnestaple nodded. 

I continued with, “And since I am home-grown law-enforcement, you want to make it look like you were coordinating with local cops all along - right?” Barnestaple nodded again.

I said, “THEN when the hammer drops you want me to serve as the resident center-of-gravity while all of the pieces hit the ground. Does that about sum it up?” Barnestaple nodded. 

I wondered if enigmatic nodding was a course at Quantico.

I said, “Then I’m going to need you to put something on the record to confirm that arrangement. Since, I am fishing in deep water here.”

I added grimly, “If Jim is involved, my guess is that half the Sheriff’s Department and some of County Government was also neck deep in the Kim-Chi. And anybody poking around, like you’re asking me to do, could find themselves out of a job, or seriously dead.” 

Barnestaple said, “We’ll document all of this for you. But, that’s not the problem. The REAL problem is that this is a complex tactical challenge. You can actually help us there.”

He said, conspiratorially, “This is an international ring and we only know who the main players are. We have to get every member of the network, or they’ll scatter and just rebuild after we’ve left. So, we want the local cops to help us sort it out.”

He laughed and said sardonically, “But, we can’t approach your boss, since he’s the main player.”

Barnestaple took another sip and added, “So far, all of our evidence has been gathered electronically, or through surveillance of the trucks via Global Hawk.”

He flashed me the square-jawed, forthright look that all Feebs learn in Feeb school and said, “We need boots-on-the-ground and that’s you. We can do the actual bust. But we need to have an advance scout, so-to-speak; somebody who knows the territory and who can call us in at the right moment.”

I said, “You already have Big Jim in the net - right? So, who else do you have locally?”

Barnestaple said, “We’ve got Esau Holmes, he owns Leptis and he has major Mob connections down in Chicago.”

That was interesting. I thought that the guys who were mobbed-up were all Italian. Holmes was in his sixties and he looked like the guy with the pitchfork in American Gothic. However, he WAS a big pal and political crony of Jim’s. 

I said, “Who else?”

Barnestaple said, “Those two are the major players. The trucking company does legitimate business and most of the employees seem to be nothing but innocent bystanders. The people we are interested in do the exchanges in the middle of the night, they call themselves the ‘knight shift’ – get it?”

I gave him my, “Really??!!” look.

Barnestaple continued with, “Leptis is the delivery point for the small suppliers in the Upper Midwest. It would be a bit too obvious to have a semi pull up at a local bar in BFE and start unloading crates of pills. So, they run small shipments, in pickups, and vans, out to Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas. That’s where the shit actually gets sold.”

He added, “The Leptis facility is the hub of the network. It’s where they break the load into packages for transport into the boondocks. So, when a shipment comes in it’s the only time they’re all in one place.”

Barnestaple looked irritated as he said, “We have ironclad proof that will put away the big players. But we want the whole network. We can act, once we know that everybody is in the bag. That’s where you come in.” 

*****

A couple of weeks later, I was sitting in the woods outside Leptis trucking. The word from Barnestaple was that a shipment was due. So, I told Janet that I was working on a case in Eau Claire and that I would be gone overnight. I didn’t want to worry her.

She gave me a rousing send-off. It was a spectacular night of sex, even by Janet’s exacting standards.  

The FBI doesn’t like to muck around in the woods in the middle of the night. It messes up their gleaming white shirts. Plus, that was what they had the local peasantry for.

SO, it was just little-old-me out there; fending off the swarms of Wisconsin black-flies. Those things are as big as vampire bats and a lot more blood-thirsty, which, no doubt, explained why the Feebies wanted ME to do it.

It was 3 AM. The Leptis building was locked down tight. It was set back in the woods off Wisconsin-10, and only approachable by a single paved access road. Holmes’s big Cadillac XTS slowly made its way up the road and stopped at the gate. He was right on time.

He got out and entered the code that opened the gates. Then he got back in and drove down to the facility. He went in the building and the outside lights went on. Then, the big metal doors retracted.

The pickups and vans began to arrive. I heard a diesel chugging its way up the road and a tractor trailer went past. I followed it in the shadow of the woods. It pulled up to the loading dock. I recognized most of the people doing the unloading. They were my colleagues in the Sheriff’s Office. The people who had arrived in the pickups and vans were strangers. That made sense. These were the dealers.

I had a low-light Nikon DS with a telephoto lens. I recorded the coming and going. Those pictures would tie a neat bow around the investigation, and there would be indictments for the house tonight.

The Feebies were hidden behind the Farm Supply store, 300 yards from the access road; poised to get the word.  I was communicating with Barnestaple via a tactical headset. Things were wrapping up at Leptis, and I had just said, “Go,” when I saw Big Jim’s King Ranch F150 pull in from the access road.

The thought of catching Big Jim holding a smoking gun was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.

I said urgently, “Wait, one.”

Only an arrogant douchebag like Big Jim would drive a truck with Sheriff’s Department shields, to a drug drop. There was a passenger with him. But I couldn’t make out who he was. Big Jim got out. He gave the assembled offenders a jovial, good-old-boy, back slapping and hand shaking. He was obviously there to inspire the troops.

I had everything we needed to send the asshole away for a very long time. So, I whispered urgently into the headset, “Go!! Go!! Go!!” I heard Barnestaple’s voice say, “Twenty seconds!!!” I glanced in the direction of the access road and saw a series of headlights starting to turn in at high speed.

At the same time, the passenger got out of Big Jim’s truck. I focused the camera to capture the image of the last soon-to-be inmate.

It was Janet!!!!

My brain went into mortal lock.  You know how you get when you see something that couldn’t possibly be true. Your eyes and your brain start a knock-down-drag-out fight about what you’re seeing; and there isn’t any processing power left to consider what that implies.

My wife definitely had some ‘splainin to do and it had better be persuasive. Still, everybody out there was armed. So, it would be hazardous to just storm up and yell, “What the fuck are YOU doing here bitch??!!” Even if there was a strike team 15 seconds out.

All hell broke loose when they arrived. The Feds came screeching to a stop cowboy style. Their big Suburbans disgorged Feebs in black tactical gear; like they were coming out of a clown car. A helicopter appeared overhead, with one of those Spectro Lab SX 16, 50 million candle power lights. The whole world erupted in blinding white light and everybody just froze.

The strike-team was yelling, “Get down on the ground!! Face down on the Ground!!” Most of the crowd complied. The light and the noise were super intimidating.

It looked like Big Jim wanted to argue. So, a man in black, butt-stroked him to the ground. He plopped face-first. Janet was yelling, “Do you know who I am?” as they zip-tied her hands behind her back and led her toward the Federal Paddy-wagons.

Those big vans had appeared like clockwork, right behind the strike team. It was clear that the Feebies knew how to throw a good drug bust. I just stood there in the dark, with my heart in my throat, watching. This was beyond imagining. My wife was in Federal custody, caught in the act.

I stepped out into the bright light. The strike team all knew who I was. They went about their business without acknowledging me. I handed the camera with the evidence to Barnestaple. He accepted it with a nod. Then I walked up to Janet.

She was on her feet sobbing and crying, protesting her innocence. Then, she saw me. She stopped her caterwauling and said accusatorially, “I thought you were in Eau Claire?”  That was perhaps the most ironically inappropriate statement ever uttered by a handcuffed felon. It was like I had just been caught where I shouldn’t have been.

I got it. It was an unbearably sudden shift in perspective, and she was in shock. It had all happened so fast and Janet still didn’t understand how much shit she was in. For my part, I was devastated. I walked up to her and said sadly, “Maybe I can work a deal.”

She wailed, “Noooo!!” It was finally dawning on her that her situation was real and there was no walking away from it.

*****

That was four and a half years ago. Big Jim and the other “criminal masterminds” got 25 years for intent to distribute. Most of the rest got 3 to 10, depending on priors.

The Canadians were even more medieval. They REALLY didn’t appreciate a drug cartel operating on their side of the border.

I was the clear choice to replace Big Jim. I had garnered a lot of good press as the hero detective who had sniffed out the bad guys, even if I had done the detecting by meeting one Feeb at the Hot Spot. Plus, after the indictments were handed down, there were only four of us left in the Sheriff’s Office.

My subsequent landslide victory was pretty-much a given; even though a small group of voters still treated me like a cross between Benedict Arnold and Judas. Those were the diehard Big Jim fans.

There are always a few in any election. Since, you can fool some of the morons all of the time. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going anywhere, and Big Jim wasn’t coming back; at least any sooner than twenty years with good behavior. So, I began to settle into my new role as County Sheriff.

I got Janet out on recognizance. She copped a plea. I arranged it. Janet was the star witness; both at the proceedings here and in Canada. She said that she wanted to make it up to everybody she’d wronged. Primarily, that was me.

Naturally, her testimony didn’t set well with the shadowy people who had funded the operation. So, Janet also got witness protection.

I divorced her. There was no alternative. It was an agonizing decision. But, life is a nothing but hard choices. Sometimes you know they’re important; like deciding to get married or have kids. Sometimes they seem trivial; like deciding to ride along to a drug deal in the middle of the night. Nonetheless, they ALL have consequences.

I loved Janet. But, Janet had made her choice without considering how it would impact me. Now I had to make mine. I didn’t want to give up my life and my identity because my wife hadn’t chosen wisely.

We had many long, heart-to-heart talks. I needed to know why? It turned out that her downfall was the old slippery-slope, combined with the adage about strange bedfellows. Jim and Holmes had needed an easement and Janet had some funding priorities. So, she traded migrating geese for a minor change in zoning requirements. She had even told me about that.

Then, the next time Jim came calling whole wet-lands got preserved. The problem with deals with the Devil though, is that they’re like quicksand. One “deal” follows another, until you’re in so deep you can’t get out.

Why would a smart woman do something that stupid? Well - power corrupts. It’s a fact. You might come into office with all kinds of altruistic motives. But, the adulation of the masses will eventually convince you that you know best. Especially if you’re put in office by a clear majority of your fellow citizens.

Janet was a shining star, a woman who led. More important, she was fighting for just causes. So, in her mind the ends justified the means. That kind of self-aggrandizing rationalization is pretty-much standard operating procedure in all forms of government; from rural County Boards, to the Halls of Power in DC.

To Janet’s credit, she never took a penny of her ill-gotten gains. It all went for conservation efforts. But, she knew exactly what was happening out there in the Wisconsin woods and that knowledge made her culpable; no matter what bogus logic she’d cooked up to justify her actions.

At least I finally knew why she was drinking so much. Guilty consciences require a lot of anesthetic.

The ironic thing is that she might have skated, if I hadn’t used the pretext of going to Eau Claire. She agreed to join Big Jim, just for that night’s exchange, because I wasn’t home.

Jim was no-doubt trying to set the hook, by bringing Janet to the scene of the crime. That way she could never claim she didn’t know what was going on.

And yes - perhaps Big Jim also planned to use Janet’s exposure to leverage some other demands. But I am certain that he hadn’t touched her at that point. In fact, I never got a hint of even an emotional connection. It was just business for both.

We fucked a lot before she left. I sincerely believe that, if Big Jim had never been born we would have died in each other’s arms. But he had been, and I had to admit that I had tears in my eyes, as I turned Janet over to the Marshalls. If you disregarded her sidelight as the queen of Schedule Two substances; she was a perfect wife, loving, smart and sexy.

I kissed her goodbye on the last day of a snowy February. The agonizing months of regret and loneliness that followed, put me permanently off women.

*****

So here I was, driving through a rainy Wisconsin night with a nutcase in the front seat. The Doc, the one who I had met at Janet’s last hurrah, was going to be my first stop. It was 3AM when we arrived at his clinic.

I had called ahead. Most people would have told me to get lost. But the Doc and his wife are dedicated to the community, and they just lived a few streets over. So, they walked through a downpour to their clinic. The doors were unlocked, the lights were on and the coffee was brewing. That’s how things work in small towns.

The Doc was in jeans and an old sweatshirt. It said, “Operation Enduring Freedom - Bagram Air Base.” It had the sun, star and thunderbolt of the 75th Rangers. I knew that the Doc was a snake eater the moment I met him.

The wife was in scrubs. They had clearly prepared to receive a female patient. It was a toss-up whether the Doc’s wife looked more gorgeous, than she looked competent, or vice-versa.

I escorted my little fruitcake into the clinic. She gazed around the room approvingly and said, “This is Doc Morton’s place.” Then she looked at the Doc and said, “Who’re you?”

The Doc’s wife, whose name was Eve, said, “We’re the new staff sweetheart. We are here to help you.”

My little friend sounded confused as she said, “But where’s the Doc? I just talked to him yesterday.”

That was puzzling. Doc Morton had died almost twenty years ago.

Eve gave her a friendly smile, one totally lacking in the judgment that you might normally give a crazy person, and said, “He isn’t here. But we are. Can I ask you your name?”

My beautiful little nut said, “Sure – Mavis.”

That was progress. At least she knew her name. Eve said, “What’s your last name Baby?”

My new responsibility said, “Pritchett,” like we all ought to know who she was.

Eve wrote both first and last names down on a clipboard. She walked over to where the receptionist sits, opened a fresh medical record on the computer and began to type.

Mavis turned to me and said bewildered, “Is that another one of those newfangled radios like you have in your car?”

Eve looked up and said, still perfectly normal, “It’s not a radio dear. It’s called a computer. We can write down the things that you tell us, and we can store it for future reference.”

Mavis said, “I used to do that. Only we called it a typewriter and a filing cabinet.”

The Doc chuckled, and said amused, “Same general concept.”

Eve said, “So, can you tell me where you live Mavis?”

Mavis looked suspicious and said, “Across the street. I live in the apartment above the Hardware Store. You’d know that if you REALLY worked here.”

That was interesting. The hardware store had been in the same location since the 1930s and it DID have a small apartment above it. But Mavis wasn’t the occupant. Old lady Schmidt had lived there since at least the 1980s.

Eve ran through the other admitting questions while the Doc and I just sat there observing the patient.

The Doc was forming a medical opinion. I was trying to decide what to do with her.

Mavis was clearly disturbed. I could put her in the lockup until I could get her transported down to the clinic in Madison. But that just didn’t seem right. She was no threat to herself, or anybody else.

I could put her up for the night in a motel. But I didn’t trust her to NOT wander off.

I was certainly not going to take her back to my place. I could see the headlines now, “County Sheriff Shacks-Up with Local Nutter.”

I said to The Doc, “Can you put her up, while I figure out what to do with her? It’ll only be overnight. The County will reimburse you.”

He said, “Sure, we have plenty of room since Brookie got married.”  His daughter was a smoking hot twenty-two-year-old. She had married some big-time star with the Red Wings and moved to Detroit.

Well, that settled the custody problem. Now, all I had to do was figure out who Mavis Pritchett was.

She was a gorgeous creature, in a black haired, blue eyed way; with porcelain skin, and lovely, perfectly formed, even features. She also had a very leggy, five-foot two body.  

She was nubile, full and lithe, with a faultlessly formed pair of round tits on top. But, her butt was her real glory. She had a way of putting one hand on a hip and cocking it so that it emphasized how curvy it was.  I thought to myself, “Whoa boy!!” The last thing I needed were carnal thoughts about a crazy person.

I was listening to Eve go through the standard protocol for patients who present with mental concerns. Eve said, “So what is the last thing you remember before the Sheriff picked you up.”

Mavis wrinkled her beautiful nose in concentration and said, “I was having a drink with Jimmy Rawlins at the Crescent in Cadott. They’ve got some good times in that place.”

That sort-of made sense. At least the bar was on Wisconsin-27 in the general direction of where I had found her.  Eve said, “Just to be clear, you were having drink with somebody over in Cadott. What happened after that?”

Mavis paused, like she was trying to recall. She said, “Well, I remember it was hot and I started to feel kind-of funny. It was like Jimmy’d slipped me a Mickey.” 

I hadn’t heard anybody in this Century refer to drugged drinks as Mickey Finns. I know it was a popular term back in the 1930s. But now that date-rape is almost a college sport, there are so many chemical names for those types of drugs that you have to be a pharmacist to keep track.

Mavis looked anguished for a second and said, “That’s all I remember until this guy nearly ran over me.” She gestured in my direction.

I said, “My name is Erik and I’m the local Sheriff. You wandered out of a forest in the middle of the night. Do you have any idea how you got out there?”

She said baffled, “I have no idea. I took the bus up to Cadott last night, to drink with some of my friends. It was Tommy Williams’s party. He just got back from the war you know. We were all really worried about him. He was a waist gunner on a B-17.”

I looked at the Doc questioningly. He said kindly, “That war has been over for 70 years Mavis.”

If you want to see a picture of gobsmacked, you need look no further than Mavis Pritchett.  She wailed, “No way!! That’s impossible!! The Japs just surrendered.”

*****

The rain stopped after I went to sleep. The next morning, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and it was back into the 70s.

That’s the problem with Wisconsin in the fall.  Most of the time the light is golden, the temperatures are pleasant, and the wildlife hasn’t settled in for the godawful month of January. But, Old Man Winter still likes to show his hand once-in-a-while, just to keep the residents from getting too complacent. 

The first thing I did after morning coffee was phone the Doc. Mavis had gone off the deep end after we told her it was NOT 1946. He’d sedated her, and she was sleeping it off in their spare bedroom. The Doc and his wife had taken turns keeping an eye on her. 

I said, “I’ll be around to pick her up. But I want to do a little background investigation first. Can you hold on to her for another hour or two?”

The Doc said, “Sure.” He and his wife both understood service. She was an ex-navy nurse, who had done tours in the Sandbox. And my guess was that Doc had done a lot more than that. 

Our Post is a one-story building with a reception desk and work area for the Deputies and a little office in the back for me. I closed my door and fired up the computer.

First, I did a deepweb scan looking for any Mavis Pritchetts living in Wisconsin. It came up empty. Mavis isn’t a popular name for woman under the age of 80. So, I checked the CIB data base for any Mavis Pritchetts. There was only one person by that name. The problem was that she had been missing since the 1940s!!

The circumstances of her disappearance were unknown.  The cops up in Chippewa County had done their due diligence. But, it was a different era back then. They turned up nothing. Nobody seemed to know what had happened. The case went cold while Harry S Truman was still President. 

I sat back in my chair and took a big sip of coffee. I was trying to think this through. I’m a hardheaded Wisconsin cop. I didn’t believe in ghosts. This woman was a hot-as-hell, twenty-something, living human being. So, I had to figure out why she was trying to pass herself off as a missing person; one who had disappeared seventy years ago.

I got a call from Charlene, while I was on my way to the clinic to pick up Mavis. Char is our dispatcher. She reported a public disturbance at the hardware on main street. I didn’t need to ask who was causing it. I said tersely, “Responding!!”

Lights flashing; I screeched to a stop in front of the hardware building, bailed out, and ran up the steps to the second-floor. My nut case was on the landing banging loudly on the door and yelling, “Open up, you old bitch!! I need my clothes!!”

I came up the stairs behind her and said sternly, “Mavis, you have to stop this.”

She turned and said delighted, “Oh, you’re here. I need you to arrest this lady. She’s squatting in my apartment.”

I tapped on the door and said, “Open the door Mrs. Schmidt. It’s Sheriff Schwartzwalder.”

The door slowly opened, and an elderly lady timorously appeared. She said, “This woman has been banging on my door for the past fifteen minutes. That’s why I called you.”

I said, “It’s okay Mrs. Schmidt. I apologize. Mavis here is a little disoriented. We are working to get her some help.”

Mavis yelled, “Disoriented!! I’ll be just fine, once you get this old bitch out of my place.”  

I turned to Mrs. Schmidt and said, “How long have you been living here Alice?”

She said, “I moved in after my divorce in ’76. That’s coming up on 40 years now. My ex-husband Tom, he liked the ladies.”

Mavis shrieked, “That’s bullshit. I’ve been living here since I started work. That was two years ago!!”

Mavis tried to push past poor Mrs. Schmidt. I grabbed her by the arm and dosey-doed her around on the landing. Then I proceeded down the steps with her trying to yank her arm free. I tossed her in the back of the cruiser, that’s the place where we keep the suspects, and motored back to my house.

Mavis needed to stay someplace, and I didn’t have the heart to put her in the County lock-up. The only other option was to put her up myself. I knew how it might look, having a woman in Mavis’s situation under my roof. But she was my responsibility, and it just didn’t seem right to keep presuming on the Doc’s kindheartedness.

Janet and I were DINKS. So, we had a nice house. The uplift for the mortgage came courtesy of Uncle Sam and our GI-Bills. I had been rattling around in it for almost five years, which, NOT coincidentally, was also the point-in-time when Janet became a nameless face.

We had a couple of acres and a big, roomy one-story custom-built log-house. It had vaulted ceilings and a huge deck overlooking the Millpond. It had four bedrooms, in anticipation of children. It was isolated and scenic. But, it was still easily accessible to town via 27.

It was a sad reminder of a future I thought I had. I had been busy in the first couple of years, shaping up the Department. So, the isolation didn’t bother me much. But, I had lived the unhappy life of the solitary man for the last couple of years. I’d wake up, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed; rinse and repeat. It was hopelessly depressing.

Mavis had calmed down by the time we got to the house. In fact, she was hunched over in the back-seat weeping. My heart went out to her. No matter how many weird delusions she had, she was clearly a damsel in distress.

She turned a tear-filled face to me and said disconsolately, “What am I going to do?”

I said, “Come on in and we can talk. I promise that I will see this through with you.”

I knew she wasn’t quite right. But, I wanted the poor thing to understand that I wouldn’t let her just fall through the cracks.  I was beginning to feel deeply sympathetic.

As far as she was concerned, one day she had been living in vibrant post-World-War-Two America. And the next day she was stranded in an alien time with unimaginable technology. Think of how you would feel if you woke up one morning and it was the dawn of the third Millennium.

As I led her from car to house, I put my arm around her shoulders, just to console her. We had a short wooden bridge from the parking area to our doorstep. It crossed over a little brook that ran down to the Millpond. It was one of Janet’s favorite features.

Mavis stopped and looked around with wonder. She said, “This is beautiful, so quiet and serene.” Then she kind-of leaned into me in an intimate fashion. I let her do that because she obviously needed all the comforting she could get.

She had nothing with her, just the oddly out-of-place outfit that she had been wearing when I first discovered her. She had clearly put on her best togs for her night on the town in Cadott. It featured a short wool skirt, that showed off her fantastic legs, old-fashioned nylons, with a seam up the back, 3-inch heels and a nice white blouse, topped by a jaunty, short wool jacket that matched her skirt.

I said, “You can stay here while we sort this out.” She looked concerned. I laughed and said, “This is a four-bedroom house. You sleep in the other end of it, and I don’t sleepwalk. The bedroom door locks if you want extra peace of mind”

She said, like she was giving me information, “I’m a good girl. I don’t just sleep around.”

I said soothingly, “Look – as far as you know it’s 1946. So, you have a lot of catching up to do and you need to stay someplace safe to do it. I could put you in the County lockup if you think you’d be more comfortable there. But, you’ll like it better here; trust me.”

Her face softened. She said with deep emotion, “I DO trust you. Thank you for helping me.” 

I looked at her sitting there and one thing was obvious. I said, “You can’t keep walking around in those clothes. We need to update your look and get you some supplies.”

There was a Mall in Eau Claire. I told Char that I was going to be stuck all day solving a problem, but to call me if I was needed. Then we drove over to the Mall.

The Oakwood Mall was a brand-new experience for my little friend. When we walked in, she gazed around like it was the Emerald City. Malls were still a decade away when Mavis last went shopping.

I heard her mutter to herself, “In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree.” That was Coleridge. She was well educated.

Mavis was still getting over the vastness of the place when I took her into the clothing store. I didn’t know anything about women’s clothes. So, I handed her off to the nearest sales person. The girl complimented Mavis on her “hipster” outfit. If she only knew!!

The saleslady was a study in tats and piercings. Mavis looked at me like she didn’t know why I had brought her to a carnival freak show. Still, the saleslady was knowledgeable and had a light touch when it came to choosing things to fit Mavis.

It was obvious that Mavis considered all the clothing in the store immodest. I told her that was modern style. I also told her she looked fantastic. She blushed. It wasn’t a false compliment. She was stunning.

Her leggy body with its succulent round butt and her surprisingly full, well-shaped tits, was a sight to behold; especially in a pair of painted on Jeans and a relaxed hi-lo tunic that was unbuttoned down to her 1940s bra.

The next culture shock occurred when I hauled out the Departmental Visa to pay for her loot.

She said, “What’s that?” I said, “It’s a credit card. Most transactions are by plastic these days.”

She looked puzzled. I said, “I’ll explain later. You still have a lot to learn.” God!! I was beginning to talk to her like she really HAD come from the 1940s. Our close familiarity was dragging me into HER delusions.

That had to stop if I was going to help her!!

We put her old clothing in one of the four big bags. Mavis was still wearing her 1940s pumps. So, the next stop was sandals, and a pair of running shoes. She loved the feel of the running shoes.

Before she could ask, I said, “I’ll explain that too,” Then we made the final stop. She needed some undies. So, I took her to the Victoria’s Secret store.

Normal men do not want to be caught dead in a place that is devoted to women’s underthings. But, I bravely walked her in. I explained that Mavis was not from around these parts, and that she needed help selecting modern panties and bras. I let the saleslady’s imagination fill in the rest.

I told the sales lady to fix Mavis up with whatever a girl would need. She turned to Mavis and said, “You look like a D cup, right?”

Mavis looked at me to translate. The armor-plated bras from Mavis’s era were not designed to be comfortable. I shrugged. I’m a guy.  I don’t understand the terminology. I just like playing with the things.

So, Mavis turned to the saleslady and said, “What’s a D cup?” The sales lady laughed like she thought that Mavis was making a joke.

I said to the sales lady, “Just take her back and measure her. Use your judgement about what she should have. I want you to load her up with all the gear a woman would normally need for the long haul. 

They came out of the fitting room 30 minutes later. I had been hiding out in the mall itself. Mavis said embarrassed, “THAT was humiliating! Modern women wear these things??” And she held up a pair of high-cut lace panties.

As the sales lady was toting up the bill she casually mentioned, “She’s 36-23-35 and a 32D, in case you need to buy her anything else.” I didn’t know anything about women’s underthings. But, I DID know that those measurements were a knockout.

We walked back to the cruiser loaded down with shopping bags. Mavis was wearing her new jeans, running shoes and the light top. Now that she was properly supported, so-to-speak, there was two inches of sexy cleavage peeking out of the airy tunic.

Mavis seemed to have temporarily forgotten about her time displacement problem. I imagine a shopping orgy will do that for a girl. She rode in front with me now, as docile as a little lamb. The bags were in the back, where the felons sit.

We made one more stop. That was the local Costco. She hadn’t been inside a big box store, either. She was walking around dazed. I had to keep grabbing her to keep her from running into the other shoppers. We picked up stuff like tooth brushes, disposable razors and other essentials a woman would need. I thought I would never get her out of the makeup aisle.

When we got back to my place, we took all her newfound loot back to her room. It took two trips. She carefully put things in the dresser and hung the other stuff up in the closet. She was very quiet and subdued as she did it.  It was obvious that things were sinking in.

I said, “What’s the matter Mavis?” She burst into tears and ran to me, burying her head in my chest and sobbing like a child. I hesitatingly put my arms around her.

She said through wracking sobs, “I’m so alone and lost!!”

You would have to be an extremely hard-hearted person to NOT be affected by that. I knew that she was a head case, not a time traveler. But, no matter the reality, she was legitimately frightened.

I said, “There-there, kiddo, we can work this out together. I’m not going to just leave you twisting in the wind. You can stay here for as long as you need to. We’ll eventually find your people.”

Her hard, little body was wrapped in my arms. She turned her perfect tear-stained face up to me, total devastation written on it. I knew what she thought was going to happen next, and I was fighting it with all I had. I knew I would be lost if I kissed her.

First, as an officer of the court, she was in my custodial care. Second, any person who takes advantage of the mentally impaired, deserves to be locked up. And, make no mistake about it. Avis was not quite right in the head. Finally, it had been almost five long years since I had had anything to do with women So, I wasn’t going to fall for a nutcase.

It took a lot of willpower to prevent myself from lowering my lips to hers; which was what both of us were longing to do. I smiled fondly and said, “You know - I’m beginning to like you Mavis Pritchett.”

She smiled back at me through her tears and said, “You know – I’m beginning to like you too Erik Schwartzwalder.” The spell was broken, and we went out to get a little late dinner. 

I rustled us up a couple of sandwiches, thick slabs of roast-beef between even thicker slices of sourdough bread. I said, “beer?” She said, “Of course.” And we took our meal out on the deck to look out over the millpond. She loved the ducks.

Mavis ate like a curly wolf. I was a little surprised that somebody as lithe and supple as she was, would eat like that. Then it dawned on me that she probably hadn’t eaten in 36 hours, or seventy years; take your pick. She downed her beer and belched like a guy. She said, “That was excellent!!” I thought, “What a woman!!”

She was silent for a long while. Finally, she said somberly, “I’m really in trouble, aren’t I?” I nodded.

She added, “If this is truly 2019, then there’s nobody to help me. My parents are gone, and all my friends are older than the crone who stole my apartment. I have to cope in a world I didn’t grow up in, and even if I could, I have no skills. What am I going to do?” She was back to crying.

I rose and put my hand on her shoulder in sympathy. She tensed for a minute and then it seemed like all the tension drained out of her. She said pathetically, “You’ll take care of me won’t you – at least until I can get my feet under me?”

I said, trying to convey my resolve, “I’ll take care of you and we will find out what happened. Don’t worry. There’s going to be a happy ending for you.”

If I’d known how this was going to turn out I might not have been so chipper.

She looked at me with desire in those striking blue eyes and said, “I don’t care what happens as long as you’re with me.”

I didn’t like the intimate look. I don’t do intimacy. I knew that it was just her dependence talking. But, this had to be crushed.

I said, “Let’s start from the beginning. Where were you born?”

She said, On a farm outside Fall Creek.”

I said, “Do you think you can find it? The roads have probably not changed much.” She nodded.

I said, “Okay, it’s too late to look, today. But let’s start bright and early in the morning. Maybe somebody will remember you.”

*****

The next morning, we were driving up a rutted dirt road off County N. It had turned hot and the sun was baking the fields around us. The autumn sound of the katydids was almost deafening. Mavis was looking for something recognizable. It was a fruitless search. There was nothing but old fencing lining the road.

I was about to turn back when she said elated, “There!! Over there!! Turn right!!” I looked and there were two tracks leading off between a couple of rotting gate posts.

We pushed our way through the high weeds and roadside plants and bumped our way up the nonexistent road. I was glad the cruiser had the Apprehender package. The heavy-duty shocks and springs gave it just enough clearance.

Mavis was practically vibrating with expectation. We crested a low rise and looked down at her former house. It was nothing but a big rectangular hole in the ground, with weeds growing out of it and a bunch of junk strewn around. I knew right away, that this was a big mistake.

Avis looked like it had finally sunk in that this wasn’t a dream. She stared, gulped, and wailed “Mooom!!” “Daaad!!” Then she threw herself on my chest and got back to her heartbroken crying.

I just held her and made cooing noises. Mavis’s whole life had evaporated in an instant, at least in her mind. I mean; what do you say to a woman who has suddenly lost her entire family, dog and girlhood mementoes.

Her body was shaking with grief. I was uncomfortably aware of those big boobs squashed against my chest and her thick curly black hair tickling my nose. She had put on some of the perfume that she had purchased, and it was raising erotic thoughts.

I let her sob for a while. Then I had a sudden flash of inspiration. I pushed her back. Her face was humid from crying and utterly, unfathomably beautiful. She looked at me with raging desire, and I knew she was going to kiss me.

That scared me to death. The last thing I needed was a sexual relationship with a crazy person. I swung her around, so that she was sitting back in the passenger’s seat. I didn’t want it to seem like I was rejecting her. But, I’m only human, and the sexual tension was killing me.

Mavis looked startled. It was like no guy had ever told her, “no.” She said astonished, “Don’t you want me?!!”

I said, “That isn’t it Mavis. You are a beautiful and sensual woman who I would normally fall in love with in a New York second. But right now, you believe you’re from the 1940s. That isn’t healthy. So, I have to help you get your real life back, and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to do that, if we add the additional complication of sex.”

Then I said sheepishly, “I’ve also been burned by all the women in my life and that has turned me feral.”

Her mood shifted from devastated to inquisitive. WOMEN! Being female, she wanted to know the whole story.

I said, “We have one more logical stop. I’ll tell you the whole thing over dinner tonight. 

The next stop was at the Consolidated School District Central Office in Fall Creek. I was going to do my, “official business,” thing with the receptionist but I ran into Jake Jensen. I had forgotten that he was the District Athletic Director. 

We recognized each other immediately, even though we hadn’t seen each other since the last event with Janet.  He stuck out his hand and said, “Erik, haven’t seen you since…” Then he stopped.

I said, “It’s okay Jake. Stuff happens, and I’m more-or-less over it.” I saw Mavis perk up her ears. 

He said, “What are you doing here? Are you visiting in an official capacity?” Then he noticed Mavis. She was standing there eagerly listening.

She looked like she had come down from heaven; with her perfect features, spectacular black hair and blue eyes and with her light summer tunic, stuffed full of boobs. Jensen checked her out.  I didn’t blame him. If I had seen Mavis at a local bar I would have been on her like she was a MIG-21 tailpipe and I was a sidewinder missile. She was THAT stunningly attractive. 

I said, “Jake, this is Mavis Pritchett. We would like to ask you a favor. She thinks that her great-grandmother might have graduated from here in 1940, is that correct Mavis?”

Mavis looked confused and said, “No, that was m….” She was about to say “me.” So, I stepped on her last word by l saying, “NO, I’m certain it was 1940!!!”

Jensen looked puzzled at the interchange. But, he said, “Well we keep all the old yearbooks back in the archive. Let’s go take a look.”

He walked down a hall to the room where they kept the records. There was a big rack of old high school annuals. He was tall enough to pick through the earliest set of books, which was on the top shelf. He selected one, brought it down and dusted it off.

He opened it to the senior pictures, leafed through them and then got a puzzled look. He said, “Why your great-grandmother looks exactly like you Mavis, Here.” And he laid the annual down on the table in the middle of the room.

Mavis and I walked over and looked at the picture.  Sure enough, a slightly younger version of Mavis was looking back at us. 

She turned to me and said triumphantly, “See, I told you!!”

Jensen said, “We have several extra copies from that year if you want to keep this one.”

Mavis said, “That’s alright, I have my own.” And she blithely walked back toward the front. Both Jensen and I watched her truly remarkable buns sway invitingly up the hall. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both said, “Whew!!”

*****

Mavis was destroying another steak. She was clearly carnivorous. The sun was setting in a spectacular display of magenta-and-purple sky. The leaves were turning red and gold. It smelled like fall. We were sipping a decent Pinot Noir on the deck while she watched the migrating ducks on the Millpond.

She had dressed in one of her new dresses. The weather was still warm. So, she was in a light Laura Ashley flower print silk dress. It clung to her body and showed off her spectacular figure. Her makeup enhanced her flawless features and her huge, deep impenetrable blue eyes.

I was sure that her life experience would not include knowing how to wear that dress or put on the makeup; if Mavis was the person she claimed to be. They just didn’t have items like that back in the 1940s.

But then again, all women instinctively know how to enhance their looks. Maybe that was the reason why Mavis was so at-home with modern beauty stuff. 

Mavis had been pensive all the way home, and she hadn’t said much as she demolished her sirloin. Finally, she sat back and contemplated me with an unfathomable look. She said, “You’re starting to believe me aren’t you.” It was a statement, not a question.

I said, “I’m a cop. I don’t trust anything. I just follow evidence. I have to admit that everything so far indicates that three days ago you were living in the 1940s. There is no record of a woman by your name in modern data bases. But that might just mean you are using the old Mavis Pritchett identity.”

She looked a little frustrated. I added, “There is a clear picture of somebody who looks exactly like you in a 1940 yearbook. But all families have resemblances from generation to generation. You seem to know the right places and names, but of course you could have researched all of that. “

Her face was falling, like she expected me to say something different. I said emphatically, “I simply don’t believe in ghosts and time-travel and that’s the only possible explanation for your presence here. That is, if you really are the Mavis that we saw in the picture.”

She stood up and walked to the deck railing, to look out over the pond. I couldn’t help noticing her slim muscular legs as her dress blew around them. I’ve been solitary for five years. But, I’m not dead.

With her back turned toward me, she said quietly and sincerely, “I have no memories of any time other than my growing up on a farm in the middle of the Depression and my life as a teacher. I remember friends and even lovers; who are all probably dead. My childhood home is gone. My apartment has somebody living in it. And, I appear to be stranded in this brave new world.

A lightbulb went off in my head. I said, “You’ve been to college?” That was a rarity for a woman in the 1940s.

She said, “Yes, I got my certificate from the Normal School in Eau Claire and I taught English Literature in the High School in Augusta for the past three years.”

That was one more piece of the puzzle. I didn’t know where it would lead. But, I was going to check the High School teacher’s records for Mavis Pritchett.

I said, “The only thing I know for sure is that you’re here in the present with me, and I will do my best to make sure that you are happy and safe in this brave new world; as you call it.”

She turned back toward me and leaned against the deck’s railing. She might have been lost and alone. But, she was still a very self-assured woman, confident in her looks and sexuality. She gave me an enticing smile and said, “You promised to tell me about your problems with women.”

I said, “There isn’t much to tell. I once had a wife, the one who I shared this house with. She was beautiful, intelligent and sexy. But, her moral compass got out of whack and she ended up outside the law. In fact, I was the one who arrested her. She’s in the hands of the Marshall’s Service now; someplace anonymous, under a new name. I’ll never see her again.”

Mavis looked confused and said, “What do the Marshalls have to do with that?”

I said, “Witness protection – Janet was given a new identity. The Marshalls run that Program.”

Mavis said, still confused, “What’s witness protection?” Of course!! that program was set up in the 1960s.

I explained how witness protection worked, and how I’d cooperated with the FBI to take down a local drug ring. I said sadly, “Janet got caught in that net.”

Mavis said awestruck, “You worked with J. Edgar Hoover. He’s the toughest lawman in America.”

I said, “No Mr. Hoover died back in the 1970s.” With his secret lists, illegal surveillance and lifelong live-in boyfriend, I didn’t think J Edgar was the proper role-model for modern law enforcement. But, there was no reason to share that with Mavis.

I added, “I had a choice. Either surrender my identity, and go off to live with my wife, who I still loved. Or I could divorce her and exist as a solitary man. I chose the latter. It wasn’t like she was cheating on me. It’s just hard to trust a woman who fronted a drug cartel.”

Mavis gave me a lopsided grin and said, “That’s easy to understand.”

We talked a little while longer. But, both of us were exhausted. So, I said, “Let’s hit the hay and we can continue the searching in the morning. I know you’re frightened and I promise you that we’ll get to the bottom of this.”

She gave me an enigmatic smile and said, “What will happen after that?”

I said, “You are a good person Mavis and you deserve nothing but the best. I promise you that you will get what you deserve.”

She looked pleadingly at me and said, “I would sleep a lot better if somebody was sleeping WITH me. I promise that I won’t molest you. Could we sleep together in the same bed? “

I thought, “Oh Lord give me strength.” But I said, “It would be totally inappropriate for me to spend the night in bed with you. I’m the person who is charged with your custody and care. That would be a violation of my duty. I am truly sorry.” She had NO IDEA how sorry I was!!

She said with a brave smile, “I understand, good night.”

*****

Her arrival in the middle of the night nearly gave me heart failure. She landed on me, wailing like a banshee, clutched me and began to thrash around in a paroxysm of fear. I finally got my wits about me enough to grab her and say, “Mavis!!!  It’s me, you’re all right.”

She stared at me, the whites of her eyes showing, like a frightened horse. I began to stroke her hair as she cried and wailed. An inordinate amount of time passed before she began to calm down. Her arms and legs slowly stopped flailing and she ceased the keening.

She was still panting with fear and shivering. But at least she was rational. I was holding her tightly. I hoisted myself up on one arm, to look into her frightened eyes. I said, “What happened Mavis?”

It took a second for her to speak. She wet her lips and said panicked, “I saw it! I saw it all!! It was horrible!!!”

I said, “What did you see Mavis? Tell me what you saw??”

Instead of telling me, she grabbed me roughly by the back of the head and dragged my mouth down to hers. It was a steamy, open mouth kiss, her tongue frantically seeking mine. She moaned loudly and then aggressively shoved over, so that she was plastered against me. It was the first time I realized that she was completely nude.

I had fought the good fight. But a man can only resist so much temptation. I also had the thought that perhaps it would calm her down if we had sex. I know. THAT was a rationalization. What can I say? It HAD been five years since I had made love to a person I had feelings for.

I stroked her back and she shivered. My hand ended on her prominent butt. It was very muscular and rock hard, and it was gyrating agitatedly, as she shoved her pussy against my rapidly rising interest. She was emitting little shrieks as she undulated.

I was still in my boxers, which she stripped off me like she was skinning a squirrel.  I moved my hand down her flat stomach while she tugged my shorts down. I encountered a very hot joining. She moaned loudly. I dipped two fingers in her essence and it set her off like a skyrocket.

She growled deep in the back of her throat, rolled violently over on her back and dragged me on top of her. She inserted me in one swift move and I slid up into boiling honey. She let out an unearthly groan as she elevated her legs and her hips began the age-old rhythm.

I looked into that flawless face, which was lost in passion. This was clearly a life-affirming act for Mavis. She needed to do this to chase the demons away.

Her eyes were rolled up in her head. Her flawless lips were formed into an exaggerated “O.” She was panting loudly and wildly, whipping her hair back and forth. Her arms were extended back over her head, exposing her entire upper body to me.

She had big, full, immaculately shaped tits. Which were jiggling like a couple of torpedo shaped Jello molds. The nipples were mud brown, prominent and looked like little Nuks. I took one of those red-hot things between my lips and ran my tongue over it. Mavis lost it, right then and there.

Up to that point the sex had been smoking-hot. Now I was plugged into a wild animal. She shrieked so loudly that I was sure that all of the wildlife fled the area in panic. Then her body went rock hard, like every muscle in it was tensed to its maximum. That included the ones that were currently holding my cock. It was like she had grabbed it tightly in one hand.

There are orgasms, and then there are ORGASMS. As she worked through hers, Mavis began to flail around underneath me making desperate noises of profound sensation. Her heels beat a tattoo on the mattress. Her teeth were gritted so tightly that I could hear them grinding. Then she shrieked again and went completely limp.

That was the point where I was finishing my own business. So, pardon me for not noticing. I arrived back on planet earth to discover that I was lying on top of an intensely panting woman who appeared to be lost in Never-Never-Land.

I was about to flip out myself when she opened her eyes. She was freaked. She started to flail again. Given that I was still inside her that movement almost accomplished the miracle of waking the dead. But she had so thoroughly drained me that I could have gone another five years without help.

I said, “Easy Mavis. It’s just me.”

Her eyes came into focus and she gave me a look that embodied more profound devotion than I thought was possible.  She said simply, “I love you Erik.”

It abruptly struck me that; against my personal history and all evidence that she wasn’t normal, I loved this woman body and soul. I moved her sweat-soaked hair off her forehead with a gentle stroke. I said, “I love you too Mavis.” 

We made love all night. It should have been exhausting. But, it was incredible. She was both giving and taking in the extreme. Her sheer enthusiasm and out of control sexuality kept getting my booster out to the pad for one more super-spectacular launch.

She said that she had seventy years to make up for. I hoped that was her idea of a joke. But, she was so insatiable that I almost believed her.

I woke much later in the morning than usual. The bed was wrecked, and I would have to burn the sheets. Mavis was lying on her back next to me, covered to the waist by the blanket. Her broad full breasts were rising and falling as she slept. Her hair was tousled, and she had no makeup on. She looked like Sleeping Beauty. Which was unfortunately, too appropriate.

I was making us one of my special omelets when she finally appeared in the kitchen. It sadly dawned on me, that I had not made my specialty since the day that I surrendered my wife to the Marshalls. Worse, I had not felt so happy and fulfilled since that miserable day.

Mavis was wearing another one of her tunic and skin-tight jean combinations. She looked like a living statue of a goddess. I just looked at her. She looked at me. We didn’t have to say anything. The situation was perfectly clear, and we were both at peace with it.

I didn’t want to break the mood but there was still an investigation going on. So, I said, “What happened last night?”

Her face turned pale and she got a look of dread. She said, “I’ll tell you after we check something out.”

I said, “What?”

She said, “I want to go back to the District Office. Can your friend pull up the teacher records from the high school for 1946?”

I said, “I imagine so, those are probably on a database somewhere. I think they have to keep that stuff for the State and they probably computerized all the old records.”

She gave me a look like she didn’t know what I was talking about. But, she trusted me. She said, “Let’s go right after breakfast. I think I know what I’m going to find.”

Jake Jensen was the District AD, not the guy in charge of teacher records. But he introduced us to the Assistant Superintendent who was.

He was one of those little, impeccably dressed weasels with a pencil slim moustache. He was a dude you would viscerally NOT want to have near your child. Maybe that was why he was working in an office. I hesitated to guess why those types of guys get into teaching.

Nevertheless, he was a stickler for protocol. So, I had to play the, “Sheriff investigating a potential crime,” card with him. In turn, he gave Mavis a thorough going-over. I didn’t blame him.

I said, “Your Mavis Pritchett is this Mavis’s great-grandmother. There are issues that the Sheriff’s Office has been looking into for her.”

The Superintendent could have been an asshole and demand a warrant. But 1946 was a long time ago and administrative niceties approach the threshold of pointless for something that far in the past.

So, he turned to his desktop computer and said proudly, “We computerized the old teacher records a couple of years ago. These go back to the 1930s. If Mavis Pritchett taught here, we’ll have her file.”

He typed a bit and then said surprised, “Oh my, I understand why you are interested in her.”

That sounded ominous. I didn’t want to get into a discussion with the guy. So, I said, “Can you print out what you have?”

He said, “Well it happened seventy years ago so I suppose it’s okay to release them to the Sheriff. Nobody who was involved could still be alive.” He clicked the print icon and I heard the printer in the main office start up.  A helpful secretary put the output in a manila envelope and we exited the Office, headed for the Hot Spot.

I said, “Does the Superintendent’s comment have anything to do with what happened last night?”

She said, “I don’t know for sure. Let’s go someplace where we can read this. What I suspect it contains, should clear up the matter.”

*****

They certainly did. What we call sexual harassment today, was filed under the heading of, “boys will be boys,” back then. I might add, not much has changed in the intervening seven decades. But at least now, the allegations are written down and investigated. Back in those days they didn’t even record it.

That is, unless the culprit was caught in the act. Mavis said that she had constantly complained to the Principal that a fellow teacher, named Felix Wynn, had been fondling her. Of course, this was chronicled as, “Miss Pritchett makes unfounded accusations.” 

Then Wynn physically attacked Mavis after school. Fortunately, other teachers and some of the students were still in the building. Mavis’s loud cries for help were answered by students and teachers alike.

Wynn, who had, by then, ripped Mavis’s blouse and panties off, was waving his dick around prior to inserting it. Mavis was frantically trying to fight him off.

A couple of the male teachers hauled Wynn off Mavis. The problem for the District was that, the incident couldn’t be swept under the rug. There were too many witnesses. But they COULD expedite the firing of BOTH of them, Wynn for attempted rape and Mavis for “leading him on.”

Mavis was understandably distressed. Rather than getting justice, she found herself out of a job.  What can I say? It was the 1940s, and, there were a lot fewer lawyers to litigate the shit out of the District for pulling a stunt like that. Those varmints CAN be useful in their own way.

The trail went cold after that. But, now I had a target of investigation and a theory of the crime.

We were sitting at a two top at the Hot Spot as I read the records. She was looking at me nervously. I said warily, “You knew about this didn’t you. It was part of your dream.” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that more was coming.

She looked like she was going to throw up. The anxiety must have been killing her. She said, “Yes, but I didn’t know if it was a dream, or a reality. Do you think Wynn is still alive?”

I chuckled and said, “THAT’s something I CAN find out.” I queried the County database. The census showed a Felix Wynn as being alive and a resident of Falling Water, which was the local residential care facility for the elderly.

I said, “I’m going out to talk to Felix. Are you up-to coming along? You don’t have to if you can’t take it.” I marveled at how perfect her face was. I could almost understand how a woman as beautiful as Mavis could push an unbalanced man over the edge.

She gave me a determined grin and said, “I have to see how Felix turned out. So, YES, I want to confront him.” I hadn’t said anything about confrontation. But I also didn’t have a problem with the idea. Mavis Pritchett was one hell of a strong woman.

Falling Water is a County facility. It houses elderly people who simply have no means of taking care of themselves. So, it’s basically a charity, and the building gives new meaning to the term, “Shit-hole.”

We arrived at the check-in desk. I did my official, “The Sheriff needs to talk to one of your residents,” thing.  The badge and ID convinced the nurse that we meant business. She led us down the dank and forbidding cinderblock hall toward a room at the end.

The nurse said emphatically, “Mr. Wynn is very frail. So, try not to upset him.”

I thought, “What I have in mind will more than upset him.” Being questioned for murder after seventy years of skating is going to be quite a shock.

The nurse knocked and we all quietly entered. Wynn looked like a mummy. He was a husk of a human being; lying there, cheeks sunken, very sallow, with the covers pulled up to his chest and his arms outside them next to his body.

The nurse said gently, Mr. Wynn, there’s somebody here to see you.” Wynn opened his eyes and made a papery sound that might have been a laugh. But, it sounded more like a death rattle.

He said, “Nobody I know, is still alive.” Then he slowly turned his head and his rheumy brown eyes fastened on us.

Mavis and I were standing next to the left side of the bed. He looked at me without acknowledgement. Then his eyes shifted to Mavis.

They had the same dull lack of recognition; that is... at first.

Then it hit him!! His eyes opened super-wide, he made a gargling sound and began to hyperventilate.

The nurse rushed to him grabbed his arm and started to take his pulse. She said frantically, “Mr. Wynn, what’s wrong?”

Wynn shot straight up in bed. It was like somebody had yanked his string. He pointed his finger at Mavis and said, “Mavis!!! It’s YOU. God!! I’m SORRY!!! I’m SOOO SORRY!!! I didn’t mean to do it. I just lost control!!”

Then it looked like all the air went out of him. He collapsed back on the bed. The nurse ran out of the room shouting Code Blue!!!

I shut off the digital recorder. I had already logged the arrest statement and I had started the Miranda warning. I didn’t need it. I could attest beyond the shadow of a doubt that that what I’d filmed was a convincing death-bed confession, and that the killer was now deader than the proverbial door-nail.

Thus, the case was closed.

I took Mavis by the hand and led her unresisting from that place.  She was silently weeping.  The implications were clear. I said, “Was that your dream?”

She looked at me haunted and said, “In my dream it was the middle of the night and I was at Wynn’s. He looked like he did back then, not like he does now. I think he’d already raped me while I was drugged. But, I don’t know for sure. I DO know that I wasn’t wearing anything.”

She looked terrified as she said, “We were on a bed. He was holding me in his arms like a lover and telling me that I was his woman now. Then he tried to kiss me. I bit his lip HARD - hard enough to draw blood. Then I called him every vile name I could think of.”

She added, her voice breaking, “He slapped me. I fell back. The last thing I remember was him closing his fingers around my throat; his face was absolutely wild with rage.”

I chalked up the resolution of a very cold case. I would write it up with the confession that I’d recorded and put it in the file. The killer was Felix Wynn and he had died in custody.

Both Mavis and I knew what that implied about her mysterious reappearance. But, there was no rational basis for assuming that my Mavis was the one who had been murdered. I just couldn’t accept that it was supernatural. Plus, I still didn’t have a body.

It would have been a lot more logical to assume that the old Mavis had survived. And that this Mavis had heard a family story about her grandmother’s near brush with death at the hands of Felix Wynn.

The fact that the grandchild looked eerily like her grandmother, might have motivated her quest. I presumed that the woman sitting next to me; the one who I loved so completely and utterly, was just a coincidence, perhaps a long-lost-grandkid.

Mavis’s spontaneous appearance on that dark road and her displaced memories could be explained by a lot of things; insanity, a traumatic brain injury, perhaps a blow to the head, or a stroke. That was certainly a more plausible explanation than thinking that this Mavis had come back from the dead.

There was one final step that I could take, if I wanted to be absolutely certain. I said with hesitancy, “What do you think about your situation now? I am willing to take care of you, even marry you, if we don’t take the next step.”

She looked interested.  She said, “What do you mean by that?”

I said, “We have two obvious options. One is to close the case without the body. That will let sleeping dogs lie. The other is to find the body. But if we find one, it will confirm that you are NOT the Mavis Pritchett who you think you are.”

There was one other option. But I didn’t want to explore that one. That's because, the same two entities can’t exist in the same place at the same time. That’s a rule of quantum physics, or something like that.

Mavis said, clearly distressed, “What would you do if you were in my situation?”

I said, “Personally I would drop the whole thing and marry me.  We can get treatment for the amnesia, or whatever it is going on in your head.”

I added pleadingly, “You seem to be a permanent resident of this time; and you are perfectly functional in the here-and-now, not likely to fade off into some ghostly afterlife. There are a lot of things to see in this brave new world, as you call it. And I want to experience all of them with you.”

She looked at me concentrating hard. It was clear that she was running every possible consequence and its nuance through her head.

Then, she giggled and said, “If I had to choose between being a murder victim, or your wife, I’m pretty sure I’d choose the latter.” I think that was a joke.

That was my girl!!; practical, if not a little supernatural. If she was crazy, then so was I, and I didn’t care about her origins. All I cared about was that the woman in front of me was a strong, vibrant and loving person, whose mere presence made my life better.

You might ask me how I could forget the circumstances of her sudden and mysterious appearance. It took willpower to CHOOSE to ignore the fact that Mavis’s history began on a rainy night in November.  But, I told myself that my former wife Janet, could be married to somebody, somewhere, right now; under exactly the same set of circumstances.

Like I said, I’m a cop. I believe the evidence. Mavis could be from seventy years in the past. I had nothing to prove or disprove that.

But what I DID know, was that THIS Mavis Pritchett was the woman I loved.  Maybe I would have felt differently if Mavis wasn’t such a stunningly attractive woman. But she was gorgeous. More important, I didn’t have one iota of doubt about her love, her fidelity, or her genuine humanity; whatever her origins.

I know Mavis was as mystified by her past as I was. But, in the end it was simple pragmatism. We were making a future together, and that future was full of hope. Whatever had been in the past was gone, never to return, and that was good enough for both of us.

At first, Mavis was like a feral cat. She wouldn’t go out of the house unless I was with her. But the more we lived our lives together, the more she became acclimated to rural Wisconsin in the 21st Century.  I was gone a lot because of my job. So, she learned to drive and explore.

Mavis mostly lived in the library while I was working. She must have devoured whole shelves of books; trying to fill in the time between her last memories and now. I tried to get her to use a computer. But, she said she didn’t trust the things. In some ways she might have been more prescient than every other member of our present society.

We were married eight months after I closed the case.  Mavis was a perfect wife and mother. As time went by, the sex got even wilder; if that was even possible.  There was no doubt in either of our minds that this was a lifetime marriage …

By the way, did I say “mother?”

Mavis announced that she was pregnant, two months BEFORE the wedding. Modern contraception technology was one of the things that she had yet to master. As a result, my little Ava was born “premature” seven months after we stepped to the alter.

If I thought I loved Mavis, I had no way of anticipating how much I loved my little girl. Things just got better and better as my Ava prospered and grew.

*****

Deer hunting season in Wisconsin is more eagerly anticipated than Thanksgiving. For a week in the middle of November; most of the population is out in the woods. Since there are so many people tramping around, they occasionally stumble on things. It might be Sasquatch, or a gold nugget, or a wooly mammoth tusk, or a long-lost cell phone. Occasionally, it’s the remains of a fellow citizen.  

Mavis and I had been married for nine fabulous years, when the Sheriff in neighboring Chippewa County called. It seems, several of the local boys had been drinking all day and then gotten the bright idea of trying their luck in the Nicolet Forest. The only flaw in that brilliant scheme was that Nicolet’s a National Preserve and hunting there is a Federal offense.

The cops quickly bagged them; mainly because most were passed out by that point. But, while the deputies were rounding them up, the rain started coming down in buckets, and the downpour exposed a bone.

The Sheriff did a little digging and found a skeleton. Since those bones could be from any era; Native American, to the present, they were sent down to Madison to be forensically examined.

Ultimately, the Sheriff’s people called me. That was because nine years previously I had set a flag in the CIB database requesting information about any missing women in that vicinity. The skeleton was female, and it fit my RFI.

My heart stopped. Every day with Mavis was like living in an earthquake zone. Even if the consciousness wasn’t there; you were still subliminally aware that absolute disaster could strike at any moment. It just took that first tremor to bubble the awareness to the surface.

I told the guy in Chippewa County to transfer the jurisdiction to me, since it was my case. He was more than happy to get a chore off his desk. I, on the other hand, feared the outcome of the forensic exam.

I was filling out the paperwork to make the transfer when Charlene called to tell me that Ava hadn’t been picked up at school. It was 4:00 in the afternoon. There was no way Mavis would miss that.

I don’t know about other people. But, I get mice on my spine when I am in the grip of mortal terror. I could be standing there looking as stoic as Mt. Rushmore. But ripples of cold disorienting fear run up and down my back.

I walked out of the office like a zombie, brushed past Char and out the door. I got in my cruiser and drove to the local elementary school. The skies were dark, and the rain was just starting. I stifled the thought that the rain was coming down just as heavily on the night I first encountered Mavis.

Ava was standing at the curb. She was in her wellies and slicker. She looked like a tiny carbon copy of her mother. Ava was worried. Even minor bumps in a child’s life are magnified by a departure from routine. She was being minded by the Assistant Principal who had called me.

I thanked the woman, loaded Ava in the car and drove home. The shivers had intensified to the point where I was almost shaking. The fact that I had to be strong for my little girl was the only thing keeping me on the rails.

I walked Ava in the house and took off her rain things. The house had that empty feeling. Ava said apprehensively, “Where’s mommy.” She was sensing something too. There was a melodramatic crash of rolling thunder. I thought, “Seriously??!!” 

I said with fake reassurance, “Oh, she’s probably grocery shopping. Why don’t you go in your room and start your homework?”

She said cagily, “Can I play Angry Birds first?” Her innocence was about to be ripped from her. So, I thought, “Why not?”

I said, “You can play it for as long as you want sweetie.”

She threw her little pipe-stem arms around my neck, hugged me and said, “I love you daddy!”

I hugged her back desperately, and said, “I love you too Pumpkin.” I was going to need her in the months and years ahead.

*****

For one solid year, the search for Mavis was my Department’s ONLY investigative priority.  I used every contact with every Sheriff in every State. I also made it clear to Barnestaple that the FBI wouldn’t like the publicity, if he didn’t mobilize every national and international asset to find her.

Mavis had left no footprints, physical, or electronic; and there were no reports of mysterious sightings. She seemed to have just vanished from our kitchen, one afternoon on a rainy November day.   

I never knew what happened. The mental thing that had led her into my life might have toggled and set her off on a new delusion. Or, she might have fallen down a well. She might have run off with Conan the pool boy. Or she might have decided to see the U.S.A. in her Chevrolet. Whatever the reason, she utterly disappeared. I finally had to accept that she was gone for good.

It would be a vast understatement to say that I was heartbroken. But the thing about shielding a vulnerable little girl is that, you discover that you have internal strength that you never thought existed.

I poured every ounce of my soul into helping Ava through the loss, and strangely enough that little bit of selflessness saved me too.

It never got better. But I discovered I could shoulder the burden and continue to trudge on through life. Who needs sleep anyhow!!

Ava got over it much quicker and more completely than I did. But she was a kid. She missed her mom terribly. But the future held the distractions of growing up; from dance recitals to senior proms. Her old man was proud of her, to say the least. Her mother would have been too.

At twenty, Ava is the same incredible beauty that her mother was. Just like Mavis, she is smart, strong-minded and accomplished.

Penny Jenson, Jake Jenson’s school-teacher wife, took Ava under her wing from the moment Mavis disappeared. And my Ava grew from a little girl, performing in a pack of other little girls, to her current role as the principal dancer for Eau Claire’s Nutcracker. Penny got Ava a full-ride in Madison’s dance program, and you can see my little girl on the sidelines every time the Badgers play. 

A month after my world ended, the forensic results came back from Madison. The skeleton had been in the ground for sixty to ninety years; and it was indeed a female, age approximately 25.

The cause of death was clear and unambiguously convincing. The hyoid bone was destroyed. It would take a lot of rage to cause that degree of damage. So, the coroner’s ruling was murder by strangulation. The victim was listed as unknown, as were the circumstances and the perpetrator.

I still don’t believe in the supernatural. But my Mavis DID appear at that exact spot in the Nicolet Forest. And we DID solve the 1946 murder of an individual named Mavis Pritchett. In the process of which, we also caused the death of the murderer. It was justice. But it left me with nothing.

I had the skeleton shipped directly to me. I paid for the transport and burial myself. That’s because this was personal. I pulled a few strings with the Board of Commissioners, to get them to allow me to bury Mavis near my house. It was a beautiful little plot on a low hill above the Millpond.

It would be easy for me to do my nightly pilgrimage to her grave. I’d bring her some flowers and just sit and talk, tell her about my day. The weather's nasty in the winter. But, I never missed a visit. Those visits kept me marching into the ethereal yonder.

Her final resting place was at the base of a big spreading willow. The grave marker had a marble angel. It said, “Mavis Pritchett, born 1921, died 1946: Beloved by her Husband and Daughter. We will be reunited on the other side.”

The interment was in late May. It was just me and the Lutheran Pastor. Nobody among my friends and acquaintances could understand why I was wasting my money; or making such a big fuss, about the remains of an anonymous murder victim. I couldn’t explain it to them. They’d think I was nuts.

The sun was bright and warm, the weather was mild, and the smell of spring presaged the summer to come. The willow had gotten its leaves and it swayed gently above us, in the soft breeze.

I had told the Parson to say the words, as if this unknown woman was my wife. His eyes told me what he was thinking, “You mean the one who ran off and left you with a kid to raise.”

I really didn’t give a shit what he thought. In fact, I didn’t give a shit about ANYTHING. I just wanted to see my one true love situated for eternity.

And yes, maybe I DO believe a little bit, now. 

I bowed my head on that lonely hill, as the Pastor recited the Lord’s Prayer. I was holding my little girl. She was crying on my shoulder. Her black hair, bright blue eyes and the resemblance to her mom was both heartbreaking and hopeful. I knew that raising her would be the rock on which I could rebuild my life.

Then I sensed somebody standing next to me. A powerful hand gripped my arm. I looked into the kind and sympathetic eyes of the Doc. His beautiful wife was standing next to him; wearing a black dress and a veil, head bowed in prayer. Penny Jensen and her greyhound husband were lined up next to them; heads also bowed, both in black.

The statement was unmistakable. Nothing need be said. I would never forget.

The Minister finished his prayer. We all said “Amen!” Then we each silently dropped a handful of dirt on the casket. I knew that Mavis would be happy there. She always liked watching the ducks. 

Chapter Two

It was a miserable July night. The temperature hovered around eighty-five, and I’d sweated through my shirt. The badge pinned to that shirt said, “County Sheriff.” I’d been one for almost twenty years.

I usually don't get called out at 3 AM. But tempers fray when the weather gets hot. And occasionally, one of our fine citizens gets it in his head to drink too much and touch up the wife.

Two of my guys responded to the call. When they got there, the moron chose to add an extra ten years to his sentence, by taking a shot at them. That was when they called me.

The red and blue flashers lit up the neighborhood; if a collection of dilapidated mobile homes could be called that. The gunman’s decrepit residence was mostly rust colored, with some of the siding coming off. There was no evidence of air conditioning, which might explain his attitude.

We were thinking about giving his pathetic little hotbox a lot of extra ventilation, just to flush the miscreant out. But, killing innocent bystanders doesn't sit well with the constituency; and our nine-mils would have gone through his place, and a couple of the neighbors.

Plus, the idiot’s wife was in there, and, she hadn’t given us convincing proof that we should take HER out of the gene pool. Even if, culling her husband would have been a service to humanity.

So, we just sat there in the heat, listening to the katydid’s and the sound of loud ranting inside. I suppose the dude regretted shooting at us. In fact, I imagine he was sorry he had even opened his third bottle of Jack.

I sighed and said, “We’re gonna be here forever if I don’t do something.”

I looked at both of my men and said, “Do you guys care whether he shot at you?” Both shook their heads “no.” So I took a deep breath and stood up. A shot went whistling over my head.

I yelled, “If you come out right now Melvin we are NOT going to charge you with shooting at us.  If you take another shot, you are going to do hard time for a decade. If you hit me it’s going to be life. So, which is it? You have ten seconds to decide.”

There was a hesitation. Then the door of the trailer opened, and Melvin came out bleary eyed, unshaven and wearing a pitted-out wife beater. He was holding his hands up. I said, “Smart move buddy.” Then I grabbed him and handcuffed him. God! He stank!

I handed him to the two patrol officers and they threw him, none too gently, into the back of their cruiser.  I said wearily, “You two get the wife’s statement and then lodge him.” They were on duty. I wasn’t. 

I got into my cruiser and headed back down Wisconsin 121. It had been a bitch of a night and I wanted a couple more hours of rack time before the sun came up.

Geographically, Wisconsin sits between the Great Western Prairie, the frozen Canadian north and the dynamic mixing-bowl of the Great Lakes. So, it can get some seriously wild weather. The entire State had been smothered in a long stretch of hot summer days and we natives knew what that meant.

There would be the devil to pay when the weather broke.

My luck being what it was, the devil decided that the bill was overdue. All of my senses told me that the storm was coming, vision, smell, touch, and hearing. The hot humid wind picked up. The fast-moving air was charged with electricity. I thought to myself, “Great!!! Armageddon!”

The trailer park was outside Perkinstown. So, my route took me through the heavily forested Plain State Natural Area. I had just gotten on the bridge over Chequamegon Waters when the storm, which had been nothing more than flickering lightning in the distance, arrived with a vengeance.

There is nothing like being caught on a bridge over dark water in the middle of a thunderstorm.  It’s terrifying. The first thing that happens are the wind gusts. Fortunately, my cruiser was built to police specs and it could take that kind of thing. But the wind still rocked it on its suspension.

Then the first fat drops arrived. Their impact sounded like I was running through a massive swarm of Wisconsin June Bugs. I slowed to 20 miles an hour as I re-entered the forest and turned on the wipers. They didn’t help. It was like driving through a car wash.

I was getting worried. My wipers were going full blast. But, I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me. Then the lightning started. It was a continuous sequence of forks, with strikes all around me in the forest. The noise of the thunder was calamitous. I couldn't drive any further.

I’ve been a cop for three decades and I’ve faced a lot of scary situations. But sitting there alone, in THAT forest, was the worst I’ve ever experienced. The rain made it impossible to see and the constant flashes of lightning and deafening volleys of thunder lit up the area with a nightmare ambiance.

An atavistic feeling of dread crept over me. It probably hearkened back to the days when we lived in caves. We were the prey back then, not the hunters, and looming trees and impenetrable darkness hid a lot of terrifying things. I quickly found out just how true that premonition was.

*****

I loved a woman once, and I knew that she loved me. I’d met her while I was looking into her murder.

Her murder? Well, that requires a little explanation.

I was a bright-eyed and bushy tailed Sheriff’s detective, married to an intelligent and beautiful woman. My wife, Janet, was everything you’d ever want in a wife, until she got into politics. 

They say that power corrupts. Well, Janet was a case study. She hopped on the slippery slope and never got off. I was in on her bust. She got witness protection. I got a divorce.

After that, I vowed that I would never have anything to do with the treacherous creatures.

Then I stumbled on Mavis. In truth, I nearly ran her over. It was certainly NOT your classic boy-meets-girl situation. I was driving through the Nicolet Forest in the middle of the night. The setting was eerily similar to my present state-of-affairs. Except it was only raining hard, not the Apocalypse.

Mavis thought the year was 1946. So, naturally I took her to have her head examined. The local Doc certified that her belfry was totally bat-free, and she DID seem to know things that would make the local historical society jealous. Plus, she dressed and acted the part. Of course, there was no way her story made sense.

That is, until I began digging into it. After a couple of weeks, I found out a bunch of interesting things.

A woman named Mavis Pritchett had indeed disappeared in 1946. I subsequently learned that she had been murdered by one, Felix Wynn. How did I know that? Well, Wynn confessed to the crime. He did it while he was dropping dead at age 95. Meeting the person who you thought you'd murdered seventy years ago, can do that to a fellow’s heart.

The problem was that, while Wynn was in his nineties, Mavis was a stunningly beautiful raven haired blue eyed, fresh-faced twenty-five-year-old. That only added to her mystique.

Having solved the murder, I was left with what to do with Mavis.

Let me describe her. She is smart, spirited, genuinely funny, brave and deeply loving. She can cook like Julia Child and fuck like Mata Hari on meth. The latter event took place every evening of our life. So of course, I married her.

Oh yes, the child. Well you see, we kind-of conceived her early in our relationship. We were planning on getting married anyhow. So, the advent of little Ava was another blessing in a long line of wonderful things that happened to me.

Then, I spent nine years living with a person who was so excruciatingly beautiful and accomplished, in everything that make females a superior species, that I thought my heart would burst with happiness.

Instead, it broke.

There had always been the inconvenient fact that a person with Mavis’s name was a 1946 murder victim. That couldn’t possibly be MY Mavis. This one was wrapped in delectable corporeal flesh; and she was very much a part of the here and now. Hence, I filed all other options under the heading of, “alternative explanation required.” 

That was until somebody dug up the long-buried body. I rushed home to find an empty house.

We utilized every investigative resource available. But, it was like Mavis had dropped off the face of the earth. Finally, I accepted the fact that she was gone forever. So, I held a memorial service for the body of a recently dug-up murder victim. Most people thought I was nuts. That is, except for four true friends.

The grave is still there, on the hill right next to the house. It is overseen by a marble angel and a grieving husband. But, life is a march or die proposition and I was afraid to die. So, I marched.

My nine-year-old daughter saved me. It was the love and devotion that I poured into Ava’s upbringing that kept me on the rails.

Ava makes me proud. At age twenty, she is the spitting image of her mother. A stunning young woman with a perfect body, honed by years of dance and a flawless face; which in Mavis’s case was so beautiful, that it drove an unbalanced man to murder. 

Me? I'm still just a County Sheriff. I do my best. But people never see me smile. That is, unless they are with me on that lonely hill, when I am talking to my wife. They'd think I’d lost my mind if they heard me. But I sincerely believe I’m with her then.

*****

I was parked in the middle of the road, waiting for nature to get the end of the world out of its system. My flashers were advertising my presence. There were a series of violent ground strikes and then the sky above the trees lit up with ball lightning.

What happened in the instant after that is a little hazy. I remember that the rain passed like somebody had pulled a curtain. And, I was looking down a rutted gravel road with a bright sunny sky over my head. That was deeply disturbing since the road was blacktop the last time I had seen it and the sky had been anything but tranquil.

I started the cruiser, put it into gear and bumped my way down the road. It took me almost an hour to get to the end of the forest. That was confusing in-and-of-itself. Since by my reckoning it was no more than a mile until I got into open country.

The road was gravel until I got to Wisconsin 73, which was narrow concrete now, instead of a broad two-lane State Road. Where was I?

I swiveled the laptop to call up the navigation program. But the browser wasn’t hooked to the internet. There was also no sign of the monster storm, that had just passed over me. That was puzzling? So, I turned south and started down 73 in a bright Wisconsin morning.

I felt like I had slept all night instead of spending most of it prying a drunken loser out of his squalid little home. My watch said it was 8:45. I didn’t recall the lost time. But I must have fallen asleep during the storm. That was the only way I could explain the gap.

The fields were full of corn, and I could see farmers on antique Ford tractors. There were none of the big combines and other farm equipment that I was used to seeing. Several of the people stopped to gape at the cruiser as I drove past. It was like they had never seen a Crown Vic before.

I got to Cadott and turned down State 27 headed for home. Everywhere I went people gawped at me. It was like I was driving a flying saucer.

I got to the Hot Spot, parked and went in for my morning cup of Joe. As I sat down, everybody but the waitress rushed to the window.

I looked around the diner. They must have remodeled the place. Because, it was laid out with stools along a counter and tables, not booths. It was like they were going for diner kitsch. 

The waitress came over. She was new since the last time I’d been in. She said, “What can I get you Sheriff?” She’d noticed my uniform, badge and tool-belt; Glock 19, extra ammo pouch, pepper spray, handcuffs and Asp.

I said. “Coffee and eggs.” She turned to a kid who was hanging around behind the counter and said, “Get the Sheriff some coffee Dot.”

I thought, “That’s interesting the current owner’s name is Dot, too.”

The kid was very pretty and clearly smart. She was about 12, just starting to get a figure, and it promised to be a doozy. She got a cup down from a stack and poured the coffee out of an elaborate antique coffeepot. It looked like the kind you see in the old cartoons. That 1940s vibe just kept getting stronger.

The little girl said, “What’s that car you’re driving? It looks like a P-51?”

I’d never heard the stodgy old Crown Vic compared to a World War II fighter before. I said proudly, “It’s a Ford, a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor with the Apprehender package. It can do 150 miles an hour if I need it to.”

The girl’s eyes widened. She said excited, “Can I ride in it?” She was a feisty one indeed. She had also apparently never heard of child predators.

I said, “I’ll take you for a ride if your mother approves. But you should never get in a car with strangers.”

She turned to the waitress, who was obviously her mother, and bawled, “MAAAAA!! can I ride in the Sheriff’s car?”

The waitress laid my eggs down in front of me and said exasperated, “Stop bothering the man Dot. We need you here.” Then she turned to me and said, “That’ll be two bits.”

It took me a second to translate that into English. I said, “Do you mean an entire breakfast is a quarter?”

She said defensively, “We charge more because the food’s all fresh.”

As I dug a quarter out of my pocket, I thought, “They must be having some kind of promotion to advertise the new decor.” The waitress looked at the quarter and said, “Wait a minute, what’s this?”

I said, “It’s a quarter.”

She said, “No it isn’t. THIS is a quarter,” and she held up one of those old-fashioned ones, before they started putting the State stuff on the back.

I dug in my pocket and found an old one and said, “Are you a collector of old coins?” as I handed it to her.

The waitress said, “What are you talking about? This one is from this year.”

Her quarter had 1946 embossed on the bottom underneath Washington’s head!!

I had a moment of vertigo. I sat back down on the stool and said, “Wait a minute. What’s the date?”

The waitress looked at me like she thought that I was messing with her and said, “It’s July 29th.”

I said with growing unease, “What year?”

She thought I was joking. She laughed heartily and said, “The last time I checked it was 1946. Isn’t that right Dot?”

Dot giggled and said mischievously, “No I think it’s 1846.”

The reality of my situation was sinking in. This was the REAL Dot. I had last seen her a week ago. She was eighty-two years old!!

*****

I hastily ate and left. Maybe one of the lightning strikes had gotten me. Maybe I’d had an aneurysm and was lying unconscious in the middle of the forest. Maybe I’d really been transported back to the 1940s? Whatever the circumstances, I was clearly NOT in Kansas anymore.

I should have been appalled. But, I’m a hard-headed practical man. The whys-and-wherefores of my situation were irrelevant to me. My only thought was that Mavis was still alive and I could save her!!

I had memorized every detail of the case. The murder didn’t occur until two days hence, on the 31st. Of course, I had a problem. In 1946, Mavis Pritchett was a total STRANGER.

I would deal with that later. But, first I had to get rid of the cruiser. The last thing I needed was for people to ask me questions, and the cruiser attracted too much attention. More important, I needed money. I had plenty of 21st Century cash. But I would've been washing dishes back in the diner, if I hadn’t dug up an old quarter.

I could kill two birds, with one stone, by selling the Crown Vic.

There was a garage in Fall Creek, which had been in constant operation since the 1930s. The garage was there all right. It looked well-to-do, and it was selling cars. I chuckled gleefully, "The owner ought to LOVE what I have to offer."

I parked and opened the hood. Four men stirred from where they had been lounging to come over and stare. Then the guy who was clearly the owner came out. They all looked puzzled.

I was counting on the uniform and gear to establish my bonafides. The owner was a rawboned guy, tall and gaunt, with grease-stained overalls. He walked up to me, not too friendly, and said, “What can I do for you SHERIFF?” It was clear than none of them liked cops.

I said in my friendliest tones, “I’m looking to sell this fine automobile. The Department doesn’t need it anymore and I want somebody local to benefit from it. I’ll throw in the shotguns and the special radio for the right price.”

The owner looked skeptical. He said, “What is this thing anyway?”

I said, without batting an eye, “It’s a Lamborghini.” Even though the blue oval clearly said, “Ford.” 

I added persuasively, “It’s an experimental car. The government gave it to us. They made it out of spare parts from one of their fighter planes.” Dot gave me THAT idea.

A lounger said, “How fast does it go Sheriff?”

I said, “It’ll do 150 at the top end. But you can drive it at 120 all day.” They all gasped in wonder. Since most of their passenger airplanes cruised under 200 miles an hour that was unheard of speed.

It was obvious that the owner wanted it so badly that his teeth hurt. He said, “What do you want for it?”

It had initially cost fifty-six thousand. I knew that I had to scale that back to 1940s prices. I said, “Five thousand.” I could tell I might as well have asked for fifty million.

The owner shrugged eloquently and started to walk away. I hastily added, “Okay, since you’re local I’ll let you have this fine automobile for two thousand cash, if you’ll throw in that little beauty over there.” I pointed at an immaculate blue 1940 Ford convertible.

Two thousand was a year’s salary, back then. But, the guy’s eyes lit up like he thought he was stealing the cruiser.

We rode down to the Fall Creek Bank. The owner spent the whole time playing with the shotguns racked in the front seat. I said irritably, “If you blow a hole in the roof, you've bought it anyhow.”

He said, “What’s that?” He was pointing at the laptop between us.

I said, “It’s an experimental radio that the government uses to monitor spies.” In the 21st Century’s world of electronic surveillance, that wasn’t really an exaggeration. 

The owner withdrew twenty, one-hundred-dollar bills and handed me the money. We rode back. He handed me the title and keys to the Ford. I handed him the keys and signed the title for the cruiser. I was hoping he didn’t notice the year it was manufactured.

Then we shook hands and I drove away. Phase one was complete.

*****

I needed a place to stay. So, I went back to the Hot Spot. Dot was standing at the counter polishing a soda glass. She said, “What happened to your car?”

I said, “I traded it in for something a lot cooler.” I was getting into that 1940s slang. Dot looked at the little roadster, which was sitting outside with its top down, and nodded approvingly.

I said, “Are there any boarding houses around here?”

She said, “Sure Sheriff. My mom runs one. Do you want me to show you?” And she rushed around the counter, grabbed me by the hand and dragged me out the door.

We walked over to the next block. Dot never let go of my hand. Did I detect a crush?

We arrived in front of one of those big, solid, stone, two story colonials. You see them all over the affluent parts of Wisconsin. Dot dragged me in, without ceremony.

Her mom had shed her waitress uniform and was standing there in a house dress, with her hair up in a bandana. She had obviously been cleaning. More importantly, she was a dead ringer for Eve Pederson, the Doc’s wife. Dot would soon look like her mother, whose name was Barbara, and Eve looked like Dot. So, apparently Swedish beauty ran in the family.

Dot said breezily, “The Sheriff needs a place to stay while he’s in town.”

Dot’s mom, said, “You can have a room and full board for five dollars a week. I know that sounds like a lot but I’m a good cook.”

I took out one of my hundreds. She looked at me like I had handed her a sack of gold doubloons. I said, “That’s five months in advance; in case I need it.”

I thought to myself, “Man, I’ve got to break one of these hundreds.”

*****

I had one more chore to do before I went to find Mavis. That was, to get a toothbrush and some 1940s clothes. There was a haberdashery on Main street. It was next to the hardware store and just two blocks from my new residence.  So, I walked there.

I have been in a lot of clothing stores. But, I have never been in one like that.

The clothes were in bins. There were none of the subtle marketing gimmicks, and the proprietor followed you around recommending things. It also had the board floor, musty smell and overall appearance of a feed store, not a place with fine men’s accessories.

The proprietor was an older man, very well dressed and genteel by rural Wisconsin standards. He was talking in a neighborly way to an early thirties guy with a lot of dark hair and one of those pencil slim Clark Gable mustaches above his lip.

Both men were much smaller than I was. But, I had noticed that about almost all the men I had met so far. They scoped out my outfit and the one guy stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome to our town Sheriff. I’m William Morton, the town Doctor, and this is my friend Stanley Wilkes. Where’re you from?”

I took his hand, shook it and said, “My jurisdiction is a long way from here. I’m just in town to clear up the details of a murder case.”

Seriously??!! Well it was true. The jurisdiction was seventy years in the future and no murder was going to happen on my watch.

I was aware of the irony. If I prevented the murder, then the Mavis I would meet seventy years later would be in her nineties. But, I firmly believed that I was here for some reason and the only one I could think of, was to stop what was going to happen two days from now.

I loved Mavis with every fiber of my being. So, I didn’t want harm to come to her; no matter what the consequences were for me.

I gave a rueful smile and said, “My luggage got misplaced on the way here.” Yeah sure! By about seven decades.

I added chuckling, “I can’t wear this uniform all the time. So, I need some clothes to tide me over; just a couple of shirts and pants and other necessaries.”

The Doc provided a running commentary as his buddy helped me. People didn’t run to the doctor for every little thing back then. It was obvious that Doc had a lot of time on his hands.

He said, “We have a nice little town. People are really friendly. We haven’t had a Sheriff, since Orville Hickenlooper died, and we could sure use one. When you get your murder case resolved, you ought to think about settling down here. I know they would be interested in hiring you.”

I was thinking, “If this isn’t a dream I might take him up on his offer.”

The total cost for three short-sleeved plaid shirts, a week's supply of boxers and two pairs of khaki pants was almost twenty-four bucks. I paid the man with one of my hundreds. He looked nonplussed. The Doc said kindly, “Why don’t I take you to our bank and we can break that for you.”

So, he escorted me up the street to the bank. The main thing I noticed about the bank was the lack of electronics; no ATM’s, no workstations, no screens in the teller’s cages, just ledgers and cash drawers. The other thing was the small-town hominess. Everybody knew everybody else, and there was a lot of joshing. It was like a family restaurant. Not the sterile bank atmosphere I’m used to.

I broke the first hundred and got a bunch of change for another. The Doc chattered all the way down and back about what a nice town this was. It really wasn’t a whole lot different than it was in the next Century. There were a few missing buildings and more open lots and alleys. But the general shape of the place was completely familiar.  

The haberdashery guy actually wrapped my purchases in paper and tied a string around them. I said “thanks” and was carrying them out the door, when I ran smack-dab into my destiny.

Mavis was rushing up the street.  She had her eyes down and she looked a little upset. The door of the haberdashery opened directly onto the sidewalk and I didn’t see her coming. So, I stepped out and we collided.

I’m six-two. She’s five-two. You can imagine who won THAT encounter. I grabbed her by both arms to keep her from falling into the street. Then I swung her back to face me.

She looked into my eyes and I could feel the energy crackle across seven decades. She could too.  She looked astonished, as well as horrified.

I had the advantage. All Mavis saw was a big intimidating lawman in a Smokey the Bear hat; tools of the trade strapped to his waist. But, I had lived with her as my beloved wife and the mother of my child for almost ten years.

Still, I couldn’t exactly whip out the wedding album. It was far too early. I said formally, “Pardon me Miss.”

She just stood there staring at me mouth open, with those incredible china blue eyes registering a firestorm of emotion. I was getting emotional myself. I had loved her, and fate had snatched her away. But, I’m pragmatic enough to hold onto my cards. My only aim was to snatch her back.

I said, trying to keep what I was feeling out of my voice, “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”

I resisted the urge to throw her over my shoulder and head for the nearest Justice of the Peace.

She shook herself like a dog drying itself and said hesitantly, “I don’t believe so Sheriff.”

It was obvious she thought that she knew me too. But, she ALSO felt it was prudent to keep her cards close to her delectable chest.

Just as Mavis said that, a greasy little pretty-boy, complete with cupid-bow lips and a genuine Elvis hairdo, grabbed her by the arm and said, “What are you doin’ talking to this guy Mavis. You’re my girl.”

The condescension and possessiveness in his voice almost made me reach for my Asp. She said, “Don’t flip your wig. I was just jawin’ with the Sheriff Jimmy.” Okay, they would probably think that our 21st Century argot was outlandish too.

He said, “Well you’d better get around to provin’ it or I might find myself another girl.” And he yanked her up the steps toward her apartment. She looked back longingly in my direction.

At that point the Doc came out. He watched the two of them enter the apartment. He said, That’s Jimmy Rawlins. He’s a no-good punk. But, his parents have money. She’s a beautiful girl. I don’t know what she’s doing hanging around with him. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.”

Mavis respects strength in a man. So, she would gravitate toward anybody who appears decisive. Jimmy-boy was an arrogant little shit. So, I understood why she was with him. Of course, I planned to alter that arrangement.

I was just getting into the car when the sound of Mavis moaning wafted out the wide-open windows of her apartment. Air conditioning was a rarity in the forties. So, of course they would have the windows open.

I thought, “Great!! Just what I needed to hear.”

I had nothing to say about it YET. Technically I wouldn’t be born for another 27 years. But the sound of the love of my life making sexual music with another man just about killed me.

*****

Dot rolled me out at 7:00 the next morning. I had slept like the dearly departed, in the cozy comfort of her mother’s house.

Dot said, “It’s Tuesday and I’m off today. So, you can take me for a ride in your little car.” I loved her chutzpah.

I said, “What does your mother think about that?”

Dot laughed and said, “She thinks you’re great. Maybe you can be my OTHER daddy.”

I laughingly said, “Out!! You already have one!!”

Her dad was an older Swedish man whose English was questionable. But who clearly doted on his daughter. I think all of that unconditional love was what made Dot so spirited.

Breakfast was at the Hot Spot. It was one of the perks of being a lodger. Dot and I were just finishing up when Jimmy and Mavis walked in and sat at a nearby table.

Dot went over and joined them. She was excitedly telling Mavis about the day that we had planned.

Jimmy looked like he was channeling James Dean's character in, “Rebel Without a Cause.” But in his case, the impression was more like, “Rebel Without a Clue.”

He was wearing the uniform, of the 1940s punk; white t-shirt, with a pack of Lucky’s rolled up in one sleeve, a pair of the old fashioned heavy blue jeans and motorcycle boots. His thick black hair was carefully styled into an oily waterfall over his forehead. The grease was slowly oozing down his nose.

Mavis loves children. I already knew that. She was a fantastic mom in another realm. She was animatedly talking to Dot, while she was longingly eying ME. She still looked confused. I didn’t blame her. I was no better off than she was. 

Dot was chattering about her day, when Fuckface decided that it was time to be an asshole. He grabbed Mavis and swung her around in her chair. He said angrily, “Stop talking to that brat. You’re supposed to be with me. I don’t tolerate disrespect from my woman.”

Mavis has a temper and Dickbreath had set her off. I thought, “Oh-oh!” She shook his hands off her and stood up. She said with fury in her voice, “Don’t you DARE talk to me like that. If you can’t be a gentleman, then maybe I’ll go with Dot and the Sheriff.”

Then she walked over to where I was standing, took my arm and said, “Can I ride with you two until Jimmy learns some manners.”

Jimmy jumped to his feet and approached me threateningly. He was a little guy, perhaps five-six and maybe one-forty, like a banty rooster.  He said, “She’s my girl so fuck-off, or I’ll mess you up.” He was talking to my chest.

I had to laugh. That was unfortunate because it made him take a swing. I caught his fist in midair. It felt like a little girl’s. Then I slowly twisted him to the floor, onto his knees.

He was struggling to get his fist out of my hand, while calling me names that I didn’t want Dot to hear. Except my little friend was obviously enjoying every second of what was happening.

Mavis looked horrified and totally turned-on.

I said, “Mavis is a grown woman and a respected teacher in this community. She can do anything she wants and if she wants to ride up to Eau Claire with me and Dot she is welcome to do so.”

Then I added in a menacing tone of voice, “I am going to let go of your hand now, and I would strongly advise you to NOT push this any further. Needless to say, we’ll talk again, if you ever think about taking this out on Mavis.”

I gave his hand a violent twist, enough to cause him some pain. He yelped and then sat there on the floor clutching his wrist. The other patrons looked approvingly at me. Apparently, I wasn’t the only person in town who thought that Dickface was a pain in the ass.

The three of us strolled out of the Hot Spot and got in my shiny blue Ford; Mavis in the front with me and Dot in the back leaning over the seat. Jimmy watched us from the diner steps.

Jimmy yelled, “Take the slut. I don’t want her whore ass anyhow.”

I almost got back out of the car. But Jimmy quickly ducked into the diner.

I’ve been a cop a long time. I knew that we hadn’t heard the last from him.

Tuesday July 30th was a beautiful sunny day in Wisconsin. So, the top was down. Now that it was just Mavis and me, our past love was beginning to work its mysterious magic.

Long married couples, who manage to keep that special something, have a profound link that binds them at some deep subliminal level. Mavis and I had that kind of intense connection all our married life.

Now, the future was influencing our present. Mavis had stopped staring at me. Instead she was doing the woman-thing where she kind-of melded herself into me. We were just lightly touching physically. But our hearts were beating together, and our minds were on the same wavelength. 

Dot said from the back seat, “I don’t want to go to Eau Clair. It’s too far away and you two are creeping me out.”

I said brightly, “Then how about a picnic?” I looked at Mavis. She was staring at me with a mixture of awe, lust and confusion.

I got it. The feelings were so powerful that they had to come from somewhere. But, she couldn’t figure out where. I had the advantage. I knew that her future was OUR past.

We picked up some delicious nibbles at the market. It was a little store, not a “super” market. Everything was astonishingly fresh.

Then, I drove us a little way out of town to a spot overlooking the millpond. We had to cross a small creek to get there. I helped Mavis over the stones and Dot hopped across, agile as a little cat.

We spread a blanket on the edge of the bluff. It was where our house would be seven decades in the future. But right now, it was just a tranquil spot in the woods.

I could tell that Mavis was getting the vibe. It was what I’d intended. She had loved her house and she had made it a happy home for almost a decade.

She kept looking at me puzzled. I should have enlightened her. But, what can you say? “Hi, I’m your husband from seventy years in the future and we are sitting on the spot where our house will be. I know that sounds a little bizarre but it’s true, trust me.”

She would have run screaming to the authorities waving a "Personal Protection Order." So, I just kept holding onto my cards, waiting for the universe to decide what to do with us. The one thing I KNEW, was that Mavis wasn’t going to suffer any harm.

She was clearly happy to be with us. I watched her chattering about ducks with Dot. They were both looking at the Millpond. So, I was able to get away with giving her an avid look. It was painful being so near, and yet so far. God! I had missed her.

Then she and Dot, still laughing and chatting started to walk up a little hill. It was where a small willow tree had just started to get its characteristic drooping branches. The two girls wanted a better view of the Millpond. I’d seen the same scenario hundreds of times. Except the little girl walking with Mavis was our daughter. I smiled fondly in recollection.

Then it hit me!! She was about to stand on the place where I had buried her. I leapt to my feet and was about to yell “Mavis!” when they arrived.

She was holding Dot’s hand. They turned to look out over the stream, which was full of wildfowl. Then abruptly and without a word, Mavis crumpled, like a balloon losing its air. 

I rushed to her. Dot was on her knees holding her hand and saying in an anguished tone of voice, “Mavis, Mavis!” I picked her up and carried her back down the hill. It was the first time I had held her since the day I had lost her.  It was excruciating.

Mavis started to come around as soon as I removed her from the effects of the spot. She clutched me terrified. I could guess what had happened and I had no words. How do you tell somebody that they were standing on their own grave?

I said, “You’ll be fine now Mavis. It must have been something you ate.” Ludicrous, yes; but what else could I tell her?

She looked at me with huge eyes and said, “I felt like I stepped into a void. I was falling into oblivion.”

I said soothingly, “It was probably just low blood sugar. I’ve seen these things before. I’m a police officer, you know.” Seriously???!!! I sounded more like a politician.

What I said, must have satisfied her. I put her down. She was unsteady on her feet. She took my arm again and laughed lightly. She said, “Sorry for scaring you two.”

Dot chuckled and said, “Thanks for the show. I’ve never seen anybody faint before.” Dot was a spirited little minx, and I knew she wouldn’t lose one iota of that spunk in the next seventy years.

I said, “Maybe I’d better get you home.” Mavis nodded gratefully.

We picked up our stuff and retraced our steps to the car. Mavis and I had spent enough time together that all the walls were down now. So, it was an easy camaraderie, as we made our way back to Main Street.

I dropped Dot off at the Hot Spot and continued on to Mavis’s place. I saw Jimmy’s face disappear from the window of her apartment as we rolled up.

Mavis got out and walked around to my side. It was obvious that she was having as hard a time parting company with me, as I was with her. But like I said, how do you open the conversation that we would eventually have to have?

I said lamely, “I hope I see you again.”

She said eagerly, “Oh yes Sheriff. I would really like that.”

I said worriedly, “If Jimmy gives you any trouble I am just two blocks away. Over in Barbara Hansson’s boarding house.”

She smiled prettily and said, “Don’t worry about Jimmy, Sheriff. I can handle him. He loves me too much to bust my chops.”

Then she turned and walked slowly up the stairs. The well-remembered swaying of those round muscular buns reminded me of the endless nights of passion we’d shared. I knew she was too good for Jimmy. I also knew that he and I would meet again.

*****

I was handling this like any normal police operation. In some respects, it was. I was going to prevent a murder. So, I had to know every detail about the lay of the land. As a result, I spent the rest of the day and the next reconnoitering.

I was well-aware of the fact that it would change a lot of things along the timeline if I stopped Mavis’s murder. Maybe that was selfish on my part. Because there would be inevitable repercussions. But whatever happened in the 21st Century had already taken place on my timeline. So, there was no way it could “UN-happen.”

It was clear that the force that had brought me to the current point in time, which I assumed was the love that we felt for each other, was influencing Mavis's attitude toward me. If it wasn’t, I was sure that she wouldn’t have been so instantly attracted. After all, I had just met her, and she DID have a live-in boyfriend.

The boyfriend was going to be a problem. I didn’t think Mavis loved him, as much as she needed a man in her life. That was one of her special traits. She wasn’t happy, without a guy to devote herself to. And she was fiercely loyal to whoever the lucky man was.

In my not-so-humble opinion, Jimmy was a skell. In my years in the police, I had seen thousands just like him. He was a weak, delusional and self-involved little man whose main claim to fame was that he had some money and a dick.

But the real culprit, as I already knew, was Felix Wynn. The last time I had seen Wynn, he was lying stone-cold-dead in the old folk’s home. I knew that he wouldn’t look like a mummy, which he had resembled back then. So, I wanted to scope him out.

God! I was beginning to think of the 21st Century as, “Back then!” It was confusing keeping my timelines straight.

Anyhow, I wanted to take the measure of Wynn, as a young man. But, I had to find him first and they wouldn’t have the internet for another 50 years. So, I was stuck with old fashioned technology.

It was surprisingly effective.

I walked down Main Street to the phone booth on the corner of Lincoln and Lafayette. There was a payphone inside. I hadn’t seen one of those since I was a kid. I wasn’t there to make a call. I wanted the phone book. It was amazingly thin. Of course, there were only a few thousand folks in the entire County in 1946, and most of them didn’t have phones.

I opened it and ran my fingers down the page to a Wynn, Felix R. He lived over on the west side of town by the tracks. That was probably because it was within easy walking distance to the High School.

I knew from the 21st Century case files that Wynn had gone off the deep-end, while both he and Mavis were teaching there. Mavis is stunningly beautiful. She radiates an eroticism that would make any man crazy. But most guys obey the rules. Wynn didn’t.

Wynn had been doing the kind of groping and fondling that we would call sexual harassment. But, the guys back in 1946 would call “flirting.” Either way Mavis didn’t like it and she complained to the District. They ignored her. Until Wynn snapped one day and outright tried to fuck Mavis on her teacher’s desk.

Mavis’s cries for help attracted a crowd, and a couple of male teachers pulled Wynn off her. The whole thing was so unheard of and embarrassing to the District that they covered it up by firing both. Was that fair? They thought so, back then. 

The result was that, a fellow who was clearly mentally disturbed was roaming around waiting for his next shot at the object of his obsession. That would culminate in Mavis’s murder if I didn’t do something.

I cruised by Wynn’s shack. It was made from weathered boards and it looked like it might be two rooms, shitter out back. It was still very hot. He was sitting on his porch in a wife-beater and a pair of pants held up by suspenders. I parked and walked up to him. He rose suspiciously.

He was bigger than Jimmy. But most people were, even back then. He looked to be maybe five-eight, and a hundred and eighty pounds. He obviously considered himself to be a lady’s man, thick black hair slicked back from his forehead by a lot of what they called hair-tonic back then. It was mostly oil.

Wynn had the same pencil thin mustache as the Doc. Clark Gable was still an icon among movie leading men. Wynn also had little beady eyes next to a slightly too large nose and thin angry lips.

I put on my most innocent tourist face and said, “I’m lost Mister. Do you know where Fall Creek is?”

Wynn looked me up and down. He was an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. But, I was a helpless tourist, so I averted my eyes like I was intimidated.

Wynn said, “Get off my property, or I’ll shoot you.”

I said, “No need to be that way buddy. I’m just looking for directions.”

Wynn rose and stalked into his piece-of-shit house. I knew he was going to come out with a shotgun.

God help me, I was tempted. I could just shoot him right-then-and-there and be done with it. I knew plenty of places to bury a body. But I wanted to play this out as close to what happened as possible. I just had to know.

So, I turned and scampered back to my car. Wynn fired a shot in the air, laughing. I started the Ford and drove hastily back onto the road and back to town. I had seen my adversary and understood him. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the cards to be dealt.

*****

It was dusk, and I was watching from my car, which was parked, top-up, opposite Mavis’s apartment. I was hunched down in the seat. I’ve been a cop a very long time and I can do stake-out surveillance with the best. Nobody saw me.

I hadn’t seen Mavis since the picnic. But I had seen the dress. She came down the steps in the same outfit that she was wearing when I met her in the future.

She clearly had on her best clothes. It featured a short wool skirt, that showed off her fantastic legs, old-fashioned nylons, with a seam up the back, 3-inch heels and a nice white blouse. The entire ensemble was topped by a jaunty, short wool jacket that matched her skirt.

The weather told me that she was dressed in her only good outfit. It must have been in the 80s still, and the sun had set a while ago. Only a girl dressing to impress would wear something like that in this heat.

She stood under the streetlight in front of the Doc’s clinic, waiting for the bus to Cadott. It ran up State 27 all the way to Cornell. 

The bus pulled up. She got on board and it ground away. Turned right on 27 and headed slowly toward Cadott and Mavis’s eventual fate.

I shifted the Ford into gear and followed behind.

They dropped Mavis at the front of the Crescent. The place is still there in the next Century. It looks like an old barn, converted into a bar. The sign out front was about the only difference. It was lit by a single green shaded light bulb, not modern neon.

Mavis walked up the steps to the porch and entered. I parked and waited fifteen minutes. There was a big party going on. People were circulating, and a lot of them were drunk. I remembered that it was a welcome home for one of the locals. He’d just gotten back from World War II.

Mavis stood out in the midst of the joviality. She was slumped at a table looking depressed. Jimmy was sitting next to her, arm placed possessively along the back of her chair, smoking a Lucky, and bantering back and forth with all his friends.

They both had drinks in front of them. I knew what had been dropped into Mavis’s drink. I'd read the autopsy results. The presence of chloral hydrate was part of the case file.

Glancing around, I saw a couple of things. Wynn was sitting at the bar smoking and looking as jumpy as the proverbial cat. 

The other was Mavis’s face. She had two black eyes!!

I had heard that people actually see red when they go off the deep-end. I had never experienced that phenomenon - until then!! My cop brain was screaming at me to calm down, since my mission was to prevent Mavis's murder. But the part of me who loved my wife was reaching for the Asp.

The Asp is eight inches of very special metal alloy. It can be carried in your pocket. It expands with a flick of the wrist into a two-foot-long fighting baton. The metal is formulated in a way that the tip of the baton is flexible. So, you can whip it at close to supersonic speeds. Consequently, an Asp strike is like being shot.

My emotions were too riled. I had to get out of the place before I did something stupid. I stood and bolted out the door. Once I reached the parking lot, I bent over and put my hands on my knees. I was taking deep breaths, trying to get my self-control back.

After a while, my molten anger died down and I turned to go back inside. That was when I heard a mocking voice say, “What’s the matter, too chicken to fight me? Mavis disrespected me, and I beat her up and sold her whore ass to Felix Wynn. Now it’s your turn.”

I looked up into the conceited, smirking face of Jimmy Rawlins. He was standing there, all misplaced cockiness. He also had about eight of his friends in a semi-circle behind him. The friends contributed to his erroneous sense of security.

I thought, “Pennies from heaven!” This fool had hit my wife and drugged her, and now I was going to present him with the bill!! The thought of this little prick using his fists on Mavis’s delicate flesh made me wild with rage. I said, trying to keep the eagerness out of my voice, “All right boy, bring it on.”

The moron actually jumped into a stance like the Marquess of Queensbury, fists up, left foot spaced in front of the right.

I didn't have the time to prance around like Gentleman Jim. So, I said, disgusted, “Seriously??!!” and kicked him in the crotch.

It was thoughtful of Jimmy to spread his legs like that. It made the kick so much more effective. I put all my pent-up fury into it, and It lifted Jimmy a half foot off the ground.

He gave a loud strangled grunt and doubled over. That was convenient since it meant that I didn’t have to raise my knee quite so far to slam his face down on it. I could hear facial bones snapping. Jimmy-boy wouldn’t be as pretty, or as virile as he used to be.

He hit the ground. I bent over and grabbed his right hand and jerked it away from his body. Then I ground my heel into it. He screamed in agony. The loud crunching of bones was music to my ears. That might seem a little over-the-top ruthless. But, that was the hand that had hit my wife. He wouldn't be using it on any other women.

This all took perhaps five seconds. I turned toward his friends, whipped out the Asp, deployed it with a flick of my wrist and said, “Which one, of you knuckleheads, is next??!!”

The biggest of them yelled, “That ain’t fair!!” and plunged at me. I'm an expert with the Asp. You have to be, if you are in the police business. And, I was in a hurry to get back to Mavis. So, I kneecapped him with a single strike. I don’t know how advanced orthopedic surgery was in the 1940s. But I was sure they could sew SOME of the ligaments back together.

I turned waving the Asp and yelled, “Anybody else??!!”

The rats scattered. Jimmy was lying on the ground in a fetal position moaning loudly. He had shit himself. The other guy was crying like a little baby girl.

I had been distracted for no-more-than twenty minutes. But when I got back I discovered to my absolute horror that Mavis wasn’t sitting there anymore. Even worse Wynn wasn’t there either.

I have been in some tough situations; none worse than the day I lost Mavis. But that empty chair nearly killed me. I muttered under my breath, “Not again!!” and bolted to my car.

The only logical place was Wynn’s house. I knew where he lived thanks to yesterday's visit. I didn’t know how far in front of me he had gotten, but it didn’t matter. I was going to arrive soon after the beginning of whatever festivities he had planned.

Wisconsin 27 was paved but it was still a very narrow road. My faithful 1940 Roadster had one of the classic Ford 239, flathead engines, so beloved to the hotrodders of the 1950s. I didn’t know what Wynn was driving but I was pretty sure I was faster. 

I drove maybe 18 of the 20 miles between the Crescent and Wynn’s place at seventy miles an hour. Those were 1940s roads in a 1940s car. Any faster and I would have been in the trees.

I was almost to the town limits when the car started to quiver and wobble. I instinctively slowed. That was a wise decision because at that point the right front tire blew.

I muttered under my breath, “Damn-damn-damn-damn!!” as I wrestled the car to the side of the road.

Some people would have sat there pounding the steering wheel in frustration. But I was in panic mode and the adrenaline was flowing.

I was still perhaps three quarters of a mile from the point where 27 intersects Main Street and then another mile back to Wynn’s place. But yesterday's careful reconnaissance had paid off. I knew that 27 slanted into town. If I had been driving, I would have gone all the way to the intersection and then turned right, to come back out of town to the house.

But, on a direct line through the woods and across a freshly plowed field, I was only a quarter of a mile away.

I hopped out of the car, and bolted off into the trees, running as fast as I could. I jumped Bridge Creek and found a path in the surrounding underbrush, which led to the open fields around the high school.

It was close to 11:00 PM but the moon was full, and it was a cloudless July night.  As I pounded along I was thinking-through the timing. 

It had been about an hour since I had last seen Mavis.  It would take a little time for the drug to get her into a state where Wynn could whisk her out of the bar. Wynn wouldn’t be in a hurry getting home because he didn’t know that anybody was after him; and he DID have all night.

I figured that he might be less than fifteen minutes ahead of me. I was sprinting full-out as I crossed the farmer’s field, homing in on Wynn’s shack. I didn’t have time to be subtle.

There was only one door and that was the front. Wynn might have been waiting behind it with a shotgun. But he didn’t know I was coming. I also knew that he would be otherwise occupied.

My blood boiled. But I still took the time to slow down, creep up on the porch and silently open the door. I could hear murmuring. They were in the bedroom.

I edged my way in that direction, Asp fully deployed.

I heard Wynn say, self-satisfied, “You’re my woman now.” Then there was a gasp and the sound of a sloppy kiss. That was followed by a loud bellow of pain and a slap.

I knew Mavis had bitten his lip and he had hit her. She told me that during the investigation. She was also using some very unladylike language to describe Wynn’s manhood.

Her voice was cut off by a gargling noise. Wynn was leaning back as he strangled Mavis.  I had just gotten to the foot of the bed.

Wynn’s hairy ass was firmly lodged between my wife’s widely spread legs. He was using his own legs to keep them spread.

His position was delightfully convenient because it gave me a lot of his personal real estate to target. There was the characteristic “crack,” as the tip of the Asp went supersonic. And, the first strike hit directly at the base of his nut sack.

The impact sounded like a 9-mil hitting a watermelon. I knew that Wynn wouldn’t be having sex for the rest of his life.  The prostate is directly under that area and I was sure I’d blown that up along with his balls.

Wynn shrieked and soared up in the air. He looked, for all the world, like a Marlin trying to break free from a fisherman’s line. Wynn landed back down on Mavis, who went, “Ooofff!!” and began to writhe herself, trying to get her breath back.

The fucker was totally limp, as I grabbed his thick greasy hair and dragged him off my wife. I was going to tell him about all the creative things I was going to do to him. But I saw that I would be wasting my breath. Felix Wynn was deader than that proverbial door-nail. The pain must have been too intense.

Well, I knew from the first time around that he had a bad ticker.

All I had to do now was get us out of there. I was certain that Wynn’s death would be ruled “natural causes.” There was no conventional sign of foul play, and forensic science in 1946 would never guess that the purple mark on his balls was an Asp strike.

So, Wynn was dead, and Jimmy-boy would be in the hospital for a very long time. All-in-all a good day’s work.

I couldn’t foresee any legal difficulty from Jimmy. This was rural Wisconsin in the 1940s, not the politically correct society of the 21st Century They’d never prosecute a guy for getting in a fight; especially if the fight had been instigated by the injured party and eight of his friends.

I looked at Mavis. She was naked, writhing on the bed, still trying to get her breath back. Her body was as incredible as ever, even if it was smeared with Wynn’s cum.

I walked to the bed and sat on it. She flinched away. I imagined that the last thing she wanted was to be touched by a man. So, I said gently, “You’re safe now Mavis. Nobody will EVER harm you again. You’re my wife and I promise you that I will protect you with my life.”

She stopped writhing and started sobbing. It was pathetic. I said as humbly and respectfully as I could, “Would it be alright if I held you; just to comfort you. I am not like that other fellow.”

She nodded pitifully and sat up. Wordlessly, she threw her arms around my neck and sobbed on my shoulder. I held her and just repeated over-and-over, in my most calming tone of voice, “It’s all right my love. I’m here now and I will never leave you.”

She finally stopped crying. I said, “If you’re able to walk, my car is just on the other side of the woods. If not, I’ll carry you.” She started to stand and collapsed back.

I said, “Can I help dress you?”

She nodded again. She hadn’t said a word at that point. I slipped her panties and skirt up her long beautiful legs and over her ripe, round hips. She lay there unresponsive.

I got her to sit up and tenderly helped her into her shirt, buttoning it past those succulent breasts. I did that without touching them. I slipped her jaunty little coat on her. Then I put everything else, pillbox hat, nylons, girdle, bra and shoes into a handy burlap bag. 

I picked up my wife and carried her out into the night. She had her right arm around my neck and her head resting on my shoulder. She was as light as a feather. I had forgotten how exquisite she was. 

The walk through the fields and woods was exhilarating. I was holding her in my arms thinking, “I might be dead somewhere in the 21st Century. But, it doesn’t matter. I’m alive in this one, and she’s in my arms.” 

I was happy for the first time since that cataclysmic day in a future November; which was either a decade in the past; or seventy years in the future. God! It was confusing.

I had already noticed one odd thing. In realigning the cosmos, our relative ages were preserved. Mavis was twenty-five in 1946, I was closer to fifty-two, in real-time. But I was back to the thirty-two-year-old version of myself in this reality, and believe me, I could tell the difference.

As far as I knew, I was now as dead as Mavis had been when I met her. Or maybe this was just the happy dream of somebody lying in a deep coma. It didn’t matter one bit. I was with her in a vibrant post-war America and that was all I cared about. It was like the two of us had gotten a complete reset.

I opened the passenger door of the Ford and put her in the seat. I closed the door and she immediately slumped to lie across the front. The fact that Mavis was still under the influence of the drug was a good thing. Perhaps she wouldn’t remember much about what had happened.

I jacked the car up and changed the tire. My shirt was soaked from changing the tire and I was exhausted. I couldn’t take her back to the Hannson’s house. So, I drove to the only other logical place; Mavis’s apartment. I knew that Jimmy wouldn’t be coming back there anymore.

*****

I awoke on a bright and sunny August 1st. I had fallen asleep in Mavis's only comfortable chair. I was still dressed in my short sleeve plaid shirt and khakis.

I looked across the room and saw a solemn pair of eyes, studying me from the bed. She was sitting up, still wearing the clothes that she had worn the night before. She said suspiciously, “Who are you?”

I said jocularly, “Your knight in shining armor; at your service madam.”

Mavis looked disgusted and said, “No, who are you, really?” This was going to take tact, and I needed a firebreak between last night and our future together.

Mavis was alive and breathing, not buried in an unmarked grave in the Nicolet. So, we had an entire lifetime in front of us. But the transition into that new lifetime had to be carefully managed.

Even without last night’s drugging and rape, I knew that the discussion was going to be earth-shattering for both of us. I simply couldn’t bear losing her again.

I hadn’t had my morning coffee. So, I said lightly, “I never do anything involving my brain until I’ve had my first cup of java. Let’s walk down to the Hot Spot and we can talk there.”

She said, “I need to take a bath and wash all this off me.” She gestured down her body. I knew what she was talking about.

I said, “I suppose I should too. Why don’t we meet there in an hour?”

She smiled for the first time and said, “Breakfast is on you. You have a lot of explaining to do young man.” Her indomitable spirit was back.

One hour later I was sitting at a table in the Hot Spot. I had taken a bath, showers being a rarity in the 1940s, except in a barracks. I shaved and dressed in another one of my new shirts. I felt like a new man. 

I said to Dot, “Can you bring two coffees over here,” and sat down as far away from everybody else as I could get.

Mavis walked in a few minutes later. She was heartrendingly beautiful and obviously pissed.

She was in a light cashmere Betty and Veronica sweater with a pleated skirt, knee socks and a pair of saddle shoes. It showcased her slim, beautiful legs and her amazing rack. She had a little silk scarf tied jauntily around her neck.

Mavis plopped down across from me. Dot put a cup of coffee in front of her. Dot, being Dot, said cheekily, “Did Jimmy give you those?” Mavis’s two shiners did nothing to mar her beauty.

Mavis laughed and said, “No, I ran into a door, clumsy me.”

Dot looked at me and said sincerely, “I hope you evened the score Sheriff. Can you arrest him?”

I laughed heartily and said, “I don’t need to. He’s in the hospital now, and nowhere near as pretty as he was yesterday. Accidents will happen, you know how it is.”

That was also a test for Mavis. Prior to this, she had been living with and obviously fucking the guy. I wondered how she would react to her lover’s “accident.”

Mavis got a beatific look, it was like she had suddenly realized there WAS a God, and said with considerable self-satisfaction, “Good!!”

Dot nodded emphatically and laughed. She had a couple of menus under her arm. She handed them to us, spun on her heel and walked away still chuckling. Jimmy clearly didn’t have many friends.

I glanced at the menu and then looked up into a pair of china blue eyes. They were busily boring into my brain. Mavis is a highly intelligent and very strong-minded woman. Last night, she had been beaten, drugged and raped. A lot of women would be destroyed; unable to cope. Mavis wanted answers.

I looked at her flawless face, every feature perfectly proportioned and aligned under her mass of curly black hair; and the sense of relief washed over me. If I was dead than so-be-it. This was where I wanted to be.

I said, “You graduated from the Normal School in Eau Claire, and you taught English Lit at the high school, so you’ve probably read H. G. Welles, right?”

Mavis looked astounded. She said outraged, “How did you know THAT? Have you been prying into my personal life? I have rights you know!” Beaten, raped and feisty. That was the Mavis I loved.

I laughed and said, “Relax, it’s part of the story. But you are going to have to open your mind. You know Welles, “The Time Machine?”

She nodded her head in assent and said, “I assigned it to my students.”

I said, “Do you believe any of that could happen?”

She laughed and said, “That’s silly! OF COURSE, it couldn’t happen! Where are you going with this?”

I sensed that the discussion wasn’t proceeding the way I wanted it to. Mavis was likely to walk out if I told her the real story. So, I laughed and said, “I just wanted to find out how open minded you are.”

I knew how weak that sounded the minute I said it.

She said, grim as an Inquisitor, “You called me your wife last night.”

I could see that I was not going to wiggle out of THAT. So, I said, “Sorry, figure of speech; what I meant to say was my FUTURE wife.” I grinned disarmingly and said, “I would have added and mother-of-my-children, but I thought that was getting ahead of myself.”

She grinned back seductively and said, “Oh-ho!! Aren’t YOU the bold one. What makes you think I’d even give you the time of day?”

I looked at her with serious eyes and said, “You felt the attraction. Hell, even Jimmy saw it. I don’t know what’s come over me. But I can’t see living my life without you.”

That was way too far over the line, and there was too much sincerity in my words. Losing Mavis had been so awful that I couldn’t even talk about it without emotion creeping into my voice.

It bothered Mavis a lot. I quickly shut up. Mavis said angrily, “How could you say something like that? I don’t even know you.”

I said jokingly, “Maybe we WERE married in another life? Maybe THAT explains it?”

She did that fidgeting thing that women do when their emotions get too riled up. I was counting on the love we had shared to move this to its inevitable destination, and that clearly wasn’t going to happen.

She said with annoyance in her voice, “I don’t know who you are or why you are messing with me. But, YES, I have sensed that there has been something significant between us.”

She was getting angrier by the second, as she said, “I can’t figure out what’s causing it, and it bothers me. I remember most of what happened last night, including the unwilling sex, and I know that you saved me. But, unless you can explain what you just said; you need to shove off.” 

Alright, it was down to the nut cutting. I tried my most convincing voice, “Let’s go somewhere private. You aren’t going to believe what I have to tell you. But, I’m counting on the fact that you trusted me in the past, to help you to trust me now.”

*****

We walked into her little apartment. It was a cozy place. She had a living room with a couple of upholstered chairs, a table in front of the window, with a little lamp on it, and a floor lamp next to one chair. It was the chair that I had slept in last night.

There was a cheap, but clean, hooked-rug covering the painted wood floor. There were racks of books in a couple of bookcases. Mavis saw where I was looking and said self-effacingly, “I like to read.” I knew that because she had lived in the library when we were married.

There was a bed against the wall, neatly made. There was one other room and that was the bathroom. It looked like Mavis cooked on a hotplate.

I sat in one chair. She sat in the other. I noticed how well-ordered everything was. There was no clutter, no pots in the little sink. Mavis had been a great homemaker and it was clear that neatness was a deep-seated part of her personality. 

She was looking at me intently. The two bruises were disturbing but they didn’t detract from her porcelain skin, or the natural shape and deep intelligence of her eyes. Her thick black eyebrows were arched. She was waiting for me to tell my story.

Oh well, as the Brits say; “In for a penny, in for a pound.” I said, “Everything I am about to tell you is true. I have no way of proving it. But I want you to trust your feelings. They will help you see that I am being honest.”

I sighed and began, “We were married for nine years. We were very much in love. We have a beautiful daughter named Ava. This is the only proof that I have that this happened.”

I fished in my pocket and pulled out my cell phone. It was turned off. I needed to preserve the battery for this very moment.

I could see that Mavis was about to erupt. Then, she was distracted by the phone. She looked puzzled. She said, “What’s that?”

I said, “It’s my telephone. This is how we make phone calls in the Twenty-First Century.”

Mavis let that pass. Then it hit her. She said astounded, “Wait!!! Did you say Twenty-First Century??!!” She looked incredulous.

I said lightly, “Close your mouth, or you’ll catch flies.”

As the phone booted-up, I said, “I can’t use it to make phone calls here. Because, it depends on other technologies to do that.  But, it will confirm what I’m going to say.”

Mavis looked unconvinced. Anybody would react that way if a total stranger showed up in their living room and spun an utterly preposterous tale like mine.

I looked her in the eyes, willing her to believe what I was about to say. I said, “I know that what I’m saying sounds nuts and I’m probably frightening you. But I think you can see that my phone is not from this era.”

She nodded hesitantly.

At that point, the desktop of the phone came up. It showed a recent picture of Ava in her Badgers cheerleading uniform. She was heartstoppingly beautiful, the spitting image of her mother. 

Mavis said dazed, “Where did you get that picture of me?”

I said, “It isn’t you, it’s our daughter Ava. She’s twenty and until three days ago she was my sole memento of our life together.”

I said, “I know that your history with men tells you that you would be a fool to trust me. But, let me assure you, our love was real, and this young woman is the product of it.”

Mavis looked like she was suffering from sensory overload. That was understandable. Any normal person would react that way. I said pleading, “I am staking my life and happiness on one throw of the dice, and I will do whatever it takes to help you believe that what I say is true.”

I added resignedly, “But, we are past the event that brought us together. So, I will honor your decision if you choose to live your life without me.

I looked at her trying to convey my sincerity. I said, “I was a pretty good lawman in this town, in the future, and they have already offered me the Sheriff’s position for the duration. If I’m stuck in the 1940s, I’m going to take them up on their offer.” Then, I sat back and waited for her to react.

Mavis is a very strong minded and practical woman. When I first met her, she had eventually come to accept her new reality and she dealt with it bravely. Most people couldn’t make the adjustment.

I was counting on her agile mind to accept that we had loved each other in the future, even if my only proof was a picture, recorded on a piece of technology she would never understand.

So, I sat there, with my raw feelings hanging out. The person I had built my life around was a total stranger. But we had loved each other once and it was clear in our interactions, that the magic was working across the decades.

Mavis was looking at me with her face screwed into a mask of concentration. 

I said as kindly and gently as I could, “You just appeared out of nowhere one night. You thought it was today, August 1st, 1946. I was the Sheriff and I took care of you while we tried to find out who you were and where you had come from.”

Mavis looked disbelieving. I hastily continued with, “We investigated, and we eventually concluded that you had been murdered by Felix Wynn.”

Mavis looked absolutely stunned. She knew I was talking about last night. I added mildly, “We closed the case, even though the premise that you’d solved your own murder was crazy.”

Mavis laughed. She said, “That’s the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard.”

I rushed to finish. I said, “By that time we were very much in love and we eventually married. We had conceived Ava before the wedding. But, the timing was immaterial.

I could see that Mavis was getting fidgety again, so I pulled out my second-best card. I said, “We led a happy life in our house. Do you know where that house was located?”

She shook her head, “no,” mystified. She had no idea why I had even asked that question. I said with increasing confidence, “It's where we had the picnic. I know you got the vibe. I could see it’

For the first time Mavis looked like she might be beginning to believe me.

 I said, “After nine years of wedded bliss, they dug up a body. You disappeared, at the exact same instant; leaving me and Ava to cope.”

Mavis was looking even more thoughtful. So, I played my hole card. I said, “I’m a simple guy and a practical man. I wasn’t sure that anything supernatural had happened. But I buried the body that they’d dug up, on my property.”

I added with grim emphasis, “You were standing on your own grave when you fainted!”

Mavis looked aghast. It was like, her perceptions in that instant, cemented her acceptance of the truth. The feeling overwhelmed her.

Some women might cry. Some would freak out. Others would get angry. Mavis is wired differently. I discovered that the night she had the first inkling of her murder. 

She might be smart and practical. But, Mavis is a deeply intuitive person. How she feels, and how she reacts, are the best indicators of truth for her.

She isn't wanton in any way. It’s just that she trusts her profound instincts. In essence, Mavis listens to what her heart is telling her. Hence, it was almost inevitable that she would seek to verify what I had just told her by doing what she did next.

Mavis rose from the chair, in all her self-confident female glory. She was very sure of her own sexuality. She took me by the hand and guided me wordlessly to the bed. She pushed me to a sitting position. The look she gave me was smoldering.

She sat next to me and turned to face me, lips not six inches from mine. She said, breathing heavily, “Let’s try a little experiment to find out if the preposterous tale you just told me is true?” Then, she threw one arm around my neck, grabbed the back of my head with the other, and we kissed for the first time in ten years.

It was like touching a live wire. A thunderbolt of emotion arced across time and obliterated all the dire regret and misery; and every hesitation. She drew her head back stunned by the sensation. Then her eyes clouded with lust and she dragged me backward on the bed.

Her mouth opened wide in greeting. She was making frantic little moans as her tongue searched for mine. She started scrambling backward, without letting go of me, until she was lying back fully, completely on the bed. We were both clothed.

I kissed her avidly, while I played with one of her gorgeous breasts. She moaned and thrashed. I grabbed and rolled one of her prominent nipples. It was sticking out like the Empire State Building over Midtown, even though it was covered by a 1940s bra.

Her movements immediately became agitated. Then, she threw her had back, mouth wide open and began to hyperventilate loudly through her nose. This was followed by a moaning, kicking quivering orgasm that nearly knocked us both off the bed.

I knew that Mavis was erotically sensitive. But I had NEVER seen an exhibition like THAT. She finally calmed down enough to open her eyes. Her beautiful chest was heaving like the Atlantic in a Nor’easter, and she was still panting like a bloodhound on a hot Georgia porch.

I was staring at her wonderingly thinking, “What a woman!!!”

She murmured, “What happened to me? I haven’t had an orgasm like that in my life? Then she looked puzzled and said to herself, “We didn’t do anything but kiss.”

Then, she grinned and said seductively, “It’ll probably kill me. But you need to fuck me now.”

Her skirt, panties and sweater flew off like magic. I had seen her gorgeous body with its hard curves and its soft promontories many times over the years. But, revealing it is still like watching a gorgeous sunset. You may have seen it a million times. But you’ll never see it enough.

I assumed there would be some foreplay. I particularly wanted to fondle those round, full breasts. But, she rolled me on top of her as soon as we got back to grips.

Then, she elevated her legs, grabbed my already rock-hard cock with obvious desperation and inserted it into a vat of boiling honey. 

She shrieked in sensation. I looked toward the windows. They were thrown wide open to catch the refreshing morning breeze. And, Mavis was already getting so noisy that I was afraid that people walking down the street would think that I was up here killing her.

It was a conventional missionary fuck. Mavis had pulled her beautiful slim legs back so far that they were jammed against her arms. I thought to myself, “Women! The flexible sex!” And, she was enthusiastically meeting my every thrust as she grunted, “Ungh, Ungh, ahhh, ahhh.”  There was a lot of wet slapping noise and the smell of aroused woman was driving me nuts.

All of that was erotically motivating. But, the thing that made this so incredibly special was the fact that I was fucking HER.

I had NOT asked to come back to this place. I had never imagined that this COULD happen. I had longed for Mavis for almost eleven long years. And now; call it fate or call it the last thoughts of a dead man. But, as improbable as it may seem, I was making love to my dearly departed wife

Mavis wasn’t having any of those kinds of abstract musings. Because, she had not experienced our life together. Instead, she was winding up to the-mother-of-all-orgasms.

I could feel her little ring of muscles frantically pulse. Her body became rock hard, every inch clenched. She crushed me to her chest, her legs grabbed me in an iron grip, and she threw her head back, eyes wide and staring with nothing but the whites showing.

Then she began to yell, “Ahhhh Yesssss!!! Fuck me Erick. Give it to me. It’s been so long!! I loooove you!!” She let out one final shriek and collapsed boneless on the bed.

Meanwhile, I was in the process of cumming in ways that cannot be described. Imagine how you would feel; if you had just climaxed with a woman who you had ached for, for almost eleven desperate years.

I finally got some of my senses and a little bit of my breath back. My heart rate was finally under 200 and the goosebumps had disappeared. I looked down at her beloved face. She was lying limply underneath me barely breathing, little aftershocks were still rocking her.

Then it hit me. Mavis had called me by my first name!! She didn’t know my name, only “Sheriff.”

She was coming back to me slowly, making little yips and moans. Finally, she opened those glorious eyes and looked at me. It was like dawn over the Garden of Eden. Her marvelously deep and intelligent face transfixed me. There was devotion there.

I couldn’t even presume to guess the explanation for it. But, this had happened before.

Call it psychic, call it religious, call it delusional; but the first time we had been together, fate had given Mavis a vision of her own death. Understandably, she was in a mindless state of panic when she fled to my bed.

After I had calmed her down, we made love for the first time.

I said wonderingly, “You remembered.”

She said, “I don’t recall many of the details. But I know I loved you with all my heart and that our marriage was one of joy and contentment. More important, I know that I will always love you.”

Her face darkened as she said, “I was preparing a snack for Ava before picking her up at school. Then I felt dizzy and sick. It was like I was about to pass out. I remember an overwhelming feeling of regret. Then there was nothing but blackness.”

That reminded her. She gasped loudly and said, “My God, what will happen to Ava? Will I ever see her again?”

I tried the same explanation I had used on myself. I said, “The future is our past. So, that’s seventy years from now. When I left, our little girl was a strong and capable young woman.” I also pointed out that Ava had an entire town behind her including the Doc and his wife and the Jensens.

I finished with, “She has a bright future whatever timeline she is in. Maybe we’ll even live long enough to meet her. But, right now, let's just spend our life together.”

I took the Town up on his offer. I had been the Sheriff there for years. But that was seven decades in the future. Now, I had to provide for a wife and the child who was growing in her womb. Being the Sheriff seemed like a splendid way to do that. 

I knew that I was a visitor in Mavis’s time, just as she had been in mine. I was also painfully aware of the fact that Mavis had vanished the moment we dug up her murdered body.

It was a classic paradox of being; she couldn’t be both dead and alive at the same time. So, the earlier state would take precedence over the latter

I was now in the same situation. I knew that I would disappear the moment I was born, which would be 27 years in the future. I didn’t want to EVER leave Mavis. I wanted to die in her arms. But, my departure was foreordained. I couldn't be both a new-born and ready for retirement. So, my disappearance was inevitable.

But, I had a plan.

*****

It was a gorgeous July day, and we were watching a pretty, brown-haired coed, eat an ice cream cone.  America had survived Korea, Joe McCarthy, the Vietnam War, the Flower Power Revolution and Richard Nixon.

It was the Country's Bi-Centennial and a former Michigan football player was the President. Mavis and I were hanging around the Belleville American Music Festival. The locals called it BamFest. It's an annual event, and it features some pretty good blues. So, the college kids, from nearby Madison, come in herds.

Mavis was as gorgeous as ever, in her 56th year. The only thing the three babies had done for her figure, was increase her bust size. And, she still had those shapely legs and supple ass. But her glory was her stunning face, which remained wrinkle free.

I nodded in the direction of an early twenties kid. He was making his way through the crowd. He looked tentative and uncomfortable, like he thought he didn't belong there. He was a good-looking lad, tall and muscular, obviously a farmer, not a college student.

Mavis squeezed my hand lovingly. Then she made a bee-line for him. She plucked at his arm and said flirtatiously, "Could you please show me where the food trucks are."  She put a lot of her legendary heat into the request.

The kid started to point, then he took a good look at the woman who was asking the question. Mavis was old enough to be his mom. But nobody's mom EVER looked like Mavis.

That gave the kid a better idea. He said eagerly, “I’ll take you.”

What the heck!! It was worth it to go a bit out of your way, if he got to spend time with such a remarkable woman. As they walked off, Mavis turned back to me and gave me a big wink.

In the meantime, the girl finished her ice-cream cone and wandered off in the direction of the parking lot. She was clearly looking for her friends. 

And so, the kid didn’t stumble into the girl. The girl didn’t spill her ice-cream cone. There was no apology. There was no instant attraction. There were no dates, there was no marriage... And, I was never born.

EPILOGUE

Ava Jensen stopped in at the Hot Spot. She was beginning a tour with the Joffrey next week, and this was her last day in town.  It was rare for a 22-year-old Wisconsin girl to succeed in the big-time world of professional dance. But she had worked hard to get there, and she believed in her own destiny.

Ava knew that she was adopted. the Jensens couldn't have kids. But they had nurtured and loved Ava like their own. And, Penny Jensen's wisdom and encouragement had created the beautiful, intelligent and highly accomplished woman that Ava was today. 

Dot, the octogenarian who owned the Hot Spot, was sitting in the back booth. She was there, with a much older lady. That woman was somewhere in her nineties. But, the shadow of her rare beauty still lingered, like the ruins of a particularly exquisite and graceful classical temple.

Ava had the passing thought, "I'll bet my birth mother looked like her."

Ava had come to the Jensens very early. She didn't remember her birth parents, or the circumstance that had brought her to the Jensens. But, sometimes she felt like she had lived two completely different childhoods.

The older woman was named Mavis. It was one of those antique, old-lady names. Mavis had been married to the former County Sheriff for seventy years. He had just died. Their marriage had served as a beacon of hope, for people who still believed that lifelong romance was a possibility.

Mavis and her husband were very rich. The Sheriff had an uncanny knack for investing in unheard of businesses - which would then go on to become legendary corporations; like, IBM, McDonald's, Microsoft and Apple. It was almost as if he could see the future.

Nevertheless, even with all of their wealth, the Sheriff and Mavis had lived their entire life in this humble little town. They had raised their children here; and they had always treated Ava like she was one of their own brood.

Ava had been particularly special to Mavis. It was as if she was her surrogate great-grandchild.  That was why Ava wasn't surprised when Mavis waved her over to the table.

Mavis said, "Before you leave town child, there's something I need to tell you." The old woman was physically delicate. But, she still had commanding, china-blue eyes; that radiated an unconquerable spirit.

Mavis rose shakily from her seat, and her driver assisted her out to her car. Ava slid in beside her. The ride to the Sheriff's huge estate was silent. It seemed like Mavis was formulating her thoughts.

The estate took up the entire bluff outside of town. The house itself, was a replica of a classic Victorian mansion; even though, it was actually only thirty years old. The vast lawn was bright green and meticulously tended. There was the sound of a lawnmower somewhere under the hot July sun, and Ava could smell the newly cut grass.

A little creek ran past the base of the house. There was an intricate iron bridge over it. But instead of going toward the house, the old woman turned and headed up an immaculately manicured path, made out of cedar chips. It led to a secluded grove on the top of a little hill, above the millpond.

The two women sat on the marble bench next to the Sheriff's grave. A giant willow-tree embraced the entire space with its characteristic limbs. The air was full of insect noises, birdsong and mild summer breezes.

Mavis looked in the direction of the monumental grave-marker. She got a soft and loving look on her face. The marker had both the Sheriff's and her name engraved on it. The only item left to be filled in was Mavis's date of death.

They sat there for a minute, Mavis was old and frail. Ava was sleek and vital, like a big cat. Mavis was at the end of her life. Ava was just entering her prime. Ava's face was exquisite, black hair and blue eyes. Her extraordinary body was honed by hours of rigorous dance training. Yet, there was something inestimably similar about the two of them.  

The old lady turned toward Ava and fixed her with an earnest, almost pleading look. It was as if Mavis wanted to convey something that was profoundly important to her. Mavis said with deep sincerity, “It was fate that brought the Sheriff and me together, and I know that destiny will reunite us. I pray for that every day of my life."

She sighed and said with heartfelt relief, "It won't be very much longer."

Then the old woman paused. She took both of Ava's slim beautiful hands in hers. Mavis's hands were spotted with age. She said, "Fate is fickle and sometimes its twists and turns are hard to understand or accept. But, you can't alter the way the cards are dealt.”

Mavis stopped then and gazed lovingly into Ava’s eyes. She said forcefully, “So, you have to play the hand the best you can. That was what your father and I did with you back then, and that's all that we expect from you now. We are very rich and we love you very much. So, you will be wealthy for the rest of your life. I just wanted you to know that before I passed on."

Ava gasped. She'd sensed it all along. There was no explaining why. But, Ava knew that what the old woman had said was true. And, she was overcome by the wonder of it all.

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